taj mahal travellers - august, 1974

this album still remains the apex of drone for me, the point where the wave crested and promptly dissipated. taj mahal travellers existed from 1969 till sometime in the mid 70's, produced very few recordings (only two proper albums, the best being this one right here) and extensively toured the farthest reaches of the globe from their home in japan. managing to almost never play in any kind of conventional venue space, the travellers opted for playing in open outdoor settings; anywhere from beaches in the surf at dusk to grassy country hillsides to even yes, in front of the taj mahal.

this guy put into words a far better summary than the one i wrote about this record three years ago just for kicks, so i'll let him embellish on the travellers instead:

"Takehisa Kosugi is a hippie become avantgarde composer. Born in Tokyo in 1938, and graduated in 1962 at the Tokyo University of Arts, Kosugi founded the Japanese equivalent of the Fluxus movement, called "Group Ongaku", a group devoted to improvisation and multi-media performances. In 1969 he formed the Taj Mahal Travellers, a psychedelic-rock group that played lengthy improvised jams that can be summarized in three principles: a Far-eastern approach to music as a living organism, an intense electronic processing of instruments and voices, a semi-mathematical overlapping of frequencies. Basically: LaMonte Young on acid. Kosugi mainly played violin. He was on the road with this group between 1971 and 1972, traveling in a Volkswagen minibus from Holland to the Taj Mahal itself. Two albums were made out of that experience: Taj-Mahal Travellers (Sony, 1972), also known as July 15 1972 (reissued in 2002 by Drone Syndicate) and performed by a seven-unit line-up, and Taj Mahal Travellers (Denon, 1983), also known as August 1974 (reissued in 1998 by P-Vine), four tracks over two LPs performed by eight players, plus one side (two tracks) of the legendary double-LP bootleg Live At Oz (Oz, 1973 - OZ Days, 2001), which also includes live performances by obscure Japanese musicians Acid Seven, Minami Masato and Hadaka no Rallizes. Thirty years later the Live Stockholm July 1971 (Drone Syndicate, 2001), a two-hour long jam, also resurfaced from the vault.

The four sides of August 1974, each about 20-minute long (the length that fit on an LP side), present the Travellers at their most sophisticated. The first jam is a concert of cosmic hisses that ebb and flow, distortions that scour the abysses of the psyche, sinister wailing and rattling that create a metaphysical suspense. At first, it straddles the line between Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine and Klaus Schulze's Irrlicht, but then it becomes more and more abstract, recalling Sun Ra's extraterrestrial jazz-rock. Percussions are used sparingly. Violin, harmonica, bass, tuba, trumpet, synthesizer, mandolin duet in a subliminal and obscure manner. There is no melody, there is no logic. Just "voices", both subhuman and supernatural, that resonate with a universal inner voice. The second jam is a cacophonous gathering of timbres and gamelan-like tinkling, over which Tibetan chanting and droning intone a demented psalm. Halfway into the piece, the band seems to lose interest in playing, so the rest of the track is a rarified wind of tenuous sounds. The third track continues this silent journey into the unknown, with odd percussive patterns and random dissonance. As the chaos increases and exuberant voices join in, the bacchanal turns into a surreal pow-wow dance.

The last jam continues the program of eerie noises and unlikely counterpoint in an atmosphere that is both dreamy and austere. We are transported to a floating zen garden, traveling on a flying saucer. A wavering harp-like melody invites to meditation, and, for a while, the spiritual mood prevails. Then the percussions break the spell, introducing the usual element of indeterminacy and heresy, and the trip ends, one more time, in the resonating depths of distant galaxies.

Kosugi later became a classical composer, in particular composing scores for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and presenting sound installations at a number of international art festivals. His early solo works, Improvisation (Iskra, 1975), Catch-Wave (Sony, 1975 - Showboat, 2002 - World Psychedelia, 2008) for electronically-processed violin, both considered among his masterpieces (and not too different from Tangerine Dream's contemporary works), and Distant Voices (Columbia, 1976), were in the vein of the jazz improvisations of the time (Anthony Braxton, Derek Bailey, etc)."

