The Drag City Newsletter September 29, 2009

posted September 29th, 2009


Call ‘em what you like, we’ve got enough releases to transform the most benign of months into a musical fest surpassing all yer pathetic generic boundaries. Still, with a lineup that included Monotonix and OM, how could we not call September a month of purest rock? And with Espers, Alasdair Roberts, the music of Gnawa and singles from Bonnie Prince Billy and Bachelorette, how could October be anything but a month where we roll on to new pastures of plenty? Sure, we could call it Folktober, but how predictable is that? Next month: Freshvember!


and join us in looking forward to the windfalls a-comin’ in our shared near future. You think September’s been something with its four LP/CD releases? Shit, that’s just the tip of our new releases iceberg…that’s gonna perforate the hull of your cash-craft, causing you to sink to watery depths of listening pleasure…only to view for eternity the seamy underbelly of that very-same iceberg, as there’s always more that lurks beneath our sonic surfaces. How’s that for an adventure into sound?

It all begins with the return from the wilderness of Espers. Its hard to believe its been three and half years since II but since we cant really blame the passage of time on any of our favorite conspiracies, well have to accept that this really happened. Fortunately, Espers pick up in the fashion they left off which is to say, excellently. At times, the sound of III (duh! What else?) is lighter than II but at other times, the mood of III is heavier - so, all things being equal, well just leave the new record description at excellent. It’s everywhere you want your new Espers record to be - except new-wavesville, that’s not a part of their organic growth.

On the other side of the time equation but no less excellent is Alasdair Roberts and in his case, what’s hard to believe is that its only been five months since the release of his epochal Spoils LP/CD. Alasdair’s more of a two-years-between-releases fellow - but that’s all changing now with the release of his EP “The Wyrd Meme,” a record that’s every bit the equal of Spoils, except in length. For a mini-dose of Alasdair Roberts, ”The Wyrd Meme” is our recommended amount. More on the pronunciation of this fine EP next month.

Continuing on in our folksy vein, we’ve got more music of the people, by the people and for the people…except this time it’s not American or Scottish but Moroccan! Presented for your pleasure by our friends at Twos and Fews, Ouled Bambara: Portraits of Gnawa is a CD + DVD documenting the music of the Gnawa musicians through several recordings made in the early part of the decade, all of which capture the pre-blues rhythms of their handmade sound in full color.

Finally, October has lil’ treats for all you tiny tricksters who like your music mini-sized. Are seven inches enough for you? Good, cause we’ve got singles from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Bachelorette. Bonny’s covering two songs of Susanna (Wallumrd, of Susanna & the Magical Orchestra fame) in two different settings, both of them streaked with fading light and purple shadow. These are non-LP sides. Same goes for BacheloretteDo the Circuit” b/w ”I Want to Be Your Girlfriend are two non-LP tracks. In her case, the songs are dancetastic jukebox fare, glittering verses with hooks at every turn. These 7” records won’t be around forever, so don’t forget to remember to buy them.


Blowing through our doors like there’s no tomorrow (literally!) (literally? -- time-travel ed.) is the new doom disc from OM. God Is Good is the name, and selling out the first pressing is clearly the game. Meanwhile, OM are rolling down the highway, destroying every town they’ve got a gig booked in (and sparing the rest? OM rolls in mysterious ways). The best is yet to come, as they lock step with mystics-in-arms Six Organs of Admittance and chant to the sheltering skies of the east coast for one week of pure eternity (starting October 1st in Brooklyn and ending up...???). Get in the spirit - OM is good.


Gary Higgins is back from the void that most fans of Red Hash must imagine he traveled to in the years following his mid-70s masterpiece, with a new album (and only thirty-five years later), Seconds.. While playing shows in 2005 and 2006 following the reissue of Red Hash, Gary found himself wanting to give something more to the audiences that were so appreciative of his old songs. This was the impetus for Seconds.. Also motivating were those long years of silence, as well as the presence in his life of one of the best things that ever happened to him, his son Graham. With members of his Red Hash band (and Graham Higgins on acoustic guitar), Gary’s new music is in the tradition of his classic recordings, with some surprising contemporary twists. Line up for Seconds.!


