Saturday, September 2, 2017

Helene Breschand & Elliot Sharp-Chansons du Crepuscule; Public Eyesore Records #139, 2017

The last time that Disaster Amnesiac received a recording featuring Elliot Sharp from Public Eyesore, I balked, in many ways simply due to the seriousness with which Sharp is esteemed by me. Some context for that decision: here's an artist whose Larynx remained in the tape deck of my cars for years during the 1980's (the lettering actually rubbed completely off its casing over time), whose band Carbon, seen at the Kennel Club in 1992 or so, completely blew me away, whose interview with Mondo 2000 remains one of the definitive statements on Cyberpunk as culture. In short, Sharp's work over the years means a lot to me. Disaster Amnesiac is a huge fan of his. The thought of reviewing any work of his seems particularly daunting to me.
After an initial spin of Chansons du Crepuscule, Elliot's duo recording with French singer Helene Breschand, Disaster Amnesiac felt an immediate need to attempt to describe and enthuse. This new Public Eyesore product is so damn good, so illustrative of the twos' talents, I just had to dig in and type.
Things get off to a wild, spooky start with Extase. Right out of the gate, Breschand's vocals, presumably sung in French but sounding more Kobaiian to this listener, pair with cool fuzz tones from Sharp, riffed out in rhythmic trance form. No one gets credit for the great drum programming, which is equally fine. Helene's wild wailing carries the track to some pretty odd places, but any fan of Avant Garde singing will find lots to love within them.
Following up on the opening romp, La Langue Dans Ma Bouche and Je t'aime Tant feature more introspective moments. The former has great electronic burbling and mellow acoustic guitar strumming that frame vocals from both performers. On the latter, greasy slide guitar and swanky drum beats suggest Gainsbourg, but the lyrics seem to be a bit more Platonic than his legendary kink perspective. Breschand keeps up with the expressive vocal extends to great effect.
Next up we find Ne Lui Dis Rein, with more acoustic guitar and electronic loops being paired. The loops have cool, reedy timbres, while the guitar strings drop sonic dew drops among them. The lyrics are sung cool and sultry. This one exudes mystery throughout its relatively short duration. Rein is followed up by Goutte a Goutte, which continues showcasing Elliot's diverse guitar creativity. Here, he coaxes metallic industry sounds from an electric; he's been doing this for years now, but as Disaster Amnesiac has listened to this track, I've marveled at his singular aesthetic accomplishment with it. Sharp's got such a unique take on sound, and he practices it incredibly well. Helene hits emotional soprano tones on the song, pulling the sense upward as she does so.
All of the the previous action leads up to what, for me, is the high point of Crepuscule, a mind blowing version of the American Traditional classic The Cuckoo. Everything about this track, from Sharp's masterful guitar playing to his dusty baritone vocals and more of that crafty drumming blends with evocative mastery. This here's high art, and should be heard by anyone interested in creativity and aesthetic craft. Elliot Sharp has done so much, and Disaster Amnesiac has felt, listening to this track, that in many ways it's all lead to this track. If for no other reason, seek this disc out for it.
Breschand returns to the mic for the Eastern European Gypsy vibe of Amor, wherein the relative calm and beauty of the harp sounds gets exploded mid-song, one outburst framing its otherwise plaintive feel. The mournful zones gets quickly left behind with Le Bloque Cri, which again uses Elliot's electric guitar extensions and electronics for crazed sonic soundscape painting upon which Helene gets her Avant Ya Ya's out somewhat disturbingly. Sharp comments wryly in what sounds like some pretty fluent French, to boot.
Nouveau Monde has a European Art Music sound, with Sharp's sparse rhythm guitar sliding all around his partner's up and down the scale vocal performance. Elliot shines as an accompanying player here and Breschand shows more incredible range.
Chansons du Crepuscule ends on with the quiet tones of Le Dernier Mot, where both players use whispering, soft tones with guitar and voice, almost as if they're waving goodbye, and Chose Rose rounds the the disc out in simple spoke-sung duet mode, a final bit of surreal expression from these two masterful performers.
As mentioned, there are tons of reasons for any fan of creative music to seek out and enjoy the prodigious output of Elliot Sharp. Chansons du Crepuscule has more than a few itself. Disaster Amnesiac figures that, sadly, it isn't likely that this CD will be the breakout hit that it, in a sane world, should be, but, then again, Elliot and Helene Breschand probably couldn't care less about that. Undoubtedly, they'll continue in their quests for musical expression of the real and vital variety. Will they see you on their paths?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Felipe Araya-Punata; eh? Records #96, 2017

