With the close of their Totem Trilogy, Master Musicians of Bukkake finished a journey of one kind. Far West begins another. Possibly the distances travelled and the lessons learned left MMB a little weary. No strangers to sprawl—or patience—Far West has a shift in the stretch, a different residue between the muscles used. Maybe it’s simply that a new introspection is the logical next step. Whether west or any other compass point, you’re moving, changing position and fulcrum. It’s natural that the mind should follow the body…to a point, of course. Whatever your choice of absorption (and there are obviously many, many more), Far West remains true to MMB’s wandering spirit, pushing the side roads of this trip into more progressive territory that dips as heavily into the folk pool as any other, all with their trademark enigmatic drama. The pulsing haze layered with choirs and synths that simultaneously exist in cathedral and catacomb quickly becomes fog on the moors during festival, a pageant ring of clouds around the mountain top that threaten to release as much as offer release. A shamanistic urgency co-exists with the inescapable universal that there is no finish line, no matter where your party’s caravan is leaving footprints. White Mountain Return makes that clear in title alone; the return doesn’t ensure bringing you back to the exact same point you departed from. You changed on your trek, why wouldn’t what you left behind have changed, repositioned itself as another starting point? It’s a heavily cinematic entry, feeling like you’re joining a campaign and story that’s already been in progress for ages, its departure point long forgotten and possibly unimportant. Working into thunder-burst or conflagration by the end, the return begins in earnest with γη-νομος / GNOMI. This phase of the processional has as much compelling priority as any, but the marching gently sways in a tolerant sing-song that breaks for a Kosmische intake of breath that offers reflection, but also signals like a lantern the further expanse ahead, around the bend. Not only manifesting the tribal nature of MMB, Arche sonically conjures up the physical aspect of the trip, the actual footsteps that have to make the impression…Once the march begins though, the legs and cogs set into rhythm, there’s ample room and time for the mind to leave the determined autopilot of the body…for awhile…Both meet up again at the opening offered by Cave of Light: The Prima Materia. Symbolic of Far West’s circular duality, Cave is both destination and entrance, blurring not only the definition of each but rendering it pointless … ‘dissolve your body …’ You Are A Dream Like Your Dreamer: The Dark Peace is where the cave blossoms into the largest inner chamber, vibrations coaxing and caressing the walls of light; pause and planetarium. The bearing comes around with the closing Circular Ruins, winding down the compass to rest and at the same time urging ‘wake up, wake up, you sleepers…’ It’s not really over, but in the context of the physical conduit of delivery things come to a close. The title not only restates the inescapable ‘circular,’ but implies that once you reach the destination you’ll find someone has been that way before, or at the very least passed through leaving their mark before starting again themselves. Like you’ll no doubt do. It’s a languid, shimmering dream haze that unfocuses the edges, but still gives a hint of form if not summation…so far.
Dramatic enough, for you? It’s difficult not to be. A big part of that is the appeal of Far West, and MMB themselves. As much as it’s rooted in tradition—sonically and spiritually—Far West is still a vehicle for escape, pure and simple. It’s a widescreen projection that hits the screen from in front and behind, storytelling that’s illuminated and illuminating. Much more so when you invest the time to surrender to it and enjoy the ride as well as participate in it. Exactly what you make of it, the importance you place on it, is your personal mythology. It just happens to be part of a much more extensive one, a bigger story that’s still going on in the Far West.
White Mountain Return :: Master Musicians of Bukkake : Far West (2013, Important Records)
German born Günter Schickert, whose ‘name barely registers among most of the Krautrock intelligentsia,‘ was an active devotee of the Berlin jazz scene in the 60s who didn’t make his first solo album until 1974. Initially, it was a small-batch private release, later picked up by the venerable Brain label, the outfit responsible for getting out Neu!, Guru Guru, Embryo and even the Scorpions (undoubtedly when it was still fun). Between June and September of ’74 with what he had on hand, Schickert put his own brain and fingers to work and the result of that flurry of activity was Samtvogel.
‘When I was recording Samtvogel in 1974 I had only 2 Taperecorders. I played one track and while listening I added the second one. And so on. Four times. When I mixed all together I borrowed a 3rd taperecorder. And still added the last track to the master. I had a small mixer with 2 stereo and 1 mono but it was possible to pan tracks. No equalization. It all came out of my still living G2000 Dynacord guitar amplifier, of course valve, with no master, even the voice recorded through it. If I made a mistake in 1 track I had to repeat it from the beginning. And if while mixing I was not fast enough in changing the tape I had to start again. So it took me more than 3 months to get ready.’
