Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stuffs and such

1) Since I hate crowds and created scarcity (with RSD releases as the new Beanie Babies) as much as I love crate-digging, Record Store Day makes me feel like a Jehovah's Witness at Christmastime. So I missed out on my pals in the Me-Thinks and Pinkish Black at Doc's, and Wire Nest -- whom I think are going to be a huge deal, with a visual presentation to match their beguiling music -- at Good Records in Big D. However, when my Lawn Guyland homie Darrin Kobetich told me he was playing surf music through his pop's recently-restored old Univox amp with the Chrome Mags at Grackle Art Gallery (a guy's house just across Hulen from where I live), I couldn't pass it up.

Besides Darrin, the band includes estimable singer-songwriter Clint Niosi on Gretsch "poor man's Country Gentleman," bassist Jim Case (who also plays with D. in the Blackland River Devils and the "bluegrass Sabbath" outfit Blastula, which played at Grackle around the time I was cooking dinner), and drummer Austin Green (Telegraph Canyon). While they were a tad underrehearsed and seemed a little more nervous than I'd expect from such seasoned pros, their 30-minute set included classics like "Perfidia," "Telstar" (!), "From Russia With Love," "Ghost Riders In the Sky," "Hava Nagila," and "Pipeline," and was heap big fun.

As TCU prof/Empire of Scrounge scribe Jeff Ferrell pointed out, surf was a movement kind of like punk, where a kid with a reverb-and-tremelo equipped amplifier and a modicum of talent could create welters of head-spinning noise. It occurred to me that Dick Dale's aggressive Near Easternism isn't that far of a cry from Darrin's fiery Eastern European mojo, and the beauty of surf music is that you can make anything with a melody into a surf toon, so future Chrome Mags gigs promise to be worth catching.

An apogee of sorts was attained when somebody spilled a beer at Clint's feet, but a quick and resourceful lady was able to mop up the mess (which we speculated was done for effect, as though the surf had just come in) before anything untoward occurred. And I was home before 10. (I think one of the neighbors was waiting to call the cops, so they quit promptly -- and wisely, I think -- at 9:30.) Hooray!

2) Also performing last night, at Lola's, was Mora Collective, a couple of whom stopped by mi casa to drop off a copy of their new CD enroute to the gig. They're singing now, and while the presence of Zach Puchkors' sax is always going to get them pigeonholed as a jazz band, it's really more groove-oriented psychedelic rock than anything else, in a Traffic/Krautrock kinda way.

Zach's using fewer F/X, and the natch'l sound of his horn gives the music a nice flavor of Ben Webster via Archie Shepp. After their initial series of shows, these guys knocked it on the head a few months ago to develop new material, and they sound a lot more comfortable playing together than they did in their earlier recordings. They use the vocals the way bands like their kindred spirits the Tidbits or the Momentary Gamelan Ensemble (the outfit previously known as HIO, renamed in an effort, I suppose, to banish the whole Japanese-octopus-porn stigma since Matt Hickey also bowed out) use samples -- they're just another element in the sonic stew. Christopher Isaacs' fretless bass lends their supple grooves even more elasticity, and his guitar synth brings additional colors to their tonal palette. Drummer Eric Yacula remains a polyrhythmic wonder. The groovalicious "Liquid In the Time of Sand," the spacey "Guy Mariano," and combination-of-the-two "Bad Time to Light a Cigarette" are good examples of their instrumental approach, while "Elevator" is a standout among the vocal pieces.

3) Speaking of Lola's, a couple of weeks ago I shilled merch for the Me-Thinks at their record release party there and saw my old HIO bandmate Mark Kitchens, who continues to play with Terry Horn in the aforementioned Momentary Gamelan Ensemble (it's going to take some getting used to, saying that). Mark handed me a copy of his latest derwooka opus listening to a dying sun (cbgEP).

Besides being an architect and kicking the traps for doom-metal duo Stone Machine Electric, Mark's a builder of stringed and percussion instruments, and all of the tracks on this four-song collection were built around the sound of his cigar box guitars. The net effect is sparse and simple, like a one-man Om or Japanese folk music (albeit using different scales). On "into the day," he uses a slide to produce trombone-like tones over sparse backing that sways like bamboo in the wind. Kitchens vocalizes on "dead birds," which has an autumnal, elegiac sound that fits its title. The modified field holler "no pull" hits like some future Alan Lomax's field recordings from a slave planet. The title track begins and ends like backwoods Sun Ra and in the middle is all pleasant lope. This project remains the outlet for whatever happens to be on Mark's musical mind. I await his next communique.


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