mikalCronin_570_v1

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

Mikal Cronin returns with his second Lagniappe Session for Aquarium Drunkard, reinterpreting Neutral Milk Hotel and The Walkmen “in all their 8-bitty sine wave synth glory”. Cronin’s 2013 ukelele-inspired session is still available, here. Mikal, in his own words, below…
__________________________________________________________________________________

Here they are, in all their 8-bitty sine wave synth glory. These tracks are listed in my computer under my solo electronic music name “Pony Soldier”, based on the name of a hotel off the freeway I saw in Portland many years ago.

Mikal Cronin :: Tenley Town (The Walkmen)

The Walkmen are great. This was recorded in maybe 2007 or 2008, a few years after their record A Hundred Miles Off. I remember always being in awe of their production and how distinctly roomy and live sounding their records were. I don’t remember why I decided to ruin that vibe with an electronic vocoder led cover. I didn’t know how to program drum machines (still don’t) so this was a combo of playing the drum sounds live on a keyboard, and then going back and painstakingly fixing it. I had nothing but time in those days. Recorded on some crappy keyboard my parents had at their house and borrowing my friends MicroKorg to use the vocoder.

Mikal Cronin :: Avery Island / April 1st (Neutral Milk Hotel)

Similar timeframe (2007/2008). Had a phase of listening to a lot of 8-bit music. I made some of my own 8 bit music, on a program that accessed the 4 channel sequencer of a Gameboy. Actually technically the first song I ever recorded was one of those 8 bit things [“Mango (in my) Backpack, circa 2005]. This is just on the same shitty keyboard with the sine wave setting. Neutral Milk Hotel changed my life musically and always thought this was a beautiful instrumental off their first record On Avery Island. Again, not sure why I decided to ruin that beauty with a keyboard cover…maybe because I could see it in a classic video game soundtrack in this incarnation….but either way it happened, and here it is!

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / imagery via d norsen.

rollingstones

I grew up in Atlanta, and there was a trail that went through the woods that led to the back of a shopping center housing a grocery store — one named Big Star, that I would soon find employment in bagging groceries at 15. As such, I took this trail a lot, having no idea the store was the namesake of a band that I would later obsess over, but that’s a story for another time.

This is a tale of ‘stonededed.’ As you exited the woods, the makeshift trail dipped through a hole in a fence spilling onto concrete. As your eyes adjusted to the sudden lack of tree cover the first thing you noticed was the word STONEDEDED scrawled in green spray paint on the side of an ostensibly abandoned 18 wheeler’s trailer. What could it mean? Who wrote it? Why? And why did the store not paint over it? These questions, and others, ran through my 15 year old brain as I rounded the corner of the back of the shopping center, readying myself for minimum wage teenage servitude.

I never discovered the answers to any of the above, but years later I did make a mixtape of late 70s and early 80s Rolling Stones, nicking the title from that faded green spray paint: STONEDEDED. And with that, here in the digital age of streaming media, I now pass it on to you.

Spotify: Rolling Stones – STONEDEDED

louis

“They Say I Look Like God” – via 1962’s The Real Ambassadors – Louis Armstrong’s collaboration with Iola and Dave Brubeck addressing the civil rights movement. Recorded in the Fall of 1961 at New York’s Columbia studios, an abridged version of the set was performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival the following September.

Arguably Armstrong’s most haunting performance, during the Monterrey set, his vocal group placed sackcloths and hoods over their heads just before “They Say I Look Like God” began – which they would then raise in order to sing their parts.

No video of the Monterrey set exists…nor was it ever performed again live.

Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra :: They Say I Look Like God

20081023064740-Untitled-51081022

Rough. Edges.

Ben E. King :: Don’t Let Me Down

a1236678216_2As with superheroes, team-ups between great musicians are not always recipes for success. But North Carolina’s Three Lobed Records has cooked up some truly tasty collabs in the past — the killer Steve Gunn / Hiss Golden Messenger LP, for instance, or the inspired pairing of Bardo Pond and Tom Carter.

