Music from the fourth dimension

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Yesterday’s post featured Prince’s “Batdance,” which is probably not considered by most fans to be one of his best singles. Also in the unlikely favorite category is our favorite of his (depending on how you count them) forty plus albums.

It started as a li’l crush but its become full-on love. Art Official Age is our favorite Prince album. Art Official Age was Prince’s last album to be released on record, but it was also his last substantive work. The two part Hit n Run series has its moments — and its general ‘return to form’ was welcomed by longtime fans — but neither feels like an album to take seriously in the same sense as those from Prince’s most celebrated career arc running from Controversy to The Gold Experience.


As much as Prince’s work often embraced the Wagnerian concept of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk‘ (or a complete and total work of art to encompass many disciplines), Art Official Age is the only true ‘concept album’ in his catalog. Like the great concept albums of the past, its story is convoluted, confusing and ultimately kind of dumb. But it provides a setting for some really remarkable songs. The plot of Art Official Age makes no more sense than the plot of Tommy, but its futuristic setting clearly inspired some of Prince’s most remarkable late-period performing and production.

It’s remarkable that for an artist whose music is so often morbid, the future Prince imagines after 40 years in suspended animation in Art Official Age is not ominously dystopian. In fact, the often-sunny Honeydogs provided a more bleak future in their (also Minnesota-bred) concept album 10,000 Years. One of the standout moments in Art Official Age is also the tune which is most distinctively in Prince’s classic style — In “This Could Be Us” he doesn’t lament any unimagined future but rather the past and present.

We’re likely to hear unfinished Prince projects in the future — It’s a certainty, given the contentious nature of his estate, that the inevitable cash-cow of unreleased tracks will be taken to market. We are still hearing new recordings by John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, but whether we’re really gaining anything from the experience stands to be established. For instance, last year’s release of the complete recordings from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme include recordings which he himself decided did not achieve the goal of expressing what he wanted to say. If the artist decided it wasn’t worthy of release, shouldn’t we respect that choice? Or do we live in a world of such all-encompassing transparency that even what one throws away is open game?

Prince,ironically approached the subject of ownership in Art Official Age, but it seems unlikely that in the dialogue from the album’s last track (which, also ironically, uses the title “Affirmation”) he was speaking of creative control. How an artist could keep such tight control over his work in life and yet have no plans for its future is beyond us — truly one of the many mysteries Prince left for the ages.



One more “Star Trek” record and then back to the 21st century next week.


Roaratorio Records remains one of our favorite labels based in Minnesota. One of their recent releases was a 7-inch with two songs by The Cleveland Wrecking Crew, a Quicksilver-ish Bay Area band from the 60s who never released any recordings.

And the label’s most recent release is the next in a series of un-issued recordings by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. It is the third such collection they have released, and the first which is a double LP. Owing to the ongoing interest in Sun Ra’s music, the other two are already out of print.

Sun Ra Intergalactic Thing

The tracks on The Intergalactic Thing are taken from rehearsal recordings at the House of Ra, the Philadelphia residence of Sun Ra and many members of his Arkestra. This collection contains much more information about the recordings than the previous two Roaratorio releases, including recording dates and personnel. All tracks are from the early winter of 1969, presumably the same era as Atlantis and My Brother the Wind.

We have several copies in stock, but anticipate that this release will also quickly fall out of print. We have been really enjoying it, although we suppose the astro-infinity music of Sun Ra isn’t for everyone. We really liked this track, “In Over and Under,” which reminded us of other clavinet classics in his catalog, like “Love in Outer Space.”

For your mid-week relaxation: try these relaxation exercises from Lorraine Plum’s Flights of Fancy. For the best results, follow the instructions below and then play the tracks from the record.

Please be advised that those with past experiences of alien abduction may wish to skip the track titled “Unknown Planet” as it may trigger uncomfortable flashbacks.


BEGIN EACH FANTASY with a relaxation experience. Read these instructions slowly in a soothing, restful tone of voice, pausing a few seconds between each step.

1. Find a comfortable position either sitting upright or lying down.
If you’re sitting, sit with your back straight but not rigid and keep your head, neck and chest straight. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your hands palms down on your thighs.

If you’re lying down, lie on your back with your arms extended on the floor about six inches from your body and your palms facing the ceiling. Keep your legs flat and turned slightly apart.

Move around a little until you are comfortable, then be still.

2. Close your eyes. Keep them closed until I tell you when to open them.

(Read steps 3-8 and/or 9-12)

3. Stretch your right leg out in front of you and tighten all the muscles in your leg — really tight — tighter — relax — let go of the tension. Notice what relaxing feels lie.

4. Repeat with your left leg.

5. Make a fist with your right hand and tighten all the muscles in that arm — really tight — tighter — tighter — now relax. Let the tension melt away.

6. Repeat with your left arm.

7. Life your shoulder upward toward your ears. Tighten all of the muscles in your shoulders and neck — really tight — tighter — tighter yet — now relax. Notice what letting go of tension feels like.

8. Tense all the muscles in your face by squinting your eyes, wrinkling your nose and tensing your tongue — really tight — tighter — tighter yet — now, relax. Feel all the tension and strain flow from your face.

9. Place your right and on your stomach. Take slow full breaths through your nose and feel the rise and fall of your stomach as you breathe. When you inhale, you bring air into your body and your stomach rises. When you exhale, you breathe air out of your body and your stomach falls.

10. Inhale and exhale slowly — try breathing without any pauses or jerks between your inhalations and exhalations.

11. Place your left hand on your chest. If you’re breathing in a deep, relaxed way, you will feel very little movement in your chest. Most of the movement is in your stomach. Breathe very naturally and smoothly.

