Al Cisneros of Om (and Sleep, and Shrinebuilder) put so much work into this compilation — curating and carefully sequencing a wide-ranging selection of tracks, going over the mix and master four times to make sure it was perfect — for so few people to know about it. Chalk it up to unfortunate timing (2009 was a very rough year). We have a couple hundred copies left of the first (and only) printing. Cover artwork by longtime Cisneros collaborator and Arthur contributor/ally Arik Roper. $8 US. Track listing and order info: http://bit.ly/GZukmf
This C & D session was originally published in Arthur No. 31 (September 2008)…
C & D Two confirmed schmucks grapple with the big issues.
C: Our work continues. D: Or at least our drinking does. Ahahaha. C: [frowns George Will-style] Let the record show that whatever we say from this point forward about any of these records that the Arthur staff have so carefully assembled will invariably be colored by what we’ve just been listening to: Born to Be with You by Dion, 1975, produced by Phil Spector, downloaded off the Heat Warps blog. We are basking in its rather substantial afterglow. D: A stone gem beaut of an album…which, by the way, has never been released in America! What is wrong with you people? C: Have some pity on a country in decline. And you full well know it’s (apparently) Mr. Spector himself that kept the record from ever being released here. But keeping to the point: the readers should know that not only did we just listen to it, we just listened to it three times in a row. We are smitten by this version of “(He’s Got) The Whole World In His Hands,” which just sorta echoes all over creation in a melancholy way… D: [muses] It is strange to feel so instantly nostalgic for a record you’ve never heard. And yet I have been having that distinct feeling for the last hour and 25 minutes as we have been watching the sun go down over the Manhattan skyline while listening to the wonderful, stirring, heartfelt, heretofore unheard-by-these-ears work of the incomporable team of Mr. Dion and Mr. Spector. I guess it’s what they call that old deja voodoo, eh? C: Ha, yes I suppose they do…
FELA! A New Musical at 37 Arts in New York City Book by Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones D: So you went to a musical? C: Yes, I did. D: How did you like it? Did you laugh? Did you CRY? C: From the first minute when the actor playing Fela sauntered by, two rows in front of me, on the way to the stage in his pink jumpsuit, led by his dancer/singer/wives, as Antibalas played the opening to “Everybody Scatter,” I was weeping openly. D: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It is said that dancing by yourself in your living room to Fela Kuti music is the only known cure for depression. C: If it is that good, imagine what it must be like if you dance with others to it in public! The collective righteous joy is unbelievable. This thing broke me out of my post-David Foster Wallace suicide negative power zone. D: So it was a full-on simulation? C: Well… It’s not simply a tribute/costume concert, it’s an extremely brilliant musical-fueled biography of the man himself. The piece is two hours, 40 minutes and is set inside Fela’s club in Lagos, the Shrine. It’s 1976, I think, and he is onstage performing, and preparing to leave Nigeria. He’s had it with the ongoing corruption and idiocy in Nigeria. The government has arrested him, the military has stormed his commune, beaten and raped his wives and thrown his mother out of a second story window, leading to her eventual death. So he’s in and out of songs and monologues, reviewing his life to that point, smoking his big marijuana joints, laughing and crying and leading this band and this dance troupe, putting on this two-tier Afrobeat performance of… It’s spellbinding, just awesome, and I gotta say… As somebody who’s watched every second of available Fela Kuti footage out there, I thought I’d understood, as best I was gonna be able to understand in 2008, the man and the music. Well, I was totally wrong. D: Wouldn’t be the first time! C: Quiet. It’s one thing to see the pictures, to see the video, but to actually BE there, with the whole force of the music and the costumes and the VIBE in your face, at full volume, done with such love and care and attention to detail, with so much thought put into it… I don’t really understand how they did