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