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SSR Picks: June 24 2021

Guru Guru: Hinten LP (1971, Ohr; reissued 2021 Play Loud! Productions)

I’m short on time this week so I’m not able to give you a full on essay, but I thought I’d take a moment to hip you to something I’ve been listening to. Last week we got in copies of a new reissue of Hinten, the second album by German group Guru Guru.

Longtime Sorry State aficionados will know that I like a lot of 70s krautrock. I like the heavier, more rocking stuff like Can and Amon Düül II and the spacier “kosmiche” sounds of Manuel Göttshing / Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Popol Vuh. Whenever new reissues by those groups pop up I try to grab a few copies for the store, mostly so I can buy one for myself. While I pride myself on having a solid Krautrock / Experimental section at Sorry State, I must admit that the releases there don’t turn over quickly. Oh well. You gotta follow your passion, though, right?

Back to Guru Guru. I was familiar with the albums that came out before and after this one: 1970s debut album UFO and 1972’s Känguru (which I think many people regard as their shining moment). I like those albums, but I’d never heard Hinten until we got this reissue in at the store. I was hoping to get another cool krautrock record I could put on while zoning out in the evening, but Hinten hit me way harder than I expected it to.

The thing that sticks out about the record is heaviness, particularly of the drums. Guru Guru’s approach is similar to Can in that they took the instrumentation of heavy psychedelic rock in the Hendrix mold and paired that with an improvisational approach borrowed from the avant-garde / experimental end of the jazz world. Songs are built around one or two simple motifs (sometimes a melody, but more often a groove), the band does their thing until they run out of steam, and then the song’s over. Can maximized this approach by recording tons of jamming and editing the results together into mind-bending albums that leaned on the members’ skills in music composition. Guru Guru’s music feels less edited and more jammy, but there aren’t any moments where I feel like they’ve lost the plot.

Like I said, my favorite part of Hinten is the drummer Mani Neumeier, who just wails. I wonder if the drums sound as up front and as forceful on the original as they do on this reissue, but this thing just slaps you in the face. While Neumeier’s approach isn’t as intricate as Jaki Liebezeit from Can, his propulsive power is undeniable. If you’re into the way Amon Düül II smacks you in the face on Yeti, add this to your list of krautrock classics to hear, or better yet pick up this reissue at Sorry State.

What’s up Sorry Staters?

This week I’m gonna try something different and talk about a movie instead of a record. On a whim, I watched the Minnesota Hardcore documentary the other night. I believe the documentary was put together and released through the state of Minnesota’s PBS station. How cool is that? Kinda makes me wish all public broadcasting services would release punk content in every state!

Minnesota Hardcore was initially broadcast as a 7-part docuseries, but now all 7 episodes have been merged together into what they call the “Binge Episode”. And of course, binge is exactly what I did. I’ll admit that at first I was worried that the documentary would have coverage focused heavily on Husker Du and The Replacements and not much else. And naturally, Husker Du was the first band introduced, but I was pleasantly surprised at how thorough the list of bands was. I was pleased to see featured segments about my personal favorites like Final Conflict and Willful Neglect, but also several bands that I’d never heard of before.

The episodes that covered some of Minneapolis’s local venues was super cool, revealing several amazing photographs not only of local bands, but also from when hardcore bands of the era would tour through. This one photo of Mecht Mensch I’d never seen before had me drooling. While I was familiar with the legendary 7th Street Entry club, I was less familiar with Goofy’s Upper Deck, which emerged from an unutilized space on the 2nd floor of fairly conventional local bar. Then the documentary gets to the segment about when Discharge played there. Wow, so rad. It was especially funny to hear different talking heads in the movie argue about who was better that night: Discharge vs Husker Du!!

The feature about Michelle Strauss Ohnstad and her show booking byname Garage Productions was also pretty amazing to learn about. Many of the gigs Ohnstad put on were booked at the Whittier Park Community Center, including one that literally made me shout out “Whoa!”—it was Raw Power from Italy and Riistetyt from Finland on the same bill… Crazy! She even gave some special attention to when she booked Corrosion of Conformity, which I was particularly happy about. I think she said she paid them $20 or something haha.

Having played there on tour a couple times, I feel like I do have some awareness of the current local bands and the contemporary hardcore scene in Minneapolis. I thought the documentary could have had a more accurate and cooler looking representation of current Minneapolis hardcore than the footage they chose to use. But, it was still cool they included contemporary coverage and didn’t a form a narrative like, “This happened in the early 80s and then it died.” Felix Havoc had a couple pretty powerful quotes during his talking head segments.

