We don’t post much math rock on this blog, for the very simple reason that most of it isn’t actually that weird. Technically impressive, sure, but weird? Not so much. Go to any large band practice space in any big college town and you will hear the cacophony of a dozen math rock bands all trying to shred around a diminished seventh chord in alternating 3/2 and 7/8 tempos and I actually nodded off three times while trying to finish this sentence. The sound of music geeks geeking out can go to some pretty weird places—but as with most genres of music, the vast majority of it is pretty by-the-book.
This is why I find Tera Melos so refreshing. Yes, they’re clearly big-time music geeks, but they a.) don’t take themselves too seriously and b.) make songs that, while still full jerky start-stop rhythms and odd, slightly dissonant chord progressions, also have melody and—dare I say it?—a sense of groove. They remind me a lot of Pinback and Minus the Bear, two bands I really like that sometimes get labeled as math rock even though I’m sure the hardcore math rockers think their time signatures are too basic.
But what really puts them over the top into weirdo territory are their music videos, which are nearly always amazing. Here’s a recent one for the track “Bite” that is pretty much exactly how I always imagined it would look if Primus made a J-pop video. And yes, I imagine that sort of thing a lot.
P.S. Thanks to reader matp662 for submitting Tera Melos. Matp662 suggested another video, “The Skin Surf,” and that one’s pretty weird, too.
Let’s wrap up the week with a little vintage Italian mystic/esoteric prog/psych/horror soundtrack rock. Jacula was a band active in the late ’60s and early ’70s, made up of rock guitarist Antonio Bartoccetti (of the band Antonius Rex), church organist Charles Tiring and experimental keyboardist/sound engineer Doris Norton. They’ve been described as “the most authoritative band of the deeper parabiblical mystic sound.” They recently reunited and released their first album in nearly 40 years, Pre Viam, in 2011, with a promise of more new material coming soon.
This track is from their second album, 1972’s Tardo Pede in Magiam Versus. Kinda sounds like a rock opera version of The Exorcist, no?
Our thanks to reader Giannina for sharing this stuff with us. I didn’t think Italian prog-rock could get any creepier than Goblin, but I think these guys have achieved that.
Los Doggies are an “indie prog” band from Upstate New York who make music that’s simultaneously poppy and full of music-nerd plays on harmonic theory and whatnot. (I say “whatnot” because I know next to nothing about music theory, but I believe “whatnot” is a technical term meaning “stuff jam bands do”). Their drummer Evan sent us a bunch of tracks last night, our favorite of which is this video treatment for Los Doggies’ version of a sexytime song, “Pari Passu.” I say “version of” because…well, you’ll see. Most sex songs don’t contain references to cephalopods and philtrums. (Or is the plural philtra? Philtrae? I bet the Los Doggies guys know. They seem like smarties.)
“Pari Passu” is from the band’s latest album, e’rebody, which you can hear and obtain via Bandcamp.
French Nintendocore rockers Pryapisme must love the ’80s. Not only are they releasing a new limited-edition EP only on pink cassette tape, they’re filling entirely with 8-bit music—you know, that tinny, lo-fi electronic stuff that sounds like two Atari 2600’s getting freaky. It’s called Blastbit Rococollider and appears to contain 8-bit remixes/remakes of tracks from their first two albums, Hyperblast Super Collider and Rococo Holocaust. They’re only making 100 copies, but if I can get my hands on one, I plan to break out my old canary-yellow Sport Walkman and make it the soundtrack to a weekend-long binge-playing session on my Asteroids emulator. Don’t judge me.
Here’s the track list for Blastbit Rococollider, which comes out Feb. 3rd on Apathia Records. To (attempt to) order a copy, keep an eye on the Apathia website.
