Music from the fourth dimension

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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.

Here’s a peculiar record recommended to us by our friend Micah at KFAI’s Listening Lounge.

peanuts

Kay Ballard and Arthur Siegel’s 1962 album Good Grief Charlie Brown, Peanuts, preceded television’s famous and enduring Charlie Brown Christmas by three years — it was the first attempt to bring to live the characters of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. All of its dialogue comes from the comic strip, and the bizarre, atonal score was created by composer Fred Karlin using childrens’ toys and instruments.

Unlike the animated interpretation and the later musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, this performance focuses on the relationship between Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt — the fact that its text comes entirely from the early years of Schultz’s half-century run only compounds the shocking nature of Lucy’s cruelty to Charlie Brown. A 2007 biography, Schultz and Peanuts by David Michaelis, explored the relationship between the strip and its creator’s life and marriage. He based the domineering Lucy on his first wife, Joyce. Michaelis’ epic biography was criticized by some for its voyeuristic focus on the Schultz’s troubled marriage, but there is a definite correlation between his home life and the strip — the years leading up to the couple’s eventual divorce in 1972 featuring some of the cartoonist’s best work.

My own impression of the biography was that in focusing so much on Schultz’s first marriage, Michaelis overlooks other influences, such as his growing alienation from his Lutheran faith and the Church of God that had been so important to him until he left Minnesota (reflected, often times, in the theological conversations of Charlie Brown and Linus). Still, the biographer’s approach to his subject is further supported by the gradual softening of Lucy’s character in the years after 1972.
Here’s the first track from Ballard and Siegel’s interpretation of Peanuts from a decade earlier:

title

destination moon

This is actually one of several moon themed LPs of the late 50s (Mel Torme’s album is, forgive the pun, out of this world!). Bandleader Sid Ramin’s arrangements on this album are fantastic, and the Ames Brothers are as awesome as ever. It may have been even more stellar if they’d worked with Esquivel, who arranged their spanish album, Hello Amigos! and of course produced his own astral music on albums like Other Worlds of Sound and Infinity in Sound.

destination moon

“Destination Moon”

And oddly enough, this copy has a sticker advertising RCA/Victor’s “Miracle Surface” vinyl (317X, to be specific). One of the brothers on the moon’s surface appears to be reading the sticker.

moon

At the beginning of the 70s television series Space 1999 we’re introduced to Moonbase Alpha, and all of the stored nuclear waste on the dark side of the moon blows up, sending the entire moon hurtling off where, um, almost nobody had ever gone in a one-piece jumpsuit. Awesome.

The thing we really love about Space 1999 isn’t it’s down to earth (actually down to satellite) premise.  It’s the funky space music.

space

This is a future we’re ready for!

This is even better than Having Fun with Elvis on Stage.

trek bloopers

trek bloopers

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