Perfect Sound Forever


Part 10 by Angela Sawyer
(August 2017)

"Weirdo was a record shop that I started in my bedroom in 2006. It moved into a storefront for a while in Cambridge Mass., and closed after I got tired of never ever sleeping. While it was around, I wrote reviews of every new title that I sold, and by the end there were more than eighteen thousand reviews. There's only so many times you can call a guitar tone 'crunchy’ or say something disparaging about a singer's hair. So I repeated things, a lot. When compiling this best of, I looked for records that stuck with me, and also for reviews where I thought the writing stood out."

Here we present part 1 of Weirdo selections from compilations. Everybody likes to pretend that they know everything already, but to find out about old records, you do have to get advice. And I say old records specifically, because the bands aren't playing anywhere. There's no publicists, no Bandcamp's, etc.. Some people read magazines to get their scoops. Some just hang out in stores endlessly. And some, especially those who like single-song formats like 45's or 78's, listen to compilations. There are a shitbucket full of famous comps. Some are part of a series: Pebbles, Back From The Grave, Girls In the Garage, Killed By Death, Dream Babes, Ethiopiques, Rubble, Las Vegas Grind, Secret Museum of Mankind, etc. And there are whole labels like Ace, Numero, Kent, Mississippi, etc. that specialize in them. And then there's the ones that changed how people thought about music itself, like NY Eye & Ear Control, Harry Smith's Anthology or No New York. It goes on FOREVER. This is just a note to let you know that, as it happens, these comps are not any of those. But they are great.

Various 100 Moons LP
If you're planning to be more than just a hippie tourist, then never mind Ravi or even the sitar. The raga system is glued together by voices, ones that ruffle & crest through the placeholders of the just intonation scale like Julie Andrews flinging her apron around the Himalayas. Ian Nagoski collects 78's from the first half of the 20th century with his characteristic eye on emotional overload. There are a ton of personalities here- Faiyaz Khan with his robust gargles, Nissar Hussain Khan who quavers like a jello mold in an earthquake, the daughter of Abdul Karim Khan & more. The record skips across schools & substyles, but each singer faced difficulties as the courts by which musicians made their livelihood disintegrated. Each also spent most of their lives in quest of a tone so precise that your ear can split it in two. There's the fine edge that sharkfins past the background musicians, but also a pitched underbubble, that sticks as a dewdrop would to the edge of a leaf.

Various A Orillas Del Magdalena LP
Radiant cumbias from Colombia in the '50's & '60's. Soft accordions with snaking melodies, an inistent rhythm said to sound like the bouncing shackles on the ankles of slaves, and also horns, chants and tons of unusual percussion accents. If you travel to Colombia today, this would be the equivalent of listening to "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" (that is to say, trashy parent music), but with such a slinky sound, you can easily hear why it spread hastily through the rest of Latin America. Compiled by the fine New Orleans store Domino Sound Record Shack.

Various Afro Beat Airways 2 LP
Follow Samy Ben Redjeb's adventures collecting records in Africa as he misses flights, enjoys the hospitality of one-time producers, rescues boxes of master tapes from back porches, and gets high while listening to blazing organ licks & palm wine guitar lines. Obscure army bands, Otis Redding fanatics, label hustlers who snagged contracts from large European labels, every stripe of undulating funk from Accra & even neighboring port Lome in Togo.

Various An Apple A Day CD
The Beatles' tax shelter scheme Apple records had a publishing arm which resulted in loads of unreleased recordings. And many of those collected here are featherweight bits of misty whimsy that make Sir Paul seem like the leather-clad rocker he once was at Hamburg's Star Club. Effervescent psych & soft pop by pre-Badfinger, side projects of Grapefruit, staff songwriters Gallagher & Lyle, demos worked up for Mary Hopkin & more.

Various Arktinen Hysteria CD
Avant garde madness hits Helsinki. Really, the only thing you need to know about this excellent disc is that it has a song made out of burps on it. And if that's not enough to convince you, you should really be shopping someplace else anyhow. But so as not to give short shrift to the rest of the tracks, there's also: mechanical orchestras made out of oscillators & photo-resistors, chicken squawking over piano, plunderphonics, retarded Cream ripoffs, early electronic studio mishaps, nests of commie free jazzers, performance pranksters who like nudity & coffins, dada protests of Finnish presidents or Spiro Agnew, much more. Notes in both English & Finnish, and they basically tell you that Erkki Kurenniemi & Pekka Airaksinen were the hometown champs.

Various Bachata Roja CD
Dazzling & skittering acoustic guitar diamonds that were party songs in the cardboard box shantytowns created during the 12 year Balaguer presidency in Santo Domingo. Instruments made from fence parts, played in bars so crappy that the patrons all shared the same glass. My favorite track is a merengue by Augustus Santos about being careful while you're drunk and leaving the club so that you don't trip over the whores on the front steps.

