September has come to La Ciudad de Arrastre – and it’s still scorching hot with releases new and old. The ground is cracked! Water is scarce! We may not survive! But we probably will! And thank God! Because these records aren’t only just selling – they’re GOOD too. That’s not always guaranteed, you know (except here! — you’re-on-very-thin-ice ed.).
So yeah – fall’s descending upon us, but the guns of August are still popping – by which of course we mean Bitchin Bajas, right? The early front-runners for (Double) Cassette of the Year 2014, the Bajas have leaped in and out of the suddenly-teeming racks of new age/ambient new releases with their all-encompassing double-LP (and the aforementioned double-cassette!), selling through the first pressing as if that’s just what the first month of every drone record is like. But that’s the point, you fool! Bitchin Bajas isn’t like everybody else’s record – it’s a perfection of form and an extension of mood that few LPs past or present can claim! Delicate like the wind, but relentlessly and ever-changing like, ALSO the wind, the album packs a lot of natural energy into eight songs, pulling it out of the air in a process known as “analog tape recording.” The best part is the edits. Like, that’s a contest we need to have! Send in your favorite edit and you’ll get a prize – maybe even the five-hour version of the “relaxation mix” that takes up tape #2 of the Bitchin Bajas (did we mention double?) cassette that we’re so effin’ PUMPED about! Once you’ve gone and stared at the blazing sun that is Bitchin Bajas, you’ll need it! Three-minute songs feel like blinks of the eye after a trip through the (2x)cassette. It’s a life-changer, or at least a changer of the game. And make no mistake: this is a game. A deadly one at that. How will you ever follow this up, BB? You must continue to ascend! Don’t ever stop challenging the nations!
Oh, and also in August was this new Ty Segall record. But he makes records all the time, so whatever, right? Man, fuck that! Manipulator is not just among the VERY BEST of rock and roll records this year, it's also one of the weirdest! That's how you know you're listening to Ty Segall, and that's why we're so incredibly psyched about it - anything that can get the listener into the deep end of the pool unbeknownst to her/him, that's a GOOD THING and we're always up for getting down for getting out with something like that.
THE PRINCE IS RIGHT
Okay, we had a good August and now we’re crowing about it - so what? So Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, that’s what! There’s a new Bonnie in town, coming out on September 23rd, and those who’ve already heard it can’t stop talking about how SICK it is! They’re not just talking about the title either – but if they did, how can they be blamed! Whenever you’ve got an album called Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues in your hot little hands, you can probably get by not even opening the damn thing and still be doing GREAT (unless you were behind the counter at Academy Annex – aiyaiyai guys, leave the records sealed and chances up to fate, will you please?)! But then you will miss what the greatest Bonny music has to offer you – a deep and wide listening experience, filled with flavor and sonic surprises and poured over with the viscous, tangy, burr-spiked syrup of Bonny’s voice. The proud and macho dude that is Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is best explained in that voice of his, whether cold and remote, stern and stentorian or lithe and willowy. All these moods and more are part of the stock-taking (or is it leave-taking?) of Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues. Bonny’s immersion in the songs and his expression thereof is sweetly penetrating (uh…). In fact, his royal proclamation of “It’s okay / You can say I’ve had my day / But my God and I don’t see it that way,” is one of the truly bone-shaking statements uttered in songs in quite a long while. It’s that voice, holding back and not giving into any maudlin expressions, but letting the sounds behind fill in the emotional blanks before going for the kill with one special sung note, or resolving it all with a coming together of harmonies. That’s what’s going on throughout Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues – and that’s usually what goes on when Bonny teams up with Mark Nevers, who’s brought so much out of the ‘Prince’ on records like Lie Down In the Light and Master and Everyone. The Nevers-Billy collaboration is now officially a trilogy, and all three of the records are marked with vivid acoustics, subtle shadings of atmosphere and an understated-but-rich emotional life – which, yes, numbers them among THE BEST RECORDS OF ALL TIME. Lord-a’mighty. Even if what people said was true, and the ‘Prince’ put out forty records a year and half of them were the sound of him picking the lint out of his midriff (and those are the good ones!), Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues still ranks at the top of every Top 10 Bonnie Records of the Year List. Which means it does for this year, too - easy!
