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Music Consumption: Jody Harris
05/05/2000 Jody Harris: Escape & It Happened One Night

I've tracked down some Jody Harris LPs (Escape with Quine and his own It Happened One Night). As a longtime Raybeats fan, I've had to. Escape is truly twisted--the first tune features all the blistering guitar duelling you'd want, but it was mastered so that you'd need a 16 rpm transcription disc to hear it right. (OTOH, I can slow it down digitally.) It Happened One Night is definitely cool--Harris proves to be a master of several different styles, from country to weird jazz. Both of these guys should be listed as national treasures somewhere.

05/05/2000 Human Sexual Response: Figure 14

I've completed my collection of Human Sexual Response vinyl, with Fig. 14. Totally delightful. And a great addition to the sadly underrated In a Roman Mood.

05/05/2000 Fleetwood Mac: The Pious Bird of Good Fortune

Who would believe that I'd actually buy a Fleetwood Mac CD? I haven't lost my mind, actually--it's the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, in this case a collection of the bluesier numbers from their original albums. Man, some truly amazing stuff here.

It was inevitable that I'd pick it up, though, given my exposure to the John Mayall's Bluesbreakers London Blues double set. (An old friend--born the day before I was in the same hospital--and I ended up getting this for each other's birthday. Figure that one out.) While that set covers the years Clapton was in the band, and I can see what all the fuss was about, Peter Green steals the disc in a big way. "So Many Roads," "Dust My Blues" ("blues" and not "broom" on the jacket), and "A Hard Road" really impressed me. Mick Taylor's no slouch, either.

As for the Fleetwood Mac, The only Green-era Mac I'd ever heard was "Oh, Well," and this is much, much more of a blues record. Slower than I'd expected, less rocking and more stomping/swinging. The tones are rich, raw, and slippery. It's not too far from the Mayall, but a lot rougher and less refined in some way. I mean that in a good way. A friend of mine, while playing me a collection of Chicago blues, said, "You can only play harmonica like that if you've spent several years in prison, or had a hard, hard life." The blues on Bird definitely have a hard life cry of pain in them. I was surprised to see that, according to the insert, "Black Magic Woman" (yep, that one) was a Green original, although from the long list of publishing companies on the packaging, I can guess that he didn't see much in the way of royalties from this. Highlights include the amazing "I Need Your Love So Bad," "I Believe My Time Ain't Long," and, well, everything else. Some real music on this disc.

05/05/2000 Dirty Three: Whatever You Love, You Are

I happened to catch a tune from the new Dirty Three release on college radio, and was floored. Having picked it up, Whatever You Love, You Are is astoundingly moving. Deep, gorgeous wistfulness and sadness can be yours for the price of a round of lattes. I'm left somewhat speechless at the moment, but it's some seriously beautiful stuff, ranging in mood from wistful regret to rough ecstasy. An astonishing example of what three musicians are capable of doing.

04/22/2000 Tim Berne: live

Finally saw Tim Berne live (with Michael Formanek), and they're an amazing team. It's criminal how few people were in the audience, but it was easy to get a good seat. Check out Ornery People for a sample of how they sound in this configuration, but they were definitely harder-edged when I saw them. Ornery People is great, though--the beginning is perfect, with Berne's playing on Formanek's "Jiggle the Handle" setting a noir-ish mood. It's the kind of music that plays in your head on the kind of evening on which you know you'll be waking up the next morning in a dumpster.

03/27/2000 Tortoise: TNT

Tortoise's TNT -- For quite a while I wasn't so fond of this, but it's grabbed me now. I like the trombone in the title track and the King Crimson flava of "Ten-Day Interval."

