Ghetto Brothers – Girl from the Mountain

Before they ever stepped into a recording booth, the Ghetto Brothers had already achieved some local fame for their role in brokering a truce among themselves and other Bronx gangs in 1971. While he was trying to clean up his neighborhood, Benny “Benjy” Melendez and his brother Victor formed a musical group also called the Ghetto Brothers that combined their love of the Beatles and their own Puerto Rican musical heritage. The group recorded their only album, Power-Fuerza, in one afternoon in Manhattan, and the album has since become a collector’s item because it’s really really good and really really rare. According to a 2002 interview, the Ghetto Brothers were known to don berets to emulate Che Guevera and some of their lefty leanings can be heard on the song Viva Puerto Rico Libre. Power-Fuerza was re-issued by Truth and Soul in 2012 and from what I can see the re-issue comes with extensive liner notes about the group and its history. Getting the re-issue on Discogs is your best bet if you want to pick one up, as the originals sell for about a thousand bucks when they do come up for sale. Check out this video Truth and Soul produced for the re-issue if you want to see some cool archival photos and videos of the Ghetto Brothers in action:

Expo ’70 – Pulsating Rings of Ice

At the beginning of February Justin Wright, the brains and brawn behind Expo ’70, sustained a serious injury to his hand. Given that he lives in America and this country’s healthcare is essentially bloodsport, someone has set up a fundraiser to support him while he recovers and to pay off his future medical bills. To that end, I wanted to share one of my favorite tracks off of a tape I brought from the man himself that makes me long for my old Toyota with the tape deck every time I hear it. I’ve written about Expo ’70 on a previous post so I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say that he is a good guy who works his ass off making great music and if you can support him with a donation or by buying some of his music I’m sure he’d appreciate it. The Expo ’70 bandcamp page is here but this and many other tapes can be found at Sonic Meditations. If you can join me in donating please do or at the very least pick up some of his music. I have yet to hear anything I don’t like, but this tape is definitely among my favorites.

Joe Bataan – Gypsy Woman

Long before he would become the king of Latin Soul, Joe Bataan was born Bataan Nitollano in East Harlem and in his teenage years headed up a street gang called The Dragons, according to a 2009 interview with Blues and Soul. As a result of his days in the Dragons, he was incarcerated at Coxsachie Correctional Facility and it was there that he discovered an interest in music. Upon his release in 1965, he formed his first group, Joe Bataan and the Latin Swingers, and the group was quickly signed to Fania Records. Gypsy Woman is the title track from their first release in 1967.

While Bataan is credited with writing this version, Curtis Mayfield’s group The Impressions released a song called Gypsy Woman in 1961. The lyrics are nearly identical, though the Impressions version doesn’t have people chanting “she smokes pot!” in the background or the Latin percussion that ties this song together in my opinion. Bataan would eventually help found the label Salsoul, for which he would record a few albums including this early hip hop song Rap-o Clap-o from 1979. Incidentally if you listen to Rap-o Clap-o and don’t enjoy it then kindly close this browser window and never return to this blog again, as it is not for you and very little in this world is.

Kim Jung Mi – Your Dream

A few years ago I heard a song called The Sun off of an excellent compilation of psych music from Korea. The compilation was called Beautiful Rivers And Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound Of South Korea’s Shin Joong Hyun 1958-1974 and I always figured that the female vocalist was brought in for this session but that the song was released by Shin Joong Hyun. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that The Sun, or Haenim, was just one song off of an excellent album called Now by Kim Jung Mi which also included Your Dream. Of course the album was produced and written by Shin Joong Hyun and he provides the fuzzy guitar as well, but the whole album is really a treat. In addition to the compilation, Light in the Attic also reissued Now and it must have struck a chord with others because it appears to be sold out on their site. Light in the Attic is similar to Numero Group in that they appear to have been created to reissue things that I will like so if you like this and haven’t done so before, definitely check out their other releases.

Kim Jung Mi released two more records after Now, but only Now has been reissued by Light in the Attic. I don’t speak or read Korean so it’s hard to get too much information, but you can hear the other album she released in 1973 here.

Shinichi Atobe – The Red Line

The Red Line is the final track on the long sought-after gem Ship-Scope, released in 2001 by the enigmatic Shinichi Atobe. Initially released by the German label Chain Reaction, Ship-Scope was reissued in 2015 by DDS, a label run by the experimental duo Demdike Stare. In addition to repressing Ship-Scope, Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker were also able to convince Atobe to release material he had been working on after the 2001 release and he has since put out two more albums also on DDS, World and From The Heart, It’s A Start, A Work Of Art. I couldn’t find much more information about Atobe, and frankly I’m okay with that as long as he keeps making music.

