New YearPlaylist for
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
January 6, 2012

Hosted by Greg Lyon on FRIDAYS at 2-5 pm (today 2-7 pm)
on Asheville Free Media (www.ashevillefm.org)

You can listen to the most recent program by going to the Archives Page at Asheville FM, or by accessing the MP3 stream directly here (available for one week starting early Saturday morning and then gone).

This particular show is also available for streaming here.

Notes: I invited Justin Farrar to come in and bring his favorite jams of 2011 so we could present the year together, discussing and playing what we liked, and musing about general trends in underground music.

My Top 20 new releases (not reissues) of the year were the following:

1. The Field – Looping State of Mind (Kompakt)
2. The Skull Defekts – Peer Amid (Thrill Jockey)
3. Cut Hands – Afro Noise 1 (Very Friendly, Susan Lawly)
4. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Vagrant)
5. The Dirtbombs – Party Store (In the Red)
6. The Psychic Paramount – II (No Quarter)
7. Alvarius B. – Baroque Primitiva (Poon Village)
8. Bonnie Prince Billy – Wolfroy Goes to Town (Drag City)
9. Cruddy – Negative World (12XU)
10. Moon Duo – Mazes (Sacred Bones)
11. The Men – Leave Home (Sacred Bones)
12. The People’s Temple – Sons of Stone (HoZac)
13. Omar Souleyman – Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts (Sublime Frequencies)
14. White Hills – H-p1 (Thrill Jockey)
15. Bill Orcutt – How the Thing Sings (Editions Mego)
16. Feist – Metals (Cherrytree/Interscope)
17. Total Control – Henge Beat (Iron Lung)
18. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams (Sub Pop)
19. Kitchen’s Floor – Look Forward to Nothing (Siltbreeze)
20. Dirty Beaches – Badlands (Zoo Music)

Look back soon for Justin’s list. Justin certainly convinced me that electronic music was where it was at in 2011, and I can tell you that my 2012 list will likely be much heavier in that category than in the post-punk and garage rock that has been the staple of my listening for many years. It’s where things are going. I’ll probably be drawn to some combination of the two, like The Field, who are really a rock band that grooves and loops with electronics. I also think the Cut Hands album is a harbinger for more avant-garde electronic and tape manipulation based on complex African rhythms.We shall see…

Archive note: We lost the recording of about 30 minutes of the show beginning with the Andy Stott track, which is a shame. Just be warned that when you’re listening, there’s going to be a jarring jump in the set at that point.

Artist Title Album Label Comment
Robedoor Parallel Wanderer Too Down to Die Not Not Fun Justin
White Hills Movement H-p1 Thrill Jockey Greg
Moon Duo Scars Mazes Sacred Bones Greg
Tropic of Cancer Be Brave 10" Downwards Justin
The Men () Leave Home Sacred Bones Greg
Happy Jawbone Family Band Now Everybody Rock Like You’ve Got AIDS Family Matters Blueberry Honey Justin
Red Mass Drink My Blood 7" HoZac Greg
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat Rats 7" Load Greg and Justin
Black Pus Beneath the Wheel Primordial Pus Load Justin
Bill Orcutt Til I Get Satisfied How the Thing Sings Editions Mego Greg
Stare Case First Fire Lose Today De Stijl Justin
Hedvig Mollestad Trio For the Air Shoot! Rune Grammofon Greg
Sightings On a Pedestal Future Accidents Our Mouth Justin
The Psychic Paramount N5 II No Quarter Greg
Mark E Belvide Beat Stone Breaker Spectral Sound Justin
Elektro Guzzi Moskito Parquet Macro Justin
Omar-S Strider’s World Just Ask the Lonely FXHE Greg
Container Rattler LP Spectrum Spools Justin
The Dirtbombs Sharevari Party Store In the Red Greg
Kitchen’s Floor Regrets Look Forward to Nothing Siltbreeze Greg
Total Control The Hammer Henge Beat Iron Lung Greg
No UFO’s Flood III Mind Controls The Flood Public Information Justin
Psychic Ills Mind Daze Hazed Dreams Sacred Bones Greg
Mikal Cronin Apathy Mikal Cronin Trouble in Mind Greg
Thee Oh Sees Carrion Crawler Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP In the Red Greg
Veronica Falls Right Side of My Brain Veronica Falls Slumberland Greg
Dum Dum Girls Always Looking Only in Dreams Sub Pop Greg
Andy Stott Passed Me By Passed Me By Modern Love Justin
Shackleton Fireworks, Aussen Vor Remix, by T++ Fireworks Honest Jon’s Justin
Omar Souleyman Mendel [I Don't Know] Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts Sublime Frequencies Greg
Mark Ernestus Meets BBC Version 1 Version Honest Jon’s Justin
Wolfgang Voigt Kafkatrax 3.2 Kafkatrax Profan Greg
Bryan Black Presents Black Asteroid Engine 2 The Engine EP CLR Justin
Alvarius B. The Dinner Party Baroque Primitiva Poon Village Greg
D. Charles Speer O Sinachis Arghiledes Thrill Jockey Greg
Bonnie Prince Billy We Are Unhappy Wolfroy Goes to Town Drag City Greg
Weyes Blood Romneydale The Outside Room Not Not Fun Justin
PJ Harvey The Words That Maketh Murder Let England Shake Vagrant Greg
Stan Hubbs Seems Like It’s a Rich Man’s World Crystal Companion Greg
Mark Lanegan Band The Gravedigger’s Song Blues Funeral 4AD Greg
Morphosis Too Far What Have We Learned Morphine Justin
The Skull Defekts No More Always Peer Amid Thrill Jockey Greg
Cut Hands Stabbers Conspiracy Afro Noise 1 Very Friendly, Susan Lawly Greg
Shackleton Deadman, Death Dub Remix by King Midas Sound Deadman Honest Jons Justin
The Field Is This Power Looping State of Mind Kompakt Greg and Justin

