Monday, February 22, 2010

Skeletons out of Ben Lamdin's closet

What I found particularly intriguing about Ben Lamdin's recent Impossible Ark label sampler A Compilation is that despite employing essentially the same artwork that was used for the Impossible Ark collection entitled "The New Sound of British Jazz" and released only in Japan a few months prior, there were drastic changes to the track listing. The updated release is almost a completely different disc.
The fantastic songs which made the Japanese set such a delight, namely Film Blues by Nostalgia 77 Session with Keith & Julie Tippett, Free Spirits by the Drop In Sessions,  Blues For Kate by The Friction Dynasty, Afrodesia and Manteca by Rhythmagic Orchestra and Come Home To You by the Voices Of Time were all replaced by mostly inferior tracks by Jeb Loy Nichols (who's Country Got Soul series suggests he's a much better compiler than singer/songwriter) and Sigurta Casagrande.
The only significant improvement to the revised label survey is the addition of an Afro-jazz tune called Positive Force by the mysterious Skeleton. Evidently, Skeleton is not a real group, more of a studio fabrication created by musician, engineer and record selecta Benedic Lamdin aka Nostalgia 77 who also runs Impossible Ark when not producing or remixing Elizabeth Shepherd recordings.

“Skeletons is a made up band," explains Lamdin. "I kid you not – it doesn't exist. These musicians never stood in the studio together, they just passed through my house or left some scraps of sound behind after sessions we were working on.  This record is like a guy, pieced together and ready for the bonfire.

“Some of the music here started life as commissions for a library music company, pastiches and forgeries paid for by the current vogue for a certain style of African jazz. Once I'd done a few though I couldn't stop, it was my default preoccupation, something for me once I'd finished working on other people’s albums.  It was relaxation, something that didn't matter whether it worked or not. The whole LP was made like that, done in the time between recording jobs.
“To me the whole thing has been a self indulgent forgery, an act of mindless fun. If it sounds good then it's because I just enjoyed the music and enjoyed myself.”

Based on the other Skeleton recordings I've heard, the swinging Mulatu and the downtempo Mr. Mystery – both done in a 70s Ethio-jazz style reminiscent of Mulatu Astatke, and the soulful Alice Russell-voiced getdown Adam and Eve, it sounds like the forthcoming Smile (Impossible Ark) album due on March 1 could be a boffo banger.  

Our man Lamdin will undoubtedly be spinning some of his choice Skeleton joints along with other Impossible Ark club wreckers (perhaps Rhythmagic Orchestra's update of Nina Simone's African Mailman) at his N77 night with DJs John Kong, General Eclectic and ?uesquecest at The Supermarket (268 Augusta) on Friday (February 26). Tickets for the stellar event, which doubles nicely as a NuFunk Festival 2010 launch party, are $5 before 11 pm and $10 afterwards if there's any room left.

Nostalgia 77 Live

Nothing To See Here |

Nostalgia 77  "Hope Suite"

Nothing To See Here | MySpace Music Videos

Nostalgia 77 Podcast  MP3
Hugo Mendez's Rhythmagic Podcast MP3
Nostalgia 77 site
N77 myspace
Impossible Ark
Unfold Music site
Unfold myspace

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Moon Duo take off

Performing and recording with San Francisco psych monsters Wooden Shjips isn't enough noise-making activity to keep Erik "Ripley" Johnson and Sanae Yamada busy. So last year the guitarist and keyboardist took their fascination with Suicide, Silver Apples and the Ruins to the next level by forming Moon Duo in a bid to prove that two determined musicians with the right effects and amplification can shake the walls as well as any band.
Their entrancing new four-song Escape (Woodsist) album builds on the krautrockish repetitive rumble attack of Moon Duo's two prior limited-run EPs, Love on the Sea (Sick Thirst) and Killing Time (Sacred Bones) by taking a more song-oriented approach to compositions while remaining true to the pounding groove.
The fact that Moon Duo have hit their stride with a recording called "Escape" shouldn't be cause for concern that they plan to jump Shjip. Apart from a brief Moon Duo tour which will bring them to SXSW to play the Woodsist showcase at Red 7 in Austin March 20, Johnson and Yamada are working on a new Wooden Shjips recording which will follow the release of another collection of the Shjips' rare singles tracks –cleverly titled "Vol. 2" – set for release March 22 on Sick Thirst.
Along with songs originally issued by Sub Pop, Mexican Summer and Yeti Magazine, the seven song compilation includes a scorching live recording of Death's Not Your Friend from their split tour 7" with The Heads in addition to a boisterous rip through the Bridget Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg classic Contact and a timely rendition of Neil Young's Vampire Blues. Unfortunately for everyone but eBay dealers, the Shjips' crack at Spaceman 3's I Believe It from their Great Pop Supplement split single didn't fit on the 44 minute LP.

