All posts by Syd Fablo

Anatoly Shtyrbul – The Autonomous Industrial Colony “Kuzbass”

Link to an article by Anatoly Shtyrbul:

“The Autonomous Industrial Colony ‘Kuzbass'”

Bonus links: Project Kuzbas: American Workers in Siberia, “Descendants of Dutch Colonists Visit OAO Koks,” “From Stalingrad to Kuzbas: Sketches of the Socialist Construction in the USSR,” “The American Industrial Colony in Kuzbass in the Years of 1922–1927”

Tuca – Drácula I Love You

Drácula I Love You

TucaDrácula I Love You Som Livre 403.6046 (1974)


The Brazilian musician Tuca (born Valeniza Zagni da Silva) was an enigmatic figure, these days relatively unknown.  If at all, she is recognized for her collaborative work writing songs for and playing guitar on Françoise Hardy‘s La question and playing guitar on Nara Leão‘s Dez anos depois (both from 1971). There is little biographical information about her readily available in English.  However, Françoise Hardy’s memoir Le désespoir des singes et autres bagatelles recalls how Tuca lived in France in the early 1970s, then, after returning to Brazil, died at age 34 due to complications from an aggressive weight-loss program.  Hardy also noted that Tuca (a lesbian) was infatuated with the Italian actress Lea Massari, who was heterosexual and not interested.  Tuca also had some type of physical ailment that caused body odor (trimethylaminuria? fistula? diabetes? an overactive thyroid?), leading to self-consciousness.  These currents of personal ambition, hope, self-doubt and disappointment contextualize what Tuca’s music was about on Drácula I Love You, her third and final full-length album.

The album was recorded outside Paris at the iconic Château d’Hérouville studio, where a host of well-known Western pop/rock artists made recordings in the early 1970s.  The music is pop, in a way.  Yet it does not fit neatly into any genre categories though.  It draws from the mainstream to more skewed avante-garde rock, melding aspects of Brazilian music — Erasmo CarlosCarlos, Erasmo… and Rita Lee‘s Build Up make somewhat decent reference points — to French chanson and prog rock.  The album’s personnel included co-producer Mario de Castro, plus François Cahen (of Magma) on horn arrangements and Christian Chevallier on string arrangements.  It oddly relies on a lot of acoustic guitar, with sequencing that shifts between spare acoustic passages and elaborately orchestrated ones.  There are occasional electronic effects.  Tuca’s vocals are very androgynous.  She often sings in a lower register than most female singers.

The tone of the album is often despairing and melancholic — recalling La question and Dez anos depois.  But, equally, this has glitzy horns like much Brazilian pop music of the the time.  This is also weird personal stuff, the sort of thing found on lo-fi “bedroom” recordings.  And there are some strange parallels to The Rocky Horror Show (which was on stage in London the prior year) too, especially the way the album cover shows Tuca in what one review described as “Hammer horror-movie glam[.]”  Dracula was apparently “in” for 1974.  Even Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr were exploring that theme in music and film that year too.

The strange, incongruous juxtapositions of elements and styles hint at what this album really captures so well — the struggle to balance the public and the private, the introverted and the extroverted.  The album’s personality emerges in the way it can’t find any direct expression to capture what it wants to say.  So, instead, there is an oscillation between coordinates that kind of surround its center, its core.  Also, much like Jim O’Rourke‘s “pop” albums from decades later (Simple Songs, The Visitor, etc.), there is a kind of catharsis in the way the music comes together in spite of a conflicted, ambivalent attitude toward conventional commercial success.  Tuca sings and plays guitar with a kind of punky edge, never completely at ease with the grand orchestrations that rise up again and again, persistently returning to raw, truncated guitar strumming and warbled, dispirited vocals.  There are up-tempo songs with celebratory rhythms.  Tuca seems unable to enjoy them.  So she creates her own twisted, downer take on them.  Not speaking Portuguese, the lyrics are a mystery, but the music alone conveys a lot.

A strange album that still sounds ahead of its time.

