Thursday, July 31, 2008

LiLiPUT | Kleenex (Complete Recordings)

With the exception of the Raincoats and the Slits, LiLiPUT was really the only other viable contender to the mantle of best all-female post-punk band; and they're Swiss! If you like either of the aforementioned groups, LiLiPUT is essential listening. - Ariel

Formed in Zurich in 1978 by guitarist Marlene Marder and bassist/vocalist Klaudia Schiff, [Liliput] began with the name Kleenex until the threat of a lawsuit by corporate giant Kimberly-Clark (who had copyrighted the name Kleenex) forced them to become Liliput in 1980. Recording for the great English indie label Rough Trade, the then-Kleenex produced jumpy, aggressive, clamorous punk-noise that featured Marder's scratchy, semi-melodic guitar and Schiff's yelping vocals. Not punk rock in the fast, loud, economical sense, Liliput were forging a different kind of punk, one that was gleefully anarchic, avant-garde, unrestrained, and suffused with a giddy, almost palpable sense of joy. Listening to this music, one gets the sense that there was a near-rapturous enjoyment that went into these recordings. Their tenure at Rough Trade was short, as was their interest in exploring career options beyond Europe.
By 1982, when they released their first LP, they seemed perfectly happy remaining in Switzerland, running the band as part of numerous other artistic projects (painting, writing, etc.) they pursued. By the end of 1983, Liliput had disbanded, and the music they had recorded quickly achieved legendary, but mostly unheard, status. As for the band, they seemed destined to be relegated to the status of feminist-inspired punk rock footnote. All of this changed in 1993, when the Swiss label Off Course released a double-disc, 46-track compilation of the entire recorded output of Kleenex/Liliput. The result was one of the great reissues of the decade. Unfortunately, it went out of print shortly after its release, but Kill Rock Stars released it again in early 2001, making it more accessible than before. The exuberance and excitement of Liliput's breathtaking music can be enjoyed once again, and a band that was almost forgotten returns with some of the most artful, contemporary, truly alternative music to be recorded under the genre identifier of punk rock. Also, fans of riot grrrl rock take note: this was a tremendously influential band. Although they eschewed extreme confrontation, there is a compelling sense of self that imbues this music and lit the way for a new generation of female musicians.

[John Dougan,]

Download Disc 1
Download Disc 2

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gary Higgins - Red Hash (1973)

A beautifully wrought record of sun-drenched folk musings courtesy of Gary Higgins, Red Hash was reissued in 2005 on Drag City to great acclaim. This is a "Buried Treasure" that lives up to its reputation. - Ariel

Gary Higgins' only album has much in common with many other vaguely hippie-ish singer/songwriter records from the early '70s on small or vanity labels. There's a laid-back feel that seems two or three years out of time (or behind the times), like an exhausted hangover from the wilder peaks of the psychedelic era. Relative to this collector-oriented genre, however, the record's very much above average. For one thing, the production is much better than it is for many such endeavors that suffered from limited distribution — subdued and no frills, perhaps, but clear, well recorded, and well played and sung. Too, few other records of this sort are so downright melancholy, though without succumbing to the unhinged despair that consigns many of them to an extremely limited audience. It's more like being trapped in a room where the candles are burning down to their wicks, with the knowledge that there will be no encores once the music's over. Higgins was in prison in the early '70s, and while it might be too much to project his personal circumstances onto judgment of the proceedings, it does rather sound like the musings of a gentle soul who somehow lost his way or got steered down the wrong path. There are dark insinuations of insomnia, doubt, a loss of hope, and in the last lyric of the closing "Looking for June," desperate wondering as to where he's gonna get some dope. "Down on the Farm" sounds almost like a folky Captain Beefheart with its guttural vocals and twisted blues progressions, but it's not typical of an album that usually goes for a far more placid and mainstream (though slightly bent) singer/songwriter sound.

