Perfect Sound Forever


Part 6 by Angela Sawyer
(December 2016)

"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 Weirdo selections from letter P to R.

Piotr Figiel Organy Hammonda LP
Polish Hammond funk jazz that sparkles with heavy beats & decadent easy listening fizz. One of those records you can DJ anywhere, no matter what kind of people are listening, and guaranteed someone will drop enough jaw to check their fillings when they ask you what it is & you get to look real serious and say 'Polish jazz, dude.'

Plastic Cloud Plastic Cloud LP
Probably the best band from Canada ever & a real perennial that you need to have around at all times. Basically, the band's in the Electric Prunes mold, but sporting priceless fuzz solos that brap around all over the place- right through verses, choruses, etc.. All original songs & perfectly written slightly surreal, Beatle-cheek lyrics about war machines, smoking cows, fuddy old men. Those dark & velvet soft harmony vocals are really killer too. My in-shower singalong hit list always has "Art's a Happy Man" in the top ten.

Plastic People of the Universe Magical Nights 3 LP
Pissed off Prague prog (go on, say it fast 5 times) with a bit of Fugs freedom by some unwashed guys with violas, saxes, & a stuttering, dead rigid rock rhythm section. At first, their lyrics were written by poet Egon Bondy & therefore were translated into English by Canadian front man Paul Wilson. Various members were arrested, deported, or forced to emigrate to Austria for the obvious crimes of associating with hippies, inciting freakouts, putting cow pictures on record covers, etc.. But the real story here is the dark funkiness of their best songs, and those weird theremin-like noises they got in their middle years from being forced to build their own equipment in people's kitchens. A good overview that leaves off the dregs & gives you the best.

Pretty Things Parachute LP
Even better than the lauded-to-the-skies SF Sorrow. Bewitching production techniques make every vocal harmony zing, every blast of guitar crackle with presence (you can thank Beatles engineer Norman Smith for the job well done). Seamless moves between 'White Album' ballads, heavy fuzz & wah cuts, gorgeous Kinks knock offs that somehow also neatly prefigure Wings. At this point, the already impressive Pretties can pretty much solve world poverty & put a man on the moon. Nuff said.

Primitive Calculators Primitive Calculators CD
Raw & lonesome kids stumble along a DIY path in upside down Australia. As self-deprecating as the Young Marble Giants, but since nobody's looking, they feel free to jump up & down and flail about once in a while. Their cover of "Beat Goes On" is more sloppily charming than a kid that accidentally swears in the school Christmas play.

Psychic TV Dreams Less Sweet LP
Love this record to death. PTV's 2nd album is far, far from the goth-vaudeville dance nonsense that they'd eventually end up at. Instead, it's a carefully crafted downer take on the common ground between the Beach Boys & Martin Denny. Hammond organ glues together synthesizer plop, an oboe player, a Charles Manson cover, perfect pop melodies, Tibetan bowls, a real countertenor, marimba, tuba, barking German shepherds, and Genesis P-Orridge's creepy half-poems. Recorded with seriously mind-boggling 'Holophonic' technology that means no microphones were used at all. Instead the instruments were hauled into a room that was basically a microphone all by itself & could therefore re-create a 3-dimensional location effect in the recording. Monte Cazazza, Peter Christopherson & David Tibet all help out.

Pussy Galore Oven Bait CD
To this day I still think the best Pussy Galore song is You Look Like a Jew (it's on Corpse Love), which probably doesn't make me a typical fan. But if there's anything else in their catalog as fucked up and full of dangerous hurtling grenades, then it's this one right here. A complete early practice session with zero editing of chatter & mis-takes but put through a shitload of reverb. Tom Smith (TLSILA, Peach of Immortality) played metal/percussion in the band at the time of the rehearsal & issued it in the mid-'80's on cassette under the supposed aegis of some kind of resentful 'see how bad they really are now that I'm kicked out' sneer. Not likely, as Spencer's hilariously tiny tyrant tantrums of 'No, then you go doo-doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo-doo-doo' really only add to the proceedings. Monstrously heavy, brutal, fist-pumping mess. With Julie Cafritz, Jon Spencer, Dave Hair, Peter Hayes, John Hamil, Tom Smith.

