Thursday, December 24, 2009

When the Heart Sings

One of my favorite records that surfaced in the past couple of years was the Minister and Nuns LP out of Brazil. My friend Will turned me onto it, and I pretty immediately fell in love with their way of looking at the world, and the contagious harmonizing they conveyed it with. If you haven't heard the LP it consists of a group of Brazilian sisters accompanying American minister David Wayne Smith who sing-speaks in English positive messages of human kindness and the warmth of God's love. I'm not a particularly religious person and this stuff absolutely melts me. The heart in these grooves is just so unbelievably pure, and they also sound like they're having the time of their lives! There's a wonderful quirkiness to the whole proceedings, a sort of cross-cultural meeting of the minds, if you will - but even if you just want some vibes, the bossa groove laid down by the Nuns is undeniably slayin' (Minister plays trumpet too!), and their back-up vocals will absolutely lift you above and beyond the blue. So, long story short: this magical collaboration came out in the United States on a small label from West Virginia, and was also released in Brazil as a slightly different press with 4 alternate songs. I had been looking for this edition for some time as I was eager to hear what else the group had cleverly tucked up their sleeves... and here it is! Just in time for Christmas. I'm only posting the songs that appear strictly on the Brazilian edition, as I sort of hope the whole project sees a reissue sometime - it's one of the most beautifully uplifting things you'll ever hear. All the best to you in the New Year, I hope that means happiness, health, and good vibrations. Ate logo ~~ JDF

Balada da Caridade

Youthful People

A Sad Story

It Feels Good to Be Good

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Los Pablos on Tear Drop

A few years back I got hip to one of my favorite local releases from the 70s, a mysterious and heavy duty latin-funk rock platter by a group called Moonlyte who put out one excruciatingly rare LP and a few 7"s on the Astro label. Ever since I got totally into that one, I've been on the look-out for exciting local-press latin rock and psychedelia. Most of the time there is just a truly wild grungy party vibe to alot of this stuff, and it really puts me in a different place than my favorite starry-eyed white-boy dreamer records. What's hilarious about the 70s small-label latin rock scene is that some of the best titles are really only half an LP worth of killer shit. And that's not because of filler, but literally because the label probably needed to sell the record to more than just the local dope-heads, and in a music-industry tradition as old as the hills, the A-side is usually pleasant but dull cumbia or tejano music, and the flip some kind of back-room after-hours mind-scorch. It would seem given the best case scenarios this worked in a band's favor, at least as far as putting out an insane side of rock music after bottling up all that energy during your sets of sleepy Tejano waltzes. So it goes with this little beast from San Antonio! Los Pablos, self-titled debut came out on the Tear Drop label probably around 1970, but I know of little other information at all concerning the band. In typical manner for these types of LPs, there is no band member info on the back, the record label instead deciding to post part of their catalog there. The music, however, on the "party side" of this one is pure bliss for fans of unhinged late-nite ambience, alternating ripping Hendrix fuzz riffs / loud horns / over-the-top vocals / and that crucial cheesy organ sound that is like the glue that holds the whole thing together. I ripped it all as one track, because it basically is despite having 3 song titles listed on the back of the LP. Turn it up!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Randy Rogers

Little is known about this fantastic and mysterious 7" by a young man named Randy Rogers. Two beautiful sides of acoustic loner folk on the RSI label, with a copyright dated to 1975. I had a friend who figured out that Randy was from Nevada, but the trail ran cold there. I've posted both of the songs below, great vibes for the onset of winter, which has more than arrived as far as my geography is concerned! And Randy if you're out there, please drop a line!

