Thursday, December 10, 2015
Tonight's Explorers Room will be the last of 2015, as I take some weeks off to move out of the blighted zone of St. Louis and to a fairer land in ol' Carolina. I'll be back as soon as humanly possible in 2016, full of the invigorating effects of voluntary displacement and well-rested, in a Christmastime way. So don't miss tonight! Themes of travel and exoticism abound, as you might expect, and I'll be cramming in as much vinyl as I can before I pack all these poor beautiful discs away and ship them 'cross the country.
7-9ish Tonight! See you there!
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Tonight on Explorers Room: Sounds for baby, including selections from Raymond Scott's mindblowing series of synthesizer infant music and other chronicles of birth and electronic/exotic lullabies. If you are a recently birthed human, I would consider this a do-not-miss program.
HAPPY BIRTH DAY
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Tonight on Explorers Room, I'll pay homage to the long-ago fallen blog, Allegory of Allergies, where I (and many others of us, I'm sure) had my mind expanded – and my weirdness-threshold bumped way way up – by the incredible cult music, private-press, and outsider sound-art that was, for a blessed time, preserved there. It will be a bizarre evening of idiosyncratic sounds in praise of all manner of deities and in search of unexcavated sound-caves.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
It's gonna be a trip, my heads. See you there:
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Here's a fellow whose work I've been enjoying over the last year or more. Coming out of Calgary and Saigon, and operating under the name sonar lee, he's delivered a wealth of adventurously experimental sound collages, shambling along on jalopy beats and loops, littered with overlapping spoken texts, and obfuscated by mists of murkiness. Like a muddy river, into which someone has crashed an old bootlegger rustbucket full of books and exotic pigments. Hallucinatory, highly textual, exotic, and with a totally collagist sense of juxtaposition: how could I not dig it?
Check out this representative jam in video form:
There's a few releases on bandcamp – I'm particularly fond of omphaloskepsis [filthy jazz] (very heady revolutionary vibes), and jimjilbang muzic [ ừ ] (some serious exoticism in the mix), but I'm excited to declare that there is also a new release, called tomorrow's nostalgia, which you should totally check out. Endless discontinuitous samples, spoken word piled like leaves in the yard, a swirling sense of remembered unreality. Particularly dig the opening two tracks, "ventrilophenia" and "phantom tuktuk."
Check it out:
sonar lee discography
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Tune in tonight for exotica, synthi times, percussive travelogue, and more. No big theme tonight, just lots of great music, from Brian Eno to Pete Rugolo, all-exotic.
Also, check out my book-for-sale, or don't. There is no gun to your head, you are free. Breathe the air and enjoy the world while it lasts. Be human. It is a pretty cool book though; I mean, I promise it won't crush the growing lightness in your soul or anything. Think about it.
Heading for the Horizon with Full Sails
Sunday, November 1, 2015
I come to you today with some exciting news: Expedition is now available. It really is. I've had some really wonderful reproductions made, most satisfying in quality, and am using kickstarter to sell them (and hopefully, receive enough orders/funds to have more copies made, but that's a bridge to cross if it ever arrives).
If you're unfamiliar with Expedition, you can peruse it on my website. Expedition is a collage book that I spent two years making, assembled from hundreds of exoticist bits from books and magazines (all of which is indexed). It's an exploration of the tropes of exotica and the beats of the adventure narrative, done with great love, deep history, and a surrealist sensibility; it is exotica, but it also critiques exotica. If you're interested in maybe thinking about buying one, check out the kickstarter page, which has all the information and the general pitch. It has a pretty ok video at least. Go on, check it out, I promise it won't bore you all the way to death.
The kickstarter campaign launched a few days ago, on Thursday. Within 24 hours, we were almost a third of the way to the goal. As of tonight, we're over halfway. The campaign ain't over till one minute to midnight, December first – that's a lot of time to meet the goal. This is happening. We're going to make it, and more. If you pledge, you will end up with a book. If we go over the goal, that just means that more people get books. So think of it as a preorder, and order a copy, if you're interested. There's a lot to look at in there, stuff that just doesn't register when you look at it online; plus, it's a great-looking object – and dammit, it's meant to be experienced as a book!
