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Drawing a line from the rootsy grooves of the Band to the scuzz of late ’70s punk rock isn’t the first move most musicologists would make, but a case could be made for exactly that via the lean, ambling music of Eggs Over Easy. In the early ’70s, New Yorkers Jack O’Hara and Austin de Lone met and formed a duo in Berkeley, California, before bouncing back to New York to solidify the band, which they called Eggs Over Easy. Borrowing directly from the Band’s rustic swagger, the group eventually found its way to London, playing gigs with the likes Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and and Nick Lowe in the audiences, soaking up the American sound. To hear Lowe tell it, the band served as a unifying force in London pubs.

“There were hippies there, skinheads, Rastafarians,” Lowe says describing an early EOE show. “I remember, most especially, a Sikh bus driver with a turban on and his bus driver uniform dancing away. It was an unbelievable scene with people hanging off the ceilings. There was this fantastic feeling that you were in on something extraordinary.”

EOE helped kick start the pub rock scene, which helped pave the way for punk, but make no mistake: the sounds featured on the forthcoming Good ‘N’ Cheap: The Eggs Over Easy Story, due June 24 via Yep Roc, are purely roots, folding in country, rock & roll, and pastoral funk. The set features remastered sound and the entirety of the group’s recorded output, including its 1972 debut, produced by Link Wray (in his Three Track Shack prime), the band’s second album Fear of Frying (oh, the puns) and previously unheard London sessions recorded by Animals bassist and Jimi Hendrix manager Chas Chandler. It’s excellent stuff, from the booty swinging “The Factory” to the sublimely downcast “Arkansas.” File among Ernie GrahamGoose Creek Symphony, Clover, and Brinsley Schwarz (of which Nick Lowe was a member) as members of Aquarium Drunkard’s Band Not Band club. words / j woodbury

Good ‘N’ Cheap :: Don’t Let Nobody

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It’s back. Welcome to the first installment of Aquarium Drunkard’s re-tooled podcast. Picking up where the Sidecar (Transmissions) left off, consider this new program a late night broadcast exploring pop culture through an esoteric lens, focusing on music, literature, film and other dispatches from parts unknown.

Beginning now, expect a new episode every other week. Our debut features Jason P. Woodbury’s interview with longtime AD favorite Will Oldham, AKA Bonnie “Prince” Billy, discussing two new albums: his collaboration with Bitchin’ Bajas, the New Age/ambient LP Epic Jammers and Fortunate Ditties and a collection of sessions he recorded with BBC legend John Peel, Pond Scum. Along the way, Oldham pontificates on a certain sci-fantasy blockbuster and discusses his contributions to the upcoming Day of the Dead collection — the mammoth Grateful Dead covers project spanning 59 tracks at nearly six hours.

Aquarium Drunkard: Transmissions Podcast – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

Subscribe to the Aquarium Drunkard podcast on iTunes or via RSS feed.

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Everything is indeed bigger in Texas. Enter the Austin based project Echocentrics, multi-instrumentalist/producer Adrian Quesada’s ongoing collaborative project — this time featuring the likes of Bill Callahan, Alex Maas of the Black Angels and White Denim’s James Petralli. The lp, Echo Hotel, hits May 20th via Nacional Records.

Until then, chew on “Gettin’ Away With Your Gal”, with vox courtesy of Bill Calahan.

The Echocentrics :: Gettin’ Away With Your Gal

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Time. It flies. One year ago this week Andy Cabic (Vetiver) dropped this mixtape for us on the heels of his latest full-length…and today he returns with his trick bag in tow. Dig in – and if you’re in Los Angeles, catch Vetiver at the Troubadour tomorrow night.

Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Vetiver II – A Mixtape (zipped folder)

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There are few words to describe the transgressive beauty, power, and innovation of Prince. With the terrible news of his passing making the rounds, we’re resharing this 2009 reflection on his 1987 masterpiece, Sign ‘O’ The Times, by Josh Neas.

