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We may be used to seeing Raymond Pettibon’s unmistakeable artwork on SST albums from the 1980s, but Rob Noyes’ debut — an absorbing guitar soli gem — is a world away from Black Flag. Not that it’s lacking in intensity. At times, Noyes’ dextrous 12-string clusters develop into dense thickets of ringing sound; it’s a beautiful, heady space to get lost in. And yeah, occasionally kind of intense! Over the course The Feudal Spirit‘s 10 (mostly 12-string) tracks, the guitarist easily shifts from earthy, familiar folk-blues moves to dizzyingly celestial flights. Sometimes these shifts happen within the same song — check out “Oni,” which kicks off in easygoing fingerpicking fashion, but soon finds itself rambling into unknown territory. Delightful. The Massachusetts-based Noyes came to my attention via Glenn Jones, the reigning king of the Takoma School scene. So don’t take my word for it: if Glenn says it’s good, it’s going to be good. The Feudal Spirit is being pressed up by the Poon Village label in an all-too limited edition of 330, so grab yours before its gone. words / t wilcox

Rob Noyes :: Oni

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Recently, Portland-based composers Shawn Parke and Kim Henninger released the original soundtrack for Embers, director Claire Carré’s science fiction film starring Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, and Greta Fernández.  Currently streaming on Netflix, the film makes masterful use of the duo’s compositions, utilizing their enveloping sound as it explores the concept of “memory.”

Aquarium Drunkard asked the duo to run down some of their cinematic music inspirations, and rather than a mere list of likeminded composers, the duo took the opportunity to deeply probe the methods and techniques that inform their work.

In February of 2014 writer/director Claire Carré and writer/producer Charles Spano asked us to write the original score for their first feature Embers. The science fiction film is about memory and forgetting and asks big questions: What role does memory play in who we are? Is there sometimes redemption in forgetting? What do we lose or gain if the collective cataloging of culture disappears? Who are we if stripped of everything but our instincts?

We began work on the score before a frame had been shot – and these questions informed our work. When we were asked to reflect on soundtracks that had inspired and influenced our work we were, at first, taken aback. We had no particular past works in mind as we proceeded through the process of writing the experimental/orchestral score. After giving it some thought it became clear to us that a number of scores — and more so the techniques employed in their creation — had woven themselves into our unconscious as we created the music we wrote. The soundtracks and techniques below were woven into our process of creation without us being aware of it – much as the score for Embers weaves itself into the very fabric of the film.

Kimberly Henninger & Shawn Parke :: Now Is Now

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 458: The Rock*A*Teens – Don’t Destroy This Night ++ The Dirty Three – Great Waves ++ Richard Buckner – Blue And Wonder ++ Kamikaze Hearts – Defender ++ Amen Dunes – Green Eyes ++ Mr. Airplane Man – Jesus On The Mainline (Traditional) ++ Cat Power – Cross Bones Style ++ The Breeders – Metal Man ++ Bill Callahan – Drover ++ Case Studies – Secrets ++ Bonnie “Prince” Billy – My Home Is The Sea ++ Loose Fur – Answers To Your Questions ++ Angel Olsen – The Sky Opened Up ++ Sixteen Horsepower – Horse Head Fiddle ++ Brightblack Morning Light – True Bright Blossom ++ Howlin Rain – In Sand And Dirt ++ Heron Oblivion – Beneath Fields ++ Neil Young – Will To Love ++ Jose Gonzalez – Suggestions ++ Ryley Walker – Everybody Is Crazy  (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Michael Kiwanuka – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen) ++ Steve Gunn – Water Wheel ++ Phil Cook – The Jensens ++ Yo La Tengo – Leaving Home ++ Vic Chesnutt – Degenrate ++ Devendra Banhart – Sligo River Blues (John Fahey) ++ The Staple Singers – This May Be My Last Time ++ Mikael Tariverdiev – Summer Blues ++ The Rolling Stones – Play With Fire ++ Lala Schifrin – Cool Hand Luke (Main Title)

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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In addition to his website American Standard Time, Greg Vandy is the host of the long-running roots radio program The Roadhouse, on KEXP. Based in Seattle, Vandy spent the better part of two years researching Woody Guthrie’s tenure in 1941 with Oregon’s Bonneville Power Administration. In short, Guthrie was employed to promote the benefits of cheap hydroelectric power, irrigation, and the Grand Coulee Dam. While under their hire he penned 26 songs in 30 days. The fruits Vandy’s labor were published earlier this year via Sasquatch Books as 26 Songs In 30 Days: Columbia River Songs and the Planned Promised Land in the Pacific Northwest.