Performing Ferrets No One Told Us CD
Kent/Manchester band of DIY nerds who find an interesting middle ground between the Fall, Gang of Four, & the TVPs. Low key un-pop songs led by bass, melodica, recorder & badly tuned mandolin. They released a couple of cassettes, a 45, & an LP, all of which were championed by John Peel. The dry-as-dust naval lint contemplation in the vocal delivery here wouldn't be equaled again until somebody gave a mike to Darren Harris from the Shadow Ring.

Piero Piccioni Camille 2000 2 LP
These boobs are made for walkin', alright. Soundtrack to the smashing late '60's cheese porn flick from director Radley Metzger, whose movies from this period are basically all Valley of the Dolls with shitloads more nudity. Bossa & lounge that accompany endless plastic bubble couches & clear cube lamps. Some funk crops up for the cute S&M/jailhouse rock sex scenes, and then you can float right back for some fluffy organ & go go boots.

Ben Patterson Early Works CD
A major Alga Margen release, and a definite candidate for my favorite Fluxus piece of all time is right here. It's Ben Patterson's "A Simple Opera." A brilliantly reflexive speech, spoken in Ben's own throaty monotone is broken up by a series of repeated frog toy squeaks. Each run through adds one squeak to the series, and before long you can't decide which is the most annoying: Ben's voice, his slightly daffy commentary or that goddamned frog. As if that wasn't enough, there's also some pieces with Philip Corner & Walter Marchetti playing nothing but crumpled up pieces of paper.

Bernard Parmegiani De Natura Sonorum 2 LP
Pretty ballsy, to name your record 'The Nature of Sound' and then set it forth in two sections of 6, like some big ol' pair of stone tablets. But Parm has good reason to go all Mt. Sinai on everybody. He explores how a single sound can resonate across different instruments, how acoustic sounds can be used to filter electronic ones, a range of the sounds you can get from touching a membrane, etc. Things really get going on disc two, when he shifts into electronic processes, and goes from needling pings to a slow, tweening fizz, until he finally works his way into a fractalized, fragmented point-of-view journey from inside a flash game of pinball. His best.

Erica Pomerance You Used to Think LP
Longtime rumor had it that Pomerance was a B-level Greenwich Village folkie who a few pals conspired to dose heavily with acid, and then turned on a tape recorder. In truth she's Canadian, & really did lead the session. Her voice, however, still shivers & ululates like long grass in the wind, and scratches like an overplayed viola. Free bongos & flute flights wail & flap in the background.

Esther Phillips From a Whisper To a Scream LP
Sassy-assed Little Esther had a string of chart hits in the '50's, and her crazy ultra-reedy voice is like no other. But problems with smack got her kicked out of Johnny Otis' revue and plagued her career ever afterward. She cleaned up just long enough to record a vicious Gil Scott Heron cover for this record in the early '70's, and it was so good even the damn Grammys figured it out. The win went to Aretha Franklin, who promptly & rightly turned & gave the award to Esther. Killer orchestrations by the usually retarded Don Sebesky, that are shit-hot funky but upon further inspection have a whole string & horn section decorating things in the deep background (I should say, there is one shitty sax solo on the B-side, but for a record on CTI? Come the fuck on). Fans of swamp soul should check out "Til My Back Ain't Got No Bone," but really, this is that record that a zillion '70's records wish they were.

