Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Yoga Records founder Douglas Mcgowan and Bird Show-man Ben Vida.
Listed: Yoga Records + Ben Vida
Record collector Douglas Mcgowan started Yoga Records in 2008 with the intent of re-releasing obscure records that otherwise would have slipped through the cracks of history. Since then, his label has salvaged 18 digital reissues by artists you don’t know but should, and two projects by 1970s folk secret Collie Ryan. New York’s quintessential record store Other Music became a quick fan and recently decided to offer a limited-time Yoga Records sampler, which you can peruse here. The label is also planning to reissue physical LPs by Yacht Rock outcast Jeff Eubank, Guitar Soli artist Ted Lucas and psych-folk hero Bobb Trimble in the next few months. Mcgowan is also a collector of new age cassettes and dreams of reissuing those as well down the road.
McGowan took part in this week’s Listed in order to share his 10 favorite private-press folk albums.
The 10 Most Favorite Private Folk Records In My Personal Collection
I decided to limit myself to records I own as I rarely become as attached to mp3s, even if they’re from monster greats like Hendrickson Road House, Agincourt, Chuck and Mary Perrin, etc.
1. Jill Cislaghi - Friends Of Mine
The ultra-shy Jill Cislaghi made 500 records for her classmates at Regis College in Massachusetts as a thank you for encouraging her music. Humble, simple, pretty, and completely true.
2. Clearing - Who Is In My Temple
I was half-heartedly raised Unitarian and incredibly this is the only related record I know of -- a modern (1971) adaptation of the church’s Hymns For The Celebration Of Life, infused with the pastoral UK folk sound, real deal communal folk from the Boston suburbs.
3. The Dandelions - self-titled
This longtime secret recently went off like a confetti explosion in the collector’s world, with freaks lining up to pay $500 for sealed copies of a 22 minute record by a pair of ultra-precocious preteen pals named Tres and Kitsy, who sing about the things they want to sing about, like how their Uncle Steve is actually Uncle Harry, or the route to get to Kitsy’s house, or the story of how they made it in the music biz. Genius. Sort of the musical equivalent of youtube’s kittens inspired by kittens.
4. Ted Lucas - self-titled a.k.a. The OM Album
Ted Lucas was too good for the music business. He flirted with success in the late 60s when his groups Spike Drivers and Misty Wizards put out singles on Warner Reprise, but legend has it that he got racial with Ahmet Ertegun and that was the end of that. Ted was difficult -- you hear that from everyone who loved him, and many did. He was a golden-voiced exotic instrument specialist autodidact raconteur who stood for truth and beauty. Anyway, this record is genuinely perfect starting with the Stanley Mouse cover art and going from there. My label Yoga Records is putting this out with Sebastian Speaks this Spring.
5. A. Paul Ortega - Two Worlds
I found my copy in a Colorado Springs Salvation Army for 25 cents, and drank corn whiskey and listened to it in a motel room on my portable after my car broke down in Lamar, Kansas, and I’ll just never forget it. This is about being a Native American in America, and it hits as hard as anything by Gil Scott-Heron, with just vocals and guitar in an empty studio in New Mexico. This and his other record Three Worlds desperately need reissuing.
6. Marj Snyder - A Time Of Peace
This may be a case of a record that hit me in a particular moment of my life, but what happened is that in early 2004 or so that I copped a sealed thrift store copy of this in Berkeley just as I was being alerted to the concept that there’s such a thing as good Christian records. The purity and soulfulness of this record are impossible to put into words. Great cynic repellant.
7. The Street And The Sea - self-titled
This 1975 release is one of the crown jewels of my modest collection. The story goes that there were 50 copies for friends and family, and while this is a record that instantly makes you think of Joni Mitchell, it’s actually fresh enough, great enough, to compare to Joni’s best. Dedicated to and based in part on lead artist Pricilla Quinby’s grandfather’s maritime poetry, this is an odd and beautiful homage to one way of life and move on to another.
