Category Archives: Psychedelic

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

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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

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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

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Filed under 1960s, Experimental, Psychedelic, Rock

“Oh, to realize something is ending within us”

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory....sounds like a Flaming Lips song title, huh?

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory....sounds like a Flaming Lips song title, huh?

The Flaming Lips – “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” from The Soft Bulletin (1999)

A while back, Jordy and I were talking about songs with dense, complicated arrangements, and how that density can enhance the meaning and emotion inherent in the song. He mentioned the late-60s/early-70s Beach Boys — Brian Wilson was nothing if not a genius of overload.

But the first thing that popped into my noggin was this ditty from the Flaming Lips’ best record. In fact, it is not especially dense, but I think that every guitar strum, every echoey mellotron yawn, every cymbal ping serves to create a sort of rock-and-roll tone poem. Toward the end the song itself begins to disintegrate.

What dense complicated platters do you love to spin, and why?

Buy the Lips

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1990s, Psychedelic, Rock, Space rock

More Electric Pianos

webHohner-Clavinet-02

Jordy’s excellent post on the Wurlitzer electric piano inspired me to post a few of my favorite songs that feature various electric pianos.  Click the album titles to buy the referenced albums.

Stevie Wonder -“Higher Ground” from Innervisions (1973)

Featuring Stevie Wonder on the Hohner Clavinet and every other instrument in the song.  Seriously, he plays everything.

Here is another Stevie Wonder classic featuring perhaps the baddest (by which I mean the best) Clavinet riff known to Man:

Led Zeppelin – “Trampled Under Foot” from Physical Graffiti (1975)

Featuring John Paul Jones on the Clavinet.

The Band – “Up On Cripple Creek” from The Band (1969)

Featuring Garth Hudson on the Clavinet with wah-wah pedal.  I wanted to include this one because the wah-wah makes it especially interesting.

The Doors – “Riders On The Storm” from L.A. Woman (1971)

Featuring Ray Manzarek on the Fender Rhodes.  Since the Doors did not have a bass player, Manzarek normally played the basslines with his left hand on a Rhodes Bass Piano while playing melodies on a Vox Continental organ, but here he goes with the full-blown Rhodes and turns out a great solo.

Check out this video for a look at Manzarek’s usual setup, a blistering organ solo, and Jim Morrison’s likely drug-fueled stage antics.

Posted by Adam

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Filed under 1960s, 1970s, Funk, Live, Psychedelic, Rock, Video

“I can and well just might turn you on”

photo from last years SWR employee picnic

photo from last year's SWR employee picnic

Funkadelic – “Funky Dollar Bill” from Free Your Mind…And Your Ass Will Follow (1970)
Funkadelic – “Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On” from Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974)

Funkadelic was batshit crazy. And it wasn’t just George Clinton: his top-notch sidemen and singers were as into the weird as the Supreme Maggot Minister himself. These two jams attest to that. On “Funky Dollar Bill,” check Eddie Hazel’s brain-melt guitar tone and acid casulty Lucius “Tawl” Ross’s unhinged singing. Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins sings on “Standing On The Verge,” a mutha-funkin’ masterpiece.

What gets me about Funkadelic is that behind their UFO-psych jamming are tight, inventive vocal arrangments. Mixed differently, a lot of this stuff could be pop. But the Parliafunkadelicment Thang would never let you off the hook so easily, now would they?

Told ya my next post would be cooler.

Mommy, what’s a Funkadelic? (buy it here)

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1970s, Funk, Psychedelic, Rock, Soul, Space rock

It’s No Possible

Fela Kuti – “It’s No Possible” from He Miss Road (1975)

While “It’s No Possible” is not Fela’s most political, angriest, funkiest, or even most danceable jam, it’s his spaciest, most trance-inducing, and, to my mind, best structured. And who doesn’t need an induced trance right about now?

Buy Fela

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1970s, Funk, Psychedelic, Rock, Space rock

Two songs I adore

Cans

Cans

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

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

“Strange days have found us, and, through their strange hours, we linger alone.”

The Doors – “Strange Days” from Strange Days (1967)
The Doors – “People Are Strange” from Strange Days (1967)

I’m not sure how my fellow SWR-mates feel about The Doors, but I think they’re top-notch, as long as you can excuse Jim “Bozo Dionysus” Morrison’s poetic posturing. Morrison was a great singer, with a good sense of drama, a precise delivery, and a way with a holler, but as a wordsmith, the man often left something to be desired. Let’s not even think about “The End.”

