reggaegang

Just in time to help you squeeze the last remnants of heat out of this Indian summer, the fifth installment of our ongoing Bomboclat! series is an atmospheric and predominantly dub heavy mixtape. Hat tip to Jon “Sir Lord Comic” for his help in compiling these tracks. Find volumes one through four, here. – Cognoscere

Download: Bomboclat! Island Soak 5 :: Jamaican Vintage Dub (zipped folder)

tracklisting after the jump. . .

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The Mattson 2 are twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson. Descending from southern California. with one brother on drums and the other guitar, they are a self-described jazz duo. But as Agar, their latest lp, attests, they occupy a space much wider than that. At only five tracks and just under thirty minutes long, Agar is certainly concise; a clear and focused statement on both the brothers’ artistic chops and frame of mind. However, it’s also a complete freak-out of an album –- two extraordinary musicians letting loose, chasing the muse.

Agar opens with a collective howl, a commencement to the boundless sonic exploration that is soon to follow. Album opener “Peaks of Yew” finds Jared locking into a hypnotic raga groove as layers of eastern-leaning atmospherics, provided by Farmer Dave Scher, wash through the spaces. It’s a track that glistens across an orange reddish sky before erupting into flames.

There is a cinematic scope to the sounds on this record. “Dif Juz” begins in an almost conceptual western tension, all tingling guitars, before propelling into widescreen ambience. “Pure Ego Death” sounds like the score to an imaginary science fiction film; all tones and waves and air, flowing across an empty, desolate landscape. “Meluminary” rips freer and faster, a pure free-jazz jam that is perhaps the best example of the brothers telepathic chemistry — effortlessly and mesmerizingly in-sync. Jonathan takes the reigns about halfway through, launching into a manic drum solo, occasionally pierced by haunting, alien transmissions.

The album’s closing title-track is pure metal, finding both brothers taking their playing to an inflammatory extreme, a culmination of the album up to this point – pinpoint precision unleashed and enflamed. We, the listener, engulfed. words / c depasquale

Mattson 2 :: Peaks of Yew

miriam

An eclectic medley of ramblin’ folk, African rhythms and mellow tunes to usher in that October breeze.

Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Soulful Shade of Blue – A Medley

Brook Benton – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
Miriam Makeba – Oxgam
Bob Lind – Fennario
Tom Paxton – Last Thing On My Mind
The Beach Boys – Little Bird
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Soulful Shade Of Blue
Matthews Southern Comfort – Tell Me Why (Neil Young)
Richard & Linda Thompson – Down Where The Drunkards Roll
Tom Waits – Old Shoes
Greg Brown – Out In The Country
Hazel and Alice – Pretty Bird

Related: Aquarium Drunkard Presents: September – A Medley

benjamin_booker

Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

In 2012 I wrote about a young guy living in New Orleans who had just released a set of self-recorded demos. His name was Benjamin Booker. Like his voice, they were raw, intense and inspired. I then lost track of him, only to hear his name reappear a couple of years later. Turns out Booker has been busy, gigging around North America and Europe behind his debut s/t album – out now via ATO Records. For this installment of our Lagniappe Sessions, Booker takes on Furry Lewis and Otis Redding. Booker, in his own words, below.
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Benjamin Booker :: Falling Down Blues (Furry Lewis)

This summer I played a show with Jack White in Chicago. We were listening to some blues in the back and I mentioned I loved a cover of “Falling Down Blues,” by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. He wasn’t familiar with the song so we started doing the cover on the tour. After a show in Detroit, my bass/violin player Alex Spoto and I went back to our hotel and recorded the song on my phone in the bathroom. We enlisted the help of Yvonne Spiczynski and her husband, a sweet couple from Toronto we met at the hotel, who did some clapping in the song.

