Thursday, 16 September 2010

Love and Surgery: Victor Lovera sampler

I tried to pare this down, I really did, but it couldn't be done with a clean conscience. So here you have a 10-song sampler of the work of Victor Lovera, a Nashville-based songwriter and muse/sometime creative partner of R. Stevie Moore, who, as anybody who is familiar with this WEBPAGE or its author will know, is by far my favourite one-man musical tornado.
Lovera was, from the evidence on this Moore-compiled double album of his songs, an arch-druid of mostly contemplative and personal minor-chord songs; at least in his later recordings chronicled here - he began with Moore in possibly Nashville's only hard rock/glam/Zappa-influenced group Ethos and could do a mean power pop.
I have never truly been a connoisseur of singer-songwriters, so it takes something really special to get me hooked (here the awkward, uninformed attempt at musical analysis); and Victor had a great ear for a satisfying chord change and a calming voice, paired with a feel for classic, universal lovesong lyrics and, yes, a goddamned sense of humour.

His more playful uptempo numbers are good fun, whipping out the assisted high harmonies, but for me these home recordings will always recall a sense of kinship, sorrow and mystery; seen, as Lovera is by the limited Youtube audience, as a disheveled and peripheral figure in the RSM lifelense - a streaming artistic audiovisual feed of sorts stretching back some 35 years. This feeling can be summarised neatly in the multi-part camcorder document of Lovera's visit to Moore's New Jersey home in 1991 - it was the song 'Gleason', below, which first caught my attention.

I believe that these days, amongst all the web-paradigms, they'd call this user-generated content. But there is something sincere and candid in the almost unselfconscious home tapes of the pre-spiderwebs generations.
Lovera's maudlin demeanour, which I am speculatively romanticizing, is no doubt partially explained by the unfortunate fact that he was a sufferer from Crohn's disease, which tragically claimed his life in '98. In place of any sense of injustice at the non-exposure of thousands of such worthy artists (LoveraMoore foremost), I merely count myself fortunate to have encountered these people and their music in my virtual travels. Could VicLo ever have imagined that people as far flung as the grey skies of Norwich UK would be shuffling around with his songs on their iSplod on an autumn's day?

The songs included are taken from 'Love Lovera, Last Victor', available for $$$coppage here and only here (near the bottom). They are mostly home recordings from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. Amongst them, 'It Sparkles' is 1996's latter-day classic (RSM rearrangement here); 'Jackie' reminds me of the intro to Love's 'Laughing Stock'... what can I say about the rest, they are just heart-rending and whimsical songs by a ''real down-to-earth cat''. Enjoy!

Additional and essential material
Mice paces: (links through to dozens more) Ethos (Lovera & Moore)

The compilation sampled here constitutes just a small part of Victor's output; he was in many other bands and it's all chronicled and sold through Steviehub. Here is the main page from which you can navigate through a plethora of info

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Can’t recommend this enough, one of those real delights you'd rarely unearth on purpose. The compilation consists of recordings from the 1930s golden age of rebetika/rembetika - urban underground music. This was the music disaffected Greek refugees from Asia Minor brought back with them, and boy… True to its origins, the Byzantine modes and unresolved structures give the style a strong Middle Eastern feel, but that doesn’t really cover it. The musicianship is impressive, intricate, often deceptively simple, and it still feels very Balkan, i.e. wistful as a troupe of wand'ring gypsies. These songs are ethereal when excised from worldly distractions and, as it turns out, made for stoners by stoners; which goes some way to explaining the disorientating side effects - even by today’s 'ethnic music' standards, where obscure and alien sounds issued from the dusty vaults are a dime a dozen.

Rebetiko is a folk style, and thus the tracks range from what I am informed are laments of woe to vital celebrations that make you want to dance badly, smash a few plates and drink copiously at a Mediterranean wedding reception... Ironically, my Greek ladyfriend hates it (too Turkish). She adds: ''rembetika originates from the verb 'remvazo', which means be lost in thoughts/absent-minded''. How apt!


