Recent psych listening.
Rikki Ililonga, Soweto
‘All the women they call me / the population maker / the men they call me / the marriage breaker / the mothers call me / the statutory raper / the fathers call me / the cherry breaker’
Imagine that lyric sung in the most sweet-natured little tenor voice imaginable, seemingly without lust, over an inexpressibly warm three-chord guitar/synth groove that’s somewhere between the stony austerity of 70s Afrofunk and the weird psych/soul/R&B monology of Shuggie Otis. Imagine reading this on the album cover:
‘P.S. This record should be played at speaker shattering volume. Especially if you’re doing the deep shaft horizontal mambo. Have fun! –Rikki”
Imagine this naked carnality on an album whose cover art depicts the popular Zambian musician Ililonga behind bars in honour of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, whose centerpiece is a multipart political statement that opens with a choir singing hymns and climaxes with a series of explosions under the lyrics ‘I–am going–to blow–your mind.’
I confess that on early listens I was frustrated by the repetitive guitar figures and seemingly rhythmically clumsy singing of the opening track, but I’ve decided (for my own purposes, provisionally) that it stands in relation to familiar American funk the way (e.g.) the equally thin-voiced Shuggie’s Inspiration Information does: as a thoughtful one-man-band’s hermetically fluent reconception. I don’t know Zambian funk from Adam, but it’s impossible for me to imagine that this bizarre amalgam of wallflower sex/politics grooves is typical. Of anything, really. I’m not prepared for the world to be this good.
White Rainbow, Sky Drips Drifts
Every musical autodidact is thrilled by the possibilities inherent in looping, and this continuous 67-minute loop of overdubbed guitars, synths, (synth?) voices, and whatever else is exactly the kind of thing we’d all do if we had the afternoon free. It’s Frippertronics, basically, with updated -tronics. And it’s boring at first, as Frippertronic experiments not played by Robert Fripp tend without exception to be…until suddenly it’s not, and a dare-I-say ‘tribal’ voice/percussion groove washes away the seemingly endless guitar syncopations, making room for a massive symphonic climax to the third track. At times it sounds a bit like a psychedelic alt-universe take on the Lion King soundtrack, which should be awful — I felt awful typing it — but surrendering to the work means allowing one improvisatory monologist’s conception to play out over the length of an album, which is both a healthy activity in itself (submission to radical consciousness-alternation through the benign offices of artists) and in this case yields specific rewards, viz., your periodic reminder that in an infinite universe there is no such thing as ‘scale’ and the lifetime of all matter can be squeezed into, lemmesee here, was it 67 minutes? Honestly it flew by.
Gila, Free Electric Sound
Gila is a little bit like Can, but with a less compelling drummer and a stronger Floyd fixation. The fact that ‘Kollektivität’ kicks off by seeming to tease ‘Pinball Wizard’ is the most ‘interesting’ thing about the album, which isn’t much; and they don’t play it anyway. The fact that the last four tracks form a 20-minute medley which ends with the inevitable drum circle doesn’t put me off, though Christ knows it should, because by then I’ve already checked out.
For some reason I feel the strong urge to turn this into a rant about how I don’t care about Can and I’m annoyed that you do. But today I will not do that.
Alcatraz, Vampire State Building
‘Hey Ozzy, how you been?’ ‘Been alright.’ ‘Listen mate, I’ve got this idea, yeah?’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Let’s go full-on fucking jazz/rock fusion.’ ‘Yeah alright.’ ‘Right. I’ll get the flute.’ ‘Groovy.’