Anyway, the whole shebang is intensely exotic, and I really think that if you're reading this site, you'll probably like it.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Tonight, in deference to the season but without much regard for the Halloween-industrial complex, we go deep down into that voodoo swamp with Dr. John, only it's not really Dr. John... tonight, we hear from the Dr. John known as the Night Tripper.
As you surely know, Dr. John the Night Tripper is a persona adopted early on in Mac Rebennack's career, based on "a purported Senegalese prince who came to New Orleans from Haiti, a medicinal and spiritual healer. The Doctor was a free man of color who lived on Bayou Road and claimed to have fifteen wives and over fifty children. He maintained a fascination with reptiles and kept an assortment of snakes and lizards, along with embalmed scorpions and animal and human skulls. His specialization was healing, and as such, in selling Gris-Gris, voodoo amulets that protected the wearer from harm."
This persona would carry through Dr. John's first four LPs, to be revisited from time to time afterward. Though Rebennack maintained the stage name Dr. John for his prolific career, there are but a finite amount of true Night Tripper recordings. And that's where we're going tonight, to walk on those guilded splinters with that king of the Zulus.
A L S O: This week is the last week of October crunch time. Consider undertaking a heroic gesture and help to continue the existence of a heroic enterprise in radio freedom and proud humanity.
DANSE KALINDA BA DOOM, tonight
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Tonight on Explorers Room: Exotica Project 45s, Paradise Fantasies & Miscegenation Fetishes – in Miniature!
Tonight on Explorers Room, in observance of Singles Going Steady week (wherein many DJs opt to spin singles exclusively), I'll be playing an absolutely orgiastic selection of 45 rpm singles from the incredible assembly of marvels that is Dan Shiman's Exotica Project (Dan also does another one of my very favorite music sites, Office Naps – check em both out or be the fool). It's going to be awesome.
As Dan explains on the Exotica Project site, the 45 was a more affordable and thus more democratic format; the result being that 45-bound exotica has the possibility to be more wide-ranging, experimental, and crazy than a lot of what you might find on 33 1/3 exotica LPs, particularly some of the more canonical among them. This stuff is so great to hear, because as Dan and I have both long maintained and worked to demonstrate, exotica is a vastly more multivalent, boundary-less force than is often thought. Some of them are more experimental in really fascinating ways, others are hair-raising in their racial attitudes and the way they make exotica's usual subtexts much more explicit. I'll say it again: it's going to be awesome. Don't miss it.
And one last thing: help keep free radio alive, pledge what you can to this wonderful thing that is WFMU. Look, I'm currently at 49% of my program's individual goal! That's not half bad! Help me, if you can, tip over the halfway point, and beyond. Maybe if we turn the barn into a stage, and we sew our own costumes, we could put on a show and save this station! Whattya say!
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Continuing on to part two of the Can members post-Can series, tonight we listen to a motley patchwork of various projects by Irmin Schmidt, Michael Karoli, Jaki Liebezeit, and Damo Suzuki. All sorts of crazy stuff tonight, from Schmidt's late 20th century avant-crooning to Liebezeit's bizarre and varied session work with other experimental European bands.
Next week, for a great big change of pace and a return to the Explorers Room wheelhouse in its strictest sense, we'll be doing all-exotica 45s for Singles Going Steady Week. But until then, enjoy the sounds of CAAAAAAAN without CAAAAAAAAN.
AND OF COURSE, ONE MORE THING: (forgive me repeating myself, but this is important) October is Crunch Time on The Good Ship WFMU, so if you have a dime you can spare, please consider donating and helping to heroically preserve a mighty and noble institution. Keep alive something that is free true and full of love and goodness. AND INTEGRITY, my god, how rare is that? Pledge what can or what you care to here, or via this widget below:
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Thursday, October 8, 2015
Tonight on Explorers Room: Let's Get Cool and Normal in the Pool with Holger Czukay (Can Members, Post-Can, Pt. 1)
Following up last week's all-Can black hole, we enter into a new dimension of Can members, post-Can. Tonight will be dedicated almost entirely to Holger Czukay's "solo" work, much of which is of course highly collaborative. Almost all of it (at least, a lot) will feature the godlike talents of
Jaki Liebezeit on drums, as well.
