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Listed: Matt Bauder + Unnatural Helpers

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Saxophonist Matt Bauder and Seattle punks Unnatural Helpers.

Listed: Matt Bauder + Unnatural Helpers

Matt Bauder

Matt Bauder is a saxophonist and composer who has studied with Ed Sarath, Anthony Braxton, Ron Kuivila and Alvin Lucier. In the past 10 years he has been an active member of the new music scenes in Chicago, Berlin and New York, where he has performed with, among many others, Braxton, Bill Dixon, Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, Jeff Parker, The SEM Ensemble, Ken Vandermark and Phil Minton. He appears on recordings with Braxton (482 Music), Rob Mazurek (Thrill Jockey), Taylor Ho Bynum (Firehouse 12, Hat Hut), Jason Ajemian (Locust Music) and Neil Michael Hagerty (Drag City). His recordings as a leader and co-leader on 482 Music, Clean Feed and Eye & Ear Records have received wide critical acclaim. His new album, Paper Gardens is out next week on Porter Records.

1. Anthony Braxton - Willisau (Quartet)
Back in college, a friend let me borrow the Graham Locke book on Braxton called Forces in Motion. The book captures Braxton on tour and gives a glimpse into his incredible enthusiasm for music. In one passage, the book describes him jumping up and down saying "yippee" about the release of a new Warne Marsh reissue. Itís this joy and excitement that provided an opening for me into his music. Later, I was fortunate to be able to study and record with the great man. Most recently, I was part of his Trillium E opera recording for 60 performers. Heís a constant inspiration to me. The Willisau box was a door for me into his incredible world of music and Iíd recommend it to anyone whoís looking for an entry point into his work.

2. Ellery Eskelin w/ Andrea Parkins and Jim Black - One Great Day
After hearing about a minute of this record, I knew I needed to see this band. It turned out that they had an engagement at the old Internet Cafť in NYC, so I drove from Michigan that weekend just to see them. Thirteen some odd years later, Elleryís still one of my favorite modern saxophonists. His style is so unique, soulful and sincere. The opening track and the cover of Rassan Roland Kirkís "The Inflated Tear" stand out, but the whole record is brilliant.

3. The Flamingos - Flamingo Serenade
My friends all know Iím crazy for doo-wop. I lived with the Rhino box sets for years, wore them out. Everyone knows "I Only Have Eyes for You," but "Time Was," "Where or When," "But Not For Me" and "Goodnight Sweetheart" will also kill you every time. I got to see the Flamingos play at one of those casino reviews. All the other bands were silly, with bright colored suits and cheesy forced dancing -- the stuff you see on the PBS pledge drives. But not the Flamingoís. They came out in black suits, talked about the Iraq War (which was just beginning) and bringing the troops home. They sang the most beautiful acapella version of "Iíll Be Home" (an early hit of theirs that might be my favorite piece of recorded music). I brought them my LP copy of Flamingo Serenade to autograph and one of the lead vocalists said to me, pointing at the cover "You see that guy? Thatís my dad."

4. Sam Cooke - Night Beat
The only thing Iím more crazy about than doo-wop is Sam Cooke. I was into the Soul Stirrers and the pop hits, but nothing prepared me for Night Beat. The first side is so naked. Itís just an amazing singer with a great band playing with a relaxed sensitivity that will get you through just about anything. If I was on a desert island, I would play this record and maybe never flip it to side 2. And the second side is pretty good, too!

5. Albert Ayler - New Grass
I had heard bits of this record from time to time at parties. I also heard a lot of people dog it, saying it was some failed attempt to reach a larger audience, some kind of misstep. When I saw the great documentary My Name is Albert Ayler, I knew I had to come to this record on my own and get to know it. Ayler is such a mysterious character. I had never heard him speak before seeing that film. His music has such power and what could be interpreted as anger or frustration. No one knows what someone feels when playing, but Iíd like to think that Ayler was preaching joy. I donít see a problem with putting that joyful screaming sound over the Motown boogie beats. I feel like he succeeded more that he realized to create music that everyone can understand. Try to listen to this record without being uplifted, I dare you!

6. Duke Ellington - Indigos
Late, late at night, after a party, someone put Indigos on one of those crazy audiophile stereo systems with six-foot high speakers and a Star Trek-looking turntable. As we gathered around, it sounded like the band was in 3D right in front of us. You could hear the exact position of each of the instruments in the space. I wondered if it was some crazy multichannel imaging system, but the record was actually mono! It was like the recording process was exactly reversed and the band was right there, projected like a movie out of the stylus. Anyway, Iím actually not that into that kind of stuff, and in fact, the record sounds amazing through my crappy stereo. Listen to the reeds on "Solitude" -- they sound like a goddamn string orchestra. And Paul Gonzalves on "Where or When" is one of my favorite ballad performances (my second "Where or When" reference! I love that song).

