Mike’s Prattle


The Listening Log I

Posted by Mike on August 12, 2009

Here’s a rough list of blurbs of things I’ve been finding cool over the last so many years in a sort of random, rambling, haphazard fashion… After the cut

Magma – Studio Zund / OK so in sidestepping the arguments for the need for such a boxset, especially without a vigorous remastering, the point of listening to all this material again is because I’ve spent probably decade paying more attention to live shows than the original albums and some of these seem almost obscure to me now. The first two albums seem like another band and certainly a more concise debut would have made a better album as would a more thoughtful side 2 for Magma 1001, but taken microscopically I think they hold up pretty well and my enthusiasm for them, while it may not have grown that much over the years, remains about the same (although it was interesting to hear them again after the first Mythes et Legendes DVD). In retrospect (ahem, retrospektiw), I find the album version of MDK lacking in the Coltrane-ish swing it would gather upon further live repetition down the line, on the other hand I thought Kohntarkosz has held up rather well as has Udu Wudu. I was going on an old Tomato version of Udu Wudu until this box, so that probably has a lot to do with my increased enthusiasm for it now. I also like Attahk and Merci more than I used to although the latter’s still something of a train wreck. The odds and ends are also interesting to hear, although I suspect the MDK was the one stuck as a bonus track on the original Seventh CD, which immediately makes one wonder why they also didn’t include the analagous Kohntarkosz bonus.

Watchmaker – Kill.F**ing.Everyone / I’ll skip the reasons for my censorship here, they’re boring. But this (second I believe) album by the grindcore outfit is something to behold really, it has a level of catchiness and brutality that I tend to want in all my exteme metal, all things I’m not sure I could describe as differentiating one band from another. The production isn’t great while being nearly perfect for some reason, funneling the guitar work down into razors and letting the vocalist shriek, growl and rage like a caged zombie. In fact this isn’t even all that technical really, but it looms darkly like a nightmare and every (short, grindcore short) song leaves its mark like a brand. And it does so in barely under 30 minutes. The whole thing just makes me laugh like a hyena. I guess I’m one for audacity. I’d write about their labelmate Crowpath had I formed my thoughts, also real good.

Alio Die / Zeit – Raag Drone Theory / I actually almost stopped buying Alio Die CDs based on the first collaboration between these two pseudonymed musicians, so I find it mildly ironic to find that their second is utterly brilliant and that AD is putting out better work from where I left off a few years ago (and put in ambient standards, I was about, say, 16 albums behind in only 4 years or something). This is one nearly 80s minute track of drifting soundscapes and zithers and it approaches that deeply melancholic sound Musso got with Entheogenic Experience. I think maybe there’s a fine line between zithers that sound like someone messing around at the local Renaissance faire and zithers that transcend the instrument. The hammered notes seem to spiral out from the music rather than flecking it from the outside. AD’s work with Francesco Paladino of the Doubling Riders is also really nice.

Los Jaivas / Been revisiting the 70s group again of late mostly via their early work, both in their released albums and via a series of 5 discs of unreleased material called La Voragine from their formative days. Jaivas generally aren’t consistently brilliant through any one album and they have a tendency of leaving you with a much better impression of any particular album by ending with some 10-15 minute thunderwork. But overall there’s something deep about their work which always tends to be a mash up of folkloric or even aboriginal-like drum circle work, like chancing upon some rare ayahuasca ceremony, and the prevailing Western musical trend of the time, ranging from fuzz guitar jamming psych on the first Voragine disc, like a Latin Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, to later synthesizer and classical movement inspired in their mid 70s work. They remind me, if anything, that spending time with the music often makes what you found previously mediocre into the latest “find.”

