Angela Sawyer runs WEIRDO RECORDS(for our money the coolest record store in the Boston area). She also plays in the bands EXUSAMWA, DUCK THAT, PREGGY PEGGY AND THE LAZY BABYMAKERS, and other bands. Here’s her TOP 10 RECORDS OF THE YEAR. I even bet these records are for sale @ her shop!! We’ll be doing our own lists in the coming days, as will a number of awesome local music connoisseurs. LOOK OUT!
Angela’s Xmas 2011
1. Various Wallahi le Zein 2cd
A zillion compilations of West African music out there, but most of them have to ignore Nouakchott, Mauritania, the largest city in the Sahara. Full of shanty towns made out of sand covered tents, it’s a place where you have to buy water, and also a place where almost all music is performed live rather than disseminated through recordings. Intensely dirty, burning & ornate electric guitar solos, studded with hammer ons & phase shifter pedals, all improvised, & seemingly powered by car batteries that’re busy leaking psychedelic green acid. Those lines wind, pop & shudder over drum bonks, underneath vowel-wrestling singers, & respond with jarring immediacy whenever someone that you can’t see dances well or hands over cash. Collected by Matthew Lavoie (of Voice of America) by recording shows onto cassette. Extremely detailed notes give a history of the last 30 odd years of music in the city, explain why drag queen drummers are in demand for weddings, give you some idea of what combination of electronics and dirt make those noises, who had the dream that caused everyone to put 20 extra frets on their necks, etc.
2. Various Nihon Indigo cassette
Bananas about this little collection of melancholy, graceful Japanese pop, mostly from the 40s & 50s. Yearning gieshas, singing starlets, enka balladeers caught in the endless rain, and crisp instrumental flourishes on strings, shamisen, guitar, etc. Impressive notes for a tape release too.
3. Evariste Do You Know the Beast lp
Hard swingin ye-ye with loony screaming and growling, sound effects (specifically sheep & sine waves), and lyrics about integral calculus. Evariste was a legit student of particle physics (under his real name Joel) before deciding it would be more fun to have an extremely lopsided haircut & flail around like Freddie from Freddie & the Dreamers while singing an impression of a rooster. Superbly cutting, brilliant arrangements by Michel Colombier (of Pierre Henry fame, as well as Serge Gainsbourg). Evariste’s complete discography is here, and though it’s just a few singles, a comparison to a giant like Kim Fowley is not out of order.
4. Various Street Musicians of Yogyakarta lp + 7 inch
The exquisite, dreamy & prismatic major/minor harmonies of Indonesian folk & pop are on full display between market stalls & outside restaurant doorways in one of the heaviest tourist spots outside of Bali. Troupes that become possessed, whip each other & eat fire, or just play Dangdut, Ronggeng, Melayu, Kroncong (western ukulele trios derived from sailor songs). Covers from the radio, covers of classical gamelan songs. Endearing interview excerpts in which you learn which instrument looks like a goat, and how many years you must play until you can successfully make jokes at people’s expense. Recorded by Jack Body, an Australian composer who was teaching in Indonesia for a couple of years. And it’s easy to see why he freaked out as soon as he arrived & heard this stuff. Just fall down dead beautiful.
5. Matsuo Ohno Choju Gigaku 7 inch
Brilliant little single of wheezy chirps, oinks & croaks that suddenly start burping out everything from ‘Clementine’ to Italian opera. In the mid 1950s a guy in Copenhagen (named Carl Weissmann) released a version of ‘Jingle Bells’ that was made out of musique-concrete-chopped dog barks, thereby inventing the well known holiday scourge the Singing Dogs. 15 years later this inspired some nurt working in the publicity department of Expo ’70 to comission this recording: one of Japanese folksongs that had been constructed out of tuned animal noises. Avant garde sound effects composer Ohno, who made the goopy blips for the ‘Astro Boy’ cartoons, rose to the occasion. He coralled his frequent collaborator Takehisa Kosugi (Taj Mahal Travellers) and several others to help, as the tuning & cut up work had to all be done on a single reel-to-reel recorder. The many overdubs also keep things hissy & dry, so it’s not even especially cartoony. Ought to sit right next to Pierre Schaeffer’s trains in every record collection.
