7" Fix: The Sandwitches "Summer of Love"

Posted by Kells, January 19, 2011 03:57pm | Post a Comment
Of all my band crushes, I feel an attachment to the Sandwitches that's way beyond the point of smitten at first listen: I'm hopelessly devoted. There's something about their sound that suggests a beautiful thing broken down, makes me long to don a once beloved party dress dredged from a dumpster or follow up their tunes with a worn out "girl group" record, damaged from repetitious play. Their latest 7", Summer of Love, flaunts two fresh yet yellow-edged pop oddities from the Sandwitches' curio cabinet and is limited to 500 copies on 1234Go! Records, so please, don't miss! And catch the girls live at Slim's on Tuesday, January 25th, if you can, and support our (SF) local, shamefully under-appreciated "female Creedence."

The Sandwitches - "Summer of Love" [side A]

The Sandwitches - "My Teddy" [side B]

My Best of 2010: Music Picks by Kelly

Posted by Kells, January 13, 2011 08:45pm | Post a Comment
Howdy and Happy New Year, one and all. I've spent about a week and half, that is the first week and a half of 2011, listening only to the music I purchased last year and I've come up with a list of stuff that I am not only not sick of but ready to live happily ever after with. Here's what I love the most, my best picks for music released in 2010, and you know it's gotta be firm 'cause it's all I've been living on. Let's go:

Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi (Abduction)

This is the kind of record that you listen to repeatedly, one side at a time. I think I must have replayed side one at least five times before moving on to play side two again and again --- it's just a mesmerizing and solid piece of work, enchanting and haunted by an astounding breadth of world music influences (no doubt culled from field recordings, transmissions and the like Sun City Girls has gifted to the public via their Sublime Frequencies label, which pretty much makes them, alongside Mississippi Records, the Smithsonian Folkways of our generation). This release is held even more dear by the fact that it is the last Sun City Girls record due to the death of drummer and vocalist Charles Gocher Jr. in 2007. It's also a limited release, so get it while you can. In fact, it's the "get it while you can" of 2010.

Sun City Girls - "Blue West" from Funeral Mariachi

Tim Cohen - Laugh Tracks (Captured Tracks)

A decidedly "summer" record released in a year overflowing with "sounds of summer" records, but this one is different. I hadn't listened to this record since the weather turned brisk, but listening to it again now I recognize a pleasant nostalgia for these songs that secure its place in my treasure chest collection of "staying in" records. It also makes me wish I lived in a place with a screened in porch and wooden floors. Not as rockin' as Cohen's Fresh & Onlys, but janky and deft as anything Tim's ever fixed his broadly informed musical influences on, even if this time it sounds like a crazy quilt and a Legend in a rockin' chair. A++

Tim Cohen - "Oh, Oh, Oh" from Laugh Tracks

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

Okay, here we go: what is there to say that hasn't already been said about this record? Surely you know by now whether or not this fills your cup, and if it is your poison, well, you don't need me to reiterate how essential this record is because we agree already: it's the bee's knees. If you, like so many others, can't get past this or that to enjoy Ms. Newsom's polyrhythmic instrumental skills or her penchant for weaving rich verbal tapestries with threads of lyrical gold like "I regret / when I said to you honey just open your heart when I have trouble even opening a honey jar" highlighting compositions that clock in at an average of seven to ten minutes, then that's your problem. Funny, that same description could be applied to Iron Maiden's 2010 release, Final Frontier, excepting the sample lyric of course, which just goes to show that music is more alike than different, you know, just like you and me. Anyway, final answer, Have One On Me: masterpiece of the year. [boom, roasted!]