As you can tell by now (but only by paying attention), we here at Drag City are big fans of tradition. We like form and content in music and expression in general as it has been established by centuries of record-making. If you pay attention to the way music has evolved since the days of the bible or whatever, you can really learn something. Like for instance, Gregorian Chants were a real big thing! They don’t sell for shit now, but without them, maybe a third of our label stable’d be out of a job – or into one cleaning restrooms and trying to remember that elusive dream about the special way they could use their voice…We’re not really implying that the new Laetitia Sadier album is any way a record of New-Phase Gregorian Chants for Now People or anything – except maybe in one or two places that only real true Chantheads will recognize. No, what we’re saying instead is that we respect the way that Laetitia comes from traditions, and uses the forms derived from those traditions to make her records. For example, she comes from the school that requires a solo artist to put their picture on the front of the album, and all three of her records play that out with fresh innovations. At the same time, she’s also about tweaking traditional composition formats and finding new color combinations in the spectrum of her sound. On Something Shines, this approach allows her to make all-new music out of the elements that have been a part of the Laetitia Sadier experience going back into the days of Monade and her other band. So Sadier songwriting resembles only itself – but again, as a school unto itself, with lyrical logic that has developed from the earliest phase and remains consistent, with intervals that suit her voice and a restlessly modern approach, no matter what the year. People may associate her with electronic music, but there are folky edges and classical things (and even Kevin Ayers-y things! — Canterbury’s Ghost Dog Ed.) that only become more pronounced with the repetition of values. Something Shines strikes forth with an aggression that sets it apart from Silencio while modulating themes from that former record, honing both the social anger and the compassion while shifting in and out of some avant moments, all of which give Something Shines a worldly-yet-personal vibe. Plus, Laetitia’s got a warehouse full of keyboards being deployed in super-tasty arrangements behind her, and some spectacular harmony singing that conveys the fun of singing to our listening ears. She makes records that are fun to listen to, even when singing about serious stuff, like how groovy it would be if the whole friggin’ universe were socialist. The way she makes it sound, we agree! And once again, Something Shines.
YOUNG DAN’L BOONE
Evolution debunked, part whatever: one record exists independent to the next in one in the sequence. Put a set of people in a recording studio and several different records can be made without even retuning the chosen set of instruments. The relationships between these records are our own. The case in point: while working out a new Drainolith record with Wolf Eyes’ Nate Young and Neil Michael Hagerty on the board, Alex Moskos and co. suddenly discovered they were making another record entirely, by a different band, with entirely different properties. Yet rendered simultanously. Take that, progress! And so was born the 21st century frontiersman and sonic warrior of future legend: Dan’l Boone. September 23rd is the day you can hear the legend for yourself in original album form – but spoiler alert, we’re here to tell you that the record is a slippery one and manages to shuck expectations of what this meeting of noise-makers might sound like. After hearing it, it’s hard to put a finger on what it sounds like. The word that keeps coming to mind is ‘serene’ – which is funny to recall when ensconced in one of the several knots of chaos found deep within the album. Yet, these four men (Young, Moskos, Hagerty and Charlie Ballas of Denver CO’s Formant) have managed to slide around each other in an extremely active mix as if they were a room crowded with ghosts. And each ghost has his own agenda and place to be, and since there’s transparency, you can see everything: intentions, memories, sudden impulses and the acknowledgement in passing of the strangers moving around them. Very weird. Not at all invisible music, but it never stays in one place long enough to register as this or that. Afterwards, as we say, it is recalled to the mind as something that acted easily upon it, regardless of the abrasions that the actual listens leave behind. Super-fun for deep listening – definitely throw out the ear-buds and your shoes too, then get a thick, spaceman-like headphone set-up. No shoes, so you can’t go anywhere, just sit in front of the stereo and listen. Don’t leave the house for at least five days, just spend time with the minimal information the LP jacket gives ya. THEN the myth of Dan’l Boone will begin to become real inside you. Because long before he was the stuff of the storytellers, Dan’l Boone was just a man. Now that it’s the 21st century, he can be anything we want him to be – and with this album, he (un)clearly is.
