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The Aquarium Drunkard Guide To Drag City Records: Volume One : Aquarium Drunkard

The Aquarium Drunkard Guide To Drag City Records: Volume One : Aquarium Drunkard

Chicago’s venerable Drag City turns 30 years younger in 2019. In perhaps typical trend, the label doesn’t seem to be doing a lot in the best way of commemoration — no star-studded pageant, no restricted edition boxed set, no self-congratulatory extra. As an alternative, Drag City is doing what it’s all the time accomplished: releasing nice data. This yr, they’re unleashing new LPs from heavy hitters like David Berman and Bill Callahan alongside highly effective works by younger (but no much less heavy) skills like Ty Segall and Circuit des Yeux. Why dwell on past glories when at present still sounds so recent?

But these past glories deserve somewhat celebration, don’t they? That’s why the Aquarium Drunkard workforce has put collectively this eclectic information to Drag Metropolis’s immense catalog: 30 masterpieces for 30 years. The label’s output is so deep and large that it resists canonization, so don’t consider this as a definitive “Greatest Of” roundup. Relatively, it’s a number of private favorites, under-the-radar gems and oddball collabs (and we’re just getting began — watch for part two later this yr).

It’s clever to think about Drag Metropolis as, nicely, a metropolis — an aural landscape to discover and expertise. You’ll be able to take a stroll down a darkened alley with Royal Trux, discovering dangerous (and doubtless very unlawful) thrills. Or you’ll be able to ascend into Joanna Newsom’s surreal penthouse, excessive above the rabble. Commerce riddles with Will Oldham down by the river or find internal peace during a Bitchin Bajas yoga session within the park. Comply with Ghost down a psychedelic rabbit hole or bask in esoteric musings in a smoke-filled basement with Sir Richard Bishop and Ben Chasny. It might not make an entire lot of sense at first — or ever. Embrace the weirdness, discover salvation in confusion. Welcome to Drag Metropolis. / t wilcox

Howling Hex – All Night time Fox (2005): To debate the Howling Hex discography when it comes to individual albums virtually misses the purpose; like a pointillistic portray, Neil Hagerty’s corpus as a solo artist makes much more sense (or at the least a special type of sense) when noticed from a distance, his data evaluated not as distinct chapters however as evolutionary steps. That stated, All Night time Fox, launched in 2005, is first among equals in a catalog of sensible, unclassifiable music, a veritable showcase for not solely Hagerty’s stressed and creative strategy to songcraft but in addition the frenzied scribbles of boogie, bebop, and beyond that define his guitar enjoying. The fact that Hagerty’s genius has yet to be absolutely recognized is disappointing, however given present indie-dude tastes, such neglect might very nicely be each one of the best indicator of and biggest testament to that very genius. / j toth

Meg Baird – Pricey Companion (2007): When Drag City released this beauty in the mid-aughts, you can be forgiven for considering at first that the label had dug up some obscure Folkways report from the early 1960s. On Pricey Companion, Meg Baird — then a part of the fertile Espers collective — successfully inhabited the stark and skeletal really feel of the bygone people revival days, ably tackling such classics as “The Cruelty of Barbary Allen” and “Willie o’Winsbury.” However it wasn’t all Baby Balladry; Baird additionally re-imagined New Riders of the Purple Sage (an aching “All I Ever Needed”) and the obscure 60s duo Fraser & Debolt (the wry “Waltze of the Tennis Players). And in a preview of her solo work to return, “River House in Tinicum” is a hauntingly spectral unique, with wisps of suggestions offering one of many album’s solely instrumental accents past Baird’s voice and guitar. Wherever she went on Pricey Companion, the intimacy and power of her vision comes via loud and clear. In her arms, these songs aren’t museum pieces. They’re dwelling, respiration issues. / t wilcox

