Brazilian composer/musician Marcos Valle is a master of the orchestral pop that exudes a bronzed euphoria and a light yet substantial soulfulness. A surfer with long blond hair, Valle is the Brazilian counterpart to America’s Rotary Connection. The man could write the hell out of a heavenly arrangement.
On the four albums Seattle/LA label Light in the Attic is reissuing in January and February—Marcos Valle (1970), Garra (1971), Vento Sul (1972), and Previsão Do Tempo (1973)—Valle purveys a post-bossa, hybridized pop that can be sublimely ebullient or gloriously melancholy. His songs are hummable, but not in blatant ways. He’s an impeccable craftsman, kind of in the vein of Caetano Veloso in his more accessible modes, blending light psychedelia, soul, samba, and baião. Valle also sings the slyly subversive lyrics of his brother Paolo Sergio in a burnished baritone that’s somewhere between Veloso and Gilberto Gil. The delivery’s all about a restraint that’s innately seductive—a style that so many Brazilian artists have mastered.
Garra is my favorite of the quartet, but they’re all worth immersive listening. Valle was at his peak powers here, and these songs have a deathless quality; they stand up to repeated listens as well as anything in the David Axelrod or Charles Stepney canons. The eponymous Marcos Valle, recorded with the great baroque psych-prog band Som Imaginário, is probably the most instantly catchy collection of the four. Recorded with the rock group O Terço, Vento Sul is an incredibly subtle, baroquely beautiful work, elevated by gorgeous flute motifs by Paolo Guimarães. Previsão Do Tempo has a very suave, quasi-exotica vibe to it, and possesses a menagerie of eccentric textures and unpredictable, jazz-fusiony song structures.
Valle’s music is not as off the wall as that by Tropicalia’s oddest proponents like Os Mutantes or Tom Zé, and maybe that’s why underground-music heads haven’t really cottoned to it—or maybe Valle’s records were simply harder to find than those of his Brazilian counterparts. Whatever the case, LITA has gone a long way in getting some of Valle’s most important recordings back in circulation.
It still needs to be said, because a lot of blinkered Beatles fans have created a massive force field of scorn around her, but Yoko Ono, who turns a vibrant 80 today, has done a helluva lot of good work that has pushed rock into far-out realms and frayed conventional notions of what a female voice should sound like. Check out Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, Fly, and Approximately Infinite Universe for proof. She's also created a lot of naÏvely profound/profoundly naÏve visual and performance art and is a sweet, philanthropic soul who's done way more to help the world than you have. Deal with it, haters.
(Showbox at the Market) No getting around it: Tomahawk are a muzzafunkin' supergroup. Any lineup with mad vocal acrobat Mike Patton, caustic, incisive guitarist Duane Denison, powerful drum deity John Stanier, and Mr. Bungle/Secret Chiefs 3/Melvins bassist Trevor Dunn is going to induce a certain amount of awe among people who appreciate savage virtuosity. But Tomahawk's new album, Oddfellows, only their fourth in a dozen years, is, uh, oddly underwhelming. Not to imply these songs suck or anything, but the players don't seem to be even close to pushing themselves to the extent of their formidable abilities. The result is mildly quirky art rock with somewhat heavy undertones and few songs that stick in your mind after they fade out.
Before the big year of 2005-a big year for local hiphop, that is-four albums made it clear that something was in the air, something was about to really happen. Though no one knew exactly what shape this something would take, everyone was certain that it would somehow be related to one or all of these albums: Gift of Gab's 2004 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up (yes, Gift of Gab is from the Bay Area, but the album was recorded in Seattle and produced by Jake One and Vitamin D), Blue Scholars' 2004 debut Blue Scholars, Onry Ozzborn's 2003 The Grey Area (which was released by Portland's One Drop), and finally, Specs One's 2004 Return of the Artist. Specs One's album was recently rereleased to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its creation.
Specs One is a much-admired local rapper, producer, artist, and activist who fell in love with hiphop in 1979 and began making music in the mid-1980s. As there are writers for writers and filmmakers for filmmakers, Specs One is a rapper for rappers. It's not that he doesn't want to rap for everyone (he does), and he has nothing against fame and making money, it's just that he can only make hiphop that he wants to hear, hiphop that he loves. You can separate, say, Jay-Z's music from Jay-Z (indeed, he says as much—"If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli"), but you can't separate Specs One from his music. And the more you are your music, the less likely it will speak to or connect with a large audience.
(Paramount) Soundgarden do not fuck around. After rising to the tippy-top of the American hard-rock heap in the mid-'90s, the band stopped having fun and called it quits in 1997. A decade and a half later, Soundgarden decided to rev up again, and from its first notes, the new King Animal announces itself as a sibling to Superunknown. Steeped in the great tradition of melodic headbanging rock for nonstupid people, these are songs that sound great on first listen. And they'll mix perfectly well with the many grunge-era classics the band is sure to dish out tonight (and tomorrow).
