I must confess to a growing weakness for Easy Listening lately. (I’m stretching that genre-name a bit for what I want to write about, but it’s the schmaltzy, big or small band, standards and such. Days of Wine and Roses. Moon River done a thousand different ways. The Three Suns, Mancini, that sort of thing).
Why in the name of God, You probably ask. Continue reading
RED SOVINE ‘Teddy Bear’
RCA 1976 cat# LSA3286
Ah, Red Sovine. Some of you may know this corn-poned, beer and hardluck spattered gentleman from Tom Waits cover of ‘Big Joe and Phantom 309′ on Nighthawks at the Diner. Even with that pedigree I can’t get my girlfriend to listen to this. Well, Red specialized in those sad, country story songs. You know, Little Timmy’s legs is broke and Daddy left him and Momma with nuthin’ and it’s Christmas and all Timmy wants for Christmas is a ride in a big rig. These are not so much sung as they are spoken, with Red’s voice breaking into a maudlin quaver at several key points. Yes, it’s hilarious. Red himself has an interesting story. He was a true Nashville country stalwart, just muling away out there from honky-tonk to honky-tonk, and though this record actually hit #1 on the US Country chart in 1976, he never seemed to find fame. Instead his story ended with him having a heart attack while driving his van in Nashville. The combination of heart failure and injuries proved too much, so on April 4, 1980, Red threw it into low for the last time and rolled his rig up into that great truck-stop in the sky.
There are other records with better known Sovine songs, but the cover on this one just puts it over the top. Still, you can’t beat titles like ‘Does Steppin’ Out Mean Daddy Took a Walk?’. Getting this record was a bit of a project. It’s funny. I’m three hours from Nashville, but I had to buy this from a guy in England.
Daniel Lopatin has been causing a buzz among those of us who are wont to buzz about underground ambient music. The talk is justified. OPN is a perfect example of an artist finding their sensibilities in sound, equipment and delivery then running with it. I get the impression that Lopatin is making the kinds of records he wants to hear. Which is really how anyone should make music. Using vintage synths and sampling banal 80′s media and tropes, OPN layers it all together in up to date frameworks of melody, inserting segues at perfect spots. At no point does the work get bogged down in any one sound. At no time does it get attached to a specific space. It goes there, gives time for you to feel it, then moves on. To something just as interesting and just as heartfelt. Replica is where you start. Then move back and start fighting for the amazing ‘Zones Without People’. Good stuff. I’m still hunting for a reasonable copy of ‘Betrayed In The Octagon’ myself. I was heartened to see OPN on the great label Mexican Summer. And Hey Dan, if you’re reading this, please put ‘Memory Vague’ out on vinyl. www.mexicansummer.com.
Retro works best when it just kind of happens. One of my favorite recent discoveries, the only downer was learning that the early singles and a 10″ had already progressed into collector-price territory. Damn you, people like me. Tame Impala was one of those projects I knew I would like as soon as I heard them. Heavy but melodic and spacy, vocals like John Lennon rocking out. It’s hard to categorise this Australian band and there’s no real scene that I can see to connect them to. There’s a good dose of Psych, with tight musicianship, particularly the drums and vocals. So much about how this works is unexpected, but settling in with Innerspeaker is at once comfortable and refreshing. There is a US version of the 2xLP recorded at 33rpm but the original Australian is recorded at 45 rpm. Nice gatefold package.
The video for Monte Gargano got me. There’s some really good metal out there now, but you aren’t going to hear it unless you are digging. And I mean digging. Want to know why you can’t get into the current metal that’s everywhere right now? Because it’s made for 14 year olds who listen to it while they play Halo and eat the pizza rolls Mom just heated up for them. So you’re doing fine. I didn’t notice it until someone actually mentioned that it sounded like Qotsa – probably because it didn’t really sound like them to me. There’s not really a trace of that on the 13 minute track ‘Majestic’, which just completely rocks. You know how there’s a great song on a record, but it only lasts three minutes and you wish there was some way it went longer without getting boring? This is it. Maybe the only time a song this long can keep the same high energy level throughout. This record is kind of hard to get. The only place I’ve found it in the States is the ever-reliable people at All That Is Heavy. There aren’t even copies on Ebay.
