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.
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.
When I think about what I was listening to in 2011 instead of this album by Sandro Perri, it’s hard not to shudder a little bit. I may be late to the party, but I’ll be damned if I be quiet about it now that I’ve found it. Wolfman comes courtesy of Toronto multi-instrumentalist Sandro Perri, who had been a local favorite for years. In notes which accompanied the release over at Constellation, music curator Ronen Givony sums up the feeling and Perri’s unique sonic palette:
Sandro is the true best exemplar of that unique intersection that characterizes the city’s omnivorous musical scene: partly improvised, partly composed, and roughly equal parts acoustic, electronic, melodic, noisy, rock, jazz, folk, classical, psychedelic, and experimental.
Wolfman comes off 2011’s Impossible Spaces, which is the last release I could track down for Perri, not including a few singles comprising remixes done by other artists. Before he had released anything of his own, he played lap steel in Great Lake Swimmers. In addition to his own work, he’s racked up quite a few production credits on the technical side of things. Though it’s unclear when another Sandro Perri record will be released, he is a member of a group called Off World that released an album last year, also on Constellation. Another fun bit of trivia: the cellist on Wolfman, Mike Olsen, also appears on Arcade Fire’s breakout album Funerals.
Ages is the latest in the Echomancy II series from Gnome Life Records. The term echomancy is defined as “divination through music,” and even if I can’t be sure what spell Harris is conjuring here I certainly know that it has worked on me. As far as I can tell this is the first release from Harris, hopefully the first of many to come. This track was constructed using a multi-synth setup and field recordings fed through a series of delays and tape loops, though the sparse technical set up really belies the magic in this release. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact it combines was recordings done during both the vernal and autumnal equinox. Even though I had not tracked Gnome Life before coming across this release, I shouldn’t be surprised that they put out a top notch release like this considering they’ve re-issued a number of Robbie Basho records in the last couple years. As they mention in the write-up for this record, New Age can be thought of as a form of American folk music, even if it doesn’t sound anything like Pete Seeger or Leadbelly or even Robbie Basho. It’s hard for me to put my finger on how, but this type of music seems to amplify an American tradition of transcendental thought in a world consumed by cold electricity and Big Data detachment. Using complicated technical setups to achieve a sound that is so warm and inviting is no small task, and when executed this well it is difficult not to be caught dreaming of an electric City on a Hill.
Mike Gangloff has been camped out, fiddle in hand, at the intersection of drone/psychedelia and folk music since the mid-90s. He started his career as a founding member of Pelt along with Nathan Bowles, Patrick Best, and Jack Rose. Though Pelt has not released anything since 2012, Gangloff has released a number of stellar records, including Melodies for a Savage Fix in collaboration with Steve Gunn. I typically roll my eyes at colored vinyl because a)I’m a smug piece of shit and b) it kinda seems gimmicky, but I’ve gotta applaud the design of Poplar Hollow because it’s a treat for all senses (ed: I haven’t eaten it but I bet it’s delicious). It comes by way of Blackest Rainbow Records whom I had never heard of before looking at this release but, upon snooping their Discogs page, I learned they’ve put out a number of things by artists I really love, including Nadja’s Aidan Baker and the excellent Expo ’70 tape Beguiled Entropy. I may not have known about Mike Gangloff before I bought his record, but I’ve leapt into the deep end of the pool, and the water is just the way I like it. One other thing this record really reminded me of that comes by way of Japan is World Standard’s Country Gazette record, which I also recommend if you dig Cat Mountain.
It’s as if someone opened a time capsule and found a whole new Fripp/Eno record for me to put in my ear holes. Transcendence comes off the groups 2013 release Bitchitronics put out by Drag City. The group coalesced as a solo project of CAVE guitarist/organist Cooper Crain and primarily comprises Crain, Rob Frye, and Dan Quinlivan. All three are active in the psychedelic/experimental scene in Chicago, with Frye and Quinlivan contributing to releases for Chandeliers, who came to WNUR when I worked there and rocked it, as well as appearing on small-print releases for Circuit Des Yeux, who appears on Chicago label Thrill Jockey. Crain is also an active recording engineer, working on records for Heavy Times and Circuit Des Yeux. Given that the earth is rapidly heating, if you’re not gonna get out there and try and shut down Exxon Mobil then I’d recommend loading up on fuzzy guitar drones and blasting the hell off.
While the name Jon Gibson may not be the household name that Phillip Glass or Steve Reich has become since the 1970s, he was a vital part of the emergence of American minimalism. He was a founding member of the Phillip Glass Ensemble and performed many pieces by Reich, including “Reed Phase” which was written by Reich for him in particular. He began his career performing on flute and saxophone, though he has done some beautiful work with the pipe organ as well as evidenced by the piece above. This recording was done at Washington Square Church in New York in April of 1975 and was released two years later by Chatham Square Productions on an album titled Two Solo Pieces. He has dabbled in the visual arts as well, creating the cover art for Two Solo Pieces as well as others. The improvisational and highly collaborative nature of the New York scene at the time created fertile ground for composers interested in repetition, silence, and non-Western drone music. Though I like to think I’m fairly well-versed (for a layman) on this area, finding things like Cycles are what keeps me going back to this well.
This track was featured on a compilation entitled Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want!! which features works relating to the Japanese collective known as Acid Mothers Temple. The collective got started around 1995 and have gone through many different incarnations based on who was performing at the time, including Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno, Acid Mothers Temple SWR, Acid Gurus Temple, and Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. This track from Ueh originally appeared on a self-titled release put out on the house label for Acid Mothers Temple. Though Ueh doesn’t actually share members with Acid Mothers Temple, it is associated with the group through both releases on their label and a split release, Pataphysical Overdrive To My Cosmos with Makoto Kawabata. That came out in 2004 and it doesn’t look like there has been anything else put out by Ueh, though members Benjamin Gilbert and Audrey Ginestet has been active with a group called Aquaserge since Ueh went on hiatus. I’d recommend digging into Acid Mothers Temple, though the sheer size of their discography can be a bit intimidating. I’ve got some recommendations below in case you’re ready to dive right in:
You may not have heard Jessica Moss’ name before, but you’ve probably heard her violin. She appears on Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s album F♯ A♯ ∞, Arcade Fire’s Funerals, and one of my favorite albums of all time, Broken Social Scene’s debut Feel Good Lost, among others.
Under Plastic Island is her first solo release, though she’s also part of At Silver Mt. Zion and Black Ox Orkestar with other members of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. Despite her connections to so many well-known groups, she clearly has a highly developed aesthetic all her own, blending electronic drones, violins, and beautifully manipulated vocals. For more information about Moss, check out her site. Though Under Plastic Island was released on cassette, it is only available at performances. Her touring schedule will be updated here in the future.
This is the title track from M. Mucci’s 2013 release put out on vinyl by Tall House Recording Co.. The distinctly medieval sounds accompanying M. Mucci’s guitar come from a Vielle, here performed by B. Grossman. The vielle is a stringed instrument somewhat resembling a violin but with five strings instead of four, and it was a popular instrument among troubadours and court musicians during the medieval period. In the 15th century the word began to be used when referring to a hurdy-gurdy which is also a stringed instrument but which is performed by a mechanical wheel turning against the strings instead of a human bowing them, in the case of the vielle.
M.Mucci has a Bandcamp page with lots more music, though I’m not sure if more medieval instruments make appearances.
Below is an image from the National Gallery in London depicting an angel playing the stringed instrument, likely painted by a contemporary of Da Vinci.