Posts Tagged ‘No Quarter’

Endless Boogie – Vol. I & II

If you were privy to the nascent days of the Boogie, then you’re luckier than most. If you took away a pressing of the band’s first couple of releases, then you’re among a select few. Missed out? Read on… The band pressed Vols I & II up on small run, hand-stamped sleeves before they headed out to the Slint-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2005. The recordings were culled from rehearsals, recorded with two mics straight to the cassette deck. Often dubbed simply “White” and “Black” the individual LPs were hard to come by, let alone a set of two. Featuring the original lineup, the record also boasts a contribution from Matt and Spencer Sweeney on “Style of Jamboree.” As for the contents inside the double-wide package – they are of the highest order of groove. Rough, sure, but ripped and torn as anything in the Boog’s bountiful catalog.

There’s the feeling that the songs are being snatched right from the rigors of time. There’s no overthinking, no polish. There’s only groove – endless, swampy, scorched, and sutured groove. Paul Major’s vocals don’t take on their imposing presence here. On later recordings his voice would hang like a graveled and grizzled seer over the top of the din, a booming bluesman whose greasy growl seemed omnipresent and absolute. Here, Major’s in the fray fighting for space alongside the grind of guitars and the packed pummel of drums. He’s still a presence to contend with, no doubt, but its nice to hear him fight for the mantle he earned over the years.

This is unfiltered Boogie and it’s a psych-punk delirium that’s more than deserving of this deluxe reissue. The listener is threaded through the tape spools and tumbled-dried for eternity, spun ‘round and twisted until the groove is all that remains. Over time Endless Boogie would become a juggernaut of sound, but this is a great document of their rise to the top, kicking and fighting for every ounce of air they convert into pure poisoned sound. If you’re among the unlucky who missed these originally (and I know you are) then now’s the chance to experience the spark.



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Chris Forsyth

On his last outing, I’d noted that Chris Forsyth was pushing for ecstasy and coming damn close, and it seems that he’s gone ahead and finally touched the nerve on his ambitious double LP for No Quarter. All Time Present is a bigger, looser, sandier, and more hypnotic version of what Forsyth has become known for. Yanking the bit out of the teeth of Crazy Horse, he’s hitched it to a more cosmic conveyance this time around. The album finds its footing in the air-lock licks of ‘80s Robert Quine, the brittle balance of Michio Kurihara, and the desert playa chug of Tuareg players lost in deep in the trance of an unknown groove.

The album uses its considerable length as sky-high canvas, letting more than a few songs saunter up past the nine minute marker, but there’s never a sense that a note is dipped in indulgence. Four sides slip by in a fever dream daze that’s soaked in sweat and writhing in the wraps of psychedelia, folk, krautrock, and free jazz. Forsyth weaves a stylistic quilt that refines and nudges forward notions of the instrumental guitar album, never bogging down into pieces that feel like tessellations of the same idea, but instead locking together his disparate visions into a gnarled puzzle that tears open the sky with the lash of strings and cinder.

Though it would be a disservice to Chris’ own vocal contribution on “Mystic Mountain,” which he pulls off with a more tender touch than in the past, to let this off as simply an instrumental album. Similarly, the mirage manifestations of Rosalie Middleman are a highlight as she anchors the transcendental tangle of “Dream Song” to this plane. She’s not the only ringer in the ranks either. Forsyth enlists drummer Ryan Jewell (who’s seemingly everywhere this year) and Jeff Ziegler alongside members of his Solar Motel Band. They seed the album with all manner of musical minutia, culminating in the tower trance of “Techno Top,” a Neu/Rother inspired piece that’s well beyond the pale of what Forsyth had been tackling on earlier albums. He’s already proven it to be a crusher in the live setting, and it closes off the album in perfect pulsations. Forsyth has consistently proven to be a guitarist that transcends the tags associated with merely wrangling strings. On All Time Present he’s a songwriter shaping air into harmonious bursts of pain, joy, and danger and making it all sound vital.



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Chris Forsyth on Robert Quine & Fred Maher – Basic

Over the past few years there have been few guitarists as singular and intriguing in moving the needle forward as Chris Forsyth. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he aims for some sort of ragged, ozone-blasted bliss and always come up shaking off the cinder and ash of sonic debris. He’s exactly the sort I’m always looking for with Hidden Gems – an artist with a perspective informed by years of carving through likeminded stringsmiths to better his feel for the instrument. Its no surprise that when asked what record was sorely overlooked he found solace in another singular guitarist, but his pick is as off the path of usual touchstones as one might hope. Picking a out a piece of Robert Quine’s history, Chris opts for an oft overlooked collaborative record from 1984 with Fred Maher. Check out how this came into his life and what impact the record and Quine have had on his music.