"I Set My Face to the Hillside" is a treasure, though. Sure, it sounds like Space Age Bachelor Pad music (not a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned)--the kind of e-z-listening Muzak® constantly piped into restaurants, waiting rooms, etc. When I was growing up, that kind of thing always bothered me; it seemed as if it was firmly entrenched, never to go away, and any culture of authentic feeling (read: rock) would always have to exist in opposition to it. But--astonishingly--it, like everything else, passes with time. It's not the inevitable, casual titan I thought it was, and in its time-weakened state, it seems precious in a way. It reminds me of being a child and going out to dinner with my parents, and it suggests a variety of the optimism of the suburban '50s (a decade during which I didn't exist, oddly enough). I find that I have an affection for the Populuxe era and its post-noir pre-irony. Sure, the Beats were in opposition to that; the spectre of imminent nuclear destruction haunted everyone, and there was that McCarthyism factor. But even as suburbia oppressed with its sameness, it encouraged and required gestures toward the exotic such as this song--a kind of innocent longing toward the Other.

"The Equator," "The Suspension Bridge at Igazu Falls," and "Everglade" do much the same for me. There's a suggestion of "cocktails by the pool with international guests" swankiness that I find attractive. They are (particularly "Everglade") redolent of thick summer nights of possibility and subtle strangeness. Society today gives one so few ways of becoming an adult that one has to grasp what one can. Swankiness is as good of an entry point as any.

03/27/2000 Steely Dan: Two Against Nature

Steely Dan's Two Against Nature -- Pitchfork's dislike of this notwithstanding, I've found it vastly enjoyable. On first listen, starting with "Gaslighting Abbie," I was just glad they weren't embarrassing themselves. But the horn arrangement at the end was promising, and "What a Shame about Me" was appropriately not-quite-bitter. The real standouts here, though, come in a string of three: "Janie Runaway" (kind of a "Hey Nineteen" with genuine affection, although there is that Becker twist going on in there), "Almost Gothic" (a song for swingin' adults), and "Jack of Speed" (truly great horn arrangement). With these three tunes, you've got enough justification for the price of the CD. The fact that there are other good ones on there, too--well, extra bonus.

03/27/2000 random musings: listening

Some unusual downtime lets me get caught up on this stuff. Still no redesign yet, but it'll hit.

Action in Music Production.

And in Music Listening.

And--amazing enough--Reading.

I've got to thank a number of people for a truly fascinating weekend. You know who you are.

03/27/2000 random listening: Spence, Steely Dan, Silkworm

Mental soundtrack of the weekend

Without access to CDs, I've found it curious what's getting played in my mind. The short list: Skip Spence's "Dixie Peach Promenade," "Broken Heart" (not that I have one, but rather the solemn giddiness [yep, you read that right] of some of the lines have lodged in my head), and particularly the movingly ethereal "All Come to Meet Her." If you don't have Oar, you're missing something really special.

For a while on Sunday, I was stuck with "Negative Girl," my least-favorite song from the new Steely Dan. That it's grown on me enough to stick, with its weirdly tricky repetitive chorus (which has generally seemed like a mistake to me, but it's got to be deliberate), is proof of, well, something. I'm actually coming to like it.

Another tune I once wasn't so fond of has taken up significant room in my psyche. As much of a Silkworm fanatic as I've become, Andy Cohen's songs have generally eluded me--I think his often embittered cynicism has for the most part put me off, particularly because some of the songs have been pretty catchy. "Grotto of Miracles" from Libertine gave me some resistance because the lyrics are about as snide and self-loathing as they come, but all three solos (particularly the last), and the final chords are positively stunning. Taking the beauty of the music together with the self-loathing lyrics, I'd have to say the internal tragedy of this song has really grabbed me (not that I'm doing any self-loathing, however). For as busy and arguably up of a weekend as I've had, when Monday came around, this was on my brain in a big way, in yet another layer of irony, in kind of a cynical disbelief of apparent good fortune (which later turned out to be justified). And if you're stuck in the self-loathing, check out Tim Midgett's "Cotton Girl" immediately after it, a glorious drunken pop love song in hard-hitting punk clothes.

03/27/2000 random listening

In the bag recently:

Skip Spence's Oar

01/16/2000 Tom Verlaine: The Miller's Tale

While I have everything from the studio disc on either vinyl or CD (mostly vinyl), the live disc is well worth hearing, in the absence of a commercial release of the Ritz show from the previous year. I've heard tell that this has been deleted, but you can still pick it up with some effort.

