Archive for the records Category

Whistler Records: Mailorder and Karl Blau’s “AM”

Posted in mailorder, music, records, Tom with tags , , , , on May 5, 2008 by criticalreviews

I typically refuse to buy CDs but if I like a musician enough I occasionally will. In this case that musician is Karl Blau (who released one of my favorite records of last year and who I saw live earlier this year). Before I clicked on that BUY button on Whistler Records website I sent an email to Billy at Whistler inquiring whether or not they planed to release Blau’s latest master piece AM on LP. And I got this response:

Unfortunately we won’t be releasing AM on vinyl anytime soon, so the evil CD is the only way to go right now… But it’s funny you ask because we just recently decided to stop doing CDs and switch over exclusively to vinyl — so it turns out that AM was our first AND last CD release.

So I feel pretty good about buying their last CD release ever (ohh the death of a format). But a little more about Whistler Records. Whistler is a small record label located in Chicago, IL. Their current catalog consists of only five releases (two of which are Karl Blau, and it appears that they have one other CD other than AM). But none the less super small, and really nice people (Billy and I went back and forth on email a couple of times within a day).

So I ordered AM on 4:15pm on Friday (according to my PayPal receipt), and what did I find waiting for me when I got home on work on Monday? You guessed it Karl Blau’s AM! Whistler Records has to have the fastest mailorder on earth! The CD was shipped First Class from Chicago. These people do it right, and if all record companies were this quick they would be a threat to the independent record store too! On top of the fast shipping and the wonderful record Whistler enclosed what appears to be a set list from Blau which is accompanied by philosophical writing about life (which I can only assume is Blau’s being that it is on his set list). This random and wonderful surprise really makes me love mailorder, and I plan to order Blau’s 7″ from them some time in the near future.

I haven’t listened to AM enough to give a proper review, but it is very different from his last release, Dance Positive!. AM seems to be more on the experimental side, but with a pop sensibility…kinda what you might expect to come from this man from Anacortes, WA. AM was recorded by Phil Elverum, and Blau and Elverum are the only two musicians on the album…lyrics are taken from poems of A.A. Milne (of Winnie the Poo fame), and from Blau himself (with help from Elverum one track). I was listening to “It was hot we stayed in the water,” by the Microphones last week on my headphones, and I want to explore this album in a similar way (I am currently on my second listen as I type…and I know it is going to be stuck on repeat in my iPod for at least a week). As I have read the album is about that time when night turns into morning, and named appropriately so. There are lots of interesting things going on so it is easy to get fixated on a piece of distortion, or a lyric, or something of the sort, and you are thinking about it for quite a while…or at least I am.

Other people are already giving Blau and AM great reviews…Pitchfork said:

When confronted with Karl Blau’s large and often excellent catalog, the inevitable question is: Why isn’t this guy at least as well known as his musical cohorts Phil Elverum and Laura Veirs? It’s easy to get on one’s soapbox and suppose that people want mediocrity. I mean, how else are we to explain the success of a musical Steve Guttenberg such as M. Ward?

I would highly recommend checking out Blau’s AM, and if you do you should order it directly from the wonderful people at Whistler Records. AM should hit the spot for fans of Elverum, and the like, but those who are looking for something a little more upbeat, and may I say dancey, check out Dance Positive! Either way Karl Blau is wonderful, and he has rad people putting out his records.

media:

“Spring Morning” off of AM

“The Lake King’s Daughter” also off of AM

(Tom)

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Black Moth Super Rainbow- “Dandelion Gum” 2xLP (Graveface Records, 2008)

Posted in music, records, Tom with tags , , on April 30, 2008 by criticalreviews

My first experience with Black Moth Super Rainbow was last summer, they played one of the first free shows that I got to go to after quiting my job at Whole Foods(I used to work all weekend). BMSR was opening for Fujiya & Miyagi at South Street Sea Port, and I honestly wasn’t all that familiar with either of them. BMSR played a really amazing set, and although I was too far away to really see them it was just nice to zone out and hear their wonderful music on a beautiful day. It took me until this past February to track down something of theirs on LP, and boy was it worth the wait!

