Janko Nilovic – “Roses and Revolvers” (1970)
It’s incredible to think that this music was made as an aural hired-gun for advertisements or cheap television shows or films. If there were ever a track to get you excited about the of alternate universe of pop that is the realm of “sound library” LPs (which were almost never made available commercially), this is it. Fuzzed out guitar soars around twirling harpsichord and Rhodes over one mother-of-funk beat that is hip-hop ready, breaking things down and building up with incredible grace and care. But the coup de grace is the bassline, which has to be one of the best I’ve ever heard, remaining funky while carrying the core melodic duties of the track. I bet money you won’t be able to listen just once. This is the pinaccle, but if you dig it, it’s time to start digging those sound library blogs linked over at Musicophilia. [Nilovic is featured on several Musique du Monde mixes at Musicophilia, which you’ll definitely dig if you like this one.] (UPDATE: The wrong song was previously linked; it’s been corrected.)
Eddie Gale – “Black Rhythm Happening” (1969)
For those who don’t quite buy the defiantly unpopular Art Ensemble of Chicago’s claim to making “Great Black Music,” the Sun Ra Arkestra might instead capture what AEC were after. Here Arkestra trumpeter Eddie Gale lays claim to “Black Rhythm happening everywhere,” and here it takes the form of a chorus’ voice dancing in call and response around a snaking guitar line, snare-heavy drums and hand percussion, all enveloped in a warm wide reverb. Not quite funk, not quite jazz, laid back and open-ended, happening it certainly is.
Zoomers – “From the Planet Moon” (1981)
Baton-Rouge Louisiana’s Zoomers are from the grand tradition of weirdos making incredibly cool music far outside of anyplace where cool is usually produced, with the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Red Krayola, MX-80 Sound, The Residents, and later on the Flaming Lips or Neutral Milk Hotel. Something about being trapped in a cultural backwater, way too smart and way too bored and way to drug-fucked for your own good. . . is really good for music geeks. Zoomers are tangentally post-punk, but their sound is clearly from another time (though it wouldn’t have been mainstream in any era,) combining a stripped-down, bouncy psychedelia with excitedly-detached vocals that fit the contradictory phrase “cool as hell”. Besides the Homosexuals reissues, the Zoomers ‘Exist‘ is definitely my favorite release from Hyped 2 Death, and very well worth your $9. [Zoomers are featured on a ‘1981’ mix at Musicophilia]
Jean-Jacques Perrey – E.V.A. (1970)
I love Pierre Henry, but I prefer his “serious” work to his most famous track, “Psyche Rock”. “E.V.A.” is sort of an alternative to “Psyche,” blending similar early sci-fi pop electronics with a funky backbeat and even the large bell accompaniment–but I’d have to say, I like Perrey’s take better, since this sort of electronics-popularising was his main thing. Sampled regularly and with good reason, “E.V.A.” is as cool today as forty years ago.
Funkadelic – “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks” (1971)
Much as I love later-70s P-Funk, the rocking psychedelic-funk of early Funkadelic records really sticks with me, too. This is one of the best, with a nice piano/vocal groove and Sly-influenced socio-political lyrics; but what ultimately makes it a killer is that fantastic beat with the future-baiting tiny-room-reverbed drums sounding almost electro. You can certainly bet Andre Benjamin has been around this record a couple hundred times.
El Kinto – “Don Pascual” (1968)
I was turned onto El Kinto by the proprietor of Twisted Village in Cambridge, Mass. and I must thank him for the perfect soundtrack for a trip to the beaches of the Cape on a lovely spring day. Despite being apparent linchpins of Uruguay’s early rock/psych-candombe fusion scene, there’s seemingly very little information about them out there, other than that they really never recorded, and exist on record now only through several live-for-tv performances that were miraculously rescued and released a decade after their creation. It’s a good thing–and the music tells you all you need to know: beautiful, spare, careful melodies and harmonies, understated rythms, unadorned guitar work. [A compendium of El Kinto’s known surviving recordings is in and out or print, but very worth hunting down. El Kinto is featured on one of my favorite mixes at Musicophilia.]
Caravan – “With An Ear to the Ground, You Can Make It” (1970)
I bought this album when I was 18, the same day as buying a twofer of the Soft Machine’s first two albums. And ten years later, I don’t think I’ve heard anything from the “Canterbury scene” I like more; but one doesn’t hear as much about this band as Wyatt, Ayers, et al. Canterbury is the other “prog” besides Faust/Can/Neu/Cluster-nexus Krautrock that doesn’t go wanky, even when it goes jammy, and Caravan from this era is a perfect introduction. This track has it all: it’s sprawling but spare, quiet and loud, rocking and introspective, even “epic”; but it’s always purposeful and infectious, with fantastic vocals (uncannily similar to Wyatt’s), bass, drums, percussion, flute and keyboards, never giving in to stereotypical prog-complexity for its own sake. [This track starts out very quiet, so be careful not to turn up your speakers too loud. Caravan is featured here in a mix at Musicophilia.]
Creation – “Making Time” (1967)
Gotta love that scuzzy, chunky bowed guitar, that put-on snarl that can’t hide the fact that this is a perfect pop song. Every once in a while, Musicophilia is prepared to rock.