Friday, May 27, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 39

An Exaltation of Larks” 
If you follow Albuquerque's music scene, you can't help but notice the omnipresent Mauro Woody. A singular songwriter and vocalist who draws listeners into an inviting aural comfort zone. Hugely talented yet accessible, confident, vulnerable and fragile all the same. In her own modest fashion, Mauro has firmly established herself as a unique and powerful voice on the local scene. Mauro's bewitching delivery, accented with a variety of vocal nuances lends itself well to the swirling textures and precise structures of dream pop. That's not to say that she's not at home outside that genre. “Blue Flowers” for instance, rooted in Appalachian folk tradition is delivered as a comforting lilt, a tonic for anguished souls that descends into a dialogue of ghostly whispers at the end.

A stark contrast to the vocal style Mauro used with her first band, Animals in the Dark. Back then she sang with the stridency of old school punk chanteuses such as Penelope Houston or Poly Styrene mixed with vocal elements reminiscent of Cindy Wilson & Kate Pierson from the B52s. Since then her singing style has evolved. Presently, Mauro favors more refined vocals adorned with scintillating instrumental fills, alternatively switching to something that resembles the deliberately witchy voice affected by Kate Bush on “Wuthering Heights” While Mauro is also fully capable of veering off into Liz Fraser phonetic gymnastics, she rarely takes that plunge.... “Dustlands II” (the bonus live track from the five song ep, “Vulpes Vulpes”) being a pleasurable exception.

As previously mentioned, Mauro started out with Animals in the Dark, self described as “a psychedelic garage rock band with wide influences” which included her brother Brahm Woody on bass, Tianna Yazzi on guitar and drummer John Butler. Animals in the Dark toured extensively, releasing a demo “Winter Demos” an e.p. “Animals in the Dark” an album “Frozen in the Headlights” before breaking up. Mauro segued into dream pop indie rock outfit, The Glass Menageries joined by Gena Lawson, Brahm Woody and Chris Newman. The Glass Menageries have released one album to date “Edge of a Knife” Co-produced by Harry Redus-Brown (Unit 7 Drain) mastered by Carlos Jose Rafael Garcia (Carlos the Tall, YaYa Boom,Youngsville) The band is currently in the midst of an extended hiatus.

Harry Redus-Brown also makes a guest appearance, playing guitar on the seven minute opus “Foxy” a shimmering triumph, that sticks to you like a deep haunting dream. Mauro met Gena at Titwrench while performing with Milch de la Maquina, an experimental female group, one of the side projects she's involved in, which includes Lady Uranium (Mauro's solo outfit) The 5 Star Motelles “an all girl garage doo wop band” Chicharra (three female bass players and a male drummer) A new release from Chicharra is in the works. Lady Uranium, while not as radically experimental as Milch de la Maquina, does diverge from Mauro's previous works. It's a vehicle for experimentation, allowing Mauro to deconstruct the constricting concept of musical genres.

Mauro Woody is also involved in Melanthius, which she describes as “an all wizard band” with her brothers Brahm and Dhaveed w/ Eric Wellman. Psychedelic prog music that brings memories of the mid-1970s rushing back for old guys such as myself. Last but not least, Mauro also teams up with Gena Lawson as Merma & Roberta, a harmonizing duo of Jersey housewives with a taste for Alpaca butter and Designing Women. Fraser McAlpine (writing for BBC America's music blog “Anglophenia”) describes the daunting task faced by writers attempting to interpret Liz Fraser's unique vocal style “Elizabeth's voice is the kind of thing that forces music writers to reach for the thesaurus, eager to find a new word to describe things that spin and wheel around in the air like a flock of starlings” or in the case of Mauro Woody, “an exaltation of larks” Pass me some of that Alpaca butter, I'm done here.

  A to Z, women in Albuquerque are doing it. That hasn't always been the case, throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s and into the mid-1990s women (with a few rare exceptions) were absent from the local scene. We've since witnessed an amazing turn about, women are now firmly planted at the forefront of Albuquerque's local music scene. This has brought about a shift towards more experimentation and genre bending than ever before. Events such as the Denver based Titwrench Festival, the local Gatas y Vatas festival (which expanded to Oakland, Ca. In 2015) ABQ Zine Fest and venues such as The Tannex, are all spearheaded by women bent on building not just a cohesive musical scene but an inclusive and varied artistic community. This installment of Dirt City Chronicles (the podcast) is the first of a triumvirate showcasing women's contributions to 'Burque's local music scene. Three hours that are but a sampler of the astonishing and varied music produced by our better half. Beam me up, there is intelligent life here after all.