Blues Management – Valley Tangents (2012): Blues Control — the instrumental duo of Russ Waterhouse and Lea Cho — have proved elusive since their 2012 Drag Metropolis debut, Valley Tangents. However lucky for us, it is a document that continues to offer. Purveyors of ambient, electronic, and experimental grooves, the two discover an inventive spirituality on this document in their sleek and stylish leaps. Opening monitor “Love’s a Rondo” completely sets the tone: a buoyant and sweeping piano travels atop a type of jazz lounge percussion, alongside more psychedelic parts of cosmic synth and ragged electrical guitar. The keys gliding with an virtually classical, typically mischievous grace, finding their means throughout the span of the document by means of a number of varieties. By means of deep, bebob-imbued beats, industrial drones, and lo-fi baroque prog. On “Open Air,” they seem in a naked type, expressing a variety of emotions and landscapes, and seeming virtually to answer a query you didn’t know was being requested. / c depasquale

Joanna Newsom – Ys (2006): Here are some things that Ys proved when it was launched in 2006: That the attraction of Joanna Newsom’s 2004 debut The Milk-Eyed Mender was not within the novelty of Newsom’s pinched voice and chosen instrument, but within the indestructibility of her songwriting; that Van Dyke Parks’ orchestration was nonetheless completely suited to amplify and transmit the ineffable glow at the middle of an excellent author’s most personal work; that Steve Albini might report one thing lovely with a straight face. Ys was — and still is, 13 years later — an incredibly rich, deeply interwoven album, one whose seemingly limitless ambition is made personable by the intimacy of Newsom’s songwriting and singing. Although her lyrics present as inscrutable (crammed as they are with a breviary’s value of birds, cows, bears, canine, feathers, and extra), and the preparations appears to tessellate like vines up a humid wall, she calmly and patiently lays herself naked beneath all that decoration. The pizzicato prickle and sway of the strings, the glissandos, the best way the lyrics seemed to have been taken from a leather-bound guide — and the best way the album’s packaging truly inspired this idea — led Robert Christgau to say that Newsom’s “taste for the antique is uncontrolled.” However what’s apparent now’s that Ys marks her true arrival as an artist whose singular imaginative and prescient confirmed that formalism (and formality) could possibly be radical, too. / m sartini garner

Chris Darrow – Artist Proof (1972/2013): Chris Darrow has a resume a mile long, having lent his stringed instrument expertise to recordings by Leonard Cohen, Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dust Band, James Taylor and John Fahey, amongst many others. He was additionally a founding member of the obscure-but-excellent psych group Kaleidoscope, a collective that made two adventurous West Coast-Meets-Middle-East LPs within the late 1960s. However by the time he recorded his solo debut Artist Proof in 1972 (reissued by Drag City in 2013), Chris had his ft firmly planted within the USA’s fertile musical soil, with songs that drew from basic nation, cajun fiddle grooves, conventional string band music and far more, all given a freewheeling spin. By means of 11 sparkling tracks, Darrow proved himself to be a grasp songwriter, switching simply from the breezy late-period Byrds vibe of “Watch out for Time” to the beautiful melancholy of “The Sky Is Not Blue As we speak.” Artist Proof is a type of where-have-you-been-all-my-life data — a true California country-rock basic. / t wilcox

Palace Music – Viva Final Blues (1995): Viva Last Blues, the third full-length launched by Will Oldham underneath the Palace moniker, was the first of his albums tracked by Steve Albini. Though the Palace Music identify was virtually no totally different than the beforehand used Palace Brothers, the Chicago-based engineer’s involvement introduced a noticeably improved fidelity to the recordings, which offered Oldham’s esoteric songs and his singular voice more room to roam. “More Brother Rides,” wanders the stranger corners of nation funk, whereas “Viva Extremely” might cross for a mellower Slint. Oldham excels in sprightly (“The Mountain Low”), tender-ish (“New Associate”), and absolutely unbridled (““Work Onerous / Play Exhausting”) moments. To pay attention is to witness the event of the adventurous spirit that has outlined his profession. Never has a musical path been the flawed one to travel. Nor a mountain too steep to climb (or fuck). / j steele

