Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Composer Dominique Leone and San Francisco psych troupe Thet Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound.
Listed: Dominique Leone + The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound
Dominique Leone is a musician and critic, and remarkably successful in both arenas. Originally from Texas, Leone now lives in San Francisco and will be releasing his superb, self-titled debut album on Lindstrøm’s Strømland label next week. Dominique Leone has moments of total sugar-high abandon (“Nous Tombons Dans Elle”) and moments of epic reach (the thirteen-minute “The Retun”), but the point of the record isn’t surface variety, it’s how thoughtfully Leone has synthesized his points of reference. XTC, Messiaen, and dub all get equal space in his music and the generous weekly mixes he posts to his website. At a recent performance in Berkeley, Leone led an ensemble which weaved marimba, electronically-processed flute, and Leone’s own rich voice into a mesmerizing, classically-informed composition, suggesting that there’s a lot more to be discovered and anticipated from this friendly, bear-like powerhouse.
1. Blue Planet and Planet Earth
These are the BBC series about the ocean and the earth, and they’re awesome. First of all, even though everyone loves David Attenborough, they’re just as good with the sound off. Maybe better. Basically, what happens is that you turn these on, marvel at how much our animals and ecosystems look like insanely good CGI, get lost in flocks of birds and bugs migrating, turn on some music (my fave is Switched-On Bach to the “Open Ocean” segment in Blue Planet), invite pals over, check your watch to make sure it’s 10 'til 4:30, and let nature massage your eyes. I mean, even my mom likes it.
2. Glenn Gould - The Complete Original Jacket Collection
Well this is every record the late, great Canadian pianist released, reissued in wee LP-style jackets in one convenient box - and as I’m writing this, for only about $2.50 a disc. Sure, he was kind of a recluse. Sure, he hated the Beatles. And as a budding classical music snob, there are a lot of other people I’d rather hear playing Debussy or Schumann - BUT for pure mecha-human coordination and the best executor of counterpoint this side of the inner workings of the HAL 9000 (why, oh why, couldn’t Ligeti have written some micro-polyphony for GG???), Gould is kind of awesome. Over the course of the box, you get a pretty damn good idea of his playing, and there is no end of marveling over his Bach and Schoenberg recordings. Even when he disses all the famous Beethoven sonatas, you love him for playing them anyway, in his usual 'I-stop-for-no-hard-lick' style. And yeah, I do get the feeling that he was made even more for today's ears than yesterday ones, such was his flare for digital-esque precision and meticulous performance edits in the studio. A no-brainer.
3. Kevin Blechdom - Recantata
Last year, KB (nee Kristin Erickson) wrote a musical about alleged cases of child molestation, hypnosis, Satan worshipping, massive cover-ups, animal sex and courtroom commotion. And did I mention CATCHY, CATCHY TUNES? For those of you who only know her solo work, or records with Bevin Kelley as Blectum From Blechdom, you’ll doubtlessly be amazed by the classic musical stylings on display here, coming from the Sondheim and Rogers & Hammerstein schools as opposed to, say, the onstage masturbation ones. And lest you think she’s warmed over to appease the weekend matinee crowd, try some sample lyrics: “Making love to my mattress, pampering my pillow…Comforting my comforter, shagging with my sheets. Making the most of my wooden bed post.” Full disclosure: I’m actually in this, as Dr. Stein. However, I’d rep it even if I weren’t. Anyway, judge for yourself at www.recantata.com.
4. Pattern Is Movement
Philadelphia duo of Chris Ward and Andrew Thiboldeaux, playing art pop with math rock edges and vaguely classical senses of dynamics and arrangement. When I first heard them, I thought of mid-'80s XTC, circa English Settlement through Skylarking, mostly because of the stubbornly original song structures and chord progressions (and a little because of Thiboldeaux’s voice too), but after living with the music for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that they really don’t sound much like anyone else. Their new record All Together is great, my faves being “The Sound of Your Voice,” “Sylvia” and “Trolley Friend,” but any random sampling from the record is bound to turn up something interesting and pretty.
5. Heaven On Earth (Grants Pass, Oregon)
We found this place by chance on tour earlier this year. Exit 86 on Hwy 5 in Oregon. Basically, the deal is you show up and are immediately confronted with three or four buffet tables of cakes, pies, cookies, jam and brownies…just before seeing the counter FULL OF UNLIMITED FREE SAMPLES. And then you start to notice the little things: oddly pleasant gospel hymns played by guitar coming from the speakers, the evangelical pamphlets in the window, the picture of the scale pitting a bible versus gold on the cover of the menus, the peanut butter and jelly served as condiments instead of catsup and mustard, the disproportionaly large number of law enforcement officials who eat there, the fact the entire place appears to be run by lesbian fundamentalist Christians. Well okay, I’m not totally sure about that last one, but I do know they never looked at us the same after my drummer proclaimed “god damn!” upon trying the peanut butter. (For real: the marionberry pie.)