Anyway, my brain feels fried today, so I don’t know how eloquently I described and endorsed this cool Minneapolis Hardcore documentary. Is it as good as the Detroit documentary from 6 months ago or whatever? Probably not, but it’s definitely an interesting watch.

Watch it here: https://www.tptoriginals.org/mn-hardcore-the-binge-episode/

That’s all I got. As always, thanks for reading.

‘Til next week,

-Jeff

Hello to all of you reading this week’s Sorry State Newsletter. How’s it going? Good, I hope. Thanks for dialing us up again.

In the grand tradition of doing your homework on the bus going to school, here I am attempting to write my staff pick with the deadline clock ticking. Sounds of the Jeopardy tune playing or for those of you in the U.K. perhaps the Countdown one. To add to the pressure, I put my back out last night and am still hobbling around in some pain. No big deal. I’m used to some sort of ailment with my body these days. Funny but not funny. Anyway, I was wondering what record to celebrate this week and share with you and ended up going for one of my favorite albums from the last couple of decades and one that is about to hit the twenty-year mark in 2022. It’s a record that captures a distinct moment in time in U.K. music and culture. I’m talking about The Streets: Original Pirate Material from 2002 on Locked On.

Not an obscure choice I know and maybe not a record or an artist that a lot of you care about but there is no denying this record represented grass roots culture just as much as previous iconic albums from the like of Primal Scream or The Stone Roses or The Specials or The Sex Pistols, to throw a few names out. Each of those bands created and released an album that encapsulated a moment and has gone on to be cornerstones of U.K. music in recent decades.

The Streets was the name given to the project orchestrated by up-and-coming English musician Mike Skinner from Birmingham. The sound was that of U.K. Garage or UKG for short. The genre of music that was derived from U.S. house and named after the club Paradise Garage. I won’t try and front and give you a detailed history of the scene and pretend that I was intimate with it. I had already moved to New York by 1998 when the first UKG records began making waves and storming not only the clubs and pirate radio but also mainstream radio and the pop charts. Briefly though, during the 1990s, U.K. DJs were experimenting with changing the pitch on house records instrumentals and adding in vocal samples and other effects. Chopping up the track and changing the beat etc. They were getting their hands on all the interesting tracks coming from America and particularly from a DJ named Todd Edwards from New Jersey who is often credited for being one of the first to dabble in the new genre. Buying imports though is expensive and so inevitably homegrown DJs and producers began making their own tracks and by 1998 the records being released were distinctly British and different to their American and European cousins. By the beginning of the new millennium UKG went from being an underground sound played in pub back rooms on off-nights to a national and then world phenomenon. Names like Craig David, So Solid Crew and Artful Dodger became household names. Perhaps one record that if I had to choose as an example would be DJ Luck & MC Neat : With A Little Bit Of Luck. That song and video is a perfect snapshot. Check it - https://youtu.be/F5PXdScoOrg

Come 2002 and the original UKG scene was just about over and about to morph into dubstep and grime, but the release of Original Pirate Material still rode the high-water wave that was just peaking. It’s sort of like the Nevermind of the genre in some ways. The album cover art showing an urban block of flats has become iconic. A nod to pirate radio stations that often operated out tower blocks, their antennas hidden amongst the others on the roof tops.

A side note – I would recommend watching the comedy series People Just Do Nothing which is follows the lives of the characters running a pirate radio station. It’s very funny and pretty spot on.

When I first got my copy of this record as an import on release day, the hype sticker on the front said, “You’re listening to the future,” and twenty years later, I would say Jockey Slut magazine got that exactly right. Over the years whenever I pull the record out for a spin it still sounds just as fresh to my ears. The mark of a great record is to transpose time and place but at the same time to still sound distinctive and exact and to be able to be enjoyed years after it was made. This is one of them. I still laugh at the humour and stories of everyday living portrayed. Like U.S. hip-hop, these songs are drawn from stories of real people and their lives that at the time were not being represented in mainstream music. The newspaper of the streets, as it were. Full of cultural references and particularly language and slang. Hard to describe but totally enjoyable regardless of whether you understand exactly what they are going on about.

Skinner launched a career that is still ongoing off the back of this record and has released another half dozen albums since then along with the most recent just last year. Being English, I’m clearly biased but his appeal is universal as has been proved by his success. Do yourself a favor and get locked on. I’ll leave links to a couple of highlights for you.

https://youtu.be/I4iAw81MpU - Let’s Push Things Forward

Okay, that’s my lot. Not a detailed bio of the artist or the genre I know, but you can discover all you need to know on the ol’ internet if you are interested.

