Music

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: MUSIC REVIEWS & MUSINGS BY MARY LEARY

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Out with the New, In with the Old…?

Pantha du Prince

Pantha du Prince

…’cause the idea that everything should be shiny-new as of a year’s turning… is odd to me. Maybe it’s ‘cause I did a lot of Taoist and macrobiotic studies, basically inhaling the idea (over my pots, hour after hour; or in the process of tai chi) that there is no exact end or beginning to anything – what’s here now is made up of what was and of what will be. Further, I’m intrigued by the idea that time is a manmade construct. Yes, the earth revolves around the sun, ergo the idea of clocks. But is this time (the kind we measure by hours and minutes) the only time?

Since I’m already in over my head, without a life preserver, here’s another point of contention: I can’t entirely agree with folks who say they hated 2009. In addition to considerable personal growth, I pretty much skated along for months on the euphoria of last year’s inauguration; its historical and cultural import – pretty big stuff! As far as problems being solved or things changing: change takes time. Which circles us back to the beginning…

Although Earth’s birthday isn’t the same as when people started recording existence, I’m still glad the old gal’s around to support us, more or less. And glad there are still many troubadours producing beautiful, odd, and/or just pleasing sounds to which we may time our steps. One who recently come to my attention is Pantha du Prince. Sort of in line with the discussion above, I guess the video below is old news (posted December 11, 2009). PDP says all manner of heady things about his work, like “Music slumbers in all matter; any sound, even silence, is already music. The mission, then, must be to render audible what is unheard and unheard of: black noise, a frequency that is inaudible to man. Black noise often presages natural disasters, earthquakes or floods…”

While such explanations may make some folks snort, “hogwash,” I’m a sucker for poetics, especially if the music is equally so – along with jazz, it’s what I tend to spin while putzing around the house. The following is from PDP’s upcoming (2/8) release, Black Noise, which features Noah Lennox (Animal Collective’s “Panda Bear”) and Tyler Pope (of !!! and LCD Soundsystem).

A more recent Rough Trade signee, The Morning Benders first caught my ears with their lovely lo-fi cover of the Cardigans’ “Lovefool.” How can I not like a band that combines some of the Beatles’ early heat with a bit of Rubber Soul-era tempering?With this cover, it’s like it’s the ‘90s… the ‘60s… the ‘90s… the ‘10s… all over again!

Maybe the Benders should have their own Monkees kinda show.There will be another opportunity to ponder which one should play Davy Jones when Big Echo, their second album, drops on March 9 – and when they land at the Casbah, March 26.

Best Coast (not to be confused with the great Buddy Rich performance) has been growing on me – actually, it only took a few minutes. With all the musicians discovering, reworking, underwhelming and missing the point of the ‘60s, that’s saying something. At first listen, I feared Bethany Cosentino and her crew were employing the usual glibness – as in, let’s just put some effects on the guitar and sing as if we sorta mean it – but no, there’s charm to the strange mix (guitar somewhat burying the vocal; late ‘50s/early ‘60s girl group harmonies just fuzzy enough; a ragged, punk-ish hybrid of the original pristine sound) – in other words, like lots of great post-punk melody-makers flowering in NYC and Hoboken in the ’80s, many of whom have faded. San Diegans can don skinny ties and straight-legs when The Vivian Girls appropriately fill the rest of the bill, February 4 at the Casbah. (Sorry about the lack of live footage – the following is one of the few with anything like decent sound, at the moment.)

For more experienced performers, we have Green Gartside (of Scritti Politti and numerous pop/rock projects), with Lisa Hannigan, Robyn Hitchcock and others, in a series celebrating the moody captivations of Nick Drake: “Way To Blue: The Songs of…”. Curated by Joe Boyd (one of Drake’s producers), these will happen in Glasgow and Brighton, January 20-21st.

More accessibly (to non-jet-setters/-British/Scottish residents), Peter Lacey offers a new album, Behind the Scenes, on January 11. A former session player based in the U.K., Lacey makes gorgeous, atmospheric music (that once upon a time might have earned the “progressive” tag) that’s been likened to the Beach Boys (post-Good Vibrations) and XTC. For me, it’s a deliciously wistful dream shared by Nick Drake, Fleetwood Mac (around Bare Trees, with Danny Kirwan as main dreamer), and Sandy Denny, with another layer that hadn’t been born until Lacey exhaled it. This guy’s so far under the radar, all I can offer is www.myspace.com/peterlaceymusic – take it from there.

If all these pop/’60s mentions are making local readers hungry, it’s good to know about Christian Motos, a/k/a The Flowerthief. While his work seems to have morphed from the simpler, prettier sounds I heard from him several years ago, what it’s turning into may be more exciting: a kinetic, almost Violent Femmes-ish vibe (The Flowerthief is now a three-piece). Also, I like the thrill of  watching an artist hover at the edge of a cliff. Motos has one of the most interesting ranges of interests I’ve seen: beat poetry (hence his stage name), Serge Gainsbourg, Syd Barrett, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles. His oeuvre reminds me of trying to achieve the feeling of a Cocteau film in a coffeehouse, with nearly zip tech – yes, you who howl with laughter – I’ve done it. Part of what makes me say this is his posters (if not the very best, near the top of the San Diego heap), which tell me he still has lots of creativity to unearth.

