Sunday, February 28, 2010

Big Batch o' Beta-Lactam

Last Tuesday, I received an order I mentioned in the Ltd. Ed. post. The ltd. 2xCD edition of Sonic Messenger (2009) from Expo '70, the benefit compilation Mom (2009), and a suprise: extra label comp Mutant Sounds For Mutant People (2009)! All from Beta-Lactam Ring Records.

Sonic Messenger
Somehow you might have guessed that song titles like "Analog Dreamscape" and "Your Beard Is Growing Psychic" would reel me in. Throw in a bonus ltd-ed cd titled Infinite Macrocosm and I'm sold! Also, I was heartened by photos of disembodied guitar headstocks, someone with a guitar, stacks of guitar amps, and so on.

Well, it's drone. However... whereas a lot of drone is keyboard-based and/or dark and haunting, Expo '70 uses mostly guitars and grooves the space-psych terrain of late-'60s/early-'70 Pink Floyd. And some more modern sounds to boot. So, it stands out from the rest of what I've been on, and there's a lot to dig into here.

"Your Beard Is Growing Psychic" from Sonic Messenger (2009)

Opening intro "The Gathering" is all roiling distortion waves with a prickly lead part and fever-buzz ending. The next one goes on too long once it settles into a (arrhythmic) groove, but experiments nicely with multi-guitar drones and weird, percussion-interruptus loops. "Analog Dreamscape" might be based on actual analogue tape delay, because it seems like the guitar repeats everything only once. Or maybe the decay is just set real high. Not the greatest guitarist, but he manages to keep the psych flowing over a tribal drum-machine beat. "Hamadryad" is the epitome of space-synth psych-guitar ambient-drone, which doesn't make it the most interesting track on the album. Still cool, though.

"I Nzambi Awaken" sounds perilously close to some heavier track from Harvestman's In A Dark Tongue (#5 , 2009). Heavy, repetitive riffage droning out and minimalistic tribal rhythm under exploratory guitar soloing. Plus the title almost has "zombie" in it, and practically references "Ye Uttuku Spells" from Absu! Embedded above, "Your Beard" should be the selling track instead of edits of "Hamadryad." Sure, it's not very representative, but it's damn groovy. Plus the title would sure get people talkin'. Couple more songs - one more dark and chugging, one more bright and pulsing. Then the concluding epic (21 minutes), "Temple of the Shadow," uses all the tricks introduced so far: roiling, quietude, delayed guitar, space-noise, amp overload, minimalist drum loops, psychedelia!!

Expo '70
The ltd-ed companion disc Infinite Macrocosm (2009) consists of three lengthy tracks, which defy description - at least by me, at this time. If the main disc still leaves much to be explored (and it does), then this requires deep-deep-space exploration. Maybe outtakes, maybe improvised experiments, but it goes all over the place - at least within the bounds of what Messenger introduced. It's pretty trippy, though! "Velvet Prisms of the Shoshone," indeed...

If interested, Lala does have one Expo '70 album up: Animism (2007).

Mom (2009) is a benefit compilation for the mother of BLR label head, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year. I really recommend buying it (also offering samples and .mp3 purchases). Just some quick notes on each track, and I'll link from the artist name to whatever is out there - usually Lala, if available. No full streaming of this anywhere yet, nor these specific songs.

1 Orbit Service - "Reap"
Something like a Syd Barrett/Skip Spence/Nick Drake baroque alt-gospel-folk-blues, with spectral fiddle. Unexpected!

2 CJ Boyd - "Floodgates"
Vocal loops under vocal drones and cries, then some cello outro. Not my thing, but not atrocious.

3 One Starving Day - "Traccia"
Leyland Kirby-esque piano crawl, with more active synth squiggles hopping around.

4 Nadja - "Healing Drone"
Very relaxing, low feedback hum over round digital shapes. Not the typical effects-loaded Nadja I've experienced.

5 Expo '70 - "Electric Waves"
Another mellowed-out drone, with Heliotropic cymbal.

6 Seven That Spells - "Pastorala"
Part 3 of a drone trilogy, featuring emergent organ pulses, with squelchy synth arpeggiation as a bonus.

7 Troum - "KĀŚ"
More drone, with monastic chant ambience. Almost new-agey, but not so in-your-face.

"Samsara Tsunami" by Earthmonkey, from Mom (2009)

8 Armchair Migraine Journey - "NAD Pt. 2" (No Fuzz Mix)
Floating spacey pulse, without fuzz. For some strange reason, I expected it to be somewhat headache-inducing. It isn't at all!

9 Else Teicher - "M↑M"
Crashing waves of organ with intermittent disruption (sector 8 alarm, machine punchcard outburst). Cool sound, especially at compilation track length.

10 Volcano The Bear - "11 Years Of Yes"
Creepy sing-song vocal mutilation, like a bad dream remembered distantly. Maybe Happy Flowersesque?

11 The Legendary Pink Dots - "A Moustache On The Mona Lisa And Other Things You May Find In The Neighbour's Trash"
Brechtian folderol. I once bought a LPD album 20 years ago, because I heard "The Green Gang" on KTRU. I quickly realized it was not for me.

12 La STPO - "Sarajevo-Stepanakert"
Screeching spazz-out noise gives way to low-key free jazz ambience - including vibes (the instrument) and banjo (maybe).

13 Un Festin Sagital - "Cumbia" (Remix)
Reminds me of a Spanish-language Bogus Blimp, or industrial parts of The Forbidden Zone film (1982). Those are good things...

14 Earthmonkey - "Samsara Tsunami" [embedded above]
Much better than their nom du noise would have indicated. Almost like a dirgy Aborym techno-symphonic BM. Pretty cool!

15 Nurse With Wound - "My Saxy Baby - Raw Mix"
Not at all what I’d expected from NWW, given their credentials and rep. Maybe I’m just becoming jaded, or maybe it’s atypical from them. Gallumphing saxes and a brittle beat.

