GKL005_Islands_in_Space_edit4BigCartel

At the dawn of the 1980s, songwriter Paul Marcano and his band LightDreams emerged from the psychedelic haziness of the previous decade with Islands in Space, a concept album about the colonization of outer space. Recorded entirely on a Teac 4-track in Marcano’s home studio in Goldstream Park, outside Vancouver Island, the record featured collaborations with composers Andre Martin and Cory Rhyon and instrumental contributions by other friends. Homespun but expansive in scope, the finished record proclaimed humanity’s need to travel away from Earth via a mix of psychedelic folk, progressive rock, ambient, and new age soundscapes. This month, Got Kinda Lost Records reissues the record, offering a chance for new listeners to get turned on to Marcano’s cosmic message.

“I had read the book High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space by Gerard K. O’Neill, the astrophysicist, and he just completely altered the way I was thinking,” Marcano says via the phone, his voice brimming with enthusiasm. “I was coming out of the ‘70s with an agrarian hippie mentality, kind of anti-technology. [But I wondered] what’s a good alternative if you’re not going to go down the road of the future?”

LightDreams :: I Ride The Wind

Though Marcano empathized with the back-to-the-land movement, he recognized in the book a path toward the future that resonated with his natural concerns. “When I read High Frontier, I realized probably half the problems on the planet were resource based — there’s not enough of anything, or everything, I should say,” Marcano explains. “[The book proposed ideas] like farming asteroids, generating energy in space and beaming it down to Earth, rather than burning coal and all that. It just seemed like ‘What the hell, why not?’”

marcanoThe book also registered with his counter culture ideologies, igniting his imagination. “The psychedelic decade of the ‘70s had a massive impact on me,” Marcano says. “The psychedelic experience was kind of the virtual reality of the ‘70s. It was like another perspective, an entirely different way to perceive the world. Coming out of that, I was particularly receptive to new ideas.”

His thoughts on the cosmos, and his belief that humankind’s future waited in the stars, informed the sounds of Islands in Space. Opening with the playful guitar jam “The High Frontier,” Marcano and his collaborators evoke rock & roll motifs, but from there they explore synth-led ambient vistas, like the gentle “Voiceless Voice” and “Solar Winds.” Though it features progressive ideas, textures, and some artful abstraction, Marcano wanted the sounds to remain accessible, and largely, they do. “I didn’t believe there wasn’t room to make a decent pop sound that also had content, that wasn’t just about boy/girl relationships.”

Following the release of the album, he continued on with LightDreams, releasing 10,001 Dreams in 1982, Airbrushing Galaxies in 1983, and First Time Back a decade later in 1993. In 1984, he began working with computers, which has continued to inspire him creatively. “Right now, I’m actually working on a virtual reality Oculus Rift app for the Islands in Space album,” Marcano says, detailing an immersive 3D version of the record’s evocative album cover accessible via his Dreamscaping site. The convergence between futurism, science, and art is key to popularizing new concepts and exploration, Marcano says, citing astronaut Chris Hadfield’s cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from the International Space Station. “He brought that whole thing to life,” Marcano says. “He did that Bowie song up there. He showed the inspiration, the artistic element.”

Fundamentally optimistic about the prospect of the future. Space colonization still fascinates him, and he lights up while discussing potential “football fields full of solar panels in space [and] food growing in pestilence-free orbiting greenhouses.” Marcano thinks of his records as beacons of positivism in a time when dystopian futurescapes are often the norm in the field of speculative fiction (though he’s into those too — Blade Runner, especially). But beyond that, he doesn’t think of his records as works of science fiction.

“I never saw Islands in Space as a fantasy or sci-fi album,” Marcano says. “I saw it as a reflection of the concepts and ideas that we need to pursue. Somebody pointed out, “How can you sing ‘Islands in space will save the whole human race?’ and I said, ‘Well, years later, Stephen Hawking was saying the same thing.’ We’ve got to get off the planet.” words/ j woodbury

Hey, we could put on our shoes / we can celebrate when our hearts break and go laughing to that noose…”

homepageThat line, from “Slippin’ Shoes” off Tindersticks’ 2012 LP Something Rain, reads as something of a thesis statement for the Nottingham band, now 25 years into its career and sounding fresh, vibrant and brilliant as ever. That record and their latest, the recently released The Waiting Room, find the band at a creative peak – flourishing the melancholy and maudlin with beautiful visions of light and streaks of orchestral jazz. Stuart Staples is a master vocalist, employing his voice to convey the dramatic, the sentimental and the sullen. His poetry is draped in a swirl of organs, strings, horns, glockenspiels – a noir landscape for his observations on mystery, nostalgia, regret, beauty and hope.