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RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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The Other Years

2018 has been a pretty good year for folk of all varieties, but most especially the kind of lonesome, wooded, solace-laden folk that speaks to shirking the trappings of modernity to let the forest become your next of kin. Alongside great records from Nathan Salsburg, Sarah Louise, and Daniel Bachman you can add the quiet magic of the eponymous debut from The Other Years. The duo has been playing together for almost a decade, but this collection marks their first album proper, though you’d never catch a whiff of debut over these forty minutes. Anna Krippenstapel and Heather Summers (Freakwater, Joan Shelley) feel like they’ve been a well-kept tradition from the moment the record starts. Its raw and somehow refined because of its rawness. The pair can’t help but evoke Appalachian sisters or cousins playing for family, not posterity, as the sun goes down and the hearth burns bright. There’s something evergreen that aches in the bones of The Other Years – a vision of what could have been, rather than what has become of us.

While there’s, naturally, a blush of NPR think piece woven into a record this rooted in homespun wistfulness and coal country familial forms, The Other Years doesn’t feel like a curio or Cohen Brothers set piece. Rather, the sparse backporch renditions seem to flow from the women’s respective traditions in earnest, aching solemnity. Their songs keep up the oral tradition because the technological one seems too prickly to last. From the moment that Krippenstapel’s banjo starts to pick, there’s a sense that simplicity isn’t a four-letter word, and that maybe letting the grass consume the concrete isn’t such a bad idea. It’s a gorgeous reminder to notice the small moments and breathe the sweet air while it lasts.



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Doug Paisley

With his fourth album for No Quarter, Doug Paisley has released a quietly devastating look into getting by. Starter Home, as the title might suggest, revolves around humble family life – burrowing into the weariness, happiness, worry and wonder that’s stretched across the American landscape. From the rain-streaked Sunday strums of the title track opener to the last lilting ripple of “Shadows,” Paisley proves that he’s got a deft hand for crafting winsome country that sketches out small town life in painstaking detail. His characters can’t move beyond the meager means they intended to be temporary fixes, can’t move beyond the jobs that were supposed to drag them out of their paycheck to paycheck lives. They’ve got friends, though, and family and they recognize the small miracles that pull us each through every day with enough of a smile to forget the weight, letting a few beers stoke the will to get to tomorrow.

Paisley’s vignettes aren’t cast in gilded frames. He’s a master of restraint, giving songs just enough to make them gorgeous but not showy, like high contrast black and white photos of ’50s modular homes with worn furniture and a cigarette in each hand. There’s a sense that this album is rooted in the same kind of sorrow and sighs that might have driven Townes or Fred Neil, but also a sense that Paisley is taking his rough roads better than the brand of artists who let the world cut them too deep. Starter Home is, without a doubt, an aching record with despair hovering right around the corner. The charm is that Paisley never lets it catch him or his characters.

The firelight flicker underneath the bittersweet blues keeps each song floating on a comforting warmth. The album’s centerpiece “Drinking With A Friend” kind of sums up the album’s underlying aesthetic. Paisley’s there to buffer your bad days and buy a round. Its the aural equivalent of that ache that hangs at the center of your chest – the pang throbs until it sometimes overwhelms, but it also reminds you that you’re alive, and that in itself is ok. Within the brief nine songs of Starter Home Paisley is able to unbutton then salt the wound and sew it back up for the next day’s lacerations. Its a humble album, that nonetheless leaves a pretty sizable mark.



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Design Inspiration: Darryl Norsen

I’m excited to get back to a feature here at the site that takes a closer look at the designers behind the album art that adorns so many of my recent favorites. As much as any other part of the full album experience, good art draws a listener in and cinches the argument on owning the physical package. In the past this series has explored works from Robert Beatty, Jason Galea, and El Praraiso’s Jakob Skøtt. This week I’m shining a light on Darryl Norsen. You’ve most likely encountered Norsen’s work on excellent show posters, or in graphics for Raven contemporaries Aquarium Drunkard’s Talk House and Laginnappe series. Those of you winding down the extended path of Dead reissues would likely also have seen his work in recent Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders reissues and 75th Birthday materials. Norsen’s crisp type work and clean lines have also found their way into excellent albums from Beyond Beyond is Beyond, Three Lobed and No Quarter Records. As usual with this series, I asked Darryl to explore his own favorite sleeves and recount how they may have shaped his own approach to design.