In my review of Spectre's adventurous 2012 hiphop album The True & Living, I mistakenly wrote that he had sampled the theme song from The Twilight Zone (composed by Gregor F. Narholz); in actuality, he'd sampled the Lost In Space theme (composed by John Williams). I watched both shows as a lad, but somehow over the ensuing 40+ years, I mixed up the two. I swear it won't happen again.
Both pieces are among the best TV tunes in history; the shows weren't bad, either, though I preferred The Twilight Zone because it chilled my blood with more regularity than did Lost in Space. However, the latter's robot was the best character on either program.
(Jazz Alley) Judging from his 2010 Seattle performance, Dr. John will not be exhuming his swampadelic classics from Gris-Gris, Remedies, or The Sun, Moon & Herbs. Maybe this New Orleans musical legend just can't get back into that dank headspace anymore, can't summon that ominous libidinal pressure at this late date. It happens. That being said, Doc's latest album, Locked Down, finds him receiving a filthy, robust boost from a group of younger cats, including the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach—who produced, sang backing vocals, and played guitar on it. The record sounds vital and politically engaged for a 72-year-old magus—the funkiest he's been in decades. Those players won't be joining Mac Rebennack for this four-night stand at Jazz Alley, but trust him to hire a band that'll nail Locked Down's punchy grooves and triumph-over-adversity melodies.
If you're an Unwound fan or are looking to become one, the Numero Group is about to make your life a lot better. Similar to what it did with Codeine, the Chicago label plans to reissue the phenomenally trenchant Olympia post-punk band's seven albums in expanded, remastered, and liner-noted form. In addition, it will release pre-Unwound recordings under the name of Giant Henry on Record Store Day. Hell. Yes.
Press release after the jump.
(Snoqualmie Casino) Kool and the Gang returned to people's consciousness last year when Van Halen surprisingly tapped them to open for the hard-rock veterans' tour. Curiously, some observers thought they upstaged the headliners. There's no doubting the large funk/soul ensemble's technical proficiency, but clips of recent live performances show a troubling tendency for cheesy crowd interaction and emphasis on their frothier material (who doesn't grimace after hearing "Celebration" for the millionth time?). But in their 1970s prime, Kool and the Gang cut some of the filthiest and sweetest funk to ever maximize a gluteus. If they fill at least half their set with burners like "Jungle Jazz," "Hollywood Swinging," "Funky Stuff," and "Love the Life You Live," this will be worth the trip to Snoqualmie.
What’s the greatest rock song by an Australian band? Is it something by the Easybeats? AC/DC? Radio Birdman? The Saints? Birthday Party? The Moodists? The Go-Betweens? feedtime? The Church? The Scientists? Dead Can Dance? Tame Impala? Little River Band? Or is it “That’s What Mama Said” by Coloured Balls? This is a question that weighs heavily on the minds of some of the world’s least-respected thinkers.
At one time, I may have answered the Easybeats’ “Sorry,” the Saints’ “Know Your Product,” Birthday Party’s “Zoo Music Girl,” feedtime’s “Arse,” the Go-Betweens’ “On My Block,” or the Moodists’ “That’s Frankie’s Negative.” Now, thanks to a tip from a friend who recommended Coloured Balls’ 1973 album Ball Power (which Sing Sing Records has recently reissued), I’m inclined to go with “That’s What Mama Said.”
The song starts with power chords from leader/guitarist Lobby Loyde that loiter with malicious intent while a special foot-powered Theremin wails crazily, then things gradually accelerate to a purposeful chug, creating a sensation akin to the greatest tension-building scene from the best movie Quentin Tarantino never made. Imagine Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” retooled by artfully brutish Aussies who've eaten fistfuls of magic mushrooms and then thought it would be cool to combine the best traits of Hawkwind and Canned Heat. When they finally come, the unison chants of “That’s what mama said, mama said” are utterly uplifting, and the tune proceeds to blaze toward the horizon line with Theremin squeals Silly Stringing all over the stereo field. The coda sounds like the band’s entering a supremely nasty hard-rock vortex in the dustiest Down Under dive bar in existence. You stagger away from the nearly 11-minute track as if you’ve guzzled a keg of Foster’s. BRAAAAP! The end.
This survey of the top horror-film soundtracks by DJ/Finders Keepers Records boss Andy Votel first surfaced in November, but there’s something timeless to it, so I’m linking to it for your damned, bloody benefit.
As with all Votel endeavors, he’s dug deep for the sublime and obscure goods and done a bang-up job explaining the circumstances behind the tracks and why they succeed at generating the desired effects; Votel’s writing and researching chops are as acute and incisive as his selecting abilities. Go read the whole thing, listen to the clips, and be scared shirtless here.
(Snoqualmie Casino) For casual listeners, the Tubes are best known as the new-wave band behind the 1983 MTV hit "She's a Beauty." But for die-hard fans, the Tubes are something else entirely: a band of highly theatrical San Francisco freaks whose multimedia live shows—blending social satire with quasi-porn—remain legendary. According to online reports, the Tubes of 2013 are harking back to their roots, with a high-drama stage show lorded over by a shape-shifting Fee Waybill. At the Snoqualmie Casino!
