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20 October 2017

Invisible Sports - 'The Future Tastes' (Alt.Vinyl)

If we ever make it to the Vs you'll discover I have a bunch of Volcano the Bear records; most of them, in fact. I love those guys, and just recently got their 20th anniversary box set Commencing, which is massive. Somehow along the years with all of the side projects,  I totally forgot about Aaron Moore's solo song-based LP from 2012, The Future Tastes, which is some of the most polished and 'accessible' songcraft the man's ever released. His voice is unmistakeable, not a conventional singing voice but not a bad one either. These are fully arranged pop songs, a bit off-kilter (it's hardly sounding like Lady Gaga), but not as demented or damaged as Volcano (until the end). Some VtB tracks could just be Aaron solo, but they are of a different ilk - The Future Tastes is approached from a different philosophy, and that translates into a slightly trance-like take on post-rock, with an almost lounge flavour. And they're nice tunes, whether it's the jazzy inflections of 'Jesus Auto Sound' or the surreal psychedelia of 'Man Wakes Up With Wins'; Aaron's songs are oddly genteel, often using piano or keyboards, a light touch on percussion/drums, a lot of trumpet (some quite processed or at least played weirdly), and some nice details around the edges. 'Silence is What We're Made For' invokes a sentimentality rarely heard in Volcano songs, and I like it - it's an updating of 'Hello, Graham' in terms of mood, brought into a later stage in his musical career but coming from the same place of odd thoughtfulness. There's a lot of tonal percussion throughout this record –xylophones, or maybe it's marimba, or vibes, or even some sort of tuned drums – and they give the proceedings a mildly exotic flavour. Rhythmically, it's more subtle than it sounds at first, with the bass playing (upright, I think) often pushing against the vocal melodies and the drumming to make something not quite hypnotic, but suggestive. Side two has some more loose experiments, such as 'Hopfull' (a pause-button edit work that's the most 'electronica' this record gets, or 'Lovelove', which is all dub-like studio fuckery around a few repeated vocal phrases. It all concludes with 'It's a Warhorse', a thick song built over two endless organ chords, with all manner of scraping and screaming smaller sounds layered within. This is close to the mic, breathy, deep Moore, an intimate experience that is offset by the strangeness of the music. It's like all of the light grooves of the rest of the record are pushed away in favour of an intense, somewhat monotonous epic. It feels the most like a VtB outtake here, and I wonder if it was added to fill out running time or to make a link back to the mothership, so to speak. Either way, it's intriguing, and it wouldn't be Aaron Moore if everything was too harmonious from start to finish.

19 October 2017

Insayngel (Heavy Tapes)

Blink and you may have missed them; Insayngel was two members of Sightings with a few other people, an ex-Excepter guy and people who were also in a band called Vizusa (according to the infallible discogs - I've never heard of 'em). The Pusheadesque cover art may give a hint as to the direction of these sounds - this is harsh, sick noise-rock, straining to get free from some imagined shackles. 'Plastic Ancestor' begins things on a percussive note, with Caitlin Cook's voice definitely in 'caterwaul' territory and stretching over a nervous thumping bassline and what sounds like a bunch of cans being kicked around in a bin liner. It's really, really messy, but the rhythm section knows what they're doing and they shift into different movements, which gives it just enough of a centre to lurch along. I don't know when or how this was recorded, but when I listen to it, I just feel hot; perhaps it's because every time I remember being in Brooklyn it's always somehow summer so it's sticky and muggy. This, I can imagine, came out of jam sessions during this time, scraping away at distorted guitar strings and pounding on drums just as a way to stay cool. No lyrics are intelligible, and it's lo-fi enough to distort in all of the right places. The guitar playing sometimes has this weird slide sound, sometimes there's an incursion of low end that glows underneath it all, and sometimes the cymbals cut through everything else in a really unbalanced way. 'Hard to Handle' is not a Black Crowes cover, but a big mess of a song that is kinda fun to listen to. I keep coming back to the word 'lurching' to describe things, even though it kinda swings. The Sightings guys are the rhythm section and you can tell they're an ongoing musical relationship, and I should really listen to Sightings more because they're somehow underrated after all of these years. 'Black Rock Way', the longest track, is also the furthest away from a cohesive song though I'm not sure how much, if any, of this record was composed to begin with. This reminds me of the Godz, Cro-Magnon or some other primitive 60s thing, and has an oscillating keyboard/electronics part to take this firmly into bad trip territory. It slows to a crawl, with nothing but static and bumping notes and stammering, and it conjures an element of madness that's weirdly fun. I think back to that Hospitals LP discussed back in August and how these both come from a similar place, but one is quite clearly West Coast and the other quite clearly from a more high-octane lifestyle. Insayngel might be a terrible name, but if madness is the state attempting to be portrayed by this music, they kinda nailed it, or at least aspects of it. 