Schickert, whose main instrument was the guitar, had made some sessions of ‘echo-guitar’ before Samtvogel (not dissimilar to Achim Reichel of A.R. & The Machines fame), but here is where it apparently all came together in classic form. Samtvogel is not only a prime serving of early Krautrock pioneering with acid flares, but a gem of experimental, as well as personal, music. With echo-guitar in hand, Schickert laid down 3 cuts that go exponentially beyond that small number. The 6 minute Apricot Brandy eases in, minimally and deceptively, laying down more than one path that Samtvogel will expand down with the lengthier Kriegsmaschinen, Fahrt Zur Holle and Walde. Kriegsmaschinen, Fahrt Zur Holle builds slowly, layering up on itself until it becomes a vibrating push that doesn’t just cut through the air–here and up there—but infuses itself with it. It’s a chiming, shimmering and, at times delicate, loopy vortex that has as much going on outside it as it does inside…like a soundtrack to a chemical reaction, randomly choreographed particles bouncing and ricocheting off of each other generating new energy. Schickert weaves in some vocals that resonate with what’s generating sonically, giving Kriegsmaschinen, Fahrt Zur Holle even more lift, but also a tether to the human factor of the trip, as alien as it all feels. Walde moves the flurry to the front end, thickening the pulse and flattening the curve a bit as sounds and proddings push in from all sides, exploratory fingers testing the flexibility of the force field Schickert is provoking out of thin air. Walde has the feeling of being broken into sections, but the demarcations are so fluid and bleeding into each other, drawing a line in the sand is pointless. Not being able to put your finger on it, or deciding if the trip is inner or interstellar is a huge part of Walde’s pull, and Samtvogel’s gravity.
Samtvogel was also hard to put your hands on so you could get your brain around it. In another example of forward thinking by looking back, April sees a re-issue of this personal and seminal gem from Important Records.
Kriegsmaschinen, Fahrt Zur Holle :: Günter Schickert :: Samtvogel (2013, Important Records)
…Overhang Party is criminally overlooked. From the heavily psychedelic noise-rock of their first album to the piano-rock anthems of 4, Overhang Party was somehow impossibly consistent and seamless. This box set flows as an even, open document of this fearless and inventive Japanese rock group…The Complete Studio Recordings of Overhang Party includes each of their studio albums (each with a bonus track) and their unreleased final recording sessions. While this 4 CD set is sure to please aficionados of Japanese underground rock The biggest surprise, however, will be for the uninitiated who can finally confront the groups emotional depth and stylistic breadth head on…
As encompassing as it is exhilarating, Complete Studio Recordings might seem overwhelming in scope, and style. But only in concept. Ears here were unfamiliar with them, but the new 4-disc testament from Important Records changes that. Certainly not the only band to cut a wide stylistic swath by any means, Overhang Party certainly did it innately. Depending on where your loyalties lie taste-wise, it might be evolution vs. de-evoltuion, but there’s no arguing that Overhang Party approached each tangent with as much commitment and fervor as the next. And did it successfully without disappearing into the shifts. They move effortlessly from subdued, elastic stretches to garage-fueled psych flare-ups, and handle landing just as comfortably on more straight-ahead ‘modern’ fare; progressive, powerful and daring. A true showcase, Overhang Party call to mind—and join—a vast history of artful and aggressive rock, fluent in its many splintered tongues.
“We are not scared of staying in the same place, but we always need a change. I want to make a truly alternative style.”—Rinji Fukuoka, from Sake-Drenched Postcards
Then The Ship Sank :: Overhang Party :: Complete Studio Recordings (2012, Important Records)
A ball of rock…hard, heavy and hairy…from Massachusetts’s Major Stars, courtesy of their 8th long-player Decibels of Gratitude. It’s a pretty straight-forward, road-tested equation, one they fully acknowledge by angling ’to just be thought of as a Rock group (early ’70′s capitalization intact).’ With new singer Hayley Thompson-King in the fold, Major Stars spell it out with the biggest, shaggiest of letters; from the bedrock of The Who, Cream, Neil Young…the likes of The Stooges, Dinosaur Jr…and the admitted love of Otis Rush and Buddy Guy…Decibels of Gratitude is all about the pistons, the riffs and a strut that is always welcome. Equally adept at stoking a rootsy scuzz and escalating into a flurry of guitar-based freak-outs, Major Stars unabashedly wear their influences on the their sleeves. And they stick, no matter how much the arms flail around. With a sound that is as up-front as it is intimate, these East Coast vets are just as concerned with what’s under the hood as they are letting the machine out of the garage. It’s not an overtly psychedelic record, but when the proceedings escalate like they do on Fuse or the long and winding Turning For Home, Major Stars whip it up into a head lifting drive that is viscous, and vicious, in the just the right places. The dots are already connected, and capitalized…freeing up from drawing those lines again and again, Major Stars get on with the big business that can happen between them.
