The Mast

Nuclear Dragon

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“And they’re all made of bronze and stone, all of those dreams. Frozen under the sun, still so alive in me.”

Steadily, organically, Brooklyn-based The Mast have developed into a more philosophically evolved 21st century answer to the sexy-smart, neo-futuristic sound Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird conjured in the mid-90s. But where Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennium Tension succored the sour side of modernity to produce eerily appealing bitter milk, Haleh Gafori and Matt Kilmer draws from older, deeper wells to nurture their creations. Something elemental and abiding floats in their music even as it hums with pinging, chuttering buzz of present times. The duo has a new album – DI is still getting their head around it but will spilling more thoughts soon – called Pleasure Island (check it out here), and this is the first video. DI is once again struck by the winning mixture of intense passion and gliding groove this pair works up, and Haleh’s voice remains one of today’s true siren calls.

The Coup / K.Flay

Long Island Iced Tea, Neat / Rawks

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“We gonna make a masterpiece out of all the mistakes.” – Boots Riley

If one’s perception of modern hip hop is wholly derived from what’s on MTV then you’re missing out. As always, it’s the DIY folks still living on real, paycheck-to-paycheck streets that are cobbling together the most interesting, exciting beat science. To wit, The Coup and K.Flay, who in sound and vision (as evidenced by their latest cool ass videos), are knocking heads in a most alluring way. The layers to what these artists do, the rawness and wild juxtapositions, the swagger and smarts, well, it leaves most of the competition looking slack and silly. Support K.Flay and The Coup and trust DI that your investment in what they do will pay dope dividends.

Truth & Salvage Co.

Appalachian Hilltop

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“Gather your seeds to be sown.”

Certain sounds make one instantly thoughtful, wistful and wondering in the best ways. The gentle, breeze-like tickle of mandolin and acoustic guitar that begins this homespun corker from Truth & Salvage Co. is such a sound. This is what the Impound calls a “bindle tune,” nourishing songs one tucks into their hobo suitcase to get them through the undoubtedly rocky roads ahead, a piece of coal with a diamond inside awaiting us in those moments we need its riches most. This light-on-its-feet but deep-as-a-river ditty is a standout on the band’s recently released sophomore album, Pick Me Up, an end-to-end charmer that’s one of DI’s favorite albums of 2013. Like many tracks on the new album, “Appalachian Hilltop” is warming and real, a slice of life that’s oddly cheering in how it embraces a clear-eyed view of the world without succumbing to cynicism and despair. It’s also just plain good music from an exceedingly good group of guys [find out more about them and their latest record in DI’s big ol’ feature interview with the band]. And you can keep up with the comings, goings and random musings about hotel rooms and whatnot at their blog.

1971 Week

Can

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

“Did anybody see this snowman stand there with the Lord?”

Year1971_Can_TagoMago

Recreational chemistry and music, particularly when combined, can change your life. This is especially true on those nights when one is really chasing after IT, prying open the locks and hinges within to let the windows and doors fly open so one might hear what the universe has to say, using every tool and strategy a fevered brain can devise to negate the white noise of straight existence and catch a whispered word from the cosmos.

On one such night my freshman year at UC Santa Cruz, the gleaming, wonderfully shattering power and truth of the drug-music intersection came into crystalline focus. Gobbling little white pills and manically sharing records with a glorious degenerate audiophile acquaintance, he asked me with sudden seriousness, “You heard Tago Mago, man?” I told him I hadn’t and suddenly things got real. “Sit down,” he barked as he shoved me into a huge yellow smiley face beanbag chair and lit candles and Nag Champa. After he slipped the record onto the turntable he handed me the sleeve and beamed. “Music isn’t going to sound the same to you after this.”

Can (1971)

Can (1971)

With that he dropped the needle on “Halleluhwah,” an 18-minute mind-fuck of epic proportions, the unholy offspring of a perverted Meters groove, the Dead’s Aoxomoxoa, and all sorts of ghosts that live in the machines that make this world hum. I imagine my experience – just-shy-of-oppressively-loud volume, softened up by a slurry of speed and potent weed, low lights, enormous Klimt speakers staring me down as the lights of the equalizer rose and fell like the fountain show at the Bellagio – was about as perfect a set up for having one’s mind blown as could be devised. But I’m certain if I’d been stone cold sober and clear-eyed as a judge Can’s third album would have sent me for a loop all the same. The drugs and consciously tenderizing setting just helped tear down any resistance to what leapt from the stereo.

