Good Music We Can Know

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Exotic Triptych: Martin Denny- Exotica Vols. I, II, & III (1957, 58, 59)


In order to properly finish what a previous post had started, here's the three Exotica records. Here, Denny issues his Tiki Manifesto, taking what Les Baxter had previously invented for the vast lushness of the orchestra, and scaling it down to a small jazz combo... thus creating arguably the most archetypal and influential work of the genre. This is essential stuff, so grab it, fellows.




Vol. I

Vol. II

Vol. III

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beautiful and Horrible With Life: Sabu- Sorcery! (1958)



I was going to tell you what a thoroughly gripping blast of furious jungle jazz exotica this is, but then I read the back cover literature (kindly transcribed by Mr. Bacosco over at Orgy in Rhythm), and realized that this mammoth black magic monster can very well speak for itself:

From the shores of the rivers of the sun come sounds, sounds various, beautiful and horrible with life, sounds as old as time, heard when brute creatures trod the earth, sounds that owe nothing to civilization and everything to rank and teeming biology. Product of a thousand animal and insect chirps, creeks, wails, thuds, thumps and stricken cries, they are an aural anthology of nature in its true guise, that nature that owns the earth and speaks for it, nature that is as ancient as the planets and as endless as the sun itself. The brooding heat that makes fecund every mite and molecule it touches has teemed into being a million forms of curious life, forms in the water, on land, in the earth and in the air, forms that live on other forms, or within them. Even their diseases are themselves new forms of life, life spongily multiplying amid death everywhere in an eternal cycle that produces its own whirring, multi-farious cacophony like the inner workings of a monstrous biological machine turned loose and run amuk. Man, the white-collared animal, occasionally dares to insert his prying boat, a lone dugout or a venturesome canoe, into these regions hung with vine where waters run that are grown to their surfaces with vagrant lilies, errant bitter ferns of musty odor, slime-decked pools of dead life rising with the swell. Man, the technical beast, opens an ear to the voice that sounds and he hears the original black and sordid magic of life, that sorcery he too came out of and now fears.

Here a mating call and a death rattle uttered by separate and independent beasts combine into a peculiar, haunting chime. The whine of a mateless mammal and the ticking of some hundred tiny pests occur haphazardly together to give an orchestra of blood and friction music indiscriminately scored for fauna and winds. The earth moves and the air moves with it and the whole regenerate pulsing and green-grown ball of firmament plunges through space as though it had a destiny. The tentacles of insects tickle the fringes of the cosmos and the beards of hairy animals wave freely in the gaseous envelope in which we and they float as we highball around the sun. This is the sorcery of life in its rutting, elemental source-design. This is the rhythmic magic of birth and rot and the constant burning muddy indigestion of the cosmic super-imposition of life on life on life, all grown into a heap and dying while aborning, corpses and genes well mixed in a great stew of fertility and reproduction and decay.

Life grows apace in lands where men still know the joys of being eaten alive by other men and/or by small fishes in furious clusters. Life jumps and bounds along rivers that dump indiscriminate cargoes of matter and debris into deep green seas, oceans that swallow whole subcontinents as glibly, blithely as the alligator gorges on its young, seas that reach from subtropic to subarctic and balance at once the breathless reaches of the armpit regions with the frigidity of the poles. The Aurora flips and flows on top of the world, aching across the empty void like a great tautened tongue, magnetic and muscular in its wild energy, kissing the whole world.

In old jungles strange ache-hungry birds watch from trees that wilt and hang. Small loin-clothed men step brittly through overgrown verdure. Natural boleros sound in the teeth of giant crocodiles crunching the bones of careless waterfowl, while in the grass banks, the lice violate in aimless joy the matted fur of some dead, cold, warm-blooded species.

SABU ...

...has heard all this and much more. The rhythmic cadences of nature's boiler room are here, the aural history of the sex life of a cosmic corn popper, the wail and chime and gong sound of the eternal SORCERY.


That's some serious sleeve-writing, fellows, and it only barely overstates the Godly Power and Earthly Horror of this record's Exotic Delights and Monster Jazz. I highly recommend reading it, by the way. I know a lot of you impatient scamps probably skipped it, but it is not be skipped.

Consider these sounds infinitely essential.

SORCERY! 320

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Arch-Duke of Exotica: A Martin Denny Barrage


FORBIDDEN ISLAND
(1958)
So begins this deluxe Martin Denny post. If you haven't heard his seminal Exotica records, Exotica I, II, and III, then by all fucking means, sir or lady, get and hear them. They are among the most prototypical sounds of the genre, and should be considered essential. This post is dedicated to the best of the rest of his early albums, which find ways to slightly (ever so slightly, usually) deviate from the small-combo soft-jazz+"exotic"-instrument formula of his Exotica records. This is his weirdest and most fun stuff.
Forbidden Island might as well be called Exotica 2.5, but it does squeak in some insane compositions, the luridly middle-eastern "Cobra" being the most arresting. Needless to say, this being Denny in his prime, the music here is stunningly gorgeous. Definitely a must-have. 320 rip.


PRIMITIVA
(1958)
Again, this record is pretty much straight out of Denny's usual playbook (perhaps more so than the previous, which has an Arabic tinge throughout), but it's so thoroughly excellent that it merits the highest regards. Not just more of the same, this is more of the Mega-Same. If anything, the bird calls that are a staple of Denny recordings are even more insane on this record, and every track is a classic. Also, dig this sublime cover, featuring Sandy Warner ("The Exotica Girl"), the model whom Denny would use for most of his early album covers. Her face and bust are as associated with Exotica as bird calls and Tiki masks. 192 rip.


HYPNOTIQUE
(1959)
This one starts to get pretty strange, exploring a sonic palette slightly darker and trippier than the usual Denny outing. An attempt at opium hallucination exotica, and the tracks are fat with sweet smelling smoke and languid sex. It gets a little goofy from time to time, but it thankfully finds Mr. Denny doing some welcome experimenting. Essential, as you might expect. 192 rip.


