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Recently, Josh Rosenthal, proprietor of Tompkins Square and author of Record Store of the Mind, reached out to us with news that acoustic guitarist Suni McGrath had passed. Introduced to many by the Imaginational Anthem, the acoustic guitarist’s work is treasured by guitar soli aficionados. Rosenthal, with a remembrance in his own words, below…

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I don’t know why I’m so surprised when one of my obscure guitar heroes dies without a trace, and I have to find out through vague back-channels some three months after the fact. But guitarist Glenn Jones informed me this week that he heard via an online guitar chat group that Suni McGrath had passed. So I looked online and found this small obituary , like so many millions of others, with no biographical detail. No mentions on any music-related site. Nothing.

Suni was one of the first artists I tracked down when I started my label, and he recorded his first music in decades for Tompkins Square. He wrote me letters over a period of a year or so, with photos, details of his life. I was honored to know him and thrilled to get to record him. I felt compelled to write a proper obituary for Suni McGrath. Farewell to “the old fingerpicker”, as he used to sign off in his letters….

Harold J. “Suni” McGrath
July 7, 1943 – Jan 11, 2017

Harold James “Suni” McGrath, an innovative 12-string guitarist whose experimentation with exotic scales, modes and polyrhythms were captured on recordings in the late 60s and early 70’s, died January 11 in Richmond, IN. He was 73.

McGrath’s distinctive style earned him a reputation among instrumental guitar aficionados alongside his contemporaries John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Leo Kottke, despite having a small, long out-of-print discography and limited live performing career.

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The Six Organs of Admittance catalog is deep and varied, each album offering the listener a terrifically tangled journey through Ben Chasny’s boundless musical imagination. For that reason, it’s tough to pick out a single “best” Six Organs effort. But Burning The Threshold is definitely in the upper echelon. For this effort, Chasny enlisted the help of some heavy hitters: Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr, Ryley Walker, Damon & Naomi, and Chris Corsano among them, each one digging into Chasny’s intricately eccentric song structures with enthusiasm. Things lean a bit more in the folk direction of the psych-folk realm, and Ben’s acoustic guitar playing is a pleasure throughout — check out the Pentangling “Around the Axis,” with Chasny and Walker indulging their inner Renbourn and Jansch, or the hypnotic pastoral beauty of “St. Eustace.” But there’s room for some electrifying shredding too, with Corsano providing a powerful backbeat for a fiery/fuzzy solo on “Taken By Ascent.” All in all, Burning The Threshold is another Six Organs winner — a record that will please longtime fans, while also serving as an excellent place for newbies to jump onboard. words/t wilcox

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Another dive into the world of the 1970s private press universe via the ever-reliable Tompkins Square label. Released in 1975 in an edition of 300, Philip Lewin’s Am I Really Here All Alone? has gained a following over the decades among crate digging aficionados — and rightfully so.

It’s a powerful set of tunes, with Lewin’s echoey acoustic guitar, desolate vocals, and stark piano work cutting through the lo-fi murk. Lots of stuff gets called “loner folk” these days, but as the title suggests, Lewin truly sounds very lonely here. While the sun breaks through the clouds at times (“The Magic Within You” is as dreamy as you’d expect), the vibe is generally downcast and bleak — the perfect soundtrack for a rainy day, and thankfully now you don’t have to drop $700 for a copy. words/t wilcox

Philip Lewin :: Unusual Day

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“If he plays a gig in some club, it’s the talk of the town for the whole year. Who can afford to pay for so much entertainment?… Well, for those who do not know Dudu Pukwana, he is the heaviest of the heaviest alto saxophone players and for many of us coming from South Africa… THE TEACHER. Go on doing the BOOGIE Bra Dudza.” – Joe Malinga (liner notes, One For Dudu)

Here now, “Some For Dudu,” a celebration and glance at Pukwana: the teacher, the exile, the saxophonist, the front man, the collaborator, the pianist, the singer and shouter; two hours of calm, frenzy, jazz and beyond.

Playlist after the jump . . .

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Detroit’s Bonny Doon have a knack for melodies that breeze by in easygoing fashion — each tune on the band’s new self-titled LP is as effortlessly catchy as can be, calling to mind Stephen Malkmus at his friendliest. But underneath the Gold Soundz you’ll find a vein of melancholy. A nice contrast. Bonny Doon wears its 1990s indie influences on its sleeve (Pavement, Silver Jews, the early Smog releases), but that’s no complaint; songwriters Bill Lennox and Bobby Colombo bring a freshness and enthusiasm to these timeworn grooves, whether it’s the lackadaisical lope of opener “Relieved” or the revved up, Velvety thump of “Lost My Way.” With spring here and summer fast approaching, this one will get plenty of spins in the months ahead … words/t wilcox

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Bassist Darin Gray and percussionist Glenn Kotche first began playing together nearly 20 years ago, when they hunkered down in the studio with “mutual best friend” Jim O’Rourke to record what would become his 1999 album Eureka. Not long after, they formed a duo, On Fillmore, rooted in a shared love of experimentation, free improv, and field recordings, but also, a tangible personal connection that Gray says was apparent immediately.