After “Halleluwah” finished my buddy lifted the needle and said, “Now, let’s start at the beginning.” His grin glowed in the dark as he settled us into Side A proper and plopped down next to me.

40th Anniversary Edition

40th Anniversary Edition

Take a light shining on the land,
Off the wall,
Up and down, free everything,
What you feel is all gone.
You can make everything
What you want with your head,
You’re OK and be aware
Everywhere with your mind.

There is the feeling of a Genesis of sorts to the German quintet’s ultimate album. Nothing that comes before it sounds remotely like it, or at least what ancestral echoes one detects might be mere figments of one’s own imagination and likely have no actual influence on Can’s befuddling creation. Often albums that are expressly strange and court oddity are mere curiosities and lack any musical depth. Not so with Tago Mago, where one continually senses the players thinking and feeling intensely every move, every note, every crazed-but-inspired edit, using all their skill and intuition to chart a new course. It’s as if a new language is being birthed right before one’s ears, an impression strikingly reinforced by singer Damo Suzuki’s charmingly warbled English, gibbering glossalalia, and hashed-out doo wop blurting.

Can (1971)

Shaped from hours of jamming and experimenting by bassist/engineer/editor Holger Czukay at the band’s Inner Space Studio in 1971, Tago Mago stitches together many such moments of inspired invention with a production bravura worthy of The Beatles and Pink Floyd at their most brilliant, although Can keeps things decidedly more earthy and batshit loony even whilst making one’s head nod. The drumming of Jaki Leibezeit is the great, relentlessly steady muscle powering this body, a force Titanic in the muscled Greek sense with a touch of Hephaestus’ clockwork craftsmanship. Intercutting things and riding melodically atop this synergistic stew are keyboardist Irmin Schmidt and guitarist Michael Karoli – the latter a tie with Chicago’s late Terry Kath for the 70s most underrated guitar hero. What Can does as a group on Tago Mago is all encompassing, a creature all their own that reaches out with electric fingers and a wild, wagging tongue. It snatches us without permission and deposits us sullied and smiling back at home seven “songs” later.

To call Tago Mago “psychedelic,” “otherworldly” or any other trite music journalistic cliché is a major disservice to what Can conjured up. It is singularly shattering, as definitive and influential a statement as Dark Side of the Moon or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It really will change how one hears music forever after, and thus stands as one of the few essential listening experiences one must have if they’re determined to be a well-rounded musical connoisseur.

1971 Week

Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

Exile (noun): a situation in which you are forced to leave your country or home and go to live in a foreign country.

Gilberto Gil & Caetano Veloso in London

Gilberto Gil & Caetano Veloso in London

Between late 1969 and early 1972, Brazilian superstars Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil found themselves sharing a house in London with their families, forced out of their native land because of the trouble they’d stirred up as part of the Tropicália movement. Tropicalismo’s blending of social disobedience, art, and youth culture was reflective of similar movements going on all over the world, but Brazil was still a dictatorship at the time and arranged to have the two luminaries booted after short prison sentences in Brazil. For a sense of how big a deal this situation was imagine the U.S. booting Bob Dylan or Joan Baez at the height of their early stardom.

To say the least, England suited them poorly, a longing for Brazil never far from their thoughts, but the forced stay in London did fabulous things for the music of these two pivotal 20th century artists, the psychedelic revolution (sonically and pharmacologically) and cosmopolitan play of ideas and styles in London putting a happy zap on their creative imaginations. However, the first fruits of these fresh influences reflected a fair amount of homeward longing and alienation in their forcibly adopted new country.

Both released their first (and in Gil’s case only) English-language albums [Veloso made one more, 2004’s cover tunes set A Foreign Sound] in 1971. Both self-titled and featuring somber cover photos, the records are rather un-Brazilian outside of the delicate percussion, occasional bursts of Portuguese, and the thick accented English of the singers. Mostly, both sets explore ground similar to Richie Havens, Bill Withers and Terry Callier with a lovely scoop of solo Syd Barrett – flowing folk-pop uplifted by fits of electricity, grey-tinged humor, compact experimentation, and a pervasive sense of wonder and melancholy. Each reflects the intersection of Brazil’s 60s musical flowering and what was happening in England’s swinging capital, and friends, it’s an exciting, seductive collision.

”Don’t waste your time in looking for sorrow. I’m as sure of the past as I’m certain about tomorrow.”