The following mix is a deconstructed version of a three-hour Roadhouse show. Here, Vandy’s mix tells the story of Woody Guthrie from Dust Bowl balladeer to commissioned songwriter for the Bonneville Power Administration. It includes bits and pieces of audio culled from his book research and many of Guthrie’s best songs, both by him and his many disciples. It was a different kind of Populism in the 1930’s, one in which Woody and his fellow travelers would create America’s first folk revival in response to hard times. “All You Can Write Is What You See” . . .

A Woody Guthrie Companion (A Mixtape)

playlist / provenance after the jump . . .

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1973 was a transitional year for Jerry Garcia. Along with his duties in the Grateful Dead, who were begrudgingly careening into celebrity, he could also be found hanging out (and keeping his chops) in Bay Area music clubs for pick-up jam sessions. Two groups formed out of these communal hangs – the first being the bluegrass supergroup Old And In The Way, and the second was commonly referred to as simply ‘The Group’. There was no need to label what was intended to be spontaneous and without commitment…until Betty Cantor, dame of the golden reels, set up shop and recorded two nights at the famed Keystone Club in Berkeley, California.

The jam sessions originally began in 1970 at the Jefferson Airplane clubhouse, The Matrix. It was there that drummer Bill Vitt, organist Howard Wales and bassist John Kahn backed seminal blues players before Jerry started coming around. With Garcia in the mix, the sound in favor of futuristic jazz explorations resulting in the spacey Hooteroll? album. Howard was later replaced by jazz pianist and organist Merl Saunders who had just returned from the east coast. The repertoire also changed – the jazz foundation was still there but R&B (Smokey Robinson’s “I Second That Emotion” and Holland–Dozier’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”) was reintroduced along with reggae (Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come”), Broadway show tunes, and of course a healthy dose of Bob Dylan. Seemingly random in assortment, the material was all tied together by Kahn and Vitt’s funky backbeat – one that allowed Garcia and Saunders to weave in and out effortlessly.

When Cantor and her partner, Rex Jackson, locked in the reels and pressed record on July 11–12, 1973 they were capturing four immensely creative musicians at their peak. While the Keystone gigs have been previously released via a series of records in the 1970s and 1980s – Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings collects every single note from those two nights.

Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia :: Positively 4th Street

Below is our conversation with the sole living member from the group, Bill Vitt, who sheds some light on the group and recordings from those nights.

Aquarium Drunkard: What was your background prior to 1973? Who were you playing with?

Bill Vitt: I played with the Jerry Garcia Band, Bill Champlin, Howard Wales, Michael Bloomfield, and many others. I also led two bands: Rumors and Main Man and The Sides. Also did a lot of studio work, a few of the records I played on: Hooteroll? with Jerry and Howard, 3 records with Brewer and Shipley (One Toke Over The Line), 2 or 3 with Tom Fogerty, Danny Cox, Merl Saunders, Phil Wood, Last Days at the Fillmore (one song) and all the records that were released from Keystone gigs. I moved to Los Angeles in ‘65 and did many demo sessions and master recordings at Don Costa’s studio on Fairfax (Frank Sinatra used the same studio) with Eydie Gormé and Kathy Carlson. I also played with The Coasters.

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Less séance, more opening of the gates — those were our closing thoughts on Weyes Blood’s 2014 longplayer, The Innocents. And with that in mind Natalie Mering’s latest, Front Row Seat to Earth, ushers us through those gates and into the hinterlands. It’s here that we find her old world brand of folk married by blood oath to a more elegant, almost baroque chamber pop. As a whole the album evokes an atmosphere reminiscent of private press psych-folk and progressive exploration, none more evident than on the stunning “Be Free”. Transcending the shackles of love, codependency and isolation, the track rides waves of bubbling synths and a floats with a cathartic weightlessness, free in spirit. words / c depasquale

Weyes Blood :: Be Free

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“For me, it’s a bit like when they discover a frozen reptile or something and it starts running real quick once it’s reanimated,” says Mark Stewart, firebrand, techno-philosopher and alternative agitator, says of his decision to reboot his legendary post-punk band The Pop Group in 2010.

Since then, the Bristol-based band has issued two albums, Citizen Zombie in 2015 and the recently released Honeymoon on Mars, records expanding on the polymorphic range of the band’s classic late ’70s, early ’80s works Y and For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? Blending dub, grime, rock, and free jazz, Honeymoon on Mars finds Stewart and co. fresh and taut. It’s far from your average “let’s get the band back together” vibe, but that’s fitting for a group which transformed and mutated as a matter of principle, often within the same song.

