Founded in Rome by Franco Evangelisti in 1964, Gruppo D’Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza is cited as the first experimental composers collective, their revolving membership including such figures as Egisto Macchi, Mario Bertoncini, Frederic Rzewski, and Ennio Morricone. Their self-titled 1973 LP for the General Music label is an eclectic and beautifully abstract beast, and it’s the second of the ensemble’s releases to see welcome reissue by Superior Viaduct.
These days free improvisation, a system as well as a widely populated genre as underappreciated sonic frontier, is predominantly associated with a subset and historical period of jazz, but it also has a multifaceted relationship with modern classical music, and it continues to be practiced, if increasingly on the cultural margins, right up to the present.
Novices and the generally tender of ear reliably reject free music as an absence of instrumental skill and compositional craft, or less politely, dismiss it as just so much fucking around. This is comparable to those who derided the Abstract Expressionist painters as a gang that’s main discipline was the shuck and jive of charlatanism.
Jackson Pollack endures as the most famed Abstract-Expressionist, and to currently denounce the man and the artistic movement connected to him as being polluted by fakers and frauds is to court ridicule as an utter philistine. To be sure, the drift away from the realist objective in the visual arts and literature has been largely accepted if not fully embraced, but the situation is less easily assessed in film and music.
KIM CLASSEN FOR TVD | On April 19, 2013 Robert Levon Been of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club paid an unforgettable tribute to his late father Michael Been’s legendary band, The Call.
Recorded at The Troubadour in downtown Los Angeles, The Call Live Tribute with Robert Levon Been features original bandmates Tom Ferrier (guitar, vocals), Jim Goodwin (keyboards, vocals), and Scott Musick (drums, vocals) and includes iconic tracks like “I Still Believe,” “Let The Day Begin,” and “The Walls Came Down.”
Formed in 1979, The Call released seven critically acclaimed albums within an eight year period and opened for acts such as Peter Gabriel and Simple Minds. In 1997, The Call returned to the studio after a seven-year break to record Heaven & Back, but disbanded shortly after its release. Michael Been began working as a sound engineer for his son Robert Levon Been’s band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but sadly passed away from a heart attack while on tour in Belgium.
You can call me Mike, or you can call me Michael, or hell you can even call me Tex if you want—just don’t call me late for Helter Skelter. Because my favorite hypnotic cult leader Charles “No Sense Makes Sense” Manson is back—along with the infamous Jim Jones, lots of naked and semi-naked go-go dancers, a slew of badass biker chix astride chopped hogs, and even a little in-the-grave fornication, to say nothing of drugs and more drugs even more drugs—thanks to the brand new video of “Runaway Girls” by my favorite English psychedelic doom rockers and yours, Uncle Acid & the deadbeats.
Can you dig it? Is that some witchy shit or what?
I know, I know. You’re not supposed to like the Manson Family, or to glorify or gloss over the monstrous crimes they committed over a two-day period during 1969’s Summer of Hate. And I try my level best not to, I really do. But as I wrote in a March 2014 TVD review of Uncle Acid’s latest LP, Mind Control, both they and I are hopelessly obsessed by the second, benighted half of 1969, when the dark stars of the Tate/LaBianca killings and the mud and murder fiasco that was Altamont converged to send all those hopelessly naïve “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s Your Brother” hippie bromides into permanent paranoid retrograde.
“I had access to a limited number of vinyl records as a kid. My parents had (as so many did) purged the vast majority of their extensive collection in favour of the new audio super-format—CDs. The rogues that remained included a copy of the White Album that my mom bought for me, a bunch of soca music (maybe that’s why I still love Trinidadian everything?!) Rubber Soul, Graceland, and enough Woody Guthrie to fill a museum. There were more too—some Dylan and Stones and a bunch of great jazz records.”
“My father brought the psychedelic stuff, he was right into the Stones, the Dead, and Little Feat. Those bands really started the obsession for me. My mom loves to dance, she grew up on 7 mile road in Detroit and had spent a lot of time moving to that Motown sound.