By 1987, Prince had created a body of work enviable by any musician. Starting with his third album, 1980’s Dirty Mind, he had slowly worked his way through almost every viable popular music genre of the era. He had even starred in two movies by this point, the latter of which, Under the Cherry Moon, was paired with a soundtrack in the form of his genre-splicing and hopping 1986 album Parade. He also had been working with a band, the Revolution, for the past three albums that resulted in some of the most forward thinking and focused music of his career. But something obviously told Prince to eschew the band and really let go with every thing he had at once, no matter how messy the results may be and the genre flexing of Parade would prove to be a blueprint for what was to come. Thus, in 1987, Prince, minus the Revolution, released the double-album Sign ‘O’ the Times.

Despite it opening with one of the more serious and topical songs on the record, Sign ‘O’ the Times is at its core, like most Prince albums, a party record. But the title track that starts things off is heavy, despite its catchiness. References to the escalating AIDS epidemic, drug addiction, gangs and even the then-recent Challenger explosion dot the landscape of the song. “It’s silly, no? / When a rocket ship explodes / and everyone still wants to fly,” Prince muses in the chorus. But while he laments the problems of society, signs of the time that they are, he also embraces the hope that humanity carries in themselves – that never-ending desire to fly, despite the potential consequences. Prince then spends the rest of the record providing the music for celebrating in the face of disaster. Like the Beastie Boys’ “Shadrach,” only over a double album length, he celebrates dancing in the fire.

The first half of Sign ‘O’ the Times is the more conventional. There are party rave-ups (“Play in the Sunshine,” “Housequake“), sultry grooves (“Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” “It,” “Forever in My Life”) and even the classic sing-along with nonsensical lyrics (“Starfish and Coffee“). As with a lot of music created in the 80s, it takes a bit of time to wade through the dated instruments and effects (hello, orchestra hits!), but you find Prince moving through rock, pop, r&b, funk and soul with relative ease. Prince isn’t so much a student of mixing genres within songs as he is a chameleon among styles from song to song. He also knows how to sequence a record – there’s rarely a dull moment on Sign ‘O’ the Times. The songs, even when working in a similar feel, incorporate rhythms and percussion that keep the pace from lagging.

Without question, the second half of the album is its most notorious and most challenging. It opens with the pulsing rock of “U Got the Look,” but is quickly overwhelmed with the psycho-sexual drama of “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” A song that takes advantage of sped-up recordings of Prince’s voice, in order to raise his natural voice even higher, the song plumbs the album’s darkest depths as its narrator hypothesizes whether he could get closer to his girlfriend if he were her female best friend rather than her boyfriend. “Strange Relationship” follows the mental games of its predecessor and the whole tone of the album has shifted. But it’s the joyous, strangely moral “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” that rescues the album from itself. And anticipating the religious turn of his later-career, “The Cross” is a powerfully affecting slow burn of a blues song that would seem out of place if this were anyone but Prince.

The 9 minute “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night,” a live recording that is the only track on the album to actually feature the Revolution as his backing band, brings back the album’s party vibe, but also threatens to derail the entire proceeding with its length. Very little happens, but it does turn into one huge rave leading into the album’s end. Prince shouts out “confusion,” at the end of the song and leading into yet another smoking slow jam, “Adore,” that’s exactly what you get.

Much like Bob Dylan and the Clash – two artists who chose, at the height of their creative powers to embrace a double album and succeeded – Prince created a viable, passionate, diverse and convincing masterwork in Sign ‘O’ the Times. The record sets out so clearly to be both a documentary of the fractured, subversive nature of the broader culture in 1987 and a righteous party record and to do so by delving through some of the brightest and darkest parts of the human experience is both admirable and successful. Sign ‘O’ the Times is unlike almost any other record in the modern rock canon and it’s all the better for it.  words/ j neas

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Shortly before her tragic and untimely death in January 2011, Broadcast’s Trish Keenan compiled an exploratory mix CD for a friend, and it immediately became a de facto tribute after hitting the Internet in the wake of the inimitable musician’s passing.

Trish Keenan’s Mind Bending Motorway Mix is mainly comprised of underheard 60s/70s pop psych, but includes international excursions, loads of effects, and a number of haunting and hypnotic instrumentals. A testament to both Trish’s indomitable spirit and the sonic worlds her and James Cargill travelled as Broadcast, it’s still as enjoyable and rewarding now as it was five years ago. We miss you Trish. words / k evans

Trish Keenan’s Mind Bending Motorway Mix (external zipper folder)

Playlist after the jump . . .