The Incredible String Band - 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' (Elektra)

By The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, the psychedelic affectations of the previous record's cover are shelved in favour of some back-to-the-roots medieval roleplay, though maybe this is just a more British, stylised form of psychedelia. Joe Boyd's back, and his mark is felt even though the ISB themselves are credited with the arrangements. Still, I think Boyd knew how to record the piano so it sounds like it's being played in a great stone room; how to place microphones near the right part of the acoustic guitar to let the high-mids flow and interact wth the harpsichord so beautifully; how to incorporate a distant waterdripping sound with the string improvisation in the middle of 'The Water Song' to create an amazing atmosphere without things becoming too gimmicky. Heron's 'A Very Cellular Song' is the epic, a 13 minute mega-song which is really just like a few shorter pieces smashed together, and likewise has good and bad moments. About 2/3 of the way through is an instrumental breakdown with jaw's harp, some beat-boxing (really!) and mandolin chip-chop, which is wonderful, fruity, and just brief enough to leave one wanting more. But there's also a strange faux-gospel part (the 'goodnight, goodnight') which is a somewhat painful listen. I guess the idea of 'cellular' means that the song is just an assemblage of parts, rather than a reference to cellular phone technology (though such technology did exist in 1968, it would be called 'mobile' in UK parlance anyway), so it ends up just being a grouping/sequencing/labelling decision since these could have been broken into five or six different songs, and honestly the weak part of the album, especially when compared to some of side two's energy. Lyrically, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter feels a bit more adult than The 5000 Spirits; there's no 'Way Back in the 1960s' or 'Hedgehog Song' here, no simple love songs. Instead we get sinewy narratives, with proper names dropped here and there, and a loose, hippie take on British myth imagery. 'Waltz of the New Moon', 'Nightfall' and 'Koeeoaddi Theme' contain the florid, colourful adjectives that fit this vibe; the freakout jam at the end of 'Three is a Green Crown' matches it with an appropriate musical exploration. Shirley Collins contributes just a little bit of piano and organ but it goes a long way. Maybe this is the best balance they ever reached, but I've only ever heard The Wee Tam and Big Huge in passing so what do I know?

The Incredible String Band - 'The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion' (Elektra)

