RACE FOR THE PRISE
2016’s heating up! Literally! It’s like we told you! The world’s coming to an end! These are “End Times”! Literally! And the sooner the big blast comes the better! Because the way it’s looking, if the race survives, it’ll be in its most animalistic form! And people are the worst! Who will WIN? May the source deliver us from any kind of year dictated by who wins or loses! But that’s all there are, really! Have there ever been any other kinds of years with any other kind of criteria? And why do the competitors vying for our support become poorer and poorer examples of humanity at its least objectionable? We’re gonna D I E. Or worse – live, and be incredibly humiliated! And the only consolation - these incredibly affirming Royal Trux reunion gigs! But no new Royal Trux album though. So in the final analysis: HORRIBLE. Horrible!
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
How dare you suggest that we put our heads in the sand and try to ignore it all! That’s exactly what we’ve been doing as a professional prerogative for over a quarter century now, stupid! And it’s been working fine! That’s right, we abstain from the world at large out there, preferring to generate dreams and alternate realities from our fantasy factory deep in the underground that we can send into the fray in our stead. Proxy-music, you might say. And yes, we know we’re playing a hypocrite’s game – we see that the very capitalist system that we’ve placed our faith and that has failed us is the selfsame teat upon which we suckle to draw forth the sweet-and-sour milk that makes another year of releasing music possible for us. There’s only one reason we mortgage our self-respect in such whorish fashion – because it’s music, man! Music, which redeems the corruption of our very souls by singing from their highest peaks! Music, soothin’ that savage breast since times immemorialorata! Music, a reflection of our best selves, the final evolution of which was accessed perfectly only by Royal Trux! Music: soon to be made irrelevant - by evolution or REVolution? Who knows. For the foreseeable future anyway, we hang in there. Drag City: here until at least the day after Election Day or BUST!
And why not? All socio-policitics aside, it’s an absolutely FINE year for music. For the moment, let’s put aside the highly stimulating, reasonably divisive and potentially (un!)forgettable (you BEASTS!) slate we offered you in January and February. Let's not recall the MOMENTOUS Royal Trux reunion shows in NYC and Chicago (and the one coming up at the Austin Psych Fest!). Instead, let’s start with NOW. And nothing we have ever heard of before represents for the mercurial drip of THE MOMENT like Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties, the all-new collaborative opus from Bitchin Bajas and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy! It’s not a mere and simple case of the Bajas’ diaphanous countenance ruling the day, either – Bonny’s possessed of an ethereal spirit all on his own. Despite their rather different approaches and goals to their music-making, these two collectives (yes, it takes a village to make a Bonnie ‘Prince’ – aka, schizo?) found themselves in the exact same right place and right time to make music together. Their mutual admiration society’s first missive is, like the title tells you, a doozy of jam-a-ditties, a real monster: an LP + 12”-sized release that almost just hits a golden hour’s-length of music. So that’s quantity right there, which mostly ensures value, right? And may you even want to get into quality, well, rest assured, Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties is full of it! Bonny and the Bajas manage to bring things out of each other that don’t get showcased elsewhere, whether spanning great distances (most songs) or banging hard on the little numbers that bookend the album. Bitchin Bajas are an inherently optimistic outfit; their music seems to exist in an atmosphere of cleansing and equilibrium. This combines with the ‘Prince’s medieval approach to the balance of humors in a remarkable fashion, as the Bajas bring their synths and reeds welling forth while Bonny, straight-faced, intones, sings and chants his way through a collection of aphorisms culled from the sweet hearts of many years of fortune cookies. Some titles on EJaFD feature the positivist jargon we have all encountered in moments of after-dinner contemplation: “You Will Soon Discover How Lucky You Are,” and “Your Whole Family Are Well”; others have a more ambiguous quality, such as “Nature Makes Us For Ourselves,” and “You Are Not ‘Superman’”. Finally, an ecstatic level is reached in some of the pieces, like “Your Heart Is Pure, Your Mind Is Clear, Your Soul Devout”, and “Show Your Love And Your Love Will Be Returned.” These various versions of soothsaying create together a transcendently soaring sensation while listening through to Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties that we feel many listeners may benefit from, whether their goal is cheap escapism or the greater (and indeed, unending) search for gnosis. Seekers, however you take your revelation, it is here for you: Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties is OUT NOW on LP (+12”), CD, CS and DL.