The Waiting Room begins with the plaintive instrumental “Follow Me,” led by a chromatic harmonica (shades of John Barry’s Midnight Cowboy theme are immediately conjured), with tribal drumming and shimmering strings quietly playing underneath. We first hear Staples on “Last Chance Man.” His gloomy, entrancing vocals dimming the lights alongside a mournful organ. “I found love / before I could identify it / I found grace / before I could be mystified it,” he sings, a late realization at a love that enlightened him. As the percussion and saxophones start to ascend, Staples approaches a second chance. The horns sounds like a new lease on life as Staples promises to do it right this time, his cadence picking up speed. He’s feeling it all this time; this is where he thrives: the last chance.

Library music in excelsis. RIP the glorious workhorse that was the BBC Radiophonic Workshop –   the outfit tasked with the creation of music and sound effects for all BBC programming between 1958 to 1998. Enter Fourth Dimension – a 1973 Radiophonic Workshop library recordings release comprised solely of composer Paddy Kingsland’s work.

Dig in to the synthesized funk that is “Vespucci”, below. “Doctor Who” this is not.

BBC Radiophonic Workshop :: Vespucci

BO LAYERS

One does not need to know much about Bo Diddley to understand his contribution to the musical landscape as we know it. The “Bo Diddley Rhythm” he made famous was a tremendous influence on r&b, the early rock and rollers that followed, and beyond. I love all that stuff. There is something so perfectly gritty and grimy about it – all held together with that incessant, driving beat.

I’m also drawn to the darker side of the man’s work. When we first started Chances with Wolves we were looking for songs that felt a certain way, to help define the aesthetic we were going for. The very first song on the pilot episode of CWW was Bo Diddley’s “Prisoner of Love”. It just seemed a good place to start. Years later I found this slower version, which is hauntingly beautiful in its own right.

Bo Diddley :: Prisoner of Love
Bo Diddley :: Prisoner of Love (slow)

So, here’s a sampling of our favorite Bo Diddley haunters. Also note that “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” is the root of “You Don’t Love Me”, later performed by Willie Cobbs and many others (that version is included on the High Places mixtape we did for AD a while back), which eventually became Dawn Penn’s “No No No”. words / CWW

Bo Diddley :: She’s Fine, She’s Mine
Bo Diddley :: I Don’t Like You
Bo Diddley :: Aztec
Bo Diddley :: The Great Grandfather

Related: Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Chances With Wolves – Archives

terry

I think about Terry Kath every time a rock star dies. We’ve become accustomed to the cycle. It’s how we process the death of famous people now. The social media churn. The first 24 hours of wall-to-wall Facebook. The headlines, the think pieces, the tributes, the sharing of video. Then it gradually dissipates over the next 72 hours, until you are left alone with your own muscle memory – the way you identified with the artist yourself. You are alone with the artist, again.

Terry Kath shot himself in the head while fooling around with a 9mm handgun one week shy of his 32nd birthday, January 23, 1978. His last words were, according to bandmate James Pankow, “What do you think I’m gonna do? Blow my brains out?’ I found out about this by reading the October 16, 1978 People magazine cover story on Chicago while waiting to get my haircut in a local barbershop in Plainview, Long Island. I was eleven years old. There was a photo spread of the Chicago band members with their wives and babies. I remember a wave of nausea coming over me as I pored over the article in a disbelieving stupor. It made no sense at all. Terry Kath was my first experience with feeling something profound around a death. The sensation would soon become all-too familiar, with Keith Moon, Bonzo and others to follow. The difference was that news of Terry Kath’s death was traumatic for me, and I use that word with no irony, and with all its potency.

Now it’s 38 years on. It looks like we could see a little revival of appreciation for the great Chicago guitarist and singer now that his band is headed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His daughter, Michelle Kath Sinclair, only two when her father passed, has completed a documentary about her dad. She seems like a very sincere person who wants to get the Terry Kath story right, not just for the world but for herself, by learning as much as she can about a father she never really knew.