Wooden Shjips Vol. 2 
1 Loose Lips
2 Start To Dreaming
3 Vampire Blues
4 Death's Not Your Friend [Live]
5 Contact
6 I Hear the Vibrations [E-Z Version]
7 Outta My Head

Bopper's Hat Jam by Moon Duo

Death's Not Your Friend by Wooden Shjips live @ Beerland - March 16, 2007

Moon Duo
Wooden Shjips

Friday, February 12, 2010

How Now So Cow?

It looks like Erlend Øye may have to concede his "Whitest Boy Alive" title to similarly bespectacled Irish fun-strummer Brian Kelly of So Cow notoriety. The Twee Titan of Tuam, as Kelly has come to be known throughout neighboring Cloonfad, Kilconly and some parts of Abbeyknockmoy, has been winning the hearts of TV Personalities fans well beyond County Galway since last March when Chicago label Tic Tac Totally issued the So Cow LP – an 18-track compilation drawn from various singles and CD-Rs released on Kelly's own Covert Bear Records imprint while secretly stationed in Seoul, South Korea. Gushing praise ensued from Pitchfork and cardigan-wearing bloggers who had never heard anything by Stephen Pastel, much less Hue Williams, and soon after So Cow would tour North America to teary acclaim.
Although I wasn't nearly as smitten with the ramshackle romance of So Cow, the two covers collections that Kelly recorded alternately in his garage (download here) and living room (available here) won me over. What can I say, I'm a sucker for covers of obscure Go-Betweens singles. 
To coincide with So Cow's triumphant return which brings Kelly and company to Rancho Relaxo (300 College) with Useless Eaters, Street Meat and First Base on Sunday (February 21) and to Hamilton's Casbah Lounge (306 King West) on Monday (February 22), Tic Tac Totally is releasing So Cow's much anticipated follow-up Meaningless Friendly LP and CD (with three bonus tracks) on February 16. In the meantime, you can enjoy this So Cow live performance at WFMU-FM from last year right here.

Meaningless Friendly (Tic Tac Totally)
01. Start Over 2:13
02. Shut Eye 3:59
03. International Waters 7:22
04. Dunno 2:09
05. The Tony Keady Affair 2:35
06. Limboat 2:30
07. Mokpo 1:37
08. Girl Racer 2:24
09. Away Leg 0:53
10. (I’ve Got A) Horrible Feeling 2:11
11. Hell 2:17
12. Random Girls 3:08
13. Bit Late For That Now, Innit 2:09
14. Ain’t No Fun 3:19*
15. Laughing Disaster 1:25*
16. Hiding In The Bathroom 2:26*
* CD bonus tracks also available as a limited 7" EP with purchase of the LP
directly from Tic Tac Totally

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Clutchy Hopkins recording appears

With all the Clutchy Hopkins chatter in recent weeks, the enigmatic beatmaker's ears must've been burning. Ubiquity have announced that an iPod full of previously unheard Clutchy Hopkins recordings has surfaced and will be released by the label as The Story Teller CD/LP on April 13. 
Based on the well-chilled rumble of the tune No Contact... Contact, it seems that the 11-track album won't be a drastic departure from the previous stoned epics attributed to Clutchy Hopkins and Ubiquity seems determined as ever to keep the true identity of the mysterious artist a closely guarded secret. However, there are a few new twists to the growing myth outlined in the label's press release which you can check below.

CLUTCHY HOPKINS - The Story Teller
01. Giraffe Crack
02. Laughing Jockey
03. No Contact... Contact
04. Miles Chillin'
05. Nina
06. JT Goldfish
07. Truth Seekin
08. Thinkin' Of Eva
09. Light As A Feather
10. Drunk Socks
11. Verbal Headlock

Fact or fiction? Is Clutchy Hopkins an alias? Or is this the true name for a reclusive musical powerhouse? Are his recordings vintage, new, or a mix of both? Some may wonder about these things, along with why some dudes have a long pinky nails or whatever happened to myspace, others may ask if any of this really matters? While the mystery surrounding the artist is no longer news, the music only gets better, maturing like a fine wine.

This album was delivered to Ubiquity HQ on a beaten-up iPod, which was wrapped in what looked like ancient scroll, but turned out to be two paintings of Hopkins by Spanish artist Thabeat Valera. One painting is the album cover, and the other will feature in the booklet. The iPod included all of the album tracks, plus a reading of the story behind the recording, repeated in 10 different languages. The album booklet will include the entire story, unfiltered, a short version is below.

It’s the most varied Hopkins album to date encompassing lots of vocal textures, and a dash of worldly vibes. Check the Brazilian-psyche-like “No Contact…Contact,” and the mad spooky science of “Miles Chillin,” or the shuffling “Thinkin’ of Eva” which would sound perfectly at home playing in a Parisian café. It’s an album influenced by Hopkins time in jail, where, while in the courtyard, he met many international prisoners waiting to be deported. Lo-fi, acoustic, finger-snapping, hand-clapping, whistle-and-hummed jam sessions gave Hopkins the ideas which he later put to tape.

