Sun, 29 April 2018
Welcome to the April edition of the Aquarium Drunkard podcast, coming in from West of the Rockies. On this program, we explore the late night radio theater of the late Art Bell. The Coast to Coast AM host passed away on Friday, April 13th, and we’ve spent the days since exploring his classic archives. Aquarium Drunkard founder Justin Gage and co-host Jason P. Woodbury sat down to reflect on Bell’s singular voice, dedication to chronicling the unknown, and status as a purveyor of genuine American weirdness.
Also on the show, guitarist Nels Cline joins us to discuss his new quartet, the Nels Cline 4, and “Imperfect 10” from the combo’s new Blue Note Records LP, Currents, Constellations. Maybe you know his playing with Wilco, but here he focuses on the notion of “jazz fusion,” which he’s been exploring since the late ‘80s.
And we begin the podcast with a discussion with Jaime Fennelly of Mind Over Mirrors. The synthesist and composer just released a masterpiece called Bellowing Sun. It’s cosmic in scope but rooted in the earthy reflections of naturalist writers like Henry Beston, whose 1928 book, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod, served as a guidepost for the new album. Earlier this month, the album debuted alongside a multi-media installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago featuring a light sculpture modeled after an enormous drum. The suggestions — of biorhythms and universal patterns — are in keeping with Mind Over Mirrors’ space-folk.
Though Mind Over Mirrors began as a solo project, it’s very much a group effort now, featuring Janet Bean of Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day, Jon Mueller of Volcano Choir, and Jim Becker of Califone. The band’s latest, Bellowing Sun, arrives in conjunction with a multi-media installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago featuring an ambitious light sculpture. One of the marvelous things about Mind Over Mirrors is the way the group’s music feels both spacey and earthy. On the new album, which is at turns ecstatic, spooky, and revelatory, Fennelly and company the band maximize that ability, putting the idea of our planet as a cosmic vehicle into context.
“I think about [the cosmos] in relation to my own music as being otherworldly, but I also think of it as being grounded, in the way that the Earth is cosmic,” Fennelly says. “It’s not just about the area beyond us or outside of us, in kind of an exploratory sense as well.”
On his new album with the Nels Cline 4, Currents, Constellations, guitarist and composer Nels Cline reigns in the conceptual mood music of his previous Blue Note Records release, Lovers, in favor of tight, spiky interplay with guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Tom Rainey. It’s a record fueled by Cline’s energy, incorporating avant-garde, rock, and blues influences. It is, for lack of a better term, jazz fusion music, which explains why Cline’s initial title for “Imperfect 10” was “Jazz Fusion Composition.”
“I definitely chose that term to bother people, particularly people who think they’re cooler than ‘jazz fusion,'” Cline says. “Basically, it’s a meaningless term. It’s a combination of basically whatever. It doesn’t have to mean a combination of jazz and rock and classical and funk…it doesn’t mean the same thing from one person to another, and that’s why it’s a fun word to use. It’s basically a meaningless word that bothers people, which I find linguistically fascinating, but it also, stylistically, does kind of define me.”
If you’ve ever been the sort of person content to sit around the radio late at night or scan the airwaves on a long drive through the middle of nowhere, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced the strange radio theater of Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM. Since Bell passed away earlier this month and since his passing, we’ve been tuned into his archives. Here, we reflect on the impact and legacy of Bell’s pioneering program.
“Coast to Coast AM felt like this secret handshake between people,” AD’s Justin Gage says. “Not unlike when you find a record or something that means a lot to you, that might be a little esoteric or obscure. Coast to Coast AM definitely kind of felt like that in the late ’90s, early 2000s.”
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Collage image by Michael J. Hentz.
Dig into the podcast archives, which include interviews with Laraaji, Tim Heidecker, Eileen Myles, Daniel Lanois, Hiss Golden Messenger, Ryley Walker, Eleanor Friedberger, Idris Ackamoor, and many more.
Direct download: Mind_Over_Mirrors___Art_Bell___The_Nels_Cline_4.mp3
Category:Music -- posted at: 9:14pm PDT
Mon, 26 March 2018
Welcome to the March installment of Aquarium Drunkard’s recurring Transmissions podcast, a series of interviews and audio esoterica. This month, we’re centering in on a sense of place. First, we sit down with author and musician Ryan H. Walsh to discuss his new book, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968. In ’68, Boston was roiling with counter-culture activity. Occult circles were thriving; the underground press was emerging; the Velvet Underground, on loan from New York, was playing transcendent sets at the Boston Tea Party. And through it all, Irish R&B singer Van Morrison was quietly — and often not so quietly — tapping into the vibes that would help birth his soul-folk masterpiece, Astral Weeks. Walsh, best known for his work with the indie rock outfit Hallelujah the Hills, details it all in his personal and poetic new book.
