Archive for August, 2012

Out of Print

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan & Pandit Chatur Lal – Music Of India: Morning & Evening Ragas (Angel, 1965)


 
Download Ustad Ali Akbar Khan & Pandit Chatur Lal’s Music Of India: Morning & Evening Ragas

More amazing stuff involving Chatur Lal (posted his stunning The Drums Of India not that long ago), although instead of flexing his tabla muscles, this time he’s joining Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s hypnotic sarod. Two side long ragas, each with a brief intro by Yehudi Menuhin who goes over the scale & rhythm of the following songs. Both start out slow, Khan’s solo sarod meandering, finding its way to solid ground, and when Lal comes in with his tabla, it’s the most natural and smooth transition, and Shirish Gor’s tamboura follows suit, everything growing like the morning sun nourishing the land with its warmth & energy, so calming, fantastic in every way. Perfect to throw on when you get home from work and need to clear the headspace.

Out of Print

Alpha III – The Aleph (Alpha III Artistical Productions, 1969)


 
Download Alpha III’s The Aleph

Bizarre Brazilian prog from the late ’60s by Alpha III, just one dude named Amir Cantusio Jr. who dedicated The Aleph to “the big musician/keyboardist Keith Emerson.” Two side long tracks of weirdness, sounding like the score to A Clockwork Orange with its classically inspired crippling synth wobble, the dark & ominous grooves of The Wall (and only 10 years before Pink Floyd!), formal classical compositions tweaked for extra progginess, creepy clown laughs and fucked up vocals that are rewound, chopped, & distorted. Definitely a unique beast.

Out of Print

Sonar Senghor & His Troupe – African Tribal Music & Dances (Counterpoint / Esoteric, 1957)


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Download Sonar Senghor & His Troupe’s African Tribal Music & Dances

Utterly amazing African music by a Troupe formed in France. Senghor was a law student in Paris when he told his father he was going to stop studying to be an actor, which led to him being disowned. He ended up meeting another African student in Paris and they decided to bring the native dances & songs of Africa to Paris. Strange way to go about it but clearly it was at least semi-successful as I now hold their creations in my hands. Very traditional stuff here but African rhythms and vocals are some of my faves, so this is worth its weight in gold.

Not totally sure if this is from 1957. There are at least 3 or 4 versions of this, it was originally recoded in 1952, Esoteric changed its name to Counterpoint in ’57 (I think), and this release has both Counterpoint & Esoteric names/logos, so it seems like a decent justification to me.

Out of Print

Southern Journey 1: Georgia Sea Islands, Volume 1 (Prestige International, 1961)


 
Download Southern Journey 1: Georgia Sea Islands, Volume 1

UPDATE: A lot of the songs from this record are available elsewhere either digitally or on vinyl. I would highly recommend checking out Georgia Sea Island Singers’ Join The Band on Mississippi Records (MRP-003) for a new pressing with some of these songs. This Southern Journey record is still unavailable as is, so I’ll leave it here for now. See Nathan’s (from Cultural Equality) comment for more details.

This is one of my favorite Lomax collections. Stripped down blues, only two tracks that have any instruments (Hobart Smith on banjo, and a couple dudes playing drums & fife), the rest are pure vocals, hand clapping, and foot stomping. It’s raw and powerful, especially Bessie Jones’ take on “O Death.” There’s some wonderful chatter in between a couple of the songs, like when Peter Davis talks about how he learned “Row The Boat, Child” from his old blind grandfather who would sing it while making rowing motions in his armchair.

One of the really interesting things, and maybe if there’s a Moby expert out there you can help me out on this, is a lot of the songs on this record sound like the vocals used in Moby’s Play. I don’t think he actually sampled from this but it sounds like he heard this record and was like, “I need to recreate this.” Granted, I haven’t listened to Play in 5 or 10 years, but I have some of those tracks ingrained in my memory, and Georgia Sea Islands lines up almost perfectly. Weird.

Either way, this album is incredible, and isn’t already up in the Lomax Archive, so have at it. And be on the lookout for more Lomax collections here in the future, I got about 6 or 7 more that are from other countries and also aren’t in the Archive, so get excited.