AFRO-DESIA (1959)
Here we find Ms. Warner posing as a blonde (the natural choice for this more African-leaning record, of course). This record contains one of my favorite compositions and an Exotica standard, "Baia." Also, the off-the-rails crazy "Swamp Fire," and "Ma'Chumba," with its loony, delightful vocals. Look, here's the thing about a good early Denny record: All the songs are always good. All the songs here are so fucking good. 320 rip.


QUIET VILLAGE
(1959)
"Quiet Village" is one of the most famous and most oft-recorded compositions in the Exotica canon, a shady slice of paradise and a deceptively simple piece of perfection. Les Baxter wrote it, but Denny found a lot of success with it as well. This is not the first time he would record it (or the last), but this record, named after the tune, is a typically strong showing from an unusually consistent master. 256 rip.


THE ENCHANTED SEA (1960)
Here we find Denny and his crew in a fairly sedate mode (and Ms. Warner both wet and brunette again), lushly and sleepily describing the seductive calm of the titular enchanted sea. It doesn't quite achieve this task as well as Les Baxter's similar effort, Jewels of the Sea, and the small-combo doesn't pull off the necessary depth of lushness in the way Baxter's orchestra can, but it is a very nice collection of soothing sounds. There's some nice brush-on-cymbals work, emulating the sound of waves. Good VBR rip.


EXOTIC PERCUSSION
(1961)
After 1961, Denny would create many other tunes worth hearing, but Exotic Percussion is one of the last truly great albums of his career. Creating 10 or more stone-cold classics, chock-a-block with great songs and great instrumentation, in a period of just a few years is a staggering feat. Denny is more than just an American saint, he is also an international angel.
This record is about what you'd expect, which is very good (and at a nice VBR rip). Add all these records to what is hopefully a growing Exotica library.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Breathless Journey Into A World of Exotica: Frank Hunter- White Goddess (1959), Stanley Wilson- Pagan Love (1961)


White Goddess has become a coveted item and a cult desirable among aficionados, and for good reason. Beyond its excessive rarity, it also boasts a rare excellence. It's one of the best you could ever hope to get. It is so insane and deep-magical, with a really amazing and unique pallette of sounds. Quote from Space-Age Pop: "it incorporates space age pop's favorite odd couple, the Ondioline and wordless vocals, as well as other space age pop regulars like chromatic bongos, Chinese bells, and the buzzimba. It's something of a cross-over between jungle exotica and space music and right up there with the very best in both categories."

This is a true masterpiece.

WHITE GODDESS (192)


Pagan Love is slightly more cartoonish than (and really, nowhere near as good as) White Goddess-- a bit more Hollywood-sounding, perhaps-- with a very dramatic string section and more of an adventurous, slightly comic soundtrack quality. It has a great thematic hook, however: each song describes a mating ritual in a different part of the world.
Check it out:


Enlarge this image of the back cover and read the text. I love this kind of writing, with all its purple prose and dubious information on rituals of fetishized "exotic" cultures-- told in the confident voice of the ever-reasonable, paternally curious White Man. It's pretty decent stuff, and the vocal arrangements are occasionally rather exciting. Also, I'm just a sucker for records that promise to take me on a journey, especially if it's to a sampling of different geographic locations.

Add these to your Exotica library, my friends.

PAGAN LOVE 320

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pretty Mermaid of the Southern Sea, An Exceptional Hawaiiana Exception: Johnny Pineapple and His Orchestra- Hawaiian Holiday (1960)



When searching for Exotica records, one will inevitably stumble across a sublimely exotic piece of cover art, become excited, then realize, with crushing disappointment... it's a Hawaiian cash-in record. That blonde gal on the cover, standing by the volcano, humping a stone parrot? Just a ruse to trick you into buying another set of the same twelve fucking Hawaiian songs, usually played in precise, unimaginative arrangements. Nothing against Hawaiian music, understand, it's just that you already have those songs, most likely on a couple of records, probably a few more than you needed (Oh, this one's on red vinyl! With a hula instruction booklet! I will never listen to it but I must have it!).

Hawaiiana is a huge, huge part of the history of Exotica, and of course traditional Hawaiian music is a mighty genre in it's own right, but when one is digging for the strangest possible Exotic Sounds, it's a bitter bait-and-switch to realize that the beautiful Tiki Majesty you just picked up at the thrift store can not, will not, surprise you. You know all the damn songs, and none of the cultural mix-n-match that makes Exotica so thrilling and occasionally weird or hilarious or sublime will be present.

There are numerous exceptions of course. Arthur Lyman is quintessentially Hawaiian but also so much more. Some installments of Hawaii Calls are absolutely top-notch. S'Pacifica also comes to mind.

Johnny Pineapple and His Orchestra, too, separate from the pack. Most of the selections on this record aren't exactly deep cuts or obscurios, but fire and brimstone are they played well. I picked this record up years ago because the cover art was too adorable pass up (you and your eyes should spend some time with it, just lookin'), but it turned out to be utterly fantastic. A winningly gorgeous rendition of "My Tane" is the highlight here, but there's not a loser in sight. The instrumentation throughout is persistently pleasant and of surprisingly high caliber; not particularly eclectic or strange in any way, just somehow unique and felt, as though Mr. Pineapple actually loves these songs and has a personal idea of how they should be played.

I've been loving this one for years. If you get only one Hawaiiana record, make it this one; if you already have too many-- well, hell, there's gotta be room for one more if it's this good. Get it, friends.

HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY 320

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Driving Music for the Apocalypse: Tony Carey- Yellow Power (1982)


Sorry it's been such a long while, I had to journey away from my Mexican refuge to attend a wedding in the states. Happy Married Life to you, J&L. The day and night of your union was a top good time of my life.

Tony Carey has made some of my favorite synth-instrumental records, and this one is likely his most appealing and enduring. After leaving the band Rainbow (which I can find virtually nothing about), Mr. Carey seems to have said hell-with-it-all and devil-may-care, and just started pumping out solo instrumental projects. In 1982 alone he put out five records in his name, and this is the first. Yellow Power.