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Doug Paisley – “Drinking With A Friend”

Its been about five years since Doug Paisley graced the speakers here, but he’s come back subtle and strong. Paisley’s pulling from the well of Townes and Guy Clark in a big way here. The song is world weary in a way that yokes the listener hard with the weight of Paisley’s years. It’s a drinking song, but not a jolly one, the kind that helps to kill the pain as quick as the whiskey. I’ve always found myself in the camp that thinks the best country songs are simple, no embellishments, no bombast, just pain and strums and a little sweet ache of steel in the back. Paisley’s hitting all the marks here and if the rest of the album follows suit, then this is going to be a hard hitter for 2018.

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Nathan Salsburg

First things first, that Salsburg’s day gig is managing the Alan Lomax Archives already puts him heads above other guitarists in terms of credibility. That’s not a collection that hands over the reigns lightly, and given the historical breadth inherent in the collection, its bound to be expected that the man has leveraged it to lend a little context to his own folk. Above and beyond his administrative credentials though, Salsburg is a sought after sideman who has found himself on records from Wooden Wand and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to Joan Shelley and The Weather Station. Its with good reason that songwriters seek out his deft hand. Salsburg has a velvet touch on the strings – tender and teeming with emotion. Unlike some finigerpicked impresarios he doesn’t attack the guitar with his prowess. He coaxes sounds from his guitar as if it were a timid bird waiting to sing. That bird is good spirits on Third.

The album is relaxed, but only because Salsburg makes skill seem to flow through his fingers so easily. The record ripples like a stream in the sun, melting images into one another with the touch of a trained painter or seasoned cinematographer. Though his palette is auditory its hard not to let the mind slip through blissful moments and warm hues in ones mind while Salsburg controls the atmosphere. The brilliance that Salsburg pulls off is in making the album absorb into the moment and then take it over. Its built on the soft lap of notes, but Third never fades to become background, rather it becomes the soundtrack to the day and in turn immediately improves that day’s outlook and softens the impact of what anxieties eat at the mind.

At a time when we could all use some sort of levity from day after day of nail-bitten intensity, Third is a gorgeous, intimate, and masterful respite. The album pulls the listener into its arms and cradles it for thirty-five minutes of joy and that’s no small feat. Salsburg’s resume reads like a audible brag, but with this album he’s putting a highwater mark front and center in his current workload. Flashier albums will try to steal attention in 2018, but few will be felt as hard as this one.




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Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band

The Solar Motel Band’s been creeping ’round infinity for sometime, but Forsyth and his clutch of cosmic travelers push to the edges on Dreaming In The Non-Dream – a thinly-veiled balm for troubled times. The record stretches out like endless lands populated by Crazy Horse courtesans weaving bajas from the thread left behind in the wake of parades pitched for Robert Wyatt, Television and The dirt-country versions of The Stones. A lesser soul might say The Eagles had a hand in the formula, but maybe knock that notion out of your mouth. This is a higher plain of existence than mere AM Gold can contain.

Forsyth burns ozone, biting his guitars into the bone and then turning up the heat until they smolder to a fine ash. He’s pushing for ecstasy often here, and coming damn close to some sort of musical version of it – dazed and zoned to an infinite chord that’s just out of reach. The record is largely instrumental, but when Forsyth’s dusted croon peeks through the ragged curtains of guitar, his weathered delivery frames the chugging, cinder-swept runs with ragged perfection.

The main events here are the twin-armed attacks of opener “History & Science Fiction” and the title track. Both stretch out into widescreen vistas of six string rumble doused in a chemical clear cut. However, not a note is wasted on Dreaming In The Non-Dream, the coda-cap of “Two-Minutes Love” cools like a Thorazine splashdown from the heightened senses pricked to life over the first three tracks and “Have We Mistaken The Bottle For The Whiskey Inside?” shows crinkled troubadours how to wail again. Without question, Forsyth has always been a force in American guitar, but here he’s letting the ire under his skin seep out into a tangible form that lets this album perch atop his catalog.




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