THE ZOUNDS OF MUSIC
You can hear it! You've got it in you! It makes the world go round! Face it. Follow it. The hills are alive with the sound of it! It's for the masses! It sounds better with you! It chose you. Let's face it and dance! It comes from the Body! It comes from the Spheres! It comes from Big Pink! It comes from Metal Machines! It comes from "The Elder." It comes from the Penguin Café! There's another kind in a different kitchen! It's the message. It is sacred. It's for men. It's for lovers. It's for films. It's for airports. It's modern! It's classical! It's old-timey! It's country! It's human! It's unfinished! It's discreet! It's makin' babies! You hate it. Don't fear of it. Don't stop it. You came to hear it. You believe in it! It is love. It never stopped. Get into it! Dance to it. It is of your mind. Let it play! Make you own kind of it! Let your children hear it! It is ours! We are it! Hats off to it! Just let us hear some of that rock and roll kind of it.
That's all we here at Drag City want. That, and enough money to help some people make some more of it. Damn – ain't that a bitch?!?
IF YOU BILLY, THEY WILL COME...
Pardon us if we stretch? We just got through shipping out the October titles – and boy, are our arms tired! Lots of great grooves and tunes, and the best groove of all is them grooving towards the street, of course. What’s new, you say – well, new music from Elisa Ambrogio and Dope Body, compiled (recently new) CAVE singles, reissued Royal Trux from nigh on fifteen years ago, unarchived George-Edwards Group from time circa time and Bill Callahan/Smog lyrics collected and in print (with illustrations) at last! But we'll get to all that in a minute. Right now, we have to do a couple more key yoga moves – because we just pulled another couple muscles patting our shit on the back! And of course, what we're really proud of really has nothing to do with us or our stupid pride: for the second release date in a row, we've sold out of the special new Bonnie 'Prince' Billy records we brought to the fair! Last month, it was the + "Barely Regal" version of the new Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues. This month, it's the first single from Singer’s Grave – "Quail and Dumplings," b/w the non-LP, "Pull Your Eyes Out, Molly." What'll it be next month? Right – the "New Black Rich," b/w "Black As Grace" single. Man, if there's a video for "New Black Rich," as funny and filled with water as the one for "Quail and Dumplings," we'll never get out of the bathroom! Keep crushing, sweet prince....
Meanwhile, it's come to our attention that some of you'ns have done parsed out that Singers' Grave a Sea of Tongues is in essence a remake and sometimes even a rewrite of the PREVIOUS Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album on Drag City, Wolfroy Goes to Town. Letters, we get letters! And all of them formed into lousy, gosh-darned words. Invoking the demon comparative too - as is of course your right as a consumer, we KNOW. But some of you use your rights so dang WRONG, man! I mean, clearly, kudos to you for even thinking about it – we know you didn’t have to, but – some of you gots to plan a trip back to the drawing board, though, seriously! Like the fallow who said that Wolfroy was the sad version and Singer's Grave the happy. The lassie who told us that Wolfroy was the rock version and Singer's Grave the roll. The wannabe rock-critic who typed Wolfroy as 'call' and Singer's Grave as 'response' - you know your chosen profession is a dead art, right dude? The wag what called Wolfroy bare and Singer's Grave beard – okay, you looked at the liner photos, but you’ll have to send us some of what you’re vaping before we can continue this confab. Meantime, points to the third-grade class of 2nd Ward Elementary for dividing the two albums into 20th century and 19th century – keep thinking along those lines and you might graduate yet – in another ten years, y'little fools! Or that couple who tipped their hand for DC Comics when they suggested a play of alternate realities – Wolfroy taking place on Earth-1 and Singer's Grave on Earth-2! Nice. We're more Marvel Comics types around the office ourselves, but it’s clear that our Bonnie is definitely coming from the DC Universe (pre-crisis) – so consider yourselves no-prized! Here's some other paths down which you might whinge: how about Wolfroy down; Singer's Grave up? Or Wolfroy is Master, Singer's Grave is Everyone? The way we really see it – the way we made it into a best-seller, that is – is by seeing Wolfroy Goes To Town as yesterday and Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues today. They won't be that way forever, so drop yer science while it's hot. Tomorrow's not promised, so have your fun today! Bonny sure has done.
