DRAG CITY AT ‘16
…..February of ’16, to be (semi-)precise - and for some reason, this is one of the easiest adaptations to a new years’ numeral that we can recall! There’s been no thoughtless inscribing of last year’s date upon the checks as we write (so “MANY” of) them – though to be honest, we’re more likely to write a year from the aughts or the ‘90s than to put last year where this year belongs. And before you mutter ‘neath your breath about it only being natural for us to sub in some of our long-gone glory years, know this – old ’15 was pretty darned glorious for Drag City, with the appearance of new acts like Jessica Pratt, The Silence, Peacers and Wand, alongside nü classics from such DC stalwarts as Alasdair Roberts, Six Organs of Admittance, Sir Richard Bishop, The Red Krayola, Meg Baird and Dope Body. When you mix in big returns to the scene from Jim O’Rourke, Flying Saucer Attack and Joanna Newsom, even an unknowing dipshit (no, not you - !) might easily conclude: Wotta Year!
Well, it WAS a year - and this is another, filled with old friends and new, and unfolding before our eyes and ears. There’s surprises in store and surprises that have already happened in this barely-begun (but super buggin’) annum. The biggest surprises of course are the ones that we don’t even KNOW about yet – which is largely everything from June to the end of the year. That’s how we roll here – to places unknown, into pitch blackness, off a cliff, WHATEVER – but forward, ever forward! This is what Drag City has to offer you.
THE SCUM ALSO (A)RISES
Surprise #1 of 2016: heyo, a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy record! Well, it can’t be or have been TOO much of a shocker – if you were keeping track, you might have noted he didn’t have a long-player in all of last year! This is patently wrong, of course – if nothing else, the ‘Prince’ is known as a prolific profligate, which is why he has somewhere around 150 releases to his credit since coronation. PLUS, sometimes records of his come out of nowhere, all of a sudden, and then it’s great because your content providers didn’t warn you, you weren’t really ready, but now you're digging it! We know this because there's precedent for this sudden (but delightful) appearance of a new Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy record. BUT, surprise #2: this new record is anything but new! Why, it is instead a compilation of Peel Sessions from the far-away years of 2002, 2001 and 1994! Yes, Pond Scum arranges these three complete sessions inversely – chronologically backwards, that is – which does something interesting to the listener that we’re still trying to put our finger on. It’s not quite Benjamin-Buttoning them, but there is nonetheless something weird about going backwards in time at the same time you go forward. Weirdly AWESOME, that is. There’s no better way to get old, if you ask us! And clearly, reader, you are. Anyhow, Pond Scum is swimming with Bonnie ‘Prince’ hits from classic releases including Arise Therefore, I See A Darkness, “Get On Jolly” and even a couple of old Palace records! They’re presented in super-stripped fashion, which is a favorite old trick of the ‘Prince’s – get naked, and people’ll always pay attention! Showmanship. The songs tend to sound really good that way, too. On the setlist are a few songs never before (or since, probly even!) heard, except when the original Peel Sessions were broadcast, or when they were originally bootlegged – who knows? There be some good ones there – a couple of covers that definitively expand the spiritual headspace that the B’P’B originals lay down – and when sung in Bonny’s hoary early style, they tend to hit one right in the gut – of their brain! And their gut. (It’s called a “brain gut!” – 8th-grade-reading-level ed.) Pond Scum is a celebration of things we don’t have anymore, like Peel Sessions – but some other things too. We’re not gonna spoil the final surprise – if you wanna to know what those things are, then rush out to the Amazon brick-and-mortar store (have you heard about this? What hubris! They had it all. But Rome wasn’t burned in day….) or your other local music-dasheries and get Pond Scum – on LP, CD, DL and YES! Cassette.
