North Country Funk

Check it out, it’s 1971. Joey Gregorash, a Manitoban, cuts his lp North Country Funk and pays tribute to fellow Canadian Neil Young via this snowblind cover of “Down By The River”. Also, I kinda want that coat.

Joey Gregorash :: Down By The River

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Yuletide in Jamaica glides in each December on what the locals call the Christmas Breeze, a slightly crisper air that tends to waft through the island this time of year. The other seasonal harbinger is one common to most places: the sound of Christmas songs on the radio. Except that Christmas music in Jamaica is, well, uniquely Jamaican. Traditional carols get a reggae underpinning while lyrics about sunshine and mango often substitute for the usual snow and holly. Back in the day, it was hardly a given that every Jamaican artist would record a Christmas song, unlike today. But several did–and they’re worth digging up.

During the first half of the 20th century there were many Christmas songs being recorded by calypsonians–which conceivably were enjoyed by Jamaicans at the time–but scant details exist about such Jamaican recordings (one known example is a frighteningly-rare mento 78 called “Jingle Bells Calypso” by Lord Lebby). This is noteworthy as calypso was not a music style indigenous to Jamaica, it came from Trinidad. In fact, many Jamaican mento artists became so frustrated trying to point out the difference between the two that they eventually gave in to being called calypso just to sell records and please tourists.

For the songs below, we travel back to 1962 – the year Jamaica gained its independence. This move toward independence, already under way in the late 1950s, coincided with a growing sense of national pride across the country. This was, in turn, triggering a musical shift, as American records (mostly R&B, some jazz) had dominated the sound systems and dances throughout the 50s. Meanwhile, records by Jamaican artists at the time were mostly just attempts to mimic a similar American sound. By the early 60s, however, sound system operators like Coxsone Dodd (that is, the men who owned the speakers, played the records and got paid the money for doing so) began to notice something: Increasingly, there were stronger reactions from crowds at the dance to records that featured not only elements of the island’s own musical forms, mento and ska, but vocals that sang in a native tongue about experiences familiar to Jamaicans. It was evident that this next generation of young, proud Jamaicans was ready to have a music to call their own–and Jamaica’s burgeoning domestic music industry was only too happy to oblige. Naturally, this extended to holiday songs too. And thus began a golden period for Jamaica’s distinctly homegrown Christmas catalog.

Download: Christmas Jambree :: A Vintage Jamaican Yuletide Mixtape (zipped folder)

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 503: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Circuit des Yeux – A Story Of This World Part II ++  Maston – Strange Rituals ++ I Marc 4 – Beat Generation ++ Charles De Goal – Dans Le Labyrinthe ++ Bob Chance – Jungle Talk ++ Gorillaz – Double Bass ++ El Guincho – Marimba (With Adrian De Alfonso) ++ Brian Eno & David Byrne – Regiment  ++ Zazou Bikaye – Lamuka ++ Lena Platonos – Aimatines skies apo apostasi ++ Brian Eno – No One Receiving ++ Domenique Dumont – Le Château de Corail ++ Gryningen – Frun Andra Till Strnnderna ++ Vanessa Paradis – Paradis ++ Charlotte Gainsbourg – Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes ++ Cate Le Bon – Duke ++ Eddie the Wheel – Leave Behind  ++ Blur – Ambulance ++ The Mabon Dawud Quintet – Abeba ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – Sticks And Stones  ++ Flaminggods – Majestic Fruit ++ Iggy Pop & James Williamson – Sell Your Love ++ Circuit des Yeux – Paper Bag ++ Juana Molina – Cosoco ++ Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM ++ The Jackettes – Places ++ The Brunettes – The Record Store ++ Jonathan Rado – All The Jung Girls ++ Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Let It Go ++ Kevin Morby – 1234 ++ White Fence – Growing Faith ++ Parquet Courts – Careers In Combat

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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It’s 1983. A chance encounter between Congolese musician Bony Bikaye, Algerian-born French composer / producer Hector Zazou & electronic duo Cy 1, resulted in this visionary (and until recently, rare) future-seeking treasure, Noir Et Blanc. An expression of defiance in art, this guttural & prismatic wonder had not seen a reissue proper until this past October, revived by its original purveyor, the Belgian-based Crammed Discs.

