You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

archive for the 'Music' department

Eliot Sumner’s “Dead Arms & Dead Legs”

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

A new single debuted from Eliot Sumner, formerly known as I Blame Coco, mercifully stripped of unnecessary pop fussiness that drowns out this voice:

A Korla Pandit Documentary and What You Learn from Your Records when You Give Them the Freedom to Assemble

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Another not much of a heads-up: for lovers of Exotica, there’s now a Korla Pandit documentary, Korla, directed by John Turner! If you’re anywhere close to Newport Beach, CA, it’s screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 29th. Thrill at the range of possibilities for using the term “sonic dildo”, as heard below!

For information about future screenings, go here or sign up here.

Korla was in on it, so this is a legitimate segue. Not too long ago I woke up, turned on my conga player lamp (who’s missing his earring, which is so annoying. But on the bright side, how many times do you get to say that your lamp is missing an earring?) and found a sizable congregation of records stacked neatly under the end table because in my house, they have the right to assemble. They demanded that I recognize them as a legitimate section: the pop organ music section. Well, I admitted sheepishly, I didn’t realize how many of you there were lying around. So I granted their request. Here are some favorites. Many are uptempo, many are of the Latin persuasion and most are played on the Hammond:

caravan eddie layton.jpg
One of the funnest and an easy one to get your hands on is Caravan (1959) by Eddie Layton, who not only put out a slew of albums, but played for three New York sports teams.

inferno the john buzon trio.jpg
Inferno! (1959) by The John Buzon Trio. Still trying to get my hands on Cha Cha on the Rocks

dee-latin lenny dee.jpg
Dee-Latin (1958) by Lenny Dee, who had his Hammond custom-built. Don’t miss Happy Holi-Dee! Even more poodles!

lovely companion jack cooper.jpg
Lovely Companion by Jack Cooper. Cover shot at Cypress Gardens in Florida. Includes a lovely rendition of “Swamp Fire”, one of my favorite Exotica tunes.

shango!  night in a quiet village kip anderson and the tides.jpg
Shango! Night in a Quiet Village (1965) by Panamanian organist Kip Anderson and the Tides. I’m too lazy to take a picture of my copy, which would have been a better image. Sorry.

hot and cole buddy cole.jpg
Hot and Cole (1959) by the swingin’ Buddy Cole. Powerhouse! is another great one.

latin from manhattan ethel smith.jpg
Latin from Manhattan by Ethel Smith.

Here’s Ethel playing her big hit “Tico Tico” in Bathing Beauty:

…and I can’t resist posting this clip of the impossibly beautiful Lina Romay accompanied by Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra, also from Bathing Beauty (Seriously. How many more reasons do you need to seek out this film?):

The list wouldn’t be complete without some Crime Jazz:

the man from organ dick hyman.jpg
The Man from O.R.G.A.N. (1965) by Dick Hyman.

Walter Wanderley, our best known of the group, never fails to remind us that he’s Brazil’s number one organist:

rain forest walter wanderley.jpg
Rain Forest (1966).

organ-ized walter wanderley.jpg
Organ-ized (1967).

tiger on the hammond jackie davis.jpg
Tiger on the Hammond (1960) by Jackie Davis. While not one of my favorites musically, Jackie deserves an honorable mention for Bravest Cover.

And finally to book-end this with Korla Pandit at the pipe organ, a one-man band charming snakes and wilting women:

tropical magic korla pandit.jpg
Tropical Magic (1959). Pandit’s interpretation of “Tabu” shines here. Submit to his sorcery and go on a flight of fancy!

