It's time for another issue of our weekly newsletter, Sidecar. A round up of this week at Aquarium Drunkard, pop culture recommendations, and more.
Zenjungle is the solo nom de plume of Phil Gardelis, a saxophonist from Athens, Greece whose works straddle jazz, drone, and ambient. His first musical exchange with Valiska (a.k.a. Polish electronic artist Krzysztof Sujata, based in Calgary, Alberta), occurred in 2014 with the elegiac moods of A Changing Light, currently available as a name your price download. Over the spring and summer of 2020, when the claustrophobic effects of lockdown made their physical distance from each other feel even further than usual, they decided to reconnect for a sequel.
Poet Chris Mosdell began his lyrical career by writing for a gamut of emerging Japanese bands (Sadistics, Sheena and the Rokkets, and Sandii and the Sunsets) in the late 70s after moving to Tokyo from England to work for Japanese public radio. His catalog now boasts a long list of prominent collaborators including Yellow Magic Orchestra (Mosdell penned the lyrics to YMO’s “Behind the Mask” that has been covered by both Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton) and Yoko Kanno, the prolific film composer behind some of the biggest anime soundtracks of all time, including Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell (for which Mosdell also penned lyrics). Despite his success working with other musicians, Mosdell’s experimental solo album, Equasian (1982, Alfa Records), remains a relative obscurity outside the borders of Japan. In this conversation, we spoke with the lyricist about his early career with YMO and how his eclectic album of musical concrete poems came to be.
Eola :: B And O Blues
We mentioned Eola’s Dang upon its initial release, and the new Tonstartssbandht record has us revisiting the 2016 album with fervor. Self-described ‘a capella DIY gospel’, Eola is the solo vehicle of Tonstartssbandht’s Edwin White. Laced in woozy reverb, vocoder and f/x, Dang‘s nine tracks play out like a sub rosa summoning stick. Alternately leaning into spiritual drones, warbling pop, and cosmic chamber gospel, its a gorgeous record of singular vision.
Sonic Youth played its last shows just over a decade ago. But the band’s legacy lives on thanks to an ever-expanding archive available on Bandcamp. This fall, fans were blessed with two full shows recorded in Texas in 1995 and 2006 (with proceeds going towards fundraise for Fund Texas Choice and the Abortion Support Network), but those are just the tip of the SY iceberg. Curated by drummer Steve Shelley and longtime sound engineer Aaron Mullan, the archive swells with live tapes stretching back to the mid-1980s, crucial rarities collections, and stray tracks rescued from out-of-print singles, internet mixes, and random comps. It’s an ongoing feast, giving fans a chance to experience Sonic Youth’s various phases and stages anew. Aquarium Drunkard spoke with Steve Shelley to get his thoughts on a few gems that await
In 2019 the LA based Joy Guerrilla dropped their debut full-length, Skyline, a record sonically indebted to Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock, George Duke, and esoteric European prog — all with an assist from elements of modern electronic music. Rooted by core players Magda Daniec and Adam Grab, the group returned earlier this year with the release of its sophomore LP, The Park Is Closed. If Skyline‘s intent was to capture the idyllic West Coast atmosphere through a musical lens, this new effort casts its gaze at the dark, bizarre, and pensive. Or, as evidenced by “No Late Fees”, the Steely Dan side of Los Angeles.
Videodrome: Urgh! A Music War
Released in May 1982, Urgh! A Music War is one of the most salient artifacts from the musical movement that would later be dubbed “new wave.” Clocking in at just over two hours and featuring over thirty live performances, the anthological concert film showcases artists in their prime as well as their infancy.
Even if you don’t know Hand Habits, you’re likely to have heard Meg Duffy playing guitar. The artist has played guitar in Kevin Morby’s band, sits in with Perfume Genius, and, on a more occasional basis, has lent their skills to Sylvan Esso, the War on Drugs, Mega Bog and William Tyler. But alongside their session work, Duffy has also nurtured a solo project, beginning in a handmade, folky, strummy mode with 2018’s Wildly Idle and expanding on that template with Placeholder a year later. Now with Fun House, recorded at home in L.A. with roommates Sasami and Kyle Thomas of King Tuff, Duffy is bringing in the diverse and varied experiences they’ve had working with other artists, new musical influences and the insights of their two collaborators. Safe to say, Fun House sounds very different from anything Duffy has ever done before, with dense and sophisticated arrangements, varied tempos and tales of devastating impact wrapped in warm, comforting musical settings Here, Duffy talks about their process, the liberating effect of working with an out queer artist like Perfume Genius and the way that the meanings of songs shift over time. “One of my favorite things about making records is that I learn about what the meaning is, later, after it’s out,” they confide.
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