New Bums – Voices in a Rented Room (2014): Voices in a Rented Room finds Donovan Quinn of Skygreen Leopards and Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance teaming up for a ragged but proper batch of wastoid acoustic pop recalling Nikki Sudden at his most elegantly debauched, Robyn Hitchcock at his most cryptic, and Bob Dylan at his most arch and sassy. Lyrics about earthquake weather and snowbound automobiles, about hated sons and cool daughters, are delivered over gauzy, lived-in acoustic preparations, suggesting a pair of northern California tavern mystics whispering incantations behind smoke-fogged sheer curtains. Though Quinn is the dominant character right here, the album additionally hides probably the most beautiful songs in Chasny’s peerless catalog, the craving and delightful “It’s The Approach.” / j toth

Silver Jews – American Water (1998): To be directly each timeless and of the second. Launched almost 20 years ago, Silver Jews third album, American Water, has proved to be simply that. As a bandleader, the album’s hermetically sealed 48 minutes signify as peak-era David Berman. In the rearview, it’s as a lot a report as it is a standard-bearer of the Joos modus operandi en totale — twelve tracks casually approaching perfection, rolled out in the seemingly effortless method that’s half and parcel of Silver Jews’ enduring allure. American Water also serves as a nexus level within the group’s higher timeline: as Pavement’s reputation swelled, so did misguided claims that the outfit was but a side-project of (co-founders) Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. Berman’s response was to maneuver ahead sans the pair, marking Water’s singular sound one thing akin to a moment fossilized in amber.

Neil Hamburger – America’s Funnyman (1996): Growing up in Arizona, Gregg Turkington got here out of the same punk scene that birthed the Meat Puppets and Sun Metropolis Women. It wasn’t just that he beloved the sound of the music, which he documented in his pivotal zine, Breakfast With out Meat—Turkington was equally drawn to its antagonistic power, its means to confound. His comedic alter ego, Neil Hamburger, lives and breaths in that area. His 1996 LP America’s Funnyman, a sendup of private-press comedy collections, replete with a crude line drawing sleeve, is brutal in its discomfort. Time and again, Hamburger turfs out on jokes, botching punch strains that barely work anyway. And like a true genius, he turns labored, painful explanations of why the viewers ought to be laughing into their very own hilarious gold. Even if Turkington didn’t solely invent “alt-comedy,” he gave it a lumpy, absolutely embodied shape. / j woodbury

Flying Saucer Attack – Additional (1994): Many individuals liked Psychocandy, however Flying Saucer Attack’s David Pearce and Rachel Brook heard it as a gauntlet thrown. The group was inaccurately pitched to me by a good friend as a “noise band,” but coming in with such expectations proved somewhat advantageous: if this is noise music, what lovely noise! The effect of hearing for the primary time David Pearce’s mild, delicate people songs buried beneath sheets of feedback is akin to listening between radio stations and making an attempt to extract coded messages from the static. Where other artists use reverb and echo to recommend distance, as if the sounds have been emanating from the corners of some giant cave or from the underside of a nicely, Flying Saucer Attack’s use of suggestions as an alternative asks you to think about their songs inside drops of sentimental, seaside drizzle. The place would you fairly be? / j toth

Stereolab – Dots and Loops (1997): Maybe the last really basic Stereolab LP (and virtually definitely the preferred), Dots and Loops is a funky footnote in Drag City’s history, as it was co-released with Elektra Data—however however, it’s labeled as DC140, so off we go. Like 1996’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup, this 1997 sequel was largely produced by Tortoise’s John McEntire, who deserves countless praise for someway getting all the fast-moving elements to sound utterly seamless. (Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner of Mouse on Mars also produced three tracks.) “Miss Modular” particularly is a marvel of up to date production and songwriting, grooving together with a jazzy acoustic guitar that sits gently alongside a feedback-firing organ, with … trumpets sounding in the distance? It must be chaos, however it’s paradise. / n rogers

Monotonix – Body Language (2008): Physique Language falls properly in need of capturing the really manic power that engulfed any Monotonix show in 2008, however that wasn’t the point. The Tel Aviv trio have been ferocious, however their Drag City debut was, at coronary heart, a heavy-blues report. That the band was defined by the anything-could-happen environment of their live shows (their full-length debut was entitled “Have been You There When It Occurred?” natch), Body Language is more Black Keys than Fucked Up, more Stooges than Sex Pistols. It’s ripping, absolutely, however the band grooves in a method that not-hearing-yourself-play can’t replicate. In some senses, these six songs hold up better than the sweat-stained reminiscences. / b kramer

