Alcatraz - Vampire State Building [Longhair Music LHC00014]
A reissue of the 1971 German prog lp which was recorded at Faust's Tonstudio Wumme. After I listened to the album I concluded
that it may very well be one of the best of its type as Alcatraz favour a spacious groove-based approach while avoiding the
atonal-let's-show-'em-that-we-can improvise musical wankery typical of the jazz-rock genre.
The strongest track is "Simple Headphone Mind" [covered by Stereolab/Nurse With Wound] which breezes through
it's ten minute length in what seems like no time at all. The brief "Piss Off" with it's over-the-top distorted
is a solid runner-up.
Downside? The title track where the band had the poor judgment in allowing the drummer to solo. There ought to be a law.
Alternative TV with Genesis P-Orridge "The Industrial Sessions 1977" [Overground Records]
Not a collection of finished demos, rather it's a document of Mark Perry and Alex Fergusson with help from P-Orridge work
through ATVs early songs at the Throbbing Gristle's residence/studio in Hackney. Listening to the disc, one
might feel like an eavesdropper as they work through "Love Lies Limp" (3 versions), Life (4 versions) amidst
the taped conversations, jams, songs and false starts.
In total there are 23 tracks from these sessions and the disc is rounded out by an 11 minute live recording of "Still
Life" by the full ATV band recorded at The Rat Club in '77. Of interest is the lengthy article written by
P-Orridge back- in-the-day regarding Perry & Fergusson's band in addition to a selection of B&W photos.
The cd would be of interest to confirmed fans of ATV and/or Throbbing Gristle, but all in all, not a very satisfying listen.
If you are new to either act, better go for "The Image Has Cracked" or "D.O.A.".
Alvaro - Drinkin' My Own Sperm [Squeaky Shoes Records]
"This is his first LP, don't worry about the bum notes."
I've wanted to hear Alvaro Pena-Roja's 1977 debut for a long time. So when this cd reissue arrived in the mail I was psyched
for a truly strange and timeless listening experience. I wasn't disappointed. Nope. I live
for this sort of oddball recording.
It was a lot more musical than I expected with some lively use of piano, flute and grab-all percussion. I also enjoyed
singer-songwriter-goes-mountain-climbing-with-a-coca-buzz aspect of the performance. And the title track? Well, what can
I say about a song that finishes with a cry of "Cannibalism! Cannibalism! Cannibalism! I'm drinking
endless cups of tea!"? Words cannot begin to express. Really.
Alright, maybe you don't trust my judgement so I should point out that Alvaro is included on the NWW list and was name-dropped
in Irwin Chusid's 'Songs in the Key of Z'. So there you go.
John Cale/Tony Conrad/Angus Maclise/La Monte Young/Marian Zazeela - Inside the Dream Syndicate Volume 1: Day of Niagara 
[Table of the Elements 74]
The above grouping of musicians were better known as The Theatre of Eternal Music and/or The Dream Syndicate which is probably
how this release should have been credited. But then again, it was released without Young's approval
who continues to use the TTOEM concept for his own work, so why press it?
Everything you've heard about the cd is true, more or less, the recording quality is very rough. It would have been nice
to be able to actually hear Maclise's contribution to the music, or to have Young & Zazeela's voices a little more audible,
but this music is just too important to leave locked away until the principals work out their disputes. Especially when Cale's
viola and Conrad's violin recreate the background drone and buzz of the universe and I really, really needed to hear that.
Christian Yoga Church - Turn On! Music for the Hip at Heart
Has there ever been an lp that you just *had* to hear? This album by an obscure Californian religious sect fit the bill for
me. And best yet, I loved the recording once I had a chance to listen to it. There was none of that "didn't-live-up-to-the-reputation"
sinking feeling that all serious music fans have from time to time...or a lot in my case.
The music on the lp is of the free-spirited-improvisation type that can only happen when amateurs and the untrained are
let loose in a recording studio. Odd instruments [kazoos, harmoniums, horns and all sorts of percussion,
nothing electric as far as I can tell] weave in and out as members of the church join in the fun. There's chanting too
as someone breaks into "Oooommmm" from time to time. It doesn't get any better than this.
Weird sounding? Depends. Probably not all that unsettling if you are a fan of some of the fringe Krautrock acts or the
do-it-yourself tribalism of Red Crayola's "Parable of Arable Land".
Definitely deserving of a full-scale reissue.
The Cyrkle - The Minx [Sundazed Records]
A first rate Sundazed reissue of the mid-60's exploitation soundtrack. When I think of sixties exploito-cinema, this is the
type of soundtrack that comes to mind. It has it all: psychedelic sitar headswirlers ["Nicole"], Bob
Crewe-style now sound [the title theme], in addition to sunshine pop, guitar instros, doo-wop, lite-psych...well, whatever
the producers wanted, The Cyrkle delivered. And I should add, delivered with greater sophistication
than should be expected considering the productions low budget.
There are twenty tracks in total which includes seven previously unissued film versions of the songs. The package also
includes extensive liner notes, photos and film ads.
The Decayes - Hornetz [Mind's Ear Records/Imgrat]
It's funny how I remember some things, like where I first heard about a band. In The Decayes case, it was in the pages of
Eurock magazine who first clued me into the weird, and yes dare I say it, wacky sounds of The Decayes [They were prone to
including fake commercials on their albums among other examples of oddness].
"Hmmm, sounds weird" thought I, "I'll spend some of my summer job money buying these records". I was
relieved and pleased when the first lp arrived that I hadn't squandered my cash on some prog-rock monstrosity that Eurock
was prone to push. Uh uh, no way. The Decayes were exactly what I was
looking for, D.I.Y. art rock damage that filtered the most peculiar European bands into something unique and very American.
'Hornetz' was The Decayes fourth album  and probably the best one to start with. It has all the elements of a good
record, short songs about everyday things like Hornets and the fact that nobody loves the singer, sound bites ['Death to the
fascist insect' I hear Patricia Hearst say on one of the songs] and even a cover version of Dudley Moore's "Love Me".
Added bonus: four previously unreleased songs and a booklet with a history of the band by Ron Kane.
Dengue Fever - s/t [Web of Mimicry WOM-012]
I first read about this band in Mojo and was immediately intrigued. Who could blame me? Dengue Fever are bringing back to
life, and a larger audience, pre-Khymer Rouge era Cambodian pop and rock music. If you have heard the Parallel World disc
"Cambodian Rocks", you'll recognize many of the tunes [Ah, so that tune is called "I'm Sixteen" and that
one is "Thanks A Lot"]. Yeah, it's nice to put names to the songs.
I've heard a fair bit of international interpretations of rock 'n' roll and there are gems to be found. Much of it sounds
awkward as if the musicians don't really 'get it' [I'll be the first to admit that that feature is part
of the charm]. If you don't know what I mean, give a listen to Ronnie Ong's version of "Buttons & Bows"
on the 'Steam Kodok' set. On the other hand, Cambodian acts take on western pop sounds so seamless as if they were not
interested in copying , but adapting the music to the local forms and making it their own.
I should point out that Dengue Fever don't, I was led to believe, simply recreate the vanished music of Ros Serey Sothea
(for instance). Yes, they used the late 60's rock instrumentation (Farfisa, guitar, sax, etc) but musical trends have evolved
and they have taken notice of this. The end results work because we're listening to American music adapted to Cambodian pop
then adapted back. The end result is a joy to hear. No kidding.
Fairport Convention - Meet On The Ledge (The Classic Years 1967-1975) [A&M]
'Meet on the Ledge' contains selections from their self-titled debut through to the 'Rising For The Moon" album. The
set tracks their change from an
American-influenced folk-rock band to developing their own distinctive voice. The package also contains a history of the
band plus plenty of photos. Oh yes, and several unreleased or hard-to-find songs and the incomparable vocals of Sandy Denny.
A good introduction.
Henry Flynt & The Insurrections - I Don't Wanna [Locust Music]
Recorded in 1966, this set documents Flynt's garage-folk-rock experiment. Joining Flynt (guitar & vocals) are Walter De
Maria on drums, Art Murphy on
keyboards and Paul Breslin on acoustic bass. Even at this stage, Flynt's appreciation of Appalachian music is evident,
a sort of a hillbilly version of the 13th Floor Elevators if a comparison is required.
The recordings have a very loose feel to them, suggesting that these derive from a rehearsal rather than an intended commercial
release. Not that I can imagine any label knocking at Flynt's door, except perhaps E.S.P. Disks
where tunes like "Uncle Sam Do" or "Sky Turned Red" would have been right at home.
As always, Flynt's music is unexpected and astounding.
Richard Hell - Time [Matador OLE 530-2]
This double disc set compiles various demos and live material from Richard Hell recorded between 1975 to 1984, the bulk with
his band "The Voidoids".
The set starts with four songs from 1975 when he was a member of The Heartbreakers with Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan.
The sound is rough as to be expected from a multi-generational dub, but I can hear the style that was
to become standard in 1977 for practically every punk band on the planet.
The following tracks include eight Voidoids demos from 1977 and 1979 some of which were re-recorded for the "Blank
Generation" and "Destiny Street" albums. A highlight is "I'm Your Man" which is atypical in that
background harmonies which displays an unexpected "pop" sound. "Nice one" I thought when listening.
Rounding out the disc are four songs recorded in New Orleans in '84 (not with the Quine & co.). I'm not sure if it
is the addition of a saxophone, but these songs have a strong "Funhouse" vibe which appeals.
Disc two contains two live sets, the first is the very raw set recorded at the Music Machine in London, 1977. All the
hits are there including "Love Comes In Spurts", "Blank Generation" and a particularly wild version on
Wanna Be Your Dog".
Lastly four songs recorded at CBGB in '78 which features guest Elvis Costello on additional vocals and guitar and a fine
version of "The Kid With The Replaceable Head" and a cover of the Stones' "Shattered". The latter probably
seemed like a good idea at the time.