12. Imagine that with every breath you take, you’re becoming more relaxed.

the moneys comingWe’ve been waiting a long while to hear from Wizards Are Real, the enigmatic instrumental quartet so dear to our hearts. Their last record, the 10″ EP I’m Your Free Lieutenant, was released nearly three and a half years ago. No surprise then that their latest, which snuck quietly into record shops last month, presents all sorts of advances in the band’s unique alchemy.

Because the band is on a brief family leave, there’s no release show for The Money’s Coming, their third release. Wizards Are Real has never followed industry conventions as far as promotion and marketing are considered, anyways — this is one of the things we’ve always loved about them.

The Money’s Coming features the Wizards’ established combination of richly reverbed pedal steel and low-register saxophones, played by husband and wife Brian O’Neil and Melanie Bergstrom. Bassist Ted Held and drummer Jim Baumgart provide bedding for each tune which which transitions between jazz, post-punk and post-rock with fluidity. None of this is news — they have explored this terrain for years. What separates the new record is the confidence with which they collaborate.

More than on the previous records the instrumentals imply a representational program, although we’ve never forgotten that the Wizards once told us the reason their songs have no words is that they would be too creepy if they did. The cryptic titles certainly offer something to consider. The Money’s Coming could be the soundtrack to some surreal landscape or another, maybe deep sea diving or space exploration or cleaning the back of the fridge here in the record shop. A few of these nine new tracks have a slower, more narrative sense, like “In my Ironman,” which O’Neil opens slowly and evocatively, and “It’s A Wrench,” which treads forward as if on ethereal feet only to surprise is by disappearing.

The Money’s Coming plays at 45rpm, adding a sense of urgency to the songs, none of which pass the three minute mark on the first side. “Bring on the Night, Sting” opens the record with the intensity established by I’m Your Free Lieutenant, and it is followed by excellent, energetic bass and drums on the next two songs. You can, incidentally, hear the entire album on the Wizards’ Bandcamp page here. We chose these two tracks to present the wider range of this release, which takes more chances than the previous records (is that a slide whistle on “Genesee” or is it our imagination?). Money has all our favorite Wizards motifs, from the hard-edged rock to the sinister sinewiness of the title track from their 10″ EP — this new record was well worth the wait.

The last time we posted Wizards Are Real here on the Hymie’s blog was when we singled out “Good Goods” from their first album as one of our favorite closing time songs. This is still true, and its one reason why we have twice chosen them to close down our block party (the other is that we love these folks). The awesome UndercurrentMpls filmed them in 2013 if you want to take a look. Their last show before taking a little break was here this past Record Store Day — we only mention this because it seems like this might cause people to not notice the release of The Money’s Coming, at least until the Wizards begin haunting clubs around town again. Too bad — this is a record which merits some attention.

Still shopping for the record collector in your life? It’s tough to buy records for a collector — not only are you unsure if they already have the record you’ve picked, but you don’t know if they’d like it either way. Nothing wrong with a gift certificate, and we have sold a lot of them to the friends and family of folks we see here every week — nothing wrong with an interesting new release either. Or a record from outer space.

christmas in the stars

We think the best solution is to get your friend something super weird. Here’s a good example — it even has a couple Christmas songs on it.

sun ra

This wonderfully bizarre double disc collects forty-nine songs that were originally issued on Sun Ra’s Saturn Records label over more than thirty years — they are incredibly rare records, most would cost you hundreds if you could even find a copy for sale. They are also surprisingly varied, a weird window into Sun Ra’s genius and creativity.

Saturn Records was remarkable — Sun Ra was producing and releasing his own records years before other independent artists. He was also an early innovator on electronic instruments and a free jazz pioneer. Still, many of his records are an acquired taste — avant garde jazz is not for everyone, even if it’s awesome.

Half of The Singles is goofy doo wop and rhythm & blues, and half is spacy jazz jams. Many are by singers or groups that Sun Ra and some incarnation of his Arkestra are backing. They are also in solid supersonic jazz form on fan favorites like “Love in Outer Space.” The songs are surprising, fun and sometimes misguided pop. Nothing reaches the wild extremes of classic Arkestra recordings, let alone their solid swinging-ness, but it is fun to listen to a collection of insanely rare records by a jazz genius.

And there’s two silly Christmas songs, originally issued as a 45 by the Qualities on the Saturn label in 1956. Sun Ra plays the harmonium and leads an unidentified backing band.

Six Families — formerly the Degenerate Music Club — is back for an encore performance here at Hymie’s. On Sunday December 8th they will present pieces by Alvin Lucier, Gyorgi Ligeti, and an original piece by for trumpets of their own. Their last performance here was highlighted by MPR’s Art Hound!
Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room for voice and electromagnetic tape (1969) is an exploration of the human voice as well as the unique room in which the piece is performed. A narrator will read the script below, and it will be recorded. This recording will be played back, and again recorded. The process will be repeated until the narration is lost underneath the resonant frequencies of the room. Here is the text:

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.

Lux Aeterna by Gyorgy Ligeti is a piece for 16 solo voices. From the Six Families’ Tara Loeper:

“The text for this piece comes from the Roman Catholic Mass and with a few exceptions is completely unintelligible.  A large part of the piece is comprised of  a compositional method Ligeti developed called micropolyphony in which every singer has the same sequence of pitches that are to be performed over different intervals of time.  The result is that each singer enters and overlaps with each other in unpredictable patterns and any sense of a downbeat disappears almost immediately.

“This composition is quite famous for its use in 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Stanley Kubrick used several of Ligeti’s pieces without the composer’s permission.  Turns out Ligeti was impressed with the film and gave Kubrick permission to use his compositions in later films like The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut.

Sisters is an original trumpet improvisation by Noah Ophoven-Baldwin and Jake Baldwin.
Six Families will perform these pieces here at Hymie’s at 7:30pm on Sunday December 8th.

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