Monday, March 30, 2009

What's Playing on My Stereo? Week 4

I apologize for neglecting to post anything last week. It was a long work week, and then my weekend seemed to vanish without a trace of inspiration left for writing in any way, shape or form. I have also been working on a new podcast that will hopefully see the light of day within the next couple weeks.

I touched on this a couple weeks ago in the Nothing But Crickets post, but I have to say that the response to this blog has been pitiful lately. I imagine that the only way I can inspire you enough to leave a comment is if I post full albums of new releases (such as a leak of the new Grizzly Bear album two months before it's released). Sure that would be something that's high in demand, but would I feel good about doing that. I realize that the majority of people trolling for music on the blogs are looking for rapidshare links for new albums that they can quickly download and go about their business. Unfortunately, that goes against my beliefs of supporting the music of the artists I respect.

The fate of this blog lies in your hands dear readers. If you want me to continue this little venture here at Eclectic Grooves, let yourselves be heard. I will keep doing this as long as it seems worthwhile, but I will definitely be more motivated to provide you with choice nuggets if you give me a shout. Say anything as long as it's not rude, racist or homphobic. I am interested in hearing your opinions, so speak loud and clear, and don't worry about offending me with your opinions about the music I post here.

With that being said, let's move on to the latest installment of What's Playing on My Stereo? This week I am featuring a wildly imaginative free jazz quintet from the windy city (Chicago) and a prog band from Denmark who like to talk about the joys of a slice of ginger cake while pummeling our senses with wonky time signatures and masterful guitar solos.

The Vandermark Five:
STHLM and Encino

From: Simpatico [Atavistic, 1999]

If you are interested in hearing improvisational music and you live in Chicago, the name Vandermark is practically a household word. Over the past decade, Ken Vandermark has lended his improvisational talents to everyone from the punk-jazzers, The Flying Luttenbachers, to the European saxophone master, Peter Brotzman. Vandermark has more than proven that he is a dedicated player who is here to stay.

On the part noir, part free jazz, part be-bop swing sound of Simpatico, Vandermark achieves the impossible feat of blending traditional, straight-ahead jazz with skronky free jazz that doesn't alienate the listener. This is never more evident than on "STHLM", where Vandermark and company start off with a marching band melody that almost winks at the listener, before pulling the rug out from beneath us, revealing a swirling, cacophonous saxophone solo that almost reaches the height of Evan Parker's circular breathing excursions. And this all happens within the first two minutes of the song.

The next song, "Encino," is a noirish ballad that knows how to pull the listener in slowly like a deep kiss. You can definitely imagine this scoring your favorite 30's film-noir of choice with lightly brushed drums and walking bass acting as the footsteps creeping towards you slowly in a dark alley. As the saxophone and trumpet trade off solos, you realize that no one is in a hurry to speed up the tempo until the song literally implodes at about the six minute mark with a flurry of saxophone and trumpet that will make the hair on your neck stand up. This is probably the part in the film where the protagonist is being chased by a detective down a labyrinthine maze of unfamiliar streets in the middle of a dark and hazy night. Beware, this album is incredibly addictive.

For those of you looking for some more music that sounds like this, please check out this link for my Aural Excursions film-noir mix.

If you live in Portland, Ken Vandermark will be playing a gig with Ab Baars at the Community Center on April 4th. It will undoubtedly be a show to put on the not-miss list. Please come out and support this fantastic trailblazing artist.

Blast Furnace:
Ginger Cake and This Time of Year

From: S/T [Polydor\Denmark, 1971]

Blast Furnace were a Danish prog band that slipped through the cracks of fame and fortune, but not because they didn't deserve it. The sound of their self titled album from 1971 is an imaginative mixture of prog, classic rock, jazz and folk. The first time I heard "Ginger Cake", the lyrics seemed a bit half-baked, but there's no getting around it's musical inventiveness. After the first two verses, inspired instrumental passages float effortlessly from flute to organ and finally to an electrifying guitar solo which stops on a dime to revisit the opening verse. I have to admit that there is a slight resemblance to the sound of Jethro Tull, but the vocals are more like a less commanding Jim Morrison.

The next track, "This Time of Year," reminds me of an acoustic classic rock song with a slow building tempo that eventually unfolds into a two-minute blistering guitar solo that never relents until the song fades out. Give yourself a little ginger cake and chase it with some spiced rum. Then, call me in the morning and let me know how you feel.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of What's Playing on My Stereo? Please let me know what you think of the music featured today. See you next time...

