Said the Gramophone - image by Daria Tessler

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by Sean

An excerpt from Sappy Times' 2011 edition:

Charles Bradley comes out in a red and gold suit, flying like a screaming soul eagle. We cheer, but not yet knowing. His band is magic, treasure, the finest things you could find. Charles Bradley squints at us through the fog. Still, we do not know. Then there is a break, a beat, and the 63-year-old parts his lips. He sings. He sings like a torch thrown onto a house. There is smoke & heat & unassailability. Striving love, a man's hot breath. Now we know. Charles Bradley is singing a song about the murder of his brother and now we know.

He sings ten thousand beautiful things. He does the splits, gyrates, gives us hugs. He covers Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and I am almost crying as he sings "I am getting old." It is not that he is an old man: it is that he is showing us his soul, singing us his soul, the things he has wanted, lost, won. "I love you" he shouts, crying, sweating, "I love you," breaking and mending my heart. That electric guitar, so sweet, sweeter than honey, behind him. This tent is full of gifts, gold soundz, held up, clutched hands, running us empty, right yes [HORNS HORNS HORNS] right now.

Rest in power Charles Bradley, 1948-2017.
by Sean

Goldfish - "Charm". In 1996, a band called Goldfish started recording an album. 21 years later, they finished it. Predictions of the Future is a time-capsule from a departed Montreal - tough, luscious, part-tarnished. Punk-rock from an era when punk was more glinting, when harshness and softness went together like scissors through silk. Like Lush or the Breeders, Goldfish were a four-piece. They were a band with two singer/guitarists, Carrie Haber and Vicky Klingenstierna. They tangled round the city; some nights it seemed like they owned the place. (They are probably the only act to have ever opened both for Natalie Merchant and for Fugazi.) Predictions was among the first material ever produced by my friend Howard Bilerman (who has since recorded classics like You Want It Darker, Funeral, Lhasa and 'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend). They laid it down at his parents' house. All this feels like folk-tale, fake history, but it's true. A band I'd never heard of that rocked and toiled, then went away. I moved to Montreal in 2000. By then Golfdish had disappeared. But the marvel of the thing is that they somehow clawed back. Two decades later, Haber decided that her band had unfinished business. "I realized that we're going to die," she told the Gazette's Jordan Zivitz. "I have a lot of unfinished projects, and this is not one I wanted hanging over me on my deathbed." This wasn't so easy: Predictions was recorded to tape; tapes don't last forever; but they retrieved 'em, baked 'em, set about completing that which wasn't quite completed. And now: here. "Charm" and all the rest of this artifact, like noticing a footprint in the sidewalk you've tramped over ten thousand times.

[buy Predictions of the Future from the Dears' label, Ting Dun]

by Sean

Daniel Romano - "Ugly Human Heart Pt. 2". A silver-screen sheen on you, the streets, your ugly human heart. A whole sky gone backdrop, a whole city gone set. Dashing like a dancer, feeling beer-bittersweet; or if not beery then at least the taste of black liquorice on your tongue. Oh, those silver pinprick stars. Oh, those rainbow oilspots and ruby flashing lights. What a night, what a day, what a loop-the-loop of sorry. Running under lampposts as there's Bowie beside you, or Lennon, and Kate McGarrigle. Running under lampposts like you can outrun your scampering shadow; dart this way, that, and maybe you'll finally lose that midnight thing, be rid of it and loose.

[buy Daniel Romano's wondrous glam-country masterpiece, Modern Pressure]

(photo source)

by Sean

Harmony Trowbridge - "It's Your Funeral".

Sinjin Hawke - "Don't Lose Yourself To This".

The earth is filled with species to which, or to whom, these pieces of music are identical. To a silverfish, a coral polyp, a tulip, these tracks are mostly indistinguishable, interchangeable, the noise of homo sapiens. Don't ask a fern to tell you the differences between Trowbridge's melancholy, with its glinting naked edge, or Hawke's electronica, all jackknifing cascades. Perhaps a whale could tell you something, or a blue jay; perhaps, perhaps not. I could tell you something, I can tell them apart. But there's a strange power in doing the opposite - in telling them the same. Fission is division, fusion is conjoining. "It's Your Funeral" and "Don't Lose Yourself To This" are so unalike - yet go ahead, listen for your minutes, and wherever you find commonality you are also finding might.

Is there a greater power than connecting unconnected things? Turn today into yesterday, lead into gold. The feelings and frameworks linking two sets of sounds: one murmured and acoustic, the other jabbering and artificial. Each of these songs conceals itself from sunlight. Each feels a shiver. Each is a processing, uncovering, not the settling of a thing. Harmony Trowbridge is vividly attentive to her melody, the balancing-act between sternness and sentiment. She wants to say exactly what, and no more. Sinjin Hawke, for all his overflowing, is the same: each beat is counted, each slick crash. The melody's slighter, but Hawke is just as dedicated to it - identifying his motifs, syncing them up, like lining up matching shards of mirror. Each of these songs knows itself sung backward: it has spent time in the rear-view, considering origin and decay.

[buy Harmony Trowbridge's excellent The More We Get Together, finally available as a download (previously) // Sinjin Hawke's magnum opus First Opus can be found here.]