Like another of our favorite reissues from this year, for the uninitiated Noir Et Blanc feels like peering through a scrim into another world – some different species altogether. The absolute wonderment of a cut like “Munipe Wa Kati” glows in its playful and imaginative warmth, finding folk-hued strings and big metallic beats cooling out with soulful spoken word, singing & laughter, all of it floating atop the percussive cushion of mbira mist.

Elsewhere, the menacingly grooving album opener “M’Pasi Ya M’Pamba” and the chiming new music of “Eh! Yaye” fuse tribal vocal chants and spaced-out alien rhythms with tropical post-punk grooves. Creating something so eclectically cohesive, the album feels like the true meaning of the oft-used descriptor world music. An exercise in pure experimentation, Zazou, Bikaye & CY1 emerged from the playground with something holistically radical. words / c depasquale

Zazou / Bikaye / Cy1 :: Mama Lenvo

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There is an ever-slight hint of a Southern accent in Pauline Anna Strom’s voice, a remnant of the place she left behind forty or so years ago when she moved to the Bay Area with her serviceman husband, who was stationed nearby. This faint trace of history, barely evident, feels like the fraying threads holding her to something like a recognizable time and place. If her music is to be believed, “Strom’s world is circular, at once purely physical and purely spiritual. The largely ambient work she created and released in the early 1980s under the Trans-Millenia Consort label resemble known sound only in the way that the sparkles of light that appear when you jam your fingers into your closed eyes resemble vision. To call her music spectral or wandering is to do it the disservice of naming it; as suggested by Trans-Millennia Music, a recent issue of selections from throughout her early 80s run, there is little that connects her work to the world around us, musical or otherwise. And yet it still feels warm and humane, the byproduct of an inner generosity. It’s welcoming, even if it’s unfamiliar.

Strom still lives in the familiar: the Bay Area, where she works as a healer and spiritual counselor. In the years since her initial run, she’s quietly influenced a number of electronic artists, including MGMT, who put “Morning Splendour” on their Late Night Tales tape in 2011. Some of the sonic territory she pioneered appears among the benevolent worlds of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s music, and she shares a certain settled joy with Laraaji, but these are all distant planets in the same solar system. So we called Strom up around the release of Trans-Millenia Music and asked her to give us a tour.

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Once described by Elton John as “the Jackson Pollock of song”, Tom Waits is an inherently American artist. Over the past four decades, Waits’ eccentric boho brew of junkyard scat, jazz, gutter blues, tin-pan alley excursions and avant-garde cabaret have howled into the ether and reverberated back again…transfigured into something wholly his own.

One day we will interview the man, dipping into all of the above – but until then, this; the BBC’s 2017 documentary on Waits by filmmaker James Maycock: Tales From A Cracked Jukebox. Streaming in its entirety, below . . .

TULIPS

Frank Maston’s Tulips is a ‘70s film score on a hit of acid, Elmer Bernstein sweating through a bad trip only to arrive at an ecstatic come up. Maston’s brilliance lies in his ability to create a cinematic universe through music alone—the nostalgic guitar twang blending with Morricone whistles and dusty drums to create something familiar yet decisively unheard.

The album spans varied terrain, touching on Tropicalia (“New Danger”), French pop straight from Gainsbourg’s songbook (“Infinite Bliss”), and contemplative krautrock (“Rain Dance”). Maston’s ability to blend these disparate themes into a coherent album—or, if you’re really into it, soundtrack—is a testament to his production background; no detail passes through without intense clarity and craft. His tones are precise yet varied, cued to the particular style of the pastiche he’s drawing from. Take “Chase Theme No. 1,” for instance. The light accents of the glockenspiel layer atop a Bond-style guitar tone, giving the track enough oomph to create tension, yet still reveling in its laid back disposition.

Tulips sounds like a long time film composer taking a crack at the album format, yet it’s nothing more than Frank Maston’s vision of a more cinematic song-cycle experience. It’s Van Dyke Parks, if he collaborated with Andy Warhol instead of the Velvet Underground. The album spans twelve tracks, with all of the songs clocking in at under three minutes. It’s a breezy listen, packed with enough ideas to accompany the four hour long screenplay that you’re almost done with—and have been for five years. With Tulips, the perfect score to your magnum opus has already arrived. words / w schube

Maston :: Swans