RECENT LISTENING #26
RRR Band, Kali Malone, Duane Pitre, Flanger Magazine, Rake Kash, Al Cisneros, Red Crayola, Saqqara Dogs
RRR BAND CS (PETTY BUNCO) Well I’ll be damned, last year Emily Robb releases a whole album of zoned guitar grind (How to Moonwalk) without singing on it once, and now the RRR Band (an improvisational trio formed spontaneously one afternoon in America by Emily Robb with Richie Charles and Ryan Davis) puts out a spontaneously recorded tape and she’s singing right out of the gate and never really stopping over the course of Side A’s entire 12-minute side-long jammer (with the stupendous title for a side-long jammer) “Rock for Birds.” Side B’s “9th Street Suite” changes it up with some of that Rhythm Ace style bossa nova that worked so well in the depths of Tago Mago… and Robb’s vocals keep on zoning. This is a killer improvisational tape. Wish it was longer!
KALI MALONE The Sacrificial Code 3CD (IDEAL) Fell in love with this massive 21st C. monsterpiece from listening to it on your problematic streaming platform du jour, but it’s been great to purchase the crucial 3CD set, which includes such things as actual credits and liner notes, and learn that each disc is a separate single live performance from somewhere in Scandinavia, because how else could you play this intensely sustained pipe organ music except live, with or without an audience? Disc one is “Canons for Kirnberger LLL,” featuring 3 tracks at about 27 minutes total; disc two is “Norrlands Orgel,” featuring three more tracks at just over 30 minutes; and then disc three is “Live in Hagakyrka” which has four tracks and is an epic 48 minutes. I listened through all three discs once in order, and then just kept disc three in the boom box and played it over and over and over, whenever I was in the room, for literally three weeks. I love vinyl records but I can’t imagine having The Sacrificial Code on vinyl and having to flip it every 15-20 minutes, not to mention that my beloved “Live in Hagakyrka” is edited by almost 35 minutes on the 2LP version!
KALI MALONE Living Torch (PORTRAITS GRM) Wait what, a brand new Kali Malone record? Right now in July 2022? With the beautiful title (perfect for Kali Malone music) Living Torch? A single 33-minute composition split over two sides? (It should be noted that the CD version is also split into two tracks, “Living Torch I” and “Living Torch II,” so perhaps it should not be considered a single composition.) Coming out right after I’ve been listening to The Sacrificial Code non-stop for three weeks? Um, yes, sign me up, and Torch picks up right where Code left off, and that’s with extremely heavy solo organ, but on this record Malone’s organ and electronics are also joined by extremely heavy trombone and bass clarinet. Another 21st C. monsterpiece…
DUANE PITRE Bayou Electric (IMPORTANT) Didn’t know this guy used to be a pro skater. Assumed he was some smart music composition academic, probably British, etc. Well he’s not an academic, and grew up decidely not British in New Orleans, but he is an autodidact, having taught himself the just intonation system, which he has used rigorously to compose and record several albums, a body of work that could be oversimplified as ambient music (much like his just-intonation contemporary Kali Malone gets oversimplified as minimalist music). On Bayou Electric, take that just intonation music, then add a layer of deep flora & fauna insect-drone field recording, a zone so present and powerful that I actually hit pause to check if the flora & fauna sounds were live or Memorex — and this was in an office on busy Fullerton Avenue in Chicago! Powerful stuff.
FLANGER MAGAZINE After the Bend LP (STUDENTS OF DECAY) The first Flanger Mag alb from a couple years ago (Breslin, 2020, Sophomore Lounge) was a guitar-and-synth record, but this new one After the Bend (2022, Students of Decay) is a guitar-and-synth record plus small-ensemble acoustic strings (like violin and cello) and acoustic horns (like alto saxophone and bass clarinet, not to mention a vague “reed instrument” credit). The result is nothing less than a goddamn all-instrumental loose-limbed post-rock orchestral epic, which comes out of some sort of playful Van Dyke Parks/Jim O’Rourke lineage into its own thing. I called it “like HN_AM jamming with Jimmy Giuffre” (HN_AM being an abbreviation for the Michigan noise axis of Hanson Records and American Tapes) but Flanger Magazine honcho Chris Bush’s synthesizer playing just isn’t as gnarly as HN_AM stuff. It’s sweeter around the edges, more like colorful gently swirling leaves on a pre-apocalyptic fall day than a black post-apocalyptic scorched-earth wasteland. The result is something singular, beautiful, and self-reinventing with each listen, not to mention sporting what might be my favorite Robert Beatty cover design yet.