01/16/2000 Alexander "Skip" Spence: Oar

This classic has been on the must-have list for a while, and I've only managed to pick it up recently. It's a true achievement. The original album was recorded in a handful of sessions over two weeks by Skip alone--playing bass, guitar, drums, and singing. The mood is largely down, down, down. The man had been to the bottom and gotten out, but would soon sink down again. The void looms close for much of the disc, but there are glimmers of hope, and moments of high silliness. I'm responding mostly to the lowest of the low ("Cripple Creek", "Diana") and the slightly hopeful songs ("Little Hands" is heartbreaking, somehow), but there's darkness deep inside the silliness, too. (The second part of "Margaret - Tiger Rug" is chillingly pretty close to home, given Skip's just-previous release from Bellvue after the famous axe incident. Try to keep from getting goosebumps.) This is way deeper than some "strange music" curio.

01/16/2000 Fred Frith: Eye to Ear

Film soundtracks spanning this longtime innovator's different modes--charming to grating (in the best way). I need to listen to it again, more closely, but it's a good find.

01/16/2000 Richard and Mimi Fariña: Pack Up Your Sorrows

A revelation from Thomas Pynchon's old college buddy and the writer of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, and his second wife, the former Mimi Baez. Yup, those Baezes. Sadly, Richard died young in a motorcycle accident, but had he lived...this would have been on every Dylan fan's shelf, also. Richard's and Mimi's voices blend in a unique way--these two were made to sing together--and the dulcimer adds a special shimmery feel to the proceedings. And Mimi's authority on guitar pushes these songs on--no resting on reputation here. Don't squander your chance to hear this while it's still in the catalog.

01/16/2000 Myles Boisen: Guitarspeak

Fun experimentalism from a regular rec.audio.pro poster. (I just lurk there, but he's one of the people who knows what he's talking about. And he did a bang-up job with Watershed 5tet's new one.) Fred Frith is one of the guests, as is Ralph Carney, which should give you a sense of what's up here. I enjoyed it.

01/16/2000 We Are Vikings: We Are Vikings

We Are Vikings - We Are Vikings. This is an extreme current favorite. These college kids from Harrisonburg, Virginia, are pretty damned impressive. Very poppy songs with--can you believe it?--vocal harmonies. Live, they're like a power Moby Grape without the soloing. Only two of them appear on the CD, and at times the performances are hesitant or slightly shaky, but the songs are there, which is what counts. I saw them among the opening bands at the recent Papa M show, and they were very good. The drummer and bassist were solid, the amps were cranked up gloriously, and the addition of a local singer as an additional vocalist thickened the harmonies to a striking fullness. If you look at their site, there's a link to IUMA, where they have some downloadable tunes from the CD. Check these guys out before they get huge or get soul-grinding jobs.

01/16/2000 Sonic Youth: Goodbye 20th Century

A definitely engaging collection of difficult listening pieces. I like 'em. (Blow-by-blow report to come, I hope.)

01/16/2000 Slint: Spiderland

Yeah, yeah, I didn't have it in the collection, but it's as if I had--I mean, who hasn't heard these songs by now over the last nine years? What? You? Well go out and get the damn thing. I have to admit that I find McMahon's screams bothersome now, but things change. The rest is just as beautiful as I remember.

01/16/2000 random listening: Phelps, Silkworm

Phelps/Downer Trio: Blackbird, Silkworm: Libertine, Richard Hell and the Voidoids: Blank Generation, Painkiller: Execution Ground, Fuck: Conduct, Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance, Dub Housing, and New Picnic Time.

01/16/2000 Papa M: Live from a Shark Cage

Papa M - Live from a Shark Cage I really like this collection of tunes. A little more, uh, smooth than the Aerial M EP, but extremely effective at setting the mood of engaged contemplation that Pajo seems to want to set. The recording isn't live, but the live performances are also very good. No vocals--I guess he decided not to go public with them yet. Well worth hearing.