January 22, 2008

Son House: Live At The Gaslight Cafe, New York, January 3, 1965

Filed under: Hype,Music — tha rhythm tha rebel @ 11:03 am

[Document Records; 2000]

You know, there’s two types of the blues: there’s the blues, and there’s Son House’s blues. There’s just something about his playing, something between the percussive slide guitar and grumbling vocals. Something very eerie that makes listening to his music an almost uncomfortable yet utterly compelling experience.

Son House began recording in 1930 and by the early 1940s he had become a well-known blues player, but after recording with Alan Lomax from the Liberty Congress in 1942 he retired from the music busisness and moved to Rochester, New York. During the country blues revival of the 1960s his music was popular once again and Son House came out of retirement to tour America and Europe. Many critics had suggested that the flame had gone out in Son House’s playing and his heart was no longer in it, how wrong they were.

This album was recorded live in 1965 at the Gaslight Cafe in New York. It surely has to be one of the most intense and haunting solo performances ever recorded. Songs of hope and desperation, heartbreak and mourning, with House’s squealing guitar cutting through the tension and suspense to create something unlike anything I’ve heard before. The music seems so delicate and measured whilst being delivered straight from the heart with such strength and weary composure. Every second feels sacred and you dare not even breathe even though you know this happened over 40 years ago in a cafe hundreds of miles away. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you’re not sure why.

The man who mumbles introductions to the songs is clearly not the same man who is playing the music, he is a different person as if possessed by the power of the blues. This album is far from a live greatest hits, although you could be forgiven for thinking so by looking at the setlist. All of House’s most popular numbers are there, but the stand out track is “Levee Camp Blues”. The thumping rhythm of House’s guitar mixed with the strained pinging of the slide puts you in a trance and before you know it the song’s over, 8 minutes later. I defy anybody to listen to this album without being hypnotised and transported back into that cafe in New York 40 years ago.

January 21, 2008

CoCoComa – CoCoComa

Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 9:56 am

[Goner; 2007]

I have read, from a number of trusted sources on the internet, that the organ/guitar/drums trio CoCoComa is one of the loudest rock groups in Chicago, if not the country. Having never seen the band live myself, I cannot say with certainty that this is true. Listening to their records, I could definitely believe it. But their records are not their live show, so I understand that I may not be getting everything about CoCoComa that there is to get.

That said, what I have heard of the band, namely their debut LP and an earlier split EP with the Hipshakes, has given me two very different takes on how to recreate the (presumably) raw power of a CoCoComa concert in the studio. It might seem straightforward, you know, if it’s a loud, trashy garage rock band, you turn up the guitars, blow out the drums, and just basically turn the whole track into a blistering, treble-heavy mess. This is the approach used on the split EP, and I have to say that when I first heard it, I thought, “Damn, this is LOUD. I can hardly even make out the riffs, let alone the vocals.” And to me that was a good thing, because by all accounts, that is how I was supposed to be hearing this band. At the same time, though, the music didn’t really hit me too hard. The too-much-guitar approach to recording that works well for a lot of other loud bands seemed to have left them sounding somewhat souless. Still, I wanted to hear more, I wanted to understand.

So then CoCoComa comes out and I can’t help but think to myself, “Is this even the same band?” The album is heavily organ-driven. And it’s not some tinny, distorted organ that might as well be a whiny guitar, it’s a thick, meaty, propulsive organ. The drums sound pretty fat too, while the guitar kind of takes a back seat. It’s a totally different sound, there is actually a rhythm section here, and it’s relatively clean. And while it may not be as accurate a representation of the CoCoComa live sound as the other record is, it’s just as powerful of a recording. Moreso, maybe, because instead of wanting to turn it down, I just want to turn it up, and make it even louder. I wanna bang my head a bit and move around, because this is a tight, fast garage-punk record with heavy organ-driven grooves (and I can actually hear the grooves), and catchy Nuggets-style tunes. In other words, this record puts the garage in garage-punk. And hopefully one day I will see the band play and understand them and realize that maybe the guitar is supposed to play a more prominent role in the mix, and maybe they are supposed to sound trashy and treble-heavy. For now, though, I’ll take the sound on the LP, because I feel like CoCoComa is a band that wants to make me move, and that is how i like my rock and roll.