FURTHER CHORUSES FROM FLYING SAUCER ATTACK
Also in March! Matching, weightless pound for pound, the BB&B‘P’B ultimate mind-body fusion, are two classics from FSA! Clearly, Flying Saucer Attack, whose Instrumentals 2015 searched through some of last-year’s most far-flung spaces, are back. But for a generation who grew up in the post-FSA millennium, back to and from where? Waste not your youth on your youth, McChildren! You don't ask why. Wake up to the dream of Flying Saucer Attack, 1993-2000. It was in those slight seven years that a crack to eternity was opened up in the skies over Bristol UK, and a near-imponderable mass took the shape of music in many and elusive forms, from psych to kraut to pop to folk to noise through to the then-breaking genres that were coming to be called ‘shoegaze’, ‘trance’, and (in time) ‘dubstep’. Strange days indeed, my friends! In the blurry month of March 2016, we choose to return you back to two of the early FSA-ses with LP reissues of 1995’s Further and Chorus. Just two years into their arc, Flying Saucer Attack had already taken the world by storm with a barrage of singles, a self-titled album and a compilation of singles and rarities called Distance. In late ’94, as we prepared to join forces with FSA (whose work had appeared on VHF and a handful of other labels), their energy was bubbling effervescently; not only would the second album be ready shortly, but a second compilation as well! With Royal Trux gone to Virgin, we needed a shot in the arm - but two would do as well! Further was the official second album; it largely ditched the pagan-psych squalor of the (absolutely classic) first album for more of a sharp-focused, open-roofed production frame in which the guitars shimmered, intermingled in an extended dynamic space, with acoustic folk qualities drifting to the fore occasionally – a new embodiment of stillness for the time. Twenty years down the line, the new-agey aspects of the sound will appeal to today’s young heads (whose preference for that sort of thing is really quite remarkable). For FSA’s Dave Pearce, these were simply cleaner edges upon which to play, while nonetheless continuing a fascination with the desiccation of sound such as you might get from recording on and dubbing cassettes (again, the parallels with the listening habits of today are rather uncanny). Later in the year, Chorus collected some John Peel tracks, a single and a compilation track in a sequence that produced a seamless album experience, albeit one of a more hermetically sealed (and packed in ice and set adrift in a northern sea, left to slowly disperse into the underset of the deep layer) nature. With two albums released in less than a year, Flying Saucer Attack had covered a LOT of ground – and while there was a lot more ground to cover, it would be two years before the next album appeared. We’ll pick up the story later this year (2016 - stay with us, fellow time-travellers!) with LP reissues of the subsequent FSA albums, the new-phase New Lands and its follow-up, Mirror. Until then, Saucer on, true ones!
HOW WE CAME TO BE HERE
On the way to your local dispensary, you come suddenly awake lying flat on the sidewalk. What has happened? Your head is filled with the distant sounds of the near future (no, that's actually just a synaptic-misfire/recall of Royal Trux's Accelerator! - fresh-planted-spirit-of-Oliver-Sachs ed.) mixed with other vivid sonic impressions that are oh, so two-months-ago: remember? Radio-worthy highlights (and otherwise) from Ty Segall’s Emotional Mugger, the prayerful extracts from Bonny Billy's early days/John Peel Sessions that make up Pond Scum and the insistent pop of High Llamas’ off-off-Broadway-ready Here Come the Rattling Trees. But there's something else in that old air too - the perfectly executed clangor of Rangda (by the way, that's not supposed to rhyme) unreeled with passion and precision on The Heretic's Bargain, their third album and one that can hardly be evaluated, so new is it to this world (it came out all the way back on February 19th – give-it-a-month-and-I'll-take-a-year-ed.)! Guitars, guitars and drums! It's all we really need...sorry bassists! You'll have your day, but it may not be as frenetically danceable as this day. Or as crazy as the halcyon days of Lightstorm, whose privately-pressed catalog was issued through the 70s and early 80s, and who've never been collected/reissued until now. That's been solved thanks to Yoga Records, who have taken the late-hippie/early-new-age doings of a couple of Lightstorm late 70s releases to make an incredible compilation called Creation. More great vintage music for now people, also in the market-place for the past month. But did you notice? Or are you ready simply to move on to the next blackout moment of your life - an eventual memory filled with blank and missing scenes? Play it however you like, we've done our bit! And that's 2016 so far - in a nutshell, how the freak else?
ANYONE FOR CRAB CATES?