This year, the label has another winner: Qalgebra, a thorny, delightful extravaganza created by Royal Trux/Howling Hex mastermind Neil Michael Hagerty and Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth. Hagerty and Toth might not seem like the most obvious partnership, but they’ve definitely proven themselves to be adventurous souls over the years, each willing to follow their respective muses down some strange (but almost always rewarding) backroads.

The Qalgebra trip kicks off with “Spindizzy,” a manic blast of skronked-out boogie that shifts gears abruptly into obtuse New Age mutterings. Side one continues in this vein, with both Toth and Hagerty sounding like they’re enjoying themselves fully. The 18+-minute title track that spans the second side is a thing of schizoid beauty that slides effortlessly from raga-esque drifts to krautrock pulses, from harmonica-fueled hoedowns to fuzzy guitar breakdowns. There may not be any particular destination in mind here — it’s all about the journey. Hop on board.  words / t wilcox

Hagerty-Toth Band :: Spindizzy

Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 384: Jean Michel Bernard – Generique Stephane ++ X – The Once Over Twice ++ The Gories – Hey, Hey We’re The Gories ++ Canarios – Trying So Hard ++ The Arrows – Blue’s Theme ++ Screaming Lord Sutch – Flashing Lights ++ Alex Chilton – Jumpin’ Jack Flash ++ Thee Headcoats – Diddy Wah Diddy ++ The Pebbles – We Love The Beatles ++ The Fresh & Onlys – Waterfall ++ David Bowie – Shapes of Things ++ T. Rex – Monolith ++ The Gories – Casting My Spell ++ Thee Headcoatees – I Want Candy ++ The Sonics – Psycho ++ Untouchables – Crawlin’ (The Crawl) ++ Cheater Slicks – Crying ++ Sparkle Moore – Killer (demo) ++ Saxons – Camel Walk ++ The Mad Daddy – Jet Speed Saucer Blast ++ The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat ++ Lou Reed – Satellite of Love ++ Bainc Didonc – 4 Cheveux Dans Le Vent ++ The Eyes – My Degeneration ++ The Modern Lovers – She Cracked ++ England’s Glory – Shattered Illusions ++ The Seeds – Can’t Seem To Make You Mine ++ The Gibson Bros. – Bo Diddley Pulled A Boner ++ Richard Swift – The Bully ++ Richard Swift – Drakula (Hey Man!) ++ The Black Keys – No Fun ++ Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power ++ The Dirtbombs – Chains of Love ++ The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Chicken Dog ++ Spacemen 3 – Come Down Easy (demo) ++ Kim And Grim – You Don’t Love Me ++ Alex Chilton – Don’t Worry Baby ++ Big Star – September Girls ++ The Rock*A*Teens – Down With People ++ The Sonics – Strychnine ++ Reigning Sound – Stormy Weather ++ The Rock*A*Teens – Black Metal Scars ++ The Kinks – I’m Not Like Everybody Else ++ Billy Nicholls – London Social Degree ++ Harlan T. Bobo – Mlle. Chatte ++ Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) ++ Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers – Emulsified ++ William Sheller – Exitissimo ++ Arif Sag – Su Sansunun Evleri

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
__________________________________________________________________________________

vetiver

This is a mix I made on my living room turntables with some morning coffee, just grabbing at recent finds and old favorites piled around. Most are 45s. No theme per se, only that these are songs I return to all the time and wanted to share. Big shout out to Chris at Groove Merchant for always delivering the goods. – Andy Cabic (Vetiver)

Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Vetiver – A Mixtape

Jolie_Holland_by_Todd_Cooper-1-1

Welcome to the fifth installment of an ongoing series with Pickathon, showcasing footage from the Galaxy Barn located at Pendarvis Farm in Oregon: Jolie Holland – “Rex’s Blues”.

The entirety of this year’s lineup went live this week. We’ll be up there again playing records, so see you in August. Always hypnotizing, check out Holland’s performance after the jump.

