Sunday, April 18, 2010

Panopticon - Isis (#3, 2004)

Is it metal? Some call it "post-metal." Isis doesn't bring the riffs or the leads or the rhythms that hallmark true metal. They warp and draw them out. They do pummel, though - sometimes... For this album, All Music Guide references Jeremy Bentham and Michael Foucault (for the concepts), Slint and Neurosis (for the influences),
"Pink Floyd's velvet atmospherics" and "the haze of guitars and electronics" (for the sounds).

Most everyone will point you to the previous Oceanic (2002), but this was my first Isis and I prefer it. In fact, I believe this is the specific album that introduced me to the now sounds to new metallic genre musics - which I've delved into somewhat further since. Their last one (#3, 2009) might now be my favorite at this point though. If you don't Lala, here's a whole album playlist on YouTube (individual songs below).

"So Did We" from Panopticon (2004)

I've always considered this a big fan favorite, although I don't know any real Isis fans. Maybe I'm just thinking of me...

"Backlit" [live] from Panopticon (2004)

European television is so cool. How many 10-minute live set-closing versions of album cuts do you think Isis has performed on U.S. tv in the five years since this? Zero? Negative one? After the slightly more consistently heavy opener, this slightly more atmospheric two-punch stakes out the territory's borders - a bit. Lyrically, this one most clearly touches on the theme of surveillance: "Always object, never subject... We are watching... Light is upon you, life in you ceases."

"In Fiction" from Panopticon (2004)

Official hit-edit-version video for the big single, such as it is/was. Good entry point, as it eases in more. Although I think pretty much all of these are rock-solid A+ material.

"Wills Dissolve" from Panopticon (2004)

This one's been a regular in more recent shows' setlists in Japan, although "Backlit" was being thrown in for European shows back a few months. The Houston show (#5 Live Show of 2009) featured "In Fiction."

"Syndic Calls" from Panopticon (2004)

Still with me? I know... at first it might feel like a marathon - long songs, similar palette of sounds, occasional sprawl. Some, if not most, of the albums I really love almost require owning. So you can take time and really inhabit them, learn the ins and outs, navigate the details. This is a great song, especially after concentrated exposure to tracks 1-3.

"Altered Course" from Panopticon (2004)

An instrumental, especially good if you need a break from Aaron Turner's bellowing. Quite a pleasant vibe... I mean, quite a pleasant METAL vibe!!

"Grinning Mouths" [live] from Panopticon (2004)

My interests include martial drumming progressions, prickly lead guitar tones, and extended intro sections... The second half is pretty sweet too.

Panopticon 2xLP

Genre - Thinking Man's (Post-) Metal
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Los Angeles, CA

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Panopticon
Purchase - Hydra Head Records [2xLP]

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Record Store Day 2010: The Haul

This morning was an epic quest across Houston's record store landscape, bringing a treasure trove of new vinyl. First stop was Vinal Edge, far to the north. Then a Cactus drive-by... I fled in terror from the line stretching all the way to Shepherd. And finally to the calm of Sig's Lagoon, where the abundant stock and lack of crowds was an oasis in the insanity of Record Store Day!

Vinal Edge was giving away a Best of 2009 mix CDr to the first 50 customers. I think I was the first to check out, so I consider that limited edition 1/50. [tracklist at bottom of post]

So, what'd I buy? Well, a Fela Kuti 4-song 10" EP, "recorded in LA in 1969; cover is replica of first Nigerian Fela Kuti record." And a Phoenix "Fences" 12" single on "pink vinyl... with album track plus remix." Also, a "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" 10" from Queens of the Stone Age. It's a "vinyl picture disc of EP previously unreleased in US; first time ever on vinyl!!" Plus a ltd. ed. Them Crooked Vultures picture disc, with live + interview... Pretty good!

True Love Cast Out All Evil
How about Sig's Lagoon? (As I might have mentioned, Cactus was skipped for crowds.) Well, I got a 3-day jump on the new Roky Erickson and Okkervil River LP, True Love Cast Out All Evil (2010)!!! Sounds pretty sweet so far, from the .mp3 download. Then a ltd. ed. 7" with three live Elvis Costello songs from Live at Hollywood High (2010), recorded at a 6/4/1978 show in L.A. And REM's debut EP, Chronic Town (1982). Finally, a Beastie Boys "white label 12" super surprise" single/EP - still don't know what the surprise is, though...

