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The Nature Boy and The Island-aire: Digging Exotica's Wild Roving Mystics

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, October 10, 2012 03:32pm | Post a Comment
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If there's one thing an appreciation of music micro-genres has taught me it's this: work in a record store long enough and you'll eventually get into everything. Being predisposed to an appreciation of all things nautical by nature and developing a fondness for "theme" restaurants during my formative years it was only a matter of time before I would incur an full-on addiction to Exotica. At first I admit I mostly overlooked the jazz elements inherent to the genre, however pleasantly tropical, but obsession has a funny way of broadening ones taste for the far flung and curiously obscure. While I cannot trace my collection back to one single acquisition I can proclaim without a doubt that this squaw has stalked the warpath for Exotica, in all it's varied and as-yet-unconfirmed aspects, for quite some time. I'm so hot for it I'm on fire and, with that admonition out of the way, I'm pleased to report that a vinyl reissue of Eden Ahbez's seminal contribution to the genre, Eden's Island: The Music of an Enchanted Isle (out on Moi J'Connais/Black Sweat via Mississippi Records), is once again gracing the selections in Amoeba Music's Lounge section at long last!

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A beach-bummin' beatnik guru by nature, Eden Ahbez was famous for three things: penning the pop/jazz standard "Nature Boy" (made famous by one Nat King Cole), looking a lot like Jesus (both on the original Eden's Island cover art, circa 1960 above on the left, as well as the updated screen-printed jacket housing the current reissue pictured above right), and thriving on a diet consisting of  raw fruit and vegetables, living outdoors with his family beneath the first L of the Hollywood sign in the grassy Los Angeles wilderness. His music is a strange arrangement of piano, flute, and exotic percussion instruments fused with nature sounds (rolling surf, the creak of a wood-masted sailboat, squawking birds, breezy gusts of wind), and features a mixed chorus or Ahbez's own cheesy vocal musings, waxing poetic about a snake-chasing mongoose, living in an old shack by the sea, fires on the beach, and knowing "the thrill of loneliness" -- charming, to the last.

Eden Ahbez - "Full Moon"


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Of Sound and Vision: An Interview with Hannah Lew of Grass Widow

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, September 26, 2012 12:25pm | Post a Comment
A few years back I fell for San Francisco trio Grass Widow pretty hard. Charmed by the inviting warmth of the "cosy practice space" image on the cover of their debut album I was primed to plunge headfirst into the rabbithole of Grass Widow's homespun, post-punk wonderland. Digging deeper I found bassist/vocalist Hannah Lew's contribution to the band to be greater than merely a sewing of sonic lines and hemmed-in harmonies. A true visionary, Hannah is dishes a triple threat of aesthetic ingenuity evident in her work as a a filmmaker, visual artist, and musician, whether playing solo or with an ensemble. She's just the coolest!

Hannah was gracious enough to answer some of my questions recently, for the interview read on below.

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How did you come to be a musician, filmmaker, and visual artist? Did you naturally lean one way before the other? 

Hannah Lew: I have many useless talents and envy people that have the tunnel vision to be excellent at one or two things. I lean many ways and consider myself mediocre at many things. I came to these specific three mediums in very different ways. I always drew and painted as a child and actually went to college for fine art. I always felt frustrated with visual art because its very culturally exclusive whereas music and film are assessable to everyone and I've always felt like I can express myself better through these mediums. I actually lived in New York during 9/11 and totally freaked out about what I was doing with creative energy. It sounds cheesy, but those events had a profound effect on how I decided to spend my energy. Two days before 9/11 I had dresses on a runway at NY Fashion Week and was on my way to pursuing a career as a visual artist. 9/11 just kind of made me reassess what really mattered to me and I decided to find a more satisfying way to reach people with my ideas. The fashion and art world just suddenly felt very superficial and meaningless.
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Later that year I moved to Philadelphia and started a band, but I just jumped around and sang and played Moog. Then, in 2003, I moved back to SF and my friend Frankie and I decided to start a band even though we didn't know how to play any instruments. We basically got in a room with our friends Wu and Raven and everyone casually picked an instrument. Our band was called Shitstorm mostly because we all thought is was a joke band. But then we ended up playing for five years and touring a lot and though we tried to change our name we just couldn't shake it. We really sucked at first, but it was in that band that we all learned how to play the instruments that we would go on to play for the next decade. I feel like I came into my style as a musician through the bass. 

