YEAR OF THE EAR
Drag City is back in the shattle, 2012 - here to whip the eyes from your head to make you see! You don’t need them ol’ sightballs anyway…like us, you’re a LISTENER. And once you’ve been deprived of your ocular nerve-enders, your listen-senses will sharpen up into something quite non-believable – you know, like the smell of sound will begin to become acute within your aural sections. Who among us doesn’t dream of that? Raise your hand, if you’re prepared to get stoned. And if you’re ready to lose your eyes to ensure that your hearing becomes hearoic-ing, come with me.
SUPERSIZE THE MIND
Okay, first of all, we the upright people of Drag City hate knowing that you are tormented by the flies of the marketplace. We know that they’re your enemy, that they want you to settle for the LCD and the GCM and do nothing more than live in their proscribed strip mall of the mind. Now, it’s an ever-changing world - you need to know what’s out there for sure – that’s culture just as sure as what we’re doing is culture (and history, and art, and education, and literotica, damn it!). And hopefully there’s a spot for us and our unclassifiable musics in this so-called mental strip mine. But we don’t stop there! We can’t! The search for outlets to plug our artists (and inputs to receive more output) into never ends. Not on this Earth, anyway. We’ll happily be the greatest common multiple when we’re dead – but until that happy day, we’re digging. Digging for us, digging for you. Exploring another avenue. Vetting another prospective sales partner. Examining yet another album in yet another jacket. Albums from heroes. Albums from strangers. Music that is sweet and familiar to our ears, and sound that is alien and amazing. Plus some dumb shit too. That’s all we can do with what we’ve got – there’s no place in the um, “real” world for us except in the sound-image of the music-art that we are somehow related to by simple dint of sitting behind these enormous, leather-covered desks here in the newly outfitted DC bunker+trailer duplex. So we’re gonna keep digging, if only to keep these awesome desks. Plus, we like what the constant infusement of music does for our heads. You too? Then keep reading.
…here we iz come on-ah! It’s new release time in the record selling world, and this week, the new releases include some feathers from the Drag City tree. This date is special to us because it’s an all-new date, with three fresh-minted LP/CDs from currently striving artists plus a bran’-new 7” single from one of our most familiar names. That means living in the now, plus the future.
The albums? They are a diverse lot, but they all have a marvelous way of scrambling perspectives in the listener, each with a distinctive sense of touch. Dirty Three’s approach may be most widely-known: put three Aussies in a room with guitar, drums and violin and let them paw it out! The instrumental results of their internal dis-coursing have proven quite pleasing to a generation of listeners – but it’s been half a generation since we last heard from them! Actually, how long’s a generation? (Note to self/editor: fact-check this shit before we send it out for once in your fucking life…like, what do they call a generation in Australia? A sentence? A term? Or is there some wonky metric name for it?) Whatever you call them all together, the seven-ish years since their last release have been filled with musical adventures for all three Dirty ones! Returning to their magical island of music, they are full-charged - individually and collectively, Warren Ellis, Mick Turner and Jim White are all full of fire and fuck-all throughout the rising and contracting of all nine jams that make up Toward the Low Sun.
Another class-of-90s far-East man (though a little north and a little west) is Masaki Batoh, appearing here solo rather than at the head of his psychedelic rock outfit Ghost. Leaving aside their powerful support wasn’t something taken lightly – but Brain Pulse Music required Batoh to work alone – at years of research into the workings of the human brain! When not working with Ghost and not working in his duo with Helena Espvall and and not working at his acupuncture clinic, Batoh studied the science of brain waves intently, determined to read the expression of the brain in a fundamental, almost organic way. This study led to his development of a device called the Brain Pulse Music Machine, a box designed to help direct the user’s facile understanding of brain waves into an interface that may eventually help mankind to calm our shattered modern-day thought-stream. This is serious science-shit here, people – far more serious news than should be handled by your news-reader here, but bear with me… During BPM recording sessions last Spring, Batoh and millions of others Japanese were confronted by the destruction brought to their doorstep by the earthquake, and then the changing circumstances in the weeks that followed, with word of additional breakdowns on a daily basis. As far as the record was concerned, it not only delayed the finish, but it also evolved Batoh’s aims for the record. He had started his work in a theoretical stance trying to aid the human brain in general – now, Batoh focused his energies on the more immediate and visceral concern of addressing worried psyche of the Japanese nation. Two pieces of Brain Pulse music were taken from the aborted sessions. The remainder of the album was recorded without the BPMM, but instead traditional instruments in ritual healing performances based in ancient Japanese tradition. These two musical styles approach the goal of understanding and soothing the roots of stress and anxiety within the brain, and combined with the notes from Batoh in the album about Brain Pulse theory, make for a compelling yet still mysterious journey to the center of the human mind. And that’s not the end of it! We now have Brain Pulse Music Machines exclusively on sale at dragcity.com. Tune in, turn on and become a part of the brain wave.
