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SSR Picks: December 30 2021

This week I don’t have a conventional staff pick for you. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with depression and burnout. To top it off, today is a rainy, gloomy day here in Raleigh, and I’m not having much success generating the level of enthusiasm I like to have for a staff pick. So let’s moan for a minute, shall we?

There shouldn’t even be a Sorry State newsletter this week, because I’m supposed to be on tour right now with Scarecrow. However, the week before Christmas the world once again seemed to collapse as the omicron variant of COVID spread like wildfire over the country. Loads of my friends and family contracted covid in the middle of December. I ended up even having to cancel visiting my family for Christmas, since my mom was feeling sick on Christmas Eve and there was nowhere to get tested to see if she had COVID or not. I enjoyed the low-key Christmas with my partner Jet, but the entire thing was depressing, especially since the Scarecrow / Scalple tour seemed less and less likely with each passing day.

This all felt like an unfortunate rerun of March 2020. Scarecrow’s first real tour was supposed to start the last week of that month, but the first wave of COVID infections caused everything to shut down. That experience felt so surreal that it was, strangely, easier to take. This time it feels more like a direct kick to the stomach, which is exacerbated because government guidance around COVID has somehow gotten even murkier. When our March 2020 was canceled, it was obvious there was no way we could go out. This time around, it’s a total hodgepodge. Until yesterday, I was worried that canceling the tour wasn’t the right decision and people would think we were paranoid or something for pulling out. While I see some shows and events are going ahead, it seems like most things are canceled. And it does not escape me that this is the second time we’ve had to cancel a tour, and I worry people will think we’re flakes. Of course, this is just one example of how, the way the entire COVID situation is being handled, it feels like all the bad stuff falls on each of us individually, even though individually we are all powerless to make any substantive change.

Sorry State has had a busy holiday season, and while I am thankful for that, it also meant that the disappointment of the tour being cancelled arrived when I was feeling exhausted, and the disappointment and exhaustion combined to make me feel depressed. I spent the few days surrounding Christmas moping around the house, not listening to music or doing much that I enjoyed. I just slept, read escapist books, and fought the urge to look at my phone, at which I mostly failed. This week work demanded that I kick myself back into gear, so I’ve made a point to eat better, exercise, and meditate, which has allowed me to get some work done, including the newsletter you’re reading right now. But it’s been a struggle, and at the end of each day it’s tough to find the energy to enjoy the things I love, like music. So even though I have a big stack of records I acquired over the past few weeks, they feel inert, like dead weight rather than the spiritually rich totems that I usually see them as.

So, that’s where I’m at. Tough times, everyone. Take care of yourselves.


What’s up Sorry Staters?

It feels like it’s been a long time since I sat down to write one of these. Public Acid got back from our trip to Cali over 2 weeks ago, and that time in between just seems like a blur. The trip was amazing. I can’t express enough how much everyone’s hospitality meant to us Acid Headz. While I was there, I ate around 30 burritos in 5 days, met some really cool freaks, saw some killer bands including seeing Electric Chair 3 nights in a row… so not much to complain about there! Oh yeah, except for that I got covid… womp womp. It was pretty shitty timing with me catching it right around the holidays. It does seem like I’m hearing about a whole bunch of people getting covid again, like even those that are vaccinated and boosted. Things are rough to the point where Scarecrow had to cancel our East Coast tour with Scalple. I’m pretty bummed about that. Oh well. I was out of commission and restricted from contact with the outside world for a while, but now I’m back at the good ol’ Sorry State to nerd out about records.

Has everyone heard this Nisemono tape already? Even with me being isolated and glued to my phone for 2 weeks, I still somehow managed to miss this thing coming out. I only heard it for the first time just the other day and was so pissed when I learned that Toxic State had already sold out. But thanks to our master commander Lord Daniel, Sorry State did manage to reserve a handful of copies for our distro. Nisemono is a new band out of New York that sings all in Japanese. This shit is fucking devastating. The gnarly, tight, complex and constantly moving riffing actually reminds me a lot of Infernöh. The recording is perfect I think. It’s yet another Sasha production, who seems to be the in-house engineer for the NY scene these days. It’s one of my favorite recordings that Sasha has done so far. It sounds clear and powerful but still gritty and raw. The double-tracked vocals really grab your attention. I could be totally wrong, but the cadence and the fact that the lyrics are in Japanese lead me to believe that this is the same person who sang for Nomad. I hadn’t revisited those Nomad recordings in a minute, but they still rage. That said, I think Nisemono might be even better. And of course, with this tape being a Toxic State release, the packaging looks beautiful.