Movietone – Day And Night time (1997): Suntanama, Chestnut Station, PG Six, 200 Years…the record of underrated artists on the Drag Metropolis roster is an extended one. That stated, Movietone could be probably the most criminally ignored of all. A type of Bristol supergroup led by Flying Saucer Attack’s Rachel Brook and featuring Matt Elliott of Third Eye Foundation alongside members of Crescent and Amp, Movietone is a sort of style unto itself, its music a narcotic slowcore suggesting an unlikely combination of Spirit of Eden-era Speak Speak, occult British people, and nocturnal chamber jazz. On Day And Night time, the group’s second and greatest album, Kate Wright’s drift-y, plaintive vocals sit atop pensive, luxuriant and deceptively complicated preparations that evoke within the listener a sort of nostalgia for events that have not occurred and locations no one has truly been. Style? Landscape. / j toth

Silver Jews – Shiny Flight (2001): David Berman has referred to Vibrant Flight, Silver Jews’ 2001 LP, as being the one the place he felt “most rawly exposed.” That feeling of being exposed may need to do with the truth that, after American Water served as Drag Metropolis’s “monetary shock of [1998],” the group’s fourth LP was a surprisingly anticipated follow-up launch—and it may need additionally needed to do with Berman being back within the studio without that earlier document’s secret weapon, Stephen Malkmus. However most of all, it in all probability needed to do with the fact that Brilliant Flight is the Joos document that the majority plainly captures Berman in the weak state of being in love: Several of the songs are about his future-wife Cassie, who performs bass and sings backing vocals on the album. In typical Berman fashion, Brilliant Flight can also be crammed with a heavy sense of existential dread (“Time Will Break the World” is perhaps the darkest track of his career—a future True Detective theme waiting to happen), but no quantity of cynicism can outweigh Berman’s more romantic tendencies: “Our minds can dream like soda machines,” he sings at one level, “And that’s precisely what we did.” / n rogers

Weird Struggle – “AK-47” (2004): I’m not going to fake that I understand every little thing Ian Svenonious has ever completed, nor am I going to take a seat here and decide apart his politics and explain the precise concepts at play in “AK-47,” a one-off DC single from the previous Nation of Ulysses leader’s group Weird Struggle, which was memorably included on the D.C. edition of Brendan Canty’s Burn to Shine. And you realize what? That’s the best way Svenonious likes it, too. “I don’t truly like rock ’n’ roll lyrics which might be political, because lyrics are virtually irrelevant in rock ’n’ roll,” he’s stated. “What lyrics are is just an incantation, a sort of spell.” The spell he weaves in “AK-47” is, indeed, hypnotic, set to a groove that stumbles ahead with an uncomfortable and inevitable momentum. Wah-wah guitars, scooting bass, falsetto vocals cooing the title: This is the funkiest track a few weapon since “Bop Gun,” and you may guess that the medium is the message. / m sartini garner

Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Matt Sweeney – Superwolf (2005): Will Oldham has had many collaborators through the years, however none so potent as his work with journeyman guitarist Matt Sweeney on 2005’s Superwolf. Jarring, dynamic, spacious and intense, the album is indeed a beast. Aesthetically gothic, the sacred and profane coalesce. Ever the habitué, the Bonnie “Prince” acts because the ordained Sky Pilot, wholly buttressed by the sustained howls of Sweeney’s electrified heathen alchemy. As an entire, Superwolf finds Oldham at his songwriting greatest: heavy interpersonal themes, stark material, darkish humor and foolish self-deprecation are all current and accounted for. For a further repair, cop the supernatural stay album the label subsequently launched, documenting what went down once the band took its freakshow on the street.

