Monday, April 17, 2006
  Opening And Closing Its Gigantic Doors

Blacklight Braille - "The Moon To Poolesville"

Here's one you might not read about in Arthur. Even in this boom time for unapologetic aural weirdness, this amorphous Cincinnati "fringe rock" band doesn't get much notice - a Google search pulls up a threadbare Allmusic listing, a shite "Wicca folk" page with a bunch of dead links, a few WFMU playlists and not a whole lot else. If anyone knows anything about this band that cannot be thus divined, please bend my ear. It would make me very happy.

I copped Blacklight Braille's Seachange CD in 1995. My erstwhile employer was gutting its music library, and the arcane track titles, long playing times and Corwood-level graphics caught my interest. Later, I wrote the band's mysterious Vetco label a longhand note, and received a Corwood-level gift of plastic and vinyl in return.

No arching description quite serves; if it's possible to chart the shifts in Blacklight Braille's lineup or the chronology of its vast catalogue, none has yet taken a swing. To paraphrase one of the few articles I could find, the "Fringe Rock" descriptor means it ain't quite rock, but it's definitely not anything else. If anything has kept the Braille from breaking into underground rock word-of-mouth, I'm guessing it's the consistently sleek production, which fosters a creepiness not of the sort that VU-weaned distortion-heads like.

This one, from the Carmarthen LP, spotlights the recitation of one Owen Knight, a then 60-something poet who taps into a different sort of Arthurian tradition. Years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Knight over the phone. I wonder if he's even still alive now.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
  Dipping a toe in

Bill Fay "Some Good Advice"

I'm rusty but here goes anyway.

Do you have those certain artists, bands, or even genres that you know are great but you feel like you’ll get around to them when you can? Like, I know I’m gonna get some dub LPs any day now, but today is not that day. For a long time, Bob Dylan was one of those. The record that finally did it in for me was Blood on the Tracks. There was a day two summers ago, when someone was rocking it on the store stereo & it all just came together for me. Ever since then I’ve been on board.

I don’t know why I needed to preface this entry with all that but here’s the slim connection: Sometime last fall I dug up the reissues of Bill Fay's two records & liked them pretty immediately. His sound falls somewhere among the 70s albums of Dylan, Leonard Cohen & Scott Walker (maybe you stop reading here), sometimes all in the same song (even a little Ivor Cutler thrown in on one track, I don’t know why). Like no one said ‘no’ to anything he wanted: string & wind sections, sax solos, those medieval sounding keyboards (I’m blanking on the name). Allmusic calls it ‘over-serious, labored folk/pop/rock.' I had the s/t album on repeat for all of November & December.

Thursday, April 13, 2006
  a not-so-special way of drinking

Mythos: "Encyclopedia Terra Part 2"

"Mythos challenges you to a special way of thinking that makes life more attractive and interesting. By drinking 'Mythos', we invite you to consider what it is to be 'Legendary' today; to dream, to travel, and to create your very own 'Legend'."

Whenever I eat at Steve's Greek I drink a bottle of Mythos. Not 'cuz it's good, but because it's probably the best-named beer this side of Meisterbrau. When I was nine I had a self-made superhero costume that consisted of my orange crossing-guard sash, a pair of racquetball goggles, and my furry brown Meisterbrau viking helmet. That hat barely beats out tickets to the seventh game of the '92 NLCS as the best freebie my dad ever got during his 30 years in the beer industry. I doubt Mythos the beer makes anything that could match that excellent promo, unless they're cranking out bad-ass lyres with their label on 'em, or the lightning-bolts of Zeus, or something. Mythos the band, a peer of better-known Kraut-rockers like Ash Ra Temple and Can, made music comparable to that hat; both are as awesome as they are ridiculous, and both help transport me into a mystical fantasy land where the rules and mores of the everyday world have been obscured by the darkened shadows of my own febrile mind.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006
  Your Mother Was A Mother

Sassy Bears - "Motherchild"
Two Commandos - "Piece Of The Pie"
The Vogue Togue - "Snaga Blues"

From the last.fm wiki:

"The Sassy Bears included Joe Metcalf, Don Jones, Yellow Bear and Blue Bear, who played often comical songs on homemade guitars, a snorkel, carpet and other unusual instruments. They existed briefly during the early '90s, and are best remembered for the song 'Motherchild.'"

This comes from a huge box of tapes I recently committed to my hard drive. Whenever I played it on WUOG, people would call me and ask where to buy it. Now, thanks to the info revolution, you're ordained to spread the Sassy Bears gospel.

