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, 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?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Two Eyesores and an eh?

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that Disaster Amnesiac has been getting a steady stream of releases from Bryan Day's Public Eyesore/eh? labels for a few years now. Their output is getting dauntingly prodigious! It seems as though I just plowed through a number of new sounds from them, and yet here I am again having my ears scrubbed by wild, woolly sonic offerings from the great International Earth Oddball Underground. Bryan's most recent mailer to me contained three CDs. Here's what Disaster Amnesiac has been hearing from them....

Bad Jazz-Daymare; eh? Records #93, 2017
Bryan Day has several musical projects going on concurrently. Bad Jazz seems to be one of the more prominent. They're often out on the national tour circuit, hitting house shows, radio stations, and small galleries from coast to coast. On Daymare, this trio conjures up clicking, clacking, scraping, ringing, fuzzy, and warbled tones with the invented instruments of Ben Salomon and Day alongside  the electronics and toys from Tania Chen. The latter also uses her considerable conservatory piano chops to get these big block chords and mysterious little filligrees. These passages have a kind of lonely, haunted feel from her piano playing. Much like Bryan's Eloine tape from last year, Bad Jazz often has the sound of robots or large industrial combines as they spring to animate life and realized their sonic potentialities. Daymare's 39 minute piece also features a lot of intimate listening and quiet back and forth Electro-Acoustic idea slinging, at least until one prankster within the trio turns on some funny Casio-sounding programmed schmaltz that takes the whole thing out. A wacky, surreal finish to a mostly inward and intimate disc. Extra laughs from a pretty hilarious inner liner photo!

Alan Sondheim/Azure Carter/Luke Damrosch-Limit; Public Eyesore Records #138, 2017
Public Eyesore and Sondheim/Carter have a good thing going for sure. Limit is, what, their third CD on the label? They never fail to deliver the goods aesthetically. Their visionary mesh of Azure's plainly spoke/sung soprano lyrics with Alan's prodigious talents on scads of stringed and woodwind instruments never fails to have Disaster Amnesiac blown away by their creative and unique sound. As stated on the liner note (and if you get the disc, be sure and read its revelations), Limit is an attempt to engineer a musical performance to go both ways in time. While Sondheim acknowledges that this is a real impossibility, the live processing of Luke Damrosch renders it almost within reach. While it's sometimes rather disconcerting to mentally process the forward-backward motion of the singing and playing as they're subtly pushed back and back back and then forward, when Alan wails on tunes such as afghaninvdynb and movement5b, the simultaneously simple and complex nature of his vision shines through. The same goes for Azure's lovely, endearing singing on aborrowers and harbinger. Her voice may be the most purely American, in the Ives-ian sense, that Disaster Amnesiac knows of. There's a murky, swampy feel to songs such as thecriesb and holelessb that seems to be the direct result of the the instrumental/processing blend. This dynamic reaches its apotheosis at disc's end on zymphonyb, wherein the layers get maddeningly complicated. Limit is Alan Sondheim's stated desire as being "For a new music-". As with any works of this type, it ain't exactly easy or comforting. That said, it feels to me like the start of a new phase for he and Azure Carter. Disaster Amnesiac looks forward to hearing what's beyond this brink.

Ghost In The House-Second Sight; Public Eyesore Records #136, 2017
Not to take anything away from the two discs preceding this one, but Ghost In The House's Second Sight is definitely the most  juicily varied of the shipment. This group plays out fairly often, and their lineup is pretty stable. Thus, their sound is that of a working band. Disaster Amnesiac has seen them a few times, but can't recall Kyle Bruckmann hitting with them. He brings really great oboe and English horn classicism feels to tracks such as Low and Metal Land Miniatures. These tones contrast the metallic inventions from Tom Nunn and the prodigious gongs of Karen Stackpole. David Michalak joins it all together with stringed accents. This quartet's interactions are subtle but not pensive; one gets the impression that they're playing with and listening to each other. Not always the case in Improvised Music, but Ghost In The House nail that dynamic. Guest appearances from Dean Santomieri with his compelling elocution on The Dream Machine (along with Polly Moller), Dockside Discovery and the really funny The Bats (are hanging upside down), John Ingle's alto sax on Innocence Walks a Dark Path, Cindy Webster on saw, and Bart Hopkin on rumba box thicken the sweet and sour sonic pho of Second Sight. I used to know a guy who'd say about a still-developing band, "it ain't soup yet"; Ghost In The House have gone beyond all that. This group is the stock that some others are basing their stuff upon.

Whilst grabbing cover images for this post, Disaster Amnesiac noted that Public Eyesore/eh? Records already have new releases coming down the pike. It's my hope that I'll be able to hear those as well, of course. Still, in the above, there remains a shit-ton of active listening to be had and enjoyed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Goodbye Chuck Berry

An early Disaster Amnesiac Rock 'n Roll memory: age six-seven. I am standing in front of my father's stereo. Dad has at some earlier point shown me how to put vinyl onto the turntable. He has also explained to me that this LP with the black cover and white lettering contains music by Chuck Berry, who is the best Rock 'n Roll singer ever. I put the needle on the record and stand enthralled by its sound.
A later Disaster Amnesiac Rock 'n Roll memory. I am at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California. It is 2002 or 2003. Little Richard and Chuck Berry are co-headlining an evening concert. Little Richard's band is tight and incredibly well rehearsed. Even his off the cuff monologues sound memorized. Mid-way through the show, he has ushers hand out slim paperbacks with Bible verses in them. After Richard's set, I see a Cadillac driving up to the backstage area of the concert venue. I see a tall, slim man with a white cap get out of the Cadillac and move towards the trunk. I see this man then carry a guitar case into the backstage area; a minute or so later, he's on the stage, greeting the backing musicians that have been waiting for him to arrive. I swear to this day that the bass player was Billy Cox, friend of Jimi Hendrix. The group begins to play, and are ramshackle at best. There are tuning issues, timing issues, and nothing sounds like those classic records did. They're playing those same songs,
After thirty minutes or so, Berry tries to get the tony Silicon Valley crowd to sing about ding-a-lings. It's strangely uncomfortable. This crowd does not seem to want to do this, and the response is, at best, lackluster. Chuck jokes around, forgives the audience for their lack of willingly open crudeness, and the band plays a bit longer. Maybe they finally "got it together", I don't know.
Driving home from the show, Disaster Amnesiac came to fully realize the brilliance of Chuck Berry's willful rawness, his unending long middle finger to all things elite and "serious". In that, Chuck Berry truly was the Best Rock 'n Roll Singer Of All Time.
The man seemingly never went soft, and, presumably, was on edge to the bitter end. The failed music biz person in me admires the stories of his pistol packin' demands for the FUCKING CASH NOW. The historically aware American marvels at his success in the face of ignorant segregated St. Louis harshness.
The Rock 'n Roll fan in me still dances a jig to pretty much any one of his songs whenever I hear one.
Chuck Berry truly did things his way. With him, you probably never could tell. Sounds like Rock 'n Roll to me.