HIGH AND TIGHT
Not everyone is like us. The list of things that prove this principle is too incredibly long to get into, and as the days go by, it isn’t getting any shorter! So we’ve got to assume that you don’t think of High Llamas on a semi-regular basis, since, like we said, you’re probably not like us – the percentages are just too high! Naturally, we’re concerned about this dismissive tendency of yours; the various hues of 21st century popxotica that reflect through High Llamas’ prism are delightful, and any fan of music is well-served to spend some time in the light of High Llamas music. Even before we got with High Llamas back in 2000, we were fans – but since then, over the course of four (and now five!) albums, we grow all the closer in our appreciation of their depth and subtlety – not to mention the way Sean O’Hagan always manages to put tunes together in a way that we just CAN’T get out of our heads! And with, like, 50 other releases every year, you figure we have plenty of opportunities to do a head cleanse, right? That’s how catchy the Llamas songcraft is! So, as you’re almost certainly not ONE OF US, and since it’s been five years almost since the last High Llamas release, Talahomi Way, you weren’t thinking and you weren't expecting a new record. WRONG. New High Llamas record to the rescue! And this time, the album, entitled Here Come the Rattling Trees, was made in coordination with a stage play! This makes a LOT of sense – Llamas songs have always felt like mini-portraits; sometimes sketched with such delicious brevity (and musical impressionism) as to DEMAND our participation in finishing the picture. This is part of the magic of High Llamas, the interactive social realism. It’s not all strings and horns and ring modulation, kids! That said, if you think the record is just a soundtrack of the play, you’ve got another think coming! Here Come the Rattling Trees plays like a true High Llamas album, the vocal songs fairly evenly spaced with instrumental pieces. High Llamas’ fascination with the moments found in between moments, as in the seemingly mundane passages of everyday life, reaches a full flowering here, as the cycles of rise and fall within a local neighborhood gently revolve. Their fastidious arrangements and sense of economy dovetail with the clearly-delineated community being portrayed, giving High Llamas their most British record yet! For guys so enamored of their Italian soundtracks, that’s saying something. Here Come the Rattling Trees is OUT NOW on LP and CD. And DL, for yer point-and-click enthusiasts.
SIEGE-ALL WITH SEGALL
Completing the January trifecta was/is Ty Segall’s Emotional Mugger, which basically means, WHOA NOW! January. Especially since Emotional Mugger seems upon initial listens to be a departure from the last Ty record – Manipulator – and the general drift of his past few albums, even. Not an issue – one of the reasons we like to continue to do the “record label thing” is cuz we’re really into when artists make different kinds of records from album to album. When we hear records like that, we go through shocks! When we get shocked, we go, Ahhhhhhh! We go through shocks. It's good. And honestly, the shifts between Goodbye Bread, Twins, Sleeper and Manipulator were powerful and plenty radical in and of themselves. Coming after Manipulator though, Emotional Mugger seems particularly fucked up, since the previous record was so evenly balanced as to be almost aurally transparent at times! Emotional Mugger is anything but – where previously, rhythms flowed and surged au naturel, here they stumble and stomp on a dime, marching robotically through chaotic backdrops, while Ty turns his falsetto prowess into something sickly-sweet, finding a new guttural voice as well which serves as a schizo-fried other-mindly intrusion into the songs. All this is fine and well, not to mention AWESOME, since the songs are ALL THAT and can bear up under the weight of all the madness raining down around them – and you know what? Once you get used to it, the weirdness of Emotional Mugger is not at all off the charts set by previous Segall flights. Since the record came out however, Ty has DOUBLED DOWN on the weirdness, debuting a hot new band that does everything for him, allowing Ty to connect with the audience with no veil of guitar-duty between them. The outcome is a bit disconcerting – the band is raging, and Ty seems to be powerfully inspired to let his ID out every night; often in a dribble of spit 'n drool. That’s rock and roll, you can’t fight it – but the appearance of props like a baby mask and a bloody umbilical cord add a set of contradictory elements to the process that only increase the unease. When you factor in the SUPER-BLEAK extendo-video for Emotional Mugger, featuring futuristic police brutality, prostitution, intravenous drug use, social recreation and viral instability, all scored with a soundtrack of INTENSE Emotional Mugger remixes, it’s then you realize that ‘weird’ may be getting to be too benign a term for this. Then factor in what just came down last week – a bit of storming rock and theatre of outrage for all the nation to see on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show – then toss in all the non-traditional items being served up at the merch table on tour – and it becomes clear that the concept of “Glunk” (which is a new genre meaning Glam-Punk! Copyright 2016 -- Drag-City’s-grab-for-personal-glory ed.) is being OWNED in 2016 by Ty Segall and The Muggers, who don’t seem to care what burns in their wake. If it’s all in the name of new music, then we don’t care either! And it is. So we don't. Emotional Mugger can be found in ALL the formats: LP, CD, DL, and the Cassette!