KEEP YOUR BEARD ON
....while you get your Weirdon! Purling Hiss fans, you are the sorely tested. You love guitars, and rocking, and Purling Hiss has given you both since the beginning. Those early sounds though - whoa. So low-fi, like sub-basement tapes. And just when you got your ears tuned to the rock bottom-less fidelity of those first couple records, they found Water On Mars, with its high-flying sonics revealing the anthems that bubbled just beneath the turbulent waves of guitar that probably give the Hiss their name. Just like that, the gitar rug was pulled from beneath you! Still, with anthems as good as they were all the way through Water On Mars (and always on about whether or not to give a shit, awesome), you got used to it and loved singing along with rockers and ballads alike, pumping your leg-sticks in time to the heavy-footed beat. Great - but we mentioned a NEW record, din't we? Ain't it time to finally get our Weirdon? Yeah! So - never a fellow to get bogged down for more than 20 minutes or so at a time, Hissman Mike Polizze has moved on from the WOM sound and emerged into the bright fields of Weirdon. The “Lounge Lizards” EP from a few years back showed Mike’s pop sides layered into the rock, and here again, but in an entirely different way, Purling Hiss are bringing the pop back into their sound. Not at the expense of the guitars though, man. NEVER missing the guitars. The hissing layers are there, swallowing up Mike’s vox a bit and also swamping the drums at times, but that’s fine. It’s still a generally clean production, but a bit cloudier than the last record. The tunes themselves? There’s really only one or two that feel like they might have made it on Water On Mars; the rest are new developments that rock hard and catchy, making Mike’s muse work in all-new ways. There’s some good humor in “Sundance Saloon Boogie,” and a bit more thrashy tempo than ever with “Airwaves,” and all of it continues to heroically put Purling Hiss forward into the rock world that doesn’t really exist anymore – no wonder the songs are so existentially bummed! Appropriately titled, and a heavy grower – dig it on, Weirdon, whatever, okay!
ROCK AND ROLL-TOBER, BEETHOVEN!
That’s all the rock and roll that’s fit to release in September – and really, from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to Laetitia Sadier to Dan’l Boone andPurling Hiss, it’s a lot, isn’t it? Well, fuckin’ buckle the fuck up ya fuck, because we’ve got a double-helping in October, with two new music records, three vintage music records, a single off one of our recent hit albums and a book to boot! So what are we doing, outlining things when we need to be describing our outline of things? You’re sooooooo right…
It all really begins with Elisa Ambrogio’s The Immoralist LP/CD. Elisa is of course the guitarist and most often the singer of Magik Markers. Now for a long time, Magik Markers only made music spontaneously – like, happening music, not songs. Beats and guitar lines and words that collided together for the entertainment of all. This was an intense way of going about it, and while they remain INSANE improvisers, they went and grew their thing into something else a few years ago, when they started making albums of songs that had been written first. And they were good - both the songs AND the albums! Magik Markers just put out their third one of those last year, Surrender to the Fantasy – probably their best one yet. At the same time, Elisa was collecting songs that for one reason or another didn’t seem to fit into the Markers thing. As a result, The Immoralist is her solo debut, an album unlike any Magik Markers you’ve ever heard, traveling to places in her style that were definitely indicated at on the last couple Markers records, but going way further and really being super-beautiful in the process without leaving behind the buzzy chaos that accompanies her sound. Elisa seems like the kind of writer who’s going to write from a character’s perspective, and the characters on The Immoralist seem to be wistful young types with heavy thoughts in their brows but limited ways of getting them across – fortunately, in her role as narrator, Elisa’s always got a few key turns of phrase to encapsulate everything rather hauntingly by the time the chorus blows through. Dark-hued, but blowing its storm-clouds lightly through the frame, The Immoralist is pop played unusual; sweet, strange music of a highly personal nature, which means sounds and songs only Elisa Ambrogio can conjure.
A spectrum or two away from that, but just down the lane in Baltimore, Dope Body continue to wrestle the rock out of themselves with sinuous pleasure and adolescent glee on their new album, Lifer. There’s violence, but it’s mostly in the name of fun – to a certain extent, these guys are a dance band. Like any group that’s got a couple-few guys playing music and one guy singing, there’s gonna be some angst – you can’t get a guy alone with a microphone (or a computer! -Executive Editor Ed.) and not have there be some introspection coming through. In fact, the Lifer-style Dope Body’s developed has a couple of ballad-type moves that they haven’t shown us before. Evolution, even in a beast such as this! Dope Body get farther down into themselves on Lifer, crush the sounds together more so than on Natural History, but they also open their sound to rock out more with less industrial-loop layers than they’ve had up until now. That’s not to say that the guitars aren’t still freaky – just that the band have honed themselves into a group where all elements sum to a whole thing, and a powerful collective thing at that. Lifer’s a tall claim – who among us will be playing this way when they’re 60, unless you’re Shellac and take seven years between records? Hey Shellac – you know who else took seven years between records: the Dead! And they came up with “Touch of Grey," so where’s yours? Besides at the temples, that is?