Two tracks of sublime instrumental ambient, each taking up a record side. Soulful, forbidding ragas of modernist landscaping. Just enough primitive zoning to keep it from feeling electronic but no dismissable guitar noodling to wreck the space either. On reflection, I thought Date Palms managed the one crucial thing needed to pull this off; patience. The record starts off right in the mantra, but everything is allowed to stretch out and build. Georgeous drones float past. Deep plucked tones keep millenial time. The sun moves across the sky. Sand shifts then night falls. Amazing, a must have for anyone that liked O Yuki Conjugate or the more organic Tangerine Dream such as Rubycon or Tangram. mexicansummer.com
I heard a snatch of ‘Seven Wild Horses’ and a couple other things and thought this would be worth picking up. Was dismayed to learn that the video version of the song was different than the LP version. But still, I’m enjoying this when I’m in the mood for something ethereal, transportive and oozing airy female vocals. I always liked the retro, james bond-ish feel of Goldfrapps Felt Mountain and this is similar, minus the homage to things past. I can’t really get into any of their other material, it seems like it’s aimed at some type of listener…I don’t know who but it’s not me. Hopefully all their future material can be like this or better. The vinyl is very hard to get, there is one seller on the planet, located in Manchester UK. Their Ebay sale will say it ships from Irvine CA but mine still came from the UK.
I should know better. But when I heard this band mentioned in the same breath as certain other bands and saw tie-ins with that hipster clothing store, I dismissed. The old thing about not being able to like a band because you don’t like the other people that like them. It’s been a long time since high school…so again, I should know better. After listening to this several times and realizing I really, really liked it, it struck me why. First, these songs have great hooks and beneath the fuzz and reverb are some achingly sweet chords. And I got it. It’s all about 60′s girl groups, Leslie Gore, the Brill Building, Phil Spector when he was still a crazy genius and not just crazy. Ignore the hype and give it a listen. So far there are five LP Versions. The 1000 hand-numbered copies on seafoam green from Mexican Summer seems to be the most sought after. But there’s also a repress of 1000 on orange. Here’s the Discogs.com link for you vinyl freaks. But your best bet is to just get the affordable black vinyl direct from Mexican Summer.
Troum has made some great records, I have yet to be disappointed with anything I’ve heard. But this is miles ahead, a progression I didn’t expect. We would have been perfectly happy with more dreamy, coalescing drones, but for raw, anthem-power, only a few previous works come close to this. Right out of the gate, the driving, emotive pulse of side a sets a tone, establishing an energy level that sustains across several tracks, giving them a high ground that makes their valleys even lower. And when the avalanche finally trickles off somewhere in the second record, we’re on to something else anyway. Rhythm is what sets Troum apart from other ambient projects, and Stefan Knappe is a master of using it. In his hands, it forms the muscular, pinnacled geography from which the ebb and flow of his drones progress and mutate. When I waste valuable listening time thinking about what Knappe must be doing to create the final work, I wonder if there is an almost occult alchemy he adheres to, a formula for making each piece so effective to my ears. There is no doubt something meticulous yet instinctual is going on with Troum anyway. A must have. If not for the music then the amazing product: one black disc, one blue, thick vinyl, limited to 400 copies in an amazing jacket with art by Soma and photgraphy by Seldon Hunt. The label still has some. http://www.chronoglide.com/Equation_releases.html
For those who don’t know but wondered; yes, they are related. Afficianados will know this from their various collaborations. And Ned is right in there with that, perhaps less fragile and shambolic than Will, playing just percent more traditional folk. Let’s Go Out Tonight is worth the while, a three song ep, each one a dark, introspective piece of poetry with beautiful guitar work. Translucent blue vinyl, limited to 500 copies. $5 from www.gold-robot.com/records.