As a music journalist, I receive a rather large number of press releases and pitches from a countless number of publicists and PR agents. Over the years, I’ve learned to sift through the sheer mass of these releases, preferring only to pursue musics sent by those with both a curated focus and a discerning taste. Some of these folks are constantly at the cutting age of “21st century music,” and falling behind on the bands they are representing means falling behind on what is current and relevant to the most discerning, critical-minded listeners in today’s vast musical world.
If music was to follow the global changes that have taken place over the past 50-odd years, what “should” it sound like today? I sometimes feel like I’m behind the times, simply because I’m still listening to bands that use instruments, and have real people playing them. Walk into these avant-garde venues in the deepest and most subterranean rooms in Brooklyn and, these days, and you’ll typically find one person controlling an array of equipment that is only sold in stores that opened within the past 10-20 years. Stores that are completely foreign to me. Take the guitar store down the street from my apartment, for example. Years back, it was a guitar store and a used guitar store split in two. Now, the used side is gone and it’s been replaced by a “studio” department that sells everything from oscillators to monitors to samplers to stuff where I really don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s a far cry from the four-tracks and basic studio equipment that The Beatles revolutionized on Sgt Peppers, or the drum machines and flangers of the 70s and 80s.
It seems, back in the mid to late ’60s, there existed some idea, predominantly in the southern United States, that Canada was home to a large population of hippies and long-haired bearded folk. I mean, it’s not totally inaccurate, but there was certainly a feeling amongst these southerners that Canada was a hippy haven or perhaps a place for weird folks. Perhaps because of this idea that Texas entrepreneur Colonel Paul Beckingham decided to take his San Antonio group The Hangmen to the metaphorical north and change their name to the Five Canadians. Perhaps it was just a cheap play on the the Five Americans, another band from Texas who had achieved Top 40 success. Either way, these lads were southern to the core.
Never stepping foot in these northerly lands, Beckingham booked the Five Canadians at Abe Epstein’s famous General McMullen studio in Houston to record a series of singles in May of ‘66. None of them ever reached the Top 40, and they certainly didn’t achieve the level of success as their American counterparts. But thanks to the inclusion of “Writing on the Wall” on several influential garage compilations, the song is considered one of the all-time garage punk essentials. Hear that farfisa sing…
A few years back, when I got the idea to first start hosting shows, I reached out to a few of my favourite local bands along with a little-known California psych act by the name of Jeffertitti’s Nile who happened to be making their way through town. Having only heard their seven song EP, Hypnotic River of Sound, I had no idea what their live performance would be like or even how they might look. But when they walked through the front gates of the Church of the Electric Dirt dressed halfway between pranksters and members of Hendrix’s band, it was plain to the eye that these individuals were not of this earthly realm.
Dino Valente (néChet Powers) is one of those enigmatic types in the footnotes of every third MOJO article dealing with the 60s, and it is plain that he had his fingers in a lot of pies both literally, and figuratively. However, to paraphrase Wayne Kramer’s description of Johnny Thunders in Legs McNeil’s “Please Kill Me,” he “…seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” He wrote “Get Together,” popularized by The Youngbloods and played in every 60s TV/movie flashback scene, but he didn’t make a dime off of it because he sold the rights off to the Kingston Trio’s managers to beat a drug rap; he also had a hand in writing “Hey Joe,” somehow. He was going to be the focal point of Quicksilver Messenger Service, but he went to prison instead. He managed to piss off the CBS brass after signing a lucrative contract by phoning them repeatedly at 4 A.M. and telling them that they didn’t get where he was at.
The main show here, however, is not the man’s life story, but his solo release. His nasal voice, hippie dream poeticisms, and backing jazz instrumentation seems to drop in and out at will. Think Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks meets Tim Buckley’s Happy/Sad with the overtones of a Haight-Asbury hippie dude trying to put the make on a girl, and you’re getting close. Fred Neil is another obvious influence in terms of his 12-string and jazz inflected chording, and it’s no surprise that the both used to play together in Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 60s. Nevertheless, it’s a rewarding listen, especially in the context of the loner folk and DIY-ethic that predominates popular reissues from such labels as Numero Group, whose Wayfaring Strangers: Lonesome Heroes compilation serves as another touchstone. Continue reading →
Since 2008, Richard Gibson and his brother Robert have quietly been operating the underground Toronto-based psych label Optical Sounds. A genuine individual who’s passion for music seeps from his pores, Richard has forged a scene–largely centered around the Kensington Market bar The Embassy–that recalls the prime of the psychedelic heyday.
