Friday, July 3, 2009


I have no sounds for you, I just needed to post something so that blogspot won't delete this.

What? They don't do that? Pooh. Now I posted for no reason.

Except I do have a reason to post! I'm posting to say that I will MAKE MYSELF post at least one album a week here from now on. And maybe make it look good somehow.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eddy Detroit - Immortal Gods (1982)

Jesus Tiberius Krishna on a Model of the Titanic Made of Popsicle Sticks, I totally forgot I had a blog! Thanks, Danny, for exposing my extreme laziness to everybody who reads BCUW's links thing.

So. Music! It has sounds! And also misogyny very often and it is a pain to rate when you'd rather just eat cold burrito stuffing and read Andrea Dworkin and Shulamith Firestone and whinge about patriarchy. (I actually do this! Which is sad but still much better than porn and sports!) The only albums in rotation in my slightly weird, very lonely world, beside the requisite Big Blood and Sun City Girls choons, are Cardiacs' magnum opus A Little Man, A House and a Really Long Album Title and Eddy Detroit's Immortal Gods, which I have chosen to post here since everyone reading has ventured into the manic mind of Tim Smith on many occasions, I am sure, and this album has songs about Pazuzu, Beezlebub, a vampire, and talking to a cat! They are entitled "Pazuzu," "Beezlebub," "the Vampire," and "Talking to My Cat," respectively, because Eddy is a no-nonsense kinda' guy and lives all day in a magickal rock 'n' roll land of his own invention! It may or may not have penguins, but it DOES have Bishops. Yes, those Bishops! Now I know that "Eddy Detroit" sounds like the name of a simultaneously balding and bemulleted guitarist in a MC5 cover band (boooooooo) but he's actually not like that at all, seeing as he hangs around with real ladies and real violins and real Sun City Girls and also probably has a prized first-edition copy of Der Vermis Myysteriooos and maybe the Malleus Mallefuckarum because he's a cool dude in that way. And he writes songs!


P.S. I now have a real beard but have forgotten how to sleep or talk to people, so it's a good trade-off.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Invaders - Spacing Out (Duane - 1970)

Fairly well known, but whatever. This is a set of no-nonsense space-funk dripping reverb from every pore. Exactly the right length to serve its purpose.

Art Bears Songbook - All Live! (Bootleg, 2008)

AHMIGAWUHD. What we have here is a bootleg of a wet dream I once had (okay, repeatedly have) somehow made flesh; I can't even write anything coherent right now, so I'll just relay the facts: this is Art Bears with Dagmar replaced by Zeena Parkins, Carla Kilhstedt, Jewlia Eisenberg and Kristin Slipp (who? Shut up, she does perfectly.) HOLY FUCK THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MINUTE. This actually happened! In real life! On the same CONTINENT I live in! As we all know, I worship Dagi and would have her babies in a heartbeat, but there's no denying that in 2008, trading one Dagi for a Zeena, a Carla and a Jewlia is more than a fair enough bargain. Oh, there's also a dude named "The Norman Conquest" (god, he better not be named Norman) but, honestly, who cares? (Sorry, Norman.) This is a priceless gift from the big red Deities of Avant-Prog to all who have remained faithful and also the biggest incentive to build a time machine I've ever encountered that didn't involve murder or Louise Brooks and Josephine Baker. The only issues I have are that the one album performed in its entirety is Winter Songs, easily their weakest in my eyes, and that Zeena never once breaks out the harp. Oh, lost opportunities to take it to eleven! But quibbling feels utterly ungrateful when the fact such a thing ever took place is enough to warm the cockles of my cold, cold heart. Discussing whether these performances are better than the originals (they aren't) is missing the point: they fairly bristle with nervous energy and provide new insight on what makes these compositions so compelling after all these years. Hint: ITS CUZ THERE RELLY COOL AN GOOD

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Jelena Ana Milcactic a.k.a. Helen Merrill (Polygram International, 2000)

Helen Merrill, like Tom Zé and Cecil Taylor, is the rare popular musician who has managed to not only hold it down for close to half a century, but actually improve over that time: despite having earned the sort of laurels most would kill to lie back on and being at the age where most are satisfied to just keep senility at bay, all three have released some of their very best work this decade.

Jelena Ana Milcactic
, recorded when Merrill was sixty-nine years old, is a semi-autobiograpical almost-concept album that covers a fairly large amount of aesthetic ground with a singular purpose. The opening duo of tracks, entirely Helenless, set the stage for an album on such a large scale that the immediate transition to a gently swinging "Long, Long Ago" is somewhat jarring and perhaps disconcerting to those expecting (or hoping) that the previous songs were harbingers of a total departure from the sounds she made her name on. But those are here to provide a backdrop of history and urgency against which the domesticity and longing of the remaining songs plays out. There is something admirable, even brave, in the way the album (though the instrumentals are dusted with [some might say well-earned] dissonance) never shies away from traditional concepts of beauty, even sentimentality, despite these having become vessels for and synonymous with the abhorrently gauche and nauseatingly insincere. Batting cleanup, (Goddess forgive me for a sporting metaphor) her cover of Judy Collins' "My Father" is the embodiment of this: deeply nostalgic and , the potential remains at all times for the song dissolving into that sort of smug sub-Broadway lounge schlock that causes anyone with a discerning ear to start gnawing their arms off if exposure lasts longer than a minute, yet it retains a stately fragility throughout its seven minutes. The rest of the songs (save the short, blaring instrumental interlude "Tamac," which sounds like the AACM and some crumhorns had a baby in the Mediterranean) alternates between the usual vocal jazz and a sort of folk-based pre-rock pop: too serious for easy-listening, too subdued to be showtunes, and too not repulsive to be Ken Burns soundtracks, even if placing versions of "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Motherless Child" one track apart is a questionable move.) The voice remains as subtle and supple as ever, hardly touched by the ravages of time yet still possessing that insight only age can provide, or so they say. *shifty eyes*