16 Andrew Liles - "Some Women Do Not Love Their Children (Vorsprungdurchtechnikmix)"
Short and noisy, with glitchy synth beats, and a strident tone. Andrew seems a very busy man.

Mutant Sounds For Mutant People
Same deal with Mutant Sounds for Mutant People (2009), which again is an actual label compilation. Available for $1, or free if they throw it in with an order (which they probably would). And I'd say worth a cd's price on its own merits! Links go more often to some kind of artist website or Myspace...

1 Nadja - "SUN1jaguarSUN2windstorm" (Vinyl Ver. Edit)
I like Nadja (#16, Metal 2009) more after these tunes than before. Might have to get Under the Jaguar Sun (2009) now. Pretty sweet, full-bodied 9-minute stoner-drone dirge, with a relatively cleaner sound (less effects-overload) than usual. Hazy feeling, moreso than hazy sounding.

2 One Starving Day - "An Evil Light" (Edit)
Keeps changing colors. First part's like a post-punk VU's "The Gift," with spazzy lead runs (or runny spazz leads). Then a zoned-out, Krauty math-rock section. Then some loud 'n' freaky chooglin' organ shouter.

3 Expo '70 - "Hamadryad" (Edit)
Ambient guitar-drone edit, as described way above.

4 Nadja - "Green & Cold" (Edit)
Nice heavy guitar, drawn out - with some delay scrapings and a treated, clipped drum (machine) sound. All put together really nicely.

5 Edward Ka-Spel - "A Missing Piece" (Edit)
The man behind The Legendary Pink Dots, and so pretty similar. Precious singing with keyboards and digital beats, interpolated with ambient scenes which would be better without the song.

6 Nurse With Wound - "Space Music" (Edit)
Too much too-high frequencies, too uneventful, with random noiseburst. The cool "events" not worth the rest. More like what I would’ve expected from NWW.

7 Philippe Petit - "In Tokyo Henry Spencer Is Fine" (Edit)
Vinyl pops-and-clicks tape-manipulation glitch intro subsides behind an abstract yet musical form. Classical, yet avant garde. Not ambient, but almost subdued. In the lead for future purchases (of the new exposure). I assume it's not actually the highwire-walker.

8 Aritomo - "The Forgotten Pressed Flower"
Is the singing backwards-masked, or just in Japanese? Or both?? Some of the sounds are backwards... I'm all confused. Kinda folky, in an eastern mood.

9 Kasumi Trio - "So Far"
Jazzy acoustic guitar mellowness, almost like a low-key Minutemen or early Sebadoh with early-Mercury Rev horn chart as backup.

10 The Silverman - "Adrift"
Spooky ambient organ drone, a description which doesn't fully capture what's done with that mood. Another one for future investigations. Looks like he's a member of The Legendary Pink Dots as well.

11 Troum - "Elation" (Original Version)
Sensitive, spacious synth - drone.

12 Colin Potter, Phil Mouldycliff - "Grey Skies on Asphalt, Part 5"
Ambient music exactly as the song title would lead you to believe.

13 Andrew Liles - "Crash"
Kinda similar, kinda different than his track on Mom - like a string quartet in a noise warzone. He's also seems to have the knack for ending pieces before they overstay their welcome. A lost talent...

Infinite Macrocosm

Vinal Edge List o' 2009

While shopping this weekend, Vinal Edge told me our tastes overlapped, and I should check out their Best of 2009 list. It's currently 2nd down behind "New This Week" on their site. Good record store - way out of town, but worth the drive.

I won't include the whole write-ups, but I will link to Lala. Here are the records that made their cut!

Faking Gold and Murder
AETHENOR "Faking Gold & Murder"
(#16, Non-Metal Next 10)
Not my favorite by this group, but obviously it's really good.


FIRE ON FIRE "The Orchard"

NURSE WITH WOUND "Surveillance Lounge"

NURSE WITH WOUND "Paranoia in Hi-Fi"

Eating Us
This album's cover art has always caught my eye.

EVANGELISTA "Hello, Voyager"

FLAMING LIPS "Embryonic"
(#13, Non-Metal Next 10)
Not my favorite by this group, but obviously it's really good.

DECEMBERISTS "The Hazards of Love"
Honestly, I've never really given them much of a chance. Was a little surprised to see this one here... Also, I always want to spell the album title with two Z's, like "The Dukes of Hazzard." Dunno why.

I've heard nothing but good things about this experimental solo album from Wilco's lead guitarist. I know he's a great player...

"Natasha Khan, lemme rock ya - lemme rock ya, 'tasha Khan!"
Has anyone made that joke already, or is the demographic overlap just not there?

CAUSA SUI "Summer Sessions Volumes 2 and 3"
(#15, Non-Metal Next 10)
Superb. Julian Cope endorsement quoted!! Now available on a 3xCD reissue, along with Volume 1!

THEE OH SEES "Help" (#10 Live Show)

Sound Mind
ANCESTORS "Of Sound Mind"
I think I will buy on this recommendation alone. One from their first album was on the 2nd blog compilation. Another great album cover, with gatefolded vinyl edition!

No album link, but I saw "folk-drone," Ben Chasney (#10, 2009), and "30th release." Sooo....

V/A "G-Spots: The Spacey Folk Electro-Horror Sounds of the Studio G Library"
Sounds ultra-intriguing... Only 30-second snippets on Lala, but I'm going to sample them all.

V/A "I Woke Up One Morning in May"
Link to title track only.

V/A "Singapore A-Go-Go"
Sublime Frequencies international pop music compilation!

ORCHESTRE POLY-RYTHMO DE COTONOU "Echos Hypnotiques: From the Vaults of the Albarika"
Africa? Poly-rhythms? Uh-huh!

LEYLAND KIRBY "Sadly, the Future is No Longer What It Was"
We're working our way through it these days now. And you would start here.

