SOULSTICE ON ICE
...and welcome to it! It’s burling hot in the so-called real world – ie, the world outside the tent that masks the passageway to a recessed fiefdom known to mortal men merely as Drag City - but deep within the incorporate offices, it’s cold as hell! We greet the warmest season as we always do: by tightly sealing our doors and windows. What happens out there stays out there. We’ll sweat when we’re dead. We don’t deign to guess what sort of free commune you choose to live in and what form of rulelessness you use and abuse in your daily grinds. But you’re only human, which means you’ve probably left a few things open; windows and doors and schedules and relationships and minds…again, if you need the breeze, whatever kind, we’re not here to judge you. Make light of you, sure. Judge though? That’s a harsh word. Fuck you for even making us think that. Anyway, sure – we open a portal around here sometimes, to let in the air from above – but we usually do that only when it’s cold outside. The environment in here needs to be strictly maintained, to keep all our LPs and CDs and t-shirts ready for the moment in which they cease to be ours and begin to become yours. Anyway, it doesn’t matter what the temperature’s like in here, what matters is what we’ve done for you lately – and what that is involves a summer’s-worth of records both hot and cold. Given that this is your Drag City Newsletter for the month, we’re gonna tell you all about them, starting round about now.
In years to come, we may discover what the life we lead and air we breathe are all about. But it won't be soon enough. No, it won't be soon enough for me. And when we recall 2012, we’ll remember that sweet feeling of relative innocence, of earthbound excitement, the human smell, when the days were long and the company of others was all our little brains needed and the sounds of human music were our soundtrack. Because we’re only human, did we mention that already? and the way music interacts with our brains is a definitive experience in our lives. Thus, for the rest of time, we’ll hear the wide-ranging search for transcendence that is Blues Control’s brand-new album, Valley Tangents ping-ponging back and forth between our hemispheres. Keys, strings and manipulations are their central vehicle, as they play the acoustic against the synthetic while seeking their own separate kind of peace. Frankly, we hope they never find it, just so we can continue to hear them continue to seek. Longtime fans will enjoy this clearing that Blues Control have wandered upon – an expansion of their relationship that abandons nothing and instead refocuses on different elements within their burgeoning sphere. Uhrhmm...their wordless sounds are salt and salve to our open wounds. Open your mind to these new sounds and new places to be – and buy Valley Tangents now, on whatever format floats in your boat: LP, CD, mp3 or cassette tape.
EARLY TIMES AGAIN
Perception is everything. For example, today we are known around the world as the maker of high-class objects that mostly play music (or you can read or watch or wear them). And in fact, that’s mostly always been the case - but the perception of the kind of music that lends itself to a high-class object, that’s what makes everything everything, innit? And this perception isn't a fixed point! So who are we this time then? In order to put answer to this interestin’ phenomenon, let’s talk about Silver Jews f'r a sec. Today they are known as a) one of the great bands of the 90s; b) rock and roll poets; c) David Berman’s band; d) broken up. And e) all of the above as well, especially if you regard the aughts as an often-featureless extension of the 90s. Because Silver Jews were a great band not of the 90s: three of their records were released after the millennial up-tick. If you’re want to respond with, “Well yeah, but a distinction such as ‘great bands of the 90s means ‘bands that emerged during the 90s’,” well, yeah – we considered that. We just don’t want anyone saying that Bright Flight isn’t one of the great Silver Jews records – or great anyone’s records by anyone – just because it didn’t come out before 2000. We’re making all these stupid little distinctions because the time has come that many fans of early Silver Jews have prayed for – the time for Early Times, a collection of the first two, WAY oop Silver Jews releases. These two records – the “Dime Map of the Reef” 7” EP and the “The Arizona Record” 12” EP – got Silver Jews off to a running start in this world of music and perception and the people who perceive the music – at least partly because Silver Jews were, in fact, running before they could walk, which is to say that they were making records before they had a fanbase or even a bunch of songs together or could play at all competently. No matter - they had loads of ideas and a great collective set of instincts for improvisation and, in D.C. Berman and Stephen Malkmus, two smart-pantsed front-dudes with a shared sense of the artistic and the absurd. All this plus the phone-book pounding that Bobby Nastanovich supplied (as well as the final vertice in their psychic triangle) made the raw early Joos’ recordings an utter delight of musical chaos. And makes them still. This chemistry seeps through the thoroughly comprised recorded sounds (which, at this point, are "shitty" sounds even an issue, really?), giving a slip of a song like “Canada” an anthemic bent, and imbuing other such tune-scraps with profound echoes of punk, post-punk and (what would soon be classified as) classic rock, all while communicating a fun new order in world of youth music. These little records sold thousands of copies in their day, but after the first couple of Silver Jews studio albums, they were discontinued in the name of the something new again that the studio albums represented. And since then, we haven’t gotten a moment’s peace. If it isn’t a fan calling to wonder when we’re gonna reissue those records, it’s us waking up in the middle of the night with a pain in our gut…the same gut that told us these records were amazing back in ’92 and ’93. So finally, the eagle has landed again – and all the original artworks are included in the eagle’s stomach - notes, photos inserts and the poster. Early Times is here, and not a moment too soon. Today, it sounds as fresh as ever, as raw as it once was, if not even more so. This matters as much if not more than it did then – which is to say, not at all. These records are the sound of good times and music making and laughter. They are deep, like the blues recordings of the 30s, defying the limits of technology with the insanity of the human spirit. Long may they run!
