Second Week: August 23rd – 29th, 2015

Still going through the MCA’s Freedom Principle and the pile of records from my in-laws (edit when finishing this post: I didn’t listen to any of the records from my parents-in-law this week).

1. Hal Russell & Mars Williams – Eftsoons [1984]

Freedom Principle record that starts with two saxophones playing wacky stuff that’s on the border of pitch and noise. On the third track they do that but are backed by a whole band, and I find that easier to digest, probably because of the drums. The drums give me something constant to cling to while the saxophones go wild. The drums give context to the improvisation.

By the way, I didn’t know eftsoons was a word. It means “once again” or “soon after”. Huh.

Favorite track is the third track: A SYNC/SYNC STAT MUX PROLIXTHUX. Although I’m also really liking the title track, and Noise Command: Blast 1 (both also have drums).

2. Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Han Bennink – The Topography of the Lungs [1970]

Free jazz that was recommend to me by a great bud, Neal Markowski.

I think it’s interesting that this kind of music was done in Europe in 1970. What I mean is that the free jazz I know of and listened to is American and was done in the mid-late 60s. I’d even go as far as saying that free jazz is American more than it is European or anything else, and here are these three guys who were disconnected from the American scene, and were probably only aware of it through records and their own dissatisfaction with “standard” jazz, and this is their interpretation of free jazz. I should say that I know nothing of these three musicians, so it could very well be that they were involved in what was going on in the states.

There’s nothing for me to hold on to with this stuff to find my footing. There are no songs here, you know? The middle-end of Dogmeat makes more sense to me. Right after Han Bennink’s drum solo, when the sax starts playing something that isn’t a series of fast notes and squeals. It’s an actual melody with the drums and guitar making noise behind him. I really dig that. Besides that, I do appreciate that a lot of the record sounds like an avalanche or a train crash. They’re not being heavy in the rock sense of the word, it’s the three of them making obtuse sounds together that is really intense.

I will need to listen to this one a lot more for me to get it (or not), but for now my favorite track is probably Dogmeat.

3. David Bowie – Hunky Dory [1971]

Another musical record! Seriously, everything about it screams “curtains up!”. The song names – “Queen Bitch”, “Song for Bob Dylan”, “Andy Warhol”, “Kooks”, “Life on Mars”, and “Changes” all seem to describe scenes from a Hair-like play from the 60s/70s. The lyrics? “Changes. Turn and face the strange”, “Ooh, look out, you rock’n’rollers!”, “pretty soon now you’re gonna get older”, “Homo-sapiens have outgrown their use”, “You gotta make room for the Homo Superior”. I can go on! It can all be framed as music and lyrics from a musical about hippies facing the world post 1969. The cheeseball piano and vocals are also out of a musical, but don’t get me wrong, I love it! I think I’m mostly just surprised I never noticed these qualities before, because I knew some of these songs (but never listened to the whole record).

Holy shit! “Life on Mars?”? This song is straight out of Broadway or Elton John’s discography! Except he doesn’t do this thing Elton John does where he ruins all of his songs somehow. Good job, Bowie! Ok, I’m probably done writing. If I go on I’ll just keep talking about the pathos of it all and how it’s out of a (you guessed it!) musical. I like this record.

Favorite song is Quicksand, or maybe Andy Warhol? That one sounds like it was written by the Pixies.

4. Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda [1970]

Another record I don’t get! Not because it’s too out there, but because it’s not all that insane. On Wikipedia it was listed as Avant-garde jazz, but this is a very easy listen for me. This isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying it or that it’s not good; I was just surprised.

Apparently most of this record was recorded in Alice Coltrane’s home. That’s awesome! It sounds good! My favorite track was Isis and Orisis.

5. Ambitious Lovers – Envy [1996]

Arto Lindsay is playing Constellation in Chicago soon, so I decided to get acquainted with his stuff. He was in DNA, which I don’t know very much, and after that he was in Ambitious Lovers.

It starts with this awful 80s disco funk whatever song that has all the bad sounds you can get out of a DX7. Terrible stuff. Then it turns around and becomes way better. A lot of Brazilian influences here. I mean, he sings in Portugeese on another song! Too Many Mansions is a really awesome song with some delicate qualities and sounds. Let’s Be Adults has more of the shitty 80s crap. Maybe it’s a joke? I don’t really know, but I do get into it halfway through the song. I guess not over focusing on it helped.

