posted October 20th, 2017


Hoy! It's just another brave new day in America, and wherever else - so don't start with that "How Did I Get Here?" stuff. Shit, how DIDN'T you? You made your choices, backed your horses, cast your ballots, chose whether or not to call the authorities, took the law into your own hands, occupied a moral free-zone with a capacity of one....and hey, on an entirely lighter note, you decided what music to listen to! And that's what brought you here, and that's what's bringing us together. Good work, you! The multitudes that are us are grateful for your perusing glance. And sure, we know - what else can you show me?


How about this: the interior monologue of a young woman's love affair with the world and the everyday miracle that is her discovery of selfhood. But like all young persons’ love affairs, you know it don't go easy. Love and lust and lame and ain't, all rolled together, and nothing gold lasts. But the pushing and pulling, the highs and the lows, the lapse along the way - that's the glory of the ride right there! And a moment that fell down in Haley Fohr's life a year-plus ago is what's changing our lives today! If indeed the journaling instinct is what is driving the writing of Circuit des Yeux, you won't always know it, due to her prioritizing the lyrical visions and mise-en-scène ambitions ahead of any rank-and-file singer-songwriting. Still, on the new Circuit des Yeux album, Reaching For Indigo, Haley's far-fetched fantasias come into clear focus, before blurring and becoming something else again. She's drawn comparisons to other deep-voiced she-singers, like Nina Simone and Nico, and also to wild and wondering males like Tim Buckley and Scott Walker - but there's more to Haley than all that, and that's because down at the roots, she's committed to her self, no matter how far the trip there may take her. This was true on In Plain Speech, Overdue, her "Jackie Lynn" manifestation - and really, always: from the very dirt of the floor she originally conceived herself upon. Circuit des Yeux is driven by her extraordinary presence, as she goes down deep within herself for that voice, and the surreal, operatic reaches of the world she finds herself in. Listen to the deep resonances within the glittering chamber-folk of "Black Fly" and you'll hear where CdY has been coming from, then compare and contrast with the soundcatechture of "Paper Bag" and then understand that there's a whole lot of record outside these two songs! Reaching for Indigo isn't just a future classic, it's one today. So get it on.


If it's October, we might as well face it - autumn walks among us. Though it might be easier to accept that if everywhere around us weren't either underwater or burnt to a crisp (or under threat of nuclear brinksmanship! - had-enough ed.)! But as always, and until we're confined to a small patch of uncontaminated ground that still contains operable stereo gear, whatever, right? We can dream - and nothing aids our dreams like a bit of musical this 'n that, whether it's music with singing or just the original deal itself, wordless music speaking its own sweet language in its own sweet state of nature! This fall, that means Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker. Their new SpiderBeetleBee album is a second album from this duo, pairing their mutually-inclined but diversely-expressive guitaring for a set of eight head-to-head acoustic pick-fests. Outside of his meetings with Bill (and one with Daniel Bachman), Ryley is mostly known as a singer-songwriter, but even there, folks are always throwing around names like Davey Graham and Bert Jansch, and probably not as much for their singing as their playing. Meanwhile, Bill MacKay's album of earlier this year, Esker, received several similar comparisons while also drawing notice for its searching psychedelic arrangements, driven by Bill's sweet touch on the neck with a glass slide. In tandem, Walker-MacKay have evolved a tightly-arrayed playing format that allows both to get their licks in, fleshing out their compositions in true duet form, building themes together while covering lots of stylistic ground, as is their passion. MacKay and Walker are masters of minutia, pulling on little details from classical, bluegrass and raga (to name but a few genres that fly effortlessly from beneath their fingers) as they work them in and out of refrains. SpiderBeetleBee is a sweet listen in both relaxed and focused listener modes - what is this, that rarest of Drag City avians, a record for everybody? Why don't you buy it for yourself and find out, wise guy!