Also on sale now-Now-NOW! is the debut album from Sophia Knapp, Into the Waves. Sophia dazzled us and maybe you too last year with her single “Nothing to Lose,” which established her gossamer individuality in just under four minutes (with an extended remix on the flip). See, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that Sophia has been making records with Lights and Cliffie Swan for the past five-ish years, making spiritual and magic-based music in several different styles, ranging from hippie-punk DIY to high-fi power-pop to…where we find her Into the Waves, sporting a smooth singer-songwriter approach while sacrificing little of her mystic pursuits. Instead, all the parts of Sophia are woven into a web of acoustic and synthetic texture, with glimmers of 60s, 70s and 80s influences – creating song-structures heavy with resonance and meaning. They defy gravity and float gracefully with all ornamentation intact, retaining a nice shape and weight that curves alluringly, the production supplying a comfortable mid-tempo bounce perfect for the dance.
Sophia’s expressions are wistful – there is nostalgia, dwelling on the passage of time – and yet, resolved to the inevitability of departure, detaching from the familiar in search of something new. Often blue, Into the Waves achieves a state of dreamy intoxication by sinking through the depths of these emotions, creating a lovely gentle glittering melancholic haze that hangs over all. Into the Waves is a rainy-day record for all kinds of weather – and it’s available for your instant-gratification needs right now, today and forever more. And while you're at digging it, stare at one of her limited, numbered screen prints!
And what else? Bonnie Prince Billy, that’s what. The kid is back with another single that you’ll never forget. No, it’s not a 10” single. And no, it’s not a double-single, or a triple-single for that matter. It’s just a plain old 7”. The songs are cut from the cloth of Wolfroy Goes to Town – silky at times with an implied coarseness far beneath the touch of the fingers. There’s a few more wrinkles in the texture of this single however - to trip you up and make you wonder. It’s just a two-song 7” single, and that’s where the wonder begins. The two songs are the b-sides for the album track “Time to Be Clear” – but “Time to Be Clear” isn’t anywhere to be found on the damn vinyl. It’s on the digital of course – a clear sign of the superiority of this format, right? Whatever. They used to say that bout CDs too, Bucko. Besides, we’re kind of digging the way this single for "The b-sides for “Time to Be Clear”" asks of you to remember the A-side or refer back to the album. The single then fills in the missing pieces for you. So, an all-new 7” from Bonny Billy, another 7” from Bonny Billy - and something completely different from Bonnie Prince Billy! Why should it ever be any other way?
MARCHING DOWN THE ROAD
So you see? February’s a mouthful, but we’ve got it pronounced right this time. Still, what are we gonna do? Stand around, blowing our horn? Nah, not this time. We’re suiting up, with all the records on our back and headed out, for greener pastures and with the new records from Dirty Three, Masaki Batoh, Sophia Knapp and Bonny Prince Billy on our back. Forward! March! And the records dead ahead from Mairi Morrison & Alasdair Roberts, Sandy Bull & the Rhythm Ace and Mickey Newbury and Bill Callahan. Forward! Into the semi-past!
MAIRI AND ALI, SITTING IN A TREE…
…P-L-A-Y-I-N-G! Yes, that’s what folks do in Scotland – in addition to pitchin’ woo, they pitch tunes at each other too and sing along. And that’s the story of how in March, we’re putting out got one of the finest Gaelic albums in (our) recent memory! Mairi Morrison & Alasdair Roberts combine their singing talents and their deep songic knowledges to make Urstan – and backed with a cracking band and rhythm section, Urstan is one of the freshest, warmest pop albums of the year, with its traditional qualities threaded into the sleeves of a really hot party shirt. Gaelic or not, you too will be singing the songs of the Hebrides (spefically the Isle of Lewis, Mairi’s home island) – hits like the preview track “Mile Marbhphaisg air a’ Ghaol” (have a listen) and the super-catchy “Larach do Thacaidean," plus the heart-rending ballad “E Ho Leigein” and another nine great songs by Mairi, Alasdair and the traditional folk of Gaelic-speakin’ Scotland. Even if you’re not a Gael by blood, this here’s a record that will draw you close and make you sing and dance all by itself! On March 27th, you’ll see and hear for yourself when Urstan hits the racks.
KICKING SANDY IN YOUR FACE
Coming next month is an archival release courtesy of Galactic Zoo Disks, from the late, legendary Sandy Bull. In case you don’t know your Bull-shit, Sandy was a cult-hero of 1960s, blazing a trail here in America for East-West musical fusion with a series of records on Vanguard that got more way out as the decade progressed. Alternately dope-sick and dope-happy, he made a wild final album for Vanguard in '72, then couldn't get another deal even after he cleaned up. As the title will tell you, this Sandy Bull & The Rhythm Ace record's a live album from '76 that was retrieved off old tape reels last year and sounds great. Sandy makes the rounds of his signature Oud, banjo and tremolo guitar stylings, pausing to sing only once (it wasn't really his thing!) and keeping the performance nicely edgy with the addition of an early beat-box to add time to some of his solo Oud playing. Great instrumental music with a nice completely spaced mid-70s feel to it!