Joanna Newsom - "In California" from Have One On Me

Joanna Newsom - "Good Intentions Paving Company" from Have One On Me

Joanna Newsom - "'81" from Have One On Me

Jeff Eubank - A Street Called Straight (Drag City)

Speaking of Drag City, this is another one of their fine, fine reissues. I'd feel hesitant to include a 1983 reissue on a list of 2010 year end music picks, but I just cannot not count this record in, as it has become so very precious to me. I had no idea how much I needed this LP until I happened to randomly pick it up one day and perceive that eerie, unexplainable gut feeling that enables patient diggers to calmly pull a title that seems to be psychically super-smizing at them. This record is one of those lost 80's soft/"yacht" rock sessions that determined artists end up mortgaging their houses to afford making, perhaps owing to its existence as Eubank's sole recording, thus increasing the preciousness index. The fact that most of A Street Called Straight sounds like better, lusher songs like those America wrote for the Last Unicorn soundtrack confirms my esteem for him, ranking Jeff right up there with my other singer-songwriter boyfriends Jeff Lynne and Todd Rundgren. If only I could include a sample of "For Your Return..." or "Feels Like Me," but I guess "Kamikaze Pilot" will have to suffice.
Jeff Eubank - "Kamikaze Pilot" from A Street Called Straight

Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics - S/T

I like jazz, jazz is nice. Stir in a little eastern influence 'n instruments and I could jazz all night. Every track on this joint smolders but none more so in my opinion than those incorporating Indonesian elements and Gamelan scale. Also, the latest Lou Harrison, released in December, Scenes From Cavafy (New World Records), is pretty amazing, especially the tracks that feature the Gamelan Pacifica Chorus --- total swoon --- I die, it's so good!

Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics - "Fantasy Pt. 1"

Agent Ribbons - Chateau Crone (Antenna Farm)

A long time fan of the Missus Ribbons, I was delighted to get their new full length LP (!) in my clutches in 2010 at long last. Though their recordings may be only a token of their love compared to the orgy of their frank and frenzied live performances (ahem, do yourself a favor, already) I've played this gem to no end and can but come to the conclusion that Agent Ribbons are one of the best lady bands in the U.S.A. We love them: check out Amoeba's Agent Ribbons video featurette here, Chateau Crone review here and band interview (posted just before the trio became a duo, once again) here.

Agent Ribbons - "Dada Girlfriend" from Chateau Crone

Oni - Sunwave Heart (ハヤシライスレコード) & Afrirampo - We Are Uchu No Ko (Rock Action)

While Agent Ribbons has got me on the subject of awesome lady-rocker duos, Afrirampo released their final album in 2010 which may or mayn't have anything to do with the future of Oni's solo work as a folk artist. Regardless, the point is Afrirampo has broken up [*sniffle*] and delivered a double-disc swan song like none other. Though Oni's preshy earth songs provide some comfort, I'm gonna miss them あふり-red painted ladies and the total chaos of their live shows (reference the video below for a taste). お疲れ, ladies, さようなら。

Oni - "Ajisai" from Sunwave Heart

Afrirampo - "ヤーヤーエー" from We Are Uchu No Ko

Afrirampo's video for "Miracle Lucky Girls" from We Are Uchu No Ko


Beachcomber Trio - Live at Kahiki 1965 (Dionysus)

All Exotica releases should come packaged with a cocktail recipe, am I wrong? This LP only, hand numbered edition of 500 is not a reissue, mind you, but a lost recording of an exotic evening at Columbus, Ohio's Kahiki Supper Club, a legendary though now defunct "Tiki Temple," and includes not only a recipe for the classic Port Light tiki cocktail, but also comes packaged with a digital download coupon --- crazy, eh? Featuring house band The Beachcomber Trio, this record packs the sort of quiet, environmental excitement other live restaurant recordings released in the 60's present: the sound of the bar's waterfall, the tinkling of glasses and muffled voices sometimes offering discernible words like the man with the Jimmy Stewart voice stating "oh, that's 'Yellow Bird'" as the band begins to play Arthur Lyman's "Yellow Bird." An absolute must have for Exotica enthusiasts and theme restaurant lovers alike. And, while you're at it, pick up a copy of that Exotic Dreamers 2-on-1 reissue of Ethel Azama's Exotic Dream and Tak Shindo's Mganga! --- both worth the price of a painkiller #9.
Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle (4AD)

I was a little down on this at first listen (I was pining for early BR sounds), but it grew on me slowly, finally overtaking my senses at their live show at the Warfield theater last November. They've rummaged around, re-creating their musical style time after time, but they still manage to sound as beautiful and damaged as ever. The song they opened their show with, "Black Guitar," is proof of that, and, looking back to songs like "Pink Love" from Misery Is A Butterfly, it seems that Blonde Redhead still pull from their tarnished prison-house of a well, no matter how they endeavor to redecorate it. They ought to cover "Pain Cave" someday; I know they could do it right.

