It would be deceptive to describe Mats Gustafsson’s Piano Mating simply as a piece of music, when the listening experience more resembles the construction of a tapestry made of electric threads in a constant flux of motion and color; If you squint your mind’s eye, you can make out that the image Gustafsson has presented is some kind of extraterrestrial baptism, where a ritualistic drone is mingled with a tense wonder of the unfamiliar.
At the prompting of Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records to create an album with an instrument he had never recorded with, Gustafsson uncovered a Dubreq Piano Mate, one of the more obscure devices in the synthesizer family, to create this two-track, 35 minute work.
The tones fade into perspective slowly, squirming microtonally around eachother to create modulations that range from a friendly pulsation to an almost seasick grinding. As each new pitch is introduced, it punctures the previous layer and then folds itself back in to create a new dimension in the fabric of sound until fairly quickly they become a nebula of sound slowly climbing in timbre and pitch. Side A travels between whirling tensions and gratifying harmony before the layers begin to drop out abruptly and expose individual elements. Side B is a churning ocean of low harmonic richness, where through repetition the throbbing drones almost begin to disappear to reveal the vast and desolate space created by the slow build of the synthesizer sound mass.
I suppose like any extraterrestrial baptismal tapestry (don’t act like it’s your first), Piano Mating provides a pseudo-spiritual psychedelia with a distinctive coarseness that make the album a find as rare and exciting as the Dubreq Piano Mate itself.
In a culture obsessed with content, saturation, and continual exposure, it’s rare to find artists who prefer to lurk outside of the public eye. Thomas Pynchon is perhaps the most notable contemporary recluse—a virtually faceless figure who occasionally creeps out of hiding to offer up an elaborate novel steeped in history and warped by imagination—but for the crate digging audiophiles, guitar mystics, and third-eye visionaries, Sweden’s enigmatic rock outfit GOAT may qualify as the greatest modern pop-culture mystery. Who are these masked musicians? Are they truly members of a remote tribe in the Arctic community of Korpilombolo? Are their songs actually a part of their communal heritage, passed down through generations in their isolated homeland? Their third studio full-length,Requiem, offers more questions than answers, but much like any of Pynchon’s knotty yarns, the reward is not in the untangling but in the journey through the labyrinth.
Western exports may have dominated the consciousness of international rock fans for the entirety of the 20th century, but our increasing global awareness has unearthed a treasure trove of transcendental grooves and spellbinding riffage from exotic and remote corners of the planet. GOAT’s previous albums World Music and Commune were perfect testaments to this heightened awareness, with Silk Road psychedelia, desert blues, and Third World pop all serving as governing forces within the band’s sound. But GOAT’s strange amalgam isn’t some cheap game of cultural appropriation—it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact origins of the elusive group’s sound. Whether or not the enigmatic collective truly claims Korpilombolo as their home, the fact that they pledge allegiance to a spot on the periphery of our maps—a spot so distant and off the grid that it feels fictitious—bolsters the nomadic quality of their sonic explorations. With Requiem, GOAT continues to rock and write to a beat beholden to no nation, no state.
GOAT’s only outright declaration for Requiem is that it is their “folk” album. For the initiated, such a proclamation seems almost unnecessary—GOAT has always vacillated between electrified exuberance and unplugged tribalist hymns. But Requiem does find GOAT focusing more on their subdued bucolic ritualism than on the psilocybin freakouts. Opening tracks “Djorolen/Union of Sun and Moon” and “I Sing in Silence” both set the stage for GOAT’s rustic approach, with the guitars laying down simple chord progressions and pan flute providing the primary hooks. From those very first notes, the piper leads us down a path where GOAT relies less on acidic guitar lines and more on sun-bleached psych-pop. “Trouble in the Streets” carries all the jubilance of classic African highlife. “Try My Robe” bares the group’s signature ceremonial hip-shaking rhythms, but eschews guitar for a mandolin line that would make John Paul Jones proud. But GOAT hasn’t completely foregone their fiery charms—tracks like “All-Seeing Eye” and “Goatfuzz” conjure the sultry heathen pulsations that ensnared us on their previous albums.
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Requiem comes with the closing track “Ubuntu”. The song is little more than a melodic delay-driven electric piano line until we hear the refrain from “Diarabi”—the first song on their first album—sneak into the mix. It creates a kind of musical ouroboros—an infinite cycle of reflection and rejuvenation, death and rebirth. Much like fellow recluse Pynchon, GOAT doesn’t offer up any explanations for their strange trajectories. But like Pynchon, they have managed to create a world of their own where the line between truth and fiction is so obscured that all you can do is bask in their cryptic genius.
