A superlative interview with William Basinski over at FACT. It's ostensibly about his lush new record 92982 and his move from New York to LA, but he covers all sorts of ground, again returning to the miracle of The Disintegration Loops. There is something so perfect about the loops - both in their execution and in the mythology that has risen up around their creation and dissemination - that it bears repeating. The myth and the music work into one another, and with iteration grow into something else. It's mesmerising stuff:
"The Disintegration Loops is about a five-hour cycle of six pieces that came about quite by chance in the studio in the late summer of 2001. I was at a very low point and in danger of being evicted, didn’t have any work and didn’t know what to do, and finally decided, you know, ‘Get your ass in the studio and do some work, you have the time.’ So I picked up where I’d left off archiving these tape loops onto CD-R and I put the first one that was in the queue on – Disintegration Loop 1.1 it ended up being – and it was this beautiful, very grave loop and I just thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is exactly what I need right now.’ It was gorgeous and I didn’t even remember it until then. So I started working with that and created a kind of a French horn random arpeggiation counter-melody that was really cool going along with it on the Voyetra synthesizer. I got that set up and went to the kitchen to make some coffee and came back and after a few minutes I started realising that the tape loop itself, as it was going around on the deck, was starting to disintegrate.
"Recording tape is a plastic medium. It has glue and iron oxide, rust basically, that holds the magnetic recording. So the glue loses its integrity and the iron oxide starts turning to dust again. I was stunned, and I was so glad I was recording, and I thought, ‘God, what’s going to happen?’. Over the period of an hour this loop disintegrated right there in the studio so I just left it, I let it go for the full length of the CD and then faded it out. And then I went on to the next one, and so over a period of two days I had this huge work. And the title came to me immediately. I was just blown away by what had just happened and I was incredibly moved by the whole redemptive quality of what I’d just experienced, that each of these loops had disintegrated in its own way and its own time, yet the life and death of the melody was redeemed in another medium.I was a Catholic growing up, I thought, maybe there is hope after all! [laughs]. So I was calling my friends, ‘Get over here! You won’t believe what’s happened!’. We had quite a few weeks of awe just listening to these and thinking about them…
"And then 9/11 happened, and that was a big shock. We were all stunned and terrified. Living in New York - it wasn’t like watching it on TV from somewhere else, that was bad enough – but to see it, and be there, it was…Hell.
"We had been up on the roof all day. That night, my neighbour had a penthouse on the other side of the building and had a video camera up there; I got a tape and I asked her if she’d help me set it up, and so I framed this static shot of downtown where the smoke was, where the towers used to be, and I just let the tape run out. So I managed to capture the last hour of daylight for that day, and then the next day I got the tape and put it with the first Disintegration Loops 1.1 and made this film."
You should be able to view the video below. If it's playing up then go see it at the Blip.tv site.
Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
I've only really been glancing at Marcello Carlin's monumental project to review every album that's ever made it to no.1 in Britain, largely because it's been focused on the '50s and Cliff, Kenny Ball and the like - though Carlin is worth reading on whatever he's writing about. Anyway, it's starting to get intriguing over there about now. He's brilliant on Beatles for Sale:
“I’m A Loser,” the first fully-formed “Dylan” song of Lennon’s, demonstrates how Lennon took Dylan’s model as a thing in himself. At this stage not particularly interested in politics, Lennon recognises Dylan’s diagonally slack swagger, his industrious indolence, likes the jump of his cut, the drooled mouth organ multiphonics, and switches down side streets like a Mini Moke on rainbow-coloured heat. The casualness is a necessary disguise for his pre-emptive self-deploration – the grinning, slightly too deep “crossed,” his sunny “I have left it too late” and “Pride comes before a fall,” both of which misleading rays are answered and comforted by Harrison’s shoulder cry guitar figures. In his own solo on this track, Harrison offers the first of the album’s several tributes to Carl Perkins, and the initial signpost towards the thing which would eventually be known as country rock. “Baby’s In Black” derives its harmonic sense and air of newly-bereaved listlessness from the Everlys but its sea shanty setting and Mercer-esque deadpan rhyming/punning clunks which appear to make casual light of terminal grief (“And although it’s only a whim…she thinks of him,” “Baby’s in black…and I’m feeling blue”) are new and disturbing, as is Harrison’s solo, which resembles a sinking ship’s creaking deck.
Will leave this one in its original size as it looks so damn good... This is the new Tortoise video for 'Prepare Your Coffin' from the imminent album Beacons of Ancestorship. I'm due to be interviewing Doug McCombs on the 3rd June and am currently up to me neck in this stuff, their clogged rhythms and strange tones invading my dreams. They sound at their most Steely Dan at times on the new record (and this track has certainly got a good deal of that sheen and polish - at the top end at least, on the surface of things) and it's an intriguing set. Time will tell how the record stands up to that monolithic back catalogue though.