Rated U
Vinal Edge Best of 2009 mix CDr - RSD 2010:

1. Decemberists "The Rake's Song" from The Hazards of Love
2. Fire On Fire "Hartford Blues" from The Orchard
3. Cryin' Sam Collins "Lonesome Road" from I Woke Up One Morning In May
4. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou "Malin Kpon O" from Echos Hypnotiques
5. Bat For Lashes "Sleep Alone" from Two Suns
6. Black Moth Super Rainbow "Iron Lemonade" from Eating Us
7. Units "Bug Boy" from History of the Units
8. Thee Oh Sees "Meat Step Lively" from Help
9. Linda Yong and The Silvertones "Congrats, Congrats" from Singapore A-Go-Go
10. Flaming Lips "Silver Trembling Hands" from Embryonic
11. Eric Peters "Freak Blues" from G-Spots
12. Causa Sui "Rip Tide" from Summer Sessions Vol. 2
13. Ancestors "Mother Animal [excerpt]" from Of Sound Mind
14. Sylvester Anfang II "Na Regen Komt Zondvloed [excerpt]" from Sylvester Anfang II
15. Nels Cline "Onan Suite: Interruption" from Coward
16. Nurse With Wound "The Golden Age [excerpt]" from Surveillance Lounge
17. Nurse With Wound "Untitled 5" from Paranoia in Hi-Fi
18. Bill Dixon, Aaron Siegel & Ben Hall "Hirado [excerpt]" from Weight / Counterweight
19. L'Acephale "A Burned Village" from Malfeasance
20. Aethenor "Untitled 4" from Faking Gold & Murder
21. Leyland Kirby "To The Place Between the Twilight and the Dawn [excerpt]" from Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was
22. Evangelista "Winds of St. Anne" from Hello, Voyager
23. Steven R. Smith "Black Paper Scrim" from Cities
24. Vic Chestnut "Chain" from Coward

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Agitation Free in Cairo

I'd meant to put this up as part of the Krautrock series that kind of went off the rails. On the trip after I got Popol Vuh used, I found Agitation Free's Malesch (1972) - also used! [Lala]

[05/28/2012: Updated some disabled embedded video samples.]

Agitation Free were space-jammers and included some members of Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru, and Tangerine Dream - according to All Music Guide. This album was inspired by some cultural exchange travels in Egypt (and Cyprus and Greece per AMG), and there's field recordings from Cairo are sprinkled throughout. Some, but not all, of the highlights...

"You Play For Us Today" from Malesch (1972)

In fact, the album starts of with a pilot asking, "You will play for us today? I fly the aeroplane, and you play for us. Deal?" Sounds like a fantastic deal! As with much of the album, the music is in no rush to get anywhere. Finding a groove's as important as the groove, exploring the boundaries as important as what's brought back.

"Ala Tul" from Malesch (1972)

Noise-intro to space-funk organ jam. Wave drones into polyrhythms.

04 Pulse by StudentDriverss
"Pulse" from Malesch (1972)

Aptly named hyperdrone, like some warped, Middle Eastern-inflected "Baba O'Riley" intro that doesn't break.

"Malesch / Rucksturz" from Malesch (1972)

The last two tracks coalesce into more formed songs. The title track is still a jam, but it's the kid of big jam that jambands have long been jamming on. But really, seriously excellent! And "Rucksturz" finishes up with almost 90 seconds of a rocked-out guitar riff song. Almost like they're easing you back into the ol' normal world of rock music...

All Music Guide calls 2nd "one of Germany's finest instrumental rock albums of the 1970s." The only tune I've heard comes from a comp, but it's pretty sweet too:

"Haunted Island" from 2nd (1973)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 1973

Don't really think about 1973 too much, huh? That's because it's so overburdened with prog! Certainly a banner year for the continental art-prog of Gong and Magma. I was tempted to just make a Top 10 Proggy Albums list, but that would have left out some real winners...

#10 Tales from Topographic Oceans - Yes

Tales from Topographic Oceans
"The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)"
from Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)

Genre - Prog
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Rolling Stone
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Tales from Topographic Oceans
Purchase - Amazon

As with many of these, I'm only half kidding. I mean, it's named Tales from Topographic Oceans! Why not Songs from the Bottom of the Sky, or Grapes from the Horizon's Elbow? It's a double-concept-album of four side-long tracks, based on the Shastric scriptures - and probably other fourfold things, like elements, seasons, card suits... Who knows? It was this work that inpired Rick Wakeman to sarcastically eat his dinner during a concert - and this is a man who wore a cape in earnest! It has every hilariously overblown prog excess imaginable, and yet (or therefore) it's the only Yes album I actually listen to. Also their best Roger Dean album cover, in gatefold.

