Part 7 by Angela Sawyer
"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 the letters T to V.
Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family My Ancestors LP
Wonderfully naive shit-Hendrix ripoff's mixed with dirty Zambian funk & somewhat inept lyrics in English. The first of the various Ngozi-related records to get the deluxe reish treatment, and now that there are some others around, seems safe to say it's also the most inscrutably crazed ones. Chrissy was the family drummer & Paul appears on guitar.
David Tudor Bandoneon Factorial DVD
Vintage footage of Tudor's explosive installation, inspired by a previous Maruicio Kagel piece for the tango noise box. In a very large, reverberant hall (an empty armory about the size of an airplane hangar), Tudor hooked a South American accordion up to a bunch of telephone relay systems, electronics & oscillators. The accordion ran like some horrific alarm system through the huge PA. It's blistering waveforms produced some visuals, and even radio-controlled a bunch of wooden statues on wheeled platforms puttering around the room in circles. A screaming mess, clearly incredibly loud, with harsh lights & crude mechanical monsters. And all of it run by Tudor, with his effeminate little voice, tidy suit & horn rimmed glasses. Tons of fascinating talking heads, including Gordon Mumma, Pauline Oliveros, David Behrman.
Ghedalia Tazartes Repas Froid LP
Tazartes dips into his collected arsenal of loops and field recordings and collages them into a seeping fog. Breaking wood, jerking circus music, haunting organ riffs, and crap keyboards that churn out a rhythm as old as the sand dunes. As is his wont, there's also lots of voices: Dracula groans, German arguments, faux Arabic ululating, kids imitating birds, etc.
Tall Dwarfs Hello Cruel World CD
First four 7 inches. After getting frustrated with large halls & big studios in Toy Love, Chris Knox & Alex Bathgate stay home instead. They discover the tight/nasal harmony of the Everly Bros, Barrett-surreal lyrics and shiny, whimsical melodies. They also explore a huge range of percussion sounds using household objects, and it pokes out amidst the tiny Casiotone beeping & Knox's pliable voice. Makes it seem like half of Abbey Road's tricks, and a whole gaggle of elves are all stuffed into that one kiwi 4-track. Knox suffered a pretty awful stroke in 2009, but he has recovered the use of some speech, and continues to draw comics & make music.
Takeshi Terauchi Nippon Guitars LP
Ripping surf played on a Mosrite personally handed by members of the Ventures to 'Terry' Terauchi, who made his name transforming Japanese folk songs into distorted sped-up guitar nightmares. At the time, Eleki's popularity caused a huge surge in electric guitar manufacturing, and as kids across Japan tried to take it up, teachers & parents complained that the pop sounds weren't edifying enough. Terry responded by releasing eleki versions of traditional folk & western classical material. A carefully selected overview (by Howard Williams from Trilogy Tapes) that includes Terry's bands the Blue Jeans and the later Bunnys.
Tamba Trio Avanco LP
The little Rio trio that could. Luiz Eca could play anything on the piano: Bill Evans sophistication, breezy tinkling, or super angular playing in the cracks. Add the local furious craze for bossa and the group's effusive, buttery & intricate vocal harmonies, and you have a band that will permanently unzip your head. Better than aspirin for headaches- don't commit to a car trip without assurances that they're coming along, keep 'em handy whenever disheartening news comes down the pike. They definitely earn the adjective 'miraculous' that they stuck in front of their band name later on. Their 2nd album, which contains the original version of "Mas Que Nada."