Out of Print

Chatur Lal – The Drums Of India (World Pacific, 1961)


 
Download Chatur Lal’s The Drums Of India

This has been on heavy rotation these past few weeks. I picked it up just before my surgery and have been listening to it ever since. It’s absolutely amazing. Not just drums though, it also has Ram Narayan playing the sarangi and some singing by Lal. But drumming is definitely the focus and Lal is a fucking master tabla player. Every finger is a drum stick, making rapid fire taps flow with ease. I never even knew drumming like this was possible. It sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before and with Lal’s near unintelligibly fast vocals, this is just the best fucking thing ever. Only three tracks, one side long piece on the A side, then two 10+ minute tracks on the other. This has already earned a special pedestal in my collection.

State Of The AGB: Ear Update

First day home

My ear was fucked. up. Even more than originally thought. The surgery was successful but way more intensive than expected and I was on the operating table for more than twice as long as I should have been (10+ hours). There was more cholesteatoma than seen in the CT scan, the auditory bones were either gone or disintegrating, and my ear drum was almost entirely non-functioning. The cholesteatoma had advanced enough so that the surgeon thought it had already reached my brain. It didn’t (yay!) but having the surgery was much more pressing than we thought, so I’m glad I had it done when I did. The cholesteatoma & auditory bones were removed entirely. The prosthesis I had from the previous surgery in 2000 was not working at all but was re-adjusted so now it’s doing its job. The surgeon also created an entirely new eardrum out of my jaw muscle. Fuck yeah 21st century.
 

Bandage off, sutures & inner packing stay another week

Recovery has been slow, but steady. The biggest hurdle has been my jaw, which somehow got misaligned during/after the surgery. I only have one contact point between the top & bottom jaw, so none of my other teeth touch each other. I can’t chew or bite anything, I can’t open my mouth all the way, smiling is weird, all sorts of shitty stuff I never thought about having my jaw off by just a few centimeters. The verdict on it is still out. It might just be swelling causing it, I might need surgery to fix it, no one is sure yet. I should know more in a couple of weeks.

The best part about all of this though (ya know, in addition to the not having a bone eating disease take my life thing) is that the slim chance of having my hearing improve actually happened. For as long as I can remember, a Rinne test has always resulted in hearing better through bone conduction. But when the doctor took out the inner packing yesterday, she gave me the test, and to both of our surprise, hearing via air conduction was definitely louder. Amazing! We don’t know the results of how much my hearing has improved and we won’t know until my ear has fully finished healing (which should also lead to improved hearing) but this was proof that my hearing improved at all. Neither of us were expecting such quick results, so this is definitely awesome news.
 

Unintended side effect: crooked jaw

As for AGB, I’m still unsure of how to proceed. I’m not supposed to wear headphones because my ear needs air, so I’m only able to listen to music while in my office at work or in the couple of hours I have at home in the evening. My temporary solution for still getting material posted on AGB without reviewing new records is to post my old LPs for you to download. This is about as time consuming as reviewing new stuff but I don’t need to give the content as much attention or analysis, so I don’t feel too bad just throwing some old blues record up and leaving it at that.
 

Cotton ball & skin graft bandage for, like, ever

So this place is likely to be a home for free old music for a while. As soon as I’m able to start wearing headphones regularly or figure out an alternative, I’ll try to start in on the new tunes again. But until that happens, know I’m putting a lot of effort into healing and trying to keep AGB from turning into a dust bowl.
 

Also, I feel it worth to note the loss of main AGB inspiration bunny Hodge. We had to put him down last week in the middle of all this surgery shit, so things have been rough. He was the most perfect bunny ever. Here is a rare video of him grooming on his bunny lady and a wonderful memorial written by my wife.

Weird Ears: I’m Going Under The Knife


I’ve always had shitty ears. I’m about 80% deaf in my right ear and have been for as long as I can remember. My left one hears much better (although only by comparison). I had tubes multiple times as a kid. I could never get my ears wet/go swimming. I had major surgery on my right ear in high school. The list goes on.

Now I have a cholesteatoma (aka “a destructive and expanding growth”) formed in my right ear. It’s sitting right between the top of my ear canal and the base of my skull, although it’s probably hidden elsewhere as well. So a surgeon’s cutting open my ear to get rid of that shit and to improve my currently fucked up mastoid cavity, as well as potentially restore my hearing (although that last bit is pretty unlikely). This is pretty similar to the surgery I had back in 2000 (cholesteatoma removal, hearing restoration, tympanoplasty, etc), it was a huge pain in the ass and I had no noticeable hearing improvement afterward.