track II is the definite jammer of this record, though it does kind of putter out towards the end. kicking off with heavily processed layers of brass drone and off-kilter thudding percussion, it quickly sets off deep into the cosmos, drenching everything in its path with waves of glassy, dreamy mandolin. tape delayed chants and haunted throat-sung moans weave in and out of the dense sonic tapestry, all of it filtered through a psychedelic gamelan haze. this is definitely music of an eastern thought and practice, furthered only through its heavy electronic processing. fans of Jodorowsky film scores, current drone outfits like the skaters, double leopards and vibracathedral orchestra, or even the more abstract moments of animal collective before they turned into pitchfork brainmush will get an earful's worth from this one.


and to make it a real mega-post, HERE is the entirety of the rare taj mahal travellers "ON TOUR" documentary, which is really a masterpiece on its own despite the fact that it desperately needs subtitles (thanks UBU).



after listening to the mississippi records "love is love" and "lipa kodi ya city council" comps a lot lately, i became intrigued by this character S.E. Rogie. singing in english amidst a comp of all african vocals, he already stands out a bit, but listening further solidifies his status near the top of the best from these records. jangling in on a gliding wave of tinny tropical guitar, his in all manners jolly voice and infectious rhythm immediately set your foot tapping along and your hand fetching a refreshing adult beverage. i think if i was a lady in his time this guy's heyday i would have the fattest teenybopper crush on him; i bet he got all kinds of attention from the females. my friend kris claims that the african palm wine is actually quite atrocious tasting, but i would sit down in the shade, sip some palm potables, and fan off with this record on any sunny day. music for seriously chillin', rollin' spliff after spliff of dirt weed and sippin' all your cares away. summer's already here in my room!

from wikipedia:
"S. E. Rogie (born Sooliman Rogers) was a highlife and palm wine guitarist and singer from Sierra Leone. He was born in the 1940s and began performing early, while supporting himself as a tailor. In the 1960s, he became a professional musician, singing in four languages. His hits include "Koneh Pehlawo", "Go Easy with Me" and "My Lovely Elizabeth". He formed a band called The Morningstars in 1965, then travelled in Liberia and the United States. In the US, he performed at elementary and high schools across California, and received awards from the US Congress and Senate, the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, California.
He moved to England in 1988. He died in 1994 shortly after recording his last album, Dead Men Don't Smoke Marijuana."

YES, HIS LAST ALBUM IS CALLED DEAD MEN DON'T SMOKE MARIJUANA. i can't imagine how well that would go over at an elementary school. maybe here in oakland though?

here's a collection of classic tracks of Rogie's from the 60's, entitled "PALM WINE GUITAR MUSIC: THE 60'S SOUND". be prepared to be totally chilled out.




in disgust played the speed trials last weekend at the gilman and pulled some amazing surprise shenanigans and came out with a 4th member on guitar to do a complete set of WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? covers. and by complete i mean a set split in half by a fight with some macho security wiener where almost every member of ID got a few good pounds in. what else are you going to do when you're already one of the bay area's best grind bands and almost everyone is there to see you rip it up? these guys are fun as fuck, and this, their debut 10" "REALITY CHOKE" is seriously seriously good. powerviolence-influenced, lead-heavy grind the way it should be. SAAAAN JOOOOOSE!

and buy this 10" (2nd pressing) HERE

and here's the video of the whole WHN? set at gilman, fight and all (seriously, fuck that security dude):



i've been on a major black metal binge lately, and of the filthy merchants of blackened evil i've managed to drudge up to satisfy my thirst, ARKHA SVA stands out above the rest. like any truly excellent black metal, little information is available about these freaks, but some gracious soul over at last.fm added this bio:

"Arkha Sva was formed in 1996. Their contact address is in France, but the band members are from Japan. Aside from their country of origin, not much concrete information exists about the band members. They are rumored to have some affiliation with the Les L├ęgions Noires, and they are considered as LLN successors by some. Vordb of Belketre created the Arkha Sva logo used on the cover of Gloria Satanae in classic LLN style and provided the intro track to their Rekonquista demo. They employ a mix of high-pitched falsetto shrieking and aggressive growls, and they are known to use chanted interludes in their music."

par for the course, this record is fucking MENACING (like pretty much everything in their catalog i've heard so far). vocals alternate between deep CORRUPTED-like gutteral growls to demonic and possessed shrieks, to operatic, MAIDEN-esque piercing highs. interludes are borderline silly and disgusting ghoul chants over dark ambient soundscapes, quickly creeping in and out of the mix before another track of blistering and icy bombast. the riffage on the opening of "down in blaze and pain" is so perfect and actually fresh sounding. "thy baptism" is another perfect example of the supremely hateful darkness these creeps can churn out, with unrelenting blasts and walls of razor-thin reverbed guitars building up till it all bottoms out in a haze of ghostly riffs and quavering upper register howls, only to return to their signature pummeling force. a new classic has arrived on a dark horse, ready to take your soul and burn the remains.




