Musical Chairs

Posted on January 1, 2010 – 10:33 PM | by OldManFoster
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Rick Ele, better known as DJ Rick, is a one-man tsunami of indie music enthusiasm.  By turns KDVS DJ, booker, tour driver, cheerleader, roadie, promoter, merch guy, reviewer and band-entertainment-specialist, Ele wears so many hats in the Sacto music scene that had he accepted the recently-offered gig to run a club in France it would have taken 6 people to even begin to replace him here.  The truth is, he’s irreplaceable.  Ele is the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, over and over again and then getting up each morning to go to his day job.    Here’s his thoughts on music, 2009..

Throughout 2009, I heard plenty of gripes about the sorry state of music, but surely the quibblers and maligners must not have scratched much below the surface. 2009 saw a bevy of outstanding albums and EPs which extended the current halcyon age of underground rock into this new decade which may prove in the next several years to be the best rock era since the late 70s and early 80s saw the eruption of punk, new wave, and the DIY movement.

The zeitgeist of reverb-drenched fractured pop by fuzz-loving garage-punks and deep-V-necked trendies kicked into super-saturation mode as the tide of Black Lips and Oh Sees apers and overly self-conscious namedroppers came flooding in like a tsunami wave. Or was that the album Wavvves by the band Wavves? That most-hyped indie album of early 2009 was already obsolete by summer due to unsubstantial and utterlly forgettable songs. Haters have let that flavor linger to keep hating on it even more, but the shimmery endless-summer psych-pop of Sacramento’s Ganglians issued four records- highlighted by the Monster Headroom album- which are the antidote to the lo-fi pop doldrums. While the Ganglians are part of the “glo-fi” or “hypnagogic pop” movement named by, they are emerging from the backlash against this unfortunately-named subgenre because of the strength of their songs, their genuine funloving spirit, and the indubitable fact that, amongst all the contemporary bands which critics compare to the Beach Boys, the Ganglians are the best at those vocal harmonies. They criss-crossed the continent playing second billing to Wavves during their first nationwide tour, and now the future’s bright for them with a new label for 2010 and a planned European tour in late spring. While their future is bright, they truly became a local treasure when they strengthened a link to our past; one of the true highlights of all the live music I saw in 2009- approximately 400 bands- was the Ganglians’ cover debut of “Aliens in Our Midst” by late-70s Sacto legends the Twinkeyz.

The most momentous local record of 2009 was the Deads 12″ EP by the Mayyors; its B-side opener “Clicks” was the most integral full-band achievement following two earlier EPs in 2008. The most tenacious mach-speed motorik drumbeat drives forward a supremely nifty interlocking bass/guitar riff while singer John Pritchard is in his very best and most aggressive form, and that’s just describing the first verse! As the band varies from the riff, it becomes even more thrilling as the Chris Woodhouse’s arcane guitar synth device is deployed to warp waves of perfectly tuned guitar scree in time with the constantly stout cadence, and as a grand finalé, the rhythm section flourishes with thundering tumbles and divebombing bass slides. Each member is achieving optimal performance simultaneously within a stunningly arranged and peerlessly produced song. The Mayyors remain elusive to most Sacramentans due to limited live local activity and zero web presence. If you would like your noise-rock to be as partyhardy as it is pugnacious, then you should find these Mayyors.

While the Mayyors and Ganglians sound nothing alike, they share many fans locally because of their propensity for rocking the same intimate living rooms and basements, and because the ever-expanding definition of “psychedelic rock” actually bridges their music. Indeed, the weird, wild, and far out has crept into every cranny of underground music, and that has brought a wide variety of music closer together, as well as fans. Tastes have become eclectic enough to endure- if not embrace- a four-band bill of glittery pop, thuggish sludge, fancy-free improv-scribble-jazz, and a weirdfolk troubadour from start to end. As the bands influence each other and the fans share it together, you know something important is brewing. Music that is broadly influenced has a tendency to be broadly influential (and vice versa…just think of how the ska-punk of the 90s became an evolutionary dead end). A few bands can blend nearly all of it together on one album, such as Wild & Inside by Eat Skull. The Portland band is best known for a style that cakes punky scuzz around a pure jangle-pop kernel, but on this second effort, they summoned the ghosts of Syd Barrett, Joe Meek, and Bruno Nicolai for some chilling moments of filmesque beauty.

Among the best albums of 2009, many ghosts of psychedelic’s past flew into the future over a field of punk, garage, lo-fi pop, and even minimal synth and industrial music. On Low Blows by Mattress, the macabre croony warble of Rex Marshall’s posi-self-help lyrics over a bed of downer darkwave sounds like an odd mix on paper, but it flows outta the speakers dazzlingly and seemingly very naturally. Facilidad?, the sixth album by Impractical Cockpit, harkens back to the earliest days of industrial music, but reflects the experience of the last decade and a half of no wave and noiserock damage, the cultural experience of living in pre-Katrina New Orleans, and coping with Katrina’s after-effects. Little Claw’s third album, Human Taste, brilliantly bridges awesome post-riot-grrl ladypower with primordial ooze of the protopunk era. Talk Normal’s Sugarland brings similarly striking ladypower to stridently atonal yet seductive artrock. Purling Hiss burns brightly on his Self-Titled album with blown-out white-hot guitar crunch and pyroclastic leads. Meercaz achieves the same on his Self-Titled, but varies the pace with a protopunk stew with a hint of every type of spice. Sonny & the Sunsets revive a fancy for Donovan alternately with Jonathan Richman on their alluring debut, Tomorrow is Alright. On Men Are Talking, the Life Partners playfully dish perplexingly dubious lyrical matter over clever rock with surprising AM-gold flavors. Best of all, the local SS Records label unleashed a stunning double-LP by Dan Melchior und Das Menace and the most enchanting album of dark wonder, Late Night by the upper Sacramento Valley’s Nothing People.

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