Teenage Jesus and the Jerks Shut Up and Bleed LP
While the Contortions were slick & greasy, Mars was poppy & DNA were art nerds, TJ&J was just stripped raw as a fish. Primitive, jagged, acerbic shrieks of fury with zero musicality to tone 'em down. The band was around for 3 straggling years, never issued an album, & sports both the best snare non-drumming of all time, as well as a guitar sound made to knife you in the eye. Early member James Chance had to bow out in order to get the relatively together Contortions going under his sax maniac stance, but not before shredding like he just dragged Ayler out of the East river on a few tracks here. Bassist Jim Sclavunos became the drummer for both Beirut Slump & 8 Eyed Spy (Lydia Lunch's next two bands before going solo), and then went on to Sonic Youth's Confusion is Sex, Nick Cave, & the Cramps. This collects some live cuts at CBGBs that didn't make it onto the badly titled Everything CD, as well as the complete recordings of Beirut Slump, who only put out a single at the time.
This Heat Deceit CD
Of all the This Heat records, this 2nd full length is closest to the spiky, angular rock that was around London/Rough Trade at the time, with Charles Bullen & Gareth Williams using more conventional guitar & keys rather than tape loops. There are even some passages that could pass for pop. That said, the band was wound so tight that they quickly twitched themselves right out of existence. Charles Hayward, as always, shows laser precision & definitely the only drummer who ever lived who actually benefits from a trebly, compressed sound. Meant to be a concept album about nuclear anxiety, and they do make the anxiety part quite clear.
Throbbing Gristle 2nd Annual Report LP
1st record & one of the most elegant you could own. It was Monte Cazazza who coined the slogan 'Industrial Music for Industrial People,' but the idea alone wouldn't bear repeating without TG's sonic sludge to back it up. Dispassionate, impenetrable, mysterious and sumptuous all at once, their improvisations & cut ups were deliberate, indolent without being blocky or snotty, and very loud. The art-troupe-turned-band's handheld tape recorders also gave off a cohesive gloom quite well suited to a death factory churning out evidence for stockholders.
Truth & Janey Erupts 2LP
Live in his shitty home state of Iowa at a huge festival, Billy Janey's fierce guitar stomping kills it so hard that he can actually use his Marshall stack to reach out & touch the afterlife. Armed with nothing but a '64 Gibson Firebird & a drummer who would shortly go on to become a hairstylist. Songs get crushed dead along with your head.
Twink Think Pink LP + CD
No, he didn't get the name because he seemed gay, but because of a brand of home perm in the UK that made haggard housewives look like they had his haircut. Easily the most drugged up musician in all of swinging '60's London (the runner up being Steve Peregrine Took, who's also on this record), Twink played drums and generally freaked out all over Tomorrow, the Pretty Things, the Pink Fairies & even Hawkwind for a little while. He has some stoned goof here that's not too far from the Fugs("3 Little Piggies"), but the perfect slinky fuzz of "Ten Thousand Words in a Cardboard Box" (even though it's nearly the same song as Gabor Szabo's "In Search of Nirvana") is still tops on my personal psychedelic hit parade after countless years.
Gary Usher Barefoot Adventues 2LP
The sunny vocal blend, the shredded sax, compression out the wazoo, the multi-syllabic hot rod lingo: Gary Usher productions are really the bedrock sound of surf. He recorded more than 350 songs between '62 & '65, producing, singing, and hiring so many session players that he practically had to go grab them off the street. Everybody in the little L.A. music scene of the early '60's collaborated on everybody else's records, but Usher really recycled himself, appearing under hordes of pseudonyms & re-recording songs for multiple labels. And until after the Beatles hit, it was Usher who was the sophisticated producer-songwriter in town instead of Brian Wilson. Rather than the simple Chuck Berry rip-offs or the crude doo wop comedy of Jan & Dean, Usher could tweak his flavor to evoke Dion, Buddy Holly, or R&B, sometimes all in the same song. On top of all that, Usher raced every weekend (often with Mousketeer Paul Petersen) & desperately wanted the big-block Chevy 409 engine that had been breaking speed records all through '61 & '62. God knows how he fit in sleep with that workaholic style, but his obsessive love for cars & need for speed comes through on every tune. Many are previously unissued until now.
