Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ZOOGZ TOOZDAY 1: Idiots On The Miniature Golf Course

Every Tuesday for the next couple of months I'm going to try to post a Zoogz Rift album. That's the plan, at least. Even if I post every album of his that I have, it'll still only be scratching the surface - the man released 39 albums! (That's of original material - he's released a number of comps as well.) Since Zoogz is retired due to health issues, now seems like as good a time as any for a career retrospective.

If you know anything about Zoog Rift, it's that a lot of people don't like him. He's known for his loud, obnoxious, immature sense of humor (e.g. his band was named The Amazing Shitheads) and for his constant paranoid ranting...and that's what his fans say. But his fans also point out that his wildly original music owes nothing to any typical genre cliches, and he has refused to cater to the public almost to the point of commercially shooting himself in the foot.

Rift is usually compared to the likes of Zappa and Beefheart, and he does share their love of complex compositions that, unlike many too-precious proggies, still rock out with a vengeance. His instrumental lineup, often including the likes of trombones and vibraphones, can be reminiscent of Beefheart. But while Zappa sneered, Rift howls in pain. And if Beefheart came out of the blues, Rift sounds like he was caught up in the punk scene exploding around him at the time. He's from L.A., in case you didn't guess.

Yes, there are going to be tracks on these albums that you're not going to like. When someone won't stop screaming about the "idiots" of the world without getting specific, it can become it's own kind of idiocy. But don't let that stop you. For one thing, there are lots of instrumentals that demonstrate the tightly-rehearsed near-virtuosity of Rift and his bandmates, especially the also-infamous bassist/guitarist John Trubee, and the late drummer/vibeist Richie Haas. And
these albums boast some great songwriting - funny, rockin', rollin', even cathartic. There are musical places that you've never been to before.

Idiots On The Miniature Golf Course

This is a good album to start with - for one thing, it is one of his first albums, from 1979 (has not aged at all). He actually sings a fair amount, and quite nicely at that, instead of just hollerin'. And except for a little bit about urination, it's not really obnoxious or offensive, despite titles like "You Can Go Fuck Yourself" (it's an instrumental). It is pretty frantic tho, from the demented childrens circus music of "I Did So," to the mutant funk of "The Night They All Came Out," to rockers that aren't too far removed from, say, Devo or Oingo Boingo, but played with such effortless twists and turns that whiplash could result. Start-to-finish enjoyable, consistent like Ex-Lax (ah, see, now Zoogz's got me getting scatological!)

So don't be scared! Come on in, the water's fine!

Friday, August 27, 2010


When I read the liner notes to this 1963 Capital release - " 'Marimbas Mexicanas' will appeal to those who seek the unorthodox, the rare" - I thought: "Hey, that's me!"

I don't usually think of Mexican music as danceable as, say, Cuban mambo or Columbian cumbia, but there's some seriously jammin' stuff here, e.g. "Ven Carinito Ven." And hearing "Quien Sera"
was a bit of a shock - the melody is one you Dean Martin fans will recognize. Had no idea that it was originally a Mexican tune.

Marimba Chiapas - "Marimbas Mexicanas"

Oh, how I love the thunkety-thunk sound of marimbas. I also love how, in the '60s, the idea of an all-marimbas instrumental tribute to Glen Campbell wasn't looked at as some weird experiment, or conceptual joke. It was, as alien as it may seem to our modern sensibilities, a perfectly mainstream release. After all, The Baja Marimba Band were cranking out hits for A&M Records at the time.

Living Marimbas Play Galveston and Others

This is not as raw as "Marimbas Mexicanas." It's generally nice summer chillin'-in-the-backyard kinda tuneage, sometimes approaching funk ('approaching' being the operative word here). But "Gentle on My Mind' is anything but gentle - it's so frantic you could pogo to it.

1. Galveston
2. Gentle On My Mind
3. Honey
4. Wichita Lineman
5. Dreams of the Everyday Housewife
6. That's Not Home
7. Little Green Apples
8. By The Time I Get To Phoenix
9. Let It Be Me
10. Hey Little One

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The Boston Typewriter Orchestra, who do exactly what you think they do, have a new free download single out. As usual with this bunch, it's as funny as it is rhythmically awesome.

Get it HERE.

You Gil-Scott Heron fans will recognize their inspiration.

"Fight the power. And while you're at it, please return my stapler."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


For those of you who liked Geoff Leigh's brand of prog/punk/jazz/weirdness we wrote about a couple months back, here's a new 7-song free online EP of tracks from his band X Black Sheep.

Pick hit: "Cosmetic Surgery," in which a rather sinister-sounding doctor gleefully describes how he loves "Cutting! Slicing! Sucking fat!" over Space Age synth pings and pongs and Leigh's soprano sax. Also: the whacked-out "Superman" from 1981, which could be by a German female-fronted Residents, and "Tongue Tied in Tibet," an Eastern drone meditation rescued from the New Age by a nut shouting "bad karma for the Dalai Lama!"