Home to many of the city’s finest psych and shoegaze bands, Optical Sounds brings together the kind of artists who self release their material, but wave a collective flag and gig constantly around town with one another. A musical collective in its truest sense.
Earlier this week, Optical Sounds released Psych Pop Vol. 2, a compilation featuring songs from artists on the label along with some that are part of its extended family. You can hear the compilation for free via Bandcamp or streaming below. You can also see many of these bands performing live this Saturday night at the compilation release party taking place at The Great Hall.
Richard was kind enough to take a bit of time to chat with us about the label, himself and the new compilation. Read on for the full conversation after the jump.
Just last week, the fine folks at Chicago’s Trouble in Mind Records released unto the world a new 7″ by Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe. Harkening back to the days of the primordial krautrock era and the early days of post-punk, the duo fahr’ns through synth-heavy motorik grooves and German half-spoken word ala Neu! and Kraftwerk while plunging into dark drones and Suicide-like waters.
While we patiently await the duo’s debut full-length, Trouble in Mind has tide us over with this two song banger that will surely delight fans of neu-psych like Tame Impala. Their full length, Im Sinne der Zeit comes out April 28th.
A few month’s back, we shared with you the sounds of UK psych band New Electric Ride, who will release their debut full-length next week on Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Sunderland, England, where the band members hail from, is a river town situated at the mouth of the River Wear. It was here that these lads came to form their shared love of tampuras, leslie speakers and psychedelic sounds, likely inspired by the sound of the river. The artist L. S. Lowry, was similarly drawn to Sunderland’s river setting.
Much has been written about the connection between our natural surroundings and the music we create (see The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wildest Places), but one aspect of the natural world that has influenced perhaps more music than any other is the river. See, rivers have not only inspired the sound of music, but have also influenced its history. “When the Levee Breaks,” the song originally written by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie and later recorded by Led Zeppelin, chronicles the 1927 Mississippi flood that accelerated the great northward migration of African Americans to cities like Chicago, where the Delta Blues got plugged in and eventually became rock ‘n’ roll. The Tennessee River is said to have been a large part of why the legendary Muscle Shoals recording studio turned out the magic that it did. As Townes Van Zandt sings in the “Texas River Song,” “there’s many a river that waters a land.”
New Electric Ride’s Balloon Age, no doubt, taps into the energy of the river. Through twelve tracks, the album flows seamlessly through a library of genres, ala the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, with moments of Byrd-sian greatness and elements of Nektar-ian prog. Touching on both classic and contemporary psychedelic sounds, the name New Electric Ride seems perfectly fitting for the journey in which they provide.
There’s no doubt about it, folks. A cold, snowy winter is upon us. If you’re like me and you read the Old Farmer’s Almanac, you would have seen this coming. They predicted the whole thing. As you are surely aware, heavy snowfalls call for plentiful jams and loads of hot soup. Perhaps a tea and a Victoria sandwich too.
Habibi, which translates to “my love” in Arabic, is a band of all-female garage rockers out of Brooklyn that formed in the spring months of 2011. With a shared love for Middle Eastern Culture, punk, motown and garage rock, members Erin Campbell, Rahill Jamalifard, Lenny Lynch and Karen Vasquez cross the sounds of bands like The Shangri-Las and The Ramones and The Marvelettes with Eastern-tinged melodies and mystical lyrics that sound like they were recorded in ’60s Detroit. There’s even some songs which feature Jamalifard singing in her native language, Farsi. It’s deep and it’s out now on Burger Records.
Early last year, California native Morgan Delt self-released a very limited 6-song cassette titled Psychic Death Hole, which offered up the first taste of his unique home-recorded psych experiments. Today, Trouble in Mind releases his his debut self-titled album, building those initial experiments into a psychedelic masterpiece that traverses nearly every corner of the genre’s 40 year history. Essential references like The Byrds, Love and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band arise frequently throughout, but Delt goes beyond, employing distant eastern melodies, tribal hand percussion and Faust inspired kraut journeys, all of which mesh together in an interweaving web of distorted, fuck-up sound. It’s as though Delt has studied the inners of psychedelia since its very beginnings, learned the formulas and techniques to recreate its best moments, and then ran them all through a half broken cassette player. The album as a whole is warped—at times it can even sound like you’re hearing a band like White Fence coming through the particle board walls of the bathroom at a DIY venue, while others recall the likes of R. Stevie Moore’s lo fi recordings. Throughout the entire album, Delt’s music ebbs and it flows in an acid-drenched river of psychedelia–unstuck in time, unfettered by rule, organically and vibrantly alive.