Friday, January 31, 2014

Bandcamp Is Still The New Cassette Culture

Like I was saying...Listen for free, buy if you like.

This batch is loosely associated by a shared fascination with the surreal and fantastic,  injecting a little much-needed magic into our world.

- Ergo Phizmiz "Idiot": The prolific madman across the water has two more winners. This one's a generous 18 tracks of mostly instrumentals (w/some sampled vox) cobbled together out of found-sounds and whimsical instruments. "Ornidisco" is a dance track ingeniously fashioned entirely from sampled bird sound effects. "Night on The Town" is an absurd disco raver performed entirely acappella (complete with beatboxing) that's as funny as it is funky. Avant-garde, or just good ol' British eccentricity? Price: free.

- Ergo Phizmiz "Music for Pleasure": "A 17 track behemoth of Ergo Phizmiz's singular take on guitar based rock'n'roll & pop music." Yep, these ramshackle constructions suggest actual rock music, sometimes in the Neil Innes or Syd Barret vein, with much Kink-y garage punk energy. Bonus points for reviving Bobby Goldsboro's '60s bubblegum gem "Little Things." Album title = truth in advertising. Price: £7.

- Doctor Midnight "Crotch Rocket Extremities and​/​or Popular Culture Atrocities": What the ..? This short (12 tracks in 23 minutes), utterly unpredictable album makes as much sense as that album title. This duo comes from Alabama, not with a banjo on it's knee, but plenty of other noises: sound effects, screaming, computers, piano, marimba, guitars, and scary hillbilly voices that may be sampled, or may belong to the band members. My fave moment is when "Chocodino" almost turns into a remake of Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain," followed by 38 seconds of "There Ain't Shit On TV!" Price: free.

Paul and Pierre "Eggs Benedict With Mr Wu On The Seahorse Monorail": Pierre is the man behind naive/ toy-pop masters Carton Sonore; this time out he's joined by Scottish warbler Paul Vickers for actual songs, but still retaining the whimsy of past projects. Acoustic instruments like musical saw and mandolin meet Casio-tronics to realize sea shanty-like sing-alongs replete with fantastical imagery. Well written, wonderfully evocative, effortlessly enjoyable. Price: €7, tho the super song "Lon Chaney" is free, and you know a song has to be good if it's about Lon Chaney.

- Zlata Sandor/Shaun Sandor "Band on the Moon": If you're pressed for time, here's 5 minutes of a father and his 4-year-old daughter singing about the kinds of things you would expect little girls to sing about, e.g.: party balloons, animals, and playing on the moon. C'mon, how can you not like this? Price: $1.00.

Timur and the Dime Museum "X-ray Sunsets": These Angelenos conjure up a dark carnival for accordion, ukulele, violin, and on the rollicking "Distance Of The moon," a spot of toy piano, with a bona-fide opera singer up front; I featured their amazing take on Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" here previously, but this album is all original and it's all good. Don't be surprised if David Lynch uses the dreamy doo-wop ballad "Asleep At The Wheel" in his next film. Flamboyantly theatrical without quite being campy. Recommended, even if you hate opera. Price: $7.

Tho he was hardly an indie band/ bedroom producer like the above, I still would like to point out that - holy crap! - there are now 48 Fela Kuti albums now available on Bandcamp.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Vote For Hyemen & Metalfunkel!

WFMU is hosting a battle-of-the-bands right now thru Feb. 4, and of the three finalists, I really like the hilarious Hyemen & Metalfunkel, who do spot-on parodies of heavy-metal classics as performed by Simon and Garfunkel. Their version of Black Sabbaths' "Paranoid" is one of the funniest things I've heard lately, but they also do justice to Van Halen, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc.  It helps that I've always liked Simon and Garfunkel. Even tho I hate Paul Simon.  Odd, isn't it?  I guess I just really like S&G's vocal harmonies and that '60s folk-rock sound.  And they were young, which makes Simon's pretensions bearable, no different from any number of other earnest college students bullshitting in the dorm room.   

Unfortunately, Hyemen & Metalfunkel are currently losing to a boring mainstream rock band, so do your patriotic duty, and vote your conscience.