Next, guitarist and writer William Tyler sits down with Douglas Mcgowan of Yoga Records and Numero Group to discuss the process of turning the pioneering vinyl soundscapes series Environments into a functional, immersive app for iOS devices. Designed with relaxation and contemplation in mind — to aurally transport listeners to settings of tranquility — the app recontextualizes sound recordist Irv Teibel’s original aim of providing calm and peace in a noisy world, redefining the notions of a “reissue” in the process.
And finally, we close out the show with a look at our Abstract Truths: An Evolving Jazz Compendium mixtape series, which offers jazz collectors and thinkers a platform for exploring what jazz means in 2018, examining its past, untold stories, modern resonance. Where is jazz going? And what unique role does Los Angeles play in its future?
Direct download: Transmissions_Podcast____Astral_Weeks__A_Secret_History_of_1968_Abstract_Truths_Environments.mp3
Category:Music -- posted at: 12:00am PDT
Wed, 28 February 2018
Welcome to the February installment of Aquarium Drunkard’s recurring Transmissions podcast, a series of interviews and audio esoterica from Aquarium Drunkard. Welcome to the February edition of Aquarium Drunkard’s recurring Transmissions podcast — just under the wire. We’ve got an introspective episode this week. First, we sit down with Kayla Cohen of Itasca, to discuss her new mini-album, Morning Flower. It’s a collaboration with writer and artist Gunnar Tchida, and it focuses especially on Cohen’s lyrical guitar work. Which makes sense: in April, Cohen plays the Thousand Incarnations of the Rose festival, a celebration of the American primitive guitar tradition. I asked Cohen how she made her way into solo guitar music, and explored how the music of Robbie Basho, whose composition the festival is named for as well as a forthcoming compilation via Craft Recordings.
Then, we have a series of poems from Maggie Smith. You might have come across her poem “Good Bones,” for which her latest book is named, but there’s a lot more to her work than that. For the Transmissions podcast, Smith’s reading are paired with instrumental recordings from Jerry David DeCicca’s new album of spacey Texan folk, Time the Teacher. It’s an album that “feels true,” Smith says in her accompanying notes, so it was a pleasure of ours to combine the truth of Smith’s words with the truth of DeCicca and his band’s sounds.
Finally, we close out the show with words from new age/cosmic composer Laraaji, discussing Celestrana, his mid-80s experiment in public access television. Part meditation, part surreal comedy routine, and part ecstatic vision, the show introduced Laraaji to a whole new audience of viewers, many of whom weren’t even aware of his work with Brian Eno or albums like the recently reissued Vision Songs. Select episodes of Celestrana are streaming now on Numero Group’s YouTube channel; Laraaji was kind enough to pull back the curtain with us and explain how he found himself in front of the camera…with puppets.
Direct download: Transmissions_Podcast____Laraaji___Itasca__Maggie_Smith__Jerry_David_DeCicca.mp3
Category:Music -- posted at: 4:00am PDT
Mon, 22 January 2018
Welcome to the January installment of Aquarium Drunkard’s recurring Transmissions podcast, a series of interviews and audio esoterica from Aquarium Drunkard. For our first episode of 2018, we explore three unique stories. First, we dive into the story of Ozma Records’ new reissue of the Voyager Golden Record. Launched into outer space in 1977 onboard the Voyager space probes, the Golden Record was a sort of cosmic mixtape, designed by a team led by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan as a representation of life, arts, and culture on Earth. We spoke to co-producer David Pescovitz of Boing Boing from his office at the Institute For the Future about how this new reissue allows us to more fully understand the scope of the Golden Record —and what it has to say to listeners today.
Then, we sit down with comedian, writer, and musician Tim Heidecker. Best know for his work on Tim and Eric Awesome Show — Great Job, Decker, and films like The Comedy, Heidecker is an extraordinarily busy guy: he recently finished The Trial of Tim Heidecker, a part of his meta-comedy saga On Cinema with Gregg Turkington — AKA Neil Hamburger. He’s also got a recent album out, Too Dumb for Suicide, a collection of songs about the president. We dive into his strange, sometimes confusing world.
And finally, we close out the show by shining a light on some of our favorite mixtapes from the Aquarium Drunkard archives, The End is at Hand collections, a four-volume series of super-obscure, often private press, outsider psychedelic guitar and folk music from the ‘60s and ‘70s centered around the Jesus People Movement. We’re joined by BlackForrestry — Josh Swartwood and Doug Cooper — who put these mixes together, to investigate the roots and feral faith of these “Jesus Freaks,” whose apocalyptic visions shimmer throughout these mixtapes — and whose faith still speaks to Josh and Doug.