THE UNITS "History of the Units (The Early Years: 1977-1983)"

L'ACEPHALE "Malfeasance"
Black metal and creepy swarms of Romanian chanting? This I must seek out!!

Silvester Anfang II
I actually have this, maybe need to take a closer listen. There's one comp track on Lala.

BILL DIXON, AARON SIEGEL & BEN HALL "Weight / Counterweight"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Top 10 Records of 1993!

Big steps down for Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins this year... Tool and Liz Phair were up-and-coming, and I didn't care. I was missing out on Wu-Tang and Tribe (except for "The Scenario"). But what a spectacular year for my kinda music. Some of the most difficult exclusions from the Top 10 yet, though I've run out of steam for doing #11-20. And some of the ranking decisions were ruthless.

These are good music!!

#10 Moistboyz EP - Moistboyz

Moistboyz EP
"Adios Amigo" from Moistboyz (1993?)

Genre - Offend-o-Matic Electro-Punk
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Jersey / Austin

Review - All Music Guide
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Moistboyz I & II
Purchase - Amazon

Hahaha!! Lighten up, mang... Mickey Moist is Mickey Melchiondo, who is also Dean Ween. Dickie Moist is the singer. This 6-song EP is in your face, from "Carjack" and "1.0 (Fuck No)" [both live] all the way to "I Am The Jury." Gotta go!

#9 Love God - Milk Cult

Love God
"Bow Kiness Static" from Burn or Bury (1994)

Genre - Art-Damage Metalscapes
Official/Myspace -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - Swordfish blog
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Love God
Purchase - HB Direct

More SPBT/Frank Grow connections. He also made a movie called Love God, for which some of this music might have been used. Like an even more chopped-up Steel Pole Bath Tub, this side project is all instrumental and experimental. Like avant-soundtrack score! Including the 38-minute multi-part "Clown Party."

#8 Independent Worm Saloon - Butthole Surfers

Independent Worm Saloon
"Dust Devil" from Independent Worm Saloon (1993)

Genre - Alternative Reality Alt-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Austin, TX

Review - Sputnik
Download - iTunes, Amazon
Lala - Independent Worm Saloon
Purchase - Amazon

The Buttholes' major-label debut, produced by Zeppelineer JPJ, and it's better than it has any right to be. Gibby had tasted Mtv rotation with Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod," and they were on their way towards "Pepper." Despite a bit of filler, this was really the last all-around solid Butthole Surfers album.

#7 Bubble & Scrape - Sebadoh

Bubble & Scrape
"Soul and Fire" from Bubble and Scrape (1993)

Genre - Indie Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Western Massachusetts

Review - Pop Matters
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Bubble and Scrape
Purchase - Amazon

Last album with Eric Gaffney, who did the best job of balancing and complementing Lou Barlow's tendencies. Other than the Tokyo semi-bootleg, this is where the "main" Sebadoh ended for me. Lotsa good songs, and it almost coheres into an actual album, which was never their strong suit. Too many strands and directions.

#6 Mule - Mule

"Mississippi Breaks" from Mule (1993)

Genre - Hard-Drinkin' Blooze-Rock
All Music Guide - Mule bio
Location - Michigan, USA

Review - Trouser Press
Download - Touch and Go, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Excellent debut of mostly raucous throwdowns from former Laughing Hyenas and Wig-man. Being blues-based, the JSBX comparisons were everlasting. Being from Michigan, they lacked the hipster-cred ironic non-detachment detachment. To their enduring benefit. "Now I Truly Understand" is not raucous, but it is a really old song.

#5 Almaron - The Mike Gunn

"Bullinga" from Almaron (1993)

Genre - Stoner-Psych Metal
A label site - Worship Guitars
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Examiner/Houston
No Downloads, no Lala, no Purcase. Forgotten to the internet...

A classic 2xLP from the Houston post-punk mid-grunge heavy-psych icons, wherein they refuse to do everything the right way. But thus is The Mike Gunn way, and it works so well here. Fine, get the CD... It's in the wrong order, and you're missing the epic "Fly to the Sun," with organ!! But you can almost fix that with the .mp3's or your programmable cd-players. Almost.

#4 Boces - Mercury Rev

"Something for Joey" from Boces (1993)

Genre - Harmony Rocket Noise-Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Catskills, New York

Review - Sputnik
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Boces
Purchase - Amazon

Second album from Mercury Rev, and the last with singer Dave Baker. It somewhat expands the palate from Yerself Is Steam, but keeps experimenting with more noisey arrangements, more rich accompaniment, and pop maneuvers both tight and epic. Gotta mention the official video for "Bronx Cheer" - never saw it before!

#3 The Rude Gesture: A Pictoral History and Uranus 7"s - Shellac

The Rude Gesture
"The Guy Who Invented Fire" [and others] from The Rude Gesture: A Pictoral History (1993) [and others]

Genre - Power-Drill Trio
Wikipedia - /wiki/Shellac_(band)
Location - Chicago, IL

Not much by way of Review, Lala, Download or Purchase for these 7"s. I'm not even going to link the 2 on Amazon going for $105+... The Shellac LP's I've heard have all been at least very good. But all the 7" releases are essential Albini (and Weston and Trainer) - just listen to the first 6 or 7 songs in the playlist linked above. They also released a split 7" with Mule.

#2 Motherscratcher - Ed Hall

"White House Girls" [live] from Motherscratcher (1993)

Genre - Hill Country Noise Rock
Wikipedia - /wiki/Ed_Hall_(band)
Location - Austin, TX

Review - All Music Guide
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

This went back and forth between #1 and #2. Unfortunately, this is where it belongs - though not for any major faults. The songwriting's not quite up the previous couple of records, but Ed Hall did expand here. Not sure I would have laid money on their ever writing something like the instrumental beauty "Satori in Manhattan, Kansas."