Fuse :: Major Stars :: Decibels of Gratitude (2012, Important Records)
Acid Mothers Temple, unsurprisingly, continue to find new ways to melt your brain, setting the ears on edge and fire with Son Of A Bitches Brew. Conjuring up the aura of a certain seminal record, AMT pay homage to it and, to an extent, themselves with their limitless exploration set on full stun. Son Of A Bitches Brew is a dazzling reinterpretation and reinvigorating exercise that can be digested again and again with Technicolor flavor spilling out everywhere. Remarkably accessible while knotty and intricate, it’s addictive in the lure to repeatedly dive in. The water is deep…very deep: you won’t get the same thing out of it twice. Right there, a trademark of AMT, and the source material, if ever there was one. You often hear, in an offhand way, that AMT isn’t for the weak. Truth is, they aren’t for the unwilling. Spirits past, present and future willing, it will stay that way.
Theme From Violence Jack Johnson :: Acid Mothers Temple :: Son Of A Bitches Brew (2012, Important Records)
Kawabata Makoto & à qui avec Gabriel/Golden Tree
Released in tandem with Son Of A Bitches Brew, AMT guitarist Kawabata Makoto and accordionist à qui avec Gabriel nurture the Golden Tree, a haunting and at times plaintive vapor trail of soundscapes and washes. While AMT is known more for melting, Golden Tree goes for the meditative (so does AMT really…) with Makoto and à qui avec Gabriel wafting in and out of each other like intertwining rivers of mist. This isn’t for the weak or unwilling either. Without much traditional ‘structure’ to hang onto the timid may find it slight and formless, as well as indulgent, but that would be missing the point and the intended pay-off of immersing yourself in Golden Tree. With only three lengthy cuts (Solid Torus clocks in at 34 minutes), Makoto and à qui avec Gabriel are patient painting their vistas, and those climbing their tree should be also to pick the fruit. For something that requires such a deep plunge and time to grow, Golden Tree feels as though it passes quickly. That wispy timelessness and dislocation may not appeal to everyone, but those seeking transport will appreciate the elusiveness in full blossom.
A Sacred Tree At Nemi :: Kawabata Makoto & à qui avec Gabriel :: Golden Tree (2012, Important Records)
You could have a field day deciphering their name, spaces, open spaces, how it relates to their art…blah blah blah blah…point made, but the real fertile soil to ponder and get between your toes is the music itself. And it’s ripe for digging, right through the concrete if you have to. London-based L A N D’s debut Night Within is a stunner of a package, everything coalescing into a deep, deliberate and physical statement that, as they say, works at “approaching an apocalyptic noir narrative.” There is undoubtedly a narrative, melancholy nightcrawler coursing through; mysterious, moody, giving form to that feeling of being alone and dislocated in your own city…your home. The one cut with vocals, placed at the outset, starts the story that follows, seamlessly unfolding one into another, constructing and painting their stomping grounds. After letting Nothing Is Happening Everywhere sink in, it’s almost impossible to think of any one other than David Sylvian doing the vocals. It’s a damn near perfect fit; his unmistakable delivery, the two-way support between the music and the voice, that emotionally surreptitious vibe. It’s hard to tell if Sylvian made it his own, or if L A N D made him one of them. Rather than stand out as an oddity, Sylvian’s contribution is placed for greatest impact, ushering in the rest of the evening’s crawl. L A N D create their own alleys and streets to take up residence in, full of insinuating jazz specters and trumpets, gut-rooted bass and subdued industrial framework. There’s an audio/visual side to L A N D which is shored up by how cinematic Night Within feels; both insular and inescapably large…alone in the city, among thousands…finally stalling in a hotel room with the only thing left that’s probably your own, Cold Desire. As effective and as strategically placed as the prologue Nothing Is Happening Everywhere, Cold Desire brings the wee hours to a close, ramping up the latent, coiled energy that’s been following you around all night. Night Within is amazingly self-contained; from production to execution to impeccably erecting its own enigmatic cityscape to exist in and to explore. An enriching and restless night-owl pilgrimage and trek, Night Within is out July 10, on CD and limited edition first-run vinyl, from Important Records.