So, October’s a good month for new releases. But on the vintage side, we’ve got something from CAVE that’ll probably roll in and out of your ears pretty much just like new music. You know why? You KNOW why. It’s because CAVE is a new music band and this is relatively recent new music from singles of comparatively recent vintage that’ve been compiled into a CAVE record that they’d have never made as an album if we weren’t collecting all these individual sides! Funny how that always works with compilations. So Release grabs up a couple of CAVE singles, a flexidisc and a compilation track, most of which have a rougher texture than the last couple of CAVE albs – let’s hear it for variety, gang! Fortunately, all the tracks have that same animal rhythm that compels us to GET DOWN whenever we hear it – because CAVE is a dance band, okay? They like jagged sounds and they have a couple guitars, but oh, those rhythms! Even on Release, where the sounds are muddier and ruder than on Threace (and pleasingly so), the beats are hot and rubbery. So until CAVE get serious again and make Threace Two (or Neverendless Again), we’ve got Release to plug into our necks for precious rhythm-juice. Thank you, CAVE-men!
Also in Rock-ya-tober, we have two other vintage releases that are the latest chapters in a couple of ongoing series we’ve got going on. The first, as ever, is from Royal Trux, whose series with us started when we commenced OUR series, on the first record we ever released. Over the past few years, we’ve been reissuing the Trux records, which managed to ALL fall out of print at the same time (which is really funny, because there are a dozen full-lengths and probably the same number of seven-inchers - and since we’re in charge of most of them, we’ve done what we could to bring them all back, in their original order, to aid the modern listener who might not know how to approach listening to Royal Trux). It’s either do it forward or backwards, but whatever you do, do it ALL THE WAY! Speaking of all the way, we’ve come to Pound for Pound time, which finds the Royal Trux a few months removed from their triumphant Veterans of Disorder album and a few months shy of TOTALLY BREAKING UP. You can’t tell from listening to Pound for Pound – it’s a super-tight rock and roll record with loads of interlocking rhythms and vocals and piles of searing guitar work….wait maybe you CAN tell from listening – maybe all this super-tightness is the sign? Nah….fuck that. Pound for Pound is chock-full of great songs, each one, you know – pounded out with no prisoners taken, no quarter, the ocean. And thus a great story comes to a close – for the second time! And not the last, because who’s to say we won’t let them go out of print all at the same time again and then start reissuing for another go-round? Putting out Royal Trux albums is fun! It’s kind of why we got into this business. Oh, but wait - there’s one more Trux reissue to do after Pound for Pound - send a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want to know more. Or just keeping watching this space.
It was five years back that we reissued the great rare record from The George-Edwards Group, 1977’s 38:38. This album never got past the test-pressing stage way back when, but fortunately George-Edwards had 100 tests made! So after like, 98 of them got deep-sixed by insensitive, tin-eared LA A&R types out of their heads on ludes and coke, there were still a couple floating around (on, ugh, THE INTERNET. Bored!) – just enough of a breadcrumb trail for Galactic Zoo Disks guru Plastic Crimewave to follow up on one day and bring to our door. Of course we put it out! Great stuff, like a lower-fi Sister Lovers, filled with wistful, lonely ballads, scored for chilly synth-strings in a misty midwestern mold. And so, a myth lived again, and finally got a chance to REALLY be heard. And a bunch o’records were sold. End of story? Well, no. Edward Balian and Ray George were favorably impressed with the way that their record was received – and so more tapes from old boxes were produced, with an eye towards a second volume. Tracking forward in G-E history from the "first" album, Archives showcased a more raucous sound arrived at in the early 80s. Also good stuff! Well done. Or – not quite all the way done. Ladies and gentlemen – Chapter III of the George-Edwards Group’s archive series is here! Chapter III kind of picks up where Archives left off – with rockers and a handful of the dreamy wistful song-clouds that made up 38:38, all played on the vintage gear that helped inform the 70s/80s home-recorded sound of The George-Edwards Group. And so we say, thank Job for the past! It’s an ever-deepening trove in our lives. At the same time, the George-Edwards guys thank the creator for the present – it’s giving their music new life – which is to say, life. As for you, o eclectic and discerning listener, you can just thank us.