Evan Parker Saxophone Solos CD
Parker's earliest solo performances, half of them live. Multiple melodic microtonal rivers come streaming out of one horn. Parker’s fluttering screechophonics were hacked together with bloody gums & circular breathing, and he throws in some Samuel Beckett quotes, just in case his virtuosity didn't already make you feel humble. Really sounds like someone strangling a gaggle of pigeons, and then it just never quits. Includes a couple of studio tracks that weren't on the original Incus record.

Harry Partch Delusion of the Fury 2 LP
Partch's curmudgeonly, eccentric, 48-note-to-the-scale charm is at its height on this billowing, turbulent opera. Half is a rework of a Japanese Noh play, and the other half is from Ethiopian folklore. Partch's best argument for the superiority of hobo life to that of the music conservatory isn't found in his long-winded, syphilitic writings or dry attempts to mimic speech intonation. Instead, it's this bonfire of jokes, oddly stretched singing & layers of tuned percussion.

Quarteto 1111 Quarteto 1111 CD
A Portuguese band that sounded so frilly & English that they made it onto the all-UK radio station. Tender sun-breaks-through-the-clouds Beatles/Bee Gees harmonies with lots of shimmery organ, harpsichord, & a minor key edge that will remind you of Peruvian psych heavyweights like Laghonia. Main man Jose Cid wrote the songs about the battle of Alcazarquivir & King Sebastian (that's some medieval Portuguese history for you, pal) & then he quickly became a bombastic mellotron-prog dude & went on to win Eurovision with an Abba clone band in the late '70's.

La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata LP
Loud & proud woodblock boogie & big Who-style pinwheels from Mexico. Angry, bring-down lyrics (in English) about, well, 'nasty sex', and rippin', burly fuzz leads. Band was originally from Guadalajara, where they won a battle of the bands that landed them a recording contract. They were one of the few to take off outside of the country, getting a hit in French nightclubs. Apparently though, as soon as they got an apartment together in Mexico city, they started fighting and the band broke up.

Larry Sunshine Rice Here's Sunshine LP
Do YOU hear the way that the robins play and your mind's away in the disco? Larry's outsider-folk-psych record is low key, willowy, & takes a while to grow on you, but once you give it a few you'll realize he's had had his brain pan scooped out & replaced with dead swallows & old lady perfume. A super dippy hippie who moved home to TX in '66, he ran afoul of the law by trying to start a marijuana-based religion. By the time his record was released, he'd skipped town & was hiding out communing with nature.

Lou Reed Metal Machine Music 2 LP
The poster child record for supposedly unlistenable clangor, and 35 years after it was made, it still reigns, all-seeing & immutable (Best move, btw, when dude 'splains to you that no one likes this is to respond, "Oh, are you divorced?" He always is). Speculation about Reed's motivation remains legend & Lester Bangs' articles on this topic alone are some of the most head-spinning reading about music you can do. Sure, maybe Reed was just trying to alienate his audience, one-upping Cale, thwarting a contract obligation, etc.. Definitely, with the odd misspellings, un-words, & incoherence in the notes, somebody somewhere was too far gone on meth to know what was up. But when all's said & done, Reed made a real pretty record, plain & simple. A buzzy drone that flickers like butterfly wings, decorated with lots of little bell-tone figures that're buried in a giant mess of feedback. The whole thing's put together like a mirror: smooth & impenetrable, but with a few refracted colors rippling in the corner. Is that why people hate it so often? Maybe. Do you see through the glass darkly? Perhaps it's for you then.

Residents Duck Stab LP
The best constructed & most charming record by the eye guys, which started out as a 7 inch & then added the 'Buster & Glen' 7 inch as its B-side to become their 4th. Songs are texturally skewed & slippery, but they're also pretty much orchestral pop in construction. Tempos are pretty well under control and there are plenty of genuine melodic hooks. Lyrics are pun-filled & non-linear, but cute enough to poke fun at country songs, Stax, surf, Elvis, kiddie records, & more. Synthetic horns, vocoders, cheap electronic drums, and Snakefinger appears on guitar & even vocals.