Veloso's 1971 Eponymous Album

Veloso’s 1971 Eponymous Album

Veloso’s offering is the more despondent of the two, opening by announcing that his exile has him “a little more blue” than his prison time or the day Carmen Miranda died. Things lift a bit – literally to the skies with a peculiar reference to flying saucers – on “London London” before the tuneful but pointedly sad note to his sister (and fellow musical celebrity still in Brazil) “Maria Bethania,” who he claims “has given her soul to the devil and bought a flat by the sea.” Things grow more poetic and abstract on “If You Hold A Stone” and the romping ”Shoot Me Dead” before holiday super-bummer “In The Hot Sun of a Christmas Day” and Portuguese closer “Asa Branca,” which translates as:

When your tears wet the dry land/ And spread the green of your eyes/ Over the dead trees/ I promise you that/ Then I’ll be back, dear.

But as seemingly forlorn as Veloso’s album may be there’s palpable musical excitement, the swirl of busy London crashing into Caetano’s battered spirit and producing some of his most resonant work.

”We let our moments become what they really had to be. Develop our photographs as simple dreams that will come true.”

Gil's 1971 Eponymous Album

While Gilberto Gil’s eponymous ’71 record contains a sighing cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the overall mood is less bleak and more open to play in his exiled circumstances. Drugs may have been a positive factor for Gil, as evidenced on the sweetly speculative “The Three Mushrooms,” which begins, “The first mushroom makes room for my mind/ To get inside the magic room of Dionysus’ house.” – groovy, man. There are still plenty of jabs at the state of being in their chilly U.K. environment including “Babylon” and the mad-but-very-charming disconnection of “Crazy Pop Rock.” Time and memory, perception and reality are puzzled over, and conclusions are few and far between. Gil’s guitar work is superlative throughout, clearly sparked by seeing Jimi Hendrix in action [further confirmed by a great live cover of “Up From The Skies” that’s a bonus track on the wonderful 2007 CD reissue of the album from SF’s Water label]. There is tenderness and turbulence to this song cycle refracted by Gil’s ever-intriguing voice and guitar.

While both Veloso and Gil hightailed it back to Brazil as soon as the powers that be allowed them to, their London years lingered prominently in the music they made throughout the 70s and beyond, heard in the great openness of both artists to dance with any mood, style, instrumentation, etc. that struck their fancy. Being up close to The Beatles, Cream, Hendrix and countless others and bringing their Brazilian sound to the English masses at festivals during those years rubbed off on this pair in positive ways – musically if not personally.

1971 Week

John Martyn

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

“Time after time I held it just to watch it die/ Line after line I loved it just to watch it cry.”

Year1971_Martyn

When the Impound discovers that someone is unfamiliar with John Martyn it pains us. To our perspective, a life without John Martyn is like a life without bacon, air or some other essential. Originally part of the late 60s British folk-rock boom, Martyn always stood a bit outside of the pack, singular from the start, a voice simultaneously youthful and eerily wise as if he’d lived several lifetimes before meeting us. There is tremendous power and mystery to Martyn’s dazzling, innovative guitar playing, timeless-minded songcraft, and spliff ‘n’ whiskey cured voice, a low, gripping rumble filled with love and its terrible cousins riding deeply natural yet curiously angled musical currents, sounds pleasing and profound snatched from behind the curtain of general consciousness and forged into music by this singular artist.

Perhaps the best jumping on point for neophytes is Martyn is 1971’s Bless The Weather, a truly transporting listening experience that deftly melds folk directness and subtle jazz sophistication – an artistic teeter-totter, occasionally punctuated by rock sharpness, that Martyn bounced on throughout his career. Emotionally, Bless The Weather steps lightly between growing despair, earnest affection, and qualified hopefulness. Martyn, even in his early years, had a way of digging into life as it’s really lived, the hard patches and tough-to-face reflections as relevant as the moments of contentment and dreams of connection and peace.

Aided by players of incredible feel and imagination like Danny Thompson (double bass), Roger Powell (future Utopia keyboardist), Richard Thompson (electric guitar) and then-spouse Beverley Martyn (backing vocals), Martyn begins to reveal the expressive wizardry that fully emerged during the 70s and 80s. The title track is haunting and yearning, and it’s joined by the hard-nosed lover’s benediction “Head and Heart,” a cheeky cover of “Singin’ In The Rain,” an early Echoplex experiment (a trajectory Martyn took to full fruition two years later on Inside Out), and a series of melancholy reveries that both fit the times and transcend it. Bless The Weather is Martyn’s first essential release but certainly not his last.

