Category Archives: Music Reviews & Previews

Another Self Portrait Begets Review

Another Self Portrait

Rating:

“Shut up take my money!” or “Keep talking no money for you!”?

It’s never a bad idea to remain acquainted with your paperbacks (they might be worth something someday… or not). This is a compilation of rare and previously released tracks which are mostly suited for Dylan devotees (most music nazis would concur). Even then, the collection is missing something. Having said that, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth listening to over and over. Newbs, consider earlier material such as The Bootleg Series Volume 6: Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall.

Review:

Can the ubiquitous sounds and words from a famed maverick’s heyday still make a buzz (or give you one)? Bob Dylan always found a way to reinvent himself. He wasn’t as eccentric as David Bowie, but he withstood the sands of time by doing his own thing. Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10  offers (yes, another) peek into the audio vaults (imagine you just won the golden ticket and you’re going to Willie Wonka’s  studio archives. Yeah, The Umpa-Lumpa’s really wanted to get their dumpadi-do’s down). The four CD deluxe edition, there’s a three CD version, has alternate takes and unreleased tracks from Self Portrait, New Morning, Nashville Skyline, as well as a remixed and remastered cut of the Isle of Wight performance with The Band. The Deluxe Edition’s fourth disk contains additional unreleased material (can you say “audio candy”?). At the time of these recordings his fans still thought there was nothing sweet about his genre jumping escapades but artistic complacency didn’t seem to exist in his lexicon.

Dylan upset many of his loyal fans (that’s a bit of an understatement, a fan calls him Judas in the 1966 Volume 4 Bootlegs) that knew him as the vaudevillian singer of ballads and topical folk songs distinguishable by a jazzy Appalachian Mountain voice. He trapezed from folk, to rock and roll, country, has worked with ragtime and barrel-house pianists, cajun, zydeco, jam bands, (he paints a better, ahem… self portrait in his memoirs Chronicles Volume One) and the list goes on as he still tours and collaborates with different emerging artists (he just finished a tour with Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and Richard Thompson).

Even though hid didn’t venture out further than electro-acoustical Americana (the closest were covers. Much like Johnny Cash covered Depeche Mode, somewhere in the bootleg ether resides Dylan’s cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”) his music remains relevant. That’s because after jousting and surviving a flaring digital music industry his work still belongs to the institution of troubadours (strap that chain male on pilgrim) and songwriters such as Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, and even Cole Porter (minus the whole broadway musical pizzazz and jazz hands).

The compilation starts with “Went to See the Gypsy” whose sound quality and lead guitar aren’t the most dynamic but it has the humility that most independent artists are all too familiar with (fit to play at a latter-day bootleggers ball). Immediately thereafter you hit the unreleased and alternate Self Portrait material where you hear the vocally melodic twang that defined his country sound. His guitar and harmonica are there by his side like the trusty companions they’ve always been (think Sancho Panza and Rocinante).

Once you hear the alternate version of “I Threw it All Away” from Nashville Skyline you begin to realize what distinguished him from The Beatles. His self-reflective confessional songs put you in his shoes. Next thing you know you’re on a boat floating around the song’s scenery. You see someone smoking a cigarette, furry yellow couches with plastic covers, a warm colored living room rug, and wood panels lining every wall. Your cognizance begins to blur.

Eventually, your boat lands on the Isle of Wight recordings where Robbie Robertson’s tele-twang and the rest of The Band take you on a bustling caravan of live material (to that home on the range, where the blue notes and the dominant 7ths play). You can hear them rip up some rustic rock ‘n roll in “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Highway 61 Revisited”. As the wind begins to sway you hear the folkiness of “To Ramona” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” sung with a country falcetto which leads into standards like “Lay Lady Lay”. Autumnal gusts pick up as organ tones vibrate and tremble. The guitar slides,  leaves’ colors change, pumpkins cluster, strings are arpeggiated and played in finger-style, remorseful lyrics are suspended, and “I Threw it All Away” resurfaces but this time as a live track from the Isle of Wight.

Tracks like that and “In Search of Little Sadie” really pushed the boundaries of Dylan’s library (just when you thought the library closed. Yep, there’s a drop-off slot. Phew!). The latter resounds with gritty staples such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Lost Highway” on a whole other level (think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Come on. Stick ‘em up and give us the loot!).

If that weren’t enough you eventually hit the bonus disk (Deluxe Edition holders, nod your heads in agreement. Yes, that’s right) where you hear the sweet country soul of “Let it be me” that can’t help but remind you of Ray Charles and his homespun expansions. Doo-wop vocalists in “Blue Moon” take you lakeside where moonlight wallows, frogs ribbit, and grasshoppers fiddle their legs. Out of some recess in the recording archives, our bootlegging friends managed to get ahold of an incomparable duet with Paul Simon in “The Boxer”. Next thing you know you’re close to the end when you hear Mexicali brass in “Wigwam” which sounds like something out of an early Beirut album.

