climbers-cover-600“Palm Springs”, via Social Climbers’ 1980, self-titled, sole lp – the vehicle of Bloomington’s Mark Bingham. Though existing in the new wave world, the project stands as an outlier, in great thanks to Bingham’s further explorations into jazz, dance, disco, and funk.

In ways, it’s an early example of bedroom pop and a bright forebearer of modern DIY (“See “Chris and Debbie”). Having collaborated with fellow avant-garde musicians Glenn Branca and John Scofield, you can hear Bingham’s defiance on tracks like “Chicken 80,” a raw, proto-punk freakout on a plane entirely its own. The instrumental “Palm Springs” stands as a left-of-center deviation, its wordless effect achieving great heights through a serene, trance-inducing duet between tribal percussion and ambient guitars. And while it still holds true to the direction of its time and place, it retains an air of timelessness, constantly swaying in and out of sight for a great, long time. words / c depasquale

Social Climbers :: Palm Springs

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Can’s influence cannot be overstated. Highly impacted by the improvisational side of The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa’s Mothers and Sly Stone, the group incorporated repetitive grooves that brought to mind African percussion and American funk. Two eccentric vocalists (first Malcom Mooney, then, famously, Damo Suzuki) and a dash of modern classical music helped create a distinct vision that is often imitated, though never matched.

While Can continued to release records until 1979, it’s their period from 1968-1974 that serves as the foundation of the band’s legacy, the primary reference point for a sound that would manifest throughout music and across genres for years to come. Below are some live highlights from that period, that capture the improvisational ethos applied to their inspired studio recordings. words / d see

“Paper house” (The Beat Club, Aug. 7, 1971): The Beat Club was a long­-running German TV program, with a seemingly bottomless pool of exceptional clips, many of which were performed live. Here, Can shows off their live prowess, and (atypically) sticks closely to the studio version of this seminal track. But there’s just enough of their improvisational prowess on display to make this performance exceptionally powerful.

“Oh Yeah” (unknown, 1970): While we may not ever find out WHERE this was filmed, it was certainly beautifully documented. “Oh Yeah” is one of the more accessible tracks on Tago Mago, and this version begins rather faithfully to the original recording before taking off into uncharted territory. Not only does the group explode in a fury of unbridled ferocity, but Damo Suzuki shows off his own unhinged improvisational style, as well.

“Spoon” (Cologne Sporthalle, Feb. 3, 1972): Released as a single,’Spoon’ became a bona fide hit in Germany. The song was drawn from the group’s classic Ege Bamyasi LP, one of  the most impressive examples of avant-garde intertwined with straight forward pop-rock. While the breezy, catchy and soothing studio version clocks in at a radio friendly 3:03, this live performance rearranges this song into a ferocious stew of aggression and rhythmic madness.

Further Listening: Aquarium Drunkard – Collected: A Can Playlist // Can :: The Peel Sessions (1973-1975) // Can :: University of Essex – Colchester, England, May 17, 1975

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Daniel T. returns with Douala By Night, a grab bag of  pan-African records presently lining his crate and beyond. His last AD import, Skateland, a deeply funky 16-track 70s roller skating compilation, is still alive and available, here.

Douala By Night – A Mixtape

urlWith a pedigree than includes stints with sonic adventurers like No-Neck Blues Band, Pigeons and Stygian Stride, and an arsenal that includes an array of Greek stringed instruments, you might expect something pretty esoteric from Rhyton. What you probably wouldn’t expect is a totally killer Joe Walsh cover. But that’s just what you get on the band’s newest record, the absorbingly eclectic Redshift.

It’s not all big classic rock moves, of course — there are surf-y excursions, kraut-rock zones, Dead-worthy chooglers, and intricate, electrified Greek-inspired folk jams. In other words, there’s not much Rhyton can’t do. Whatever they get up to, the primary pleasure here is just hearing the trio interact and bounce ideas off one another, the rubbery rhythm section of Jimy SeiTang and Rob Smith providing a launchpad for Dave Shuford’s fearless/fun explorations. You’ll definitely get Sun City Girls vibes from Redshift, maybe even a whiff of the Meat Puppets. And of course, plenty of Joe Walsh. words / t wilcox

Rhyton :: D.D. Damage

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Electronic composer Joanna Brouk takes very little credit for the trailblazing sound poetry she recorded in the 1970s and ’80s. It flowed through her she says, unbothered by the metaphysical connotations such a statement implies. She didn’t write it so much as transcribe it,  pulling melodies from single repeated notes and from the spaces between them.

“If you want to know where my music came from, it was silence,” Brouk says over the phone from her place in San Diego, synthesizer drones buzzing faintly in the background.

Her remarkable recordings can be heard on Numero Group’s Hearing Music, a double LP set assembled by producer Douglas Mcgowan (best known for Light in the Attic’s New Age compilation I Am the Centerwhich features Brouk’s “Lifting Off”). From her gong and synth meditation “The Creative” to her collaborations with flautist Maggi Payne, to the droning “Diving Deeper, Remembering Love,” Brouk’s music resonates with a deep, spiritual grace. Her experimentalism aligned with minimalists like Philip Glass and Steve Reich, but her explorative, cosmic leanings earned her self-released cassettes a passionate New Age audience.

