Ovary Lodge

Ovary Lodge, 1973

As a collector, I can be damnably linear. A record, like Keith Tippett's Blueprint, will send me scurrying around trying to collect every thing I can by him. Digesting a catalogue en masse, I'm trying to map it out in my head: Which are significant turns? What are curious diversions?

In Tippett's journey, Ovary Lodge is a major signpost (even if it's out-of-print and hard to come by). It's the point where he travelled beyond the reach of progressive rock. He spent the early 70s in that gray area of jazz-rock, but there is little purchase on Ovary Lodge for a King Crimson fan who happens on it after hearing his playing on Islands or Lizard. They could certainly be forgiven for expecting something more prog-like, given the ludicrous drum cage featured on the cover (plus, it's produced by Robert Fripp, after all). 

No, Ovary Lodge is a jazz trio session with on foot in the free jazz mold and one placed firmly in the European free improv tradition and zero feet left for rockist intentions. While the group pay some respect to tunes, any offerings are kept oblique. Drummer Frank Perry spends most of the record more focused on textures than rhythms. There's a familiar busyness to the proceedings that will sound familiar to anyone acquainted with the early Incus catalog. While there was a modicum of precedent, Ovary Lodge still offered new pastures and rich terrain for Keith Tippett (and his fans). 

field report no.071117


While I've become accustomed to sparsely attended shows since landing in Asheville, I'm inclined to attribute it to the type of music I opt for. This ain't New York City, and Asheville can only sustain so much experimental music. Maybe it was too early in the week or too close in proximity to a holiday weekend, but the Woods played to a thin crowd on this summer evening. Surprising, since I would have pegged their folk-tinged indie-pop as right in Asheville's sweet spot.

Small turnout or no, after with well over a decade of touring, Woods are a battle-tested and dependable live act. Not to say they lack ambition or have grown complacent. Many of their songs still bear tell-tale traces of ramshackle psychedelia from their freak-folk beginnings—exploding into extended, sprawling guitar solos. Singer Jeremy Earl's permanent falsetto delivery has settled into a deceivingly wistful lull that still leans forward, pushing the tunes ahead. The denizens of Asheville missed out when they dropped the ball on this one. 

NOTES: Woods; John Andrews and the Yawns


Mickeranno, 1985

The internet can be a strange, beautiful place. I came across a copy of Mickeranno's only, self-titled album on a blog I don't remember and is probably now defunct anyways. I downloaded the record and listened to it in short order (shocking, in this day and age). The music was like a the Durutti Column's stately guitar work crossed with the Young Marble Giants' muted, lo-fi charm. Those are lofty comparisons for a post-punk band, but Mickeranno earned them. There's something ineffable abut the restraint on display. It's not that they're virtuosos refusing to shred, but the measured performance on every track seethes with repressed energy and emotion. By the fifth listen (on repeat) I was looking for a vinyl copy.

This is where the internet let me down. Many of the sites I go to didn't even know the record or band existed. In of all the web, I found only two copies, both hailing from Italy (at steep prices). Due to the cost, I waited until this record had burnt a hole in my brain. Eventually, I forked over for it. In my warped brain, Mickeranno remains entirely worth it. Hell, if I had the means, I'd reissue this LP.

Oblique Portrait: Bauhaus

For a band that was so short-lived, Bauhaus' influence is far-reaching. This mix follows the long, often intertwined careers of each member. If you would like to subscribe to future episodes of this podcast you can find it in itunes, or you can copy this link and subscribe manually.

Bauhaus are widely accepted as the godfathers of goth, but that's hindsight. Goth wasn't yet a thing in 1979. No, Bauhaus were a post-punk band, infused with glam rock, dub reggae and punk fury. While their unique take on all that was codified into goth as we know it today, it's not nearly as multi-faceted as the actual bands it's based off.

Bauhaus wasn't fated to last long: 4 albums (at least one of which was merely cobbled together) plus a clutch of singles. Between singer Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash and bassist David J, they were trying to contain three distinct, competing and prolific voices under one banner. By their last missive, you could hear them peeling away from each other, presaging what they were about to reveal.