Just For You

Why Is It Always the Same

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ice Skates With Arms

A very good friend recommended this to me last spring as something he had been recommended - but hadn't heard, and so I picked it up on a lark as I had never heard of it before either and was enchanted by the awkward name. The jacket furthered my anticipation, which had guessed that the musical product would be some kind of scuzzy bar-wave along the lines of Ghostdance, or maybe at best an arty 80s DIY tinker-fest like the Department Store Santas. To my surprise, the needle dropped on 'Buy This Album and No One Gets Hurt' and it was pure and unadulterated acoustic folk music. The first choruses unwound, "You've got money, you've got time..." and things seemed to click into focus. Strong agile vocals that weren't pretentious, or shy, but strangely ambitious - stoned, no doubt - but clear and with a kind of forthright deliverance rare in private press folk records. Then I noticed the guitar playing - swift, earthy, finger-picked licks darting all over the place yet actually quite immaculate. What looked like a total low-ball amateur hour something or other via the jacket gradually knocked me on my ass by the end of side 1. All original songs, and really good ones! The kind of stuff guys spend months and months trying to get right for some stupid coffee-house performance and these guys just completely nail it in this off-hand manner that speaks to true musicianship and class. Lyrics too were jumping loudly out of the woodwork, and right off the bat... "I checked the time, the time checked me..." and I thought, I feel like I know these guys! It's a weird beautiful sensation, I only get now and again, and I was jumping all over the place by the time I got around to spinning it a half dozen more times. What's impressive about the Ice Skates is that they eschew alot of potentially disastrous camps for folk musicians at the end of the 70s... this record could just as easily be yet another vaguely hippie-ish knock-off, or an agitated acoustic punker, or worse - some kind of John Cougar Hometown Hero crap. Yet the more I played the Ice Skates the more I was struck by how little folk music actually sounded quite like this without devolving into tired emotional cliches or bland hooks. There was truly something special in their grist, and that golden sparkle of the knowing how good it is without it dripping all over into the sauce. It's simple stoned-ass beautiful losers-play-ball folk music and I think it's one of the better straight up acoustic records of the 70s, by anyone. Seriously.

Crambark and Szwank - Mystery Men of KC, Missouri

There's nothing really experimental or edgy about any of it, and yet it rules so concretely for just that reason - that, and the fact that they could actually write songs. Side 1 closes with a 6-minute guitar instrumental, but other than that every other cut is a piece of delicately worked song-craft, 7 wonderful slices of hazy late-night air from a basement or back-porch just the other side of over there. I don't know much about the Ice Skates, other than a few tid-bits care of Dante Carfagna, an old friend of the group who sold their records out of the Kansas City Music Exchange in Missouri. Apparently they performed in other capacities on CD, and are still playing in the KC area now and again, though probably not under this moniker! Having said more than enough I'm gonna turn you over to the endlessly flaxen and highly vaporous strains of Ice Skates with Arms. I hope you dig them, too.
Note: I've been asked to remove the download link. Here is a small taste, and hopefully this will see a proper reissue sometime in the near future.


Looking Back

On a dismal day of digging in Eastern Washington last winter I chanced upon this pretty unassuming high-school revue LP from Toronto. Nothing about it screamed 'cool' but a couple of solo vocal credits with original songs were enough to make me pick it up for a quarter. It turned out to have a few beautiful folk songs from a trio of young women who attended high school in Toronto and managed to make it onto their senior year retrospective LP. A further look at the back jacket revealed that they were genuine song-smiths and that they were apparently pretty prolific, however I could find out little else about them. Surely a full length LP by Mary Jean Crawford, Patti Schram, or Jenny MacGregor would command some attention although I doubt any such thing exists. I tried locating them to no avail, and so regardless I felt compelled to share these tracks from a woefully obscure little LP. My personal fave is the off-kilter piano ballad by Jenny - actually a cover of a Joe Mock tune, though I think the crowds will truly dig "There is a Way" which edges into folk-psych territory and is comp-worthy. Gorgeous innocent teen vocals soar over finger-picked guitar with cymbal flourishes for a really stunning piece of moody introspective folk music. Check them all out:

There is a Way by Mary Jean Crawford and Patti Schram

Nothing's Easy by Mary Jean Crawford

Would You Like to Stay by Patti Schram

Fear of Flying by Jenny MacGregor

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paul Levinson Interview

I had the pleasure of recently speaking with Paul Levinson, the creator of the celebrated psychedelic pop folk LP "Twice Upon a Rhyme." I've been a fan of the LP for a while, and was able to learn some interesting things about it upon talking to Paul. I hope you do as well! If you haven't heard the LP, it's available as a swanky CD reissue on Big Pink Music out of South Korea. You can also read more about Paul and his career as a writer on his blog... And without further ado... Here's the interview!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Kinbotes