Speaking of metal parodies, a reader recently wrote asking if Metalachi, the Los Angeles combo who play metal classics in a Mexican mariachi style, have an album out yet.  They do!  When I first wrote about them, they only had a few tracks up on MySpace, but their short but very enjoyable debut album "Uno" is now available, boasting swooningly romantic, trumpet-and-strings takes on Guns 'n' Roses, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and this Ozzie standard:

Metalachi - "Crazy Train"

Muy bueno, muy silly.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Space-Age Surf Lounge Sounds of KAI WINDING

"More" (or is it called "Soul Surfin'"?) by Denmark's trombone-toting bandleader Kai Winding is one of my favorite thrift-store finds, a thoroughly unique mixture of EZ orchestra rockin' to a surf beat, and featuring the pre-Moog electronic keyboard, the Ondioline.  Huh? Who came up with that combination?  Perhaps it was an attempt to cross over from the youth rock market to the adult pop world and grab a potentially huge audience.  If so, the plan worked - the single "More" was a big hit in 1963 and this album followed. Which is pretty unusual, as most adult pops bandleaders didn't get into the dirty world of rock'n'roll, and if they did, they'd cover a rock song in a jazzy big band style. But not here - actual electric guitars and 4/4 drumming keep it cool for the kids. The arrangement here of the surf standard "Pipeline" isn't all that radically different from the Chantay's original.

Quite a fun album, perfect for lunar pool parties and tiki lounges, but I'm posting it today because the composer of "More," the great Italian soundtrack composer Riz Ortalani just died at age 87. Kai's instrumental version became Riz's biggest hit in the States, and countless others, from Sinatra on down, would cover "More," esp. after lyrics were added. If you buy enough EZ/lounge records from the Sixties, you will become very familiar with this haunting theme for the Italian "shockumentary" "Mondo Cane." "Mondo" is the Italian word for 'world,' (the film title translates to 'A Dog's World'), but after 'Mondo Cane,' the word came to mean anything weird and sensational, e.g.: Russ Meyer's "Mondo Topless." I have Riz's original soundtracks to "Mondo Cane" and its sequel, and they're quite nice.  Nothing too crazy about them.  Has anyone actually seen "Mondo Cane," and is it really that weird and shocking? I kind of doubt it.

Kai Winding "More!!!"

The wiki article on Kai Winding suggests that it was none other than legendary Moog-master Jean-Jacques Perrey performing on the Ondioline, tho Winding claims that he played it himself. I've been meaning to check out Perrey's book.  Maybe the mystery is solved within it's covers...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Louis Farrakhan is Quite The Charmer

By request: Ray Schmitt's music for tree-huggers is back up.

Before Louis Farrakhan was the hate-mongering nut-job running The Nation of Islam, he wasn't even Louis Farrakhan. He was Louis "The Charmer" Wolcott, calypsonion. His brief show-biz stint in the mid-'50s didn't exactly pack stadiums the way The Million Man March did, so clearly the religion biz proved to be the more lucrative career choice. His music was actually pretty decent, tho. There just wasn't much to distinguish it from all the other records made to cash in on the post-Belafonte '50s calypso craze.  "Is She Is, Or Is She Ain't" is the most well-known of his recordings, a parody of the then-recent phenomenon of sex-change operations! Countless religious leaders have made recordings, from the Pope on down, but I don't believe too many have touched upon this important subject. "Female Boxer" is another new one to me, in which our protagonist recounts the time his butt was kicked by, yes, a female boxer. (Actually, I believe the Pope did sing about "foxy boxers," but it was in Latin, so few knew.) Otherwise, calypso fans will recognize most of these songs as oft-recorded standards. But hey, they're still good: can't have too many versions of "Zombie Jamboree" (aka "Back To Back Belly to Belly") or "Ugly Woman," a song famously remade by Jimmy Soul in the '60s as "If You Wanna Be Happy."  The rockin' version of "Hold 'Em Joe" is as good as any, and the energetic piano + percussion musical backing is fun. Charmer's voice is rarely more than adequate, tho his occasional hiccuping vocal accents are a nice touch. 

As evidence that he is perhaps losing what's left of his mind, Farrakhan has embraced Scientology in recent years, encouraging members of the Nation to get themselves "audited"!  As regular readers of this blog know, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard made some awful albums that we posted here within the last year or so. Farrakhan is just what Scientology needs!  Next time, John Travolta and Chick Corea should forget Hubbard's terrible music and sing calypsos about transsexual zombie boxers!

The Charmer is Louis Farrakhan


Thanks to Count Otto Black for reminding me of this album - more of his bizarro British comedy rarities to come.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bandcamp Is The New Cassette Culture...

