Good Music We Can Know

Friday, May 27, 2011

Forgotten By God and People: Miroslav Skorik- Music From Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (A Film by Sergei Paradjanov) 1965


Paradjanov's masterpiece, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, is such a mammoth statement, such a mind-bogglingly beautiful piece of work with such a wide influence, it's hard to believe it hasn't been permanently, indelibly installed into the dialogue of Greatest Films of All Time; at the very least, it ought to come up more often when folks are obsessing over 60's New Cinema and European New Wave.

An international festival success and multiple award-winner in 1965, the film predicted the emergence of the next great Soviet filmmaker, a visual visionary to effortlessly rival Eisenstein and a humanist with a refreshingly anthropological, folklorist approach augmented by emotional surrealism. But perhaps unsurprisingly, unity-obsessed Russian authorities reacted negatively to his celebration of regional, cultural, and religious history and lashed out at Paradjanov. An irrepressible, boyish man of great enthusiasm and vigor, he responded with nothing less than a revolutionary call for an end to Soviet Realism and a renewed focus on aesthetic, personal truths. For his transgressions, he spent years in prison, and so we have only four full films from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is his best, rivalled only by its stunning successor, The Color of Pomegranates.

The film describes a Carpathian folk tale, depicting traditions, rituals, locations, and costumes that have rarely if ever been seen on film. Greatly enhancing the vitality of the film is the revolutionary use of almost exclusively handheld camera, a method which ensures a kineticism is felt in the blood of every scene; every manic, breathtaking tracking shot and stunning movement. The viewer is inseparable from the camera's heartbeat, watching the events unfold with living presence and alien remove as though they were the hills themselves. The people and their story are beautiful but exaggerated in the way of legends, and the anthropological study of the culture is refracted through the beyond-real prism of aesthetic obsession and heightened emotion.

The music of the film, extracted from the film and collected here by my own modest labors, is mostly Carpathian folk songs and snippets of folk instruments (Jew's harp, bells, giant horns, etc.), with a bit of original score here and there. Most of the music occurs in the reality of the film, rather than in the background. You will hear the characters singing love songs to each other, monks chanting, women mourning in terrible, melodic laments, and ceremonial music traditions such as funeral and wedding songs. The Carpathian Gutsul tongue is a rough one, making this somewhat abrasive listening, especially with all the gnashing of teeth and cursing of death, but the glory lies in the savage beauty and occasional horror of it.




I hope you find some interest in this collection, but more than anything I urge you to see this movie. I urge you with all my heart and soul. One day my girlfriend came over and told me about a movie she'd seen that day, and that I should watch it with her. She said it was the best movie she'd ever seen. It sounded good but somehow boring (perhaps I feared a Tarkovsky situation), and I dragged my feet a bit, but we watched it together. By the time it was over, I was crying sheep's blood and pumping lightning from my heart, laughing the animal laugh of a barbarian and eating meat with my hands to feel the life inside. Thanks for that, my Sweet Pea.

So here's the soundtrack. As far as I know, no similar such artifact exists. This music is glorious and intense, and I offer it to you (if you enjoy this, please check out another soundtrack I've made available, from Paradjanov's final feature, Ashik Kerib). Here's the link:

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
R E U P P E D

And here are some screen shots:












Tracklist:
1. The Carpathians, A Gutsul Land, Forgotten By God and People
2. Funeral for a Brother & Murder of a Father
3. "May God Send Plague Onto Them, and Death on Their Cattle!"
4. Ivan & Marichka
5. Growing Up In Love
6. Dance/ "We'll Never be Together"
7. Going/ Meadow
8. Star/ Hunt/ Marichka Falls
9. "What a Horrible Death You Found"/ Deer at the Grave & Loneliness
10. Religious Visions
11. Rejuvenation
12. Ivan & Palagna
13. Ivan & Palagna: Wedding Ritual
14. Workdays
15. Christmas
16. Tomorrow Is Spring: Palagna Practiced Sorcery
17. Sorceror: "He's God To Us. People Feared Him, Yet They Needed Him."
18. The Tavern/ Struck Down by the Sorceror's Axe
19. Ivan's Death
20. "Remember Me Ivanko, At Least Twice a Day. I Remember You Seven Times and Hour."*
21. Pieta
22. Children's Faces in the Window/ End