"I recall seeing him from my porch, on a brilliant morning, burning a whole stack of them in the pale fire of the incinerator..." --Nabokov, Pale Fire

In a sea of mundane trendy over-hyped local 80s new wave LPs, a truly rare gem came to my attention last winter thanks to a glowing review by Mike Ascherman (“The greatest sub-garage band ever!”) and a cheap copy that fell into my hands from an online listing. I didn’t know much about the band or the scene (if any) it came out of and its mysterious packaging gave a variety of strange clues that pointed all different directions. The wrap-around paste-on featured hand drawn portraitures of three men in varying degrees of artistic accuracy. A guy who looked like he should be working for IBM circa 1980 was the foremost cartoon; bespectacled with a lumpy tie and a looming crop of black hair – his expression an air of resignation and introspective thought. Lurching sideways in the background to his right, we find a slightly more perfunctory drawing of a Neanderthal-ish man with a piercing glare, almost suspicious yet somehow dignified. And finally on the left was a mere sketch of a ghost-like figure with scribbled out eyes and virtually indistinguishable features… I had to ask myself: was this even the band? Flipping the record over there was a funny rant about the merits of popular songwriting in this day and age of avant-garde artistic pre-occupations, signed by the one and only “Chas” Kinbote, who our more literary listeners will note is none other than the narrator of Nabokov’s seminal novel ‘Pale Fire’! My curiosity was truly piqued.

After this lengthy examination I finally sliced open the wrap-around paste-on that covered jacket opening and put the damn thing on the box. The contents of the LP were nothing less than jaw-dropping: a wild lo-fi mish-mash of Velvetsy clatter, Devo flashing on Neil Young, new-wave sentiments subverted in utter personality subterfuge, ancient drum-machine burps, sing-along anthems about Rock’n’roll, zombie girls, the ennui of dorm life, marginal utility, teenage crushes, dead rock star satire… An overwhelmingly youthful glee permeated the music, and the songs were bonafide pop gems. Inept, reckless playing brought the material a lovably sincere quality, and I was immediately hooked. I had to know more.

My search began in New York City, the purported locale listed on the back jacket, and I wound up calling several guys named Nat Hirsh - none of whom responded or were the guy in question. The same went for Tim Ireland. A round about search for David Cateforis led me to the right guy, now a Professor of Art History at the University of Kansas. Returning my call with shock and delight a few days later we had a long conversation about the band and how the record came to be. The story lived up to the music, and we both agreed it should be shared.

As the story goes Dave met Nat at Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts school, outside of Philadelphia as a freshman. Connecting over music and living on the same hall they decided to form a band. Dave was actually a musician - something Nat, an economics major, had very little experience with - and he had played in garage bands since Jr. High. Dave described Nat as having a strange vision for the whole project, however, and as someone who would not let his limited musical talent hold him back. Their partnership involved Nat writing lyrics and basic melodies for which Dave would make up guitar parts and develop further musically. Nat’s lyrics had a truly nutty air and reflected a wide array of influences and obtuse references. Nat was something of a labyrinthine guy, and according to Dave, loved to spin riddles into everything he did and let you form your own conclusions. The songs therefore offer a dry deadpan sense of humor that was allowed plenty of room to air on the LP. The song “King of Comedy” was a reference to Scorcese’s classic 80s film starring Robert De Niro, but turned into a satirical piece about the suicide of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, whose music Nat found deplorable but which Dave earnestly enjoyed! Their musical credos split in funny ways and Dave described Nat having an unimpeachable canon of influences that had their own internal order but was less oriented to “new wave” which Dave would have described as his “sound” at the time. Nat loved Neil Young and the Velvet Underground and with an equal verve preferred ABC (especially their arch-dramatic hit “Poison Arrow”) and Roxy Music to earthier new wave picks like Jonathan Richman (a common comparison to the Kinbotes LP)!