It’s hard not to distance yourself from Jim Jarmusch’s other work when taking in Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity. It’s not that he dominates or overshadows lutenist Van Wissem (this is very much a collaboration), it’s the urge to call it a ‘soundtrack,’ or say it carries that aura. It does, but much further out making that comparison tenuous, thin and baggage. Cinematic is more appropriate. Though it’s just the two, they exist here in a widescreen and wide open vista. Though it’s an instrumental platter save for a brief recitation at the end of He Is Hanging By His Shiny Arms, His Heart An Open Wound With Love, each song has an emotional resonance that you can identify with, and personalize. Put that in with the stripped down music that occupies this big space, and some sort of nebulous narrative begins make a presence. Not necessarily linear, and having a conclusion over an ending, it’s at least something alive. And going through something. As opener Apokatastasis (Restoration) eases in, it lets us know we’re going to be active participants if we’re going to get the most out of it. The title cuts adds some melancholy upbeat sparkle that changes the mood gently, before the inevitable and necessary flip-side of the coin Continuation Of The Last Judgement opens up with its own emotional and heavy resonance. The Sun of the Natural World is Pure Fire lives up to its name with a teetering burnt guitar scorch that is both mournful and bellowing. Where the first few reserved cuts are more introspective, this one here is the externalized heat of keeping it in. In contrast is Van Wissem adding an understanding and certain wisdom to the outbursts that make it seem both like an enraged infant and someone who’s been around long enough to have been put through the ringer a few times. That more contemplative, wiser touch turns into a full vibe with the appropriately titled He Is Hanging By His Shiny Arms, His Heart An Open Wound With Love.
Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity comes out as both an engaging, compelling listen and as an artifact of the understanding these two have of each other, and their spaces. That’s not as cold as it sounds, with the music being so human. For as austere as it is, it remains full of a deep emotional heft born out of experience and collaboration. The ‘bonus track’ is that you’ll feel, and empathize with, something completely different without compromising Van Wissem and Jarmusch’s own intent one bit.
Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity :: Jozef Van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch :: Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity (2012, Important Records; Release date 2/28)
With all the cuts released earlier on vinyl between 2007-09 and now out of print, Nadja’s (Aidan Baker & Leah Buckareff ) Excision works not only as a more available outlet for these cuts, but as a great 2 disc set on its own. Everything holds and bleeds together without sounding like a cobbled together set of previous releases. Excision is, as you’d expect, hefty and expansive, covering lots of ground and creating a dense atmosphere full of rolling detail and texture that despite its size is never oppressive or insular. Blurring the lines between doom and ambient, Nadja slow cook a sound that is both heavy and surprisingly afloat, made obvious by how comfortable a collection of earlier releases all blend together to make their own statement. Their gradual climbs and controlled releases ebb and flow from cut to cut filling Excision with slow dynamics without stripping away the emotional punch of each one. It would be easy for all this to become just a foggy pall more than a statement, but Nadja keep it snaking and winding while it also grows more expansive. Excision may function as a more readily available collection of out of print releases, but it works more importantly as an expression of what Nadja can do and who they are.
Too many cooks don’t always spoil it, or turn into supergroup muck. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (Root Strata, Tarentel), Evan Caminiti & Jon Porras from Barn Owl, Lisa McGee (Higuma), Gregg Kowalsky (Date Palms), Marielle Jakobsons (Date Palms), Maxwell Croy (Root Strata/EN), Steven Dye & Tony Cross (Tarentel alum) and Michel Elrod all collapse into each other and themselves for Portraits.
Finding a common target, let alone thrust, must be hard enough, but Portraits overcome and deliver on their promise, and yield an expansive, lush and introspective drone behemoth. D, the lengthier of 3 cuts, basically crawls into the frame, insistently simple and enveloping. For so many hands in the works, it’s to Portraits’ credit it doesn’t get overcooked and overstuffed. A study in economy if anything, D avoids turning into a dull hum by finding dynamics in between the spaces. Each tiny shift yields maximum and patient results. Gong begins pulsing out just as patiently; deeper and darker, it adds sonorous contrast to D, both sonically and in emotional heft. Gong says almost as much about D, as it does itself, making Portraits even richer. Closer Sa, shortest of the cuts, actually packs the most ingredients, wafting in vocal chants with buzzier strings atmosphere and a gentle percussion fade out. A different animal than opener D overall, and Gong for that matter, Sa is almost an encapsulation of the two in some ways, compressed for sharper definition.
Portraits is deceptively rich and luxurious not only in how it plays out and passes effortlessly, but in how it paints a sincere picture of economy, and what it says by being able to do so.
Gong :: Portraits :: Portraits (2011, Important Records)
"This show is 110% … one of the most consistently awesome programs we have come across."
The Sunrise Ocean Bender sets sail every Monday morning, 1 – 3 a.m. on WRIR lp 97.3 FM, to find something for your ears, and something for your head … From psych to prog to pop and whatever tributary we can find on the way … and right back around again. There might be a map, but the destination is up for grabs. If it all goes right, we may just get lost. Meet me at the muster station … it might be a long week.