But the songs! And the band! They wrote perfect little creepy pop ditties, immediate as a folk song, stuff that’d be at home on Broadway–unlike their contemporaries in Love or the Jefferson Airplane, they didn’t reach after odd baroque melodies, but wrote tunes so obvious you can’t believe you hadn’t known then already. And they played tighter and groovier than any other white rock group of the time, except for the Stones and the Stooges. And, to be perfectly honest, I like The Doors better than almost any other “psychedelic group,” including Pink Floyd or Love or even the Dead.

When The Music’s Over, Buy Some More

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1960s, Psychedelic, Rock

Moses come ridin’ up on a quasar: A Somewhat Brief Primer To ’70s Live Dead

The Grateful Dead – “Greatest Story Ever Told” from Steppin’ Out With The Grateful Dead: England 1972
The Grateful Dead – “Not Fade Away > Playing In The Band” from Dick’s Picks Vol 10: Winterland, 12/29/1977
The Grateful Dead – “Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain” from Barton Hall, Cornell University, 5/8/1977
The Grateful Dead – “Friend of the Devil” from American Beauty (1972)

A few weeks back, my pal (and excellent poet) Ryland burned me two discs of the very best of the Grateful Dead, live in the ’70s. As my brother says, “It’s good to have a Deadhead friend, to seperate the wheat from the chaff.” Or the leaves from the stems and seeds, as it were. Here are a few excerpts for all SWR-heads.

“Greatest Story” is good-time boogie rock. “Not Fade Away” is a frantic Buddy Holly cover that segues into (the separate mp3) “Playing in the Band,” in this iteration an ambient groove. (A glance at that night’s setlist shows that versions of “Playing” were scattered throughout the set.) “Scarlet > Fire” is (I’m told) the classic version from a classic show. And “Friend of the Devil” for all y’all who don’t like 20 minute noodle-fests. There’s certainly more Dead to be heard (just trying googling, good god), but these tracks represent the pinnacle of what I’ve listened to, so far.

Buy the Dead

Download the Dead

Or check out setlists here

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1970s, Americana, Folk, Live, Psychedelic, Rock, Space rock

Night of the Living Dead

Grateful Dead – “The Eleven” from Live/Dead (1969)

Y’all may well disown me for this….

My apologies to SWR-heads, but I’ve been away for a bit, listening to the world’s most overreacted-against psychedelic jammers. Live/Dead is the only Grateful Dead record I own, but man is it a doozy. This track and the epic “Dark Star” are right up there with the best of Can and Miles’s Bitches Brew era. As far as songs go, the Dead left a hell of a lot to be desired…”Truckin'”? “Casey Jones”? Some of the shittiest attempts at folk songwriting ever. But their instrumental interplay, evidenced on this jam, was formidable. Garcia’s soloing is all major scale noodle, but against all odds, it works, not least because of the rubbery bass and in-the-pocket drumming of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. The Dead may flub a few more notes than Can or Miles, but the effect they achieve is similar: a hypnotic groove that you can drop into at any time and be amazed by. Just because every single asshole at your high school raved about “The Dead, maaaaan” doesn’t mean you should tune them out.

Try and count along

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1960s, Instrumental, Live, Psychedelic, Rock, Space rock

“Shine in/Shine on”

Boredoms – “Super Going” from Super Ae [1998]

Here is some mind-expanding minimalist drone punk to laze away a summer Sunday with. Boredoms at 2006 Intonation Festival (pictured above) blew me away with volume and rhythmic attack, but they lacked the tunefulness (albeit in the loosest sense of “tune”) this song soars with. Enjoy.

Can’t buy me Boredom

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1990s, Experimental, Post-rock, Prog Rock, Psychedelic, Punk, Space rock

“Tell it to me slowly”

The Zombies – “Time of the Season [UK mono mix]” from Odessey & Oracle [1968]

As a young boy, I was captivated by this song.  The hushed forthrightness and swagger of the narrator disturbed me.  Nevertheless, I wanted to be the guy who could walk up to a girl and ask “What’s your name?/Who’s your daddy?/Is he rich like me?”  Damn.  I’ll never be that threatening/alluring.

This gem was written by Zombie Rod Argent whose keyboard passages define Odessey & Oracle as much as Colin Blunstone’s characteristic vocals.

Buy it here

Posted by Jordy

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Filed under 1960s, Psychedelic, Rock

“The color of the dream I had”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “One Rainy Wish” from Axis: Bold As Love [1968]

Jordy and I were Google-chatting yesterday and he revealed that he had never “gotten” Jimi Hendrix. I was pretty sick of Hendrix after playing awful covers of “Fire,” “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and “Voodoo Child” in the basement with my middle school pals, but I’ve recently re-discovered the man. Check out a less famous Hendrix track and experience some defamilarization: hear Jimi with new ears. Maybe “One Rainy Wish” will convince you, Jord-man.

Amazon: Bold as Love

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1960s, Psychedelic, Rock, Space rock