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Atomic Platters disc 1 [coll] – [Bear Family Records]

loun   3/13/2011   A Library, CD

Bear Family Records, German compiler of a massive arrray of classic American music, brings us this bombshell box set. With 5 CDs, a DVD, and enormous, full color plate, hard covered liner notes, there is a cornucopia of memorabilia from that brief, beautiful time when the world first woke up and had the sense to be terrified of itself. There are fun and funky tracks aplenty, including male and female versions of ???Thirteen Girls??? and other ???atomic sex??? songs, but it is the inclusion of truly representative material: CONELRAD tests, civil defense PSAs from big-name celebrities, and educational/ propaganda pieces, that really make this collection stand out. You can get a real taste of the age listening to and watching these period pieces ??? a little bit of red scare and a lot of nuclear terror. There’s even an extensive interview with the creator of ???Bert the Turtle??? in the book. Flip this lid, then flip yours, Jack!

3WR: Rock the shelter.

Searching for the Now 2 [coll] – [Slumberland Records]

loun   9/22/2010   7-inch, A Library

Two pop tunes, not pop-ular so much as pop you in the head. I’d call these counter-twee, as the beats and melodies are all uptempo, but the lyrics are la la la Oh crap my life is so miserable la la la lock up the razorblades la la la, but much better written. “Oh no, Baby Don’t” is faster and sadder, while “Song for the Troubadour” is more of a melancholy reminiscence. Sweet sonorous self indulgences, musically rich, well recorded, on beautiully pressed vinyl, as we’ve come to expect from Slumberland.

Chen Santa Maria – “Chen Santa Maria” – [Zum Media]

loun   9/22/2010   7-inch, A Library

George and Steven serve up a thick shiny platter of sonic wonderment. At first I thought it was a determined dredging of the sea floor for sounds that had lost their way and were hiding under rocks hoping not to be eaten by sharks. Then I realized that the intended play speed was probably 45, so I tried that, and heard the sound of all the dredging machinery the two men bent to their will. On a hunch, I played it at 78, which yielded the dialogue between the machines, who wondered if they had free will or were merely following a preordained plan. We’ll never know, as these machines were stolen shortly after this record was made. The A side is resonant/driving/chattery, depending on the speed you choose, the B side epochal/climactic/desperate. Post-rock + noise = poise. Unsafe at any speed.

Bait and Switch – “What Is Known” – [Clean Feed]

loun   6/30/2010   CD, Jazz

The lineup may look familiar – these are the same four players who comprise Go Go Fightmaster, but it is Lisa Mezzacappa, not Aaron Bennett, who leads this effort, and there is a distinct difference to the resulting sound – less driving and phrenetic, more comtemplative and dissolute, although there are significant beats laid down and worked on many of the tracks. This is unadulterated, unapologetic jazz without an attitude problem – just a sincere delivery from musicians that have played extensively together yet get to explore new ground in this form; diverging, exploring, and coalescing harmoniously in spaces where harmony is optional.

Stackpole, Karen with Die Elektrischen – “Machine Shop” – [Dielectric Records]

loun   5/5/2010   A Library, CD

This is not your hippie uncle’s gong CD! Karen Stackpole is a well rounded percussionist who can play a drumkit, assortments of ethnic instruments and nonce sundries such as a set of keys strung on a wire – pretty much anything that can be hit, but her focus is on gongs. Using an assortment of mallets, bows, and whatever else, even her finger, she deftly calls forth an impressive variety of tones and textures from the big stretched bronze. The result is a work far greater in breadth, depth, and scope than one would expect from a gong-centric title. Die Elektrischen (aka Drucifer) produced an excellent recording and postprocessed it, but the gonging itself impresses the most. The compositions are lush and interesting, rich and evocative, while each piece has unique character. Can be played in a “superimposition or mix”, but stands firmly on its own. Gongophobes are directed to track 6, which has a nice beat thumped out on a monitor-hide drum. Not to be missed.

3WR: Gongwoman strikes again!

Slater, Luke’s Seventh Plain – “My Yellow Wise Rug” – [General Production Records]

loun   3/16/2010   12-inch, A Library

Re-release of an early work by renowned British DJ/producer Luke Slater, generally regarded as the torchbearer for Detroit style techno in the UK, good enough that he apparently hasn’t felt obligated to move to Berlin, and these two slabs show why. Not only is he an excellent soundcrafter, but his sense of progression timing is also excellent – he changes things up before they wear out, and keeps the sounds interesting and the pace changing without throwing off the beat. Recommended not just for dance music enthusiasts, but also for those less enthusaistic about techno. Awesome smooth grooves.

