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.

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