PENGUIN DUST

Our guest mixtape series returns with the fourth offering via our east coast compatriots, NYC’s Chances With Wolves: Penguin Dust – A Mixtape. As always, it’s a heady/essential brew.

Chances With Wolves 4 / Penguin Dust – A Mixtape

Records are magic. Some of them cast different sorts of spells from others but all of them contain some amount of encapsulated air from the rooms they were recorded in. They become little vessels for cultural information. Penguin dust. We wanted a place to put some of these magic vessels on display — a place they could live and be popped open like corked bottles so their stored atmospheric magic dust could breathe again.

ordinary-day-districts

The post-Vile/War on Drugs Philly renaissance has only grown stronger with the addition of four-piece The Districts. “Ordinary Day” is the group’s first track since their 2015 release, A Flourish and a Spoil. The band sounds tight and confident on the new song, as singer Robby Grote sings, “An ordinary sunset/An ordinary day,” before coming to the realization too many of us face: “I’ll let you down again.”

Huge and anthemic, the song’s chorus is fit for both scenic indie films and terrain exploring car commercials. John Congleton, who’s worked with St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, and Explosions in the Sky, mixed the tune, and the track’s latter-half crisp, diamond cutting guitar solo owes its precision to his work. Keep an eye out for the band’s untitled second album coming later this year via Fat Possum, one that will hopefully be anything but another ordinary day. words / w schube

The Districts :: Ordinary Day

large_550_tmp_2F1485993958934-0rbc8m0b3bfxzchd-ff470645d00b7358f38ad51f9d24a36b_2Fmushroom

As a producer and author, Pat Thomas has been behind some incredible stuff, helping to reissue albums by Judee Sill, the Dream Syndicate, Bobby Whitlock and  more, authoring Listen, Whitey!: The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-75 and compiling its accompanying soundtrack, producing the definitive version of Allen Ginsberg’s First Blues, and assembling Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann, an art book featuring McCann’s photos.

But he’s not only documented and unearthed great music. All the while, he’s made it as well. Thomas’ long running psychedelic collective Mushroom recently returned with Psychedelic Soul on Wax, a heady brew of Krautrock and free music. The record features members of Tin Huey, Hiss Golden Messenger, Brightback Morning Light, and Tom Waits’ backing band, but the album’s most prominent guest is the disembodied voice of Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver.

An early leader of the Panthers, Cleaver was spiritually and ideologically restless. At different points in his life, he embraced Islam, Christianity, and Mormonism, and he grew stridently conservative as he aged. But on the recording sampled here, from 1970, he sounds plenty radical, wary of “the armies of Babylonian agents” as he announces his “house arrest” of LSD pioneer Timothy Leary and his wife Rosemary Woodruff in Algeria. Below, an Aquarium Drunkard edit of the song. Grab the LP for the full, dizzying 18-minute plus version. words / j woodbury

Mushroom :: Psychedelic Soul On Wax (Eldridge Cleaver vs. Timothy Leary) (AD edit)

feelies

They celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2016, but compared to other bands of a similar vintage, the Feelies’ discography is relatively slim. That’s OK. Each Feelies record is a gem, filled with Velvet-y jangle-n-strum, pulsing rhythms, and hook-filled songwriting. The band’s new one, In Between, continues the streak effortlessly. Thanks to a sound that leans heavily on the acoustic guitar, its closest kin is the Feelies’ classic 1986 effort, The Good Earth. But also like that LP, acoustic doesn’t necessarily translate to mellow; there’s an humming undercurrent of restlessness lurking in the layers here, distortion and dissonance looming in the distance like a threatening storm.

At this late date, making music together is as natural as breathing for the Feelies, with Glenn Mercer and Bill Million’s guitars intertwining beautifully, Brenda Sauter’s bass providing supple, melodic support, and partners-in-crazy-rhythms Stanley Demeski and Dave Weckerman holding down an unshakeable groove. There’s still room for a surprise or two: check the elegantly melancholy acoustic guitar solo that wafts through the heart of “When To Go,” or the chiming “Sunday Morning” meets Another Green World loveliness of “Time Will Tell.” Best of all is the closing “In Between (Reprise),” which sees the Feelies loosening up and stretching out for nearly 10 minutes, Mercer and Million dueling furiously while their bandmates chug steadily behind them, an “I Wanna Be Your Dog” one-note piano pounding in the back of the mix. A total thrill, and proof positive of this wonderful band’s lasting power.  words / t wilcox

The Feelies :: In Between

Two sons of Tommy Douglas invite you on another all-vinyl trip across the Great White North. From reflective provinces to longing territories, you’ll discover a mellow cultural mosaic of the overlooked and the unknown. And if you haven’t heard the first installment, now’s the time to get acquainted. May as well make it a double double.

