RECENT LISTENING #28
Free, Wild Paarty Sounds Volume 1, Superjack!, Grey Windowpane, Mazozma, Billy Bang Quartet, Water Damage, Viki Viktoria
FREE Free (ISLAND) It doesn’t have a big hit like “All Right Now” but their 1969 self-titled album is my favorite album by Free, who are one of the heaviest and actually simplest rock trios known to mankind in Simon Kirke on drums, Andy Fraser on bass, and Paul Kossoff on guitar, joined to make a quartet by the great AOR-feted rock singer Paul Rodgers (in my opinion, he’s the most complex musician in the band). I love this record, and maybe it’s the superb sexy/cosmic cover design setting a tone, but I think it’s mostly the way they just blast in a room, completely live to tape, only adding a grand total of one overdub aside from Rodgers’s lead vocal, that being Kossoff’s guitar solos played on another track (over his own perfect rhythm playing, which sounds to be live with the trio). Every note by everyone is perfect on here, that’s the thing. No one in this band ever misses. It’s not just that each note is chosen and played correctly, it’s almost as if each note maintains its own space around it, and never just casually bleeds into the next one. It’s one of the sparest sounds in rock history, and at the same time one of the fullest. I would direct you to the track “Free Me,” which is about as slow and heavy as a rock dirge is gonna get, and probably the best illustration of what I mean by each and every note having its own sovereign space, its own measurable weight. After the relatively bouncy opener “I’ll Be Creepin’” the whole album seems uniformly slow, a heavy sink, a real downer — not necessarily in mood, but in the actual physicality of the notes, and the momentum of the grooves. Also contributing to the slowness are two soft, drumless, and truly lovely pastoral ballads, especially the wordless and gently symphonic “Mouthful of Grass.” And I just realized that a grand total of one other band has fully exemplified this slowness and weight and sovereign space around each note, and it’s Low of course, RIP Mimi Parker. (Sabbath could do it too, of course, but didn’t choose to as strictly and consistently as Free and Low.)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Wild Paarty Sounds Volume One LP (CHERRY RED) Never have gone deep on Adrian Sherwood and his On-U Sound collective, and have admittedly had an intentional blind spot and even skeptical wariness when it comes to the idea of British reggae as opposed to the original Jamaican product. I was even poking at this in a recent newsletter, confronting a creeping sensation that only Jamaican citizens are capable of making actual capital-d-and-r dub reggae music, but I need to get over it, because of course Jamaicans living abroad are going to make authentic reggae and dub, which they’ve been doing in Britain (and Miami and Toronto and where-the-diaspora-ever) for many decades, and dub reggae-influenced music can be made by anyone, anytime, anywhere (even if its quality may often correlate negatively with how much direct reggae mechanics are in the music). Listening to the terrific Wild Paarty Sound Volume One LP, an “On-U Sound compilation” from the very post-punk (and post-punky reggae) year of 1981, is a great way to mull over these opinions as it features actual reggae by the likes of Jah Woosh and of course Prince Far I (the only other Sherwood production I’ve really gotten to know is the Cry Tuff Dub Encounter 3 monsterpiece he made with Prince Far I), punk/reggae hybrids like the On-U Sound house band London Underground, Muslimgauze-predating dark electronic ‘world music’ like Suns of Arqa, and a few straight-up funky post-punk guitar-band tracks by one-off studio paartiers [sic] like Machine Gun Hogg & Co. or the Chicken Granny. (Just as there has never been a Wild Paarty Sounds Volume Two, both Machine Gun Hogg & Co. and the Chicken Granny each only have one song listed to their name on Discogs, and in each case it’s the one on this LP, “Bed Bound Saga” and “Quit the Body” respectively.)
SUPERJACK! s/t LP (BACK BACON RECORDS) What’s that? You say you like weird music? Well, you should check out the self-titled Superjack! LP. It’s a weird one! Power electronics is such an elemental form (someone yelling over noise) that I always want to say that anything combining vocals and noise is just that, and the Superjack! LP is no exception. You know, like Whitehouse, but instead of screaming a bunch of abusive shit they’re muttering weird lines about electric guitars, space travel, the glories of cannabis, or just the saliva on the microphone. Sample lyrics: “Oh my god, but not my god. Oh your god, but not your god.” “I can’t even think/I can’t even tell/If this is heaven, earth, or hell/Which is just as well.” “Capacities/bring me to life/miraculous marijuana!/end all the strife!!” It’s like a weird dream where the eccentric reclusive local poet finally agrees to do a public reading at the local coffee shop, but the P.A. system is so rife with technical difficulties it all comes out as a horrible disaster, and, doubling down on the dream logic, the poet goes ahead and reads for 45 minutes anyway while electronic garbage noise swirls and screams around him and the audience of three plugs their ears and eventually dwindles to zero. (“Tuning Notes” by Thinking Fellers Local Union 282 applies the same dream logic to a guitar lesson.)
