Iron Butterly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968)
The title track comprises the entire second half of the album and is so loaded with mind-bending theatrics that it absolutely swallows the first half. ‘Flowers and Beads’ and ‘Are You Happy’ are well-preserved examples of the organ-infused rock of the hippie era. However, it’s the 17-minute ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ that achieves a sense of timelessness. The flourishing organ introduces the immortal bass line that, in turn, confidently guides listeners through this moody, atmospheric jam. It’s like Virgil touring Dante through Hell. A squealing guitar competes with the dominant bass for focus in a contest that manifests itself as carefully orchestrated chaos. The extended drum break blasts through the walls of electric hum and instantaneously transitions the proceedings into a tribal, rhythmic evolution. The percussion breaks everything down to a clean slate from which to rebuild the song.
Slowly, the full weight of ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ is recreated and pointed in an entirely different direction.
Iron Butterfly leader Doug Ingle grew up on church music and he sandwiches that influence between relentless beats and chilling guitar screeches for ultimate psychedelic juxtaposition. ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ is a gloriously bizarre trip for any early fall day. – Jeremy Schaefer
Noah Gundersen – Family EP (2011)
The dusty shelves of indie-folk music are blown clean by Noah Gundersen’s most recent EP. Accompanied by his sister on violin and backing vocals, Gundersen wisely restrains the music to allow his songwriting enough room to work itself out.
On ‘San Antonio Fading’, he laments the fraying edges of a love grown older with the weariness of someone who has covered many lonely miles. Ryan Adams would be an apt comparison for contemporaries, but Gundersen’s songwriting and the violin that decorates the acoustic guitar hint at the legend of Townes Van Zandt. On ‘Family’, he tells the tale of a drunken brother gone astray — “Say something awful/like fucking the world was your right” — but offers no judgment. It’s a familiar tale of brothers on different paths delivered with a chilling accuracy. Though Springsteen’s Nebraska simmers as an influence on this record, Gundersen tends to find some light breaking through the clouds. ‘Garden’ laments the hard times of the working man, but the song takes flight unexpectedly upon a breaking morning over a garden. Finding the smallest moments of beauty in the gloomiest of days is all the hope that many a man can find working to support a family in today’s rubble.
It seems like “emerging talent” is tossed around when describing too many records, but in this case, there is no other way to describe Noah Gundersen. One listen to this EP will have you standing in line for his first full-length album, which will hopefully arrive soon. – Jason Lent
Jason Lescalleet – Songs About Nothing (2012)
There might not be a single genre in all of music that has the air of pretense that comes with EAI/Musique Concrète. Even the titans of the genre (Schaeffer, Henry, etc.) are only known by a small fraction of a percent of knowledgeable music listeners. For himself, Lescalleet has built a small number of followers over a lengthy career that includes various experimental endeavors into EAI. However, Songs About Nothing proves itself to be his magnum opus.
Despite the assertion made in the LP’s title, Lescalleet’s album is about virtually everything (and maybe that’s the point). It’s a tribute to his evolution as an auteur that he manages to also craft his most cohesive effort while straying into new territory. The 43-plus-minute ‘The Future Belongs to No One’ sounds more like music as a history lesson, as Lescalleet uses samples from virtually everything one could imagine. Taken as a reference to the title and on a more literal level, what Lescalleet does is take noise from the past and reassemble it to form a new sound.
But are these sounds his? Do they belong to their predecessors? Do they belong to anyone? Lescalleet sure doesn’t think so. – Joe Mateo
Nara Leão – Dez Anos Depois (1971)
We’ve lost sense of time. We’ve lost count of the blocks traveled. We’ve lost interest in keeping track. As she blathers on about childhood pets and the comfort of a proper, home-cooked meal, we merely keep pace, utterly spellbound by the charms she can’t help. We’re clavering with the Girl From Ipanema herself — the embodiment of effortless cool and emollient warmth. The chat doesn’t cover much topical ground, and it doesn’t need to, for despite having heard them earlier in various, less enthralling permutations, we’re hanging on each other’s every word now. They resonate, they ravish, they ring truer than true. There’s a simplicity to the bossa nova stroll — a bit of swaying guitar, an adorable voice, and maybe a splash of piano or viola here and there — a mutual entente to speak about nothing in particular while treating these sweet nothings as sacrosanct.
These songs reverberate with the spiritual bounty of…sharing. She’ll muse on the wonders of cycling through city streets at night and we’ll make cases for the aptest up-at-dawn soundtracks, and neither of us will really finish a whole thought, too excitable to be pinned down by a single current. Before long, we’ve circled back to where we started. While the sight of familiar corner shops and eateries could prompt the end of our promenade, it’s as though we both pretend not to notice for our own good. We saunter on, our environs acting as chameleons, leaping from color to color as we ramble from thread to thread, ensuring that the path ahead, however trodden, feels primrose in perpetuity.
Likely insufferable to anyone else, we’re rapt by this capricious meeting of minds. Nattering on for hours has drowned out the surrounding clatter. Small talk has gone vital. It’s eased our burdens. It’s cleared our visions. It’s opened the door to the flightiest gusts of felicity. It’s tickled hope. It’s nourished the soul.
Our same old story is perhaps the best conversation we’ll ever hold. – Vinh Cao