#9 Tubular Bells - Mike Oldfield

Tubular Bells
"Tubular Bells" from Tubular Bells (1973)

Genre - Electric Neo-Classical
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Bahamas

Reviews - Ground and Sky
Download - iTunes, Amazon
Lala - Tubular Bells Digital
Purchase - Amazon

Kinda proggish too, kinda new age. Mainly known for the opening section, used in The Exorcist natch. But familiarity with that part won't prepare you for the rest. The highlight has got to be the announcement and layering of all the various instruments, building up to... well, perhaps you can guess.

#8 Red Hash - Gary Higgins

Red Hash
"Thicker Than a Smokey" from Red Hash (1973)

Genre - Folk
Official/Myspace -
Location - Albuquerque, NM

Review - Pitchfork
Download - Drag City Records, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Rediscovered forgotten indie self-release, thanks to a Six Organs of Admittance cover version and APB on Higgins. Excellent earthy, stoney, rocky acoustic guitar folk, shoulda-been classic along the lines of Nick Drake or someone similar.

#7 Live - Genesis

Genesis Live
"The Knife" [live, but not the version] from Genesis Live (1973)

Genre - Prog Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Ground and Sky
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Genesis Live
Purchase - Amazon

As Rik Mayall once said, "I'm so bored I might as well be listening to Genesis." But that was once Phil Collins had gone from amazing progressive drummer to comfortable pop hitmaker. And it would get much worse indeed after the early '80s... Anyway, this was my first introduction to the Gabriel era, which quickly overshadowed the contemporary Abacab era (1981) for me. The same year's next Selling England by the Pound (1973) begins the move towards a more straightforward sound, hinting at the prog-pop to come. But this caps a great 3-record period of heavier rocking and deeper British-style prog by my personal favorite from that scene.

#6 The Cosmic Jokers - The Cosmic Jokers

The Cosmic Jokers
"Galactic Joke (b)" from The Cosmic Jokers (1973)

Genre - Kraut Jam
All Music Guide - Cosmic Jokers
Location - Cologne, Germany

Review - Dr. Schluss' Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities
Purchase - Amazon

Haha! The galactic joke is on you - and the musicians here. Kosmische label-head offered drugs to jam, recorded, ripped, and sold it up! You'd think Ash Ra Tempel and Klaus Schulze would be wiser upfront, but they had to find out by hearing themselves playing in the record stores. Not only that, but there were like four Cosmic Jokers albums mixed up out of these drug-jam-parties! It's a trip.

Tres Hombres gatefold interior
#5 Tres Hombres - ZZ Top

Tres Hombres
"Jesus Just Left Chicago" [live 1982] from Tres Hombres (1973)

Genre - Blues Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Pop Matters
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Tres Hombres
Purchase - Amazon

Basically, after the pre-Eliminator greatest-hits Best of... (1977), this is the ZZ Top record to grab. I mean, it's got "La Grange" and a great batch of album cuts. The "little old band from Texas" makes good!

#4 Space Ritual - Hawkwind

Space Ritual
"Brainstorm" from Space Ritual (1973)

Genre - Punk-Prog Space-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Pitchfork
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Space Ritual
Purchase - Amazon

Space-rock pioneers' seminal album, sci-fi hippies, heavy metal thunder with electronic waves and saxophonic flights, deep void exploration. Although not on the record, I gotta link this video for "Silver Machine!"

#3 Stranded and For Your Pleasure - Roxy Music

"Mother of Pearl" from Stranded (1973)

Genre - Post-Glam Art-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Stranded / Pleasure
Download Stranded - Amazon, iTunes
Download Pleasure - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Stranded, For Your Pleasure
Purchase Roxy Music - Amazon

Roxy Music continues building from their debut (#7, 1972), although they lost Brian Eno between For Your Pleasure and Stranded. Pretty much a tie, but I'll give the nod to the latter one - if only just because "Mother of Pearl" is some of my favorite Roxy music.

#2 Raw Power - The Stooges

Raw Power
"Search and Destroy" from Raw Power (1973)

Genre - Proto-Punk Garage-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Ann Arbor, MI

Review - Guy's Music Review Website
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Raw Power
Purchase - Amazon

Like the review Guy says, "get your hands on a copy of Raw Power and listen." Fortunately, no-one actually makes you choose between it and Fun House - they're both completely available to everyone!

