Cornelius' Fantasma gets Deluxe Vinyl Reissue and Full-Album Tour

Posted by Kells, August 2, 2016 10:46pm | Post a Comment

Over the last few decades selector, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Keigo Oyamada has earned international renown for consistently dabbling in and dishing out albums bursting with busy layers of ingenious pop culture regurgitations and delightfully distorted experiments in sound and vision. Arguably the most enduring and timeless of these is Fantasma—the third solo album he created as Cornelius, released in the U.S. on the Matador label in September of 1997. Back then, it seemed that nigh on every bit of Japanese pop culture was perfectly hep in some way or another, and Matador was killing it in 1997 by pushing not only Fantasma, but also records from "world's loudest" garage rockin' power trio Guitar Wolf and Cornelius' fellow champions of Tokyo's Shibuya-kei pop scene Pizzicato Five, thus solidifying said (literally "Shibuya-style") 90s pop movement as "a thing" trending stateside.

Original Video from 1997 release of Cornelius Fantasma:

Nearly twenty years have flitted by, yet Fantasma sounds just as fresh as its first mic check. To attempt to describe its sound is to strap oneself into the ride once more, for the album plays like a carnival thrill ride of edits, commanding you to let go and let the whole thing take you from beginning to end, climbing up and careening over, under and through a myriad of genres, implements of music making, seemingly endless samples, bleep-bloops and obvious nods to movies like Planet of the Apes, Amadeus, and bands like The Beach Boys and My Bloody Valentine. And when the ride comes to a complete stop, there often remains a curious feeling of having been thrust through a familiar yet foreign fantasyland looking-glass. Perhaps that is the very definition of Fantasma.

That said, it's about time this sweet baby received a deluxe reissue treatment. And, what's more, Cornelius may be coming to a town near you to perform the Fantasma album in its entirety, the first show of the tour kicking it off this Thursday August 4th at Oakland's Fox Theater. What's even more? Buffalo Daughter badass babe Yumiko Ohno will be playing Bass and Moog in the Fantasma band, and Nosaj Thing is set to open (confirmed for at least the Oakland and Los Angeles shows at the time I type this). If you've never had the pleasure, Cornelius live shows are a truly mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed experience of tight-tight-tightly synchronized sounds, light show hypnosis and other visual projections. There is also the likelihood that you— yes you!—may be selected to play theremin on stage with the great ape himself. I'm going! (See confirmed tour dates below)

But what of the record? The remastered album out on Lefse/Post Modern boasts noticeably cleaner sound or at least the absence of some ambient airiness and pockets of field recording feels that I fancied clocking while listening to the old Fantasma though headphones (with a cheesy "knowing" nod to the Cerebreal side of Something/Anything?). For me, and I think 90s-era completists would agree, the real treat is the addition of bonus tracks to the double LP as they were previously only available if you hunted down the Fantasma singles. The particular inclusion of the terrifically trippy "Typewriter Lesson", among the other bonii jams, lends perspective to the process of fixing Fantsma's boundaries, and also sounds like it might be a harbinger of Oyamada's future collaborations with the one and only Takako Minekawa. Compared to Matador's initial un-fussy and nearly-nude offering, the pleasingly detailed and appropriately commemorative album artwork is a very welcome upgrade and is more in cryptic-creamsicle sync with the kooky content within. Check out this nifty "unpacking" video below: 

Don't miss Cornelius nor Fantasma! Get the Indie exclusive deluxe remastered 2LP version on orange wax at Amoeba and get thee to the par-tee! See the tour dates below (looks like there will be more dates to come)!

Happy Birthday Nomi Malone: Our fave fictional Showgirl turns 43!

Posted by Kells, July 3, 2016 12:03pm | Post a Comment

It's no secret that here at Amoeba we love, love, love us some Showgirls! I'm talking about Paul Verhoeven's inimitable 1995 stripper dance flick starring Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, and Gina Gershon. I mean, what's not to love? It's a marvelously shot Sin City fable penned by Joe Eszterhas (the mind behind Flashdance and Basic Instinct) about a transient whore dancer with killer nail art skills, a tendency to flail wildly when it comes to food or sex, and a dream of making it big in showbiz. As the story goes, they could have brought anyone aboard this shamelessly camp-tacular cheesewagon: Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul... Nomi Malone is what Las Vegas is all about, and she is the reason I try to celebrate her "uhhh, seven, three...seventy-three" birthday every year with a never "too old for that whorey look" home screening party. This doesn't dissuade me from attending local annual viewing events of course; San Francisco has a rich history of homage when it comes to showing Showgirls.