Blonde Redhead - "Black Guitar" from Penny Sparkle



Sandwitches - Duck Duck Goose! (Secret Seven)

So dark 'n lovely, this hardly-for-kids, wyrd-pop record continues to take my breath away; there's just no wearing it out. Here's my review of Duck Duck Goose! from June 2010, and please note the Sandwitches will be headlining (!) at Slim's on January 25th as a part of an evening presented by (((folk YEAH!))) and playing a benefit for the Coalition on Homelessness with Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps at Great American Music Hall on February 9th.

The Sandwitches - "Stardust" from Duck Duck Goose!


Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today (4AD)

I think most folks agree that this record is tops, so I'll sa
ve the drawn out, glowing review and say that when I first heard Ariel Pink was to release a record on 4AD I wasn't expecting it to be this good. I mean, it's so good that it, in the words of John Mellencamp, hurts sooo good. If his show at Bimbo's last summer taught me anything it's that Ariel Pink is the wizard spilling caesar salad all over himself behind the curtain and his Haunted Graffiti band is, well, band of the year as far as I'm concerned; they killed it,  picked it up when Ariel was putting it all down. Record of the year? Yeah, and why not? It's locked in from here to eternity as the solid shades-on, roof-off, #1 summer jam of 2010, so there you go, put that in your Discman and spin it.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Bright Lit Blue Skies" from Before Today

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Fright Night (Nevermore)" from Before Today

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Can't Hear My Eyes" from Before Today

Tamaryn - Waves (Mexican Summer)

Back in Virginia we used to hang out at this once a week goth night called "1708" at club 1708. It was fun, but middling though there were a lot of guys dressed like Trent Reznor. Recently I heard buzzing among fellow Amoeba peeps about a band called Tamaryn; seems they'd made quite the impression with their live show, and everyone was remarking upon their certain success and notoriety. I confess, I rushed to get a listen and found a properly elevated "1708" sound so atmospheric I could almost feel the tense softness of spilled candlewax cooling on velvet cushions. I recognized Tamaryn, the girl and the band, at a local karaoke joint about two weeks after hearing Waves for the first time. As far as I can remember she sang "Killing Moon" in the style of Echo and the Bunnymen, "Silver Spring" in the style of Fleetwood Mac and "Life on Mars" in the style of David Bowie, so her influences certainly check out. It's a shame "Love Will Tear Us Apart" wasn't in the songbook.

Tanaryn - "The Waves" from Waves

The video for Tamaryn's "Love Fade" from Waves
Grass Widow - Past Time (Kill Rock Stars)

Amazing music, amazing art, amazing women, amazing band. What more do you want? (Watch this...)

Grass Widow's video for "Fried Egg" from Past Time

Leland - Feel the Pain (Contempt)

This is a weird one, weird deluxe. A heap of these ended up in Amoeba San Francisco's clearance bins and many of us pounced on them like cats on nip because a.) who is Leland? and b.) how is it that he cooks so chilled? Still on the prowl for more info about Berkeley man of mystery Leland Yoshitsu, who is, it seems, sadly no longer with us but enjoys a flattering afterlife thanks to artists like Puro Instinct and Ariel Pink. Far fucking out, man.

Leland - "I've Got Some Happiness"

Sword - Warp Riders (Kemado)

I don't know if this would have made this list if it weren't for the most triumphant cover artwork and the buzz about this record being a science fantasy concept album inspired by Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime bearing influences from heavy predecessors like Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Nazareth. It's a killer, throwing punches that'll hit L.A.R.P.ers, Trekkies and headbangers alike right between the eyes.