it, especially the guy who plays Fela, this brilliant actor named Sahr Ngaujah. Who inhabits him, completely, scarily. It’s enough to make you weep. D: Which you did. C: I should report that there is one major inaccuracy: the size of Fela’s rolled joints of Igbo, here it’s like a cigar but really they were more like torches. D: Like a baby’s arm? C: More like a bodybuilder’s. D: That’s something they can fix when it goes to Broadway. C: All the shit Fela talked about, it’s still true. More true. Bankers, government officials, colonial-minded lackeys, cowards, fools. Vampire Weekend? If only. It’s been a Vampire Millennium. And I can’t think of an artist alive today with the balls, and the trickster humor, and the anger, and the appetite for pleasure, and the gift for performance, and the raw charisma, the undeniable conviction, that he had. Did you know how musicians and other artists are not allowed to express views of the world in America? And if they break the rule, it’s cause for alarm and outrage and Drudge-shaming and record-banning and harassment and slandering and worse from the well-funded right-wing authoritarians. Don’t be political at the Oscars! Now is not the time! Nor at the Emmys. Oprah shouldn’t endorse! And so on. Because apparently they sometimes confuse the message from the government and break the entertainment moment that the viewer was anticipating, and indeed had every right to expect, given their school training and subsequent mediated experiences. The timing of Fela! is impeccable. He couldn’t believe the public would fall for this shit that the people in power were pulling. D: But we do. C: Over and over again.
“TRANSMISSIONS FROM SINAI”
curated by AL CISNEROS (Om, Sleep)
cover artwork by ARIK ROPER
1. Lichens – “Kopernik Trip Note” (previously unreleased)
2. Linval Thompson – “Wicked Babylon”
3. Grouper – “Everyone in Turn”
4. Current 93 – “Mockingbird”
5. Scott Kelly – “The Ladder In My Blood”
6. Quixotic – “The Breeze”
7. Hush Arbors – “The Valley”
8. Mia Doi Todd – “Night of a Thousand Kisses”
9. Six Organs of Admittance – “Bar-Nasha” (previously unreleased)
10. Holy Sons – “Drifter’s Sympathy”
11. Pantaleimon – “At Dawn”
12. Grails – “Acid Rain”
13. Sir Richard Bishop – “Almeria” (previously unreleased)
14. J. Mascis – “War” (previously unreleased)
15. Wino – “Silver Lining”
16. Alpha & Omega – “David and Goliath”
All proceeds go to supporting Arthur Magazine’s mission.
Edition of 1,000.
“Here are sixteen reports, differing approaches that, through their own individualized methods, access the one ground. It’s a privilege and blessing to have known many of the musicians on this disc, to have shared in song with some, and stages with others. In all cases I have been the healed recipient of their craft sitting alone with my headphones… Here is their auditory journal.” —Al Cisneros February 2009
Variety Arthur Nights (Palace Theater; 1,967 capacity; $24, one night; $80, four night pass) Presented by Spaceland and Arthur Magazine.
Performers: Devendra Banhart, Bert Jansch, Espers, Buffalo Killers, Jackie Beat, Axolotl, Grouper, Yellow Swans, Belong, Numero Uno DJs. Reviewed Oct. 19, 2006. Also (with different line ups) Oct 20-22.
By STEVEN MIRKIN You have to hand it to the publishers of Arthur Magazine. The (more or less) monthly [solidly bimonthly, actually-Ed.] is not only one of the most interesting reads out there — a consistently surprising mix of truly underground music, politics and art — but in a little over a year (with an assist from local club Spaceland) they’ve become a force on the Los Angeles concert scene, staging three multi-stage festivals that impress with their almost impossibly broad and well-chosen line-ups.
Arthur Nights is their latest offering, and the four-day event (held on two stages in the somewhat decrepit grandeur of downtown’s Palace Theater) once again covers a wildly eclectic range of music, with Thursday’s opening night line-up focusing on the “freak folk” movement the magazine has championed. As Noah Georgeson, producer and guitarist for headliner Devendra Banhart told the young and rapt aud, “We’re seriously laid back.” The evening’s three most intriguing main stage acts — Philadelphia psychedelic folkies Espers, guitar legend Bert Jansch and Banhart — rarely raised their voices or pushed the tempo, but each managed to make a distinct and satisfying impression.
