Monday, November 20, 2017

Goodbye Malcolm

The first time that Disaster Amnesiac heard AC/DC, I was a ten or eleven year old, rolling around Stockton, California with a cousin and a few of his pals. The music's power had an instant effect upon me, as I imagine that it did for so many other Rock 'n Roll fans. Since that time, they're a group that I'll make time to listen to; as much as I despise Classic Rock radio programming, I'll occasionally surf over to the local representative of that vibe in hopes of hearing some of those great Malcolm Young riffs. As far as I know, and it's recalled that Angus Young has copped to this, it was the former that wrote all of those great tunes, subsequently giving them to the rest of the group, with the latter whooping it up live over them. One would be hard pressed to find a more elegantly simplified aesthetic as that of Malcolm Young's. AC/DC never strayed far from their initial template, and, with one so bare-bones brilliantly simple, what reason would they have to have done so, anyway?
As Disaster Amnesiac has thought about Malcolm since news of his passing hit the media, I've kept coming back to a comparison between him and Johnny Ramone. Both took Rock 'n Roll innovations from their predecessors, paired them down to an even more elementally basic form, and subsequently worked within those parameters to great artistic success. At times in the past, Malcolm has sounded to this listener like some master of Minimalism, as, indeed he was. It's fascinating that he was able to make these artless moves within the always novelty-obsessed world of the Big Corporate Rock. Malcolm Young really did stick to his vision, and while doing so, crafted a lasting, solid, and most of all enjoyable body of work.
Farewell, Malcolm Young, thanks for staying true to your vision. Such fine musical examples you set.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie-Paris 1989; A&M Records, 1990 compact disc

As recalled, this disc's release was treated with huge fanfare in the early 1990's, touted as the answer to many a Jazz lover's prayers. Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie, together again after four decades apart! Disaster Amnesiac had a copy during that time, but somewhere along the line, it was sold or traded off or given away. Recently, I'd been hankering to hear it again, and a recent stop at the Rasputin's Records in Campbell, CA offered it up to me, shiny and seemingly unused. Money was paid. Listening ensued. Impressions made? You'd better believe it!
Roach starts things off on Paris 1989, rolling across his immaculately tuned drums with the finesse that's so characteristic of his playing. Cymbals are added, and the total effect is that of a drum choir embodied by one man. Max's playing is so tightly eloquent throughout this recording, it's just wonderful to listen to. He goes from straight linear rhythmic beats to free pulsing to wild flailing, and that's pretty much within the first five minutes of disc opener In The Beginning. Anyone interested in Jazz drumming absolutely must listen to Max Roach; in multiple interviews he would state that his style was based upon the earlier masters such as Baby Dodds and Sid Catlet. That said, Roach developed an incredibly unique and somewhat more complex approach than his esteemed predecessors, one that remains highly innovative. It's a high, high standard. Across the 90 or so minutes of duo exchange with Gillespie, Max leads the way, changing up the rhythms when he needs to, taking the lead or being supportive when either of those are needed. His moves from sticks to mallets to brushes offer fascinating tonal variation from his kit as he makes these moves.
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie will obviously be remembered as one of the key 20th Century artists. Much like Roach, he built upon the earlier innovations of Jazz, spearheading his own innovations into the Bop movement, from which he bounced into a lifetime of Jazz touring and ambassadorship. The playing of this then 71 year old man on Paris 1989 sounds fresh, strong, and clear. Disaster Amnesiac hears him quoting from Copeland, hears him get chillingly intimate and boldly brassy, hears complicated multi-note runs and simple Blues phrases. I've marveled at his control of the trumpet: Diz does it all with Mastery. One thing that Disaster Amnesiac has ruminated upon while listening to these two discs is the relatively simple design of the trumpet, and the way in which Gillespie extends and elaborates this simplicity into such sublime sounds. Additionally, when he scat sings on Salt Peanuts and Oo Pa Pa Da, a world of absolute joy opens up.
Taken together, Roach and Gillespie play with such great simpatico on Paris 1989. Reunited after four decades of being apart, the duo share leads and supports. One can tell that a lot of active listening is being done as they trade phrases within the tunes, as comments fly back and forth between drummer and trumpeter. The vibes are heavily weighted with their decades of experience.  It's the sound of Masters conversing upon their craft. Where Max goes, Dizzy follows, and vice versa. Signals are sent and responded to. Lines are traded, mused upon, and then exited, often with Roach opening up new opportunities with great, rolling fills on his tom toms. So much action going on there! Although it sometimes seems as though Gillespie is content to lay out and let his dear friend wail, when he does step up, the sounds are always perfectly placed, always spot on. Although mostly improvised, Paris 1989 has the feel of a fully formed, thought out musical composition.
In the liner note for Paris 1989, Gillespie states something along the lines of "...this recording will go down in the history of recorded Jazz as one of its greatest...". Not many could get away with such a statement, but Disaster Amnesiac, and surely others, would have to agree. It's an essential document from two titans of one of the best developments of the otherwise absolutely violent and often criminal 20th Century. Close to thirty years since its release, and close to 100 years since Roach and Gillespie began their respective epic runs, it holds up quite nicely. Dig in and LEARN.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

z'ev/Alexandra von Bolz'n/Fragment King-The Garden; digital release via Bandcamp, 2017