8. Eleanor Wallace - Songs Of The Middle Way
For many people modern folk music begins with the psychedelic wave represented by Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan. But I almost prefer the buildup that happened between the coffeehouse scene and acid. Songs Of The Middle Way dates to 1966 and sounds like it. No psych moves, only a stirring discontent with accepted reality, razor sharp lyrics, and the lilt of a nightingale. Eleanor Wallace sounds like a person who has seen the truth and is struggling to reconcile that truth with the way she was raised. Thanks Eleanor, wherever you are.
9. The Whims - On The Rocks
All-female (until 1988) Wheaton College in Massachusetts has the distinction of producing both of the most consistently great college vocal groups of all time, The Wheatones and The Whims. This 1974 (I think) entry by The Whims utilizes a bunch of choice covers to capture the same disarming, loopy, somewhat melancholic, retro vision of Dan Hicks, The Roches, and more recently The Ditty Bops.
10. Willie Wright - Telling The Truth
Wright is best known by 45 collectors for his four-figure, best ever cover of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Right On For The Darkness,’ but the second of his two private LPs exudes true soul and charisma within a framework is basically folk music. It’s an odd mix but it works flawlessly, and every deviation from the formula -- the mellow soul of ‘I’m So Happy’ and the charming, corny introductions from some unidentified weirdo at the start of both sides -- only serve to make the record that much more interesting.
Ben Vida made his mark in Chicago’s post-rock scene, playing various instruments in Town & Country, Pillow, Terminal 4 and Central Falls. Lately, he’s been occupied with U.S. Maple offshoot, Singer, Hisham Bharoocha’s Soft Circle, and his own evolving Bird Show. Now four albums into the avian-themed experiment, Vida has progressed from mostly solitary explorations of rock, jazz, ethnic instrumentation and field recordings to a fully-fleshed band effort. Bird Show Band, out this month on Amish Records, explores krautish grooves and free improvisations with like minded musicians including Josh Abrams, Jim Baker, Dan Bitney and John Herndon.
1. Florian Hecker - Acid in the Style of David Tudor (Editions Mego 2009)
Some serious three-dimensional mind-fuck spatiotemporal mastery at play here. These pieces seem to take on an almost physical form in the room. Super sick and not even close to an easy listen. I hear a lot of humor and a lot of hard work in this music. Whether composing in the digital realm (the ASA pieces) or patching a Buchla synthesizer into a Comdyna analog computer (the acid pieces), Florian’s depth of control over electronically produced sonorities is amazing. The concept and the form are perfectly in sync and the results are wholly original.
2. Bernard Parmegiani - De Natura Sonorum (INA-GRM)
A piece in 12 parts from 1975. Constructed from electronic sources mixed with instrumental and concrete sounds, this is a beautifully paced and superbly processed composition. The clarity of the tones and the elegance of the processing are indelible. I have only recently been introduced to Parmegiani’s work and it feels like a gift. In 2008 INA-GRM released a twelve-disc box set that contains the bulk of his musique concrete work and it is worth every penny.
3. Robert Ashley - Three Operas at LeMama E.T.C. NYC.
A few years ago while we were out on tour together, Sun Circle’s Zach Wallace and I bonded over Ashley’s “Now Eleanor’s Idea”. While driving across the middle of nowhere we had this wonderful moment when, as the first disc of the piece ended, Zach and I gave each other this look like, “Ready for disc two? Ah yeah!” In January 2009 I was fortunate to get to see three of Ashley’s later operas staged at a small theater in Manhattan. Each opera seemed to be a complete world within itself. Leaving the theater each night was like walking out of a dream. Ashley and his long time collaborators (including “Blue” Jean Tyranny!) performed the pieces with uncompromised confidence and guts. I think there is, in all of Ashley’s writing, something of the illicit and seedy and familiar and heartbreaking - it feels sorta dangerous but I don’t really know why. I enjoy his music so much knowing that this art form is his alone and any imitations can’t help but fall short.