(photo from reddit)

by Sean
Ka's eyes

Jon McKiel - "Turf War". A sickly daymare of a song, a vampire asking favours or a band on the road, desperate for kindness, lost at an existential halfway-house. Are there any scarier words than, "I guess we're crashing here tonight?" Are their creepier syllables than "ha-ha-ha-ha-ha"? "Turf War"'s guitar part is not nauseating; its bass part is not nauseating; its drums are not nauseating. And yet, in sum, they nauseate. The whole is sicklier than the sum of its parts. They're a yellow sky and green clouds, blue gasoline; and you hope it all presages rainstorm, thunderclap, a cleaning of the house. You hope this. But perhaps it will not bet. Perhaps you are caught in a whirlpool, a vortex, with companions that cannot show their face in the mirror. [buy]

Napster Vertigo - "Tragic Future Film Star". This song is also nauseating. But only mildly so. It is like a belly-ache on an otherwise perfect day. You had a rad brunch, you went for a bike ride, you saw the girl you're in love with. So what if there was something wrong with the eggs benny? So what if your stomach's slowly swirling. Your head already feels like aurora borealis, shapes passing through; and there are some drugs around; and she's a willowy beauty. Sometimes falling in love is like getting stoned and lying on your bed and listening to an old movie soundtrack. You need to get your turntable tuned. You need to replace the cartridge. You need to throw up. A little. Watching the spiral of the record's rotation, the swirly "Ka eyes" of the woman on the couch opposite. Each of you is staring at the rug. Each of you is silver on the screen. Eventually the question will be: is there an emergency exit? [with Basia Bulat on backing vocals / bandcamp]

by Sean

Train Fou - "Peuple Pollock". We all already know the notion of Schrödinger's Cat: a tabby in a box, at once dead and alive, somehow someways both until an observer checks. OK so that's Schrödinger's Cat. Let's talk now about Train Fou's "Peuple Pollock", a spectral and subdivided pop song, with shades of yesterday (Yeasayer and Massive Attack) and tomorrow (???). It's loop music, sample music, but with a forward-leaning groove, heavier and more abrupt than we're used to - much of the skeleton's made of trombone blarps, like snippets from a post-Inception movie trailer. I like it for the way it makes hay, serious hay, from elements that might otherwise feel naff (it was the same on Train Fou's previous, saxophone-y single). There's a sense that Train Fou (literally "crazy train") are taking these ridiculous, tacky, playful elements and using them as building-blocks for non-silly music, music with mettle and conviction. Which brings me back to my frail Schrödinger's Cat allusion. Imagine not a crate with a(n) (un)dead feline: imagine a cassette Walkman with the buttons' functions rubbed off. Shove a button down: somehow someways it's FFWD and RWD at the same time. Until you listen, it's everything - shuttling, reversing, playing regular time. In-out music, moonwalked or faked. Remember - nobody knows what you're thinking until you tell them, unless you tell them, and you can always lie.

[discovered via La Souterraine's Sainte Pop compilation / more Train Fou]

by Sean

ミツメ (Mitsume) - "あこがれ".

Suzy is a cactus, sunlit and loping, comfy in a J.J.

He's a friend of Pepe's, the old Pepe, before Pepe changed. They used to go down to the arcade together, watch older kids playing Street Fighter II. Then they'd stand by the dirty river, shouting slogans at swans. Pepe brought cheese sandwiches for lunch; Suzy had tuna salad.

Sometimes people ask Suzy where Suzy's from. He's not like most other cacti - he's friendlier, with a moist handshake. My family's from the Azores, he tells them. They own a garden hotel. "Suzy" is short for Suzanismo - which "is a boy's name, on the Azores. It's Portuguese."

Suzy keeps his apartment tidy. His kitchen counters are clean, his fridge is nicely stocked, his TV's properly mounted. He keeps a single magazine on the square, teak coffee table. The magazine is Thrasher magazine. In the fridge there are salad fixings, yoghurt drinks, bags and bags of oranges. Sometimes Suzy wears oranges on his face - he just sticks them on the spikes, goes out like that. Nice oranges, Pepe says. Suzy smiles, shrugs. Suzy's happy and weird. Suzy's comfy and no problem.

Suzy's bedroom's in the back. Suzy practices karate in the privacy of his room, with the red curtains drawn. His goal, if he thinks about it, is to save somebody someday. An innocent party, in an alley behind a bar - he'll karate-chop the adversaries, kick em to the kerb. In the meantime his karate practice is private, solitary, the most serious thing he does.

Suzy's favourite artist is Matt Furie.

When he gets on his skateboard it's like he's telling your favourite joke.

On a Sunday, Suzy makes fruit salad. Grabs the fruit from the icebox with the spines of his limbs, chucks it banana by apple by orange onto a beautiful burled cutting-board. He slices the banana thin, leaves the oranges in thick wedges. The morning's shouting sunshine through the window. Something from Tokyo's on the turntable. All the fruit's loose in a bowl; he adds grapes, raspberries, a few scoops of passionfruit. The secret ingredient's triple sec: one glug from the bottle. He isn't sure yet who the fruit salad's for. Maybe he's eating it himself. Maybe everyone's coming over.

[Mitsume aren't from the Azores / they're not cacti / they're from Japan / buy]

There's lots more in the archives:
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