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SSR Picks: September 9 2021

Stomu Yamash’ta and Masahiko Satō: Metempsychosis (Japan, 1971)

An idiom I repeat often in the world of records is, “when it rains, it pours.” It’s not uncommon for a dry spell of finding used records for the store to be followed by a bunch of collections coming all at once, sometimes more than we can handle or afford. This pattern also holds for individual titles. I can’t recall seeing an original pressing of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain before 2021, but we’ve had three copies this year. There was one point a few years ago when we had four Beatles butcher covers in stock at once, though we haven’t seen one since.

Lately the unseen hand that controls the vinyl taps seems to have turned the knob labeled “Japanese records for Daniel.” I’m sure anyone with a passing familiarity with the newsletter knows what a Japanophile I am, so I always have a healthy want list from that magical island, but things have been dropping in my lap lately. Even when I was in New York with Public Acid, we walked into a random record store that we passed on the street and I found an original pressing of Creation’s first album from 1975. So weird. I’m sure I’ll cover plenty of these records in future picks.

This 1971 album from Stomu Yamash’ta and Masahiko Satō was the record that opened the floodgates, and it’s one I had been after for a while. Metempsychosis is one of Julian Cope’s top 50 picks in his Japrocksampler book, but it’s one I had trouble learning about. I found Cope’s description of the album intriguing, but at the time I could only find short snippets online (the full album has since appeared on YouTube). The album hasn’t been repressed since 1976, and it seems like few copies made it to the West.

Metempsychosis intrigued me for several reasons. It seemed like one of the more avant-garde titles covered in Japrocksampler, and I liked that the drummer gets top billing. I love drum-centric jazz with dense polyrhythms, and fusing that with traditional Japanese percussion sounded like a wild idea. Stomu Yamash’ta (sometimes also Yamashita) also seemed like an interesting figure. He was only 24 when he recorded Metempsychosis, and was already a rising star in the jazz world. With his long hair and flowing robes he cut a memorable figure on stage (captured dynamically on Metempsychosis’s cover photo), and he was already considered one of the top percussionists in the world. The Japanese record industry was trying several tacks at making Yamash’ta a star, of which Metempsychosis was one. Yamash’ta has had a long and successful musical career, his most famous moment for Western listeners coming in the late 70s when he led the jazz fusion supergroup Go, which also featured Steve Winwood, Al Di Meola, Klaus Schulze, and Michael Shrieve.

The other name on the cover of Metempsychosis was also a huge draw for me. Like Dennis Bovell, whom I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, Masahiko Satō’s name (sometimes spelled Satoh) just keeps coming up. His soundtrack for the 1973 animated film Belladonna of Sadness is a record I return to again and again, and while its sound is grounded in Miles Davis’s work on records like Bitches Brew and Live Evil, there’s something about Satō’s take on that style that just gets me… maybe it’s how he takes those epic, stretched-out jams and compresses them down to scene-length bursts of creativity? Satō’s album with his project Soundbreakers, Amalgamation (also released in 1971), is another record from Cope’s Japrocksampler list that intrigued me, and getting a physical copy has been a highlight of this recent deluge of Japanese vinyl to hit my collection.

Satō serves as composer for Metempsychosis, so it seems relevant to share Satō’s bio on Apple Music, which I discovered last night:

Masahiko is a Chick Corea-influenced pianist who also plays electric keyboards. His compositional depth is not considered as strong as his playing.

What a diss! I couldn’t disagree more about Satō’s skills as a composer. On Metempsychosis and Amalgamation, Satō’s compositions remind me of Bill Dixon, another of my favorite avant-garde jazz composers (and the subject of another of my previous picks). Like Dixon, Satō takes influence from 20th-century classical composers like Olivier Messiaen and Pierre Boulez. Suspicious of conventional melody and harmony, Satō is fascinated by density and volume, often contrasting bursts of of loud horns creating dense, complex chords with long passages of near-silence. As with Bill Dixon’s records, you need to be mindful of where you set your volume knob when you listen to Satō’s work.

Circling back to Metempsychosis, it’s pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear: Satō’s orchestration and composition skills laced with lots of dense, complex percussive patterns. It’s a wild ride.