You just have to hand it to to z'ev: fifty plus years into his creative journey, and the man is still working. He seems to come back from any and all adversity. Most recently, Disaster Amnesiac has read that he was injured in some type of literal train wreck, only to rehab and recover, this time duly heading for South America. z'ev is not thin skinned, that's for sure.
Neither is his voluminous documented work, which, with his Bandcamp page, is growing all the time. While not located at that same cyber node, his music with Alexandra von Bolz'n and Fragment King is equally tough, and highly worthy of checking out.
Disaster Amnesiac has been digging The Garden, nineteen minutes of percussive trance bliss from 2011, especially of late. z'ev starts things off with a fine example of his ostinato drumming approach on what sounds like a single bass drum. It stays for the duration of The Garden, conjuring up hallucinatory images of snakes and surreal landscapes for this listener. Disaster Amnesiac is reminded too of a RE/Search interview in which the master percussionist/sound manipulator spoke of dispensing with flashy drum licks in order to get to some kind of deeper essences. This is most definitely the case herein. z'ev doesn't "do" a lot with his lines on The Garden, and in doing so does everything, moving the track to fully trance inducing places.
Atop the magic rhythmic carpet laid down by z'ev, one hears whirling, high pitched electronics from Fragment King that drill down into ears. Not so much melodic as atmospheric, they spin and cloud around the sound spaces, digging down and flying out and around the drumming. Alongside these moves, vocalist Alexandra von Bolz'n intones some kind of bizarre script. Disaster Amnesiac can't really tell what language she's singing in, but her dramatic vocal rises and falls sure sound dramatic and often somewhat disturbed. Perhaps they're some kind of vocalized asemic writing?
The sum total of The Garden strikes Disaster Amnesiac as some kind of sublime Industrial Black Metal, as its darkened vibes sink in to the auditory perception in a way that is heavy, mysterious, and singularly out there. This music is not traditionally pleasant, but it's surely compelling and fascinating to this listener.
It's my hope that z'ev, von Bolz'n and Fragment King have more of these sonic darts to throw at us.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reptoid-Scum Supreme, Cool Room Records/Barcop Records; 2017

A few months back, Disaster Amnesiac had the pleasure of being surrounded by the fearsome sound and energy of Reptoid at Oakland's Golden Bull. It was fascinating and impressive to watch and listen to this manic one band as he plowed through an energetic 45 minute set; the guy was seriously pushing some air, his sounds attacking the audience with blast upon blast of tight, intricate pieces for electronics and drum set. After the set, his merch table had a sign that advertised an upcoming 7" release. He had me before the last notes of his set rang out, that's for certain.
Due to a busted turntable, now replaced, and general life stuff taking up a ton of time, Disaster Amnesiac had not been able to delve into my copy of Scum Supreme for a bit, but over the past few days I've had time to groove to its sounds, and they're kicking my ears' ass just the same way that Reptoid's live set did.
Over the course of what appear to be four tracks on the vinyl (three tracks listed on the cover), drummer/electronics controller/vocalist Jordan Sobolew thrashes and pounds his kit with over the top strength, rolling over his toms and snare as he shreds the tunes' synth arrangements. The latter are crazed,  glossy, glassy, whirling tones that leap off of the vinyl and surround the listener with their high end, treble attacks. No mere effects, though, these sounds work to make their songs quite melodically effective.
The drumming is a real highlight, at least for this listener. Sobolew is kicking serious butt with his playing, and Disaster Amnesiac, having seen him do his thing live, knows it's the real deal. His gruff vocals, shouted atop the musical melee, convey some serious angst with their Punk Rock demonstrativeness. Reptoid ain't singing about good vibes and mellow flower people, that's for sure.
The sum total of this short ride is a strong, heavy, and wrenching one. Scum Supreme strikes me as a cleansing purge, Reptoid pushing through all of the negativity that he perceives and arriving at a shimmering, metallic, peacefully drained space.
It's worth the slog, that's for goddamn sure.

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?