*Translated lyrics to #20 (a sung dialogue between a dying Ivanko and the ghost of his lover):

-Sing Ivanko, as you can. I shall sing for you so that you won't understand.
-Tell me, tell me, girl, where have I lost my mind? Or maybe you've hidden it in a birch-tree or in a poplar?
-When we fell in love even dry oaks began to blossom. And when we parted, the lilacs withered.
-Oh, my sweet Marichka, my talkative bird. If only we had been destined to love each other for one summer.
-Remember me Ivanko, at least twice a day. I remember you seven times an hour. And the apple tree's shed its flowers. We had fallen in love as early as children.
- Oh I went to the meadow and saw a bird there. What are you doing now, my dark-haired Marichka? Oh Marichka, I can't forget you! Oh, we'll never be together!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Skulldubbery in Three Parts, the Hard Way: Tappa Zukie- Escape From Hell (1977); The Revolutionaries- Top Ranking Dub (1978); Black Magic Dub (1980)


This is a heavy, gangsta-leaning slice of right-on dub. Solid stuff, more of a focus on tuff rhythms and fat basslines (with the occasional grace of a saxophone flourish or whatnot, as on the excellent "Population Dub") than waves of echo or out-of-left-field effects. Perfect for cruising the streets with a hard stare. Not quite on the level of his incendiary, funky-punk, sharp-as-a-razor-blade work on Man Ah Warrior, which is easily his masterpiece-- though that one is a vocal record, so this one is about as good as a Zukie dub can get.

This is the original playlist by the way, none of the reissues bonus tracks are present. I oughtta get those, actually. And you oughtta get this. 160 rip.

ESCAPE FROM HELL



The second in a series of dub records I've been enjoying that happens to feature a skull on the cover. An arbitrary connecting thread, I know, but this is happening. I'm sure it's happened before.

And it's another solid entry. If dub can be repetitive, limited, and occasionally unoriginal in its exploitation of the formula, one can still find immense value in the archetypal quality of the repetitions. A record can find its place inside the hive of the whole, expanding the universe of the genre-- a genre that perhaps you love, perhaps you wish to be infinite. This sometimes occurs in the motorik repetitions on the simple framework evident in Krautrock; nearly defines Exotica in all its ad nauseum, glorious redundancies; the entire discography of The Fall; and garage rock, free jazz, library music, etc., etc.

So Top Ranking Dub is not a game-changer, but once again we have a solid entry into this dub universe. Not all the vocal snippets are to my liking, but "Lightning Dub", with its cribbing of Sam Cooke's "Cupid", nearly justifies the record on its own. As does the nod to "Suspicious Minds" on "Blockade Dub." These are simple, honest dubs, devoid of any visionary interference. Sometimes, it is better this way, and sometimes we need Lee Perry to come along and distort the universe through his haze of weed smoke, schizophrenia, and burning cornmeal on fish. This record is for the former instance. A normal dumb dub day, playing badminton in the yard and definitely having beers. 256.

TOP RANKING


And here's the final specimen. Once again, you might say it fits the bill of good&honest, rather than cosmically weird or expertly twiddled-- but musically it's quite interesting, with a hard edge that recommends it to those who prefer their Jamaican music more tuff than smiley. Not a lot of info seems to be floating about surrounding this release, but all you have to know is that it's cool as hell-- slightly gangsta, with a foot in Mittoo soul-instrumental territory. "Prophet A Come", in particular, has a bass line with huge stoned menace, and is not to be unheard; and "Jungle Dub" sports some extremely refreshing harmonica. This may be a sleeper but it's very much a winner. VBR rip.