Each member had new material waiting in the wings. David J was quick with solo releases, and slung bass for the Jazz Butcher (but that's a different story). Daniel Ash took drummer Kevin Haskins to start Tones on Tail. After an abortive sojourn with Japan's Mick Karn as Dalis Car, Peter Murphy was recording under his own name. Within a couple of years, most of Bauhaus had reconvened as Love and Rockets.

Theirs is a history that's proven hard to outrun. Bauhaus has reunited twice: once in '98 for a tour and again in '06, which yeilded new album. Love and Rockets has broken up and regrouped at least once. Ash and Haskins are back at it, touring as Poptone, performing material from Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail.

While 25 songs can't contain all this history, I tried not to constrain it either. While there's no Bela Lugosi's Dead or So Alive to be found, I wasn't contrarian about including singles, just avoiding the obvious. It ends where it began, with Peter Murphy performing live, digging deep for a rare b-side off Bauhaus' fist single. 

This is the wild and divergent sound of Bauhaus, not only as they once were, but also what they went on to become.

Bauhaus: St. Vitus Dance
Bauhaus: Kick in the Eye
Bauhaus: Swing the Heartache (BBC session)
Bauhaus: Slice of Life
David J: The Promised Land
Tones on Tail: Rain
Dalis Car: Create and Melt
Love and Rockets: A Private Future
Peter Murphy: Canvas Beauty
Love and Rockets: All in My Mind
Peter Murphy: Crystal Wrists
Love and Rockets: No Big Deal
Daniel Ash: Not So Fast
David J: Fingers in the Grease
Daniel Ash: Roll On
Peter Murphy: Sails Wave Goodbye
Love and Rockets: Body and Soul
Bauhaus: Severance
Peter Murphy: Your Face
David J: In the Great Blue Whenever
Bauhaus: Undone
Peter Murphy: I Spit Roses
David J: Dagger in the Well
Daniel Ash: Too Much Choice
Peter Murphy: Boys (live)


Scanner, 1995

Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner) is an electronic artist who rose to notoriety using a loophole in British privacy laws. Building music from pirated cellphone conversations is exactly the type of thing you would come across in the pages of the WIRE, first. I would've too, given enough time (they covered his activity plenty), but the populist techno compilation series, Trance Europe Express beat them to the punch. Even if the eavesdropping puts you off, he'll make a voyeur out of you, with all the overtones that implies—from the lonely loser of Kieslowski's Red to the police state panopticons of 1984. These voices may not say much of anything, but entirely mundane exchanges are supercharged by our knowledge of being an unwelcome listener.

Scanner's first records existed as concrète audio collages—a pastiche of illicit voices and airwave static. It demanded a superior sound sculptor to make them survive repeat listens. Rimbaud eventually inched away from these airwaves dreams. Whether the privacy laws were updated or not, leaning on them for too long would surely devolve into schtick. Spore sits at the cusp of this pivot, merging the still-beating heart of stolen conversations with a dystopian electronica.

Morals and Dogma

Deathprod, 2000

Helge Sten, aka Deathrpod, is far more well known as a member and producer of Supersilent than a solo artist. Even though the core of his ambient output is discussed in hush tones, its remained only intermittently in print. Rune Grammafon re-issued four of them on CD in 2004, and now again on vinyl in 2017.

His ambient spaces are like celestial white noise. There's a hint of the sacred in each track, even if the tonal center is entirely obliterated. The very source of the sound is abstracted. Is Orgone Donor a play on words to impart both sublime airs and also hint at the instrumentation? It may in fact include an organ, but there's also something more tactile amassing as the song goes on; perhaps some bowed strings. The stark presentation—after removing the loose obi strip from the packaging, the entire cover is matte black—leaves the mystery be. The are sounds left to their own beatific allure.

field report no.061217

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh duo

22 years ago, I came to Chicago from Oregon for school. It ended up being a fortuitous time in Chicago jazz. Ken Vandermark was rallying the troops and the Atavistic label was creating connections with legends of European free jazz by reissuing a pile of classics from the FMP library. inexorably bound up in both parts of this renaissance was Peter Brötzmann, the true saxophone colossus.

