Héros. French single release, 1977. Repose en paix, David Bowie.
David Bowie :: Heroes (French Version)
Héros. French single release, 1977. Repose en paix, David Bowie.
David Bowie :: Heroes (French Version)
Cease To Exist – 2008 documentary exploring the music motive to the Manson murders and Charles Manson’s relationship with Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson and record producer Terry Melcher. Written and Directed by Ryan Oksenberg. Streaming in full, below.
“We just wanted to touch the people who mask Indian. You know? The people who are sitting down sewing those suits, man. The people who are making that financial sacrifice every year to keep this culture going.”
Jermaine Bossier is the Big Chief of the 7th Ward Creole Hunters, a Mardi Gras Indian gang in New Orleans. “Masking,” as they say down in the Crescent City, is the Indians’ act of stepping out on Mardi Gras Morning in vibrant, three-dimensional feathered and beaded suits. Most of these elaborate, annually-constructed designs take months of intense sewing and thousands of hard-earned dollars to create. Though still in his 30s, Bossier speaks about this colorful and mysterious culture with an old timer’s knowledge and respect; a deep understanding of the Black traditions, individuals, and communities that have paid tribute to the fortitude of the Native American Indians since Armstrong Park was Congo Plains. Masking is in blood. His uncle was Big Chief of the Black Eagles, a gang from the Uptown Calliope projects, and Bossier joined the fabled Yellow Pocahontas when he was only 14.
Music is also in Bossier’s genes. His grandfather, Raymond Lewis, played bass in Huey P. Smith’s band, the Clowns. He also wrote and performed the 1962 hit, “I’m Gonna Put Some Hurt on You,” which has been recorded by the likes of Alvin Robinson and the Meters. It was music that brought Bossier together with a longtime Indian foe, Romeo Bougere, Big Chief of the 9th Ward Hunters, to form the 79rs Gang. (Bougere also comes from a family steeped in the Mardi Gras Indian culture. His father Rudy, was a legendary Big Chief.) Their debut, Fire on the Bayou, was created, as Bossier puts it, because they “just wanted to make something that the Indians could sew to.” Thankfully, Sinking City Records, run by two disc jockeys at WWOZ, picked up the album for a wider release back in March of last year.
The music of Mardi Gras Indians has been beautifully documented by the likes of Alan Lomax and Les Blank, and most recently depicted by David Simon’s HBO Series, Treme. Blank’s 1978 documentary, Always for Pleasure, captures a live performance of the Wild Tchoupitoulas, a gang whose eponymous debut was produced by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint, and included the musical efforts of the Neville Brothers and the Meters. The album wasn’t the first time Indian songs had been recorded for commercial release. The Wild Magnolias put out a single, “Handa Wanda,” in 1970, and couple of fantastic LPs and 45s in the mid 70s. Those projects were also the fruits of two Big Chiefs, Theodore Emile “Bo” Dollis of the Wild Magnolias and Joseph Pierre “Monk” Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles, coming together to make music.
Fire On the Bayou finds Bossier and Bougere singing a mix of Mardi Gras Indian standards and 79rs originals over sparse, traditional polyrhythms. The gang channel an energy similar to the humid exuberance that radiates from the Golden Eagles classic Rounder release, Thunder and Lightning, which was taped “Live in Context” in 1987 at the legendary H & R Bar on Dryades Street. (Three songs on that record, including Boudreaux’s original, “Shallow Water,” are included on Fire on the Bayou.) Intentionally or not, there are moments when Fire sounds like it could have been tracked on the same hot August night, or perhaps under the Claiborne Avenue Bridge on a brisk Mardi Gras morning. The album also nicely showcases Bossier’s rough Baritone and Bougere’s honeyed, Neville-esque, Alto vocals, which coupled with their knack for telling stories, evokes imagery as vibrant as the suits they don on the LP cover.
It’s no surprise that global DJ Gilles Peterson tapped the 79rs Gang for his 2016 Worldwide Music Awards show. We look forward to hearing much, much more music from Jermaine Bossier and Romeo Bougere as they carry on the traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians.
“As long as New Orleans is here,” Bossier says, “I feel like Mardi Gras Indians are going to be here.”
Aquarium Drunkard: You were raised within the culture of Mardi Gras Indians. Your Uncle was a Big Chief. What sort of impact did that have on you as a child?
