Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Afro Beat Electro Groove

I wanted to let you know that one of the most amazing bands from the Congolese is coming to Portland. Konono No.1 has been mesmerizing crowds around the world with their unorthodox instrumentation and trance-inducing rhythms. Konono No.1 has often been compared to avant-punksters The Ex from the Netherlands who dedicated a song to Konono No.1 on it's latest album Turn. Beneath the power and distortion of the amplified likembes and distorted basslines lies beautiful African harmonizing that recalls Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be than at the Aladdin theater tonight. This show is going to be too good to miss. I have posted two songs from each record to give you an idea of what they sound like in both a live and studio environment.

Konono No.1- Lufuala Ndonga and Kule Kule
Congotronics [Crammed Discs, 2005]

Buy It Here

Lubuaka [Terp Records, 2004]

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Variety is the Spice of Life

Johnny Jenkins- Ton Ton Macoute, 1970, Capricorn

Johnny Jenkins recorded this legendary funk-inflected swamp blues album in 1970 at the ripe age of 31. Jenkins was a huge influence on the playing of Jimi Hendrix and on Ton Ton Macoute, Jenkins concocts a heady brew of Hendrix-flavored psychedelia mixed with gospel, delta blues and swamp rock. Beck liked the sound of his rendition of the Dr. John classic "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" so much that he sampled the infectious drum beat for his hit song "Loser". On "Sick and Tired" Johnny really funks it up with an infectious mix of wah wah guitar, tight beats and gutsy vocals that really make you believe in the power of soul. Other standouts include the psychedelic gospel soul of "Voodoo and You" and the wonderful organ and slide guitar driven "Leaving Trunk". Check out this underappreciated classic in all it's glory while the getting's good.

Get it here

Apryl Fool- S/T, 1969, Label Unknown

I was really surprised to find out that this experimental fuzz guitar masterpiece was created by a group of Japanese guys. I was envisioning Apryl Fool as a group of long-haired British blokes with a predilection for playing the down and dirty blues at the local watering holes. This is the only album Apryl Fool ever made as far as I know. Sessions for this album went down in 1969 and it was eventually reissued in 2002 as a Japanese import. It's sound ranges from psychedelic guitar-freakouts with cathartic noise interludes to trippy classic rock with lots of piano and organ. The energetic opener "Tomorrows Child" busts out the gates with a dynamic guitar riff that segueways into a mellow verse before an explosive fuzz guitar solo really gets the track cookin'. "Another Time" is a slow blues with affecting vocals and stirring piano solos while "April Blues" sounds like 60's fuzz-rock mixed with Vince Guaraldi's Peanut's Theme in a faux live club. Menacing, funereal organs and heavily phased vocals are the main ingredients on the standout epic "The Lost Mother Land Pt.1" which shows that the band desired to experiment beyond the conventional styles of classic rock and blues. Overall, this is a truly original and creative late 60's psychedelic nugget that should not be passed up.

Get it here

Afro Rock Volume 1- V/A- 2001, KONA Records

Afro-Beat is a style especially popularized by Nigerian born Fela Kuti. The songs on Afro Rock Vol.1 combine funky basslines, jazzy horns, african percussion and soulful lyrics. Jingo starts the party off with an uptempo groovin' track called "Fever". "Heavy Heavy Heavy" is a light and playful track with a blissful vocal along with extended organ solos. Mercury Dance Band's 'Envy No Good" reminds me of Ethiopiques #4 due to it's raw sound and arresting guitar solos. Other influences on this compilation appear to be Orchestra Baobab, Os Mutantes and James Brown. I challenge you to put this on and not move your body. Highly essential!!

Get it Here

The Blue Note Years, Vol.5- The Avant Garde 1963-1967, 1999, Blue Note

Much of the artists featured on this compilation are free jazz and fusion oriented, but these songs are showcasing their less discordant music. This is still top-shelf jazz but with a more straight-ahead sound to please people who love adventurous music with more of a traditional jazz feel. Plenty of out-of print songs are featured on here such as Grachan Moncur's "Monk in Wonderland" and "Thandiwa". It features a great cross section of the true masters of free jazz such as Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Sam Rivers, Don Cherry and Ceil Taylor. I look at this record as being a gateway to some of these artist's more experimental work. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Disc One

  1. Larry Young- The Moontrane
  2. Andrew Hill- Black Fire
  3. Andrew Hill- Siete Ocho
  4. Jackie McLean- Frankenstein
  5. Jackie McLean-Kahlil The Prophet
  6. Tony Williams- Tomorrowow Afternoon
  7. Sam Rivers- Luminous Monolith
  8. Grachan Moncur III- Thandiwa

Disc Two

  1. Eric Dolphy- Hat and Beard
  2. Grachan Moncur III- Monk In Wonderland
  3. Andrew Hill- New Monastery
  4. Eric Dolphy- Out to Lunch
  5. Ornette Coleman- Dawn
  6. Ornette Coleman- Broad Way Blues
  7. Don Cherry- There Is the Bomb
  8. Cecil Tayor- Steps

Get Disc 1 Here

Get Disc 2 Here

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Myths of the Deconstruction of Rock

I have been so busy in the past couple months that I haven't had time to update. I have a billion thoughts rolling around in my head about what to post next, but I want to know what you guys want to see on this blog? Do you have any requests? Your comments are what keeps me going when traffic is slow, so give me a shout. I have some great stuff in store for this blog that will hopefully be just around the corner. To tide you over until the weekend, here is a great introduction to the Drag City band US Maple.

US Maple

US Maple are an enigmatic band that began it's aural assault on this unsuspecting world in 1995. They have only recorded five albums during the past decade, but each note on these records is well thought out and meticulously constructed. In fact, even though it seems like they are improvising during their live performances, it couldn't be further from the truth. They practice endlessly to create a live experience which emulates the sound and dynamics of their records as closely as possible. Their music is often described as the deconstruction of rock music filtered through Captain Beefheart circa Trout Mask Replica, but I feel that there is no label which can aptly describe their music. Let's just say it sounds like dynamic, visceral and unpredictable avant math-rock with fractured guitar riffs and slow burning tempos. After listening to them, you will have a newfound respect for music and your ears won't hear anything the same way again.

Lead vocalist Al Johnson barks, grumbles, yelps, and coos to get his point across with barely intelligible words. His off-kilter whoops and wheezes sound like an old drunken vagrant whose voice is shot from smoking too many cigarettes. You don't really care what he's saying, it's how he says it. The rest of the band ably back him up with a mixture of spidery guitar lines and frenetic free jazz drumming. Each song starts, stops, thrills and surprises so much that your mind will literally be blown. They are one of my favorite bands right now. Their 4th album Acre Thrills sends chills up and down my spine everytime I hear it, but all of their records are worth picking up. Unfortunately, they haven't recorded anything since Purple on Time was released in 2003 and seem to be on an extended hiatus.

Here are a couple songs from each record in their discography. I hope you enjoy them!

From: Long Hair In Three Stages [1995, Skin Graft]

US Maple- La Click and Home It's OK
From: Sang Phat Editor [1997, Skin Graft]

From: Talker [1999, Drag City]

From: Acre Thrills [2001, Drag City]

From: Purple On Time [2003, Drag City]

Here is an added bonus for US Maple fans. This show was recorded on 5-22-04 at Dante's in Portland, OR. I was fortunate enough to spot someone in the crowd who was recording the show, and I scored a copy of the show from him.

Addendum: Someone in the comments section named Chenaux alerted me that this show is no longer active, so I have re-upped this link below.