It’s stating the obvious to say I don’t really do Pig State Recon anymore. But as I did do it at the outset of 2011, I figure I’d try to wrap up things, now that the year is toast. This past year saw so much large scale upheaval and horrific devastation around the world – politically, economically, environmentally – that my narrow ass perspective here seems sorta irrelevant. But that’s blogging for you.
2011 saw some really positive developments in my own life: settling into a new job/life up on the cobbled streets of North Yorkshire, watching my wife’s Etsy jewelry shop succeed beyond all reasonable expectations, and finally buying a house – a first for this no-longer young 41 yr old. All this without mentioning our newly adopted black kitty – Cherry’s her name. That little one has expanded our family dynamic here in subtle but wonderful ways, sorta like when Dave Swarbrick started fiddling fulltime in FAIRPORT CONVENTION. Well, sorta.
But if this year has meant something specifically musical to me, it has to reflect the distinct lack of new rock n roll tuneage filling my aural spaces over the past 12 months. This was a natural reaction to my new environs; I now live nowhere near the metropolitan strongholds of new rock action, and the North Yorkshire countryside I drive through to work each day is far too rolling to get me Kicking Out The Jams on a regular basis. So all of a sudden it’s non-rock instrumental sounds of the ambient electronic, soundtrack, and even classical(!) variety that have marked my hours most prominently this year. Go figure.
Now I’m not qualified to blog about folks with names like Gustav Mahler or Giacomo Puccini – even on good days I struggle to tell my counterpoint from my contrapunct. I did hear a few rock-related records released in the past year, and I might as well say a few words about ‘em for old times sake. But if some loudmouth American approaches you at the next London Philharmonic Orchestra performance asking you what your favourite SST LP was, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK – Way Of The Morris (OST, 2011) Delicately glistening soundtrack to a great documentary about an Oxfordshire Morris dance side. Reminiscent of the approach Ashley Hutchings took on odd 70′s Britfolk projects like The Compleat Dancing Master and Rattlebone & Ploughjack, here Adrian Corker mixes spoken recitation, traditional song, and ambient field recordings – church bells, bird calls, Morris sticks – with post-minimalist production in a way calculated to dislocate any pat temporal perspectives. Bits of this certainly draw the listener back down through lost centuries of English daily life, which is indeed a wonderful feeling. But other parts put me in mind of the last time I strolled through the English countryside listening to an early 80′s Cold Blue Music comp LP on my I-Pod (this has happened more than once). Such beautiful juxtapositions conjure up the spirit of modern Morris dancing way better that anything linear ever could.
Awesome work, Adrian. Really, the soundtrack ears of the fellas at labels like Trunk/OST and Finders Keepers need to be grafted on to some Hollywood types, so once again the scores of studio pics might overwhelm.
DARK BROWN – Miscellaneous, Vol. 1 (Memory Bulldozer, 2011) – Solo tracks by ex-BLUEBIRD gtrist Bryan Lee Brown, portions of which may or may not’ve ended up behind TV commercials I missed over the past few years. This collection is a natural progression from the warm, BLUEBIRD-like textures of his great first solo CD, moving into post-stoner CLUSTER & ENO strum and float terrain. And while this may hit you as just an indie take on incidental gtr/keyboard based music, I’m excited that someone who has played with the likes of FATSO JETSON’s Mario Lalli is actually taking his sonics into mainstream Hollywood studios these days. Yes I’ve got more than a few collections of mindblowing Euro library/catalogue music lurking around Chez Recon . . . but if you’re like me and can’t stop cloying advertising images from wallpapering the inside of your skull, DARK BROWN’s shimmering cues will help you recontexualise it all in far, far more intimate ways. At present, this one’s only available as an I-Tunes download, but totally worth searching out.
EARTH – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (Southern Lord, 2011) – I’m one guy who finds Dylan Carlson’s EARTH output in the new millennium infinitely more appealing than the infamous body of work he created for labels like Sub Pop in the 90′s. I like that he’s renewed his interest in melodies – particularly parched, Ennio Morricone-inspired melodies, but melodies they still clearly are. I like that he chooses to play them slow and clean, allowing the full weight of his changes to sink in nice and deep. I also like that recently he’s been taking the stage with an all-female band – a true rarity in the ubermasculine world of doom metal from which he draws so much of his fanbase. Because of the Pachyderm tempos employed, this doesn’t ever cruise the way, say, THE DIRTY THREE or YAWNING MAN can and do so beautifully – but dammit if EARTH isn’t of a similar ilk. The difference being: EARTH give you that much more time and space to really consider the groundsoil that’s churning beneath their feet. This one gets my full attention, every spin.
JJEMMEIII – Debris Cloud (No label, 2011) I spent most of my mornings this past Spring obsessively following news updates on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, an event so terrifying that it dredged up all manner of childhood Cold War paranoia I didn’t even know I still had in me. And this was only one of the very major weather calamities to slam our planet this year! While I’ve never fully understood how or why “doom drone” became a genre unto itself in the new millennium, I COMPLETELY empathise with this down-tuned aural reaction to Tennessee floods in May 2011. This was released exclusively online, with all proceeds going to the Tennessee Valley Salvation Army and Red Cross disaster relief funds.
“Debris Cloud” is an awesome 18+ minute solo bass/amp excursion that builds, surges, breaks free, and resonates in yr bones looooong after it’s over. The guttural thunderings JJEMMEIII conjures up feel like a very private but modern expression of fear, but also of strength in the face of overwhelming adversary. Like nearly everything else I’ve dug this year, it’s instrumental, so it’ll help score future eco-distasters in gloriously non-judgemental fashion too. Do sing along, you know all the words already.
Oh and *MUSICAL HOPE FOR THE NEW YEAR* up in the North of England springs squarely from the promises of Manchester’s DEAD SEA APES new Lupus album, to be released on the Deep Water Acres label in the next couple months. For this recording, they’ve shifted gears away from full-frontal desert rock attack to introverted kraut rock meditation, a particularly awe-inspiring sidestep. This might be well be the album I play in perpetuity when I eventually nod into cryogenic post-life consciousness.