Indukti / Idmen – Now if I was told that there was this cool new band who sounds like Tool, I’d have nodded at ya and moved on, quite frankly I find most of this heavy riff inspired modern mainstream/prog to be fairly tedious, however I came to Indukti via their scaling, apparently based on East European folk melodies, which always reminded me of Gong and gave their previous full-length S.U.S.A.R. a cosmic edge that really won me over. Despite what seemed to me like a poor lyrical choice or two, I’m pretty happy with Idmen as well, the musicianship is high and there’s plenty of forethought to the crunch (besides no bellowing Tool-like vocals anywhere to be found). Maybe you could argue they haven’t changed that much and that’s not necessarily cool (you can hear the fanz “NOT ORIGINAL” echoing through Carpathian forests), but I never thought I’d had enough of Indukti yet. Seems like a true return to form.

Biglietto per L’Inferno, Semiramis, Delirium etc – Nice to see the BTF guys finally getting some classics out from the original masters and packaging them in nice mini-LP covers. All this stuff really holds up for me, especially after giving the melodic stuff a long rest for a good 5-10 years. So much of the charm for me is in all these young, ambitious guys managing to make quirky 70s synths work for them in a studio over some very strong songwriting.

Titan / Nice to see a young group who actually manage to capture the 70s krautrock sound fairly authentically and kudos to them for not pretending their albums were released back in the 70s like some of the poorer hoaxsters through the years. They get it because they manage to make the atmospheres shimmer in the same way that, say, Electronic Meditation did or the early Kosmische albums and such. Depending on the day I like the first one or second Titan better, perhaps the second is a little proggier than the first. They’re kind of the nicotine patch for the more psychedelically minded.

Friends  John Abercrombie and some pals must have gotten a wave of early Soft Machine and Matching Mole albums and decided to make a go of it in 1973, adding liberal fuzz to just about every instrument in the group and ripping madly and wildly throughout. Goes to show you there’s still some classics that could use a red laser.

Chris Hinze Combination – Mission Suite – Same year, more of an American vibe in terms of jazz rock style, but same sort of deal, a bunch of guys who can play dynamically building up and tearing down the house at intervals and leaving you breathless.

Micah / I’m Only One Man / Super rare US rock release full of speedy tempos and lots of guitar and organ solos, nothing particularly original but brimming with the vigor and energy of the period. A short but sweet one, demonstrating that the miners are still bringing up gold from obscure strata every so often.

Decapitated / Tragically defunct Polish death metal unit who were not only ridiculous musicians but knew how to craft a lot of tasty hooks in the middle of their Morbid Angel-isnpired whirlwinds. I was turned on via Organic Hallucinosis but have since found that they go deep right back to the beginning: The Negation, Nihility and Winds of Creation. I generally like my DM with two guitarists but you can file Decap with Krisiun as a sound much bigger than the sum of their parts. Really liked the DVD with the reissue of Winds too.

Amnesty – Free Your Mind / One of the coolest archive items of the last 10 years, an early 70s funk group that sounded like a fusion of Chicago Transit Authority, Funkadelic and Oneness of Juju. It’s mostly notable for the first 4 songs which are just monster classics, before the archive becomes merely good, but those songs are about as good as it gets. Certainly “Mister President” got some serious air time around here late last year.

Pink Floyd / Piper at the Gates of Dawn 40th Anniversary – Some albums I come to a little slower than others, but found myself listening to this groundbreaking debut a great deal once the nice box came in. Not much more needs to be said except this one’s their best, if not ever, at least until the Pompeii movie.

ZZ Top – Tres Hombres / Can’t say I go for a lot of Top, but perhaps since this has the lion’s share of the material I best remember from my classic rock days, I’ve been playing the remaster bunches. I mean seriously that transition from Waiting for the Bus to Jesus Just Left Chicago? Still gives me goosebumps. Like with the Italian bunch above, I’m finding I can rejuvenate stuff I used to love and got bored with after some time off. Can file some early Doobie Bros and Guess Who in this group.

Iona / I mean it, this is the best progressive modern progressive rock band from the British Isles playing today, somehow managing to overcome what could be a lot of conflicting and otherwise dull influences into one of the most cosmic and spiritually vibrant wholes ever invented. For one thing, I think they’re a better live band, with the live DVD, Heavens Bright Sun, and Woven Cord all among their better work. They’re many things to many people, contemporary Christian rock to some, celtic rock to others and progressive rock to a different group, but overall they’re alive with the mystical, Rosicrucian spirit that manages to speak of unity among diversity and ultimately manages to avoid the worst preachy religious tendencies by casting their lot into mystery. Oh and the Gilmour-ish guitar work certainly doesn’t hurt.

