Friday, February 16, 2024

Things to love Feb. 2024

The Montreal Assembly PurPLL effects pedal

Pedro Mairal The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra (must try to track down the original Spanish) and the way it depicts the father-son relationship after the father has died

Riding the exercise bike during lunch break

Playing Ys VIII and Ys IX during said bike breaks - bright, earnest, and a little goofy beat-em-up RPGs whose "Normal" difficulty level and pacing are just right to be played while also working out for an hour

Being able to check out Ys VIII and Ys IX from the Tualatin Public Library

Fitting a second-hand exercise bike in the back of a Mazda2

While we're talking about father-son relationships: Chris Elliott Daddy's Boy

Finding out that there are Wire EPs that I haven't listened to

Playing guitar at low volumethrough older Peavey bass practice amps (currently a Basic 112 from a garage sale down the street - I carried it four blocks home)

Seeing "Unicode" and "Gamelan" crossing "Mimeograph" in last Sunday's NYT crossword

The first few weeks of Flaming Hydra

My 7-year-old creating a word game called "Groups" where "Phone" and "Tablet" are grouped together by being "rectangular objects"

My 7-year-old finding the Spanish word mapache ("raccoon") very funny - I love it too

Friday, January 19, 2024

Primrose Trio/Dance Series by Various Ukrainian Artists

 

Archive.org, the site that keeps on giving, has this one. I previously mentioned this series, with its great music, eye-popping design, and slightly unsettling illustrations, but this one is even better. Primrose Trio (here rendered in Microgramma as "Prim Rose") have a series of three wild and wonderful LPs with their pictures on them, but this one just gets the lady, this time staring at you. I always appreciate how the guitarist kind of plays the bass notes and kind of plays the chords and almost always plays notes that I would not consider playing given what the cymbaly and fiddle are playing. I can learn a lot.

If you like the illustration, K 6001 (featuring the Thunder River Boys) features the exact same artwork, just, as they say, palette-swapped. It's a good time too, if more traditionally polka-flavored.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Slacker prog/Frances Chang/Manta(r)/dollar bins/ecosystem analogies

The Ramp Local newsletter pointed me to Frances Chang's upcoming album Psychedelic Anxiety (good title, also a good cover, more album covers should feature pictures of ducks and samplers). The song "Eye Land" in particular is a quality example of what she aptly calls "slacker prog":

i.e. it goes all over the place, there are fuzzy 90s indie-rock guitars in spots, but not for long, nothing stays in one place for long. A jigsaw with a lot of pieces and a lot of the pieces are a dizzying blue sky.

In sort of related news, I went through my M box of CDs and found Manta's album Classic Battles, which hits some similar notes. Some really memorable songs in there that also go all over the place, particularly "On the Banks of the Sad River" and "Light Is the Only." 18 years later I still find myself singing "We all die alone" over and over again, or "A seal makes me feel strong." Her stuff with The Badger King is also great if largely unobtainable at this point - not expensive, just obscure. Naturally their best moment is on some EP that I never saw in real life and that never made it to Disqwogz, probably just handed out on CDRs and that rattled around Soulseek long enough for me to suck it down.

I do like how people are using Archive.org as a sort of virtual dollar bin. One of my beefs with Bandqlamp is that there's no place for the bottom feeders - that weird thing you put out fifteen years ago will kick around forever at the $7 price point rather than showing up scuffed in some bin on the floor for a dollar. That's not how nature works!

The person who posted this one posted a lot of other mid-aughts Portland stuff from that scene that I was tangentially involved in, stuff that would never actually be rereleased and that I barely remember, but that still forms a pretty good rabbit hole to get lost in.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Able "Screw You Around"

In the unthinkably 25 years ago past of 1999 or 1998 or something I was in a car headed up I-5 from the Southland to San Francisco. Maybe this was the time when a certain noise band was playing at the immortally named "Clit Stop"? Who knows, long time ago, long drive. The car had recently been broken into and there was some plastic sheeting where a window should be, yelling rustle rustle rustle all the way up the long straight inky blackness of the Central Valley.

Above said noisy rustle was the new album from Able, Lost Love Songs, soon to come out on Blackbean & Placenta Tape Club. Mike was very excited about this album that I thought sounded like the Eagles. It didn't really sound like the Eagles, but I was young and insufferable and needed to make a point. In a few months, I realized that Mike was right and that it was great, particularly the quizzically named "Screw You Around":

While there are oodles of songs in this world about being a young brainiac being pushed around by bully goons - well, I'm assuming there are - this one inverts the young-brainiac-makes-good formula and turns it into a surprisingly delicate saga of underachievement, questionable parenting, and false memory, punctuated with an endless chorus of "Don't let them screw you around."



Ekphrastics/old friends

Frank Boscoe of Wimp Factor XIV/Vehicle Flips has a new album, this time under the name The Ekphrastics. Very happy to see that he continues on, forever singing heartfelt and tuneful pop songs about underachievers in obscure fields of interest. Sure, this formula has not set the world on fire, but that doesn't mean it's not a good formula. Every new album feels like hanging out with a friend you haven't seen in ages, but with whom you still connect instantly.

Pick to click: "Special Delivery"/"The Ballad of Becky Jane Joplin."

I forgot that I had written this draft, but I was washing dishes last night and saw that someone on YouChoob had posted the final syndicated episode of Sale of the Century from 1986, so of COURSE I had to watch it while scrubbing bits of broccoli in garlic sauce from the skillet. 

And get this: Jim Perry (the ever smooth) threw in a pre-commercial reference to what must be this same story as "Special Delivery"/"The Ballad of Becky Jane Joplin"! I mean, woman marries postman who is delivering hundreds of love letters from faraway beau? But leave it to the author of "Our Returning Champion" to get not one but two songs out of this possibly apocryphal story.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Road to Saint Petersburg

Available now on the magic internet is Road to Saint Petersburg from the mighty Almost Halloween Time Records. I got the opportunity to collaborate remotely with Allen Callaci and his golden voice, and I think it turned out great. I used my clearance-bin guitar twiddlers and I think there are multiple tracks of flute involved.

Lots of other great collaborations as well from people I've corresponded with over the years. Really solid front to back. Feels like a lost great early-90s tape comp with less tape hiss.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Atmospheric river/Eat Skull

I was standing at the bus stop with the kid this morning, gallons of Pineapple Express atmospheric river moisture dumping onto us, monster lakes forming everywhere, monster trucks zooming through them, no sidewalks, we had to pick a trail between waterways. Oh, unincorporated Clackamas.

It was dark, wet, and miserable. Memorably miserable, the kind I like. From out of nowhere Eat Skull's 2013 epic "Stupid Moon" came into my head, in particular the immortal verse:
Found a seagull somewhere on the beach
Chopped off its head and then it said to me
There is something I need to remove
I don't wanna press the point
But if you're cool then you won't judge me
I may not have an angel's voice
But all you children must listen to me

Interesting to read contemporaneous reviews of this album from 2013. Everyone wanted to put it into the "shitgaze" genre box, when in fact it sounded like a pretty clean break from the genre to me. Such as the genre was. The human mind and its need to categorize things, I guess.

In any case, their label has their album III, which contains said song, on sale, as well as many other examples of the purported shitgaze genre. As a certain poet once said, wait for the news in the history books.