TAKING THE EMBERS OUT OF SEPTEMBER
Launching Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues wasn't all we got up to in September. Bonnie was just a quarter of the actual action last month – we also had new records from Purling Hiss, Laetitia Sadier and Dan'l Boone.
Weirdon is the name of the new Purling Hiss LP, and even though we don’t really know what that means, we still feel it’s aptly named. There should be some ‘weird’ in the central thesis of what this record is, given how strangely it manages to both sever ties with the brawny Hiss-teration of their previous Water On Mars while simultaneously continuing down the garden paths of their chosen hi-fi rockdom. Truly weird, the way that works. Maybe even more weird is the way that Purling Hiss started off as progenitors of amorphous home-made power-sludge that further distinguished itself by only rarely digressing into actual songs – but now, they make long-players with like, two jams apiece scattered amongst the proliferation of songs. But still, main Hisster Mike Polizze loves to make noise and jam at the live shows! Weird for reals. Thing is, we like it when music makers get their weird on and show us shitz within their style we never saw before but are organic and make sense once we take 'em in, feel 'em, and yes (and ugh), think about it. Once we do all that, we realize that the united principle for Purling Hiss is guitar-driven rock music that sparks and shines, poking at your ears left and right with little details, whether they are weird overtones or weird pop music overdubs on top of layers of Hiss. There’s no phase of Purling Hiss that hasn’t raised our hairs, and that includes even the stuff that’s out of phase, hyuk! So get your pop music Weirdon and hear the Hiss as they spread out across the land – not simply in the function of their ubiquitous sound, but also in the physical realm, as they play clubs from east to west, this month and through ALL of November. Guitar rockers, don’t miss the Hiss!
Meanwhile, in another dimension of music entirely, Something Shines as Laetitia Sadier forges further into her solo directions in music. Here, the sound of Sadier is augmented for yet another chapter in her distinctive pop ‘n politics saga. Since The Trip, her 2010 debut, Laetitia has slowly built up from the skeletal treatments of that album, with a fine bunch of old keyboards and synths adding to the shiny, not-entirely happy feeling of Something Shines. The melodies are buoyant as always – the songs and the changes within allow us to enjoy the ride, but the lyrics are studded with icy declarations and stern injunctions to SAVE THIS PLANET. The frustration of knowing that this may never happen, that people are too foolish, may be show at times – but by the end of the album, Laetitia’s managed to find the strength to imagine that the race will survive. All they need is not love – but it’ll most certainly help, and Mme. Sadier manages to bring a heart swilling with the stuff, as well as the realistic counterbalances necessary to handle that hottest of emotions. Something Shines is ripe with the beauty of beauty as well as the beauty of reason, the joy of anger, the sweet release of protest and an acceptance of acceptance. Shine on, Sadier!
Dan’l Boone occupy a third dimension apart from Bonny, Purling Hiss and Laetitia Sadier – actually a fourth dimension altogether, once you add it up, by George! Although this is a dimension not unknown to us, it’s not a place for just anyone to play in. As the Fantastic Four found out decades ago, you gotta have rocks in your pockets to go untethered into the Negative Zone! This is a place where reverse dynamics apply to pop music, where taking it up means bringing it down, and, upon arriving at the place on the map where it says there’s supposed to be a bridge, you can’t find no confounded bridge. Where's the bridge!?! You just can't see it cause you’re still thinking in three-dimensional terms, man. COMPLEXIFY, just like ol' Dan'l Boone. This band is a confederacy of music-art makers, making group music that incorporates the solo personalities of Nate Young of Wolf Eyes, Neil Hagerty of The Howling Hex (and Royal Trux before ‘em, duh), Alexander Moskos of Drainolith (and AIDS Wolf too) and Charles Ballas (Formant). Listening to the music on their self-titled debut sounds at times like listening to the room play itself, but don’t be a moron, this is actually songs that have been unspooled, then reloaded and half-fired to get out the spots that you might tend to predict. One listen to Dan'l Boone will tell you, mission accomplished, chief! Electronic beats are stretched into thin, silvery strands; guitars processed to burst forth like construction, plumbing problems and other sounds; vocals are amplified like bullhorns or broken loudspeakers, and the mix gives a tranquil, silken sheen to the whole business. A listen to any of the shows Dan'l Boone played on their recent tour confirmed that, even if they sound alien to our ears, the pieces they are playing with are indeed songs, and that the band's not yet done with the systematic tweezing apart of those song-structures. Different shows found the boys busily working on various levels of the material, depending on the room and the audience – sometimes noisier than the album, sometimes jazzier, sometimes freer, sometimes more danceable. The new adventures of Dan’l Boone are just getting started; get yerself to the frontier, compadre!