Talk about a shift in marketing - the cover alone would suggest that Messrs Heron and Williamson, reduced to a duo here, majorly 'turned on' after their first album and in their cosmic dialogue with the universe decided to reinvent the Incredible String Band as a fully psychedelicised wonder. I don't know if the music carries through on this promise, though it's a huge step forward in confidence and originality, and furthermore the duo plays together as a band on almost every track, making this feel much more cohesive. I'd say its more a step towards pop accessibility than drugged out wonderbliss. One can hear this from the get-go, on 'Chinese White', where Williamson's bowed gimbri adds a thick drone behind the song, sounding a bit like a Dylanesque harmonica only with a fourth dimension added. That's maybe the psychedelic-influenced ISB in a nutshell - or maybe the confident production of Joe Boyd is to thank. Danny Thompson guests on a few tracks and hand drums are occasionally present, though it's hardly a rock and roll ensemble; the presence of sitar (or guitar affected to sound like a sitar) and flute, weaving through the melodies is a bigger presence throughout. Without any traditionals here, the songcraft feels more akin to the 60s Village scene than to Anne Briggs or Shirley Collins, with only their accent really linking things to any UK folk movement. There's a syncopated quirk to some of the tunes, like 'No Sleep Blues', others look to jazz and blues for direction. Heron's tunes in particular have the hooks, like the indefatigable 'Hedgehog Song' and 'Painting Box'. If I try to imagine this accompanying a late 60s psychedelic/mystical 'trip' I'm sure there's some great psychedelic value; 'Little Cloud' is whimsical and jaunty but lyrically about floating to distant lands; 'My Name is Death' can be the bummer note or the key to understanding the whole experience, perhaps. The closer, 'Way Back in the 1960s', takes a fun, tongue-in-cheek look back to this time, and holds up well as a quasi-novelty number. I realise that writing about so many records here runs the risk of being pointless or uninsightful, and I can't think of what I can personally add about these mega-famous ISB albums, since I have little personal connection to them beyond just enjoying them now and then. The best I can do is to try to relate it to other music experiences, but apart from the resurgence of interest in 60s folk in the 00s noise 'underground', I couldn't think of music further away from the current Now/zeitgeist than this. And even within that decade-past underground, ISB was way too well-known to be seen as cool, when there were an endless stream of obscure burnout loners to discover instead. Still, this album and their next one have gotten many a play, not just my beaten copy (whose lifespan was already worn down long before it entered my possession) but among people in general, as these records remain immensely popular for good reason.

17 October 2017

The Incredible String Band (Elektra)

Mono pressing. Clive Palmer has a great reputation, maybe because he left the Incredible String Band after this debut album, before they found more commercial success, which cements him along with Syd Barrett, Howard Devoto, Judy Dyble and others who got out while the going was good. Listening to this lovely sounding (mono!) pressing, I realise that he wasn't a phenomenally large presence anyway. This debut is more like a "songwriter's guild" type of band, without all three members playing on every track, and a few being solo pieces. There's a very unfortunately titled solo Palmer track which should be enough to ruin his reputation except maybe because it's a jaunty banjo instrumental (and also a traditional tune) he gets away with it; otherwise it's only on 'Empty Pocket Blues' that we get to hear his voice. It's a nice song, though Robin Williamson's furtive tin whistling is what really makes it. Other gems are 'Dandelion Blues', which is whimsical and fleeting; 'When the Music Starts to Play' and the closing stomper 'Everything's Fine Right Now'. This type of winking contemporary folk came at the right place right time; I don't hear anything particularly 'psychedelic' here beyond the general lightness of tone and colour of the arrangements, but England was maybe more of a mushroom culture at this point, 1966. Heron and Williamson were actually both from Edinburgh as we're told in the notes on 'Smoke Shovelling Song', but this isn't a band I tend to remember when chronicling Scotland's greats. The liner notes are great -not quite lyrics but rambling written riffs on the themes of the song, which bring a nice accompaniment to the listening experience. This recording - did I mention it's in mono? - sounds clear and balanced, with the chop-chop of the strummed strings echoing for all of eternity, whether it's guitar, banjo, or mandolin. It's funny to think that Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span et. al formed in the wake of this, though I'm not sure how strong the influence was, and they were more rockin' when they started. Still, ISB managed to ultimately build a myth around themselves and it's hard to hear why in this first record. I saw a reunion show of the original trio circa 2004 and Clive Palmer seemed so goddamned old they pretty much had to wheel him out and prop him up --  though Wikipedia indicated he was only 61 at the time. I never did hear those C.O.B. records, maybe they're good?