Chicago – Live at Carnegie Hall / If I was forced to name the best release I bought in the last decade, it would be this four CD reissue of what I now think of as perhaps the best American rock band of all  time, or at least they were up to a point (that is a rock band “selling out” is something of a cliche, but it really couldn’t be more true for these guys). The eye opener is taking the booklet and opening it up to the list of tour dates that cover the early part of their career, realizing the band toured something like 80% of the year and still managed to put out a double album nearly every year and great ones at that. It turned them into one of the tightest, most vibrant big band units of the early 70s and sported who (apparently) Jimi Hendrix thought was a better guitarist than he was, Terry Kath. Hendrix was dead on on this one folks, this set turned the man into my favorite player of all time. Disc 4 of this set’s the proof.

Cardiacs / Probably one of the most unnecessarily underground greats in musical history, this British band seems to be on hold due to the darkly ironic cardiac arrest of leader Tim Smith, but there’s few people who’ve come across this group who aren’t sending their well wishes at him for creating one of the most signature pop/punk/prog crossover sounds . One of the true live greats, I’ve played one particular live DVD from the mid 80s to many visitors who grow mute after 20 minutes, witnessing this insane group pogo through some of the most catchy, wickedly complex and fast moving songs imaginable. And based on the Garage Concerts CDs, their live sound has rarely flagged over the years. Personally I’m still absorbing a crazy large catalog and hoping the ABC starts pressing their discs again as they’re sorely missed.

Emperor – Live Inferno / 2 CD + 1 DVD boxed set of what is basically two reunion gigs for the previously defunct Norwegian “black metal” group. A lot of black metal, particularly of the Emperor, Enslaved and Borknagar persuasion seem to take their cue from the epic viking albums by Bathory meaning long tracks that hold just as much in common with Grieg and thus Scandinavian symphonic rock than they do with, say, Venom or Darkthrone and I still think if these guys turned the screeching into straight vox and double bass drums into mellotrons you’d have had some of the most famous modern progressive rock albums, but alas the bleak, wintery, pagan spirit of these bands would likely also be lost. Emperor were truly in amazing form during this tour, revisiting what was mostly early work with what was obiously a much more mature perspective on some fuzzily recorded but fairly classic albums. Yeah I still can’t help but laugh when they’re all singing “Inno ah Satana” or whatever, but man does it strike a mood. As does the somber electronic/symphonic outro music that plays at the end of their set. Metal hall of fame these guys.

Grateful Dead – Yep, strangely enough the band I listened to the most over the last decade, no doubt thanks to zillions of live shows and the seemingly endless onslaught of live albums coming from dead.net (and yeah even despite the demise of Dicks Picks and their often dubious new choices). It’s even kinda hard to pick out favorites at this point because the thing about the Dead is once you get em, you like em flaws and all (or at least I do up until about 1977). But when they were on, they were a telepathic monster with puppet strings rising into the vast unknown…

that’ll do me for now…


2 Responses to “The Listening Log I”

  1. Charlene said


    Saw your post: “Micah / I’m Only One Man / Super rare US rock release full of speedy tempos and lots of guitar and organ solos, nothing particularly original but brimming with the vigor and energy of the period. A short but sweet one, demonstrating that the miners are still bringing up gold from obscure strata every so often.”

    The “I’m Only One Man” album is extremely rare and highly prized by serious collectors. The album features original original progressive rock music by Gary Taylor Ohlson (keys, synthesizer and vocals), Martin (Marty) Horne (lead guitar), George Robert Wolff (drums), Robert (Bob) Rowe (guitar and vocals) and Gus Hernandez (bass). It is unique that it was recorded in “one go” and released “unengineered”. The second side of the album was only partially finished before it was released.

    Micah has a Facebook page where previously unknown information and unseen photographs of the band can be found: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Micah/196235203731200

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