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In the early 1970s, bandleader Idris Ackamoor formed the Pyramids, blazing a trail that united psychedelia, soul, and jazz, and began to travel the world. The group started in Ohio, at Antioch College, where Ackamoor studied under the tutelage of Cecil Taylor, before relocating to San Francisco, visiting far off lands in between. As the band ended, he launched a campaign of musical activism, Cultural Odyssey, but more than three decades after disbanding, Ackamoor reactivated the combo, releasing a new album, Otherworldly in 2012 and following it up earlier this year with We Be All Africans, out via Strut Records.

If you’re a listener of Aquarium Drunkard’s Transmissions podcast, you heard our talk with Ackamoor, interspersed with fantastic sounds from his records. Presented here, an edited transcript of that conversation.

Aquarium Drunkard: Idris, it’s a real pleasure to speak with you. I want to start off by discussing the title of your new album with The Pyramids. It’s We Be All Africans. Can you tell me where that title came from?

Idris Ackamoor: We know some of the oldest skeletons or human remains have been found in Africa [and the title] relates to the fact that we are really all one human family. I was [writing] around the time when we, here in America, were going through a lot of situations and violence with the police. Police shootings of young black men. I was just so affected by everything that was happening in Ferguson and other locations [asking], “Why does this continue to happen?” It has something to do, a lot of times, with a racial issue that we have here in America, when, in reality, we are all one family. One part of the human family. So you know, that just was kind of a message of hope, a message of survival. That this is a very small planet we’re living on, and we have to share it.

AD: In the liner notes you write that the album is exactly what you said, “a message of survival,” and also of “renewal.” With the events of Ferguson, [it feels like awareness of longstanding civil injustices] has reached a fever pitch. Did that message feel particularly timely to you?

Idris Ackoamoor: Oh absolutely, and I also think that it really extends really beyond the U.S.A. I was also thinking a lot about the immigration crisis, in Europe. We know now that it’s an ongoing situation where many immigrants from Africa are trying to reach Europe to search for a better life. They’re fleeing war, they’re fleeing extreme poverty, but many times, they’re not welcome. There’s a tendency to look at them as “the other”. It’s the same situation with the Syrian refuge crisis. So yes, I think that it’s really very timely.

56931-hereThere’s a case to be made for quality over quantity. Sometimes, bands with decades-long careers offer extensive output, pumping out album after album in an effort to appear relevant and hip. Then there’s Teenage Fanclub. Teenage Fanclub aren’t a supply-and-demand kind of band, and it works in their favor. Formed in 1989, the Scottish group’s output may have slowed in recent years —  it’s been more than half-a-decade since the release of their 2010 album, Shadows but that doesn’t mean they’ve put music on the back burner. Individually, they’ve been busy, devoted to their equally wonderful side projects (work with Jad Fair, Euros Childs, the New Mendicants, Snowgoose, Lightships), content to take their time crafting a new Fanclub record, knowing that the wait will be worth it (and that their fans are patient ones).

So, exit Shadows, and enter Here.

Released September 9th via Merge Records, Here is their third release for the label, recorded in three studios in three different countries (Raymond McGinley’s own home studio in Scotland; Vega in Provence, France; Clouds Hill in Hamburg, Germany) before being mastered at Abbey Road in London.

JFHow sweet it is. Johnnie Frierson was the brother of the great Wendy Rene and a fellow member of The Drapels, a group unearthed as part of Light In The Attic Records’ 2012 Wendy Rene singles and rarities compilation. The label now gifts us with the holy word of Frierson – via their reissue of his lo-fi, late 60s homegrown record, Have You Been Good To Yourself.

Equal parts spoken word, soul, and gospel, a unique and organic spirit flows throughout the collection. Accompanied by nothing more than gritty guitar and an occasional drumbeat, Frierson’s raw vocals deliver mantras of faith and positivity through a singular brew of plainspoken eccentricity and country church earthiness. Whether preaching self-care and universal love in the booming, fiery title track, graciously swooning a soulful falsetto and fervent thanks in the faith ballad “Heavenly Father, You’ve Been Good,” or beautifully twisting the album’s closer “Trust in the Lord” into a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Frierson delivers with passionate and earnest faith.

