Good Music We Can Know

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tonight on Explorers Room: Can, the Best Band. All Night Long.

Tonight on Explorers Room: A juicy explosion of Can monsterpieces, wall-to-wall genius music from what I consider to be the best period, from 1970-'75, Soundtracks through to Landed (sorry Mooney fans, and sorry Flow Motion, you're both still pretty good).  I'm not gonna play it too cool, I'll be throwing on a lot of the biggest, most obvious tracks (we will hear "Vitamin C," of course we will).  But I'll also play a good portion of rarities and sidestreets, juxtaposing period-appropriate obscurities with their more well-known counterparts.  If you're a big Can fan, it'll be fun to hear the tracks that have blown your mind many times over.  If you're new to Can, well, it'll be a pretty decent primer on the greatest group of musicians to ever coalesce into something like a band.  DON'T MISS IT, PSYCHEDELIC PEOPLE.  


ALSO, and this is important: WFMU is commencing with a month-long silent fundraiser.  Considering that this dark damned rock of souls that is our planet seems to be committed to crushing all things either right or good, it is crucial that the Good Ship WFMU keep sailing strong. If you are at all able, I implore you from the bottom of my wicked heart, please consider donating.  WFMU is one of the few institutions I've been involved with that didn't deserve to be burned to the ground and written out of the history books, so I really want it to last a thousand years.  Else what's the point of still having people?

Check the widget below, or the one embedded on the Explorers Room playlist page.  If you want. 

embed this anywhere you like, please.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Summer Never has to End on the Explorers Room – Tonight!

Tune in tonight, for the first Explorers Room of the newly-turned Autumn, and join in a collective denial of seasonal reality.  Summer never has to end when you're on the inside of an Explorers Room.  That's the whole point, really.  Brazilian grooves and steamy jazz are on the menu tonight.  Have a seat at this table and consume the sounds of endless summer.

YES, I WOULD LIKE THAT – Ok then, see you there, my friend.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tonight on Explorers Room: Tak Shindo and Other Primitive Sounds from Basic Hip Digital Oddio

Tonight on Explorers Room: touching base with the show's eternal roots with a classic evening of strange and lurid, really truly exquisite exotica music. An initial emphasis on Tak Shindo will gave way to drawing from the broader bounty of strange music that is Basic Hip Digital Oddio.  Some old favorites in newly upgraded sound quality (including a STEREO Mganga! provided by brother Krokodyl) as well as some stuff I've never head before that makes me lose my miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind it's so good.  So far so good, but don't screw up now: this is a show that demands to be heard with the aid of a good tiki drink or cocktail.  In the interest of scurvy avoidance, I may be simply squeezing limes into icy glasses of dark rum, but you should consider trying the baroque majesty that is the Pi-Yi:

Pi-Yi (The Islands restaurant, Phoenix AZ, c. 1960)
1 1/2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 oz honey
1/2 oz peach brandy
1/2 oz passion fruit nectar/juice (not syrup)
1 oz gold puerto rican rum
1 oz martinique rum
dash angostura bitters


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Exotica Emergency: Tak Shindo's Mganga at Basic Hip Digital Oddio

For years, as far as I know, there has only been a pretty weak rip of Tak Shindo's outrageous and awesome Mganga! floating about, at 160kbps with tons of junky digital artifacts.  Just the other day, a really glorious sounding 320 vinyl rip popped up over at Basic Hip Digital Oddio.  Run like the wind and get it now! All the links over there live for only one week, so time is of the essence! That is, unless you make a donation and gain access to the full archives, which I actually did, and found it pretty damn well worth it, because there's tons of great stuff there including lots of exotica.  There's a new album every day, so stay on top of that spot and don't miss a trick.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tonight's Explorers Room: Columnated Ruins Domino – Beach Boys in the Wasteland of Manhood (post-Pet Sounds to Surf's Up)