Czukay's output following his departure from Can is an astonishing marvel, a constantly changing, ever-morphing, yet naturally always indelibly Czukay, spirit of pure experimentalism. Tonight will be full of rulebook-burning collaborations, shortwave radio-as-instrument, daring sampling techniques, Can samples and cannibalisms, alternate-dimension pop songs with unseeable faces, and Can-style jams rocketing downward from the heavens. Do not miss, unless you are allergic to intense excellence and vibrant genius. Tonight! 7:00 until I stop.
C O O L in the P O O L
ONE MORE THING: October is Crunch Time on The Good Ship WFMU, so if you have a dime you can spare, please consider donating and helping to heroically preserve a mighty and noble institution. Keep alive something that is free true and full of love and goodness. Pledge what can or what you care to here, or via this widget below:
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Thursday, October 1, 2015
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.
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Thursday, September 24, 2015
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: 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
LISTEN, OH SO SOON
Saturday, September 12, 2015
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
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
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.
Tomorrow: New post. Next Week: Beach Boys Part Deux - Grownmen in a Sea of Troubles.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
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.
TONIGHT! 7-9 EST
Saturday, June 20, 2015
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.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
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!
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Just a head up to discerning listeners: Chick Vekters' Travelogue, which I like very very much, is now available in full on Bandcamp. Go check it out. Now is the time to find your lost mid-century utopia and realize to your surprise how alien it always seemed to you. Why were you looking for it, when you weren't ready for it in the first place?
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Science Fiction Fantasy Dioramas from Library Masters: Piero Umiliani- Tra Scienza e Fantascienza (1980); Roger's New Conception- Informatic 2000 (1982)
Here's a couple transcendent glimpses into science fiction worlds from two (or three, really) of the shining stars of library music. I know these are rather old news for those who troll these bloggy waters, but with the landscape changing as quickly as it has been over the last few years, I figure it's nothing but good to keep these old links alive. Though I sure wouldn't mind some upgrades.
This 1980 LP from Umiliani's own Omicron label (and under the pseudonym Moggi) is one of the first Umiliani records I'd ever heard (was it from 36-15 Moog? How can those days be so long ago now?), and a big hook for myself getting into him. It's perfect science fiction music. It achieves what it sets out to do with aplomb and beyond. This is a highlight of a majestic ouvre, and one of the most fun of his many electronic records.
It's also one of those lovely miracles of good album art. The imagery is the perfect accompaniment to the music, evoking some equally-weird nonexistent companion piece to Fantastic Planet.
Particularly exemplary are "Cowboy Spaziale," "Bric Brac," and "Officina Stellare," but this whole slab is gold.
TRA SCIENZA E FANTASCIENZA (192, anyone have an upgrade?)
Equally good science fiction soundtracking music, and from an equally stellar body of consistently tremendous work, is Roger Roger and Nino Nardini's 1982 Crea Sound LP Informatic 2000 (credited to "Roger's New Conception"). This is as ecstatic and fresh as any of the best work this team has ever done. The title track is one of the best library tracks I'll probably ever hear, and "Expectation" is a chunky, clunky delight.
INFORMATIC 2000 (again, 192)
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I did a post on this one four (!) years ago when Sleepy Lagoon was blessedly still active and had just posted a link on his site. Sad to say, it's gone now. Anyway, I played a few selections from this dazzling record on the radio show last week, and as a result got a few messages from folks in fruitless search for a live link. I thought it might be wise to make a new post with a fresh link. So here you are.
African Lament is a tremendous piece of work, one of those classically, formally exotica records that has a weird aura of specialness to it, a whiff of profound uniqueness without any radical digression, like Magne's Tropical Fantasy or Frank Hunter's White Goddess. It's also more than likely the best piece of vocal exotica outside of the Yma Sumac ouvre. Mournful, lush, utterly cinematic and faintly mystical stuff. Especially tremendous are "Kalahari Bushman," "Apartheid," and the epic"Rites of Passage 1-3."