Definitely a tad chintzy, with a feel not unlike that of a b-grade sci-fi/action flick from 1982, it embraces the fun and sugary pleasures of such "low" sounds and gets back in your face with some entirely-too-delightful, cinematically tuff, playful electro-pop. It's a winner, indeed. Check the faux-operatic vocals on tracks such as the stellar "Queen of Scots," and relish them. Pop it into the tape deck of a car with a bad stereo, and drive through an abandoned industrial complex.

YELLOW POWER (320)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stone Cold Dead in the Market: Wilmouth Houdini- Decca Presents... Calypsos (1939); The Calypso Carnival (?)



Harking back to the Calypso styles discussed in a previous post on Van Dyke Parks' Discovering America, I bring you this gorgeous and strange selection of scrumptious Calypsos, ripped from a booklet of 78s and courtesy of the fine fellow behind Zorch's Inner Sanctum. This is his gospel to spread, really, so go pay him a visit, but I just had to share it with you all in case you might have missed it.

I sometimes like Calypsos better in theory than in practice, but perhaps that's only because you encounter so much de-fanged, post-Belafonte, near-novelty ramifications of the genre. Yet at it's purest, it has a fascinating combination of regional storytelling, social commentary, crime-and-sex balladeering, and outlandish posturing that one might find in jazz, blues, rockabilly, country, various other folk and ethnic styles, and some of the more socially-conscious reggae, soul, and hip-hop. (Let me stop right here and backtrack to say that I have nothing but love for Mr. Harry Belafonte.) Another fascinating, recurring theme in classic Calypso is the presence of American GIs in Tobago and Trinidad, and a highly critical attitude towards the various effects this had on their lives.

These six recordings by Wilmouth Houdini epitomize this spirit of lurid, entertaining, and socially relevant Calypsos. The best of the bunch is "He Had It Coming," a murder ballad (based on a recent, at least at the time, event) told from the point of view of a murderous wife, who strikes her husband down with a skillet after he gets drunk and roughs her up. "I killed nobody but me husband," she reasons. (Hit up Zorch's spot for more info about these recordings, as he's a responsible archivist, with information and research that is actual.)

Also included are two recordings of Houdini's songs by other artists: the aforementioned "He Had It Coming," this time called "Stone Cold Dead in the Market" and sung by Ella Fitzgerald, and another by The Three Flames. Wonderful stuff.

HOUDINI CALYPSOS

Once you've done that, run over there and grab this incredible treasure:



The Calypso Carnival is a raw and beautiful collection of absolutely classic songs and themes. The singers have a way of cutting straight to the bone, and all the songs are impressively hardscrabble and deeply felt. One of my favorites here is "I'm a Better Woman Than You," an absolutely ferocious street battle between two hard female singers about who is the more appealing and desirable female. "When I walk down the avenue, I get more fellows than you..." "I am a better woman than you, I got better notions than you..." They get pretty fucking close to pulling each others' hair, sonically speaking-- it's amazing. Another highlight is "Mama, Looka Boo Boo (Boo Boo Man)" one of those classic tracks where a fellow laments his own personal ugliness. Also included are some less raucous selections, with movingly lovely female vocals. This one is a winner. Go over there and get it, fellows.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jazz Hallucination...Sex and Death/Booze and Reefers: Cab Calloway Singing "St. James Infirmary Blues" on Betty Boop



In keeping with all this scatting and cartoon related material, I submit this to you: Greatest cartoon of all time?



Cab Calloway performing "St. James Infirmary Blues" in a Betty Boop short based on the story of Snow White. The whole thing is great, as all early Betty Boop cartoons are, but it really kicks into gear at around three and a half minutes, when Ms. Boop's ice coffin slides into Mr. Calloway's ghost cave of jazz hallucinations. "St. James Infirmary Blues" is one of the greatest songs of all time, and Mr. Calloway is on the short list of its most inspired performers. For this short, he was filmed performing the song and a spooky slide dance, then animated over in the inimitable Fleischer Brothers rotoscoping style, all done by one incredible animator, Roland Crandall. It was his masterpiece. (wiki it here)

Grab a recording of Cab's version of the song, well-ripped from the cartoon, HERE. Once again I say, it's solid gone daddy, and most worth having.

There are other Betty Boop shorts featuring Cab Calloway. They are well worth seeking out, and easy to find on youtube. All the Boops of this era have this incredible, grotesquely surreal, absinthe-crawl, opium-nightmare energy, by the way, so check them out. Have fun.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Double Order of O-Root-O-Roonies: Slim Gaillard- Slim Gaillard 1945 Vol. 1



If you are anything like me, you are always on a scat hunt, eyes always peeled for hip nonsense droppings like you were a bear scientist. Scatting is that most eloquent confluence of glossolalia and nonsense-syllabic poetizing., and Slim Gaillard is a rare and unique customer in the annals of scat-science, a certain genius of the craft. He spoke eight existing languages, as well as a ninth of his own ingenious creation: Vout. An absurd language it is, but consistent enough that he was able to write a real Vout O-Reenie dictionary, making him a jazzy and hip successor to the spirit of the Voynich Manuscript.

Wiki this dude. He is interesting: Gaillard's childhood in Cuba was spent cutting sugar-cane and picking bananas, as well as occasionally going to sea with his father. However, at the age of 12, he accompanied his father on a world voyage and was accidentally left behind on the island of Crete. After working on the island for a while, he made his home in Detroit. In America, Gaillard worked in an abattoir, trained as a mortician and also had been employed at Ford's Motor Works...


Here's a collection of Slim works for you. On it you'll find the voutest, o-root-o-reetest collection of hipcat jazz slams with obsessive repetitions of vooties, reenies, routies, rooties, vouties, zeenies, and so on. Sublime, goofy, and fairly brilliant. I've also included a live rendition of his finest song: "Yep Roc Heresay," a wild and thrilling mishmash of Voutspeak and Arabic food names and phrases. It has been called the first jazz song sung in Arabic. You will love life while listening to this crazy shit.