World A :
Level 1 : Quenelle quenelle fourrure (Intro)
Level 2 : La notion de chiralité de spin et d’oscillation de saveur des particules supersymetriques définissant un champs scalaire lors d’une transition de conifold en cosmologie branaire dans un modèle ekpyrotique (Scrolling map)
Level 3 : Lesbian bordello (Warp zone)
World B :
Level 4 : Un druide est giboyeux lorsqu’il se prend pour un neutrino ( Platform )
Level 5 : Darkness lobotomy insurrection (Final boss)
Level 6 : Sanglié par un cornid (Bonus stage)
This week’s weird band was suggested by an excellently named reader called Adam Whybray. He describes a.P.A.t.T. as sounding “a bit like a glitchy Mr. Bungle cult that formed down the pub.” And while that’s probably as good a description as any of these cheeky Liverpudlians (although it doesn’t contain the word “Liverpudlian,” which is one of those words you should use every chance you get), it really only scratches the surface of what this avant-pop art-school project has achieved in its 15-odd years of existence.
a.P.A.t.T. (what does it stand for? how do you pronounce it? who knows? who cares?) formed in Liverpool in 1997 or 1998. Their early goal, according to their Wikipedia page (which the band links to from their official site, so let’s assume it’s semi-accurate), was to “make, find, imagine, and create ‘secret music,'” by which they seemed to mean music that abandoned traditional song structures and instrumentation. You can hear some of the band’s early stuff on Welcome to a.P.A.t.T. Island – A collection of earlies, which veers sharply between abstract, ambient noise and bursts of spastic, genre-hopping art-pop that reveals some of those Mr. Bungle influences that Adam picked up, as well as an even more direct early influence (and another favorite of ours around here), Cardiacs.
By 2005 or so, the band’s music had become even harder to categorize. On the Fre(e.P), they started doing Girl Talk-like mashups, mixing recognizable pop and classic rock samples with trip-hop beats and trashy club rap, but doing it in a style meant more to be unsettling than party-starting. Check the amazing “Megamix Part 1″ for a taste of what happens when you cram the Jackson 5, Coolio, Portishead and “What a Day for a Daydream” into the same track.
Meanwhile, they were also developing a live soundtrack for the silent-film-era vampire classic, Nosferatu, complete with strings. Because hey, why not?
In 2008, they reinvented themselves yet again, transforming into a Zappa-like prog/jazz/metal/psych-rock orchestra on the epic, 27-track Black & White Mass. Most recently, they released Paul the Record, a split album with a band called Peepholes, then decided to embrace the “playlist on shuffle” mentality of our modern age with Ogadimma, a 14-track set on which no two songs are done in the same style. They’ve also shot videos for all 14 songs; taken collectively, they’re pretty amazing. Here they are, for example, in full-on Prince-meets-Of-Montreal mode:
Now try to remember, as you watch this next video, that this is the same band:
They also cite Ween as one of their influences, which honestly didn’t make sense to me until I heard the casual, tongue-in-cheek virtuosity of the Ogadimma stuff: “Oh, you want to hear us do some ’80s synth-pop? Sure, here you go. No big whoop.” (Among their other listed influences: The Residents, Duran Duran, Captain Beefheart, John Zorn, Slayer, Claude Debussy, ABBA, and The Beatles. Much like a.P.A.t.T.’s actual music, this list simultaneously makes no sense and all the sense in the world.)
You’ll notice up until now that I haven’t mentioned any of a.P.A.t.T.’s members by name. That’s because, quite frankly, I have no idea who these people are. a.P.A.t.T don’t perform wearing masks or anything, but they do (mostly) stick to an all-white costume palette that seems to help them maintain a semi-anonymous quality. That plus, let’s be honest here, a.P.A.t.T. is not the world’s most Google-friendly band name. According to their Wikipedia page, their core members go by the names General MIDI, Field Marshall Stack, Dorothy Wave, Master Fader and The Researcher, but that’s all I know.
We’ll wrap this post up with a clip of a.P.A.t.T’s live show (non-orchestra version), which looks like jolly good fun. That lady keyboard player (Dorothy Wave, we presume) has sure got some sick dance moves.
Way back in 2009, when we were still a little ankle-biter of a blog, we wrote a post about a French band called Magma that spawned (the band, not the post) an entire genre of hyper-bizarre prog-rock/space-jazz/freak-fusion called Zeuhl. “Next time you hear a bunch of French dudes chanting nonsense lyrics over music that sounds sort of like Pat Metheny on acid,” we wrote, with that casual air of snark that only comes from having no idea what the fuck you’re talking about, “you’re probably listening to a Zeuhl band.”