From base to treble clef, it’s the same Bob Dylan you remember except his history hasn’t proceeded him. This bootleg volume will keep you tied down until he releases new material (or you get hungry and go out for some fries).

Gnarliness Reigns at the Echo and Echoplex

Classically trained Yale grad is the brains behind San Fermin’s breakout operation (yeah, see. you’ll never catch ‘em now coppers, see. yeah…)

A gnarly set of indie and garage rock waves will plunge into The Echoplex Tuesday October 15th, 2013 as the Jacuzzi Boys open with a tubular set downstairs (hangloose breh!). If it weren’t enough, that same night San Fermin will close upstairs at the The Echo with the chamber and orchestral indie-rock sound that they’ve become well known for. Here, listen to the NPR sound bites .

Florida Natives the Jacuzzi boys have come off of their self-titled third album release. With tunes like “Domino Moon” their set is sure to make a splash.

For more info on The Echo and Echoplex location and times check out their calendar here.

Icky? Not Hardly

Flashing lights? Indie pulses? and Wayfarer-wearing musical notes?? Yep, all these veiled the Echo, Friday September 27th, 2013, as .blow and Oh Boy Les Mecs opened for Icky Blossoms.

.blow are comprised of music industry musicians that have worked in areas such as production, recording, and writing. The four, vocalist Sohanny, beat conductor Prozak Morris, guitarist Mike Dez, and drummer D$, have signed with Interscope Records (one third of Santa Monica’s Universal Music Group) which manages Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, No Doubt, Maroon 5, and Eminem. All of these big timers are seasoned performers but have already proven themselves whereas .blow (their ‘younger siblings’ if you will) are out to make a name for themselves, and they sure can make an impression.

The Ickys were anything but
The Ickys were anything but

Morris’s table, composed of computer and electronic equipment, is there looking  like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory desk. His plasma tube gives the impression that some musical experiment is about to take place (à la Danny Elfman’s “Weird Science”) as electricity stretches and branches throughout the glass encasement. Alas, there are no trumpet rips but the rhythm fiends nonetheless get the pot lid jumping. It’s easy to spot their 80’s influences (sorry no flock of seagulls hair-do’s). Think Talking Heads, The Cars, and Missing Persons.

Covering “No body walks in LA” to a tee, Sohanny sputters lyrics with her Rihanna-ish beauty and Keith Richards swagger. Morris and Dez bump and jive amping up the crowed (a definite wild rumpus if you’ve ever seen one). Out of nowhere Morris whoops out some electro-musical contraption (it’s alive, it’s dead, no it’s a beattar!! Or something you’d find in the music room at Hogwarts). A beat machine attached to a guitar neck for rockin’ stances and epic whirlwind strums (double takes allowed). They keep playing with this energy for a few more songs but fatigue begins to set in (much like any other mere mortals). You definitely get a rush from .blow’s performance but Oh Boy Les Mecs are there to catch the sway. They’re less rock ‘em sock ‘em and more stroll through the forest amidst twilight.

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.blow conditioned the room.

The singer’s echoes brood sentiments similar to what you get whilst listening to Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”. Her voice at times sounds like Bjork–minus the impeccable vocal range. Their mood is haunted by Beach House and at the same time the vocalist’s style kind of reminds you of Zooey Deschanel from She and Him–wearing a white prairie dress. Their dreamscape backdrop works in general but it is tough to follow an act like .blow. Especially since their styles are so different. In light of this, they do well opening for the headliners from Nebraska.

Icky Blossom’s most recent self-titled album is the musical accolade that Bright Eyes and Beirut tried to accomplish with dance and electro in their later albums. It kicks out dismal dance jams that most indie bands are not able to do so easily, but they made it happen.

Lurid lights drop onto the murky stage. Sarah Boling’s baritone pipes and livid bangs infiltrate the crowd as she sings their ode to sacrilege “Sex to the Devil”. You look around to see people hypnotized by the backing synth-drum overlays and recursive electro bleeps of Derek Presnall and Nik Fackler. Everyone is rocking and swaying nonchalantly as they transition into “Babes”

In it you can hear the wonton strobiness of Peaches. Think of the scene from Lost in Translation where Scarlett Johansson is set to meet Bill Murray and friends at a Japanese strip club only to leave and later get shot at with an automatic bb gun flashing a green laser sight.

Their steady uptempo slightly reminds you of Neon Indian or Grimes (minus the falsetto feedback) but not quite. They blossom nicely with an added ick. Why DJ’s like DFA haven’t started remixing these boss gothic dance tunes is beyond me.

