Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Things we like: Brokegrove Lads, Magma, Grateful Dead

1) Had another Brokegrove Lads session at Cloudland this past weekend, with Britt Robisheaux at the controls. Matt Hickey was under the weather and so sat out the tracking sesh, but will mix and add magic in his home studio. Poet-dramatist Rob Bosquez, a veteran of Wreck Room jams with whom I collaborated on a stage piece a couple of years ago, was along to flow verse over our noise. Terry Valderas, a drummer-DJ-producer who thinks like a composer, provided us with four sound beds, based on dreams, that served as springboards into the jams. One he thought would be "darker and weirder" ("Buluga Push Transit") morphed into Chic-like funk, with a particularly memorable bass hook courtesy of Robert Kramer. "Camilla La Luna," based on a dissonant snippet of Steve Tibbetts guitar, inspahrd me to play a solo that channeled Gary Quackenbush from SRC. Another piece had a Pharaoh Sanders-like spirituality, over which I played a line inspahrd by Chuck Berry. "Semicolon" was our bastardization of FZ's "Apostrophe." I allowed myself to be persuaded to overdub my solo instead of playing it live, which I found unsatisfactory. Next time, I'll blow the solo live and overdub the riddim. The closing jam in 6/8 was the least satisfying for me and made me realize we need to write something in that meter, which Terry seems to enjoy. I think I have just the thing.

2) When Magma was new in the early '70s, it was hard to figure what to make of a drummer-led French jazz-rock group, produced by Yardbirds/early Soft Machine svengali Giorgio Gomelsky, who wore Star Trek-like uniforms and sang in an invented language, but I've been drawn back to them by Jon Teague's advocacy and more recently, the chapter on Kohntarkosz in Julian Cope's Copendium. That album, their fourth, was an installment in mastermind Christian Vander's Kobaian saga, a kind of outer space sci-fi analog to Wagner's Ring cycle (with choral vocals to boot), and it stands along with its immediate predecessor, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh, as the "classic" Magma. On the follow-up, Udu Wudu, Vander took his hands off the controls for a minute, allowing bassist Bernard Paganotti to pen a track, "Weidorje," the title of which he'd appropriate when naming his own band a couple of years later, and bassist/co-leader Jannick Top to dominate his own composition, "De Futura," with a bass solo that uses hypnotic repetition in a way that points to the heaviosity of stoner rock bands 20 years later. On Live/Hhai, which I've been checking out in my "deep listening room" (e.g., the car) of late, the lineup includes the distinctive solo voice of violinist Didier Lockwood, giving the music a feel not unlike Michal Urbaniak's Fusion, whom I heckled mercilessly when they opened for Larry Coryell's Eleventh House at SUNY Albany back in '75. We live, we learn. FTW progfather-turned Thinking Plague guitarist Bill Pohl also pulled my coat to a '74 BBC set with Top I'll have to check out.

3) Thanks to Valderas, I may have found the live Grateful Dead thing I've been looking for. Being of frugal mind and inclined to pick favorites even among my favorites, I lack the endurance to dig very deep into the available archives of live Dead, and find their non-American Beauty records tough going. Till now, the John Oswald-produced Grayfolded has been my go-to -- kind of an ultimate "Dark Star," cobbled together from over 100 performances -- but Terry shared with me a Youtube vid of Sunshine Daydream, the filmed record of a 1972 Oregon performance that reunited the Dead, recently returned from Europe, with the Merry Pranksters of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test fame. The nine-song set includes a nice "China/Rider" and a 30-minute "Dark Star," along with some Chuck Berry to open and C&W to close. Turns out the thing is DVD-available, along with a 3CD set of the whole 21-song show. Something to remember when my music-buying moratorium is over.


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