Chicago is one of the most commercially successful bands of all time, having sold well over 100 million records worldwide. Each one of Chicago’s eleven albums preceding Kath’s death went platinum. That kind of sustained success seems unfathomable today. Eleven albums is a sizable body of work for anyone, and there is plenty of Terry Kath to listen to, including lead vocals on indelible hits like “Colour My World”, “Wishing You Were Here”, and “Make Me Smile”, still heard in taxi cabs and piped into retail stores across the US every single day. His voice is a mellow baritone sounding most like bandmate Robert Lamm, his hero Jimi Hendrix, and Ray Charles. There are plenty of great moments to discover, notably the soulful “Hope For Love” from Chicago X; the experimental, corrosive “Free Form Guitar” from Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago’s very own mini-‘Metal Machine Music’, which pissed off fans immensely, recorded in one take); the bluesy strut of “In the Country” from Chicago II; “Little One” from Chicago XI, written by Danny Seraphine about his daughters but sung by Kath (touching to hear today if you think about Kath singing those words to Michelle); the loose, gritty “Mississippi Delta City Blues” written and sung by Kath and recorded for Chicago V, eventually surfacing on Chicago XI. Hendrix was supposedly a big fan of Kath’s guitar playing, and Kath wrote the expansive, tripped out “Oh, Thank You Great Spirit” for Jimi on Chicago VII. He was supposedly set to start work on a solo album at the time of his death. We get a hint of what that might have sounded like on the stirring 7:47 “Tell Me,” which is not on a Chicago album – an edited version of the track was used in the final episode of Miami Vice.

Kath killed himself four months after Chicago XI was released. The band was already contemplating a new direction as it would be the last album overseen by producer James William Guercio. Upon reading it again after 38 years, there are several interesting revelations in the People Magazine article I read in the barber shop. Robert Lamm says of Guercio : “Somewhere around our album Chicago V it went from ‘being taken care of’ to being manipulated. It was part him, part us . . .we were naive and idealistic and stuck to the music. Jimmy produced some great albums and encouraged and supported us financially in the beginning. But then he got up on a mountain and gave directives. It didn’t wear well.” It wasn’t just a business or musical direction that shifted in the aftermath; there was a marketing conundrum. The massively successful band had no identifiable star power.

Cian-Nugent-Night-Fiction

Cian Nugent has been primarily known for his instrumental work, both as a Takoma School-inspired fingerpicker and an electrifying bandleader (as heard on his incredible 2013 LP with the Cosmos, Born With The Caul). Night Fiction sees him slipping into a more traditional singer-songwriter role — and making it look like no big thing.

The album’s seven songs swing and swagger, calling to mind such legends as Fred Neil, Neil Young, and Michael Hurley, as well as more recent favorites like Kevin Morby, Steve Gunn and Cass McCombs. The scrappy vocals and wry lyrics are perfectly complemented by the Cosmos’ nimble folk rock backing — especially notable is the sensitive kitwork from drummer David Lacey. And of course, Cian hasn’t put his guitar away: every note he plays here is casually dazzling, with tones and taste worthy of the mighty Richard Thompson. “I’m not sure where I am anymore,” Cian sings sings on the gorgeously bewildered “Nightlife.” But Night Fiction as a whole suggests he’s found his voice. words / t wilcox

Cian Nugent :: Lost Your Way

kriggggg

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 420: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++W-X – Intro ++ Singers & Players – Thing Called Love ++ Snakefinger – The Model ++ Glenn Mercer – Twenty-Nine Palms ++ David Bowie – A New Career In A New Town ++ Brian Eno – Dead Finks Don’t Talk ++ Ty Segall – Diversion ++ Lilliput – Die Matrosen ++ Fat White Family – Satisfied ++ Silver Apples – Oscillations ++ Jeff Phelps – Excerpt From Autumn ++ Suicide – Dream Baby Dream ++ Makers – Don’t Challenge Me ++ David Bowie – Win ++ Guitar Red – Disco From A Space Show ++ Daughn Gibson – Tiffany Lou ++ Iggy Pop – Sister Midnight ++ Drinks – Cheerio ++ Jack Name – New Guitars ++ Cate Le Bon – I Can’t Help You ++ White Fence – Pink Gorilla  ++ David Bowie – Crystal Japan (Japanese Only Single) ++ David Bowie – Heroes ++ Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets ++ Blues Control – Love’s A Rondo ++ Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Tortoise – It’s Expected I’m Gone ++ The Mayfair Set – Cease To Be ++ Dirty Beaches – Lord Knows Best ++ Angelo Badalamenti – Moving Through Time ++ Dwight Sykes – Bye ++ Harlem – Goodbye Horses ++ Creation Rebel/New Age Steppers – Chemical Specialist ++ Starship Commander Woo Woo – Master Ship (Excerpt)