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Last year’s Palto Flats reissue of the 1983 lp Mariah – Utakata No Hibi (the final record under that moniker, originally released on the super-cool Better Days label), has spawned a renewed interest in the Japanese composer and bandleader Yasuaki Shimizu — and for good reason.

Shimizu, the brains behind the Mariah records, was looking way beyond the horizon, discovering a frontier ahead of its time that married stately and mysterious Eastern grace with futuristic sounds of propulsive, industrial textures, disco/dub rhythms, space jazz and gorgeous, oceanic tones.

The reissuing label writes, “the entire record is a masterful studio production of Japanese folk and pop idioms filtered through a chamber disco, new wave, synth production.” Amen. “Sokokara” feels second in the cycle of Brian Eno’s Another Green World to the Broadcast catalog. An experimental and synth-laden tenor partners with more avant-garde elements of cold-wave percussion and bubbling electronic waves in a celestial dance to the tune of a more traditional and ceremonial-sounding foundation. Like the shimmering, tranquil “Shisen,” it displays the record’s hypnotic tensions between a dreamy, calm oasis and more menacing undertones.

Mariah :: Shisen

“Hana Ga Saitara” bathes in the latter – with its driving club beat, angular alarming horns, and lost space transmissions – it exudes the sinister and the underground. Complicated by its almost spiritual, choral chanting and oscillating vocal drifts, it dares you to be challenged and, subsequently, rewarded. The tropical, dense percussive patterns radiate a futuristic, aquatic composure, while the jagged edges ooze mystery, romance, intrigue and danger.

“Sora Ni Mau Maboroshi” kicks off with ragged, angular guitar lines then buoyed with new wave percussion and vibraphone. With vocals suggesting influences the likes of Talking Heads and Orange Juice, the song evolves into a more meditative and pillowy affair. It makes a song like “Shinzo No Tobira,” with its gauzy shoegaze mist and soothingly melancholy female singer set against martial rhythmic backbone and an arctic, unknown ether, and album closer “Shonen,” with its smoky jazz atmosphere, art rock leanings and tribal conclusion, all the more spellbinding, and speaks volumes of Shimizu’s vast spectrum of musical intelligence, ability, and foresight, and also says much of the strange, exotic, and elusive mastery of this beautifully experimental record.

Yasuaki Shimizu :: Semitori No Hi

Elsewhere, Listen To This! (formerly Progressive Infinite), recently posted Shimizu’s previous record, 1982’s Kakashi. The album’s eight tracks fall seamlessly together, with opener “Suiren” blending the otherwise disparate sounds of jazz-fusion, electronic ambience, cushy dub, and glistening pop. Splashes of blissed-out new wave and ambient jazz tropics on “Kakashi” lead to dissonant alarm sounds and glacial, dramatic keys on “Kono Yo Ni Yomeri #1,” intruded by “Semitori No Hi,” a meditative and percussive electronic hymn, with deep foghorn brass, sweeping cymbals and calming new age synth, and funky stabs of horns dropping in and out. It’s a truly singular recording, again, ahead of its time, and for too long tucked into a lost corner of the earth. One where field recordings of crickets provide the backdrop to a lone, mournful saxophone, then further augmented by pure industrial improvisation, nautical textures, and uncertain soundscapes. The funereal and mystical “Utukushiki Tennen” features a hauntingly dramatic vocal performance with glitching sonics and procession orchestra, to bring this strange and ostensibly kitchen sink record to conclusion. But what Shimizu creates here is an art rock record of the highest order – one that blazes through genre and categorization with a bold and visionary appetite for creativity and experimentation.