When They Start Taking Requests from Beyond the Grave

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Requests will be granted as follows:

1. Imagineers John Hench and Marc Davis will design and oversee the making of my very own Jungle Room.

concept art john hench.jpg
Disneyland restaurant concept art by John Hench

enchanted tiki room concept art john hench.jpg
John Hench’s concept art for Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

enchanted tiki room concept art marc davis.jpg
Marc Davis’ concept art for Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

2. Charles McPhee will paint Dr. Jacoby on black velvet for my Jungle Room:

dr lawrency jacoby.jpg
Dr. Jacoby from Twin Peaks

3. Amy Winehouse will cover Barbara Dane’s “I’m On My Way” dressed in leopard print for the grand unveiling of my Jungle Room to myself and possibly a few others:

It will look as if Amy has materialized from my Witco barstool because it’s covered in the same leopard print:

A Witco bar set

Before she sings she’ll ask for a strong kava drink. She likes what it does to her voice. I will have a vat prepared for just such an occasion, this being my fantasy, and serve it up in a sedate Mr. Bali Hai tiki mug. I will tell her to drink it down all at once. Fast. She’ll say yeah, she knows, she loves the stuff, and it’s only then that I’ll notice that a giant tiare flower has sprouted from her beehive.

mr bali hai.jpg
Mr. Bali Hai

4. Henry Mancini will persistently but respectfully appear to Abe Laboriel in his dreams and convince him to perform the bass solo from Mancini’s arrangement of “Barretta’s Theme” in my Jungle Room, under the glow of neon swampfire.

5. Stanley Kubrick will direct the as yet unwritten screen adaptation of Jack Vance’s Abercrombie Station. Not in my Jungle Room. There’s no place for a Jungle Room in the film.

Suzanne Ciani Welcomes You To Xenon

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

My earnest admiration for pinball machines goes back about a decade, when I inherited a 1990 Data East The Simpsons. The backglass and playfield art are mesmerizing. Open it up and I am daunted by the viscera, and even now am only capable of jiggling the power supply to get things working again. The pinball renaissance has been underway here in Seattle for some time. Arcades have been popping up everywhere, hosting tournaments and serving ice cream (as in the case of the Full Tilts, who recently named a flavor “Mudhoney” after the local band) or beer (Add-A-Ball, John-John’s Game Room, Flip Flip, Ding Ding, etc.). We have a museum and a wonderful zine. I was bummed to miss out on the NW Pinball and Arcade Show earlier this month because I wanted to play an Orbitor 1 again.

I’ve always been drawn to Bally’s Xenon (1979). That art. That voice. Well, as Skill Shot points out in their May 2014 issue, that voice belongs to composer Suzanne Ciani, the first female voice ever featured in a game.

xenon backglass by stefan ulrich.jpg
The backglass from Bally’s Xenon. Music and sound by Suzanne Ciani, art by Paul Faris. Photo by Stefan Ulrich.

xenon flyer.jpg
The flyer.

Ciani is responsible for all of Xenon’s sounds, some of which she intended as the game reacting to the player. A short, delightful doco about Ciani’s involvement with the game:

Seek it out. Try the tube shot.

Some Eden Ahbez Love

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

So great to see LA Weekly shine a light on Eden Ahbez, one of the more intriguing figures in the Exotica pantheon.

eden ahbez.jpg
Eden Ahbez: protohippie, musician, mystic, Nature Boy. At the Lake Shrine ashram in Pacific Palisades, CA.

If you come across Ahbez’s only solo LP in the wild, Eden’s Island (Del-Fi, 1960), then lucky you. Ahbez composed all the music on it. He sings and plays a wooden flute. Dreamer of “untellable dreams”, he recites his grasp of the elusive in a peaceful, hypnotic cadence. It’s a rare and beautiful record:

edens island del fi 1960.jpg
Eden Ahbez’s Eden’s Island, 1960.