But what all this means for you, dear AGB reader, is that I’ll be out of commission for a while. I’m out of work for at least a week in which I’ll just be a lump on the couch (and maybe, if I’m at all capable, cataloging my records, fingers crossed). The main impediment to me getting right back on the reviewing horse, though, is that I’ll temporarily be unable to wear headphones. If you read the interview I did with Foxy Digitalis, then you know I do all of my writing on the train into work. And without headphones, that’s impossible.

So unless I figure out some other way of making time to review records, this place will just be gathering dust. For how long? Tough to say. I’m hoping it’ll only be a few weeks.

I’m also unsure of how easily I’ll be able to listen to music in general, like, on my stereo, so it might take me a bit to get back up to speed after having cotton stuffed in my ears for weeks on end.

Rest assured I’ll be back as soon as I’m able. And while the site will be silent, motherfucking ear surgery can’t keep me from my Twitter. If you’re interested, that’s where I’ll be for the next few weeks. Otherwise, wish me luck and hope that I return with normal human stereo functionality.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers & Andrew Marino – We Don’t Have Sun Like This (Full Spectrum, 2012)


Andrew Weathers & Andrew MarinoSingle Girl, Married Girl (Full Spectrum)

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Alright, so technically this record doesn’t feature Andrew Marino. At all. But that’s because it’s not just a record. It’s music & a book, with Weathers making the sounds and Marino taking photos. Every song Weathers wrote is tied to a pair of photographs Marino shot, and the music kinda takes the back seat, getting just a digital release that accompanies the physical book (of which there’s no digital counterpart as far as I know, but you can check out Marino’s Flickr for some examples). And since I don’t have the book, this review focuses solely on Weathers’ contributions.

If there’s any dude who knows how to incorporate melty drones with vocals and acoustic plucking, it’s this guy. And if there’s anyone you can count on having their next release being just as good, if not better than their last, it’s this guy. Andrew Weathers records are like my favorite thing right now. And probably forever. He just pushes all the right buttons, but he also pushes them so perfectly. His drones are fucking top notch, elegant & soft, warm & sunny, and totally blissful. Then he mixes in acoustic guitars and banjos, sometimes accompanying the electronic minimals, sometimes just by their bare self, founded in Appalachian tradition and tweaked with a keen eye for the discerning 21st centurian, always with a delicate tenderness that feels like Weathers is hugging you through your speakers. And his singing is just what takes it to the next fucking level, vocals like an ironed sheet of satin, rich and friendly, implicitly welcoming you to join in. And all of it has a hint of melancholy that’s beautifully subtle, giving everything that perfect amount of bittersweetness. Clearly his work with the Andrew Weathers Ensemble has found its way back home in his solo work and I’m all for it. Speaking of which, this is every bit as amazing as AWE’s We’re Not Cautious, which made my Top 10 list a couple years ago. This is seriously incredible work and every release Weathers puts out just makes me more shocked that he’s not being praised as Drone Folk Hero. What’s wrong with you people. This is where your ears should be.

Album Review

Blood Folke – Blood Folke (Small Doses, 2011)


Blood FolkeWinter’s Summer (Small Doses)

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Their name’s a bit misleading. No folke here. No black folk either. Nothing folky at all. Maybe some blood if that’s your thing. These guys are a trio from Minnesota playing a strange and totally fucking awesome blend of doom & black metal, with some post rock climaxes thrown in for extra epic points. Instead of the usual guitar/bass/drums setup, though, they’ve ditched the bass for a viola, so, wow. It’s the best. It adds to the heaviness in its own way, giving me a neo-classical noir vibe, except when those strings are crying out like some DSBM howls, which is weird as fuck and 100% welcomed. The vocalist doubles up with bear-like growls and throaty mumbles while shredding his axe, teaming with the viola creating melodic crescendo blasts and discordant blackboard screeching, and the drummer is destroying his kit when things get locked down, a massive doom groove that just doesn’t let up. The whole thing is dark and supremely fucking heavy, blacking out the sky and reigning its twisted doom over your wretched soul. Truly great stuff here and for $8 it’s a goddamn steal.