VOUT-O-REENIE

(here is a fantastic performance with his very gifted bassist stealing the show and Scatman Crothers on drums. Yeah, you heard me, SCATMAN CROTHERS)



His abilities weren't limited to inventing words and singing them with an insane, cartoonishly gleeful zest; he also played piano with his hands inverted, palms facing up, and attacked the guitar with a proto-avant shred approach, sounding at times like Sir Richard Bishop or Fred Frith, all the while delivering his performance with the slapstick comedic precision of Chico Marx's piano interludes, or some of Harpo's more destructive harp recitals. Check it out:




And here's a link to some stuff of his on Ubuweb. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From the Docu-Library: Sven Libaek- Ron & Val Taylor's Inner Space (1973/4), My Thing (1970 or maybe 73), Solar Flares (1974)


Sven Libaek is one of my favorite composers. His best work achieves a quality to be highly valued in instrumental music, creating a kind of background-ish music that can't be ignored or appreciated too passively, sounds that are so evocative and transportive, they insist on becoming the active soundtrack of your existence. When listening to his tidy little library/soundtrack compositions, you are living a nature documentary, the kind with washed-out film, paternal narration, and antiquated, not-American-sounding music. I mean, I guess a lot of his stuff is literally for a documentary soundtrack, but it's notable that it translates so strongly, even away from its intended context... it's so archetypal and unique at the same time that it just floods your brain with sensation, like a childhood memory of watching Jacques Cousteau (whose music was never actually this good). One of my favorite things to do is just walk out into the desert, or row out on the water in my little boat, with my trusty little tape player and my Sven Libaek tape, and just experience nature through the lens of his soundtracks and the fantasy of a bygone day of nature docs and old-world naturalist explorers.

I've already posted some of the most essential Libaek work, Ride A White Horse and Nature Walkabout, as well as his symphonic masterpiece, Australian Suite. Click the Sven Libaek tag below to call these beauties up, and get them if you don't got them. The first two are especially key.

Here is another essential: Inner Space. It's a hard record to find because of a compilation reissue of the same name that came out a while back. This is not that comp. This is the soundtrack to Ron and Val Taylor's shark documentary, Inner Space. (Thanks to Marcellus Wallace for the rip.) Fans of The Life Aquatic will recognize some of the tunes featured here, as they were pirated for the film's soundtrack (to excellent effect, in my opinion). The music here is some of his best work, light and jaunty like sunlight dancing down through the water, with the occasional dread menace of a shark shadow crawling through the compositions. Fans of "underwater music" will find this to be the tip-top of the genre. The only thing holding this record back is that some of the tracks feature excerpts of William Shatner's narration for the film. It's actually great stuff, that old-time narration style in warm tones and purple prose (with none of the chewy hamming one might expect from him), but it does disrupt the instrumental flow of the underwater fantasy ride. But don't let a little thing like that stop you, because this is a sonic masterpiece, and the best most perfect option if you need a good shark hunting record. So worth having, you guys.

RON & VAL TAYLOR's INNER SPACE



Here is My Thing, one of two Library records he made in the early 70's. It's not as excellent as it could be, featuring a few too many of the trashy horns that are common to funk-library recordings than I would like, occasionally getting too far away from the pristine sonic worlds of his best work. That said, one of his all-time best tracks can be found here, the immaculate "Misty Canyon," a two-and-a-half minute masterpiece. At least half the record, if not more, is as strong as anything he's done, making it essentially fucking essential, if you're a fan. There's some roadkill here, but mostly just cool, refreshing, sonic diamonds. If you only have four Libaek records, make this number five.

MY THING




Solar Flares is a similar situation, another Library record, this one on the theme of outer space (although the feeling is occasionally more reminiscent of deep sea). This time the party is occasionally pooped by noodly jazz-funk guitar workouts and some chunky Italian synth farts, but the whole session is ultimately worth hearing, not only because of Libaek's typical sophistication, restraint, and ability to make something perfect, but also because of the occasionally delicious sounds of some rare kind of synthesizer prototype that synth nerds love. I haven't got the inclination to care about names of synthesizers (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I do love sounds. Oh, how I love sounds! Not the most essential Libaek record, in my book, but a worthy one for any collection.

SOLAR FLARES

That does it for the Sven Libaek records that I have that I love. Internet, can I beg of you a favor? Can someone point me to a download of Mr. Libaek's Boney soundtrack? Pretty please? I can not find one, not anywhere, no sir. Throw me a bone, if you please, and help me find Boney.

ALL THESE LINKS ARE DEAD. I DIRECT YOU NOW TO THE NEW LIBAEK MEGA-POST.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spiritual Jazz Obsession: Joe Henderson Featuring Alice Coltrane- The Elements (1973)


There's a lot about this album to make it special... not the least of which is that it features Alice Coltrane in a rare role as a sideman, on harp and piano. What else? Henderson's tenor is in the finest of forms (as it always is, including on Pete LaRoca's superb album Basra, featured here), trafficking in the kind of free-skronky, spiritually wild, high inspiration that Pharoah Sanders found on Alice Coltrane's Journey In Satchidananda (my favorite jazz record, probably).

Each track is named after and based thematically on one of the four elements, and for once a basic and often mediocre idea is executed in such a universal and inspired way that it really clicks, not just musically but also conceptually. The track "Water," an obvious highlight, finds Henderson treating his sax with a thrillingly mercurial effect, resulting in the aural impression of a saxophone being played under, through, or with water. It's delightful, but also fiercely experimental in the spiritual vein. This is one of the arguments for the incredible value of this period in time for spiritual jazz. This is one of the best records of its ilk. This is Jazz happening to the Universe! Brothers, this is the sound of Jazz Mattering.

ELEMENTS (320)

Exotic Dream of an Andean Sun King: Elizabeth Waldo- Realm of the Incas (1961)


Here is a sublime record of Inca compositions, played on "Authentic Pre-Columbian Instruments" and served up wonderfully by Elizabeth Waldo, a so-called "Musical Archaeologist."