Midway through the collection, Frierson bends the genre with “Miracle,” a positive-affirmation islandic folk sermon. Preaching belief and effort, he sings “Miracles / you can do ‘em / have faith / you are human / only human / and human beings, they do miracles.” Frierson stands tall in his own originality, for both his unadorned, homespun approach to gospel, and his insight with form and content. When he sings “You might know him / he lives in Memphis / he manufactures automobiles / a miracle / they called him Spaceman,” he leaves us with words that poetically mystify. A religious experience, if you want it, no matter your god. words / c depasquale

Johnnie Frierson :: Miracles

Introducing-Karl-BlauWashington State’s Karl Blau has been releasing music for the better part of two decades, much of which has remained under the radar. However, that may be changing.

On Introducing Karl Blau, his recently released covers record, we find the artist born again in the light of Cosmic American Music. Covering country and folk greats such as Tom T. Hall, Link Wray, and Townes Van Zandt, Blau rejoices, not in pastiche, but in the delicate splendor of submerging into the source material. His renditions are fairly catholic – but, similar to the place he calls home, there is a majestic beauty and grandeur throughout that reveals itself in subtleties. Here, Blau reveals a deep country croon that feels natural and at peace as he basks in the august nature of this music. A phosphorescent radiance gleams off his renditions of Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got To Memphis” while his expansive version of Link Wray’s “Fallin’ Rain”, finds itself awash in an ocean of chimes and piano. words / c depasquale

Karl Blau :: That’s How I Got To Memphis

1967

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 445: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Bongos Ikwue – All Night Long ++ Gabor Szabo – Caravan ++ Allen Hacksaw – Ski Bird ++ Bobby Hutcherson – NTU ++ Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together ++ Serge Gainsbourg – Des Laid Des Laids ++ Annette Peacock – Pony ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – Dancing With The Pain ++ Arif Sag – Su Samsunun Evleri ++ Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa ++ The Founders 15 – Don’t Take Me For A Ride ++ Blossom Dearie – That’s Just The Way I Want To Be ++ Talking Heads – Born Unto Punches (The Heat Goes On) ++ Almon Memela – The Things We Do In Soweto ++ Johnny Rotten interview ++ Bob Marley – Punky Reggae Party ++ François Wertheimer – L’automne ++ The Charlatans – Doubtful Waltz ++ The Mad’s – Aouh Aouh ++ Klaus Johann Grobe – Ein Guter Tag ++ Wire – Used To ++ Blur – Blue Jeans ++ Gary Numan – Films ++ Deerhunter – Ad Astra ++ David Bowie – Sons of The Silent Age ++ Starship Commander Woo Woo – Master Ship (Excerpt) ++ Faust -It’s A Bit of A Pain ++ Cocteau Twins – Fluffy Tufts ++ Olivia Newton John – Love Song ++ Dungen – Alberto Balsalm (Aphex Twin Cover)

*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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Earlier this year, Yep Roc Music Group launched its massive Studio One reissue campaign. Founded in 1954 in Kingston by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, the label practically defined reggae, releasing records by the biggest names in the genre: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, The Skatalites, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Burning Spear, Culture, and dozens more. Working with total access to Studio One’s vaults, Yep Roc has over 150 reissues planned, and started in on it back in May with the release of The Wailing Wailers, the 1964 ska debut of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Neville Livingston.

Following up that essential release, Studio One/Yep Roc have gone deeper into the archives, digging up 1970’s Money Maker, a rare compilation album featuring Dodd himself, recording under the pseudonym “The Boss,” Cedric “Im” Brooks and David Madden, Lloyd Williams, Jackie Mittoo, and Ernest Ranglin on guitar. Mostly instrumental, the record demonstrates the outside influences Dodd had been injecting into Studio One’s rhythms, incorporating confident jazz, American soul and R&B touches, and the wah-wah drenched sound of Ranglin’s guitar. Leading most of side two, Jackie Mittoo contributes a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Feel It” and “Stormy Night,” an interpolated version of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia,” making the record of a piece with Light in the Attic’s Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974 collection, featuring further sounds Mitto and his contemporaries were creating in Canada.