The (probably) apocryphal tales of his intensity ill-prepared me for how I was to be excoriated that first night at the Empty Bottle, by the Brötzmann Octet (a precursor to his long-running Chicago Tentet). I've lost count of the times I've seen him live, but the frequency went down once I moved to NYC. When I moved on to Asheville, I didn't even entertain hope. But lo! The jazz barbarian did in fact come to raze our small village on what was speculated as perhaps his last US tour.

Since disbanding the Tentet, Brötzmann's favored small groups—trios and duos mostly. This swing through America was with lap-steel guitarist (and former Charalambide) Heather Leigh. Perhaps the greater jazz community's disregard for Peter Brötzmann's scorched Earth improvisations has made him more willing to reach out beyond jazz's narrow circles for partners. He diverse list of collaborators ranges from Last Exit to Middle Eastern folk musicians. Heather Leigh's history with the ecstatic-improvisation scene seems a readymade fit.

While the pairing is pitch-perfect, times have also changed, and Peter Brötzmann once again defied my expectations (in the best way). The evening was not molten peals, split reeds and broken strings, though I would never call it plaintive. Not to say he no longer has it in him: Brötzmann let loose some frightening cries, but it was not a sustained blitz.

The duo created what could best be described a 'volatile ambience'. Leigh summoned a bed of held and distorted tones, swelling to answer Brötzmann's reeds. Since the lap-steel uses a slide, it gave Leigh ready access to a wealth microtonal dissonances, giving everything a disharmonic edge.

NOTES: Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh; Thom Nguyen

Last Signs of Speed

Music can sometimes benefit from an air of mystery. I've seen Eli Keszler a number of times. He'll string piano wire across large spaces—once in a cathedral-like, open archway under the Manhattan Bridge—then agitate them with animatronic devices at indiscriminate intervals. A full performance features Keszler and other musicians performing alongside these intermittent, metallic rumblings. His installations work better for me than the performances. His drumming can seem one-dimensional: always moving as quickly and lightly as he can around the kit. Half-way through I find myself planning my evening later.

On record, away from the mechanics of it all, it's surprisingly more riveting. Even if I'm well aware of all that's involved, it sounds more mysterious, detached from its human force. Sounds with very real physical origins appear more like musique concrète constructions. 

Last Sings of Speed is a double-LP that rushes by and is on it's jittery way before you realize it. Despite a restrictive palette—just Keszler's insectile percussion playing against a single abstract sound—each track achieves a unique atmosphere. It's not just simultaneity, he's audibly responding to the random sound eruptions around him. He's just duetting with an unpredictable partner. His playing seems to have evolved as well. Many tracks feature lurching stop start quality that gives the music a seasick sway. Last Signs is so engrossing, I'd be tempted to give his live set another chance.

how do i choose?

Once, when going out to brunch, a friend proposed getting an order of waffles for the table, as an appetizer. It provided a novel solution to the constant war of breakfast: the choice between sweet and savory. Unfortunately, her solution was more of an fix for the moment than the problem.

A mad desire to 'have it all' informed my variations to a Cooks' Illustrated granola recipe. For starters I needed to reduce the sugar. As much as I like the idea of candy for breakfast, there's only so much sweet I can consume on a given weekday morning. The solution was to swap out their christmasy cinnamon and vanilla for a mild indian curry and some garam masala. With this heat, I could cut down on the sweet.

½ cup olive (or neutral) oil
⅓ cup maple syrup
⅓ brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbs indian curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 cups raw cashew pieces
5 cups rolled oats
2 cups dried currants
1 cup toasted coconut chips (if that's your thing)

easy wins
This is, truly, dead easy to make. First, Preheat the oven to 325˚.

In a large bowl, whisk the maple syrup, brown sugar and oil together. Stir in the salt and spices. Then, with a rubber spatula fold in the nuts and oats. I usually lay the nuts down in a layer over the syrup mix, then add the oats, just so the oats don't soak up the liquid while i'm fussing about. Work it until the oats seem evenly covered.