The closing epic, "Afghani Harvest Period" is a little more predictable, with almost comically Buttholesque vocal weirdness. But extremely awesome! I always thought it was weird how thematically similar "Leave Me Alone" (here) was to "Luke Flukenstock" (on the previous). Larry wants you to shut up and go away! There's also a cd-filling "bonus track" of droning ambience, which is actually better than this type of thing usually went down back in the day.

#1 Transmissions from the Satellite Heart - Flaming Lips

Transmissions from the Satellite Heart
"Turn It On" [and the rest] from Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (1993)

Genre - Maximum Freak-Out Guitar-Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Oklahoma City, OK

Review - Almost Cool
Discography Post - Flaming Lips
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Transmissions from the Satellite Heart
Purchase - Amazon

Yeah, it's the "Jelly" album. Hey, I don't really mind it too much - not like I was listening to a lot of Modern Rock radio in 1994 (when it hit big). Plus, I'd already been a major fan for six years by then. Hell, I was celebrating for them - until they had to open a Candlebox tour. Yikes!

Anyway, the first album of the Ronald Jones/Steven Drozd era. Not quite the high-water mark of Clouds Taste Metallic (#1, 1995), the second and last with Jones. But a gigantic leap from the major-label debut of Hit to Death in the Future Head (1992). I am certainly damning with faint praise, huh? Well, how about... #1?! Yeah, it's a terrificly great album: great drumming, great lead guitar, great songs, great production, great B-sides! You should own it, whoever you are.

From the discography post:
Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (1993) 10/10 - Depending on your view, the surprise come-from-behind hit "She Don't Use Jelly" might be skippable. Or it's simply not the best of a superb collection of densely-woven, fully-realized, widely-ranging noise-pop.

Round Two of ROKY!!!

Wednesday night saw the return to Houston of Roky Erickson, a long-time personal hero. After 20+ years of super-fandom, I finally got to see Roky live last June. And it was easily (very easily) the #1 Live Show of 2009.

Going into this 2nd show at The Continental Club, we didn't know what to expect. Roky's got a new album coming out in April, with a great new song I just recently posted. Would new material be played? Would it be identical to the show just 8 months ago? Turned out: neither.

True, the vast majority of the songs were again from The Evil One (1980), with "You're Gonna Miss Me" definitely on the list.

[I own this now!!
Pictures from Houston Press]

Even if it had been identical to the previous show, everything would have been all good. We camped out at the side of the stage, which cut into the already low vocal mix. But Roky tends to turn around a lot, away from the audience. And as planned, this position gave us a perfect view of him playing, interacting with the band, chatting between songs. He seemed in a great mood. If he flubbed some guitar part, he kind of tilted his head and winked, almost a nonchalant shrug gesture.

Not being out front, most of the sound was from the stage amps and monitors, which gave a great opportunity to hear the others' playing. Also, there wasn't the same initial mesmeric tunnel-vision that accompanied my first time seeing Roky live in person. The bassist was way on the other side, so didn't catch too much there. But the guitarist and drummer were relentlessly on fire! Very impressive. (I didn't realize at the last show that the guitarist was one of the guys who joined Butthole Surfers when Jeff Pinkus left.)

So, Roky was great, seeing Roky was great, the band was great. Great! After the apocalyptic blues crawl of "The Beast," I guess they wanted to change the pace, so they bumped up "Ooh My Soul." This being Roky Erickson, I didn't know if it was a new one, an old obscurity, an older Buddy Holly song - coulda been anything. Turns out, it was Little Richard. It certainly energized Roky, he was beltin' his way through it and really selling the title on the break.

Soon after, "You're Gonna Miss Me" made its appearance, and all of a sudden there's a ruckus. Right there next to us. The young girls who had unexpectedly been singing along to most every song were in the midst of a serious throwndown catfight brawl. Hair-grabbing, kicks flying, fists pummelling. Bad vibes, man. But it (they) got cleared out, and next up was the shocker of "Splash 1" - my mind nearly sheared completely off!! The setlist says the order of those two 13th Floor Elevators songs were reversed, so maybe... "Two Headed Dog" ended ths show, and the listed encore didn't happen. Maybe too many people were mobbing Roky in the back room, which it looked like to me.

So, yeah, it was terrific. There were several times when I realized just how much some of Roky's lyrics and songs are weirdly ingrained into my psyche. And not necessarily like the message songs, more stuff like:
"If it's raining and you're running, don't slip in mud,
Because if you do, you'll slip in blood... tonight!
Is the night of the vampire."

So true.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Whole Lotta Steve (Moore.)

If you've been reading here for awhile, you already know Zombi - the formerly-Pittsburgh horror-soundtrack synth-prog duo of pure awesomeness. Their split with Maserati was #2 overall for 2009! Along with a full studio LP and the drummer's solo 1.5xLP as Majeure. I'd overlooked synth/bassist Steve Moore's solo 10" EP, mentioned in the Ltd. Ed. frenzy post, but it belonged there too.

Fever Dream EP
So, we're here to celebrate Steve Moore's generosity in providing a bunch of his solo stuff for streaming, and some for free or paid downloading. Because the SoundCloud embedderator crashes out the blog editor, I might be replacing the players with links - click 'em!

Bayern Kurve
by stevemoore2600

Very recently, Mr. Moore put up a new track from an upcoming split-vinyl release: "Bayern Kurve." It's part of the SoundCloud set "solo recordings," which also includes both sides of the 10" single ("Fever Dream" and "30,000 Feet Deep"), and the final track from his 2007 solo album The Henge, called "Cepheid." Nice little set!!

Soon after learning about Moore's solo work, I realized I'd missed a limited-edition-vinyl solo release, Vaalbara (2008) - and it was gone, gone, gone. When I was rooting around SoundCloud after getting the "Bayern Kurve" link, I was ecstatic to find it upped for my perusal. And there it is!

by stevemoore2600

One whole shifting, mutating piece in two parts (because that's how vinyl works). This is probably the closest to the Oneohtrix Point Never style of synthwork that I've heard him get. So, it's less of the John Carpenter horror mood, and more of the spacey trip side. These tracks (and a compilation tune I'd never heard of) are available to buy through linkage there, including lossless .flac or .wav formats. Better believe I snapped them up!

