Beetcafe.com
rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 02/21/2006
Music Mix Series: "A Wordless MIx"
by Rob Clark

"B'Boom" - King Crimson - from THRAK, 1995

"THRAK" - King Crimson - from THRAK, 1995

 

These two tracks go together on the album and neither sounded quite right without the other.  When you get to THRAK, you'll understand why the title is capitalized.  When the idea of this Wordless Mix first came about I was discussing it with a friend/colleague who said that the theme had the potential to instigate a bunch of long, slow, boring mixes.  I didn't think we would let that happen but the comment stuck with me as I began to audition candidates.  King Crimson quickly came to mind as a band that can create aggressive, captivating instrumental music and thereby won the coveted intro slot on my mix.

 

 "Mosquito" (excerpt) - The Necks - from Mosquito / See Through, 2005

 

The Necks have a tendency to put out albums consisting of single, hour-long tracks.  Their latest is a double& two CDs, two tracks, two hours!  Here you have but a four-minute excerpt from disc one.  A taste, if you will.  Their "thing" is to lock on to a melodic phrase and then explore what seems like infinite variations on it.  In my book they just blow the doors off similar contemporary jazz trios such as Medeski, Martin & Wood or The Bad Plus.  Australia's best kept secret?

 

 "Down Home Funk" -  Richard "Groove" Holmes - from Comin' On Home, 1971

 

Here we get down and get funky.  Of all the jazz musicians who specialize in the organ, Holmes is second only to Jimmy Smith in my book.  But where Smith had chops to spare, Holmes seemed to possess more of a genuine feel for seriously funky grooves.  Perhaps that's how he got his nickname.

 

"Coming Down From Rising Fawn" -  Norman Blake - from Fields of November, 1974

 

A different kind of down home and, I suppose, a different kind of funk.  Blake is an acoustic guitarist that I have enjoyed ever since hearing him on the first Will the Circle Be Unbroken compilation (at least 20 years ago!)  Although he kept himself busy in bluegrass and old time music camps, he disappeared from my radar until he appeared in the mid-90s on Steve Earle's fantastic Train A Comin' album.  I have kept a fairly close eye on him since then and was even lucky enough to watch this genius perform his magic before a small group of us in the living room of a friend.  Anyway, this guy's fingers have a mind of their own!

 

"Salmon Leap / Rip the Calico" -  Old Blind Dogs - from Legacy, 1995

 

Where did Blake and those like him learn their basic repertoire?  The traditional Scots-Irish music brought over by the first immigrants to the Appalachian region.  This band from Aberdeen, Scotland brings it back home in more ways than one.  Old Blind Dogs have always tended more toward songs with vocals but they can also compete with the best when it comes to jigs and reels, as this song clearly exemplifies.  My all-time favorite Celtic band, hands down.

 

"Sine's Dub" -  EoLoVoX - from Bassics - Incoming! Records Sampler, 1996

 

To me this felt like an appropriate-but-unexpected segue from the Old Blind Dogs track.  Maybe it's the military feel to that snare drum, I don't know.  (You may feel it's an absolutely horrible segue and that's okay too.)  Back in the 90s, when my friend Scott owned a record store in Rockford, he slipped me this promo sampler.  EoLoVoX was on it and sticks to my ribs to this day.  They never put out a full-length and, as far as I know, have never been heard from again.

"Unitone Theme" -  Drome - from Unitone HiFi - Rewound and Rerubbed, 1996

 

In essentially the same vein as the EoLoVoX track, this is electronic dub, a contemporary interpretation of a style that was originally created by reggae producers like Osborne "King Tubby" Ruddock and Lee "Scratch" Perry in Jamaica during the 70s.  I am more fond of 70s dub than modern electronic dub but when they do get it right, as Drome does here, they just nail it.  This stuff is meant to just bounce around in your head.  Let it happen.

 

"Wicked Tumbling" -  Glen Brown & King Tubby - from Termination Dub, 1973-79

 

Back to the early days.  Very often a "dub" track (short for "dubbing" - a slang term for copying or re-recording) of an existing reggae song would be used as a b-side to a single to save money and studio time.  Dub versions soon began to give the vocal a-sides extended life and in relatively short order they became an art form all of their own.  King Tubby was one of the original dub producers.  To me, the beauty of this stuff over modern neodub is that these guys did this on shoestring budgets with old analog equipment - no computers, ProTools, or any other digital sound manipulation conveniences.  And it's loads of fun, too.  Whereas modern dub has a tendency to sound rather sinister or menacing, I challenge you to play this at a reasonable volume and not bop around the room!

