RECENT LISTENING #27
Medicine Singers, Harry Bertoia, Dead C, Molio Holi, Dr. Pete Larson & His Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band, More Klementines, Miles Davis
MEDICINE SINGERS s/t (STONE TAPES/JOYFUL NOISE) The cosmic Eastern Algonquin pow-wow music side-two opener rethink on here of Link Wray’s classic “Rumble” as “Sunrise (Rumble)” could go down as one of the Heaviest Songs of the 21st Century, much as the original was for the 20th, and I mean not just now but in like 2089 too. It was the first song I heard from this album, when clips of the very striking official video started showing up on my social media, and man, those ancient-to-future drums and chants, and the way Yonatan Gat’s guitar takes the Link Wray riffola and adds Sonny Sharrock explosions just for starters… now I’ve got the whole record in my hands and it’s notable that “Sunrise (Rumble)” doesn’t even need to show up until halfway through, because the whole thing is a heavy hitter, disorienting and psychedelic and transportative. Not just the sounds and songs, but the overall LP structure, the way it refuses to present as a collection of rock songs, or as an experimental/noise album, but something very in between, where near-tectonically shifting pieces of that drumming and singing blend in and out of cosmic/electro dream-rock styles. And now (September 3rd, 2022) that the vinyl is finally here and I take it out of the package, I’m immediately reminded that Jaimie Branch was in the band too (she also did the cover painting), which just two months ago when I pre-ordered was a cool and unsurprising and alive thing, and easy to take for granted as all of the above, but now after her death just one month ago it’s all heartbreaking instead. Out of the devastated social media memorials I’ve seen, two phrases stand out as the most absolutely correct: “she was the greatest trumpet player of her generation” and “she was just getting started”; thank goddess for those Fly or Die records, and everything else she did too, and that the Medicine Singers record is now here with her beautiful soulful trumpet playing throughout, not to mention all this other psychedelic madness that is the Eastern Medicine Singers jamming with this wild Gat-orchestrated electro-rock crew.
HARRY BERTOIA Complete Sonambient Collection 11CD (IMPORTANT RECORDS) When it comes to music there’s “psychedelic” as in some wah wah pedal here, a phaser-effected passage there, maybe some lyrics about colors and whatnot, and then there’s PSYCHEDELIC, as in actual raw manifestation of an inner landscape that is not otherwise categorizable by the scientific method. Music sounding in the air is one of the rare physicalities that these inner visions can project onto, like light projecting onto a wall, but in this case the invisible projecting onto the invisible, and boy can invisible visions project from the sonokinetic sculptures of Harry Bertoia. He was born in Italy in 1915, and in 1930 took an opportunity to attend high school in America, at none other than the future alma mater of Alice Coltrane, Diana Ross, and Jack White (among many others): Detroit’s Cass Tech High School. After graduating from there, he stayed in the Detroit area to attend and later teach at Cranbook Academy of the Arts in suburban Bloomfield Hills, a heady place where he first met Charles & Ray Eames and the future Mrs. Florence Knoll. After this young professorship, still in his late twenties, Bertoia moved to Santa Monica, California to take a job opportunity with the Eames, and then in his thirties to La Jolla, California to work in the US Navy Electronics Lab “on a project involving human engineering (we now call it ergonomics, although the word had not yet been invented) and stroboscopic photography designed to evaluate equipment” (there ya have it from this extensive bio at harrybertoia.org). In 1950, he settled in rural Eastern Pennsylvania (the town of Bally, roughly equidistant between Allentown and Philadelphia) to work for his college friend Knoll and her husband Hans, creating chairs for their company that were mass-produced in 1952 and sold so well (and are still available at knoll.com) that Bertoia could essentially retire by the age of 40 and spend the rest of his life experimenting with weird sound sculptures in a modified barn on his property. He even made quality recordings of the sculptures sounding in this highly resonant building, self-releasing a series of 10 vinyl LPs in 1978. There’s been a lot of talk of side-long jammers in these pages lately, and in true psych-rock fashion these 10 LPs consist of 20 side-long jammers, with beautiful black and white photos of his sculptures on the covers. Wonderful artifacts, but in 2015 they were all reissued on what I believe to be their ideal physical format, the compact disc, via this 11-disc box set on Important Records. In a digital presentation, the listener can hear every crystallized nuance of the deep pockets of inner mood Bertoia’s sculptures can manifest into the air around you. Turn it up loud and gaze deep into the invisible...