...tho compared to the '80s/'90s tape underground:
- the sound quality of indie music sites like Bandcamp is usually a lot better than those hissy tapes
- even if you don't buy you can listen for free
- you don't have to go to the bother of sending away for items via the mail: they're right here! Go get 'em! 
So consider this post the equivalent of when magazines like 'Option' used to have tape reviews.

- Convivial Cannibal "Buy The People Afford The People": An album as good as the band name; Absolutely fascinating unclassifiable L.A.-area weirdness that conjures up an air of dark esoterica by mixing live instruments with what sound like old ethnic music samples, children's music boxes played backwards, and unidentified sounds; the audio equivalent of a Joseph Cornell shadow box. Sometimes it resembles traditional music when it's just singing and guitar, but they're both buried under effects to the point of illegibility. "Avant garble" they call it. Numerous other-worldy videos and the new "Iniquitous Ubiquitous" album (check the hypnotically droning "There Are Greys Outside Your Window") are likewise recommended. Price: name your price.

- Dr. D.R. Barclay "One Note Mixtape": I don't believe this. Some mad genius has taken every one-note guitar solo he could find from the rock era and mixed them together into two 7-minute mixes. Some I recognized (Neil Young, The Ramones) and plenty I didn't. Hilarious and utterly mental.  Price: $3.

- "Roncheras" v/a: Traditional Mexican styles like the polka-esque ranchera and the melodramatic mariachi get cooked into a delicious burrito of electro, rock, experimental, even 8-bit post-modernism for a furious fiesta.  Highlites include Dr. Almeja's rockin' 'Ek Chuac,' and Dada Ket's cartoonishly crazy 'LA Costenida.'  Muy fun. Price: free.

-The Hathaway Family Plot "Worry": a horrible year of illness and family deaths inspired this brief but powerful electro/noise suite. Individual tracks like "I Should Be" work well on their own, but the album is best experienced as a start-to-finish whole. 

- Jaw Harp Potential "My Boyfriend, Your Cat": Need a little light relief after "Worry"? Try this: three wholesome girls from Iowa who sing five simple, catchy songs on accordion, ukulele, toy piano, glockenspiel, and harp (not a 'blues harp,' an actual harp) that are cute without being overly cutesy. Better then most Beat Happening albums. Really quite wonderful. Price: free.

Oh man, I've got at least 6 more albums I was gonna review...err...think I'll wait until another "issue" of our little 'zine here, this post is getting too long. (Press 'eject.')

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Ethel Merman Disco Album

You asked for it! Perhaps inevitably, the subject of this album, the music gods' gift to drag queens everywhere, came up in discussing the "Disco Sellout" collection recently posted here of mainstream music stars' late '70s disco cash-in records.  Unlike those individual songs, Ethel Merman, the 70-something star of stage and screen musicals, cut an entire album of confoundedly inappropriate showtunes set to a well-produced orchestral disco beat. "The Ethel Merman Disco Album" is widely known and loved by bad/strange music fans, and one that lives up to the legend. 'Twas even re-issued on (now out-of-print) CD back in 2001, with a bonus track that I don't have, as I took this off my vinyl.

All the songs are lengthy "extended disco versions" (only 3 tracks on side one!) which begin with interminable kick-drum thump thump thumps, intros, and then - finally - La Merman starts singing after like a minute and half.  It is so worth the wait. Merman hated disco and refused to sing over it, so after initially singing with a pianist, they took her voice and, lacking today's beatmapping technology, then tried to fit her vocal tracks over the disco backing.  It sometimes sounds slightly off, a bit wobbly.

And then there's her vocals: Merman was one of the last singers left from the pre-microphone days, when live theater performers had to belt out songs with operatic fervor to hit the back rows. Rendered here, it's the musical equivalent of the hammy actor "chewing the scenery." Ethel sounds like she's ready to bust a gut as she bleats out "There's NOOOOO business like SHOOOW business!," on a track later famously sampled by Negativland. Pretty much the reason why the phrase "camp classic" was coined. 

Ethel Merman Disco Album

1 theres no business like show business
2 everything's coming up roses
3 i get a kick out of you
4 something for the boys
5 some people
6 alexanders' ragtime band
7 i got rhythm

Monday, January 06, 2014


By request, the Irish folk mashup collection "Straight Outta Ireland" is back up.

When my unbelieving eyes saw that parts of the US were going to be below -50 F (factoring in wind chill), my mission was clear: post that exotica compilation I'd been sitting on. You people need to warm up, and what better way to do that then with this collection of steamy, sultry, pseudo-tropical musics rescued from singles and otherwise non-exotic albums, not unlike our previous "Savage Exotica" comp. 