(HERETIC’S) BARGAIN: THE BEST (RANGDA) YOU’VE EVER HAD
We live in days of highly diffuse attractions – to speak of “rock music” in 2016 is to describe a widely-spaced polarity of highly-partisan micro-genres which may ultimately share no common denominators beyond the use of guitars, electricity, language, etc. To call an aggregate by the term ‘power-trio,’ which was once synonymous with the guitar-bass-and drums arrangement, is no longer guaranteed. Yet despite their unconventional approach, we’re pleased to tell you that Rangda doesn’t fall THAT far from the tree – their power is supplied by TWO guitars and drums, which seems like not too much to wrap your head around, right? WRONG AGAIN. Maybe in some schlubs’ hands, but with Rangda, you’ve Ben Chasny and Sir Richard Bishop on guitar, and Chris Corsano on drums. Any single one of these guys is gonna be too much to wrap your head around ON THEIR OWN – all three of them together? Forget it. Holding on for dear life is your best bet. The Heretic’s Bargain is the third Rangda album since 2009, first since 2011 – and frankly, we’re glad it’s taken them so long to do new music – their other two records are still lodged in our digestive tract, still giving off strains of acid, sweet-and-sour seasoning, heat, and a savory aftertaste we can’t (and won’t!) get out of our gullet! While all three Rangdites are seasoned improvisers, and while they’ve certainly indulged in a bit of improv in the earlier recordings, The Heretic’s Bargain finds them carefully mapping out their compositions so that when they do let it rip and lay it down, their furious energy is presented with an equally tactile base supporting it. As this is the third Rangda album, it manages to combine approaches from the first two records – the sweltering evisceration-jams of 2010’s False Flag and the swinging one-world dance-steps of 2012’s Formerly Extinct. Taking a little time for both approaches this time around, Rangda are essentially doubling our pleasure, while TURNING IT UP in each area, featuring tighter riffs, and more of them, played with somehow greater abandon. How? I know – it’s like, impossible to imagine the process by which this stuff happens – but knowing Rangda as we do, we envision an almost casual process at times, which occasionally boils over into a very INTENSE casual process, with the potential for lots of blisters (mostly on egos). The signature humor of Rangda is expressed once again, and perhaps even more definitively, throughout The Heretic’s Bargain. Yes, it is possible for instrumental songs to have humor – or perhaps better put, ‘wit’ – but faced with only one opportunity for verbal larfs, which is in the titling of songs, Rangda are cranked to 11 on this new record, with knee-slappers like “Spiro Agnew”, and “To Melt the Moon”, not to mention the extended composition (and composition title!), “Hard Times Befall the Door-to-Door Glass Shard Salesman”. On The Heretic’s Bargain, Rangda are operating on ALL cylinders, without doing much more than playing together as a trio. Now that’s what we call POWER. The Heretic’s Bargain hits February 19th on LP/CD and DL, OK?
THE LIGHTSTORM IS THE RIGHT STORM
There’s an upside to outliving the rock-and-roll era – we now live in an anything-goes time in which the rules and regs that denoted empirical good and bad have been rendered meaningless! And thank God – who wants to listen to music based on the idea that it is good or bad? No. Not us! There are no guilty pleasures – now, everything is equally valid, and equally not so. Aesthetics are vanity – while we’re certainly not above the curatorial impulse ourselves, we can at least realize that pride of place is a DIRTY-ASSED SIN against nature. Thus said, we’re glad to live today; all things being equal, we can dip our beak in whatever fetid waters we please. For these and other reasons, it’s been a good time for reissues here in the early days of the after-rock epoch. The primary reason to reissue vintage material is to make a case for it being more than it was originally perceived to be, and what better time to do that than our current state of all-bets-are-off openness! Genres that once seemed generally distasteful to listeners of that time – like, say, New Age music, which may now be seen as an extension of psychedelic music and hippified soft-rock, rather than the creative dead-end it was thought to be throughout the 1980s – are up for such careful re-evaluations. This was in some ways a last stand for this kind of music, which appeared in a variety of forms on an abundance of records made in that time, all of slid through the industrial net cast by the major corporations at large back then. The examples of this previously underloved sound continue to flow out, year after year, via the cottage "vintage music" micro-industry of today. Which of course, we're not above participating in ourselves! Over the past few years, we’ve had a series of co-releases with the Yoga label that have showcased various facets of this now-recognizable-as-remarkable time; records from Woo, Matthew Young and Mad Music Inc, to which we now add the name of Lightstorm! Formed by husband and wife team Johnima and Kalassu Wintergate in the late ‘60s, Lightstorm have been retransmitting messages of love from their teacher and Avatar Sathya Sai Baba ever since. The Lightstorm discography has been issued under a variety of aliases (Creation Earth, 33 1/3, Teeth) unknown to all but the most obsessed vinyl casualties. The compilation album Creation fuses the best tracks from the spiritual concept double LP Who Am I: One (1977) and sensual glam rock killer 33 1/3 (1980, recently featured in the Enjoy The Experience private press book). Creation captures both sides of Lightstorm with eleven pieces of riveting catchy, psych-glam-weirdness. To say that there's nothing else like Lightstorm is an understatement, but their naturally clear underlying love energy is unmistakable. Experience Creation on LP and DL, starting on February 19th and extending to the end of time!