DEAD C Clyma Est Mort/Tentative Power 2LP (BA DA BING!/JAGJAGUWAR) Been a proud owner and blaster of my own copy of Clyma Est Mort since the actual mid-1990s, so didn’t pay much mind to this 2015 repackaging of it with a second LP called Tentative Power, to the point where I’m only now hearing the latter platter for the first time here in 2022 and…. it rips! #DeadCFreaksUnite (that’s a modified Grateful Dead reference), because this is basically the same core clutch of classic rippers that were all on Trapdoor Fucking Exit et al, given yet another welcome iteration, you know the jams: “Hell is Now Love,” “Bone,” “Mighty,” “Power” (two different versions here, ‘tis the title track after all), “Peace,” maybe more. And I’m pretty sure I’m hearing a 4th member, I’m guessing Chris Heazlewood on second or third guitar just like he was on Trapdoor, so this is either Trapdoor outtakes, or a live set (to no one?) recorded around the same time.
MOLIO HOLI Harmless Joking Edits 12” (SOLEIL LUNATIQUE) “Hello from Tiohtià:ke/Montréal! I used to surf over to Blastitude www pretty religiously back when people did that kind of thing with computers and have recently found your newsletter, which brings me near total joy every time. I'm really down with the loose and expansive diameter of the musical cosmos you rep, so what I'm reaching out with is not too far-fetched, I think. My friend Shota Yokose is a Tokyo native who's been in Canada for many years and has been, and still is, very active in experimental circles here and there. He released a couple of albums recently which were more song-based and really blew my mind. I decided to do ‘extended dance remixes’ of two songs, using the ‘source-tapes’ + ‘razorblades’ approach of freestyle 80's studios and we recently did a short run of vinyls. You can hear it on bandcamp over here. The cover is a Mondays rip because I (always already) love the (idea of the) Mondays and because the A side sounds like ‘the Happy Mondays doing a post-late-late night, early morning recording session in Ikebukuro.’ I hope you can dig it! And thank you for so much unsuspected hit-you-over-the-head epiphanies!” “Hello, just wanted to say belated thanks for letting me know about this music, and for the kind words. And for reading all this time — it means a lot to know I'm not just spouting all of these epiphanies into a void. Thanks again! P.S. I might finally be ready for a Happy Mondays reassessment...” “My love for them is unconditional even though I don't know half of their discography and am almost always disappointed when I listen to them. However, the platonic ideal of the Mondays, which they have never lived up to before or since this moment I'm about to share, is crystallized in this joyous moment captured for OSM. Crap volume and all, this video is my go-to unbummer.” “Thank you for the only Mondays link I'll ever need! I mean, I've heard them many times, and I loved 24 Hr Party People, but I really don't ever want to hear Sean Ryder on anything. Which your record fixes! Which I'm listening to now btw and I like it! Hopefully I can write a review in the next month to 5 years (it really does vary that much). Especially liking the Cab Volt aluminum-foil skree-guitar contrast on Side B, niiice.” [Heart reaction, end of exchange, really enjoyable record.]