Hyper-complex grindcore quartet from Rochester, N.Y., starring the unbelievably ridiculous guitarist Christopher Arp. I’m not kidding: Legend has it he had to send in video of his playing in order to secure a sponsorship deal because nobody would believe he could actually do the stuff on the record. The band’s CD from last year (Our Puzzling Encounters Considered) lives up to that kind of hype, and to the notion that metal and grindcore bands are rising to the challenge of inhumanly capable performance - post-Pro-Tools, post-Aphex-style hyperactive beats, post-Bungle weirdness, post-quantum-fucking-physics - better and faster than any other group of musicians I can think of. Nevermind the fast-forwarded and rollercoasted angles of the songs, try being in a band, listening to this, and then letting yourself off the hook for not rehearsing another hour. Fuck.
7. MaryClare Brzytwa
Flutist, vocalist, electronic musician, now based in Switzerland, via Oakland, via Cleveland. She plays in my live band, and we have a dance-pop/power-ballad band called Paul & Diane - but she’s a pretty scary/awesome artist and improviser in her own right. I met her at an improv show when I moved to the Bay area, but was really sold after hearing her perform solo torch-noise behind a microphone, keyboard and computer screen with the most colorful Max layout I’d ever seen. Later, I learned of her association with folks like Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins and Joelle Leandre, but here’s a list of people I think should seek her out ASAP: Kate Bush, Maja Ratkje, Meredith Monk, Mike Patton, John Zorn, Britney. Visit www.maryclarebrzytwa.com.
8. Julie Mehretu
Check this out. How are you going to say that’s not awesome?
9. Beach Boys - “Can’t Wait Too Long”
This was a bonus track on the original CD issue of Smiley Smile/Wild Honey, and it became the protest theme song of me having to spend three stupid months in the unearthly paradise of the Yucatan, Mexico many years ago. Leave it to teen angst to miss the point entirely: “CWTL” is one of the most gorgeous Beach Boys tunes in existence, and after hundreds of listens, still my favorite. What’s weird is that there isn’t really ever a big vocal breakdown, or hooky chorus, and it certainly doesn’t sound like their early, surf-themed hits. It’s got an almost Reich-y vibraphone part, and features just a two-chord vamp that takes up the majority of the song - breezy, minimalist Brian Wilson here, which considering the praise afforded recent outings by Panda Bear and Caribou, should send off download alarms to anyone who can’t already tell I’m also describing a Stereolab song. Anyway, I <3 this.
Here’s what you do: put on one of those Gould discs, turn on Blue Planet with the sound off, get out a sketch pad, a ruler and some bowls and plates for circle stencils, and begin putting all your lines and shapes on paper. You can get some colored pencils or markers if you want, but really, hours can be spent just letting your hand wander, soaking up all the counterpoint and ecosystem analysis in the air. It’s fun!!
The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound
As the Dusted review of their self-titled 10" states, The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound is the racket you get when you combine 1920s science fiction books, hallucinogens, and the West Coast. Equipped with a similar style of retrofitting as Bay Area peers Comets on Fire and Howlin' Rain, AHiSS brings the choogle and the roaring afterburners alike, updating a wide range of '60s and '70s-era psych and prog influences, including Blue Cheer, Jefferson Airplane and early Floyd. Ostensibly a guitar-bass-drums trio comprised of Jefferson Marshall, Sunburst 3 (M.I.K.E. Lardas), and Charlie Saufley, the band regularly spices their sets with contributions of theremin and organ. Their major release to date, Ekranoplan, is aptly named after a low-flying Soviet transport vehicle dubbed the Caspian Sea Monster. Like its namesake, the band's Tee Pee records debut is a roaring, two-ton behemoth with stealth melodic instincts that allow it to glide paradoxically on a cushion of air. The band will be playing up and down the California coast for much of the summer -check their site for further details. Saufley took part in this week's Listed.
1. John Cale and Terry Riley - Church of Anthrax
Uh, how did these two art goons end up creating the ultimate funky hovercraft chase theme that kicks off this freaky slab? Flip it over and you get a perfect little Tim Buckley/Byrds-style folk groover. Seriously, you can have a gumbo party with this thing, some Dr. Pepper and a couple of Booker T. and the MGs 45s. Oddly, the skittery bad ass thumping skins is not listed in the liner notes? Who is that funky bastard? I’m gonna be pissed if it turns out to be an undercover Phil Collins on loan from the Genesis sessions down the hall or something. If this were a more-dire-than-usual desert island disc situation, I might able to get by with this, “Sister Ray,” “Big White Cloud” and a couple of choice organ drones from the New York in the 1960s LP set - necessitating God-knows-what sacrifices in John Cale’s name to keep the mangoes growin’.