Tonight on Explorers Room: a return to the bewildering ouvre of the one and only Beach Boys.  The last Boys-themed show brought us right up to the cusp of Pet Sounds, and tonight we'll pick up right where Pet Sounds ends, in the mystic temples of Smile (lying there in ruins, or in a half-finished state, depending on your perspective).  From there we'll soldier on through the late 60's albums, ending with 1971's Surf's Up (an album which marks the end of an era, in my opinion), paying special attention to: 
           a) the ways in which Smile, having been abandoned (thus to never be the flabbergasting, singular masterpiece it of course should have been), manages to bubble up all throughout, stretched out across some five or so inconsistent and often-wonderful lo-fi experimental records, and 
          b) the ways in which the disillusionment/withdrawal of Brian Wilson led to a more democratic, desperate Beach Boys, torn between a desire to compete commercially and of course artistically with other 60's musical acts; and to compete, or at least reasonably rise to the level of, the level of ambitious fine-art excellence established by Brian Wilson's auteurist work on Pet Sounds and Smile (and the hyperbolic expectations/bitter disappointment emanating from the latter).  Particularly the top-notch, often tremendous, efforts of Dennis and Carl.
The tragedy of Smile's demise has led to decades of what-could-have-beens when it comes to the Beach Boys.  This has overshadowed all the work they've done since.  But I like, love a lot of that work, and now, with the benefit of not only time but also the pretty superb Smile Sessions reconstruction of Smile (I have little love for 2004's Brian Wilson Presents Smile, but that exists too), we can ease up on alternate-universe wishful thinking and spend a little time appreciating what actually is there: a hearty stretch of weird experimentation, tossed-off moments of little genius, pop pandering which must have been disappointing at the time but is gorgeous nonetheless, decent offerings from Love-Johnston-Jardine made great by a great group, and grand statements of maturity and sophistication from the younger Wilsons.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

Adios, Ad Lib: Musax–Animaux 2 - Arnaud Rozenblat and Dominique Verdan (1980? earlier?)

A bit of sad news: Maio's Library (font of library treasures) has shuttered its facade and shut down (it was a little while ago, actually, but I just noticed). In a refreshing twist on the old tale, Maio actually chose to close it down, and did so of his own volition, for personal reasons–which beats yet another reiteration of the old coerced-to-self-destroy blog obituary narrative.  The loss still stings.  So long and thanks for everything, Maio's Library.

Some of my favorite discoveries over there came from the Musax label, which I'd not really heard of until it popped up at Maio's spot.  I'd love to share one of those with you today, those of you who've not heard it: Animaux 2, by Arnaud Rozenblat and Dominique Verdan.

It's one of those classic records that takes a simple concept–themes for various animals, a sort of non-existent documentary soundtrack–and runs with it, taking it to supremely weird places.  Sort of murky and foreboding, the sound is reminiscent of Umiliani's Continente Nero-esque work (particularly with the ambling, echoey hand drums, low mellotron drones, and wide open folk flutes), but with more culty guitars, cheapie drum machines, and long lines of rough reverb.  One absolute highlight is "Etranges Autruches"("Strange Ostriches," which you may have heard on Bibliothèque Exotique Volume 2), an utterly bizarre series of weirdo instrumental interjections, boinging and stabbing, rattling and clanging, in vaguely disorganized fashion, over a doofy keyboard beat while a synth noodles away in the distance.  Somewhere between Popol Vuh and Ennio Morricone at in one of his more anarchic moods.  The whole record is befuddling delight.

Musax: A N I M A U X  2 (Varying bitrates, mostly pretty low.  Wish it were better, but at least it is at all)

ON ANOTHER NOTE: Check the sidebar here to see an archive of all previous Explorers Room episodes (Explorers Room Radio Library), with their original post image and description.  I've started removing the original posts after a few weeks so as to unclutter the main page.  Of course, you can also just check it all out right here on the WFMU site.