You know what coffee tables are good for? Besides standing on in your cowboy boots, that is. Coffee? Yer quick, kid. Yeah - they’re good places to put your coffee cup down so you’ve got your hands free. Now why would you need them free, you ask? Yikes, we’ve got a born detective among us. Well, these days, you need your hands to operate things. Like your little phone which controls your little life. A variety of remotes that stoke into service a variety of appliances that make your life not just faster, not just easier, but simply put, possible. Like your toaster. But let’s think back through the ages. Why would one need one’s hands, if not to ultimately serve one’s mind? To hold a magazine, exactly! This kills two birds with one stoner – using your hands the way the farmers did, not just to punch buttons and indulge in menial activity, but also to stimulate your mind, which is why they tell us we need these devices, to give us an opportunity to use our brains. Thanks, but magazines were helping to do that long before we ever heard of i-shitdick. SO! We apparently like magazines. Why do you think so, Sherlock? It’s not just cause we like dum old fashioned stuff – nossir, it's 'cos we’ve got a magazine to sell! And not just any magazine, but a ‘zine at that – and no, not just any ‘zine, but the world’s one and only hand-written and -drawn psychedelic fanzine itself, the Galactic Zoo Dossier! Issue #9 is ready to roll and it freaks us out! Heavy with not just a CD of related freaky music but also the Damaged Guitar God and Astral Folk Goddess trading cards you’ve come to expect with each ish! Galactic Zoo Dossier is the ‘zine that loves to turn you on, and loves also to tell a good story and loves also to reminisce about all the good times spent looking for and listening to these musics high and low, known and unknown. As always, your editor and trip-master is Plastic Crimewave, interviewing Arthur Brown and The Poppy Family as well as expounding on the early days of the Moody Blues, the early 70s phenomenon of "country funk" and the glory of Gary Yoder and Kak (finally!). Plus, PCW packs in l’il panels from all sorts of classic comix if there’s even a hint of psychedelia anywhere, naturally gravitating towards his heroes (and ours) Jack “King” Kirby and Steve Ditko, creator of Dr. Strange and so many other heroes and villains. Other writers contribute as well and are rendered faithfully in PCW’s acid-nibbed pen – Nick Meyers, Leslie Stein, Avi Spivak, Robert Dayton and Byron Coley, to name but a few. All splashed across 110 mind-altering pages! Galactic Zoo Dossier is back – don’t delay your latest revelation, nein!
YES. We’re ready whenever for the new OM – the next OM – but when? Show us the way to go OM! We fired up the astrological lathe and took a look. The signs were murky. We threw open the book of the dead and read the first line that our eyes could focus on. It provided no insight. Shit man! We threw darts at a fuckin’ calendar and speared the solstice date. No good. Too soon. But this made it clear – the day that Advaitic Songs makes land, it should be experienced in a time of great heat. And so – July! July 24th, to be precise. When you hear the album for yourself as either the sweat pools about you or the breezes of the AC cools those sweat pools, you will know that this is the appointed time for the world to hear Advaitic Songs. This is the right time for the new sounds of OM to reach your mind and vibrate your eardrums and make right your world. For these are the aims of OM as they ever have been – to engage the mind with spiritual pursuits, to summon the vibrations in their performance that will take them and their audience to a state of enlightenment. Religion/philosophy and vibrations, all are delivered with a DEEP sense of ritual, tradition, trance. The goal is purifying. The colors are changing but the performances are as intense as ever, making Advaitic Songs a new level of satisfaction in OM’s catalog. Two LPs at 45rpm, we haven’t heard anything this clear and dynamic in maybe ever! OM my god it’s good – better than God is Good, we bet you’ll agree. The weeks can’t go by quick enough until Advaitic Songs is yours to hold.
