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Showing posts from August, 2017

EMA is Ericka M. Anderson. Exile in the Outer Ring is her vision of American despair and marginalization. Yup.

When I selected Past Life Martyred Saints as my top album of 2011, Ericka M. Anderson was straight out of the American underground, not an artist widely recognized. EMA, professionally and for short, had released material with two groups, Amps for Christ and the Gowns, but PLMS was her solo debut, and it was on a small label called Souterrain Transmissions. If you want a little background, here’s a link to my original review and my 2011 Top 25:

With the 2014 release of The Future’s Void, EMA consolidated her stature as an artist to be reckoned with. After the viscerally powerful PLMS, Void was a colder, more technocratic vision. Like it’s ambiguous title, the music conveyed a vision of a sterile and oppressive near tomorrow, like something out of a William Gibson novel, humanity struggling with the powers of its own creation, with the alienations of the internet age.

Void’s slabs of distorted sounds were a blurred border…

Hard workin', hard rockin' - White Mystery, baby!

At the ripe old age of thirty-two, Chi-town's Miss Alex White has been banging out the rock tunes since she was a teenager. I first encountered her in 2005 with the release of her Miss Alex White and the Red Orchestra album. I reviewed it, for the Kansas City Star, I think. I liked it. It was noisy – brash and bruising, but with a marination in soul music that was refreshing for a bratty kid. Her guitar playing was confident, within its limited range. You know, like Johnny Ramone or somebody. She was cool. And as a singer she already hinted at something special. She was raw, and powerful, but with a touch of sweet, sweet soul.

In 2008 (or thereabouts) she formed a duo with her younger brother Francis Scott Key White. Using the name of a Fleer bubble gum flavor, White Mystery, the sibling ensemble was launched. Since 2010 they’ve released an album in April of every year. Each one has some good tunes, each one has some klunkers. The sibs tour relentlessly and their records are essen…

John Murry, gutter Gothic poet from Tupelo.

A call went out from central casting for a singer-songwriter. A particular sort. The call out read as thus: Wanted, man in black type figure, roots in the Deep South, profound experience with drugs and heartbreak, think Flannery O’Connor protagonist who time warps into a Lou Reed fan. John Murry applied. He got the job. All other interviews were canceled. Based on his previous solo recording The Graceless Age, his previous work with Memphis legend/recluse Bob Frank, and his resemblance to Hazel Motes … well, it was no contest. The first thing I had to get over about John Murry was how fucking much he sounds like his friend Chuck Prophet. I think they must share a larynx.  The second thing I had to get over about John Murry was how close in sensibility he is to Nick Cave. The American South and Australia have a lot in common. Most of it ugly, but damned if it doesn’t make for great lore. 
Okay, I’m over it, whatever it is. A Short History of Decay is  a collection that insinuates itself.…

Robert Pollard and Richard Davies were COSMOS. At least in 2009. I like to keep up to date.

I’ve been such a good lad. Writing almost like a responsible journalist. That’s not a bad thing, but I promised myself (and you) that SPEW would be a place for more dashed off bits.
Well, here’s one.
Cosmos. Ever heard of them? Unless you’re a Robert Pollard completist, probably not. Their sole release, Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks was released in 2009 (one of Pollard’s 100+ issues, only about a 1/4 of which are Guided by Voices titles). Cosmos was a collaboration with Richard Davies, Australian pop oddball and auteur behind the cult faves the Moles. The two of them share a certain aesthetic, a vision that embraces early John Cale, the first two Brian Eno records, Pete Townshend’s Scoop demos, bits and pieces of the Beatles, and a dash of early Syd Barrett.
Some of the songs on Jar of Jam are based on little more than acoustic guitar and percussion, especially woodblock, others are full band janglers. Because of the duo’s shared sensibility it all hangs together and segues not unlike the dis…

Wire is having a 40th anniversary. Yes, I feel old.

"Editor's" Note: One Mr. Colin Newman of Brighton observes that it is he who plays most of the keyboards on recordings by Wire. I'm not sure where, or if, I indicated otherwise, but Mr. Newman's contributions (in the studio and to SPEW'S accuracy) are noted. He is certainly an authority on the subject. 

Wire is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their debut Pink Flag with the release of their fifteenth studio album Silver/Lead.

Wire’s first three records, Pink Flag,Chairs Missing, and 154 formed a blueprint for much of what came next in the wake of punk; showing how the drive and anger could be channeled beyond the roar and rage. Wire did, however, share with the Pistols a sense of the absurd. Uncomfortable with the conventions of rock, Wire set about reworking and subverting rock ’n’ roll. From Flag’s short, sharp blitz of songs to the more Kraut-Floyd atmospheres of Chairs Missing, to 154’s dark consolidation of Wire’s elements (immaculately produced),Wire’…

The Necks are from Australia. They are improvisors.

