The Rummage

Category: . issue XVI .

. issue XVI : iv .

. artist : los jharis de nana .
. album : los creadores del sonido de la carretera .

LosJharis

. and .

. artist : sensacion shipibo .
. album : 7” .

sensacion

. year : 2012 .
. label : masstropicas .
. grade : b plus .

The ultra-indie, vinyl-only Masstropicas label is back from Peru with another find. Los Jharis De Nana, led by guitarist Teo Laura, started playing in the mid-1970’s; they have a twangy, swirly sound (lots of echo, fuzzbox, flanger, etc.) that is the essence of what is now known worldwide as chicha or psychedelic cumbia. This recording was originally released (on cassette, naturally) in the mid-80’s; apparently the band is still active today. A ride-along with the Los Jharis LP is a new single from a band called Sensacion Shipibo. They’re from the Peruvian selva (rain forest) region, and Masstropicas recorded them on site in Yarinacocha. They call their style cumbia-masha and sing in both Spanish and the local Shipibo language (which sounds oddly to my ear like Japanese, especially on “Reshin Noma” — maybe it’s a tonal or pitch-accented language?). Although the band’s creative process involves the use of ayahuasca (a naturally-occurring psychotropic drug), their sound, flavored with accordion and syndrums, is decidedly less psychedelic sounding to American ears than bands like Los Jharis. This two-for-one release set is another quality addition to the chicha catalogue from a very intrepid record label.

by Bill Lupoletti

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. issue XVI : iii .

. artist : teo laura .
. album : el sonido de la carretera central .
. year : 2013 .
. label : masstropicas .
. grade : a minus .

TeoLaura

Masstropicas’ excavation of Peruvian chicha continues apace with this fine compilation of bands that all featured the guitarist Teo Laura Amao, who’s still active today. Laura is one of the leading exponents of the style called Carretera Central (“Central Highway”). (The name refers to Peru’s major east-west highway PE-22, connecting Lima to the high Andes and the selva, the Amazonian rainforest, beyond it.) Laura is from Ñaña, about 20 kilometers from Peru along PE-22, and his twangy playing fits somewhere in between the deeply psychedelic cumbia Amazonica of groups like Juaneco Y Su Combo and the more worldly sound of Lima-based groups like Los Destellos. The highlights here are seven tracks by pioneering Carretera Central combo Los Sanders, in which Laura replaced founding guitarist Lener Muñoz. “El Sha La La,” “Reyna De Mi Corazon,” and “Caminando De La Mano” give you a good example of the breadth of the Los Sanders sound. “El Rey Loco” is a swinging instrumental by Los Blue Kings, another early Ñaña combo, and “El Borrachito Peruano” is something a little different – an accordion-driven song that starts out almost like Colombian vallenato. More great finds here from Masstropicas – keep ‘em coming, Mike.

by Bill Lupoletti

. issue XVI : ii .

. artist : various artists .
. album : el sonido de tupac amaru .
. year : 2011 .
. label : masstropicas .
. grade : a .

ElSonido

Barbes Records’ two The Roots Of Chicha compilations and Vampisoul’s Cumbia Beat set have introduced thousands of listeners to the pleasures of Peruvian psychedelic cumbia. They’ve also opened the floodgates for chicha reissues — it turns out that there were dozens if not hundreds of cool bands playing this style in the 60’s and 70’s in urban and rural Peru. Exhibit A is this reissue from Masstropicas, a record label that’s the outgrowth of a pioneering chicha blog. There are 14 songs here (divided between an LP and a 7-incher), only one of the artists is on any of the pioneering Barbes and Vampisoul compilations (the ubiquitous Los Destellos), and everything on here is every bit as interesting. I recommend “Mi Enamorada,” “Cariño Cariñito,” “Tu Primer Amor,” “El Preso,” and “Rico Vacilon,” but really you could simply play any of them. The bonus 7-incher includes four songs by four different bands fronted by singer Carlos Ramirez Centeno, “el patron de la cumbia.” Mike at Masstropicas promises me that he has more good stuff still to come, so the chicha revival still has legs. Get on board now.

by Bill Lupoletti

. issue XVI : i .

. artist : various artists .
. album : the roots of chicha 2: psychedelic cumbias from peru .
. year : 2010 .
. label : barbes .
. grade : a plus .

