Writing this blog is leading me into interesting terrain, as this recent batch of additions to my library shows:
- The second half of Mordant Music's The Tower has been banging its way into my head far enough to make me take a leap of faith and buy the rest of their diverse and aggressively eccentric catalog.
- I realized that I was entitled to download a bunch of Severed Heads' Op series outtakes due to having bought Op 2 a while ago, so I grabbed those.
- Talking about Surgeon's awesome DJ sets reminded me to check his site to see if he had a more recent set than the ones I have, and indeed he did.
- Finally, I've been accumulating a pile of crud from Mutant Sounds, so I added all that to my iPod so I could get to know it better. There is some amazing music that's been dug out of obscurity by that blog:
- Tappi Tíkarrass, Björk's first foray into the post-punk sound that she refined in Kukl and the Sugarcubes, before she decided to become the most avant garde pop star ever;
- a bunch of long out of print Hirsche Nacht aufs Sofas (HNAS) records from a parallel universe where Nurse With Wound were actually German, instead of merely being obsessive fans of Krautrock;
- a whole pile of European art-damaged gothic post punk (Claustrofobia, Dark White, Epitaphe, Tango Luger);
- some early records by the fucking tremendous Wall of Voodoo, whose Call of the West combines the miserably American, empathy-drenched humanity of Raymond Carver or Robert Stone with Ennio Morricone's expansive sound and Kraftwerk's electronic pulse – anyone who thinks the Wall of Voodoo story starts and ends with "Mexican Radio" is very much missing out;
- a couple completely sui generis Japanese electronic / prog / jazz / avant garde records from the 70s, one of which was a collaboration between most of Yellow Magic Orchestra and the one Japanese Pop artist whose work I know well (Tadonori Yokoo – there was a semi-exhaustive survey of his work up at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo when I was there);
- and a pile of random singles from the Mutant Sounds archives, including an awesomely out of character John Duncan track and a deeply weird couple of tracks by Duppi, a Japanese band I'd never heard of and will probably never hear from again. Mutant Sounds is so awesome that there's no way it's going to last.
Here's the full list. I've appended links to sources for most everything. Downloading the albums posted by Mutant Sounds requires you to deal with quasi-filesharing services like Rapidshare, Zshare, Bodongo and Megaupload; these services' wack-assed stabs at business models make getting at the archives a pain, but I assure you that if you like boundary-pushing music, it's worth jumping through the requisite hoops. A lot of this stuff is begging to be put back into print, if only by somebody like Hyped2Death.
- Claustrofobia: Arrebato (Fobia) [ms]
- Dark White: The Grey Area (private) [ms]
- Epitaphe: Syndrome (private) [ms]
- HNAS: Melchior (United Dairies / DOM) [ms]
- HNAS: Music für Schuhgeschafte (Dragnet) [ms]
- HNAS: Willkür Nach Noten (Dragnet) [ms]
- Haruomi Hosono & Tadanori Yokoo: Cochin Moon (King) [se]
- Mordant Music: Baud With You / Shot Away (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Mordant Music: Carrion Squared (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Mordant Music: Dead Air (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Mordant Music: Fallen Faces / Dead Air (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Mordant Music: Filthy Danceheng (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Mordant Music: Petri-Dish (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Mordant Music: The Tower: Parts I-XVII (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Mordant Music: Travelogues: A Beautiful Vesta (Mordant Music) [bk]
- Severed Heads: Op 1 (sevcom)
- Severed Heads: Op 2.3 (sevcom)
- Severed Heads: Op 2.9 (sevcom)
- Surgeon: Neck Face (www.dj-surgeon.com)
- Tango Luger: s/t (Invisible) [ms]
- Tappi Tíkarrass: Bítið Fast í Vítið (Spor) [ms]
- Tappi Tíkarrass: Miranda (Gramm) [ms]
- Wall of Voodoo: Ring of Fire / The Morricone Themes (Index) [ms]
- Wall of Voodoo: Two Songs by Wall of Voodoo (Index) [ms]
- Wall of Voodoo: Wall of Voodoo (Index) [ms]
- Tsutsui Yasutaka & Yamashita Yosuke: IE (Fiasco) [ms]
- whacked-out singles from the Mutant Sounds archives:
- Drinking Electricity: Shaking All Over / China (pop:aural)
- Duppi: Velvet Night / はつねつのみやこ (Night Gallery)
- Électric Max Band: Mick and Max / Knives, Feathers and Fire (Reprise)
- Electro Static Cat: Lethologica (Freedom in a Vacuum)
- Eskaton: Musique Post-Atomique (Eskaton)
- John Duncan / Andrew Chalk & Christoph Heemann: The Elgaland-Vargaland National Anthem / Old Hive (Die Stadt)
- Kevin Dunn: Nadine / Oktyabriana (dB Records)
- v/a: Earcom 3 (Fast Product)
Stuck in my head this morning: “Matilda Mother” by The Pink Floyd. The way the song begins, with a gentle organ fade-in and a slow build into song-ness, is a lot like the process of waking up. Of course, the song is also full of half-submerged mommy issues, so take from that what you will.
Speaking of The Pink Floyd and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the remastered 40th anniversary re-release of that album has been out for a while, in a couple of different editions. There’s a 2-CD version with both the stereo and mono mixes of the album, and a 3-CD deluxe hyper über version that appends a disc of semi-rarities, as well as a bulky clothbound book-like package that contains excerpts from one of Syd Barrett’s notebooks. The logic of all this is suspect; there have got to be far more people interested in unreleased material from Barrett-era Floyd than there are audio geeks who want to compare the two mixdowns, and the rarities themselves could stand to be more rare. If you’re inclined to pick one or the other up, get the three-disc version; the packaging is fairly gratuitous, but you also get “Arnold Layne” and the original, much weirder version of “Matilda Mother”, which had to be withdrawn because it *cough* stole its lyrics from a children’s poem by Hilaire Belloc.
Lester Bangs is one of those stars in the rock firmament who should need no introduction; he was a writer too good for his chosen discipline, and single-handedly wrecked an entire generation of music writers who should have stuck to writing boring, just-the-facts-ma'am criticism, instead of reaching for the flashy pyrotechnics and impassioned polemicism that characterized Bangs' best work and that they didn't have a chance in hell of pulling off. A much less well-known fact is that Bangs' passion for rock occasionally boiled over into pulling together musicians and rocking out himself.
Curiously, the only one of Bangs's music projects that most people know about is his live appearance with the J Geils Band, "playing" his typewriter in an all too literal translation of his critical persona into musical terms. But he also made a few records, and on the evidence presented on Hyped 2 Death's Homework #9, he had real talent, if only in choosing bandmates. "Kill Him Again" (by Lester Bangs & Birdland) is a work of offhanded, economical genius, starting with tentatively picked arpeggios before bursting into classic American chiming guitars (contributed by a brother of one of the Ramones), propulsive rhythm, poetically elliptic lyrics, and even a couple concise solos. Its sound is tough to classify, although the music wouldn't have sounded entirely out of place on the Feelies' or Modern Lovers' first albums. It's also insanely catchy, and begs to be replayed over and over.
It alone makes Homework #9 worth picking up, but Chuck Warner has a deeply intuitive sense of what separates an underrated gem from an opaque near-miss, and there's guaranteed to be at least a couple tracks on each of his compilations that will make you wonder where the hell you were the first time these now long-forgotten records were first released.