Below is a stonking BBC documentary on rebetiko, vintage: 1988.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Fugazi 'Red Medicine' (1995)

The most eclectic and unconventional sounds of the post-hardcore variety. Words seem pointless here, plus I ain't got the brain for many.
Luminary of the great Washington D.C. scene Ian MacKaye leads us throo noise rock, Beefheartized punk, downbeat instrumentals, a distant reggae flavour (scratchy guitar lines, 'Ring The Alarm' reference on track 7?) and some of the best dual guitar work you'll hear this side of... Slint or Sonic Youth, I suppose. Former members of Rites of Spring (who also featured in this D.C. 'supergroup') see to that, and Picciotto's vocal earnestness counters MacKaye's classic pubescent punk growl perfectly. Almost in-credibly good. The wheels were removed at some point and these guys just decided to clear their own way, off the beaten path. Even the faintest animal tracks seem to have been eschewed in favour of... this ... Checkit out. Gotta love dem righteous Fugazi/Dischord business/performance ethics too! And to think we were mired in Britpop.

As a bloke on the Boobtubes comments: ''Genres are for fucing books. This is music.''

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Originally compiled for my friend Trix; a spiritual sequel to my 2007 'Teatime Psychotropics' compilation of transatlantic 1960s psychedelic pop. A few non-UK/US groups. Mostly obscurities. Goes from the baroque and whimsical to more garage rock-y in the second half. Contains the best cover of Tomorrow’s ‘Real Life Permanent Dream’ you will ever hear. Non-aficionados of the era should probably steer clear and listen to fucking Deerhunter or something.

1. Scarecrow’s Love Affair - Blues Magoos
2. Time Track - Skip Bifferty
3. Life Is Short - Billy Nicholls
4. What Does It Feel - The End
5. When The Alarm Clock Rings - Blossom Toes
6. The Birthday - The Idle Race
7. Yo Recuerdo Mi Mundo - Los Shakers
8. 14 Hour Technicolour Dream - The Syn
9. Wake Up Cherylina - The Smoke
10. Real Life Permanent Dream - Orange Machine
11. Starvation - The Golden Dawn
12. Feathered Fish - The Sons Of Adam
13. The Letter - The Mops
14. Changing The Colors Of Life - Los Chijuas
15. All Night Stand - The Thoughts
16. 99th Floor - The Moving Sidewalks

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers (2009)

Every bit as awesome as you'd hope for. Unlike Danger Mouse's excellent Jay-Z/White Album mashup, most tracks here do not actually utilise Beatles samples as the basis for a cultural conflation. Rather, Caruana exploits obscure instrumental Beatles cover version: latter-day RZA-like horn motifs blowing soulfully away on Macca's 'Live and Let Die', a Hammond organ riff on 'And I Love Her', or at one point, oddly, a surf instrumental to the tune of 'You Won't See Me'... Cheeky and potentially disastrous, but it works. The overall quality of produckies is high, Caruana is an ace mixer who fills in the gaps inventively; and the Beatles seem little more than a convenient melodic device for a hip-hop redux. Cause let's face it, they were a hook factory.
The rhythmic instincts and sometime 'lyrical esoterics' of the Wu are carried through, but given a new lease of life with fresh beats that merely happen to be reappropriated from Thee Hoali Beetles canon. It's a hardcore hip-hop album first and foremost.
Vocals are lifted from not just Wu-Tang tracks but also the respective members' solo careers, it's gloriously l-o-n-g, the Beatles/Ol' Dirty Bastard skits are classic (heareth) and it's freeeeeee. Or at least it was until the profile got taken down. Haw haw.

Click the picture above before this shit gets removed by the EMI attack dogs!

One of the few instances of extensive Beatles hook-sampling, this one from 'She's A Woman' with a Ghostface Killah vocal overdubbed:

Dedicated to the late, great Dirt McGirt. If there is a heaven he is up there getting wrecked.

Friday, 5 February 2010

That Motown Sound

A cottage industry that was churning out 110 Top Ten hits like nobody's business between 1961 and 1971; whose productions possess a timeless-yet-nostalgic quality that reduces music snobs and casuals alike to a quivering heap; that was Motor City's largest export after automobiles (and certainly the more culturally significant); to which generations of musicians and songwriters are indebted; the soul/R&B Mecca-Eden and the driving force behind the Northern Soul 'pre-rave' phenomenon in the UK...
What pop music witchcraft is this?
That's a question which I as a lowly music fan am not qualified to answer, but here's a succinct passage poached from that ever-questionable academic resource the Wikipaedos:

Motown’s music was crafted with an ear towards pop appeal. The company specialized in a type of soul music it referred to with the trademark "The Motown Sound". The Motown Sound was typified by a number of characteristics: the use of tambourines to accent the back beat, prominent and often melodic electric bass guitar lines, distinctive melodic and chord structures, and a call and response singing style that originated in gospel music. In addition, pop production techniques such as the use of orchestral string sections, charted horn sections, and carefully arranged background vocals were also used. Complex arrangements and elaborate, melismatic vocal riffs were avoided; Motown producers believed steadfastly in the ''KISS principle'' ("keep it simple, stupid"). Read the rest as you listen, fascinating stuff!