It was a few years ago that Disaster Amnesiac had a conversation with Bryan Day in which Bryan had told me of his plans to check out Noise and Experimental music in South East Asia. When I first pulled Felipe Araya's Punata tape out of its mailer, I thought that maybe it was one of the first fruits of Day's curiosity re: that region. It turns out that Araya hails from Chile.
As I've listened to the tape, it's hit me that I know very little about that region of the world, so perhaps it's better for my understanding than a possible release from the Pacific Rim. One great aspect of Punata is its first side, eponymous to the title, during which the listener is treated to 26 minutes of filed recordings from Bolivia. Presented in a raw, cell-phone captured way, Punata has similar vibes to many of the Bishop brothers' Sublime Frequencies releases: seemingly true to life vignettes of street-level societal action, with intimate conversational snippets. The most fascinating passage for this listener is one in which a marching band rocks out with abandon. That said, the seeming sound of windswept prairies of some sort towards the very end are compellingly spooky.
Disaster Amnesiac must admit to enjoying the b-side, No Punata, a bit more, as it features Araya's own musical pursuits. He plays the Peruvian Cajon, a quite simply structured percussive box with a large hole in its middle. Felipe experiments with the Cajon's tones and textures, utilizing extended techniques such as rubbing, sliding, kneading, and dropping it. It's really quite cool to hear musicians from different parts of the world experimenting upon instruments that are pretty much indigenous to them. Perhaps that's also something that Bryan finds really compelling? Also neat is the ancient sound of the Tarka, an Andean wind instrument that Araya pairs with Cajon to beautiful effect. No Punata ends with a rolling crescendo, during which Felipe sounds impressively unhinged and live, bringing things to a close with wild sawing action of a very loner nature. It's the sound of musician and instrument melding in the simplest, yet most intimate of ways.
After listening to Punata, one wonders what other sounds eh? Records has lined up, from parts far-flung, for the curious aural aficionado. If you're looking for raw sounds of Sur America, this cassette could be a fine place at which to start.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Donne et Desiree-Three World Premiers; Norwegianism Records 005, 2013

Of late Disaster Amnesiac has been drowning in a sea of great music. I'm surrounded by compelling sounds, and they're coming at me from any and all format: download, CD, vinyl, tape, self-recorded shows. In regards to describing and enthusing, the question is begged, "where to start?"
Three World Premiers, the excellent 2013 release from guitar/drums duo Donne et Desiree seems a fine place for that. Disaster Amnesiac has been jamming it primarily during commute time, and finding its sounds increasingly more compelling and awesome.
The first of Premiers's four tracks, Jackson Pollock Highway gets things going on a quick, silvery and somewhat aggressive tip, with drummer Donne leading the charge. His nerve beats scatter, clang, and talking while guitarist Desiree establishes a tight loop, upon which he proceeds to layer great lines of dissonant six string squall. This tune gets to the heart of its energetic matter with a deft quickness that could leave one breathless. Highway has a lot of the energetic hyperactivity evinced by the painter for whom it's named. Active lines abound.
Pacing changes on track number two, Bob Sees Himself Walking Towards a Formidable Abstraction. Here, D et D journey down into sonic valleys of relative quiet and introspection for extended periods of time before climbing up into denser energetic modes. Donne shows more great versatility here, extending his kit to include cymbal scrapes, shell hits, long rolls. His pacing really shines. Desiree matches these moves with a solid grasp of dynamics and space. His voices, often arising from silence, and cool for their resultant dramatic impact.
Similar to Bob's vibes Elephant In the Room. Indeed, it often seems to Disaster Amnesiac that these two tunes make up a kind of suite within Premiers. Oddly atmospheric vocals float relatively low within the sonic matrix; the first time that I listened at home, I had to check and see if I'd left a television on within another room. All that said, when this two get busier within the track, Desiree spills sonic spaghetti monsters all over Donne's skittering Euro-Free moves to more stunning effect.
Premiers concludes with the darkened ritualistic behaviors of Keep On Whaling, during which trumpet mouthpieces seem to be paired with kitchen implements for primal pace setting of a very introspective nature. One would do well to listen to it with headphones. Any type of other sound within the environment could distract from the late-night feeling that Disaster Amnesiac is picking up from it. Whaling's sounds mostly conclude a few minutes before the CD stops. Is this a nod to Cage, or am I going deaf? At the very last moment there's a none too subtle blink of sound, so be sure and have your stereo at a safe level for that final event.
Donne et Desiree are one of many great groups contained within the ranks at Norwegianism Records. Even though it's now been a few years since Three World Premiers has come out, it sounds really fresh to Disaster Amnesiac. Its blending of Free Jazz, Experimental Rock and all-out creative abandon, of both the busy and spacious varieties, is well worth seeking out. The physical disc is limited, but if those are all taken, one can grab the download for even more immediate musical satisfaction. Are there sequels out there?