Like that collection, this features folks you wouldn't expect to be making tiki tunes: The Residents? Sun Ra? (His biography "Space Is The Place" confirms that he was a fan of exotica maestros like Les Baxter.) Sinatra singing with a Hawaiian group? A Rodd Keith song-poem? You bet your aloha. The "Fifth Beatle" Billy Preston, even, as well as famous bandleaders like George Shearing & Xavier Cugat, and contemporary revivalists like Combustible Edison, Cocktails with Joey, and the man whose track gives this album it's name, Fred from the B-52s.  Plenty of unknowns, lounge acts, and private-press records in here, too.  And "Noisy Village" and "A Night In Bedrock Forest" are bizarre, sound-effects-laden novelties, presumably parodies.


01 Superions - Totally Nude Island [w/Fred Schneider]
02 Mel Henke - Exotic Adventure
03 The Three Suns - Caravan 
04 Rodd Keith - Tahiti
05 Dickie Harrell - Exotic bird-bird
06 Billy Preston - Ferry Across The Mersey [sounding more like "Ferry Cross the Amazon", this is from 1965, years away from Preston joining the Beatles, or his '70s solo fame]
07 cults percussion ensemble - baia [feat. a then-teenaged Evelyn Glennie]
08 The Trilogy - Slow Hot Wind (Lujon) [a Florida lounge act covering Mancini]
09 Art Van Damme - Poinciana [one of many versions of this oft-recorded exotica standard performed here by the world's foremost (only?) jazz accordionist]
10 The Residents - Syx Things to a Cycle (part 1)
11 Sun Ra & His Mythical Science Arkestra - Solar Drums
12 Lecuona Cuban Boys - Tabou [very early 78 rpm version of song that would be a perrenial exotica standard, often spelled "Taboo"]
13 The Mighty Accordion Band - Jungle Fever
14 Frank Sinatra - Bali Hai
15 Cocktails with Joey - Tropical Espionage
16 Bobby McFadden and Dor - Noisy Village ['Dor' is a pre-fame Rod McKuen]
17 Michael Farneti - In the Jungle [sleazy '70s lounge disco!]
18 Combustible Edison - The Veldt
19 Xavier Cugat & his Waldorf Astoria Orchestra (with Bing Crosby) - Bahía
20 Fred Flintstone - A Night In Bedrock Forest [near as I can tell, this has nothing to do with the actual "Flintstones" show]
21 Kiyohiko Senba and his Haniwa All Stars - ブンガワン・ソロ (Bengawan Solo)
22 patrick vian - oreknock
23 george shearing - caravan

Friday, January 03, 2014

In With The Old, In With The New...

2013 was a good musical year for me: I saw the Residents, saw "Einstein on the Beach" (more on that later), this blog continues to get more popular (the Eno and Lou Reed posts in particular really blew up) even as other great music blogs sadly fell by the wayside...but Rapidshare and Mediafire knocking my stuff off-line wasn't exactly a cherished memory. More re-up requests back up:
- Christmas may be over, but isn't any time of year the right time to listen to the flatulent sounds of pot-bellied pigs "singing" christmas songs?
- music from the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

Something old, something new: a funny, well-produced parody from San Diego comedy-rockers Pony Death Ride that skillfully references numerous Smiths standards (the strings at the end are a nice touch); best appreciated by those of you who have the Smiths catalog burned into your brain from adolescence. 

 "I Think My Boyfriend's Gay For Morrissey"

Who knew there were so many anti-Smiths/Morrissey songs out there?

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Now back up by request: one of the first posts ever in this blog's history: Polka Rap; and the happy yodeling of Arthur Brogli. Still working on your other requests.

Our Man in The UK, Count Otto Black, sez:

The start of a brand new year - a time when so-called psychics traditionally do their thing, with mixed results. So surely an appropriate time to remind everyone of "The Amazing Criswell", of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame? Did you know that in 1970 he made a spoken word LP consisting of a 42-minute Dadaist stream-of-consciousness rant about what was going to happen over the next 30 years? Probably. He himself admitted that his success-rate was only 87%. Fortunately that other 13% included his prediction that the world would be completely destroyed by God on 8 August 1999.
Oh, by the way, he sings as well. Or at any rate, nearly as well...
Thanks, Otto!  All of this reminds me of this mind-boggling oddity, also available from
Mae West sings "Criswell Predicts" (1956) - I believe Space-Age pop master Bob Thompson wrote this one, as he was West's pianist at the time.