De Stijl

TASHI WADA – ‘Gradient’ 7″
Tashi Wada is a San Francisco-based composer and performer whose recent work focuses on sound perception as a basis for direct modes of listening. His work has been performed throughout the United States and Europe, and for several years now he has performed alongside his father, Yoshi Wada. Gradient is two sustained tones, a fourth apart, positioned along a wall, one at each end. The string player produces a very slow glissando from one pitch to the other while physically moving from one pitch to the other – in other words, the string player moves so that pitch distance coincides with spatial distance. The two possible directions form a sculpture-like presence shifting through all of the blue notes. Harry Partch often worked with this type of harmony, so Tashi and Marc Sabat used one of his adapted violas for the recording.

MICHAEL YONKERS – ‘Goodby Sunball’ LP
We found a very limited stash of these Original, Sealed LPs. They won’t be here long.  Michael Yonkers’ small cult following is mostly based on a record he cut in the late ’60s (though it wasn’t released until 2003), Microminiature Love, which is hard psychedelic rock so raw it verges on outsider music. Recorded several years later in his home studio and issued as a private pressing in 1974, Goodby Sunball is an entirely different proposition that might be surprisingly better or worse than listeners familiar with Microminiature Love expect, depending upon their tastes. There’s no hard rock at all here; instead, it’s haunting, even spooky acid folk, rather quiet and subdued in tone, though no less intense than what he’d been laying down in the late ’60s. Perhaps the slightly disturbing, distraught ambience of the LP could be put down in part to Yonkers having written the material on acoustic guitar while he was making a difficult recovery from serious spine surgery.

MICHAEL YONKERS – ‘Michael Lee Yonkers’ LP
What’s undeniable is that his music underwent a considerable change, Yonkers offering tremulous tunes with an off-kilter fragility and spiritual bent that makes some of these compositions sound almost like hymns, if of the spacy hippie folk variety you’d rarely hear in churches. The basic home fidelity, with vocals recorded in an actual bathroom for echoing ambience, adds to the strangeness, the tunes also sounding on occasion like holiday carols by and for celebrants not quite certain they’ll live to see another Christmas. Though not every fan of rare psychedelia will agree with this assessment, it sounds immeasurably better than Microminiature Love, as the songwriting is substantially superior; the melodies far more varied and affecting; and the vision far more likably personal. There’s no need to worry that it’s far more mainstream, either; while the playing is certainly competent and the fidelity OK if basic, it’s probably way too strange to have attracted the interest of any sizable major or indie label back in 1974, though not quite eccentric enough to qualify as outsider stuff. The closing, nearly eight-minute version of the title track (also presented in a very short rendition to open the record) is the only one that’s self-consciously weird and experimental, and not to good effect. Very difficult to find in its original pressing, the album was reissued as an LP in 2010 in an edition limited to 500 copies.  Again, a very small stash of these have been found.

MARK TUCKER – ‘Batstew’ LP
This is one of those lp’s that I’ve heard about for years. People’d say to me “Roland, it’s right up your alley” or “Roland it’s terrible. You’d love it!” but when I’d ask’em to describe it they’d go doe-eyed & get all pickle faced ‘n say “you just have to hear it for yourself.” Well finally, thanks to the De Stijl label, I have. And let me tell you something; I am perplexed about what I heard. Mostly, I guess, ’cause I ain’t hearin things what other scribes have insinuated I should. Department Store Santas? Desperate Bicycles? Not in my kung fu village! To me this lp teeters on a precipice between euphoria & anguish. It is certainly the work of an unstable mind & tortured soul. I mean, you can almost feel Tucker’s circuits shorting out as the record progresses. You don’t need to read the insert to hear that! There’s alot of sadness & confusion goin on too. It’s a record about a guy’s love for his car. It’s a record about guy’s love for his girl. There’s a song that’s evidently an ode to homosexual love (not that there’s anything wrong w/that). The guy records himself talkin to his car, slammin the doors, the girl whispers & sings along sometimes. Yeah, it has it’s moments; like the naif, art brut-ish noisescapes that Tucker occasionally creates or like the dingaling song at the end of side 2 that’s about a Cadillac (among other things) that eventually crumbles into a fuzzy guitar “freakout”. It is one odd fucker of an lp, there’s no denyin that. But how someone-& I won’t say who-winds up comparin it to the albums by Department Store Santas & Desperate Bicycles is beyond me. Oh sure, those’re nice lures your tossin out there, but they’re inappropriate. Those bands lp’s are challenging. Tucker’s is more challenged. Maybe what they meant to say was that one day Mark Tucker saw someone dressed as a department store Santa, went banana’s, then desperately rode a bicycle to the mental institution. I dunno. I wasn’t there. If I was to sell you this record I would say “imagine a record that sounds like someone who claims to be Daniel Johnston who rerecorded Smile” or “imagine if Larry Fischer had been commissioned to do the Pink Moon lp as literally a Volkswagen commercial”. Would you buy it? I know I would because that sounds like something that’s right up my alley & the descriptions are terrible enough that I’d probably love it. That said, Batstew is certainly a unique album. I dunno about a masterpiece, but shorter people are prone to exaggeration. And that’s a fact! I’m glad I got the hear it & props to De Stijl for reissuing it.


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