A Flowerthief Flyer (see if you can say that eight times in a row)

A Flowerthief flyer (see if you can say that eight times in a row)

I have Motos to thank for turning me onto ex-Sidewinder M. Craft, whose new Arrows at the Sun hasn’t yet been released stateside. At least we’re moving into the ‘70s or ‘80s with Craft, who somehow combines a Beatles (I can’t help it if a lot of the people I like are thus influenced) echo with a blend of pop, folk, and sophistication. His unassuming sounds are just nice – and I mean that in a refreshingly breezy, Steely Dan with Pink Floyd-ish lead vocal way…at least from what I’ve heard so far.

Just the tip of ’10 iceberg’s tip, these upcoming releases jumped out at me:

Devo Fresh (its first studio album in 20 years) – spring, 2010.

Bryan Ferry – a new solo album, featuring collaboration with Flea (RHCPs), Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), and old Roxy/solo cohort Nile Rodgers (Chic) – summer, 2010.

Brett Rosenberg – a new album, as well as one from The Joiners, for whom Rosenberg plays guitar. About the latter, he shares: “It’s the best music I’ve ever been involved with.” (and he’s backed Graham Parker).

The Feelies – Don’t know if any fresh releases are in the offing, but we can expect at least occasional appearances by an influential edgy-pop/rock/E.coast geek group (think: The Modern Lovers meet Lou Reed in a dark alley, with the resulting fracas – or great jam), which reformed within the last couple years, along with re-releasing their classics, Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth.

With all of the pop excitation in this installment, we’ll have to hold our cups out for a bit more: A gift from two Los Angelenos who seem way too So.-Cal. to be concerned with the construct(s) of time (at this time): The Dark Bob (multimedia performer) and Jack Skelley (poet and guitarist for the soon-to-reform post-punk, psychedelic-surf combo, Lawndale). Per Skelley, “Ha Ha Ha Ha Happy New Year,“ for which drummer D.J. Bonebrake (X, along with many other gigs) was recruited, launches a series of  holiday romps. As of this week, the video had over 9,000 YT hits. What really amazes me is the great heads of hair these guys still have – that’s one virile posse!

Which reminds me of a January 6 Myspace post by San Diego’s rock god, Happy Ron Hill, who put out quite a debut album in ‘09. And I quote: “Got feelers from the porn industry today about using my music.”

We can only imagine what this portends.

Mary Leary is a poet and spoken word/music/performance artist who has been obsessed with sound for as long as she can remember. She edited and published one of the first New Wave 'zines, (the) Infiltrator (Washington, D.C.), and helped introduce New Wave and other alternatives through her radio shows at WGTB FM (Georgetown U.). Her poetry has been featured in numerous publications and at many venues, including KPBS FM and La Mama La Galleria, and in anthologies including: Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend: Women Writers on Baseball, The Unbearables, A Joyous Season, and The 2008 San Diego Poetry Annual. Her poetry is featured online at Creekwalker.com, The Melic Review, Gypsy 3, and ALittlePoetry.com. You can see her 2008 third-prize winning poem at Bookhabit.com. A poetry chapbook, Pretty Scary Jack O'Lanterns, is available through http://www.breadandlightning.net. Her short-short story collection, Cher Wolfe and Other Stories, is available on Amazon. Upcoming work includes a poem in A Walk In The Clouds, an anthology about the Obama election, and in The 2009 San Diego Poetry Annual. Her music journalism is featured at Daggerzine.com and at the San Diego Reader site, among others.

5 Comments

  1. Rick Whitehurst

    January 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I like that Best Coast song… the viddy too. Funny you should mention Kirwan and the late Sandy Denny. That goes back a ways progressively speaking. My only encounter with the Cramps was when I was hanging around in Hollywood at the Masque in around about 78 or 80… (Or was that X)… anyway, My Stepbrother was in a band called the Simpletones and I was drunk and in a hurry for the Cramps to get off the stage so the tones could play, so I made my opinion heard loud and clear and got hit in the head with a flying V.

    My point is that when you hit 55 and start getting cheap meals at Dennys you can still conjure up images… from Cilla Black to Radiohead and everything in-between, and think your still in tune with the music, but suddenly the Jonas Brothers come on TV and you realize that all those memories are just dust in the wind. Did I say that? I mean I listen to TOOL and take meds for arthritis!!! Whats up wit dat??

    Play Free Bird… Or Chinese Rocks… It dont matter.

  2. Jack Skelley

    January 9, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Mary — Excellent selection. I’ve been obsessing on Animal Collective so it was perfect to hear this sparkling new Panda Bear / PDP. Best Coast is interesting — reminds me of MEdicine and My Bloody… ilk shoegazing… Enjoyed M Craft too.

    Thanks for including Ha Ha Ha Ha Happy New Year….

  3. Steve Metz

    January 12, 2010 at 5:17 am

    Thanks for sharing Pantha du Prince. I loved what he is doing in this. I hope htere is a new Boards of Canada record out this year. That would be nice.

    There was some great stuff in 2009 and there will be even better things in 2010. I am looking for ward to the Kylesa record that they are working on this winter. The record they did last year was good but this next one will be great.

  4. Anonymous

    January 13, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I’ll have to check Kylesa out, Steve – hadn’t heard of them before. Good to see you “here!”

  5. Paulene Todesco

    February 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Of course, what a great website and educative posts, I will bookmark your website.Best Regards!

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