Have you ever found yourself listening to the wonderful records of Yma Sumac and begun to wish you could hear Les Baxter's lush, near-psychedelic, pseudo-Andean arrangements more or less straight, without Yma's hyperbolic vocal histrionics? This, perhaps, is the cure.

(Bless Ms. Sumac and her incredible gift, and may I never speak a bad word about her, but we all know her records aren't exactly "any time" records-- they take a toll. They're challenging in a way Exotica generally isn't.)

Nothing here is quite as strange as what you might find on an Yma Sumac record, but the beauty is uninterrupted and indeed also almost psychedelic in its swirling, crystalline instrumentation. This is a fantastic piece of work, and while I'm not qualified to speak to its anthropological integrity, I can attest, with vigor, that it is Musically Superb. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Closet of Curiosities for posting this one. Zip over there and check out the post (and thank the man), which reprints the back cover literature. Here's a quote:

I have found that the Indian of all areas leaves his stamp on his musical contributions as indelibly as the African leaves his mark on the better known Afro-forms. Above all, the Indian, of noble soul, strives his entire life to unite the forces of man and nature about him. -Elisabeth Waldo

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sophisticated Jungle Dreams of Exotica: Tak Shindo- Mbanga! (1958); Richard Hayman- Voodoo! (1959)


This record has one of the best cover designs in the Exotica canon-- it's also one of the better Exotica albums ever made, and it's by Tak Shindo, a musicologist and expert in Japanese instrumentation. It's not nearly as satisfying, but it's actually fairly similar in texture to Les Baxter's Tamboo! (well-known to be my favorite), especially in terms of vocal arrangements, but with a few more moments of abstract space and atmospheric ponderousness among the decidedly more lurid and savage drum segments. This is Jungle Exotica at its most evocative; it will take you through the black hot night with nothing but torchlight and a man-eater on your trail, but it will also posit you atop a mountain to survey the sunrise vistas with surreal calm. A little bit of Voodoo, a little bit of Safari.

A must have, though sadly at a 160 rip. Let a fellow know if you can serve up an upgrade.

MGANGA!




Richard Hayman has here mustered his phenomenally versatile talents as musician,
arranger and conductor to capture the mood of voodoo in songs whose very titles
can strike awe in the listener: Conjuration . . . Spell of Deatra . . . Incantation . . .
Zombi. . . Midnight Ritual. . . Gris-Gris. Here is a musical adventure that transports
you into the deepest interior of Haiti. Here is the fearsome fire and the brewing pot.
Here are the frightening shadows. And here, above all, are the weird rhythms and
sounds of a music that is more than music because it is distilled in ritual and there
are those who believe in its magical powers.
This is music to be met half-way in a quiet room with the lights dimmed. Or better still
meet it all the way in the still of the night with the lights out. Then Listen!

You're not alone any longer. The room is shaken with the frantic dances of the
hungans - so-called priests of voodoo - and their faithful. The cauldron boils and
froths. The walls echo to the cries and the wails of the believers.

That's voodoo!

That's from the back of the record. It's all true.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sophisticated Sleep-Dream of Exotica: Henry Mancini- The Versatile Henry Mancini (1957)


Positively wonderful Exotica for Eveningtime. Sleepy, lush, and well-played (specific mention ought be made of guitarist Laurindo Almeida and whoever is doing vocals). This is about as white as exotica gets, but it's nonetheless great. It's one of those records that has one foot in popular instrumentals/space-age pop and one foot in Exotica Proper, but it's really a treasure of its kind, and doesn't feel watered-down at all. It's not gonna be as freaky as Denny or Baxter, but it's still awesome... hell, man, Mancini is pretty awesome. You know this: "Peter Gunn", "Charade" "Hatari"-- Mancini is a brilliant fixture. This is his first record.

THE VERSATILE HENRY MANCINI

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sophisticated Hallucination of an Exotic Brazil- Pedro Santos- Krishnanda (1968)


This is one of the most arresting records I've heard in a long time. Wow. I haven't been able to scratch up a lot of information about this little Brazilian masterpiece or its creator but all information (or lack thereof) seems rendered irrelevant in the face of such elegant, surprising, and beautiful music.

There's a lot going on here: experimental Brazilian pop, heaping helpings of Exotica styles and instrumentation, a touch of Indian pop instrumental (a la Bollywood funk meets Ananda Shankar), a shot at Couleur Café-era serge Gainsbourg, and a psychedelic kinship with Library artists (Roger Roger and Nino Nardini's Jungle Obsession comes to mind)... but all of that is just grasping for a touchstone with which to describe a really very unique record.

And it is very unique, and very inventive, in just about every moment contained in the record. There's a song that uses the sound of water as a rhythm instrument. Oh wow, it really is a fantastic record. Fans of Lula Côrtes e Ze Ramalho's Paêbirú will absolutely need this record, and all the Exotica junkies ought to try it, as well. It is basically an experimental Brazilian Exotica record with a throbbing, transcendent streak of creativity and passion. Let's just call it a must-have. Let's just call it a masterpiece. Let's just recognize in it the glory of music, and revel in the delight of its gifts.

Let me know, if you would, if you can improve on this 192 rip.

KRISHNANDA

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Strawberry Growing in the Sand: Damon- Song of A Gypsy (1969)


This is, or was, one of the rarest psychedelic collector's items and a highly sought-after piece of vinyl, fetching prices to rival a prince's ransom... now, thanks to the internet, you don't have to be a bounty hunter to at least hear this mythical slice of psychedelia (good luck finding a physical copy to clutch).

So then, with the rareness of it deflated by the callous ease of internet availability, how's the music? What is the quality? How to answer... well, it's cool. Song after song of Damon's deep mystic croon, psych-folk lyrics so simple and right, and a razor-sharp scimitar of deep ripping fuzz raga guitar. It's a recipe for a good song-- one Damon employs for every song. So the album falls a bit short of any kind of "lost masterpiece" status, at least to my mind-- it's so limited and repetitive.