Sitting beside my nana's fire, drinking peppermint tea and reading Algernon Blackwood (and somehow I'm still available, ladies and others!) an odd thought occurred to me: this music, for all its theatrical artifice, acts oddly like folk music in at least one respect: as a stream for others to reinterpret, to purloin its form and replace its essence with irony or spite or transmogrify into fantastic shapes while remaining essentially unharmed. It is an undiluted version of that mixture of extravagantly exhausted sighs and crumbling grandeur that powers Follies and certain of Stephin Merritt's finest tunes ("Busby Berkeley Dreams," "I've Got New York.") That beyond there once existed another, purer aesthetic distillation or semi-conscious formulation that the performances of Jelena themselves draw from is also undeniable, though the source is by definition effervescent and now unknowable, if it wasn't a conscious put-on or myth itself. Holy fuck, I'm a pretentious dick. Seriously, what went wrong to allow me to believe that this sort of dribble is ever acceptable? Fuck that.

But not the album. It is super-excellent. Perhaps even good enough that the audience (all one of you) will forgive the magnitude of my intense stupidity.

(And while I obviously hate all musicians and labels and totally oppose spending money on CDs, apparently you can get this new on Amazon for seven bucks, so definitely do so if you're so inclined.)

Bob Drake - The Skull Mailbox (Crumbling Tomes, 2001)

Perched on the (impossibly lit) lamppost that stands at the crossroads in the heart of the middle of nowhere, the old busker overlooks this lonely, barren terrain, his own by birthright or territorial warfare we'll never know, and allows a thin, dry chuckle to emanate from blackened lungs. He's stolen the sanity of many a man, some just for larks and some for arcane purposes which to even hint at would bring swift, total madness, but he always left 'em smiling. Even laughing. Laughing or gibbering brainlessly; same difference, really. He’s always had that effect on people. Just because the world has been revealed as a meaningless nightmare of shapeless phantasms and consciousness-devouring blasphemies controlled by malevolent forces beyond our comprehension doesn't mean we still can't have poke some fun at the whole shebang once in a while. Besides, once you get past the knee-jerk terror reflex (and the smell) shapeless phantasms can be quite hilarious, what with all the groping blindly and shambling and howling and whatnot. The slender man in the funny hat, now slithering down from his nest, is surely aware of this fact and has played on the dichotomy with the same dexterity he brings to his fiddlework: no one wants to be digested by iridescent ectoplasm, save for some fetishists best left unmentioned, but everyone loves to see some cocky amateur medium or scoffing skeptic get their inevitable comeuppance. What, he seems to inquire, despite being quite sure of the answer, could be more uplifting than supernatural schadenfreude? Just as watching someone (someone unreal, someone remote) having their brains splatter across the freeway at a hundred MPH makes us more aware of both our own mortality and how often we escape its clutches, encountering someone else (perhaps fictional, perhaps not, perhaps somewhere between) experiencing the total evisceration of everything they've ever held as truth forces us to confront the limits of our own sanity and perhaps strengthen them. And when faced with annihilation at the hands of unseen or unreal forces, perhaps one begins to see shufflin’ off this mortal coil thanks to old age or a car accident as sweet mercy disguised as dullness.

But the man of the hour cares not for this parlor room philosophy; his foremost duty remains to entertain whatever meager travelers pass his way. To entertain and bestow his crooked trickster’s sense of justice, if necessary. And it just so happens that at this very moment a pair of pathetic paripatetics is coming over the horizon. As the figures increase in size from ant-sized dots to bee-sized dots, he hopes these boys don’t hold lucidity too dear and wonders out loud about possible synonyms for ‘squamous.’


The Skull Mailbox is probably Bob Drake's most straightforward record, though we're dealing in relatives here. It avoids excess Science Group-esque proggery (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you) and conceptual overload (again, not bashin' it) and delivers a cluster of equally catchy and murky ditties with titles like "They Live in the Well," "The Wig Screamed Murder," "The Unmentionable Inhabitant" and "Crepuscular Vestibule," which is what we all really want in music, is it not? Discussing musical parallels seems secondary to charting the overall aesthetic waters he treads here: Paul Roland has hit on this mood of morbid jubilation on multiple occasions, though his explicitly Lovecraftian works, akin to the majority of songs by the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, are too blandly rockist to afford much staying power to the texts. Like almost too much of my favorite music, literary allusions help pin this on the map more than comparisons to other albums: to be reductive, much of this is Gorey if Gorey read Lovecraft. Sure I could find some more obscure authors to allude to for lit cred, but this gets the point across. The raison d’etre here is terrible occult happenings viewed through the lens of blackest, driest humour. People die madly in cellars and party with giant weasels. A peculiarly Gorey/Snicket-like fascination with the aesthetically preposterous/unwieldy definite article-adjective-noun encapsulation of logically preposterous scenes emerges: “The Shocking Efflorescence,” “The Miraculous Reliquary,” “The Demented Statuary,” “The Unmentionable Inhabitant,” “The Tragic Séance.” They resemble the titles of weird tales that one can never be completely sure if they are serious or not, which is fitting, as the albums plays out like a collection of short stories linked only by misfortune. This vignette form would be pushed to its furthest limits on his tragically misunderstood The Shunned Country, which consists of more than fifty nearly microscopic incidents of the weird intruding on the mundane in inevitably hilarious and disturbing fashion. Call it the Pseudo-Science Group and be done, if you must.

There will be another paragraph here once I get some sleep, promise.