"Why don't we be our own samples?" ...or "We could be our own jams..."Without Sam Dook spending years combining/meshing all these fragments and songs that sometimes feature a call & response approach often with mike watt having no idea what words & passages Sam would come up with...A prime example was Sam asking watt to come up with some personal words about what the thought of "Houdini" is tossed out for him to conjure what the name means without knowledge of what the other half of the team- Sam Dook- came up with his lyrics. Sam Dook took on the humongous challenge of being the one to most often decide how to piece countering stories to be sculpted into a coherent narrative and become the actual songs on the album.
The concept involved constructing this album and whether the listener enjoys it, often depends upon what the listener interpets the outcomes to be and whether or not a similar state of mind/perspective/ and context makes it meaningful & enjoyable or not. "Tamatebako" ends up being an ambitious record that is quite good; dook and watt successfully overcame the endless obstacles inherent with so many years passing and not working in each other's presence. In many ways, this record album makes me wonder if it shares the characteristics of the following in a sonic manner?
Pointillism is the theory or practice in art of applying small strokes or dots of color to a surface so that from a distance they blend together
Time to actually look at the songs:
right out of the gate, the listener is treated to one of the original samples of drum/bass jams from their three days of hammering away, creating bass/drum parts recorded in 2007. sam ferrets out some tasty hooks that were tucked away in countless & daunting audio files and presto... sam sends watt the bass line/drum loop from one of their jams and the title of the song, "houdini." mike watt reacts to the title by writing a rap of his personal experience with the houdini death thing. the lyrics he proffers for sam, are a real- life tour-spiel of his personal experience of crashing after a detroit gig on funeral tile in a very old building where come morning, watt finds out the tub he crashed in was where they scrubbed & prepared Houdini's deceased body - on 10/31/1929 before sending his embalmed corpse back for his funeral in NYC... very trippy indeed! much in line with the way a good deal of the songs were co- written, sam dook took watt's clay and molded his own lyrics he had prepared for the song; these lyrics are part written by both sam dook and bolstered by the addition of some "found" traditional american lyrics sam dovetailed into a couple verses. what do we end up with? a propulsive bass line/drums that sam leads into some appropriately cheesy accordion/keyboard riff that plants the listener right at the scene of a circus/carnival/calliope/ magical hocus-pocus of trickery, where one might expect to find vincent price as houdini... after the 50 second intro, sam kicks off the vocals of nursery rythme that set the table for watt to drop-in a killer rap about said tour-spiel and sam brings follows with verses back again to bring houdini home as punchy song. it's immediately evident that sam dook has a penchant for creating catchy pop tones and a strong ability to lay down several layers of drums, percussion, to craft a fun start to the album. some of sam's quirky sound effects prick my puppy's ears each time i play the song!
once the rollicking carnival sound brings the sound to a close, it's evident that sam dook has plenty of fertile ideas to plant on this album.hints of the sam dook arsenal of layered instruments and snappy sound , foreshadow his considerable compositional skills and keen ability to sculpt, engineer, mix, and produce a solid song with his auto-didactic first time use of pro-tools and DIY econo method. again, as mike watt puts it, he "provided the clay and sam proceeded to mold it into a song." dook's palatable for the masses british vocals offer a nice contrast to mr. watt's deep, sometimes gruff, and spoken word unique style of vocalizing. the rap that watt lays out here might be better than any recalled by your narrator; within the first seconds of"houdini", watt's bass slinging is instantly recognizable. track #1 pops the horse out of the gate quite nicely...initial impression is that this should be a pretty interesting record and a successful "project"... dook and watt already have a pretty good handful of fixings already birthed for CUZ LP #2 and have recently (summer of 2014) actually performed 4 of the tracks live for the BBC & XFM Radio...The duo plan to assemble a group to tour for a couple weeks in March/April of 2015...
at first glance of the lyric sheets, one might guess they were collaborating somewhat like Lennon/McCartney where one writes most of a song and the other comes up with lyrics for a bridge-- not the case here, they wrote their parts separately (or maybe sam was inspired by watt's lyrical bit and then wrote his own to form an entire song) not surprisingly, there are no harmonies; not really possible with the dramatic differences in their vocal style & sound. in a good way, they sing their own respective lyrics within many of the songs sometimes resembling roger daltrey & pete townshend occasionally doing the call & response with the who; however, all lyrics were written by pete. with this record, we have 3 songs where watt submits his parts to sam who then tacks on his lyrical contributions. with the Tamatebako LP, the way sam dook pieced/paired their separate vocals/lyrics via sound file exchanges, the end result yields music that is an excellent example of what is possible now that we are further into the technology era.
