* Buxtehude: Sonatas, Op.1 (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (Naxos CD)
* Buxtehude: Sonatas, Op.2 (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (Naxos CD)
* J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin (Holloway) (ECM 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: The Works for Lute (Kirchhof) (Sony Classical 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: Die Kunst der Fuge (Maroney) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Leo Brouwer: Rara (Deutsche Gramophone CD)
* Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges: Back to Back (Verve/Classic LP)
* John Coltrane: Fearless Leader (d.3) (Prestige 6CD)
* Grant Green: Green Street (Blue Note CD)
* Bobby Hutcherson: “Mellow Vibes” (Blue Note mix CDR)
* Sun Ra: Soundtrack to the Film Space Is the Place (Evidence CD)
* Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (Fuel 2000 CD)
* Eric Dolphy: Conversations (Fuel 2000 CD)
* Cecil Taylor: Student Studies (Fuel 2000 CD)
* Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (d.3) (Firehouse 12 9CD+DVD)
* Bob Marley & The Wailers: The Complete Wailers 1967-1972 Part II (d.2) (JAD 3CD)
* Santana: Abraxas (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Santana: Santana (III) (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* The Mothers of Invention: Just Another Band from L.A. (Bizarre/Reprise LP)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, Hampton, VA 10-8-89 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Nightfall of Diamonds: Meadowlands Arena 10-16-89 (GD/Rhino 2CD)
* King Crimson: Ladies of the Road (d.1) (GDM 2CD)
* Joni Mitchell: Hejira (Asylum LP)
* Van Morrison: Hard Nose the Highway (Polydor CD)
* Can: Tago Mago (Spoon SACD)
* Can: Ege Bamyasi (Spoon SACD)
* Swell Maps: In ‘Jane from Occupied Europe’ (Rough Trade/Monster 2LP)
* Yo La Tengo: Painful (Matador CD)
* Yo La Tengo: “Shaker” (Matador CDEP)
* Yo La Tengo: “From a Motel 6” (Matador CDEP)
* Palace Music: Guarapero: Lost Blues 2 (Drag City 2LP
* The Orb: Live 93 (Island 2CD)
* Buckethead: Giant Robot (Sony/CyberOctave CD)
* Royal Trux: Twin Infinitives (Drag City 2LP)
* Robert Pollard: We All Got Out of the Army (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Circus Devils: Mother Skinny (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
The Seventies gets a bad rap, music-wise, what with all the twee, post-hippie singer-songwriters, pompous prog-rock pretenders, simple-minded punk rockers, and, of course, disco. This is unfair and I am fan of a lot of that stuff. But there were also a lot of semi-obscure bands working during the period who created unclassifiable music that was enormously influential and still sounds as fresh and invigorating today as it did back then.
The German band, Can, was formed by former associates of Karlheinz Stockhausen Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt in 1968 who sought to combine the formalized experimentalism of the classical avant-garde with the excitement of nascent rock music. Songs were built out of free improvisations which were radically edited and recombined, making for a very different kind of “psychedelic” music. Their 1971 album, Tago Mago, is their magnum opus: a sprawling double-album of hypnotic grooves, abrasive noise, and layered instrumental textures. The follow-up, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi, is smoother and more streamlined, but still utterly compelling. What is interesting to me listening to Can’s music is how all of the instruments and vocals assume equal proportions, with no one aspect being intentionally foregrounded, while traditional song-structure is disposed of in favor of a free-floating, collagist approach. While many bands were duly influenced by Can, none sound quite like them.
Around this time, the brothers Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Paul Godfrey) and Nikki Sudden (Adrian Nicholas Godfrey) were listening to Can’s records as well as those by the glam-rocker T.Rex, and began making crude home recordings in Birmingham, England. It wasn’t until the punk explosion of 1977 that they were able to enter a recording studio to make their first singles, which are in the slash-and-burn style of the day (“Let’s Build a Car” being a classic example). By the time of their second full-length album, Jane from Occupied Europe, the band had synthesized their disparate influences into a unique fusion of Can’s quasi-ambient experimentalism and hard rock’s strutting (but deeply insecure) machismo. Shortly thereafter, the band broke up, leaving behind a handful of records which paved the way for the art-damaged post-punk scene of the Eighties and Nineties. Like the Velvet Underground before them, not many people bought these records at the time, but everyone who did started a band.
One can easily hear the influence of Can on the Swell Maps, and in turn the influence both of them had on bands like The Fall, Sonic Youth, Pavement, and a host of others. When going back to the source, the crackle of inspiration leaps from the speakers, sounding timeless and eternally rewarding. It makes me want to go down to my studio and bang around just for the thrill of it. Maybe I’ll do that!
As you may or may not know, Nashville experienced a 500-year flood this weekend. Just as I was going to post this, the power went out, which didn’t come back on until last night. Tonight, we finally have internet access. Was finally able to get off the hill this morning and go to work, where the Cumberland River reeks of gasoline, diesel fuel and fertilizer. It was a long, arduous weekend and it is still difficult. Almost didn’t get home tonight due to more road closures and bridge failures. There are some not so great photographs on my Flickr stream and will post about it all maybe tomorrow. The theme song these days is Van Morrison’s “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River” from Veedon Fleece. We listen to it over and over. More later.