Willie Nelson, pictured on this edifying Omni compilation with a peach-colored turtleneck, Brylcreemed coiffure and clean-cut visage, doesn’t much resemble the weathered, world-weary artist we’ve come to know and love. Still, intimations of that older iconic artist crop up throughout the 28-cut set.
Nelson worked for nearly a decade writing songs for others before the opportunity to record with any regularity came his way. With Chet Atkins on board as ace producer, he waxed a slew of sides for RCA starting in 1964, but only a few made any appreciable impact on the charts. It’s not clear why success was elusive, but some of the blame falls squarely on his penchant for philosophical profundity and idiosyncratic delivery of verse, traits that register as indelible assets nearly five decades later.
Marcel Dettmann is, by now, a familiar face among techno heads. Long in the fray as a resident at Ostgut in the early 2000s and, later, as a visible resident and contributor to Berghain’s formidable reputation, the German producer has cultivated a following for his purist approach to the dark and minimal over the course of two full-lengths and numerous singles.
The Fabric line of mixes is as close to a comfortable platform as he’s likely to find this side of Berghain (which is why it stands to reason that Berghain 02 remains an essential document of Dettmann at his most self-involved). The London club has long prided itself on releasing mixes from the scene’s best and brightest; Dettmann’s inclusion feels overdue but, thanks to a glut of exclusives, arrives as a welcome window into where the Berliner is at musically right now.
Compared to recent mixes from Maya Jane Coles and Move D, it may feel dry. But for Marcel, this reaches well beyond what he’s usually shown.
Thimphu, Bhutan fits nobody’s idea of a happening place for improvised music. But that’s where Tashi Dorji grew up, and where he first played the guitar. Via second-hand cassettes and shortwave radio, he learned about music from the rest of the world; he first got his hands on a guitar when someone busted one out to play a Doors song while he was playing basketball. But his education entered a new phase after he moved to Asheville, NC to go to college. He passed quickly through the local punk scene, and then someone played him some free jazz. From the school of downloaded music, he learned about Derek Bailey, Albert Ayler, Fred Frith, John Zorn and many more. And from the local musicians in his mountain town home, he learned the day-to-day practice of improvising and putting out cassettes.
Wooden Head slouches into earshot on a VU-ish shamble, lofts trippily Byrdsian melodies over tangled guitar jangle, blows smoke-ringed CSNY harmonies and even attempts a Stereolab drone once. At certain points, in certain songs, you can hear echoes of the most plain vanilla of rock and roll forebears, the Beatles, Beach Boys, Velvet Underground and the Byrds, bands so generically influential that to name them means almost nothing at all. And yet, there’s really nothing dull or copycat or even over worshipful about this album. Every song evokes something you know – none of them duplicate sounds so blatantly that you can object. And the whole endeavor is so god-damned tuneful that you find yourself nodding along. You could hardly spend a pleasanter half an hour than drifting to these slackly tuneful, drivingly rock rhythmed, 1960s-esque songs.
If you told the members of Louisiana’s Eyehategod back in, say, 1993 (when their masterpiece Take As Needed For Pain was released) that they would, 20 years later, be seen as the founders of a whole genre and a heavy metal institution, they’d have probably laughed in your face. Then sent you packing with expletives and violent threats ringing in your ears. Then got back to downing their cocktails of booze and drugs, happy to be perennial outsiders camped out on the dusty forgotten back-roads of music history. But the vagaries of musical fashion have a tendency to throw up surprises, and Eyehategod’s progression from underground sonic terrorisers to global cult stars is one of the bigger ones out there. And now, 14 years after their last studio album, Confederacy of Ruined Lives, they’re ready to take advantage of some of this built-up love with a new self-titled release.
J Mascis has one of the most recognizable guitar tones in rock music, the buzz and moan of his strung-out, sustained tone solos instantly identifiable whether appearing in his own music or in cameos for a bewildering array of other artists — Strands of Oak, Dead Confederate, Jeffrey Lewis, Mew and lots of others. It’s such a signature sound that you couldn’t blame him for milking it, and god knows, it would be a very sad thing if we never heard it again.
Still, it’s fantastic to hear him doing something completely different, as he does on this almost entirely acoustic album. Here he ditches turmoil for serenity, digging into the country picking, American primitive tradition of Fahey and Basho and finding a ruefully tranquil groove.
King Creosote, the name under which Fife’s Kenny Anderson makes music, has a fondness for melancholic melodies and a work ethic that would put traditional ideas of “prolific” to shame. King Creosote’s 2012 collaboration with Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine, took Anderson’s bittersweet songs and enhanced them, with the end result being an expansive, constantly shifting album. “Expansive” could also serve to describe King Creosote’s new solo album, From Scotland With Love, albeit in an entirely different way.
Ty Segall’s craft has been catching up with his energy for a while, the bungee-jumping euphoria of his earliest songs giving way to a more layered, better considered approach. For a long time, I thought it wasn’t going to work, that although pretty much every album demonstrated growing skill, none of them provided the same ice-bucket-over-the-head shock and thrill of the self-titled. Sure, he came close a couple of times, with the guitar-army fuzziness of the full-band Slaughterhouse, with the spun-out psychedelic grooves of his collaboration with White Fence’s Tim Presley. But I was starting to think that my favorite Ty Segall album would always be his first one, the one where he played guitar with one hand, kick drum and tambourine with left and right foot and sang like a rockabilly maniac –with wicked, unsurpressable glee.
My mistake. Manipulator is the best Segall album yet, the one where he brings together trippy Tyrannosaurus Rex folk falsetto, muscle-bound MC5 funk-psych, multiple guitar fuzz onslaughts and lazy slacker charm together definitively, in a collection of songs that is better planned, recorded and played than anything he’s yet laid to tape.
I’ve been told that Connections, the formidable Ohio guitar-pop juggernaut responsible for some of the best music of last year, has a goal to meet: to see the release of two full-lengths a year, comprising their best studio material, and plenty of room for home-recorded and outtake singles, EPs and splits throughout the other months.
It may be tough for them to pull it off in 2014, as Into Sixes, their third LP in two years, is creeping out at the end of summer, with only four months to go before the holidays end and 2015 begins. But even if they don’t meet their quota this year, Into Sixes should more than cover the spread. Out of all the bands around these days who are simply releasing too many records/tapes/whatever, not knowing what to keep or throw away, Connections is one of a very small handful deserving of those ambitions.
The title evokes a late-night infomercials for new-age or recycled classical compilations, but what’s on offer here couldn’t be further from those well-worn tropes. While anyone familiar with Kali Z. Fasteau’s work over the past 40 years would describe her as a multi-instrumentalist, she returns to the piano, her first instrument, for most of these brief but rapturous improvisations.
It’s hard to brag about the condition of the world right now but harder to argue that not much has changed in the world over the last six years. When Kevin Martin presented London Zoo in the summer of 2008, the cauldron of aughts poisons was boiling over. The half-dozen dancehall MCs who took turns at his microphones narrated visions of trigger-happy bosses and a surveillance state. Martin’s backing was like a fleet of machines, sometimes serving as rolling podium for their tracts, sometimes armored bulldozers closing in on their trenches. The record felt like combat, with Flowdan and Warrior Queen fending off Martin’s assault vehicles and Tippy Ire and Spaceape fighting as they got tangled in the treads.