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1971. This one’s cooler than the other side of my pillow. Dorothy Ashby on the Koto. Original compositions inspired by the words of Omar Khayyam, arranged and conducted by Richard Evans.

Dorothy Ashby :: The Moving Finger

This fall, my first feature film, Shangri-La Suite, will be released in theaters. It tells the story of two lovers-on-the-run during the summer of 1974. Their names: Jack Blueblood and Karen Bird. Their aim: to kill Elvis Presley. It stars Emily Browning, Luke Grimes, Avan Jogia and Ron Livingston (as the King). Burt Reynolds narrates. The trailer can be seen above.

My writing partner, Chris Hutton, and I, titled our film Shangri-La Suite because we wanted it to feel like a suite of music; like some warped, violent, teenage dirge. Instead of focusing on the tenets of plot, character and structure, we aimed to explore the feeling, the musicalitythe momentum, style and cadence — of our story. We wanted to write a two chord movie; to turn “Sister Ray” or “Great Balls Of Fire” into a ninety minute piece of cult-trash outsider cinema. Whether or not we succeeded in this ambition is up for debate. Regardless, music is at the core of Shangri-La’s DNA.

Justin Gage, the man behind Aquarium Drunkard (and my good friend), served as the project’s music supervisor. Justin has been kind enough to offer me a platform here, leading up to the film’s release, where I can write about some of the artists and tracks that inspired our movie and helped shape its creation.

Link Wray :: Girl From The North Country

For my inaugural entry, I’ve chosen Link Wray’s cover of Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country.” It’s a song that served as a north star reference for us — from the writing of the script, through the pitch process, and into the film’s production. We’d often play the track on set, conjuring its energy during love scenes, shootouts, car chases and sequences without sound.

adOur 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 447: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Kikagaku Moyo – Green Sugar ++ Omni – Wire ++  The Chills – Pink Frost ++ Muuy Biien – Mara ++ Marianne Faithfull – Broken English ++ Klaus Johann Grobe – Ein Guter Tag ++ Atlas Sound – Rained ++ Ty Segall – Diversion ++ Meat Puppets – Aurora Borealis ++ Stereolab – Diagonals ++ Atlas Sound (w/ Laetitia Sadler) – Quick Canal ++ Sun Blossoms – Return Your Soul ++  Allah-Las – Strange Heat ++ White Fence – King of The Decade ++ Psychic Ills – Another Change ++ Spiritualized – Cool Waves ++ Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 0 Into My Arms ++ Dirty Beaches – A Hundred Highways ++ Juands – White Waking (Les Rallizes Dénudés) ++ Ultimate Painting – Bills ++ Cass McCombs – Bum Bum Bum ++ Chris Cohen – Torrey Pine ++ The Fall – Middle Mass ++ Parquet Courts – Instant Disassembly  ++ Pavement – Fight This Generation ++ The Orwells – Head ++ Omni – Cold Vermouth ++ Deerhunter – Ad Astra ++ Destroyer – Blue Flower / Blue Flame ++ Yura Yura Teikoku – Ohayo Mada Yaro ++ Whitney – Red Moon ++ Cass McCombs – In A Chinese Alley ++ Guided By Voices – Sister I Need Wine (cromag demo)

*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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On September 8, 1966 – 50 years ago today — Star Trek premiered on NBC. Pitched as “Wagon Train to the stars,” the show would go on to reflect the humanist ideals of creator Gene Roddenberry, inspiring a sprawling franchise and introducing (multiple) universes, which at their best reflected Roddenberry’s “Great Bird of the Galaxy” spirit and his directive to “boldly go where no one had gone before.” Its cast was interracial, its themes were timeless, its scope was cosmic.

Most – myself included – don’t think of the music of the Star Trek franchise beyond its various themes and the pop music forays of cast members like William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols and Brent Spiner (let’s not get into the Beastie Boys thing in recent films –mixed feelings there). But upon recent 50th anniversary revisits, I was struck by the evocative soundtracks of original series episodes, chiefly the music composed by Gerald Fried. Perhaps no cues are as resonant as the deep, twangy songs Fried composed to evoke the inner mind of Spock, the emotionless Vulcan first officer. In an interview with blogger Jimmy J. Aquino in 2009, Fried explained his choice to utilize the bass for the character’s themes. “Spock had a lot of trouble with emotion. If he did have any, he hardly knew how to get it out. Now if you try to play a lyrical line on a big thumpy bass guitar, you’re gonna have trouble sounding lyrical, so I thought it would be a match to write a lyrical theme but put it on the bass guitar. It somehow parallels Spock’s trouble and confusion with emotion.”

Working with jazz guitar legend and Wrecking Crew member Barney Kessel, Fried created a number of haunting melodies, heard in episodes like the essential “Amok Time.” To my ears, it sounds very much like a Fender Bass VI, heard memorably on recordings by Glen Campbell, the Cure, and Angelo Badalamenti’s theme from Twin Peaks. The instrument produces a singular, evocative sound; a complicated tone for a complicated character. words/j woodbury

Barney Kessel & Gerald Fried :: Remorse – Marriage Counsel II

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One of our favorite sleepers of 2016 – House in the Tall Grass, the latest long-player from Japanese quintet Kikagaku Moyo. Hailing from Tokyo, the group (whose name fittingly translates to “Geometric Patterns”) transmits its waves through a kaleidoscopic haze of acid folk and trance-inducing krautrock. Album opener “Green Sugar” lives up to its name, with its saccharine rhythm and faded vocals floating high above a grooving bass line. The track is followed by the baroque, chamber pop of “Kograshi” and the shoegaze-y “Old Snow, White Sun”, whose barely audible vocals echo amongst a wash of reverb and delicate splashes of piano. It’s perfect, and these are just the first three songs. words / c depasquale

Kikagaku Moyo :: Green Sugar

ryleywalker

Ryley Walker’s Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, his third record in as many years, finds the singer/songwriter/guitarist fully coming into his own. On two previous two long players, comparisons to artists like John Martyn, Bert Jansch, Tim Buckley, and Nick Drake dominated conversations about Walker, but his latest finds him exploring English jazz folk through the unique lens of the Chicago experimental scene he came up in, folding in elements of improvisational jazz and experimental textures. Backed by members of Chicago outfit Heath&Beauty and working with producer Leroy Bach (formerly of Wilco), Walker blends and synthesizes his various influences, creating his most fully realized work to date.

