Betweent 1947 and 1952 Blue Note dates at WOR studios in New York City with pianist Thelonius Monk. Many of Alfred Lion's close associates scoffed at this, and urged the Blue Note founder to release more records by the more technically proficient and better known Bud Powell, citing the labels shaky financial situation as reason enough for doing so. Alfred didn't care, the sheer joy he felt in hearing every new Monk composition firmed his resolve to get as much as he could on tape, and he was also painfully aware of Bud's worsening mental health. At the time, Monk wasn't thought of as being skilled enough to lead or compose, but Lion believed in the strength of the material, and painstakingly selected the perfect musicians to see it through. Perhaps the best choice was the use of a young Art Blakey. Blakey's ham fisted clank worked perfectly with the oddball nature of Monk's pieces. Various horn players were used to varying effects, and on at least one session in 1948 features a young Milt Jackson on vibes, some of this session was released as Jackson's own Wizard of the Vibes record later on. Their is a certain clumsy looseness and wet-behind-the-ears slop with the players involved that compliment these strange songs perfectly. The best of these sessions were released as 78 rpm singles, but later were compiled many times over and packaged anew with the recurring title, Genius of Modern Music. This edition works perfectly as a primer into one of the most original musical minds of the twentieth century and easily one of the greatest American composers to ever arrange mysterious black dots onto staff paper. You get perhaps the best version of "'Round Midnight" recorded ( and there have been over a thousand renditions,) as well as Monk staples like "Epistrophy," "Misterioso," and "Straight, No Chaser" as well as plenty more eccentric charmers. Longtime fans can move along, but for the uninitiated who may have been intimidated by the numerous releases bearing his name, this is a fantastic way to discover the genius that was Monk.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Get a load of the foppish popinjays of Empire Saint, a long gone Heavy Metal act hailing from the bullshit town of Boras (like Hearse alum Lonely Hearts), a town known for mailorder businesses, sheep, and as one reader pointed out, hot Italian and Greek immigrant ladies. So I guess when these Svenne coxcombs weren't wooing flickas outside the textile mill, they set about to some premium panty-droppin' rockin'. The a side of Empire Saint's debut single is a pretty hokey monster ballad called "Broken Dreams," which I am sure secured these Scandi-dandies a boatload of top shelf tonfisk, but it runs a bit Cinderella for me. The b side, "Shout Out" is a pretty vanilla but enjoyable hard pop anthem that might enhance a montage of you taking the city the by storm with your own crew of overdressed peacock men. Empire Saint obviously had their eye on the prize, but sadly were eclipsed by a billion other bands with flashy striped pants and mediocre songs. Oh well.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
The Vatican Commandos were a punk band from Connecticut that had among their ranks a guy who would later call himslef Moby and make albums for people who don't really like music but enjoy buying things. Vatican Commandos released a couple of so-so 7" eps and appeared on a couple of compilations before releasing their best, and final statement, 1984's Point Me To The End. The album's mood suggests a veteran hardcore band facing adulthood and becoming bored with the usual trappings and limitations of the genre. The songs often have involved instrumental intros that launch into chunky mid-tempo numbers with more melody than their older eps. The album definitely sounds like a band facing the end, but without regret or embarrassment, just a sort of somber farewell to youth and hardcore. Kind of reminds me of JFA's Mad Garden for that very reason
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Okay, here's an oddity from 1971 and a band called Rumplestiltskin. The album Black Magician sounds kind of like the soundtrack to a particularly hackneyed Satanic hippie exploitation film. Lots of crazy fuzzy funk riffs, kooky hammond organs, and overblown vocals about witchy things, evil women and such. Not mind blowing but a fun listen nonetheless.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Fimbulwinter was an early Norwegian Black Metal band that featured a young Skoll (Ulver, Arcturus) and a young Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir.) In 1995 they released Servants of Sorcery which sounds like a practice room tape, but Fimbulwinter had enough killer Celtic Frosty riffs and seemingly punk influences to keep this pretty interesting.