The Gilded Gutter blog has just posted an insightful interview with The Rebel, aka Ben Wallers, and in this case also his sometimes partner on-stage (and full-time partner off-stage), Sophie Politowicz. The Rebel is mainly Ben’s solo artist moniker. His group thing is the Country Teasers. If you know me, you know I like them both–a lot. Most intriguing thing I learned from the interview: Ben Wallers’ favorite band is Datblygu, a Welsh band from the 80s and 90s that I’ve never heard of. I will remedy that deficiency as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the new Rebel EP, The Five Year Plan on Monofonus Press, to arrive at the record store. It will get played, perhaps with some Datblygu, during my radio show next Monday night, 8-10pm, on Asheville Free Media (http://AshevilleFM.org)

On another note, Asheville Free Media was given a fantastic birthday present by Michael Gira of Swans and by Sir Richard Bishop last Saturday, Sept. 10. We simulcasted their live show that night at the Orange Peel here in Asheville, and the second rebroadcast of the entire show will be during Sunday brunch this week (Sept. 25), 10am-1pm. That’s during “Mental Notes”. Don’t miss it–there will be no archive. Tune in!

A man on a porcupine fence
Used me for an ashtray heart
Hit me where the lover hangs out
Stood behind the curtain
While they crushed me out

This is how I felt yesterday when I heard that Don Van Vliet had passed away. Captain Beefheart hadn’t conjured up any music since 1982, and we all knew there would be no more coming. He had MS and didn’t want to deal with the music industry anymore anyway. Still it was somehow reassuring to know that he was still up there somewhere in northern California painting and writing poetry. The news was crushing.

Later last night while driving home I heard a BBC World News segment announcing that “experimental musician” Captain Beefheart had died. The report went on to describe him (not once providing his real name) as one of the most original musical artists of his generation. Anger began to well up inside me. Experimental???!!! Original!!!??? Of his generation!!!??? What understatements! Those descriptions just don’t cut it. Obituaries will rightly point to Trout Mask Replica (1969) as his magnum opus. But I wonder how many will adequately convey what this album achieved? Trout Mask picked avant-garde jazz up by the heels, swirled it around like a dead cat (which by that time, it was), and slung it through the cement wall separating blues-rock from high modernism. It did so without ironically announcing its own radicalism or sacrificing the earthiness of the blues–a feat I feel Van Vliet’s good friend (and Trout Mask producer) Frank Zappa never quite pulled off (not that he wanted to).

But Trout Mask is also damned difficult to listen to all the way through. I pity the young musical explorer who downloads it or buys it on CD. You need to get up, take a deep breath, and flip the vinyl every 20 minutes. Otherwise, it may cause brain damage. Repeated listens–no matter the format–will undoubtedly leave clear marks and irreversible mutation. If you’re a musician, those marks will dramatically increase your chances of being loved by music geeks and ignored by everyone else. Lazy music critics (and DJs and bloggers like me) will categorize your music as “post-punk”. The Fall, Minutemen, Pere Ubu, The Ex, Sun City Girls, and U.S. Maple are simply inconceivable without Beefheart. And I can’t imagine my life without them–and many more of their kin whose records line the walls and fill the crates around me now. “I’m into C.B.!”–yes, Mark E. Smith, you clearly are. And so am I.

But the first record I picked up today was not Trout Mask. It was Doc at the Radar Station (1980)–hands down my favorite of the later Beefheart albums. It’s more personal and direct, accessible yet still wickedly weird. “Ashtray Heart” is easily a finalist for my World’s Most Wrought Break-Up Song list, but “Sue Egypt” may be my favorite Beefheart song of all. I rarely listen to songs on repeat, but this one never fails to trap me.

The song is about memory and oblivion, as the narrator tries to make sense of the enormous distance between Sue Egypt’s life and her mummified remains:

I think of all of those people that ride on my bones–
That nobody hears
That nobody sees
That nobody knows.

