No Commercial Potential

Posted on September 30, 2010 – 7:30 AM | by OldManFoster
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By Dennis Yudt

Though Sacramento may be best known for producing slick radio rock on the order of Steel Breeze, Tesla, Cake and the Deftones, there has also been a strange side, filled with brilliant oddballs and sonic outsiders who are barely known even within our own community. Stretching back over 30 years, local musicians have released a stream of vinyl that has confounded and confused folks expecting rock/pop pro forma while lovers of the esoteric have happily filled their inner ear and poked their third eye with the strange and happening sounds of Sacramento music. Although far from complete, the following is a mere hors d’oeuvre from the surreal and sumptuous sonic banquet whipped up by our area‘s best and bravest. Bon appetit!

Let’s start with Broderick, CA’s own Bobby Brown (not to be confused with the former teen star cum reality show weirdo married to Whitney Houston) and his Live LP recorded in 1978. A one-man band, Mr. Brown made his own instruments including electrified springs and a 15 foot contraption that created massive drones. The original recordings took place when Bobby opened for Fleetwood Mac (!), but the crowd noise was deemed too obtrusive so he re-recorded the gig in front of his van with a small crowd in attendance. Brown, who looks like a burnt-out surfer in the pics on the album, has a voice that falls somewhere between Donovan and David Crosby. The music isn’t waaaay out there, but it has enough quirks to include him on this list. The final track, “I Don’t Wanna Be No Macho Joe” is the LP’s best; a heavily-reverbed flute leads into Bobby’s haunted, Tim Buckley-like echoed-out vocals wailing into the inner groove.

In 1981, the Irida label released Polyphonies/Spectra/Primavera, an experimental album that showcased then-local composer Dary John Mizelle’s electronic forays. Mizelle studied at Sacramento State and UC Davis before high-tailing it out of town to study with Karlheinz Stockhausen, David Tudor, Pauline Oliveros and Charles Dodge, all legendary experimental electronic musicians in their own right. The whole album is great, with sublime interplay between cello and prepared tapes, but the side-long “Polyphonies,” recorded in 1975, is the keeper. Using quadraphonic delay, shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute) and electronic sounds, Mizelle conjures up floor-shaking drones that lead into what sounds like a leaking high-pressure canister of gas in a pitch-black cave filled with prehistoric metallic bats and glass insects eeking out mating calls and bumping into each other. Sounding a lot like one of Nurse With Wound’s finest, this would be a fine soundtrack to any adventurous beanbag ’n’ bong evening you have planned.

Featuring a few of the cads in MidMo’s “Guide to Midtown Characters” from last month,  Lil Bunnies’ LP 50 Children’s Favorites from 2001 is a no-fi mess of garage punk caked with snot (and any other bodily fluid of your choice) that sounds like it was recorded not at 33 or 45 RPM but somewhere in between. If songs that are falling apart at the seams the moment they start, barely draped over hate-filled rants are your thing (something always welcomed in this writers’ household) then you really need to track this down. Like getting beaten with a sock full of nickels, Lil Bunnies aren’t so much entertainment as much as a beautiful way of life. For more proof, check out their “performance” at Gilman St. on YouTube for one of the most chromosomally-damaged videos you will ever lay your eye-bones on.

The UK collective A Band visited Davis, CA in 1992, and recorded a cool 7″ with a few of the area’s top record collectors/sound-hounds, which was soon released on the tiny Baby Huey label.  A shambling good time was had by all as ashcans, mic stands, an amplified frying pan, Indian flutes, 5-string guitar and massed voices fill the B-side, “Salivating Regina.” Sounding like one of the better tracks from the Sun City Girls 330003 Cross Dressers from Beyond the Rig Veda LP, this improv jam featuring the likes of Mike Trouchon (one-time writer for Your Flesh and all-around fine human) and Anopheles Records head honcho, Karl Ikola. Swell and swelling.

Whatever band Chad Stockdale finds himself in, it always enriches the soul and provides a real treat to wiggle my anvil, stirrup and eardrums to.   An early release on his life-affirming Weird Forest label, Klondike & York’s single “White Out the Blue Monk”/”Angry Gull” is a reet gush of Fire Music with Stockdale on tenor sax and ‘Naked’ Nathan Beier on percussion.  Akin to Peter Brotzmann jamming with Sunny Murray on the A side and with more of a Roscoe Mitchell/Melford Graves vibe on the flip, this duo’s free jazz can stand proud amidst any ESP and Actuel records in your collection.
Lastly, Crawl Unit is the nom de guerre of former Sacramento resident Joe Colley, now an internationally known experimental sound artist who appears at festivals around the world. Recorded in Sacramento and Massachusetts, this 10”, entitled 1993 EP will wrap your head in layers of grrrrr and confusion as spoken word samples butt up against roughly granulated noise, other-worldly and malevolent drones or the sounds of technology being abused in all the right ways. One of the track titles states quite explicitly – “Composition Designed To Blot Out the Speech of Idiots”.

I’ll have to throw that one on when the neighbors come home.

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