King Uszniewicz and the Uszniewicztones Teenage Dance Party LP
The sloppiest sax-twist-surf band of all time, supposedly based out of a bowling alley in Detroit. Murderously off-key and filled with enough lurch that they really oughta require Dramamine before listening. Rumors that the sounds were really performed by Cub Koda & pals have plagued the Uszniewicz catalog for many years, but all those close to the source continue to swear that the King is as real as underwear & twice as clean. Also, official word is that it's supposed to be pronounced 'you-SNEV-vitch' but everyone I've ever heard say it out loud always says 'you-SKEN-o-witz.' Maybe that's just a Boston tradition because we're all shitheads around here? Whatever the story, I won't let my friends stay friends unless they take one crack at hearing the Uszniewicztones' version of "Little Latin Lupe Lu."
Piero Umiliani 5 Bambole per La Luna D'Agosto LP
Author of the panic-stricken, time-stopping novelty/lounge number “Mah Na Mah Na,” in full jazz/sexploitation mode. The film was directed by Mario Bava, who was fulfilling a contract with a script he didn't write. In it, five rich people are stuck on a luxury island, trying to sell each other stuff, when they enjoyably start dying offscreen. Umiliani provides the mod set design, and he throws in every piece of sugary candy he can. Effortlessly languid & bouncy throughout, this is the sound of bikinis and hair flips in Italy. Harps, processed harpsichord, buzzy twangs of banjo, Wurlitzer & sax. And just when you think you've got him pegged, a weird prog/glam song appears out of nowhere at the end.
Unholy Swill Legacy of Stupidity CD
Stoopid suburban blooze bums overdrive amps they've spilt all their beer on, and then vomit up songs about no-legged dogs, satanic goats, etc. They're hokey, sure. But they're from upstate NY. And they also swig and spit hard enough that you won't care. True story: I never DJ without a handy copy of their version of the Jeffersons' TV theme song.
United States of America United States of America LP
Immaculately crafted pop backed by tape gurgle, electric harpsichord, organ, calliope, piano, Durrett Electronic Music Synthesizer, electric violin, ring modulator, fretless electric bass, and electric drums. Formed in 1967 by Joseph Byrd, who'd studied electronic music under John Cage, hung out with Richard Maxfield & Yoko Ono, etc. Singer Dorothy Moskowitz came from NYC with Byrd, and handily beats Grace Slick at her own game. A stone classic that sits perfectly along the 1967-studio-musician fault line where architectural harmonies & goofy noises briefly shook hands. Dorothy has said that Byrd didn't like Zappa (three cheers!) and that Nico tried to elbow her way into the band. 10 bonus tracks.
Vladimir Ussachevsky Electronic and Acoustic Works CD
Ussachevsky (or Vlad U., as you're most welcome to call him around here) grew up in Inner Mongolia (next to Siberia, looks a lot like the wavy grass in Tarkovsky films). He moved to California at 20 & studied music, was a spy for the US government during WWII, and then hit his stride at the age of 40 when he got a job at Columbia University. That's when he & his pal Otto Luening started making electronic music in Vlad's living room. Before long they were the talk of the town & they got Columbia to fund the construction of a big fancy studio just like the ones over in Scandinavia. Beeps, whooshes and tings that're oddly static & dry as a dead cat. The atmosphere of 20th cent. avant (even now) owes almost as much to this guy as to Cage. Cage may've made up all the hoopla, but Vlad set the original academic tone. These cuts were collected from a bunch of different ‘60’s & ‘70’s records, some Columbia-Princeton compilations and some under Ussachevsky's name.
Anibal Velasquez y Su Conjunto Mambo Loco LP
The drum sounds like paper because the drummer liked to put a sheet of x-ray film on top of his head, & the singing sometimes sounds like dog yelps because everybody's having a hootenanny, but best of all is the super-fast & super creamy accordion played by 'El Mago' the magician. A staggering variety of record labels, complex rhythms, and backing bands to watch out for throughout Velasquez' long career, but the quality of his super-speedy foomping is constant. Samy Ben Redjeb's Analog Africa label goes West with infectious results.