But it achieves its claim to greatness there, rising to the top of the grand rubbish pile of "psychedelic" albums that exist simply to embody an aspect of the "psychedelic" and little more. The content, style, and purpose of this and so many albums can be summed up thusly: It Is Psychedelic. Every song on here is precisely this, a perfect archetype (right down to the vague/familiar lyrics that are so unremarkable they achieve transcendence), but it should be noted that it's not particularly trippy. Much like Jefferson Airplane's tepid vision of psychedelia, which slaps raga and fuzz guitar on nonsensical ("surreal" if we are generous) folk-style songs, Damon too is making fairly normal songs feel a bit weirder than they actually are. I think, at least on some level he's much more successful than the Airplane, though not as varied in his approach, for both better and worse.

I'm afraid I may have talked in a little circle about this record but let me say again what I've said before: not only do I like it a lot, I also like it better than Surrealistic Pillow.

SONG OF A GYPSY

Friday, July 2, 2010

With A Chihuahua in His Hand, He Conducted Our Dreams of Exotica: Xavier Cugat- Viva Cugat! (1961)


A friend of mine just hipped me to Xavier Cugat and his saucy, cartoonish rhumba/Exotica album, Viva Cugat! If you have never heard of Mr. Cugat, do yourself a quick and entertaining favor and check out his wikipedia article. This dude is a nut and a knucklehead from the day... he's basically the original Perez Prado, for one thing, as well as sort of the main fellow of Latin music from the 40s through to the 60s. His fourth wife was Charo, of all people, and he was known for conducting orchestra while cradling a chihuahua in his arms. A first class Character, and a former cartoonist to boot. Just like Fellini.

This album is prototypical, or at least typical, Latin-flavored Exotica, a 50's/60's trend we find Cugat getting in on-- interestingly, both as its grandfatherly progenitor and as a carpetbaggin' jumper of the bandwagon. Heavy on Rhumba, Mambo, and Conga, with big drums and bold brass, the album has that hard swingin' Latin sound but it's actually most interesting for its dreamier, string-drenched numbers-- such as the nearly perfect "Jungle Drums," "Poinciana," and a wonderful rendition of "Perfidia". The latter being a song which was a big hit for Cugat in the 40s. Viva Cugat! finds him returning to "Perfidia" 20 years later, and it's an achingly gorgeous revisitation.

If you are a fellow or lady with an Exotica addiction, you will likely feel inclined to slam some gooey Cugat into your brains. This is a great record.

Viva! CUGAT! (192)



The fine friend who got me to know this record has started a Tumblr called "MENTAL TOOTSCAPES." Their mission is to sort through the "bad" of new age culture and present what they find interesting. Doubtless such a treasure chest may be of interest to some readers here, so check it out. I will see you there, old chums.
http://mentaltootscapes.tumblr.com/

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kraut Fishing on the Moons of Hawaii: SF- Ordal (1985)


Over at The Growing Bin there is just a wonderful, crazy record, recently posted... I haven't even finished listening to it, to be honest, but it's so weird and beautiful that I felt inclined to crawl up on my mountaintop and declare my love for this record. Weird, weird kraut-synth with Manuel Gottsching (of Ash Ra Tempel, among other things) on "Hawaiian guitar," some oddball German vocals, and gallons of echo fluid. This is extremely unique.

Go over there and get it, or just grab it here if you are lazy. That's a fantastic blog, though, so scurry on over, you beautiful squirrels, and collect some incredibly weird nuts.


ORDAL 320

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Entirely New State of Becoming: Sun City Girls- Live Room (1994)


This represents the opposite end of the Sun City Girls spectrum from Torch of the Mystics. A harrowing and hilarious series of rants backed by off-kilter free-form fake-jazz, this finds the Girls exploring their inner Burroughs/conspiracy theorist/schizophrenic poet. Paranoid, faux-official ravings abound, delivered in the voice of fringe scientists, g-men, hermits, maniacs, street people, and Uncle Jim.
Fans of seriously fucked up poetry will appreciate this, but it's not exactly spoken poetry for the sake of literature; it's something stranger and more damaged than writing, conveyed with an urgency that undercuts the silliness of the play act and manages to completely unnerve and engross. It's like when you hear field recordings of possessed people, speaking in the voice of their demon, and it sounds really fake and ridiculous, but something about that phony unscariness makes it hair-raisingly horrifying. By the end of this record, you will wonder if these dudes really do have a line on the secret of the Sasquatch and the extraterrestrial man-farming of the planet. Maybe these dudes are right when they say the seventies never happened.


The best section is probably Alan Bishop-as-Uncle Jim's "The GHENGIS-Necro-Nama-KHAN Pt. 4." Here are some tidbits from that track:

"Sometimes a dead man can be a powerful enemy."
"Let's face it Mr. President: I'd be immortal in your world, you'd last a minute in mine."
"Socialite pals are a dime a dozen, but I'm the crime of the century, cousin."
"Who cares who killed Kennedy? Cuz your Uncle Jim's gonna pull out the scalpel and lance all your Worth, Fort!"
"You don't want the woman riding on top, she'd probably screw ya into the dirt cuz that's what the missionary's been doin' to her since Jesus wept for a little variety in his sex life with Mary Magdalene... kinda like not havin' much to rhyme with Gnostic... cuz they want ya to forget it... but that's not true of King James, now, is it?"
"And while you're waitin' for the cows to come home, and they won't be believe me... something else needs their blood more than you need their milk, can I interest you in a little game of, 'let's spot the black chopper....'"
"yer gonna count sheep in a pine box til they turn into pterodactyls..."

He's really a master of paranoid locution and nervously guttural inflection, wrangling deliciously awkward little rhymes with a murderer's delight and never stopping to complete a thought before moving on to the next bit. But the whole group excels at this kind of hallucination poetry theater, and the record takes you on a tour of many kinds of crawling insanity, both institutional and syphilitic. Uncle Jim's diatribe is merely the most accessibly poetic, whereas the rest is a visceral, verbal nightmare... a lot of folks have balked at this type of material (the similar Sun City album, Jack's Creek, is universally panned although I love it, more on that later), but I find it so affecting, stimulating, and thoroughly believed and inhabited that I must say: love it or hate it, it's undeniably Art. Vibrating on multiple planes.