The tale begins in the winter of 1982. Hopkins had run into some legal trouble in his Mojave Desert hometown. He was convicted of insurance fraud and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.  He immediately took a liking to, and got along with many of, his fellow inmates. By way of impromptu jam sessions in the courtyard Hopkins even united rival gangs and cliques. The other inmates were able to take music and use it as a common ground to break the monotony of every day prison life, and change hateful relationships into actual friendships.

Unfortunately the prison guards were scared by the newly united crowd and concerned that this now singular group of felons could turn against them. They decided to take Hopkins out of commission, to prove their dominance over the inmates, and to disband the music sessions.

After twenty days in a dark isolation chamber Hopkins was walked through the main prison corridor. He was being turned into an example, to show that no one was safe from rough treatment by the guards.  He walked with his head down but could feel everyone staring with heavy hearts. Then a faint sound came from down the hall, from somewhere near Hopkins’ cell. Looking up, Hopkins was able to see his cell mate, a 7 foot 6 inch man who had hands the size of bear claws. Previously disinterested in joining the musical jam sessions, Hopkins was surprised to see his cellmate slapping the brick wall and the prison bars as loud as he could. A nice rhythmic beat was established, one inmate turned into two, then two into four, until the entire cell block had turned into a symphony of new found musicians. As the guards turned to drag Hopkins back to isolation the only thing the Hopkins could do was smile, because he knew no matter how much hell he had to endure, the story he had long attempted to spread was now loud and clear.

Watch out for new video evidence featuring one of Hopkins amazing instruments, and also a music video for one of the album tracks by renowned Dutch artist Christian Borstlap.

Ubiquity Records

Monday, February 8, 2010

Those Darlins hit the Horseshoe

Throughout their home state of Tennessee, Those Darlins are considered by many to be the most exciting thing to happen in Murfreesboro since the Uncle Dave Macon Days summer festival started hosting the national old-time clogging and buckdance championships.
Once you hear the way those badass Darlin sisters Jessi, Nikki and Kelley tear into tunes about booze, boyfriends and poultry on their self-titled debut disc (see myspace link), you'll know why the Black Lips, King Khan and the Black Keys are fan club members in good standing. So don't dare miss Those Darlins' hellacious Horseshoe hoedown with Dan Auerbach's fab backing group Hacienda, the Meligrove Band and the Invasions all as part of Dave Bookman's weekly Nu Music Nite Tuesday (February 9). And yes, incredible as it may seem, it's still free!

Snaggletooth Mama by Those Darlins

Those Darlins "Snaggletooth Mama" from Lake Fever Sessions on Vimeo.

band site

This is a St. Vincent in-store, not a riot!

Annie Clark recently posted some entertaining footage from a St. Vincent in-store performance at the Women and Women First bookshop whose clerks bear a remarkable resemblance to former Trenchmouth drummer Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein. In any case, it doubles quite nicely as a video clip for Laughing With a Mouth of Blood from St. Vincent's Actor disc.

st. vincent |

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fela in focus for Black History Month

This year, February could be considered Fela Kuti History Month. With the critically acclaimed Bill T. Jones Broadway musical FELA! currently packing 'em in at New York's Eugene O'Neill Theatre pimped out to look like The Shrine, the late Nigerian Afrobeat shaman is having his music back catalogue given the ultra-fancy reissue treatment.
On February 16, Knitting Factory Records launches the first phase of their chronological roll out of Fela's finest recordings with the Chop N' Quench Deluxe Package bringing together nine albums worth of material originally cut between 1969 and 1974 (including The '69 LA Sessions, Live With Ginger Baker, Fela's London Scene, Shakara, Roforofo Fight (plus 2 singles), Open & Close, Afrodisiac, Gentlemen and Confusion)  on six digi-packs with original artwork along with Carlos Moore's authorized biography Fela: This Bitch Of A Life. For those with no interest in CDs, Knitting Factory is also offering a digital download version in 320 kbps MP3s (plus free Apple Lossless file upgrade) as well as ringtones. So if your mom happens to call you while you're out power lunching with Jay-Z, it'll be considerably less embarrassing if your cellphone suddenly starts blaring out the horn riff from Shuffering and Shmiling.
For those who grabbed all the Fela Kuti stuff they needed during the prior reissue onslaughts of Universal and Wrasse, the Now Again subsidiary of Stones Throw has come up with the perfect set to complement the collection of the Fela fan who has everything. Black Man's Cry: The Inspiration of Fela Kuti is a cleverly conceived 15-track selection of obscure covers, tributes and thinly disguised rip-offs from around the globe which reveal the unmistakable influence of Fela's music from the 70s right through to today.