With Meg Baird and Helena Espvall’s wispy, ethereal harmonies, Espers often has an eerie, otherworldly beauty. Their songs (from their most recent album “II” on Drag City) build slowly, almost imperceptibly, turning freer and more psychedelic as they go on; stretched out, they reach for a raga-like transcendence. At other times, when Greg Weeks adds his voice and plays the recorder, the songs sound like a stranger Jefferson Airplane crossed with touches of Fairport Convention and the Stooges.
They were followed by Jansch, who played the most satisfying set of the evening. His captivating mix of traditional folk and modern styles hasn’t changed much — the songs on his latest, “Black Swan” (Drag City) sound timeless. His playing looks almost effortless, but lattice-like interplay between his finger-picking and the movement of his left hand on the fret-board creates a cascade of notes is so sweeping, the counterpoint of melody and accompaniment so intricate, it’s hard to believe that the sounds are coming from one man.
Jansch was warmly received — members of the aud even whooped and applauded when he changed tunings on this guitar. A good deal of the credit for Jansch’s revival can be laid at the feet of Banhart. Jansch repaid the compliment and joined Banhart for two songs during the latter’s set, and “My Pocket’s Empty” had a focus and energy that was missing from most of the headliner’s set.
Banhart is an intriguing figure: with his long hair and beard he could have stepped from a late ’60s Laurel Canyon photo, and the early portion of the show, with three guitars and four-part harmonies, didn’t stray too far from folk cliches. But his music has a much broader reach, although the often feckless presentation blunts his ambition.
With his quivery, high-pitched vocals and Georgeson’s squirrelly guitar, the music often feels like a less jazzy version of Tim Buckley’s “Happy/Sad” (or, in the case of “Heard Somebody Say,” John Lennon’s “Oh My Love”), with Banhart presenting himself as a shamanistic seducer. In “At the Hop,” he wants his lover to “pack me your suitcase/cook me in your breakfast/light me with your candle/wrap me with your bones.”
The latter part of the set, when he stands up and straps on an electric guitar, starts to move further afield, as the music takes on touches of reggae, rock and, in a cover of Caetano Veloso’s “Lost in the Paradise,” bossa nova. But the entire set feels too meandering and laden with ideas that are too coy for their own good, including bringing up a member of the aud onstage to perform and an impromptu imitation of Al Jolson.
As might be expected from an Arthur evening, there were other styles of music to explore. Buffalo Killers opened the main stage perfs with a set of well worn, if well-played sludgy blues rock; an update of ’70s dinosaurs Mountain or Cactus. But they could surprise with a cover of Neil Young’s “Homegrown.” In the upstairs loft (accessible by an ancient manually operated elevator or a twisty staircase right out of a ’40s film noir mystery) Axolotl played an intriguing mix of tribal sounds with treated guitars and Grouper — a man [Actually, Grouper is a woman-Ed.], a guitar and a fuzz box — initially sounded like a noisy blare but his layers of feedback slowly built to something quiescently lovely.
“Soporific, glazed” (sez ‘The Wire’) Texas psych, part of the Imaginational Anthem tour
10:50 MAIN HALL
TAV FALCO & THE UNAPPROACHABLE PANTHER BURNS
Charlie Feathers, Alex Chilton, Rural Burnside and more…The truly legendary ‘Dorian Gray of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ from Memphis–admired by rock n roll luminaries like Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, The Cramps and The Black Keys–in his first L.A. appearance in a decade!
Japanese doom/rock/blissout superpower trio in performance ahead of the Halloween release of their devastating new album-length collaboration with dronekings Sunn0)))
Saturday October 21
4:00-on FOURTH FLOOR
SCHOOLHOUSE DROP-INS: “Visit the geodesic tent as the 9 Sundown Schoolhouse residents present projects to partake in, forums for engagement, acts of interaction, thoughts for collective inquiry and general happenings.”