Researching this pick, I’ve also discovered a few other records I need to check out. Right now, I have Stomu Yamash’ta’s 1971 album Red Buddha playing on YouTube and I am intrigued. I also realized I didn’t talk about the artist who receives third billing on Metempsychosis, Toshiyuki Miyama & The New Herd. I see that group has a huge discography, and I’ve heard their 1970 collaboration with Masahiko Satō, Canto of Libra. 1971’s Canto of Aries, this time a collaboration with Masahiko Togashi, appears to be part of the same series and I’ve seen it mentioned in lists of notable Japanese jazz records. I also want to find a copy of Pianology, Masahiko Satō’s 1971 collaboration with the German pianist and composer Wolfgang Dauner. That record has been reissued a few times in recent years, but don’t often pop up in the US.


What’s up Sorry Staters?

Honestly, I feel like the Meat House label is doing God’s work. I get stoked every time Sorry State stocks new releases from this label because they seem devoted purely to the very specific goal of getting rare and often obscure punk singles from the Los Angeles area back in print. I’ve always been attracted to the late 70s /early 80s California punk sound, and often I feel like Meat House re-releases exemplary, yet unsung gems from this era of punk rock.

About a year ago, Meat House reissued the first single by The Hated. While at the time the Hated were a band I was fairly unfamiliar with, I thought this single was super cool. At the same time, Meat House also reissued the super rare Waiting For The Bomb Blast single by Long Beach greats Funeral. Now, I wouldn’t say that the Funeral 7” overshadowed my attention toward the Hated single, but something about the burgeoning 1981 speed and ferocity of the Funeral single really grabbed me. With such poetry like “Politicians are sick, they all suck my dick!”… how could my attention not be diverted?

BUT NOW… The latest 2 releases from Meat House are out, and thankfully The Hated’s full catalog is once again available at reasonable prices for nerds like me. Man, how fucking killer are these 2 singles? Whereas the first single still had a foot in early LA punk, the Jan Brady-period single Pressure / Stereotype is a one-two punch of perfect punk with updated power and production. This single is on par with the legendary sounds of Dangerhouse, but also increasing the tempo and hinting at the oncoming Orange County fury of TSOL and the like. I mean FUCK man, the pure cynic view on suburban blight with direct but poignant lyrics: “Hate your job, hate your kids, hate your wife, hate your life”… you don’t get much more classic punk commentary than that. But for 1981? Still comes across as pretty earnestly scathing and visceral for the time. It’s anthemic dude. Catch me raging at like 2am just shouting “PRESSURE! PRESSURE! PRESSURE!” I’m hooked. BUT THAT’S JUST THE FIRST RECORD.

The Marsha Brady-period 4 Song EP for whatever reason has the kind of artwork that is instantly attention-grabbing for me. This looks like a classic punk EP that everyone should know about. Maybe in terms of speed and aggression, this record takes a step back as opposed to the aforementioned single. But that’s not to say this record isn’t just as powerful. The second track on this EP presents a melodic and innocent, but also bleak commentary on the state of your immediate reality. The hook screams “I’m afraid to leave my house today!” I dunno, even with my new-come familiarity with these songs, I just feel the frustration this band was evoking. These records feel like a missing link between bands like the Adolescents and other amazing bands from this era. Maybe I’m gushing and overusing ALL CAPS due to my excitement blasting these records right now, but I think this shit is killer. The symptoms of my ever-worsening case of Pretentious Record Collector Disease™ is now leading me to believe that I must own every original Hated single (with picture sleeves of course).

Do yourself a favor and snag both of these reissue EP’s.

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

‘Til next week,

-Jeff


Greetings dear readers and thank you for clicking on our corner of the internet again this week. I apologize for missing deadline on last week’s newsletter. A combination of only being able to write dog poop and a computer mishap is my excuse. It’s been another full two weeks of news and events in the meantime. Most of it not good. We’re looking at you Texas. It really does break you down reading the news. It would be easier to ignore it, but of course we can’t. We just find ways to bring our blood down from boiling point. Obviously, for us, music is our tool to help soothe our souls or fire them up. Thank goodness for that.