This tradition of reveling in the ritual of annual Showgirls screening started many moons ago thanks to the programming prowess of Peaches Christ—San Francisco's own mistress of movie madness—whose curated Midnight Mass film series featured Showgirls screenings year after year, usually in Summertime. I was hooked at once and I wish I could say I went to every show, but it seemed with each passing season the popularity of the Midnight Mass Showgirls extravaganza erupted like the titular Goddess from the Volcano, growing more riotous, elaborate, and difficult to get tickets for, perhaps owing to levels upon levels of ever-growing cult appeal and the irresistible promise of a FREE lap-dance with the purchase of every large popcorn. This lead to my making a thing of viewing the film with friends whenever making Peaches' party wasn't in the cards, fixing the day by the date of birth Nomi gives in the scene where she's finalizing her gig with Stardust HR.

This year Ms. Christ is flipping the script by starring in the West Coast premiere of the off-Broadway stage parody Showgirls - The Musical! But that's another (forthcoming) Amoeblog post, to be sure, but I'm gearing up for another Nomi Birthday gathering by ticking of tasks on the party prep list. Want to get down with your own Showgirls shindig? Here are some suggestions: 

First, get your nails done up proper fierce, like you're channeling your baddest bitch.

Do be sure that your nails are good and dry.

Be sure to let show them off as much as possible.

Next, it's time to paint those lips...

...and line that lid.

Do mind the orange.

If you want to go the extra mile for that fresh party pretty feeling, by all means do what you gotta do.

As far as refreshments go, if you don't have any Cristal on hand, get creative and mix up some party cocktails on theme with Showgirls inspired names. My favorites include: Caesar Sling, Sex in the Pool, Pollyanna, Sweaty Nightie, Smiling Snatch, Monkey Shit Stage Left...the vulgarities are endless! Don't forget the ice.

If you do find yourself on the receiving end of a Cristal "Holy Water" baptism...

  ...embrace the opportunity to express yourself.

When it comes to the menu, go wild! Throw together a "doggy chow" chili and see if anyone eats it. If that doesn't go over, rest assured that no one'll be mad at a family size bag or two of potato chips comparable to national brands. A platter spread of burgers, fries, and soda, with and a hot mess of spicy cheese dip on the side is also appropriate. If anyone finds themselves in a brown rice and vegetables frame of mind, be sure to remind them where all this frivolity is coming from:

Party favors! Everybody loves party favors. Treat your guests to complimentary collectibles to commemorate the occasion, like trading cards. Is there any cult movie since 1995 more worthy of trading cards than Showgirls? I think not. Plus the medium is perfect for combining Nomi's strengths and wisdom for the greater good of midnight moviedom. Here's a pseudo prototype I threw together:

Other potential Nomi party favors include: body gems, body glitter, hair gems, hair glitter, dollar store eyelashes, candy jewel ring pops in assorted colors, and, of course, switchblades:

Music-wise it's best to follow the Showgirls soundtrack's lead and bump plenty of Prince, Earthling era David Bowie, and any other Siouxsie Sioux songs that made it onto other films' soundtracks. All is just about sorted so slip into your vintage Versayce, sheer silver zebra, or stupid "Shit Happens" t-shirt and chill...

...until your guests arrive.

At this point everything should be ready for you and yours to light up the party right! Fire up the blu-ray and delight in remembering once again how much you love this unadulterated cinematic pleasuredome that remains by far the highest grossing NC-17 rated film to date, a film that Verhoeven claims is "perfect" and "the most elegant film I have ever done." A film that makes you feel like:

That said, it is a comfort to know that Elizabeth Berkley has made her peace with Nomi and has lately cast aside her Showgirls albatross, eschewing taboo and painful memories in favor of empowering full disclosure and love, sweet love. If you haven't seen her "magical full-circle moment" speech, delivered in Los Angeles last year after Cinespia's Hollywood Forever Cemetery outdoor movie screening of Showgirls, and on the same day as the United States Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage as legal nationwide (what a day!), please check out the video below, it's guaranteed to give you life. Happy birthday Nomi!

What? Weird: Susan Vaslev's Music from Enchanted Forest

Posted by Kells, April 4, 2016 10:05pm | Post a Comment

Sounding something like the intro to an episode of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre combined with the sonic dapples of a babbling, sun-spangled data stream, Music from Enchanted Forest showcases more than just the superb scope of composer and pianist Susan Vaslev’s synth-scapabilities. It also presents, as the title suggests, a world of sound specifically created to emanate from unseen speakers tucked behind rocks and in the treetops of Enchanted Forest, one of the most beloved homespun roadside attractions the great state of Oregon can boast of. What's more, as the the record states, it is the only known amusement park in the United States that has never been required to pay royalties for their music.

In more ways than one, or in my opinion anyway, Susan Vaslev is living a rare and magical version of the American dream. Since childhood, she, along with her siblings and mother, has lent immeasurable time and effort to helping her father, Roger Tofte, realize his visionary venture of handcrafting a storybook amusement park among the verdant hills just South of Oregon’s capital city of Salem. Meaning, she’s spent much her life devoted to building, playing in, working for, living by, and—perhaps most importantly—soundtracking a world-class roadside attraction. Let your inner child chew on that for a sec.

