Monday, January 28, 2008

Cosseted by white hazy mornings.
Goddamn! One of the great things I got for Christmas (and I got nothing but solid gold hits from people) was a burned copy of The Music Library, the collection of '60s/'70s sound library/mood music/source music tracks compiled by Johnny Trunk and friends as a bonus egg to his/their definitive overview of the Library Record scene. Some total nerd shit, for sure, but also, as Melanie Wood put it when she gave it to me, an album that "has Matt Werts written all over it". Yup, this is the music that soundtracks my ideal world, in case you weren't sure. In more general terms, this is something the Doom/Madlib/Morricone fan in your life will potentially go bonkers over. Tons of vintage cornball jazz and funk and pop that's more incredible and transporting than what most people take way serious, not to mention the perfect score for flipping through those Taschen ad books. Especially check out Guy Pedersen's "Kermesse Non Heroique", which is like the "Payload Theme Song" of rare library jams, sort of. Thank you again, Mel (and Jesse?)!

Guy Pedersen - "Kermesse Non Heroique"
Luis Conti - "Zapata"
Basil Kirchin and Roy Neave - "First Step (b)"

Another wonderful New Year's time record that needs some shouting out is Michio Kurihara's solo record from last year, Sunset Notes. If I had technically heard this in 2007, it would have made my year-end wrap-up. I should've just included it anyway. Kurihara is probably best known for his endless work in the Japanese psych community (Ghost, White Heaven, etc.) and with former Galaxie 500-ers Damon & Naomi, who released Sunset Notes on their 20/20/20 label. I had only been aware of him through his collaborative album with Japanese doom-gazers Boris, last year's (or maybe it was 2006's) increasingly awesome Rainbow. On Rainbow, he goes all over the place and gets super wild (seriously check the last couple minutes of "Starship Narrator"), but Sunset Notes is much more restrained and rarely gets psyched out. It's more college rock and surf worship and soothing lite ballads sung by Ai Aso--kind of a virtuoso's bedroom project, which means you get low-key experiments, but they're presided over by a legit genius guy and his friends, who are also pretty legit. I think my new goal for any band I play in from now on should be to sound like "Twilight Mystery of a Russian Cowboy". Imagine hearing that played by some band at a house show! Holy shit.

Michio Kurihara - "Twilight Mystery of a Russian Cowboy"
Michio Kurihara - "The Wind's Twelve Quarters"
Boris with Michio Kurihara - "Starship Narrator"

Damn, what else? Uhhh, ESG's "Erase You" and The Savages' "The World Ain't Round, It's Square". If I could put up Chico Hamilton's "People" and Bonny Billy's Phil Ochs cover, I totally would. If you're not reading Indestructible Wolves of the Apocalypse Junkyard, you're crazy, but if you are reading it, you're probably also crazy. Be sure to check out his soundtrack picks. Check out Lovefingers' picks while you're at it. And definitely, definitely check out David Lynch on phone movie-watching. Take that, Larry Brown.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's so obvious.
So yeah, 2007: The Year That Was.
I bought a bunch of Harry Pussy records and French stuff. I watched The Wire a lot. I wore the same pair of pants virtually every day. I think that pretty much covers it. As far as albums, mini-albums, tapes, mini-tapes, etc. go, there was a ton of stuff that totally ripped. No Age took Brian Eno and loud bedroom punk and united absolutely everyone in the world ("Boy Void", "Dead Plane"). Big Business delivered another pleaser, this time with the assistance of master helpy David Scott Stone ("Hands Up", "Another Beautiful Day In The Pacific Northwest"). Para One released a fuzzy, warm, melancholy space-synth score to what looks to be a heavy-shit film involving water gymnastics ("Naissance des Pieuvres", "Sunless"). Fucked Up continued their gimmick of being really interesting and good in a scene that's predominantly neither ("Year of the Pig"). The Budos Band came back with more dusty afro-soul, only the dust was sand and the soul was possessed ("Origin of Man", "Mas O Menos"). Dawn McCarthy & Bonny Billy made it possible to have The Letting Go on two consecutive year-end lists ("Strange Form of Life", "Lay and Love"). Italians Do It Better was the other awesome label of the year, dropping d.i.y. italo-disco hits from Glass Candy, Farah, and others that made me want to dance kind of slow and relaxed ("Law of Life", "Etheric Device"). Bone Awl and Blank Dogs released an onslaught of severely angry black metal and warped new wave, respectively, and I had trouble keeping up with it ("Smiling Star-Wide", "Leaving The Light On"). PJ Harvey went for broke and made a pretty affecting record centered around the piano when she wasn't necessarily that proficient on it ("Silence", "White Chalk"). Gonzales did the same thing, only he was pretty proficient and he did it a couple years ago, though it wasn't officially released in the States until this year ("Gogol", "Gentle Threat"). Oh and Deerhoof were awesome, again ("The Galaxist", "Look Away"). As usual, there were great things I didn't get around to and mediocre things I took a chance on and terrible things that people seemed to love for whatever reason. The stuff I really spent time with, though, was pretty fucking decent.

In my last post (before the Christmas one) I mentioned that I was "truly bowled over by one record in particular". That record was Vothana's Hoang Gia 10". While the indie world continued to champion a lot of patronizing shlock and Radiohead awkwardly tried to stay inside and outside the music business by making their new album available in every conceivable format at every conceivable price, Vothana (aka Vietnamese black metal savant/U.S. resident Lord Nebulah) produced another genius epic vortex of extreme misanthropic extremeness and blown-out melodic triumphs, then destroyed the remaining copies of the already-limited MLP with a set of hammers when he feared it had fallen into the wrong hands, eventually swearing off any and all distribution to the States. In 2007 this felt awesome, as though someone was finally being brutally honest about how shitty, corrupt, thoughtless, and culturally barren the world (and particularly America) had become, and doing it through 15-minute blasts of nuclear-winter white noise histrionics, unintelligible demon growls, comically over-the-top anti-religious fury, layers of corpse paint, and a sense of exclusivity. (As a side note, some of these ideas pop up in the latest issue of ANP Quarterly. In Cali Dewitt's interview with artist and Youth Attack label head Mark McCoy, McCoy touches on the non-monetary value of limited records, that "to keep something obscure is all we have left to maintain its importance--once it is dispelled it becomes safe again". In Aaron Rose's interview with filmmaker Harmony Korine, he talks briefly about Norwegian Black Metal, its use in his 1997 film Gummo, and how "it was just like the least commercial music that a person could create!") Of course, what Nebulah is actually saying on Hoang Gia is probably a lot of paranoid ramblings about "Jew traitors" and "Zog". But the music is so genuinely compelling and thrashy and, in many ways, ambiguous, that it leaves itself open to all kinds of dramatic interpretation. Getting past the often retarded black metal aesthetics and absurd hate spiels (and, fuck, even finding a copy) is obviously the tough part, but if you're up for the challenge, you can maybe pick up on what made Hoang Gia the most astounding, mind-warping record I heard all year (and, in all likelihood, what made his other release this year, Trên Con Duòng Danh Vong, the most astounding, mind-warping record I will never hear).

Apologies of course for all my holiday and post-holiday laziness. I will make it up to you by directing you to this. I'm dying to talk about other things, so check back soon.