[Richie Unterberger,]


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Josef K - Entomology (2006)

Josef K's complete studio recordings can be had on two discs. Young and Stupid and The Only Fun in Town/Sorry for Laughing, both of which were reissued in 2002, tell the whole story, yet they were deleted by the time of Entomology's late 2006 release. The disc marks the first time anything Josef K-related has been released Stateside, and it passably packs the highlights. Half of the tracks are pulled from Sorry for Laughing (a 1980 album that initially didn't make it past the test-pressing phase) and The Only Fun in Town (a 1981 album that featured some re-recordings of Sorry for Laughing material), while the remainder wraps up all the essential sides from the band's singles, in addition to a 1981 BBC session for John Peel. If you have the 2002 LTM reissues, there's no need to obtain the disc; it would be completely redundant. If you don't have them, you'll be getting the vivid gist of a sharp and short-lived band — one that delivered brief, spastic shards of over-caffeinated post-punk with skittish vocals on the verge of spinning out of control. Along with Fire Engines, Orange Juice, Associates, Altered Images, Scars, Simple Minds, Aztec Camera, and Cocteau Twins, Josef K were standouts of an extremely vital post-punk era Scotland. This disc, along with Orange Juice's The Glasgow School and Scritti Politti's Early, is one of the essential post-punk reissues of 2005/2006.

[Andy Kellman,]

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lula Côrtes e Zé Ramalho - Paêbirú (1975)

Paêbirú is the Holy Grail of Brazillian psychedelia; if all you know of this incredibly rich musical landscape is Os Mutantes, pick this up immediately. - Ariel

Thanks to cult-creating stories about how nearly all original copies of this Brazilian double-album effort from 1975 were lost in a fire, Paebiru is one of those records that has to overcome a reputation — it has to actually be good because it's good, not because it's rare. The 2005 re-release on Shadoks gave a chance for that concern to be addressed, and it must be said: Paebiru really is a fantastic album. With each of its original four sides named after the legendary four elements (earth, air, fire, water), Paebiru looks to aim high and does so pretty well, but the more telling thing about the album is how well Cortes and Ramalho's work fits in the present day. Thanks to the continually reviving psych/freak/acid folk/jam scene, one could play most of this album next to the Sunburned Hand of the Man and Animal Collective discs with nobody blinking — but the key difference is probably that Cortes and Ramalho, plus their many collaborators, are really sharp musicians and arrangers. There's a talented, easy fluidity about Ramalho's singing that, if rougher, isn't far removed from classic Brazilian pop singers of his time, while the most intense moments, such as the building multi-percussive/feedback freakout of "Culto a Terra," stand up readily now as they did then. Elsewhere, the beautiful, almost serene compositions interspersed throughout ("Bailado das Muscarias," which definitely is a dance tune regardless of lack of percussion; the blending of harp, flute, sax, and more on "Omm") create something pastoral and with a romantic late-night lounge feeling. The resultant blend of approaches and the variety throughout the album become more apparent even while each song is simply captivating on its own, and when they decide to conventionally rock out on "Nas Paredes da Pedra Encantada," the result is almost Can-like.

[Ned Raggett,]


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Human Switchboard - Who's Landing In My Hanger? (1981)

Criminally underrated, bursting with energy, Human Switchboard combined art-rock edge with melodic pop music in an irresistible package; this is essential for fans of the "Hoboken Sound" of the early eighties, drawing comparisons to co-contemporaries such as The Bongos and The Feelies. Do yourself a favor. - Ariel

Most music writers seemed incapable of discussing Human Switchboard without mentioning The Velvet Underground, and there's no getting around the fact Rob Pfeifer's melodic style and clipped vocal delivery bears a certain resemblance to what Lou Reed was doing back in his formative days. But there's an emotional tension and sexual paranoia in Pfeifer's work that sets him decidedly apart from the Velvets and their many followers, and songs like "This Town" and "Refrigerator Door" speak of a grim, landlocked existence that would likely not have occurred to anyone outside of the Midwest. And while Pfeifer's jagged guitar has a certain Velvets-like quality, the homey buzz of Myrna Marcarian's Farfisa organ makes it clear there's more than a little garage in this band's formula, and there's a weary wisdom to Marcarian's occasional vocals that's human and endearing. While Human Switchboard left behind a pair of live documents, Who's Landing in My Hangar? was their only studio album, and while the Spartan, low-budget production isn't always flattering to the band's sound, the cutting emotional clarity of these songs shines through; perhaps this isn't the ideal Human Switchboard album, but it leaves no doubt that they were a great, passionate band with plenty to say, and Who's Landing in My Hangar? preserves ten of their best songs for the ages. A reissue is certainly in order.

[Mark Deming,]


"Who's Landing in My Hanger?"