Mike Rep & the Quotas Stupor Hiatus 2 LP
Columbus prophet-caveman Mike Rep leads Nudge Squidfish, Ron House, Tommy Jay & other pals to the ultimate vortex of basement crud guitar glory. Rep began recording in the early ‘70’s, but most of what he did never saw the light of day. Released a single around ‘76/’77 or so (“Rocket To Nowhere,” on Moxie), popped up on a 2nd single under the name True Believers in ‘80 (“Accept It” on New Age, which also released Jim Shepard singles, Great Plains). In the mid ‘80’s, Rep started a new label meant to release cassettes (Old Age/No Age: Gibson Brothers, Ron House, more Jim Shepard, & more). During the ‘90’s, Rep worked at Used Kids & ended up producing records by New Bomb Turks, Gaunt, GBV, Bassholes, etc. Stellar songwriting (the lyric to beat: 'In my cosmic reality/it's still 1973'), splats of wrecked guitar feedback, & overdriven shit production that can't be topped. Velvets, Elevators, Nightcrawlers, Strapping Fieldhands, Lester Bangs' Birdland, & Sinatra covers. Now with 6 more cuts & spread over 2 LP’s. I could talk about this record for a long time, so I'll just say this: there's only one title so good that I need to deliberately keep multiple copies in my personal collection at all times. Welcome to it.

Rabbits & Carrots Soul Latino LP
Hip-huggin’ soul & Sergio Mendez lounge from Mexico. Couple of interspersed chicken noises & later tracks have wonderfully sloppy vocals in Spanish that make this a good DJ companion to everything from Luie Luie to Mitch Ryder. Covers of Jorge Ben, Rufus Thomas, Kool & the Gang, James Brown, Eric Burdon (you ain't heard nuthin til you've heard “Spill the Wine” in Spanish, bub). The leader of the band played bongos with Perez Prado & Esquivel. The band was named Rabbits & Carrots because (get this) Salvatore Rabito's last name reminded label Musart's art director of how much he liked the Disney version of 'Brer Rabbit.'

Rainbow Ffolly Sallies Fforth LP
Delectable UK pop-sike with intricate & plasticine arrangements, especially considering the limited instrumentation (on about the 20th listen, you realize it's almost entirely acoustic guitars & voices). Accomplished vocal harmonies & interjections between tracks keep everything sprightly & songwriting is strong. Production style is a teensy bit muffled, but then you find out that it was made as a demo & Parlophone just released it as-is. Sadly, their only album.

Raionbashi Kollekte LP
Daniel Loewenbrueck from Schimpfluch & Tochnit Aleph. Gurgling, farting, duck calls, burping, dog squeals, and a bit of white noise vomit. Dry sense of humor here that's quite European, but no matter where he lives, Lowewenbrueck slobbers all over your head & I am sure glad I got licked. One of the best releases on Hanson. John Wiese guests.

Rob Funky Rob Way LP
1st record by Rob Raindorf, a Ghanaian singer who sought out a band with a horn section to back him, and ended up collaborating with an army band called Mag-2 that had access to precious imported equipment. ‘60’s & ‘70’s West African bandleaders are often known for their authoritarian management styles, so the idea that Rob sometimes took cues from his band to start singing is pretty unusual. More pressing though are the record's debilitating, wacked-out synths & wah riffs (is that a Yamaha CS-80, aka the keyboard used by ELO?). Nothing but libidinous minor-key workouts, with singing ranging from commanding Barry White asides to desperate funk shouts. Rob's records go for about $1k a shot, and these tracks haven't popped up on previous reissue compilations.