“It was an instant thing — from the first time we played together,” Gray says. “It would be too romantic to say that I knew we were going to play together forever, but like, it was almost like that. It was one of those weird moments that not only musicians have, but just human beings have, where you just know. You know this is right, you know something special is happening. I’ve learned to appreciate those moments, because there’s not that many of them in life.”

Both maintain a tight schedule — Kotche as a member of Wilco and a solo composer, Gray as a touring member of Jeff Tweedy’s side group Tweedy, among other commitments — but there’s a palpable sense of joy when they are able to make recordings together. Last year, they played on guitarist William Tyler‘s stunning Modern Country, and now, a new On Fillmore LP, Happiness of Living. Recorded in Brazil, the two opened up their sound with a wide cast of collaborators, including Ciara Banfi, Domenico Lancelotti, Alexandre Kassin, Caetano Veloso’s son Moreno Veloso, vocalist Gabriela Riley, and Mauro Refosco of Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace.

AD caught up with Kotche and Gray individually to discuss the kaleidoscopic, layered sound of the record and discuss why Brazil — and On Fillmore — maintain special places in their hearts. Those conversations, condensed and edited, presented below.

On Fillmore :: Jornada Inteira

Aquarium Drunkard: What space does On Fillmore occupy for you creatively?

Glenn Kotche: It’s always scratched an itch I don’t really cover in a lot of my other work. It’s just been a great partnership with Darin to just follow our whims. It’s just very different from my composing or even my solo playing, and especially from Wilco. We push each other to not put up any walls and just have open minds. I don’t think On Fillmore feels like anything else I do.

Darin Gray: On Fillmore is definitely not a side project. It’s always there. It seems like we take really long gaps between working together, but actually we don’t. We’ve done film scoring, some commercial work. We always have something on the burner we’re doing. We’ve recorded hours of stuff that hasn’t been released. It occupies a huge part of my mental space. I consider it one of my main things, if not my main outlet at the moment.

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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 475: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The Buff Medways – Archive From 1959 ++ The Clash – 1977 ++ The Libertines – I Get Along ++ Billy Bragg – New England ++ Pink Mountaintops – Erected ++ The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – My War (Black Flag) ++ Ty Segall Band – I Bought My Eyes ++ Black Lips – Not A Problem (Live in Tijuana) ++ Iggy Pop – Success ++ Iggy Pop – Dum Dum Boys ++ The Stooges – No Fun (Original John Cale Mix) ++ Green Fuz – Green Fuz ++ Allah-Las – Tell Me What’s On Your Mind ++ The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Servo ++ The Rolling Stones – Citadel ++ The Attack – Mr.Pinnodmy’s Dilemma ++ Harlem – Witchgreens ++ The Almighty Defenders – The Ghost With The Most ++ The Soft Pack – Fences ++ Eddie The Wheel – Nearsayerfive ++ The Art Museums – Sculpture Gardens ++ Takeshi Terauchi – What Have They Done / Venice – 30th Century ++ Beatle-ettes – Only Seventeen ++ Arif Sag – Su Sansunun Evleri ++ Nick Waterhouse – Some Place ++ Peaking Lights – Hey Sparrow ++ Sonny & The Sunsets – Dont Act Dumb (on The Tracks) ++ Buddy Holly – Dearest (version 1) ++ Ty Segall – Bees ++ Julian Lynch – Banana Jam Pt. 1 ++ Wild Nothing – Summer Holiday / The Walkmen – Woe Is Me ++ Air Waves – Knock Out ++ White Noise – Firebird ++ White Fence – Lillian / Kelley Stoltz – I Remember You Were Wild ++ The If Jerry Krusade – Nwantinti Die Die ++ Chocolate Watch Band – Baby Blue ++ Allah-las – Catamaran ++ Dump – Raspberry Beret ++ White Fence – The Mexican Twins ++ Dorothy Masuka – Khauleza ++ Fruit Bats – So Long ++ The Fresh & Onlys – Tropical Island Suite ++ Abner Jay – Depression ++ Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Jello And Juggernauts ++ The Samurai – Fresh Hot Breeze Of Summer ++ Sonny & The Sunsets / Cabezas Cortadas – Teenage Thugs ++ The Love Language – Britney’s Back ++ Fishing – Oooo ++ Black Lips – Time

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