BLACK MAGIC

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tired Fe Lick Weed: Inner Circle/Fatman Riddim Section/King Tubby/ Jacob Miller- E-E Saw Dub (1975)


This is, if you ask me, one of the more insane dub secrets in existence. Information is scarce and somewhat conflicting-- my version lists the artist as Inner Circle & Fatman Riddim Section, but Roots Archive has it under King Tubby and Jacob Miller (commenter "M-" below has confirmed that it is actually a Tubby dub of Jacob Miller's LP Tenement Yard).

We've got King Tubby mixing, the Ian Lewis/Roger Lewis Inner Circle/Fatman Riddim production, Augustus Pablo sitting in on xylophone, and somebody-- some hero-- named Touter Harvey absolutely slaying the whole scene on synths and keyboards. The overall sound is good, from production elements to the playing, but Touter's sound is the key here. This kind of thing might slip under the radar on a UK dub record, fitting in amongst the dense tripscapes found on a Creation Rebel or Blackbeard album; but here, amongst the relatively more spare Tubby sound, in the humid island simplicity of a classic Jamaican roots dub, Touter's thinly funky--almost wacky-- synths blast through like a frequency borrowed from Dimension X. It's a simple expression of trippiness, but a potent and unique one. One of my favorites.

E -- E S A W (320)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"The White Man, At Best, Is Corny": The Jihad Singers- Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness (1968)


Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, The Watts Prophets, Camile Yarbrough, Wanda Robinson, Bama, and Kain: the late 60's through the early 80's saw these artists and others combining spoken word and music, racial politics and poetry, rage and compassion-- calling for revolution, assailing the oppressor while examining the failures of the oppressed... bleeding for their people and demanding action.

Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness
by the Jihad Singers is one of the finest and rarest of examples of this vital art form, and it is not one to be missed. Combining doo-woppy vocal arrangements often lifted from other songs (the superb opening track, "Beautiful Black Women", borrows openly from Smokey Robinson) with the kind of furious speak/sung diatribes utilized by the likes of The Last Poets, this is an exercise in stunning dichotomies-- racially salient Intersections in Art. Free jazz meets Gospel pop and lashes out verbally, twisting anger and politics into radical poetry, elevating itself into High Black Art. Certainly it's a bracing reminder that the dominant Baby Boomer narrative tends to gratuitously omit some of the period's greatest protestations in favor of the weak resistance offered by-- to cherry-pick an example or two-- Buffalo Springfield's tepid "For What It's Worth" or, more to the point, something like Hendrix playing the "Star Spangled Banner" as exit music to Woodstock.

The inherent tragedy of listening to these types of albums is knowledge in hindsight that the great&terrifying Revolution never happened, that the energy began to wane in the 80's and that these albums are now often considered mere footnotes in the Great History of Hip Hop. But in light of America's black president and the widespread revolution in the Middle East, as we live under the weird yoke of corporate oligarchy, this kind of call to action and consciousness seems nearly as resonant as it ever did. Not just a musical tourist trip into the heart of another age's revolution, a record like this howls through the years and appeals to our humanity in the now while asserting a history lesson. This is an artifact of an imperfect social uprising, containing as it does questionable, even regrettable, assertions-- misogynistic or racist or violent. But as an artifact, it is perfect, and as an expression of human passion-- an example of ecstatic spiritual exhortation-- it is timeless.

Credit where it's due: I originally picked this up over at Nothing is v2.0, an excellent blog indeed (although he nicked the fine and excellent rip from Reza), so pay the place a visit and afford him a thank you and thank Reza in the comments.

J I H A D 320

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Another Safari For Your Soul: Grzimek Safari Two, A Flash Strap Mix



So maybe it's crazy to drop another mix so soon after the last, but, you know, I made two. They're both chock-a-block with great songs. What am I gonna do, arbitrarily withhold the second one? No. I have better things to do than to not do this...