AFRICAN LAMENT (320)
Friday, March 27, 2015
Flash Car's new single is out now over at bandcamp. It's called "Lady Lindy," and it's so good. It's just great. Check it out. I had the honor of being enlisted to do the cover art, so that which you see above is indeed one of mine. Now go enjoy the tunes.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Pagan Festival (An Exotic Love Ritual for Orchestra) is Exotica in the cinematic and seductive style of Les Baxter: orchestral and epic but not overblown, with snakily layered arrangements, wordless vocals, glittering harps, percussion, and an illusionistic sheen of shimmering fantasy. Along with Milt Raskin's Kapu, it's one of the better and more pure examples of Baxter's method in another man's hands. Of course, it scarcely achieves on a high enough level to challenge the best of Baxter's records in any category, and is at times rather baldly derivative of Ritual and Tamboo!, but it's a splendid member of the Exotica canon (where all sins can be made virtues anyway) nonetheless.
Pagan Festival was made rather early on in the composer's career, and it's one of his very few records of original material not to have been made for television or film. In fact, like many who dabbled in the creation of one-off Exotica LPs, Frontiere was mainly a soundtrack composer, whose many credits include The Outer Limits, Hang 'Em High, The Flying Nun, The Rat Patrol, and Branded.
Most of the back cover notes are taken up with gushing over young Dominic, who was only 28 at the time of this recording. Beginning with a mash note from his mentor/sponsor, Alfred Newman, it goes on to give three columns of prose over to describing the composer as a wunderkind and a prodigy, and thrilling to his relationship with Newman in almost romantic language. The hard-selling of Frontiere's talents comes to a close with this passage, before moving on to a brief description of the particular exoticisms at hand: "there are several promising young men around Hollywood just about ready to join these cinematic pioneers. Among them is a dedicated lad from New England whose latest claim to such fame you now have in your hands." Then on to the good stuff:
The basic theme of PAGAN FESTIVAL is exotic in its interpretation of ancient Inca rituals, superstitions, and the romance and mysteries of their colorful civilization. The individual selections, each composed, arranged, and conducted by Dominic Frontiere, portray many facets of this strange and exciting long-vanished way of life.
Festival with its intriguing tempos and sensuous beat depicts exotic revelry and pagan incantations; House of Dawn is almost mystic and unreal, blending deep feeling with a spiritual quality; Temple of Suicide contrasts sharply with symbolic clashes of light and shadow and fear of the unknown; Moon Goddess reflects an almost unearthly appreciation of beauty which the Inca culture aspired to. Time of Sunshine has themes of luminous warmth and airy buoyance, exemplifying the more casual details of Inca existence; while Goddess of Love has an inspirational uplift of beauty and reverence. House of Pleasure stresses in more earthy overtones still another aspect of Inca life. The delicate blend of power and joy in The Harvest conveys a time of plenty and rejoicing and Venus Girl contains moments revealing a great appreciation of beauty.
I recently read a sort of breakdown of Yma Sumac's Voice of the Xtabay, another (better) Exotica take on Inca themes (with, surprise, Baxter producing), and was caught off-guard by the assertion that there's almost nothing musically South American on that record. Not that I had ever bought into the ethnomusicological myth-making that accompanies Ms. Sumac, but I was still mildly shocked at the idea that there was not even a single formal or structural connection to South American music, antiquity or otherwise. After hearing Pagan Festival, you might be more taken aback if I told you that it was even South America-inspired at all. There's no Mesoamerican DNA whatsoever. It's wall-to-wall movie music, symphonic with exotica touches and purloined Baxter leitmotifs, and scarcely even a hint of the sort of ethno-forgery that you find in Sumac's work, or Elizabeth Waldo's somewhat more respectable records. And yet each track is accompanied by a (presumably) Inca-language title in addition to English. This pursuit of concept in the paratext but not the compositions themselves is typical of Exotica, and very much like Les Baxter's own soundtrack work on The Sacred Idol (interestingly enough, working on Idol was one of the few occasions the supposed ethnomusicologist Baxter ever took to leave the country, writing the score in Mexico but never leaving his hotel room). In the case of Pagan Festival, the commitment to the theme hardly even extends to the gaudy cover art, which skews away from specificity using an eye-grabbing silver background and imagery that's half dusky babe (in a Playboy-esque painted style) and half vaguely "primitive" art.