2016 promises more selections from the Studio One catalog, including  Winston “The Whip” Williams’s Studio One Radio Show, a collection of recordings by Don Drummond (The Skatalites), and a massive Studio One boxset. Here’s to more — much, much more, please — of this stuff. words  / j woodbury 

Jackie Mittoo :: Stormy Night

HealthandBeauty

There’s an enjoyably perplexing quality to Chicago trio Heath&Beauty’s new album, No Scare. Opening with “Back to the Place” — its title indicative of the sidewise humor which marks the songs of songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Brian J. Sulpizio — the record begins haltingly with distorted falsetto and light strums, before tangled guitar lines and a stuttering drum beat lurch in. It sets the template for what follows, a pull between cluttered beauty and lilting melodies. Along with keyboardist Ben Boye and drummer Frank Rosaly, Sulpizio find clever ways to insert odd touches into every corner of the song’s scant two minutes: “woo-woos,” discordant riffs, and crashing piano runs.

Technically, Health&Beauty’s existed for something like 15 years, initially as a recording project of Sulpizio’s. “I just hung onto the name because I couldn’t find a better one,” he says, but No Scare marks the recorded debut of this current lineup, which solidified in 2012, under the long running banner. If the group sounds more seasoned and comfortable than should be expected, that’s because it is: the lead up to No Scare‘s release found the group working out the songs for years and touring and recording with songwriter Ryley Walker, appearing on his 2015 album Primrose Green and on his latest, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung.

Health&Beauty :: Asunción & Dayanara

“I’ve known Ryley since he was 19 — at some point I asked him to teach me how to play finger-picking guitar and he said, ‘No,’ because I could just do it,” Sulpizio laughs.

But while they share a similar stylistic flourish, Sulpizio’s guitar work draws from more aggressive and rock-based traditions than Walker’s: the freneticism of Sonny Sharrock, the entwined web of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore’s work on Sonic Youth’s Murray Street (a pivotal influence, Sulpizio says), the weighty thud of Neil Young.

Initially, he was drawn to Chicago’s experimental underground and its confluence of jazz, electronics, and improvised approaches.

“When I was 20, 23, I started going to see music at the Velvet Lounge in Chicago, watching the AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians] or Umbrella Music people, and really got deep into that as a guitarist and a drummer,” he says. “It became very frustrating for me; I was never comfortable with that stuff moving around totally structureless, so I would create these riffs, really simple song forms that left room for improvisation, and I’d perform them almost like exercises.”

That creative tension is still at work on No Scare, which alternates between complex arrangements and open-ended improvisation.

“There’s a lot that’s pretty tightly arranged, but if you hear things that don’t happen more than once, those are probably improvised,” he says citing one of the record’s best songs, “Beyond Beyoncé,” with its clattering electric keys and bluesy backbone.

“It’s pretty determined where the song will rise and fall, but what happens in them is different moment-by-moment,” Sulpizio says. “It makes it more fun to play songs like that. The fewer people you have playing, the freer you can be, the more nimble.”

Like Golden Sings That Can’t Be Sung, No Scare finds a balance between the spontaneity of live performance and the textured deliberation of the recording studio.

“At some point, I came back around to writing actually songs,” Sulpizio says of his early experimentation, but he notes: “I kept it in my mind that things could be looser…I want to make something that can develop and move and change over time.”

No idea on No Scare, which is full of them, feels forced over overthought. The songs allow for space and time and freedom, which makes for a richer record.

“Whatever catches your mind at the moment,” Sulpizio says, “is what you go with.” words / j woodbury

ap

ain’t it funky, now…

Annette Peacock :: Pony

AD mix_2

In recurring August fashion we offer the latest in a series of exploratory, atmospheric mixtapes. True to its seasonal home, like its predecessors, The Palm Trees Fall into the Sea exudes a humid, tropical ambiance. Below, dig into a thirty track experiment in openness across the spatial and temporal – and hopefully the spiritual.

The Palm Trees Fall Into The Sea: An August Mixtape