6. Los Destellos Constelacion lp
Lima’s psychedelic cumbian masters. Enrique Delgado started playing guitar as a child & was already touring by the time he was 13. His parents disapproved & kicked him out of the house, so he couch surfed as a teen. He picked up the electric guitar for the first time in 1962 & started Los Destellos in ’66. The band started incorporating Colombian timbales for that cumbian rhythm (here played by Cesar Arias), but also the surf/beat guitar that was so popular in Europe & America. The sparkling surfy sound that named the band has been partly been taken over by wah & Santana fuzz by this 7th album. You can easily hear the beginning of chicha, and the verbed-out spoken introduction to ‘Onsta La Yerbita’ is as slinky as music ever gets. Instantly the best thing on Secret Stash.
7. Void Sessions 1981-83 lp
Columbia, Maryland’s unhinged hardcore geniuses make for the best Dischord release in forever. Unreleased sessions, the stuff from the ‘Flex Your Head’ comp, outtakes from the classic Faith/Void split (on which they wipe the fucking floor with the Faith), & a couple of really amazing live tracks full of crazy braying & guitar destruction. The band quickly went metal, but you won’t hear it here. Instead, the fun they’re having in the studio is undeniable, especially when they throw in half of a Circle Jerks cover.
8. Catherine Christer Hennix The Electric Harpsichord cd
A big black bucket of tintinnabulating stars, made with 3 tuned Yamaha keyboards, sine waves, and processed with delay. Hennix is Swedish, and met La Monte Young & Pandit Pran Nath at the impressionable age of 21, at the turn of the 70s. She studied with them while pursuing a career as a math professor at MIT & SUNY. 56 page booklet that includes amusing notes by Henry Flynt (who says Europe should never have been invented), a couple of short poems by La Monte, & a lot of math symbols from Hennix herself.
9. Various Those Shocking Shaking Days 3lp
Fat slab that throws open the doors on the deep & seemingly boundless Indonesian music scene of the 70s. A couple tracks have seen expensive psych reissues in the past few years, but at 3 lps, there’s plenty to discover- and you can skip past the innumerable ballads on most albums & head straight for the over the top, totally badass fuzz bombs. All those Sabbath, James Brown and Grand Funk knock offs were precipitated in part by President Suharto’s pro-West but authoritarian stance. But since most bands only got flat compensation for albums & made their living from shows, tons of releases with several quick experiments were relatively common. That still doesn’t explain why the guy from Golden Wing hung upsidedown when he played the minimoog. Or why multiple bands chose to combine the template of Hendrix’ ‘Stone Free’ with anti-drug messages. The Rhythm Kings even have a chant asking the band members whether they prefer grass, morphine, lsd, “stone”, or sex- and they say no to most of it! Compiled by a Canadian rap producer whose resume includes making beats for Ghostface Killah & Raekwon.
10. Various Intercontinental Transmissions Vol. 1 lp
This stroboscopic little story starts, as you likely already know, in your backyard with sparkly instrumental combos like the Ventures & Shadows. But it ends out on the other side of the flat earth. Peruvian cumbia with whistling, Iranian twist records, beautiful Polish beat girls, Indonesian proto-metal fuzz monsters, flashy soundtracks that go way beyond Bollywood- they’re all here. And just as the twang-addled, ye-ye mad, go-go kids in these bands once infused their local styles with the laquered cool of the big, bad, far-off West, psychedelia geeks and beats dudes are stretching their own boundaries to hear it today. Obscure, impossible-to-find baubles that were left behind by a foolhardy world indifferent to their vivid allure. Compiled, liscenced & released by Boston’s own Jesse Kaminsky, music director at MIT’s WMBR and also the host of a 5-year running show dedicated to music in languages other than English.