And since it was the Retro Cocktail Hour that introduced me to Eden Ahbez, it’s only fitting to plug the most recent show, the All Exotica Special. In it you’ll hear Ahbez’s “Full Moon” as well as a zoo-full of tropical animals or people imitating them. If you’re wondering what Exotica is, this program is a great primer:

Gun, with Occasional Nick Cave

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Most of us will agree that getting a song stuck in your head is annoying at best. The one currently on mental replay for me is “Red Right Hand” off of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 1994 album, Let Love In. This is made tolerable by, a) serving as mood music for Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music, which I’m only now getting around to reading (this should serve as a department heading as it is a constant state of affairs around here); and b) it’s simply a fantastic song:

“Red Right Hand” has set the mood for a variety of movies and tv shows, including Hellboy and The X-Files. Recently it has resurfaced as the theme tune for Jack Irish, a very enjoyable Australian noir tv series adapted from the novels by Peter Temple and starring Guy Pearce.

creating the cave way.jpg
Creating, the Cave way. An insert from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 1994 album, Let Love In

I’ll reserve final judgment on Lethem’s Gun since I’m not done, but with the airtight noir narration, snorting lines of make, babyheads and an evolved kangaroo tough it’s a pretty fun read so far. Apparently, the babyheads are inspired by children in the Strugatsky brothers’ The Ugly Swans, which is waiting patiently on the bookshelf to be filed under, “Only Now Getting Around To Reading It”.

Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music, 1994.

Flashstrap’s Unsung Heroes, My Unsung Heroes

Friday, June 21st, 2013

In the real world, I have found the path of the Exotica collector to be a lonely and brambly one. My preference for stalking vinyl in the wild as opposed to on internet game reserves like ebay makes hanging my trophies all the more rewarding. At record stores I get comments like, “You collect that stuff?” and, “You like that crap?” and my favorite, “Is ‘Exotica’ a band name?”. On those rare occasions I’m caught in a squall of appreciation, it tends to be drool over the cover girls. Anymore, I prefer to put on some bug spray and head farther afield, to estate sales. Better deals, less opinionated sales people.

Collecting Exotica through the internet seems to be the road more often travelled. All you have to do is ride your Side x Side right up for an easy lung shot. Often times, however, you’ll be surprised at the last minute by the number of hunters nearby, and bidding wars can get frenzied for a prize buck.

Finding other Exotica enthusiasts on the internet has its rewards. Learning about the genre is made easy because there are some wonderful resources out there by dedicated folks like Flashstrap:

flashstrap 3.jpg

The content is outstanding and includes lovingly curated mixes, eye-popping collages and sensuous run-on sentences:

A smoldering triumph of hazy tropic/modal bluesy languid-erotic repetitions– with Pearson’s piano acting as mysterious guide through the spiritual structure and Bobby Hutcherson’s vibes as both explorer and scurrying wildlife, accented by a classic jungle-shadow flute sound (from Jerry Dodgion), and a killer bass line– this track lives up to, and indeed surpasses, the sensual and exotic experience impossibly promised by the exquisite cover art.

Of course, Flashstrap will taunt you with curiosities that verge on mythical beast territory…

bianchi jungle sextet.jpg
Bianchi & the jungle sex-tet - “music to play in the dark” (1959).

…but I always leave the site satisfied that I have learned yet more information that I can share with nobody I come in contact with on a daily basis. But that’s what keeps me going. That, and this:

arnies lounge.jpg
An Evening At Arnie’s Lounge. From left: Adele Edwards on organ/vocals (and occasionally the trumpet), Arnie Aka Nui on vocals/Hawaiian steel guitar and his son Arne Becker on drums/vocals. Arnie sounds like Elvis on “Hawaiian War Chant”, so what’s there not to love?

Ok, so An Evening At Arnie’s Lounge isn’t Exotica, but I say it keeps me going with zero irony. It makes me happy. I even daydream about a fictitious documentary called Follow the Yellow Shag Carpet: The Search for Arnie Aka Nui.

Reintroducing Linda Lawson

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Had a successful record show dig recently. Not only did I manage to round up some elusive Toiling Midgets , but I also came across this gem:

Introducin Linda Lawson.png
Introducing Linda Lawson, Chancellor Records, 1959. A Twin Peaks vibe here, I think.


