RECENT LISTENING #1

Carter Tutti, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Ana Da Silva, David Nance Group, Miles Davis, Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp, MC/5, Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore, Citizen Electrical

CARTER TUTTI Feral Vapours of the Silver Ether (CONSPIRACY INTERNATIONAL); COSEY FANNI TUTTI Tutti (CONSPIRACY INTERNATIONAL) Having by now ventured much further below 20 Jazz Funk Greats into Throbbing Gristle’s netherworld of feral sound than would seem prudent, it’s time to lighten up a little and move on to the post-Gristle career of Chris & Cosey, beyond the records I already know, Heartbeat and Trance, and into their entire decade’s worth of releases from 1987 to 1997, not to mention their 2004 re-emergence (after a 7-year hiatus) to make more great music as Carter Tutti, such as this record from 2007, Feral Vapours of the Silver Ether. It’s super good, heavily electronic as you would expect, but with certain pieces/songs, particularly “Woven Clouds,” where if you took out the (already rather subdued and gossamer) electronics, you’d have medieval-style clear-bell British folk music, a ballad sung in a dream by a working woman in the 1600s. As for their trademark trance electronics, I think they’re hitting that sweet spot between haunting/occult and friendly/warm better than ever. True witch house. Good witch house, as in Glenda, get it? Anyway, I’m getting into all this music because I’ve been reading Cosey’s Art Sex Music memoir from 2017 (and making a Spotify playlist of almost every song she mentions), the latter half of the book making it clear that her voracious capacity for art-making and DIY project management has been increasingly curbed over the years, so that she can take better care of herself and various health issues. Which makes it all the more heartwarming to learn that she just released Tutti, her second-ever solo album, earlier this year, and to listen to it on Spotify (the vinyl is $32.99 at my local store?!), and have it be really great deep heavy dark techno music, legitimately one of the best albums of her career. Check the track “Drone” for immediate proof, or the nicely titled “Sophic Ripple,” both on the previously (and currently) linked Spotify playlist. (Merriam-Webster defines “sophic” as “of, relating to, or full of wisdom.”)

ANA DA SILVA The Lighthouse (CHICKS ON SPEED) So many pockets of music, just since the year 2000 alone; sometime in 2019 IG user “grimordisham” recommend-posted this 2005 late-career record by the founding member of the Raincoats, and it’s great, icy cool high-lonesome synth-pop, recorded roughly ten years after the Raincoats first reunited during Cobain fever, which itself was roughly ten years after their 1987 breakup. You can listen to it on Bandcamp like I did, but here’s a YouTube of the original band live circa 1982:

(Watching Ana sing and play, can’t help but think of Azita Youssefi pounding her bass guitar while delivering similar declamations in Scissor Girls, who came along another 10 years after this YouTube, another 10-year facet of the post-punk prism that intersected with the prism of my own early twenties…)

DAVID NANCE GROUP Peaced and Slightly Pulverized (TROUBLE IN MIND) So this is how record reviewing is done now? You just jump around on Bandcamp and listen to one new album after another, maybe knock out some reviews? It is much easier. Labels don’t have to spend any money on shipping, getting out those review copies that may not even lead to any reviews, or may lead to reviews that lead to no sales. Hell, they don’t even have to press any records anymore! But some who should still do, god bless ‘em, and you can get this new David Nance Group LP on actual vinyl from Chicago’s own Trouble in Mind label. Nance is getting some (spoiler alert: fully deserved) underground hype, and he’s of special interest to me because he’s new on the Omaha scene, a scene that I was involved with on some level many years ago (I moved from Nebraska to Chicago back in 2001), and his music does have a quality I associate with the Rural Great Plains (where Omaha is) more than the Industrial Midwest (where Chicago is), a subtle difference. The Great Plains overall have just a little more of a ‘heartland’ sound, a little more roots in the rock, a little more cowboy twang. At the same time, Nance sidesteps all that, in a marketing sense by playing punk house shows and being part of the underground circuit, but sonically too because of the near-cosmic raw feeling in his delivery, including twin guitar action that is nice and blasted and Crazy Horsey, especially on the back-to-back one-two punch of “Amethyst” and “In Her Kingdom,” both over 7 minutes long and filled with heavy sun-yearning six-string jamming. He’s lyrically interesting too; I thought the line “Clenching on that amethyst/That explains your good health” had something like a vintage Marvel Comics and/or sword and sorcery vibe when it jumped out in passing, but now reading over the whole text, it seems a bit more like a bit of a Dylanoid putdown on the non-productive magical-thinking types who are always hanging around your average garden-variety semi-urban underground bohemian scene. Hey, songs are still open to varied interpretation! Love it!