7. Ornette Coleman - New York is Now
OK, I feel obnoxious saying this, but I have to brag that recently I was invited to Ornetteís house and played a game of pool with the legendary man. He won, but I have to say that he switched from solids to stripes on his last two shots. How could I argue!? It was a perfect harmolodic victory!!! He also shot an amazing shot at some point that sent two of his solids neatly in a row into the corner pocket. The night before, I was feeling a bit lost, wondering what I was doing in this city and fell asleep listening to New York is Now, and I had no clue that the next day I would end up at Ornetteís house. I left there walking on air and knowing that thereís no place like New York City, and no one like Ornette. He never tried to be anyone but himself, and ended up opening up jazz in a new direction almost single handedly.

8. The Jimmy Giuffre Three - The Jimmy Giuffre Three
Of course I love Free Fall as much as the next experimentalist. But I canít get enough of this self-titled album. I feel a strong kindship to Giuffre: His soft sound, his drummerless strategy for getting that sound across, and his concept of the essence of jazz (and abstraction of that essence) are direct influences on my work. Once, I wrote a long piece based on the Samuel Beckett book How It Is. Meanwhile, I was obsessed with one of the cuts on this record. Somehow I never looked at the title of the tune and when I saw that it was called "Thatís the Way It Is," I almost lost it. I was very sad when he died two years ago. I believe in coincidences and -- call me new age -- I hope Mr. Giuffre is listening, even though we never met. Oh, we also both went to North Texas (and we both complained about it)!

9. Earth Wind and Fire - The Need of Love
I just got this recently after reading about it in George Lewisí new book on the AACM. This record, like New Grass, is a mix of free playing with funk and soul. Where the Ayler record may feel like a collage, this record integrates, getting from track to track with the feeling of a suite. The free blowing is compelling, and the grooves and songs are totally infectious. This is more or less an unrelated band to what became the more popular version of Earth Wind and Fire.

10. Robert Ashley - In Sara, Menken, Christ and Beethoven there were Men and Women
I had to put Ashley in here to stay true to my Ann Arbor roots! He gave me a copy of this record when I told him that I was from Ann Arbor. He needed to make sure I didnít just move there for college, though. In the 1960s, the divide between the town and the university was controversial and somewhat oppressive. I did end up going to school there, so Iíve got love for the university, too, but I felt righteous to be part of the town folk. Anyway, itís a beautiful album and the story of its creation is fascinating and inspiring and too much to get into here. His narration is funny and surreal like all of his work. The moog accompaniment by Paul DeMarinis is beautifully varied and unpredictable, reminiscent of some of my favorite David Tudor recordings.

Unnatural Helpers

Dean Whitmore is the man at the center of Seattleís Unnatural Helpers. The drummer and vocalist has been making music in the Pacific Northwest for a while, including time with the Intelligence, and the rest of the Helpers include members of the Dutchess & the Duke and Kinski. The bandís first album -- a solid 15 songs in 25 minutes -- for Sub Pop subsidiary Hardly Art, Cracked Love & Other Drugs, came out last month.

1. Bassekou Kouyate Live
Iím a Malian ngoni dunce. I donít really understand much about the origins or context of this instrument or Malian music in general, but I sure had great time watching this strain. Four ngoni (African banjo-ish instrument) players, two percussion players & a female vocalist (Bassekouís wife). Everyone sang and everyone smiled. It seems apparent the band is versed in blues, rock & even bluegrass at times, but the rhythms and overall flavor feel uniquely African (but what would I know). Hypnotic feel good jams abound thatís for sure. Prepare to feel the company of the well-to-do hippy. Prepare to feel happy, though, too.

2. Cult Ritual - LP 1
I have a hardcore coach named Nick. Whenever I get the need for something hard and ugly, and canít find anything, I give him a call and ask him to point me to a proper fix. Cult Ritual was his most recent referal. Itís about half-fast hardcore blaze and half slow crunch crush. There are some noise interludes and a spoken bit and a frustrating (yes, it worked) monotonous simple drum break that gives the record more body and an artier feel. Squealing loud guitars. Desperate and angry lyrics delivered with shout / scream vocals. Frantic, pummeling drumming. Good stuff.

3. D+ - Dandelion Seeds
Iíve played this record for lots people and have been unable to turn a single one on to it. I know a couple others that dig it, but they already did prior to hearing from me. Iím like 0-for-23 or something and I still canít see why. Itís Bret from Beat Happening, Phil Elvrum (Microphones) & Karl Blau playing stripped down, honest and haunting rock. I mean not really rock but... it sounds like friends really just talking, exposing themselves and sharing with each other -- and incidentally recording the proceedings. It plods and meanders, offering up confessional lines ("I may be drunk. But I can be trusted. Iím just a little bit rusted"), while still coming to no resolutions. I dunno, I guess it just sounds and feels like my neck of the woods.