Cepheid (Live)
by stevemoore2600

And speaking of the closing track from The Henge (2007), here's a 21-minute live version from Boston 2008... Which you can download straight-up for absolutely nuthin'! (Hit the button with the down arrow.) So, there's that. And some remix work he's done, including his one for Maserati. Also, some other side projects, like Gianni Rossi, labeled "Disco Rock Filmscore" (read: Italo disco) - and Lovelock, which is a bit more more meaty, beaty, big and bouncy.

Steve Moore 2600

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Index of Top 10 Lists

In honor of new linkings to albums on Lala, where available, and adding in some locations - I'm going to house the running list of Top 10's here.

The control strip at right was getting a bit clogged. I'm only going to leave the most recent lists displayed there, one 21st century list and one 20th. The Index link will always lead here, and here will be updated as we go.

So check it out, see what you've missed!

The Time & Space Machine, 2009
The 21st Century:

A Tentative Top Twenty of 2013 [12-27-2013]

Y'know, I probably should have just made this list alphabetical and unnumbered.

Top 10 Studio of 2012 [1-1-2013]
Top 10 Repertoire/etc... of 2012 [1-3-2013]
Top 10 Free/Internet Releases of 2012 [1-6-2013]
Top 10 Live Shows of 2012 [1-12-2013]

The first time I actually waited until the year had actually ended, and a solid one overall - got a few lists goin' for it.

Top 10 Albums of 2011 [1-1-2012]
Next 10 Albums of 2011 [12-31-2011]
Top 15+ Live Shows of 2011 [1-5-2012]

There were a lot of technical issues in 2011, which maybe wouldn't have interfered with the music - but definitely interfered with the blogging (and the flow). Anyway, any year with music is a good year! Not gonna comptete with the posting extravaganza from last round, but there's some good stuff in them links. The live gigs especially were exceptional!

Top 10 Records of 2010 [12-30-2010]
Next 10 Records of 2010 [12-29-2010]
#21-30 Records of 2010 [12-27-2010]
#31-40 Records of 2010 [12-25-2010]
#41-50 10 Records of 2010 [12-24-2010]
Top 10 Free Internet Albums of 2010 [12-15-2010]
Top 10 Free Internet Podcast/Mixes of 2010 [12-12-2010]
10 Top-Notch Album Covers from 2010 [1-12-2011]
Top 10 Live Shows of 2010 [1-13-2011]

The biggest blowout yet! (As of this writing...) A main list of fifty-plus new releases, two sets of free downloadable material, a survey of other quality year-end lists, et cetera... et cetera... I even threw in two lists of 20 albums I might have shoulda gotten in 2010: metal and non-metal.

Top 10 Releases of 2009 [all of Dec 2009]
Next 10 Metal of 2009 [12-3-2009]
Next 10 Non-Metal of 2009 [12-10-2009]
Top 10 Live Shows of 2009 [12-27-2009]
Top 10 Drone/Ambient of 2009 [3-14-2010]

The mega-party to round up the first "year" of Astral Headspace. Top 10 Releases is overall. The Next 10's are genre-specific-ish, after the genre-free main ten. And live shows are awesome! And drones added later...

Top 10 Discoveries of 2008 [9-10-2009]

The concept and post that kicked it all off. One of a very few lists (so far) not ranking record albums. This one ranks musical acts discovered in 2008, and focuses on their 2008 record albums. Subtle difference... Was originally intended for the original idea for a podcast, way back in spring 2009.

Top 10 Albums of 2007 [10-4-2009]
2007 Omissions [10-24-2009]

Where we begin our epic quest to rank and list the entirety of the rock 'n' roll era, year-by-year. Since it was only the 2nd Top Ten, I excluded any acts that were in my 2008 Top Ten discoveries. In retrospect, a mistake... The 21st century is being covered in an orderly (reverse) fashion. It gets chaotic further back.

Top 10 Records of 2006 [11-1-2009]

The quest continues...

Top 10 New Releases of 2005 [1-28-2010]
Top 10 Drone/Ambient of 2005 [1-31-2010]
Top 10 Repertoire of 2005 [2-8-2010]

When putting together "the" Top 10 for 2005, I realized that no congruent list would be worthwhile. So there's a main ten, which is fairly poor. A compilations-live-repertoire list, which is great but I wouldn't have made without a supporting cast. And a drone-ambient-ish one, which is top-notch. Only 21st century year so far where each Top 10 album didn't get its own post. Those of you who lived through Jan 2010 were all sick of the droning by this point, remember?!

Top 10 Albums of 2004 [3-3-2010]

A great year, with a diverse list of terrific records. Lots of personal favorites.

Top 10 Records of 2003 [8-12-2011]

What can I say? Here are 10 awesome albums - the best 10 of this year in fact. A lot of familiar faces, and some left-field selections too.

Top 10 Releases of 2002 [12-21-2013]

Hey, I remember these guys - they're the ones that Astral Headspace guy is always (always) talking about!!

The 20th Century...

The 20th century would be handled differently. A preordained cyclical order of years from 1966 to 1999 was generated randomly. Each cycle contains one year from each decade, but otherwise the order is scrambled entirely. But it's a roadmap that will be followed.

Mercury Rev, 1995
The 1990s
Top 10 Albums of 1996 [8-13-2010]

Much like the previous year - split between the few good albums I could afford at the time, and the few good albums I've picked up since. Fairly diverse offerings.

Top 10 Music of 1995 [11-7-2009]

The first historical year is kind of a weird one. I was dirt poor at the time, and it's not a time period I've since picked up a lot from. Some quality stuff nevertheless.

Top 10 Records of 1993 [2-27-2010]

A great year for indie rock bands and indies-gone-major. Some of the usual suspects, but that's why I like 'em!

