Fat City from Beijing is the now-defunct duo of guitarist Ma Meng and vocalist/synth noodler/misc-noise-device artist Zhu Wenbo. This, their self-titled crowning achievement, almost got lost to oral history. It documents a brief but intense period of no-wave/kraut revival that percolated up from the Beijing underground for a white-hot stretch circa 2009-2011. It was recorded onto tape in the basement studio of fellow kosmische explorers Li Weisi and Li Qing of Soviet Pop in November 2011 for cassette release on Rose Mansion Analog, at the time Beijing’s standard bearer for lo-fi grit tunes. Sadly, RMA soon after ceased to exist, and these tracks sat collecting virtual dust until being dug up and digitally mixed/mastered by P.K.14 vocalist Yang Haisong at the end of last year. Like the recording itself, Fat City’s physical release plays with the analog/digital divide: the packaging is a brutally spare 7-inch sleeve containing a plain-black-sleeved CDR and typewritten lyrics insert. It was produced in an indefinite edition of maybe around thirty copies, given away to friends and family as a final goodbye to a band and an era fondly remembered by the aforementioned 30 people.
The members of Fat City are still around: Ma Meng will show up to the occasional gig, and Wenbo still runs the weekly experimental music series Zoomin’ Night. But the band’s dead as dirt. Go here and name your own price for the full download to get a taste of what they were all about. I guarantee that whatever money you choose to spend will go directly into printing flyers for shows that will be attended by mostly friends of the bands playing.
Lizards of Camelot
Lately, I’ve found myself completely fascinated by the pop music coming out of Brattleboro, Vermont. Artists like Chris Weisman, Ryan Power, Ruth Garbus, Zach Phillips, and Great Valley are crafting some of the most harmonically fascinating songs that are rife with smart/sarcastic/sincere lyrics and wildly inventive production. These folks are creating an incredible alternate universe of pop craft that largely ignores current trends in favor of exploring the beautifully weird possibilities of songs.
Great Valley’s latest album, Lizards of Camelot is another excellent entry into the Brattleboro scene’s canon. The record also feels like a larger group statement since the band’s normal duo of Peter Nichols and Jo Miller-Gamble is often augmented by many of the other key Brattleboro players. Lizards of Camelot is a silly concept record about well, lizards of camelot. In other hands, this concept could easily devolve into pure novelty but Great Valley keep the narrative subtle and the music playful and inventive. For instance, it took me until the gorgeous “Moat of Love” to realize that Nichols was literally singing about lizard people royalty. Like the best work of Ween and Ariel Pink, Lizards of Camelot proves that the ridiculous can still be profoundly beautiful and transcend the strictly goofy.
Lizards of Camelot is out now via NNA Tapes. You can stream five tracks off the record below:
It seems like ever since BBNG’s buzz began building two years ago with the release of their “Odd Future Sessions” video, the boys themselves and perhaps whichever – if any – PR machine is behind them, have been hell-bent on promoting the group’s music as being somehow removed from, or even evolved beyond, the jazz idiom; as if the words “jazz” and “bop” are code for “old-man music.”
[If that’s the case for you, then it’s probably because you, like the BBNG players, are in your early 20s or even younger, but unlike them, you aren’t currently enrolled in a Humber College jazz program and your only exposure to jazz comes from sideways glances at your grandpa’s record collection. What you need to do is realize that your grandpa was/is a bad (grand)motherfucker and go digging through said record collection.]
Pardon me for getting sidetracked there. The point I was getting to is that, contrary to what’s been said in countless interviews and blog posts, BBNG’s music up until now has NOT been removed from the jazz idiom at all, really. The only thing they’re doing differently than the typical modern jazz group, as far as I can tell, is playing popular hip-hop instrumentals. Still, putting one’s own spin on the non-jazz hits of the day is in fact a jazz tradition — one that’s as old as the genre itself.
This new song “CS60,” off their forthcoming III album, might be their farthest step in a new direction, but it still at least nods to fusion. Nevertheless, whether BADBADNOTGOOD is most comfortable being called a jazz trio or a synth-beat-rock outfit or just a group of musicians, they do bring something young and fresh to a genre that’s too often unfairly dismissed as old and stale. Stream it below, daddy-o.
• BADBADNOTGOOD: http://badbadnotgood.com
...It’s Jayle Time!
“...It’s Jayle Time!” someone yells out with intoxicating sour-mash breath. Young widows crying as they see the cuffs tighten. Mentionings of this is only his job. Fingers pointing every which way. Moods are at an all-time whatever. “Pull Me Back to Hell” is echoing throughout the night and it’s a familiar voice. Jaye Jayle repeats again and again on the mind, humming out thin lips. Systematic [anything] feels distant starting out “Evil Windows.”
Check this out: the good news is that Jaye Jayle released two tracks off ...It’s Jayle Time! as a single. “Evil Windows” and “Pull Me Back to Hell” is out now via Sophomore Lounge Records on 45 rpm 7-inch vinyls. Bad news is there’ve only been 300 made. Which means, there probably won’t be any around after you’re out of the slammer (read above, you’re going to JAYLE.) Stream the album below and grip the single at Sophomore Lounge:
The Found Tape
One of those hot nights when ice cream drips on shoe tips and never crusts along the corners of your mouth, hours later. Staying out past curfew, passing plenty of cops, and thinking invisibility exists and is possessable. Going to the park and hanging upside-down on the money bars: drinking games; the gentleman at the station who bought the beer didn’t even accept the change “tip.” Coinage rattling as it falls upon the wood chips. Show setting up in the roundhouse. Bandanas and booze soaked clothes. Only walking around with boxers on; backpack filled with clothes, cans, and tampons.
Run just tapped out the older crowd, and moisture is giving an antsy vibe for a bit of them dancy Char-Man jams. Feeling their cute just hard enough to smash around an audience of 80 in a 50-person shelter. Liquid splashing the air. Sparks pop off the bass amp, but there’s no real stop to collective effervescence. Tampons soaking in puddles on the floor. Fists beat the wet and dry space just above the rotation of the dance circle. Someone hands you Char-Man’s The Found Tape on CD and says, “I bought this for eight bucks right over there,” [someone] points to an empty corner. “Let’s jam this later while crashing the Troy Square.”
Find Char-Man’s The Found Tape on CD here, and stream a moment or two below: