Category Archives: Experimental

Can: Tago Mago

Can – Tago Mago (1971)

Glenn: Deep funk you’d feel weird shaking your butt to. Crisp production, with oddly EQ’d drums — muted. Like what you hear with a head cold or a fever. Two long sound collages — one of which contains my all-time favorite 2 minutes of Can (that’d be the opening of “Aumgn”), and the other of which is made up of shouting, carnival blee-boop organ licks, and delay pedal fuckery. A distanced feeling throughout. So is this emotionless post-rock jamming more to be admired than to be enjoyed? Or is there blood in these grooves?

Jordy: There is vibrant life in these grooves.  As my liner notes quotes keyboardist Irmin Schmidt: Can was like a “mighty, pulsing organism.”   Similarly, I would define the “life” of Tago Mago more in biological terms.  It has a regular heartbeat and bowel movements, for instance.  (Excuse me while I abandon this analogy…) Continue reading


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Filed under 1970s, Experimental, Prog Rock, Psychedelic, Rock, Space rock

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band:  Trout Mask Replica (1969)

Adam: What can we say about Trout Mask Replica?

Jordy: Probably too much. Continue reading


Filed under 1960s, Experimental, Psychedelic, Rock

The Microphones: The Glow pt. 2

The Microphones: The Glow, Pt. 2 (2001)

Phil: I don’t remember the first time I heard Phil Elvrum’s (now Elverum, see his interview with The Believer) masterpiece of separation and personal discovery, but I can say I have listened to this album several times in several different contexts and it stands apart as one of the finer releases of the Pacific Northwest’s Indie scene.

A friend of mine once told me she thought that every Microphones album sounded like the band practiced for four days straight without sleeping and then recorded. Production on Microphones records is almost always arrestingly simple and childlike, like no one cares if vocal tracks clip and distort or if the hard-panned guitars aren’t really in time. And Phil Elverum’s a smart guy. He could make everything line up just so if he really wanted to, but this approach to the recording process is either calculated naivete or an attention to something else altogether.

What’s important to Phil Elverum? Like any good artist, he seems to be concerned with expression; if this album was tight, in tune and clean, it would be a completely different statement. It would be an album about intentionally working through intense personal muck instead of an album about wandering around in a fog (or glow, if you will) of uncertainty, occasionally tripping over something transcendent but mostly thinking about uncertainty and its aftereffects.

“I Felt My Size” (far from my favorite track on the album) stands, in my mind, as the prime example of most of the elements that make this album exactly what it is. It starts with Elverum’s voice and guitar right up front in the mix with some noise in the very back, sounding very…Northwesty…until the drums come in and they’re just so gd compressed that you can hardly tell what they’re supposed to sound like. And then we get some weird auxiliary noises until the group choir comes in and tells us that Phil is not a planet at all, that he has found his place in the universe and it is certainly not much of one. So you have the sound of someone understanding that the universe does not really much care for them (a theme explored in the following LP Mount Eerie) and it sounds unsettling.

I think this album is unsettling because it is an unsettled album. It’s for grey days and feeling like you don’t have a clue and need to feel like somebody has gone through this all before. And so many have, but few have communicated it as well as Phil Elverum on this here album.

Glenn: I completely agree with you, Phil. This album always sounds just out of earshot — and that is unsettling. There are those albums I know by heart, from first note to last fade. London Calling, Astral Weeks, Kind of Blue, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, Abbey Road. But, for me, this album is more like The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Exile on Main Street, Amnesiac, and Camofleur: each listen is like the first listen, and something new comes to the front. The Glow Pt. 2 is perhaps the album I love best that I know least. There is something distant, almost unknowable about the album — fog, as Phil puts it.

Yet the mystical quality of the album seems steeped in the real world. For example, see “The Moon,” my favorite Microphones song. A glance at the lyrics shows it to be a straightforward narrative. But the childlike production is what makes the song poignant. Only so often do lyrics lines emerge clearly through the haze of guitars: “We walked around and stayed up late….And the wind and the mountaintop….My chest was full….And in its light I saw my two feet on the ground.” The fragments of story are more meaningful than the story itself, because you, the listener, must do the work to make sense of the song.

Phil: I’d be willing to cut “The Mansion”; I think it’s a really good lyrical centerpiece to the fog/glow of the album, but the title track is pretty stinking awesome.