‘Eventually I would record an entire album based on Chekhov short stories—critics thought it was autobiographical…’ Chronicles: Volume I

BobDylan4

Meet Me in the Morning (Early Take)

The bloodletting began, fittingly, in a red notebook. Estranged from his wife at the time, living on a farm in Minnesota with his kids and his new girlfriend, he started filling up pages with story-laden imagery, thumbnail sketches that bled, one into another. The first to spill forth was the purgatorial Western of ‘Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts,’ which appears in précis form in the notebook’s early pages, followed by ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ and then draft after draft of ‘Idiot Wind.’ About the latter, he later explained, ‘It wouldn’t stop. Where do you end? You could still be writing it, really. It’s something that could be a work continually in progress.’

Critics (and listeners too) tend to think of Blood on the Tracks as an excavation of Dylan’s own love life up to that time. The whole devastating break-up cliché just seems to chime so well with the mood and content of the music. Who cares if he was never a cook in the Great North Woods, or if Sara Dylan had never gone anywhere near Tangier, it’s all just a metaphor, one big allegory for the devastation he found himself surrounded by at the time. The key to the songs is that ‘he’ is only ever ‘Dylan’ and ‘she’ is only ever his wife or someone he slept with.

Idiot Wind

But to interpret the songs such a way, as if tracing a star map through the back roads of the songwriter’s life, is to do a disservice to the artistry of the storytelling.  Blood on the Tracks is not a memoir, a confession, or even a roman à clef. What we encounter in these songs is layer upon layer of thematically-linked images, flicker-book fictions. Gone are the mythic Americana mash-ups of Highway 61 Revisited. Gone are the elaborate opium dreams and surrealist backrooms of Blonde on Blonde. What we get instead is a cast of couples and jilted lovers, their battered narratives composed of raggedy scraps—not biography. If these scenes are meant to correspond solely to Dylan and the various women in his life, then why did he bother with the artistic obfuscation, the multiplicity of perspectives? Why introduce the Man named Gray, the one-eyed undertaker, the roommates down on Montague Street? And why this determination to play Picasso with narrative?

Because, he said later, ‘I wanted to defy time, so that the story took place in the present and the past at the same time. When you look at a painting, you can see any part of it, or see all of it together.’

BobDylan2

The catalyst for all this may well have been the dissolution of his marriage, or it may have been painting classes he’d been taking the year before and from which he’d returned with a fire in his head (‘I went home and my wife never did understand me ever since that day’). On a purely technical level, however, the thing that definitively flicked the switch from heartbreak to newfound creativity was a matter of tuning. Specifically open-E (or, to be even more specific, open-E tuned down a whole step to D). Mythology tells us that a post-Blue Joni Mitchell taught this guitar tuning to him, although, if true, this would have to be qualified as re-taught, since he’d used it extensively during the Freewheelin’ sessions (see ‘Corrina, Corrina,’ ‘Oxford Town,’ ’I Shall Be Free’ etc.) What is undeniable is that, up to this point, he had never played in an open-tuning like this: flicking his way through the chords, alternating bluesy slides up the neck and Everly Brothers changes with vaguely medieval harmonics.

In the months prior to recording, he went around, trying the songs out on different people. He played them to Shel Silverstein on a houseboat in Marin County; he played them to Stephen Stills in a Minneapolis hotel room after a CSN gig (according to Graham Nash, who was standing in the doorway, Stills’s verdict afterwards was ‘He’s a good songwriter, but he’s no musician’); at one stage, he even played them to some Hasidic friends in a backyard in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  When he collared Mike Bloomfield, his foot was already tapping hyperactively, impatient to get the songs out. But Bloomfield (who’d been there onstage with him at Newport, who’d helped him turn ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ into what it was) was bewildered. It took the guitarist too long to realize he was being used more as a sounding board than a collaborator.

‘He came over and there was a whole lot of secrecy involved, there couldn’t be anybody in the house…He took out his guitar, tuned to open D tuning and he started playing the songs nonstop…He just did one after another and I got lost. They all began to sound the same to me, they were all in the same key, they were all long. I don’t know. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. And it really hurt me…’

Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts

This was a songwriter wanting less to polish his newly minted songs than to be rid of them. In the studio, he similarly kept his head down, ignoring everyone. The musicians he took with him into A&R Recording’s Studio A (the same studio at which he’d recorded his first six albums) ended up feeling just as alienated as Bloomfield. Made up of Eric Weissberg and the band that had played on the Deliverance soundtrack, these were top session men who knew how to follow a lead. But the performer in question was not offering any leads. No quick rehearsals, no chord charts. They couldn’t even follow his hands along the fret board because of the weird tuning he was using. Phil Ramone, the producer (despite claiming greater responsibility after the fact), basically had the mic-stands set up and hit record. If the buttons on Dylan’s jacket were click-clacking against his guitar through every take—and he didn’t seem to mind—then so be it.