In April and for the foreseeable future, Drag City continues to hello and huzzah the arrival of Cate Le Bon to our (freshly cleaned - gotta keep up appearances) Ivory Bunker. She's cruising in on a sleek vehicle she's dubbed Crab Day, and wouldn't y ou know it, we're in love again! When you hear Craby Day, you'll know why too. Listeners to Mug Museum know it already - the lass has a touch, not just with the guitar, with which she's an absolute and entire whiz, but also in the construction of tight, hard pop songs that unlock feelings we can't quite put a finger on - wistful feels, evoked with words of love paired with other words evoking 'not love' or some other thing. The arrangements are pristine - quite playful, almost circus-like, but laid down with ominously stony faces. Listen to (and you know, watch) the video for "Wonderful", the lead track from Crab Day, and you will know what inspires phrases like "headlong tumble" to leap into the minds of the listeners. Initial notices for the song have made much of the chaos in Cate's new music, which is wild, since the music is also immaculately, mathematically ordered. We have come to find that Crab Day plays with oppositions, and does so quite complacently, happy for the sparks that come raining forth when the gears of things clash together just so. Ever since the days of good ol' Royal Trux (check 'em out!), we've loved this effecting affect. The key is to do it in one's own way - and Cate has her way, and it is fully evolved in a pop sphere where sound signifiers are combined along unconventional lines to make perfect (un)sense. Lines that won't stay out of your mind! Guitar, blending cleanly with vibes and rhythm, creating an aura of madness out of an entirely dialed-in logic. Crab Day is one of the INTENSELY good new releases of 2016 - and we'll lay it on you, in LP/CD/CS and yeah DL (zzz), on April 15!
IF NOT NOW, THEN DENVER?
Times are changing, man! And we and The Howling Hex are FINE with it. Change is the only thing that is a constant for people like them (and by extension, people like us) - the only thing, that is, save the "New Border Sound" that is the chosen direction of their chosen métier. Over the course of eight records dating back to 2005, Neil Michael Hagerty has pushed his troops to not only execute, but ACHIEVE in the vast spaces provided by his New Border Sound conception - and they have. From the dance-oriented (All-Night Fox) to the industrial (1-2-3) to the garage-y (XI) and the lazily pastoral (Wilson Semiconductors); this is just a sampling of what The Howling Hex have done with their very own genre. Now there is a 9th album that once again explores and extends the boundaries of the America that The Howling Hex so proudly inhabit. Denver issues forth from its Rocky Mountain height, a stop in the path between east and west for so many over the years that it has become a bastion in its own right. Using titles like "Colfax West", "Mountain", "Guided Missiles", and "300 Days of Sunshine" as a starting point, Neil and the Howling Hex deliver jolt after regionally-oriented jolt of 21st century rock and roll, all of it sighted through the distinctive "NBS" lens. Denver finds Hagerty dialing up his formidable guitar tone, which is oft backgrounded with The Howling Hex in the name of other, more pressing issues. Here, the sound that thrilled audiences of the long-ago transgressions of Pussy Galore and the more modern contrivances of Royal Trux is fully apparent, and LOUD. This provides passages to new territory for the Hex, such as the dreamy epic "Look Out". A reflection on city life, Denver attains greater heights by being made available in several different forms - a limited-edition full-color screen-printed LP in addition to the black-and-white standard album jacket - but even more excitingly, an entirely separate mix on the cassette release, dubbed "Approved for Indica". This hot-mix melts together the component parts of the album, leaving most of the vocals aside, for an extreme glance of the same material from a nicely different angle. Also packaged in custom-screened slipcases, this tape is DOPE - but really, in all its forms, Denver comes at the listener in ultra-compelling form. Coming April 15th!