Ty Segall – Twins (2012): Ty Segall moves so shortly that it’s straightforward to overlook to cease and odor the roses of his discography. However when diving backward, from his days as a College of San Francisco grad slanging seven-inches to his newer position as LA hard-rock royalty, there’s much more to supply than simply amount. 2012’s Twins, his second LP on Drag Metropolis, stands as one in every of Segall’s absolute bests—a primo drip of his poppier and heavier tendencies directly, each a melodically sleek and sludge-covered relic of the SF storage scene simply earlier than it collapsed (RIP). It was appropriately hailed as a landmark in the “rock-isn’t-dead” argument on the time, but with a music like “There Is No Tomorrow” serving as the closer, it isn’t precisely a report for optimists, both. Segall followers stage-dove like no other at exhibits of this era for a purpose. / n rogers

Ghost – Hypnotic Underworld (2004): By the time Japan’s Ghost recorded Hypnotic Underworld, the band was painting on a really giant canvas. Their sound had room for exploratory krautrock, psychedelic people, freeform avant-garde, pastoral prog, Fillmore West-ready guitar heroics … and far more. What’s maybe most spectacular about Hypnotic Underworld is that despite its wide selection of types, it’s a completely cohesive effort, delivering the products with a laser-sharp focus. Like several basic double LP value its salt, the album definitely sprawls and stretches out — the whole thing kicks off with a 20+-minute music suite in any case. However it by no means gets misplaced in the woods. At this point in their profession, Ghost didn’t appear able to taking a false step, whether journeying into unusual misty zones or working up a head filled with steam on Who’s Next-worthy rockers. You’ll be able to’t go fallacious with any of their many Drag Metropolis releases (to not mention solo and aspect tasks), but Hypnotic Underworld stays Ghost’s crowning achievement. / t wilcox

Unfastened Fur – Born Once more In the USA (2006): Chatting with Pitchfork about Jim O’Rourke’s 1997 album Dangerous Timing, Jeff Tweedy stated, “There’s humor there…it exhibits that this type of music might be extra human than individuals painting it to be…The [experimental] world that he was coming from all the time felt a bit exclusionary to me…However this was the very first thing that I heard that made me assume that we were not that distant from each other when it comes to spirit.” Apart from their work collectively on Wilco’s Yankee Lodge Foxtrot, A Ghost Is Born, and Sky Blue Sky, Tweedy and O’Rourke teamed with drummer Glenn Kotche for 2 outings as Unfastened Fur. Their second, 2006’s Born Again within the USA, remains one of the warmest, funniest, and, pardon using the term, “loosest,” of either songwriter’s discography. From the mild prog-pop of “Wreckroom” and “Apostolic” to the rave ups of “Hey Hen” and the theologically skronky “Thou Shalt Wilt,” the lp demonstrates the shared spirit Tweedy acknowledged in O’Rourke—both delight in the sudden as much as they do time honored pop music and rock & roll traditions: “I feel this one shall be successful/Now that’s what I call holy writ.” / j woodbury

US Maple – Acre Thrills (2001): There is a point at which each real US Maple fan crosses a type of threshold; you will comprehend it if and if you arrive, as a result of it is the second at which you’ll have gone insane. The edge I seek advice from is the purpose at which these inscrutable puzzles of songs truly turn into catchy, and you find yourself randomly humming, whistling and even singing to your self their riffs and melodies. There are not any obvious melodic payoffs in the knotty, disjointed music of US Maple; it traffics in pressure, not launch. How then does such music—which steadily makes Trout Masks Duplicate sound like Delaney & Bonnie—manage to make such an impression? Put in the time and you’ll hear for yourself, although you could out of the blue end up with fewer buddies. To hell with them. Acre Thrills isn’t even the band’s weirdest album, but it’s their greatest. / j toth

Baby Dee – Protected Inside the Day (2008): Cleveland pianist, organist, and songwriter Child Dee can be nicely value your time if all she wrote have been the sort of artfully organized cabaret tunes that make up a lot of Protected Inside the Day. She sings with a rich, campy baritone, which she surrounds with groaning saxes and jaunty string preparations, and she or he drops her piano strains with a cackling precision; her notes fall like knives dropping from a ceiling. However what elevates Protected Inside the Day is its beautiful title monitor. Dee, a transgender lady and erstwhile music director for a Catholic church, sings joyfully of remaining dedicated to “a gift that’s greater than the box it got here in,” and of the security she feels being wrapped in that present. It’s a beatific and conflicted hymn within the tradition of Nick Cave’s “Darker With the Day” or The Mountain Goats’ “This Yr” — a paean to the heart beat on the heart of religion (whether it’s faith in God or in a hoped-for future) the keeps pulsing regardless of, you understand, every part. / m sartini garner

