Good Music We Can Know

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Secret Genius of Ferrante & Teicher: Soundproof! (1956); Denizens of the Deep (1950)

At this point it's probably not exactly breaking news if I confide to you that Ferrante & Teicher's history contains richer moments of experimentation and creativity than one will usually find in the extremely easy easy-listening records that compose the bulk of their legacy. The fact that they began their careers as piano-treating, texture-seeking Julliard prodigies is by this point well-known to those with the proclivity to know such things, but let's shed a little more light on the subject today. from wiki: The duo... experimented with prepared pianos, adding paper, sticks, rubber, wood blocks, metal bars, chains, glass, mallets, and other found objects to piano string beds. In this way they were able to produce a variety of bizarre sounds that sometimes resembled percussion instruments, and at other times resulted in special effects that sounded as if they were electronically synthesized.
This period in their career is full of fascinating stuff, the textures and arrangements positively bursting with invention and the joy of discovery. One of the finest examples of the boys at their best is the 1956 album, Soundproof, a Dimension-X version of an easy listening record that's been compared to Joe Meek, John Cage, and Moondog, among others. This is fascinating stuff indeed, made all the more bizarre by their fairly conventional song choices-- songs like "Greensleeves" and "Mississippi Boogie" find themselves run through extremely different treatments than they would on almost any other record, at least any other white record, in 1956.

Especially wonderful are the more Exotica-flavored selections (naturally), "African Echoes", "Baia" ("Baia" being always a highlight of a record, it's such a fantastic composition), and "Dark Eyes". The dark, echoey tones and flat, alien percussion of the treated piano lends itself to a truly unique but quintessentially Exotic sensation. This is a must-have.


By the way, if anyone can hook me up with the follow-up record, Soundblast, I'd be most grateful. I understand it is more of the same in the best of ways, but can't seem to locate a source for it. BREAKING NEWS: Holly from Den O' Sin has graciously heeded the call and generously dropped a post with a link over at her spot. Avest yourselves, fellows.

As good as a good F&T record can be, they almost always ply their insane talents in the service of standards and lite-pop selections. This provides an excellent contrast of course, and is especially delightful when the song is as awesome as "Baia" or "Tabu" (which they knock wholly out of the park on both Hi-Fi Fireworks and Pianos in Paradise), but it means dealing with more than a little outsized wackiness as they caper about in, and demolish, innocent little compositions. Usually this is a good thing, but the idea of a record instead comprised exclusively of F&T originals is pretty alluring. Compositions actually designed to showcase their sensibilities, not retrofitted to accommodate them-- if only there were more of this.

What there is, is Denizens of the Deep, a record the duo began making in 1950 at the start of their recording career, and abandoned. A marvellous set of more abstract compositions describing undersea motifs and moods, this could damn near have been their masterpiece. The more ambient approach causes it to resemble a bit of fantastic soundtrack work, or perhaps something by Sven Libaek. Unfortunately, the tapes in all their aged glory don't really sound that great-- the music is positively superlative but it does compete with some vicious tape hiss. (Compounding this problem is the fact that my copy is in 128 kbps- if anyone has a better copy, consider throwing us all a bone in the comments.)

Now that I've denegrated the sound quality of this record, let me back up and reiterate. This shit is crazy, crazy good. Lost Masterpiece to the Max. Believe in it, my friends. When you hear the unhinged madness of "The Loch Ness Monster Stomp", you will thank me for convincing you to go on this journey, and that is a promise. If you're still unsure, then have a look at this tracklist, and feel your desire for undersea-themed music surge and rush, flooding your heart with an imperative to night-swim in a lit pool, wearing a SCUBA mask and playing this fantastic record.

1. Underwater Expectations
2. Things to Come at Sea
3. Whiptailed Stingrays
4. Barracudas on the Chase
5. Spinning Steelheads
6. Floating Manatees
7. Plunging Sharks & Diving Swordfish
8. Crafty Bowfin
9. At Sea Watching Voracious Piranha
10. Searching the Seas
11. Loch Ness Monster Stomp
12. Electric Eels
13. Treacherous Octopi & Devilfish
14. Manatees & Dolphins
15. Sneaky Spiny Sturgeons
16. Ink of the Giant Squids
17. Underwater Reflections
18. A Whale of an Aquarian Finale at Sea


(I originally found this over at Music for Maniacs, but that maniac left out all the track names- I have rectified the oversight and provided my own link, but feel free to give him some love over this share. Also feel free to share in the comments what you know about all the secret goodnesses of Ferrante & Teicher, as my collection and knowledge is far from complete.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"This Ain't Rock n' Roll, This is in Direct Violation of International Law": David Bowie- Shadow Man (1971), Strange Fascination (1974)

Shadow Man is supposedly six unreleased Bowie outtakes from the Hunky Dory period. A little rough around the edges, and as much akin to Man Who Sold the World rough drafts or Arnold Corns demos as anything off Hunky Dory, a few of these tracks are nonetheless essential, delicious Bowie secrets for any Fan of the Man.