Great, but it doesn't satisfy my affinity for pointless comparative analysis... Ever seen a classic Martin Scorsese movie, noticed his tendency to big, upbeat orchestral soul? That's one aspect of Motown Records. In fact even in the incredibly unlikely case that you've never even heard of Motown, you will definitely have come across at least one of the songs included here during your lifetime; it will take a cattle prod to the withered memory bits o' your brain - as if you're revisiting a long-forgotten childhood... via the gift of ECT.

It's just that 60s magic to some extent, that is: the clean-but-not-over-processed-to-tawdry-shit analogue production, the guitar sound, the characteristic effects and instruments of the era; but it's also the Motown THING. Is it in-house session musician icons the Funk Brothers, the stock songwriting teams (which included flagship singers like Gaye, Robinson and Wonder)?; or is it simply the perfect combination of time, place, passion and inspiration? Probably... What do I know.

So, not to be missed. Should you even consider yourself something of an expert on the classic single-oriented era of Motown, this'll still knock you for six - 38 tracks! But it goes by in a flash, there is plenty of space for the less familiar stuff and each song retains an unmistakable identity. Despite the classic Motown remit outlined above there is considerable variety - check out the gritty, psychedelic garage stomper below!... The total euphoric effect of all this is something like a whirlwind. They truly had pop music down to a science.

...But there's one catch which I have to apologise for. I acquired this in 2007, and it served as my official introduction to a bedrock of popular culture that had somehow been omitted from my upbringing. Unfortunately the mp3s are in 128kbps. I've scoured the blogosphere and online retailers, but nothing matches the title... this first-class delight of a compilation is likely some blogger's one-off. To some people this won't make a difference, but to the rest of you I would still implore you to take the dive.
On the plus side, the occasional dodgy high-ends in the sound neatly replicate the experience of listening to the songs through a transistor radio on the kitchen table in 1966, or dusty old vinyl. If you can find a collection on a par with this in better quality... you are a better man than I, and you should share the wealth in the comments box forthwith.
cheers, J x

Partario Wun
Partario T'u

(Tracklisting in comments)

Monday, 1 February 2010

k-the-i??? 'Broken Love Letter' (2006)

Despite growing to become the most popular form of music on the planet*, hip-hop still gets a raw deal from us alternative types. Now, there are a hundred tiny reasons for this but I'll keep that analysis for my Sociology paper. The main reason has to be that pasty faced sensitive kids assume all hip-hop is about gats, hoes, and crack, and they can't relate to that. They need poetry; deep, dark musings from the soul.
This is where our brave hero of the day, k-the-i??? steps in. Crafting a record about unrequited love, this man mountain from Massachusetts lyrically creates an accessible, universal appeal. I'm sure most of us can recall a time we've been spurned, even when the object of our affection has been blissfully unaware of our very existence, and we've thought hey, “you're not that beautiful”. Waitaminute, that's the title of one of the songs on here! This common thread persists lyrically throughout the album – it's very much one that speaks to the heart and soul, our hero 'fessing all his personal angst so us the audience, can sympathise and emapthise.
k-the-i??? also handles the majority of the production, and the music itself is fantastic. Stuttering, jerky beats, like an even more spastic Timbaland. This gives the album a feeling of even more intense rawness, like a heart that's been split open and out comes these weird sounds and heartfelt peans. I implore you dear Substix readers to at least give this album a chance – it's not for everyone sure, but for me it's one of the bravest, creative, most forward thinking, pieces of music of the last ten years, whilst also being so old-fashioned even Sinatra would've dug it.
C'mon, don't be scared.

*(this may not be statistically true, iunno)

'ere the good stuff 

Big kisses to Molecules for allowing me to ruin his great blog with my garbled writings and questionable selections. Hope I'm invited back!