This recording comes from a live radio broadcast done in 1994.
Get this album and experience another moment in the unpredictable career of these three men, America's most vital closet sorcerors. Because you are all just a bunch of Moveable Food...

Live Room

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Howling in the Jungle, Hungry for Drums: Sabu and His Jungle Percussionists- Jungle Percussion (196?)


I don't know much of anything about this one. I got it over at Orgy in Rhythm (a great blog, one of the best) a while back, and even he doesn't have a lot of info on this record. But straight to hell with knowledge, when we have sounds like these to fill the void!

This is a bunch of Afro and/or Latin drum jams bursting at the seams with chants and call-and-response. I don't know about you and I don't know who you are, but I'm always in the market for a record that promises to offer nothing more than drums and pseudo-ethno-vocalizations, with no distractions. But I am a man of particular tastes.

Jungle Percussion! 320

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Savage Mambo Fever Dream of Exotica: Perez Prado- Voodoo Suite (1954/55), Exotic Suite of The Americas (1962)


The King of the Mambo Universe: Perez Prado. This: his finest album. Voodoo Suite's first half is the title track, a side-long suite of epic proportions. Hard hard swinging brass, Afro-Cuban ferocity, wild chanting, and voodoo drums with a pummeling sensuality. I heard a story that Perez actually staged a fight in the studio to attain "authentic" or visceral sounds of some kind. This suite is a masterpiece, a terrifying and gratifying journey into that popular fiction of jungle darkness and taboo ritual, full of danger, pleasure, violence, and lust. This is one of my favorite Exotica selections ever, hands-down.

Side two opens on a furious rendition of "St. James Infirmary Blues," which is really just one of the Great Songs of the World, and the band slays it. It's awesome, in the way the Bible uses the word Awesome.

The rest of the album is good in the way Prado is always good. Hard-swinging mambos with a goofy pop touch, lush sensuality, superb production, and a surprisingly hard edge. Great, great record.

VOODOO SUITE (192)



Made many years later, Exotic Suite has a similar format, and is sort of a companion piece to Voodoo Suite. It's not quite as electrifying, but it's still pretty incredible, resembling much more a traditional Exotica record, with its liberal and deft use of lush string arrangements-- and less frantic voodoo-mambo breakouts, for better or worse. 

Side two, again, is comprised of more standard pop/mambo instrumentals, but they're all really good. They will make you yearn to dance on an outdoor patio on a cool summer night.

Perez Prado is one of the greats, oh my friends, and these are two of his greatest works. Avail yourselves of his mastery, and revel in his art.

Sophisticated Daydream of Exotica: Robert Drasnin- Voodoo (1959)


Drasnin was not an Exotica pro, in the manner of Denny, Lyman, and Baxter-- until '59 he had mostly done TV themes and the like-- but when asked to pump out a record of that popular "exotic" stuff, he pumped out a juicy good one in the form of Voodoo. The great thing about a good Exotica record is how devastatingly archetypal it is-- it sounds just exactly like something specific, yet describes a period of time in the American zeitgeist that's as nebulous as it is recognizable. Americans may well know this music in their blood. It is the sound of the dreams of their ancestors....

This record is that way. It's one of the best Exotica records, bar none: precise, beautifully conceived miniatures of Tiki dreams, with lovely vocals, chimes, and everything else you would expect from an archetypal Exotica record. The first song, "Chant of the Moon," is worth the price of admission all by itself.

VOODOO


Friday, May 28, 2010

Let's Live Through This Night, Let's Just Kiss and Fight: Shankar Jaikishan- Bombay Talkie (1970)


Here's another great Indian film soundtrack, this one by the great Shankar Jaikishan. The title theme of the film is phenomenal, and there are several variations of it on the record (one of which was on soundtrack to The Darjeeling Limited). The first, which has disarmingly charming "doo-doo" wordless vocals, is perfect. The last puts words to the melody-- which, by the end, you've already heard so many times-- and they are simple, beautiful, hopeful (and English, which is nice for me as an English speaker).

Another great song (also used in The Darjeeling Limited) is the sublimely goofy "Typewriter, Tip Tip Tip," a wonderful tune that is apparently performed in the film while dancing on a giant typewriter. Or so I've heard.

The rest of the album is gorgeous incidental music. It's really good. I got this from Parties Sarees and Melodies, a great blog of Indian film music. Click the link to see that article on this record, as it's much more informed than mine.

GET BOMBAY TALKIE 192

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Heartache in the Subcontinent: Satayjit Ray- Charulata (The Lonely Wife) 1964


Here is a really short, really beautiful record: the soundtrack to Charulata, by Indian filmmaker Satayjit Ray. I have never seen the film, sad to say, but the music is subtle, sophisticated, and heartbreaking in a gorgeous, quietly insistent way. Highly recommended.

One of the songs was used in the Wes Anderson film The Darjeeling Limited. Just so you know.

The Lonely Wife 192

Don Cherry: Om Shanti Shanti Om


Here is an excellent video of Don Cherry performing for television in 1976. I don't know anything else about the circumstances here, but the performance and music is electrifying. Don Cherry is one of my very favorites, and this is prime 1970s Cherry: international players and multi-ethnic traditions, spiritual pocket trumpet solos, and lots of vocals. At the end it segues into a bit of music from his album, Brown Rice, but the rest of it isn't on any album I've heard. Does anyone know if this track is on record anywhere?






UPDATE:
Generous reader Joandleefe has left a link to the Don Cherry album Actions in the comments. Check it out. Fans of Eternal Rhythm will note a similarity in the scale Cherry is playing around with, and fans of European vocal jazz will enjoy the singing throughout. It's really cool, classic Cherry stuff.