The track "Looking For a Friend" can be heard elsewhere (in less clunky form) on Bowie at the Beeb, but the rest are otherwise previously unbeknownst to me in any other ramification (except for "Tired of My Life", which contains prominent lyrical components of the much later "It's No Game" from Scary Monsters). Especially cool is the chugging mutant psych-blues of "I've Got Lightning"-- when I listen to Man Who Sold the World, I wish the whole record might have sounded more like this.

1. I'm Just Looking for a Friend
2. How Lucky You Are
3. Shadow Man
4. I've Got Lightning
5. Rupert The Riley
6. Tired of my Life


Here's a fantastic soundboard bootleg of a '74 live show in LA. There's lots of Diamond Dogs material here, including a pretty solid rendition of the "Sweet Thing" suite. Diamond Dogs is one of my favorite records, possibly my favorite "non-Berlin-period" Bowie effort, so I embrace with wide open arms the chance to hear some quality recordings of the Diamond Dogs tour, which I understand is a fairly rare proposition. I just recently started listening to this one, but it's quickly risen to become one of my favorite live Bowie recordings, bootleg or official.

Other highlights include "Big Brother", the criminally underappreciated Young Americans outtake "It's Gonna Be Me" (holy holy that's a good track), virtually everything else from Diamond Dogs, and the always welcome "Time" and "Rock n' Roll Suicide".

CD 1
Rebel Rebel
Moonage Daydream
Sweet Thing
Suffragette City
Aladdin Sane
All The Young Dudes
Cracked Actor
Rock And Roll With Me

CD 2
Knock On Wood
It's Gonna Be Me
Space Oddity
Diamond Dogs
Big Brother
The Jean Genie
Rock 'n' Roll Suicide
John I'm Only Dancing (Again)

I got both of these gems from World of Bowie Bootlegs, so make sure to pay the place a visit. 320.

: Part 1Part 2 (Links Fixed)

Hey y'all, don't be afraid to drop a comment, now. We were doing so good there for a while.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"A Horn Player With A Really Fucked-Up Axe": The Velvet Underground- The Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes (1968-69)

Here: a monstrously necessary bootleg of the Velvet Underground playing various shows at Boston Tea Party in '68 and '69-- as heard through the jagged, swirling prism of Lou Reed's guitar amp. Some fan made these recordings by simply plugging into Reed's amp, and there you have it. The results are juggernaut.

The visionary genius of Reed's guitar playing is no secret at this point. From the epileptic free jazz of "I Heard Her Call My Name" to the sparkling, quicksilver rhythm guitar on tracks like "What Goes On" (with the deranged and brilliant "Sister Ray" lurking conspicuously, geniusly, in between), his work has been undeniably influential and largely unparalleled. One doesn't need these tapes to hear the free jazz/avant-garde influences of Ornette Coleman and Sonny Sharrock in Reed's playing-- evidence abounds, especially in other live recordings (especially in the indispensable Quine Tapes)-- but this is a mammoth-sized treat for those obsessed. Along with the marvellous bootleg Sweet Sister Ray, this is one of the most focused and cohesive dissertations on a specialized aspect of VU history.

Reed's guitar is all the way the hell up front, with the rest of the band way back, though not wholly excluded. The drums are actually almost as audible and visceral as ever, and the bass, organ, and second guitar can at least be heard (if more as a support than anything else). The vocals are fairly well washed out, to be sure. So this dynamic works best on the more savage compositions, or at least the more guitar-oriented ones. A selection like "Candy Says" actually suffers from such dramatic reductions. On the other hand, it may come as no surprise that "Sister Ray" takes a truly awe-inspiring form here-- a half-hour of passionate, furious Fire Music, a grand dichotomy of primitive pure expression, and an aggressive deconstruction of the "guitar solo." "Foggy Notion", "Run Run Run", "What Goes On", and a welcome version of the somewhat rare "Move Right In" also fare extremely well, among others. This is pure stuff. Uncut ear scag for your loud days, a real brain-stabber.

Disc 1
1. I Can't Stand It
2. Candy Says
3. I'm Waiting For The Man
4. Ferry Boat Bill
5. I'm Set Free
6. What Goes On
7. White Light/White Heat
8. Beginning To See The Light
9. Jesus

Disc Two
10. Heroin/Sister Ray
11. Move Right In
12. Run Run Run
13. Foggy Notion