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STUFFS & THINGS & THINGS & STUFF (STTS-011)
Psychic Ills & Gibby Haynes, Bilders, Phil Cohran & Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Fushitsusha, Ginsberg meets Letterman, Janet Jackson, Equipment Pointed Ankh, Moon Zappa, Blastitude Virtual Bookshelf
FAVORITE DJ-SET-TO-MYSELF TRANSITION IN RECENT MEMORY DEPT.: How this playlist kicks off with “Lude” by Psychic Ills & Gibby Haynes (sounds a bit like a “Whirling Hall of Knives” homage, Surfers freaks who don’t know about this 2010-recorded 2022-released collabo LP may want to check, pretty low-key but I like it, RIP Tres Warren) then goes into “Russian Rug” by the Bilders (or the Builders, or Die Bilder, or Bilderine, whatever the ever-transitory nomenclature happened to land on for this track, it’s all Bill Direen music, and therefore very deep, the Southern Psychedelic Moment indeed). From there the playlist goes into “Master Builder” by Gong — Bilders reference not intended! — which kicks off a lengthy subsection of cuts inspired by a concurrent reading of the prog rock book A New Day Yesterday by Mike Barnes, including a rather surprising Don Cherry guest appearance if you can spot it, as well as tracks by Supersister and Quatermass that were straight-up swiped from Tony Rettman’s playlist that was also inspired by A New Day Yesterday, which is where I learned of the book, but we won’t get into all of that right now.
The cognoscenti (yeah that’s you!) spends a lot of time obsessing over the massive career and compositional legacy of Don Cherry, with very good reason, but at least once a year (and I usually say it in print here, so forgive me if I repeat myself) I’m like… what about Phil Cohran? Longtime Chicagoan Cohran was maybe a little more reticent, grounded, and less nomadic than Cherry, less likely to ‘put himself out there' as the saying goes, but they are similar in a lot of ways (despite Cohran being almost 10 years older), both coming up in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s playing trumpet in a traditional blues/swing/bop context, and in both cases working as a sideman to one of the all-time great breakers of tradition, then in the mid/late 1960s as a bandleader working under their own name, expanding beyond all blues/swing/bop contexts into a musical unity that embraces the entire world, and doing so well into the 1980s and 1990s. (Cohran in fact well in the 2000s and even 2010s before he passed away in 2017 at the age of 90, and of course Cherry would’ve kept expanding the musical unity too, had he not died rather prematurely in 1995 aged 58 from liver cancer.) I do think that a difference between the two is that, when it came to the trumpet at least, Cherry was more of a floater than a burner, and Cohran was a burner all the way. In fact, almost no one but the Coltrane Quartet itself could ever burn like Cohran & His Artistic Heritage Ensemble burn on their holy-grail live recording “Unity Live 1968,” which is quite literally one of the most scorching tracks ever made. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and listen to it right now. First you’ve got a monstrous bassline played by Louis Satterfield, with drums by Bob Crowder Jr., and, most heavily of all in this rhythm section (and possibly the entire planet at that moment), the absolutely thunderous hand-drumming of Master Henry Gibson. Add Cohran’s own proto-post-punk and even Conrad/Cale-analagous “violin uke” drone (he doesn’t even play trumpet on this track), and then bring in Donald Myrick with one of the more barreling and blazing (yet still post-bop) tenor saxophone solos 1968 ever produced, which goes into a skritch/skratch/grind solo of Cohran’s own, which goes into Pete Cosey’s guitar shredding that’s right there with contemporaneous playing by Sonny Sharrock and predates Levene, Branca, Ranaldo/Moore, you name it, proto-post-punk strikes once again at an abandoned bandshell on the 63rd Street beach in black Chicago back in 1968. POSTSCRIPT: While trying and failing to confirm and not just assume that first ripping sax solo is indeed Myrick on tenor (I still think it is), I ended up on this internet version of an interview with Cohran that appeared in Wax Poetics over 10 years ago and was kinda newly blown away by Cohran’s bit about how Bird and Dizzy changed jazz from a dancing music to a listening music. He’s essentially saying that this was the first time in history, as in hundreds if not thousands of years of music and tradition, that African and African diasporic music became something other than a dancing music, which is a heavy thought. And, it may be true about music in general around that same time. After all, didn’t the same thing more or less happen to rock’n’roll soon after, notwithstanding scattered hippies frugging like mad in certain clips from Woodstock or whatever? Was it all Dylan’s fault, and “going electric” was his desperate attempt to close Pandora’s box when he saw what he had wrought?
PSYCHEDELIC LINER NOTES FROM JAPAN DEPT.: This English translation from the Japanese printed on the obi strip of Fushitsusha’s beyond-monumental “Live 2” double CD (PSF 15/16) is one of the great psychedelic hype quotes and/or LP liner notes of all time: “150 minutes of soul transmigration. Too long or too short? That depends on just how your heart melts. The paradox of psychedelia.” (A runner-up, also from the PSF family, are the liner notes by Seven, bassist of Shizuka, for their album Tokyo Underground ‘95, which begin with a bang: “What is the most psychedelic fact? I say if you if you can play as you intend, it must be the most.”)
KIM G SY DEEP-CUT BANGER OF THE WEEK DEPT.: That would be “French Tickler” from A Thousand Leaves, free time for real (even if the winner will always remain “Reena”).