An Abduction By Man or Astro-man?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Was abducted by aliens from Alabama (it’s tough being an alien in Alabama. Their words, not mine.) and it’s only now, after a few days of memory reconstruction, that I realize I’ve dragged space - along with a crowd that resists all attempts at identification (except maybe the guy that looked like he was on his way to the Ink-N-Iron Fest in Long Beach) - with Man or Astro-man?

Man or Astro-man? Defcon 5…4…3…2…1.


And The Truth Sleeps

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Below is Morrissey’s excellent open letter on True To You regarding the media coverage of Thatcher’s death. I briefly considered chiseling paragraphs from the monolithic text block, but then I figured it’s an apt symbol of the Thatcher love - much like our Reagan love - being a bit difficult to digest:

Surely how I feel is not nothing?

by Morrissey, 15 april 2013

I have listened and I have seen a lack of truth that we had dared not believe existed in modern Britain. Margaret Thatcher has left the order of the world, and she is not to blame for the reports of her own death - reports so dangerously biased and full of intolerant menace that we now wonder how we can possibly believe anything that has ever been recorded in British history books. The coverage by the British media of Thatcher’s death has been exclusively absorbed in Thatcher’s canonization to such a censorial degree that we suddenly see the modern British establishment as an uncivilized entity of delusion, giving the cold shoulder to truth, and offering indescribable disgust to anyone unimpressed by Thatcher. Even to contest Thatcher’s worth is termed “anarchist”, and this source of insanity - intolerant of debate, is spearheaded by the BBC reporting not on how things actually are on British streets, but on how they would prefer things to be. For those of us who survived despite Thatcherism, and who recall Thatcher as a living hell, The Daily Mail and The Guardian have a steadfast message for us: You are nothing. Our thoughts are further burdened by the taunting extravagance of Thatcher’s funeral; the ceremonial lavish, the military salute, stripping Thatcher’s victims of everything, and rubbing salt in wounds with teasing relish. It is all happening against us. In thought, we have killed Thatcher off a million times, but now that we have the reality of her death, the Metropolitan Police have set up new laws against us, and within paragraphs of law, we are not allowed to register our feelings so that anyone might overhear them. Echoes of Libya? Echoes of any Middle Eastern patch whose troubles are thought too uncivilized for a democratic England where chivalrous respect is afforded to “freedom”, and where we are all servile to “democracy.” It is, of course, The Big Lie. The fact that there will be such an enormous police presence at Thatcher’s funeral is evidence that her name is synonymous with trouble - a trouble she brought on herself. No one wished for it, or brought it to her, yet she created her subtle form of anarchy nonetheless. BBC News will scantily report on anti-Thatcher demonstrations as if those taking part aren’t real people. Lordly scorn is shown towards North Korea and Syria, and any distant country ruled by tyrannical means, yet the British government employs similar dictatorship tactics in order to protect their own arrogant interests. There will be no search for true wisdom this week, as the BBC gleefully report how Ding Dong the witch is dead “failed to reach number 1″, and they repeat the word “failed” four times within the brief report, and a shivering sovereign darkness clouds England - such identifications known only in China. There will be no report as to how “the British people have succeeded in downloading Ding dong the witch is dead to number 2″, and we are engulfed in Third Reich maneuvers as BBC Radio assume the role of sensible adult, finger-wagging at that naughty public who must not be allowed to hear the song that they have elected to number 2. By banning Ding dong the witch is dead (and only allowing four seconds of a song is, in fact, a ban) the BBC are effectively admitting that the witch in question can only possibly be Margaret Thatcher (and not Margaret Hamilton), even though Thatcher isn’t mentioned in the song, which is in fact a harmless, children’s song written over 70 years ago. Whilst the BBC tut-tut-tutted a polite disapproval at the Russian government for sending a “feminist punk” band to prison for recording an anti-government song, they engage in identical intolerance against Ding dong the witch is dead without a second’s hesitation. Thatcher’s funeral