Here are a few recent downloads we've come across that are worth checking out...
Not sure how I missed this first time around (the curse of the RSS Reader I suspect) but an excellent compilation from the ever-superb Raven Sings The Blues blog - they're a top source for that seam of psych and plain weird folk music that's been dominating the American underground for the past couple of years. This compilation is like a summing up. It's also free. Their main site is here: Raven Sings The Blues
A FACT remix by the Caretaker, aka Leyland James Kirby - this is a trawl through the stranged haunted dancehalls of his discography so far. There are also some samples of his new stuff on the V/VM website - they sound immense and hugely ambitious. Kirby also has a new blog - History Always Favours The Winners - with links to various things and the odd downloadable track.
There's a fantastic Kryptic Minds and Loefah interview and exclusive download over at Blackdown's blog - this is the artform of the blog at it's height: freeform, wide-ranging, with the added bonus of a soundtrack. Print literature just can't compete with this stuff. (Edit: not 10 minutes after posting this I noticed that Plan B had gone. Shame - it was one of the best music magazines still going...)
Lastly, some ambient and post rock mixes - the first is from the ever excellent Low Light, combining Philip Glass and Mogwai to excellent effect; the second following a link of his, is a collection from The Bovine Life Support System, a whole host of arcane and haunted ambient mixes.
Artist: Sleepy Sun
Label: ATP Recordings
This is now up at TLOBF...
One can argue about the relative influence of place on music without ever really proving anything beyond a kind of vague Romantic gesture towards landscape and upbringing. But the allure remains, and in the case of the San Francisco psyche scene, it’s difficult not to argue for some geographical or environmental effect on sound and tone so deep does it seem to run. Even without the historical antecedents of the mighty Blue Cheer, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane there’s the modern scene nexus of Comets On Fire (or more precisely, Ethan Miller) who seem to be plugged into the fuzzed up emanations that cross the city’s troposphere like aircraft contrails. There must be something to all this, right?
Sleepy Sun are originally from Santa Cruz, an artist’s enclave 70 miles south of San Francisco and home to the aforementioned Comets on Fire. The band have been house mates for several years and moved en masse to San Francisco two or so years ago, primarily to give this thing a proper go but also clearly obeying some inner impulse to hook into the sonic wellspring at the centre of the scene. There is a relationship to Comets on Fire in the overall sound but much more has been made of the similarities to Black Mountain - whilst they might draw on comparable influences, Black Mountain aint done nothing this loose, this groovy….
The opening track, ‘New Age’ (oh yeah, you should see some of the press photos with the band lying on the grass/huddled in dark rooms cuddling lambs, calves) sets things up perfectly: the snubby bass and drums kick in and the bass-player goes on an almost Scott Reeder-esque run; deep, deep in the mix Rachel Williams is crooning to herself in tongues - the production is cavernous, and when the guitar finally arrives it comes as if from another universe. It’s so rare to talk about space in production these days, as if we’ve completely lost all concept of the depth of music, of the sonic possibilities of space and light. All this is perfectly managed on Embrace. ‘New Age’ is both big and dumb, but intricately pieced together, and structured with an intelligent sense of form. The whole album is. At the midway point of the song, a lacerating solo takes over the centre of the sound and Williams ‘whoops’ from somewhere deep - cue wide, dumb grin.
‘Lord’ follows ‘New Age’ - a piano led track that starts out like some early 70s ballad, something that wouldn’t be out of place on Tapestry or the like. It’s underpinned with a similar sense of depth and grace and is evidence that the band are great songwriters on top of everything else. The two standout tracks though, are the epic twin centrepieces of ‘Sleepy Son’ and ‘White Dove’ - equal parts massive psych-jams and outrock voyages that sound at times like some of Spacemen 3’s more frazzled edges. Both tracks fizz with creative intensity and are based around two of the grooviest, heaviest bastard riffs I’ve heard in some time - and particularly on ‘Sleepy Son’ Williams reveals herself to have a gorgeous, adaptive voice, moving from Grace Slick croon to a high keening Beth Gibbons with ease. And ‘White Dove’ has a cowbell. It’s dazzling stuff.
What with this, the continuing presence of the Comets collective, the Sleep reformation for ATP and the Wooden Shjips record (another band who drawn to the psychic hub of SF) 2009 is proving to be something of a great year for psych rock. Maybe we should all get hairy and drag ourselves out West - West, where the white dove flies…
Download: Sleepy Sun - Lord
Download: Sleep Sun - White Dove
Also, check out the band's mighty Daytrotter Session.
There's something so deep in the gospel blues, the world can't stand it - Rosetta Tharpe