Dandelion Gum was officially released in 2007 on CD, but the LP didn’t come out til the beginning of 2008 (both versions are on Graveface Records). I really didn’t know it was coming out, but it was magically on the shelve of Sound Fix! After I left the record store I noticed that my tote smelled sweet, and I was wondering what was in there. After further examination I found out that the cover of Dandelion Gum was not only beautiful, but also SCRATCH AND SNIFF…bubble gum scented (which is located as you can probably guess on the pink bubble)!

I have been buying records for a longtime, and this is the first time I have encounted Smell-o-Vision on an LP. I have seen skulls, buzz saws, hearts, just about every shape inmaginable, 5″s, but I have never had another one that smelled good. This was a great start to my first record purchase off of Graveface.

Once I got past the smell of the record, I found that the whole packaging was really nicely done. The LP jacket is full color and gatefold. The LPs themselves are pressed wonderful pink and gold splattered heavy vinyl (seen above).

BMSR making their own vein of electro-folk-psychedelica that can really can take you off into a dream world, and the art and smell of the record really add to it. All of the vocals are run thru a vocader with the result being constant distortion. Honestly the vocals kinda bothered me at first, but I find the more I listen to it they just blend into the rest of the music adding to the whole feel. Musically BMSR draws from late 90’s early 2000’s IDM like Boards of Canada and Air as well as psychedelic pop from the early ’70’s. They desribe themselves as:

“Led Zeppelin in search of the perfect riff, folk tales of western pennsylvania, [and] people who broadcast stuff from hidden places”

I could imagine that this record might be an alien transmission that is picked up from deep space satellites…it makes me think of breezy summer days with the windows open, laying on the floor with the sun shining onto my face (or better yet with my headphones on in the park…but that involves the iPod). Some people thought:

It’s almost as if the whole album is about drugs. But by drugs I don’t mean conventional drugs, I mean drugs as in how sugar has an adverse effect on young children and you should never feed them candy or else this album happens inside their minds.

While others were more positive:

Still, despite the occasionally folky melodic sensibility, Black Moth’s aesthetic is always spacey– they’re more likely to be scoring a laser show at a planetarium than busking on a street corner. Wherever these guys are holed up and whether or not they really call the drummer Iffernaut, Dandelion Gum is a nice surprise and a good example of why doing one thing very well is sometimes more than enough.

I have to say that Graveface Records is a label to watch out for. They seem to be doing really interesting limited edition records, and all of them done right. I am 99% sure that this edition of the Dandelion Gum is sold out (only 1000 made, 500 of which were hand numbered…I didn’t get one of the first 500), but there is a second edition coming out on black vinyl and it will still be scratch and sniff. But if you see it on the shelf at your local record store you might get one of the first press!

Black Moth Super Rainbow has a couple shows coming up (two of which are in NYC):

May 21: Cambridge, MA @ the Middle East*
May 22: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s*
May 23: Manhattan, NY @ Knitting Factory*
May 24: Washington DC @ Rock n’Roll Hotel*
July 27: Brooklyn, NY @ McCarren Pool$ (This show is on a Sunday and most likely will be free)
*=w/ Subtle
$=w/MGMT

media (enjoy):

“Forever Heavy” (from Dandelion Gum):

a really fucking weird video for “Sun Lips” (also from Dandelion Gum) directed by Matt Dilmore

(Tom)

Count Ossie and The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari- “Grounation” 3xLP (1973)

Posted in music, records, Tom with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2008 by criticalreviews

Going to college in Charleston kinda left a bad taste for reggae with me…while Andolinis Pizza always played great old school stuff I was too blinded by all of the frat boys wearing Bob Marley t-shirts to notice the great music they had on. But reggae really hit me sometime last fall. I had been listening to Mystic Sound on East Village Radio and Tunnel One on WNYU, and really liked what I heard but didn’t know where to start with purchasing LPs. I had recently come back into contact with a friend of mine, Jay (formerly of Andolinis Pizza), who does a couple really rad internet radio shows out of Austin, TX. Jay started me off with some suggestions, and now when ever I have a question I tend to shoot him an email. My brother got me for X-Mas a copy of Soul Jazz’s Studio One Roots and the first song on it is a short little instrumental number by Count Ossie and the Cyclones (which I was living and dying with for most of January and February). I did some research into it, and didn’t come up with much so I sent Jay an email and he told me to check out Count Ossie’s classic album Grounation.