LOVING – Bowlly Goes Dancing Drunk Into the Future

I probably found this album in the wrong season, but if past trends are any indication I’ll still be listening to it by the time summer rolls back to my part of the world. This track is probably my favorite off their debut tape from Haju Tapes, which had a limited physical release back in 2016. This kind of music is a little bit of a departure from Haju Tapes usual fare of chilled-out glitchy instrumentals, but obviously whoever they have picking things out has a good ear which is about all you can ask for in a label. I typically like to link to the place where you can support the artist if I can find it, but I was pretty tempted to use this video I found, which I don’t think came from the band but is a pretty good approximation of the scene I’m imagining when I’m listening to this and pretending not to be surrounded by snow and ice. Also, I wish I still had my Toyota Avalon with a tape deck and that time didn’t move quite as fast as it seems to.

Bobby – It’s Dead Outside

I recently came across this album and have been absolutely hooked since I heard it, especially this tune. But every time I would go to start it again from the beginning I couldn’t help but wonder why this was the only album Bobby ever released. There’s an undeniable vibe to the whole record, and I couldn’t imagine finding a way to capture that in a recording and then calling it quits. Though it could have happened for a lot of reasons, I suspect that it might have something to do with one of the members, Amelia Meath, getting a little busier with her other project, a group called Sylvan Esso. Both this album and Sylvan Esso’s self-titled debut were released on Partisan Records based out of New York/London. In addition to her work with Sylvan Esso, Meath also recorded vocals for Phil Cook’s latest record along with another project called Mountain Man which features another member of Bobby, Molly Sarlé.

Researching this record really had the feeling of convergence for a lot of threads in my musical taste that seemed disparate but are in fact closely connected. From this record reminding me of the first time I heard Animal Collective Sung Tongs to the personnel overlap between Bobby and Sylvan Esso (one of my girlfriend’s favorite groups) to Meath’s collaboration with Phil Cook. Cook is in the touring band of Hiss Golden Messenger, who my dad and I both try to see live whenever he’s in our neck of the woods. Maybe this is cheesy, but I like to imagine that there is some underground cadre of people who all have a tacit understanding of what good music should sound like regardless of genre and seeing all these overlaps isn’t exactly disproving that thesis. From the description on Partisan’s website it seems like the sessions for this record would be hard to replicate, but whatever they did I’m sure glad it was being recorded.

Buddy Ross – Running Around

This track might sound familiar to fans of Frank Ocean’s Blonde, as it was sampled on a number of tracks including Be Yourself and Facebook Story. It’s easy to understand how it ended up there, as Ross has been playing live with Ocean since 2012. Ross described the transition from touring player to studio partner in an interview with Pitchfork:

During soundchecks I’d always just start messing around and coming up with new little ideas, playing on the synths. He would come out and just start freestyling over stuff. I think that’s when we started first vibing together, just onstage during soundcheck. That was 2012, and then in 2013 we did a big European festival tour. After that ended, a week later I thought I was going to be home for a while and then I got a call that he wanted to meet in the studio—like a week after we got off the road. I guess those moments during soundcheck just stuck with him and he wanted to bring me in. He was super cool.

When I first heard this song I didn’t know about the connection to Frank Ocean, and I wondered why this person had only released this song. Since he’s worked with Ocean, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Haim in the last few years as well as put out an album with his own band Motopony, I guess he’s busy enough as it is.

Robert Lester Folsom – Jericho

Robert Lester Folsom only released one solo album on his own imprint Abacus Records before moving from his native south Georgia to the Florida panhandle, where he worked painting houses. He did play with another group called The Stroke Band, which released an album in 1978 entitled Green and Yellow, but the project disbanded shortly after. While he was painting, his 1976 solo release Music and Dreams slowly accrued a cult following among soft rock enthusiasts and listening to Jericho, it is easy to understand why. Before Anthology Records reissued Music and Dreams in 2014, collectors were limited to a number of quasi-official releases from Asia. However, Anthology did this album right and also made a short documentary to accompany the release. The doc has lots of good color, including Folsom talking about picking pecans so he could buy Led Zeppelin II. Anthology also put out a number of previously unreleased recordings called Ode to a Rainy Day: Archives 1972-1975. That released is also on Bandcamp and is worth checking out if you like this track, especially See You Later, I’m Gone and Another Sunday Morning.

Vanishing Twin – The Conservation of Energy

The Conservation of Energy has been in pretty heavy rotation for me over the last few weeks, in part because I keep finding different parts of it that I become convinced are what “make” the song. For now I think that bass solo in the middle is about as groovy as it gets, but it’s hard to not be happy about a good flute track too. Of course good music is greater than the sum of its parts and this is no less true here. The Conservation of Energy comes off Vanishing Twin’s first full-length album Choose Your Own Adventure, which was released last year by Soundway Records. The group takes its name from the twin that singer Cathy Lucas absorbed while in utero, and based on the music I’d say that is a pretty flattering tribute for a cluster of cells. Susumu Mukai can be credited with the bass solo and seems to have recorded with a number of other projects that I haven’t heard of but that I will be sure to check out now. In fact all the members of Vanishing Twin seem to keep pretty active in other groups and rather than pretend I know anything about them I’d recommend just clicking around their Discogs page. While physical releases are sold out on Bandcamp, it looks like they are still available on Soundway’s page. In May the group released an EP entitled Dream By Numbers which has more of an experimental vibe and is also worth checking out.