The new release by the Necks was reviewed recently in Pitchfork. 755 bloody words and other than some vague references to genre, mention of label mates, there’s one reference of a musical nature - to the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. 
The rest of it is a lot of bubble and squeak about cascades or echoes or some such shit.
Pitchfork gives me gas. It’s a handy reference because they do review a lot of releases, but whatever critical paradigm they have is dominated and subverted by a lot of psycho-babble and allusion to extraneous nonsense.
So, down to brass tacks. Whatever else the Necks may be, they are a jazz ensemble, a trio. Drummer Tony Buck, bassist Lloyd Swanton and keyboardist Chris Abrahams are Aussies who’ve performed together since the Eighties. I don’t pretend to know their entire history, but their last two recordings have been compelling sets of group improvisation. Recordings I discovered in part thanks to the British online journal Quietus, which you should check ou…

Algiers is here. Don't start the revolution without them.

"I guess you could trace it all the way back to growing up in the South: developing a structural critique of racism, and then looking back into history and understanding where that came from. I think what we wanted to reflect in our music — not even necessarily through the lyrics, but through the music itself — is this idea of time and memory collapsing upon one another. That's why the music extends in different directions, because our thoughts on history and society and violence and racism and capitalism extend in so many different directions.”

- Ryan Mahan, Algiers

It’s a commonplace that because of the complexities and vagaries of modern production and processing the typical consumer doesn’t know much about how the products they buy got to the shelf.
The same is as true of music as it is meat.
For Charlie Parker, Pablo Casals or Jerry Lee Lewis it was pretty simple. They rehearsed the material they intended to record, they and their fellow musicians showed up at the studio. T…

The resurrection of Peter Perrett

Back in the day, one of the little thrills of working at Kief’s (it was a record store, eh) was opening the boxes from an import distributor like Jem and rifling through the fresh forty-fives from the U.K. Having seen a listing for a single by a new group called the Only Ones that sounded appealing, I included it on an order in 1977.

Released on the band’s own Vengeance label, it was a curious packaging, a black sleeve with a grainy black and white photo on one side, depicting a band of mismatched misfits, including guitarist John Perry in a form-fitting, less than flattering fishnet onesie. Front and center in the photo, as he was on stage and in the studio, was a young songwriter named Peter Perrett - tousled hair, dour expression, black sleeveless shirt.

This is curious, thought I.

Quickly “Lovers of Today” went to the turntable for audition.

It was one of those moments. Everything about it was perfect. Great intro, a sinister a-part, decorated by Perry’s Greek chorus guitar squiggles,…

The god/doglike genius of Asako Ota ... Meet the Maltese!

I wouldn’t know a damn thing about the Maltese were it not for my friend, Todd Newman. Todd is a wonderful singer-songwriter himself with a pretty sweet recorded legacy, including one record, Too Sad for Words, that I co-produced. Todd is a devotee generally of the best of J-pop. He’s especially a fan of an artist named Asako Ota. She’s the driving force behind the Maltese. Previously, she led another band called the Dog Hair Dressers.

I’m not sure what her fixation on canines is about, and I’ll damn sure never know from listening to her music, because all the lyrics are in Japanese, which is Greek to me.

What I do know is that she’s a damn fine songwriter, singer and guitarist. Her singing is gracefully tuneful, never overpowering, her playing strong and accomplished, but never showy; everything Ota does is dedicated to her really, really good songs. The music she makes is loosely categorizable as power-pop, and the Maltese isn’t twee; they’re not afraid of the power side of the hyphen…

The death and future of punk, pt. 37, THE IDLES

The Idles are from Bristol. The one in England, not Connecticut. They’ve been plunkin’ about since 2012, but their first album was released this year. It’s called Brutalism.

The cover features a photo of singer Joe Talbot’s mother, whom Talbot cared for in the last years of a long illness, mounted above a stark shrine constructed by Talbot and his father. These are placed in the corner of a bare room with brick floors and white painted brick and stone walls. It has the barren, but emotionally loaded austerity of Joseph Beuys work. It’s an eerilyperfect image for an album entitled and themed around the notion of brutalism.

Ever seen this movie called My Architect?

It’s about the architect Louis Kahn, revealed through the eyes of his sometimes estranged son, Nathaniel Kahn. It’s heartrending, as a dad and lad tale, in its austere, sadly masculine way. The younger Kahn, as a budding filmmaker, with a heavy, still hurting heart find the beauty in his father’s work. It’s also moving as a test…