Monday, March 16, 2009

What's Playing on My Stereo? Week 3

This week's episode of What's Playing On My Stereo features the stinging guitar solos of Johnny Guitar Watson right next to the melodic psychedelia of the 13th Floor Elevators.

Johnny Guitar Watson- Space Guitar and Gettin' Drunk

From: Space Guitar: The Essential Early Masters [Varese Sarabande, 2004]

For those of you who are only familiar with Johnny Guitar Watson's 70's funk output on DJM Records, you will be quite surprised with the songs I have selected for today. These two tracks are back to back on this collection, but they couldn't be more different in sound. "Space Guitar" sounds less like a space-themed song than a cutting-edge blues song with blistering guitar solos that are both rhythmic and inventive at the same time. The next track, "Gettin' Drunk," is a rollicking jump blues that is guaranteed to get your body gyrating to the rhythm. Listen up! Johnny Guitar Watson is here to get you up out your seat, so don't disappoint the man.

13th Floor Elevators-Scarlet and Gold and Dear Dr. Doom

From: Bull of the Woods [International Records, 1968]

I've recently converted to the music of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, but I definitely dig Bull of the Woods more than Easter Everywhere. Bull of the Woods is more varied in sound and has some absolutely spellbinding melodies that can't be found on the latter album. At certain parts of Bull of the Woods, Erickson's melodies evoke the sound of Neil Young and Jefferson Airplane, but the vocals are often buried under thick sheets of reverb and distorted beyond belief. My favorite song on the record is "Scarlet and Gold" because it features one of the catchiest melodies in recent memory, with hazy, psychedelic vocals that are practically impossible to shake from your cerebral cortex. The ironically titled, "Dear Dr. Doom," features the most jubilant melody on the record along with a fantastic horn section that could raise the spirits of a terminally ill cancer patient. If you like the tracks I've featured today, you will most likely dig the entire record.

Monday, March 09, 2009

What's Playing On My Stereo? - Week 2

I saw this photo on the internet, and I couldn't resist using it for presenting my weekly feature What's Playing On My Stereo. I hope the person who posted the original photo doesn't come after me with a vengeance, but that's a chance I am willing to take.

Before I posted the first episode of this series, I had been listening to the same CD's for three weeks straight. So, I had the opportunity to really sink into the sounds that I was presenting to you. Unfortunately, I haven't had the luxury of listening to these in great length, so the reviews will be more like quick takes.

Need New Body- Tittiepop and Gamble On/Banji
From: S/T [ File13, 2003]

First, I am featuring a couple tracks from Philadelphia's merry pranksters Need New Body. I remember hearing this back when I worked at Music Millennium, but I must have filed it away in my "too weird to break out just any day" pile. The sounds of post-rock, electronic, free jazz, rock, avant garde and folk are all thrown into a blender to achieve the scattershot feel of this record. The midtempo post-rock groove on "Tittiepop" slowly unfolds into squalling free-jazz with wordless rambling, while the rhythm section maintains a steady pounding beat. On the epic "Gamble On/Banji," the ten piece collective manages to capture the sound of a circus band who really wants to be playing a twisted hybrid of folk and jazz. This record is stylistically all over the map, so it should appeal to adventurous music listeners as well as those who simply appreciate catchy songs.

Meic Stevens-
Rowena and Yorric
From: Outlander [Warner Bros, 1970]

Meic Stevens is the Welsh equivalent of Bob Dylan mixed with a little bit of Syd Barrett and Nick Drake. "Rowena" is the opening track on the album and it clearly sets the tone for the rest of the record with exuberant vocals, dynamic piano playing and psychedelic fuzz guitar. At the end of the song, he is practically channeling Robert Plant's orgasmic cries during the climax part on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love". Clocking in at nearly nine minutes long, "Yorric," is undoubtedly the centerpiece of this magical record. With a mystical flute carrying the main melody over the top of an enchanting blend of tabla and sitar, Stevens succesfully evokes the feeling of walking along an endless path in the vast wilderness of another world. Once this records grabs hold of your attention, you won't be able to peel yourself away from the stereo.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I Hear a New World- Podcast #10

The tenth episode of I Hear a New World is available to be downloaded at:

This is the conclusion to the Excursions In Space trilogy. Some of the artists that are included in this part of the podcast are: Ken Nordine, Broadcast, Kraftwerk and Angus Maclise. This episode focuses on a journey through space as well as the inevitable return back to civilization on planet Earth. Once again, I have interspersed the podcast with snippets from various sources of novelty records as well as cult sci-fi films to retain the theme of space travel.