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
__________________________________________________________________________________

benjiWay back in 2008, Benji Hughes released a genuinely weird and supremely pleasurable record called A Love Extreme. It was, in all the best ways, an oddity. Released by New West, primarily known for Americana and alt-country, Hughes’ record was pure pop — crunchy guitars, big drums, monster hooks, his thick, narcotized voice booming. In his review of the record for Esquire, Chuck Klosterman cited Cody Chesnutt, Ryan Adams, Julian Casablancas, Joe Pernice, Leonard Cohen, Jarvis Cocker, Chet Baker, and other seemingly unrelated artists, and here’s the thing: listening to A Love Extreme, his review made perfect sense.

It was the kind of record you shared. Songs like “Tight Tee Shirt” and “I Went With Some Friends to See the Flaming Lips” were too joyful, too effervescent not to. It was also exquisitely sad; songs like “You Stood Me Up” and “Even If” were crushing. Then, Benji disappeared. Okay, he didn’t really. He showed up on records by Jeff Bridges, Meshell Ndegeocello, Eleni Mandell, and Alice Cooper. But as social media rose to prominence, and artists began to telegraph their every move, Benji seemed to vanish into cult record obscurity.

“I do need to work on my social media,” Hughes chuckles over the phone, discussing Songs in the Key of Animals, his new record and debut for beloved indie institution Merge Records. A reworked version of one of three records Hughes uploaded to his website in December 2014, the album is a low key winner. “I spent a few months going back in on that record, really dialing it in more,” Hughes says.

“I love having time to look back at things…that’s why I’ve made four records over the last couple years,” Hughes says of the long wait between albums. “It seems like a long time to go between records, but I like to spend time and have different tracks to work on, different vibes, so you don’t just get bogged down on one thing. You can step away from something for a few months and come back with a really fresh perspective.”

Songs in the Key of Animals isn’t as sprawling as A Love Extreme, a concise 12-song set split between a funky side A and a gently grooving side B. “I really wanted it to reflect the two sides of a vinyl record,” Hughes says. But he’s sacrificed none of his charm for the sake of streamlining. The record is wonderfully strange, finding Hughes rhapsodizing with a chorus of lady singers about shoes, crooning over bloodcurdling screams and synth pop on “Shark Attack,” and shaking ass on “Sugartree.” And he’s still tender, too: “Fall Me In Love” ought to wind up a wedding DJ standard, and the instrumental “Song For Nancy” evokes an acute wistfulness, tearjerking without a single word.

“I wanted to make a record that I wanted to hear,” Hughes says. “Some of those songs, you can hear the fun coming out of them. It was a really good time.”

Performed mostly by Hughes himself, save for backing singers and helping hands from Ndegeocello, Keefus Ciancia, and a few other pals, the record doesn’t sound like the work of a sterile one-man-band. It’s loose and swings, feels genuinely funky.

“My approach isn’t intellectualized,” Hughes says. “I just attempt to make things sound as cool as possible to me. Vibey. I like to fuss over things and make them sound sweet, but [ultimately] it’s about how it feels and sounds…You can get your drum machine out and get it dead on, play it perfect with a metronome, but you know what it’s going to sound like? It’s gonna sound like a metronome. Who dances to a metronome?”