Is it a new dance category - or an ancient one? Perhaps it’s a bit of both in the hands of Neal Morgan, a percussionist of great sensitivity that you may know from Joanna Newsom’s “& the Ys Street Band” EP. His drumming and harmony singing has enlivened many of Joanna’s concert appearances around the world as well. Now Neal has forged his debut album To The Breathing World, with naught but his primary tools drums and voice. His style and songs are completely his own, an original sound in the ever-expanding world of music and noise and everything in between. We dug this record so much that we bought a stack of Neal’s self-released vinyl and CDs and were selling them with everything else we’ve got going in October.

Six releases? If they’re all amazing, it’s not too many. No way!


Your music-hungry mind wants more! That’s what the month we’ve dubbed Freshvember is for another helping of music and more before the high holidays begin (starting with Thanksgiving, a day we can’t get through without getting high) In brief, here are the final items for your X-mas gift list.

Bonny Billy and The Picket Line Funtown Comedown
LIVE (in the studio) is the Bonny one with next-generation bluegrass band known as The Picket Line. They’re the official dance band of Funtown, a metaphysical little community in the woods outside Louisville. Bonny and the boys (and girl) run through a set of BPB classics, some Palace songs and a few classic country covers. VINYL ONLY! (And download exclusively on the new-and-retro-improved!)

Final Flesh
From the fevered mind that helped bring you Wondershowzen and Xavier: Renegade Angel (Vernon Chatman, yeah?) comes this mind-melting work of satire, sex and biblical imagery that would cause Jenna Jameson to brush up on her philosophy and Joseph Campbell to run shamefacedly to his masturbation station! Oh, and Peter Sellers will roil in his grave, too - that covers everything, doesn’t it? Manipulating the forces of adult entertainment for hire, Chatman’s scripts cause innocent amateur porn actors and actresses to wax existential and apocalyptic with their classic shallow-yet-sexy delivery, all the while telling a story of doom and redemption that Speilberg would kill for - though probably without the XXX overtones. Don’t worry, there’s no sex here at all but we feel compelled to warn all potential viewers of this DVD, PSYCHOLOGICALLY-STABLE ADULTS ONLY!

Ryan Trevor Introducing...
Its hard to believe that one short year ago, we were a society without knowledge of underground heroes like J.T. IV and The George-Edwards Group. Nonetheless, as 2009 grinds to a halt, we have Galactic Zoo Disks to thank for slinging these projects through the doors of good old Drag City. As is his charter, Mr. GZD himself, Plastic Crimewave, has raised awareness of almost disappeared music, reweaving it into the fabric of the today’s music. Now, Plastic, GZD and Drag City are back with more - namely, Ryan Trevor, with his 1977 never-was-terwork, Introducing This pure pop music (in a low-fi vein) is one of the rumored highlights of Mr. Trevor’s career, including pitching songs to Barry Manilow, writing for Sesame Street and selling 100,000 copies of an Warner Brothers album called Nights in the City that nobody’s ever seen! Starting November 17th, you’ll see and hear Ryan Trevor for yourself and by the new year, you’ll be singing ”Rama” along with the rest of us down here in the ivory bunker. It’s just that good as Plastic Crimewave opines, Introducing is the sound of Emmitt Rhodes meeting R. Stevie Moore. And you know that can’t be bad. Unless you mean baaaaaaaaaaadddddddaaaaaasssssssssssssssist me, I’ve fallen! VINYL ONLY again, naturally.

Blue Chopsticks For the first releases on Blue Chopsticks since last summers classic art-punk Prehistory reissue from Circle X, BC CEO David Grubbs turned to a couple people he could trust - the late Luc Ferrari and himself! This isn’t the first posthumous Ferrari release on Blue Chopsticks: Far-West News documented late 90s American travels in pure Ferrarian fashion. Several years later, in response to medical procedures undertaken to address his cardiac arrhythmia, he created Les Arythmiques, a haunting in-and-out-of-body experience that attempts to replicate the flashes of electricity that had been sent across his heart. Les Arythmiques is a hypnotic, disturbing and deeply personal final work from Luc Ferrari. From Grubbs himself comes Hybrid Songbox.4, a solid-body electric guitar soundtrack to Angela Bullock’s 2008 installation of the same name. In support of her hypnotizing image, David created two guitar pieces that shift back and forth, one waxing while the other wanes, a magnificent minimal work of deep focus and great power.

Well be back at you in a few weeks, once the October faction (never forget!) has peaked out the door. More news of November, December and beyond awaits!

Trembling (with excitement and hunger),

Rian Murphy
Drag City Inc.