AND, stay tuned for news about the book, my book: EXPEDITION.  It is really, truly coming this time, and will be available for preorder (likely via a kickstarter, alas) within the month.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Explorers Room TONIGHT – Le Sacre du Sauvage: Ritual and Exoticism in Fin de Siècle Classical

Tonight, the Explorers Room will take a pause in its Beach Boys exploration in order to spend some time in the epic and sublime sounds of fin-de-siècle and early 20th century classical and art music, with particular attention paid to themes of exoticism, ritual, and primordiality. All but one selection will be drawn from my own vinyl collection, for what it's worth, and all have spectacular, weird album art, in many ways much like some of your better Exotica covers.  Come along on this plunge into the orchestral primeval, the ooze from which exotica is born.  

7-9 EST

Tomorrow: New post.  Next Week: Beach Boys Part Deux - Grownmen in a Sea of Troubles.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tonight on Explorers Room! – American Puberty: Beach Boys on the Treacherous Road to Manhood

Explorers Room returns tonight with an exploration of the Beach Boys' early work.  A safari of the Pre-Pet Sounds dynasty: exhortations of boyhood, yearning for manhood, and the gradual takeover of emotional interiority from the affectations of surfin'/hot roddin' as a way of life – all set, of course, against a backdrop of West Coast endless summer culture and with an alarmingly rapid increase in compositional sophistication.

To be followed up, in the coming weeks, with a deep dive into the dark waters of the unstable Post-Pet Sounds era, where some of my favorite songs of all time lie, waiting.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Paradise Showers on Artficial Flowers: Johnny Spencer and the Kona Koasters - s'Pacifica (1959)

Hawaiiana (as opposed to true Hawaiian music) is often at its best when it mixes freely with the grander abstractions and vague sensory-evocations of broader Exotica, rather than hewing exclusively to Hawaiiana standards.  There are exceptions, of course; in the endless series of Hawaii Calls LPs, Webley Edwards has produced a few albums which disprove my theory, and more than a few which seem, through their blandness, to confirm.  And George Cates' Polynesian Percussion, which hews almost exclusively to old Hawaiiana beaten horses, becomes transcendent through inventive arrangement (and lovely, unusual usage of novachord and celeste).

But anyway, what the hell am I on about? It's a complicated world full of contradictions: some Hawaiian records are boring, some are great.  Some are authentic, some aren't; some are honest about that, others elide their establishment-whiteness by imitating or incorporating Hawaii's folk culture.  Some are ethnic Hawaiians playing what US tourists "want" to hear, some are white musicians inventing their own "Hawaii" because engaging the "real" thing is too hard, to complex, to actually engage with. But any of these modes, on their own or especially in combination, can produce a good record, or at least, a rich record.  Trying to produce a formula by which to navigate the overlapping worlds of Hawaiian recorded music, Hawaiiana, and Exotica is a foolish errand, I cast it aside.

This record is a fascinating case.  A mix of Hawaiian "folk" music, Hawaiiana standards (mainly "War Chant," thankfully not too much else), and all-in-for-fantasy hard Exotica, s'Pacifica is a 1959 opus from Johnny Spencer (of Ohio) and the "Kona Koasters" (about whom I know nothing, and wouldn't it be nice if I did?).  The Hawaiian-ness of this record seems to vary based on the selection.  Some are pretty native sounding vocal folk, others are cool-jazzy Hawaiian-inflected Exotica in the vein of Martin Denny or Arthur Lyman, some are a mix of the two with subtle big band elements.  The great thing though, issues of thrillingly muddled authenticity aside, is that every track is really really good.  By excelling in basically every mode of Hawaiiana – on a single record – s'Pacifica actually ends up exemplifying nearly the entirety of the moment.  What's more, it's stunningly vibrant and unique in its execution of what is, essentially, a packet of some of the most overplayed clichés of all time – and really, that's the crux of what it is to make great Exotica.

Opening with the blowing of a conch shell, the record starts off with a traditional (or "traditional," I don't know which is more accurate) Hawaiian vocal, leading into a cascading Exotica section.  It's wet from the start, lush with sea breezes, bird calls, and lapping waves.  (Throughout, the waves never really stop gently crashing, whether its in the form of sound effects/field recordings or undulating cymbal work.  The bird calls trade between human and nature-recordings and blend indiscriminately.)