Pour the whole thing out on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use your spatula to smooth out the top and compact the oats down. This way, when it comes out of the oven, it will resemble a big old granola bar. Bake it for 45 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan once, half way through. Let it cool for 30 minutes or so. Break your big granola bar into clusters and toss it with the currants and coconut chips. Store in a tupperware in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Serve frequently with yogurt, milk or ricotta.

easy mistakes
Let's take a moment to learn from some of my mistakes.

  • Unless you have a convection oven, don't forget to rotate the granola half way through baking, or it'll come out half burnt, half parbaked.
  • Don't try substituting the parchment paper with wax paper. No. Really, don't.
  • As an admitted salt-addict, I tried substituting raw cashews with roasted, salted ones. They burnt.
  • For the similar reasons, don't bake the dried fruit, add it in at the end, unless you really like chewing.

field report no.060717

LOCATION: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Over the years, and especially since the early 90s, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have honed their skills, evolving into a captivating band for large venues without giving up a very real sense of intimacy. They are playing their music, yes, but they are performing as well. 

That they've endured long enough to grow into this role is stunning. Their origins, stretching back to the Birthday Party, are by no means populist, let alone stadium material. Cave has passed through years of self-inflicted obscurity and even more self-abuse (in the form of drugs). By persevering without compromise, they've now arrived on the other side with with critical acclaim, but also a large and loyal fan base, and a deep well of songs—no small number of which are just awaiting acknowledgement as classics in the canon. 

Their extended set was heavy on their recent albums: the harrowing Skeleton Tree and the acclaimed Push the Sky Away. They still had plenty of time to touch on crowd favorites from their back catalogue (they had just released a Greatest Hits collection, after all). For the first time, I realized one of his most enduring tracks, the elegiac Into My Arms, was in essence, the best Leonard Cohen song Nick Cave has ever written. It's poetics are unexpected while still managing a sincere and heartfelt sentiment. It's a song sure to be covered often in the future.

As a title, I Need You might seem as plaintive as Into My Arms, but that's a feint. Each verse dwells in a strange key, always feeling out of tune. For a fleeting chorus, the group will rise into beauteous reprieve, only to fall back again. His words revolve in cyclical, maddening mantras. I Need You is pure, confused desperation distilled to song form. Cave's powerful delivery and presence make it impossible to imagine any cover version. I Need You was a singular highlight of the night, even though it's a song I had somewhat passed over when listening to Skeleton Tree.

I've been lucky to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a few times now. Each has vastly improved upon the last—no mean feat for an artist who's career itself is now middle-aged. While it seemed odd the only show in the Southeastern US on this tour was in Asheville, since I'm both a resident and a fan, I won't challenge such fates. And while I'd love to see the band dig into their back catalogue for dusty gems instead of fan favorites, I'll always be grateful for whatever Saint Nick sees fit to grant us.

NOTES: All Cave

Kerrier District / Benefist / Stop the Panic / Back on Time

Kerrier District, 2004 / Ace of Clubs, 2007 /
Luke Vibert & BJ Cole 1999 / Plug, (released) 2011

You've got to be a tenacious collector to keep up with Luke Vibert. He cuts at least two records a year, under any number of names. Vibert's savvy enough, all these projects are kept stylistically distinct from each other. In this way I've ended up with 4 records by him without violating my rule of 1-record-per-artist.

With Kerrier District, Vibert digs deep into sweaty disco (along with a with a healthy dose of deep bass). Ace of Clubs is a superlative techno-house stomper. Lap steel player BJ Cole joins Luke to go on a downtempo, easy-listening-inflected excursion. Plug was short-lived haven for Vibert's drum-n-bass excursions (before he went further down the break-wormhole as Amen Andrews). All this and I don't (yet) have an album by his most recognizable nom-de-plume: Wagon Christ.

Luke Vibert is no simple beat tourist, trying on different hats. He's a skilled craftsman who innately understands what differentiates one genre from another, and can evoke any given style without leaning on its most obvious tropes. A talent that lets these four albums sound unique, while each is unmistakably the work of one mind.

