Good Music We Can Know

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cerebral Escapades: Chick Vekters- Travelogue (2014)

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, EskimoTravelogue 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

Toward the Sunlight, For the Sake of Us All: Kim Jung Mi- Now (1973)

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.

NOW/Wind (192)

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.