A Peaceable Kingdom
In a note he sent me with my copy of A Peaceable Kingdom, Steve Fors of the Golden Sores describes his duo with Chris Miller as an "ecstatic drone band." How much sense that makes probably depends equally on which definition of ecstatic you're using and your serotonin levels. If you're imagining a noise version of the Polyphonic Spree, try again—this is more like watching the thin scrim of reality torn to shreds in front of your eyes, soundtracked by a pile of electronics and amps. "The Awful Rowing Toward God," named after a collection of Anne Sexton's poetry, combines sheets of harsh, granular electronic noise and swooping howls of guitar feedback to evoke a divinely inspired vision with an inconceivably unhappy ending. But on the next track, aptly titled "Klonopin," the Golden Sores sound much more mellow: clean, sustained tones and washes of delay ebb and flow tidally, creating a subtly dynamic drone.
Mayor Daley have a reputation as a band with an unstable lineup—the former members listed on their MySpace page outnumber the current ones six to three. Fortunately they seem to thrive on chaos. The queasy noise rock on Facial Expressions—the first release on the vinyl-and-cassette label run by Cacaw drummer Kyle Reynolds—sounds ready to fall apart at any second, like the Zipper at the county fair, and listening to it feels an awful lot like cheating death on a carnival ride put together by day laborers. Mayor Daley's songs tend to be sludgy, lumpy, and long—only one of the four here clocks in under ten minutes—and their unambitious arrangements never include more than drums, bass, turded-out guitar, and Kelly Carr's vocals, which are firmly in the haunted-woman tradition of Siouxsie Sioux and Lydia Lunch. Sometimes—like toward the end of "Showdown"—the band's playing is so loose and poundingly simple that you can easily imagine they've turned their instruments over to a bunch of outpatients who wandered in off the street, but then they'll turn around and deliver a tight bit of almost jazzy swing—maybe to prove they can do it, but probably just to fuck with us.
Ghetto Division DJ and producer Rampage pretty much sums up the squad's modus operandi with the title track of this EP: throw it all together and see if it works. Some sections of the tune are chilly dubstep, heavy on the style's signature wobbling bass, and here and there the beat doubles up for an explosive transition into ravey jock-jam synth stabs—but then, instead of following through on that setup and segueing into what the Flosstradamus guys call "power house," the song drops in a throbbing hip-hop beat at half the tempo of the four-on-the-floor thump you'd expect. "Southside Anthem" is Rampage's take on juke, spiced with vocal samples and staccato synth horns, both of which get chopped up more and more finely until the whole thing melts down into a sampler-crashing blur. Three of the seven tracks are remixes, and two of those are by Mancunian production duo Heavyfeet—including a hard drum 'n' bass version of "War" that could've ended up on a Metalheadz comp if it'd been released a dozen years ago.
Take You There
This spring Kate Simko released Music From the Atom Smashers, the soundtrack to a documentary on Fermilab, and though it's strangely abstract—like tunes the lab's esoteric machinery might come up with on its own during the downtime between antiprotons—it's also remarkably listenable, in large part thanks to its analog warmth. The fact that she can pull off an album about a particle accelerator without a whiff of pretension makes me like her straight-up dance music—which is what the Take You There EP is—even more. The stripped-to-the-bone minimalist techno on the new disc abandons the warmth of Smashers in favor of the icy-dark tonal palette and slightly robotic demeanor of early Detroit stuff. The title track and "Margie's Groove" are simple, repetitive body jackers with only the barest hint of embellishment atop their snappy beats; "Down Beat" is relatively fussy, with a rhythmic base that slowly evolves; and Bruno Pronsato's remix of "Take You There" adds some IDM-style flourishes, including a tweak to one of the synth parts that makes it sound disconcertingly like the tooth-rattling buzz from a loose stereo cable.
Gone: The Promises of Yesterday
Composer and arranger Dale Warren moved his visionary soul outfit 24-Carat Black to a few different cities during its life span, and toward the end it called Chicago home—though at that point its lineup was slightly different from the one that had produced the band's only release, a 1973 concept album called Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth, which flopped in its own time but has since become a favorite of rare-groove freaks and hip-hop producers.
Warren's pop career had already peaked, though his groundbreaking arrangements for Isaac Hayes's Hot Buttered Soul were only a couple years behind him, and by the time he took the Chicago incarnation of 24-Carat Black into the studio in late '74, the group's label, Stax, was in financial free fall. Warren and his crew tracked an entire album but had only finished a rough mix when Stax folded in '75. With no more label money coming, the band dissolved. Warren soon abandoned soul for classical music, working as a composer and instrumentalist as well as conducting orchestras in LA and Atlanta.
The reels ended up in the south-side basement of engineer Bruce Thompson, who also played keyboards in 24-Carat Black; the soul archaeologists at the Numero Group turned them up while hunting for a 45 by a band called Chocolate Sunday. Like Numero's 2008 release of the Brotherman soundtrack, Gone: The Promises of Yesterday is incomplete, though for different reasons: Brotherman was never recorded in its entirety, while Gone suffered from poor storage conditions that degraded the tapes so badly that their magnetized coating flaked off.
Numero could salvage only 6 of the 20 tracks, and even that slice makes it clear that Gone would've had considerably more commercial potential than Ghetto. Getting its juice from what the liner notes call "tainted love songs" rather than grim hood sociology, Gone is a much more sensual listen. The baby-making funk of "The Best of Good Love Gone" is anchored by a smoothly popping bass line, elevated by churchy organ and a complex but accessible horn part, and topped by a pleading vocal from Warren's teenage wife, Princess Hearn. "I'll Never Let You Go" breaks halfway through for a jazzy ambient interlude that includes a different female singer simulating an orgasm. It's not just sexy, though—it's ambitious. The 12-minute-long "I Begin to Weep," which starts off as sultry soul, ends with a combo of sparse percussion and Robert Dunson's vocals that could almost pass for avant-garde minimalism.