All that examination of authenticity and influence aside, it's a terrific Exotica record. If "House of Pleasure (Tampu-Anca)" is a naked theft from Baxter, it's also an effective, delightful concoction of exotic and erotic signifiers. It does the job, and it does it damn well. "Temple of Suicide (Ixtab)" is a great brooding storm of Conrad-lite dark-exoticism. "Jaguar God (Balam)" is great jungle-safari stuff. Nothing here reinvents or transcends what it is – a reductive formula derived from Baxter's more inventive records and a studied professionalism learned from Newman and the film industry in general – but it executes flawlessly, and plays like a dream.
PAGAN FESTIVAL (a very nice-sounding 192)
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
A while back, Dublab asked if I would do a mix for their mega-music site. I put one together using an assortment of synth-exoticisms that had been intriguing me of late; many of them went into this last episode of Explorers Room (which shared the same name), though not all, and not in the same form. I tried to make this more of a free-flowing collage of sounds and evocations.
Give it a listen! Download it! And when the summer rolls around, get yourself on a river with some sort of sound device and use it as your voyage-soundtrack.
VOYAGE: UP SYNTHETIC RIVER
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Despite an obsessive love for Apocalypse Now and its music which goes back to my early teen years and has never abated in dozens of viewings, I had somehow never heard any of the "Rhythm Devils" recordings for the film (other than the earth-splitting stuff that accompanies the original version's closing footage of the burning camp) until very recently. I'm pleased to say that I have now, because it's really, really awesome.
The Rhythm Devils was an ensemble put together by Grateful Dead percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann after being approached by Coppola to generate some music for Apocalypse Now. While I generally find I have very little enthusiasm for anything Dead related, I have always reserved a respect for their double-drummer percussive odysseys, and that's what you get here, only better, more visceral and vital. These sessions are brutal, seething, and amorphous, crawling with menace and insects. Full of dread and nauseous adrenaline, stinking of gasoline and jungle rot. They perfectly fit the film they were intended for–when sinking into these selections, it's impossible not to picture the chaotic, violent, primal exoticism of Kurtz's camp.
They also used some pretty interesting custom instruments. I'm just pasting from wikipedia, but it's cool to know:
"In addition to using a large collection of percussion instruments from around the world, provided by the various musicians, the Rhythm Devils constructed some new instruments. One of these was The Beast, an array of bass drums with different tones suspended from a large metal rack. After the recording of The Apocalypse Now Sessions, The Beast was incorporated into the "Drums" section of Grateful Dead concerts, an extended percussion duet performed by Hart and Kreutzmann in the middle of the second set of songs.
Another unusual percussion instrument built for the sessions, variants of which have been built and later used in Grateful Dead concerts and Mickey Hart's solo touring bands, was The Beam. This is a large aluminum I-beam (actually a "C" shaped beam facing down with the strings across the flat outside-top surface) strung with 13 bass piano strings all tuned to the note of D (a Pythagorean mono-chord at various octaves). The Beam has a heavy-duty bridge and string anchor at one end and a nut with tuning hardware at the other end. It has a movable magnetic pickup block to facilitate capture and transmission of various tonal qualities. The pickup block feeds a volume pedal and various audio effects units, which route the signals through an amplifier or sound system. The Beam generates a large variety of low frequency primary tones and harmonic overtones, and is played by hitting the strings with a percussion mallet, plucking the strings by hand or with a plectrum, scraping them with various implements (fingernails, plectrums, metal bars), or by pounding on the beam frame itself to induce a bell-like resonance of all the strings simultaneously."
This may or may not be a version of (or the inspiration for) "The Beam," in this case called "the Cosmic Beam," by the artist Francisco Lupica. Feel free to inform me on this subject as I did the laziest, most perfunctory of research into it and then moved on.
Check it out. Also, check out my radio show tomorrow night (Thursday Feb. 12), as I'll be playing a few selections from this record and a great deal of material sort of sonically/conceptually related to Apocalypse Now.
SESSIONS (320) (1990 ryko reissue)
Monday, January 19, 2015
Hey, I'd like to thank all of you for tuning into Explorers Room last Thursday! Oh how I'd love it if you dropped in again this Thursday. For those of you that missed it, I'd like you to feel warmly invited to check out the archived version here. It's pretty good, for a first show. In the future, I'll announce all shows here on the day of, and keep a link to the archives over to the right, in the sidebar there. Now, on to the business of the day.