At the time I’m writing this, the tapes are not yet up on the webstore. I plan on getting them posted and available for sale today (which is Thursday). If the tapes are still available and you haven’t heard about this band yet, do yourself a favor and lock one down quick! They will surely sell out.

That’s all from me this week. Glad to be back.

‘Til next… year ;)

-Jeff


Greetings one and all and thanks for clicking on the SSR Newsletter. I hope that your holiday was a good one regardless of how and whether you celebrate. We are almost at the end of the year, and you may well be reading this in 2022. Either way please allow me to wish all of you a happy new year. It’s hard to believe we’ve crossed out another one. Another year for the books, for sure. Who could forget when a mob of crazed cultists tried to stage a coup last January? Or those few weeks during the spring where we thought the Covid-19 pandemic was behind us? Along with so much more. It seems like we lost so many great humans this year. As I write this, I learned of the death on Christmas Day of DJ Janice Long, a legend in Liverpool and in the broadcasting world. She’ll be spinning records with John Peel on heaven’s best radio station now. I bet they pick a great Festive Fifty this year. I can’t tell you how big a part of my young life growing up these two were, hearing them on the radio or seeing them on TV each week. They are both heroes and loved by so many. May they and all the departed rest in peace.

These last couple of weeks have found me listening to a good amount of Christmas music it has to be said. Having an outlet to play records now that I am part of The Face Radio family has been great, as there haven’t been many actual DJ gigs to spin at. I had fun selecting holiday themed music for our shows. At the store, there literally isn’t enough time to listen to all the great records, old and new, that come through. In my apartment there are records everywhere and so many stacks of must listen to next records. My time at home when not asleep is usually sound tracked by something playing on the stereo. It’s mostly from my own records, but I listen to a lot of the other radio shows and selected mixes and podcasts. There’s hardly time to fit in my footie games and the odd movie although other than when watching Liverpool play, I often watch games with the sound muted and music playing. Occasionally you can get those Wizard Of Oz / Dark Side Of The Moon moments when on screen action synchs with the music.

Typically, most mornings I listen to jazz music. I prefer instrumental music a lot of the time. Lyrics can often restrict your thoughts and take you to a specific place (which is fine when you want to go there) whereas instrumental music allows your mind more freedom. I feel anyway.

This past Boxing Day morning I needed something pretty mellow and soothing to play first thing as the previous evening’s imbibing had given me a slight hangover and so happening on an Ahmad Jamal record needing to be filed, I threw it on. It hit the spot and it might work for some of you if piano led jazz is your bag.

The album is called Tranquility and was released in 1968 on ABC Records. It was his first for the label after mostly being with Chess/Argo and began a great four-year run with the remaining albums being released on Impulse, ABC being that label’s parent company. On all these records, Jamal plays piano and is backed on bass by Jamil Nasser and on drums by Frank Gant. Nasser had been with Jamal since 1964 and Gant from 1966 and both would continue recording with Jamal through the late 1970s. Nasser is sometimes credited as Jamal Sulieman.

The sound on Tranquility is Soul Jazz and all acoustic. Not dissimilar to records made by Ramsey Lewis and his trio. But where Ramsey’s often unashamedly mine the pop vein, Jamal’s recordings tend to be deeper and more introspective. That being said, on Tranquility the record starts with two Bacharach and David tunes which for 1968 couldn’t be more pop. There are more covers too on the record with Jamal only penning two of the songs. The title track Tranquility is his, along with one called Manhattan Reflections and these originals are the standouts, in my opinion. They both appear on side two with a tune called Free Again sandwiched in-between. Tranquility has a great trademark Jamal descending chord riff that will earworm you after a couple of listens. It’s simple music that hits you deep if you allow it. I realize that jazz isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but for those that it is and for lovers of piano and keyboards then you should investigate Ahmad Jamal and his music further.

One of my favorites by him is The Awakening album, which was one of the trio albums he recorded for Impulse with the same musicians. That one came out two years later in 1970. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear where DJ Premier and Pete Rock found samples. The title track again has a memorable hook not unlike the one used in Tranquility. Because of the samples and quality of this record, it is in demand and original copies tend to sell high. There are reissues though, although they are getting harder to find cheaply. Many of his earlier records for Chess and Argo are cheaper and easier to find. It’s the Impulse ones that are more collectable as folks generally regard anything on that label as being top shelf, similar to how Blue Note records are regarded.