"I Can Walk Alone"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The United States of America - The United States of America (1968)

Despite releasing only one LP, the United States of America was among the most revolutionary bands of the late '60s — grounded equally in psychedelia and the avant-garde, their music eschewed guitars in favor of strings, keyboards and haunting electronics, predating the ambient pop of the modern era by several decades. The United States of America was led by composer and keyboardist Joseph Byrd, a Kentucky native raised in Tucson, Arizona; there he appeared with a series of rock and country bands while attending high school, subsequently playing vibes in a jazz outfit as a student at the University of Arizona. Despite winning a fellowship to study music at Stanford, Byrd instead relocated to New York, intrigued by the avant-garde experiments emerging from the city's downtown music scene; there he began earning international notoriety for his own compositions, at the same time working as a conductor, arranger, associate producer and assistant to critic Virgil Thomson.

Byrd eventually returned to the west coast, accepting an assistant teaching position at UCLA and moving into a beachfront commune populated by a group of grad students, artists and Indian musicians. He soon began studying acoustics, psychology and Indian music, but quickly turned back to experimental composition, leaving the university in the summer of 1967 to write music full-time and produce "happenings." To perform his new songs — material inspired in no small part by the psychedelic sounds produced during the Summer of Love — Byrd recruited a group of UCLA students (vocalist Dorothy Moskowitz, bassist Rand Forbes, electric violinist Gordon Marron and drummer Craig Woodson) to form the United States of America; the group's lone self-titled LP, produced by David Rubinson, was recorded for CBS in 1968, its unique ambience due largely to their pioneering use of the ring modulator, a primitive synthesizer later popularized by the Krautrock sound.

[Jason Ankeny,]

Greg Ashley - Medicine Fuck Dream (2003) + Painted Garden (2007)

Two albums of lo-fi Acidy psychy folk from (In my opinion) a master of Psych that sounds like a whole new sound. Sure there are elements of Syd, Roky and Mayo in there but nothing that comes close to straight ripping off. Some songs may seem long but they will reward with great melodic changes if you have the patience to listen. If you like your music stoned and acid fried to hell give these two releases and his other bands a deffinate whirl. Great lazy day late night music!. His albums are most deffinately still in print and can be found on Birdman records, So if you enjoy his sound as much as I do please buy his music.

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The Homosexuals - The Homosexuals' CD (2003)

This is classic raw, angular D.I.Y. post-punk with a pop sensibility; a must for fans of Pere Ubu, Wire, or the Television Personalities. If you enjoy this--and why wouldn't you?--please visit Chuck Warner's fabulous Hyped to Death website and order their Homosexuals 3CD 'Astral Glamour' set. While you're there, I implore you to check out the Messthetics series; you won't regret it, but your bank account might. - Ariel

The Homosexuals were an influential British punk band formed in 1972 as Rejects by Bruno Wizard, Anton Hayman, and Jim Welton (who has also gone by the names L. Voag, Amos, and Xentos).

Their angular guitars, complex melodies, and experimental leanings distanced them somewhat from the punk rock being created by their contemporaries and has cemented their reputation as a pre-cursor to post-punk. They released very little during their lifetime, and most of what they did release was on small run vinyl on obscure record labels. The members also recorded in various combinations under several different pseudonyms. These "side projects" include Amos & Sara, George Harassment, Sara Goes Pop, and Nancy Sesay & The Melodaires. The only full length LP by the band, 1984's The Homosexual's Record was complied and released by Chris Cutler for Recommended Records, reissued remastered on CD with additional tracks in 2004 as The Homosexual's CD. Also released that year was Astral Glamour, a 3-CD set including the band's entire catalgoue, unreleased songs, and work by several of the band's pseudonymous projects.



Mayo Thompson - Corky's Debt to His Father (1969)

An awesomely fun and odd as hell album from this Psych hero Who's Red Krayola Still performs to this day after many different line up changes and consistently good musical changes. The Music has a folkier sound than most of the Red Krayola's stuff up till the time of this release. Packed with Off kilter lyrics and strange melodies. Mayo also played in Pere Ubu for sometime and also produced work for some bands such as The Chills.
Deffinately an album for Fans of the Red krayola and Syd Barrett.

"Although this, to put it mildly, is not a record for mainstream tastes, it nevertheless may be more palatable to pop ears than any of Thompson's numerous Red Krayola records. With a folkier bent than his group projects, Thompson projects himself as a lovable oddball of sorts, stringing together free-associative, non-sequitur lyrics against chord progressions and time signatures that, as is his wont, refuse to adhere to accepted norms. Much of it's rather catchy (if not hummable), though, with a whimsical sense of fun that makes it impossible to dismiss as pretentious artsiness"(Allmusic)

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