#1 Future Days - Can

Future Days
"Future Days" from Future Days (1973)

Genre - Krautrock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Cologne, Germany

Review - Ground and Sky
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Lala - Future Days
Purchase - Amazon

On one hand, I am not a huge Can expert. On the other, I've heard enough of their classic period to know this album stands shoulder-to-shoulder with, if not head-and-shoulders above, the acknowledged classics of Tago Mago (1971) and Ege Bamyasi (#4, 1972). A bit more mellow, sure... But that just proved they were masters of all they could imagine. Mandatory!

Topographic gatefold
Of course, there were several gigantic albums much considered classics, and they probably belong on the list. But they don't fit the weirdo theme, so I excluded them. I'll at least acknowledge that these are quality records: Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and David Bowie's Alladin Sane.

And one reason I probably don't think much of 1973 is that I actually have never really listened to several other supposed classics. So, if for nothing other than my own to-do list: Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets, Berlin from Lou Reed, John Cale's Paris 1919, A Wizard, A True Star by Todd Rundgren (producer of 1973's New York Dolls), the King Crimson of Larks' Tongues in Aspic. Probably also Gram Parsons' GP, and Solid Air by John Martyn. And that's not even dipping into the unknown Krautrock albums of Faust IV, Sand's Golem, Golem's Orion Awakes, and possibly Brainticket's 3rd album, Celestial Ocean. Lots to do there!

For Your Pleasure

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Texas-Based Lawyer-cum-Beatmaker

From Disquiet, we learn of Diego Bernal. A civil rights attorney in San Antonio, he gives away his records pro bono. Described as "like some secret side-project team-up between Ennio Morricone and DJ Premiere," you can download or preview new release "Besides..." (2010). Not sure whether they fit the whole album on, but a 7" vinyl pressing goes for a cool sawbuck ($5)!

For Corners
The previous album, For Corners (also free) was ranked as Disquiet's #1 Net Release of 2009, for fans of "reconstituted disco and cop-show braggadocio." There's even a (free) January EP/single preview, Bring It On Home (2009), featuring a Mexicans With Guns remix B-side. I like the covers too. Here's Diego's Myspace.

Bring It On Home

The Willows - Belbury Poly (#4, 2004)

If films have taught me one thing, it's that a British childhood is creepy and malevolent. Based on the albums from Belbury Poly and Ghost Box labelmates, I assume this is all because of music from public radio and television programming. Swerving between rinky-dink fragility and outright menace, Belbury Poly takes the warped remembrance of formative audio wallpaper and explores a dream world of haunted rainy days spent indoors. Or so I've read... I didn't actually grow up English under the influence of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. But here's a Pitchfork article on the Ghost Box aesthetic.

"Wildspot" from The Willows (2004)

"The Willows" from The Willows (2004)

The opening two sort of define the borders, with the short intro-esque "Wildspot" taking the more plinky side. There's actually more of this style on the last Belbury outing (#17, 2009) than here on The Willows. The title track is darker, although not fully as dark as it gets - check out the "Insect Prospectus" trilogy video later. (I'm not doing every track. Check out the Lala link towards the bottom to hear other scary stuff like "Caermaen.")

"A Thin Place" from The Willows (2004)

There's also the The Belbury Parish Magazine, which will keep you up to date with actual goings on and the fictional township of Belbury. Just sayin'... The title "A Thin Place" reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft for some reason, and the staticky interference looming behind obscured dimensions is not inconsistent with that. "The Farmer's Angle" is more upbeat and pleasant, which works well to offset the freak-outs. But obviously I prefer the freakiness.

"Insect Prospectus/A Warning/Thorn" from The Willows (2004)

I could maybe do videos for this whole album, Pong-style, with enough free British govt films. And there are plenty out there! I thought these tunes, three of my favorites, went well together. And this simultaneously mundane and weird documentary fit the general Belbury Poly style nicely. I only chopped it up a lil' bit...

"The Absolute Everything" from The Willows (2004)

This is a good middle-ground, almost default Belbury tune. Not as striking as something like "Thorn," not as peppy as "Wildspot." But a good sound and not like a lot of other stuff I hear much. Now I need to get the 2nd album, The Owl's Map (2006). O yeah, and here's a Ghost Box film: Phenomena and Occurrences: Belbury and Froun Area. Just in case!!

The Willows

Genre - Hauntological Electro-Experimental
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Belbury, UK

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download - Greedbag, iTunes
Lala - The Willows
Purchase - Greedbag (looks like cd's are sold out)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pongliveinhouston, yeah!!

Both the Pong shows were really, really good! The Cactus in-store had the boogie chillun dancin', sound was tight, and the Super Happy Fun Land show was on fire.