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Strange Boutique-Charm; Bedazzled Records, 1993

Teenage trips to Washington D.C. for shows at places like 9:30 Club, Hung Jury Pub, and D.C. Space made Disaster Amnesiac aware of the deep scene within the District. I'd see flyers and jacket art for groups such as Grey March, Troubled Gardens, and Madhouse and be intrigued.
Decades later, that's still the case, and, during a recent dig for cheap CD's (REAL buyer's market, kids), I found Strange Boutique's (basically Madhouse after a name change) great 1993 offering, Charm.
Fitting title too: for several days now, Disaster Amnesiac has indeed been charmed by its great playing, whimsical vibes, and just the overall gorgeousness of the tones contained on it.
Singer/lyricist Monica Richards leads the songs with a somewhat understated, at least by Goth terms, alto delivery. Her personal, poetic visions are sung in a way that provides drama and intrigue, but this listener never feels overwhelmed by it. Being somewhat aware of Richards' D.C. Hardcore pedigree up to that point, it makes sense to Disaster Amnesiac that she'd utilize this approach within the band. I hear echoes of said D.C.H.C, along with strains from its Revolution Summer descendant and hints of British Post-Punk. Songs such as Happy Birthday Wanda June, with its mashup of Doo-Wop and Spahn Ranch, Keep Them Still, which is based upon a Donne sonnet, and the mind-blowing Desert Rock vibes of Solar Friend are ample proof, both sound-wise and intellectually, of the deepness of her conception.
Strange Boutique guitarist Frederick E. Smith is well known to Disaster Amnesiac, seeing as that he was the lead guitarist in long-time favorite D.C. band Beefeater. His playing within the former group is a lot more textural oriented. His sounds on Charm provide shimmering colors and tones as they float around Richards' texts. Smith always struck me as a very band oriented player, in that his guitar melds deeply within the overall song structures. Within Charm, that's definitely the case. His repetitive riffing in Glaciers Down and acoustic strumming of Alekan Girl pair with great multi-track touches and subtle leads. His electric playing on Keep Them Still is beautifully shining, evoking rain storms and lightning. Excellent, understated six string artistry throughout this disc.
The rhythm section of Strange Boutique may be the coolest aspect for Disaster Amnesiac. I've often heard Goth/Death Rock groups that downplay rhythmic muscle and adeptness. Never sure why that's the case, but drummer Rand Blackwell and bassist Steve Willett play with a locked, lithe effectiveness that's quite cool to hear. Strange Boutique seems to have been a group that relied heavily upon the triplet feel; tunes such as Ears To the Ground, Happy Birthday Wanda June, and Hills Like White Elephants all cycle in threes. Even within this more waltz-like signature, Blackwell and Willett play with great Rock swagger and earthiness. Indeed, Willett's bass is pretty much the lead chordal voice throughout all of Charm. Blackwell drives it really effectively, with highly proficient cymbal strokes and clean tom tom set ups. His shamanic beating within A Ballad For Morgaine, a song that feels somewhat different, on account of its being from a different session than the rest of Charm's tracks, matches equally with the mysterious oration from Richards and the glistening sounds of the strings.
A brief Google search on Strange Boutique revealed that the band ended sometime in the mid-1990's, a victim of music biz indifference and performer burn out. Disaster Amnesiac is happy that they managed to document the eleven great tracks contained within Charm. If you're a fan of well produced and imagined Goth/Death Rock, you'll want to keep your eyes peeled for it when you're digging in crates or tuned in to Spotify. Very listenable charms from Strange Boutique.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tape Crash #15-My Cat Is An Alien/Gelba; split cassette, Old Bicycle Records 2016