Perhaps some of you will find yourselves nursing a sore head this coming New Year’s Day morning and in need of soothing. Dial up either of these albums or both and give them a spin. They should do the job. Of course, not just for hangovers, but any time you need quality instrumental jazz music. Thanks for reading and being lovers of music just like we are here at SSR. Happy New Year. See you next time.

Cheers - Dom


Hi,

I’m guessing everyone has heard about this already, yeah? I’ve been seeing a lot of people talk about it online. Don’t fuck up and pass it over cos you think it is too hype. All the talk is well deserved, if you ask me. I have been eagerly awaiting the Sorry State copies since November 18th haha. If you read my Staff Picks, you probably saw I dropped the link a few times since it was released on bandcamp. The debut cassette from TOWER 7 did not catch my ears so much. Daniel loved it, though. A lot. When he shared the link to the LP, he was clearly super excited, so I checked it out. And, almost immediately, I understood why he liked it so much. Or I knew why I did at least. The tone is gross, just disgusting. It makes my teeth grind, and occasionally I have to punch the air while listening. The drums are very clear, locked in like a fucking metronome with quick fills peppered into the the parade of pummeling. The vocals fit in the mix perfectly, similar to the guitar tone in their harsh and dense sound. Naturally, I came back to the cassette cos I couldn’t stop playing the LP. While the songwriting is in the same vein, I think the LP unbelievably outshines their debut on cassette. I hope that is not rude to say. I mean, that is to be expected to some degree when comparing a tape to a record... Everything on the cassette has been pushed to the next level, far beyond the next level. The sounds of each instrument are really brought forward but still complement each other rather than drowning each other out. While the guitars are blaring in the mix, the vocals are still audible. Which makes me really happy cos I enjoy the vocals a lot. I was looking for an adjective to describe the way they sound to me, and I think the appropriate word is “cruel.” They really are the icing on the cake. You can hear the disdain and conviction in the vocalist’s words. The mix is pretty dry on the vocals, which make me like em even more. The vocalist doesn’t need to hide behind any effects. Don’t even get me started on the lyrics… they are exactly the kinds of things I want to read. They are thought-provoking, making you feel something deep inside the core of your being. At least that’s what happens to me when I read them... haha. I guess you could call them “misanthropic” lyrics, but I would just call them honest and realistic. I’m glad they put the lyrics on bandcamp, cos I’ve been reading along as I’ve waited for my physical copy. I don’t know anyone in this band cos I would feel super cheesy for liking it so much probably. I have met the guitarist Shiva once or twice, however. I was kind of obsessed with a band from some years ago that Shiva also played guitar in called DEFORMITY. If you never heard it, check it out. This band had like a rock’n’roll-y sound, but what drew me in was how harsh the production was. It was a killer combination. Anyway, TOWER 7 sounds nothing like DEFORMITY. TOWER 7 is pretty much a crust band. I feel weird saying that, but I am not sure why… I guess crust is a kind of broad description. I dunno, I guess they remind me a bit of HELLBASTARD. No, they don’t sound like them a whole lot, but to me they have similarities in their song structures. Maybe it’s the palm-muting too, haha. Don’t get the wrong idea and think it’s boring cos the songs are long or drawn out, like the seven minute HELLBASTARD track. Yeah, the songs are longer than your typical hardcore tracks, but they are so damn well written. They never drag, instead I welcome the transitions into new passages cos I simply cannot get enough of this shit. TOWER 7 delivers an intensity that can’t be matched by many bands. Unfortunately, I have only been able to play a physical copy once this week, and I have not taken any time to dive into the packaging. One thing I can always expect from a release on Roach Leg is a good aesthetic, which this album certainly has. It’s got several inserts and a fold-out poster!!! I can’t wait to check it all out. This is usually where I would say something like, this record belongs in every single collection blah blah and drop a link to grab a copy, but unfortunately we sold out lightning fast when we got our copies in. Luckily, there is a repress that should be ready (fingers crossed) in January. Until then, jam it up on bandcamp if you weren’t one of the lucky ones. Thank you for reading, and thanks loads to everyone for the support! I think the volume of our mail order is hitting a new standard... very grateful for the work. Alright til next time... peace!


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