Still Rollin’ (Up The Rim): A Vintage Canadian Mixtape II

Playlist after the jump . . .

ethan

Ethan Miller has been living a frantically creative life in Oakland, CA since 2002. His passion for constructing new musical experiences is insatiable, as evidenced via his work in Comets On Fire, Howlin’ Rain, Heron Oblivion and, most recently, Feral Ohms. With the Ohms album on the horizon (3/24), we caught up with Miller to discuss, among other things, his litany of bands, the importance of a DIY subculture and his recently released book of poetry.
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Aquarium Drunkard: Let’s jump right in with Heron Oblivion. 2016 was a big marker with the release of the group’s self-titled debut. You’re in a lot of bands – what’s rewarding to you about this one in particular?

Ethan Miller: Well, for starters, they are all killer musicians. There is a lot of amazing chemistry in the band. Originally we all kind of got together because we’re all close friends. Those three people (Noel Von Harmonson, Charlie Saufley, Meg Baird) are some of my closest friends and I think they would say the same. When Meg moved out to the West Coast, I think we partially wanted to do something fun, improvised and musical together, because Noel and I would get together and have these little improvised jams. Also, with our busy lives it was a nice excuse to spend a few hours a week together just hanging and stuff. I think we were a little surprised by the group’s chemistry, like, okay I guess we need to make a band out of this thing.

AD: Was it a conscious effort to come up with this sound you have, this ethereal hard rock, or was this just a process of figuring out each others strengths as a whole?

Ethan Miller: That’s kind of what it boils down to. Before there was singing we were just jamming – it was a noisier affair, you know? It sounded more like The Dead C or something like that. Then we had some pieces and parts, after pulling a part out of like an hour-long jam and saying that could be a cool root to a song. Then once we said, “well, let’s see what it sounds like if Meg sings over it,” it gets ethereal, pretty fast (laughs). I mean, her vocals are so strong and beautiful that you’d be a fool not to place it at the top of the mountain of your music. I think, partly, we tried to still maintain some of that noisy, underground, improvised feel, but that doesn’t always allow for a lot of space for that kind of beautiful singing and stuff. At some point, pretty quickly, we said, “how do we merge the two of these?” It was kind of happening naturally and we guided it.

large_550_tmp_2F1475192665183-ajgg443eb0ppchcc-38307ca3b5be28bdeada5932b5bedf31_2FNina+Front+CoverNina Simone would have been 84 this week — as such, fans the world over have been celebrating the iconoclast’s deep and dynamic catalog. Incredibly, a new highlight of Simone’s career surfaced late last year via the release of an extremely rare 1969 concert in Germany, the aptly titled A Very Rare Evening. Given a second life via the nascent reissue label Tidal Waves Music, the live document finds Simone at the height of her boundary shattering and awe-inspiring live game. A markedly rich document highlighting her crack rhythm combo (Weldon Irvine on organ, Don Allias on drums, and Gene Perla on bass), as well as a shining example of Simone’s improvisational and vibrant stagecraft.

Although released late last year, this live lp feels especially timely now, on this month, in an increasingly uncertain year. Explosive renditions of “I Ain’t Got No / I Got Life” and The Beatles’ “Revolution” resonate as deeply now as they must have at the sobering third act of the 1960s. Simone’s band plays fast and fierce, organ lines blaze with a funky defiance across the fearlessness of Simone’s testament. Her voice sprightly and resolute, Simone’s message of freedom, equality, and self-worth are as clear in their conviction as ever before. Side 2 finds the band catching absolute fire on an explosive reckoning of Aretha Franklin’s “Save Me.”

The record also finds Simone swooning in spellbinding and tender movements: the slow, delicate sway of “The Other Woman” and a dazzling, sun-kissed rendition of “To Love Somebody” – a song that Simone has made her own time and again. The most striking performance is perhaps Simone’s singular rendering of Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today.” A classic paragon of songwriting, Simone stays true to Newman’s outsider folk spirit, and her elegantly dramatic and beat-poetry approach to the material, intertwined with subtly arresting jazz guitar (courtesy of Simone stalwart Al Schackman), result in something wholly unique and utterly Nina. When she quiets things down to sing: “Tin can at my feet / Think I’ll kick it down the street / That’s the way to treat a friend,” you can hear your own heart break, but the baroque piano line and operatic crescendo leaves you feeling that we still live a world where, somewhere, somehow, “human kindness is overflowing.” words / c depasquale

Nina Simone :: I Think It’s Going To Rain Today