16 October 2017

Inca Ore - 'Brute Nature Versus Wild Magic' (Weird Forest)

'Voices by Inca Ore', it says on the sleeve, suggesting that 100% of the sounds on here are voice, but the liners state 'All instrumentals lent by Rob Enbom'. Eva Saelens is Inca Ore and her voice is certainly the dominant centre here, but these instrumental loanings give many tracks a strong framework. That's little rhythmic plinks and plunks, guitars skittering around the place, kalimba and bells, sampled concrete elements ('Stay Wild Child'), and other small percussion. Is this all due to the generous Mr. Enbom? I don't want to diminish Saelens' vision, because she's certainly the one shaping the pieces, but there's so much more present here than her voice. That voice, on the best parts, stays away from Meredith Monk abstractisms or overly affected drone-processing for the most part. Other tracks are some excursions into pure vocal waaaaah ('The Mystery of Healing: A Guided Meditation' being a good example, though actual meditation would be pretty difficult with the thorny edges to this uneasy ebb n' flow; also side two's lengthy drone work) but feature smaller, more uniquely strange/beautiful segments as well. What we get here are actual words, fragments of language – sang at times and spoken at others – all with a demented hodge-podge assemblage. Brute Nature Versus Wild Magic is drenched in tape hiss, sounding like it was collaged together from experimental cassettes and other fragmentary explorations. The short pieces on side one have a distinctly west coast outsider feel (this is from the same universe as early Bügsküll, for sure) and there's a pleasantly 4AD-inspired take, though more like if 4AD's classic sound was patched together with Scotch tape and paperclips. The atmospherics ('Rainbows and Inca Teeth' or the aforementioned 'Mystery of Healing') are fine, lovely even, but start to pull this towards a recognisable mid-00s 'sound' (which of course this was part of); a few years after this she ended up on Not Not Fun, which was surely a suitable home for her music, but the art-damaged textual pieces are what I find the most mesmerising here. The best bits of this album I think are those, but maybe it's the way they are balanced against her soundscapes. Side two is one lengthy piece with a beautifully long title, and where voice does become front and centre, moving through a series of layered moaning movements. It's a long listen and not one I frequently go back to, though the lo-fi nature is everything and the moments where it slows and rests are the most eerily human and rewarding. Breath is behind everything here and it finalises into a repeated sense of wonder, in that Saelens is literally chanting 'Wow... wow....'. The possibilities of the human voice and some over-the-counter effects pedals are endless.

Inca Eyeball ‎– 'He Has A Brain The Size Of A Fifty Pence Piece' (Fusetron/Carburetor)

Nonsense music is a grand tradition, and it tends to operate on an inverted bell curve in relation to the artist's position in the music industry. At the far left end lies this Inca Eyeball record, coming from the 'underground' anti-tradition of absurd nonsense, shared (at least in spirit) by artists such as Caroliner Rainbow, Sockeye, parts of the Very Good Records roster ... there's a commitment to the craft, and I don't consider it to be 'novelty' music but just, well, stupid. In a good way! (On the other end of the curve would be established commercial artists doing crazy career suicide acts like Van Morrison's contractual obligation ringworm recordings, and I can't really think of many other examples there; the middle would be the wide gamut of novelty music, I suppose, which is generally lacking in non-effort). There's 117 songs on this Inca Eyeball LP, all improvised on the spot by Phil Todd and Joincey in 1995 and moving through such visions as 'Yellow Silt in the Crimson Flow', 'I'm in a Sieve', and 'I'm Gonna Get My Head Kicked In!'. Except 'THESE AREN'T SONGS', according to the proclamation on the back cover, without any explanation why. I guess improvisations don't count? I had a band in high school that sounded almost exactly like this, acoustic plinking and extemporaneous babbling, though our songs were a bit longer. There's a pleasure in listening to this, sure, and little point in singling out specific outbursts. It's hard to actually tell which tracks are which for they really run together. Go find this and buy all of their other albums too; then start an Inca Eyeball cover band and spread the gospel.