The Sword - "(The Night The Sky Cried) Tears of Fire" from Warp Riders

Die Antwoord - $O$ (Interscope)

I almost forgot to include this one since most of it has technically been around since 2009, but Die freakin' Antwoord's debut received proper release in 2010! I could gush for days about how cool these people are and how folks perplexed by their act need to just chill and take it all in. And if you can, take in a live Die Antwoord show. True, you won't be any closer to understanding what the heck "Wat Kyk Jy?" is all about, but I'd wager a B.P.P. you'll be more than pleased to find yourself fist-pumping with the Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er. Check out the "What's In My Bag?" interview with with Die Antwoord at Amoeba Music Hollywood here, photos from their bombastic live performance at Amoeba Music San Francisco here, and keep an eye out for the upcoming video interview piece to accompany them in-store photos. By far the best in house performance of the year!!! Die Antwoord: yes, please!

Die Antwoord - "In Your Face"

Die Antwoord - "Zef Side" video thingy

Of course there was a ton of other great stuff I could include, but it's 2011 already and I'm excited about new, newer and the newest things too. So, I'm gonna stop here. Except to say how about that R. Kelly, is he classing up his act or what? King of soul 2010: R. Kelly, bitches!


Chat with Michael Yonkers about Goodby Sunball, His Latest Reissue

Posted by Miss Ess, July 6, 2010 02:01pm | Post a Comment
Michael Yonkers has had one of the strangest careers in the music biz. His creative and lo-fi albums were largely ignored at their release in the late sixties through early eighties, but now they are being reissued slowly and discovered by a whole new audience of rabid psych-folk fans. Since the early sixties, Michael has been a pioneer in the world of recorded sound. Unfortunately, he also suffered a catastrophic back injury in the early 70s that radically changed his life.

Goodby Sunball is the latest reissue for Yonkers, and it was written back when he was recovering from his spinal injury and subsequent surgery. He says, "I recorded the tracks in the little studio I had in my place. It was all recorded on two-channel, tube type machines (back and forth between machines). The vocals were done in the bathroom, to give an expanded sound." The album came out originally in 1974, and now Secret Seven Records has re-released a special 500 limited run vinyl pressing and it is available at Amoeba now!

To get an idea of what Goodby Sunball sounds like, you can check out a track from the album, called "Swamp of Love," right here. You can also hear a cover of another track off the album right here, "Oh Can You Tell Me" by Grace Cooper of the Sandwitches. This cover reportedly made Yonkers cry when he heard it! Finally, you can watch the premiere of an entrancing video by Jeanne Applegate set to "The Day of Jubilee" for a final glimpse of this beautiful, idiosyncratic record. The interview follows below.

Miss Ess: Mr Yonkers, how did you first get into music? How did you discover that you wanted to be a recording artist?

Michael Yonkers: When I was very young, there was no rock music. When rock first started, it was on the county western radio stations where it was played. My father listened to country western music. I took to the early rock music like a fish to water. About the time when a couple radio stations started to play all rock music, I got a little "crystal radio." (It needed a real long antenna wire and a "ground" connection in order to pull in a few AM stations.) Then, with money from my paper route, I purchased one of the first transistor radios. I would even put the radio under my pillow so I could listen all night. But, it was not until I heard a band named The Trashmen that I decided that I wanted to play guitar.

ME: What drove you to become such an experimenter when it comes to recording?

MY: I purchased an electric guitar, but I had no money for an amplifier. I did have a tube type tape recorder. I figured out a way to use that machine as an amp. It was the early days of surf music that got me interested in the effects of sound. Reverb was the sound used a lot for surf music, along with tape type echo. I found that I could add another playback head to my tape recorder, and by running the signal back into the recorder, along with the signal from my guitar, I would get an echo. This led to more experimenting. As time went on I became fascinated with the distortion on old blues guitar recordings. I tried to duplicate that sound by slicing slits in the paper cone of an old loudspeaker. That led to experimenting with circuits in order to get an electronic version of distortion. Remember...there were no "stomp boxes" at that time. It just went on from there. The experimentation came out of necessity.

ME: How does it feel to have Goodby Sunball released after all this time?

MY: It feels good, but kind of odd. It was so long ago. It makes me wonder if I have to live until I am more than a hundred years old for some of my newer music to be released (just kidding).

