The Freelance Mentalists.
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
  Faheytronica Pt 1

Notes made while listening, posted on thread about John Fahey:

At a friend's urging, I've finally checked out some Faheytronica: part 1 of my first-listening notes:

after googling started with Requia, "Requiem For Molly," in four parts. 

Part 1 turns out to be very handsome, perhaps courtly but not genteel solo guitar; the other three parts include "sonic collages." as online sources put it (with which he is assisted by music writer Barry Hansen, AKA Dr. Demento, maestro of the syndicated novelty radio show). "Collage" is especially appropriate because the news reel etc. bits sound like animated newspaper clippings, maybe wiggling envelopes sometimes, and mainly I like the way their contours and the pacing of placement---also the cadences and intonation of spoken word and other sounds, Hitler and bombers and so on, go with the guitar sound. Fahey said later he didn't like the results, though did consider this experiment a valuable "learning experience." It's not that different from other "underground" tracks you find on LPs of that era, '67 or so, in terms of choosing what we'd call samples, but I haven't heard any other American artist from that neck of the woods--the rock folk weirdo neck---who made it all work as this kind of ambient experience, social commentary and hipster humor aside, although I guess those might be in there too (first listening)

Probably better though--not as dependent on my own quirks/glosses of hearing----is "The Singing Bridge of Memphis Tennessee," from The Yellow Princess: much more sophisticated, in terms of no newsreel, newspaper clippings glued on, just what does indeed sound like a singing bridge---of steel guitar strings, various other metals used in constructing a bridge over a body of water, maybe some water effects pulled in, vibrations and whistles and other nice things (incl vocal?), all layered and merged, just attached and distinct enough. It's based in part on "Quill Blues" by Big Boy Cleveland, and may incl. some of that original recording (think I saw that statement or speculation somewhere)

The Epiphany of Glenn Jones is all over the place,

Conceptually I totally dig the opener, "Tuff, " right away, although the glacial zen groove trek had me nodding a bit, so it turns out even good drones can do that, h'mm.

"Gamelan Collage" different enough to keep me awake, but lost me sometimes,

"Maggie Campbell Blues" quite splendid courtship again,

"New Red Pony" is heavy smokey red rock, awright,

"Out Puppet Selves" is UFO Bebe Barron dub plate equiv of op art, which I like: if you're gonna go this way, bear down on the basic texture FX, awright again.

"Gamelan Guitar" like a real good dream I forget right after it's over (but I can go back again to this dream, yay).

This version of "Come On In My Kitchen" is discreetly tweaked, also tweeked, just enough to enhance it in ways prob unnec but v enjoyable.

"Magic Mountain" is back to the science fiction soundtrack, but much more varied than "Out Puppet Selves," and a little too soft-focus for me, so far.

The spoken word-based closers go on very long, though I like that, even though Fahey keeps ending up with nothing, even when the pretty lady persuades him to board the bus to scenic Exstinkyville, he eventually (very eventuallly) remembers "the basic dialectic of life," or some kind of dialectin and sings a hearty "No-o-o," then an equally hearty "Ye-e--e-s," continuing while the band makes noise around him.

Next will be City of Refuge, Womblive, The Mill Pond EP, located here and there, mostly posted track by track on YouTube. The albums I'm talking about above are all on Spotify, at least the version we get over here. (Meaning America; guy I was responding to is in Europe.)

(Maybe some of this will sound better as I listen more; despite what I say toward the end of these notes, I did keep all of City and Womblife)(Snapped up The Mill Pond EP from WFMU)

Starting again with City of Refuge, which chronologically I should have listened to before Epiphany, which Glenn J. meant as a corrective to the former, to save his hero and help him find a way to say the new thing he was trying to say. Later, he also writes, he decided both albums what Fahey meant them to be: photographs of him at the time they were made. However, after hearing City, I gotta say, "Thanks GJ and Cul De Sac (and God I wish you could have pulled him back from Womblife, although The Mill Pond works fine")!---but I'm getting ahead of myself).

CoR: "Fanfare" is well-named: flourishes, with buzzy picking and strumming and chopping.

The second track seems more like tuning up and/or down, who cares, ditto for the title.

"City of Refuge I"' is 20-odd minutes long, first half feat. ominous peg-twisting and whatnot. The second turns up a skeletal pattern, then a sunny stroll-along, and then somewhat merges the two motifs, in a natural way: you go for a stroll, you and your shadow (not the song of that title, just the thing that happens). Wanders off somewhere, but with a good edit, hey.

"Chelsey Silver, Please Call Home" starts promisingly, the silvery Classic John, but gets a little too reliant on basic devices and reminds me that one reason he was trying new directions was diabetic nerve damage in fingers (ouch, ouch ouch just thinking about it)

Nevertheless, "City of Refuge III," with evocation of silver bells and chimes calling insistently over an earthly shuffle, is very fine, and the only one of these YouTubes I bothered to download.

Womblife has some kinda nice drone lullabys and doppler-shift x sealife imitations at times, but most of it's rubbish; I'd call it heavy new age, but not that heavy. "Juana" reverts to the more popular JF: crisp Spanishy morning sounds, cogent back and forth of a and b melodies, even underselling lyricism or at least fluidity, but another one that could use an edit: 12 minutes, jeez

The Mill Pond EP! Wasn't expecting much, but true avant garage, as Crocus Behemoth would put it, with vocal and other sweaty bristley Radio Shack Popular Mechanics bits and kits from Dad's abandoned workshop, returning via cyberTibet understages, more like whole underlives--- attention-grabbing/holding, viable moments and passages flashing by. Another scribble mentions " a good motif for soundtrack of Japanese folk-horror art film, or Roger Corman's remake, " and "Garbage" suggests more of the 50s UFO-huffing found on The Epiphany's "Out Puppet Selves," but also with traces of Hendrix emulating that kind of soundtrack,and suspense as the saucer reverb inches toward liftoff/spinoff. Some tracks may use elements of each other, and for the climax, Fahey seems to be chanting while eating his way through his guitar----which reminds me of Andy Beta's testimony, one of the very best of its kind and flavor:

(Later I remembered to tell him about delta-slider.)

dow, Tuesday, 26 April 2016 22:29

Response from my much more knowledgeable fellow ilxor, ogmor: 

great posts & 'Faheytronica' is a fine coinage

The Singing Bridge of Memphis Tennessee definitely has a straight sample from Quill Blues - - & I think it's my favourite of these efforts, alongside A Raga Called Pat, though the guitar is still obviously the star of the latter

The Epiphany of Glenn Jones is probably the strangest Fahey album, it really is all over the place & I don't love most of it but Fahey's voice/monologue/dialectic on the last two tracks is just incredible to me, love the live recordings when his introductions become circuitous and oblique for the same reason & the trio recording where he reads from the liner notes to the first album, his voice has got that same heft

ogmor, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 00:45 (three years ago) link

Much more good stuff, esp. By ogmor, continues on this thread Search and Destroy: John Fahey  Also see books by Fahey on Amazon (but he's written others; look elsewhere)



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