So I had heard that Jammyland, the great reggae shop in the East Village, had closed and stopped in to confirm this was just a rumor. While Jammyland was open I found out, and very sadly so, that they will be closing thier doors at the end of May. Jammyland’s rent was raised, and they are currently looking for a new spot, but the guy working the store didn’t sound super positive (I guess this will be a temporary end to Hospital Productions as well). One good thing that did come out of my visit to Jammyland was that they finally tracked down some copies of the currently out of print Grounation on LP.

So I was skeptical at first of the LP. I had read that Grounation was typically a scratchy sounding record, but I took my chances (after a little encouragement from klk). The album art is fantastic:

The records, and there are three of them, were housed in plastic bags (typical of reggae vinyl pressed in Jamaica from my experience thus far). I took care of that as soon as I got home getting them in proper dust jackets. While the records themselves have quite a bit of popping and crackling, especially when the needle gets toward the center, but this is just due to the press not the condition of the vinyl…. the music is amazing.

Count Ossie is known for bringing Nyabinghi culture (which is considered the strictest form of Rastafarianism) to reggae. Ossie is credited not only with creating many of the Nyabinghi rhythms as well as being the first to record Nyabinghi drumming, but many music historians credit his song “Oh Carolina” (a version of which is on Groundation) as being the first reggae record ever made.

Musically Groundation is extremely hypnotic, and this is mainly because of the drumming, and overall has more of a tribal feel(much more so than any of the other reggae records I have). The album lyrically is mainly talking and preaching over the music (there is a little singing), and chanting (which are characteristic of Nyabinghi Celebrations aka Grounations). The title track of the album is over 30 minutes long, and takes up the entire 3rd LP. This album is raw, and you can tell that it was recorded in the early days of reggae. I can see how reggae, overall, was greatly influence by The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari not only in Nyabinghi rhythms and drumming, but even in vocals and music, especially if you listen to “Oh Carolina” (this is the most traditional sounding tune on the album).

I think of this record as a cultural experience, and very few albums give me the feelings and chills that this one does…if you play it loud enough it almost feels like you are in the middle of the ceremony…like you are sitting next to one of the drummers (so much so that some of the drums are much louder at times than others), and the singer is preaching to you. Spiritual.

I can say it is really unlike anything I have ever heard, and I highly recommend it, if you have any interest in reggae music.

Although I can’t embed it…you can listen to “Oh Carolina” here (as well as many others)

Jay, mentioned above, helped me out with a bit of my history and currently spins roots and dub records on kvrx.org from Monday night/Tuesday from 12am-1am Eastern time, and on KAOS959 8-10pm on Tuesdays. Thank for everything Jay!

(Tom)

Charlie McAlister – “Mississippi Luau” LP (Catsup Plate Records 1997)

Posted in Best of..., music, records, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2008 by criticalreviews

Living in New York City you are kinda spoiled having so many great musicians right at your finger tips, but growing up in South Carolina there aren’t quite as many (but we do have some gems). That brings me to a musician and “living legend” from my home town, Charlie McAlister. McAlister started out, or at least people started to notice his work, in the mid-nineties when he was putting out a whole bunch of cassette tapes. McAlister continues to make music/art/whatchamaycallit, and ended up with a bunch of tapes, a couple proper albums (on Catsup Plate), and is still playing the occasional show.

While I lived in Charleston I started booking and promoting shows (originally punk rock), but I hadn’t done it in a couple years and while I was working at Fifty Two Point Five Records I booked (with the help of Clay) Charleston’s first ever Mountain Goats show. Years later I was involved with the album release show for The Sunset Tree. This show was booked at a really wonderful art space called REDUX. In the process of getting the show set up Charlie McAlister contacted me, and asks to play the show….I really didn’t know what his deal was(and this wasn’t my call…it was the Goats), but John Darnielle ended up being a really big fan. John had Charlie open for him, and it was truly amazing. Charlie’s band played a really unconventional and astonishing set with a really interesting collection of people, instruments, and tools (really I mean it…saws and hammers, ect). While talking to John at the show he told me if I could get a copy of Charlie’s Mississippi Luau (on Catsup Plate) to check it out, because it was one of his favorite albums of all time (and that is a really big statement for someone like John to make).