Before I continue, I wanted to acknowledge the sad news of the death of genius artist, producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. I won’t get into how great Perry was. I’m sure you are more than fully aware and have some of his records in your collection. More informed and eloquent people than me have done him justice since his passing and during his life. There are some great books about him such as People Funny Boy by David Katz and every music paper and magazine worth its subscription has done a piece on him. Hey! Weren’t we just looking at an old Grand Royal magazine with Perry on the cover? Like so many of us, his music has become woven into the fabric of our being, and he was one of my musical heroes. His photo hangs on my kitchen wall. Last week over on Worldy, the day after he died, Matt and I played a full show of Lee Perry music and productions, all pulled from our personal collections as our tribute. If you need some good reggae and dub in your life, you can check it out here.

Talking of my buddy Matt, he and I are going to be DJing this week at the opening of the Hopscotch Festival here in Raleigh. We’ll be providing tunes and good vibes somewhere within Wristband City. At the time of writing this, I don’t know the exact details, but we’ll be there from 10 AM until 3 PM on Thursday and Friday. Maybe I’ll see some of you there. A big thank you to Daniel and my colleagues for covering for me so that I could do this. It’ll be fun and Lord knows we need some of that. A full weekend of listening to music. Cool. Whatever your feelings are concerning the lineups for festivals is one thing, but I have always had a good time at Hopscotch and seen some good live performances, often when I didn’t expect to. Hopscotch has day parties too and they are a good way to see some live music either cheaply or free. In the past, it’s been a blast and let’s hope this year will be the same. Obviously, under different circumstances this time around with this damn pandemic. But that’s a whole other rant and not for here.

I don’t know about you, but often in between periods of listening to killer stuff, be it new or old, especially if it is loud and powerful, I need to put on something very different. It might not be a top tenner or a dance floor smasher, but it just needs to take my head someplace else. Typically for me that is found in older music and so for this week I would like to steer you towards a record that came out in 1970 on Warner Brothers called simply, Pride.

This has been stuck in my car CD player for the past week and has ear wormed me big time.

I used to have thousands of CDs, but over the years due to storage issues, lack of use and need for funds, I have sold most of them. I probably have just a couple of hundred left at this point. I kept this one because it has the two albums producer David Axelrod made in 1968 with garage band The Electric Prunes along with the Pride album. The CD also contained a bonus disc of instrumental versions, which is very cool, and I wish there was a record that had those on it. Future Record Store Day idea.

I am going to assume most heads know who the late David Axelrod was? He is up there with the legends on the back of the recordings he made for himself and those of others that he produced. You should go look him up if you are new to him and listen to his music and read his story. The record collecting world has long valued his records and the hip-hop world especially. Go ask Dr. Dre.

Mass In F Minor and Release Of An Oath were the two concept records Axelrod wrote and arranged for Electric Prunes producer Dave Hassinger at Reprise Records, who was using the Prunes’ name but not much of their musicianship. They played some parts, but much of the music was played by other musicians. For the two records, members of The Collectors, a Canadian psych band and Climax from Colorado were employed respectively for the two recordings. These were bands Hassinger was working with, but Axelrod however preferred his guys, various members of the famed Wrecking Crew of session musicians and it is their playing that forms the meat and potatoes of the albums.

Basically, they were concept records built around Catholic Mass rituals and other religious themes and not at all like the previous garage-psych sound of The Electric Prunes. The records released on Reprise were minor hits and prompted Axelrod’s main employer Capitol Records to demand he make records like that for them. Axelrod was Capitol’s head of production at this time and had been writing, arranging and producing hits for them since 1963 when he joined as A&R man. He produced records for jazz great Cannonball Adderley, singer Lou Rawls, actor David McCallum, South African Letta Mbulu and so many others and pushed the label towards signing more black artists. As mentioned, Axelrod used core members of the Wrecking Crew for his recordings. Drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Carol Kaye, guitarists Howard Roberts and Tommy Tedesco formed the backbone of many of his recordings. The beats played by Earl Palmer are very prominent in the records and those, along with some other unique sounds, are perfect for hip-hop sampling. Dr. Dre sampled the song The Edge for his track Next Episode to great effect. That song, The Edge, was produced by Axelrod for one of David McCallum’s albums. The popular actor put out several records and Axelrod produced them. They are not amazing all the way through, but there are some moments.