Various Back to Peru 2 LP
Peruvian psych & freakbeat! Imagine the carnival when you mix Incan temples, McCartney worship, cocaine fields, masked wrestling, and dubbed Annette Funicello movies. An excellent introduction to the scene at large that will make you want for tons of rare albums. From raging teens like Los Saicos to shiny Beatlepop from the St Thomas Pepper Smelter to the smouldering fuzz of Traffic Sound & even some chicha from Los Mirlos.

Various Banned in Czechoslovakia LP
To play music in public in Iron Curtain Prague, you had to submit what you did to a board & get a license. Anyone who bucked the system had to build their own equipment, jerry rig recording themselves on hand-copied cassettes & if they were good enough to get people to come see them play in a kitchen, risk being arrested and/or deported. If they could've, these bands probably would have been playing some sort of awful Zappa-Steely Dan-Coltrane hybrid. Instead their clawed guitars are so cruddy, their elation so bitter, that the result couldn't be more scratched-up & nasty. Also, turns out the Czech government was right: arrests of these same musicians is what inspired the writing of the Charta 77 that eventually broke open protests in the late '80's (though everybody here was still recording on shitty boomboxes). The Plastic People & related splinter bands DG 307 & Pulnoc all appear.

Various Beat at Cinecitta Vol. 3 CD
Slip into the cool pool of Italian film composers with this set that introduces you to the bewitching Armando Trovajoli. Whether it's bouncy sex comedies or equally bouncy fantasies about Satan showing up to your door with a cape & a machine gun. Only amid the great musical wealth of Italy would Trovajoli be considered a minor figure. He scored over 300 movies, wrote a slew of musicals & was also in charge his own orchestra running back to the early 1950's. Some tidbits from his colleagues too, like Piccioni or Berto Pisano.

Various Beatlemaniacs CD
Nothing I love better than seeing the Beatles skewered like a shish-kabob. Whether it's blatant ripoffs, songs about cultural waste products, satire, or plain old opportunism, the world of Beatles novelties offers a window into the human heart that you'll get nowhere else. One of the major jawdroppers of this genre is included here; Dick Lord's "Ringo." Oh YouTube, where oh where is the student film/porn video to go with this song? Most of these were made before Beatlelore was entirely set in stone, and the liners make sure you understand every wrinkle of the fad that allowed people to write lyrics this twisted.

Various Bippp LP
Some people prefer to call it 'icy minimal electro-pop.' But I'm a bit on the old side, so I prefer the original (non-PC) moniker used back in the early '80's: 'faggy new wave.' Whatever you like to call it, it's from France & features plenty of affectedly disaffected chirping about polaroids & video games over quirky casio keyboards & tiny, tinny drums with lots of trebly echo.

Various The Black Mirror CD
See your humanity reflected in wails of grief & prayer from long lost lands. Blessed with an ear that could charm the sand into leaving Arabia, Ian Nagoski digs up bejeweled 78's from around the globe that have never been on CD or LP . And did you know that the shellac which coats 78's comes out of the butts of beetles found in Southeast Asia? Hopped up Polish fiddlers, swaying & aching odes to Serbian nationalism, early hits of Bollywood, rembetika hash house stars, and the early tourist attractions found along lush archipelagos.

Various Bollywood Bloodbath 2 LP
Bollywood doesn't have a horror genre so much as it sweeps elements of every style into it's colossal tornado and spits out a few wild, kook-packed thrillers as it spins. Nonetheless, here are the ghost stories, the spiderwebs of intrigue borrowed from Italian giallos, the chilling keyboard drum machines used to keep from having to pay off a roomful of studio musicians. Monster growls, Abbaesque disco nightclubs, stabs of arp synths in totally inappropriate places. Great composers like Burman & Bappi are well represented, but obscure B-level experiments are also given plenty of room- even heavy collectors will find plenty they don't own. The swirling, speedy electric drums (that nonetheless always imitate the tabla) never sit still for a second, and songs happily veer from cheery to tense to WTF and back again within half a phrase. A real rollercoaster, but definitely worth the extra effort to digest it.

Various Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas 2 LP
Not just another round of Gal & Caetano cuts, but deeply crippling fuzz and catawamptious echo effects from super-obscure Brazilian '60's bands. Compiled by Joel Oliviera who runs the NYC store Tropicalia in Furs, is originally from Sao Paulo & has been making trips back & forth to Brazil looking for singles. In Brazil as everywhere, bands that weren't big enough to make a full LP tried to get a deal or radio attention by pressing just a single instead. And so the freakiest, trendiest, zero-info cuts are found there. Rocket ship trips with Batman, surf bands trying to keep up with Hendrix, there's even a possible pair of star-crossed lovers. Comes with a pair of 3D glasses, likely because these songs will make your eyes stop working properly.