1971 Week

David Crosby

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

“And I thought that I’d found the light/ To guide me through my nights and all this darkness/ I was mistaken, only reflections of a shadow that I saw.”

Year1971_Crosby_MyName

The solo output of the Crosby, Stills & Nash has been a mixed bag – sometimes trapped in the production of a particular era, artistic self-indulgence, or just simply not as hefty as their combined mojo. There are fine moments on every single album these crazy talented musicians have put out but few feel as fully formed and organic as the two albums that will forever form the spine of their catalogues – Déjà Vu and their self-titled 1969 trio debut. However, there is a striking exception to this streak: David Crosby’s stunning 1971 solo debut If I Could Only Remember My Name….

An album lush with mysteries and inspired, intuitive playing, If I Could Only Remember My Name… beautifully bridges the feeling of volcanic 60s promise and the new decade’s rising ennui, sometimes snaring these feelings in pure sound – there’s a cut titled “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)” that’s as lovely and melancholy as any lyrical stab at those same ideas. The juxtapositions are pointed but not as sharp as one might think with pretty, hippy-ish opener “Music Is Love” giving way quite naturally to the gnarly, electric guitar-basted “Cowboy Movie,” which mingles rock’s enduring association with outlaw culture with CSN’s now-legendary personal drama, particularly as regards the bed hopping of various lady friends. But every piece here is drawn in a way that’s open to multiple interpretations, poetic leaps encouraged and possibilities embraced, firm notions skirted and clear lines blurred.

Interior Gatefold Montage

Interior Gatefold Montage

At times, the album lets out a great, collective sigh, be it the druggy late night stroll of “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” or more explicitly the enlightened disappointment of “Laughing,” which is simply one of the greatest tunes Crosby ever wrote and produced, a meeting of many major talents including amazing pedal steel from Jerry Garcia and haunting backing vocals from Joni Mitchell. Luminaries, particularly from the Bay Area scene, are all over this record, including Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, Jack Casady and Grace Slick, Grateful Dead rhythm beasts Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, Santana’s Gregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve, CSNY chum Neil Young and a host of other talented folks. But Crosby, the album’s producer and clear architect, doesn’t dissect things track-by-track so we only know that these varied craftsmen and freaks had some hand in things but specific fingerprints are wiped away. It’s a strangely “Summer of Love” kinda move that speaks to the collective nature of the early 70s rock scene around San Francisco and Marin (and their invited compatriots), the rogues gallery of photos inside the album bespeaking the cool creative environment that birthed this album.

Not Album Shot But You Get The Idea

Not Album Shot But You Get The Idea

However, that group shot is balanced by a picture of a stone-faced, shirtless Crosby, smoking curling around his head, his Old West ready moustache curling downwards, and most strikingly an American flag folded to form a gun which he’s pointed at his head. It’s a loaded image – in several respects – that nicely sums up the 60s counter-culture as it ran headlong into the mainstream of a country still enmeshed in the Vietnam War, major social rights upheaval and other major challenges. On “Traction In The Rain,” Crosby sings, “You know it’s hard for me to find a way to get through another city day without thinking about getting out.” It’s a cold splash on a gently flowing tune but a necessary one, both at that moment and today in the rush-rush-rush 21st century. Without being preachy or programmatic, Crosby distilled a timeless classic in If I Could Only Remember My Name…, where folks with big hearts, wild natures, and oodles of talent went divining for truths that last more than a day or even a year.

Lansdale Station & Grayson Capps

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With many of DI’s readers based in the SF Bay Area, we wanted to hip y’all to a sweet show this coming Friday, September 6, at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA. One local favorite, Lansdale Station featuring primo singer-songwriter Lauren Murphy and hubby/vocal delight Judge Murphy of Zero fame, reemerges after a long stretch of personal struggles to kick up some dust with Lauren’s old pal and one of the talented, earthy singer-songwriters to emerge in the past 20 years Grayson Capps. The pairing is almost too good, and one thing the Impound can assure you is you’ll hear a WHOLE bunch of terrific songs delivered with resounding heart and professional acumen by people utterly in love with making music. If your tastes run towards vintage John Prine, Little Feat, a Southern dipped Fairport Convention, Patterson Hood, and Americana with guts then you best make your way to Mill Valley to see this rare pairing. Pick up your tickets HERE, and check out a sampling of these artists in action.