Top 10 Releases of 1990 [12-23-2012]

More of the usual suspects, because some of my all-time favorites were peaking then. Either that, or I was in college, finally 21, and on the scene...

Bongwater, 1988
Top 10 Albums of 1988 [11-26-2009]

It was a very good year, for college boys... listening to college music.

Top 10 Music of 1987 [7-9-2012]

First 20th century Top 10 in almost two years! 25 years ago, this is when it was... I was graduating from high school, moving out "on my own," and it was an important musical time for me. (Aren't they all?) Great stuff, mostly of the post-punk / indie variety.

Top 40 Top 40 Songs of 1982 [2-5-2010]

It was a very good year, for 12-year-olds... sitting in front of the Mtv.

Top 10 Albums of 1980 [12-15-2013]

They year punk broke... apart.

Can, 1972
The seventies
Top 10 Records of 1974 [7-28-2012]

Kinda weird that despite the randomized order, the '70s lists are progressing along the normal temporal path (so far). It has given the decade's review a different flavour - for me at least. Anyway, it's the '70s. Will there be Bowie? Krautrock? Maybe the odd inexplicable dorky selection? Sure, probably!

Top 10 Albums of 1973 [4-11-2010]

What an explosion of progressive styles of prog rock. Except for The Stooges... absolutely no prog for them! ZZ Top would be a stretch too.

Top 10 Releases of 1972 [11-16-2009]

Kraut, Glam, Rock and/or Roll!!!

Love, 1966
The '60s
Top 20 Albums of 1969 [1-15-2013]

It's the year of my birth, and an appropriately huge mega-post. Lotsa hippies & weirdos & superstars too!

Top 10 Records of 1966 [2-15-2010]

This looks to be as far back as the Astral Headspace Time Machine will go. Unless I run out of ideas...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Free .mp3 Mini-Update

Via Pitchfork, you can download or stream a song, "Goodbye, Sweet Dreams," from the upcoming Roky Erickson (#1, All-Time) album - somehow involving Okkervil River.

True Love Cast Out All Evil
Here's a feelgood story for you: The troubled Texas psych legend and former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson is back. Anyone who's seen the documentary You're Gonna Miss Me knows that this guy has not had an easy life. The image of Erickson, his hair matted and his fingernails long, cranking up several TVs and radios to top volume because the resulting ungodly din was the only way he could fall asleep-- well, he didn't exactly look like someone ready to jump back into a recording studio. So consider his return a happy surprise.

This spring, Erickson will release True Love Cast Out All Evil, his first album of new material in 14 years. Fellow Austinites Okkervil River back him on the album, and Okkervil frontman Will Sheff serves as producer. The album includes found sound and archival recordings from the time Erickson spent confined at a hospital for the criminally insane in the early 70s. Anti- will release the LP in the U.S. on April 20, and the UK release will come on June 7 via Chemikal Underground.
Roky will be playing this Wednesday night at Houston's Continental Club, with Chase Hamblin opening.

Then, via the Rocket Recordings label blog, you've got some free Teeth of the Sea (#9, 2009).

NME has an "ultra ltd" compilation track for download: "Cities of Gold."

And 20 Jazz Funk Greats has a Teeth of the Sea-curated "mixtape": about halfway down here! Click "Play" to stream, or right-click Save As... the "Teeth of the Sea 20JFG mixtape" link to download.

0. Angry Bob: intro
1. Eroc: "Greenhouse Effect"
2. Oneida: "All Arounder"
3. Dirty Filthy Mudd: "Forest Of Black"
4. Big Business: "Another Fourth of July... Ruined"
5. Skyramps: "Flight Simulator"
6. Bongwater: "Nick Cave Dolls"
7. This Heat: "S.P.Q.R."
8. Venus Gang: "Cosmic Daddy"
9. Reichmann: "Wunderbarr"
10. Keith Fullerton Whitman: "Schnee"
11. Hygrades: "In The Jungle"
12. Crom: "The Gathering"
13. Medieval Steel: "Medieval Steel"
14. Underworld: "To Heal"
And finally, here are some ravings from them, over at The Quietus.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Noise Be Free!

This will only be partially about noise, because actual noise music is not my forte. But we're going to start with the noisiest, most horrendous part of the equation, then ease up quite a bit. Anyway, it's all free from record labels past and future...

While looking around for various stuff, I stumbled across The Freenoise Archives, which houses the monuments of a bygone culture's glory days. Actually, a lot of it's somewhat recent, mostly "releases from the more-or-less defunct labels E.F. Tapes and SunShip Records." And noise artists are still going strong.

Ape Songs of North America
From Houston, Rotten Piece's The Short Songs (2004) is the only thing I recognized here. I think they have this in stock on cd or vinyl at Sound Exchange. Shaun Kelley's currently doing time in The Exterminating Angels (#17 of then 2009 "Metal" Next 10). But Rotten Piece still exists to noise you up - CD Release party on February 27th at Super Happy Fun Land!

"Go Back" from Exile on 23rd St. (2010)

There's a lot of Cock E.S.P. and Wrong - if you find either of those to your liking. Cock E.S.P. has available a few splits or collaborations with some heavy hitters: Merzbow, Harry Pussy, OvO, the Nihilist Spasm Band (since 1965!). So those might be the way to start off your abrasive noise collection.

But personally, I'm going to begin with the compilations. First off, No Tribute (2002), which is actually a tribute compilation to Nihilist Spasm. Then I'll check some others later on... maybe.

Cadmium Dunkel
Next we have prolific micro-label Gold Soundz' free .mp3 albums (~96 available) and singles (~106). Much more likely for me to explore than the Free Noise. There's a single set (#18) from Karlheinz Stockhausen (musique concrète pioneer) and an album (#1) by Conrad Schnitzer (founding Tangerine Dream and Cluster). Which should give you an idea of the sonic topography we're navigating.