White Horse ~ Lindy Vision
Home ~ Red Light Cameras
Blue Flowers ~ Lady Uranium
Blue Winner ~ Star Canyon
Idiot ~ Lindsay Jayne
Nose Ring ~ Weedrat
Foxy ~ The Glass Menageries
Pink and Black ~ Lindy Vision
Past Perfect ~ Bigawatt
Down by the Water ~ Chicharra
Beat on my Bones- YaYa Boom
Bogus Journey ~ Feels Like Sunday
For Shelly ~ Giranimals
Get Your Gun ~ Animals in the Dark
The Ones ~ I is for Ida

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 38

Sugar Loaded”

Broadcasting from cheap and sunny, Albuquerque N.M.... Dirt City Chronicles. Your active rock music podcast, streaming over the interwebs, across the USA and around the world. “Nothing could be finer than a 49er” and I'm not talking about football. I make it a point not to repeat songs, but on this episode I'm throwing that self imposed rule out the window. Untethered by convention or morality, the heart of rock & roll is still beating. The product of the working class, chafing at the chains of conformity cast upon us by a polarized society that is goosestepping it's way to a bad end. I present to those who have no fucks left to give, a soundtrack for your many moods. Repeat play as often as necessary.

“Ouch! Welcome to Albuquerque” came out in 1999. That iconic double disc set from Socyermom Records introduced a grip of music lovers to Albuquerque's music scene and it introduced me to Electricoolade and Frankie Medina. Española N.M. The self declared lowrider capital of the Southwest has a rock & roll musical legacy that most New Mexicans are unaware of. Going back to the mid-1960s, The Moving Morfomen (also known as The Morfomen) guided by the totally self confident musical genius of Dave Rarick (an underrated New Mexican rock & roll icon if ever there was one) resoundingly stamped their brand on the regional music scene.

The Morfomen weren't alone, The Defiants scored a minor regional hit with “End of the Highway” and The Era of Sound earned their indelible slot on 60s garage rock compilations with “The Girl in the Mini Skirt” (Cottonmouth i.e. The Wumblies, called Española home before they set off to find neither fortune nor fame) Everybody's doing something...Soda riding like Pops was doing” Channeling the past and predicating the future.... displaying more swagger than Swaggy P... Frankie Medina burst out on the local scene with Electricoolade, an alt-rock outfit from Española that Flipside, a “legendary” punk rock magazine once compared to The Replacements & Elvis Costello's Attractions.

Flipside described Medina as having “a Westerberg-ish howl and Prince like vocals” they sorta nailed it on the Prince influence. Beyond that, the magazine's review of Electricoolade's debut album “Super Hero” is loaded with generalized comparisons. The anonymous author, having perused Cd Baby's “Sounds Like” tags for inspiration (seemingly without doing any actual research on the band) gave the album a cursory listen and not having achieved the level of smugness usually associated with Flipside, tossed in a jab at the city different. “Definitely an impressive effort from four kids from Santa Fe, a quiet town better known for its art than its music” BLAM! Santa, you got a taste of the bitch puddin.

Over at CD Universe, Electricoolade's second album “Taste Me” didn't fare any better. A house scribe wrote off Frankie's vocals as “Jovi-esque. He did however give Medina and band credit for “creating well-written music that bridges the gap between hair metal and mainstream/alternative. It appears that the band did have some redeeming pedestrian qualities. Check yo' self. By focusing on clichéd tags and comparisons, both these chumps totally missed the mark. Electricoolade was a work in progress. A hyperactive buzzsaw of guitars and influences.... fronted by one of the coolest rock vocalists to saunter down the road since Iggy Pop his self. 

Walking Down Congress (Sucking on a Red Bull)

  You can take the man out of España, but you can't take España out of the man. Too cool for school and Santa Fe, Frankie Medina and Calida Salazar (whom he met at a Santa Fe recording studio) set off for Austin, Tx. circa 2005. It's been their home ever since. With Frankie on guitar and Calida on keys, The Dirty Hearts honed the Española sound down to a razor sharpness.... chock full-o-attitude and swagger. Following the release of their debut ep “Five Canciones Five Pesos” and their self titled full length debut “The Dirty Hearts” Frankie and Calida became Austin's darlings. They netted scant attention from major labels, though the alternative press doted over them. 
Pigs” their second album on Socyrmom Records was designed with success in mind, it nonetheless failed to bust 'em out of the Austin scene. They've since gravitated back to New Mexico (though not on a permanent basis) With The Dirty Hearts currently on hiatus, Frankie and Calida are now involved in a similar project, The Angel Babies, named after Rosie Hamlin's hit tune from 1960. They have a self titled album out, available on Band Camp. Save for Frankie dabbling in his Spanish music roots, The Angel Babies are more an extension than a radical departure from The Dirty Hearts. They bring the same kinetic garage rock strut to the table that we dug about their predecessors.