I hope you guys have enjoyed this series as much as I've enjoyed compiling them. For those of you who like surprises, don't read the tracklist below. Instead, let your mind travel to new and exciting worlds as your brain searches for the sources of inspiration used to create this podcast. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think about this episode.

I Hear a New World Podcast #10- Excursions In Space Part 3

1) Kraftwerk- Antenna
2) Jumbled Noise w/ Radio Rotation Period- Saturn
3) Angus Maclise- Shortwave Radio
4) Quazar- Sound
5) Intermission
6) Frank Strange- Third Planet from The Sun
7) Jimi Hendrix- Third Stone From the Sun
8) Tornados- Life On Venus
9) Dr. Fiorella Torenzi- Galactic Beats
10) Hawkwind- Space Is Deep
11) Superior Race
12) Rodd Keith- That Martian Jubilee
13) Eric Copeland- Tree Aliens
14) Vladamir Ussachevsky- Incantation for Tape
15) Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant- Spaceman In Orbit
16) Broadcast- Oh How I Miss You
17) Ken Nordine- Manned Satelite
18) Outro
19) Return Journey
20) The Others
21) Allen Bryant- Whirling Take-Off
22) Amon Tobin- Back From Space
23) Radiohead- Treefingers
24) Final Journey

Sunday, March 01, 2009

What's Playing On My Stereo- Week 1

Over the past week or so, I've been battling a quite persistent flu bug. One thing I realized during this time is that I needed to break out the heavy artillery. I loaded up on orange juice, daytime herbal teas, Nyquil, Vitamin D, Airborne, Theraflu and so many fluids that I found myself running to the bathroom every twenty minutes. Ohhhhhhh, how great it tis to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

While steadily fighting this sickness, I have thought up a new feature for Eclectic Grooves. It's called What's Playing On My Stereo and essentially it will feature a few artists that I am currently spinning in my car or home stereo. Hopefully this will be a fresh idea that will encourage more readers to participate in discussions about music.

This week I will be covering a couple records that I've been listening to in my car stereo over the past couple weeks.

Amadou and Mariam- Wallide and Mali Denou
From: Wati [ Circular Moves, 2003]

The first record that I think deserves to be mentioned is Amadou and Mariam's Wati. This one was puzzling to me, because it sounded like a mix of contemporary Malian music with repetitive, trancelike rhythms that recalled the early 70's recordings of King Sunny Ade.

Most of the time when an artist from a foreign country incorporates westernized influences in its music, the results are less than interesting. What Amadou and Mariam have done here is to effectively bridge the gap between cultures, providing a thoroughly engaging listening experience. On the opening track, "Wallide", Amadou and Mariam create a hybrid of psychedelic classic rock with Malian world music. As the track builds to its crescendo with spiraling guitars, funky organ and crashing drums, it makes you want to find out what other surprises are in store. The next track I'm featuring here, "Mali Denou", has a more traditional African beat with Mariam's entrancing vocals punctuated by a sublime mix of flute and rhythm guitar. Overall, this record will encourage you to give more crossover artists a chance before quickly dismissing them as unlistenable.

The Grifters- Boho/Alt and Pretty Notes
From: Ain't My Lookout [Sub Pop, 1996]

The Grifters have always been one of those bands that eluded my ears for most of the 90's, but I remember reading about this record in Alternative Press, back when that magazine was worth its salt. It sounds similar to that middle 90's boom of bands like Polvo, Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, but there is something especially weird about this record that makes it stand on its own as an important relic of the moment.

The oddly titled "Boho/Alt" features off kilter vocals that probably owe a great debt to the warbly stylings of Pavement's Steve Malkmus, while effectively using a dynamic combination of synthesizer and pianos to amplify the infectious chorus. "Pretty Notes" is a laid-back campfire strum-along that utilizes acoustic guitars, steel drums and mandolin to heightened effect. It gradually morphs into a gospel-tinged chorus that is impossible to shake from your memory. The rest of the record is as eclectic and interesting as these songs, so pick it up at your local record shop and see for yourself.

I have stopped using Boxstr to host my new files for now, because I can't afford to pay for extra bandwidth. So, I will be using Mediafire for the time being. It seems to be way more stable than Sharebee or Zshare, because it doesn't hit the downloader with a string of countless ads and pop-ups. Until next time...