Gastr Del Sol – Upgrade & Afterlife (1996): Gastr Del Sol’s ultimate LP, 1998’s Camoufleur, might objectively be thought-about the group’s greatest album, the purest distillation of their imaginative and prescient. Nevertheless, as it lacks “Dry Bones In The Valley (I Saw The Mild Come Shining ‘Round and ‘Spherical),” it is going to all the time fee for me simply behind Improve & Afterlife. This rendition of John Fahey’s tune from his undeservedly forgotten 1975 album Previous Common Love earns the distinction of being the rare cowl that bests the unique. As a guitarist Jim O’Rourke possesses all of Fahey’s stamina but none of his pugnacity, and he brilliantly extracts from the piece an altogether totally different–but no less efficient—humanism; the late Tony Conrad’s spectral, keening violin, appearing halfway by means of the piece, solely serves to underline this. This is hypnotic, deeply felt music. The remainder of the album is nearly nearly as good: the duo’s trademark model of abstracted, math-y minimalism and fragmented pop is filled with surprises, with frequent eruptions of dense static and ghostly tape effects. David Grubbs’ evocative-but-elliptical lyrics and wealthy, subtly emotive vocals add the playful, mischievous facet of the band’s music that’s too typically taken as a right. / j toth

Rangda – False Flag (2010): The uncommon supergroup that lives as much as its pedigree, Rangda consists of Drag Metropolis mainstay Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, 200 Years, Comets On Hearth, and so on), Sir Richard Bishop (Solar City Women, occult bookseller) and Chris Corsano (too many tasks to mention). The trio is three albums deep now, however False Flag, their 2010 debut, stays Rangda’s defining mission statement. As Chasny and Bishop spar and soar over Corsano’s virtuosic (ceaselessly unbelievable) drum mayhem, the chemistry between every player is nearly tangible. There are moments of ecstatic/harrowing freedom, but in addition extra composed parts that exhibit the guitarists’ flair for uncommon six-string melodics. All of it comes collectively completely on the jam-for-the-ages “Plain of Jars,” a stunning 15-minute drift into interstellar areas. Area Prophets assemble! / t wilcox

Drinks – Hippo Lite (2018): Following a fully-formed debut, Hermits on Holiday, Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley’s Drinks introduced their kitchen-sink art rock to Drag Metropolis for final yr’s masterful, Hippo Lite. Merging the angular publish punk of Le Bon’s solo output and the baroque psychedelia on Presley’s White Fence with the duo’s personal fusion of their respective inventive visions, the document is a gold mine of sonic treasures, channeling in equal elements Syd Barrett, The Slits, ESG, atmospheric “Albatross” tones, and some Robert Wyatt / Smooth Machine vibes. Employing minimal and elliptical lyricism and with a vibrant and irreverent sonic palette, Drinks made a critical assertion with this latest report that they are neither to be slept on nor fucked with. Mysterious and menacing. / c depasquale

Bill Callahan – Typically I Want We Have been An Eagle (2009): The second album after shaking off his former Smog moniker, Typically I Wish We Have been An Eagle is of a bit with Callahan’s earthy earlier A River Ain’t Too Much To Love, and the first in a volley of a staggering trio of releases. Probably the most arranged album of his profession, songs begin inside the slender confines of Callahan’s fingerpicked nylon-stringed guitar earlier than breaking open into widescreen pastures filled with strings and horns. The pure inhabitants and setting of Callahan’s world are right here in spades, as is the darkness and questioning—the album’s last third is miles away from the nonsense poem “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” or the exultant “Rococo Zephyr.” After which there’s “Too Many Birds,” which may be Callahan’s best hour as a songwriter. In a shocking flip of phrase, its second half concurrently folds in upon itself while retreating just like the track’s black birds. Intimate and expansive, steadfast and looking—a strolling, singing contradiction. / okay evans