In the month of May, what do we anticipate the world inclining to do? The many and varied threats to our way of selling music are paramount: Finals. Graduation. Marriage. Mourning. New Investments. Opening The Summer Home. Early Vay-Cay. MLB Network. Truckin' On the Bernie Bus (It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over!). Buying Records Other Than Ours. Listening To An Original Royal Trux Pound for Pound LP Instead Of Buying the Hot-sounding Reissue Repress! Is there no end to the shameful ways in which people might avoid being turned on to the best new records around in the suddenly restless and moody month of May? Because we got three of them, and we're not going to accept them getting the shaft! When you pull a jewel from the ocean (ocean-jewels = pearls? – metaphorically-muddled ed.), you want people to share your joy at its glittering resurgence. This is how we feel about The Red Krayola with Art & Language's Baby and Child Care - a record submerged in the increasing deep of time since 1984, when it was shopped around to the usual gang of unusual suspects and found no takers! But why, when it is not only the same band that put out the highly take-able Black Snakes that same year, but it's also a record of equal potency (though possibly shorter length)?!? A record like this would have sold just fine back then - but today, with it's charmingly 80s-hip production traits, like disco-dubby beats rich with plate reverband a bit of thumb-poppin' funk bass, Baby and Child Care is a sound that sells itself! Plus, the Spockian science being kicked about better raising habits for your babies will resonate with today's kids, who've been raised almost TOO perfectly, some might say (okay, us)! Also on the date is a multi-media release from filmmaker Olivia Wyatt and environmental audio activists Bitchin Bajas. It's the soundtrack to her experimental documentary film Sailing a Sinking Sea, which meditates on the way of life lived by the Moken people of Thailand and Burma. These people spend three-quarters of their lives on the water, sailing, fishing, eating, singing, worshiping and generally just LIVING in little thatch-roofed wooden boats! People, these folks are so connected to the life of the sea that they were actually able to predict and then survive the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2003! But enough about the film - it is included in the LP package and will be a sensual and sumptuous experience for fans of ethnography, filmmaking - and yeah, music. To fuse together the mostly water-driven soundtrack of the film, Bitchin Bajas were called in to sub for water, which is kind the role they were born to play. So the soundtrack alternates between atmospheric samples from the film, the sounds of the Moken people working and playing and then the Bajas, creating climatic linkage that melds the rest in amazing euphony that makes Sailing a Sinking Sea one of the best soundtrack/ambient/psych/outer limits records you'll buy this year! Finally, and also on the outer tip, is a record from David Grubbs on his Blue Chopsticks imprint. In recent years, David has been reconnecting with the harsh borders of his guitar-craft, such as he first encountered back in the late-80s/early-90s heyday of Bastro - and yeah, from time to time in Gastr del Sol (and since then too sometimes). Lately it has been in full resurgence! David's dark, textured ound is showcased to great effect on the recent Belfi/Grubbs/Pilia release, Dust & Mirrors, as well as on a diverse set of solo offerings including Hybrid Song Box.4, The Plain Where the Palace Stood and Borough of Broken Umbrellas. On the new Prismrose, the guitar is center stage, playing often solo and in several tense and gritty duets with Eli Keszler, plus in coordination with Grubbs' equally-distinctive vocals for one passage. Along the stark and portentous way, David interacts over time and space with Tony Conrad, Guillaume de Machaut, Walt Whitman and Rick Moody! Prismrose will be available on LP and CD this May, alongside the aforementioned Red Krayola with Art & Language and Olivia Wyatt + Bitchin Bajas releases - quite a mouthful, but amounting to even more in the ear!
A MILE IN THEIR SHOES
It was a week ago today that Royal Trux returned to their adopted home of Chicago to play the third reunion show in a series that who can tell where it will end? They next bring their ineffable inventions in rock and roll next to the Austin Levitation Fest which is happening over the last weekend in April and first day of May. Other acts are playing shows of various profiles during the next little bit here, like, I don't know, Joanna Newsom? She'll be riding the purple sage out west for a whopping twelve days at the end of March/and beginning of April. That means that not only the big towns but also Spokane, Boise, Boulder and even olde Sacramento have something to look forward to! Also heading west are Bitchin Bajas, who will be traveling under the headlining umbrella of Deerhunter for a couple weeks in April. Plus, they're also playing some international events with their collaborator and fellow dude, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy coming up later this month! Purling Hiss meanwhile, will be opening shows for Kurt Vile in the near-east, midwest and south thruout April. It's been too long since we've heard from Purling Hiss, and these shows will be solo shows - so expect something kinda different! Cate Le Bon has a couple of big shows coming up in NYC and LA right before Crab Day drops - then afterwards a dash across North America, hooray! And on the other side of the pond, Ty Segall takes his Emotional Mugger tour to the heads, crowned and uncrowned alike, of Europe. And Scout Niblett too! She's back after a bit of time off the road and playing the first couple weeks of April in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK. NICE ONE. Laetitia also has a string of UK dates coming this month as well. It just won't stop - and why should it? It's only everything we need....
LIGHTNING OUR LOAD
Music, save us. Music, stop us from hating my fellow man. Help us music, we're falling again. Send us the pillow that you dream on, music - we need to dream on it too.
By Royal Trux, we'll see you next month!
Drag City Records