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Rose Tattoo, you should know them. If you don't, they were kind of like a working man's AC/DC. Yeah, I know what you are thinking, "Isn't AC/DC a working man's AC/DC?" Look, while Angus and crew seemed content writing great song after song with double entendres about poontang, Rose Tattoo peppered their balls-out pub rock with gritty tales of city life and damnation. These "tough guy with a broken heart" allegories bring to mind Phil Lynott and Phil Mogg, but come straight from the tortured heart of a dimunitive, charismatic skinhead named Angry Anderson. Sure these guys couldn't play as well as their more famous countrymen, but the sheer sincerity of their delivery is worthy of merit. So here I present their first album from 1978. In the album's onset, Anderson let's it be known that he is a "Rock n Roll Outlaw." However, shit gets hectic on the second track, "Nice Boys," which is best known for being covered by some band called Guns n Roses. In "Nice Boys" Anderson spins the tale of a young woman corrupted by the fast life of Rock n Roll. I don't remember AC/DC ever having the words "garbage," or "smack" in any of their songs. On the following cut "Butcher and Fast Eddie" we learn the tale of the meeting of two gang leaders, I won't spoil the ending for you, but it doesn't go well. For the duration of the album, Rose Tattoo continue to stomp through rudimentary blues rock while Angry reaffirms that he is an outlaw, a rebel, a rapscallion, an outcast, a fighter, and a lover, who divides his time between smoky bars and local jails. Pull up a stool, order a pint and let the wrong-side-of-the-tracks charm, and billiard hall wisdom of Angry Anderson and Rose Tattoo soothe what ails ya', mate.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Trombones, at one point, fell out fashion in Jazz. Many held the belief that instruments without valves or keys wouldn't be able to navigate some of the more technical fast runs and solos. This didn't seem to matter much to the affable Bennie Green. Between 1951 and 1961 Green released sixteen albums as a leader. Soul Stirrin' (1958) was his ninth album and his second for Blue Note (his first, Back on the Scene was released earlier the same year.) While I like almost all of Green's output that I have heard, Soul Stirrin' has a few thoroughly amazing moments that put it above the others. The album opens with the bawdy swagger of the title piece. Green's band and Babs Gonzales (who wrote the number) deliver a soulful group vocal before the real stirrin' begins. Green is accompanied by the amazing Gene Ammons on tenor sax, and the top notch rhythm section of Sonny Clark, Ike Isaacs, and Elvin Jones. On the second track the band declares quite vocally that they want to cook, and cook they do and Green shatters the myth about what trombones can and can't do. After a sultry rendition of the Brandt/Haymes standard, "That's All," the band delivers the album's centerpiece, one of the bleakest Jazz numbers of all time, the Babs Gonzales original "Lullaby of the Doomed." If ever there was song to drink yourself to death to it is this mournful moper. In the home stretch, Green lightens the mood with "B.G.'s Mambo" and "Black Pearl." Soul Stirrin' is a complete experience, an album with flawless sequence and trajectory. It starts sort of raucous, gets introspective and drunk in the middle, and ends upbeat and playful. It's a journey that stirs your soul.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Abhorrence was the pre-Amorphis band of Tomi Koivusaari, and there are few Death Metal eps from the early '90s that can top this one. All the fuzzy hiss, staccato blasts, and low end knuckle drag is present and accounted for in just four outstanding tracks. Absolutely mandatory.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Atrocity Exhibition was the first release from CFDL, which, of course, stands for Crazy Fucked (up) Daily Life. Clearly influenced by the old Japanoise gods, Confuse, CFDL inject more Discharge-isms and the break neck speed of power violence into this brief statement. That dog on the cover is CFDL, that thoroughly annoyed hippie is you.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Bringer of Destruction, the singular release from a mysterious, uncredited Quebec band called Malaise. It was released in 2005. The program here is raw, repetitive, lo-fi Black Metal akin to countrymen Akitsa's more abrasive work. I know it isn't exactly Malaise's intent, but I find some of the repetition hypnotic and soothing, especially around the middle of the program. Also noteworthy that this was limited to a scant twenty copies, and while I appreciate the kvltitude of such an endeavor I also wonder what is the point.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Components was vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson's third date for Blue Note, and while almost all of Hutcherson's albums are brilliant, this one stands out. Released in 1965, the record is divided into two rather distinct parts: side one features some straight, albeit very interesting, hard bop compositions written by Hutcherson, while side two ventures into some strange avant territory with pieces composed by Joe Chambers. Almost needless to say, Components is a very percussive and dynamic affair made even more engaging by blistering performances by James Spaulding on sax, and Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. The album opens with the jumpy title track but is quickly cooled off by "Tranquility," which bears an intro that would make any post-rock band with a pretentious name clamor for a vibraphone and a pair of mallets during their next date. The lilty "Little B's Poem" is a perfect bed for some amazing solo work from Hutcherson as well as a staggering solo from Herbie Hancock. The ribald "West 22nd Theme" lopes and swaggers to a smoky gin joint back beat, another place, another interior, created by a top notch band and their instruments. Then, almost as if you have stepped out of that sleazy bar into the blinding light of another dimension, Chamber's side two compositions create an uneasy feeling of disorientation, and abject confusion, as if Rod Serling sequenced the album. The whole affair ends perfectly with "Pastoral," a beautiful number that wakes you from the restless and surreal dream of the previous three tracks and lets you know that you are okay. This trajectory gives Components a linear narrative, and a completeness that few records have. It is a journey through a myriad of landscapes, both soothing and spooky, with a tender resolve. Just amazing.