Chicha

The first volume of The Roots Of Chicha was one of the surprise hits of 2007, exposing an unsuspecting public to the peculiar blend of cumbia, twangy guitars and psychotropic drugs that fueled this Peruvian style. This second volume casts a broader net – where volume one focused primarily on rural Andean bands, this edition is more urban, more Cuban, less psychedelic, maybe a bit mellower, and provides a more well-rounded view of a genre that has remained popular since the 70’s in Peru’s slums but has barely been acknowledged in upper-class Peruvian culture. Compiler Olivier Conan (who leads the revival band Chicha Libre) has put together another superb selection here – kudos to him for more or less singlehandedly bringing this great musical style to the attention of American and European listeners.

by Bill Lupoletti

. issue XVI : contents .

. issue XVI : contents .

. i;
. the roots of chicha 2: psychedelic cumbias from peru .

. ii;
. el sonido de tupac amaru .

. iii;
. teo laura : el sonido de la carretera central .

. iv;
. los jharis de nana : los creadores del sonido de la carretera .

. v;
. the richmond folk festival .

. vi;
. the magnetic fields : charm of the highway strip.

. vii;
. spids nøgenhat : kommer med fred .

& viii .
. trans/human : the wider .

. podcast .

. issue XVI : viii .

. artist : trans/human .
. album : the wider .
. year : 2012 .
. label : blackest rainbow .
. grade : a minus .

TransHuman

The recalcitrantly-titled The Wider (wider than …? should we listen … wider? does humanity aspire … wider?) is a dithering tumult of horror film excerpts (specifically, the screams), terrific and charged ambience, the intent jangle and posture of ceremonial dance, and rotary, droning beats that slough with the molten crawl of slag. The cover photo by Joe Blanchard is also incorrigible and daunting: it seems to be an encaustic wallpaper-peeling hell of primrose and sarcoline, waxy ectoderm melting in strips to reveal the cartouche of Mama Bear and Papa Pig, dressed with ruffed sleeves, a checkered apron and a top hat; some children’s book of unthought grotesquerie. It’s also inked with scribal-sacrosanct vermillion; with red in all the center of things — jelly-donut viscera — splotches, wounds, even an alveolar pupil in the eye of a daisy.

Electronic artists behind the tortuous Wider, Trans/Human, are Adam Denton and Luke Twyman of Audacious Art Experiment. Trans/Human craft an aptly transitional presentation, linear but muddled, confounding the interpretation of sounds as they are shifted from one source to another. The Wider features the screams of humans but transitions to them through remote, and so, blind, cries of animals lowing, cawing, keening. They remind us that humans are animals, and that the frantic noise of fright or pain has a subhuman power to work over the listener, demanding an active attention … and action (though impossible here). The near- (and paradox) insufferability of Wider (for its hearer) — would you condone leaving a human in pain? — yields an emotive desire for interactivity that’s exceptional in this genre, whose worse enemy is what it’s most conducive to: “sit-back-and-re-lax.” The expressive rawness of the screams plays, too, on the imagination, and the listener can imagine virtually anything going on, or not going on … who knows? No one. In a way, horror films do us a kindness by showing the violence or fearful stimulus, disabusing the listener of their need to be afraid for any number of opportunities, sympathetically prepared for anything. Some screams seem more reverent than upset, and a choral atmosphere, droning, and plainsong chant often presides as well — how hard it can be to distinguish between devotion and subjugation.

On a related note, the presentation of [x] as music immediately informs our perception and interpretation … and can make the experience problematic: in the first sequence of screams, slowly clarified as human from the animal babble, a single cymbal touch creates anempathy between the horror screams and the drums usually associated with comedy.

From the first sparsely percussive minutes, Wider ripens into a charged ambience, left off near-soundless negative space to great, hallowed effect, marinating the listener into an abiding patience. Wider is, in some ways, like the vitreous vapor rising in a dark foundry, aglow and wafting an ether of heat.