"Electric Garden" by Conrad Schnitzler, from CON (1978)

My suggestion with digging into unknown territory is to use the info available: the appeal of artist name, song/album titles, and amount of material available. The last is just in case you find something good, there's more waiting. (Album art would also be a factor, but it's not diplayed here.) So that's how I picked out Cadmium Dunkel's "Trenody for the victims of religion, part 1" (single #81) - liked it! I think I recognize some of the other names here: Aidan Baker, Christian di Vito, Carl Kruger, Mil.Org, Mono-Drone, and 400 Lonely Things. But people's European names and variations on "drone" or "sound" are tough to distinguish. If the Origami collective's stuff turns up good, that would be quite a stash!

You can click to stream tracks, or right-click Save As... to download for permanent.

Black Rabbit
And finally, a very new internet-only label of drone: Drowning, with three releases so far. All free for the downloading! I'm starting with Black Rabbit, a 33-minute dark ambient voyage of feedback and restless spirits from Denmark's Wäldchengarten (translate: "grove garden?").

Found via free-internet drone compilators Droning Earth. Thanks!!

Black Noodles
Not free, but a timely post-V-Day .mp3-d/l noise compilation Black Noodles. Featuring Robedoor, Merzbow, Harry Pussy, Yellow Swans, Hair Police, Fuck Buttons, The Dead C, and seven others...
In the wake of Valentines day we've been reading about the South Korean tradition where all those poor souls who have failed to receive a Valentines day gift are expected to eat black noodles and mourn their loneliness. This seemed a little harsh to us so we've put together 14 tracks of erogenous noise to distract all the moping misanthropes and misogynists from their woes. The noise spectrum covers a great deal of musical ground, from thunderous rock freakouts to highly organised digital extremity, always skulking at the threshold of nearly each and every scene, waiting to be embraced by those who need to feed off its cathartic qualities.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sadly, The Future Is Without People

Hey, y'know... I think these two records are an improvement over the first ones. Slightly, at least. Like, The Empire Strikes Back better than Star Wars, or The Godfather II over I. Wait, now I'm afraid for the 3rd acts!

I'm going to switch the order from before and cover Leyland Kirby first. Then Oneohtrix Point Never. Use the technological-wonder control-scheme below to go back if you missed something.

<- Previous [#1] = = = Next [#3] ->

Sadly CD cover
Leyland Kirby - Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was (2009)

Listening to this album, the leap in apparent quality could in theory be explained a few different ways. And I'm even more convinced that theories are helpful for this project. First off, it could just be designed that way. Kirby figures if you're going to buy a 2xLP of a planned trilogy (irrelevant if buying the later 3xCD), you'll stick with him past the first set regardless. So, component parts that seemed to enter like unaccompanied themes are now further developed here. Another possible explanation is that after listening to one, the second appears more familiar. Much of his oeuvre has built into it a psycho-acoustic déjà vu: "haven't I already heard this, or something like it?" Or it could just be that this material suits my tastes better.

A1 "When Did Our Dreams And Futures Drift So Far Apart?"
Like the piano explorations from the first volume, but with more moving parts. Often two distinct piano lines (instead of mostly one), and the synth swells are more fluid and dynamic. Plus occasional spacey warp-core burble and a loose ambient rhythm. The latter part actually builds up some momentum out of the statis.

A2 "Not Even Nostalgia Is As Good As It Used To Be"
Perfect title for this, inexplicably backed up right next to the similar album and trilogy title track. Really stands out sonically for its chimey new-age synth gleaming, and a new-agey flute setting. It's like I'm inside Andreas Vollenweider's Caverna Magica or something. So far, it's less dark and more varied than before - and better (not the same things).

B1 "Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was"
Okay, here's the real test: the 20-minutes plus. The last time we were here, it was the end of the 2nd disc, and everything was just a blur of repeating piano patterns. This time? Obvious contrast: only two tracks in. And it's a pleasant, drifting synthscape with ebb-and-flow saturated-feedback restraint. A second synth joins, occasionally delay-grooving Floydian in the magic cave with a Pict. Twenty's a long time, but this one actively captures the imagination. Even gets a little heavy down the road... (Making a 2-part video was tempting, and I might still come back to it later.)

C1 "Stay Light, There Is A Rainbow A Coming"
Another subterranean trainyard seance of distorted melancholy, which I prefer to the piano ballads for the longer pieces (just over 12min). Especially if they will be relatively nondescript, as this one is. Although it does have a distinguishing mechanical signal-pulse and some creepy groaning noise.

C2 "And Nothing Comes Between The Sadness And The Scream"
Bell-like tones play a lullaby, but there's a creeping dread underfoot. It will not be denied, it will insinuate. The ambient becomes the explicit, the background is all you can perceive.

D1 "I’ve Hummed This Tune To All The Girls I’ve Known"
So different, I actually switched up the videos from another track (not that it's amazing), and stuck up the YouTube max (although no part 2). Sounds least like anything so far encountered. Upfront, you've got the theremin Morricone-whistle and sawing synthsection. But there's deep stuff buried all around.

D2 "Not As She Is Now But As She Appears In My Dreams"
A solo piano piece with just a hint of what seems like resonant live-mic feedback, on the heavier chords. Intimate and stately, good way to finish the record.

Zones Without People
Oneohtrix Point Never - Zones Without People (2009)

If the year-end listers who convinced me to buy this weren't listing the Rifts collection for 2009, they were including this specific LP. It's more instrumental sci-fi synth action. The improvement over the Octagon can probably be explained by the two years since the first one's 2007 ltd. cassette release. Due to Zone's historic popularity, I didn't even have to make any mind-shattering new videos. Four already out there for our purposes!

A1 "Computer Vision"
The future is... as soon as you listen. And none too soon! The data-surge overwhelms the flatline, the holo after-light fades placidly as you hear the doctor's voice. Robotic, cold.

A2 "Format & Journey North"
New Age synth epic. Magic flutes from the dripping caverns of Elf Crystal. Actually, it's pretty relaxing. Nothing's overloading, it's all right... Is that the breach alarm? Someone shut off the breach alarm!!