DR. PETE LARSON & HIS CYTOTOXIC NYATITI BAND Misiginebig (DAGORETTI); DR. PETE LARSON & HIS CYTOTOXIC NYATITI BAND s/t (DAGORETTI); DR. PETE LARSON live on The Local Music Show (WCBN, Ann Arbor, 7/20/22) If you’re willing to read this deep into a Blastitude newsletter there’s a good chance you know of one Pete Larson, who back in the halcyon 1990s was the co-founder of Bulb Records and the flagship Weird Michigan band Couch. You might have even kept track that he was living in Kenya for a few years in the 2010s, far away from any and all upper North American midwestern noise-rock micro-scenes, working as an epidemiologist but also learning to play a traditional Kenyan stringed instrument called the nyatiti. He came back to Michigan in 2017, maintaining his career in the sciences (the “Dr.” is not a joke) but also getting back into music by starting an excellent new label called Dagoretti Records and bringing his nyatiti playing into a Michigan underground psych-fusion context with revolving others under the name Dr. Pete Larson & the Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band. (“Cytotoxic” means “toxic to living cells,” if you were wondering like I was.) They’ve already released three LPs, Misiginebig in 2019, a self-titled in 2020, and Damballah in 2021. As for the first one, “Misiginebig is an underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes, which is said to lurk in the Great Lakes and eat lake-faring humans,” and side one features a live jam from 2019 at crucial Detroit venue Trinosophes where Larson is joined by percussionist Mike List and guitarist Fred Thomas (who you might know from a bunch of true-indie Ann Arbor/Detroit stuff over the years like Lovesick, Saturday Looks Good To Me, City Center, lots more). The nyatiti is already a highly rhythmic instrument, so List doesn’t exactly have to keep time as a percussionist and is freed up to provide accents and further rhythmic subdivision, while Thomas kind of hangs back on guitar and provides texture. For side two Larson is joined by a different trio lineup, this time drummer Thom Hohman (whom you might remember from USA is a Monster and Black Elf Speaks, having a heavier touch than List, and playing with a full trap set) and Shelley Salant on guitar (long-time member of Tyvek, also check out her primo solo LP Shells 2 and work as bassist with improv-punk geniuses XV). The self-titled LP also has Hohmann, List, and Thomas in the band, rounded out by one Dave Sharp on bass and the impressive Kat Steih on progged-out wordless vocals. It’s an ambitious project, possibly creating an actual new form of music, and there are times on these records that might sound like the Cytotoxic Band is still in an experimental phase more than a conclusion phase, which as a scientist Larson would understand and be patient with. Another reason I might be thinking this is that Larson sounds so good all by himself playing solo nyatiti, especially when subtle psychedelic phasing and EQ are applied, as heard on the July 20th, 2022 episode of The Local Music Show on Ann Arbor radio station WCBN, a sublime performance that would itself make a great record. And the host is none other than the aforementioned Shelley Salant; keep listening after the performance for a nice interview.
MORE KLEMENTINES Who Remembers Light LP (FEEDING TUBE/TWIN LAKES) I’ve already reviewed two LPs (one vinyl and one digital) by this Appalachian krautrock [sic] trio from the Greater New Haven Area of Connecticut, both records consisting of two side-long tracks, a grand total of four tracks of extended all-instrumental guitar/bass/drums jamming. Now here’s a brand new (vinyl and digital) LP by ‘em called Who Remembers Light and would you believe it has four tracks all by itself? Two on each side, instead of one? And one of the four even has vocals?! What a bunch of sell-outs! MK goes pop! Except not at all, lol, and if anything Who Remembers Light gets weirder and wilder than those previous two records, such as on the quite abstract side-two opener title track, which in the words of Raven Sings the Blues “laps at the speakers with an aqueous glow,” a line that hits on something I’ve already loved about the Klementines’ music but never quite had the words for. (See also: the cover photograph.) And hey, here’s another excellent description of their music by Mr. Raven: “…sweeping between molten ascension and cool water comedowns.” (Yeah, I’ll quote other music writers in my reviews instead of coming up with my own fancy descriptions, I’m humble, it takes a village, etc.) Plenty of all of that on Who Remembers Light, and even over four tracks instead of two, you’ll still hear new subpockets of interaction which will reflect new inner landscapes, and you’ll hear them every time you listen, I promise. As for that vocal track, side one closer “Key of Caesar,” it might be my 4th favorite track. Just a little too “indie rock wistful,” if you will, and I think I’d rather the group maintained that glorious Raven-sung aqueous instrumental purity… but who am I to judge? Especially when an artist is doing that brave thing of expanding and/or rearranging their parameters? The artist alone decides, after all. (And P.S., I still want to believe that the cover art is a New Day Rising homage. Grant Hart was such a genius graphic designer. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. That’d be fine too.)
MILES DAVIS Nefertiti LP (COLUMBIA) His very last all-acoustic album, as it turns out. And what a way to go. Recorded during the 1967 Summer of Love, but this music is timeless. The opening Wayne Shorter-composed double shot of “Nefertiti” and “Fall” is, I’m sorry, about as great as music has ever gotten. (Note that I did not use the word “jazz.”) I think about these two tracks as one entity because that’s how they feel to me. It’s like the 2nd track “Fall” is just opener “Nefertiti” revisited, but through a different prism, a different slant of light, or perhaps “Fall” is “Nefertiti” at night. Or is it the other way around? Is “Fall” the languid morning after “Nefertiti”’s elegant nightlife? It’s all of that and more, every single time I listen.