Talking with Stewart is a lot like drinking water from a burst fire hydrant. He free associates and offers fascinating insights every other word. He hops between time frames and peppers his thoughts with self-deprecating cracks and wickedly funny jokes. His voice — one informed by radical weirdness and boundless creativity — feels like the kind of voice we need now, as much as ever. Following, our phone discussion with Stewart, which has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The Pop Group :: Zipperface

Aquarium Drunkard: This is your second release since reforming the Pop Group in 2015. What inspired this new burst of life for the band?

Mark Stewart: It’s really kind of weird. Everything’s changed. I wasn’t sleeping when the Pop Group finished. The last-ever Pop Group concert was this huge rally in Trafalgar Square in London. I was working for this thing called the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. That was the last ever Pop Group concert, but it was also my first-ever solo show.

For me, doing stuff is doing stuff, whoever I’m doing it with. When we reformed, it was out of the blue. All of us are against “heritage” things. As soon as me and Gareth [Sager] started talking about it, we thought no, no. We were properly punk in that we were independent. We controlled our catalog and fought to defend our intellectual property, right? So we started talking about reissues, because there was a huge demand for stuff which hadn’t been out for years and all these young bands were talking about [our records]. Then suddenly, I get this phone call from All Tomorrow’s Parties, and they have these underground celebrities curating the lineups. Matt Groening, the Simpsons guy, wanted me to reform the Pop Group and Iggy to reform the Stooges.

I just thought, “What a weird concept.” I had Homer Simpson going ‘round and ‘round in my head. And we’re looking more like Homer Simpson day by day now. [Laughs] It was a real shock to the system. I had been doing these weird collaborations with Kenneth Anger the filmmaker and political things and performance art, and I thought, “Can I approach working with these people as a new thing?” We were still all friends, but we wanted to ignore what came in the past. Every Pop Group song was different; even within the same song we can change styles, so we thought let’s just give it ago.

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Address Los Angeles, a new recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, explores the lesser-to-unknown corners of LA: be it an address, an artist, or a fleeting thought.

The mailroom at 6311 Yucca Street in Hollywood must’ve been pretty busy in the mid-60s. You could join The Partridge Family Fan Club by sending in a postcard; for $15 you could become a minister, by mail, with the Church of Universal Brotherhood (whose selling point was simply that being a minister, with a flock, exempted you from the draft); or write a complaint letter to Seven Seventy Publications because one of their magazines, maybe Raunchy, Vegas Playgirl, Nifty Nylons or Nu-Color Nudist wasn’t smutty enough for your specialty interests. You could also send in your own lyrics to Preview Records and have the great Rodd Keith, pioneer of the song-poem genre, set it to music and sing your words.

Or you could, for a short time, stop into the offices of Hiback Records. There you’d find a roughly 30-year old Gerry Hibbs, former Chapter President of Phi Kappa Tao at UCLA, and his fellow Bruin alum, Mike Hogan: the President and VP, respectively, of Hiback.

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Tradition runs rampant around Thanksgiving: generations of old recipes, football, Alice’s Restaurant, The Last Waltz, and, of course, a parade of balloons shutting down NYC. What else do you need? If you thought you were covered in the Thanksgiving tradition department, we did too…until a few years ago, when someone blew the dust off a long lost tape — Doug Sahm’s Thanksgiving Jam.

Thanksgiving weekend, 1972: the Grateful Dead found themselves in Austin, allowing Garcia and Lesh to rendezvous with an old Bay Area running buddy, Mr. Tex-Mex himself, Doug Sahm, and piano-journeyman Leon Russell, at the famed Armadillo World Headquarters for a musical cornucopia of roots music. No genre was left untouched – blues, bluegrass, R&B, rock & roll, honky tonk and, naturally, Bob Dylan. All played with an ad hoc band, including members of Texas psychedelic pranksters The 13th Floor Elevators and Shiva’s Headband, with a setlist that effortlessly bounces from hellcat versions of Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee” and the Stones’ “Wild Horses”, to a don’t-spill-your-beer “T For Texas”, saddled with stompin-the-nails-out-of-the-floorboard cuts like “Hey Bo Diddley” and “Money Honey”. This is a shitkicker of show, best served turned up, with fistfuls of turkey and pint glass of your favorite sumthin’. words/ d norsen

download/tracklisting after the jump…