ELUSIVE AMBROGIO! YOU JUST MADE THE IMMORALIST
People are always singing about how they wish they never saw the sunshine – but you know what, people need light to live! And still, rainy days and Mondays get them down. They can sing what they like: when the fire dies in the sky, when the cold breeze creeps through your window and sits in every corner, Elisa Ambrogio's The Immoralist will be there for you – in your corner, on your side. Magik Markers' Elisa Ambrogio, known for spinning yarns out of thin air (aka her brain, sexist pigs!) during the cacophony and chaos of the Markers' early years, has elevated her game of late to the song-spinning level, with a THICK handful of nu classics on the past three Magik Markers albums. Now, she steps into the solo unknown with The Immoralist without missing a beat – and adding a few new ones instead! The songs comb the sweet and the harsh together and pull them up into a bun of sketchy characters and hair-rising melodies, conveying the introverted soul with truly salon-style range. If you've seen the awesome video for "Superstitious," you will also have heard one of the most beguiling weirdo-pop songs of this year at least! Likewise, if you've heard the advance stream on Impose, you know like we know that The Immoralist is wall-to-wall with great, wispy, lonely, lovely pop songs in an extremely singular mode! It’s got a fine lone-woman vibe to it; dreamy and eerie, but it's also a solo album made in collaborative mode. To her vocal and guitar, Elisa adds drums, piano, synth and cello (finally fulfilling a promise to her 4th-grade cello teacher) while engineer Jason Quever pitches in with bass, organ, tapes, and more drums (but not cello, ha! SERVED.). The landscape of The Immoralist is stark, but it breathes with secret abandon and wild feeling. Even when Elisa/or whoever she is in any given song, is having encounters that scan like blind alleys, the initial numbness will give way, in time, to some kind of love. These are songs we can live with; pieces missing that the light shines through, that will change their color with the seasons, as the sun and the clouds come and go. They are the profile of a friend that we know, a weirdo that we love. The Immoralist gets these elusive states of nature and humanity nailed to a sweet T – and we're not talking about in the title! BTW, it's The Immoralist, not "Immortalist" - get it straight! And get the record too, of course.
Are you feeling weird? Like, scared, a little? WE are. Of course, we've had a bit more time with this new Dope Body record, so give yourself a couple weeks and you'll know just how fucked-up things can get. Like, "the world is ending" fucked-up, "the trucks are taking over" fucked-up. We can't help feeling this way when we listen to Dope Body, as their new Lifer album drills another blast straight into our lungs, making it a little hard to breathe, and definitely hard to see (the future) clearly. It's not just the rock, there's also a little concern over what this new generation might be coming to. We felt that a little bit when listening to Natural History, but there was enough guitar weirdness happening to think about other things (like guitar weirdness, always cool). On Lifer, Dope Body’s got the weirdness in there, like the digi-fucked guitar leads on "Hired Gun," but generally, the sound picture's mostly more straight ahead, which allows them to compare to all sorts of bands from different rock phases, all of them rife with snot-caked post-teenage rebellion and the acrid redolence of that blank generation that we really haven't encountered all the way yet – thank God! When they finally come, it's over. Meanwhile, the touring's paid off for Dope Body; they're shit-hotter than ever, more hypno-dancer than before! At times, they're not even power-trioing behind Andrew's vox, they're doing a guitar-and-drums duo with full-body power! Sure, there's tracks and tracks of Zach guitaring to the max, but that's not the point. Holding up this much rock without a bass is pretty sweet and a lot of the tightness has to do with Dave's drumming. There's also a ballad style developing, a sinuous take on Doors-Stooges blues licking. But check out the video for "Repo Man," and you'll that it's a scary world that Dope Body are in up to their dick-tip out there, and it's not always clear which side of the fear they're on. It's important to remember that depictions of aggro don't necessarily constitute ENDORSEMENTS of the unmanaged anger lifestyle – we hope! Meanwhile, Dope Body epitomizes what's going incredibly right with rock music as well – with HEAVY effin' commitment – on Lifer.
