Three slabs o' vinyl
Nate Wooley/Chris Forsyth - Third (Rekem)
A live performance in Philadelphia from March, 2013 with Wooley on trumpet and Forsyth on guitar, one non-stop set spanning both sides of the LP, titled "Evening Rage". Given the title, it's tempting to think of the opening, unfurling section as an alap and that fits to an extent, Forsyth tending toward some quiet, delicate chords (among other things), though Wooley ventures to the extremes of high pressure breath tones, whistles and more unearthly sounds, generally rather agitated. Things proceed in a stead-state manner, long grains rubbing up against each other, for the better part of Side A, things settling down at the end and, on the flip side, entering a different territory, Wooley engaging in a wonderful repetitive vale closure and breath expulsion (it sounds like to me), conjuring up a bellows-driven engine of sorts, Forsyth creating echoey washes alongside, kind of a steampunk situation. That only lasts a few minutes before the music drifts into an eerie, claustrophobic space, full of high, ringing strands, very icy and bleak. Eventually, Forsyth, then Wooley, begin to break out, offering shards and sustained, hard tones to pierce the gloom, the trumpet soon reverting to a kind of globular push/pull, as if that engine is winding down uncomfortably, leaving the guitar to pluck out dry, forlorn, koto-like notes (all notion of a raga gone by the boards), Wooley creating an adjacent, similarly sorrowful, very vocalized cry. A good, strong set, beautifully recorded by Kinan Faham and mastered by Bhob Rainey, producing a fine, sculptural sound.
Back Magic - Chorus Line to Hell (Milvia Son)
Well outside my normal frames of reference but good fun nonetheless. Back Magic is a pronouncedly lo-fi duo hailing from Chicago who go by Hair Exp (guitar, voice) and Terror Trans (drums). My first impression was something of a United States of America vibe with a strong Beefheart tinge or, rather, Beefheart-influenced bands (Pere Ubu, for one). As Side A progressed, I narrowed that down to early, pre-Trout Mask Beefheart, that kind of grungy psychedelia with melodies at once lilting and stumbling. Little by little, though, all sorts of different strains percolated through and I gave up searching for influences (though they were there for the picking) and just enjoyed the childlike sense of play in the songs, the apparent willingness to try most anything. Do they overdo things sometime? Sure ("General Moaning", for one), but one is generally willing to ride those (intentionally?) leaden drums and chiming guitar for the duration, exploring odd, neglected areas, loping here, lurching there and having reasonable fun doing so, right up through the closing punk of "Do They Owe Us a Living". Of course they fucking do.
Dinah Bird - A Box of 78s (Gruenrekorder)
This is a very unusual record. On the one hand it's a field recording/nostalgia construction. Bird inherited the titular box of some 50+ ancient records amassed by her grandmother who lived in the Gulf Islands, British Columbia and decided to take them from her home in England back to their original "home", play them in their old environment, record the surrounding ambiance and talk with people there (including her great uncle) about what she was doing. Side A, called "Trackside", documents this experience and is strangely captivating, the strains of the recordings (generally classical and opera) warble in the background, scratchy and cloudy, among the area sounds, with the voices of the inhabitants of the town of Salt Springs, who quiz Bird about her project, elaborate on their own daily activities, etc. It's very easy to put oneself into Bird's mind, to relive her own sense of family history and her rediscovery of the environs of her ancestors. All well and good.
Side B is called "Loopside" and consists of 12 tracks, titled ∞1 through ∞12, with the word "Always" appended at the end of the track listing. The first dozen or so times I attempted to play it, my needle simply skittered across the surface of the vinyl, never finding any purchase. (Since the sides aren't marked A & B, I actually played this side first and was mildly concerned that something had happened to my cartridge or tone arm!). Perhaps it's my utter ignorance of loopage on vinyl, but it took me a while to realize that the audio component of the twelve tracks could be located on what looks like the track separation groove. Therein, placing the needle down with delicacy, we hear twelve loops of material, each lasting the duration of a single disc revolution and comprised of, I think, sounds from the Salt Springs environment (maritime, largely, including that wonderful wooden knocking you get on piers) as well, on the final three, samples from the 78s. After these, there's a brief "normal" track of someone, presumably Bird, commenting on one interviewee's habit of adding an extra "s" on the word "always", thus enunciating, "alwayses" which, once stated by Bird, also loops, ending (or not ending) the side.
Also enclosed is a Listening Log for the listener, radio station, etc. to fill out (time, weather conditions, number of plays, etc.), which information will be used in an upcoming exhibition.
Something very affecting about this recording, very personal and vaguely sad. The loopside is a physical annoyance (unless you enjoy standing over your turntable) but the concept moves me.