Tuesday, March 16, 2010

heep see (feb/mar)

Pointer Sisters: "Automatic"
Guilty pleasure of the moment (along with Greg Kihn Band's "Jeopardy" and Dolly Parton's "Potential New Boyfriend"), no thanks to thinking back to when Thom from Rub-N-Tug dropped this into a set. In much the same way that Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots" makes me sing "galaxy defenders" on the second line of the chorus, I always think of the 80s show, Automan, at the chorus, who I just presumed this song was always about.

Phil Ochs: Greatest Hits
"50 Phil Ochs Fans Can't Be Wrong" the back cover attests on this misnomer of an album, Ochs' last studio effort. Bitter and resigned, with Ochs clad in a shiny gold Elvis suit, this album still confounds me. Musings on fame, James Dean, Watergate, petrochemical dependence as love song (or vice versa), but against a backdrop of country chords and harmonizing and harpsichord.

Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose: Bridge Carols
In the best way, this reminds me of those spacious ambient moments from The Reminder. At barely a half-hour, it evaporates in the best possible way.

Thomas Fehlmann: Gute Luft
Over fifty now, this sounds like, if not Fehlmann's best work, then at least like the greatest overview of what he does best: pop ambience, shimmering schafel, jazzy breakdowns, gentle psychedelia, and pliant minimal techno, all woven together into a cohesive whole. In some perverse way, I wish that Gute Luft, which is the soundtrack to 24H Berlin, a 24 hour documentary, was itself an entire day's worth of music, as I trust the man to make it all work.

Jim O'Rourke: The Visitor
What once seemed its weakest quality (that aleatoric, sound snippet-ness that I originally mistook for some anti-piracy gimmick that Drag City does), now feels like this suite's greatest attribute. Played this while driving through the strange El Nino rainstorms of San Diego. All the delicate instrumentation would get washed away in the downpours of rain, the wobble of the windshield wipers overpowering it, and I think the player would reset somewhere between the 7 to 27-minute mark, making it feel transparent, ephemeral, yet delectably without end.

Van Dyke Parks: Song Cycle
Another California-soundtrack album. Grappling with folks like Owen Pallett and Joanna Newsom of late, I somehow forgot what a touchstone this remains, a record I spun thousands of times a decade ago when I was obsessed with the Beach Boys and Charles Ives, but had forgotten recently. It sounds decidedly different in the California sun.
It reminded me that the very first piece of music-writing that I had published (about Lee Dorsey in Sound Collector Audio Review) used Parks' Discover America as a jumping-off point. A deft and dense merger of pop and orchestra infused with a brand of wit that leaps beyond any categorization. Still hearing more jokes and allusions within it, not to mention Los Angeles neighborhood references I wouldn't have understood back in Texas.

Joanna Newsom: Have One On Me
A pity to have to review this album from a digital stream (especially from a label that doesn't even "do" digital). Had I been allowed to hear it uncompressed, I realize now that I would've argued for the main review slot at Spin and given it a higher score. Or to borrow a line from Anthony Lane's review of The Red Shoes: "(It's) like drinking champagne, whatever the vintage, through a plastic straw."
Now that Have One On Me can unfurl in the morning air, the treasures of this album reveal themselves without hurry. And hurry is this album's antagonist. Imbibed in slower, deeper lengths, leitmotifs start to emerge that truly mesmerize. Rather than rely on previous male collaborators (Albini immediately springs to mind) for their input, I believe that Joanna surrounded herself with folks she trusts (O'Rourke, Noah Georgeson, Ryan Francesconi) to not second-guess her; producing the album herself feels crucial for its sense of warmth and depth.

Ray Mang: "Bulletproof"
When I first spun this collaboration between Mang (a/k/a/ Raj Gupta) and Miss Lady Kier (doing a George Clinton cut), I lamented that it didn't drop in say...2006, when it's anti-war blasts might have resonated a bit deeper on the dancefloors. Maybe Mang was falling off? Then I realized I always have at least three of his 12"s in my bag and that we're still fighting two wars circa 2010.