Caterina Valente Sweet Beat CD
Caterina could sing convincingly in several languages, had a velvety tone that could imitate Petula Clark or Claudine Longet with ease, and knife-sharp timing that few singers outside be-bop or samba could ever brag of. She married a juggler, who ended up becoming her manager/producer, found her a great arranger (the sadly unsung Heinz Keissling). This late ‘60’s album has vibrant, imaginative versions of hits of the day, as well as swingin' loungifications of ‘30’s standards that give seemingly unsingable songs (“Old Man River” with an incredible funk break?!) sparkling new life.
Marcos Valle Marcos Valle LP
Early ‘70’s Marcos Valle is an exquisite delicacy. With his blond hair & crystal clean melodies, he began making records at the end of the Bossa craze in Brazil, & so was quickly shipped off to the US to try & get in with the easy listening music crowd. He appeared on the Andy Williams TV show in a gleaming lime turtleneck, but didn't hit it big. Upon his return to Rio, nobody was especially expecting anything of him, and so he sneaked off into psychedelia & jazz. Biting & bouncy orchestrations that can cut suddenly to lounge, bossa, West Coast jazz, or just the sound effect of opening a pop bottle. Backed by Milton Nascimento's Som Imaginario & helped by his brother & sister with lyrics & backup vocals, it's a collision of several different kinds of effervescent jazz-waltzes, sometimes within the same song, and the results are stunning, sexy pop.
Sylvie Vartan Sylvie Vartan LP
Ye-ye princess second only to (and also a little sluttier than) France Gall. Born in Bulgaria, she followed her producer/brother Eddie into showbiz and worked the gap between her two front teeth like a maniac, dancing carefully choreographed moves while changing outfits every 15 seconds & covering Sue Thompson, Ray Charles, Little Eva, singing with Elvis' Jordainaires, etc.. The toy company Mattel designed a dress dummy after her measurements, turning her into a living doll. She met her match in twist singer Johnny Hallyday, and saved his career when he got out of the army, by marrying him. She continued to work straight through 2 car accidents, and never left off from performing, which she does to this day. This 1st LP has arrangements by none other than Mickey Baker (Mickey & Sylvia), and her voice is the equal of Petula Clark's one minute, Lulu's the next.
Vampires of Dartmoore Dracula's Music Cabinet LP
German studio/library guys get together for a sleazoid horror funk workout. Same basic idea as a porn soundtrack, except that the typically flagrant groans of ecstasy are replaced by chains rattling & the endlessly amusing grunting of the undead. Phantasmagoric organ that's somehow both lurid & itchy. A couple of sonic punchlines along the lines of knock knock jokes- that get funnier the more times you hear them. Couldn't love it more.
The Vampires Underground LP
Creedence jams with flute and plenty of WTF. Where does a band of Indian guys in East South Africa even play, and how on earth would they end up with fuzzy guitar riffs, wah-wah and funky drums? Riddles abound when you discover a platter like this one. Durban, famous for its beaches and also for beach signs that marked off areas for white people, had a very unique dance band scene in 1971. The Vampires are a strange footnote in a strange world, and they slop through each song like they're having the time of their lives. The mostly instrumental band covers everything from a soundtrack that prefigures the drama of Ennio Morricone fuzz, to middle-of-the-road Nashville country, to Zeppelin, with flute, organ and fuzz guitar high in the mix. Like the undead, the Vampires now rise from having been long buried. But they only showed up to get their dirt in your ears.
Vertical Slit Under the Blood Red Lava Lamp CD
Jim Shepard is one of America's, and even Ohio's, great lost guitar master-blasters. Basement ‘70’s cheap beer sludge along the sloppy lines of Mike Rep, Bruce Cole, Destroy All Monsters, etc.. Shepard might've just been the meanest SOB outta all of 'em too. Changed the lives of all who heard him though. So if you ain't got this one yet, then c'mon, will you be metal or meat?