Your recordings feel intensely personal, since its all home recording. When you hear older recordings such as Goodby Sunball, what do you experience as you listen to them? Do you feel nostalgic? Critical? Pleased? Do you listen back to older recordings with any regularity or never?

My eyes are pretty much pointed towards the front. I almost never listen to anything I have done in the past. I am not saying that this is a good thing. It would probably be a good idea for me to do this. But, I seldom do. It is strange, though, as when I do, I feel oddly disconnected from it. There is no nostalgia. There are definitely no critical feelings. However, I am always pleased.

Please tell us about the writing and recording of Goodby Sunball – did you write the words or music first and how did you record the tracks? What was your home recording set up like at the time?

The music came first. It was the period of time when I was recovering from major spine surgery. I had a hospital bed in my apartment, because the surgery had not gone well, and I was in for many months of recovery. I had my main recorder set up next to my bed, so I could record the guitar parts while laying down, or semi sitting. Then I wrote the words (also while in bed). As I was able to get up and around more, I recorded the vocals. I like recording the vocals in the bathroom, because of the live sound.

How much more music do you have that you would like to release, when is it from, and what is it like sonically?

Quite a bit. Next, I plan to get into the music I was doing in the 80's. I was experimenting with keyboards (the little Casio types), and other homemade circuit bending stuff back then. I have not heard these tracks for over 20 years, so that should be interesting.

How has your back injury limited your musical output? And how has it inspired your music?

The back injury has mainly limited my ability to play live. I do not believe that it has inhibited output. I think the fact that I have spent decades in constant (many times very severe) pain has inspired a lot of the music I have done. I feel that it comes out most in the solo guitar.

What is your life like now? Are you still making music and if so, what is it like and will it be released? How limited are you by your injury currently? What inspires you?

The last couple of years have been very difficult. I spent most of last summer laid up in bed as a result of a terrible flare up of a post surgery neurological problem. I am still recovering from that. Unfortunately, this nerve problem has manifested itself in my wrists and thumbs. This makes it almost impossible to play the guitar at this point. I am using standard and holistic therapies, and hoping for the best. On one hand, I have not played for over a year. On the other hand, I have had several periods like this in the past. If I was 20 years old, and all of a sudden could not play the guitar, it would be much more devastating than to be 63 years old with decades of playing behind me.

What kind of music do you listen to if/when you put on a record?

I listen to quite a variety. Probably the music that you would expect me to listen to. However, what surprises people is that I listen to a lot of symphony orchestra and polka music. I really do.

Do you have a daily musical ritual of any kind? If so, what purpose does it serve?

Yes, I hum. This exercises the vocal chords and lungs. Most mornings I listen to whatever music project I am into. This keeps me oriented. Otherwise I have the tendency to just keep experimenting (and forgetting what i should be finishing).

I read that you love many different kinds of dance. What/whose music is your favorite to dance to?

I have used dance as therapy for decades. I have mostly studied modern dance and ballet. However, I have also spent years studying Middle Eastern dance (belly dance) and improvisational jazz. I have taken exercises and concepts from each of these to use for health benefits. Seriously, I do not have a favorite style of music to dance to. If I did, I would tell you.

What does it feel like to have your music rediscovered and celebrated so many years after it was completed?

I feel like the iceberg that has turned upside down. When one sees an iceberg from the surface, it is hard to realize that most of it is under water. For all these years, I have known that most everything musical I have done has been stored away in boxes. Now, it is getting heard. And, although I do realize that it is being heard, I don't think about it much. Maybe I should think about it ... no, I don't think so.

Sandy Babes: The Sandwitches play Duck Duck Goose!

Posted by Kells, June 30, 2010 03:50pm | Post a Comment
There are many things to love about The Sandwitches and their latest release, the Duck Duck Goose! EP (on Empty Cellar/Secret Seven Records), serves as further proof that these ladies are not only gilding a most devastatingly alluring and emotional totem pole of a discography, but they are also among the very sagest of storytellers, which is, when you think about it, just about as artistically primal as witch's tit in a brass bra. It takes courage to create an album this dark for kids, yet it's not clear if the wee ones are really who the Sandwitches are lulling here. If storytelling, besides being the earliest of mediums in that it's the way cultural and familial values are communicated, parent to child, grants us a means by which we may overcome and deal with overpowering fears --- fear of the dark, fear of the unknown --- then there is nothing cowardly or immature about the eerie compositions that permeate this limited run, one-sided vinyl 12". Clearly the Sandwitches are not about to soften their punches, no matter how bewitchingly thrown.

