Saturday, October 17, 2009


A newish 7" EP of mangled, beautifully overwraught Guitar n Groovebox-driven SpazRaveElecktro anthems from long-time Kid Shirt Finnish fave Fricara Pacchu, who's a sometime member of Maniacs Dream.

As tough and gnarly as a bucketful of iron-ore nuggets. Blocked-drain sturm und drang.

No, wait: flip the flipping thing and it sounds like some Chinese Kick-Boxing Epic gone Musique Concrete; a koto salesman on his way to a rave in a clapped-out Vauxhall Vectra. Oddly melodic and strangely touching. This is followed by what sounds like a vintage John Carpenter s/track excerpt but w/ a churning cement-mixer drum-sound. *checks needle for fluff* Nope: "The roil/the concrete is boiling": Grrrunch-Grrrruntttch! Orbital fruit-machine noises and a distant choir. Beautifully strident, the song marches off into the sunset on pneumatic robo-legs.

Seriously, though, this is one of the most wonderfully playful pieces of electronic 'Pop' I've heard in a while - tho I'm sure, I mean, Fricara probably had something entirely different in mind. Or maybe he didn't.

I wish Richard James made records as interesting as this.

Strangely, this feels far closer to being the 'true' offspring of that late 70's generation of one-fingered synthesists who were parading their wares on Synth Britannica on fri night, than, uh, *gruffly mumnmnmnmbles some names unintelligibly into tea-cup of people whose music he doesn't like that much but who seem fairly popular amongst various, er, youngsters in their thirties and forties*. Mordant Music are fairly cool tho.

I think this works so well because it comes from somewhere else - not just geographically - but from a Free-Rock/Improvisational zone that has gradually, since 2005, 2006-ish, been turning into something else - something more rooted in beats, linear rhythms, etc. Some folks have been started upgrading from fucked-up junk-shop Casios to cheap, disgarded 1st-gen Grooveboxes, Electribes, etc, so that a generation that mainly/mostly bypassed the Rave epoch, due to their age - or were disinterested in it - are now (sometimes unintentionally) plundering this era and plugging certain Rave, Acid House and New Age soundshapes n ideas into an open-ended stoner/free rock/psych template/mind-set. Over the last 3, 4 years we've started glimpsing traces of this cultural migration in, errm, the Skaters' solo/side projects, the post-rave Cousteau-isms of Dolphins into the Future, etc, all sorts of unexpected nooks n crannies in the sub-underground. It's (mostly) being driven by a mixture of cheap, disgarded 90s hardware and young 'uns deliberately square-pegging/venn-diagramming/overlaying assorted 60s/early 70s sounds/tropes onto their late 70s/80s/early 90s counterparts. Or vice versa.

Anyway, it's a great EP; you should buy it. Finnish music still rules. Fiercely.

Available via Vauva.



So, yeah, many thanks to Jim for sending me the 2-CD distillate version of this LP set (wh/ I kinda mentioned before):

It really is super-muff. All the stretched-out wah-wah n percussive action you might probably expect is present and correct, and the call-and-reponse vocals n horns, but there's much, much more to it than just the more Funk-orientated cuts: this is a musical microcosm, a cross-section thru an entire culture. A slice of history.

All sorts of unexpected things happen along the way. So while "Din Ya Sugri" by Uppers International might surf a bumpy B-movie Funk-vamp the surprise is Christy Azuma's almost thin, trebly-sounding vibrato vocals; they sound almost counter-intuitively Anti-Soul, almost folksy; if the record had been made in the US in the 70s then the vocals would have almost certainly been belted out/growled/howled - the 'performance' aspect of vintage Soul/Funk always taking great pleasure/pains to establish a clear direct linkage between authenticity of feeling and, uh, the vocalist's emotional-output knob.

If you ain't feeeeeeelin' the emotion then it ain't 'real'. Anything less than 10+ is bogus, but after a while it becomes a caricature; a form of acting. "When Smokie sings, I hear...nothing."

This sort of nonsense reaches its apogee with the nasal, novacaine-numbed self-parodic Unsoul of Beyonce n Co. Sixth generation vocal 'soul' tropes acted out w/out conviction or a clue. White-bread R n B. It doesn't even need autotune to robocise itself, to remove the last vestiges of humanity, gender, spirit.

