Venues in NYC come and go. But only occasionally do they live on far after their close, in the hearts of their patrons years later. In the mid 90’s, when the meat-packing district of NYC was a barren outpost lightly peppered with bodegas and the occasional dive bar there existed a club unlike any other. Descending a steep metal staircase tucked closely behind an unmarked metal door was The Cooler, an airtight meat locker turned music venue. The space was gritty – functional meat hooks dangled from the ceiling, Brion Gysin projections flickered on the sticky walls flanked by smutty photos from Warhol affiliate Gerard Malanga. The music was a mix of free jazz legends like Cecil Taylor, the alluring indie-rock of early Blonde Redhead and NYC original modernists like Suicide. On the right night you’d even find Sonic Youth taking the stage unannounced to test out new material after a set by Japanese noise duo The Ruins. There existed little separation between audience and artists – an intimacy that compounded the intensity of the performances. continue reading "The Cooler NYC- A Look Back"
Roland Young is a man of many talents. A jazz musician who came of age during the 1960s, Young was pioneering DJ on the west coast the following decade, experimenting with genre on San Francisco’s KSAN station. The 1980s found Young and his wife Risa in New York City where he embraced the cross pollination of music scenes. Taking influence from New Wave, Reggae and Jazz, Young recorded for the Flow Chart label. NYC man about town Jacob Gorchov has taken on the task of rescuing Young’s dynamic 80s work on a new release for his Palto Flats label, Hearsay I-Land. Young creates synthesized, drum machine accented minimal songs that sound fascinatingly inline with modern aesthetics. “Ballo Balla” which features Rina on vocals is a fantastic deep-cut for any DJ looking for something new to spin alongside ESG. “Edge of Disaster” is a classic tale of hard living in the city over Mantronix –like beats. Young delivers strong saxophone lines over the top that perfectly accentuates the stark electronic drums. Young can play it smooth as well as evidenced on “So Very Easy” a cool, R&B electro ballad that has Young serenading his intended as well as any smooth-talker of the era. If you’re a DJ or lover of 80s obscurities Hearsay I-Land is a mandatory reissue, don’t sleep on it.
There’s been a reasonable amount of French New Wave reissues and whatnot but there’s been precious little in terms of punk rock. Born Bad Records seeks to rectify the problem with this perfectly enjoyable compilation of vintage French punk. Sonically there’s a solid mix of dynamics, from hyper Johnny Thunders riffs (Strychnine’s Ex bx”) to more crusty chugs (Electrochoc “Chaise Electrique”) but the middle ground leans toward melodic, sing-a-long’s over very familiar punk structures. Soggy’s “Waiting for the War” could sit nicely on a mixtape next to the Effigies or whatnot. Ruth Elyeri’s “Mescalito” is the highlight, a triumphant femme-fronted squelcher that’s worth playing at a house party when its time to trash the place. One needs to be able to read French to crack the liner notes so the stories behind these bands remains a mystery here. While not introducing any major revelations, those Francophiles seeking black leather and spikes can find plenty to huff a clove to while wearing pancake makeup on this slab of fuzz.
Techno music in the 1990s was largely an anonymous pursuit. Producers generally shielded themselves from humanity with abstract names and bland non-imagery. For every superstar electronic icon like Aphex Twin and Plastikman, (two artists with a brilliantly inherent sense of marketing) there were thousands of grey, faceless 12”s with no indication of an artist behind it, as if produced and manufactured by machine alone. But while the artists generally were obscured, the record label became the star, representing a distinct signature sound. At the time labels like Mo Wax were exploring breaks and trip-hop, and Metalheadz represented jungle music, Chain Reaction, was among Europe’s premier underground labels of the 90s, specializing in a dub infused IDM that was hypnotically minimal and entrancing in its rhythms. Twenty years down the road, Fluxion, a premier member of the Chain Reaction crew, is having his work collected and reissued. As future music from the past, Fluxion has aged exceptionally well. Decades later, the music still exudes a pulse that still resonates with contemporary sounds. Rather than the grey, stark imagery of the original editions, Type has housed these discs in a warm abstract colorful cover image. Suddenly the title takes on new meaning, and though relatively anonymous and grey, the music itself seems vibrant, even in its repetitious nature.
It would be an understatement to say that guitar soli has had an important resurgence in the last ten years or so. Maybe in the increasingly maddening digital era the voice of six (or twelve) acoustic strings rings with a naturalist sensibility, a voice of clarity amidst the chaos. Thankfully Glenn Jones quietly gives us a traditional album of guitar soli that delivers in a way so few modern players can. Over the course of nine tracks Jones plays immaculately executed solo guitar, without forsaking composition or style. All the elements merge to create a dynamically steady album that transitions from Banjo to six and twelve string acoustic guitar seamlessly. What comes through most is the emotive aspects of his playing, such as on the meditative “Snowdrops (for Robert Walser)” with its gentle slides or the sheer romanticism of “For Wendy, In Her Girlish Days”, which stands as a gorgeous ballad, capable of instigating nostalgia by the first chorus. Technicality and record collecting can only take one so far. Glenn Jones has stepped beyond those limits and made the best guitar soli album this year by exhibiting a rewardingly self assured comfort. It seems natural, effortless but clearly the result of decades of craft. It may not be the flavor of the month but its rewards will surely endure when all today’s bluster has been forgotten.