Benjamin Booker :: Shout Bamalama (Otis Redding and the Pinetoppers)

Otis Redding was a huge influence on my songwriting and singing, but I wouldn’t dare doing one of his more popular songs for fear of getting fruit thrown at me on stage or death threats in the mail. This is the first song ever started covering but I don’t think most people even recognize it. I don’t even sing the original chorus. But, it’s a great Rhythm and Blues track that fits in well with the set and is always my secret weapon to get people dancing. This version is from a recent show at the 100 Club in London.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / original illustration for aquarium drunkard by Ben Towle.

lucinda

This week marks the release of Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, the 11th studio album from Lucinda Williams. It’s a first in many ways – her first double studio album, her first on her new self-run record label, and her first to feature lyrics written by her father, poet Miller Williams. Williams spoke with AD via phone earlier in September about learning to expand her songwriting palate, using other songs to craft her own, starting the new record label and how you should get out and play in front of an audience all ready.

Aquarium Drunkard: The last time you and I talked, we talked a little bit about whether there was a theme to that album, Blessed. And you said it was difficult to answer, that you hadn’t really thought about a theme ahead of time. And maybe this is me projecting my own thinking onto your work, but this time it really feels like there’s a connective thread for these songs, especially built around the title track and your father’s poem. Was there a more conscious decision this time?

Lucinda Williams: Uhm, not really. [laughs] As far as the songs – we actually recorded about 35 tracks worth of material. This group of songs were picked to work together from those, so in that sense, yes, it was a conscious effort. The other ones will be on another album separately. But when I was sitting down to write the songs, I wasn’t thinking of a specific theme.

And the “Compassion” song [ed. note: which contains the album title phrase], I wrote that kind of at the 11th hour. I didn’t have it written. I’d been trying to get that done. I’d been wanting for years to take one of my dad’s poems and turn it into a song, but it’s a really hard thing to do. It proved to be really challenging. And the title [of the album] was decided before I had got that song. But I finally got the song done. It was something we wanted to see happen, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pull it off or not. That was the last thing we cut.

AD: If you hadn’t been able to finish the song, the record would have still had the same name?

LW: Yeah. Interestingly enough, on the inside of [2007 album] West, we used the same quote from that song. It just seemed to be sticking with us and making sense. It was all just kind of a work in progress.

AD: In the promotional material, it talks about how you’ve been coming up with more material for each record than there is room for..

LW: I used to not do that though! [laughs] I’m not sure why that is, but I’ve become more prolific as I’ve become older.

The Mekons - Where Were You I'll Have To Dance Then On My OwnI don’t want to talk about the Mekons. There are plenty of hardcore devotees out there who will be more than eager to tell you everything: how the Mekons are possibly the most prolific college radio act ever, how they started as snotty-nosed art students making meta-critical punk, how they borrowed Gang of Four’s gear to record their first album and inadvertently sounded post-punk, how they then moved into synthy New Wave territory before that was viable, how their mid-Eighties embrace of folk and country (on Fear and Whiskey) is maybe up there with X’s mid-Eighties embrace of folk and country, how they galloped into the Nineties with Pogues-like abandon—and, obviously, how they are still going strong twenty albums into their career. There’s even a Mekons documentary in the offing that can tell you all this. So no, I don’t want to talk about the Mekons.

What I do want to discuss is something no Mekons fan will ever tell you, either because they want to keep it a clubroom secret or else because it doesn’t fit so neatly into the history of the band.  For the fact is this: in between the Mekons’ tongue-in-cheek debut single and their more focused debut album, something strange and unexpected happened. And it lasted for just two minutes and forty five seconds, then it didn’t happen again.

This was the winter of 1978. Punk had hit the barricades and the carnivalesque rambunctiousness of the prior eighteen months had burned itself out. For a whole subset of new bands, the neon and the lipstick traces had given way to black-on-grey, paranoid Eastern Bloc aesthetics. The Sex Pistols were already as dead as Bambi and now Public Image Ltd, The Cure, Gang of Four, Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, and Cabaret Voltaire were all responding in their own dark and despair-ridden ways. And it was into this icy, underground atmosphere The Mekons submitted their second single, titled ‘Where Were You?’