Ms. Azuma side-steps Trad.US.Soul traditions - not because she doesn't care enough or can't sing - but because it's not her idiom, her mode of expression. And in doing so she creates something uniquely and refreshingly soulful - to my ears, at least.

And she's not the only vocalist here who will sound 'wrong' to Western ears muted by iPods and too much X-Factor - yes, they'll sound too 'understated', too reedy, too sharp or flat to fit our jaded classical notions of bullshit soulfulness. And, yes, the production lacks the 'fullness' - the frequency range you'd expect from 70's LA orch or seshguy recordings, or Trevor Horn, or [fill in your own name].

But fuck: that's a good thing. No, really. I've been listening to some early/mid-70s 7-inches of classic Philly Pre-Disco jams recently and loving the high-end action - the trebly strings and hi-hats; the harmonies - the 'thinness' and the lack of bottom-end action. It's kinda cool. No: is cool. It's counter-intuitive again, but it really works. Dance music without a bottom-end or a fuck-off bass-line. We'd just forgotten how great things are that sound, well, different. We'd got closeted and too comfy in our lil' bubbleworlds.

So, yeah, to listen to some of these Ghanaian jams you really need to check in yr expectations along with the hand-luggage.

I'm especially loving the tracks where the sounds seem to rub up against each other and create an unexpected dissonance; a vocal refrain might collide with a guitar-line, or scraped percussion seems to go slide in and out of time with the bass gtr or the backing-vocalists. Polyrhythmic drift, innit.

? and the Mysterions style organs surface in amongst a galloping pony-trot riddim - some distant, tinny-sounding take on a JB B-side - with the vocalist talk-singing like he might have just, possibly, once heard Dillinger's "Cocaine in my Brain" on a crappy transistor radio, the signal drifting in and out of range.

Some of the tracks are gentle - jaunty almost - catchy in some weird quiet little earworm way that makes you wanna hit the replay when you realise how much the track has lodged itself in yr brain, even tho you thought you weren't paying much conscious attention. Others have a lilting Caribbean flava, as if they're some vague, related-by-marriage cousin of Congolese Rhumba. The Ghana/Cuba Connection in full effect.

Check out "Obi Agye Me Dofo" by Vis a Vis with its uptempo Reggae/Ska-fluenced jump-up rhythm with woozy horns and a - yay! - synth solo. Awesome stuff and funky as fuck. On the final furlong the horns even sound like they're playing some (even more) twisted version of "Wheel Me Out" by Was (Not Was).

Elsewhere Fela Kuti puts in an appearance, but he could've stayed at home, to be honest - this album swings rather wonderfully without him.

"You hypnotise pulverise"

Great song; great album.

A hit!


Following on from yesterday's post:

Here's a pic taken a few days ago of Jayson D hanging gawd-only-knows how many feet up in the air, in a lighting-rig suspension-harness, suspended from one of the legs of U2's Effel Tower-sized stage-set (aka "The Claw") in the new Cowboys Stadium. Jay's in the 'pod' in the middle of the three and was roped in as Bono's personal spotlight-guy.

(Pic courtesy of J's Pal Tom Young)

Long-time readers will be aware that I'm not much of U2 fan, to put it mildly, and if I'd been in the harness - God forbid! - I would've been up there with a fishing-rod trying to lift The Sainted One's hair-piece during the middle-eight of "Levitate" lol.

Still, shit like this endlessly fascinates me - the Carbon-UberPositive Footprint of Big Rock Tours, etc aside - Rock ephemera: the logistics, the infra-structure and tour craft-skills that sit behind the showbiz stuff, the two hours of bangbashkeraangohyeahbaby. Jay said it took two and a half days to set up and dismantle the stage-set.

Two+ hours up in the air in a 'gravity safe' harness and noise-cancelling headphones, tracking Mr. B.Vox and processing complex lighting cues. Next month it'll be a promo.vid for some Texan or some new cool self-funded cinematic project: he's an extremely interesting cat is that Mr. Densman.