Along with the expected contributions from Fela's Nigerian contemporaries, there are a few surprises from South America and the Caribbean. For some unknown reason, Fela's tune Black Man's Cry is a repertoire staple for a number of steel pan bands and there are three different recorded versions included here, with the GTE sponsored Slyvania East Side Symphony and Mosco Tiles Fonclaire Steel Orchestra both performing it as a medley with Egbi Mi O – go figure. The unexpected highlight however is Lisandro Meza's squeeze-box fueled blast through Shacalao which will be a shock to anyone familiar with the Colombian accordion king's more popular vallenato recordings that followed years after that self-released single was recorded.  Vinyl enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that Black Man's Cry compilation will also be issued as a limited box set of four 10" records as well as a single CD.
Here's the track listing:
Black Man's Cry: The Inspiration of Fela Kuti
1. Dan Satch And His Atomic Band - Woman Pin Down
2. 6th Infanrty Brigade Of The Nigerian Army - Black And Proud
3. Bola Johnson - Never Trust A Woman
4. Bola Johnson - Hot Pants
5. Segun Bucknor - Adebo
6. Jerry Hansen - Sisi Mi
7. Phirpo Y Sus Caribes - Comencemos
8. Cumbia Moderna De Soledad - Shacalao
9. Lisandro Meza - Shacalao
10. Lever Brothers Gay Flamingoes - Egbi Mi O, Black Mans Cry (Medley)
11. Mosco Tiles Fonclaire Steel Orchestra - Black Mans Cry
12. Sylvania East Side Syphony - Egbi Mi O, Black Mans Cry (Medley)
13. Daktaris - Up Side Down
14. Karl Hector And The Malcouns - Toure Samar
15. Whitefield Brothers - Lullaby For Lagos

Not to be left out of the February Fela festivities, Soundway is putting out their fourth installment of their ongoing Nigeria Special archival compilation series, Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria. Compiled by Soundway boss Miles Cleret, the triple LP set (also available on disc with five less tracks) due out February 22 favours obscurity over quality with disastrous results.
Loading up collections with unknown oddities wasn't as much a problem when Cleret began doing these regional compilations but since rival compilers started concentrating their digging efforts on West Africa as well, there have been fewer amazing "lost" artifacts on his sets and more mediocre tracks by relative unknowns. Nigeria Afrobeat Special's main attraction is the Fela Kuti & Africa 70's original 45 version of Who're You? before the song was re-recorded at Abbey Road for the Fela's London Scene album. All the rest, well, not terribly explosive.

Nigeria Afrobeat Special
1. Fela and The Africa 70 - Who re you? (Original 45 Version)
2. Bongos Ikwue and The Groovies - Otachikpopo
3. Orlando Julius and His Afro-Sounders - Afro-Blues
4. Saxon Lee and The Shadows International - Mind Your Business
5. Eric Showboy Akaeze and His Royal Ericos - We Dey Find Money
6. Mad Man Jaga - Hankuri
7. The Nigerian Police Band (The Force 7) - Mori Keke Kan *
8. Bob Ohiri and his Uhuru Sounds - Ariwo Yaa
9. The Anansa Professionals - Enwan
10. Godwin Omabuwa and His Casanova Dandies - Do The Afro Shuffle
11. The Tony Benson Sextet - Shish Ke Bab *
12. Segun Bucknors Revolution - Gbomojo
13. The Black Santiagos - Ole
14. Abiodun Bakare and His Kobis band - Nigeria *
15. The Martins Brothers Dance Band - On Shakara O *
16. The Sahara All Stars - World People *
* Vinyl only tracks

Further on the Fela tip, the man of the hour is featured on the cover of Wax Poetics No. 39 – The Africa Issue which is currently on stands. In addition to an excerpt from Carlos Moore's aforementioned biography Fela: This Bitch of a Life, there are informative features on Fela's drummer of choice, Tony Allen, Nigerian illustrator Ghariokwu Lemi responsible for Fela's mind-bending record sleeves, Senegalese super stars Orchestre Baobab, Mali's awesome Rail Band, Benin's Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, Pax Nicholas and DJ Rich Medina. There's also a profile on obsessive digger Frank Gossner behind the consistently great Voodoo Funk blog who is readying a reissue compilation of his own called Lagos Disco Inferno 1976-81, soon to be released by Academy LPs who recently reissued sought-after African grail items by The Mebusas, S.J.O.B. Movement and Ofege.

Fela Kuti - Don't Gag Me, Live in Calabar, Nigeria 1971

Knitting Factory Records
Fela Kuti site
The Shrine - Afrobeat site
Now Again Records
Soundway Records
Fela Kuti Live at Berlin Jazz Days, November 14, 1978