song #2 commences with something akin to a joy division- like intro for about 10 seconds; then what appears to be a honking car shoots us right into solid sonic youth guitar riffing that channels memories of said band's "PCH" & "Death Valley '69"...it makes me feel as though a curious couple are calling for the listener to "come on get in the car/let's go for a ride somewhere/ I won't hurt you..." as kim gordon once sang.
like good art, the near minute lead-up to watt's vocals subjectively transports me right into the back of a convertible as we turn right off pch onto topanga blvd. and the glockenspiel makes it seem possible this might not be a nightmare as the sun glistens everywhere. perhaps, we are rocketing somewhere really beautiful & away from the masses- or so it seems...as mike watt's vocal commences it appears he is "speaking" his tone poem thru a police bullhorn (though from a distance softly under the wall of distortion) that is not front and center ala gibby haynes @ a butthole surfers gig...the sonic tapestry and lyrics are ambiguous; my personalized context interpretation makes me a bit fearful that this day- trip may end @ the Spahn/ Iverson Ranch in the summer of '69 with a devlish charlie manson grinning and the fear envelops me that this will not end well--with me being duped into being a henchman... the beauty of this song is that a listener in no way familiar with sonic youth and said songs mixed without personal knowledge of any of the aforementioned, let alone the road that manifests in my imagination, will have a completely personal feel for what "france gnarl" is all about...maybe even an astronaut song as mike watt recently referred to it... that's one of the many strengths about this album; in many songs the lyrics can be mysterious/ambiguous and allow the listener to paint their own picture in their minds-eye of what it's about...
mike watt overdubbed the fuzzy, almost synth-sounding bass, along with his words and voice. sam dook came up with the title for watt's inspiration and had already dubbed many of the over half-dozen instruments he plays on this song, with help from his friend Danny Tobert, who is a huge contributor on all but the two songs that are ballads on the "tamatebako"LP. the first two tracks are uptempo rockers; that will change drastically with track #3.
"Song For Ronnie"
what pops up next is mike watt reciting selected exerpts from 'leaves of grass' by Walt Whitman. watt picked/read/and recited these verses at the funeral for The Stooges guitarist Ronnie Asheton back in early 2009 as a tribute to his fallen comrade and friend...obviously, this number required a most different musical approach/accompaniment; sam dook deftly followed mike watt's request to start/end the song by"firing"Ronnie's spirit out into space. do these parts possibly resemble sounds Ronnie may have created when they were named "The Psychedelic Stooges?" Not too many people still alive who might be able to answer that one... sam dook's drumming is never just basic timekeeping but instead real parts, arrangements and he painstakingly lays down multiple layers of tracks ; his drumming is vivid, visceral, and visual, feeling the pulse and scanning the scene at the same time. some elvin jones influences seep through...the music & watt vox commences after 40 seconds of trippy intro by sam and is replete with shards of feedback. a jazzy bassline is highlighted by sam tinkling ala elvin jones...the tone of the music created by sam reminds me of the Doors, especially john densmore's sublime approach on drums and some suitably soft-tinged guitar accompaniment to buffet watt's most sober and dead serious recitation of whitman.
"O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am determined to press the whole way towards you, Sound your voice! I scale mountains or dive in the sea after you"sam follows this whitman passage with an instrumental bridge that is as lovely as the words. appropriately, there are wind effects, a softly cascading guitar aping being on the sea and Alistair Strachan blows a soothing french horn that seems to hiss & ripple across sam's unplayed snare drum skin(maybe they are brushes?) ; 4 quick wraps on the snare bring us back for watt's bass & vox to deliver the final verse...the gentle elvin jones massaging of the drums is buffeted by some Beefheart-styled guitar, and the final poem exerpt-recitation is delivered home-across the ocean, by a similar bridge to finish exquisitely. dook with more help from Tobert & Strachan, along with his bag of percussion , sound effects and other sonic trickery- punctuates the reading... finally, Ronnie Asheton is catapulted into space via searing trippy aircraft turbulence/rockets/launching devices courtesy of sam dook's mastery of sound effects. we get the idea that Mr. Asheton, guitarist who was no stranger to buzzing/ fuzzing beautiful noise, is wearing his patented camouflaged/ fatigue shirt!
