Indie Weirdo Round-Up: Akron/Family, Black Dice, Robert Wyatt, Sublime Frequencies compilations, Darjeeling Limited ST
The Om EP – Akron/Family (self-released)
The Om EP, sold at the Akron/Family merch table during their fall tour, is the latest in a long line of odds and sods CD-Rs the band has issued during their half-decade. Like its original appearance on Eskimo (another home-burned affair), the subliminal disc-opening folk of ‘Afford’ slips off into a sound collage jam — here involving bells and gongs and drones and (eventually) a wall of sound. The disc is an a roughly mastered mixed bag, consisting of drum solos (‘This Moment (Now)’), isolated guitar patterns (‘Welcome’), kooky jams (‘Kukatonga’), and a live (or semi-live) recording of questionable fidelity featuring a jam from ‘Raise the Sparks’ into ‘Mesa’ before dropping into… a jugband rendition ‘I Know You Rider.’ Akron/Family put the ‘hip’ back in ‘fuckin’ hippies.’
Load Blown – Black Dice (Paw Tracks)
Far be it from Brooklyn noiseniks Black Dice to make an accessible album, Load Blown is certainly quite listenable, strapping Boards of Canada-like dirt-tronics to the occasional gleeful drum machine. On ‘Gore,’ a snare pattern often sounds ready to coalesce into danceability. ‘Kokomo,’ meanwhile, puts a hard pulse under a torrent of synths and what sound like sampled car horns. Black Dice have no problem making tracks resonate texturally (check the synth/scratch counterpoint of ‘Drool’), but it is also hard music to connect to. Though there is noise aplenty, there is little drama, making Load Blown a highly diggable listen whose songs might not linger long afterwards.
Comicopera – Robert Wyatt (Domino)
Robert Wyatt could record in the grandest studio, be polished in ProTools, and mastered by Andy Wallace, and his music would still sound homespun. His perpetually childlike voice — its upper ranges now peppered endearingly with age — is one of the great ones of our era, and Comicopera provides another dozen modest vessels for it. Wheelchair-bound since a drunken accident in 1973, Wyatt’s melodies wandered into jazz somewhere in the ’80s, and he’s been working with varying degrees of small combos and synth-pals like Brian Eno since then. On Comicopera, he is joined by female vocalists (such as Monica Vasconcelos on the stunning ‘Just As You Are’) and prog legends (Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera on the strummy ‘A Beautiful Place,’ co-penned with Eno). But it’s still about Wyatt’s voice, as demonstrated on the abstract and almost unadorned ‘Mob Rule.’
Latinamericarpet: Exploring the Vinyl Warp of Latin American Psychedelia, vol. 1 – various artists (Sublime Frequencies)
Music of Nat Pwe: Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma), vol. 3 – various artists (Sublime Frequencies)
Really, using the word "psychedelic" as an adjective is for straights. True believers know that true and beautiful weirdness has always existed in the world, just as the forces of good and evil do. The Sublime Frequencies label, co-founded by Alan Bishop of the Sun City Girls, is out to prove it. Sometimes, as on Latinamericarpet, the music is overtly bolstered by at least the idea of drugs. Bands from Argentina, Peru, Chile, and elsewhere get their freak on, instilling various subgenres with subtle Latin grooves, such as music hall (Meteoro’s ‘La Banda Fantasma’) or surf-rock (Los 4 Planetas ‘Dos Guitarras’). Music of Nat Pwe is even weirder, skittering bells, impassioned chants and manic horns colliding without a backbeat into an almost literally kalediscopic/synaesthethic barrage of sound color.
The Darjeeling Limited soundtrack – various artists (Abkco)
There’s been plenty o’ spit fired about white preppy-boy director Wes Anderson’s use of predictable Brit-pop songs for moments of revelation in the India-set Darjeeling Limited. But, when removed from the image, the soundtrack actually does provide a fairly consistent source of drama, reproducing what a trip to the mystic east might sound like to an over-privileged semi-ugly American with an iPod: lots of Bollywood pop (Shankar’s ‘Typewriter Tip Tip Tip’), much taken from Merchant-Ivory films themselves celebrating American and British culture, some traditional music (‘Memorial,’ credited to the Narilai Village Troubadour), and the comforts of familiar moments in a weird land. In the latter, obviously, Wes Anderson excels, digging out playlist-ready Kinks numbers (notably ‘This Time Tomorrow’) and the Francophilically catchy ‘Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)’ by ’60s Brit-folkie Peter Sarstedt.