Wider begins with swaying footsteps and clave clacks, drum claps, a listless military exercise of clanking accouterments, the regimented dance of a prayer dress, ghungroos and dhols belabor in slow motion; a water-tortured metronome; the keen clack of cane; the wild hollow of a ghost dance. Then cries transduce slowly, from the lowing of a cow giving birth, to the hushed choir of caws as the black mass of birds comes to settle … transmuting finally into a human. The agony persists as the thunderous staccato of tribal ambience begins again; it’s chilling as the cries become increasingly coherent, and, from the beastly herd, a man. Then an ambience alert and abuzz, with the purposed roil of a shifty spider’s legs or the spotty turn of cartoon bees from a pooh book. The ambience of captivity — a dank and dripping cell, walls leaching, still air smelling of rusted metal of a prison cell — is again broken by the anempathetic cymbal. It’s the Tony Oxley-worthy jangle from the drum kit — sometimes frivolous but at others masterfully-aired sarcasm — that make uncomfortable evocations sound laudatory or trite. It’s as though there’s been a soundtrack all along….

A windswept oscillation of accumulated sound hurtles, expelling steam in a long gasp, locomotive windows whistling in percussive wind-ups; human screams are buried in the sonic miscellany. Then the motile cry of the screeching train becomes the yawn of an angry cat. Wound through cloughs, a vortex of noise hurtles, consuming and overpowering. The cymbals make even this visceral, tornadogenic pull anempathetic. It’s a hungry demon sort of sound, opened wide on the wide open event horizon and into the sunset; the bright clank chimes of patina-laden metal settles into drum stick soft scrums, leaf rustles of percussion. An abrasive alarm tone begins to drone. A percussive whatsit Oxley jangle smatters. And there’s almost total silence (11:50) but present in its absence, charged with an electrostatic buzz. Then a witch cackle crackle becomes a mechanical toad lowing in its crank substitute, and slag is heaped and fumblingly resorted. Brooding viols and cellos begin to abrade their strings.

Then it’s a whirlpool of Mozarabic chant, the viscous drone of an organ, everything resonating; Wider begins to mobilize with a loud guitar spottily plucking out a few notes; the drum energetically steps up to motoric starts and stops in cool waves, then, faster, into military double-time, with cymbal crashes for syncopation. There’s a hum underneath like a blender wrapped in wool; a comber rotary becomes softer with each dip; a surf punk moment includes a dobro and discharges a upbeat tone, with beeps underneath, a parody of a small band mincing about its takeover of retro kitchen appliances: grinding motors and a reverberant wash of droning. The small revolutionary non-flap of helicopter leaves; now resonant peaks and valleys; wound down, wound back up; settles down into resonance; yowling again like cattle or monks in a guttural chant; their pitch begins to crown at the note where the lawnmower’s finally started. Vacillating vox is chanting and twining in a bizarre pained round, the frame switching static beneath and beginning to segment itself.

There’s clanging and calling over a mid-size rotary hum as fermatas duplicate on the page, droning on hold. Then a switch to a grungy sci-fi crunch, like a mid-century military operation in a cold corridor with olive-green wallpaper. A break is rhythmic, dilapidated jazzy, with a distorted keyboard or honking sax. A theramin begins like a soprano cry but is replaced by a woman’s scream. A foil to the man’s distressed cries near Wider’s beginning, she is not upset at all, but rather deeply formidable, with an almost shamanic power, unmistakable as a woman-lioness … a sort of Clytemnestra moment. More trains screak and organs unstopper; a deep beat evokes a tuba weedwacker; drum kits are banged about conventionally all the while, as though there’s nothing strange and messy about what it’s backing. A bagpipe sound creates an ambient plane underwater; helicopter propeller roulette takes on a bright, almost woodwind-edge.

It’s more of the same as The Wider anneals, rollicking to its 33-minute close in a thinning bubbly barrage, with choral undertones and gristly feedback. It’s gritty and silt-thick, with curtains of gong wiping the slate; side-to-side percussion like an earthquake jitter under the surface. High-pitched screaks, stilted rhythms, crowd noises, and pot-n-pan drum kits evince the breaking wave that later, as an undertow, shifts sands, destabilizing as it strafes below, leaving nothing but a hum and drum stick claps — like a stopwatch. The stagehands clear the set. To close, whistles begin from a human throat, then soften to birds, … then to a lull of crickets: “silence.”

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XVI : vii .