Well, it’s taken us four years, but we’ve finally a.) admitted that, to this very day, we often have no idea what the fuck we’re talking about and b.) gotten around to writing about another Zeuhl band. Except this bunch is neither French nor, entirely, dudes. They’re from Japan and they’re a coed ensemble by the name of Koenjihyakkei, which translates to something like “The Hundred Sights of Koenji.” Koenji is a neighborhood in Tokyo, but does it really have a hundred sights? Beats me. Like I said, we often have no idea what the fuck we’re talking about.
Here’s what little we do know: Koenjihyakkei (also sometimes transliterated as “Koenji Hyakkei”) was started in the early ’90s by a drummer named Tatsuya Yoshida, whose previous band, Ruins, did a pretty fair approximation of Magma’s original Zeuhl insanity rendered down to just a bass/drums duo. Having apparently exhausted that format, Yoshida expanded his list of collaborators with Koenjihyakkei, adding a rotating cast of musicians to an increasingly epic and noisy take on Magma-esque jazz-prog mayhem. The band’s most recent lineup, seen in the above photo, features a lady who just goes by AH on vocals, Keiko Komori on reeds, Kengo Sakamoto on bass and Taku Yabuki on keys.
We also know that, sadly, the band appears to have been pretty inactive since about 2010 or so. Yoshida has been more focused on various new incarnations of Ruins: Ruins Alone, which is just him with a drum kit and electronics, and Sax Ruins, which is him with (you’ll never guess) a sax player. He’s also got a guitar/bass/drums power trio called Korekyojinn and a growing online photo archive called Stones of the World. Not pictures of international Rolling Stones cover bands—though that would indeed be awesome—but just pictures of interesting rock formations, made by both humans and nature. Worth a look, especially if you’re into stony things. Did I just make a really lame pot joke? Why, yes, yes I did. Thanks for noticing.
Koenjihyakkei’s music is difficult to describe, even for us. Is it Magma by way of Naked City? Boredoms by way of Shibushirazu Orchestra? Japanese show tunes as performed by “something so far off Broadway it’s on the moon”? (We didn’t come up with that last one, but it kinda sounds like something we would’ve written in 2009.) Whatever it is, it’s more overtly jazz-based than Magma or Ruins, but still prone to going off on the sort of crazy tangents that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Mike Patton side project.
We’ll leave you with two videos that should give you a sense of Koenjihyakkei’s full range of musical lunacy. The first is taken from their 2010 DVD Live at Koenji High and really showcases them (especially vocalist AH) as a sort of a jazz quintet from Mars. The oddly jaunty gang vocals at 2:50 are my favorite part. Also the part where she growls like a demon over some serious ’70s-style prog-rock synth runs. I’m not telling you where to find that part; you’ll just have to listen to the whole goddamned thing yourself.
Next: We would be remiss if we didn’t include the track that MVR (Most Valuable Reader) Stuart Johnson sent our way to introduce us to the awesomeness that is Koenjihyakkei. Thanks, Stuart! For a band that owes much of its existence to a single other band (i.e. Magma), Koenjihyakkei are about as original as it gets.
Classic Frank Zappa albums “Freak Out!” and “Over-Nite Sensation” getting the deluxe vinyl reissue treatment
Since regaining the rights to Frank Zappa‘s vast catalog, his heirs over at Zappa Records and Zappa Family Trust have wasted no time in finding new and creative ways to get his music out into the marketplace. Some moves, like selling CDs with a distribution license for $1,000 a pop, have struck us as a bit ill-conceived. But they’ve also put out some cool unreleased material and finally made his stuff available on iTunes, a long overdue boon to those of us who still quaintly insist of paying to download music instead of just listening to Pandora all day.
Even more quaintly, some of us still listen to music on big black pieces of vinyl—and now Zappa Records has those folks covered, too. Next month, they’ll be reissuing two classic Zappa albums on collector’s quality 180-gram vinyl: Freak Out!, the groundbreaking debut from Zappa’s band The Mothers of Invention, and another Mothers mind-bender, 1973’s Over-Nite Sensation, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Damn, I feel old just typing that.
No word yet on the exact release date of these suckers, but keep an eye on the somewhat bewildering Zappa.com site for (hopefully) more info soon. Meantime, let’s play out this post with a golden Frank oldie from Freak Out!, shall we?