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Rob Mazurek is building a life’s work. Coming up in the Chicago free music scene, the cornet player and composer has made pioneering music alongside his peers, including Tortoise, Jim O’Rourke, Stereolab, and Jeff Parker, and collaborated with jazz heroes Bill Dixon, Pharoah Sanders, Yusef Lateef, and more.

But one of his longest running collaborations is with drummer Chad Taylor, with whom Mazurek leads various “Underground” groups. Their latest, A Night Walking Through Mirrors, finds them teaming with London musicians Alexander Hawkins and John Edwards. It’s both brash and thoughtful, a live exhibition of the telepathic interplay between Mazurek, Taylor, and their guests. AD caught up with Mazurek to discuss the record, and how a unifying thread, loosely inspired by science fiction and cyberpunk literature, has begun to solidify in his work, uniting it thematically and conceptually.

Aquarium Drunkard: I’d like to start off about asking you about your notion of protest music. In the biography that accompanied A Night Walking Through Mirrors you say that the various Underground albums have always been “protest” music. How, and what, does your music protest in this context?

Rob Mazurek: I mean, it’s basically just a protest against anything or anybody that wants to put up some kind of barrier between total creativity, ya know? So whether it’s music or psychologically or spiritually, that’s been the thing [we’re protesting]. The first Chicago Underground record is called 12 Degrees of Freedom. It has those same precepts, not just in music but dealing with psychology, spirituality, the whole thing. That’s always been the underlying theme with that. Whether we’re talking about Exploding Star Orchestra or Chicago Underground, it’s all about expressing freedom.

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The existence of the ‘tax scam’ LP is one of the stranger tales of the 1970s record business. In short, crooked label heads would press up demos of unsigned artists, outtakes from known artists, and other various ephemera in limited quantities that were thrown out into the market with zero promotion — all based on the hopes of commercial failure and the ability for the ‘label’ to write off the failure as a loss.

John Scoggins’ Pressed For Time is one such record, and one that has become legendary in power-pop collector’s circles. Originals are nearly possible to find, and sell for several hundred bucks when they do.

As it turns out Pressed For Time wasn’t a ‘solo’ album by any means, but the product of a New York band called Ramparts, led by Mr. Scoggins. Ramparts were a ubiquitous opening band in mid seventies Manhattan, and Scoggins himself worked as a roadie when he wasn’t gigging. In one of the more bizarre tales of A&R, the band was signed over the phone by a representative from Roulette Records new off-shoot, Tiger Lily Records (a quick search on organized crime and Roulette will take a reader on an insightful, intriguing ride through the criminal element of the music biz). Miraculously, even though the LP had zero promotion, Bomp Magazine’s Greg Shaw did, in fact, get ahold of a copy and wrote a very positive review, stating the lp was well worth the trouble to seek out.

John Scoggins :: Treat Me Right

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Our enthusiasm for 70s era Beach Boys and the creative stretch of brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson runs deep, notably during the course of albums Surf’s Up, “So Tough, and Holland. And recently it’s the latter, Holland, a still somewhat overlooked gem from 1973 that is resonating most. Spend enough time with the record and you’ll find spectacular revelations beneath its miraculous scope; a sonic goldmine that reveals itself in greater and more profound depth with each seemingly infinite visit.

With Brian Wilson taking something of a backseat, younger brothers Carl and Dennis, along with manager and co-lyricist Jack Rieley, found themselves in a sandbox all their own. And in contrast to the waters of surf-pop innocence a decade past, here we peer through an aquatic lens matured and layered, revealing something altogether foggier and oblique.

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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 473: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Sun Ra – We’re Living In The Space Age ++ Honeyboy Martin & The Voices – Dreader Than Dread ++ Johnny & The Attractions – I’m Moving On ++ Andersons All Stars – Intensified Girls ++ King Sporty – DJ Special ++ Freddie Mackay – When I’m Gray ++ Hopeton Lewis – Sound And Pressure ++ The Upsetters – Popcorn ++ Willie Williams – Armageddon Time ++ Sister Nancy – Bam Bam ++ Nora Dean – Angie La La ++ The Upsetters – Taste Of Killing ++ The Skatalites – Herb Man Dub ++ Lloyd & Glen – That Girl ++ The Jamaicans – Ba Ba Boom ++ Hopeton Lewis – Let Me Come On Home ++ Byron Lee – Hot Reggae ++ Ernest Ranglin – Below The Bassline ++ Errol Dunkley – The Scorcher ++ Los Holy’s – Cissy Strut ++ Slim Smith – Hip Hug ++ The Reggae Boys – Selassie ++ Dave Barker – Funky Reggae ++ Johnny Clarke – Rebel Soldiering ++ Mad A – Aouh Aouh ++ Clarendonians – You Won’t See Me ++ Ebo Taylor – Love And Death ++ Peter King – African Dialects ++ Dorothy Ashby – Soul Vibrations ++ Sun Ra – Angels & Demons ++ Alton Ellis – Whiter Shade of Pale ++ Mor Thiam – Ayo Ayo Nene (Blessings For The New Born Baby) ++ Fatback Band – Goin’ To See My Baby ++ The Aggravators – Dub Is Shining ++ West African Cosmos – Emeraude

*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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Immediately apparent when listening to Real Estate is their sense of motion. Melodic guitar lines swirl; the rhythm section bounces and folds along; and their literal knack for memory and/or scenic based songwriting transports the listener to a specific place. All of this holds true on their fourth LP, In Mind. Recorded in Los Angeles (and with a augmented lineup), the band is in fine form.