Duck Duck Goose! begins with the cooing, protracted "Stardust" --- a lush and dreamy original number that at once lives up to the descriptive "heartbreaking acoustic lullabies" label affixed to the record sleeve. In fact, it is a lullaby so heartbreaking that it seems meant to comfort a terminally ill child fearlessly into eternal sleep: "nothing to fear going into darkness/ we'll be nearer to each other." What follows is the first of two aural vignettes (the reprise closing out the recording, accordingly) wherein the echos of ghostly rounds of duck duck goose are played against the sound of nursery rhymes tapped hastily on a distant spectral piano, thus upping the spook-factor enshrouding the sessions captured for this EP, achieving an overall don't-even-think-of-exploring-that-abandoned-school-house vibe. Then "Rock of Gibraltar," a haunting cover of a Tim Cohen song that appeared as a bonus track to the excellent Two Sides of Tim Cohen album, segues into a impressionistic rendition of the bravest little Disney tear-jerker of all time, the Oscar nominated "Baby Mine" (check out the video below) . If you haven't settled down snugly into the darkness by now, or at least stopped the record to call your mom for love's sake, the Sandwitches' own "Song of Songs," another sweet 'n' simple ballad (yet less heavy than the preceding pieces), lights the night with its own slow burning wax and wick. It's enough to remind one of what it feels like to be a child, a young person guided though his or her terror by comforting voices and lilting melody. And when the ghosts appear again the heart is less anxious, the mind less afraid.

Duck Duck Goose! is a far cry from the jaunty shoreline jams "Back to the Sea" and "Relax at the Beach" that shine on the Sandwitches' How to Make Ambient Sadcake LP. Little similarity can be drawn from these recent forlorn lullabies to the delightful weirdness of "Beatle Screams;" the b-side on the "Back to the Sea" 7" single; or the more girly, coy or downright romantic strains of "Tarantula Arms," "Kiss You Feet," or "Crabman" that make the aforementioned debut record so essential and addictive, worthy of repeated listening in all kinds of weather. However, Duck Duck Goose! seems to be made up of more intimate and saturated textures than any previous Sandwitches record, like the watercolor artwork depicted on the album's sleeve --- a medium more inherently allusive than the rigor and realism of oils; the brush and the stoke may be the same but the wash this time is rich enough to drown in, willingly.

Duck Duck Goose! was recorded and produced by Wymond Miles (Fresh & Onlys) and the initial pressing is limited to 500 copies, available now at Amoeba Music San Francisco.

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The Employee Interview Part XXIV: Erin

Posted by Miss Ess, March 16, 2010 04:50pm | Post a Comment
Rock Floor Person Extraordinaire
2.5 yrs employment

Miss Ess: First, let's talk about something we both love: the new Joanna Newsom record. Tell me, what is it that makes it so fantastic for you, and what are your favorite tracks?

Erin: Okay, so I am really into the new Joanna Newsom record [Have One on Me] for a number of reasons. I was obsessed, totally in love with her last album, Ys, but that album was very structured, very rigid compared to this one. It was definitely a song cycle, whereas this one is a little more free form. She's loosened up quite a bit and her singing has improved. The things I love about her are still the same -- her love of words, her incredibly poetic turns of phrase -- but she has relaxed a little in a way that I'm enjoying. Some of the songs on here, like "Good Intentions Paving Company" and especially "Baby Birch," are some of the best she's ever written, I think. She's really only getting better. 

ME: What else is turning on your record player these days?

Erin: I've also been listening to Greg Gardner's comp In A Cloud -- all really great local artists. My favorite track on here is the Paula Fraser one. And the first Giant Sand record -- Valley of Rain. 

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