(El CorazÓn) Paul Di'Anno sure has had an interesting past couple years. In February 2011, the "original voice of Iron Maiden" (aka the old guy) was convicted of eight counts of benefit fraud and sentenced to nine months in jail. Shortly after his release, a two-disc anthology of Paul Di'Anno tunes surfaced, showcasing his versions of old Megadeth, Metallica, and, of course, Iron Maiden classics. If you're more of a Bruce Dickinson fan, don't fret; local band Witchburn supply enough Southern-rock riffage to make this well worth the cover price. They're sure to be playing songs from their upcoming album, Baptized in Blood, so show up early.
The Flaming Lips and some of their favorite bands have covered in its entirety King Crimson's 1969 debut LP, In the Court of the Crimson King. You can hear their attempt—retitled Playing Hide and Seek With the Ghost of Dawn—to do justice to one of the first and greatest prog-rock albums here.
It's brave to tackle such a daunting record and also benevolent of the massively popular Oklahoma band and their "heady fwends" (New Fumes, Linear Downfall, Spaceface and Stardeath and White Dwarfs) to shine a Klieg light on a cerebral masterpiece not known for its accessibility—although Kanye West sampled "21st Century Schizoid Man" on "Power." By the way, the Lips & co. do a suitably combustible version of Crimson King's most famous song.
More about the project and future Lips-curated track-by-track classic album interpretations here.
Tip: Andy Reichel
The late, innovative German producer Conny Plank is the subject of a 4-CD tribute titled Who's That Man—A Tribute to Conny Plank, coming out Feb. 2013 on GrÖnland Records. A key architect of the vastly influential krautrock sound of the '70s and '80s, Plank produced works by Kraftwerk, Can, Neu!, Cluster & Eno, La DÜsseldorf, D.A.F., and many more. In addition to his wizardry behind the boards, Plank also released his own excellent, sui generis music in collaboration with Can bassist Holger Czukay (Les Vampyrettes) and with Cluster's Dieter Moebius and Guru Guru's Mani Neumeier. He famously declined to get in the studio with U2, telling Brian Eno, "I cannot work with this singer." If that ain't testament to Plank's character, I don't know what is.
According to louderthanwar.com, the very necessary Who's That Man will contain the following [complete tracklist after the jump]:
CD1 & CD2 – Compilation of 21 tracks all produced by Conny Plank, including luminaries of the 70s and 80s Krautrock scene such as Arno Steffen, Moebius, Roedelius, Michael Rother, La DÜsseldorf, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, NEU!
CD3 – A remix album. Tracks by Cluster & Brian Eno, Eurythmics, NEU! receive remix treatments by current artists such as Walls, Kreidler and Can collaborator Jens-Uwe Beyer (aka Popnoname)
CD4 – A live album taken from a live performance given in Mexico in 1986 by Conny Plank / Dieter Moebius / Arno Steffen. The three formed as ‘Trioformation’ and performed a south American our sponsored by the Goethe Institute. The show was the last taped performance of Conny before his death in ‘87.
...Jack Frost nipping at your nose, yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and... hey, wait—maybe we want to rethink this a little. (How about "And folks dressed in their warmest clothes"?)
(Columbia City Theater) Originally released in 1952 and given a deluxe reissue in 1997, Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music is the history-making, humanity-enhancing cavalcade of American folk songs gathered from old 78 rpm records found all over tarnation. The whole thing's a treasure, and its best songs—"John the Revelator," "James Alley Blues," roughly two dozen others—are among the most powerful tracks ever recorded. Tonight, KEXP's Greg Vandy hosts an evening devoted to the man and his found songbook, featuring musical performances and special Smith-based animation from the amazing Drew Christie.
(Jazz Alley) There's something sad when phenomenal old groups try to carry on decades past their prime with only a fraction of their original membership. Tours by these acts typically bring to mind thoughts of financial desperation, diminishing skills, and concern about the players not involved. With the Family Stone, one can't help thinking of leader Sly's awful downward spiral. Of course, he's not participating in this venture. However, original trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, drummer Greg Errico, and saxophonist Jerry Martini are in the lineup, and all had a role in some of the most dynamic, exciting, funky, and soulful songs ever conceived—an ultimate black/white/male/female explosion of pop. The Family Stone's other four members may not be household names, but the strength of the catalog guarantees hot fun in the wintertime, even without his Slyness.
(Showbox at the Market) Great artists aren't content to merely reproduce previous successes with minor variations. They continue forging ahead. This is why John Cale's résumé reads like an encyclopedia of modern music. The Welshman produced landmark albums for Patti Smith, the Stooges, and Nico, and has collaborated with everyone from minimalist Terry Riley to LCD Soundsystem. He recorded Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" before Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, et al. reduced it to a TV soundtrack cliché. Oh, and he was in the freaking Velvet Underground! His solo discography is ever-evolving, too—just contrast 1979's abrasive Sabotage/Live with the icy beauty of 1982's Music for a New Society. Any other 70-year-old working with Danger Mouse and experimenting with Auto-Tune vocal FX would seem a bit desperate, but Cale's new Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, which does both, only underscores his willingness to keep taking chances. See also Underage.
All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122