295wdivTangentially: A chance YouTube recommendation gives us Midori Takada – Through The Looking Glass. This beautiful and mesmerizing album is the 1981 lone solo release from Midori Takada (the percussive nucleus behind the previously linked Mkwaju Ensemble). The four-song suite sweeps across organic and lucid sonic landscapes and feels more classical in its experimentation. Its tranquil, nature-breathed opener, “Mr. Henri Rousseau’s Dream,” features birdcalls amongst rippling wooden percussion and crystalline cymbals. Summoning woodwinds fall into harmony with the birds, startling in its unexpected synthesis and graceful cosmic beauty. A glacial marimba drives “Crossing” into its sudden dramatic swell and the Japanese shakuhachi flute duet of “Trompe-L’oeil” meets a medieval, gothic organ – thin and mercurial. And the mega-gothic, fifteen-minute closer, “Catastrope Σ” paints a canvas of funeral pipe organ, ringing folkloric bells, heavy, tribal percussion and minimalist piano narration. A maximalist, percussion-led crescendo ends abruptly, and without portent. A heavy scene, indeed. words / c depasquale

Midori Takada :: Crossing

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Following the intense and bloody Nigerian Civil War, a vibrant musical revolution bloomed in the country, with emerging groups and performers creating a fusion which blended funk, R&B, and hard rock. The beginnings and end of this fertile scene is documented incredibly by a new two-volume collection out on Now Again Records, Wake Up You Vol. 1 and 2: The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock, 1972-1972. 

Featuring artists like Ify Jerry Krusade, the Strangers, the Hyykers, OFO the Black Company, the Funkees, War Head Constriction, and dozens more, the collections illustrate the heavier side of Nigeria’s counter culture. While the music itself is enough to warrant diving in, the accompanying books by scholar Uchenna Ikonne — the producer behind many key releases, including the recent collection, Who is William Onyeabor —  feature insightful details and illuminating quotes from many of the artists themselves.

“About nine years ago, I teamed up with Uchenna Ikonne, when he was starting to work on his William Onyeabor anthology for Luaka Bop,” says Now Again main-man Eothen “Egon” Alapatt. “I’d been trying to get in touch with the remaining members of the Nigerian rock scene to try to figure out how the fuck such an incredible scene could have sprung up there in the early 1970s. I’d seen Ginger Baker in Africa, so I’d seen the footage of the bands getting down and I knew about the Biafran Civil War…. But the idea that a bona fide Nigerian rock scene could come into existence right after the death and destruction of the Civil War was almost unfathomable to me: America’s Flower Power hippies were shouting peace and love many thousands of miles from the jungles of Vietnam: were Nigerian hippies really doing the same thing….as combat raged in their back yards?”

Egon says that he ripped off by “middle man after middle man” trying to reissue music from this era, so he turned to Ikonne. “He knew more than anyone, was more pissed than I was about his own countrymen robbing not only these musicians – but their brethren of this untold story, of this forgotten scene.” Egon says. “He had this Onyeabor idea that he wanted to try out, and he said if I helped fund his trip he would do it right. And he did. He spent a year there, and he found every band we were interested in, and we licensed the music we wanted directly from them, got their stories down pat, and started to put together the direction for an anthology.”

War Head Constriction :: Graceful Bird

AD caught up with Ikonne to discuss the compiling of the albums and the personal connections that fueled his work in illuminating and preserving it.

Aquarium Drunkard: This collection is fantastic, and your notes are deep and fascinating. You were born in the States but lived in Nigeria as a young man. In the notes of Wake Up You, you describe a lot of the music featured therein as lost for forgotten. How did you first discover it?

Uchenna Ikonne: I was peripherally aware of much of it when I was a kid in the 1980s. You could still find a lot of old copies of these records in shops then. Cultural revival trends tend to work on a two-decade cycle—it usually takes around twenty years for old stuff to come back around and become cool again. So when I was coming up, these records were around ten years old and definitely were not cool. They were quaint, corny things that took up precious shelf space in the record store and frustrated you by slowing your access to the new Shalamar and Musical Youth LPs.

It was much later, around 1999 or 2000 that I was developing a movie set in early 1970s Nigeria that I started to research music for the soundtrack and I started rediscovering this stuff, realizing how incredible this music really was. And serendipitously, at this very moment record companies in the West like Soundway and Strut had started exploring this music too. So that just gave me more impetus to dive into it.