 

"Peace Piece" -  Bill Evans - from Everybody Digs Bill Evans, 1958

 

A truly exquisite moment in the history of the piano.  I am not exaggerating.  Jazz pianist Bill Evans sits before the instrument, unaccompanied, and creates pure magic.  I apologize for the surface noise you might hear if you turn it up (and you should) but I had to record this one from an LP.  The CD I have distorts at some of the higher notes so the surface noise of the LP seemed a small price to pay for better overall sound.  If you have them, listen to this with headphones (or even good earbuds) and tell me if it doesn't send chills down your spine.  Amazing stuff.

 

 "Blues for the Blues" - Harry Edison - from Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You?, 1957

 

Swing baby!  If this one doesn't get you moving, check your pulse.  In addition to being one heck of a playful romp from a time when swing had been overshadowed by bebop, this record contains two of my favorite horn players in jazz - trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison and tenor sax giant Ben Webster.  Add the talent of the Oscar Peterson Trio to flesh out the rhythm section and there are more musical conversations going on here than you can count.  But don't.  Just enjoy.

 

"So What" - Garcia, Grisman & Rice - from The Pizza Tapes, 1993

 

Back in 1959, Miles Davis recorded what was to become an all-time classic in cool jazz, Kind of Blue.  I thought about playing something from that album here but didn't want to get stuck in a jazz rut.  Plus it's one of those albums that should be a cornerstone in anyone's jazz collection, regardless of how large or small.  Anyway, Kind of Blue opened with the tune "So What."  Some 30-plus years later it was reinvented by Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and Tony Rice in a now legendary acoustic jam session in Grisman's basement.  If you are familiar with the original version this may be even more impressive, but anyone who hasn't can still find much to savor.

 

"Playing With Pink Noise" - Kaki King - from Legs To Make Us Longer, 2004

 

I recently stumbled upon Kaki King with a video I saw on a Paste Magazine sampler DVD.  She was playing this song on her guitar - including the percussion, which she smacked out on the guitar body as she played.  I was mesmerized.  I am a fan of acoustic guitar virtuosos like Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges and it would seem that Kaki King is poised to grab the baton. 

 

"El Picador" - Calexico - from Hot Rail, 2000

 

Calexico was so appropriately named.  Their music sits next to a cactus near some dusty California/Mexico border town and ushers in the tumbleweed, playing like the soundtrack to one of those old "spaghetti" westerns brought fully and completely into the 21st century.  The band is essentially the rhythm section of Giant Sand augmented with various other multi-instrumentalists and often, as in this case, Mariachi horns.  Maybe not for everyone, I love these guys.  This was the first track off the album that made me a fan.  Only about a third of their stuff is instrumental but they perform it as deftly as they do their songs.  Anyone for a Cuervo?

 

"Allegretto" * - BT Scottish Ensemble - from Shostakovich, 2000

 

* This track is actually the allegretto from Dimitri Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony in C minor, Opus 110a, for anyone keeping track of such things.  The completist in me would not let me lead anyone to believe that this might be some little ditty that Shostakovich wrote simply called "Allegretto."  (While both terms can be used as nouns, "allegro" means fast whereas "allegretto" means "a little allegro" or moderately fast.)  Anyway, if you're not that into classical music, don't just blow this off.  It's really very cool, very intense.  Listen with headphones if at all possible. 

 

"All Roads Lead To Salzburg" - Mice Parade - from All Roads Lead To Salzburg, 2001

 

I could have probably created an entire Wordless Mix using variations within the "post-rock / experimental" subgenre.  I just can't get enough of the stuff and there's so much of it out there.  However, I saw my goal here as to not lean heavily toward any one type of music, even as varied as this music tends to be.  Enter Mice Parade, a band that has become one of my favorites in post-rock.  A million thanks again to Scott for turning me on to them.  Spearheaded by a multi-instrumentalist by the name of Adam Pierce, the band here also includes Dylan Cristy (of The Dylan Group) and Doug Scharin (of HiM, Rex, June of 44, and many others) on this title track from a compilation of "new, live, BBC sessions & otherwise."  This is one of those tracks where it's loads of fun to play Spot the Influence.  These guys wrap up so many different styles in their collective package that it makes your head spin.  Saved for (almost) last in this mix only because of its length.  It is definitely not least.

 

"Brother Hunter" - Djivan Gasparyan - from I Will Not Be Sad In This World, 1983

 

The haunting music you hear here was created on an instrument called a duduk, which is a type of wooden oboe that originates in Armenia.  I can't remember how I stumbled upon this incredible album but it was years ago and it has become definite Desert Island Disc material.  What amazes me most is how it sounds so very sad and yet somehow uplifting at the same time.  Gasparyan is/was one of Armenia's preeminent performers and it's not difficult to hear justification for such a status on this album.


If you are interested in doing a Music Mix feature, contact Greg at gregor@beetcafe.com for information on feature requirements.

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