4. Ivo Malec - Triola (INA-GRM)
Awesome, noisy tape music from 1977-78. Greg Davis turned me on to this Croatian composer. Greg and I have been playing modular synth duets together now for about a year. So much of what we are trying to capture in our improvisations exist in this piece. Long quiet passages are interrupted by skronk and gristle, uncomfortable undulating textures and shifting sonic densities are juxtaposed with pointillist interjections and piercing jabs. Though a stray voice will rise up out of the silence from time to time, this seems to be a composition of mostly synthesized sounds. This piece is often kinetic and relentless, and when played at the suggested “very, very loud” volume, deeply effective.
5. Olivier Messiaen - Organ recitals at St. Thomas church, NYC
In early 2008 my wife and I pulled up roots in Chicago and transplanted to Brooklyn. That fall, while still getting use to the fact that we had the JMZ running outside our loft window I would find calm and meditation at St. Thomas church in Mid-Town. For six Saturdays John Scott gave free organ recitals devoted to the works of Olivier Messiaen. I have always loved Messiaens music but had not found my way into his organ pieces until these performances. The dynamic range and spiritual depth of this work is completely overwhelming. The organ at St. Thomas’s was built in 1913. It has four manuals, 138 ranks and 9050 pipes – seriously heavy. The ability of this acoustic instrument to have such a physical impact at both loud and soft volumes and that coupled with the opulence of St. Thomas church was completely inimitable. These were by far the most moving live performances I have ever experienced.
6. Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble - Get Down! Shove It! It’s Tango Time! (Shih Shih Wu Ai Records 1981)
As a high school student I was first turned on to the avant garde through playing with Milo. He introduced me to the music of Morton Feldman and Derrick Bailey and the writing of Thomas Bernhard and Beckett. Milo’s long time partner in the Ensemble is guitarist Steve Gnitka - Steve’s playing still blows my mind and along with Greg Ginn and Derrick Bailey still informs how I feel about what electric guitar should be. This is my favorite of the MFFJE records. Truly weird improvised music way ahead of it’s time that doesn’t fit easily into any one category. Over the years Milo and Steve have refined their playing and shed some of the wooliness that is alive here, but for this record they are creating their own authentic music, inscrutable and unmatched.
7. Brian Eno and Cluster - After the Heat (Sky 1978)
Eno looms always. While working on the new Singer record with my band-mates, Robert Lowe and my brother Adam, we just couldn’t escape him. I love his collaborations with Cluster, especially “After the Heat”. You can really hear how these pieces evolved out of studio experiments. The tracks with Eno’s vocals are completely on par with his solo records “Another Green World” and “Before and after Science” (which contains a track from this trio). Connie Planks engineering is as clear and moody as the music and seems completely in tune with Eno’s “studio as instrument” aesthetic. Cluster’s other work is wonderful as well but with Eno involved there just seems to be the addition of some beautifully crooked teeth.
8. Kevin Drumm - Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago
I don’t remember the year but Kevin performed first opening for Sunn)))). Using just a single oscillator he played the most complete and effective drone set I have ever experienced. Slowly tuning a sine wave to the different resonant frequencies of the auditorium he engaged the whole space as an instrument, he was in effect playing the room. His set was twenty minutes long and when it ended, that was it, for me the night was finished. I have known Kevin for years. Back in the mid-nineties we toured together and his set each night was worth the miles we traveled each day. I love his music because I totally believe it. He can switch up his methods of producing his compositions but the conviction of his intentions always comes through beautifully.
9. Ilhan Mimaroglu - The Man and The Store
Mimiragola’s tape piece “Wings of the Delirious Demon” is a continuous source of inspiration to me. Mimiragola’s work is like some sort of perfectly cryptic roadmap, which at once reveals that which is both known and foreign. The on-line store which bares Mimiragola’s name is run by the deeply devoted Keith Fullerton Whitman. Of course, Keith is an awesome musician whose records for Kranky are completely beautiful. This is a great outlet for Keith’s expansive knowledge of all things experimental. He is very discerning about what he stocks but he is not snobby. You can tell that the store is run with honest enthusiasm for the music and love for the community. I am guilty of browsing more then I buy but Keith’s spirited and evocative writing (and his posting of sound samples of almost everything) is totally addictive so what can be done?
By Dusted Magazine