MILES DAVIS The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions 4CD (COLUMBIA LEGACY) Not a whole lot I’m going to add to how great and epochal this music is, just that a guy I know was selling CDs and wanted a whole SIX BUCKS for this, and, as scotsman1975 pointed out on Instagram, “the metal binding alone is probably worth 6 bucks to enterprising scrap metal dealers,” not to mention the 148-page book it binds, with plenty of nice pictures and interesting info, and this passage from the introduction by Carlos Santana, which I found very cool, and am going to lazily round out this review by quoting in full: “Around that time, Miles always seemed to be in the company of a group of women some of us called the cosmic ladies. There was his wife Betty (Mabry) Davis, Collette, Monica, and Devon, Jimi Hendrix’s old lady. And you could see how these ladies were affecting Miles. They changed the way he dressed, the places he went, and the music he listened to. Largely because of their influence, Miles really began to check out James Brown and Sly Stone, and he started hanging out with Jimi. I remember that once when Santana percussionist Michael Carabello and I went to New York, those same cosmic ladies brought us to their place and played Bitches Brew for us for the first time, and I remember thinking that this was the sound of New York City, the cabs, the canyons of buildings, the people, and all the city's energy, power and excitement. And I knew then that Miles was the new archangel, heralding the dawn of a new era, and a revolution of sound and colors. I have always thought that Bitches Brew, the album, was in its own way a tribute in Miles' language to those women who opened his eyes to a whole new world and who encouraged and prodded him to take that next big step. And more than anything else, this album was also the perfect statement for those times and a bridge to the future.” Preach it Devadip!

DANIEL CARTER, WILLIAM PARKER, MATTHEW SHIPP Seraphic Light (AUM FIDELITY) Masters at work: Daniel Carter on reeds and woodwinds, William Parker on bass, and Matthew Shipp on piano, weaving such a complete improvised soundworld here that I can imagine entire novels taking place in it, definitely neo-noir, thanks especially to Carter’s role, his forlorn horns perpetually sounding like they’re coming from slum village windows one block away, while Shipp and Parker do the world-building, creating those windows, the structures, the architecture, those tenements, each window described by specific combinations of engineering equations, the weather patterns that come and go through it all, the hopes and dreams of the characters, the faceless bustle of the extras, and Carter writes the script, the lines, tells the story. That’s just what high-level instrumental music can do sometimes.

MC/5 “I Just Don’t Know” (AMG RECORDS) Speaking of music, one of the 9 billion things I love about music is how whenever you think you know, it turns out you just don’t know, and even once you know you just don’t know, it turns out you just don’t know all over again, as this pertinent MC/5 song summarizes with the lyrics, “I just don’t know / I just don’t know.” I was driving home blasting WNUR 89.3FM Evanston/Chicago you see, and they were playing this scabrous and shaking garage rock shimmy, super-rough, lo-fi, absolutely hot stuff, and I’m thinking it’s one of those Back from the Grave revival bands from the 90s, so I’m like “Damn, this band is gooooood, most 90s garage revival stuff bores me, but these guys actually sound like the MC5, especially the singer, he sounds a lot like Rob Tyner,” so I go on the phone (while drivin,g, please don’t worry Werner, I was waiting at a long red light) to see who it is, and…. it’s the MC5 themselves, from a 45 RPM single released in 1969! Or the MC/5, as it radly says on the label of the original 45 (“I Just Don’t Know” was the B-side), released in 1969. So crazy, I just don’t know.

MEG BAIRD & MARY LATTIMORE Ghost Forests (THREE LOBED) To be honest, this is the some of the most angelic music I’ve yet heard from mere mortals. I mean, this is up there with late-period Vashti Bunyan (Heartleap yo) and… and… I don’t even know what else… certain 1960s girl group productions? Prime femme-sung shoegaze? Early 80s diva house that’s really no less than secular future gospel? I’m honestly having trouble thinking of anything else, other than the music of actual Northern Atlantic earthsprites like Sigur Ros and Enya. I mean, one of the two basic instruments on this record is a harp, which is certainly the most historically angelic instrument, and is indeed played angelically here by Mary Lattimore. And you know Meg Baird has always been angelic, whether her voice is the great observing witness cutting through the Heron Oblivion psych-storm, or the herald angel singing out sky-clear acoustic dream-folk melodies as a solo act. And yeah, the two of them? Playing together? It’s exactly what it should sound like, except even better. I guess the review is over. I’ll probably put this at Best of 2018, in both the angelic and non-angelic divisions. It is November, after all, and despite the usual spate of very good and interesting records that I know came out this year, nothing else on this level is coming to me immediately. (Oh my god, I just realized that I’ve been working on this brief capsule review since November 2018. And I’m supposed to start doing this weekly? And you’re gonna pay me for it?? Don’t worry, dear subscriber, you won’t be disappointed… it may have taken me a year to warm up, but now I’m in the groove…)

CITIZEN ELECTRICAL Archive Spinoffs (GERTRUDE TAPES) Omaha’s L. Eugene Methe continues to make music for the art-film montages in his (and your) head, notably with his ongoing group Rake Kash, and here with a sort of spin-off cello (?) project called Citizen Electrical. My understanding is that the cello is played by Megan Siebe, and then mixed, treated, and generally ‘Enofied’ by Methe. It comes off like a Rake Kash remix project, where certain atmospheric elements of that group are foregrounded and floated into the ether, constantly hovering a few feet above any mooring. Guitars, reed instruments, and disembodied electronics calmly float into the sonic picture, or blur into near-focus like an image emerging from one of those autostereograms (aka Magic Eye puzzles) you used to see at the shopping mall bookstores (when there were bookstores) (and shopping malls). It really is difficult to tell on through-listening just where and when instrumentation changes; even when the music is just the treated cello, it sounds more like a dream entity than any certain arrangement of instruments.