GREY WINDOWPANE Catskin (NO LABEL, GW001); GREY WINDOWPANE “Two Bricks For Every Bag” EP (NO LABEL, GW002); GREY WINDOWPANE "Dir'y Mixes For Dir'y Money" ("Two Bricks For Every Bag" EP Remixes) (NO LABEL, GW003); GREY WINDOWPANE “The Parrot” (NO LABEL, GW004); MAZOZMA Ovoid World book (FOTS EDITIONS) This week’s ‘realizing you have no idea what record you just put on’ award goes to Grey Windowpane’s brand new “The Parrot” digital album, as recently released on 10/22/2022. A mere five minutes into its opener “Chimney Weasel’s Parfait” I found myself snapping out of a dream state, sitting at my laptop but doing no work, completely zoned out to its non-specific broken-beat 808 drum-machine vibe, and yes, having no idea whatsoever what artist I was listening to. Digging through various browser tabs and windows I finally located it as coming from a Bandcamp page, and oh yeah, it was Grey Windowpane, a project first surfacing back in March on the Fruit of the Spirit blog with a digital album called Catskin that I previously described as “wild ambient industrial trip-house soundscapery, wait what?” On that aforementioned date of October 22nd, Catskin was suddenly joined by three more Grey Windowpane digital albums (now with actual possible agitprop, mythmaking, and anti-manifestoing in the liner notes!), in order of catalog number the “Two Bricks For Every Bag” EP EP, "Dir'y Mixes For Dir'y Money" ("Two Bricks For Every Bag" EP Remixes), and the aforementioned “The Parrot”. (Grey Windowpane likes their titles to be in quotes, thank you very much.) There’s also this book called Ovoid World by the Grey Windowpane-connected a rtist who is forever and formerly known as Mazozma, a collection of themed and often visually rhyming drawings that, presented in the sequence they’re in, have a pronounced ‘portal effect’, and if read as any sort of narrative (for what it’s worth an image from page 3 is repeated almost at the end on page 39) feels like it could be something about cellular… responsibility? And therefore, per the title of the book, ovular responsibility? A certain shared responsibility for all the things that cells and eggs could play a part in creating when it comes to human evolution? A series of visions of what this creative biological cellular activity can ultimately allow for? A lot of which is actually quite gnarly? These are some of the things you might think about while zoning out to the drawings in Ovoid World while listening to Grey Windowpane, a simultaneous activity I was just doing to the track “The Marsh,” and that would work well during literally any moment within these four albums. This is very consistently and completely zoned-out music. I’ve been listening to it all, all day long, and I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s like it wipes my brain blank as it plays. My daughter’s boyfriend (born circa 2005) walked by and said it sounded “industrial,” how about that? He’s 100% not wrong (and I often think about what post-industrial as a music means, how it means so much more than Neubauten and Skinny Puppy, how it means any post-punk experimental work of any kind, the entire 1980s cassette culture experimental music movement, the entire worldwide noise scene as we know it today)! He also compared it to house music, and yeah, Grey Windowpane does have some beats, here and there, but it’s just as much sound effects, and tape-loop experiments, and washes of noise, and who-knows-what else. And when I say “who-knows-what-else,” I mean “music from the Empty Quarter,” which Bruce Russell defined in his 1994 manifesto “What is Free?” as “an area between other forms of music where all of the ‘rules’ which hold them apart cease to apply.”
BILLY BANG QUARTET Valve No. 10 (SOUL NOTE) #FocusOnFreedomFrankLowe month (year) (decade) (century) continues with a sideman session he recorded in 1989 with the Billy Bang Quartet, released in 1991 on CD only as Valve No. 10. Billy Bang is maybe a bit underrated as a 1970s fire-music spiritual-jazz artist, possibly the best working violinist in that milieu, Leroy Jenkins the legend but perhaps not quite as nimble and classically swinging as Bang, and Bang also a formidable composer. (Though it should be noted Bang was directly and openly inspired by Jenkins and literally took violin lessons from him.) The killer quartet referred to is Bang on violin and poetry, Lowe on tenor sax, the one and only Sirone on bass, and Dennis Charles on drums, and it’s sure nice to hear them blow, Pan-Asian and Pan-African sonorities meeting swinging/bouncing/dancing Pan-American blues and funk all the way.
WATER DAMAGE Repeater LP (12XU); WATER DAMAGE But the Rat Was Very Smart CS (SOPHOMORE LOUNGE) This is a relatively large group of Austin, Texas maniacs (members of Spray Paint, USA/Mexico, Black Eyes, Thor himself, more) going full real-O-mind tribal drone, using bowed guitar and synthesizer to create a static huge wall of low end, within which a subphalanx of two bassists and three drummers just groove extendo style, with pieces going 20 minutes at a time, and theoretically forever. I started with the LP on 12XU, ready to love it, though leaving that first listen with concerns that this 21st C. gentrified-tribal drone was maybe too on the nose; played the cassette next and all worries were dispelled because I thought it nailed it with monumental drones and perfect wide-open eternal grooves; went back to the LP and realized it sounded just as good. Sometimes they are a little crafty with the rhythms, trying subtle reinventions and reaccentings of those post-Burning Man tribal cliches, and either way there’s more than enough Flipper here to overcome any such connotations.
VIKI VIKTORIA New Victorian (MIDWICH) Whoah, this has been happening a lot lately: another one goes into the ‘forgot what record I put on while still listening to it’ pile, just now as Side 1 of this excellent weird 2016 release comes to an end and I temporarily no longer know it’s by the artist known as Viki, from the early 2000s Detroit noise scene, doing a kind of mid/late-career opus move, if you ask me, with two long tracks of abstractly beat-driven extended modern composition under the name Viki Viktoria. Another thing about the subtleties of this record: after several listens I’m just now noticing some buried vocals at the beginning of Side 2, having been previously convinced that each side of extended electronic music was all-instrumental, “modern composition” in a non-operatic sense. Not that a couple minutes of buried vocals qualify New Victorian as an opera!