The second track is a jazzy adaptation of "War Chant," the all-too-familiar melody interspersed with frenetic Hawaiian vocals and powered by big hammering drums.  Then the waves roll in again for "Drifting Sand," a surf-inflected track reminiscent of the Surfmen's more guitar-inclusive Hawaiian-Exotica. Then the drums and vocals come back for  "Marcelle Vahini," and it seems as though variations on two basic constructs of Hawaii are alternating turns.  The next track bears this out: "Monsoon" is a high point of the record's Exotica inclinations, a wet, sleepy, narcotic dream.  "Sting Ray" and "Temptation" reiterate the more big-band Hawaiian sound, but without vocals.  "Kona Tide" is essentially "Monsoon" part two, equally excellent.  "Se Ulai" strips the big band and just delivers a playful Hawaiian folk vocal, with a huge drum sound, like a hammered hollow log, and ukulele. Alternation continues, and the record ends with a blatant plagiarizing of "Quiet Village" called "Maui Rain."  As is the case with so many derivations from Les Baxter's marvelous composition (including some by Baxter's own hand), it's less a flaw of unoriginality than it is a welcome reference, a familiar embrace from the octopoid arms of Exotica.

In the end, this is probably what you'd get if you just alternated tracks from Webley Edward's Fire Goddess and selections from one or both of The Surfmen's two LPs.  But I think it's even a little better than that, if only for the dewy, evocative production – the aural equivalent of morning rain beading up on the petals of hibiscus, of standing on storm-pocked wet sand in the early hours of the morning and grappling with the unreal experience of paradise, the scenery before your very eyes reflected precisely, if reductively, in the pattern of your rayon aloha shirt.

As is often the case, if anyone has an upgrade, I welcome it.  It would be great to hear a higher-quality version of this exquisite stuff.  Thanks to Sleepy Lagoon, from whom I first acquired this file.

s'PACIFICA (192)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Babalucolage and Never Enough Taboos: Tino Contreras - Jazz Tropical (1962)

I posted this one a couple years ago, just as a link to Sleepy Lagoon.  Lagoon being gone, I figured it best to do a new post with a fresh link.  This is a great record; unfortunately it's ripped at a stinkin' low bitrate.  Alas.

Contreras is a Mexican drummer-bandleader with a strong facility for syncretic influence-absorption.  His mix of jazz (many faces of jazz), Latin music (in all its multivalent splendor), and exotica/eastern-modalities/experimentalism makes him a singularly fascinating figure at the crowded intersection of Exotica and Latin jazz.  Perhaps the best illustration of this can be found on Jazzman's highly-recommended compilation, El Jazz Mexicano De Tino Contreras, but this awesome record, Jazz Tropical, is a strong contender as well.

It certainly has lots of Latin/Exotica classics: "Poinciana," "Taboo," "Andalucia," "Caravan," "La Malaguena."  And all great, of course.  It doesn't have his weirdest stuff, like those notoriously-employed choral vocals, or the intense modal workout of a track like "Ravi Shankar" (both of which can be found on the aforementioned comp), but it's just a really good jazz attack on a bunch of Latin/Exotica themes and compositions, and it's a blast.  On a less well-trodden note, the best track is probably "Orfeo en los Tambores," which has some really huge Lecuona Cuban Boys-style vocals.  "Noche en Tunisia" is really good too.

Hit me up with an upgrade if you have one, anybody.  This one deserves to be heard at at least 320.

One last thing: there will be no Explorers Room this week.  I'll be back the week after, with Bibliotheque Exotique 3, so stay tuned if you please.  I'm also working on a post for Buddy Collette's incredible work of genius, Polynesian Suite, and it too is ripped at an appalling bitrate; allow me to once again solicit the world for a better copy of it before I publish the post.

JAZZ TROPICAL (159) Check the comments for a slightly better 192 rip (though I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet so I can't vouch for it).  Thanks to Mischa!