Several months ago, a little record fell into my inbox from a fellow who goes by the name of Chick Vekters. Entitled Travelogue, it was a strange little album with a globetrotting structure familiar to exotica or library music, and the skeletal, alien-electronic sounds of a Raymond Scott or Dissevelt/Baltan record. Of course, I immediately liked it. But repeated compulsive listens have brought me around to loving it, and I find myself filled with a profound admiration for its tonal and aesthetic achievements as a piece of art, a feat of stylistic synthesis and a unique, progressive pastiche. It's amazing, is what I'm telling you.
I asked Vekters if he'd mind my doing a post on it, and inquired for some further info. As it happens, this is his first album, and like a classic auteur he seems to have driven every aspect of the recording and performed every instrument himself, including an exquisite 1951 Univox Jennings synthesizer (an instrument very similar to the Clavivox, most recognizably used on "Telstar"). The Univox is pretty much the signature sound of the record, but is employed in harmony with a variety of interesting sounds, including other synths and all manner of instrumentation run through interesting treatments, distortions, musique concrète strategies, and tape manipulation. For example, "Sayonara" features, as Vekters explained to me, "a Japanese 'typewriter-harp' (Taisho Goto) run through a Roland Space Echo, temple blocks, and a slowed down baby grand piano."
This record was made in 2014, but it has the indelible sound and the innocent thrill of invention and innovation that you get listening to a record from 1950s, when electronic pioneers and avant-gardists seemed to be reinventing music from scratch from the cluttered laboratories and workshops of inventors and tinkerers. Add to that that it has the international and fantastical element of Atomic Age exoticism/futurism, and it's really a very exciting recording – not only in the weird, wonderful way it transports the listener from the islands to the moon, from the depths of the subterranean world to Baia, but also in the studied specificity of the sonic palette it uses to make those places up. It situates itself squarely in a certain time period, but rather than pursuing rote mimicry, it quietly incorporates everything that's happened in the interim between then and now, and mutates its influences into something profoundly, yet barely perceptibly, new – like a much slyer take on the the strategies employed by The Residents for their own bit of exotica-forgery and ethnologic surrealism, Eskimo. Travelogue is not yet available in its entirety (I wish it was – I've heard it all and it's really grand when taken as a whole), but you can hear a goodly portion of it here on Vekter's Soundcloud. Check it out, you won't regret it.
UPDATE: The whole thing is now available on Bandcamp.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
This record has been around for long enough that most of you have probably heard it, but I recently received a request for it and figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to post it. As the demon of time turns over his hourglass and declares a new year of infinite tortures, as cities burn and death rains from the sky, as we scrabble to the bars and peer out from our cages only to see a neverending matryoshka of larger encapsulating cages, what better balm for the torment–what brighter beacon to shine into the wall of storms–could there be than the righteous beauty of Kim Jung Mi and Shin Joong Hyun's masterpiece, Now? With clarity of vision and perfect execution, these songs fill the air with sensuality and strength and all the pure beauty of spirit we so often imagine humanity to possess and so rarely see evidence of. "Your Dream Like a Stream" sounds to my ears like a call of defiance issued into the devil's foul yawning maw, a fist shaken in the air at the audacity and arrogance of anyone who might judge us from his seat in the sky. Kim Jung Mi's voice creates a calm spot in the rain of blood and ash where one can breathe; it re-orients the universe to align itself with her at its center. Because when "Toward the Sunlight" or "My Beautiful Land" is playing, when that voice sounds out (and is risen on the gorgeous structures of Shin Joong Hyun's guitar and arrangement), god damn it then something is right with this monstrous unfinished creation we call existence. Happy New Year, I love you all.
I have also included a Kim Jung Mi record called Wind, which I can't remember anything about and which has the same basic tracklist as Now, with some exceptions, but which I have always liked having as well. Both are sadly no better than 192. Feel free to educate me on the particulars of these releases, and/or upgrade the quality while you're at it. This post is for Adam first and all others in a very close second.