Here's a newer link: ACTIONS (160)

Spiritual Jazz Obsession: Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda- Divine Songs (1987)


If you have never heard the fantastic spiritual jazz or devotional music of Alice Coltrane, then there is a universe of beauty in store for you. I think her best jazz efforts are on the fantastic Journey into Satchidananda-- a masterpiece in every sense which finds her playing mostly harp alongside some of the best work Pharaoh Sanders has ever done-- but Divine Songs, for me, is undoubtedly her best devotional record.  Not that that's an easy call.

Here is an amazing cassette rip of Divine Songs that I found at Ile Oxumare. Go there and get it from him, it's just amazingly good, then poke around his blog, which is full of treasures (edit: this is no longer possible, and his blog is now-invitation-only).

This tape is very rare and mostly consists of Alice's rich, soulful intonations and eastern-style gospel vocals over drones, choruses, and synths in a manner so achingly tasteful and spiritual and masterful and deep... I can't fathom a universe where it only exists in cassette form. Oh, God! It's like the feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff with strong wind all around you yet somehow feeling no fear, only a transcendent exhilaration. Exceptionally good. So thank you, Il Oxumare, and the universe thanks you.

DIVINE SONGS
(320)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unparalleled Moments of Beauty: Les Paul and Mary Ford- Brazil (1948)


Husband and wife Les Paul and Mary Ford were an unstoppable hit-making machine in the early fifties, racking up a whopping sixteen top-10 hits between 1950 and 1954, and selling six million records in '51 alone. Strangely, while there's no shortage of legacy when it comes to Mr. Paul and all his various works and guitar innovations, this wildly successful romantic duo is rarely mentioned today. Perhaps their most lovely record, Brazil, hasn't even been released on CD, left to linger so lovely in the shadows of history, waiting to be rediscovered as the gorgeous gem it is.

It's so damn beautiful. While it opens with a zippy bit from Paul that showcases the nutty quicksilver picking of his own innovation, it quickly settles into soft, romantic torch songs with lovely, smokey vocals from Mrs. Ford and a classic exotica feel. These songs are what this LP are all about. "Just One More Chance," specifically, is a thing of unparallelled beauty. One of the best songs I've ever heard.

The only problem is, the whole thing is a bit slight. At only 22 minutes, it almost seems designed to leave you with a keen sense of longing. Still , this is a hell of a great little record.

Brazil (320)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Supernatural Meditation, or, "Getting High Near A Stereo": Two Eyes From Different Worlds


COSMIC EYE- DREAM SEQUENCE (1972)

Psychedelic jazz raga with sitars, tablas, electric guitar and saxophones. Formally trippy. I like these "psychedelic" records from this time period that just are what they are; no band ego, no message, just a solid piece of near-anonymous music for people to like, if they care to. That is, perhaps, the appeal of Library and Exotica records, among others. For all the adjectives you could ascribe to it, it's just, "Music."
Which isn't to say Dream Sequence is conservative. It's pretty crazy, but always accessible, a quality that's weird in and of itself when applied to this type of druggy space-out music. You know, it's a pretty great record.

Try Cosmic Eye




MASTER WILBURN BURCHETTE'S MUSIC OF THE GODHEAD
For Supernatural Meditation (1975)

This is a lot less professional, and a lot more weird, but still fits in the vein of "music to do weed to, in a room." Lo-fi tape effects, reverb guitar, dark ambient, and a miniature sense of the spiritually epic... I wouldn't suggest meditating to it, probably, but it's got to be good for something, like wandering around at dusk in a hooded robe. It's really cool sounding and really cult-y, so get it and put it on next time you go ghost hunting.

Godhead

(both links 320)

Monday, May 10, 2010

From the Australo-Symphonic Adventure Library: Sven Libaek- Australian Suite (1969)




A pop symphony in six parts from the brilliant Mr. Sven Libaek. Supposedly the most expensive record ever made in Australia at the time, but this is a fact I likely will not check. Essentially the same tone and instrumentation as his other work, which is mostly for TV and film (some of which can be found elsewhere on this site), the music benefits from an opportunity to stretch out its themes and leitmotifs in much longer, more complex, compositions. The effect is, as one might expect from Libaek, grandly cinematic, well-meaning and adventurously optimistic, like a Tintin book. It's not quite as distinctively otherworldly as the best of his work, but in a way that I find hard to pin down... it's still unmistakably Libaek, with all the vibes and harmonica and jazzy shuffling that implies, but with less of the gentle electronic effect, and not as hip, perhaps. To be pat: less "modern," more "classical." Anyway, it's really great. Very sophisticated, pleasant stuff. A real expedition for a relaxed and active mind.

AUSTRALIAN SUITE
This link is DEAD. I DIRECT YOU NOW TO THE NEW LIBAEK MEGA-POST.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Got the Fever in My Pocket: The Velvet Underground- Live at The Gymnasium (1967)


Here is a live recording of the Velvet Underground in 1967. There are very few live recordings of the Velvets during this period, and hello! what the fuck! here is this. Not only does it feature an otherwise-unrecorded song ("I'm Not A Young Man Anymore") it also boasts a very early version-- the "debut," supposedly-- of "Sister Ray," played with great intensity, showcasing those jabby dagger guitars alongside a clumsy and awesome first draft of the lyrical delivery. Not as long as the later renditions would grow to be, and not as fast or loud as the album version, this recording is most remarkable for the youth of the band and the unguarded live performance. Or, perhaps its strength lies in the sheer number of times Reed enthuses about the sucking on of ding dongs, with palpable delight.

The highlight, for me-- even more than "Sister Ray"-- is the really street hard performance of "Run Run Run," an awesome but often somewhat-overlooked track which is here allowed room for some smack nasty guitar interplay. Also on Gymnasium is a good version of "Waiting For the Man," and a clear, rocking "I Guess I'm Falling in Love," a fairly uncommon track with very few good vocal recordings (the most widely heard being the instrumental from Another View). The sound quality throughout is a bit faded and murky around the edges, but overall remarkably clear (especially around the vocals), making it a true treasure, a real gold god damn nugget.

A Workout at the Gymnasium