The Weird, Old America

“I remember driving then with the song on the radio.” So Greil Marcus wrote in his indispensable 1997 book Invisible Republic about being haunted by the “inescapable” sound of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” in the summer of 1967, a song powerful enough in its hush that time could be “brought to a halt.” He continues: “Trying to follow its sliding phrases, drifting into its miasmic trance, and plowing straight into the car in front of me.”

Marcus may have caused a ten-car pile-up had he heard “The Boy Called Billy Joe,” an answer song penned by Stephenville, Texas country singer Carroll. It’s creepy and peculiar, his molasses-thick Texas accent barely getting words like “Choctaw” and “Tallahatchie” out, yet it nevertheless sounds like it’s being whispered from the beyond by the titular character (who, if you aren’t familiar with Gentry’s original, jumps off the bridge).

Billie Joe’s ghost, slot machine singers, day-drinking husband-wife duos, The Sound of Memphis through a 4-track wood chipper, Ernest Hood, a Lynchian battle of the bands, and Weird Al’s old roommate all comprise this Weird Old America.

Even Weirder Old America for Bandcamp

Surya Botofasina

“The session was just me and Carlos Niño. That day was when we did the take of ‘Surya Meditation,’ that 28-minute take. It was this whole thing. Carlos said he knew in the moment that this was the place that the record was going to center around. I was super-happy, I feel like I really got to just be in the moment, in existence, and really take in everything I was experiencing in life at that time and put it into intention. With the intention of not only tending to my own mental health, but the intention of having it be something that could serve. Whether it served myself in that moment, or something that could serve my children in their moments, other individuals’ in their moments, it felt like this was a time that was very clear that it could be offered. I’ve been a part of different records where that was not the feeling. So to have that feeling, I was really moved by it.”

Surya Botofasina, Alice Coltrane’s Mentee, Takes Center Stage for Bandcamp

The Lot Radio 11.17.22

The Lot Radio in November

Here’s the November mix for The Lot Radio. A few things on mind:

-I was in the midst of writing about the Peak Oil label
-Getting stoked about a new Kelela album
-Lamenting the passing of Gal Costa
-Penning liner notes for a forthcoming Ryuichi Sakamoto reissue
-Falling upwards into the majesty of Surya Botofasina’s debut album
-Musing about lounge-y compilations that double-down on the weirdness of “Old, Weird America”

I’d like to think that a little bit of all of that shows up here.

Semi-official tracklisting below:

Continue reading “The Lot Radio 11.17.22”

10 Years of Peak Oil

“I felt like if we were going to do a label that would exist solely as a labor of love, it should exist as a conceptual whole. I had been reading a lot about ‘peak oil’ theory, the moment when society—predicated on infinite growth of a finite resource, petroleum—is in collapse, and how petroleum is in everything, even records. It seemed to ‘click.'”

For the past ten years, Los Angeles-based label Peak Oil has been sketching the parameters of the city’s underground electronic scene, as well as drifting off to some new, still-unseen vista of the scene. I got to speak to label heads Brian and Brion –as well as vital players like M. Geddes Gengras and Lamin Fofana– about the past decade and the perils of creating petroleum-based consumer products for Bandcamp.

A Decade of Peak Oil’s Strange & Mysterious Electronic Music for Bandcamp

Pharoah & Phriends Radio Mix

There’s a Pharoah Sanders feature forthcoming in Maggot Brain, but in the wake of his passing, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the great saxophonist’s sound world, tracing through lines, shared sensibilities, similar resonances, following the trajectories and interconnectedness with the man’s many legendary bandmates. I presented a mix for The Lot Radio last weekend, using the man’s horn to spring into these other realms. Enjoy. Track listing below:

Maleem Mahmoud Ghania – Peace in Essaouria
Pharoah Sanders – Wisdom Through Music
Hannibal – The Voyage
Idris Muhammad – Peace
Lonnie Liston Smith – Meditations
Woody Shaw – New World
Pharoah Sanders – Japan
Joe Bonner – Celebration
Michael White – The Blessing Song
Lonnie Liston Smith – Floating Through Space
Norman Connors – Morning Change
Larry Young – Sunshine Fly Away
Gary Bartz – Etoiles Des Neiges
Sonny Fortune – Long Before Our Mothers Cried
Michael White – Fiesta Dominical
Pharoah Sanders – The Golden Lamp

Kelman Duran

There are plenty of big names, cred-boosting producers, and luminaries to be found on Beyoncé’s Renaissance, but Kelman Duran’s name is one of the first you’ll encounter. While still ensconced in the electronic music underground, his handiwork is apparent from the opening seconds of “I’m That Girl.” It encapsulates his qualities in an instant: body-moving, haunted, heavyweight, ethereal.

I had the chance back in the winter of 2019 to review his standout album 13th Month and also profile him. When I met up with him out at Nowadays around that time, he had just finished a set full of ghostly ambient tracks, which he told me later were the rejected tracks he had presented to Kanye. All the drums had been stripped out. Later in the week, he was meeting with Bey’s management, so knew that there was a chance he was about to breakout. A lot of his work since then has vanished from the web, so keep an eye on his Bandcamp page (and also check out Sangre Nueva). Happy that in the wake of this album, more folks might now seek out Kelman’s work.

Kelman Duran 13th Month for Pitchfork

Kelman Duran Puts a Ghostly Spin on Reggaeton for Rolling Stone