Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music

The two main members of Spacemen 3, Sonic Boom and Jason Spaceman, created as much a rift between fans as they did themselves later in the year (which was 1988, now that I mention it) and even further in the future with Recurring. I for one am thoroughly in the Spaceman Camp, though Sonic Boom's additions to the record that came shortly after (the masterful Playing With Fire) are not to be dismissed.  (They're even given added importance with this album's closing tracks, the glitchy "Ecstasy in Slow Motion" and "Spaceman Jam".)

But for unwavering, heroin-like drone-out bliss, you have to look to Dreamweapon's most druggy, eye-rubbing wonder, "An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music". A single forty-four minute track, it buoys and wavers like a phased Rhys Chatham piece, and indeed is based mostly around guitar, completely repetitive but also mystic in its execution. [I have to note that while it isn't necessary, listening to their then-contemporary recorded output before this helps in its "narcotic tug"[1]; familiarity warms the soul, ya know?]

The musicianship and dedication to completely tonal catharsis are enough to bring this high up in the order of Spacemen 3 recordings, but the ambiance of the recording itself captures the live feeling perhaps better than any other live album. It's not for everyone; people close to mic chat away (though no actual conversation to distract you with can be heard), a baby cries in the foreground and the house phone can be heard behind the bar a couple of times, amidst the bustle of drunken Brits and smashed glasses inside of a trashcan. None of this can be heard individually of course, though it's worth noting, seeing as how some detractors prefer the "real" Live album better than this. About half way through, a man (one of the band?) coughs and announces over the P.A. that the wet bar is "now open, so you can float away." Or at least that's what I imagine I hear as I completely surrender myself to this complete Eden of drone music—primitive and esoteric all at once, when it ends it's hard to think of a way to bring yourself back to terrestrial roots. Like chicken soup for the cosmic bowl, yeah?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Veins of Mount Meru Throb in the Underground

LRD is the psychedelic music lovers best (un)kept secret. Cable Hogue was assembled by singer and axe man Mizutani back in the 90s to accompany a video of same name. Looking at the tracklist is peculiar, because many songs are repeated, and while I'm not sure of what venue goes with which recording, it makes no difference because all versions of said tracks, (especially "Night of the Assassins" on disc 2) have their own merit; one being a softer, though quicker paced version (and clearer, for what it matters), and the other being a sweaty bar-room rocker with that does almost away with the romping, ripped off rhythm section during the guitar parts, and then goes barebones behind Mizutani when his vocals do pick up, the bassist lagging behind when he feels like it. There are also other great tracks here including a scorcher of a version of "The Last One" that feeds back until forever and still only takes 25 minutes of your Earth-time with its decending, chugging rhythm section and saucerspinning guitar feedback. Most notable to me is how Mizutani introduces the band on this set. The opening track is nigh unlistenable; a collage of instruments falling onto each other, begging you to push past (all the other versions of this song on here are better), arriving at a pair of tracks that show a softer side of Rallizes. Track 2, this time called "FallIn Love With", though also known as "Romance of the Black Grief," and about two other titles, is a space-rock fantasy piece that relaxes you with its drone and amp buzz until you're just about numb, never leaving its trotting pace. The next track, also having a sister on the second disc, is "White Awakening," (sometimes refered to as "White Walking") again softer than even the preceding track, grounding you with it's initial drum fill until it's last note, leaving you surrounded by smoke from the Ether itself; this is music made almost tangible, with reality feeling a bit more dull after having lived through the sounds of Mizutani and his axe, strings soaking with Hendrixian LSD and sweat. The result works better than drugs.


Decembers Black Children evokes the idea that every playthrough for this band was a exercise in what jazz musicians would say is a work out in the Shed. Each subsequent release from this band seemed to eclipse the last, showcase something new and different, and while I think this release came out in the late 80s, no real info is available other than noting it wasn't released on any label. So what are out there, bootlegs? Mizutani doing it for love or cash? More mystery from the eye-dropper of a band that was Rallizes. The blues takes on "Flames of Ice" on this set, and treats it like a slow-burning cigarette instead of a squat thrust work-out like on future releases. Both versions of "Deeper than the Night" here are rocking-chair porch blues versions, and have Mizutani's vocals mixed in a way actual words can be made out. The version of "Night of the Assassins" that finishes up disc 1 is quick and to the point, taking only 12 minutes to make it's point, an almost Richie Blackmore-type swell in some of the guitar riffs here.
Julian Copes review of this release in Japrocksampler says that the album says disc 2 starts with "Night Assassins" but really commences with all 19 minutes of the band's 1960s track,"Smokin' Cigarette Blues". I've found neither to be true, weirdly enough. What I have is a jazz-lounge version of "Enter the Mirror," complete with emotive (and even restrained) soloing from Mizutani, capping at only 5 minutes. Following that is two of the most blissful recordings of staple tracks in the band's decades long career. The sixteen minutes of "White Awakening" here brings to mind the one on Cable, but eschews direction for length, Mizutani's lips hissing and fingers probably bleeding from the performance—but it's only a warm-up! The 13 minutes of "Enter the Mirror" that follow rise like a tide, crashing and piercing through what ear drum you do have left, both blissful and scalding in turn, this version turns out better than even the famed Live 77 version, in its early moments as much obscured by the clouds as it is riding a-top and leaving a trail of its own accord, the band members vapor signatures collectively reacting at just the right moments. It's a wonderful thing this was captured on tape, as hearing it is like sitting in on Bob Calvert's space ritual as Sunday mass for plastic-mind melting fools like us. Almost scientific in it's execution though generative to the point of changing with repeated listens. The set closes with Mizutani flogging through another version of "The Last One".  Essential stuff.