2. Keyboard stuff by John Carpenter, Lalo Schifrin, Rick Wright and Bo Hansson (Assimilated and Regurgitated by The Thing)
Not long after we finished our first record, Jefferson and I watched Escape From New York at my pad, where he very astutely noted that all my hack minimalist keyboard bits for that LP were pinched from John Carpenter’s killer score. He was at least one-fifth right. I also had grandiose designs on approximating Lalo Schifrin’s bitchin’ Rhodes and Clavinet arrangements from Dirty Harry and Magnum Force. And anyone that’s checked out one of our platters will probably detect my thinly veiled obsession for the freaky, spooky voodoo soul chorus vocals from those two soundtracks. Bo Hansson’s music inspired by Lord of the Rings, which dropped back in ’72, is mostly lighter leek soup and cozy Swedish winter night-informed Moog, Rhodes and organ fare - even when black riders (who have nothing on Isaac Hayes’ EFNY character Duke of New York) are hacking hobbit heads. It’s still excellent, melodic Moogy space mood goo that bookends quite nicely with Rick Wright’s Farfisa work on everything right up through (and including most especially) Live at Pompelli. Would love to give props to Ray Manzarek’s work from the first Doors record, but that limp-dick treatise about selling “Break on Through” to create a new Aquarian corporate/counterculture union still pisses me off. Thanks for the beautiful jams Ray, but time’s up - it’s Logan’s Run hour for you, you lizard-loving monkey.
3. Comets on Fire
How fucking lucky was I to be alive when this hurricane-force shitstorm blew down every barn in Northern California. Outside all hyperbole, they were, on more than a few nights, the best rock n’ roll band that ever was. Their four-album-plus miscellaneous jam disc catalog, digested from front to back is like some compressed, warp-drive version of a Meet the Beatles-to-Abbey Road Saturday marathon shot through Kuberick’s tube to Infinity and Beyond. And how beautiful the glowing babies on the other side!!! Howlin Rain’s “Calling Lightning From a Scythe,” Colossal Yes’ lyrical labyrinths, NVH’s briefcase, Flashman’s burgers, and God damn if Ben Chasny and Elisa Ambrogio’s vocal weavings on the new Six Organs record aren’t the most heart-rending, beautiful thing I’ve heard all year.
4. Valvola – Teenagers Film Their Own Life
About 10 years ago, when the Air dudes were capitalizing on Moog chic, I think a lot of folks thought they were really gonna cash in on the rebirth of the whole egg chair, Barbarella, shag space station ’69 sci-fi aesthetic, which is probably how this fine Italian release found distribution here in the USA. But unlike those euro-slick, ecstasy comedown, sushi-bar fluff tracks, this thing is one crusty little artifact. It’s freaking percolating and bubbling over with bloops, bleeps and ethereal lines from rusty, lint-clogged Italian synths and combo organs and buzzing ghost guitar melodies from busted Eko hollowbodies - all mixed in the smoggy vein of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Slip Inside This House.” The drums are rendered virtually inaudible amid a spare swirl of hollow, bonky, hyper-reverbed guitar tones, reverse maracas, tambourines and echo-whispered, opiate, Florentine space-love incantations. I did a couple trips down to the Mojave and Baja with this record among the sonic centerpieces, and the whole sensory experience remains laser etched as some apex of sunset-glow, chilled-out existence.
5. Eddie Gale - Black Rhythm Happening and Ghetto Music
On some nights, these two records hit me like the Alpha and Omega of all music. Ecstatic out-jazz moves built around dismantled Africa 70 grooves and a sort of Exuma-like, New Orleans street get-down vibe. Muddy, funky and crystalline third-eye piercing all at once. Eddie did his line-chef work with Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor, in the early to mid '60s. And what the hell kind of rigor-through-mayhem apprenticeships must those have been? The Sun Ra influence shines brightly through these sides. But Gale’s tunes are almost song-based at times and swing like a mother, then like a pendulum, from backyard party to funeral somber and back again.