WE AIN’T NOT A-MARCHIN’ ANYMORE
Don’t sell records in April, they say! It’s a bad time to sell records – because it’s Record Store Day! O God – we understand what irony is, do you have to continue to send us new and ever-more-potent examples of it, with no corrective attention to man’s inhumanity to man? Then they say, don’t sell records in March, because Record Store Day is coming in April! Clearly, this is why the middle class is disappearing! If we can’t get our records into records stores any old time, then what exactly is meaning of the term “Record Store Day”? So, we sell records in April, and we sell them in March. And we make sure they’re the BEST DAMN RECORDS around, to compete with the cut-throats and the carpet-baggers out there who might deny the little guy (and us) the chance to compete. So to you, we say – hey, wanna buy a non-RSD record? In March, we’ve got a few AWESOME alternatives for you. Remember Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy? Way back in the beginning of this missive, when we were young (and awake)? Well he’s teamed up with another Drag City act – and before you try and guess WRONG about that act’s name – no, it isn’t Bill Callahan, Royal Trux, or The Red Krayola! SPOILER ALERT! We’re talking about Bitchin Bajas, long a favorite of the Bonnie ‘Prince’. Together, they have produced a full-length album-PLUS entitled Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties. Which basically says it all – the slow-unfolding jam-magic of the Bajas and their banks of vintage keys and reed/wind instruments meets Bonny on his own trippy cloud and takes them both UP, to spiritual high grounds of the highest order! Both these “acts” have been around the world of sounds and visions, and yet, they do something together here that neither have really done on their own. So look for that LP+12”/CD/CS/DL release on March 18th, no matter how many copies of some dumb-ass vinyl reissue of Journey to the Center of the Mind you’ve agreed to buy! This journey’s gonna be far more worth taking. And while you’re at it, why not buy a couple sweet vinyl reissues at the same time? Pairing perfectly with the shadows-and-mist of Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties are a couple of Flying Saucer Attack LPs from the way-out dayz of 1995 (when we were sure Vocokesh was gonna solve everything (and they did)): Further and Chorus. The ostensible third and fourth (arguable, but we can make that argument) FSA long-play albums highlighted tremendous refinements to the band’s East-meets-West shoegaze psych – bringing greater clarity and acoustic depths to the mix, which added as much as it subtracted, making for all-new Flying Saucer Attack encounters! Chorus came and went on LP in a hurry; this is the first time it’s been back since before the end of the century. Further was around more recently than that, but it’s probably been a decade since the original run breathed its last. Now, with the Instrumentals 2015 album revitalizing the undying and eternal music of FSA, it’s time to regroove the catalog available again, for those who’ve never really been there before!
So there you go – that’s our March solution: super-space records from yesterday and today! You’ll be so far-out you won’t know where you’re at. And that’s the place to be.
What we said about March? DITTO for April! If you need space in your store for the myriad predictable RSD reissues and split-singles INSTEAD of the new Cate Le Bon and Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex releases, we know what business you’re in – and it’s not the business of elevating consciousness in the name of capitalism! You have somehow forgotten that we can aspire to having both (as we continue to slowly go broke! – keepin’ it Apreal ed.), instead of just pitching to the lowest common denominator in order to keep your idiot LIGHTS on. That was supposed to be the upside of the industry collapse – the detritus at the top of pyramid rendered useless! Now the chicanery of the old order reappears, repackaged to stroke the public’s need for nostalgia. People, the big bands AIN'T coming back! Rock and roll ISN'T here to stay! On a clear day, you CAN’T see forever! Baby, be real – but more importantly than that, get Crab Day by Cate Le Bon and Denver by Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex! This is what very new music that perfectly anticipates (yet doesn’t care) what you think (but has a very powerful role in your life) sounds like! More about these fascinatingly-elusive (and new!) records next month – and the month after! And until the end of our time on this planet. These are the right kinds of records to spend time talking about until we die.
But Ghod – aren’t we sick of talking about records round about now? Hasn’t newsletter fatigue set in? At the end of the day, do we really have the strength for much more? OF COURSE WE DO. That’s why there’s clubs, theatres, auditoriums, stadiums and whatever they call places like The Empty Bottle (rhymes with pit-bowls). And that’s why artists you mustn’t miss will be playing live in the ultimately merry (and disconcertingly warm) months of February and March: Ty Segall! Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy! Neil Hamburger! David Grubbs! Joanna Newsom! Rangda! Cate Le Bon! Six Organs of Admittance! Alasdair Roberts! Laetitia Sadier! When the sun goes down, you’ve got good options. Check your local listings! Or better yet – check our Tour Page, it’s got it all!
MAY BE YES, MAY BE NO...
YES, we’re gonna have releases in May! But our jaws are tired (our typing jaws), so we’ll save a little something for next time. See you in March – until then, keep your Ides open and your beards to the ground!
Drag City Records