Years back I had the good fortune to travel with my band No Knife to Japan. We ended up going twice. Both tours were amazing and this was in large part due to our Japanese hosts Nine Days Wonder. This band was sort of like our Japanese counter part, brothers from another mother. This was a band that not only were some of the truly most kind people I’d ever met, but they were a creative, ferocious and inspiring post-punk band. The group consisted of 2 guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. Kensuke handled the main vocal duties, while Teru added stellar backup singing contributions. Our tours together were a musical highpoint for me of 25 years of traveling around. I’m always grateful for these gents and their friends, who quickly became our close friends as well.
Since the band’s dissolution in the mid 2000’s, drummer Akira and Keyboardist Kiyo have gone on to create the unique and challenging Mouse on the Keys. Mouse on the Keys will make it’s San Diego debut in the coming months. Keep on the look out for a preview for that West-Coast US tour.
Monday (8/1) – Lou’s Records on the 101 features live music and food trucks for a good cause.
We actually haven’t heard which bands are playing this event, but doesn’t it sound like a good way to spend a Monday evening in Leucadi, helping save animals (since the event is being put on by Lou’s neighbor The Coastal Animal Shelter) while eating fun food and listening to live music with your family. Also, there is going to be a beer garden this year put on by Saint Archer Brewery. Stop in and buy a CD at Lou’s as well.
Wednesday (8/3) – Local Encinitas band Second Cousins treating us all to a free show at the Cardiff Library 7pm – 8pm
Second Cousins have been out playing this summer again, and if you haven’t been able to make it to one of their later shows this is a great chance to hop over after work and check them out. Perfect venue and act to bring your kids and even your music loving mother-in-law. Seriously, these guys are first rate musicians (check out our feature from 2014)
In the course of my customary search for new music (checking the submission inbox, college radio charts, new release pages on label websites, and finally AI selections) life seems determined to return my attention to The Books. Because of my streaming service plays, The Books are a consistent suggestion. I figured I must honor this guidance and took a listen back through their catalog and was pleasantly surprised just how much the music still resonated and seemed to fit with how I was seeing and passing through the world today. I thought it was perfect to feature their remastered debut (Thought for Food), which to me captures their sound and brillance best.
The Books were an experimental folk/electronic duo from New York City consisting of guitarist and vocalist Nick Zammuto and cellist Paul de Jong. Meeting in their apartment building in 1999, they considered their collaboration pop music in comparison to their more classical and traditional training. They went on to release 3 albums with the Berlin based label Tomlab and their final album with Temporary Residence.
Thought for Food signals in 2002 the media saturation that would flood us all and seems to swim through it with grace and excitement. The guitar, cello and banjo loops settle you through the absurd yet poignant samples, snippets of commentary from everyday life and the already increasing 24-hour news frenzy that now in conjunction with social media attacks our consciousness at every looming corner. The music is produced with attention to minutia and with a focus on the effect upon the state of the listener. One thing I love the most about an album from 2002 is that it also is meant to work as an album. It takes you on a ride, picks you up if you let it. I suggest you let it. Put it on as you take a step back to observe your immediate society (take a walk through a park, drive through your city, or while sitting in an airport terminal).
Give it a spin below and give the documentary a look to understand more about the lives behind the music.
So I’ve been thinking hard about Kyle Craft’s new record. It was on infinite repeat today in my woodshed as I worked all day on some projects. I had listened to it casually a few times but then decided to really dig in and see if I could hear what was behind the voice and the songs. To be honest, I don’t know a thing about this young gentleman. I felt like it would be good to garner an opinion based solely on what I was hearing. Sub Pop kindly submitted a press kit with bio information and quotes and reviews for me to orient myself. Usually this is super helpful but in this case I’m prepared to go from the gut, and as a result, may or may not be wrong. But I suppose, when you go from the gut there really is no wrong. So here it is. Here is my psychoanalysis of Mr. Kyle Craft.
Kyle Craft – Photo: Andrew Toups
There is a depth to these songs. My sniffer is so tuned to the stench of bullshit that I have a slight anxiety listening to the new tunes that arrive at my inbox. Dolls of Highland, the new album by Kyle Craft, feels legitimate to me. The songs are good and the band’s arrangement has a classic quality to it without being some kitschy retro outfit. I sense the predilection towards the music of previous generations, but I hold no grudge. In fact, I want to party with Kyle Craft. I’d suppose enjoying a few cocktails and perusing what is likely to be in his stellar record collection would be a good way to spend an evening.