LATE-BREAKER: Because the people wanted it, I've patched in another couple of jams from the same collection.
Friday, April 07, 2006
  past flames

Young People: "The Clock"

I was a big fan of Young People's first album, which came out in 2002. For a few weeks I was pretty obsessed with their music, this ghostly, shambling, country-esque folk-rock that sounded improvised and always on the verge of falling completely apart. It was beautiful and fragile, often clattery and disjointed (in the very best of ways), and one of my favorite albums of that year. For whatever reason, though, I didn't make much of an attempt to listen to subsequent releases. Until last week, that is, when I noticed eMusic was offering their brand-new album All At Once. If you've ever used eMusic, you probably know how it is; halfway through your monthly limit you're already struggling for stuff to grab, and thus wind up downloading stuff based on the merest whim or recommendation. Thus was the case with me and this new Young People record.

I knew that guitarist Jeff Rosenburg (formerly Pink - or was it Brown?) had left Young People, and thus I was prepared for something different. Plus you'd sort of expect the band to have to change noticeably if they were to continue past an album or two, as their sound, though awesome, was fairly limited and thus could leave them prone to repetition. And sure enough, All At Once doesn't sound too much like that first record. Pianos and bass guitars now make apperances, while the guitar is sparser and more erratic than before. There's no mistaking this gal's voice, though, and the general atmosphere remains fairly similar, so it ain't entirely a jarring and/or discontinuous experience, or anything. "The Clock", with its paucity of guitar and percussion, and that swingin', Dresdon Dolls-soundin' chorus, represents well how the band has digressed from their initial sound. It's also a nice piece of work in and of its own pretty little self.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
  Scrub Brush For The Synapses

Alan Licht: "The Old Victrola"

Alan Licht is an experimental composer, documented devotee of Steve Reich and Martha Quinn, and all-around good name to drop if you're looking to get intimate with someone who actually listens to Slitbreeze records. This is one of two longform indulgences on Plays Well, available from Crank Automotive outta Arington, VA. The other, "Remington Khan," is meditative guitar atmosphere in the well-trod Fahey tradition, but "The Old Victrola" is something else. Recorded in 1995 at Chicago's Lounge Ax and then recorded some more at the 2000 Transmissions Festival, it loops the hook from Donna Summer's "Dim All The Lights" until it cleanses the nervous system of all musical memories and preferences. Then it slams into a Buddhistic wall-o'-noise. I'd wager the clapping comes from the 2000 performance, by which time underground rock buffs were more prepared to enjoy this sort of exercise. Like any good getaway, it's long as a motherfucker and it changes you.

For those of you playing at home, the missus scored this disc at a second-hand store for $1. For MezEclExt readers who don't deal in American scratch, that's approx one (1) RCH in excess of "free." And you get to sample it on the house, 'cause we dig ya like that.
  analogue fright

Parts & Labor: "A Pleasant Stay"
Parts & Labor: "Parts and Labor"

"A Pleasant Stay" comes from Parts & Labor's brand new record, Stay Afraid, which'll be released a week from today, on Tuesday, April 11th, 2006. This is like their third, or second-and-a-half, album, and it's reliably awesome. I wrote this about it a couple weeks ago:
"Musically, I gotta strongly recommend the new album from Parts and Labor, entitled Stay Afraid. It comes out on Brah/Jagjaguwar sometime in the next coupla weeks. These dudes have been thrilling me constantly for a couple years now, and with Stay Afraid said thrills might just be fuckin' lethal. If you think Trans Am would be better served by rockin' out full-force 100% of the time, you might dig Parts and Labor. The kid at the station what reviewed the album compared 'em to Husker Du, which really ain't right at all, exceptin' the similarity in energy levels and general rambunctiousness. I don't get any pissed feeilng from P&L, though, whereas that was like 90% of the Husker Doeuvre."

Now, that kid's Husker Du ref isn't entirely out of line, but that would never be the first comparison to jut outta my noggin. P&L've got that combo of pop hooks and post-hardcore rhythms that defined Husker's mid-period stuff, but then they've also got all this crazy awesome keyboard noise that oversaturates pretty much the whole record. Perhaps their keyboard sound is that instrument's equivalent to Mould's rip-roarin' guitar, but still, there's a gaping sonic chasm 'twixt the two outfits. Basically the Parts & Labor "sound" is a more immediately and consistently catchy strain of the sort of purposefully bewildering keyboard-driven rock propagated by folks like Need New Body, Trans Am, and Oneida. Yes, P&L are usually very catchy and melodic and relatively straight-forwardly poppy, making 'em less noise-rock and more just plain old noisy rock, which is perhaps potentially a better way to exist anyhow.

The song "Parts and Labor" is the group's theme and anthem, and one of the most purely enjoyable pieces of music I've heard in years. It's from the group's first full-length Groundswell, which is completely worthy of buying, as is their split with Tyondai Braxton.
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