Friday, May 25, 2007

The Mind-Melting Netherworld Of Acid-Fried Guitar.

So I guess as a reaction to all the the two-minute rock & roll songs I’ve been living with while I compiled the previous list (to make things worse, I’ve only just now come across Carl Smith’s “Loose Talk,” which indisputably belongs on the list), I’ve been venturing this week into the mind-melting netherworld of what I believe Dominique Leone refers to as Out Music. (If I could find a copy of his fabled 5xCD Out Rock Box, or hell dude just a tracklisting, it’d be easier.) You know — krautrock, kosmische, jazz-rock, Canterbury, early electronic music, minimalism, Yoko Ono, the outer edges of funk, progressive, psychedelic, and folk. I have way more piled up to listen to than I’ve listened to, or than I’ll have time to listen to, but for now some initial thoughts.

I spent much of today in an odd synaesthetic feedback loop triggered by Allmusic’s description of Manuel Göttsching’s solo at the end of “Echo Waves” on Ash Ra Tempel’s Inventions For Electric Guitar (got all that?) as “acid-fried guitar.” And while the point of the criticism was on target — the solo doesn’t really belong with the trancey, Durutti Column-esque ten minutes that came before — that particular guitar tone, and that particular phrase, has been eating away at my brain ever since. Because while I’ve never done acid, I know all about frying in the sun, and being metaphorically fried, and the texture and snap and crinkly rustle of fried things, and I’ve been jonesing like a pork rinds junkie for another shot of that crispy, grease-translucent guitar tone. So more Ash Ra Tempel for me, then.

I remain astonished that Miles Davis’s On The Corner was universally panned when it was released. Were jazz critics really that out of touch? In what universe could sounding like the next step after There’s A Riot Goin’ On be dismissed? What the hell dudes. And then it had to wait until John fucking Zorn declared it cool before it was even issued on CD.

Not exactly Out Music, but pop geeks like me generally don’t have any other place to file contemporary classical, so here goes: John Adams’ Century Rolls is my kind of symphonic work, fast-paced, funky, witty, and catchy, with broad allusions to other musics, both classical and non (dig the ragtime in the first movement) and — on the Nonesuch recording, anyway — a pop sense of space to the production. Less immediately thrilling, but pleasant to the old-school comic geek I was one or two lifetimes ago, is Michael Daughtery’s 1995 Metropolis symphony, with movements titled “Lex Luthor” and “Myxzptlk” and “Oh, Lois!” It’s breezy, optimistic music in a Thirties mode, and sounds like it would probably make a good soundtrack if Warner Brothers tried to pick the Fantasia idea up from Disney. But the best part is the last track on the CD, apparently not part of the symphony, titled “Bizarro.” It’s orchestral funk. And not in that Isaac Hayes/Curtis Mayfield/Norman Whitfield studio-oriented way, but a live orchestra hammering away while a fat bass (sounds like amplified electric, but for all I know it’s tuba and kettledrums) sets a booty-shaking pace. It should be heard.

(No Messiaen in the local Borders tonight. I suppose there wasn’t room next to the ten shelves of Mozart.)

After much debate, I still can’t figure out which Brigitte Fontaine album I like best. The early ones are easier to swallow in a pop sense, but the later ones have stunning moments of musical genius, mixed in with a whole lot of self-indulgent nonsense. (And by later, I mean, like, late-70s. Apparently she’s had a career since then, but I’m not interested in the trip-hop remixes just now.) I will say that the song “Patriarcat” is high up on my list of great pre-techno electronica. (I don’t have such a list. But I’m almost tempted to make one just to put “Patriarcat” on it.)

Flower Travellin’ Band’s Satori, Les Rallizes Denudes’ ’77 Live, and Magical Power Mako’s Super Record are all pretty great. Makes me wonder if there’s more to the Japan scene. Like maybe with some female vocals. (I’m not sure why I feel a scene isn’t complete without female vocals, but I was able to dig into German avant-rock more easily once I found out about Dagmar Krause and Rosi Mueller. And whoever sings on Popol Vuh’s stuff.)

And then, while driving home tonight, I noticed that, after all, nothing is quite as satisfying as early Solomon Burke tearing a soul-sized hole into bland countrypolitan backing tracks. “Cry To Me” still socks it to me, every time.

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