My first experience of actually seeking out music was with vinyl. I would go to the shelf where my parents kept it, find a record, and listen the whole way through. THAT was important—that I would go from one side to the other, experiencing hours of music that grew and changed, expanded and contracted, and then…finished.
I bought my vinyl (and CDs) at a place called the Record Archive in Rochester, NY. They had these bizarre commercials where a giant record guy danced around and told you the specials that week. It was the record store ad analog of Gene Wilder’s trip down the chocolate-psilocybin river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The 11 songs found on Up at Lagrange, the full-length debut from the Bradford England based trio The Hobbes Fanclub, explore a decidedly ‘80s-into-’90s indie pop scenario with energetic precision. While they won’t win any ribbons for broken ground, the group could easily be awarded shelf-space in the collections of listeners predisposed to their twist on a well-defined style.
The scoop is that The Hobbes Fanclub began in 2008 as a project of a single man, specifically guitarist-songwriter Leon Carroll. Before morphing into a triangular orientation with bassist Louise Phelan and drummer Adam Theakston, the Fanclub underwent a long-distance duo collab phase with Sao Paulo Brazil native Fabiana Karpinski.
Surprisingly successful (Carroll and Karpinski reportedly never met in person), the pair managed to produce two split CDRs, the first in July ’10 for Cloudberry Records with outfit Young Michelin and the second the following February, this time as the inaugural entry on the Dufflecoat label with counterparts Leach Me Lemonade.
That partnership ended shortly thereafter, Carroll drafting his current bandmates and wasting no time getting down to work, the three playing their first gig in Bradford in November of ’11 and performing at the Glasgow Popfest a few weeks later. Amongst further live action the studio was not neglected, and by August of the next year a 7-inch was issued by the Portland, OR/San Francisco imprint Shelflife.
“I first started buying 7 inch singles when I was just 6 years old. The first single I bought was ‘Uptown Girl’ by Billy Joel which was quickly followed by ‘Two Tribes’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. It was the mid 1980s so pop music was at its peak and I absorbed it all like a sponge! The first LP that made a big impression on me however would be Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac.”
“There’s just this dreamy haze that pervades the record. The voices of Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham interweave majestically to create these immaculate pop songs. I just connected with it instantly and still do to this day.
Most people’s favourite Pixies record would be Doolittle but mine would always be Bossanova. It was my first real introduction to the band and I remember being about 13 at the time and just being completely blown away by it. Black Francis’s voice on ‘Rock Music’ is just so brutal. I couldn’t imagine how it was physically possible to sing like that? Joey Santiago’s guitars frantically stabbing away in the background like the soundtrack to some slasher flick. I love the whole 50s sci fi, surf punk vibe of the whole record perfectly encapsulated on ‘Velouria.’
Chloe Chaidez is wise beyond her years.
For those new to Chaidez’s band Kitten however, it might be hard to break through what’s on the surface. The line of 18-year-old fangirls in midriff shirts and fanboys in neon tank tops lining up outside the venue hours before show time could easily be a sign that Kitten is just another passing fad. Chaidez’s relative youth, all of her 19 years, might certainly be mistaken for naiveté. It would also be easy to assume that her father’s background in the LA punk scene is the only reason she’s around. Or, the ogling 30- and 40-year-old men at her show could distract from the brilliant music she’s creating.
But more than anything, each of these pieces offers a glimpse into the music that Chaidez creates as the band Kitten. At age 19, Chaidez has years of experience under her belt but with energy and youth to spare. It is a powerful combination.
After five years opening for the likes of Paramore, the Neighborhood, and Charli XCX, Chaidez has finally stepped out on her own. She completed her first headlining tour as Kitten this summer in celebration of the June 26 release of Kitten, the band’s first full-length album. It is an energetic ode to rock and dance music of years past. But on the LP, as much as in her renowned live performance, Chaidez makes the sound her own—energetic, charismatic, and thoroughly modern.
Midway through her summer headlining tour, Chaidez lounged in her dressing room in Washington, DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel a few hours before her set, discussing her new album, her musical influences, and what fans can expect down the road. Her eyeliner was heavy and smudged and her hair piled up in a messy bun. She sat with her legs propped up on a coffee table or tucked beneath her, her massive black platform shoes discarded on the floor.
