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Hang 2010

28 Dec

No I’m not back. Really, I’m not – just stopped by to make sure that nobody’s broken in, and that the pipes haven’t frozen or anything like that. And . . . I suppose I didn’t want this crap year to end without saying a few words about a few records I’ve spun lots this over the past 12 months, but never found occasion to mention here at PS Recon. I reckon any/all could light up your New Year’s, in varying ways/degrees. Read on, and last one to finish hit the lights, ok?

BARONIllegitimate Nephews (no label, 2010) Cripes I can’t believe this hasn’t seen a proper release yet. This is what Alex Crispin (ex-DIAGONAL vocalist/keyboardist) and Luke Foster (current DIAGONAL drummer) do for extra-curricular fun – what fun it is! If DIAGONAL’s self-titled CD from 2008 recast SOFT MACHINE in the heavy instrumental undertow of ATOMIC ROOSTER’s backwaters, BARON is a decidedly lighter, artier affair, leaving most of the prog tangles behind for proper songcraft. Such a proposition could be dicey, but I swear to christ: these dudes really pull it off, both in tone and execution. The reference point is still the early 70’s Canterbury scene, but here it’s Robert Wyatt’s uncanny vocalising in MATCHING MOLE and the boho élan Kevin Ayers of his early solo arrangements that are looming large. Songs are built around Alex’s gorgeous vocals and are more often than not ballads, with full rock band action used sparingly. Don’t fret – the instro playing is as powerful as DIAGONAL, if not more inspired and breathtaking. If you only check out one English band this year, do you self a favour and make it WOLF PEOPLE – but if you’ve room for another – and dammit, you better! – it’s BARON you need to get acquainted with.

BEAT CARAVANOn Parade (Power Elephant!, 2010) As bitchen and unembarassing a pop rec as I’ve heard all year – hell, only Black Metal dorks and experimental eggheads won’t cry tears of joy hearing this one. What BEAT CARAVAN got going here is fun-loving, unabashed NRBQ/BRINSLEY SCHWARZ worship, plain and simple. The fact that they’re a bunch of Japanese yahoos shouldn’t distract, as they’ve somehow managed to inject catchy, laidback American blood deeeep in their Tokyo veins. The playing is vastly superior to their earlier EP, the singing less forced, and yep the English lyrics are still mispronounced (thank god). My only little gripe is the strict pop-fetishism at work; you know, that ol’ self-imposed rule to stick to line-em-up and knock-em-down pop song structures. Hey fellas, why not follow the lead of TODD RUNDGREN and let your muse (and gtrs! and keyboards! and . . .) run wild next time? If they did that, BEAT CARAVAN would be something to really write home about.

YAWNING MANNomadic Man (Cobraside, 2010) There are a time for words, heck I rely heavily on em every day. But then: there is a time when words cease to mean much to me, when it all jumbles up into so much hot air, and I’m left with nothing but . . . well, at such times I’m glad there’s folks about who understand what to do. Namely: shut the fuck up and play.

YM have been shutting up and playing for a good 25 years now, and there’s some amazing wax on Lexicon Devil Records to prove it – but I’d reckon this to be their absolute pinnacle. Master gtrist Gary Arce has developed such a softly beautiful touch that’s mic’ed so goddamn LOUD as to be a seismic force all it’s own. Drummer Alfredo Hernández has a swinging but deceptively easy playing style that suprises with how heavy it can get, matching Gary like no other could. And Mario Lalli’s fatso bassman is the melodic/rhythmic foundation upon which to build tall cities. More than ever, what I’m hearing puts me in the mind of Lemmy-era HAWKWIND covering the PELL MELL songbook on the nose of 9 ft. longboard, and taken together, these guys are capable of leaping small galaxies in a single bound. Like few bands since the 80’s, this band could be your life, if you’d just let em surf right in.

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A Lexicon of Desert Devils

17 Jul

Finally got my hands on these two new instrumental projects led by the great CA desert gtrist Gary Arce, released earlier this summer by Dave Lang downunder at Lexicon Devil. Picked em up nearby, too; hey maybe this barrier-free, EU freetrade agreement ain’t nearly as bad as my BNP-supporting neighbours make it out to be! I’m still digging into this warm, rich musical mulch, but I’ll get to typing regardless:

TEN EASTThe Robot’s Guide to Freedom (Lexicon Devil, 2008) The cover artwork gets me thinking back on Gary Jacobelly’s urban primitive artwork that adorned SACCHARINE TRUST’s landmark We Became Snakes LP. And although this rec doesn’t seek to scale those hallowed jazz-rock heights, Robot’s Guide is a similarly expansive, exploratory assertion of just what rock can mean in the here-and-now. While their first (Extraterrestrial Highway) was a late-night, triple-axle studio jam of seismic proportions, this one nudges the formable TEN EAST abilities toward more predetermined, structured ideas. Which means here the jamming is given equal consideration to proggy chord progressions. I hear some of the heavy, spiritual space Wino tried to find with his SPIRIT CARAVAN, the hard blues foundation underpinning FATSO JETSON, even some of the weirdo changes Gary’s earlier SORT OF QUARTET specialized in. And Lexicon Dave is right: “Hogbreath” is the very best Slip It In-outtake BLACK FLAG never wrote (I’m sure occasional TEN EAST organist/gtrist Greg Ginn would agree). This is some forward-reaching, soul-seaching, earth-moving group creation. It’s a momumental artistic wallop my synapses won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

DARK TOOTH ENCOUNTERSoft Monsters (Lexicon Devil, 2008) Guitarist Gary Arce took drummer Bill Stinson aside and, with a choice few others, created this quieter cousin to the above recording. Though quiet is a relative term when you’re talking about guys who dig feedback and distortion as much as these guys do; I suppose contemplative would be a more apt description. They aren’t going for broke, rather letting notes and percussion ring, linger, and fade in a gorgeous but deeply felt way that stays with you even after it’s over. The playing has an easy, human touch to it that envelopes you whole, keeping you warm and helping you cope just a little better with all the nastiness running rampant out there. I’d almost guess this was some bitchen TOILING MIDGETS spinoff I somehow missed out on back in ’91, if I didn’t already know this has it’s roots in the equally great YAWNING MAN. Hey even us rocker types need to crank it down a notch or two late at night; I’m stoked that DARK TOOTH has given me the perfect soundtrack for such times.

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What I’m getting at dude, is this: you’re gonna want both of these. Buy the pair and I guarantee all your ears will be over the moon for the remainder of the summer.