While Kerrier District and Benefist are more oriented to your feet, the shocker is Back on Time, which ends up almost as laconic as Stop the Panic. Supposedly, the Plug album was recorded back in the mid-90s and sat unreleased for almost 15 years. All the elements Vibert grafts atop his jittery drum-n-bass framework have a swing that feels downright breezy. It makes an interesting companion-piece to the the exotica-tinged album with BJ Cole.

field report no.050417

LOCATION: Isis Music Hall AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Adrian Belew Power Trio

King Crimson grew on me slowly. They only took root when I heard ThrakAttack, an album of improvisational interludes from their 1995 Japanese tour, all stitched together into an instrumental monstrosity. Even though I've come around to their greater oeuvre, Crimson remains the greatest as a demonstration of instrumental prowess and power. Likewise with Adrian Belew, who was a guitarist and the voice of King Crimson for decades (in their on-again-off-again way). By far my favorite of his solo records is e, by the Adrian Belew Power Trio, an album of insanely complicated rock instrumentals.

While I've never managed to see King Crimson live—and actually just missing them on an upcoming trip to NYC—the Adrian's Power Trio had to stand in. They're more than a reasonable facsimile, as a good third of the material they played was, in fact, Crimson songs (along with a sampling from throughout Belew's illustrious career). The band are consummate musicians. All three made the gnarled material they tore through look too easy. Belew, especially, likes to goof around: mugging for the audience as he shows off, ultimately coming across like so many dad jokes. But this is a man who has worked with David Bowie, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa and Paul Simon (to name only a handful), he's allowed a bit of grandstanding or levity, if he pleases. He's got naught to prove.

NOTES: Adrian Belew Power Trio (featuirng Julie Slick, Tobias Ralph); Saul Zonana

Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu

Various Artists, collected 2017

Uzelli Psychedelic Andolu is a collection of vintage psychedelic rock from Turkey, released in on a German label—popular there in the Turkish Ex-pat community. These sorts of compilations have begun to greatly proliferate, and it raises some concerning questions. Are we, as 'Westerners', merely gawking at the exoticism of it? Are the artists even aware of these compilations, are they getting compensated for their popularity?

I've made some peace with the question of exoticism. For one thing, it's wrong to come to a compilation of music from another culture and expect to sound a particular way. So hearing Turkish culture of the 70s and early 80s respond to rock and pop is recognizing that their culture is not trapped in amber. It had it's own modernity. For another it's interesting to hear a part of our own culture, psychedelic rock, reflected back to us in ways that make it new again. If the pathways taken by the Beatles and Stones seem more like heavily trafficked tollways now, these compilations offer directions that are new to us.

Psychedelic music from the US and Western Europe has always courted it's own, sometimes ugly exoticism. Tibetan bells and sitars are shortcuts to imply a meditative state or Kama Sutra sultriness. On Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu, it's the rock music that's appropriated. The element that strikes me most is always the singing. Turks absorbing rock-n-roll have to make it work with their language and experience. Lines don't flow in easy couplets and the rhythms of the words cut across or arc over music. The modes are entirely rearranged, as other cultures aren't always bound to the 12-tone scale or share our ideas about major and minor keys.

Whether the artists are fully compensated is a trickier question. That comes down, much more to factors of brand and trust. I've read some about the length labels like Luaka Bop and Analogue Africa to go to make sure they are above board. In this case, the original label, Uzelli, issued this, so at least one level of red tape is removed, but at some point you have to take it on faith.

Import Fruit

Georgia, 2016

Sub-genres in electronica tend to be less siloed than other types of music—a feature I've always found attractive. Dubstep may have been the it-thing at the turn the century, but almost every flavor of techno upped their bass game because of dubstep's advances. Footwork has been having its moment in the sun, and seemingly every style is paying closer attention to the detail and dynamics of their drum work.