5 October 2017

Idea Fire Company - 'Beauty School' (Ultra Eczema)

I don't know if this Ultra Eczema release is meant to stand as a 'major' IFCO record, since it doesn't come with a manifesto and isn't released on their own home label, Swill Radio. It also features two side-long pieces, with the core IFCO duo accented by Matt Krefting and Graham Lambkin, as opposed to a collection of shorter pieces (if that means anything - probably not!). Those two guys are a perfect match for IFCO's style of sound slicing, and the resulting record is aptly named yet monolithic in its glamour. 'Buzzbomb' is the thunderous, unforgettable track which feels endless, timeless and other such superlatives. Like The Island of Taste we find piano used prominently, played not rapidly but with a resounding certainty, anchoring the piece or rather keeping its movement adhering to a wobbly centre. The tapes and synths and other Idea Fire affects are layered without overwhelming, no single individual sound emerging to take over, and summing up to build a strong feeling of weight. If the track 'Island of Taste' was slowly floating skyward under its own breaths, maybe 'Buzzbomb' is where we come back down. It's a long track and the second movement of it shifts the tone towards something more claustrophobic; this is simultaneously a beautiful concoction to get lost in and a heavy, affecting experience. The title track on the flip is build around an indefatigable tremolo effect and thus continues the stasis. Dennis Tyfus's artwork is perfect for this - monochromatic, yet inviting, cartographic textures which imply a huge universe within to explore and probe. After 'Beauty School' and therefore Beauty School concludes, there's a ringing left in the room, the overtone hangover caused by the greatest recordings of LaMonte Young, Vibracathedral Orchestra, etc. Something else lingers long after this record passes, and that isn't just tonal but perhaps a changing of the air, or the molecular alteration of the walls and floor in here cause by these soundwaves.

3 October 2017

Idea Fire Company - 'The Island of Taste' (Swill Radio)

The Island of Taste is beautiful, gentle, and mysterious. Within the passages of its rotation lie rippling currents of sensation, shuddering rumbles, and delicate accents. In the hop, skip and jump through their discography that's represented in the sample that I own, this is where it feels like a summation. The relentless probing of Anti-Natural, the spacious negotiations of Stranded and the slabs of laminal elegance of Beauty School are perfectly balanced, supporting each other by only their own weight, which is actually nothing. The title and cover already take you to a place that keeps lifting, much like the way 'Heroes' on the previous album does (and that track is revisited with great fanfare here, not so much covered but extended as 'Heroes of the Last Barricade', substituting absence for the warmth of the voices, though they remain here, faintly, as a tease). The title track is simplistic in construction (extremely minimal sampler hiss, field recordings of birds, and a few carefully reverberating piano notes) but utterly fucking transcendental in execution. There's conventional aesthetic moves at play, for sure; dramatic movement, cautious interplay, phenomenal details (the scrapes of Tibetan bowl in 'Land Ho!'; the occasional garbled lighting in 'Heroes of the Last Barricade') and closure. I don't usually look online for secondary material while listening or writing this stuff, except when I do, but I found a blurb from Swill Radio's own press release, where Foust (I assume) declares this the third part of a trilogy with the two previous records I covered here. I can see (hear?) that – that these three records work together as a larger whole – but what jumps out even more from the blurb is the line 'perhaps the first LP to make explicit a certain nostalgia for itself'. This clever turn of phrase does wonders to recast the copious static and artificial antiquarian vibes saturating these tracks, and this is 2008 when this tendency in electronic music was just starting to peak. Now there's entire books written about 'hauntology' and the sound of artists like the Caretaker, that one Black to Comm album, etc; that's postmodern nostalgia where there's an implicit acknowledgement that the future isn't happening anymore, or maybe that our idea of the future was better in the past. The Island of Taste sidesteps that by distancing itself from any cultural touchstones; static itself is just a tool, one that's been on Idea Fire Company records before and since, and that would just be a shortcut to generating cheap nostalgia-effects anyway. No, I think what Borecky and Foust (and others - Frans de Waard, Graham Lambkin, Richard Rupenus and Dr. Timothy Shortell guest in addition to the expanded Swenson/O'Reilly lineup as heard on Stranded) have achieved here is the creation of a totally idiosyncratic and individual soundworld that (despite its often stark n' spare palette) is so complete in its vision that an infinite number of possible permutations is not only imaginable, but almost forcefully shoved into my imagination, purely by what's NOT heard on this record. 'Bitter Victories', for example, is a solo Foust synth track of a searing, circular drone that is elliptical yet mostly horizontal, unceasing in its intensity, and relatively dense compared to the rest of the record. Yet somehow, in less than three minutes, it conjures a universe of possibilities and then rests on its brief, sampled representation. There's a beautiful set of postcards inside with another stunning manifesto, but I'll leave that for you to discover on your own - $16 can still get you a copy of this from Swill Radio.