_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. Pearl Charles guests the first hour of today’s show.

SIRIUS 446: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Plainsong – Even The Guiding Light ++ DR Hooker – Forge Your Own Chains ++ John & Beverly Martyn – Go Out And Get It ++ Fleetwood Mac – Sunny Side of Heaven ++ Jim Sullivan – Plain As Your Eyes Can See ++ Rodney Crowell – Ain’t No Money ++ Dale Hawkins – Joe ++ Richard & Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight ++ Sagittarius – Get The Message ++ Dion – Only You Know ++ Link Wray – Tucson, Arizona ++ Pearl Charles – Superstar (AD Session) ++ Pearl Charles – At The Crossroads (AD Session) ++ Famous L. Renfroe – Introduction ++ Alice Coltrane – Jaya Jaya Rama ++ Bembeya Jazz National – Wouloukoro ++ Teta Lando – Muato wa n’gingila ++ Penguin Cafe Orchestra – The Ecstasy Of Dancing Fleas ++ Milton Nascimento E Lô Borges – Cravo E Canela ++ King Sunny Adé – Eje Nlo Gba Ara Mi ++ Minnie Riperton – Les Fleur ++ Patti Smith – Kimberly ++ The Raincoats – Running Away (Sly & The Family Stone) ++ Lemma Demissew – Lezelalem nuri ++ Timmy Thomas – Dizzy Dizzy World ++ Bo Diddley – Travelin’ West ++ Chuck Berry – Havana Moon ++ Nina Simone – Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) ++ The Flying Jazz Queens – Siyahamba ++ Sam Cooke – Bring It On Home to Me (live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963) ++ John Fahey – Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Invisible City Of Bladensburg ++ Dumisani Maraire And Ephat Mujuru – Chemutengure ++ Harold Budd – Afar ++ Wilder Maker – Hope Springs ++ Lucinda Williams – Fruits of My Labor ++ Beth Orton – That Summer Feeling (Jonathan Richman) ++ Arthur Russell – Instrumentals: 1974, Volume 1, Parts 4 & 5

*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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urlIs banjo futurism a thing? Probably not, but if it was Nathan Bowles would be leading the charge. Over the course of three solo albums, the picker/percussionist (you may know him from work with Pelt, Jack Rose, Black Twig Pickers and Steve Gunn, among others) has made music that’s at once deeply rooted in traditional folk forms while at the same time forward thinking and progressive.

Bowles’ latest, Whole & Cloven, is his best effort yet, with timeless melodies (the gorgeous opener “Words Spoken Aloud”) blending seamlessly with hypnotic minimalist moves (the thrumming piano-based “Chiaroscuro,” which nods to the Terry Riley playbook). He makes these juxtapositions seem as natural as a rolling mountain stream, while still dazzling with his impeccable technique. His rhythmic instincts are essential here, and set him apart — check out the relentlessly propulsive drive of “Blank Range,” or the masterful ebbs and flows of the 11-minute “I Miss My Dog.” Wrapped up in lovely artwork by John Henry Toney and beautifully recorded by Jason Meagher, Whole & Cloven is wholly terrific. words / t wilcox

Nathan Bowles :: Gadarene Fugue

BOOKER_JAMES

In July of 1978, James Carroll Booker III sat down at a grand piano in a large concert hall in Montreux, Switzerland and played “True.” The video of this performance is spellbinding, if not galvanizing – equal parts Crescent City grit and classically trained sorcery. Midway through the song, after an otherworldly flourish of keys, Booker shoots a glance towards his fans (and the lens), as if to say, “Top that.” A few minutes later, as the last note rings out, the crowd stands and roars in affirmation of his sentiment. There was no match for the enigmatic New Orleans maestro on that night. He was at the top of his game, performing to a rapt audience in exactly the world-class venue his rare talent deserved.

Allen Toussaint called James Booker a “genius.” Dr. John said he was “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” Mick and Keith wanted him to play at their after party. Hunter S. Thompson named his writing style after his song, “Gonzo.” Lily Keber fell in love with his story while working behind the bar at Vaughan’s Lounge in the far reaches of the Bywater. Before long she was deep in the catacombs of Booker’s tragic legend, piecing together what eventually became Bayou Maharajah.

We caught up with Keber awhile back to chat about the film. She was –fittingly—in Europe. Read on to learn more about Booker and the making of Bayou Maharajah. Oh, and good news, as of today, the film is streaming on Netflix. Finally, the Black Liberace is getting another moment in the spotlight to strut his stuff.

James Booker :: True (Live at Montreux), July 1978]

Aquarium Drunkard: You became interested in Booker while working as a bartender at Vaughan’s. What were some of the stories that drew you in?

Lily Keber: The first stories that I heard were some of the typical James Booker stories. Throwing up on a piano. Holding a gun to his head and saying he wouldn’t play another note until someone brought him some cocaine. A lot of crazy sex stories – the wild side of life. But I think maybe it was because everyone understood what an incredible player he was. Most of the stories were at the end of his life. People remembered a lot of stuff at the Maple Leaf, more than the Toulouse Theater.