Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s “Bull Tongue” column from Arthur No. 29 (May 08)

BULL TONGUE by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore
from Arthur Magazine No. 29/May 2008, available from The Arthur Store

Great new LP by Portland’s Jackie O Motherfucker may be our fave of theirs since Flat Fixed. Spaced out jabber and float with casual/urgent female vocals that almost sounds like certain moments of Fuzzhead at their most blues-wailin’est, interspersed with Velvetsy volk moves, and overlaid with swabs of smoke & jibber. The slab is called Valley of Fire (Textile) and it’s a monster. Also out from Jackie O is a sprawling 2 LP set, America Mystica (Dirter Productions), which was recorded in various caverns by the touring version of the band between ’03 and ’05. Not quite as precise as Fire, but its muse is savagely crunchy in spots and never so formal as to appear in a bowtie. It’s an open-ended weasel-breeze you’ll happily sniff in the dark. Is that a hint of Genevieve’s crack?

This young noise dude from Minneapolis named Oskar Brummel who records and performs under the name COOKIE has released his first entry into the new new American underground noise forest and it is frothingly balls-deep: good n’ harsh. It’s a cassette titled Ambien Baby and it flows with both a FTW sexual undertow and a strange-feeling/shit-coming rejoice. There should also be rejoicing over the fact that Times New Viking seem to have made their transition to Matador with their instincts intact. Their new LP, Rip It Off, is as grumbly and fucked sounding as any blast of gas they emanated previously. Nice thick vinyl, too. I guess you need it heavy when the needle’s buried this far into the red. Smooth!

It has taken a little while to actually read the bastards, but now that it’s done, there can be little doubt that Process Books has blasted out three of the best music-related tomes to have been peeped by our tired eyes. First up is the new edition of John Sinclair’s Guitar Army. This is one of the great American underground revolutionary texts—ecstatic, naïve, visionary and powerful. It’s a little funny to glom a few of the embedded old (old) school opinions about what is happening, but it’s still a wonderful read, and a doorway into eternal truths, if you can stay open to its music. The new layout is pretty good. We miss a few visual aspects of the old one (like, where’s the Frantic John flyer?), but the new pics more than make up for it, and the bonus CD—music, interviews, rants, poetry—is fantastic. As is Paul Drummond’s Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson. We’ve read endlessly about Roky over the last 30 years, but this book is jammed (JAMMED) with new facts, reproductions of fliers, posters, photos and ephemera we never even imagined, and Drummond really covers the subject the way he deserves to be covered. It’s really an overwhelming effort. The same is true of Robert Scotto’s Moondog: The Viking of 6th Avenue. The writing can be a little sere, but the story is juicy enough to mitigate this dryness. We finally get to read the story of how the collaboration album with Julie Andrews came to be. There are meetings with Arturo Toscanini and Edgar Varese. It’s quite a tale, and Scotto has done his homework. The only frustrating note is that there really isn’t a comprehensive straight discography. If there’s a second edition, it would be a welcome addition. Also, while the CD tracks are bitchen—especially the early recordings by (one presumes) Steve Reich—some notation there would be cool, too. Other’n those quibbles, we couldn’t be more celebratory ‘bout popping our corks. Buh!

We reported a while back how the horn has become a significant sound source in basement noise life with the weirdo bleat/junk processing of John Olson’s reed kill with Wolf Eyes, Dead Machines etc., and certainly Slithers, and to a mighty free jazz extent the always amazing Paul Flaherty. Furthering all this way hep ghost-trance-sense improv is Dan Dlugosielski’s new(ish) project Uneven Universe. Dan oversees the EXBX Tapes label and has recorded great gunks of noise-jam as Haunted Castle, plus he’s spooged out a few Uneven Universe documents. The one we keep going back to is The Rattling Caverns, on sweet Ohio label Catholic Tapes. It will make you wanna huff smoke-think and drink brews and maybe get some arm-around. If you’re lucky.

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"We're all going one way, but we may as well get down to it while we're here"*

(*John Martyn talking about the themes of mortality on 1970’s Road To Ruin)

stormbringer

John Martyn’s two 1970 albums with his wife Beverley — Stormbringer! and Road to Ruin — are near perfect examples of lush, freewheeling ’70s folk music. There’s the intricate guitar picking that characterized his earlier work on albums like The Tumbler, and there are a few of the jazz affectations that defined his later, more experimental efforts like Bless The Weather and Solid Air. But mostly this is the sound of two people in love, holed up with pals like Levon Helm in the idyllic countryside of Woodstock NY — e.g. just look at the two Martyns huddled together on Stormbringer!‘s awesome cover (later appropriated by Wooden Wand & The Sky High Band for their 2006 album, Second Attention). On his website, John offers these memories of the sessions:

“It was the year of the festival. We just lived there and worked with Paul Harris very quickly and very briefly and we just went into the studio and did it very one-off, very swift. Levon Helm and Harvey Brooks we met in Woodstock and used them, just because they were friends. It seemed obvious that they should be on it. Dylan lived up the road, and Hendrix lived virtually next door. He used to arrive every Thursday in a purple helicopter, stay the weekend, and leave on the Monday. He was amazing…a good lad.”

Here’s my favorite song from the album, the absolutely magnificent “John The Baptist.”

Download “John The Baptist”

On his 2006 tour Will Oldham was playing a hybridized cover version of Martyn’s “John The Baptist” and another song on the same subject by Virginia country gospel players E.C. and Ornal Ball. Here’s an acoustic version of Oldham’s medley, from his August 2006 run at Joe’s Pub in NYC. (Thanks to Aquarium Drunkard for posting the complete Joe’s Pub sets back in December).

Download Will Oldham’s “John The Baptist”

Road to Ruin–also recorded in 1970–has more of the same but with lots more jazz playing. It includes the melancholy vacation anthem “Give Us A Ring,” in which the couple ask their friend Nick Drake to bring them something cool back from his time abroad.

Download “Give Us A Ring”

Martyn went on to make weird, wonderful records that spanned folk, improv, ambient and reggae, but those two albums with his wife — they divorced in the late ’70s — will always be my favorites.

John Martyn died today of pneumonia. He was 60. Various obituaries and remembrances after the jump.

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