Brouk hasn’t recorded in some time. She’s at peace with it, she says; she’s simply not “hearing” the music the way she once did. She went on to a career in writing and radio production, though in some ways, her empathic, gentle approach extends to all these creative endeavors. She explained all this and more, in the longform conversation with Aquarium Drunkard which follows. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Joanna Brouk :: Aurora

Aquarium Drunkard: You began your academic career as a writer, studying literature at Berkeley. How did you make the transition into sound work?

Joanna Brouk: I’d always wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little girl, but at Berkeley I was very fortunate to have a series of excellent teachers who began to unknowingly move me in the direction of sound. I had a professor who taught The Faerie Queene by Spenser, and he kept reading a section in that old English about this hero going through this dim, dark passage of despair. He’d repeat it over and over again, and each time he read it he’d ask, “What’s going on?” People would raise their hand and say, “The hero is going through a bad time, he’s suffering,” and he’d say, “Yes, yes, yes, but what’s going on?” He’d repeat it ad nauseam and I thought, “I’m getting so depressed — I’m going to commit suicide or something!” [Laughs] But the light bulb went off and I raised my hand and said, “He’s strategically using the sound ‘d’ in that passage to create an effect, almost like a drum: dim, dark, despair.” The teacher beamed and said, “That’s it.”

I had an anthropology teacher who showed us a film of a healing ceremony in Southeast Asia. This woman was very depressed…she’d lost her child and you could just see when she walked in she was almost catatonic. They chanted over her and this went on for a very long time. Eventually, she started getting into it — her head going back and forth, then she started dancing, started shaking, laughing. It was such a transformation, so I began to be fascinated with the whole concept of sound in poetry, which led me to a wonderful book called Technicians of the Sacred.

Josephine Miles, the poet laureate of California, was one of my teachers at Berkeley and in those days you could create your own major if you had a sponsor. I went to her and said, “I’m really interested in the connection between sound and poetry.” Berkley had a very little synthesizer studio but [nearby school] Mills had a big one; I told her I’d like to go up there and work, tape sounds and see what happens. So Josephine said, “Yes, I’ll sponsor you.” Two phone calls later I was in. The head of the department Bill Maraldo said, “Boy, someone called me and you’re in.” I didn’t know she had that kind of pull, but I was very grateful. That began my experimental sessions at Mills.

bbOver the past several years, Jenks Miller has been making a wide variety of noises in such esteemed bands as Mount Moriah and Horseback. Blues From WHAT is the first physical release under the Rose Cross N.C. moniker, and though there’s a band that plays this stuff live, Miller is almost a one-man band here. But the North Carolina-based guitarist can certainly make a big sound all on his own, with crunchy riffs worthy of Träd, Gräs Och Stenar, billowing feedback and thudding percussion filling out two sides of extended psych rock.

It’s a hypnotic affair — especially on the 20+ minute “Scrying in Water,” with groaning tambura tangling with cosmic guitar lines, and Miller gently hissing about “rings on rings.” A kaleidoscopic musical vision that gets heavier with every spin. words / t wilcox

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“Goin’ through another change,” sings Tres Warren on Psychic Ills’ latest hazy trip, Inner Journey Out. And to be sure, the album shakes things up for a band that seems to love shaking things up. Since 2003, they’ve traveled through a myriad of psychedelic landscapes, from extended drones to scuzzy garage rock. The new one finds them in an even more classic rock setting than its predecessor, the excellent One Track Mind. Employing sunkissed pedal steels, ghostly gospel choirs, and gentle acoustic guitar strums, Warren and bassist Elizabeth Hart earn comparisons to the Opal/ Mazzy Star world (Hope Sandoval herself shows up on guest vocals here), as well as similarly wasted vibesters like Nikki Sudden and Jason Pierce. The songwriting is uniformly strong, usually keeping things simple with just a handful of chords. But Warren and Hart always deliver inventive twists and interesting arrangements, whether it’s an elegantly fuzzed out guitar solo, a delicate love song, or the wandering nine-minute jam “Rah Wah Wah.” Inner Journey Out is by no means as “out” as Psychic Ills have gotten in the past, but it’s an album well worth getting into. words / t wilcox

Psychic Ills :: Another Change

(From 2012. The Jet Lag programme, hosted by Yoon Nam, ceased airing last year after an inspired decade-long run on Atlanta’s 88.5 fm.)

Over the past couple of years I’ve been irregularly highlighting some of my favorite voices online (and beyond), inviting them to guest DJ my show on SIRIUS XMU. For those of you sans satellite radio we’ve been turning these sets into mixtapes, with sounds ranging from the blown-out psych bootcut of DJ Turquoise Wisdom, to the international taboo of Ponytone. Today we catch up with the host behind one of my favorite radio programs of the past year, Jet Lag.

Hosted by Yoon Nam, Jet Lag concentrates on vinyl recordings of international psych, prog, outsider folk, vintage soundtracks, library music, and other rare sounds from the 60s and 70s. It airs Sunday nights from 8 -10 pm on WRAS Atlanta, 88.5FM. Founded in 2006, Yoon traverses the globe weekly featuring a diverse mix ranging from PFM and Ejwuusl Wessahqqan, to Jean Le Fennec and Korean masters Jung Hyun Shin and Jung Mi Kim.

After the jump — two hours of Jet Lag, broken up into two sets.

The spirit was upon the room last night at Little Tokyo’s Blue Whale during the LA record release show for Jeff Parker’s solo debut, The New Breed. Working out material off the lp, the quintet slid into a take on Bobby Hutcherson’s “Visions“. Hearing them channel Hutcherson, I was hoping they’d interpret “NTU” later in the night. Maybe next time.