Once they had a solid roster of material the boys set about recording the LP, almost entirely done in Nat’s dorm room, even though Dave thought they should get some studio time and have a little more professional approach. Dave took music seriously, and while I think Nat did as well - in his own way - there is a sense that Dave is just completely letting go on these tracks and playing sloppy for the hell of it, partially because he thought it would go no farther than being strictly a demo tape! Unbeknownst to Dave, Nat took the material after their 1986 graduation and had it pressed as an LP without telling him… taken aback at the time, Dave remarked that nowadays he sees what is special about the LP, and that buried in there are some truly great pop songs - indeed, “Like a Movie” for example is screaming to be dusted off for cover!
Allegedly an artistic rendering of Nix proprietor, Mark Satlof.

The LP was done on the mysterious “Nix Records” which I later found out was not really a label at all. Mark Satlof, a childhood friend of Nat’s only released one other record on the label, a 7” by a group called the Bureaucrats produced by Wayne Kramer of the MC5! Bringing his tapes to Mark, a student at Columbia, Nat would allow them to be mixed and just have a few background vocals added before going to press. Rumor had it that they only issued 50 copies of the Kinbotes LP, but Mark assured me this was not the case - just that after making its way to family and a few friends most of the run wound up in the dump, despite one copy winding up in Richie Unterberger’s hands and receiving a mixed review! The cover art was a bit of hoax too; after taking a picture of themselves in an old-fashioned photo booth, Nat carefully copied the image, including dorm hall mate Tim Ireland who was not even in the band, but completely obscured his own features. Dave remarked that it was typical for Nat to hide behind characters and masks. I think, however, that despite this tendency, the music speaks for itself. And what I hear is a wide-open heart, a voice too strong for his youth, and a fragility that had to be contained lest it be harmful. It’s a really special thing, and 1,000 other pompous dorks that strut around in rock clothes don’t come close to this kind of alchemy, ever.

The band was a big deal for Nat, and after college ended Dave remarked on feeling bad about leaving the duo - that it really had meant something to Nat that he couldn’t grasp. Dave went on to grad school at Stanford for Art History, and Nat took work as a bank examiner in New England, which Dave remarked as being curious and seemingly out of character - but again aligned with a kind of bread-crumbs trail he laid everywhere. Nat wanted to keep playing music and would continue to record into the 90s. He sent Dave some of the tapes after the latter visited New England in 1995 to see family and catch up with his old friend. Nat was living by himself in a crowded messy house, albeit one he had paid in full for after having turned a modest graduation gift from his parents into a sizable bankroll in the stock market, and the music on the tapes had gotten stranger, more maniacal. Dave was worried about Nat, and thought he might be losing it. The truth is, as I would later find out, that Nat had recently suffered a traumatic car accident, part of which was an injury to the head among other more curable ailments. While his body healed, he sunk into a deep depression which his family believes was due to the head injury, and tragically, a few years later Nat took his own life.

There is a heart-breakingly ironic twist, when you learn this and listen to a song like “King of Comedy” or read ‘Pale Fire’ and find out the narrator, one Charles Kinbote himself meets his end by his own hand. I picked up the book after talking with Dave and found it a spellbinding read. The penultimate “puzzle-novel,” a work some critics describe as “meta-fiction”, it presents the reader with a story that yields a multitude of interpretations: Kinbote is at once perhaps the Zemblan prince he recounts paradoxically in tales of times before, and also may be Shade, the poet he worships and ferociously edits after his death. The story weaves a tapestry of first-person narrative, epic poetry, and hilarious flashbacks that leave you wondering where you were the last time the page turned, but strangely aware of the book’s own internal geography. It can be read, on the one hand, as a fairly straight-forward novel, and a very easily entertaining one at that, but it masks a much darker, more rewarding “deep” reading to those willing to go further into its minutiae. I could see Nat all over it… hair-mussed, gears wildly spinning away, pencil scratching, and finally figuring his own way through the maze. In turn, he created his own: the LP by the Kinbotes on the one hand offers a pleasant lo-fi garage pop experience that is easy to initially get hooked on - but the further you go with it, the more subtleties and hidden agendas come out of the woodwork; every time I come back I hear something new creeping around the perimeter. I don’t know if I’m right about all of them, but then again, maybe no one is! When asked about the book, Nabokov would talk about “plums” waiting to be plucked from the tree that was ‘Pale Fire’ if only the right reader could find them, and I think the Kinbotes LP has plums galore, ripe ones, for fans of independent DIY musical releases from any era.