Ah, working with a legend! It's something we've only ever had to do....let's see, oh right, every time! Because they're ALL legendary on this roster, aren't they? We won't say for what (smile), but what we CAN presently affirm is that working with the downright infamous (some might say) Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine has been a deep pleasure all the way, and we're only just getting started! Ever since we were little baby us, larvally accepting music into our bubble of nascence, the shadow carnival of Pearls Before Swine has held a special appeal to both our ear and soul alike. All-natural in a proverbially organic moment in history, playing a homemade form of psychedelia all their own, Pearls Before Swine presented the trippy times of '67-'68 with a truly mysterious and, at times, (almost) menacing air. Just listening to the first track on their first album, "Another Time,” was to feel the cold hand of fate passing over oneself, and even tender odes on that album seemed suffused with a quiet existentialism. With cover artwork featuring the ancient and sinister images of Bosch and Bruegel, these records were set apart from their festive and brightly colored brethren, knowing, it seemed, of something the others (and we!) had yet to grasp. Was this music for teenagers or for the great beyond? It says much about the music that the conundrums pronounced within it all those years ago still potently a part of the appeal of Pearls Before Swine. And today is better than ever, now that we, the humble people of Drag City are reissuing that first album, One Nation Underground, in a restored, remastered mono edition - ie, the only version that the band made, accept no electronically-simulated-stereo editions (ie, the ones issued over the last 25 years!)! Notes from Pearls' leader Tom Rapp and legendary engineer Richard Alderson fill in the story - and yet, mystery still remains - along with great music. From one nation to another, it's time to get One Nation Underground.


With certain kinds of sounds, there's a real danger all over the place these days: street shit. When you're looking for the good stuff, there's a slinger just about everywhere can get it for you. And sounds don't come with a dispensary card (or in our case, a download card! - 2012-weak-person-problems ed.)! So when you're looking for something that's got flow, keeps things chill, with good ambience and easy on the ears and relaxin' your mind, it's like ANYBODY might just have something for you that they cooked up on their home recorder. But who knows if it can get you off!?! That's why you gotta trust names like Bitchin Bajas. These guys been seeping out their perfect-chord, minimalist-changes SOUND for seven years now. During that time, Bitchin Bajas have expanded and incorporated all different types of dimension over the course of five albums and three EPs, plus collaborative records with Natural Information Society, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and filmmaker Olivia Wyatt. They've played all around the world, including exotic island-type places where they got great tapes of the wildlife, which only leads to more music-type constructions. All this to say that Bitchin Bajas know whereof they don't speak! That the flow is all is reinforced in all-new ways on Bajas Fresh. Following the S/T 2xLP/2xCS (with the immortal "Relaxation Version") with another double album might seem like they've fallen in a rut, but instead, they've reshaped the road they travel to reflect new sonic desire, new gear infatuations and new ways in and out of the jam. Doing new and different things like using a drum kit (but wait'll you hear how) or covering Sun Ra while never betraying the flow means that Bajas Fresh is an all-new thing while maintaining inter-album flow with everything they've ever done! Bajas fans are INTO it - but if you just got in the game and you're looking for a connection, get Bajas Fresh - coming in November! 