This is really just an excuse to post the SHFL setlist, courtesy of swiping by Cookie. Because of the unnecessary opening acts (3!!), and the very, very, very late headliner start (1:30am!!), a few of the songs got dropped. Thankfully not "Click OK(ay)" though, due to crowd reaction from the on-stage decision-making.

SHFL 4/2/2010
I'm assuming "Fish Sauce" was the new song broken out at the end of the in-store. I thought they were singing "Fleshmop," which would only make sense as an unlikely tribute to Jay Maulsby's old band o' locals. Really, I thought it was possibly a Devo cover - pretty coool! Seriously awesome servings of the good stuff...

[Edit 4/9]: I never once saw this flyer, but I figured I should put it up here. Especially since I'm falling down on more recently posting.

Pong Fiskadoro
The official 4-city tour poster looked something more like this:

Pong Tour poster

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Birthday - The Pillbugs (#5, 2004)

The Pillbugs do the same thing consistently - write albums crammed with '60s style hooks and melodies with plenty of psychedelic effects, and peace and love. Even though I put them at #4 Discovery of 2008 , it was actually a rediscovery. Because I'd totally forgotten about this 2004 cd, now rare & out-of-print and everything. Why this is the only Pillbugs album it's impossible to still get is kind of a mystery. It's their 3rd, very pop, with lots of strings and woodwinds and such. Maybe some record label business or something...

"Happy Birthday" from Happy Birthday (2004)

Like most Pillbugs cd's, this one has a fairly long running time (1 hour), with a huge number of songs (20). I think I'll just throw out a sampling from the album, and keep the commentary to a minimum. You either dig this kind of retro-popcraft or not... Should be able to tell fairly quickly.

"Your Taste is Mellow/Wild Bird" from Happy Birthday (2004)

I went ahead and included the first two of four "Life As It Happens" interludes that appear throughout the cd. They're the short, trippy instrumentals.

"All in Good Time" from Happy Birthday (2004)

The Pillbugs are from Toledo, OH - and bill themselves as "The World's Most Psychedelic Band." That might be stretching it a bit, but still...

"Climbing the Walls/I Wake Up" from Happy Birthday (2004)

That's about as heavy as The Pillbugs will get - the first song, not the second.

"Peasant Girls" from Happy Birthday (2004)

European fairy tales, classic American animation, and girls... ladies and gentlemen, The Pillbugs!!

"And the Days Go By/Gus of the Fire Brigade"
from Happy Birthday (2004)

The only Bowiesque song I can recall from these guys, I guess he's more '70s that '60s. "Ein zwei drei..." Towards the end of the album, so you get your "Life As It Happens Part 4." So, that's probably about half of Happy Birthday, and the other half's about the same quality. As are their other albums I've got.

Happy Birthday

Genre - Psych Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Toledo, OH

Download - others on iTunes
Lala - Monclovia (pre-EWAWO best-of)
Purchase - Strictly OOP

Friday, April 2, 2010

Great Cover Song #620: Rev Family Stone

Meant to post this last night, but got busy... Mercury Rev has been an often-great band. But there at the very beginning, they made a joyful noise - fusing pop hooks, jazzy flutes, general weirdness, groovy experimentation, and lots and lots of distorted guitars. Originally considered a Flaming Lips offshoot, because Jonathan Donahue had played on In a Priest-Driven Ambulance, really it was his main band when he joined the Lips to help out. David Baker was their lead singer for two albums before leaving or getting the boot.

"If You Want Me To Stay" from Chasing a Bee EP (1992)

This is a "b-side" to the first single from their debut album, Yerself is Steam (1991): "Chasing A Bee" [see below]. I have the semi-rare Rough Trade cd of the full album, which unfortunately doesn't tack on "Car Wash Hair," another mind-blower. The Family Stone original has been covered a few other times, but this one's way out there! The third track on the cd-single is a set of 4 Yerself songs from their first Peel Sessions (8/27/1991). The totality of which was released a few months ago as The Complete Peel Sessions (2009). Also, if you like this stuff and don't own it - you might wanna look out for the Yerself is Steam/Lego My Ego 2xCD (2007), with bonus dvd of "Car Wash Hair" and this video:

"Chasing a Bee" from Yerself is Steam (1991)

I really need to get back to the historical Top 10's. I originally learned about Mercury Rev not through the Flaming Lips, but from a mixtape a friend sent me probably in early 1992. It included a bunch of new stuff, but Mercury Rev, Slint, Shockabilly and Chris Knox/Tall Dwarfs are the main ones I remember first being exposed to. And I need to get that tape back...

Chasing A Bee cd-single