X Black Sheep "Out of Quarantine"

Monday, August 23, 2010


Two very obscure outsider oddities are coming to town. I definitely recommend:

Rotate The Completer, a New Zealand street performer who would hand out cassettes of his wonderful deformed blues guitar + Gomer Pyle vocals. His admirers would mail out tapes and I was about willing to send all the way Down Under for one of them when the good people at Roaratorio records announced that they're issuing it on vinyl. Release date: Sept. 21, 2010. (Check Roaratorio's catalog for other goodies from Rodd Keith, Pauline Oliveros, free-improv madness...)

Rotate The Completer "track # 6"

Michael Farneti is an unknown Floridian who in 1976 made an attempt at MOR sophisticated listening, but ended up with something far stranger. Since we've covered just about every other release on the crucial outsider reissue label Companion Records, why stop now? Farneti's "Good Morning Kisses" LP is coming out on vinyl soon. Let's get exotic:

Michael Farne
ti "In The Jungle"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


A commenter on the swell Schadenfreudian Therapy blog requested Fritz Guckenheimer and his Sour Kraut Band. What the heck, I have one of their albums, which I believe I downloaded off of Dr Forrest's Cheese Factory site before The Man told him to take down all his files. Unusual for me, I don't typically repost stuff I get off of other blogs, so it's not a high bitrate, but hey: do we really need berserk Spike-Jones-goes-to-Oktoberfest oompah action in the highest of fi?

"Music For Non-Thinkers"

Monday, August 16, 2010


Doesn't get much goofier then this: an entire album of grungy rock instrumentals with "vocals" courtesy of "Star Trek" dialogue samples.

Vulcan Freedom Fighters also throw in plenty of "Trek" sound effects. Each song seems to deal with one "Trek" episode at a time - the original series, of course. Although guitars dominate, occasional electronics pop in to give the album a fair amount of variety, from heavy metal to slightly chilled. Harmonica is used on the funny Old West-set "Horse-Stealin' Scurvy Crew." How Kirk and the gang ended up in the old West I do not know - haven't watched the show since childhood. But it's that kind of randomness that makes this album entertaining even (perhaps especially) to non-Trekkies.

Obviously this is part of the long tradition of "Trek" fan music, but the unique sample-based approach, and the whole pop-culture oddness of it all makes this one fan project that weirdo-music lovers in general can enjoy.

Pick hits: "Horta," whose chorus features Spock screaming "the pain!" "We Are The Metrons" had me banging my head and throwing up the Vulcan sign, not the devil horns. The sound-effects-laden (and possible pornographic) "Argelius" is pretty brilliant, too.

The entire album is available as a free download:

Vulcan Freedom Fighters

There isn't much biographical info on their site, but
apparently they are a duo who have a Louisville, KY address, recorded the album in Barcelona, Spain and, judging by the pictures posted, they play (surprise!) conventions.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


If the idea of Jewish rappers named Ice Berg and Dr. Dreidel (and whose manager is named Meshugge Knight) makes you laff, then M.O.T. (Members of the Tribe) have an album for you: "19.99," which actually came out in 1998. As usual, I'm decade behind. The music's pretty basic, but abundant lyrical cleverness rewards repeated listenings. They even go gangsta:

M.O.T. "Kosher Nostra"

and reference old-school jams like "Double Dutch Bus" and "Cars With The Boom" while rapping about fine deli meats:

M.O.T. "Double Dutch Lunch"

M.O.T. featured members of Martini Ranch, a band with a pretty weird history. One of their members, Bill Paxton, became a succesful actor, so with the doors of the entertainment world opened to them, they got the likes of Cindy Wilson of the B52s, Devo, and Judge Reinhold to appear on their lone album. James Cameron, no less, directed one of their music videos.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Some recent musical mad scientists:

The Chipophone is a homemade 8-bit synthesizer, especially suited for live chiptune playing. It has been built inside an old electronic organ." Yep, Linus Akesson of Sweden can play those bloopy-bleepy video game sounds on a proper keyboard, the kind of two-level organ your grandma might have in her living room. A helluva lot of work went into building his contraption. Dig the 7 minute demo video:

And check his original song:

Linus Akesson "Spellbound" (not the Hitchcock theme)

It's pretty obvious by the number of robot musicians we've covered here that mechanical music is a growing phenomenon, and now that veteran jazz star Pat Metheny has embraced it, maybe other music journalists will finally start to take it seriously. We're here, we're gears, get used to it! (sorry.)

Metheny's The Orchestrion is truly a marvel - it isn't just one robot playing pre-programmed music, it's a whole orchestra. And the level of performance is remarkable. Much robot music is understandably a bit stiff - machines can't really "swing" - but this stuff comes as close to passing a musical Turing Test as any, where you can't tell if you're dealing with artificial or human intelligence.

Musically, he's favoring percussion instruments like xylophones. Easier for robots to play, I guess. And that's fine by me, I like percussion music.

Pat Metheny - "Orchestrion" (excerpt) - Metheny's guitar is the only live instrument here.

It still sounds like typical Metheny fusion jazz. But the Los Angeles-area KarmetiK crew have built a Machine Orchestra with more of an eclectic bent. They are from CalArts, after all, so they have to get all ethnicky 'n' stuff. No albums or mp3s, but there's a video on their site, and another one HERE of their fascinating mixture of robo-rockers and humans.