A recommended purchase for anyone interested in one of punks' most difficult, individualistic and poorly documented originators.
Orlando Julius & his Afro Sounders - Orlando's Afro Ideas 1969-72 [Ekosound]
Nigerian musician who was/is critical to the development of Afrobeat, even beating Fela Kuti to the punch according to the
detailed liner notes. The nine tracks mix Highlife with soul, R & B and funk into mid-tempo grooves. Nice one. Very cool.
Neung Phak - s/t [Abduction]
They usually get compared to Dengue Fever, but their take on Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian pop music is rawer and closer
in spirit to the Sun City Girls. It is important to note that like DF or SCG there is *no* irony or mockery involved: it's
clear that they enjoy this music and try to play it in the same spirit as the acts they've heard on cassette. Varied, lively
and unexpected ethno-pranksterism.
Siloah - s/t [a.k.a 'Saureadler'] [Garden of Delights]
Reissue of an obscure 1970 krautrock recording. I have a real fondness for commune dwelling trippy ethnic acid folk and this
one is about as tribal as you can get...just give a listen to 'Krishna's Golden Dope Shop' and you'll see what I mean. Closest
comparison would be to Amon Duul's "ParadieswartsDuul", or perhaps Kalacakra's "Crawling To Lhasa" minus
the comedy voices. As is usual with G.O.D. reissues, the package includes extensive liner notes
and photos in addition to bonus tracks. I'll probably spring for a copy of their second album "Sukram Gurk"
Steve Peregrine Took's Shagrat - Lone Star [Captain Trip Records]
"Lone Star" is a brief cd which gathers a few of Took and pal Larry Wallis's Shagrat demos from 1970/71 and is a
nice piece of rock archeology. The first four songs ['Amanda', 'Strange Sister', 'Still Yawning, Still-Born' and
'Beautiful Deceiver'] are enjoyable acoustic numbers and an improvement on the less-than-coherent versions that appeared
on the "Missing Link..." disc of a couple years back.
The last three numbers ['Peppermint Flickstick', 'Boo! I Said Freeze' and 'Steel Abortion'] are very much in the Pink
Fairies style, which shouldn't surprise as Took was a founding member of that infamous drinking club. Overall these tracks
are rather like Kings of Oblivion heard through a defective am radio played very loud next door. Not that that's a bad thing.
However it would be fair to warn any would be consumers that the sound quality is pretty rough on at least two tracks, but
then again the
contents are drawn from old reels and acetates so this shouldn't be unexpected.
Various - Princess Nicotine - Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma) Vol 1 [Sublime Frequencies]
Upfront I'll admit that I know nothing about the music of Burma (which is my loss) so I can't tell you if this set accurately
reflects the nation's popular music forms or compiler Alan Bishop's tastes. What I can say is this
is some of the most bewildering and anarchic sounding music that I ever heard, and this is from someone who can listen
to Fille Qui Mousse first thing in the morning.
Instruments fly and styles careen, tempos shift without warning, theatrical dialogue magically appears and then the whirlwind
of music sweeps all else away with such energy it makes Carl Stalling's cartoon music seem sedate and
There are twelve tracks in all with evocative names like "Jasmine Bush of Gold", "My Darling's Love Arrow"
and the appropriately titled "Really Strange and Weird Things". If you can only listen to one song at your local
shop, request that they play Mar Mar Aye's "Someday He Will Return" and
you'll thank me.
Various - Rock Baby Rock It [Goofin Records]
The soundtrack for the first (?) rockabilly movie. "It was produced as cheap as could and as quick as could (one week)
by a music promoter who went by the name of J.G. Tiger (his real name was Jack Goldman). The entire filmed in a hotel lobby
in Dallas in 1956. As with the money Tiger had he couldn't get any real actors on film, he used local rock 'n rollers and
wrestlers". The primitive rock 'n' roll should please fans of the 'Born Bad' or 'Las Vegas Grind' sets.
Zolar X - Timeless [Alternative Tentacles]
I'm not the only one who remembers this band from the pages of Rock Scene. Then again, they were difficult to forget as they
dressed up as space aliens, not the X Files variety, rather the Star Trek version. One knew they were aliens because they
had pointed ears, strange haircuts and wore silver jumpsuits. Zolar X were high camp, even in the mid-seventies. All the same,
I have to admire their dedication to the outer space concept: they dressed in costume 24/7.
OK, but what does the music sound like? It's actually pretty good, well more than good really, but perhaps not for everyone.
It is glam in all it's theatrical over-the-top-and-away-we-go glory [think Queen featuring James Williamson with a big dose
of Ziggy Stardust]. The band is at its best with the shorter songs like 'Test Tube Baby', 'Space Age Love' and the evocatively
titled 'I Pulled My Helmet Off [I'm Going to Love Her]". The ten minute plus epics like 'Plutonian Elf Story' are perhaps
less successful, but still largely enjoyable providing you check irony at the door.