A clutch of these adapters have opted for softer, tuned percussion—like marimbas and talking drums—over footwork's grime-styled concussive hits. This palette implies that artists like Georgia perhaps hail from some acid-jazz branch of the downtempo family tree, but the bewildering beats on Import Fruit are having none of that. Amongst rapid fire, 3-dimensional drum constructions, there are hints of Autchre's algorhythmic skullduggery, making any pattern impossible to discern. Despite all the amount happening at any given moment, each individual sound is crystal clear, with its own space carved into the mix. This is no music for your mindfulness practice.

field report no.043017

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Mind Over Mirrors

The best transportive music can result in a feeling of lost time. It's not the boredom of staring out the train window—more like an out of body experience. You arrive at your destination wondering how you got there, where the middle went. Time flies when you're having fun, as they say

I've seen Mind Over Mirrors three now, and each time I've only a vague recollection of what transpired. Within minutes, their music cocooned me within it. Jaime Fennelly's project first made an impression on me with The Voice Rolling, a psychedelic album of solo harmonium (plus effects). He has slowly expanded the project into an ensemble, incorporating percussion and strings, but a swirling dream-state remains it's spiritual center.

Opener, Brokeback, has steadily grown as well. Starting as solo project for Tortoise bassist, Douglas McCombs, it's now full-blown band. They manage an expressionist sort of instrumental rock with minimalist means, leaning heavily on Ennio Morricone's western atmospherics. 

NOTES: Mind Over Mirrors (ensemble); Brokeback; Smelt Roe

Saccharine and Polish 4

A window into my world of pop. This is the music that makes me move my ass, raise my arms, dust off the old air guitar and sing along. When I crave sonic sweets, these are the confections I reach for. If you would like to subscribe to future episodes of this podcast, you can find sndlgc in itunes, or copy this link.

Many people's musical identities calcify around their coming of age. I've waged a lifelong campaign against this process, always adding new wrinkles to my listening. One thing I can't seem to shake, though, is my definition of 'pop'. If you were ask me to define what pop music sounds like, you'd get an answer that belies by my love of the new wave and synthpop of childhood anbd my teens immersed in punk and grunge.

Take any track on this mix: it may be a new band or song, but I can site a clear precedent in my collection dating from before I turned 18. Even the chaotic silliness of We'll Go Far by Half Japanese fits in. My early love of the Jazz Butcher—or later, They Might Be Giants—easily explains why Half Japanese are a part of my pop landscape.

While my core criteria for pop may not have categorically changed, my discretion has gained some nuance. I pay far closer attention to sound in-itself. I crave dynamics and sonic texture. I'm much more attuned to the vocal syncopation. If the lyrics, the syllables of the words, are too chained to the beat, too four-square, my interest wanes quickly. As they say, If don't got that swing…

Even if I can clearly identify where my pop proclivities originate, and the scope of my interests may have ranged far afield, I make no apologies. There's a welcome home in my world for this music that brings me all the joys and diversions pop can offer.

The Everlasting Yeah: A Little Bit of Uh Huh, a Whole Lot of Oh Yeah
Eagulls: Moulting
Paws: An Honest Romance
Savages: Sad Person
Priests: Pink White House
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: She's on It
Half Japanese: We'll Go Far
John Wizards: Iyongwe
Lucky+Love: Mars
Stereo MC's: Bring It on
MIA: Attention
Teen: Rose 4U
Mercury: Wild Nights
Chester Endersby Gwazda: Skewed
The Notwist: Kong
Screaming Females: Ancient Civilization
Pins: Oh Lord
Ex Hex: Waterfall
The Primitives: Follow the Sun Down
Benjamin Gibbard: I Don't Know
Alvvays: Plimsoll Punks
Blank Realm: Palace of Love
Guided by Voices: Keep Me Down
Connections: Beat the Sky
Mac McCaughan: Whatever Light
Jane Weaver: The Electric Mountain
Ride: All I Want
St. Vincent: Regret
Wild Beasts: He, the Colossus
New Build: Mercy
Aloa Input: Vampire Song
Prinzhorn Dance School : Let Me Go

I Just Dropped by to Say Hello

Johnny Hartman, 1964

I purchased I Just Dropped by to Say Hello on a whim, at an antique mall in a small town on my way to the Charlotte Airport. Prior, I'd only ever heard Hartman's album with John Coltrane. Looking at the rogues gallery supporting Hartman on Dropped by made snatching it up a no-brainer: Elvin Jones from the Coltrane quartet on drums, legendary bop-era pianist Hank Jones and both Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell on guitar. 