Frankie teamed up with Keith Herrera (founder of Resin Records and former drummer for Albuquerque punk legends, The Drags) to form The Kill Spectors, a psyche punk duo that we can only hope we haven't heard the last from. (Their debut single Red River Street / Live Like a Dog was produced by popular Santa Fe musician, Jono Manson) Calida, a professional photographer as well as musician, has some solo recordings posted on Soundcloud. Stripped down instrumentation and vocals that echo the singing and songwriting style of obscure and mysterious Texas folk songstress Jasmine Star, a gal with a paper thin whisper of a voice and an aversion to having her face photographed. 

Record Store ~ The Dirty Hearts
Libertines in my Scene ~ The Dirty Novels
Blondie ~ Bring Back Dad
Don't Ask ~ Stabbed in the Back
Getting a Raise ~ Scenester
Burning Bag ~ The Gracchi
Audience Reaction ~ The Dirty Novels
U + M = Forever ~ Farthouse
High ~ Scared of Chaka
Bad ~ Scenester
Exile ~ The Scrams
No Action ~ Elevator Boys
Action Figure ~ The Dirty Hearts
Pack Your Pistol ~ The Dirty Novels
Gracchi Saturday Night ~ The Gracchi
Sweet Justice ~ Dead Town Lovers
Song ~ Farthouse
Blew One ~ Gusher
An Empty Apartment ~ Swale
Goat Throat ~ The Scrams
We Love the Burning Silos ~ The Burning Silos

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 37

Local Music at Your Fingertips

An unintentional underlying theme-o-death permeates through this episode. It's nothing to get hung about, the overall mood remains upbeat and optimistic. “The cold north wind is the bringer of winter, devouring one, strong and unruly. The Zephyr by contrast is the gentlest of winds, the messenger of spring... which we now await” Cover songs: Lousy Robot's ethereal version of “Dead Flowers” by the Rolling Stones. Steve Hammond's killer take on The Kinks' “Lazy Old Sun” A pair of David Bowie covers by Leeches of Lore (Life on Mars) and Pink Freud (Ziggy Stardust) from the David Bowie tribute show at the Launchpad in Albuquerque on March 4, 2016.

Let me tell you about Pink Freud.... as the name may suggest, they're a Pink Floyd cover band. There also appears to be two versions of the band according to their FB page. Pink Freud Southwest includes Rachel Ross, Chuck Hawley both N.M. music stalwarts, as well as Doug Bellen and Mikey Jaramillo. Pink Freud Midwest (based in Chicago) includes Carlos Del Real, Mike Marten, Julie Leuck, Gordon Patriarca. Vocalist Tony Orant ties things together by playing in both versions. There's yet another Pink Freud out there. This one is a jazz fusion band based in Poland, totally unrelated to the U.S. band(s). They don't do Pink Floyd covers.

Jen Olive splits her time between 'Burque, Los Angeles and England. Jen's latest album “The Breaks” features Andy Partridge (XTC), Mikey Rowe (keyboards, Sheryl Crow), Rob Brian (drummer, Siouxsie Sioux) just to name a few. Jen's previous venture, Warm Robot resulted in two releases, both on Apehouse Records, one in collaboration in Andy Partridge. All Music gave it a glowing review: “there's almost an echo of the lush textures and quiet elegance of early Butterfly Child (or even the Cocteau Twins!)” Boy Howdy! Her debut “Jen Olive” released in 2006 is self described as “nine poorly-recorded-but-someday-worth-lots-of-money masterpieces. A collector's item for sure”

Though we are blessed with a preponderance of talented women on the local music scene, there's always room for more... add Star Canyon's Cecilia McKinnon to the list. Multi-layered dream pop filtered through the glint of an oppressive sun reflecting off the sandy landscape. Echoing Mazzy Star/Hope Sandoval, Star Canyon consists of Cecilia McKinnon-vocals,guitar and Ben Martinez- percussion “Star Canyon is your guide to love songs for the post-apocalypse and other bad road trips” Lacking in wit, I lifted that description from their FB page. “Cheap Trick” Star Canyon's latest album was released in 2015. Their debut album, “Star Canyon” in 2013. Both are available at Bandcamp.

“Spiky Weapon of the Earth”

Anarcho Punk Folk.... is an apt descriptor for the musical trend of combining a punk ethos with unique folk instrumentation. Originally just Alex DenBaars and Beth Hansen working as a ukele and flute duo... unconventional instruments not usually associated with Punk or the Straight Edge movement. From those humble origins Arroyo Deathmatch has evolved into a five piece “hardcore-and-metal-influenced experimental anarcho folk band” Alex-vocals, Beth-flute,vocals Jett-washboard, Matt- bejota~accordion, Cameron upright-grandjo. “Evil folk for evil folks” Stubbornly acoustic, stubbornly sober, stubbornly honest... sworn to an ideal, totally committed to lighting a fire under your ass.