Bitchin Bajas – Bitchitronics (2013): Like a dream collab between Fripp & Eno circa No Pussyfooting and peak period Alice Coltrane, Bitchin Bajas’ Bitchitronics long player is a stupendous set of religious solarized bliss. The Coltrane connection is made specific by track titles similar to “Transcendence” and “Turiya” (the latter being the identify Alice glided by in her later days), and there’s plenty of that unmistakable Frippertronics guitar sound right here. Influences apart, this can be a purely beautiful album from the Chicago collective. Every Bitchin Bajas’ launch (on Drag City or elsewhere) is value immersing your self in, however this one is perhaps their most purely bitchin’. / t wilcox

David Berman – Actual Air (1999/2003): How do you improve upon one of the biggest debuts in literary history? You make it moveable. David Berman’s 1999 debut poetry collection Actual Air was out of print in 2003 when Drag City Books brought out its repress. The smaller, hardcover version neatly matches into a back pocket, where it’d belong. Berman’s poetry calls for fixed re-reading and its plainness of language calls upon the reader to permit its medicated-meditations to be inhabited and mused upon incessantly. Put merely, Actual Air is electrifying. Berman transposes the out-of-body-introspection of his lyrics with Silver Jews, but is totally liberated by foregoing the buildings of songwriting. Slices of American life, forgotten, in the shadows, and on the information of our collective tongues, cross via Actual Air just like the scenes in “World: Collection,” an early highlight within the collections first part. 2019 sees a new re-pressing. It’s nonetheless recent and invigorating twenty years on. / b kramer

Woo – It’s Cosy Inside (1989/2012): The enchanting second album from British brothers Clive (electronics, percussion, violin) and Mark Ives (guitars, clarinet, bass, voices) was initially released by Unbiased Challenge Data in 1989 and reissued by Drag City/Yoga Data in 2012. Recording collectively because the ’70s, the brothers Ives have developed and honed a sound wholly their very own, combining acoustic instrumentation and studio experimentation in a means that belies time, tendencies, and categorization. It’s Cosy Inside stays both their high-water mark and a perfect start line for newcomers—17 impressionistic sketches of pastoral psychedelia that effortlessly oscillate between jazz, new age, people, and pop. Unhurried, flowing and deeply affecting (yet playful) explorations of the interior cosmos. Absolute serenity. / okay evans

Bonny Billy and the Picket Line – Funtown Comedown (2010): How do you like your Bonnie Prince Billy? I choose mine upbeat to the point of slight mania, a bit of acid-fried however still holy, enjoying barefoot close to the gates of a Christian bluegrass pageant they’ve simply been kicked out of. In the event you’re the same approach, this 2010 stay album supposedly recorded in a spot referred to as “Funtown” is for you. Will Oldham has by no means been shy about reimagining his again catalog, and right here he runs every little thing from “Ohio River Boat Track” to “Wolf Among Wolves” (complete with howling) by means of a small string band who play like they’re making an attempt to set a sweaty clapboard shack on hearth. They rip by way of Ralph Stanley’s “Hemlocks and Primroses,” and Oldham will get a chirpy little yodel in his voice in Merle Haggard’s “Rambling Fever,” but one of the best stuff here is taken from 2008’s Lie Down in the Mild, whose “Straightforward Does It” and “You Need That Image” have been made for the sorts of group shouts and small-room drama to which the setting lends itself. / m sartini garner

These Trails – These Trails (1973/2011): Reissued from its 70s personal press origins, this wondrous report has since proven timeless. A lush tapestry of native Hawaiian people and kaleidoscopic, synthesizer-laden ambience, These Trails blends sincere island homage with ’70s psychedelia. Margaret Morgan’s cool, dreamy vocals — typically playful, typically brooding — carry the album’s mild meditations on nature and existence. On “Backyard Botanium,” a synthesizer cascades and shimmers tranquilly alongside an acoustic guitar. Morgan wanders dreamily in a world the place “spiders converse spindled poetry, day lilies yawn, and a sunflower bows her head.” The observations read microscopic, but they resonate cosmic. / c depasquale

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