Ulterior Music

Relatively Clean Rivers, “Hello Sunshine” (download)

I’m not sure how many people recognized the reference to Relatively Clean Rivers in the stories a few months back about Adam Gadahn, the American who joined al Qaeda. Gadahn’s father, Philip, was the lead singer of the amazing, obscure psychedelic folk outfit from the ’60s that put out one all-around perfect album. I’m also not sure what it all means for the son of a freak-folk minstrel to go on a tirade against the United States, but my only worry is that it will mean bad press for the album, which desperately needs to be rereleased.

The Master Musicians of Jajouka, “War Song/Standing” + “One Half (Kaim Oua Nos)” (download)

Legend tells of the Hashishan assassins: men drugged to think they had died and were visited by virgins of the afterlife, then thrown into a dungeon and told they would not experience the same until they had completed their task (i.e., junkies). Although the followers of Hassan-i-Sabbah fell to the wayside in the 13th century at the hand of a less-than-mellow Mongol horde, the idea of drugged assassins still haunts people to this day (e.g., the conspiracy theories attached to Sirhan Sirhan and Oswald). Could any man be turned into an unwilling assassin through psychological manipulation? Well if there was ever a backup band to these would-be Manchurian Candidates, it’s the Master Musicians of Jajouka, who’ve been holding the number-one spot around Morocco for some 4,000 years. Better than Martin & Lewis at the Copacabana, deified by Brian Jones and William S. Burroughs, they drop a heavy, hypnotic jangling trance that’s hard to deny. They are the myrrh standard that all others are measured by. That sound of swirling chaos echoes out of the pan flutes is something to behold, and I’m sure it scared the living crap out of somebody in the 15th century, but nowadays we have flange pedals and Metal Machine Music, so it’s a bit old hat. Plus, nothing breaks the assassin’s creed like making a lounge remix.

E Pak Sa, “Dances the E Pak Sa” (download)

If I were to make a soundtrack to indoctrinate assasins to do my bidding, it would be pure E Pak Sa all the way through. Encyclopedia of Pon-Chak on repeat. That jittery madness that only comes with hearing “ba ba da do di da da brrreeeeeeeeeee” to a Casio beat box over and over that tells the unconscious mind: “You know what you have to do.” Ideally it would be played behind footage of foot soldiers training in some sort of Hello Kitty hellscape to fight imitation Pokémon cartoons.

Unknown Artist, “Curly Toes” (download)

The recently released torture playlist had a lot of people thinking, “You call that torture? I could make a better torture tape than that yodeling.” It’s all in the eye of the beholder. One man’s Deicide is another man’s Cannibal Corpse mid-stage banter. I find a number of the songs on this torture list to be decent. I mean, there’s even some Devo in there. If you want real torture, there’s more off-kilter warbling to be found in the Songs in the Key of Z compilations. Real unsettling sounds that make you imagine what sort of confused depression the originator must have been in at the time to try and attempt something like that.

Erkin Koray & Ter, “Hor Görme Garibi” (download)

I wish I were more of a historical geographer (geographical historian?), and knew why the Western influence of psychedelic music and random science fiction in the Middle East drops off after Turkey. In Turkey you’ve got Star Wars imitations, Star Trek imitations, and prog rock, but across the border into Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Bulgara, it drops off. Maybe it has to do with their sattelite cable provider. But the undisputed king of Turkish prog is Erkin Koray—a swarthy, psychedelic Ted Nugent. His combination of Middle Eastern melodies and electrified garage rock is hard to come by, which is hard to fathom considering the success Dick Dale had with an electrified version of a Greek folk song (“Misirlou”).

Portishead, Third (listen at
This new Portishead album, Third, is quite good. In particular, it’s good to know there’s popular music out there that’s not overhyped, overproduced schlock. There’s a few dangling references that are a bit too obvious (the one Silver Apples beat, the Joanna Newsom lilt in the voice). But in the end, it doesn’t matter too much as it all comes across well-intentioned. It sounds like what Portishead sounds like, and that’s just fine.

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