Love of Diagrams – “Mosaic” – [Matador]

loun   2/10/2010   12-inch, A Library

Sometimes there’s no better way to look forward than to look to the past. Love of Diagrams gets that. Bearing all the sonic and visual accoutrements of the 80s, this trio of Melbourne-again rockers mod-estly clash with conforming iconoclasts. Basically, they rock, and rock is good – the estrogen don’t hurt, either, especially on the vox. Pairs nicely with current “fuzzpop”, or whatever else you please. Two of the tracks have already been through current on the self-titled CD. Play ’em again anyway, or pick another track – they’re all solid: different moods, different driving beats, plenty of playability here. Enjoy!

Nelson, Red – “1935 – 1938” – [Document Records]

loun   1/25/2010   12-inch, Blues

A healthy helping of golden era Chicago blues from a less well known, though not necessarily less talented artist – “Dirty Red” Nelson Wilborn. The very laconic delivery, common for the era, can make it difficult to feel the deep pain punctuated by irrepressable spirit and double entendre, but it also makes the seeking worthwhile. Many of the tracks sound a bit scratchy, but in turn the sound of the original pressings (these are recovered from 78s) appears to be preserved at the best quality achievable. My favorite was “What a time I’m havin'”, which is also notable for being a protest song – WWII soldiers were promised a per-diem bonus that was long delayed before it was finally paid, but there’s lots of good stuff here. A notable document and solid collection of blues.

Candelabra – “Artifiction” – [Wilde Records]

loun   7/8/2009   7-inch, A Library

Debut EP from hyper-obscure Sacramento trio on soon-to-be-defunct label. Basement lo-fi ditties and razorblade ballads delivered with more enthusiasm than skill. Not a top pick, but the tracks are short and fun. The pick of the litter is “Sundrenched” (A2).

Beraki, Tsehaytu – “Selam” – [Terp Records]

loun   7/1/2009   CD, International

This is not revolutionary music – it is the music of a revolution. When the people of Eritrea fought for, and ultimately won, independence from Ethiopa, the songs of Tsehaytu Beraki were part of the struggle. Although she eventually fled, shrapnel-damaged, to Rotterdam, she and Eritrea were inseparable. Rediscovered by Terrie Ex (of The Ex), who built her a new krar, the traditional five stringed lyre-guitar of the region, she began for the first time to record her music after a lifetime of playing and writing. This double-CD set is the result. The music is warm and intoxicating, and the krar often sounds like several instruments instead of one. The songs have a timeless, haunting quality, and although the range of style is not large, the sound does not wear thin. Read the booklet for a fascinating background, plus translations of all the tracks.

Neuburg, Amy X – “Secret Language of Subways, The” – [Minmax Records]

loun   7/1/2009   A Library, CD

The irrepresible Amy X. Neuburg returns again, this time with three cello-wielding divas and a song cycle inspired by her time in the Big Apple, riding subways and peoplewatching. Once again she couples top-notch musical craftswomanship with astute lyrics and humor, both observational and musical. The mood ranges from the zaniness of “The Gooseneck” to the morose ponderings of “Shrapnel”, and even a Genesis cover (“Back in NYC” – the one with the naughty word), but there is no filler in here – each track is solid, both on its own and within the cycle. The Chixtet shreds – cello work ranges from long sonorous pulls to bow-drummed improv, with alternate harmony and dissonance between traditional and new playing styles. All four of Amy’s octaves make an appearance, both naked and postprocessed, plus her usual assortment of samples and loops. Highly recommended.

Dead C, The – “Relax Fallujah – Hell Has Come ” – [Ba Da Bing]

loun   10/7/2008   7-inch, A Library

The Dead C break out a pair of almost unheard recordings of much heard Bush-era songs and re-release them for the Bush era. Surprisingly, the songs were almost as relevant when they were recorded in front of a building as they are today, when they should be played loudly from the tops of them. The unbridled anger and frustration over being unwillingly part of a military action which only enriches a few while impoverishing a million is a bullet which hits its target head on from a range of 20 years. A fitting addition for the 30rth anniversary of the KFJC punk revolution and a satisfyingly painful reminder that great rock is timeless.

Note: side B ends about :10 before the end of the groove.