Hartman's voice is an enviable instrument. He occupies a space between Frank Sinatra's punchy bombast and Cole Porter's velveteen tone. This living contradiction imbues overly familiar songs with an easy mystery. Hartman's veteran band has the good sense to never get in his way, making sure his inimitable voice is always centerstage. 

l'Appel du Vide

Jake Meginsky, 2014

If your aesthetic path has yet to stray near anything like musique concrète, then Jake Meginsky's l'Appel du Vide will probably confound you—it might not even seem much like music at all. This exploration of sound delights in the physical properties of your inner ear. It will be, to most, extreme. The frequencies are unnatural: from needling highs to subsonic lows. The rhythms are the patterns of insect hives. Your response to this record will likely be visceral: either it demands you end it or you cease all else and dwell in it fully. When I devote time to l'Appel du Vide, I'd swear I can feel my own brain working overtime, firing extra neurons, trying to parse what I'm hearing. It's a form of mindufulness, in its own disorienting sense. 

field report no.042417

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Dave Rempis

Rock-n-Roll is a young man's game. Most pop stars over 50 are required to remind everyone why they matter whilst simultaneously not embarrassing themselves or tarnishing their legacy. Jazz, though, has a model more based on apprenticeship. Truly talented, unknown phenoms are rare beasts. Most up-and-comers are over 30, having spent a decade or more gigging as sideman with a wide variety of more established players.

For 12+ years, Dave Rempis was best known as a member of the Vandermark 5, which he joined in 1999. Since I was an avid follower of Ken Vandermark from my years in Chicago, I've been hearing Rempis' playing for well over a decade. He's been leading groups since the turn of the century but I took serious note of his extracurricular activities upon hearing Ballister, his trio with avant-cellist Fred Lonbgerg-Holm (fellow V5 alum) and the ubiquitous free jazz drummer, Paal Nilssen-Love (the Thing). From there it was off to the races—I've tried to keep up with his release schedule ever since. Rempis' duo with electrician Lasse Marhaug made my best-of-2014 list, and I've been keen to catch him live (again) for some time.

Where his old boss, Ken Vandermark, seems to have sworn off touring the US in favor of the more hospitable climes of Europe, Rempis has taken up the 'get-in-the-van-and-drive' mantle. I caught him this night, on a solo trek across the country. Rempis can be a fiery saxophonist—with a vocabulary full of loud honks and pinched squeals—but like many bombastic free players, he shows a more melodic side when playing solo.

Any sense of narrative within the tune, invention or change in dynamics and texture are all down to the individual, making a solo performance a rite of passage for even the most accomplished player. It's a test Dave Rempis passed easily. I mean, he's been training for this for years. I look forward to hearing the album these nights on the road were workshopping towards.

NOTES: Dave Rempis; Tashi Dorji

Light Sleep

Phew, 2017

I've been collecting Phew's discography for years now. Given how long her career has been, there are relatively few records, all of which are difficult to find and harder to afford. (A fact I find shocking in this era of reissue-mania.) Her discography starts in the late-70s with the archetypical post-punk band, Aunt Sally, then quickly veers off to a wide-ranging solo career—crossing paths with members of Can, Einstürzende Nuebauten, and Boredoms while joining forces with Bill Laswell and Otomo Yoshihide. Luckily, Light Sleep is a new release, by a US label, making it far easier for me to attain. (If only I could have been in NYC to catch her rare live appearance commemorating the occasion…)

On Light Sleep, she's completely solo, singing against her own abrasive, minimal electronics. I've not heard an album so thoroughly channel—or so fully appropriate—Suicide's early cage-rattling. The drum machines sound cheap but pulse with such martial relentlessness it never comes off as campy. Atonal blasts of compressed electricity worthy of Pan Sonic puncture the mix, while Phew's vocals are spoken with anxious urgency. The listening isn't easy but still essential.