THE BASIC UNIT IS BREATH AND ITS MEASURE IS THE MANTRA DEPT.: Here to tell you that in just 1 minute and 20 seconds on a late-night major-network American talk show back in 1982 some heavy thoughts were discussed, and regardless of David Letterman’s long-running pronounced nervousness around anything even vaguely countercultural, especially someone as eminently countercultural as Allen Ginsberg, and the resultant tittering he indirectly encourages from his audience, he can be a very good interviewer, here poking with curiosity at the word “mantra,” humbly revealing that he’s not sure how to pronounce it, but smart enough to ‘yes, and…’ Ginsberg’s response by bringing up meditation, then synthesizing it all into a generous set-up which allows Ginsberg to bring it all back home to “rock’n’roll music.” (Bonus points for Ginsberg’s standup chops, the way he just cruises right over the hecklers and then throws in a perhaps unintentional shit pun at the end.) (Haha, ‘at the end’, I made one too.) (Haha, ‘made one too’.)
DL: Now let’s get back to the mantra, or “mantra,” now what exactly are we dealing with there? What does that do for a person when you do that?
AG: A measure of breath, actually. Like, aaaaaaaaah. [Nervous tittering from audience.] So, it’s focus on breath, despite the amusement of the audience, or with the amusement of the audience, or the amusement of the audience of your own mind bringing your awareness back to something that’s going on all the time anyway [which is] the breath.
DL: So, what it does is force you to concentrate on a function of your body? And therefore you don’t think of other things? Is that the deal?
AG: Well, then your mind wanders, but then you have the possibility of coming back to the place where you are, here, in the television studio, with this space.
DL: This is meditation is what we’re talking about.
AG: Right, basically. So it’s a function of meditation. An outward sign of the same.
DL: And then this application toward rock’n’roll music? I interrupted you there, I’m sorry.
AG: Well, poetry’s always been on the breath anyway. Words are on the breath. Music’s on the breath when you’re singing. Language and ideas come out on the breath. They’re impalpable in the mind, nonetheless you can articulate them and make them rock’n’roll, so to speak. You can make rock’n’roll of your philosophical thoughts.
DL: And now you’re actually doing this with other rock’n’roll groups, or you’re just doing it in the living room?
AG: In the bathroom! It begins in the bathroom, as all great genius ideas. But then it moves out.
JANET JACKSON DEMOS DEPT.: A few years ago I bought a $5 beater copy of Janet Jackson’s Control on vinyl, the first time I’d really listened to the album in the 21st Century, and the first time since Wikipedia had been invented, so this time, while I listened and rocked out, I was also able to read that “Jam and Lewis were the primary instrumentalists for the recording, including percussion, piano, drums, and also provided background vocals. Jackson accompanied Jam and Lewis on keyboard and took part in composing the arrangements.” That crucial last sentence (emphasis mine) gave me a sudden vision of these three bad-asses in a room together, each standing at a keyboard in a semi-circle while a drum machine blasts those crazy block-rocking electro-beats, nodding their heads in silence for extended groove periods, stabbing out one sick funk keyboard riff after another. When I saw that the Image Search collective had made a “Janet Jackson Demos” mix for NTS Radio, I thought maybe my vision had been captured in at least one medium, but this mix is something else entirely (even if a couple songs from Control are here in a rawer form), a downright cinematic work of art, the way the DJ intro over Janet’s sweet, sublime, syncopated, and still unreleased cover of “Pillow Talk” segues into her singing the song “Every Time” a capella (Christina Carter fans take note! surprisingly similar vibe!) and then into “Anytime, Anyplace (Acoustic Demo)” and then a solo voice-and-piano demo of Rhythm Nation’s huge ballad “Come Back to Me,” I mean come on! Every move this 60-minute mix makes is perfect stripped-down pop-soul bliss.
FORGOT WHAT ALBUM I JUST PUT ON DEPT.: Early into Side B of From Inside the House by Equipment Pointed Ankh (via digital advance, LPs coming soon on Bruit Direct Disques), when a female voice starts reading poetry, I got confused and for literally one split second wondered if I had put on something by Lydia Tomkiw and/or Algebra Suicide. It also has Blue Gene Tyranny Out of this World vibes but I knew it wasn’t that. Tomkiw it could’ve been, although it might be the only moment on this sprawling new album from everyone’s favorite Kentuckiana post-pop-noise-everything quintet Equipment Pointed Ankh I can say that about. Not that other moments might also make me forget what I was listening to, but instead of wondering if it was Algebra Suicide, I’d probably wonder if it was… 1990s Cluster? Nobukazu Takemura? Faust themselves??
MOON ZAPPA HONESTLY THE COOLEST DEPT.:
BLASTITUDE VIRTUAL BOOKSHELF DEPT.: I’ve had a few PDFs open on my phone forever so I’m just putting them here for safekeeping: Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis … Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-68 edited by Anthony Elms, John Corbett, and Terri Kapsalis … Do It! Scenarios of the Revolution by Jerry Rubin … and this one’s not a PDF, but an extremely withering article that does as much to find the common denominator of all current perfect-storm social problems as any other piece of protest agitprop will be able to: The Extractive Circuit by Ajay Singh Chaudary as published by The Baffler… read it and weep…