CAN – Landed

Landed

CANLanded Virgin V 2041 (1975)


The first CAN album to be recorded with high-fidelity 16-track studio equipment, Landed is mostly a glossier take on the same basic format as its predecessor Soon Over Babaluma.  There is a professional slickness in place of the usual relentless ingenuity.  Not a bad record at all, but still a sign that the band’s best days were mostly behind them.

David Broder – Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough

Link to an article by David Broder comparing Silvio Berlusconi to Donald Trump:

“Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough”

Bonus Quote:

“all the Leftists’ and liberal democrats’ worry about the danger of neo-Fascism lurking beneath Berlusconi’s victory is misplaced and, in a way, much too optimistic: Fascism is still a determinate political project, while in the case of Berlusconi, there is ultimately nothing lurking beneath, no secret ideological project, just the sheer assurance that things will function, that he will do better.  In short, Berlusconi is post-politics at its purest.  The ultimate sign of ‘post-politics’ in all Western countries is the growth of a managerial approach to government: government is reconceived as a managerial function, deprived of its properly political dimension.”  Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates, p. 303.

Bonus link: “Donald Trump’s Travel Expenses in 10 Weeks Cost US Taxpayers as Much as Barack Obama Spent in Two Years”

The Sonics – !!!Here Are The Sonics!!!

!!!Here Are The Sonics!!!

The Sonics!!!Here Are The Sonics!!! Etiquette ET-LP-024 (1965)


!!!Here Are the Sonics!!! is the quintessential garage rock album. The Sonics’ songs touch on such divine subjects as fast cars, dance steps, and cruel women. The lyrics are wonderfully forgettable and !!!Here Are the Sonics!!! gets by through sheer force of will. It’s actually best that the songs just give way to the frenzied power of the band.  Nuance wasn’t even remotely the point of The Sonics.

The band blasts you away with pure rock ‘n’ roll power. There are no slow ballads here!  Their fuzzy-sounding guitars put a twist on that high energy Little Richard R&B, the big beat rock of Bo Diddley, and the noisy guitar distortion of Link Wray. “The Witch” was the hit single that initially catapulted The Sonics into garage rock lore. It has an eerie organ riff that bubbles under the the driving beat and raucous vocals.  Raw energy and visceral drive are more important to this music than finesse.  This became sort of a template for punk rock a decade later.

Gerry Roslie is a big part of what made The Sonics so special. He did pound out some nice keyboards, but those vocals were something else. The album took some time to record because Roslie could only do so many songs before his voice gave out from screaming. The results far surpassed his abilities on paper.

Though the group only wrote a few of the album’s songs, the covers are certainly not filler. “Do You Love Me” is one of the hardest rockers on the disc. “Have Love Will Travel” takes on hometown hero Richard Berry’s song with extreme passion. The thundering bass highlights the sound that became so important for bands referred to as “post-punk”. Rave-ups of tunes The Wailers’ “Dirty Robber” also help the album cook. Letting these hooligans into the studio to destroy these songs was part of some greater miracle.

This album is one of the most important releases in defining the rowdy Seattle rock sound. The Sonics made music that makes you want to turn the stereo to full power, not because you have to but because you crave more of that sound. Anyone afraid their ears may bleed need but step aside. The Sonics went against the grain and liked it; perhaps so will you.

Strand of Oaks – Hard Love

Hard Love

Strand of OaksHard Love Dead Oceans DOC117 (2017)


Sounds like Ryan Adams joined Arcade Fire, and they listened to a lot of Spacemen 3 before heading to the recording studio.  That is to say, this doesn’t exactly break any new ground.  But it does manage some quite satisfactory songwriting and solidly delivers from beginning to end.  Highlights: “Everything,” “Rest of It” and “Taking Acid and Talking to My Brother.”

Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With the Arab Strap

The Boy With the Arab Strap

Belle & SebastianThe Boy With the Arab Strap Matador OLE 311-2 (1998)


While expanding upon the palette of the first two albums, and adding slightly more propulsive rhythms, this still retains the essential prettiness.  Many die-hard Belle and Sebastian fans insist this is better than If You’re Feeling Sinister.  I’ve long felt that it lacks the poignancy and context of its predecessor, replacing the layered production with punctuation by odd instrumentation of that prior album with a more organically woven sonic fabric.  Rotating vocals among band members is sort of ineffective.  Still a good one.