Stomping West Coast high-energy rock attack unit who blew us away at loast year’s ArthurFest.
5:10 MAIN HALL
galactic dance-dub heroism from local ensemble
5:30 FIFTH FLOOR
mercurial, provocative, prolific folk-rock dude in a solo turn
6:10 MAIN HALL
righteous word jazz elders
6:25 FIFTH FLOOR
noize proj from Comets on Fire’s echoplexist/drummer Noel Von Harmonson and guitarist Ben Chasny
7:10 MAIN HALL
always imaginative keyboardist/music man–best known for co-writing work with Beastie Boys
7:10 FIFTH FLOOR
MIA DOI TODD
L.A. singer/instrumentalist on guitar, vocals and harmonium
8:05 FIFTH FLOOR
Folk singer-songwriter, a real child of the ‘60s canyon scene, introduced at Big Sur Folk Festival in 1967 by Joni Mitchell –She wrote “Windy” and so much more–now returning to live performance at age 62!–she lived the ’60s and she remembers it
8:10 MAIN HALL
SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE
apocalyptic free-mind guitar & voice from Ben Chasny
8:55 FIFTH FLOOR
MICHAEL HURLEY & JOSEPHINE FOSTER
Hurley is a legendary mellow bard with a hint of wry
Josephine – you gotta hear this woman sing! “She’s a genius” – Joanna Newsom
9:10 MAIN HALL
long-awaited return of Mira Bilotte’s NYC-based unclassifiable folk band, new album out next month; this perf will feature Dirty Three drummer Jim White!
10:10 MAIN HALL
return of Bay Area metal trance/mind expander duo who laid peacewaste at this spring’s ArthurBall
11-piece Arkestra still going deep, now led by the great Marshall Allen
~12:30am MAIN HALL
NUMERO GROUP DANCE PARTY
“Misplaced soul/funk hits” dance party DJed by the 20th-century pop archaelogists of THE NUMERO GROUP label from Chicago… They’ll be spinning throughout the day, with special sets before and following the Sun Ra Arkestra….
Sunday, Oct 22
4:40pm in the Main Hall
John Szymanski, David Shettler and Marty Morris –rawk n roll from Deeetroit on the Alive label
5:30pm on the Fifth Floor
local cosmic California country rock
5:30pm in the Main Hall
THE NICE BOYS
grade-AAA glam rock from Birdman recording artists
6:15pm on the Fifth Floor
THE COLOSSAL YES
Comets on Fire’s Utrillo’s brilliant piano pop proj
6:20pm in the Main Hall
THE SHARP EASE
Paloma Parfrey-led liberation rockers featured in current issue of Arthur
7:05pm on the Fifth Floor
CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET
L.A.’s own… featuring Ms. Lora Norton – Vocals, Mr. Chuck Dukowski – Bass (Black Flag), Mr. Lynn Johnston on Horns, Mr. Milo Gonzalez – Guitar, Mr. Tony Tornay – Drums (Fatso Jetson)
7:10pm in the Main Hall
ARCHIE BRONSON OUTFIT
sharply shaped rock music from new English four-piece
7:55pm on the Fifth Floor
all-female experimental/noise combo
8:05pm in the Main Hall
extremely rare solo set from the TV on the Radio singer-guitarist–he’s flying in from the Darfur benefit show in Philadelphia
8:55pm on the Fifth Floor
solo electric guitar hotwork set from prog-metal-avant maestro Mick Barr
9:15pm in the Main Hall
THE FIERY FURNACES
justly acclaimed thrill-a-minute brother-and-sister-led clever combo, gifted with pop sense, improvisational chops and conceptual ambition
10:45pm in the Main Hall
COMETS ON FIRE
Quite possibly Earth’s greatest living rock ‘n’ roll band–see present issue of Arthur for more details