Set next to the infinite-space universe of Bajas Fresh are two vintage-music titles that occupy an ever-expanding amount of space themselves! Vintage-music, in case you don't know, is old, but not reissue music; it's stuff that wasn't issued in the first place, so how could it be reissued? In the case of music that didn't come out in the first place, probably around 40% of it didn't happen because it was so ahead of its time (the other 60% was mostly strictly average soul singles) or so INTO its time that it seemed back OUT again. This is the story of Chris Gantry's At the House of Cash. Chris was a Nashville songwriter and one of the first of the wildman outlaws running through the streets of Music City USA in the 60s and 70s. By the early 70s, Chris' fellow travelers, guys like Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Dennis Linde, Shel Silverstein and a bunch of others, had already brought their generation's new perspectives to the scene (not to mention Dylan, whose Nashville work in '66 and '67 helped light the fuse). In fact, Gantry's second album, 1970's Motor Mouth, was fairly tripped-out country rock - maybe the only record out of Nashville EVER with a Gurdejeff quote on the cover - but there was something else again about the recordings he made at Johnny Cash's place in '73. Gantry's belief in the industry that he'd been feeding songs to for the past decade was at an all-time low, and he'd recently sojourned in Mexico, where peyote played a significant role in his evolving state of mind. Seeking the kind of freedom in his music that he'd been chasing with so many others through the chaos of the late 1960s, Chris was ready to break OUT, and did so by adopting a jazz-inspired improvisatory quality to his lyric phrasing, which, along with an evangelical zeal to communicate his good news, plus his veteran's understanding of songcraft, led to an unusual session, stripped of conventional arrangements and delivered with a rawness that wasn't heard (or even striven for) around town in those days. With familiar Nashville cats on the session like Bobby Thompson, Buddy Spicher, Spady Brannan, Bergen White and engineer Charlie Bragg, the songs on At the House of Cash sound a bit mad but utterly explicable today; at the time, they were a little too free to find a taker. That's fine, today needs these visions as much as yesterday did! At the House of Cash comes all the way out on November 17th.


Sharing space in our vintage-music onslaught of this fall (alongside Fumio Miyashita, Pearls Before Swine and Chris Gantry - wow!) is an album of Ed Askew radio sessions from '69-'70. Ed was actually a label-mate of Pearls Before Swine back in the day (of sorts: they'd moved on to Warners by the time Ed's album came out, but their paths crossed and they were friends), so this is a very welcome reunion going on here. This is the second archival release Ed's done with us via the Galactic Zoo Disk imprint, thanks to the ardent fandom of GZD honcho Steve Krakow, who numbers Ed's ESP-Disk release Ask the Unicorn among his very favorite. The first was a reissue of a cassette called Imperfiction that Ed sold at shows in the 80s; for this new record, Steve was presented with tapes made on New Haven's WYBC in 1969 and 1970. Can you say, Holy grail Batman! Steve sure did, after which he set to work collecting the best takes from the different shows Ed did. There's one previously-unreleased gem, "Green Song", among the stellar versions of songs from Ask the Unicorn and the unreleased-for-many-years (-before-deStijl-put-it-out, (those geniuses!)) Little Eyes, and everything is possessed with a unique energy separate from their recorded versions. Unique energy seemed to be all around during those magic early days! Then there's the Askew magic that lives on to this very day, some of which has to be attributed to Ed's instrument of choice: the tiple, located somewhere between a classical guitar and a ukulele on the stringed-instrument chart. And his literal tiple of choice wasn't just any tiple, but an actual Martin tiple! It chimes most enchantingly, providing a wonderful accompaniment to Ed's earnest vocals, high-pitched and quavering while emoting his hallucinogenic, lovelorn odes. In the era where Ed's new music is available in the bin (several albums on Tin Angel) right next to the reissues of his earlier music for anyone and everyone to hear, it's freakin' AWESOME to have such stellar performances spill out from a vault we didn't even know existed. A Child In the Sun: Radio Sessions 1969-1970 is available for a bin near you in November! Ask your local shop clerk to stock it in.