Direct download: Voyager_Golden_Record_Tim_Heidecker_Jesus_People_Music.mp3
Category:Music -- posted at: 4:50pm PDT
Tue, 21 November 2017
Earlier this year, we published an interview with Major and he played selector on the Aquarium Drunkard Show on Sirius XM, pulling out rare psych, private press oddities, and much more. He’s the subject of a new book, Feel The Music: The Psychedelic Worlds of Paul Major, and the compiler of an accompanying soundtrack, Feel the Music Vol. 1, both out on Anthology. The book compiles scans of Major’s rare record catalogs, which featured his hallucinatory music writing, alongside essays by his friends, bandmates, and collaborators. In all, the book and soundtrack illustrate Paul’s attraction to “real people” music and testify to his desire to share the weird music and ideas that turn him on.
In the second half of the show, Aquarium Drunkard founder Justin Gage and co-host Jason P. Woodbury explore the sound of ten of their favorite reissues of 2017, including Jackie Shane, Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978 – 1992, crucial Pharoah Sanders titles, Acetone’s 1992-2001, Alice Coltrane, and more. Check out the full list of reissues after the jump.
Tue, 24 October 2017
Krano – Mi E Ti
Mon, 2 October 2017
On Hiss Golden Messenger’s new album, Hallelujah Anyhow, songwriter M.C. Taylor stares down darkness, only to find it’s simply “a different kind of light.” It’s a record about chasing freedom and finding hope in unexpected places: among worn guitars, in clouds of smoke, and in the sound of wafting Caledonia soul music. The record continues Hiss’s evolution from solitary, lonesome folk to celebratory and loose country rock and soul. It’s “music for hope,” Taylor says, and though it doesn’t hide its concerns, stressed, or worries, it’s nonetheless a welcome moment of lightness in these heavy times.
For this episode of the Aquarium Drunkard Transmissions podcast, AD’s Jason P. Woodbury spoke with Taylor in Oregon at the Pickathon music festival. The conversation — like Hiss’s songs — is frank, earnest, and genuinely warm. It pairs well with Hiss Golden Messenger’s Lagniappe Session, which found the group covering the Faces and Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys. Hiss Golden Messenger’s Hallelujah Anyhow is available now via Merge Records.
Tue, 12 September 2017
On this installment, we sit down with Chris Schlarb of Psychic Temple to discuss Psychic Temple IV, a melange of West Coast pop magic, sophisticated textures, and exploratory rock & roll. It’s a record that finds Schlarb commanding a vast ensemble of players — including Max Bennett (Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, the Wrecking Crew), Terry Reid, current and former members of Cherry Glazerr, the Philip Glass Ensemble, Cryptacize, the Dirty Projectors, and many more. Schlarb is a true journeyman, whose work spans country, gospel, gangsta rap, avant-garde, and jazz, and here he discusses it all, elucidating his unique approach to music making.
Then, M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger explains why 1972’s Bright Phoebus: The Songs of Mike and Lal Waterson is one of his favorite LPs. Recently reissued by Domino Records, the album’s blend of country, rock, folk, and psychedelia, has served as a sort of emotional compass for Taylor, whose new album, Hallelujah Anyhow, due out from Merge on September 22, will be the topic of our next episode.
Direct download: Psychic_Temple___Hiss_Golden_Messenger_on_Bright_Phoebus.mp3
Category:Music -- posted at: 6:00am PDT
Tue, 11 July 2017
Welcome to Aquarium Drunkard’s Transmissions Podcast, a recurring series of conversations with songwriters, authors, and creators about what drives their art. We’re proud to share an interview with Nick Lowe this week. AD’s Jason P. Woodbury talked with the producer, songwriter, and performer, who’s made records with Elvis Costello, the Damned, Squeeze, Johnny Cash, and dozens more, and penned classic songs like “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding,” “Cruel to Be Kind,” “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass,” “The Beast in Me,” and many others.
On Friday, July 14th, Yep Roc Records releases the first in a series of reissues documenting Lowe’s ’80s era, beginning with 1982’s Nick the Knife and 1983’s The Abominable Showman, with the rest of his catalog through 1990’s Party of One coming throughout 2017. The period saw the British rocker expanding his stylistic palette, exploring the ties between skiffle and country music. While his edges softened some sonically, his lyrical focus remained sharp, and songs like “All Men Are Liars” and “My Heart Hurt” point to the kind of songs that would bolster his late career renaissance in the early 2000s and up to present day. We reached Lowe from Nashville to discuss those records, his marriage to Carlene Carter, the pub rock, punk rock, hanging out with Lemmy’s pre-Motörhead band Hawkwind in the early days, and a lot more.
Thu, 22 June 2017
t. For this episode, AD’s Jason P. Woodbury sat down with Timothy Showalter of Indiana’s Strand of Oaks to discuss the band’s latest album, Hard Love, which melds Showalter’s love of dub reggae production with heartland rock and the big beat sound of Creation Records’ heyday.