It’s not what you’d expect. The song sounds, from the offset, like a one-off, like it can’t sustain itself. We begin with a lone guitar figure that could just as easily come from Pete Townsend as Lou Reed: there is the familiar threat of feedback, the ringing chords, the jagged chord-changes. In the distance, a drum roll builds and builds, holding everything in suspense, until it’s almost too much—until the volume of the snare overtakes the guitar completely. Something is charging at us, getting louder–nearer–but we can’t see through the distortion. Is this even a song? What is happening? Finally, there’s a break, like the b’dump-bump of a one-liner, only there’s no punch-line to be had, no release. The guitar just continues jabbing away at the same chords while the bass drum barges in with a new tempo. When a glorious drum-fill finally arrives, we’re a third of the way through what seems like an act of pure energy: no histrionics, no catering to anything but being alive with a heartbeat right now, at this moment. Listen up.

It’s hard to describe what makes ‘Where Were You?’ special because it can’t be pinned down by period context. It isn’t bleak enough to be post-punk. It isn’t quite the angular power pop The Buzzcocks either, or even the proto-New Wave of someone like Elvis Costello. I could keep reaching for names—The Strokes, The Stranglers, The Jam, Jonathan Richman, The Troggs—but you’ll more than likely hear all these elements converging when you listen for them. That’s because what’s happening here is bigger than The Mekons. The resonances before and after are just too great. As with Kingsmen’s version of ‘Louie, Louie’ the song transcends the very band recording it, because it seems to presage a boundless future while at the same time channeling a boundless past. It is, in other words, timeless because it sounds so out-of-time. You don’t listen to ‘Where Were You?’ and hear the spirit of ‘78, or of any fixed point in time; you listen to it and you feel a whole lineage pinning you down in the here and now. This less like an artifact of a bygone era than it is an oracle.

We could go back to ‘Roadrunner,’ or ‘Kick out the Jams, or ‘I Just Can’t Control Myself’ and find some of the same primal urgency. We could go even back to the chorus-less abandon of The Chips’ 1957 recording of ‘Rubber Biscuit’ and locate a similar musical stance, one that isn’t about setting the mood so much as shaking the listener out of it (‘What do you want for nothing? A rubber biscuit?’). This is music that refuses to be background. How could you divert your attention anywhere else while something so effrontery? Here is Pete Townsend, discussing the process:

‘We were leading a revolt against the old values and order of music…Everybody was full of resentment. It was also a means of intimidation: this is all there is. If you are in this room with us, all you get is us. There’s going to be no drinking beer, no chatting up women, no hanging out with your mates.’

When ‘Where Were You?’ kicks off, its two guitars unleash an exuberant back-and-forth that could have been recorded anytime in the past fifty odd years, and yet it also sounds weirdly present-tense. The way ‘You Really Got Me’ can sound present-tense—rigid and nervy and there in the room with you. Likewise the attitude of the song, as proclaimed lyrically, isn’t reducible to any movement or fad (whether that attitude is eager to destroy, make peace and Love, or to shake-shake-shake your booty). What we get instead is that most perennial of themes, the poetic through-line from Goethe to The Violent Femmes: anxious, angst-ridden longing. As pilled-up as the speaker in ‘My Generation’ once sounded, this kid is even more socially awkward, stuttering not on his words but on his own neediness:

I wanna talk to you all night/ Do you like me?/ I wanna find out about your life/ Do you like me?/ Could you ever be my wife/ Do you love me?

These are not things one expects to hear amidst the rubble that punk left in its wake—not until The Smiths came around, anyway. ‘When I was trying to hide in bed/ Where were you?’ Again, the irony with which The Mekons must have gone into the studio to record such lines is transcended by the vitality of the recording itself. They probably thought they were just recording another throwaway, as mock-pathetic as it was pogo-friendly (albeit a song that would remain a staple of the live shows ever since). By the time we hear the words ‘Where Were You?,’ however, we are confronted by more than just a cheeky lyric. The Ghosts of Rock n’ Roll Past, Present, Future are asking that question from within the song too. It therefore becomes interrogative, directed right at us—anyone in the room, bearing witness. Where were you?  words / dk o’hara

The Mekons :: Where Were You?