BEEP BEEP! THE PRINCE’S ROADMAP THROUGH THE PAST
On your left, watch out! You have as much right to the way as anyone else, but you might want to pull over a sec – his lordship Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is coming through, and as ever, he’s got a lot of ground to cover. You see, the royal boy is shark-like; if he sits still, he dies. This is what has led him to put out approximately 260 records in his career (as well as an almost equal number of t-shirts). Look out again now, because he’s got a book coming out later in the year, where he submits to a royal audience with an interviewer determined to discuss as much of his career as possible before being expelled like so many other scribes before him. Apparently he got enuf for the book - but until that happens, something else has to happen and in addition to shows in the USA and Switzerland and Italy and Louisville, there’s a little EP that seems to have been inspired by the retrospectizing that our Bonny’s been subjected to – for “Now Here’s My Plan” covers old imperial holdings in the presence of a new band! To those who follow the royal presence even more intently than yer author here, the band’s not exactly new – they’ve been doing some touring with BPB over the past couple of years and played on Wolfroy Goes to Town and at least one of those (still available!) 10" singles (Ben Boye, Van Campbell, Emmett Kelly, Danny Kieley and Angel Olson); in other words, they’re in tight with the kid, tight but relaxed – if you’ve heard their version of “I See a Darkness,” you know what we’re saying. This lot know how to have fun – and so we expect that you’ll look forward to their recastings of “After I Made Love to You” and “No Gold Digger,” to name a couple of dusty ol’ chestnut-aroonies. And all of these were recorded in the presence of the old evil wizard of engineering himself, Bonnie’s old friend Steve Albini. This is the first time they’ve worked together since the early days of Bonny! And unlike Greatest Palace Music (now back on vinyls!!!), it’s an EP, firing short and sweet. Well! That’s excitin'. It all comes out on July the 24th, with OM and Laetitia. Hott damn!
LAETITIA RETURNS IN SILENCIO
Speaking of Laetitia, American Sadier-sacks (geez, we gotta work on that fan nickname!) are buzzing like the electronic drones, soldiers and queen bees that they was raised to be – for Laetitia Sadier is coming over for her first solo tour of the states since disbanding Monade, putting Stereolab into semi-permanent mothballs and setting out on her own way back in 2009! As we’ve already established, two months in 2012 time = forever. So since 2009 is like an epoch or something. Clearly, we’ve waited long enough. But that’s not the long and short of it – Laetitia is coming because she has a new album lined up! The way it’s been planned, you’ll have plenty of time to memorize all the songs, even doing the French parts phonetically (we understand – we’ve lost our grip on four years of hi-skool French too. Ma fois! That means Fuck, right?), because Silencio descends upon you on July 24th, a little under two years after Laetitia Sadier debut LP, The Trip. It’s funny, because The Trip was a solemn record with a stripped-down sound and Silencio is a big, bright record, with more players and colors. Seems like the titles could be reversed, huh? But they won’t be. Silencio finds Laetitia upping the ante with her some political songwriting, as anyone who’s listened to one of the already-dropped tracks “There Is a Price to Pay for Freedom (and It Isn’t Security)” can tell you. There’s energy and outrage there, but of course Laetitia isn’t one to turn her back on melody and in addition to her own creamy vocal tones, there are lovely pads of strings that give Silencio a quality unlike anything she’s done. Collaborating with a handful of talents, Laetitia has made a lovely and powerful statement with Silencio – so come the end of July, quiet yourself and hear her – and everyone’s – truth. It’s not too late! It’s too early, actually – there’s still a few weeks to go. And then she’ll be over for like, all of September. We’re happy, Sadier! Salut a bientot - coffre-fort voyage!