Anyway, here it is. Your second helping of Grzimek Safari, and another guide through but a few fertile corners of the internet. Use this to usher in your summer, if you like, or as a soundtrack to the act of steering your amphibious car into a bloat of hippos. I hope you enjoy.

1. The Old Boat- Eden Ahbez
2. The Empty Foxhole- Ornette Coleman
3. Outlaw- Eugene McDaniels
4. Safari- Don Everly
5. Village Soul- Lennie Hibbert
6. Fantastic Man- William Onyeabor
7. Bad Boy- The Jive Bombers
8. Popcorn- Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
9. Deck Five- Saturday's Children
10. Oma Rakas- P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble
11. Sanctus- Les Troubadours Du Roi Baudouin
12. The Great Fuck Inaccessible- Sun City Girls
13. Like A Ship... (Without A Sail)- Pastor T.L. Barrett & the Youth For Christ Choir
14. Tomorrow Never Knows- Junior Parker
15. Your Feet's Too Big- Fats Waller
16. Na Baixa Do Sapateiro- Trio Nago
17. Someone To Watch Over Me- Jimmy Scott
18. Black Cat ('66)- Scotty McKay
19. Cepheus- Gert Thrue
20. Nachsaison- Liliental
21. O Mar- Edy Pollo
22. The Rain- Eddie Gale
23. Moving Finger- Dorothy Ashby
24. Pretty Ballerina- The Left Banke
25. Formula Dub- Keith Hudson
26. Sexy Thing- Robo Arigo
27. Hari Om Sat Tat (with Orchestra)- Shankar Jaikishan

I urge you to follow the track-links to anything you hadn't heard before. Give love to the source.

GRZIMEK SAFARI 2

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Somewhere A Mountain is Moving: The Left Banke- Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina (1967)



This excellent record from the Left Banke-- a band unfailingly referred to as "baroque," or more amusingly, "Bach-rock," for whatever that's worth-- has been in frequent rotation around these parts, ever since I first laid ears on it. I, and likely you as well, had heard the stellar "Walk Away Renee" somewhere before, but the real treat was the opening track, "Pretty Ballerina." An unbelievably pretty song about, simply put, a date with a pretty ballerina, the whole thing seems a little twee on its face until the singer poetically non-sequiturs, "somewhere a mountain is moving... afraid it's moving without me." It's hard to explain, but to me, that registers as a thunderclap, a fiercely serene surprise attack of Taoist profundity lurking like a perfect tiger in a song that might otherwise be described as an above-average, more baroque early-Zombies-esque pop single. It's inspired. There might not be another moment on the record as subtly radical as that-- or even radical at all-- but it is an excellent album the whole way through, and any Zombies comparisons are well-deserved compliments. Especially enjoyable are the selections, "Barterers and their Wives" and the mind-blowing "Shadows Breaking Over My Head." Fans of Love (especially circa Da Capo), The Zombies, British Invasion, and Faux-British invasion (these cats definitely hail from New York) will likely enjoy this one. I certainly recommend it very highly, so get it while it's hot.

LEFT BANKE

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mandarin Tornado: "Chinese Surf"- Non Stop Dancing (19??)


My friend Morgan gave this to me a few months ago and I've been meaning to post it ever since. Positively delightful Chinese surf-pop instrumentals. This is really just lethally pleasant. Not much info seems to exist on this, however, so all I can say is get it y'all.

NON STOP

Upon performing a perfunctory googling of this record, I seem to find that it likely originated at FM Shades, a blog with a lot to offer in its archives despite having slowed to a crawl of late. Mr. Shades aptly compares the sound of this record to Joe Meek, an observation which may titillate you Meek heads out there and persuade you to try this album on for size. Anyway, whether you obtain it from here or there, you should really give this one a "spin."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Monkey Drop, Good Gracious!: Scotty- Draw Your Brakes (1971)


For those of you out there listening to the The Harder They Come soundtrack, thinking to yourself, who the ding dong is this Scotty? And where can I get more of this charming fellow, babblin' as he does o'er top these old-school rocksteady beats, I have something for you. It is this.