The album is filled with different presentations of these solid tunes. Some songs feel centered around the vocal and guitar, while others have a quaint upright piano and tasty Fleetwood Mac-esque thuddy drums. There are a few ways that the tunes are filled out but it never gets away from the songs and Kyle Craft’s voice. I feel influences of T Rex, Bob Dylan, Elton John, and others, but in general, I can’t put my finger on anything that this is directly lifting from. Of course this is a huge bonus! I also wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Craft was a fan of the theater and show tunes. There are some heavy duty stories being told and the theater tradition knows how to tell a story, that’s for sure! Young musicians have a tendency to grab onto something cool from the past and merely recreate it. In my book this is total bullshit. Kyle Craft does better by making something of his own, without the regurgitated cliches and trappings that so many others copy in their quest for the shortcut to cool. Kudos to Kyle Craft. I for one have enjoyed the hell out of this record.
I recently caught the first night of tour for Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds. They have a new album that was just released on April 22 on the great In the Red Records. It is fantastic! I had the songs stuck in my head for days after hearing these tunes. Deliciously warped yet pleasing to the ears. Kid Congo is a legend in his own right (The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) but to make his sound even better Kid has surrounded himself with a band that whips serious ass. Amazing musicianship, yet still rough around the edges in just the right ways. Drummer Ron Miller has recorded their albums in his crazy school gymnasium studio out in Kansas. He gets some seriously great sounds. The vibe of their live performance is playful and rocking but still feels a little dangerous. I’ve caught them a couple times and it’s always a good time. Great music and great people. Catch them if you can on their current tour across the US, or on their overseas dates.
As announced from the Swami Records website: “Metz & Swami John Reis 7” April 16
When Metz found themselves on tour in San Diego with a couple of hours to spare, Swami John Reis immediately booked some studio time with the hopes of capturing the glorious noise of their collaboration. The four of them came up with 2 songs and now they are friends for life. The sound is reminiscent of an army of sea gulls inside a burning Benihana Of Tokyo.”
With all of John Reis’s various band projects of past and present, his sound and musical style has been distilled over the years. The very “Hot Snakes-esque” sound meld perfectly with the noisy abandon and power of Toronto’s Metz. This is a great representation of current music that harkens to the raw, bombastic sounds of the early 90s, a la Amphetamine Reptile records but with a band of musicians that are of the highest caliber of musicianship. A glorious capturing of these songs was accomplished by local San Diego engineer hero Ben Moore. The sounds are big and powerful and his engineering production style matches this project perfectly. Snag one of these 7″s if you can find a copy. Both songs with thrash your ears in the best way possible.
Nothing uniquely amazing is being done here, except the final result. The parts upon initial inspection are basic and even highly reminiscent but somehow the care and attention to the collective package leaves you with a sharply satisfying listening experience. Joon Moon has you hitting the like button on your preferred streaming platform, an instantaneous recognition once a song has ended that you will want to have that in the background again.
With the coming release of their April 1 Call Me EP, Joon Moon is building upon the still sparse but well polished catalog, a 2015 Chess EP, also released on Kwaidan Records out of Paris, France. The latest release is only one new track, “Call Me”, with a couple remixes and a cover of Radiohead’s “I Might Be Wrong”. Each track sucks you in, just as each track and edit on the Chess EP does.
Joon Moon is a result of a Montmarte, Paris friendly collaboration and experimentation between Julien Decoret, Raphael Chassin, Sébastien Trouvé, and Krystle Warren. Warren, providing the mystical vocals, is a recent Kansas City expat. The are just off a couple of SXSW shows and are starting to build a buzz, that we hope inspires more work in the studio. Check out the new EP, especially the Chamberlain Remix of “Call Me”, which has been a sound I’ve been craving since the end of The Books.
I recently returned from an impromptu road trip adventure to see Animal Collective and Beck perform at Phoenix’s McDowell Mountain Music Festival. It was a very laid back and comfortable festival experience, as I was able to basically meander up to the front of the crowd and enjoy two of my favorite artists, which I had only previously seen in cramped quarters. Expecting a reflective evening featuring his acoustic Morning Phase work, I was pleasantly surprised to see him work back through his two decades of music to make this Friday affair electrically charged. Being so close to the action, I was most struck by the musical command and subsequent fun that Beck brings to his musical catalog. It reminded me of his Record Club Project from 2009/10.
Record Club was short-lived but is a worthwhile collection of music to explore and enjoy, but even more so, an experiment to herald as a fresh model of collaboration and playing music for the love of creating impromptu magic with a group. The goal was to recreate an album in a day with friends and collaborators. The selected albums and parameters of the Club’s goals are explained below:
A solid collective of musicians came out for each experience to make noise and find grooves as they showed appreciation for the genius of these albums but also celebrated the open source beauty of music in general.
It is a fun vault of music to sift through. Check it out and then go make your own record club.