This one was off of Disaster Amnesiac's radar for a while, but it recently floated back up to the top of the cassette tape milk cart that occupies a corner of my media room. Glad to have had that happen, too, as I'd forgotten about the cool sounds of this tape.
Gelba's side features three tracks of murky, mysterious drones. These numbers make Disaster Amnesiac think of subterranean insect hives or deep earth caves. Their dark, somewhat subdued chattering, pulled from synth, guitar, tape delays, and loops unfold with quiet persistence, can feel rather unsettling at times. Much like many of the other releases that have come my way of late, there's an Electro-Acoustic Industrial feel to them. Gelba's duo of Matteo Poggi and Michele Mazzani surely display the interactive dynamics that have also been described, making their Industrial Music not so much about jackhammer rhythms (nothing of the sort happens at all during these tracks), instead giving forth sliding zones that fade into and out of the listener's consciousness. Gelba definitely are making some Trip Metal.
The venerable My Cat Is An Alien's side-long track, The Revenge of the Fallen Star, starts off with a high pitch drone which takes its time building into a mesh of wordless vocals, chiming electronics and percussion and layers of other more discrete sounds. This track has a more Science Fiction feel than its companion on the other side of the tape, its alien vibes feeling distinctly less earthy and more extra-terrestrial. Despite featuring passages that distort, these are cited as being "wholly intentional and...integral", and the whole thing has a relaxing, meditative Music of the Spheres feel to it. Clearly, My Cat Is An Alien's origin is on a friendly planet. The brothers Maurizio and Roberto Opalio have been honing their craft for a long time, and the experience is quite evident on Tape Crash #15. Incredible Cosmic Drift Tones from Turin!
If recalled correctly, Tape Crash has ceased being a working label, but the discerning Psychedelic Music fan can easily find plenty of great archival stuff at their Bandcamp page. Tons of great stuff can still be found there.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

noisepoetnobody-Fissure; Eh? Records #94, 2017

Apologies for the long delay in Disaster Amnesiac describing and enthusing: between being somewhat drained in the listening capabilities from recent posts, fighting a motherfucker of a cold, and having to attend to things on the personal side of life, I was just not in the mood to review. As is always the case, a package from Bryan Day served to remedy those uninspired types of feelings.
This time around, Eh? Records sent over their fresh new tape from noisepoetnobody, Fissure. Disaster Amnesiac has been listening to it for a little over a month now, and its vibes have had me coming back to one key concept that seems to drive the Public Eyesore/Eh? mission: interactive experimental sound production is the key to the ever-growing label.
Fissure surely cleaves to that guiding aesthetic. Its two pieces, both further subdivided into halves, feature noisepoetnobody on springs, strings, boards, e-bow and looper engaging with Evaline Muller on bowls, bows, blades, and metal objects. This duo coaxes many types of sounds from their relatively simple collection of gear, all the while sticking to said interactive approach. Drones, clangs, warbles, knocks, clicks, rings, all heard to emanate from one player, while the other astutely comments, adds, or simply keeps quiet as their partner's ideas ring out.  The listening satisfaction comes from the way in which nobody and Muller are clearly interacting in thoughtful ways. On Fissure, there's never a sense of rushing to get to any destination; on the contrary, there's a delightfully zen aura to all of it, even when the stakes get raised in the volume department. This is music created from listening, and it seems to me that a ton of thought, aimed toward interactivity, was utilized in its creation. As such, it's great for deeper listening or as a sonic backdrop to whatever else one has to do at home. Fissure's tones, seemingly created from a place of interactive collaboration, will surely seep into the listener's consciousness from either method.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Ned Lagin-Cat Dreams; Self released via Spiritcats.com, 2017