Rodion GA The Lost Tapes 2 LP + CD
Gritty and blown out synthesizer-soaked psychedelia from rural Romania. Rodion Rosca lived on the Hungarian border, and was able to travel to Budapest, where records were more plentiful than in Bucharest. He heard Kraftwerk, picked up a Soviet-made organ and got together with a village engineer to build his own futuristic amplifiers & reel to reel recorders (which all had his name on them, and used a lot of octagons in the design). He experimented with crude guitar & keyboard 4-tracking at home until he boiled over into some kinda genius of the Carpathians. Meantime, Ceausescu's government had a council that oversaw music releases, so Rodion couldn't get his manufactured & survived off work scoring gymnastics performances.

Teddy Robin & the Playboys Magic Colours LP
Hong Kong's beat bands, only a hairsbreadth away from the GS sound in Tokyo, sported a similar combination of sugarpop fuzz, wild organ & amphetamine dazzle. Teddy Robin & the Playboys were the best band in town & even though they clearly started out as pubescent kids barely able to afford their own t-shirts, their frantic beat soon morphed into something psychodaisy crazy. Covers of unusual tracks like Lesley Gore's dark harmonied “Magic Colors”& the Knickerbockers' “Lies.”

Dick Raaijmakers The Complete Tape Music of Dick Raaijmakers 3 CD
Broken-robot orchestral pop made under circumstances that were one in a million, but would prefigure Perrey & Kingsley and a great deal of their highly-variegated popcorn progeny. Dick (or if you're Scandinavian, Dik) Raaijmakers was an engineer in the Netherlands where electronic music making was seen as a means to future enlightenment- much the way NASA was treated in the US. His early oscillator experiments led Phillips to suddenly & perhaps even irrationally pair him with Dissevelt- their brightest new bass player/arranger (who was significantly younger & had just returned from several tours of the Dutch Indies). The result was something that was as bouncy as easy listening, as crystalline as the most abstract electronic music, and utterly perfect for budding & hopeful space-explorers of all stripes. The rest of this set is nevertheless a total monolith of wacko Dutch concrete madness, even though the 'complete' title lies just a see bit. There's a recording of a physically impossible ping pong game, and don't forget a late ‘70’s commie conceptual piece of silent applause. The king of Eindhoven includes plenty of fascinating fizzes, gurgles & slithering noises, but his brilliance is in his sense of narrative: spacious, dry, and ready with a quick punchline whenever you need one.

TK Ramamoorthy Fabulous Notes and Beats... Jazz LP
Sly, syncretic combination of Carnatic raga & bachelor-pad lounge. Gossamer background blends worthy of any Esquivel record, snazzy licks on unique instruments, and a lilting, almost blushing sense of swing. Ramamoorthy is a violin player from Tamil Nadu. Like many large cities, Chennai has its own film industry: Kollywood, named after the neighborhood where the studios are (Kodambakkam). Traditionally, it's known as a center for regional language movies (Telugu, Malayalam, etc.), and by far, the most famous composer from the area is Ilaiyaraaja. From 1952-65, Ramamoorthy was the elder songwriting partner of the more famous harmonium player and 'King of Light Music' MS Viswanathan (who seems to've played a fast Mort Shuman to his salt-of-the-earth Doc Pomus). Ramamoothy is still around, and recently gave expert singing advice (while wearing a kurta & missing half his teeth) on the Tamil answer to American Idol.

Wendy Rene After Laughter Comes Tears 2 LP
Across town from the Stax studios in Memphis, high school student Mary Frierson & her brother Johnny decided to try out for the label by just taking the bus over & walking in the door. Stax's Jim Stewart liked Johnny's songs, but once he heard the funny little down-swoop in Mary's voice (it's a whole lot like Mary from the Shangri Las!), the label gave her a new name and groomed her for stardom. She got to tour with Rufus Thomas & play on bills with Otis Redding, and the cream of the Stax house band put distorted guitar and supple chunks of organ behind her. After just a few singles, she decided to become a mom instead, narrowly missing the plane crash that killed Redding.

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 the letter S and letters T to V and letter W to Z and compilations part 1 and compilations part 2

Also see Angela Sawyer's album on Feeding Tube records

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