But it’s in the middle break that things get truly wonderful and frightening. The guitars fade out suddenly, overtaken by first a flute and then a demonic pump pedal organ (well, it’s all probably a Mellotron)–while Beefheart dives throat-first into that cloudless night on the ancient Nile when Sue Egypt drinks her poison:

Big smoke fingers wave
Come here, come hear:
“Bring me my scissors”
And those on waters.”
The moon was a
Wisdomatic
Pristocratic
Vagabond.
Bad vuggum!!
A pitcher of red hot juice
A picture of red garnet juice.

This flat-out creepy dream is over as abruptly as it begins. The guitars break in and snap us back to the present, where the narrator ends screaming desperately after Sue Egypt as she floats off into the afterlife:

Scenes
Dreams
Boats to forever
Boated ether
Creep the ether feather
Sue Egypt!
Sue Egypt!

At least that’s how I read it today. I think I have good reason.

Click on the image to go to WFMU’s blog post on Captain Beefheart’s 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing. You owe it to yourself. And if you know any guitar players, you owe it to the rest of us to send them the link.

The Captain Beefheart Radar Station website has been around for years but is a treasure trove of links to interviews, videos, rare audio, images, etc.–and it seems to get updated.

Below are some videos. The first is the 1980 appearance on Saturday Night Live by Beefheart and the Magic Band. They play “Hot Head” and “Ashtray Heart”. The video quality is not good, but for the love of humanity, just click play. Be sure watch to the end of “Ashtray Heart”–at about 5:30 it goes beyond brutal. Eric Drew Feldman (bass), Jeff Morris Tepper (guitar), and Robert Williams (drums) pound on mostly one note for over a minute, and then Beefheart breaks out the soprano sax for the finale. It’s so intense that someone in the audience reflexively yells “Shit!” right after it’s over and before they cut to host Malcolm McDowell.

Next we have Don Van Vliet’s two appearances on Letterman (together in one video). They made me smile.

Here we have the 1968 video of the band playing “Electricity” on the beach at Cannes:

And then the BBC special on Beefheart (45 minutes in 3 parts), narrated by John Peel. There are several clips I’d never heard–and others with much better sound quality than anything available (legit or bootleg). Wonder where they got them? One in particular is at 2:50 in part 1, a studio demo version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Somebody in My Home”–not on the Grow Fins box set (and in much better shape than in any of the bootlegs that do have it).

WPRB ShirtWPRB, my beloved radio home for many a year, is still exploring uncharted territory whilst entertaining your socks off, and it needs your support. This week is the annual membership drive at WPRB, and I encourage you to listen and donate immediately. They have lots of great thank-you gifts and on-air incentives. Plus you will feel all warm and fuzzy–and booty will come in the mail.

The image to the right is one of their three t-shirt designs this year. I’m also partial to the tote bag, but good blog layout principles–about which I know absolutely nothing–prevent me from using more than one image. So go to the WPRB Membership Drive website and download the premium gear pdf to look for yourself.

Just so you know, WPRB is listener-supported, independent radio. It is not subsidized by Princeton University or by student activity fees. It’s a very strange, quasi-extinct animal, a non-profit in the commercial band, so it does sell ads, but because of its adventurous programming, ad income is woefully inadequate to keep the station going. Thus, the membership drive.

The membership drive runs through Sunday evening. Don’t wait. Donate now.

Wavelet of Musical PretentiousnessHere’s something unexpected and quite pleasantly surprising: my dear old friend Blaise Agüera y Arcas, now the Architect of Bing Maps and Bing Mobile, has started a ruminations blog (music, food, film, books, thoughts) called Style Is Violence, which, as I learned by reading the blog, is a quote from the painter Gerhard Richter:

I like everything that has no style: dictionaries, photographs, nature, myself and my paintings (because style is violence and I am not violent).

[Notes, 1964-65]

If the post revealing the secrets of the elusive simple Italian red sauce is not enough to entice you to check out Style Is Violence, I believe that Blaise’s two TED talks will do the trick. First his 2007 talk on Photosynth, which allows viewers to navigate 3D environments stitched together from vast quantities of images taken from photo-sharing sites like flickr:

Blaise’s second TED talk from earlier this year shows how the Photosynth technology (and more) has been woven into Bing Maps:

I will only mention in passing Blaise’s earlier, groundbreaking work (with Princeton’s Paul Needham) applying imaging technology and computational analysis to shine bright light on a major puzzle in the history of early printing, namely the inner workings of Gutenberg’s press, which had remained frustratingly obscure for ages. You can get a taste by going to the BBC/Open University website which accompanied a documentary on the subject.

My secondary goal here is to make Blaise blush almost as much as I did upon reading his post about the WPRB School of eclectic exploration in music–and my small role in the transmission of it. But only Blaise could have come up with the Wavelet of Musical Pretentiousness (image above).

Why do I mention this now? See my next post.