6. Jefferson Airplane in 1967
Speaking of the mighty Comets, I was recently treated to a heaping feast of creamy smoked salmon, mushroom pasta goodness at Ethan Miller’s Oakland pad, where we discussed briefly the current psych-chic status of After Bathing at Baxters among the cognoscenti. We agreed, through much red wine babble, that the reckless, rambling Baxters can’t hold a candle to Surrealistic Pillow’s immaculate chiaroscuro mosaic. But I’ve also realized I am most impressed with the Airplane - and consider them most worthy of their legend - when I think about these two albums as two ends of the same worm hole. Their rejection of commercial potential in a single year was, at the time, probably rivaled only by the Velvet’s Nico to White Light quantum leap, and what the hell did those guys have to lose anyway? The once punk-ass Airplane was quite content to piss away the whole star thing with guns blazing. But damn, what a cool year of work. Marty Balin’s lovely ballads from Pillow and Kantner’s “Martha,” remain three of my all-time favorite sunshine-streaming-through-the-trees-in-spring Saturday morning jams. “She Has Funny Cars” and “Two Heads” are perfect little carnival freak shows. Gracie’s lead and harmony vocals are delicate and smoky-velvet gorgeous in a moment and nerve-rattling in the next. Kantner and Jorma’s jangle vs. fuzz tangles and Jack and Spencer’s rhythm hookups shape shift all over the damn place in the space of these two records. And we haven’t even mentioned the hits yet, or the fact that no one has ever sounded quite like the golden-era Airplane - before or since.
7. Anatolian/Subcontinental Fuzz Mutations
Nothing sates the space-age transcendental music freak quite like a rippin’ faux-roccan quasi-raga git’ solo through a sicko fuzzbox. It’s probably the ultimate psych cliché if you throw a wah and sitar on top. But fuck it, those snaky, sexy lines incited and soothed for, like, three gazillion years before psych weenies started whining about how over it they were.
So I dedicate a blue, billowing hookah cloud and a holy holler from the minarets to Stacey Sutherland, Erkin Koray, Jorma Kakounen, Gabor Szabo, Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Kawabata Makoto, Greg Ashley, Lou and Sterl’, Tommy Tedesco, Ricky Tomlinson, Tom Verlaine, Sir Richard Bishop Robby Krieger, Ben Chasny, Jimmy Page, Nels Cline and every bad mother who was ever moved to levitation.
8. The Santana Sequence from Woodstock vs. Message to Love – The Isle of Wight Festival
Woodstock the movie gets all the ups for being the definitive music film of the time. And Jimi’s “Star Spangled Banner” is godlike, of course. But really, the only consistently spine-tingling moment from that flick is the Santana band, comin’ out of nowhere, just freaking fired up and slaying in unbridled mutant street groove style, with Carlos going gonzo on mescaline and lemon juice, by the looks of it. Still, I think the best bang-for the-buck rock documentary experience is Message to Love. The camera work and lighting are way groovier and completely altered from band to band. And the performances rage. Tull’s “My Sunday Feeling” is a heavy-groove wrecking ball. TheWho are in skull-crushing “Live at Leeds” mode, Kristofferson is the world’s most dashing and sardonic wiseass. Plus, you get Miles laying on the Evil, the Doors goin’ under like a thrashing drowning man, Joni scolding the kids and English hippies making anarchy look completely fucking silly.
9. Neil Young - American Stars and Bars
This is kind of a perfect Neil Young album. It’s a shambling fucking mess. Themes and moods are scattered like the contents of some toppled downtown trash bin. It’s filthy, dusty, pretty, and at times it’s like watching a Tijuana drunk get his bearings by the moon. It also is the vehicle for “Like a Hurricane” and “Will to Love” - two of his three most naked, beautiful and soulful works. The latter is my most bedrock-reliable musical guidepost and favorite rainy-day blanket. The former used to wake me in the empty dead of night as a lad - bounced from the needle of some stoned, playlist-unencumbered FM DJ, up to some rock n’ roll station transmitter atop a Santa Cruz mountain peak and sent ricocheting between the mountains of the East Bay and Peninsula to scramble my young brain. The third of these, his Buffalo Springfield masterpiece “Expecting to Fly,” I’ll be printing as two indestructible diamond-titanium private press 45s. One I’ll sneak into the sleeve of American Stars and Bars to create my own perfect Neil Young experience. The other, I’ll send into deep space as a summation of the joy, sadness and beauty of the whole damn human experience.
10. Sounds, real and imagined, of…
Francoise Hardy, Sabu Martinez, The Golden Gate Bridge foghorn, Randy California, Anders’ alternate universes, A mile-long space freighter torn asunder by the gravity of the sun, Black Merda, Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Plastic Crimewave’s Pen, Shel Talmy at the controls, Miguel’s funky thump, Vox Continentals, Big Daddy Kane, Townes van Zandt, King Tubby’s tape echo, my ma’ sending me to slumberland with her piano arrangement of Debussy’s Claire de Lune, the rippling of the Big Sur river…
By Dusted Magazine