Talk about your dark stars: Ned Lagin has, at least for Disaster Amnesiac, been a quietly looming presence over any musings about the Grateful Dead, at least as regards their crucial early 1970's headiness. I've grown to see him as a kind of intellectual shadow for the group, a retiring thoughtful spark that at one time informed the brainier side of the band (Lesh/Garcia) to balance out the more commercial instincts necessary for the whole thing to work.
Do a Wikipedia search for him, and you'll find that his personal growth has continued on the trajectory that preceded his times with the Dead. Ned has the unique distinction of being a keyboard player that actually survived and thrived after a tenure with Jerry and Co.
It seems as though he stopped releasing music after the sublime Sea Stones of 1975, but has never stopped studying, learning and theorizing about it. That is, up until 2017 and the release of Cat Dreams. Disaster Amnesiac first got wind of this disc's impending release in late 2016, and had been seriously looking forward to hearing what Lagin had spent so long developing. The one predictable thing about Ned Lagin is that his music will sneak up on the listener with all manner of sonic surprises, which is most definitely the case with Cat Dreams.
The CD's over all theme, as the title suggests, is a musing on the lives and love of cats. While there are no lyrics, the tones and timbres do suggest the quirkiness and surprise of the feline species. Various manners of music making are utilized. Songs such as Heartbeats (Tyler's Adventures) and Nimo's Song feature fluid electric Rock band jamming. The former features really intricate double drum set chatter from Celso Alberti and Kevin Hays, while the latter has an incredible guitar solo statements from Gary Vogensen and Barry Finnerty. Lagin leads this band action with subtle synth shading and melodic piano riffs. Also of note on Heartbeats is the fluid, almost lead bass (sound familiar 'heads?) from Dewayne Pete. Most of the members of the group on these two songs also appear on the fun, swinging triptych The Big Cat Dance. This tune's three cuts start with the bouncing Carnivale/Mardi Gras strut of Cat Samba, which features some fun scat singing, electronically processed by Ned and more crisp interaction from the drums tandem. This one swings like crazy. It's followed by the warbled Appalachian moonshine of Catnip, which is notable for its skittering banjo leads, played by Ned on his keyboard synth. Disaster Amnesiac has marveled at its authentic sound, along with the gritty harmonies he gets. I mean, it sounds just like a banjo! The Americana vibe continues for Cat Licks, with the romping violin of Dick Bright leading the charge and Barry Sless taking it up on pedal steel guitar while Lagin utilizes his much considered synth tones to meet up and intertwine with them. The Big Cat Dance fulfills the promise of polyglot American Music, pulling from any and all pockets of our rich musical culture. Listen, groove to, and marvel at it.
Cat Dreams being a release from Ned Lagin, one can also expect to be treated to his sublime Electronic Music side. On tracks such as The Creek, wherein he coaxes more acoustic-sounding timbres from his rig, Sun Cats, with its percussive chiming ostinato, the dark abstraction of Starlight or the sunnier beams of Moonrise, Ned provides great examples of this facet within his greater vision. The fans of his earlier electronic aesthetic will find plenty of sounds to love within these pieces.
Along with all of this other pursuits, Lagin seems to have put in serious time studying Native American flute. Another trio of tunes, Night Sounds, Night Journey, and Night Spirits, have him in duet with Alex Maldonado. These three have all of the shamanistic atmosphere that the sparse sounds of the wooden flute is capable of conjuring.
Perhaps the best songs on Cat Dreams are the emotionally charged Someone's Baby, Teddy Sings a Love Song (How His Heart Sings) and G's Star. All three of them have Disaster Amnesiac running to memories of beloved felines. Baby has Ned playing sweet violin tones on his synth, in duet with Finnerty; this duo continues their responsive conversation on Teddy, this time with Ned on cello sounds. G's Star packs possibly the most emotional wallop with its ringing electric piano sounds. If music is the fruit of love, these three songs drip with its bittersweet juices. Hug your partner, call your mom, or pet your cat today, for life is truly short.
In the liner note for Cat Dreams, Ned writes that it was a purely d.i.y. affair. All of its songs were recorded in non-studio settings, and all of them are first takes. While its songs have the living feel inherent to this approach, credit must be given for Ned's clear mix and sound capture. All of the instruments are present, and there is nothing slapdash about them.
Disaster Amnesiac hopes that Ned Lagin doesn't wait nearly as long to produce a follow up to Cat Dreams as he did for Sea Stones. That said, there are pretty clearly at least nine lives' worth of rich, engaging, and enjoyable songs on this much awaited new offering from one of the truly compelling figures in Psychedelic Music. How's about a live show at Marin Civic Center, Ned?