Friday, April 22, 2011

Michael Chapman: Fully Qualified Survivor

Having worked with the label in the past on titles like this and this, I've always loved and supported what Light in the Attic does, from reissuing Karen Dalton and Kris Kristofferson's earliest demos to unearthing Jim Sullivan's singular U.F.O. But I'm grateful for the label releasing UK folk guitarist's heady second album, Fully Qualified Survivor, which I've listened to as much as any new record in 2011.

For all my love of Mick Ronson-era Bowie, early Elton John, British string-benders like Bert Jansch, and anything that features Paul Buckmaster's strings, somehow Chapman's work (which is a nexus for all of the above) slipped under my radar for years. From its mulch all of the afore-mentioned folks arose, with Ronson's searing electric leads intertwining with Chapman's acoustic lines and catching the ear of Bowie as he was about to record The Man Who Sold the World, and producer Gus Dudgeon's deft mixing of folk and rock leading to future work with newcomer Elton John. And Buckmaster would soon be working with everyone from Harry Nilsson to Miles Davis.

You don't need to respect or revere the above names to fall for the album though. Chapman veers from the majestic (on 9-minute opener "Aviator") to the whimsical ("Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime" afterwards) to snarling prog-punk ("Stranger in the Room") and back (on one of the finest moments in UK folk-rock, "Postcards of Scarborough"). The sticker says to enjoy it with a joint on a lazy afternoon but it really creates its own high. And it shreds. That the man is playing two shows this weekend in New York City will make him as relevant as ever.

Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for my Halo

Kurt Vile's latest album neatly coincides with the purchase of a car. And it really sounds like our old car as well. It idles in fits and starts, is slow to get going, equally slow to come to a stop, has smoke residue inside the windshield, seems to be shaking apart at times, has rust spots along the faded paint, empty coffee cups rolling along the floorboards. At times it barely works, seems like it might breakdown, but it does get me there.

Our car would be a teenager at this point, as old as I was when I got my first car. And this disc has been my driving soundtrack for most of it, echoing what I would drive to as a teenager myself: Sonic Youth, Royal Trux, Dinosaur Jr. If there was a rap album dropping right about now that sounded like Bizarre Ride II tha Pharcyde and Dare Iz a Darkside I'd probably be all over that as well.

Woo: It's Cosy Inside

A friend at Other Music suggested I check this out, namechecking albums I've been obsessed with recently: Penguin Café Orchestra, Cluster's Sowiesoso, Jimmy Giuffre's Freefall, Durutti Column's Vini Reilly. It slots in along these without a doubt. But when I passed it on, I told a friend that Woo are the Sparks of New Age.

They are two brothers (Mark and Clive Ives) who cannot help but inject their sense of humor into their music. They anticipate things like chillwave but really exist outside of such genres and considerations. The warped and delightfully disorienting miniatures that comprise this album bear titles like "No More Telly" and "Purple Pussy" and their sense of play runs through every note. Most of their output came out on cassette, so check out their own Woo website for more of their music.