Jermaine Bossier: As a child? Just seeing those Indians is an amazing sight. I could just remember my mamma taking me to see the Indians and telling me that this one person was the “Big Chief.” And he was just beautiful, man. He had on all these feathers. He was just beautiful. And, you know, it was always something that I wanted to do, but at the time, in the early ‘80s, it was still at little wild. They would do a lot of shooting and so I wasn’t ever able to mask. I was just an observer for a long time. But I always wanted to mask, man. I always wanted to mask, you know? It had a really big impact on me.
Transcendence: Our third collaboration with Portland, OR based record collectors Sam Huff and Colton Tong. Consider the following a vintage Friday night basement-party jammer. 70s era groove-makers, stoned soul bass rhythms and snaking synthesizer vibrations, all filled to the brim and ready to consume. Running time: one hour. Pairs well with a good time.
Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Transcendence – A Mixtape (zipped folder, external host)
SIRIUS 417: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ B.F. Trike – Be Free ++ Dinosaurs – Sinister Purpose ++ Flaming Groovies – Golden Clouds ++ The Rolling Stones – I Just Want To See His Face ++ The Nerves – Stand Back And Take A Good Look (Demo) ++ Chris Spedding – Bored Bored ++ The Lovin’ – I’m In Command ++ Giant Jelly Bean Copout – Awake In A Dream ++ Velvet Underground – I Found A Reason (Demo) ++ Mahmoud Ahmed – Wogenie ++ Ryley Walker – Heavy Water / I’d Rather Be Sleeping (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Ryley Walker – Robin Egg Blue (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Ryley Walker – Real MC’s (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++Ryley Walker – Everybody Is Crazy (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Agincourt – Mirabella ++ Trap Door – £™ ++ Human Expression – Calm Me Down ++ J.J. Cale – In Our Time ++ West Coast Consortium – Listen To The Man ++ Wimple Winch – The Last Hooray ++ The Squires w/ Neil Young – I’ll Love You Forever ++ Erasmos Carlos – Grilos ++ Lazy Smoke – There Was A Time ++ Bob Lind – Cool Summer ++ Nico Gomez And His Afro Percussion, Inc. – El Condor Pasa ++ Ted Lucas – Now That I Know ++ The Troggs – Push It Up To Me ++ The Flying Burrito Brothers – Tried So Hard ++ The Equals – Can’t Find A Girl To Love Me ++ The Dovers – About Me ++ The Blue Rondos – Little Baby ++ Margo Guryan – Sunday Morning ++ White Hinterland – Dreaming of Plum Trees ++ Brinsley Schwartz – Hymn To Me ++ Creation – How Does It Feel To Feel ++ Jonathan Halper – Leaving My Old Life Behind ++ Blue Things – High Life ++ Chico Buarque – Funeral De Um Lavrador ++ Arzachel – Queen St Gang ++ Savages – I Believe ++ Druids Of Stonehenge – Speed ++ Flamin Groovies – Shake Some Action ++ Kim Jung Mi – Oh Heart ++ Misunderstood – I Can Take You To The Sun ++ Amen Dunes – Spirits Are Parted
*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
In December, 1994, Alex Chilton, Ben Vaughn, and Alan Vega walked into Dessau Studio in Manhattan.
They had only the vaguest idea of what might happen. There was a basic premise, that friends Vaughn and Chilton were going to “play the blues” with Vega, visual artist and frontman of the avant-garde electronic duo Suicide, but beyond that, nothing.
Chilton had just finished a series of shows with his beloved reunited band Big Star; Vaughn, who’d cut his teeth in the roots scene and working with maverick country musician Charlie Feathers, had recently appeared alongside Mudhoney, Luna, the Flaming Lips, the Gories, Codeine, and others on a tribute comp to Vega and Suicide, Invitation to Suicide. The duo was eager to work with Vega, and excited by the prospect of pure creative deconstruction.
What they recorded over two frenzied nights was released in 1996 as Cubist Blues on Henry Rollins’ 2.13.61 label. The base elements were simple: guitar, synth, piano, skittering drum machines, some bass, and live drum kit, undulating under Vega’s reverb cloaked rockabilly incantations. The record was released and made some waves in Europe, but was virtually ignored in the U.S. It quickly fell out of print. But for those who caught on, who heard in the album’s grooves a wild, unrestrained fervor, more spiritually connected to free jazz than alternative or indie rock, Cubist Blues was a treasure. Weird and feral. Oozing. “Liquid,” Vaughn calls it, over the phone from the Mojave Desert, discussing the late 2015 re-release of the album by boutique label Light in the Attic.