BobDylan3

The New York Sessions of Blood on the Tracks were quick work, recorded over four inebriated nights in September of 1974. In the end, the drums and lead guitars were all dropped; after nailing down two tracks with a full band (‘Meet Me in the Morning’ and ‘Buckets of Rain’) the accompaniment would be reduced to just bass, some touches pedal steel and some overdubbed organ. On an album that thematically professed it was ‘doom alone that counts,’ minimalism seemed the obvious way forward.

You’re a Big Girl Now

Blood on the Tracks is not an album about a relationship (not Dylan’s, not anybody’s), but an album about the brokenness inherent, ultimately, in all relationships. The tarot deck is stacked from the start, romance can only play itself out. Lovers just have to ‘keep on, keeping on’ as best they can. Even in a song about the breathless, flower-picking, high-point of love (‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’), the inevitable end of the affair still haunts the proceedings. Philosophically, we’re very much in that post-Watergate wasteland of paranoid, Marathon Men, everyone trying unsuccessfully to extricate themselves from pantomimes of intrigue and gossip. Here, the very idea of finding shelter from the storm is an archaism from another lifetime, remembered nostalgically. What else to see buckets of rain/buckets of tears everywhere?  If the songs on Blood on the Tracks give us a world in which heartbreak is endemic and inevitable, then it’s the New York Sessions that are still reeling, still hung up, still raw.

There are photos of him at the time of the recordings, waiting around in the swanky lobby of A&R’s Studio A. Standing in a white-walled room that looks like a set halfway between Logan’s Run and Emmanuelle, he poses with his guitar and what can only be the infamous blazer. In the first few shots he stands shyly, chin deep in his lapels. He strums a little bit beside a cup of coffee—but, eventually, he’s lying flat on the white shag throw rug, looking like he’s been run over.

Tangled Up in Blue

Two months later, he was given a test pressing of the album which he took back with him to Minnesota and played for his brother. The younger Zimmerman sagely advised that said album was too dark and downbeat to be commercially viable. The album opener (‘Tangled Up in Blue’) was too laidback and melancholy; the solo version of ‘Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts,’ was just too damn long; ‘Idiot Wind’ had no bite to match its bark; why was everything in the same weird tuning, and what about those noisy buttons on his jacket? Columbia HQ was phoned and told to apply the brakes. A group of local musicians were rounded up in Minneapolis and half the album was re-recorded over four more nights, with an aim towards revitalizing the songs.

BobDylan1In creating a far more dynamic album, however, some of the finer nuances on individual tracks were undeniably lost. Because Dylan was mostly unaccompanied on the New York Sessions (and because every song shared that same open-E blood-type) it was left primarily to his vocal to give the songs their shape. Throughout the early sessions, it is his phrasing that adds depth and emotional range, drives the songs down their storied paths. You need only compare the different versions of ‘If You See Here, Say Hello’; on the record-as-released, it sounds as if the band have all agreed that this is a torch song and supplied lugubrious atmospherics accordingly. Earlier, in New York, Dylan could have been singing from the floor of the studio lobby, so beaten-down is the performance (on one take, his vocal is nothing more than a deathbed whisper). ‘Idiot Wind,’ too, lost something in the space between September and December 1974: where the fiery official version spews forth increasingly mad accusations, the earlier, more subdued performance leans more towards regret and fatalism (to such the extent that it becomes ambiguous who’s hurting who, who’s fated to be lying in that ditch, blood on their saddle). The rawness of the songs recorded in New York all suggest an emotional vulnerability. The performer was still walking wounded, still howling in the night. On these tracks, the blood was still wet. words / dk o’hara

If You See Her, Say Hello