Hear assorted CoCoComa songs here:

Buy CoCoComa records here:

January 17, 2008

The Dutchess & The Duke – “Reservoir Park” b/w “Mary”

Filed under: Hype,Music — innervisions @ 10:24 pm

[Boom Boom; 2007]

You’d think that after a while, the combination of cardigan-sporting white people playing guitars and singing careful pop melodies would get tired. It’s easy to get frustrated with the mediocrity inherent in bands such as Spoon, and yearn for new music to innovate and to stop trying to be the 60s.

But boys and girls, a reason for renewed enthusiasm in pop music always manages to come around the corner, and there is little doubt that Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz of The Dutchess & The Duke bring a special pop sensibility to the table. With the barrage of new music coming at the collective cognoscenti, it’s easy to get lost and bored, and throw John Coltrane back on. But on my first listen, I knew I had stumbled across a classic here, and it has such lovely, universal appeal that I’m sure you’ll be enthusiastic as well.

“Reservoir Park” wastes no time getting started, quickly replacing vinyl hiss with a lightly humming acoustic guitar, and a bluesy vocal best described as a cross between a croon and a moan. Then maracas come chugging along and handclaps and seventh chords mesh together, and Kim Morrison comes out and pulls off these unbelievable cooing harmonies against the lead vocal of Jesse Lortz, and there’s probably a tambourine back there somewhere, and the result is this lovely little lo-fi pop atmosphere. Nothing here is terribly original, but that’s hardly the point of pop music. “Reservoir Park” scratches that pop music itch, and hey, the fact that it’s in A minor is a nice touch.

The charms of the B-side, “Mary,” take a little longer to come to fruition. It’s a change of pace from the A-side, in that the minor bluesy vibe is gone, and the lyrics are critical to falling in love. “Mary” is quite simply a beautiful love song. The two guitars weave in and out of each other, as Jesse Lortz’s lovelorn, heartstring-pulling croon laments. The end of the song, with both Morrison and Lortz breaking your heart with the repetition of the forlorn, “I ain’t gonna say your name no more…” is beautiful. To be honest, I’ve never heard a better ending to a love song.

Hear assorted songs by The Dutchess and the Duke and buy their single here:

January 16, 2008

Times New Viking – Rip It Off

Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 11:14 pm

[Matador; 2008]

By now you should know the story of Times New Viking, but if you don’t, here’s a brief bit. They’re a lo-fi indie-pop/punk trio from Columbus, and they’ve been around for a few years now. In 2005, they put out a record called Dig Yourself on Siltbreeze, a previously defunct seminal noise-pop/experimental rock label that founder Tom Lax is said to have resurrected with the primary directive of releasing a Times New Viking album. The label has since risen to a position of eminence among noise-pop/experimental rock listeners. In 2007 the band agreed to put out records on Matador. Rip It Off is their first LP for the label, and third LP overall.

People were actually worried when Times New Viking signed to Matador. That was a ridiculous thing to happen for a couple of reasons. First of all, how was Matador ever gonna force Times New Viking to “clean up” their sound? More importantly, why would Matador force Times New Viking to “clean up” their sound? We are talking about the traditional home of everything this band holds dear – Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, imports from Flying Nun Records, etc. The label and the band both know well that the fuzzy shit, the almost brutal layers of noise, is absolutely essential to what is Times New Viking. I mean, obviously the band writes killer pop songs, but what the hell are they as a group without the noise? What is the point. We feed off of the balance the band hits between the sugary, simple melodies and the fucked-up, blown-out distorted production. That contrast is what excites us, that is what gets us going. That is what punk music is, and we are young people.

But that is all more or less beside the point, because when you actually play Rip It Off, if you’re a reasonable person, Times New Viking will demolish your worries over their potential sell-out. Granted, it is certainly their most accessible LP yet. I can’t deny that. This is by far their most obviously catchy crop of tunes yet (literally, all of these songs catch like crazy). They are not subtle songs. They don’t sneak up on you. Times New Viking meant to write fucking anthems when they put this record together, and it shows. Just look at the song titles. “Teen Drama”, “RIP Allegory”, “Drop Out”, “Relevant Now”, “End of All Things”. Those are all gigantic song titles. The titles that reference things outside of the band, like “Come Together”, “Off the Wall”, and “Times New Viking Vs. Yo La Tengo”, are even bigger. I mean, they call a track “The Early 80s” for Christ’s sake. The two chords that open “(my head)” are so big and dumb and beautiful that you will have to pump your fist in the air when it comes on, then later you will have to sing, “I need more money ‘cause I need more drugs,” along with the band, whether or not you’ve ever heard the song before, and whether or not you even care about drugs. This music is meant to reach the listener immediately, not in some sneaky way.

