By Dave Cantor
“My first solo guitar performance was in my backyard when I lived in Philadelphia,” Steve Gunn says over the phone from his Brooklyn residence.
The journey from performing in a band to amassing enough confidence to get out in front of a crowd and express musical ideas can be an excruciatingly difficult maneuver. Inspiration helps, and for Gunn, it showed up in the form of departed guitarist Jack Rose.
“I only played a very short set,” Gunn says of that backyard gathering. “Jack played and a few other friends. That was my first attempt at doing it. Then I didn’t do it for years after that.”
A revival of interest in players like Leo Kottke and John Fahey bloomed during the middling-aughts, while Rose’s renown grew beyond Pelt, the band he’d founded while still in Philly. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
Operating under the auspices of psychedelia leaves a yawning gap to fill—anything from hazy electronic explorations to heavy-handed rock workouts might manifest itself on a bill with such a broad purpose as the Hideout-hosted Psych Fest.
Headlining the event’s first evening, Mako Sica skirt most hamfisted attempts to conjure a solid understanding of whatever psych might be. Brent Fuscaldo, one of the band’s guitarists, rattles off a litany of music he and bandmates fawn over—everything from jazz to Afro-pop and back again. But it’s only in the band’s application of its interests does the trio’s inclusion on the bill make sense.
“We never really thought of our band as psychedelic music. … It’s hard to describe what we sound like, so it’s nice to be invited to a festival like this,” Fuscaldo says. “We share something with these bands—our music’s hard to define—but I like bills like that, when [music’s] all over the map. Read the rest of this entry »
What ties this bill together isn’t necessarily going to be audible to casual listeners. Detroit’s spazzy Tyvek, krauty CAVE and the hard-to-palate Running sound remarkably different, while each act attempts to assimilate music from the seventies and early eighties into some sort of contemporary context. Tyvek and Running deal in more punky strains, the latter pulling on hardcore’s yolk more than the other two groups performing. Tyvek turns over the corpse of early Rough Trade acts, adding in a downer Midwest vibe that dour Brits wouldn’t be able to conjure even if it were their goal. With a headful of their hometown’s history, the ever-shifting Tyvek lineup has been able to dash its jangly paranoia with a garage intent, resulting in weirdly satisfying simplicity. Read the rest of this entry »
Some stories have to be discovered before they can be told. In most cases, when reaching back forty or fifty years in search of the right pieces that make a story whole, this means getting creative. For nearly ten years, the gents from the Chicago-based archival record label Numero Group have found success tracking bountiful amounts of long-lost musical antiquity. We can all thank Tom Lunt, Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley (Numero Group founders) for a world with more soul, R&B and gospel that otherwise would’ve most likely remained overlooked. Their desire to find these hidden recordings and the stories that go along with them have led them to an assortment of towns and cities across the United States. In their business, travel tends to be the easy part. Most of us would deem searching for what is no longer there a near-impossible feat. Read the rest of this entry »
City dwellers have been engaged by a stream of rural players dating back to Uncle Dave Macon and the Carter Family. Sallie Ford and her troupe call Portland home but have roots reaching back to the Smokies. Taking trails outta their adopted Northwest enclave, the band’s appropriation of country, swing and pop has garnered enough attention to catalyze the re-release of its 2011 “Dirty Radio.” Read the rest of this entry »
Hemming up Phil Cohran’s career into a simple linear narrative happens too frequently. His work, spanning the 1940s to the present, can be easily compared to jazz’s trajectory. But just because the trumpeter and tiny-instrument toter worked in big bands, then with Sun Ra and skirted the free jazz thing, doesn’t mean any other performer would have made the same decisions Cohran has. Arriving in Chicago by way of St. Louis after a childhood spent in the South, Cohran got hooked up with the Saturn native and recorded a few of the bandleader’s most intriguing Chicago dates—1967’s “Angels and Demons at Play” being of note. Read the rest of this entry »
The short journey from obscure indie-imprints like Siltbreeze to better-known labels hasn’t taken Blues Control too long. Of course, the principal duo—Russ Waterhouse and Lea Cho—did time in a group called Watersports prior to leaping off into this project during 2006 with a few low-key tape releases. But pretty quickly the duo’s torpid jams attracted a fan base willing to seek out all those difficult-to-find recordings. From release to release, Blues Control takes on an interesting swath of sound, always accompanied by less-than-perfect tape loops, which function as the duo’s rhythm section while Waterhouse and Cho clamp down on guitar and key improvisations, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
The piano trio is a well-worn jazz tradition. Smaller, nimble ensembles have the ability to churn out tough blues one moment and lilting standards the next, or to shoot off some noisy improv if the feeling grabs them. Taking those forms and personalizing a music that’s been around for about a century takes keen vision. Norway’s In The Country—pianist Morten Qvenild, drummer Pål Hausken and bassist Roger Arntzen—seeks to express a view of the genre through the kaleidoscope of rural Europe and an international understanding of the music. Read the rest of this entry »
If Daniel Johnston could actually sing and had a penchant for rapping, he’d sound kinda like Willis Earl Beal. As it is, what Johnston lacks in traditional talent, he makes up for with melodic sensibility. It’s not something Beal lacks, but the lesser-known Chicago native deals in such an array of musical approaches that listeners should have a difficult time fully grasping what he’s aiming for. There aren’t too many albums that can include half-rapped tape-deck jams and Exuma-styled, guttural swamp sounds (Beal’s “Acousmatic Sorcery” was released April 2 via XL Recordings). Read the rest of this entry »
Catching the Brooklyn-based Psychic Ills during its go-round touring for the release of “Dins” was a very specific point in underground psychedelia’s new millennia rush. By 2006, Wooden Wand had ditched his tripped-out backing band, the Vanishing Voice, and totally embraced the guise of updated folkster. Animal Collective were busy becoming the band that would eventually be proclaimed the best at everything. And The Gris Gris had already released its last studio recording. “Dins” was a bit of all that—taking on all those groups’ most noisy proclivities, soaking in all the reverb and finding a synthetic groove wide enough to make dopers nod and drunkards swing. It wasn’t a momentary success, but Psychic Ills would soon expand its take on the genre. Since Psychic Ills issued that first long-player, it embraced a melodic sensibility best suited to North African dope dens. Read the rest of this entry »