Thanks to Richard E. and Joshua U.!

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Yes, it's a steel- cage death match between two celebrity-narrated "singing" animal eco-kitsch albums. In this corner:

From 1984, inspired by a "Star Trek" film, Leonard Nimoy on ponderous narration, humpback whales on vocals, Paul Winter and Roger Payne on jazz/orchestral music:

"Whales Alive" - rather nice and soothing undersea so
unds for these dog days of summer

And in this corner...

From 1971, Robert Redford on indifferent, occasionally incorrect narration (wolves have never killed man?), wolves on vocals. Halloween spooky.

The Language and Music of the Wolves

Who will win? Why, you the listener, of course!

Both of these fine selections are courtesy of one of this blogs best-est pals, windbag. Thanks, dood, live long & prosper and whatnot.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


As I wrote last year, "Here's a repost of a lounge singer's original ode to Vegas (Mike Hudson - "I'll Take Las Vegas") and a slew of brilliant and/or hilarious lounge versions of rock hits performed by totally unknown (well, except for Louis Prima, of course) performers' private press releases that were probably only available at their shows (often autographed), which I have lovingly ripped from vinyl. I've been collecting these for years, searching used record store bargain bins, garage sales, and thrift shops."

These are tunes that I've posted here over the years, and since they got knocked off-line, I've thrown 'em into a zip folder, along with stuff like Paul Anka's version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," though it is most certainly not a lounge record in the strictest sense - it was released on a proper label, not a private press, and Anka is, of course, a main-room headliner, not an obscure lounge cat playing 3 shows a night, six nights a week.

New! Some very brief TV production tunes by Moog-master Mort Garson, a swingin' instrumental cover of the Kinks' "All Day & All The Night," finger-snappin' singers doing
CCR's "Proud Mary" and The Who's "I Can See For Miles," a non-surf version of "Miserlou," and another jaw-droppingly hideous medley from Art Casara (by request!), a guy I first featured on the 365 Days Project.

It's always special when a lounge album features, amongst the predictable standards, original compositions, and we have a few here: the title track, and songs about tennis, and Los Angeles.

Let's be honest: there's often a reason why these cats never made it out of the lounge to the big time. These albums can be a bit bland sometimes, but they're worth picking up for those occasional amazing, transcendental tracks (as featured here) that reward the patient crate-digger, and because these albums have no collector's value and can be had for next to nuthin'.

I'll Take Las Vegas

01 Mike Hudson - I'll Take Las Vegas 02 Paul Anka - smells like teen spirit 03 Mort Garson - TV Production Music4 04 Frankie Randall - I Can See For Miles 05 Chet DeMilo - Sunshine Superman-The In Crowd 06 Carmen D'Oro - Something 07 Mort Garson - TV Production Music2 08 Louis Prima - Mrs Robinson 09 Keith Williams Big Band - Proud Mary 10 Black Diamond - I'm a Believer 11 Mort Garson - TV Production Music6 12 Kathy & Tony Rich - Miserlou 13 Camarata (feat.Tuttis Trombones) - All Day and All The Night 14 The Note-ables - Roll over Beethoven 15 Mort Garson - TV Production Music5 16 Dick Burns - Bad Bad Leroy Brown-All of Me 17 Everett Covin - Everybody's Playing Tennis 18 Mort Garson - TV Production Music1 19 Jose Maria Band - Light My Fire 20 Candi - Philadelphia Freedom 21 Don Ho - Hawaii5-0 QuietVillage 22 New York New York - Bill Lamphier 23 Murray Ross - You've Got It L.A. 24 Mort Garson - TV Production Music3 25 Wayne & Marin Foster - (Can't Get No) Satisfaction 26 Art Casara - Medley No.1 (If You Really Love Me/For Once In My Life/Who Can I Turn To)

Monday, August 02, 2010

AVANT MARCH: Infernal Noise Brigade

Last December, I wrote about a new crop of experimental marching bands. No Sousa cliches from these guys, but pop covers, free jazz, ethnic influences, and humor abound. And Seattle's Infernal Noise Brigade seems to have been way ahead of the curve, forming back in 1999. The now-defunct band released a few albums in their day.

This is their debut, and it certainly lives up to it's name - none of the usual brass band sounds here. No brass at all, in fact, just percussion and vocals. And odd vocals at that, sometimes seemingly sung in foreign tongues, real or imagined, but so distorted (as marching band p.a. vox often are) that it's hard to tell. Occasional stray sounds and abstract video-game-ish electronic effects pop up as well.

Pick hit: "Gas? No Gas," a mad riot of tribal drumming in an unusual tempo, large crowd chanting, and techno/dub-ish production, all smothered in weird sound effects. A

Infernal Noise Brigade - Insurgent Selections for Battery and Voice

The song "Goat Eyes" expands on the usual marching band drum corp by incorporating what sounds like traditional Moroccan percussion - I forget what they're called, but they're like giant metal castanets. Two "PSAs" are humorous mock radio commercials for the band. And "Fulminate" features what sounds like vuvuzelas. Very obscure.