24 September 2017

Idea Fire Company - 'Stranded' (Swill Radio)

The anti-natural manifesto is not anti-human in any sense, and I'm struck by the physical effects of listening to multiple Idea Fire Company records in a row. Stranded bears little resemblance to the Roxy Music classic, but also takes a great step forward from what the duo of Karla Borecky and Scott Foust exhibited on Anti-Natural. Here, the group has expanded to a quartet, though that doesn't alter the clarity of their vision one bit. I find that the different tracks affect me in different ways, physically, here; there is a breathing ebb and flow that generally is present in every piece, but it moves from placid and contemplative ('Heroes') to edgy and nervous ('Wünderwäffen', 'Artificial'). Foust is entirely relegated to radio and tape duties here and his preparations are masterful, particularly the murmuring voices buried beneath 'Stranded II's music-box melody. Where a lesser musician or sound artist might gravitate towards sentimental nostalgia with such material, IFCO eschews any such reading and infuses a cold isolation, using the radio to conjure mysteries that do not reflect on culture's reading of the future from the past, like so much music called 'hauntology' today. The voices on 'Heroes' are shockingly beautiful, rotating in an echo of a dream; here's where more traditional musical aesthetics are dabbled with, and it's extremely rewarding. 

11 September 2017

Idea Fire Company - 'Anti-Natural' (Swill Radio)

This is a two-part manifesto, being both language and sound. All sound is a form of language of course and Anti-Natural is a clear example that even the most conservatory-trained traditionalist could understand. Karla Borecky and Scott Foust's synth interplay, accented with reedy guitar and tape loops, stakes out a universe that redefines musical concepts such as metre, pitch, and duration. With all of the tracks on Anti-Natural, it's really one complete work, the concept of the 'album' being probably the most traditional music-industry one being adhered to. Shorter tracks tease out pinching tones, a murky ambience that breathes and pulses, and these support the longer explorations, for example the 13-minute 'Magnetic Fields', which glows with an organic repetition that feels so attuned to the human body that while listening to it carefully, closely, I feel a change in my own breathing. This LP feels like a complete statement of intent even without the printed manifesto included, but that is an intense and I'd say recommended read, especially for me over today's morning coffee. No one in academic art history circles is even aware of the 'Anti-Natural' manifesto, a fact that serves to prove the manifesto's own points about the conspiratorial blanketing of capitalist commodification, Judeo-Christian morals and positivist scientific thought. It's a convincing work, one that should be taken seriously and applied to this and all future Idea Fire Company recordings, for it stakes out their aesthetic position and radicalises a music that should be already radical, were it not for the context of the music industry which de-radicalises by definition, and of course the LP (pressed and sold by IFCO themselves on the Swill Radio imprint) is a commercial product. Anti-Natural, not music you'd listen to with Grandma, is a vital document of sound exploration that forms around a much larger context than simple electroacoustic experimentalism. And thinking about this as an aesthetic, one that a younger version of me would have happily summarised as an 'alien' one, really raises the question about how to live our lives through art, uncompromising and true. Some of the shorter tracks have great titles like 'We Are Nothing and We Want to Be Everything' or 'On Your Toes, Intellectuals!', which could be seen as jokes or as serious provocations, and somehow I vote for the latter, though the Anti-Natural ideology doesn't feel heavy or dogmatic. The music is ultimately what matters and over the last 25 years or so, IFCO has tended towards lightness, with sounds that are lifting, expanding, and evolving, generating a sensation of a world to explore. It starts here for me (though there are a few earlier records that I haven't heard) and as a statement of purpose, it's marvellous.