ash pool is the black metal duo comprised of dominic fernow (Prurient, Hospital Productions) and kris kapke (Alberich, Northern Cross). like favorites BONE AWL, the duo blasts out raw and disgusting primitive black metal, with lots of balance between neck-breaking speed and lurking mid-tempo howl, with even some grind-ish elements for good measure. i honestly grew pretty bored with prurient's non-stop offering of high-end squelch noise a while ago, so i was a bit reluctant to check this band out. but while the subject matter is always a bit questionable with his work (rape and perversion, mostly), its not really too far off for the black metal crowd and finds a pretty good home here in this album. surprisingly well-if-not-still-minimally produced, too. dark music for dark times.


you can also grip their new limited 7" on hospital productions along with other releases HERE




since i mentioned negative approach in the last post, i decided since it had been a while to revisit their discography cd, TOTAL RECALL. these pioneering fiends from michigan embody the early hardcore spirit so well, its no small wonder so many bands after them cite them as an influence. collecting their entire works from 1981-1983, TOTAL RECALL is a fierce burning fireball of raw energy, with pummeling fast drums, razor sharp guitar riffage and gravel-spitting vocals. just as crucial of a document in early hardcore history as any classic black flag or bad brains.


AND, heres a killer NA tribute 7" from the 90's featuring some classic powerviolence/crust bands covering NA songs.

featuring man is the bastard, spazz, dropdead, rupture, voorhees, chokehold, union of uranus and kops for christ.




violent ramp was a flash in the pan 80's style hardcore band from michigan, comprised of members of noise crushers wolf eyes. this, their debut 7", is about as raw as it gets. barely there drums, mega lo-fi buzzed out guitars and mean as fuck vocals. rumor has it this was recorded on a halfpipe. equal parts negative approach and bill danforth worship. grab your board and FUCKING SHRED.



the only thing "heavy" about this is the brutally heavy onslaught to your brain's sense of decency it is. trust me, if you've never heard of longmont potion castle aka LPC, you are simply not prepared for this level of mind-fuckery.

most people's ideas of what prank phone calls sound like are probably pretty skewed by insolent garbage like the jerky boys or crank yankers. if those two examples are the only thing that come to mind aside from maybe pulling a couple yourself, than its time to pony up and completely abandon any ideas you had, as this is about to decimate them and render them totally null and void.

started sometime in the late eighties by an anonymous genius somewhere in longmont, colorado (a suburb of denver), the castle has gurgled forth a massive collection of mind-melting phone fun that spans over many cd's, tapes, 7"s and even a 7 cd box set with a dvd (and a fridge magnet). most calls are made to local businesses, usually requesting hilarious unknowns like "aqua lamb" or "eel bowl" or "leprechaun julius". some calls are weirded out even further by tape loops, delays, ear-splitting feedback and barely audible samples. all calls are solid gold. almost all releases also feature a "metal interlude" or two as well.

this was the first LPC release i heard and it has forever shaped and molded my sense of humor into something more...fucked up.



as a totally godless person, i find my fascination with gospel music a little peculiar. for months now i've been fixated all manners of old time gospel recordings, digging deep on these archival comps of forgotten sounds. in the same way that you can look at a beautiful gothic church and marvel at the achievement made by its designer, these recordings triumph in the craft of song writing. even though both are made with religion as the driving force behind them, most anyone religious or not can take in the beauty of the end result. and just as any kind of music is informed by the artist's passions in life, the result of these songwriter's faith combined with the barest essentials of american music's tools present such astonishingly honest music, completely stripped and with nowhere to hide, that i can't help but listen and be moved by their sincerity.

standing apart from most of everything i've heard in the genre, though, is washington phillips. performing solo, self-accompanied on a bizarre, little known zither-like tiny piano instrument called a dolceola, phillips' sound is so lush and distinct that it immediately caught my interest. the gorgeous sound of the dolceola combined with phillips' earnest sermons is completely sublime sound. recorded between 1927 and 1929, "I AM BORN TO PREACH THE GOSPEL" collects all of phillips' recorded output. it may sound too stark or subdued upon first listen, but give it a few listens and i'm sure it will grow on you.