Peter Margasak, Reader staff writer, is obsessed with. . .
Peeping Tom, Boperation (Umlaut) For its second album, this Swedish-French trio expands to a quartet: saxist Pierre-Antoine Badaroux, bassist Joel Grip, and drummer Antonin Gerbal are joined by German trumpeter Axel Dörner. The tempos have cooled relative to the first record, but the band still has a blast deconstructing classic bebop using modern jazz vocabulary, retooling tunes by Fats Navarro, Herbie Nichols, Dodo Marmarosa, Elmo Hope, and others. Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson designed the cover, doing to bebop-era album art what Peeping Tom does to the music.
The Cramps, File Under Sacred Music: Early Singles 1978-1981 (Munster) This fat-free compilation is a reminder of what made the Cramps great, before they seemed to care more about their ghoulish looks than their music. Most of these records were produced in Memphis by Alex Chilton, who stripped down the band’s sound to let Lux Interior’s reverbed hiccup and Poison Ivy’s filthy guitar dominate. Listen to all 67 minutes of this at once, and you may be willing to swear off “sophisticated” rock for the rest of your life.
The Unthanks, The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons (Rough Trade) This British folk ensemble covered Robert Wyatt‘s “Sea Song” on its second album, and in December 2010 gave a concert in London—documented by this release—devoted to songs by Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons. The orchestral arrangements are lovely, Rachel and Becky Unthank are charming and self-deprecating, and the vocals are so fantastic that they open new insights into the material—no mean feat for someone as special as Wyatt.
He asks. . .
Rob Sevier, lead researcher for the Numero Group, what he’s obsessed with. His answers are. . .
William Tyler, Impossible Truth (unreleased) I should have had my fill of fingerstyle acoustic guitar by now (and generally, I would say, I have), but Tyler’s nimble playing and affection for melody are enough to rejuvenate my enthusiasm for the genre. I lucked my way into a preview of his as-yet-unreleased opus partly by bribing him with a rare LP.
Masaki Batoh, Brain Pulse Music (Drag City) The process here involves a self-induced meditative state that channels gamma-band oscillations through an electroencephalogram, amplified and distorted by a simple pedal mechanism. The results tend toward the sublime, with occasional shattering bursts of energy. The “brain pulse music” is interpolated with equally enjoyable workouts on traditional Japanese folk and court instruments. The best soundtrack I’ve found thus far for tearing through collections of Brian K. Vaughn’s painfully good Y: The Last Man.
Richard Feynman, Safecracker Suite (Scientific Consulting Services) When my friend Douglas bought this at a thrift store in Culver City last year I was dubious, despite the fact that Richard Feynman is my second-favorite physicist. The program alternates between Feynman’s anecdotes about cracking safes and Feynman playing the bongos. It’s a strangely alluring mixture and, like the famous Feynman diagrams, deceptive in its simplicity.
He asks. . .
Michael Slaboch, talent buyer at the Hideout, archivist and producer for the Numero Group, what he’s obsessed with. His answers are. . .
JC & Co., Music by JC & Co. It’s refreshing (and very rare) to hear an album for the first time and immediately want to have it on repeat from top to bottom for the entire day. This happened recently with the new self-released LP by Texas-based artist Jason Chronis. Parts of the album could easily be mistaken for Jon Brion outtakes, and it also has some really catchy Zombies-esque hooks—which made it the perfect soundtrack for our unseasonably warm March.
Mazzy Star, “Common Burn” b/w “Lay Myself Down” Hope Sandoval comes to terms with her identity crises and returns as Mazzy Star for the first time in 15 years on this self-released seven-inch. Both tracks exude all of the reverb-laden mysteriousness and sonic subtleties that made her earlier work so special. Now let’s just hope there’s a full-length getting finished sometime soon.
WFMU archives If you’re looking for an engaging alternative to the highly manufactured musical streaming world of Pandora this and Spotify that, look no further than the free-form radio archive of WFMU. A listener-supported FM station out of Jersey City, NJ, WFMU has DJs—yes, real human beings volunteering their time to choose and play music for you!—who are all over the proverbial map, exposing you to an endlessly vast array of tunes you never knew existed. v