Fans of Bill Callahan are a long-suffering bunch – they go to the shows, hoping for their favorite old chestnuts, and are paid back with some of the BEST shows they’ve EVER SEEN. Such expression! Such commitment! But damn, no old songs. Poor sods. They need to know that this is the way it is sometimes with artists who have a big catalog. To these singers, the songs get to be like old folks – the older they are, the less ambulatory they seem to be. And so they don’t get out as much. But even though Bill doesn’t look like he can hear you shouting out your love at him, he does. And that’s why he’s put together a book with almost all those old songs written down in the pages, so you’ll have something to look at when you get back from the concert where he didn’t play hardly any of this shit! Cos that's the other thing – is he supposed to play a 5-hour show? I Drive a Valence’s got 70 Bill Callahan and Smog songs in it and that's a lot. But check it out, o value-driven consumer – there’s 196 pages in the book! We all know that Bill’s a man of few words (unlike this newsletterer! – rueful ed.), what could be up with that? Nothing but more art, kids! Specifically ink-wash art – 116 drawings that go along with the lyric sketches. Ah, added value. I Drive a Valence has it in spades!
YOU SHALL BE RELEASE’D
As we write this, the last avalanches of CAVE are resonating throughout Europe, where the “World Threace” tour finally touched down this last month – almost a full year after the release of Threace! Big deal, a year – as you heard us say before, time as we understand it has almost no meaning. Besides, CAVE did a big US tour, played a fortnight in the lands Down Underneath Us last winter/summer (depending on your hemispheric alignment) and then kept busy playing gig after unannounced gig at various spaces and places on the Chicago streets. For CAVE, There’s no time like the present – and as their day-to-day (NO FUTURE) existence of the last year has unfolded, the songs of Threace have evolved into new shapes, featuring new internal structures that seemingly grew themselves into the mix. This makes for bonus jams, and we and the other CAVE fans all agree, that's a GOOD thing. Still, that’s CAVE live – and since we here at the mothership don’t benefit 360-style from the profits of the bands on the road (let’s get on that – and what about streaming! We need that backroom balloon payment to live! – bottom-line ed.) and CAVE aren’t quite ready to come out with their next-wave state-of-the-CAVE record, it’s time to shake you up by shaking out a set of non-album CAVE songs from the past five or six years! The pieces of Release work together as an album real well, but they’re also songs that stand SUPER-STRONG on their own. Singles and comp tracks seem to be a format that inspires the flying of CAVE’s freak flag – although we’d swear we spotted it flying during the albums as well. Still, these wild chunks of uncut rock and kraut come bolting into your ear-drums with scant evidence of the streamlined funk that CAVE brought on Threace. Only a little bit of funk, actually…plus a vocal track recorded for Threace that was cut because, Whoa – what about an album with all instrumentals? Like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth – but it worked out for both Threace and Release. CAVE roll again – this time, most single-ularly.
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN WITH G-E
NO! We’re not shilling for the corps here – not renting out the space to General-Electric or any of their well-moneyed brethren! If you’ve been reading our memo for the past twenty years or whatever, you know that Drag City is virulently anti-corporate, anti-monopoly, anti-fascist – and that makes us thoroughly compromised in the 21st century, since running our music shit in the Age of Internet means having to join forces with cigar-smoking, little-man crushing, fat-fucking cats like iTunes and Amazon and Facebook and Twitter. OK, maybe Twitter not so much. But just ‘cause we do what we have to doesn’t mean we’re gonna let them into our own little web-world with its prime advertising space (it doesn’t mean we won’t either! – legally-unbound ed.)! So even if you weren’t worried about that, don’t worry about that! In the case of this new item about G-E, we’re talking about The George-Edwards Group anyway. That’s right, George-Edwards: the little band that could, who made their records at home during the 1970s boom years of rock and roll, when highly polished studio recordings were the standard! The George-Edwards Group believed that their hands-on approach made music just as viable as anything else on Hollywood Boulevard – and in 1977, they showed up there with a box-lot of white-label vinyl pressings of their homemade album, entitled 38:38 for the purpose of reference. Naturally, the copies they distributed in Angel City didn’t lead to a contract or a record of any kind – but their efforts guaranteed them a place in the underground firmament of legends, and an eventual release with our decidedly uncorporate company (in collaboration with the ever-trolling minds at Galactic Zoo Disk, who brought the record to our attention) in the little millennium that could! Yes, if everything for sale in the 20th century is back for another round in the 21st, everything that wasn’t for sale then has a fresh chance today. To wit – given the awesome response to 38:38 back in 2009, we and Galactic Zoo Disk released Archives, an odds-n-more-odds collection. This was in 2011. But there was EVEN more in the vault! So now it’s time for Chapter III, which like Archives before it, explores the savage rockery that crept into the George-Edwards sound in the time after their pastoral masterpiece was rejected. There’s still plenty of the winsome melodies in Edward Balian’s vocals, but the tracks they piled up behind him in the 1980s had a lot more more noise in them and loads more jagged edge around them. As Chapter III will demonstrate, you know that can’t be bad.