Favorite track would be Too Many Mansions, but I also liked Dora, and Locus Coruleus. I should look up some of Arto Lindsay’s solo stuff.

6. Public Image LTD. – That What is Not [1992]

I bought this record back when I lived in Israel. I knew that PIL took a turn for the worse after Flowers of Romance, but I threw this record on a turntable at the store and listened to 30 second of a random track and thought it sounded alright.

I was wrong. This is a really campy record with forced and forgettable riffs. I think the worst thing about it is that they tried to hit every rock genre of the 20 years prior to it. It’s like they tried to make sure it’ll be marketable to a wide audience. The last song is probably the most offensive of them all. It’s like the whole record was building up to this shitty song. Every song is just a glimpse of what’s to come. That song (“Good Things”) starts like a Ska song with the horns and the congas or whatever those drums are, then there’s this awful funky-funky-let’s-get-groovy guitar playing, then this female singer female is going “whoaaaa whoooa whooaaaaaa whoaaaaaa” all overt the place. I think there are steel drums here? Some cheesy synthesizer along with power chords in the chorus. It’s like someone opened their fridge, took all their leftovers from the past two weeks and threw it into a pot to make one big, disgusting stew. I’m not even trying to be funny here. I think they took the worst RHCP song as a template and worked to make it even more offensive.

It’s just such a crazy contrast considering what PiL used to be. I’d like to think that PIL (the good PIL) looked at the past 20 years of music before them and said, “this is good, but how can we take all that and do something completely different that still hints at it?”, and they totally succeeded at that! This record is the complete 180.

I don’t have a favorite song. I’m just glad this record is over.

7. Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Max Roach – Money Jungle [1963]

Probably the world’s greatest supergroup?

Really interesting record. It seems like it gets categorized as post-bop, and I guess that fits some of the songs, but there are also some elements of free improvisation in there. For instance, Money Jungle. Mingus is playing this one note on his bass for the most of it, the Duke seems to be playing fragments of a song, and then at some point Mingus has had it and starts slapping the bass, bending notes, pretty much signaling them for a minute that he’s done. Fleurette Africaine also has some similar elements in it, but the piano is more “traditional”, for a lack of a better word. The next three songs and Solitude do feel like bop. I guess Caravan does too, but Ellington sounds really pissed off there.

Neal told me that the three got in a fight during the recording, and Wikipedia corroborates that and goes on to say that listening to the record in the order it was recorded you can hear the tension building up. I wish it was sequenced this way.

Another thought I had about this is that it’s crazy that they didn’t rehearse (they didn’t want to) and only met for the first time the day before the recording. I can see the not rehearing part, as you might want to capture everyone’s initial reactions to playing together for the first time, but barely knowing the people you play with – that’s kind of crazy!

Favorite track is Money Jungle.

8. Brian Eno, Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius – After the Heat [1978]

After listening to DAF last week I decided to see what else Konrad Plank worked on and found this record which also has the two dudes from Cluster, so I had to check it out.

It’s an alright record. I don’t think it’s anywhere close Zuckerzeit, but it’s a fun listen. I enjoy listening and thinking about how they got certain sounds, but the songs themselves don’t do very much to me. Zuckerzeit, on the other hand, has both the awesome tracks and the sounds.

Favorite track would be Tzima N’arki. What? I like those reversed vocals!

9. Joseph Jarman – Song For [1967]

This is a really incredible record that’s part of the Freedom Principle thing. So far this week I’ve listened to five jazz records, and I think this one falls in the sweet spot (for me) between the really hardcore free jazz and the more straightforward stuff. There are songs, but there’s also improvisation that stretches these songs to their limit. They’re always just one step away from it being complete chaos. There’s some recitation going in one or more songs, which at first I thought was goofy, but then I realized that it’s cool. Dude’s trying to express himself in more than one medium, and I’m totally fine with that. Going to listen to this one again soon.

10. Charles Mingus – Mingus Plays Piano [1963]

I guess it’s not surprising, but Mingus is also an extraordinary piano player. I knew he could also play the piano, but you know, I never listened to this record before. These are, for the most part, incredible pieces that he improvised in the studio. I don’t know what else to say about it other than that it’s excellent.

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