—Bosque Urbano

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About the author: Bosque Urbano is a creature of the night, flitting from club to club, scene to scene. His astute perceptions, musical and otherwise, stem from his vast store of human knowledge. It is rumored that he is so intelligent that he actually keeps a computer in his own home. His blog lives at christianaraya.com

Weekend Closes Out Echo’s Weekend. Or Begins the Next.

Head shakes, nods, and body jerks surfed The Echo on Sunday September 15th, 2013 as Cold Showers, Disappears, and Weekend played the heck out of everyone’s eardrums before the start of the week.

Weekend closes out the weekend at the Echo
Weekend closes out the weekend at the Echo

If there is anywhere to catch a legit indie show in the L.A. area it’s at The Echo in Echo Park. The city is more than just neighbor to the hipster capital of the world–Silver Lake (great hunting grounds by the way). It’s a broth of rich history as intellectuals and artists–Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck among them–were known to have resided there in the early 20th century.

It’s lake is home to the Lotus Festival, birthday parties, paddle boats, ducks, and frogs (oh my!). If you’re in the mood for a hoedown, The Grand Ole Echo opens its saloon doors for a fine hoot and holler. There is barbecue and sweet twang every Sunday from 5-9 p.m. for free.

That night’s country line-up included Taryn Stickwrath, Casey Neill & the Norway Rats, Chris Laterzo & Buffalo Robe, and the jammerific Gimme 5’s. Somewhere Hank Williams gave those guys a serious thumbs up. Their jam band super powers and Hammond B2 wunderkind can take you on a midsummer night stroll through New Orleans’ French Quarter whilst jasmine is in full bloom.

Not bad for a free show. The only minor drawback is that there’s an hour between The Grand Ole Echo and the main show line-ups. Fortunately, there are some places that are leap-frogging distance away.

Like f’r instance:

Origami Vinyl — The folks there are really nice. Their prowess, collection, and knowledge of music are genuinely diverse. It’s very easy for any audiophile to spend hours sifting through their soul, punk, locals, country, indie, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Rummage carefully though. Lest ye be experienced, you might end up with six-packs on your fingers and miss the show!

Two Boots Pizza — Very original and tasty slices. Also, they’re open until 2:30 p.m. Try “The Dude” slice, and you too will abide.

The Gold Room — Want to watch some sports, milk a drink, drink a milk, crack open some peanuts, and savor some tacos (yeah, all in that order!)? Try this happy-go-hipsterish bar. Ask for the Gold Room special, you’ll thank (or curse) me later.

Stories Books and Café — It’s is a hop-skip-and-gothic-twostep away, next to the Jensen building and across from Rodeo Grill. Check them out if you need to procure java or embalm some Edgar Allen Poe couplets in your poetic psyche. Try their iced mojito coffee (gyration alert level orange) and or raspberry lemon tart. Also, they have wifi (pronounced weefee).

Once you make your way back to The Echo you’ll notice the crowd for Part-time Punks is very chill. Most aren’t there to shake it like a Polaroid picture as much as they’re there to hang out, unwind, and get some noise. As things started up you could see people starting to make their way to the stage.

Cold Showers’ guitarist blasted some aura-oric arpeggios and chaotic strums into the crowd. Their vocalist channeled Ian Curtis’s doleful legattos. These young lads brung on the noise and put on a magnetic set. Definitely worth you catching ‘em. Don’t forget your earplugs!

Intermissions at The Echo are great because they have an outside area around the back where you can sit and get some air, you can hear when the next band is starting up, or notice how everyone is scurrying to get their spot.

Disappears had less noise but a much more polished sound. Think The Rolling Stones meets Krautrock meets crisp minimalism. Prevalent were the sharp sonic riffs that their recordings at legendary Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago spawned. Their act didn’t require that much audience participation or energy which was perfect because it was conserved for our headliners.

Weekend opened with “Mirror” from their second album Jinx which received good reviews from both Rolling Stone magazine and The New York Times. Frontman Shaun Durkan’s reverb and echoing words, “ I feel sick sick sick” resonated with the abrasive urgency of My Bloody Valentine. The song galvanized nostalgia with bittersweet euphoria like driving through downtown Los Angeles amidst skyscrapers as every moment stretches into a wormhole of long exposed lights.

When they played “July” you could hear the post-punk growl and rhythmically visceral similarity with their San Franciscan cohorts Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The feedback and acidious flange from guitarist Kevin Johnson suspended their brooding mood while the off-and-on fuzz from their bassist kept everyone’s head nods honed in. Abe Pedroza’s drums set a sinister beat for all of their more atomic tracks without ever breaking a sweat. Their overall cohesion shot right through the lo-fi plane of shoegaze and rained down like a meteor shower. Captivating, indeed.

—Bosque Urbano