A3 "Zones Without People"
Absolutely groovy. Those nice, warm analogue bari-tones, leaping all over each other. I especially like these tunes that don't rely so much on high-pitched frenzy and squalling laser drills.

B1 "Learning To Control Myself"
This almost seems narrative, with psychotic breaks and shifts. Cascading glitch-out pulls up abruptly, regaining composure. To be immediately followed by complete melt-down, which is then reined in. Some success at a calm, but by the end something begins to bubble up.

B2 "Disconnecting Entirely"
Short, somewhat monotonous, epilogue?

B3 "Emil Cioran"
A can't really get a handle on this one, kind of like Emeralds: possibly improvised? Maybe this will help.

B4 "Hyperdawn"
Serene waves roll beneath a surface of frenzied blooping and bleeping, until the tidal apreggios crash the party. Finally a gaggle of synth-gulls bid you a fond farewell.

One (or two) more coming up!!

<- Previous [#1] = = = Next [#3] ->

Sadly 2xLP cover

Astral Book Club - Eye Mind

Oh, how I wanted to enjoy Paul Drummond's Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, The Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound (2007). It even has a Forward by trusted psych apostle Julian Cope! But "enjoy" is not the word...

For some background on the band, check it out!

Eye Mind
The "saga" in the title gives the impression of an epic adventure yarn, but you're really getting more of a "historical accounting." It is informative. Heavy with dates and details, the book is not however rich with the wild spirit of the Elevators themselves. I wouldn't be too surprised to learn the author's background was in Napoleonic military history, and rock 'n' roll just some quirky hobby.

Nuggets of interest abound. Stories like how a young Roky was banned from church because his long hair might offend the visiting LBJ. Or how a phantom band was available to cover the Elevators' whole set when they were too messed up, or didn't show up at all. The problem is: you've basically read the entirety of those stories... just now.

Elevators live!
There are repeated (and repetitious) "cat & mouse games" with law enforcement - but details are rare, and sketchy when provided. They apparently stashed pot on roadsides outside Kerrville, so they could go get it at night... and smoke in the car before the cops pulled them over. Which makes absolutely no sense, as told.

There are a series of bandmates' and friends' girlfriends that leave them for Roky. But they're usually only mentioned when introduced ("Jim was dating Nancy, a young beauty from Corpus Christi...") and when jumping ship 50 pages later ("Nancy got Roky alone and declared her deep, abiding love"). Nancy wha? For the first half of the book, time flies by - tons half-remembered trivial minutiae share equal footing with far fewer half-remembered critical events.

Clementine Hall
But I'm glad I got it, and I'd still recommend the book for the serious 13th Floor... uh, scholar [see Cope, Julian]. For a few reasons. First, those nuggets of interest are numerous enough, regardless of pacing. If you take a step back and squint a little, you'll get a serviceable picture of the mid/late-'60s freak lifestyle in Texas. Beyond tidbits like Spring being "the home of redneck hippies," there's the whole general fear & loathing of the time and place.

Also, some of the central players get drawn more fully as people. Roky least of all, probably because the legend of the fragile genius-holy fool is so firmly in place. But loads of great information about the mysterious Clementine Hall and her deep involvement in the band. Her husband Tommy's role as messianic acid guru has been pretty well nailed down. Fortunately for him, he's left a paper trail of endless talk - so you get a lot of his crackpot ideas and tendencies straight from the horse's mouth as it were. And lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland's struggles with the lifestyle and his personal demons are detailed way beyond the vague post-Elevators info I'd heard before.

Tommy Hall
Finally, there's the chapter on Easter Everywhere (1967), which ties together lots of information on the source texts for Tommy's metaphysical theories and lyrics - primarily "Slip Inside This House." Again, with loads of direct quotes from the man himself. Since I consider this a seminal '60s psychedelic record, the fairly brief section was probably all worth it. Hell, I would have just made writing and recording info about half the whole book! With less of the "played the Vulcan Gas Company show on March 8th, 1967, the band continued to struggle with Tommy's complex new arrangements." O well...

Okay, okay... I think that pretty much covers it (and then some). You can sample the publisher's preview. Here's a review at Texas Psychedelic Rock (below the giant banners), which says a lot of the same things - just more briefly and bitterly. Plus, check out the recommended online/free 13th Floor bio at the very bottom of this page (in two parts). And here's a more positive review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Frank Grow's Red and Rosy

Now, I know everyone loves Steel Pole Bath Tub - few more than I. Especially if we're talking their first couple of Boner records, Butterfly Love (1989) and Lurch (1990). We all know about the debut's "Brady Bunch" samples and Marcia Brady album cover and poster/title connection. But who's the monster on Lurch? Because it ain't The Addams Family's butler.

Well, lemme tell ya. Back in 1989, two movies came out. One was pretty widely distributed, being Japanese and crazy and relatively medium-budget. That one was Tetsuo: The Iron Man, about a fetishist who keeps accruing metal body parts until he's a walking scrapyard cyborg killing machine, with drillbit sex organ. The lesser known one got very little distribution, because it was domestic and shoestring and 16mm. It is Red and Rosy, as American as Tetsuo was Japanese. Instead of bizarre fetishes and repressed salarymen, Frank Grow's monster is all hotrod drag-racing speedfreak psychosis! According to this review, the mechanical beast was created by Mark Pauline's Survival Reseach Labs. Oh, and by the way - after the Reagans finish their sales pitch, stay tuned for our feature presentation: the climax of Red and Rosy (1989)!!

Reagans + some of Red and Rosy (1989)

And here's the opening track on Lurch:

"Christina" from Lurch (2009)

And for good measure, this...

Butterfly Love
"Pete! Somebody... anybody! Let me out! Please, lemme out! Peter, c'mon, let me out! Somebody help me!! ~~~
Thanks, Pete!"
"All I did was open the door."