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Gates of Slumber may be the coolest band on Earth and I am going to tell you why: First off, look at them. They clearly aren't getting paid, aren't getting laid, the metal just courses through their blood, they simply have to play. They don't give a fuck about overdubs, pro-tools, photoshop, triggers, haircuts, intellectualism, art, Pitchfork, transcendentalism, or any of that bullshit; their rejection of cool just makes them cooler. They play badass, doomy songs about kings and wizards and barbarians without a drop of kitschy irony. I am pretty sure their new album The Wretch will sit high on my top ten at the end of the year (unless 40 Watt Sun or Loss decide to release nine more albums this year) and not to mention, Gates of Slumber were one of the best bands I saw at Roadburn. They channeled the simple beauty of Saint Vitus' spartan riffing with an intrepid confidence. Gates of Slumber won't ever be cool like SunnO))) or Wolves In The Throne Room, because they do the unfathomable, they play actual metal. Today I present the band's second demo from way back in 2002, The Sabbath Witch, which showed a marked improvement over the first, the awesomely titled Blood Encrusted Deth Axe, I urge you to check out The Wretch. See why Gates of Slumber may be one of the last unpussy metal bands in the U.S.A.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
New York City's Citizen's Arrest were a bit late to the party but this tardiness did win them the honor of being one of the greatest hardcore bands of the '90s. A Light in the Darkness was the band's blistering debut, and fucking hell, these baboons came out swinging.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Here's an early bit of Dutch Black Metal from way back in 1993. Engraved hailed from the quaint, flat, tulip field known as Rotterdam and released a few demos and this one 7" EP before crawling into the crypt of obscurity forever. Ninkharsag is a pretty by-the-numbers typical '93 Black Metal release with its outmoded keyboard intro, songs that vacillate between mournful crawls and chaotic, icy blasts, but there is enough atmosphere and ancient teenage mysticism within this twenty-seven minutes to satisfy the most staunch kvlt devotee.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
This bit of unhinged genius from 1983 comes courtesy of Deux Filles from London. The two girls are actually Simon Turner and Colin Lloyd-Tucker.Simon later made a name for himself as a founding member of The The. Deux Filles' first album was called Silence and Wisdom and it is a fucking creepy little record that should not be ignored. I guess maybe Cocteau Twins and some of Current 93's work might come to mind, but Deux Filles cover much more territory without really ever doing too much. There are minimalist drones, and creepy EVP voices, foreign tongues and delicate acoustic guitars. There are somber keyboard drifts and shimmery dreamtime guitar delays. There are children's voices and fluttery butterfly winged pianos. There are distant echos and throbbing pulses. All these elements conspire and convene to create a wholly beautiful and encompassing listen. I can't recommend this enough.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Blood kind of started out as the fun, jokey pastime of four snarky teenagers living in Speyer, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. By 1989, however, the lads weren't joking around, and their first album, Impulse to Destroy, came ripping forth like a poorly drawn zombie holding some kind of crazy sword to the sky. The album opens, oddly, with the sound of a jet taking off and then it's a thirty-four minute gut-pummel of greasy proto-death grind crust. Why Blood aren't fucking hailed next to Repulsion, Carcass, and Napalm Death as originators of this sort of filth is beyond me. Impulse to Destroy is an undeniable classic.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I am aware that the Hearse's Jazz selections have been a bit Blue Note-centric, but that stands as a testimony to the level of quality of that particular label. However, as great as they were, Blue Note did not hold the monopoly on great Jazz records. Jimmy Woods is an alto sax player from St. Louis who, during the onset of the sixties recorded two great albums for Contemporary before become relatively obscure. The second of these two fantastic albums was called Conflict, and as indicated on the cover, features the mastery of Elvin Jones on drums.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Guru Guru were one of the many young, talented bands that emerged from the Krautrock scene. Though not as known as CAN, Tangerine Dream, or Kraftwerk, Guru Guru's third album, Kanguru, is among one of the best releases of the genre. It's broken up into four lengthy sich-edelic mushroom jams that toggle between whimsical and menacing. Mani Neumeier's superior drumming drives the album, and that's also him doing that crazy singing. Guru Guru would invite Amon Duul over to their commune in the mountains of Bavaria and the two groups would ingest drugs, jam, and totally freak the fuck out together. Motherfuckers would run naked and free, tasting purple, shitting sunshine. It was a good time.