Cheers and until next time - Dom

Hello,

Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting Sorry State. It means a lot. But yes, please skip past my writing unless you wanna hear me blabbing in an incoherent fashion. To start, since the last Newsletter we got Nog Watt EPs in!!! I think they arrived that Thursday, I can’t remember. I’ve been anticipating this release since I first heard about it like three months ago, you can read what I wrote about it back in March if you’d like, but I will just say again, this record belongs in every single record collection on planet Earth, so be sure to pick one up!!! As I write this we just got a big ass box from Radio Raheem in... so keep yer eyes peeled for some hot shit on the site. Radio Raheem does a killer job; I’m sure you know this already though. I got a copy of the United Mutation reissue they did when it first came out, and my dumbass finally just opened it like three weeks ago. It’s some top-notch shit. I wish every reissue was like this. The Molde Punx reissue was killer in the same way with beautiful packaging and helli bonus shit. I heard Radio Raheem was doing Antidote and I have been pretty stoked to get em in stock. As I walked by Jeff and Dom unpacking the parcels Jeff made a joke about the song Foreign Job-Lot, and then I suddenly remembered that Antidote was the NYHC band I liked but stopped jammin some time ago cos of that song. I was like fuuck. I did see the vocalist isn’t white? Jeff said he thought he was Puerto Rican. They have an anti-Nazi song, too. Maybe it is just a song of satire and I don’t understand cos I don’t know much about the band.

Dunno if you saw the Instagram post I made this week with ‘90s HC bangers, but i’m just gunna mention some of that shit that I think is a bit “under-rated.” To start, Bacteria is absolutely disgusting. If you like mad raw, the kind some of yer friends simply can’t handle, this is probably right up yer alley. This band was actually just a side project, when a member of C.F.D.L. (Japan) was living in England in the ‘90s. This tape came out in the ‘90s but the 7" was a 2000s reissue. State of Fear was another EP in the photo. Both their 7"s are so damn good; the second one is really nasty and urgent. The first one is equally as nasty, but more groovy. I’m sure a lot of people know State of Fear, but I think the EPs are a bit under-rated for how good they are. One of the guitarists played in bands before and after, that I am also a huge fan of: Disrupt > State of Fear > Consume > Deathraid > Nightfeeder (I wrote a bit about their demo cassette and you can read here if you’d like) This was the only US band I put in the photo haha, I think the ‘90s was a bit better overseas but maybe I just don’t know shit. Or I just know how I like my hardcore haha. Another band who I can’t get enough of that was in the post was Crocodileskink. I first heard this band cos of their split with No Security. It instantly became a favorite split release of mine and I tracked down the rest of their EPs as soon as I could haha. Dispense is killer shit from Sweden. I discovered this band on yet another occasion raging at the Hardy Boys. I think this shit is definitely underrated. But this shit it top-notch, blow-the-fuckin-doors-off käng. Staying on the topic of Sweden, the Cumbrage / Dismachine split is insane. I wrote about this EP a bit when we had a used copy on our Discogs store, you can read here if you’d like to know a bit more about the EP. I gotta wrap this shit up so I’m gunna write less haha. This Insane Youth EP is my favorite of their releases!! It’s so good. I remember when Forward stayed with us, Souichi the guitarist of both Forward and Insane Youth told us some cool trivia. It was late as fuck and we were all drinking and smoking in the kitchen, and I said fuck it ima bust out my Insane Youth EP. I know that is silly as hell, but whatever I wanted to show the dude how much I loved his stuff. Luckily he seemed happy I presented it haha. When I showed him, he opened the cover and pointed to the vocalist “Gen” and said, “Kawakami.” My mind was blown haha. He said Kawakami loved to be in bands and was in too many, so he would use different aliases for projects. I don’t have it with me but on another Insane Youth EP for “Gen” it just has a silhouette of a person haha. Here’s the photo from this EP. I know it looks like Kawakami but not having any idea he was in the band I easily looked this over for years. The Disclose / Insane Youth split makes much more sense haha.

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Alright, just two more quick ones. Dischange, no I actually don’t think this band is underrated but maybe it’s a band you’ve overlooked cos the name is pretty bad? Haha. They did change to Meanwhile later. Check it out, and the demos especially. Alright, best for last: Under Threat. I had no idea they had EPs too until just now so I have no idea what they sound like, but Bomb Scars is killer. It’s just straight-forward, not-give-a-fuck raw HC. They were from Brazil. The rest of the bands I wrote about were Swedish and Japanese. Okay that’s all then, maybe you heard summin new? Thanks for reading, ‘til next time...


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