Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Panther City Vinyl

Dan Lightner has been slinging rekkids in the Town of Cow since 1978, the year I met him when I came here to open Peaches Records and Tapes at 6393 Camp Bowie Blvd with the man who brought me here, who ran a record store there for 25 years under four different corporations (and now works for Half Price Books). Dan was one of the first people we hired, and he stayed in the vinyl trade longer than most of us, winding up as the last general manager at Tower Records in Dallas before they folded the chain. He's also had a career as a visual artist -- of which I was a skeptic at first, like the John Cusack character in High Fidelity before he saw Jack Black's band; the fiery colors of Dan's Oath of the Horatii, which I once beheld at a Deep Ellum show he had with Brian Scott and Brian Jones in the early '90s, remain etched on my synapses. More famously, he did the painting that appeared on the cover of the Toadies' Rubberneck, about which I used to chide him that his work could now (late '90s) be found on the floorboards of cars all over America.

For years, Dan talked about opening a record store in Fort Worth, and a couple of years ago, he finally found a partner who had the time, energy, capital, and records to do more than talk about it, in the form of Ted Stern, a native of Fargo, North Dakota (he's an avowed ice-fishing enthusiast) who came to Fort Worth via Austin. Their store, Panther City Vinyl, opened earlier this month in a pop-up location at 1506 West Magnolia Ave. (the former Darrel Whitsel Florist location) -- look for the banner in the window, the sandwich sign on the sidewalk, and the creepy animatronic robots (inherited from the florist) in the window. When construction is complete, their permanent location will be across Magnolia, opposite Benito's and the Bearded Lady. The small store has a beautifully curated selection, with many gems, reasonably priced. If you don't see something, ask the fellas -- they may have it in back, or they can bring more from their storage unit. (There's also a small assortment of CDs. More select pieces are available from their Discogs store.) It's a pleasure to crate-dig in the company of folks who know and love their music as much as these two. If you dig the vinyl and live in the Fort, Dallas, or Denton, you owe it to yourself to pay 'em a visit.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Azonic's "Prospect of the Deep, Volume One" and Blind Idiot God's "Undertow"

It is noteworthy to me how many of my favorite bands these days are duos: Pinkish Black, They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy, and Wire Nest, to name just three. Paring down the instrumentation doesn't necessarily equate with lower volume, but it certainly allows the listener to hone in on sonic detail to an unprecedented degree. A good example of this phenomenon is Prospect of the Deep, Volume One, a new album by the duo Azonic, whose members also constitute two thirds of the current lineup of instrumental trio Blind Idiot God. Here, guitarist Andy Hawkins continues the exploration of the vibrato-equipped electric guitar's extreme pitch potential that he started back in 1989 with the track "Drowning" on BIG's second album, Undertow.

On the Azonic disc, Hawkins' 7-string and doubleneck guitars are matched by drummer Tim Wyskida's unique percussion array, which consists of two tympani, a concert bass drum, and a gong, to which the estimable Bill Laswell added bowed bass and triggered samples as part of his mix translation. The gargantuan sound of their high-volume improvisations, replete with long tones and pealing feedback, is both heavy and deep: the full realization of things Hendrix hinted at with "And the Gods Made Love..." and parts of the third side of Electric Ladyland, and the logical next step after Boris' Flood.

Hawkins' Indivisible Music imprint is simultaneously reissuing Undertow, so that those who missed out the first time around can be gobsmacked by BIG's massive sound, wherein heavy rock dynamics collide with 20th century classical harmony, dub, and funk (a raging cover of Funkadelic's "Alice in My Fantasies" is a particular standout). The label also plans to re-release BIG's other out-of-print albums, the self-titled 1987 debut and 1992's Cyclotron. Lower Manhattan avant-garde godfather John Zorn adds alto sax to his composition "Purged Specimen," while Henry Rollins provides confrontational vocals on the galloping "Freaked" (originally cut for a soundtrack in 1993). Drummer Ted Epstein, who left the band in 1996, plays like a whirlwind and is a wonder throughout. Essential listening.