All this talk of October and November, as if all we have to look forward to is the future! What about the past? And no, not the vintage past - not when we have September to be nostalgic about! That'll go down in (our personal) history (that nobody else talks about) as the month we put out five damn records, and they were all amazing! We're pretty sure that's never happened before, with us or anybody (pregnant pause....cuckoo clock sound! - incredulous ed.), plus the music was all fucking great, so let's not lose track of that! We've already mentioned one of them in the words above, the Fumio Miyashita Live on the Boffumundo Show LP, which collected some of the sprit drones the legendary Japanese keyboardist performed on local-access Los Angeles television in 1979 and 80. Truly soul-cleansing and inspirational (as well as historically intrinsic, in these or any other times)! Also on the date was the similiarly-minded Ka Baird debut, Sapropelic Pycnic, which takes a stand for sacridity in our defiled age. Ka uses the modern tools of keyboards, loops and samples to create rhythms that evoke tribal ritual, which she engages with to create her own music for the now that as is devout as the ancients. Transporting! Other new music came from Dead Rider, whose city of big shoulders pedigree has never been more evident than on Crew Licks, the title of which is work slang for work slang. That's the world of meta-rock that Dead Rider live in; whether recasting the metallic blues-leads of Roy Buchanan in a contemporary context, diverting noise-filled hip-hop production techniques to support blue-collar rock intimations or kidnapping the lyrics to the Dead's "Ramble On Rose" and burying them in a deep r'n'b/21st-century quiet storm grave, this band succeeds again and again in making rock into something new, which is a real shock to the system in 2017! Also making everything old new again (and everything young new too) are Wand, whose fourth album is a diversely pop-art trip of all-great tunes and playing, and is also their most successful vision of their fusion/eclectic thesis statement that produced Ganglion Reef all the way back in, you guessed it, 2014. Everything young is young again too, and Wand's fervid infatuations as evidenced on Plum make whompingly compelling pop music for (wo-)man-children of all ages! Try it out on a kid, you'll see. If all this wasn't enough, we also had a great new David Grubbs record on David's Blue Chopsticks label! Creep Mission is a sort of successor to his Prismrose album, featuring David's guitar in expansive discourse with drummer Eli Kenzler as well as trumpeter Nate Wooley and the inimitable and legendary Jan St. Werner! So as you can see, if you forget the past, you're just doomed to us repeating our description of it - don't do that! Buy all these great records.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, 2017. We've heard it all before. It's been great, don't get us wrong! But get this instead - 2018 is gonna dawn up in a HURRY! Didn't you hear? We've got No Age on board! Snares Like a Haircut comes down on 1/26/18 and the first taste of it is in the wind - have a listen to "Soft Collar Fad" to try and grasp at what's coming when that happens. Or maybe you already know that whatever No Age's got in store is just what you want from the store. It's surgey and noisy, sunstroked, with all kinds of sophisticated whatsis in the mix (no, we don't know what it is) and twin helpings of angst and humor in the words that fight with the sounds shimmering to be heard. No Age are back, and they're clearly dealing with the miasma of today by blasting their way through it. As far as we can tell, there ain't but the one way. If it's not hurting, it's not helping. Which means it's helping! Thank No Age yourselves - in 2018. 


Bands? Nah man - artists! And their shows are a whole thing meant to transform them and you, and not simply over the course of the evening, but for weeks to come, lingering and inspiring like all the best doses do. For the artists, there’s a hit ‘n run quality to it, as their bring their circus (or in the case of Haley Fohr, Circuits) to town, to wow the locals with their wares, before folding the tent and heading out to the next burg. But those wares are always so separate from the way they come out on the album - as the saying goes, there's nothing like a _____ show (just fill in your favorite Drag City act). We just had the pleasure of catching the Wand Plum tour show as well as the Dead Rider Crew Licks show - and both were AMAZING in ways that made the albums seems like mere blueprints. Which is crazy, in addition to being amazing. So don't miss the live shows - like the Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker midwest-and-south shows that are just getting started now. Or how about that Circuit des Yeux/Ka Baird double bill playing around eastern venues in November? No Age have also got some shows out east and in Austin in November, awesome! Or Alasdair Roberts all over England and Scotland at the end of November and into December! And what about San Francisco? Extremely rare shows from The Red Krayola this weekend! And then Royal Trux! The Silence in Tokyo with Maher Shalal Hash Baz! Plus Ed Askew! Mike Donovan and/or The Peacers! Batoh solo shows! And the John Mulaney tour that never ends!

As the poet says, "everything rocks and nothing ever dies" - God, he better be right!

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.

October 2017