Axelrod made three records under his name for Capitol, Songs Of Innocence in 1968, Songs Of Experience in 1969 and then Earth Rot in 1970. Using the same core of musicians as on the Electric Prunes sessions just minus the Prunes. All three albums are concept based, this time using the poems of William Blake for inspiration on the first two and then environmental pollution for the third. Axelrod combined classical music with jazz and rock and r n’ b and molded them into something quite unique and special. Without getting into a long review of them, let’s just say they are all terrific, particularly the first two, and I’ve left you links to all three plus the Prunes albums for you to check out. If this is old hat for you, please forgive me.

After these three records comes the Pride album. This was a one off for Warner Brothers that Axelrod’s manager arranged using the name Pride as the artist. It was a collaboration between David Axelrod and his son Michael, who wrote the lyrics. Singer Nooney Rickett, who had been with Love, was the vocalist. The album has similar touches to the previous Axelrod albums but is more of a folk psych record with dashes of Spanish guitar and maracas giving it a Mexican folk flavor. The drumming is still on point and there are nice stabs of twelve string guitar. It’s not very long and in the grand scheme of things not that mind blowing, but it has a charm and perhaps because I am such a fan of his other records, I like it a lot. It’s not that easy to find an original, but there is a recent reissue on vinyl. The funny thing is that when people talk about Axelrod and his records, this one hardly ever gets mentioned. Probably because of the title, but for some reason it has been the sleeper in his discography that many people missed. I’ve read reviews comparing it to late era Love and The Byrds, which is fair, but I also think it has similarities to Rodriquez’s Cold Fact album in places. Admittedly not as good as that, but somewhat in the ballpark. It has the Axelrod touch though. Check it out when you are between things to play and need something mellow but with some substance. I hope you like it.

Okay, thanks for reading and see you next time. Cheers – Dom.


I’ve stayed away from writing about music for most of my SSR Picks because my coworkers do phenomenal jobs each week and I know I can’t keep up. But I don’t only listen to bargain bin weirdos and country music (I mean I do 90% of the time) so I guess writing about something else was bound to happen! I spent yesterday listening to a bunch of metal tapes from the 90s and found a few bands I now LOVE. They’ve been kicking around the store way too long for how good some of the music is! I guess old metal tape collectors are kind of niche, but I’m slowly putting the items online, so if you fit the bill, keep an eye out on our used section! Here are my favorites from my shift yesterday:

Octinomos: Demo 2 (1994)

Some good ol’ 1994 Swedish black metal. I love this because the low production quality helps instead of hinders and creates a really dark and bleak sound. Nothing super revolutionary, but the vocals are amazing paired with the guitar tone. I can’t find much info about any of these tapes or the artists behind them, but it looks like Octinomos last released a record in 2001. It’s their only vinyl release listed on Discogs so add to want list.

Mindrot: Faded Dream (1992)

Someone snatched this up as soon as I posted it on the Instagram story and who can blame them? This cassette is from 1992 and one of only a few releases by this band. It doesn’t feel strictly one type of metal, with a lot of thrashy, doomy, other metal subgenre-y riffs over the vocals that sometimes get more yell-y than scream-y. Even though Relapse Records picked them up in the late 90s, this band’s discography is way too short, making this cassette totally essential.

Various: Diabolical Netherworld II (1993) & III (1994)

I didn’t find much info on these compilations, but whoever put them together fucking killed it. Looks like it was some dudes in a band called Moonburn, but they only have one release on Discogs and a bunch of dead ends on Google. I really enjoyed the two compilations of this series we have in the store. It mixed some unknowns with some classic black metal bands, but the quality is high on every track. The bands on these comps span most of Europe, with most becoming defunct before the 1990s ended, unfortunately. It looks like the guys in Moonburn were the only American band on Vol II, so I’m going to assume these compilations were bringing over a lot of new music to the States. It’s so cool to think about the history of these specific objects and how they hopefully informed a budding metal fan. Our copies are still available on the web store to be loved by someone new!


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