4. FNU Ronnies - 12"
This music makes me nervous. Iím afraid to listen to it too much. Like, maybe if I do somehow, theyíll show up at my house. Iíll open the door and theyíll be standing on the porch looking ominously with maniacal grins or some shit. Itís irrationally upsetting to me. Thereís nothing overtly evil or threatening about it. It just screws me up. Electronic beats and various noise-making implements combine with traditional rock instruments, get overdriven, edited unevenly and unpredictably, making for a demented and obtuse whole that for some reason I like to go back to.

5. Fresh & Onlys
I love almost everything Tim Cohen & the F&Oís do these days. Short-form pop steeped in garage, new wave, punk and other variant anglo pop musics. Hyper-prolific, but not in a toss-off way. They mostly record themselves, too, but are in no way lo-fi. Iíd start with the first LP and then keep buying until you have everything. Timís solo record is wonderful, as well. As far as I know, theyíre backed up three or four records between F&Oís and Timís solo stuff, so if youíre not already on board, you ought to get on before the backlog gets too overwhelming.

6. Jeff the Brotherhood - Heavy Days
Andrew, who plays bass in Helpers, gave me a copy of this and I loved it instantaneously. Head nod chugging, repetetive riffs with killer hooks and super stupid lyrics. Sort of a hard biker-rock version of the Spits. Great driving music. Enough "fuck yeah" to pass and enough "oh yeah" to cruise. (Iím sorry.) I do like this record a lot, though, and hope I get to see them live sometime soon.

7. Pissed Jeans Live
My favorite live band these days. Iíve seen them a number of times, and although I go in with hightened expectations, Iím surprised to have them surpassed each successive show. I donít know if they just keep getting better or if my fandom is such that my giddiness of being in attendance renders me analytically useless. The last time I saw them, Matt (the singer) shoved a mic stand base down his pants and ripped it out of his pant leg, Brad threw his guitar at Matt (after receiving a cup of water to the face), cutting his face up, and Randy (bass) and Sean (drums) were simply their abnormally great hard-rock / punk-rhythm-section selves. They made me boogie, head bang and move in awkward and unfortunate "most awful mess on the dance floor" ways. Theyíre records are really great, too, but live itís just a whole Ďnother thing. If they come to your town, go see them as they donít tour much. Or make a special trip to wherever theyíre at.

8. Kelley Stoltz
Heís been churning out 1960s pop inspired tunes for 10-plus years now and just keeps getting better. Certainly the Beach Boys, Kinks, Beatles and any number of other touchstones could be referenced, but his songs are widely varied and Kelley always leaves his own stamp on anything he touches. He makes the type of music that can be loved by garagesters, punks and pop fans of all kinds. Heís become something of a godfather of SF rock over the years, recording, playing with, and inspiring the likes of Thee Oh Sees, Sonny and the Sunsets, the Fresh & Onlys, and so on. I had the privelidge of doing a couple tours with Kelley and learned so much about restraint, playing to a tune, and other musicians, etc. Heís got a new record coming out this summer that will replace the last as yr newest, most favorite Kelley Stoltz record.

9. Strapping Fieldhands
This band comes from the era of time when "indie rock" wasnít something to be avoided. It kinda meant to me "shit, that doesnít categorize well and is sort of fucked up or weird." Strange to me that I didnít discover this band until last year. Why didnít somebody let me know? I felt betrayed when I picked up a 99-cent copy of In the Pineys and was blown away. Everyone was hiding this for themselves? I guess itís not for everyone, actually. Sloppy and scrappy and broken in all the right ways for me. Thereís a sea shanty vibe at times that might offput some. Thereís also an underlying punkiness and unbridled feeling of fuck-all creativity that permeates their songs. I like to think about the joy and good luck they must have felt when nailing down one shambolic gem after another. The Wattle & Daub LP is my favorite.

10. Sublime Frequencies
This Northwest record label is a collective of music heads including Hisham Mayet, Mark Gergis, Alan Bishop and Robert Millis (amongst others) that collect, issue and reissue loads of music from all over the world. And when the recordings donít exist, they travel to wherever the musicians are and record the music themselves. Theyíve released recordings from artists in Libya, Sumatra, Iraq, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand, Egypt, Algeria, Singapore and way more, and their selections are pretty much impeccable. They also do a great deal of research as to the origins of the music and artists, and provide detailed liner notes with each release. Where to start? Hard to say, but I just like to read the descriptions and, if it sounds cool, just go for it. Itís always fun and / or interesting. I havenít been bummed out yet.

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