Real Estate :: Darling

Preparing for some high profile gigs around the globe, we caught up with Martin Courtney and Alex Bleeker on the eve of the album’s release, touching on their bi-coastal band arrangement, favorite venues, and recording in LA. Plus, all of the members sent over some tracks that inspired the new record (vibey, as expected).
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Aquarium Drunkard: The band is now bi-coastal. How has this impacted the writing, recording and rehearsing for the new album? Any growing pains and/or nice surprises?

Martin Courtney: Living in different cities definitely forced us to approach this album very differently. In the past, we were able to get together a few times a week and work on new songs as they came. This time, I spent a few months writing and demoing songs and sending them around to the band before we ever got together to work on them. Then, the rest of the band came out to the town where I live (very nice of them), rented a house down the street from mine, and we spent three weeks (in two different sessions) working on the songs and recording full band demos with Jarvis from Woods in an old converted high school art classroom.

Doing it that way, we actually probably ended up spending about the same amount of time on this album as we did on Atlas, just all at once instead of spread out over a few months. And, it was super fun getting up every day, walking to the school together, and spending a few hours jamming. The vibe was really good the whole time, and we approached the songs in a looser, more free way. I really feel like the good vibe during the writing sessions carried through the whole process and is audible on the record. This was a fun album to make.

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Collaborating as often as they do, Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi) and Jared and Jonathan Mattson (The Mattson 2) seem especially glowing while speaking of their latest project. As a record, Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 is quite unlike previous releases for both artists, one that takes the listener across a cosmic seesaw, showing glimpses of jazz and psych, seemingly only stopping to pivot. We reached the three via phone late last month to better understand the importance of the collaboration, improvisation, and this style of exploration.
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Aquarium Drunkard: It seems like you guys had a lot of fun making this record. Where would you say the jumping off point was from other projects you work on?

Chaz: The main difference for me – I got the chance to make something that wasn’t Toro, and I could really just express who I am, outside of pop music. That was the biggest opportunity I saw, in trying to make a record like this – cause I love jazz, and psych rock, but I never really felt comfortable making it, like it wasn’t for a pop audience. This record, I felt I got to share more of my musicianship. And I’m sure it’s probably the opposite for the Mattsons.

Jonathan: I like that. I feel like that for the Mattsons, too — we have a great audience and stuff, they understand our music. But it’s instrumental, well most of it’s instrumental, and I feel like working with Chaz, it helped us really solidify our ideas more and not rely so much on our improvisational elements. But the improv that we do feature on the album is some of the most innovative ways we’ve done it. For me, I think he just helped us solidify our ideas more and make it more fine-tuned, and make it more accessible to our audience and a different audience as well.

Jared: A cohesive unit, which this was, is not one voice – it’s a complete collective voice, and there couldn’t be one without the other. We were all devoted and on site, and so it was this cool experience where we were writing in real time and jamming in the studio — it was this collective voice that we were following. And Jonathan and I, we’ve never used engineering ability as an instrument or a compositional tool, and I feel that’s a major aspect of Chaz’s work – he uses the post-production, and engineering, and all that mixing and stuff – I view that as his instrument and his sound. It was amazing to be able to use the post-production aspect of Chaz’s talent with our improvisational style.

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There are few constants out there in this big, bad world; few things one can always count on. But check it out, Endless Boogie is one of them. Helmed by Paul “Top Dollar” Major, the band’s next lp, Vibe Killer, is out May 19th via No Quarter Records. To commemorate the event, I asked sometime member, guitarist, and super-fan Matt Sweeney to proselytize, below.

Endless Boogie is the band you always wanted to hear. The first time I saw them play all these thoughts shot through my head at the same time — “OK that guitar player looks wilder than anyone I’ve ever seen/That is the rudest riff I’ve ever heard/Why didn’t I think of that riff/I would never dare think of that riff/ I could watch guy play that lead forever/Chuck Berry and John Coltrane/That beat is perfect NEU!/ Am I really hearing and seeing this??/Are they really doing this??” — for like an hour, and it was one song.

And with that, for your daily dose of bad vibes, switch off the news and dig into the title track…

Endless Boogie :: Vibe Killer

Previously: Endless Boogie :: Long Island