will be paid for by the public - who have not been asked if they object to paying, yet the public will be barred from attending. In their place, the cast are symbols of withering - as old as their prejudices, adroit at hiding Thatcher’s disasters. Ancestry and posterity, trimmed with pageantry, will block out anyone with a gripe. David Cameron will cling to Thatcher as she clung to the Malvinas, each in their last-ditch efforts to survive obscurity. Cameron achieves his own conclusions without any regard for the appalling social record of The Thatcher Destroyer - the protestors outside are simply not being British, or, even worse, are probably from Liverpool. When Cameron talks he is simply speaking his part, but he is adamant that the scorn Thatcher poured onto others should not be returned to her. Her mourning family must have considerations that were never shown to the families of the Hillsborough victims, and although Thatcher willingly played her part in the Hillsborough cover-up, let’s not go into all that now. Instead we’re asked to show respect for a Prime Minister whose own Cabinet were her rivals. Thatcher’s death gives added height to David Cameron (a Prime Minister who wasn’t actually voted in by the British people, yet there he is – reminding us all of our manners), and he does not understand how the best reason for doing something is because there’s nothing in it for you. The words of Cameron are assumed to have weight, yet his personal gain is the only reason why he speaks those words. Cameron tells us that the British people loved Thatcher, but we are all aware that Sunningdale and Chelsea are his Britain; he does not mean the people of Salford or Stockton-on-Tees, who are, in any case, somewhere north of Lord’s Cricket Ground. Can the BBC possibly interview someone with no careerist gain attached to their dribble? No. On the day that nine British citizens are arrested in Trafalgar Square for voicing their objections to the Baroness, the BBC News instead offer their opening platform to Carol Thatcher, a dumped non-star of I’m a celebrity get me out of here, and to Sir Mark Thatcher (Sir!), unseen since the disgrace of his involvement in selling arms to countries at odds with Britain (magically, he avoided a 15-year prison term and was financially bailed out by his mother - her moral conscience nowhere in sight as Sir Mark patriotically took his 64 million and fled to Gibraltar having been refused entry to Switzerland and Monaco. What kind of mother raised such a son?) Both Mark and Carol get the BBC spotlight because they mourn their mother’s death, whilst those honest civilians who mourn Thatcher’s life are shunted out of view. This is how we see Syrian TV operate, and this is most certainly NOT a week when David Cameron will advise: “hug a hoodie.” Whilst the quite astonishing social phenomenon of Ding Dong the witch is dead is ignored by the television news, instead we are shown an eight-minute clip of Psy, a funny little South Korean singer who is making all British newsreaders laugh with his funny little new video. Today, news items from South Korea, Belgium and China get precedence over homeland news of anti-Thatcher protests in Trafalgar Square, and the meaningless banality of Modern Media Britain casts a shameful shadow. Repeated and repeated, words strengthen. The truth sleeps as the heartlessness of Thatcher is re-written as a strength, for it was not exclusively because Thatcher destroyed the miners or murdered the boys of The Belgrano that we feel rage, but it was the lip-smacking relish with which she did both, and with which she sent armies of police to batter anyone who opposed her view. Gaddafi did the same thing in the same way. Thatcher could never show sympathy, or empathy, or understanding to those from whom David Cameron is now demanding a show of civil respect for a woman who, like Myra Hindley, proved to all of us that the female could be just as cruel as the male. By 1990 Thatcher was the gift that not even her own Cabinet wanted, and she was tufted out of office. How could such a catastrophic end warrant a statue in Trafalgar Square? Revenge was the vital juice of every move made by Thatcher, and her results produced the most dis-United Kingdom ever seen in history. Although Thatcher was never flesh, her demeanor took on an incurably demented sadness, and her broadcasting tones registered madness … as Britain burned. From all of this we see, in this April week of 2013, that modern media reporting in Britain is a disturbing fog of taboos and prejudices, reviving the divisions that Thatcher hatched, whilst hiding her horrors. Even in death, Thatcher remains ‘the enemy within.’
And the truth sleeps.