“Alan insisted we had no expectations going in,” Vaughn says. The approach — loose, unplanned, almost entirely improvised —was new to him. “He didn’t want to have any discussions prior to going in. He was excited when Alex joined in, but he didn’t want to know anything beyond that. As a matter of fact, telling him that Alex was coming with me almost ruined everything for him. It was one less surprise he would encounter,” Vaughn says. “He was really adamant…really aggressive about not setting up any groundwork that might make anyone comfortable enough to phone it in.”
You can hear the spirit of those evenings in Vega’s cackles, shushes, and barks in album opener “Fat City,” in the limber New Orleans strut of “Lover of Love,” in the pulsing electro-blues of “The Werewolf,” and the spooky, soul rattling gospel of “Come On Lord.” To unbelievers, these songs might sound nonsensical, half-baked, or maniacal. To the converted, they are swampy hymns of devotion from the farthest fringes.
Listening to the album nearly 20 years after its release, Vega recognizes a special kind of magic in it. “It could it have been a terrible thing, something we finished and said, ‘That’s that,’” Vega says over the phone from his apartment in New York. In 2012, he suffered a heart attack and a stroke, which affected his speaking, but not his verve. His speech is blurred, but perfectly lucid. “But we kept going, because it sounded great,” he says of the the spontaneous recording session.
They didn’t last long — just about four years — but Laddio Bolocko made a hell of a noise for a little while there. This excellent compilation (two CDs or three LPs, plus a bonus DVD) from No Quarter adds considerably to their legacy. The band (members of which would go on to play in Psychic Paramount and Mars Volta) emerged from a very different Brooklyn than the one we know today. As Oneida’s Kid Millions writes in his thoughtful liners, “in 1997, if you told someone versed in underground music that you were a band from Brooklyn the reaction would either be stunned silence or laughter.” However, that empty space meant that Laddio Bolocko could pretty much make up the rules as they went along — and then go about breaking every one of those rules with glee.
You might be tempted to slot the group into the dreaded math rock genre, but where most math-y groups found themselves in stylistic dead ends, Laddio Bolocko found complete freedom. Dig the stunning “43 Minutes Of (Excerpt)” which kicks off the compilation in glorious fashion, fueled by the relentless drumming of Blake Fleming and a blown out organ tortured within an inch of its life. Or bask in the 2000 live set that closes the second disc, highlighting the unbelievably locked-in mind-meld that the band shared onstage. Amazing stuff from the outer limits. words / t wilcox
Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.
The Lagniappe Sessions return in 2016 with Ryley Walker, whose sophomore lp, Primrose Green, was one of our favorites records of 2015. Here, Walker reimagines and reworks four disparate tracks, ranging from jazzists (and fellow Chicagoans) Isotope 217 to contemporaries Cass McCombs, Amen Dunes and Grouper. And in doing so they become his own. Walker’s notes on his selections, below…
All time greatest tune. Gave it a shot with just guitar. Really a massive fan of Grouper. Lyrics and arrangements are always fascinating. Every record she sets the bar higher. Listened to this song in particular a hundred times.
Ryley Walker :: Robin Egg Blue (Cass McCombs)
Robin Egg Blue is a great, great tune. I can’t tell if it’s happy or sad. I wrote the words down on a piece of paper to recite them. Had fun.
Ryley Walker :: Real MC’s (Isotope 217)
One of my most favorite bands ever. Chicago’s greats. Part of a great generation of heady tunes in Chicago and they all still put out some of the headiest shit on the planet with tons of different groups. Jeff Parker is one of my most favorite guitar players in the world. Huge influence. Matt Lux playing heady bass on here too. These dudes were cranking out a great record every year for a period of time.
Ryley Walker :: Everybody Is Crazy (Amen Dunes)
Happy and lucky enough to be a friend of Damon. His record Love is a modern classic. So excited to see what’s next.
When giants walked the earth! Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Ted Curson, Dannie Richmond, and Bud Powell all on one stage together, spitting fire, speaking in tongues. Charles Mingus died today in 1979 at age 56. t wilcox