6 September 2017

Ici La Bas (Black Noise)

A prized possession here, Ici La Bas would be normally filed under H for the Homosexuals, or maybe a bit deeper down in the Is for 'Les Incroyables' (credited as the producer), but I'm going with the Discogs.com hierarchy here – they have it as a self-titled release by the artist Ici La Bas (their only release, of course).  All six of these tracks appear on the indispensible first disc of the Homosexuals Astral Glamour compilation, though most are pushed towards the ass-end of the sequence. And this is a prime slice of the experimental side of these guys, with 'Regard Omission', 'Galore Galore' and 'Cause A Commotion' all experiments in reverbed guitars and other studio assemblages. I mean, it's all studio assemblages - 'Nippon Airways' is a dub song, getting away with it in the way that so many UK artists of the late 70s were able to do. The middle cuts from each side are the most coherent songs; I've listened to 'The Total Drop' so many times that it feels like a part of my own heartbeat, though it's a bouncy and bubblegummy entry for the Homosexuals canon and probably not one many others adores as much as I do. 'Flying' is a bit more on the jagged, sneering side of things but it's propelled with a beautiful momentum. In many ways, the genius of this broken collective only comes together when compiled as a larger body of work. Had I only this 12" to go from, I would find it occasionally brilliant and slightly frustrating, which is of course exactly what the Homosexuals were, but hardly anything to build a religion around. There's no 'Hearts in Exile' or 'False Sentiments' here, but knowing those cuts from the other releases it congeals into something magnificent, work that inspires not just in the mysterious nature of their public identity, but in the music itself, which is timeless and brilliant. Tiger makes it better.

4 September 2017

Dick Hyman - 'Moog: The Electric Eclectics of' (Command)

I've never had an amazing charity shop find - no rare private press Christian psych originals for $1, or even a decently obscure classic or anti-classic. About the best I can do is this, which was only $0.25, many years ago and has lingered in my collection even though I rarely listen to it. Moog is pretty good though, moving between novelty/lounge exotica sounds ('Topless Dancers of Corfu', 'Evening Thoughts') and pure synth fuckery ('The Moog and Me', 'Tap Dance in the Memory Banks'). 'The Minotaur' is the true killer jam, with an addictive pulse that reminds me of Can or some motorik Kraut thing, and noodling, melodic solos with huge tone sweeps that remind me of British (perhaps Cantebury) prog. Hyman's compositions have a lot of air in them, allowing the high and low tones to really reverberate. This record sounds beautiful, even when the vibe is a bit too goofy to fully enjoy. 'Four Duets in Odd Meter' is a sparkling adventure through ecstatic electronics; the titular odd metre gives it an unsettling feel that somehow is still inviting, drawing me into its imagination. I situate this as coming from the final wave of mid-century Americana, where there was some strange fantasy that this could be the music of the future - where machines and computers were distant dreams, rather than tools of enslavement or at least narcissism. And marketed, of course, through pop/sci-fi ideas as the album artwork indicates, but with a rather commercial (or perhaps a better term is accessible) musical edge, at least if you were to compare this to, say, Luening & Ussachevsky. And I suspect that as time passes, this will sound increasingly interesting, in a paleofuturistic way; we are definitively in an era where we cannot dream of a future any longer, unless it's cast as some Silicon Valley-driven capitalist bullshit. Aesthetically, we're stuck, which is what Mark Fisher wrote a lot about before he died, so this Dick Hyman record could be Exhibit A from the final generation of imagination, and inspire us to once again dare to dream.