Some kind of "Best of" comp from 1971, as far as I can tell. Seems the delightful Scotty dropped a lot of singles in his day but not much in the way of long-players at this point, so this serves as a sort of debut LP. In fact, it seems it was also released under the name "School Days" and presented more as an LP, with a slightly different tracklist-- but I confess I'm not too keenly interested in the chronology of all this. What's important is that this is early-ass, delightful reggae, Scotty's singjay proto-toasts warm and unintelligible-- somewhere between righteousness and baby talk-- and everything is just as pleasing and cool as can be. As a very young man I remember listening to my father's The Harder They Come album on vinyl, staring into the impossibly tuff cover, and boggling at the singular weirdness of "Draw Your Brakes," a song unlike any I had ever heard before. Scotty may not have another song quite as devastatingly tite as "Draw Your Brakes" on Draw Your Brakes, but the rest of the tracks deliver about as much as you might hope.

R O G A R

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Fine Safari Indeed: Flash Strap Mix #1- Grzimek Safari


Ok, so this is the first of a short series of mixes I'm thinking of doing. There's been a rapturous surplus of truly great music congregating openly in these waters of late, and I just sort of got the urge to throw together a mix in recognition of this bounty. Perhaps, too, it is necessary for me to commemorate a personal moment: this week my Safari, having spent a few weeks collapsed in the dust like a toothless elephant, came back from the shop all patched up, just as functional and pretty as a pony. It was a day that ensured my ability to go on many more motor safaris through the Mexican Serengeti, a tape in the deck and pulqué in the jar. Not only that, I can once again drive my boat (The Continente Nero, a Seahawk Series II 9-foot inflatable rowboat- I assure you it is thoroughly awesome and definitely hilarious) to the presa and hunt for shoreline ruins and tribes of goats. So I'm feeling positive about the future.

This is not just a compilation of twenty-one excellent songs, cleverly assembled and sequenced so as to afford an enjoyable hour-and-some-change of superlative musical diversion. It also, more importantly, provides an opportunity to trace back thru the blogs to find the context and albums-in-entirety of any songs that may strike your fancy; click on a track from the playlist below, and you'll find a link back to the source from whence, for me, these shining jewels originated. The majority of these sources are wonderful blogs, and while most of them get more traffic than my own on the whole, I nobly urge you to visit them, enjoy their bounty, and give thanks where you feel it is due. Then, you know, come back and say hey.

This is the first of what could be several, if there's any interest. Vol. 2 is due to drop in a couple weeks regardless of y'all's fervor or indifference, but after that we can talk.


1. Fear Not- Daniel Higgs
2. Get Thy Bearings- Donovan
3. Contemplating Mind- Barrington Spence
4. Come Show Me The Way- Disco Blaze
5. Andalucia- Ranil y Su Conjunto Tropical
6. Pauline- Docteur Nico/Orchestra African Fiesta
7. My Mary (More Than Ever)- Jade
8. Domain of the Nadir Pasha- Dzhavanshir Kuliyev
9. Baia- Jose Oliveira
10. Funerale Di Un Contadino- Chico Buarque & Ennio Morricone
11. Phir Teri Yaad- Hemant Bhosle
12. Quicksand Beach Party- Missing Brazilians
13. Bogey Wobble- Paul McCartney
14. Blind- Deep Purple
15. I've Got Lightning- David Bowie
16. Techniques Special- Techniques All Stars
17. Ballake- Bembeya Jazz National
18. Cumulonimbus- Zru Vogue
19. Beautiful Black Woman- The Jihad
20. My Tane- Johnny Pineapple And His Orchestra
21. Til I Die (Desper mix)- The Beach Boys

GRZIMEK SAFARI


By the way, the image on the cover is a photo of famed zoologist Bernhard Grzimek zipping towards Uganda's Murchison Falls in his amphibious car. In my best moments, I think I can almost smell the shadow of something so great as this. I wonder if there's a tape deck in that thing.