Of course, it’s difficult to tell if the band is genuine in their blatant appeals to adolescence. But to an extent, it doesn’t matter because the music rocks and I can let it overtake my thinking brain. That reminds me, this record definitely rocks harder than any other Times New Viking record yet. It’s nosier than ever, but the overall sound is much fuller than that of their old records, basically because there is actually a bit of low-end. As a result, everything (the noise, the kick drums, the organ, and the guitar solos), hit harder and heavier. Finally, these guys have a “huge” sound to match their huge ideas.

I love it, because, like the Pooh Sticks, they are not afraid to swipe ideas from all over the history of pop music culture, reappropriate them, and, using “Rip it off and start again,” as their mission statement, kind of make them their own in a way that is simultaneously ironic and heartfelt. But Times New Viking manages to one-up the Pooh Sticks because a kid could totally understand this record without getting all the references and cheeky shit. What Times New Viking seems to be selling (and they’re selling it hard), is that it doesn’t matter that they namedrop or make big, obvious songs and grandiose statements, or rip off of other bands, or even whether they mean any of it, because Rip It Off could legitimately be a regular kid’s favorite record, and because this is how they think music should sound. And I think that they’re right.

Hear “(my head)” and other assorted Times New Viking songs here:

Buy Times new Viking records from these labels:

October 16, 2007

Pärson Sound – Pärson Sound

Filed under: Hype,Music — rkodrzy @ 6:26 pm

[Subliminal Sounds; 2001]

In 2001, lost Swedish psychedelic recordings by a band by the name of Pärson Sound were found in a time capsule sent from the late sixties. Well not really. But this is a collection of tracks, both studio and live recordings, that had not been released by the band previously. In fact, this band hadn’t released anything at all under the moniker of Pärson Sound. After a short stint of live appearances amidst a burgeoning Swedish progressive and psychedelic music scene, they quickly changed their name to International Harvester and proceeded to release albums just like any normal band. But now we have a double album full of Pärson Sound, a much more intense and extreme affair than their later incarnations.

Though the entire album is full of highlights, the one that perhaps sticks out a bit further than the rest of the pack is “From Tunis To India In Fullmoon (On Testosterone).” This twenty minute monstrosity journeys out farther into the inner regions of the mind than perhaps any other piece of music I’ve heard. Driven by a simultaneously swirling and propulsive drumbeat, a dense sonic wall is erected and subtly manipulated through the use of ever-gradually changing textures. Repetition is the key here, as squawking horns and tortured guitars weave a patchwork quilt of patterns in and around the giant, crushing drone that both anchors the listener to the ground and molds his or her brain like putty. Often times traditional tempos are ignored, and the musicians adopt an almost free-jazz style of playing, resulting in many layers of loops revolving at different speeds. Yes, I’m still talking about the same track. This is a journey of the highest order, with each passing minute being different than the last, but still adhering to a definite and unbelievably solid theme.

As for a few of the other tracks, “A Glimpse Inside The Glyptotec-66” plays with droning tape loops and creepy voice editing, resulting in a disturbing little ambient track that adds some much needed restraint to this collection of songs while still keeping the same dark otherworldly mood that is present on the louder rockers. “One Quiet Afternoon (In The King’s Garden)” is exactly the opposite. What occurs here is simply a massive cloud of sound, noise, droning, whatever you want to call it. One could practically reach out into the air and touch such a dense collection of audio waves. The endlessly pummeling “Skrubba” is like a half-hour Scandinavian version of The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray,” only with no vocals, more cacophony, and more headache. The good kind of headache, of course. There is even a relatively straightforward folk song (by this band’s standards) in “On How To Live.”

Anyone who enjoys droning and heavy psychedelia shouldn’t hesitate to snag this lost gem. Just thinking about music like this existing in 1967/68 is mind blowing enough. Actually listening to it is another matter entirely.

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