After the show Charlie told me that he would bring a copy of it by the record store for me, but that unfortunately never happened. This was back in 2005. Now this brings me to my personal experience with Mississippi Luau.

So three years later I no longer live in South Carolina, and I was record shopping at Academy Records in Brooklyn. It was a Sunday and I was waiting for friends to get ready for bagel brunch at Brooklyn Ale House. I was taking my time browsing the used LPs, and I finally got to the “M” section. Charlie McAlister wasn’t even something I was looking for (because I was pretty convinced that I would never find any of his records…even though I read that they are not that hard to come by), but I was flipping through all of the used records and I had one of those moments where I actually said “Holy Shit!” out loud. I had found a copy of McAlister’s Mississippi Luau on LP! The reason I was so surprised was that there are only 350-400 copies that were collaged/painted/screen printed. And this was one of them (there were only 500 copies ever made).

As a big fan of The Mountain Goats (and most things that are low-fi and folky ) this record has quickly become one of the prizes of my collection and all around favorite (I find when I listen to it I have to listen to it at least twice in a row), but I think that I will let others describe it for me (because their descriptions are so spot on):

PopSheep.com says about Charlie:

“So John Darnielle , Guided by voices and Daniel Johnston walk in to a bar. They hash it all out and create a large venn diagram. From this diagram they find the point that their three sensibilities intersect. They call this point Charlie McAlister, lyrics like Darnielle, exploring the possibilities of the 4 track like GBV and as crazy as Johnson.”

Secondly, as I said before, John Darnielle is a big fan and after he played the Charleston show with Charlie he wrote on his website:

“Charlie’s music could probably be described by any number of not-quite-right music terms: it’s back-porch jug band stuff, sorta, but it’s got a real affinity with guerilla noise warfare, and also with actual gorillas, who nine times out of ten will make the guerillas look like amateurs. It’s got that organic Neutral Milk Hotel feel, but its spiritual side isn’t the transcendent schtick that Jeff Mangum mastered and then put behind him; Charlie’s spiritual kin are the mediums who charge you a quarter for an hour’s worth of Ouija board in a shack down the highway near some southern beach town, and you think they’re maybe fulla shit but then they hit that huckster vein where it’s not really a con any more because everybody’s agreed to just ride the moment out even if it did start out phony. Charlie’s the wizard in Kansas without any MGM sanitization. He likes rum.”

Please read John’s full post about Charlie here at Last Plane to Jakarta!

Needless to say I think my best record find of the year was made on January 5th (only five days into it). I am excited to have this wonderful record in my collection, and hope you enjoy checking Charlie out.

I am also very excited. Charlie McAlister only has two shows scheduled right now, and one of them is August 8th at The Stone in the East Village (this night, I have been told, is being curated by Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas). All though not that many people know about Charlie he definitely fits into the freak-folk term pretty well…I hope people come check him out. I will definitely be there.

Here are a couple MP3s off of Mississippi Luau:

“Island of the Robot Building Monkey”

“Darla Comes Down From Jackson”

Download all of the CD-R I’ll See you in Hell. From Tape Mountain!

Charlie also does a really crazy zine called Sardine…which you can mail order from him for $3 or $4 dollars at Charlie McAlister P.O. Box 24, Johns Island, SC 29455.

his new address

Charlie Mcalister
(International Beachball International/Sardine Magozine)
PO Box 20095
Charleston,SC
29413

Photo of Charlie from Wolfie Whitman’s flickr

(Tom)

Caff/Flick Records: Mailorder and Podcasts

Posted in mailorder, music, podcasts, records, Tom, website with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2008 by criticalreviews

So a while ago I was looking to find any of the High Places records (I know I have been talking about them a lot lately), but after turning up empty handed in the record stores I turned to mailorder. I found that Caff/Flick put out the picture disc for “Shared Islands/Universe,” and that they were still available (this is a collaboration series with David Horvitz whose photos appear on the record). Normally I wouldn’t mailorder all the way from England, because the conversion rate is so bad (the 7″ cost £5, and with shipping this came to almost $15 US…the US dollar is pretty much crap right now). Luckily I had a credit on my paypal from when it got hacked.