Violent Students Party Addiction LP
Instant favorite 'production' technique is this mean-ass, blown out battle of echoes. Intro with polite opera hall clapping opens onto a shitstorm recording of their last show, where Lea from Blues Control was a last minute guitar sub. Plus, their first cassette from ‘04. Easily bests their Parts Unknown record from ‘06. Label head & band member Richie Charles (aka drummer from Clockcleaner) describes the sadly defunct band as a "throbbing bucket of shit." Right ON, sir.
Voice Crack Kick That Habit DVD
Fascinating & beautifully shot (on Super 8) film of Swiss duo Andy Guhl & Norbert Moslang. Improvising together since '72, Voice Crack have flirted with jazz, avant-classical, flat out noise & many tiny strains in between. This film shows their world to be a startlingly quiet, clean, snow filled paradise, where art guys walk around in big & creamy cable knit sweaters and have time to break for homemade lunch or a ride in a ski lift. Be soothed by their purring & whirring tabletops of circuit bent toys, or the fathoms-deep drone of a long string stretched across a warehouse. 43 minutes.
Void Sessions 1981-83 LP
Columbia, Maryland's unhinged hardcore geniuses make for the best Dischord release in forever. Unreleased sessions, the stuff from the Flex Your Head comp, outtakes from the classic Faith/Void split (on which they wipe the fucking floor with the Faith) & a couple of really amazing live tracks full of crazy braying & guitar destruction. The band quickly went metal, but you won't hear it here. Instead, the fun they're having in the studio is undeniable, especially when they throw in half of a Circle Jerks cover.
Vom Grill Meditatie Kassette cassette
Dead-on imitation of a couple of battling Tuvan throat singers by the lord's favorite drunk, Dennis Tyfus. Seems like an om-mantra meditation tape, slowed down & overlapped. However it happened, the thing yawns, growls & scratches like a dinosaur awakening. Edition of 50.
Vom Live at Surf City 7-inch
Richard Meltzer's breezy lechery in the face of rock's teetering dinosaur gigantitude has no finer moment than this awesome single. Happy to be stupid for stupid's sake, the band wrote beach blanket tunes about beer-fueled in-jokes, while wearing electrical tape on their jackets & pants on their heads. On the rare occasions when the lazy bastards played out, they threw sheep's eyeballs at their audience after setting up barbed wire in front of the stage. They also had lyrics so brilliant that each song probably deserves its own publicly funded civic sculpture. Gregg Tuner & Metal Mike Saunders would go on to form the Angry Samoans. And while they improved on the execution (Turner is an infinitely better singer than Meltzer, for instance), this here is ground zero for that peculiar mix of goofball with snottiness.
Vulcan Meet Your Ghost 2LP
Here we have Lyle Steece. Resident of Iowa, owner of quilted pants, Bowie boots, and one fuck of an awful bowler hat. And what's Lyle got to say? "[In 1970]... they broke into the music to announce that Jimi Hendrix had died. I immediately broke into tears... Right then and there, I prayed to Jimi's spirit... I asked that he give me ten years to practice the guitar.... [Then in 1980] My girlfriend and I were in my basement, listening to the LP of Jimi at the Monterey Pop Festival, when all of a sudden, Jimi appeared on the basement wall in ghost-like form and performed every note of the album perfectly. My girlfriend was scared to death and was screaming for me to make him go away. I yelled back at her that I wouldn't make him go away if I could!" I don't need to go into the stories about UFOs, tarot readings, & Pete Best's appreciation of Steece's dead dog, do I? 2nd disc has a single from '79 & a bunch of unreleased tapes. Concussed & colossal lumbering that has no equal.
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
Also see Angela Sawyer's album on Feeding Tube records
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