The music grips you. The distance between performer and audience is totally negated. Alex's fully throttled vocals force the listener to listen. No escaping or ignoring what's in your face. With every song, Arroyo Deathmatch builds to a seemingly chaotic crescendo, that is anything but. They're as tight as the Mothers of Invention. No shoe gazing aloofness, no jam band doodling. They electrify, without the use of electricity. The bejota is an instrument of their own invention. It sorta looks like an over sized banjo, but it ain't no banjo. For starters, it only has two strings. The grandjo on the other hand also looks like a big banjo, but its role within the group is similar to an upright bass.

Starting in 2009, Alex and Beth were accompanied by conventional instruments: guitar, fiddle and cello (Calen, Danny, Jes respectively) a lineup that held up through their first two albums, “Burned on Fire” and “Ballad of a Dead Dog” Their third album “Suffer the Weak” “represents the phase in history when Arroyo Deathmatch was a duo project” “May Demo 2011” saw the addition of the formidable Leon on drums and Twig on washboard. The split release w/Days N Daze kept that lineup in place. “All of Them Witches” marked the debut of Matt and the mighty bejota. “Through the Fear of It” introduced us to Jett on washboard. Cameron on the grandjo came on board for “Hidden Histories”

“Funny people making dead-serious music” Alex Denbaars also heads up The Goathead Record Collective. A “non-hierarchical, independent, folk and punk record collective” Formed with the goal of “providing access to recording equipment and sound engineers free of charge to local bands” Some local artists with Goathead connections include, Arroyo Deathmatch, The Leaky Faces, Vassar Bastards, Saugwa and Bird Friend. Chatterbox & The Latter Day Satanists from Colorado and Days N Daze from Texas. You won't find Tom Dooley hanging 'round these parts.... this ain't your Papaw's folk music. For full effect, play this music as loud as your neighbors can stand. 

Foster's Lager, Luc Longley, Cameron Bairstow or Hugh Greenwood.... nope. Guitarist Nathan Bickley is hands down the best Australian import to inhabit the Duke City. Bickley, co-host (alongside Ashley Veve Rammelsburg) of “Blowing Up” “the podcast about anything relevant for more than one second” arrived in Albuquerque (UNM in particular) by way of Norway, Venezuela and Australia. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in psychology from UNM in 2009. While his academic credentials are top notch, Nathan Bickley also has a knack for droning lo-fi psychedelic electronica that reminds one of an updated version of the “Dunedin Sound” associated with New Zealand's Flying Nun Records.

When it comes to music, Nathan has been busier than a one legged man at a Dance Dance Revolution contest. Constructing a timeline is difficult, on account that Bickley's musical ventures and the musicians involved often intersect and overlap one another. In no particular order here's a list of Nathan's projects: Small Flightless Birds (Nathan, James Sturgis,Will Bryne, Bon Baca) CanyonLands (Nathan, James Sturgis, Bon Baca, Adeline Murthy, Mark Campagna) Smoke Rings (Nathan, James Sturgis) The Gatherers (Nathan, James Sturgis, David Ramon, Bon Baca, Leigh Scariano) Ballets/Spice Boyz (Nathan, James Sturgis, Bon Baca, Andy Ward)

As you've probably gathered, James Sturgis is the one constant other than Bickley. Everything builds around Sturgis' mostly indecipherable vocals and the guitar interaction between Bickley and Sturgis is oh so sweet.  Ballets and CanyonLands have segued into Spice Boyz for some reason... same personnel. Bickley has also recorded under the alias of Daffodil Megasaurus. Train Conductor on the other hand consists of many of the musicians working with Nathan.... but, not Nathan. We could conclude that it's all just CanyonLands under different guises.... except there's just enough distinction between the varying projects to rule that out. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. The more Nathan Bickley and James Sturgis, the better off we all are. Music by all bands mentioned is available for streaming on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Dead Flowers ~ Lousy Robot
Lazy Old Sun ~ Steve Hammond
Death of Me ~ Jen Olive
I Remember You ~ Weedrat
Alibi ~ Star Canyon
Horses ~ Italian Rats
A Language That Goes Unspoken ~ Arroyo Deathmatch
Death-o-Flight ~ Icumdrums
Funky Russia ~ Alien Space Kitchen
Funeral ~ The Talking Hours
Knight of Wands ~ Anna Mall
Fool ~ Klondykes
Lozenges ~ CanyonLands
Life on Mars ~ Leeches of Lore
Ziggy Stardust ~ Pink Freud
Until it Ends, It Begins ~ Black Tie
I Can't Show You ~ CanyonLands
Failure Isn't Free ~ Arroyo Deathmatch