Susan was only seven years old in 1964 when her father began meticulously constructing his woodland fantasy, one bag of hand-churned cement at a time. Over the next seven years, Roger consciously integrated his stylized nursery rhyme sculptures and faerie tale motifs, one by one, into the natural landscape of the sizable acreage he dedicated to the park, a site his more skeptical friends had dubiously dubbed “Idiot’s Hill” at the time. By late in the Summer of 1971, enough Enchanted Forest had been completed to warrant an official grand opening.

By then, Susan had already become an accomplished musician and touring pianist/organist and it was only a matter of time before the attractions featured in the budding Enchanted Forest had proliferated, becoming more varied, ambitious, and inevitably in want of some sonic theming. Hence it seems only natural that Susan would follow her father’s example of self-sufficiency by lending her creative abilities to composing and recording music to enhance the overall experience for visitors of her family's theme park, doing so in the comfort of a nearby home recording studio no less. At age 17 she stepped up her contributions to the family business by establishing her own creative outlet within the Enchanted Forest kingdom in the form of the Comedy Theatre—a venue which allowed Susan to write, direct, and act in her own shows, for which she also designed costumes and sets in addition to composing musical accompaniment. Her prodigious proclivities would later lead to her earning a music degree from the University of Oregon and further studies abroad in Europe, apparently following the groove of the Medieval moods evident in Music from Enchanted Forest. All in all, can it get any better than that?

Yes, it can. Because now, thanks to the good folks of Portland's Wyrd War label, you can visit the Enchanted Forest in your mind and consider the hypnotic, wyrd wonders of Vaslev's curious compositions and unbridled creative innocence from the comfort of your own home, via one bright cerulean blue vinyl slab of wimsy labeled Side Humpty and Side Four Eyes. We may not all of us be able to make it to the still family-owned and operated enchanted roadside forest of fantasy fun for the whole family, but consider this record your general admission ticket, valid any time, anywhere.

Included below is some rough video footage of the Fantasy Fountains at Enchanted Forest featuring one of Susan's original compositions, and the lead-off track on the record. For more information on Enchanted Forest's storied inception, please check out this short documentary featuring Roger Tofte and the whole family, including some rad photos of Susan (that I would have included here if I could have). And by all means do go pay Enchanted Forest a visit if you can! As the the record states: they're the only known amusement park in the United States that has never been required to pay royalties for their music.


Pretty Good Year: Kelly's Best of 2015 picks...

Posted by Kells, January 9, 2016 04:49pm | Post a Comment
It seems like 2015 came to a close less than a little more than a week ago...wait, didn't it? Where does the time go? It came and went in another trip around the sun, with the seasons fully cycled and another twelve-month accumulation of art, music, and enjoyment to show for the passage. Listed below are the leaders of the pack where the year in my ears is, er, was concerned. These the repeat-listen flat plastic friends stuck with me thru thick and thin. Oh, and there's a book thrown in the mix as well! Did you dig any of these selections?

Jessica Pratt
- On your Own Love Again
(Drag City)

There's always one or three endlessly flip-able records that never quite stay filed away, maintaining rather an easy reach in the rotation pile nearby the home hi-fi. Jessica Pratt's sophomore offering On Your Own Love Again is one such record. Built in part of nearly inaudible ambient street sounds indicating a subtle genesis rooted in home-recordings, the layered, spacial delivery of Pratt's soft-plucked folk edged in opaque psychedelia eddies and billows in a cosmos of mellow zones, at times reaching near-exotic levels of effect, but ever retaining a familiar quality. Here and there accompanying lyrics seem to reveal something of the singer-songwriter's personal inspirations, but these revelations are islands in a stream of vocal stylings, lilting like tendrils through a tapestry of rhythmic strums, droning, hums, and filigree. A muted monument of home-spun, dyed-in-the-wool California by way of the Milky Way sound, Jessica Pratt may be compared to many a laudable singer-songwriter forebear, but she is most definitely in a league of her own.

- A Self-Taught, Decathlon Hard Rock Musician (Stoned Circle)

Sounding like what I imagine to be Ariel Pink's ideal funeral shuffle, there is no limit to the number of times I can listen to Leland Yoshitsu's "I've Got Some Happiness"—it's a nodding rock hallucination comfortably lodged in it's own should'a would'a could'a laze, but so striking and real. Originally appearing on his ultra-rare 1976 self-funded, self-titled debut album, as well as on the equally rare 1978 reissue of said debut titled This is My World, this life-lending track and many other unequivocal druggy rippers, are now freely repeatable on this remastered expanded re-reissue what also includes the raw and unbridled Live At Mabuhay Gardens, S.F.circa 1979. Extensive liner notes and bonus photos of this psychedelic superhero abound! Not a 100% new release, but the title alone gives it a free pass re: best of 2015.