Glenn: I’ve always thought that the song “The Glow, Pt. 2” would sound good arranged for brass quintet. Dig a French horn on that gorgeous vocal melody.

In fact, that’s maybe what we’re getting at in this conversation. This record glows with fog, but underneath it all lie solid melodies and good lyrics. Which is more than you can say about any other Microphones or Mount Eerie release (sorry, Phil; sorry, Phil).

Key tracks:

“I Want Wind To Blow”
“The Glow, Pt. ii”
“The Moon”
I Felt My Size


Filed under 2000s, Experimental, Psychedelic, Rock

“and then my mind split open”

The Velvet Underground – “I Heard Her Call My Name” from White Light/White Heat (1968)

Last night, after drinking a wonderful Sazerac cocktail, I heard Yo La Tengo play Durham NC. The cavernous acoustics of the Carolina Theater didn’t help the sound, but the show still split my mind. One of YLT’s encores was a noisy version of the Velvets classic “I Heard Her Call My Name.”

Back in ’94, Yo La Tengo portrayed the Velvets in the film I Shot Andy Warhol. Watch a clip (but no YLT) here.

Catch Yo La Tengo live

Buy the Velvet Underground

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 1960s, Experimental, Psychedelic, Rock

“In-dee-pen-dent. In-dee-pen-dent.”

The Books – “That Right Ain’t Shit” from The Lemon of Pink (2003)

I think I can speak for my fellow SWR-ians by saying that the Books fucking rule. I heard them live once on a wintry night in Chicago; I was shushed during the boring-ass opening act by an overweight beardo hipster; the Books killed; in a blissed-out stupor I talked with one of the Books afterward. The cellist. His accent was too thick to understand. I tried to shake his hand and he wouldn’t have it. (Later, Jordy asked me, “Is that what you call him? Is he a Book?) Their live set, to be sure, was fantastic. The kind of show where time disappears.

At any rate, our pal Rob tipped me off to the fact that the Books are working on a new album, to be released in the next year. In the mean time, they’re touring. I missed ’em in NC; don’t make the same mistake.

Buy the Books (or just any old book, I recommend Wolf Whistle by Lewis Nordan)

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 2000s, Experimental, Folk, Instrumental, Post-rock

What (is this thing called) Love?

Eric Dolphy

Eric Dolphy

Charles Mingus – “What Love? (live)” from Mingus at Antibes (rec. 1960)

Old-school SWR visitors might remember that I am batshit-crazy about jazz giant Charles Mingus. Some of his best work was done in the early-to-mid-1960s with alto sax/bass clarinet/flute whiz kid Eric Dolphy.

This is easily one of my favorite jazz recordings ever. The musical conversation between Mingus and Dolphy toward the end is both funny and moving, and Ted Curson’s trumpet solo kills. Drummer Dannie Richmond, as always, gives Mingus a unique rhythmic drive and texture. There’s another recording of this on the faux-live album Charles Mingus Present Charles Mingus, featuring the same lineup and much more Dolphy-Mingus interaction, but to me it doesn’t hold the same fire. Listen to it yourself:

Charles Mingus – “What Love” from Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (1960)

Mingus loosely based the chord changes of “What Love?” on the jazz standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Take a listen and see if you can hear the resemblance:

Clifford Brown & Max Roach – “What Is This Thing Called Love?” from Basin Street (1956)
Clifford Brown – trumpet
Sonny Rollins – tenor sax
Richie Powell – piano
George Morrow – bass
Max Roach – drums

Bill Evans Trio – “What Is This Thing Called Love?” from Portrait in Jazz (1959)
Bill Evans – piano
Scott LaFaro – bass
Paul Motian – drums

There’s some fantastic video of Mingus and Dolphy together. Start here.

Buy Mingus here

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Experimental, Jazz, Live

Two songs I adore



There’s no theme or commentary to today’s post other than it’s Friday and I adore these two songs.

Can – “Mushroom” from Tago Mago (1971)
Califone – “Sawtooth Sung A Cheater’s Song” from Heron King Blues (2004)

What sounds good to you this Friday?

More Califone on SWR

More Can on SWR

Buy the ‘fone

Buy the ‘an

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 1970s, 2000s, Acoustic, Experimental, Folk, Post-rock, Prog Rock, Psychedelic, Rock, Roots rock, Space rock