All sagas gotta end somewhere, all the Yoda-heroes of all the epics gotta die eventually. Then they can play their ultimate role – as the cheerleaders of the idiotic Skywalkers of the world! And so it was thus – not long after the release of the now-reissued Pound for Pound, Royal Trux ascended to rock purgatory, where they’ve existed in suspended animation ever since, every so often pulled forth and evidenced as what a great time the 90s were. Yeah man – except the 90s were NOTHING like Royal Trux! They were COMPLETELY riding down a parallel line, commenting on what was going on, but from a wormhole to a time-frame all their own! And so it was with Pound for Pound – having reestablished their indie-cred with Accelerator and then Veterans of Disorder, Royal Trux reverted to the razor-sharp commercial boogie of their hated Virgin period for the songs of Pound for Pound. Lots of percussion, lots of metallic licks and rumbling, rolling bass lines. Meanwhile on top, Neil and Jennifer did a lot of vocal-overlapping, near-rapping kinds of vox, which only added to the excitement and alienation. Alas, as they were out on tour, consolidating the weird end-around vibes of Pound for Pound, lightning struck – a problem so great, Neil and Jennifer couldn’t either ignore or exploit it as they had so many times before. And thus, almost, comes the end of the reissue campaign. There’s a bit more from the archive that needs restoration, but now the whole story can be told – the whole story of rock ‘n roll, that is! WOW – whatta take. Whatta tale! Royal Trux forever.
SPREAD THE WOR(L)D!
And coming in November – more crazy-ass shit! For the last Drag City new release date of the year, we’ve pulled a pair of previously released works out of the Yahowha catalog. New life is breathed into the Father Yod and the Spirit of ’76 album, Kohoutek, which broods and prays to the long-haired spirit of the legendary comet, heading our way back in ’73. A single performance stretches out over the two sides of the LP, allowing the spontaneous expressions of Father to meld with the musical drift of the band. Should the nature of this statement be missed, we have reproduced the original insert featuring teachings on the deeper meanings of the comet, and it comes with every copy! Also coming from the previously-released archives of The Source is The Savage Sons of Yahowha. This album is Yahowha 13 fronted by Electron, and it is one of the most directly rocking of all the source LPs, very fun stuff – certainly the closest the band came to making classical radio rock in the bejeweled spirit of Mu (though certainly cruder and harsher, which isn’t in any way a criticism)! Super-compelling. Plus, we’ll be bringing forth a unique version of the new Eiko Ishibashi album, which was recorded in two versions, one with Japanese lyrics and the other with English. For the Drag City LP version of Car and Freezer there's an assembly of the two records, featuring half in Japanese other half in English. Plus, since it’s coming on Christmas and all of us 98-percenters can’t spend much, singles are always a great stocking stuffer! The third “Hometown Heroes” split single presented by Fred Armisen is here, and this time, Fred’s plucked local heroes from the LA piano-bar scene as well as Brazil’s ever-chill bossa boom. Joshua Rainhorn’s “Wine and Cigarettes” is a smooth classic, while Paulinho y Beatriz’s “Voce Tem” brings the cool in an entirely different idiom, not to mention language! And last but prolly most is the second in a series of get-‘em-while-they’re-hot Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy singles pairing A-sides off the Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues album with non-album B-sides made specifically for the purpose of squaring off against the chosen A! The song “New Black Rich” is up against a tough challenge in “Black as Grace.”
And if all this weren’t enough, there’s something we’re not telling you. Sure, we’ll tell you next time, but what if you’re not the first on your block with the news between now and then? It’s gonna be your ass. So PLEASE – stay tuned!
Drag City Inc.