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.

SIRIUS 358: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Ty Segall – Tall Man Skinny Lady ++ Pain Dimension – Everything Spinning ++ White Fence – Anger! Who Keeps You Under? ++ Jack Name – New Guitars ++ Jack Name – Pure Terror ++ Thee Oh Sees – Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster ++ David Vandervelde – Nothin’ No ++ Landline – Wire ++ The Fall – A Lot Of Wind ++ No Age – Teen Creeps ++ Atlas Sound – Recent Bedroom ++ Ought – Pleasant Heart ++ The Kinks – Supersonic Rocket Ship ++ Hal Blaine – Love-In (December) ++ Flo And Eddie – I Been Born Again ++ The Beach Boys – Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine ++ Vic Chesnutt & Liz Durrett – Somewhere ++ Cole Alexander Ft. Adron – Porpoise Song (The Monkees) ++ Winston’s Fumbs – Real Crazy Apartment ++ Serge Gainsbourg – Requiem pour un con ++ Nico – Sixty Forty ++ Jonathan Rado – Valentines’ Day ++ The Rolling Stones – Downtown Suzie ++ The Montgomery Express – The Montgomery Express ++ Miriam Makeba – Love Tastes Like Strawberries ++ Broadcast – Long Was The Year (Black Session) ++ Broadcast – Where Youth And Laughter Go (Black Session) ++ Broadcast – Long Was The Year (Black Session) ++ Broadcast – Echo’s Answer (Black Session) ++ Courtney Barnett – History Eraser ++ Kelley Stoltz – Words ++ Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread ++ Frankel – Know (Nick Drake) ++ Vic Chesnutt – Degenerate ++ Steve Gunn – Water Wheel

*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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uralUral Thomas is a soul singer from Portland who, despite having allegedly rubbed elbows with the likes of Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones and James Brown, never quite made it to the show.

No one can argue with the man’s talent. Look no further than his 1967 tune “Pain is the Name of Your Game,” a psychedelic soul ballad, with haunting organ, cascading piano, and ghostly backup singers, all supporting Ural’s raw, passionate, gravelly bellow.

Thomas is a life-time resident of Portland, Oregon, and therefore it should come as no surprise that he’s caught the attention of the inimitable excavators known as Mississippi Records. In 2011, they reissued two of the man’s lost singles, as part of their North Portland Music Series, and we all owe them a beer for this.

“Push ‘Em Back” is a pure hip swinger, a dance floor filler that you’ll do well to include in your next party playlist. Shimmering organs and a wild, scatting Thomas keep the good vibes steamrolling ahead. But the real treat here is the slow burner. A nightcap for when all the partygoers have gone home, and one or two hears have been broken. Slow, smooth, downbeat and cool, Ural Thomas’ “Smile” is nothing if not mood. A spectral gem of a recording that is at once blues, gospel and soul. A ragged guitar, wandering in place like forlorn lover. Low, distant drums, like an echo from a nearby room that feels miles away. And Thomas’ cracked, quiet cooing, singing that real: a soulful blues that can come from nowhere else but experience.

Ural Thomas :: Smile

Post script – Ural Thomas is still at it, touring around Portland with his band Ural Thomas & the Pain. And, if you’re in Portland, I understand they’re not to be missed. Whether you’re in Portland or not, however, you should strongly consider signing up for the Mississippi Records Subscription: a mail-order vinyl service that surprises you at your doorstep with a monthly grab bag of the label’s finest digs. words / c depasquale

CMJ-14-aquarium-drunkard

We’re heading to New York, so come party with us. Aquarium Drunkard – CMJ 2014 – No Jacket Required. October 24th at Rough Trade in Brooklyn. Tickets available, here. More details next month. . .

Kevin Morby ~ Twin Peaks ~ Springtime Carnivore ~ Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band ~ Ryley Walker ~ Modern Vices ~ Geronimo Getty ~ DJ Sets by Mondo Boys