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Published: 2008/07/22
by Jesse Jarnow

Indie Weirdo Round Up: James Blackshaw, Eric Chenaux, Oliwa, Andy Votel presents Brazilika, Do You Smell What Barack is Cooking?

Litany of Echoes – James Blackshaw (Tompkins Square)
The sixth album by the British acoustic minimalist James Blackshaw finds the 12-string guitarist expanding his palette, book-ending the six-track, 53-minute disc with a pair of piano variations, "Gate of Horn" and "Gate of Ivory." In between, his circular patterns twist, float, and obsess over themselves, as on the nearly 13-minute centerpiece, "Past Has Not Passed." There, layers of translucent guitars shimmer and create sub-tones. In the same way that roaring feedback can create nearly melodic overtone series, it is almost as if walls of 12-strings do the same, mysterious little songs appearing between the sonic hedges, played on unidentifiable instruments, singing in alien scales. Violin and viola permeate, too, but all the timbres are on the level, acoustic and perfectly blended.
Sloppy Ground – Eric Chenaux (Constellation)
The Toronto experimental vet turns up with his second entry into the weird, hushed indie-folk world, Sloppy Ground. Though Chenaux’s voice hums quietly, just above the rich textures, ala Will Oldham, his arrangements churn with noisy drones that would classify as dobro-pierced sound collages if not for the singing (‘Rest Your Daylights’), strings that follow vocals (‘Old Peculiar’), and gently pushed wah-wah pedals (‘Arms, Legs, and Moonlight’). Like Brian Wilson building lulled constructions that only come into context with the vocals, Eric Chenaux makes dream music for the advanced dreamer.
Crooked – Oliwa (self-released)
Though their MySpace page seems to hint at some kind of terrifying post-Burning Man/Blue Man Group/Perry Farrell-like live hybrid, the debut album by the Los Angeles-based Oliwa’s Pleasure Circus is a totally delightful nu-jazz romp. Though the melodies certainly hint of the big top, such as the swaying "Wander/Waltz," but the music almost never sinks to campy pastiche. On "Crooked," the familiar descending chromatics of every circus sound cue ever ripple into cascades and small rhythmic pockets. Other reference points abound in the mellow organs (Afro-beat?), galloping cinematics of "What Am I Chasing?" (Spaghetti western soundtracks?), and Sci-fi swing charts of "Pluto, the End, and the Beginning" (Sun Ra?). Good stuff.
Andy Votel presents Brazilika – various artists (Far Out Recordings)
In an already well-anthologized genre, master crate-digger Andy Votel manages to find untouched nooks in Brazilian psychedelic music of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Already the subject of a good half-dozen compilations on Luaka Bop, Soul Jazz, and elsewhere, Votel uncovers 27 cuts — collapsed into a dozen tracks — of effervescent tropicalia sunshine, some absolute darkness, and brilliant crossfades. On ‘Tinindo Trincando,’ Novos Baianos — who turn up four times — melt from beautifully weightless grooves into an ominous summer storm no less groovy. The only ‘name’ artist is Os Mutantes, turning up with the late-period prog B-side ‘Depexe Entra Um Polo,’ but mostly Votel presents his own version of the music, segueing seamlessly from the Mutantes into the yelped harmonies of Os Brazoes. With fuzz guitars, fuzz basses, and fuzz organs, even the fuzz has fuzz.
Do You Smell What Barack is Cooking? – various artists (bootleg, y0)
For all the other stuff that Barack Obama represents — y’know, terrorism, the Weather Underground, flag burning, baby eating, etc. — he also represents something even cooler: music. Easily the first major political figure whose Kenya-descended name rolls off the tongue, he lends himself to truly modern campaign songs. As such, Fat Chicks in Red States blogger Jess Besack has cooked up a dope mix of historical novelties:’s "Yes We Can" mash-up (the implicit melodies of Obama’s cadences drawn out into song), Cocoa Tea’s roots grooves on "Barack Obama" (his name turned into an easily swinging refrain), DJ Excel’s Obama-as-pimp party jam "Obama is a Mack Daddy" ("Obama pimps white women and black women!’), and plenty of time capsule-worthy speech fragments. One suspects this could just be a first volume.

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