. artist : spids nøgenhat .
. album : kommer med fred .
. year : 2013 .
. label : bad afro .
. grade : b plus .

spids-kommer

Spids Nøgenhat‘s origins go back to ’98 when Henrik “Hobitten” Klitstrøm, Morten “Aron” Larsen and Uffe “Aramis” Lorenzen (Lorenzo Woodrose) were doing their thing with On Trial. That outfit proved fertile, spawning Ghost Rocket, Dragontears, Aron, Blind Owl & Good Spirits and, of course, Baby Woodrose. Spids Nøgenhat’s new release, Kommer Med Fred, though recorded in only three days, has no residue of being banged out or of a tossed-off side project. They released their first album in ’01 and found themselves resuscitated in ’09 by ‘public demand,’ now with Anders “Moody Guru” Skjødt and Anders “Fuzz Daddy” Grøn from the original line-up of Baby Woodrose, along with Sebastian “Zeppo” Bülow. A live album (De Sidste Her På Jorden) from their showing at Roskilde Festival was the next breath of life that led to Kommer Med Fred.

Seven originals and one cover—the first-class “Den Gennemsigtige Mand” by Danish band Furekåben—shimmer with an acoustic-leaning spacey vibe that bears the unmistakable mark of Baby Woodrose, but is certainly its own creature and exhales its own haze and aura. The songs have an open, breezy life-force all their own that welcome and lure you in, even if you hastily think the Danish vocals are going to prove to be an obstacle for unfamiliar ears. Though free of any amped barn burners or overt scorch, Kommer Med Fred still teems with a shimmering vitality that is as exhilarating as it is easy on the ears’ digestive system. The acoustic framework is laden with electric sparks (“Mere Lys,” “Lolland Falster“) and prudent flourishes that keep the dreamy atmosphere afloat, but which don’t unfasten the album from an earthy, almost homespun feeling. Both trippy and grounded, Spids Nøgenhat uses the resulting benefit of accessibility to their advantage, keeping the songs front and center without any showy display of power or hollow camouflage.

With Woodrose in one of the chairs, it’s impossible to overlook what he brings to the table. There is his savvy songwriting, of course, and his distinct gravelly vocals. Both on full display here, fans of Baby Woodrose or any other place he’s left his fingerprints won’t be disappointed. Worked into this setting, those patent vocals take on even more wizened and world-weary persona that plays up the feeling of melancholy and longing that worms through the album. Kommer Med Fred isn’t just another stellar product from Woodrose. It’s a first-class album, and ride, from Spids Nøgenhat … a band that may have started as a side-project, but that sounds as committed as they come.

by Mr. Atavist

. issue XVI : vi .

. artist : the magnetic fields .
. album : charm of the highway strip .
. year : 1994 .
. label : merge .
. grade : a plus .

Charm

Finally, the forever-yearning lo-fi misery-popsters are taking a roadtrip. Stephin Merritt’s ruminations on the open road leave nothing to the imagination: the intricately detailed tracks on The Charm of the Highway Strip are smothered in slow acoustic guitar, ingratiating Casio keyboard cheese, and loads of liquefied truck driver thoughts. The weariness of Stephin’s voice constantly offsets any cheeriness in the instrumentation. It’s a neat trick, and it works almost every time. Every syllable from his molasses mouth is uttered with a deep resonance and a sliding phrasing that glides over the synth-orchestras and rolling fields warmly and honestly.

“Lonely Highway” turns the ignition with a loping beat and some conversational muttering about the titular highway being a constant friend, while a few skewed keyboard bends are playing the third wheel. “Two Characters in Search of a Country Song” is arguably the album’s peak, and its gliding, countrified croon sets the bar high for the rest of the album. The poignant chorus, its lyrics almost meta- in construction (“Two characters in search of a country song / Just make-believe but so in love / Two characters been listening all night long / For voices from Nashville above”) is a mission statement for the entire album. Stephin is in search of the perfect country pop song to project his bar-napkin poetry and fill with stories about traveling through the south. Exotic synth instrumentation decorates “Crowd of Drifters,” elevating it into a sort of an old epic B-movie soundtrack leftover filled with a simple discussion of people disappearing or maybe even never existing.

Like Calvin Johnson, but with more singing- and life-lessons, Stephin deeply understands the nuances of gut-wrenching melody, even without an incredibly high range. When The Magnetic Fields made Charm of the Highway Strip in 1994, they somehow sounded slightly conventional on paper: ambling lo-fi country-pop with some unashamedly amateur keyboard adventures. However, Stephin’s dedication to the craft results in something wholly original, even within his own output: an album that combines the rough edges of country, baroque, and bedroom pop. Artificial fantasias, endless gravel pressing towards the overcast horizon, and warm beer drizzled with fresh saltwater tears have equal footing in his brain, and he’s happy to let you know that fact.

by Ryan Myers