Final meeting, Nat (left) and Dave (right)

I wrote this article to offer the music of the Kinbotes to a wider audience, and to also say rest in peace. Every time I go off on a wild goose chase to find the creator of an LP I’ve come to love, I can’t wait to meet the man himself, and in this case it proved impossible - not because they were dodging taxes in El Salvador, or wouldn’t return my messages because they hated their funny little record from 1971, but because he had taken his own life. It truly saddened me, and I wanted to offer this piece, and say thanks to Dave and Mark for sharing Nat’s story - which I have taken to heart. The music more than speaks for itself, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I’m convinced it deserves a reissue and if someone out there is listening with that thought, please drop me a line.

Hang Around

Julie Don't Care

Gingerbread Boy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Los Strwck - La Doctoriza

Here is a ridiculously fun LP I finally laid my hands on a few weeks ago. I owe a big thanks to Rich Haupt for turning me onto this gem... a hypnotizing blend of loungey Mexican club rock and raging psychy fuzz-guitar workouts that kind of defies categorization. It's not that such a mix is completely incomprehensible, it's just that these blasts of unmitigated feedback seem to come out of nowhere and often somewhat alter the course of the song altogether pushing this firmly into the strange. As if that weren't enough to pique your interest, it's also a total party record. Not every song features a dimension shift into mind-warp zones, but the few ballads are a delight and properly overwrought in classic Mariachi fashion. I absolutely love this stuff, and I hope you do too. There's no info on the back of the jacket - just a catalog for other releases on the obscure Kubaney label... Apparently these guys have a load of other LPs and only one comes close but doesn't even scratch this beast! Any further details are appreciated...

Communicame Tu Ritmo

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mix: You Really Would

Here's something to keep the wheels spinning... I made this mix for the summer Waxidermy CD-R swap and figured I'd offer it up here as well. Perhaps some familiar faces, and a few very obscure seven inches and random 1-trackers. All of this stuff appeared out of nowhere in late spring-early summer and just fell together nicely as a weird mix-tape loop that absorbed my mental currents for a month or two. Hope you like it. Here's a track list:
1. A Wave - Woo
2. Measurement - Pat Madden
3. Take Me Home - Bert Keeley
4. Anthony Burgess - Bing Selfish & the Ideals
5. Have You Ever Had That Feeling? - Jim Hansen
6. It's Over - Gatsby
7. Misty - The Estate
8. Anybody Home - Dennis Soares
9. Dogs - Glenn Phillips
10. Fear of Flying - Jenny MacGregor
11. Where Are You? - Tim McKenna
12. Searchin' - Charmer
13. Universal Person - Grand Canyon
14. A Simple Thought - Greg Todd & the Jacks
15. Try Baby - Pat Madden
16. Diamond Love - Philip John Lewin
17. Tots in the Way - Ice Skates with Arms
18. The Stars are Bright - Benny Cook
19. A Job Well Done - Jo Ann Stokes
20. The Cleaner - Woo