MICKEY AND BILL HELP THE CHILD
….you see, every record’s a child – and back in May of last year, we adopted triplets, if you will – orphans of a sort from the discography of Mickey Newbury (and the catalog of Elektra Records). Given the superior output of Mickey Newbury, it wasn’t hard to take these kids on – and since we have, Looks Like Rain, ‘Frisco Mabel Joy and Heaven Help the Child have all sold thousands of records, along with the never-before-released rarities comp Better Days and the CD collection of all four records, An American Trilogy. So it’s like we were saying, each record’s a child and each child grows at his or her own pace. When it comes to Heaven Help the Child , this child’s a complex thing, wise beyond it’s years but – who knows? Hard to get to know? Who knows, perhaps this is your favorite record of our sweet Newbury trilogy – but in case you haven’t explored it yet, we’ve arranged for a wonderful entrée in the form of this little split 7” due to be released on March 27th. Side one features the classic album version of “Heaven Help the Child” by the one and only Mickey Newbury, RIP. Then on side two, you get Bill Callahan’s take on “Heaven Help the Child,” recorded specifically for this endeavor. Two times the heaven on one little 7” single! A ticket to the final chapter of Mickey Newbury’s “American Trilogy!” And a previously unheard Bill Callahan cover song – a trilogy of reasons for you to get this single on March 27th.
And then there’s April. It’s just what comes after March, we can’t change that. All we change is what we release in April. And on April 24th, we’re gonna be the best Drag City we can be when we release two new records and one reissue from the DC vaults. It’s gonna be a special release, rocking out to direct stores right before Record Store Day and then inundating the country in the euphoria that follows. What pray tell are these miraculous records? Well, we’re kind of busy and we have to run – but since you asked, the new long-player is a quick blast from the combined forces of Ty Segall & White Fence. The LP is called Hair and man, is it wild! Both Ty and White Fence bring their A-games to the collab, and this means that Hair is piled high with wiggin’, with an accent on the freakin’ and loads of string-rending madness, but no shortage of high-energy peakin’. It’s a trip. Then, talk about a trip, roll up into our slide machine and take the train back to 1991, where a young Bill Callahan delivers his second Smog album to a young record label called (yes!) Drag City. It was put out on the still-young format of CD (booo!) back then and reissued in 1996 on (what’s up) vinyl. But then it went out of print again and…well, kids, the slide machine has brought you back to today. Where Bill “formerly Smog” Callahan is a baritone crooner with an a wide-open acoustic future in front of him. Nuts to that, sez baby Bill "Smog" Callahan, as he slashes a colorful spray of home-recorded guitar chords left and right! And another left! And a right! The kid had the moves of a boxer even then – and his angry young tunes’ll (decorated with every bit as much artistry as his latter day work) grab ya with just as much force as his wizened grown-up tunes do today. Check out a special new vinyl edition of Forgotten Foundation to see exactly what his foundation was all about in April. And don’t forget to grab another single by (yes!) Sic Alps, who have redefined the medium over the past year with three revelatory (how many ways to I have to say this, kids?) singles. Why, the most recent one, “Vedley,” blew our mind so hard that our family still can’t get it together. This new single is actually a 7”EP (like “Breadhead” – remember?) called “Pangea Globe” and it caps this whole world-changing trilogy of Sic Alps-ness in classic fashion – by covering four songs from the catalog of British bedroom-punx Tronics, whose records are, like Sic magic, suddenly reappearing as if the world wanted to sing along with Sic Alps covering Tronics classix like “Shark Fucks” and “My Baby’s In a Coma” as if we all had a shared history of digging those records. Which we didn’t, but pretending is half the fun. The other half is actually more like, 100% of the fun, which is hearing Sic Alps make these great Tronics songs their own. Huzzah for supeRAPril!
WOLFROY GETS HIS BREW ON
If you haven’t been reading the press over the course of the last month, then let Drag City be the avatar of this Bonnie Prince breakfast-flash on you – because after all, the beans are available for purchase on this very website! Over the course of his years of travels around the globe, the Prince has encountered artisans of all kinds, many of whom traffic in products that he looks kindly upon from his royal roost. And indeed, Coffea Arabica is one of the staples of his princely diet. While journeying through the Hawaiian Islands, Bonny was pleased to discover that one of his old traveling companions had taken up cultivation of one of the world’s most respected coffees, the Kona blend. The combination of sunny mornings, rainy afternoons and mild nights on the volcano-infused mineral rich soil makes a bean respected far and wide. And so, the Kona Rose Bonny Billy blend represents for this famous bean via a humble roasting concern who process a small portion of the beans harvested over the wintertime months.
The whole beans that we’re selling in 8oz and 16oz packages have been roasted just prior to being dispatched to us, and we’re ordering on a weekly basis at this point just to keep up with demand. You java buffs out there can be assured that your beans will be reasonably fresh by the time they reach you. As far as preparation is concerned, we have found this coffee to be best enjoyed when prepared without paper filtration – so break out the French Presses and Neapolitan Pots and let the strong flavors, odors and textures flow – just as the Bonnie Prince himself would. Coffee’s up!
Wake up and smell it.