Yellow Magic Orchestra - Yellow Magic Orchestra (1978)
Amazing! A synthesis of so much that preceded & followed, really emulated, until the present. Incredibly variety in timbre and mood. Feels like the soundtrack to the life of a young George Jetson. The glossiest, most timeless grand piano keys paired with an orchestra of analog synthesizers and a disco beat. Very fun music, impeccably produced and mixed, incredibly daring and unafraid of abrasion. It’s funny that I would hear this music so long after listening to DJ Scotch Egg.
Michael Rother - Katzenmusik (1979)
Sailing towards a freeze-frame sunset along an endless horizon line that never gets closer. Essentially minimal smooth jazz. Essential. Beauitful production.
Earth - Earth 2 (Special Low Frequency Version) (1993)
70 minutes of electric guitar droning. Incredible density of sound. Chronological context very important to consider because anyone with a computer could produce superficially similar music without very much thought or foresight. First track confirms SUNNO))) as performance art. I like the last track, it is wherein Growing was seemingly photosynthesized.
Charles Mingus - The Clown (1957)
Charles Mingus - The Clown (1957)
A lot of variety, often within one track. My first experience with this big Atime double bass banger. I like how loud and abrasive they get. I like the pacing and the lack of cohesion? Each track is its own little world, tied together by physical medium. Title track is nuts. I am not great at talking about jazz. Or thinking about jazz?
Cluster - II (1972)
Cold and tense, sort of nervewracking. Like looking at the stars but something isn’t right with them. Not quite as refined and edited as the pop-leaning restless wobble that I enjoy most on Zuckerzeit.
Cluster & Eno - Cluster & Eno (1977)
An uneasy balance between Cluster’s nervous loops and Eno’s calm processing. A lot of variety while remaining unmistakably ambient in nature. Some of it is a little boring.
And we’re back.
A document of the visceral power of purely acoustic instrumentation, “Magical Energy” runneth over with the impossible drumming of a cyborg Buddy Rich, the controlled squall of reeds and brass, and the unmistakeable timbre of cello strings all deftly fighting for aural space. The songs maintain simple exoskeletal forms, rarely devolving into senselessly abrasive aural one-ups-manship (not without its own merits, of course) but always working towards a bigger and brighter crescendo, even if that is itself succeeded somewhat paradoxically through a single phrase repeated until death. The ability and the inventiveness to produce the music here, so alive and ebullient, without the aid of amplification or processing is an accomplishment worthy of respect, and it’s a total tragedy that this band never gestated another LP. The warm passages of witty saxophonic interplay, jazzy asides absentmindedly stripping into foreboding repetition, and pure, jubilant energy unarguably bursting forth make for a music that is beyond alive, joyously splitting the difference between Albert Ayler and Zs while maintaing a fierce sense of vivacious, breathing singularity.
Purity is very hard to achieve when you produce something that is colored by mitigating factors beyond the scope of the production. Obviously the term is relative and reflexive; the word of the producer, detached from whatever only he knows in his mind, is pit naturally against the word of the potential purity-denier, the person receiving the produced thing and judging it. Even someone like Frank Fairfield, a twentysomething Angeleno living the life, at least superficially, of a pre-World War picker reliant on the busking life for bread, cannot satisfy a real, thorough test of purity. No one is birthed with pomade glistening on their forehead, muscles weary from the memories of fields and metal strings. It’s hard to imagine someone my age, growing up in a place geographically my own, not at some particular moment turning his head and frankly — yes, frankly — making a decision to remove themselves from the present in total. This becomes a response to his environment, a choice so often unafforded to those whose music he aims to breathe new life into. And yet, purity becomes a moot point when you resuscitate your gramophone to hear it wheeze out what I’m sure Frank wishes was a 78 of his own recordings. His voice and earnest method are undeniable and perhaps most importantly, his performance, his physical revival of this pronouncedly untouchable music is believable, full of warmth and exuding purity.
Context is so important, especially when it is at any sort of superficial (or not) odds with its substance. I was given this CDR by Phil Elverum, he of big emotions in terse focus and also fog, the first time I saw him perform live in 2008; he told me that, if not for the fuckwords, it was ideal for broadcast on a college radio station, which I was then a player in. I’m not sure how soon thereafter I listened to it for the first time, but when I did, I listened to it in full without being able to comprehend how I was supposed to react to it. I laughed a lot. The sincerity of, or at least commitment to the performance seemed to belie any sort of in-joke pretension conspired between Elverum and the artists. Now, though, nearly 4 years of popular culture later, it would be too easy to write this entire album off as a Tim & Eric-indebted (despite predating it) pastiche of acid-washed Jack Johnsonisms. But is there more here? I didn’t and don’t know more of the backstory behind PEACE!! or this release. The internet is similarly unaware. For some reason, though, I am never unimpressed by the totally immersive experience PEACE!! creates on this record. The big dumb hippy-rock tropes on display here are so masterfully executed that it’s hard to deny the songwriting. Every bongo (and tabla) slap, every stupid harmony yelp, the recklessly strummed steel-string guitar, and the effervescent, drunk, weirdly urgent “Protest Song Night” karaoke bar vocal performances. Apparently some more relevant veterans of the Northwest covered this music as a tribute band soon after it’s release. When do jokes end?