I was a little confused when I got the email receipt…I wasn’t sure what exactly I had just ordered. The receipt said:

Item Name: HIGH PLACES/ LUCKY DRAGONS 7
Item Number: CF/F03 + CF/F04RR
Quantity: 1
Total: £5.00 GBP

So I emailed the label to ask what it was that I was actually purchasing…I wanted to make sure that I was getting the High Places 7″. I got the response from Caff/Flick:

“Lucky D is on special offer so you get it plus High Places for the price of one! You should receive within 2-3 working weeks. Thanks, CF.”

So I already had a good vibe from these guys. Not only did they make amazing looking records, but they are really nice and are giving me a super limited 7″ by Lucky Dragons as well (also in the David Horvitz picture disc series). Since these were coming from the UK I was expecting them to take the whole three weeks, but they showed up at my door in about two. Caff/Flick really cares about their records, and ships their 7″s in a perfectly sized mailer. I was overall really impressed with the label.

The records are beautiful, and sound wonderful!

This week I got an email from Caff/Flick saying that there was a new podcast up on their website that was curated by K Records. I didn’t see the podcasts when I was initially on the website, but they are there. There are a couple of them by Caff/Flick records, but the rest are curated by Tomlab, High Places, Lucky Dragons, Upset the Rhythm, David Horvitz, and Champagne Diamond/ The Brilliant Light…and they are all free. I love hearing what other people are into, and this lets me into the stereo of some musicians and record labels that I really respect! These have been on my ipod for most of the week: Check it out!

Pictures of the 7″s are from Caff/Flick Records and David Horvitz!

(Tom)

Guided By Voices- “Do the Collapse” LP (TVT Records, 1999)

Posted in music, records, Tom on February 15, 2008 by criticalreviews

Guided By Voices– “Do the Collapse” LP (TVT Records, 1999)

As previously reported: I purchased Do the Collapse by Guided by Voices this past weekend (the first time I have owned an actual copy of the record), and while making the post I realized that Pitchfork, back in 1999, gave the album a 4.7. While I realize this may not be the most well known or liked GBV albums…the review was harsh….here is a quote:

“The release of a new Guided by Voices album is cause for great celebration in certain camps. Among music critics I’ve observed, raucous and unfettered rejoicing, unmitigated praising, and numerous rounds of circle-jerking mark the occasion… Granted, this is still Bob Pollard we’re talking about, and tunes like “Surgical Focus” and “An Unmarketed Product” could probably teach the vast majority of songwriters a thing or two about the game. But judging only a few songs successful is a failure for Pollard— as he went up, he went down. And ultimately, Do the Collapse is a Guided by Voices album that will gather dust as it’s passed over for its companions. Circle jerk canceled.”

To get a taste of the album you could watch the “Teen Age FBI” (above), or non-official video for “Surgical Focus” which I discovered while making this post (or watch the ultimately better video for “Bulldog Skin” …or dig even deeper to “I am a Scientist” neither of which are on Do the Collapse).

While Do the Collapes is no Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, or Under the Bushes Under the Stars it still has some really great tracks (and in my opinion may be better than some of the other GBV albums as a whole). I will admit that I do have very fond memories of this album after dubbing a tape of it (oh the days when people thought home taping was a threat to the music industry), and listening to it in my car while I was in high school in Charleston, South Carolina. But overall this is classic GBV, including the tracks listed above (see videos), and oddly enough produced by Ric Ocasek of the Cars. While cleaner and more polished than earlier works I still find myself very pleased with my purchase, and especially at $10 (thank you Generation).

The record itself is a little disappointing packaging wise…this is probably something to do with TVT Records (as far as I know this is my first LP from the label). It is just your typical LP sleeve with a glossy cover, and a photo of the band with song information on the back. The LP itself, black vinyl, lives in a plain white dust jacket, and has GBV’s name, album title, and the songs printed on the center label (black print/white label). There is no insert or even a lyrics sheet. I don’t know if it is just that Matador has spoiled me with the gatefold press of Alien Lanes, the beautify issued Under the Bushes… with an extra LP of music, or Bee Thousand- The Director’s Cut from Scat (and my memories of the original Bee Thousand that is no longer in my possession) that leaves me underwhelmed by the packaging. But at least the music is how I remembered it (and ultimately what I bought it for). Enjoy the videos…This turned out to be a rant and a packaging review rather than a record review, but whatever… Do The Collapse has been spinning on my turntable all week.

(Tom)