Mondo Drag - Mondo Drag
(Riding Easy Records)

If you're a high fantasy rock band, this is the kind of album cover that will most likely rivet the record shop RPG set with enough curiosity to guarantee at least a cursory listen. Of course, you'd better have the "No Quarter" meets "Highway Star" chops to back artwork like this up. Not only does Mondo Drag deliver on this their 2nd release, they've also already cut a killer debut and a third gunning to drop in February. This self-titled dank nugg is chock full of heavy desert mysticism, stratospheric psych appeal, gypsy crystal visions, pounding progressive allusions, pillars of riffage, smokey fluted corridors echoing pinwheeled guitarmonies, and a jingle-jangle bag of percussive holding. It could be a bit more demonic, but I like it just the way it is; otherworldly and titanic.

Continue reading...

Cheers to Our Toast, The Sandwitches' last round

Posted by Kells, June 29, 2015 10:22pm | Post a Comment
lovely photo of The Sandwitches by Rachel Walther

It's been many moons since we've been accorded a fresh platter from San Francisco trio The Sandwitches, and this latest release courtesy of Empty Cellar Records, looks to be their last. Since 2008, bandmates Grace Cooper, Heidi Alexander, and Roxy Brodeur have consistently honed a distinct sound that is, simply put, a little bit old-time country and a little bit roadside oddities rock 'n' roll. Their ability to seamlessly blend twisted yet whimsical girl group harmonies with unfiltered, mood-infused heavy Americana has progressed splendidly with each release, making Our Toast, their third LP, arguably their finest effort to date.

Before you even get your ears on it, Our Toast is a thing of beauty. Housed in very fine packaging adorned with gold leaf lettering and a cover tribute to unofficial 4th member James Finch (painted by Deirdre White), the record itself (on oxblood wax if you're lucky) is sheathed by a printed inner sleeve featuring lyrics on one side (lyrics, people!) and a sad clown band photo epitaph on the other–a testament to the posthumous-ish work within. That said, there is a twinging finality vibe to this record that moves beyond the commemorative qualities of the tangible presentation. It's a feeling that lends suspicion to the pulse of each song like an omen or memento mori. And yet, regardless of any time the Sandwitches' sound has been described as "haunting", there is nothing ghostly about this energy at all. It's as if seven or eight of these nine songs are contending for the ultimate setting in sequencing crown: the last cut on side B, the swan song's swan song seat.

All notions of end themes aside, the album opens on a delightfully lighthearted note with "Sunny Side" waltzing out ahead of the clouds, multiple pianos dancing upright like a tinkling, saloon-corner homage of sorts to the Carter Family's popular porch rocker. From there, however, the mantle descends with "Play It Again Dick", a barometrical indicator of the storm-colored album to come what with its post-Westworld apocalyptic guitar groans grazing the otherwise rhythmic swagger of strums plodding towards what sounds like some kind of after hours personal reckoning, the tumultuous timbre of Grace's insistent vocals coaxing listeners down to the floorboards. The languid tones continue with the tentative stop, drop, and slow-rolling drowse of "Sleeping Practice" which eventually rises to cooing crescendo to converge with more sinister threads of "Dead Prudence", a sonic materialization lolling so cozily in its own madness that when the song plunges into a Badalamentian boiling pool midway through, visions of untold narratives relevant to David Lynch's Fire Walk With Me come immediately to mind.

But this collection isn't entirely lurking between shadows. Buried on side two, locked between the cool, slithering "Personal Hell" and the tenderhearted cadences of "Nothing But Love", lies the album's only barn shaker, "Wickerman Mabmo"–an uptempo, bass-walkin' hoedown shuffle that bucks up the country and western twang for which the Sandwitches are partially known to rousing new heights. Aside from being a standout track, the titular film reference also kind of begs the question: Cage or Woodward? (Either way, someone will be burned.) Still, where previous albums have led listeners along for garden dalliances and seaside vacationing, Our Toast seems slanted with a bittersweet bouquet of intimate inward gazes, forgoing escapist motifs for hypnotic rumination, but not without a hearty dose of charm (as suggested by the ass-cat flower vase crammed to the limit with fuzzy blooms depicted on the album's back cover).

One could only imagine how these songs would unfold in a live setting, and perhaps there will be a show (a newsflash of sorts popped up on the radar hinting at the potential for an August happening). At the very least we can hope for another bill featuring the Sandwitches à la carte as all three ladies continue with their solo efforts. Nevertheless, while the fact remains that the Sandwitches have gone their separate ways, and more's the pity, they've thankfully left behind one final little portal into their weird, wyrd world unhinged for the rest of us to crawl into for a spell, anytime the mood swings.


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