HITS N (AD)MISSIONS
Six Organs of Admittance just keeps on making great records. And honestly, you're fucking up the way you’re taking them for granted. Those infamous people of the future we keep invoking are really not gonna get this one at all. “Oh, those pastians seemed to want a certain record to be repeated over and over and couldn’t grow along with The Chosen One.” That’s what they’re gonna call Ben Chasny in the future – something to do with having the perfect blend of spirituality and cynicism, as well as the perfect blend of bodily fluids and alcohol too. Anyway, Ben’s too much of an artist to stoop to cheap gimmicks in an effort to get your attention…but our artistic integrity’s been in the shit-house since the millennium, so don’t mind if we do! Hey kids, you want to rock they way they used to in Comets on Fire? Too bad you can’t call them up every time you have your big karaoke moment, that’d put you over the top. Well you know who can? Big Ben Chasny, that’s who. A certified CoF stringbender for the last several years of their existence, he once considered rocking Six Organs of Admittance with them in tow, back during the times of Dark Noontide and Compathia. Those were the days, huh you little shits? Well, the SixO-CoF unification only barely happened, and the rehearsal tapes never really came out...but in order to realize his new opus, entitled Ascent, it just made sense to call the Comets boys out of the mothballs and into a sweet reunion of this barely-was sitch from the days of yore. See, this Acent opus is a bit of a space-epic, focusing on a man’s reflections while abandoned on one of Jupiter’s moons. No wonder future generations call Ben “The Chosen One!” But back to the single that comes out in July that we haven’t even talked about yet. SO! Chas-master chose to flesh out his sci-fi epic with some old buddies. And rock like hell in the process! Now mind, Six Organs of Admittance backed by Comets on Fire is a powerful thing, but this time around, it’s a new thing, it’s it's own thing and not a trip into the past – unless that trip was just to grab a guitar pedal before it got stolen out of the van so that it could be used on the future session. This record is gonna be amazing to you in a way that (these) words can’t (seem to) do justice! So…as a precursor to the album, there’s gonna be a 7” single – all instrumental, unlike the amazing vocal peformance-laden album to follow that features the same band and a similarly heavy vibe, but is again it’s own (spirit) animal. The single is called “Parson's Blues” and gee, it’s great. Start not being able to wait until July 24th right freakin’ now!
…smokin' Dope Body that is! Some say that brutally hot is the only way to burn and for those folks, we recommend a steady diet of Dope Body, as these boys stoke themselves to white heat time and again, literally every time they strap it on. That sentence is about rocking, not sex. They a band, dude! Their sex may be like that too, but we're going to talk about their new album, Natural History which is soaking into the soil that passes for brains and souls out in the Great Unwashed, and the natural world will be the better for it. Dope Body do the rock most powerful but choose not to walk down rock’s main streets, preferring a labyrinth of back alleys instead, where the glitter of the drag is reflected in their hungry eyes. They place arches above their musical constructions, vaulting them into the air in a manner that sears the soul and pleases the brain. You notice it especially so in the grooves of the record, but the grooves of the live show are not only no slouch, they’re their own beast – and the hotter and sweatier the beast, the better. Look it in the eyes your own damn self – Dope Body are on tour in the American rust belt NOW.
Also on tour right now is the inimitable and the singular and the still-unbelievable Baby Dee. She was in town the other night and ol’ girl blew us out of our seats then pulled us back down out of the sky with naught but an upright piano, her trusty, rusty harp, an accordion for one song and mainly that voice. There’s really nobody like Baby Dee out there anywhere combining tragedy and comedy and playing the keys with the mastery of a Fats Waller, an Art Tatum – in other words, a character from a world we can only imagine (and one who can really play that thing). We love her records (all still available here!), but live is where she really pierces our heart and changes our life. It’s an experience not to be missed – maybe even better than a colon cleansing! And for us, that’s saying a lot.
COUNTING DOWN TO THREE
Dirty Three, OMG! It’s been so long since we’ve heard from them. Like since February when their record came out, you know? In this day and age, if I haven’t heard from you in four months, then I don’t know you. Anyway, back in February, Dirty Three put out their first record in like, seven years. And now everyone’s doing it! Fiona Apple. Cat Power (who once used two of the Three to make one of her “classics"). So these guys are calling the tune again – perfect timing to get back on the road and onto stages where so many remember them killing it with their blend of just guitar, just drums and just fiddle (but so much more than the sum of these simple parts!). They’re gonna do it if not again, then some more. Don’cha miss Dirty Three’s return to the stages of North America – and if you can’t wait, they’ve already begun in the wilds of the EU. Find them – and when you do, watch and listen to them. Who knows when they’ll die, or you will, or we will? And once that happens…no more Dirty Three shows for somebody out there. Live for today, people!
And on that extremely happy note (what?) – we’ll see you next time – through the glass darkly!!!
Drag City Inc.