Wild band feature coming up this week... stay tuned. Best, JDF

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yin & Yang

Easily one of the coolest discoveries of 2008 had to be this completely unknown private press LP of mixed performers folk and rock music. To say it is mysterious is sort of an understatement, as it's discoverer found it in the back of a Ram Dass 'Love Serve Remember' box-set with nothing but a painted paper sleeve covering it. Posted info and mp3s on a renowned record forum warranted no further info, other than that it was probably from 1971 based on the Matrix numbers, and judging by the sounds a commune project LP - and a very good one, at that. I've entertained a lot of these types of LPs and few are this rich in atmosphere, musical quality, proper arrangement as a playable-through album (think Context '70) and a unique and individual vibe that you actually remember distinctly as its own. Yin & Yang is a perfect mixture of tender wasted folk with a sly druggy smile, mellow pastoral rural rock, sound experiments, poetry, nature sound effects, and some beautifully dark instrumentals. The record really really grew on me the more I played the sound-files, an amazingly deep post-lysergic mossy candlelit aura creeping around the room each time I came back and got better acquainted with the voices within. And the progression from light to dark was equally intriguing... the album begins with an almost suspiciously cheery folk song about sunshine, and ends in an otherworldly vocal harmonization that follows a haunting version of the Arabian Dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker! There is a real magic here, even on their one cover of a Gordon Lightfoot song ("Early Mornin' Rain") a completely spaced out spell gets cast over the material, it sounds like they lived it. I hope this post reaches some of the members involved with this project... It's hard to say because I have no names to post, and I'm not even sure if Yin & Yang is the album name proper or just the names that appear in place of A and B sides. The songs are tagged in the files, but here is the track-list anyhow in case that might trigger in a search engine. There was some speculation that this might be from a commune associated with Ram Dass, but it seemed less likely according to another source. In any case, if you have any information about this record please drop me a line. Otherwise, enjoy! And a huge thanks to Tyler for finding this and graciously letting me share it here. It is really special.

Then You Have Loved


Early Mornin' Rain

1. Ocean
2. Mister Sun
3. Two Guitars & Flute
4. Then You Have Loved
5. Maids When You're Young
6. Instrumental
7. It's a Beautiful Day
8. Ocean

1. Birds
2. Rama
3. Harmonics
4. A Poem on How to Write a Poem
5. Early Mornin' Rain
6. Arabian Dance
7. Om

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pat Madden - Self-Titled

My first official musical-content post comes from this mysterious LP that surfaced on the collector circuit but a few months ago, and has been delighting my ears since then. I chanced into a copy and was surprised that it wasn't just a 1-tracker, as I had suspected, but a truly solid late night female folk-rock LP with a strong backing band that alternated between lo-fi roadhouse grooves and tender acoustic confessionals. The standouts were almost unanimously the several truly stunning solo tracks where Pat's beautiful voice and aching guitar work shone through, however almost more importantly the record played solidly from front to back and was arranged like a proper album - with all original songs to boot! All of this of course had me scratching my head as to who Pat Madden was, and why this LP was so obscure in such a raked over field of half-baked private press folk records and tired 70s rock amalgams. I could find nothing on the woefully generic sounding "Calypso Records," and despite a lengthy search came up empty as far as Madden herself was concerned.

Madden's Musical Cohorts

There was no location listed on the back, and the band member names were all astonishingly common. So here I am left with a dead-end search, and a cry to the inter-web universe: Pat where are you? To casual listeners, I hope you enjoy... I think the record has a great swampy hippie trailer-park atmosphere and an earthy production quality that fits the material nicely... If nothing else "Measurement" is an otherworldly femme-psych moment and should be comped! All the best, JDF


Friday, October 23, 2009


Hi. Some of you might remember, "And then the chimney spoke...", which died sometime a few years ago. And then there was silence. I bought alot of records though, and chased down some more interesting artists. I feel the need to share. And while the chimney was an entertaining, and very addled experiment, I feel like I'm much better equipped now to do something more akin to actual journalism (haha!). My hopes for this blog are to disseminate musics of unknown, obscure, and truly buried artists. No reissued stuff... nobody with a website... in some cases, no one with a bloody phone number! I've got some cool interviews in the pipes, a few band features, a load of mysterious stuff I haven't been able to figure out, and hopefully much much more. In most cases everything is coming from a direct rip of stuff from my own collection, or possibly of a close friend's. If you the artist, is not happy with this, please get in touch. I'd probably love to talk to you whether you're pissed at me or not! Lots of love, JDF