Last and first, we’ve got a book of lyrics for you! Whose lyrics, you ask? Why you little SNOT! What does it matter? Don’t we associate ourselves with an endless array of fascinating lyricists? Who among them don’t you want to read on the printed page? FUCK your standards! Buy the shit!
….okay, whatever. It’s Bill Callahan. The book is called I Drive a Valence and it collects most of his lyrics from the Smog days up to the Callahanian present. Most of these lyrics have never appeared printed in the records, they’ve only ever been carved into high-school desks up until now, so this is REALLY a new thing. But you know Bill, it’s never that simple. To enhance up the experience, he made a bunch of drawings that may or may not illustrate the songs to which they are juxtaposed throughout the book. Regardless of what they were intended to do, they certainly do ILLUMINATE songs, that's for sure! For fans of his sketchbooks, Bill’s working with a new line these days, but its just as expressive and alarming. Coming out in paper on October 21st with all the records described above, I Drive a Valence!
LET IT ((B)E)UROPE
This is the section where we brag about how our artists are touring all over the world – but seriously, they’re mostly just touring in Europe this fall. The fuck, man! Isn’t it like cold and gloomy as shit over there? Didn’t England just crush the dreams of thousands of Scots in the name of the ole Empire and then send a heavy bunch of fat-arsed loyalists in to jeer them in their moment of agony? BUGGER THAT! And yet, Black Bananas, Bitchin Bajas, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, CAVE, Magik Markers, Six Organs of Admittance, Ty Segall, Mick Turner, White Fence, Alasdair Roberts and Laetitia Sadier are ALL playing shows over there! Now Alasdair and Laetitia live there, so that’s their excuse, but what about the rest of these clowns? …oh, right – the fans and the money and the adulation, we forgot. Well, at least we have Blues Control, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Dan’l Boone, Dope Body, Dead Rider, OM, Purling Hiss, Neil Hamburger and Ty and White Fence, doing good North American runs too. Spread it out, kids! Don’t forget about South America, Australia, Japan, Africa and China! Don’t fall into a rut! And you fans out there you’re not holding up your end of this thing! Let your local promoters hear from you. Except for the Euro-kids; they’re obviously killing it. Anyway, wherever you’re in the path of an oncoming tour, lie down and enjoy the sensation of it rolling over you. You only live once in awhile, right? YOLOIAR!
Man, we are psyched to start telling you about 2015, gang. It’s gonna be another roller-coaster ride of hits and, you know - reverse-hits! Pre-hits! Un-hits! And the rare miss. No matter what the proxemity, records will be up top, up on whatever functions as the ceiling. It will tend to be amazing like that. But first, we’ve gotta go through November. All roads to 2015 go through November, there’s no way to hiber-walk it through. Plus, you will certainly suffer a great lose on your culture-dar if you miss on the second-ever Eiko Ishibashi album released on Drag City, Car and Freezer. The first DC-EI co-re was Imitation of Life - and like that album, this one too is produced by Eiko and DC veteran POW/MIA Jim O’Rourke. Plus, our first Source Family releases since LAST November’s Aquariana record. That was a sweet find from the vault, but this time, we’re pillaging the existing canon for a couple LP reissues – namely, Father Yod and the Spirit of ’76’s Kohoutek and Ya Ho Wa 13’s Savage Sons of Ya Ho Wa, both of which saw release during the heyday of the Source Family when Father was still walking the earth with them. Kohoutek dream-jams odes to the fabled comet, while Savage Sons classic rocks-out through some literally savage songs! Plus, the “Fred Armisen Presents” singles series is back! From deep within Fred's truly strange collection of odditites come sides from Joshua Rainhorn and Paulinho e Beatriz, back to back on a soft-rockin’ single that will, like these other releases, please most of you and challenge some of you dumb others. What can we say? That it isn’t only dummies who don’t GET Drag City records? That there’s a reason you might not like them? Impossible!
Come back and see us for more semi-positive affirmation next month, 'kay?
Drag City Inc.