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Ovskum are a very lo-fi depressive Black Metal band from Italy. Atto I is the band's fourth demo, later it was pressed to vinyl along with the follow up, Atto II. After a minimalist guitar/vocal intro piece the band oozes into a mopey Burzumoid lurch and then closes with another guitar piece. Somber, despondent, and poorly recorded weirdo art.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Depending on who you ask, Blind Boy Fuller either lost his sight to an ocular condition, or some low-down, no good woman threw chemicals in his eyes. While the former is more probable, the latter is infinitely more bluesy. However, if these ribald songs are any indication, Fuller's handicap didn't hamper his playing, songwriting, or insatiable appetite for warm poon (or "pig meat" as he called it). In fact, almost every cut here is about getting ball-deep in down-home succubi and the perils that come with doing so. Essential blues.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Sort of hard to believe that Anthony Williams was just nineteen when he lead his first session. The result was perhaps one of the most interesting artifacts of avant garde Jazz. Lifetime is a masterful work that may require several tries to truly get, but it is worth the effort Unflinchingly sparse, these pieces rely heavily on the negative space between notes and phrases, the record almost becomes more about what isn't there rather than what is. What remains is almost a sculpture of sound that may require you to abandon traditional notions of what music is and what it is for. Because of it's difficult nature and it's demands on the listener alone, Lifetime is an achievement and easily one of my favorite records of any genre. See where it takes you.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
While Aeternus is often associated with that fertile Norwegian Black Metal scene of the '90s, the music here is more akin to Death Metal. Perhaps their use of corpse paint, evil pseudonyms, and images of moonlit woodlands have blurred the lines a little, and I think Aeternus are just fine with that. Whatever you wish to call it, Beyond the Wandering Moon is a classic of misanthropic Norwegian ingenuity.
Monday, May 9, 2011
B.P. stood for Belching Penguin or sometimes Belching Penguins. These beer-obsessed thrashers hailed from Bradenton, Florida, a bullshit town best known for orange juice and manatees. These guys were kind of like Florida's answer to D.R.I. or C.O.C. During their short run they released one great album with the title Draft Beer...Not Me, and yes that would be a skeletal-handed Reagan pouring you a pitcher of death. Along with F's You Are an EP, one of the greatest bits of '80s Hardcore to ever come out of the Sunshine State.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Today we pit Hearse alum Seigneur Voland against fellow French fanatics, Chemin de Haine. Both bands feature the melancholic riffery of a dodgy character named Laurent who also operated in Desolation Triumphalis. Chemin de Haine are a bit more ferocious in their approach but both bands play the sort of melodic Black Metal France is known for. Seigneur Voland is the winner here for being a bit more interesting but it was close.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
One of the better meetings of the Jazz Messengers caught on tape, and there's that cover, a tight close up of a deathly serious Art Blakey perhaps deep in contemplation over who he would fire next, how to get out of paying that skinflint Jymie Merritt, or copping some sweet red chicken heroin after the session. But all that dumb shit aside for the ultra-crucial task of laying down some deep tracks for Moanin'. At this point the Messengers were Blakey, Lee Morgan, Jymie Merritt, Benny Golson, and Bobby Timmons. These adepts dealt strictly in straight hard bop, with an emphasis on the craft, no real experimentation or deviation from the formula of riff/solo/solo/solo/riff, but Moanin' delivers the smokey goods with a force and confidence like no other.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Dragster were a well regarded NWOBHM act cutting their crooked teeth in the grimey pubs of some fog-clad shire. These blokes managed to crank out one single before fading into legend. The a-side, "Ambitions" is a straight up NWOBHM rocker, and the b-side is the same sort of tepid ballad that usually plagues the back of these types of records.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Northern Calloway is best remembered as David, the affable denizen of Sesame Street, who blew off law school and took over the store when Mr. Hooper died. What many people did not know was Northern had a very tumultuous real life battle with mental illness, where daydreams became nightmares, and periods of make believe often began with assaulting hookers with rebar, and ended naked and bloody in a very tangible state hospital. Enjoy your day.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Let's keep this brief and get back to the mission. Tours went great, big ups to all the amazing people I met along the way. Come home, and Osama Bin Laden is dead, can't help but think if it would've happened a few days sooner I could have avoided that finger in my ass in the Berlin airport, but such is life, timing is everything. I urge you to check out (and follow) Ludicra blower bassist, Ross Sewage's amazing blog for tour diaries and general tour tip genius and gear nerdiness. The regular Hearse posts will resume soon, as will the sense of self-righteous entitlement that goes with them. Sorry if I seem cranky, still a bit jet lagged and butt sore.