RAKE KASH s/t LP (THE GERTRUDE TAPES) Randomly put this 2016 LP on right after spinning the previously reviewed Flanger Magazine After the Bend just now, and felt a lot of subtle similarities. Both are regional records, Flanger Magazine from Louisville, KY and Rake Kash from Omaha, NE, and both are the work of a bandleader/composer/ringleader/multi-instrumentalist (Flanger Magazine=Chris Bush, Rake Kash=L. Eugene Methe) whose vision is fulfilled by a distinct ensemble using acoustic horns in particular (saxophones, clarinets, more) to push past genre into a kaleidoscopic/cinematic vision.
AL CISNEROS Sinai Dub Box 2012-2022 (DRAG CITY) I think Al Cisneros is cool, and I think dub is cool, and I think a 7x7” box on Drag City that compiles dub 7-inches and 12-inches that Cisneros originally released on his own dub label Sinai is cool. But listening to this set of 14 tracks all the way through on Spotify, well, it just isn’t that cool. I mean, it’s cool! But not that cool. It just doesn’t sound like the real thing, which makes sense seeing how it was neither made in the 1970s, nor made in either Jamaica or Britain. I’m not trying to say that no one else can make dub anymore, and I’m especially not saying that no one can be inspired or influenced by dub, but this Sinai stuff is just a little too on the nose, a dub simulacrum, a tribute to dub rather than a living example. A little too freeze-dried, not loosey-goosey and alive-sounding like the best 1970s dub was. (I also blame my accessing of this music through a bland streaming corporation instead of on 7-inch singles as it was originally released.)
RED CRAYOLA Soldier-Talk LP (RADAR RECORDS) The recent scholarly one-off zine Keep All Your Friends: The Red Crayola with & without Art & Language made me want to sit down and listen to several albums for the first time ever, starting with this 1979 Red Crayola record in particular, and my god, I love it. It sounds a lot more like King Crimson than I thought it would, a more rudimentary and post-punk version of Crimson, having been released on Rough Trade Records in 1979. The weird thing is that it’s somehow both dumber and smarter than Crimson; dumber in that the guitar riffs aren’t quite as complex (though still very ambitious), and the vocal melodies not as pristine and Wettonized; smarter in that Red Crayola add in avant-garde chamber-music horn arrangements and the lyrics by Mayo Thompson seem even more cryptically intellectual than Peter Sinfield’s were for Crimson. And, it turns out I’m also comparing Pere Ubu to King Crimson, because all of Pere Ubu are on Soldier-Talk, and Mayo Thompson was in Pere Ubu at the time as well. Pere Ubu are practically peers with King Crimson anyway when it comes to heavy progressive rock groups that are also proto-punk. King Crimson are a little older, but only by about five years, and they’ve both been very contemporaneously active since the mid-1970s. (And, speaking of that King Crimson influence, seeing that the LP title is hyphenated reminds me of being at a gig by Chicago prog-punk legends Cheer-Accident many moons ago where band guru & drummer Thymme Jones explained on the mic that their band name is hyphenated, which I hadn’t noticed before and have been puzzling over ever since… I could see someone “soldier-talking” their way out of a situation, but I’m still not sure how to use “cheer-accident” in a sentence.)
SAQQARA DOGS Thirst LP (PATHFINDER RECORDS) Speaking of prog rock! Back in the 1990s I remember my prog-nerd crew literally passing around a cut-out bin cassette of this 1987 album because they would intentionally buy records that had Chapman Stick and/or Tony Levin on them. I never stepped until like five months ago in 2022 when I saw a vinyl copy for 2 bucks and, while cautiously perusing the back cover before even deigning to spend that paltry amount, was slightly shocked to recognize the name of Bond Bergland on guitar and vocals, having since learned, through the magic of archival reissues, of his previous (much weirder, gnarlier, and completely Chapman Stick-free) San Francisco band Factrix. Thing is, Saqqara Dogs have a lot of the same creep and swagger as Factrix, and the fact that they funnel it through a slicker club/fusion approach shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker. The ‘power trio but with ethnic hand drums instead of a trap set’ move is pretty intriguing too. I do wish the Chapman Stick guy just played regular bass in a less proto-Claypoolian fashion, and that the guitar tone and overall production were a whole lot less of its time, but Thirst is definitely worth at least $2 to all of us Bond Bergland (and all of you Chapman Stick) completists.