So, Benji’s back, even if it only sort of seemed like he ever left in the first place. He’s not too concerned about it, just looking forward to getting out on the road, entertaining people. “I’ve just been so focused on music, I didn’t really think to much about my public persona,” Hughes says. “The truth is, I really don’t have much of one. I don’t know who would ever want to be famous anyway.” words/ j woodbury

Benji Hughes :: Freaky Feedback Blues

paul hatfieldIt’s been a minute since we’ve heard from Paul Westerberg. That’s a funny sentiment considering the non-stop Replacements-fest that went on from 2012 through last year’s final run of tour dates. But the Westerberg who appeared alongside Messrs. Stinson, Minehan and Freese for that astounding run was a man reliving his past and having fun with it, not someone stretching his creative spirit. That reunion came on the heels of what had been one of the most fertile and interesting periods of Westerberg’s solo career to date starting with 2008’s 49:00.

But soon after the ‘Mats said they were going away again, Instagram photos of Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield started popping up, and soon it was official – there would be a record called Wild Stab under the banner of the I Don’t Cares – the band with a name designed to literally lower expectations. And when the first song off the record was a seeming throw away track called “1/2 2P” – a song about finding an irresistible urge to urinate come over you whenever a certain someone was around – well, my expectations went even lower.

It’s always the game that’s been played. Some of (but not all of) Westerberg’s finest solo moments have come when the stakes were low. Disappearing for four years after getting dropped from Capitol? Quietly slide a record under your nom de plume Grandpaboy into record stores (Mono) and then follow it up with a companion album that contains some of the best songwriting of your career (Stereo). Nearly ruin your guitar hand allegedly stabbing it with a screwdriver while cleaning wax from a candle? Drop a surprise album that is one track and 40 some minutes in length – and again maybe one of the best albums you’ve ever done – on to the internet with no fanfare (the aforementioned 49:00). And then follow that up with four more similarly released EPs over the next year that all contain seriously solid material. You start to get the picture.

So – how does Wild Stab (more lowered expectations) hold up? It’s actually fantastic. From what has been said in interviews, Hatfield was allowed a look through Westerberg’s demos that had gone unreleased (mostly) and allowed to pick what she thought sounded worth tackling. The results are a record that sound a lot like this recent excellent period of Westerberg’s songwriting. Opener “Back” strikes a perfect balance between the two halves of Stereo and Mono – the reflective and lightly punchy lyricism of the former and the minimal and driving full-band sound of the latter. “Wear Me Out Loud” becomes the first of a great handful of rockers that sound like they could’ve emerged out of the Rockpile school of songwriting – “Love Out Loud” being the best example of this.

Hatfield’s contributions are hard to pin down, but they aren’t slight. Her lead vocal turn on “Dance to the Fight” is a natural for her voice. And her backing and duet vocals throughout the record are actually a great pairing for Westerberg. So much of this record sounds like the type of guitar play that has been typical of recent Westerberg albums that it’s hard to know exactly where Hatfield fits in – she does that good a job of fitting into the overall sound of the album. I can only imagine that they’d be endlessly amusing and fun to see perform live.

But despite the fact that the album seems overstuffed – 16 tracks is a lot to keep listeners around for, no matter the artist – it moves at a swift pace with enough variation between songs to really make it worth it. They even take a stab at two older Westerberg songs – “Outta My System” appeared on 49:00 but also on an earlier compilation. “Born for Me” was originally on 1999’s Suicaine Gratifaction and what had been a piano driven ballad becomes a first-class rock song. If I put the two side by side, I’d take the original version every day of the week, but within the context of Wild Stab, the new version really cooks. It’s a fine compliment to the other songs and a great credit to Hatfield as a collaborator that she saw the potential in its inclusion.

The I Don’t Cares :: Born For Me

The album ends with “Hands Together,” a rarity in the Westerberg canon in that it’s nearly seven minutes long . With its references to silent film stars and dead baseball players, it lyrically returns to the same era that opener “Back” hinted at. It’s a gorgeous, almost hypnotic number that doesn’t really have a chorus – instead it’s just Westerberg putting on a lot of his deft lyrical touches – the beautiful ones that he’s been honing more in his older years. While it almost doesn’t fit the rest of Wild Stab, it’s a great finish to an album that feels so much more together than anything about it would have implied. It’s an album that wants you to think it didn’t care so that the purest moments shine even more brightly in relief. words / j neas

The I Don’t Cares :: King of America

Related / Recommended: The Replacements :: Final Show @ Grant Park, Chicago, July 4, 1991