Various Chicas 2 LP
Sassy Spanish yeye brimming with cutsey hair flips, twist tunes, tamborines & even a couple of grinding R&B gals who can outsex Lulu/Tom Jones. Under Franco's Spain it would have been illegal for a woman to have a separate bank account, testify in court, get a divorce, etc.. And yet here are the girls in miniskirts (or even more salaciously, playboy spreads), getting away with whatever they want. They demand that their boys be bad boys, jump around to fuzz bass & tease cute hippies just like they do everywhere. Alfonso Santisteban's wife makes an appearance (he's sort of the Spanish Sergio Mendes), and there's a pre-prog cut from the ladies of Vainica Doble. Covers of everybody from Three Dog Night to Dalida to the Stones to the Four Tops.

Various Chinese Rocks LP
Technicolor pop tunes, flamin' fuzz breaks & completely wacky covers from the way out world of SE Asian '60's singles. So many mysteries! Just how many backasswards Stones songs can the Stylers cram into a single medley? Where did 4 Biol get those horrid wigs? Did Midnight Express always play chicken with taxidermied birds on their off days? Well chosen, and it doesn't cost forty-seven dollars either.

Various Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up 2 LP
Late '60's to mid-'70's recordings from Belize (it's under Mexico & next to Guatemala, for you Americanos). Reggae, gospel, calypso, southern soul, and Miami proto-funk all mixed up together. Great covers of the O'Jays "Backstabbers" and the theme from The Godfather that nobody should be without.

Various Cumbia Beat Vol. 1 2 LP
In 1965, cumbia was such a popular style (among the wild proliferation of rhythms that had been imported from Cuba in the wake of the mambo) that it began to be claimed & refashioned by the populations of migrant Amerindians, living in the shantytowns outside Lima. While waiting for work that wasn't coming, they tossed in a bit of the psychedelic rock that they heard on the radio wafting over from the States, and named it after the local corn brew: Chicha. The first hit of the genre was even dedicated to a local liquor store. Staggering & demented electric guitar instrumentals (Los Destellos were the first to plug in) soon ushered in a rising tide of matching paisley shirts, girls in bathing suits lying on cars and grass roots populism. Besides all that wah, there's plenty of complex hand percussion & quite a lot of cackling interjections from band members. This is music so thick with hash haze that there ought to be cartoon stink lines coming off of it.

Various Dirty French Psychedelics CD
Decadent, humid, drugged to the gills psychedelia from France. Electric flutes rubbing shoulders with overdub choirs & acoustic guitars, brains mottled by downers swallowed at discotheques, zapping keyboards, faux africanism, sound effects. Mostly made by studio fools trying to out-hip, out-sex, out-smoke & out-intellectualize each other. My fave's Nino Ferrer's ode to cruising rainy Paris streets looking for nymphettes, "Looking for You."

Various Don't Trust Your Neighbors LP
A huge chunk of the '78's that have been reissued on CD in the last several years have been transferred/mastered by one guy, Christopher King. He's responsible for the sound of the Charley Patton box, collections on Tompkins Square and Old Hat, reissues by the Stanley Brothers, Charlie Poole, Amede Ardoin, etc.. Now, King takes on the gurgling, knotted, decidedly un-metric music of 1930s Albania. Unearthly harmonized vocal drones, taksims that seem to have gotten tangled on mountain rocks & rivers, and Greek-influenced clarinet songs that push the limits of the instrument to the breaking point. There's Robert Crumb album art too.

Various Fading Yellow Vol. 1 2 LP
1st volume of this series that has claimed the twinkling tiara of UK melancholy pop collecting for over 10 years. Intensely catchy songs soaring with disconsolate melodies, endlessly embellished vocal harmonies, intricate arrangements, & ornate lyrics about cozy, cloistered, insecure Englishness. The real secret to Fading Yellow's eminence is the ear of its gentleman Swedish compiler. The artists here are sometimes better known for their beat singles or for their releases in another country, but every cut is an earworm that will plaster itself along the inside of your head.

Various Give Me Love Songs of the Brokenhearted Baghdad 2 LP
More amazing 78's dug out of the EMI archive, this time documenting the rich, fluid, urban kaleidescope of '20's Baghdad. Arabic folk singers, professional Jewish oud players, dabka dance songs, Kurdish violinists, double reed zurna players & forbidden women singers all rub shoulders like calligraphy curlicues in book margins. Effervescent frission and haunting calls to God just explode from the grooves. Incredible notes that include translations of lyrics, analysis of styles & a story from of the city once bedecked by coffeeshops & victrolas by a man who knew most of the musicians on the recordings when he was a boy.

Various God Less America LP
Brilliant set of down & out country songs that take the down & out just a little too far. Nominally country music, these are tales of drunkards, strippers, inbreeding & other low class losers that're just too real to be anything but, well, real. Troy Hess, in particular, delivers a vocal with the power to repel hearing humans instantly, and when you realize he's also singing about his mom's knockers, well...

See Angela's other entries of Weirdo assortments, including letters A to C and letters D to F and letters G to I and letters J to L and letters M to O and letters P to R and letter S and letter T to V and letter W to Z and compilations part 2

Also see Angela Sawyer's album on Feeding Tube records

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