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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
January 2003

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

Gen Ken Montgomery / Pondfloorsample (XI Records)
Brooklyn sound artist Gen Ken Montgomery has adapted an amazing style to the documentation of hidden sounds in everyday objects, as well as showcasing the unusual colors of sound that may be ordinarily glossed over. Many FMU listeners were treated a few years back to some of his self-released CD-Rs, including the self-explanatory Sounds of Lamination, and "8-Track Magic", which basically was the entire play of a Led Zep 8-Track totally dragging and warbling through a messed-up player. Fortunately, this new 2CD set on Phill Niblock's label will allow a broader glimpse at the many, many excellent sound experiments of Montgomery, who has ties to other kindred spirits Chop Shop, Conrad Schnitzler, and Arcane Device. Like these artists, the sounds generated often come from very visual and altered sources; homemade primitive electronics, amplified egg beaters, multiple-wired speakers, miked birdfeeds, rigged cassettes, radiators, even dying moths became sound sources for Montgomery. His approach is very Cagean, yet, Montgomery never schooled to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Lucier, Mumma etc., instead offering very refreshing and non-academic glimpses into a unique and thankfully-now overviewed sound world to dive in.

JOHN FAHEY / (+) (Revenant)
AKA "the Hospital Record", this disc was completed a few months before Fahey's death in 2001. The man was a truly inspiring American original, not only turning over the table on the folk scene but also making a guitar blueprint for countless outside-thinking axe-wielders down the line, most certainly on par with Harry Partch in terms of a latter-half 20th Century artist stretching the vocabulary of an established mode of expression while still resonating a truly American identity (that, of course, only the Europeans appreciate). Seemingly always interested in drawing outside sounds and environments into his gentle music, the 1990's saw Fahey fall in with younger musicians to draw inspiration from (and whom had drawn from him), and in turn got downright wigged in his later records. One show I recall seeing around 1997 or 98 featured Fahey battling a broken string and battery-faded delay pedal to almost experimental-theater effect in front of an angry crowd of yuppies at Tramps waiting to see John Hammond. I really expected an eventual collaboration with the Sun City Girls or something, and indeed, Fahey's records continued to fade into a deeper haze of reverb-and-delay-soaked voyages with literally none of his trademarked hyper-picking.

On these final recordings, though, the various channels of his work seem to converge in a most soulful way. For those who thought his picking abilities had fallen by the wayside, there are numerous surprises. Even in ill health, Fahey astonishes with quite-agile flowery renditions of Berlin and Gershwin tunes, while also exploring the depths of low fidelity and playing along with rain in the background. "Red Cross, Disciple of Christ Today" is dedicated to Guitar Roberts, aka Loren Mazzacane Connors, someone who took Fahey's lonesome sound into new terrain. This is a gorgeous and most defining moment in the sadly-departed guitarist's story.

VARIOUS / Black & Proud Volume 1: The Soul of the Black Panter Era (Trikont)
The Afro-American quest for civil rights turned downright fiery in the 1960s: Malcolm X, Bobby Seale, and the 5000 Black Panthers who patrolled the U.S. cities were not only protective but pro-active in inspring social change, by any means necessary. The spark ingnited in the intellectual and creative communities enveloped the music as well, and while this German label's concept for a compilation may strike one as a bit Time/Life, the music inside is extremely awesome. The Last Poets still hit like a ton of bricks, but I was awakened to the great Staples Singers offshoot Sons of Slum and glad to hear some choice Grady Tate, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield reprised. Indeed, some of the other tracks are to be expected (namely the well-known Scott-Heron cut "the Revolution Will Not Be Televised"), but you also get the great schoolkids' ode to James Brown from the Smithsonian Folkways underheard classic Ghetto Reality LP. Great, informative notes as well make this a total burner (there's a second volume as well, not previewed yet.)

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