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Late Night Tales' Latest: Smooth Sailing with Groove Armada's Tom Findlay

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, September 19, 2012 02:52pm | Post a Comment
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If Amoeba Music were a theme park I'm pretty sure the Electronica section would be our version of Tomorrowland. I mean, for a section so chock full of retro-futuristic realness and fad-tastic appeal it shouldn't really come as a surprise that this year's best mix of backyard barbecue/SoCal beach-walk roller-skating/AM Gold yacht-rockin' jammers is currently filed under the Groove Armada bin card, humbly packaged not unlike any other CD/LP bearing the Late Night Tales standard. That's right, UK-based compilation master-curators have issued this flawless assortment of deep cuts and legit hits from the 70's and 80's Soft Rock heyday, assembled by one Tom Findlay of the aforementioned Groove Armada, under the title Music for Pleasure. The fact that the word "guilty" didn't find it's way between 'for' and 'pleasure' in the title is perhaps saying something about how these songs have come to be appreciated and accepted as a now relatively shameless sonic indulgence (unlike, say, endless deep house mixes for Burning Man survivalists which, for me, summon full-body dry heaves).

Featuring artists like Todd Rundgren, Electric Light Orchestra, Gerry Rafferty, Sugardaddy, The Doobie Brothers, Ambrosia, Robert Palmer, Boz Scaggs and so, so many more this is surely the cheapest ticket to the Indian Summer sunset vibe-ride in your mind. Put it on, turn it up, and feel your cares fade clean away, for, what a fool believes...he sees and no wise man has the power to reason away what seems to be, etc.




Back to School with Agent Ribbons' new "Family Haircut" video & Let Them Talk EP

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, September 4, 2012 10:30am | Post a Comment
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It's been a minute since we've heard from Agent Ribbons and I am pleased as planter's punch to begin this back-to-school Tuesday with a repeat viewing of their genial music video for "Family Haircut"!

Directed by Melissa Cha and shot in the kind of creepy abandoned schoolhouse that keeps local ghost hunters over-employed, the video meanders in tandem with Natalie and Lauren depicting the duo in variety of dressy attitudes as they camp and vamp casually through broken classrooms ---  like ya do. Accompanied by lushly layered girl-group harmonies sewn over their patent rough-hewn garage rock melodic base, the song's structure seems to hearken back to the band's raucous early days, much in the same way the dark allure of their lyrics always do. Add all that up, pair it with a definitive alabaster brow or two, and you've got a recipe for ardent heartache of the loveliest degree. But you don't need to take my word for it, see for yourself:



"Family Haircut" is the title track from Agent Ribbons' current limited run cassette-only release on the Portland-based Cassingle And Loving It label, not to mention the upcoming September 11th release of their seven-inch teaser Let Them Talk on Antenna Farm records, a harbinger for the Missus Ribbons' upcoming full length LP set to drop in 2013. Now, if you haven't already seen Amoeba Music's exclusive video interview with Agent Ribbons do yourself a pretty favor and check it out by clicking here, you'll also find videos comprising their excellent live show performed at Amoeba's Berkeley store. Can't get enough? Do, then, check out my interview with the Ribbons babes here and my review of their Chateau Crone LP here. Cheers!

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MASSIVE METAL Vinyl Collection Acquired by Amoeba SF Hits the Shelves This Weekend!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, August 14, 2012 01:05pm | Post a Comment


Attention all METAL heads
: last weekend a behemoth metal vinyl collection descended upon Amoeba Music's San Francisco location!!! Hundreds of records spanning from roughly 1980 to the early-1990's era of vinyl production disruption, including virtually every style of metal imaginable from heavy, hard, hair (glam), thrash, speed, sleaze, and everything in between, including some far-out regional private press pieces. This hoard of remarkable bangers are in excellent condition or maiden (i.e. factory sealed). We're busy readying the beast for release in stages with the first wave to be presented for sale this weekend on Saturday, August 18th. Come feast your eyes, and beware of Stevil and metal Ben's "Buy Or Die" maxim!

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The images that follow are only a taste of the overall scope and breadth of this collection, from Accept to Zn√∂white. While details concerning the who, what, and whyfores behind the collection remain deliciously mysterious, I can relay (on a personal note) that confronting the prowess and megaforces latent in this darkened pain cave's worth of vinyl treasure is enough to render one's powers physical regulation helpless. I went rogue. And much like attempting an impromptu dual-impression of Nitro's Jim Gillett and Michael Angelo Batio, I found myself short of breath, overwhelmed, and somehow unworthy.

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