Initially a 1971 private-press LP released in an edition of 750, Fiddle is the solitary record by Smoke Dawson, and its fresh reissue by the vital enterprise known as Tompkins Square illuminates how there is still plenty of unexplored nooks in the vastness of 20th Century Music. On 17 tracks steeped in tradition but infused with a restless, youthful, and sporadically unusual manner, Dawson wields his titular instrument with skill and panache.
Minus the legwork attached to Live at Caffè Lena: Music from America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013, a terrific 3CD set issued by Tompkins Square that documents the Saratoga Springs, NY folky hotspot run by its namesake Lena Spencer, George “Smoke” Dawson’s main artistic achievement would be little more than a footnote.
Specifically, he was the banjoist in MacGrundy’s Old-Timey Wool Thumpers with guitarist Rob Hunter (not the Grateful Dead lyricist) and fiddler-mandolinist Peter Stampfel, the soon to be Holy Modal Rounder and leader of the Bottlecaps proving such a fine picker of the banjo that Dawson felt encouraged to take up the bow. According to Stampfel, “George took a fuck-ton of speed and came back in a couple weeks playing fiddle better than I did.”
He also ran off with Stampfel’s wife. Dawson began performing at Caffè Lena in the autumn of 1960, the java hut as cultural hub additionally serving as his occasional digs for the ensuing eight years. “Devil’s Dream,” his crowd-rousing examination of a fiddle standard, is included on the opening discof Caffè Lena.
“I remember I was at a girlfriend’s house back when I was 19. Her parents were cooking for us and, after her dad kindly taught me how to pour a beer the ‘right way,’ they played Abbey Road on their turntable.”
“Wow I still remember how taken aback I was with the beautiful warm sound, I just focussed everyone out for a little bit and concentrated on the music….I had heard The Beatles plenty of times before but not as they were originally intended, it suddenly made much more sense to me. Ever since then I like to get old albums on vinyl if I can, you have to invest more time into them but then you appreciate the result so much more.”
“My first memories of vinyl are in my parents lounge, being fascinated by the great pictures on big square bits of cardboard, then finding out that there were these round things inside which music came out!”
“I couldn’t understand how, but that made it more interesting. My parents collection was made up of The Beatles and loads of Motown. But I specifically remember my first vinyl LP being Adam and the Ants’ Prince Charming. I love that album but I think the cover is great too. So, I guess I must be influenced by this sound!”
The genre of stoner rock has roots in bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, but few bands contributed more to the modern era of stoner rock than Kyuss. When John Garcia started the punk/metal influenced Katzenjammer with his buddies Josh Homme and Brandt Bjork back in 1987, they had no idea that they would turn a whole genre on its heels. Not only did Kyuss help define modern stoner rock, but they took the age-old heaviness of their predecessors, hauled it out into the arid heat of the Palm Desert, and baked it into a whole new genre. Desert rock was born and began what became known as the Palm Desert Scene.
All good things must end and Kyuss split in 1995 and went their separate ways. Homme formed Queens of the Stone Age with Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, and singer Garcia forged his own path. Building a resume of strong bands and varied guest appearances, Garcia has maintained a steady journeyman status…until now.
In 2014, John finally releases his opus, the album he always wanted to record but didn’t. (Spoiler alert: the album kills.) I found John to be like a spotlight—bright and beaming for all to see when we talked about his new album and his family, but leaving the stage a bit dark when the subject of the past came up. This is a more mature, focused John Garcia than I’ve ever seen, one who is ready to rip the rear view mirror off of the windshield and haul ass into whatever the future holds.
Hi John! How are you doing?
I’m doing good, doing good! They’ve got me doing a little bit of press today, they didn’t slap it on me too heavy, so that’s good. Things have been alright here. Where are you calling from?
I’m right outside of DC.
Oh alright, cool.
Just got back from a wonderful weekend in LA, and I miss it already.
Yeah, I was at the beach yesterday with my kids and it was just beautiful. Today’s a little overcast, but you can’t beat California weather sometimes.