"W/No Bee Sting"
here we have a fairly straight-forward mike watt mid-tempo rocker, enhanced by Kaori Tsuchida playing the recorder , Danny Tobert on his homemade synthesizer, and of course sam dook with his usual bag of tricks-various drum kits, electric guitar, and percussion.this might be the tightest & cohesive number on the LP. danny tobert & sam once again display their ability to utilize the synths to layer cartoon- creepiness sounds of buzzing bees that are anything but soothing.the song was inspired by mike watt's spotting a honey-bee drone sitting on a rock @ Royal Palms State Beach in his native San Pedro; this is where he normally takes a break when bicycling... Sample verse of mr. watt's growing ability to pen rhyme's & write more complex lyrics:
"Animations of erased equations Evasive onanist preoccupation Impotent's important at this point of time The focus on bofus is a state of mind..."this song features another of the 6 bass/drum jams cranked out back in 2007 and eployed on the "Tamatebako" LP. it starts with vintage rumbling watt bass, followed by dook's multi-layered drums/percussion, replete with hand claps via sam's drum and a driving peppy, pop music beat. watt's fine singing here benefits from Kaori's recorder sounding very flute-like and the refrain/hook "Ain't no sister, just a big-eyed drone-w/no bee sting" contains a very joy division-like guitar riff that holds the song together...sam pulls out all the stops with his numerous drum sounds featuring triangles, glockenspiel, whirling synth sounds, his arsenal of varied guitars, toys, and thrift store percussion. this song has the tightest sound & rhthmm of any tune on this album. watt's driving bass lines lead the way throughout, with the exception of a break/bridge halfway thru that proffers a sharp detour with bee-buzzing synth droning , and sam's version of a drum solo, where he throws every percussion device imagineable and more at the listener - great changeup, that's seemingly violent while still poppy; he grinds it to almost a halt, before guiding us to a bass-free vocal verse, followed by the return of watt's rollicking, tumbling bass line that at times seems to sound Paul McCartney-like... where does that fit into the mike watt vernacular? it's impossible to fathom the amount of time sam dook must have put into these countless/muti-layered overdubs that comprise a huge chunk of the album. this gets back to the point about mike watt proffering the clay and sam molding it with a cornucopia of sounds/effects/and sonic bursts. this is truly a studio album in every sense of the word!
"Thinkin' 'Bout Thinkin'"
side one of "Tamatebako" closes out with the most musically intricate & diverse number thus far. similar to 'houdini' in its lyrical architecture, this song begins with verses by sam, followed by an excerpt of found material; in this case, it's from e.e. cummings 'anyone who lived in a pretty how town'. sam's words & vocals have a traditional folk story style that dovetails nicely with e.e. cummings poem snippet. mike watt's existential lyrics, are seemingly an entirely different song slapped right into the middle here"
Thinkin' 'bout thinkin' Thinkin' 'bout doin' Thinkin' 'bout startin' Thinkin' 'bout pausin' Thinkin' 'bout re-startin' Thinkin' 'bout stoppin'these serve nicely as a bridge back to the 'other song' within a song...evidently, watt came up with the title and his lyrics, while sam answered back with his parts to frame the song. this unusually imaginative approach, was deployed also on 'houdini' and 'slipstream- a bizarre call & answer if you will. on paper, this is hard to imagine it working very well. fear not, it's the eclectic musical parts that make for a deep, intricate, and diverse tune. actually, it's petra haden who weaves a most rich tapestry of sounds; her violin playing, along with wordless vocals are a real treat and nice new wrinkle added to the fray... petra follows sam's banjo/guitar & smooth/silky vocals- jumping in around the minute mark (actually inserted or dubbed in) with a gypsy/middle-eastern motif on her violin, that also features some beautiful plucking...less than a half minute later, petra's other -wordly voiceless vocals appear, to tee up watt's spiel quoted above. petra's "siren song" leads seamlessly into said spiel. the listener is treated to her distinctive & amazingly seductive word-free vocal collages she is best known for. they appear to have quadruple (?) layers of her vox, or shall i say, multiple a capella self- harmonies, that strongly accentuate mike watt's existential ponderings that make-up his "portion" of this song. mike likes to refer to Petra as his"first call" when it comes to outside vocalists he prefers to work with. after hearing her work on this track, it's easily understood why...
we are treated to an amazing amount of cohesive/sonic wonderland here -all in less than a minute...(just a minute, man!)that most certainly includes all the astonishing, infinitely/stacked/dubbed musical wizardry of sam dook and his comrades- ian paxon & danny tobert ...petra's vox & violin coupled with sam's rock-solid/charlie watt drumming, lead us back to similar verses from the first section of sam's parts.this final passage/voyage ( still aided by petra's unquantifiable musical abilities) ushers in sam's vocals/ verses, and proves conclusively that sam dook has pieced together a great song!
what's compelling as side one of the 180 gram vinyl ends, is the huge potential/abilities/and proof that sam dook displays with his musicianship (including great supporting players), recording, engineering, production, and finally mixing skills. credit must also go to joe pickering for a solid mixing job of this album, in which the British parts were performed and recorded near the sea & the sand- at Brighton Electric Studios. it would have been fascinating to have video of the performances from both sides of the ocean for this song. mike watt & petra haden recorded their parts in watt's tiny "thunderpants" studio. folks, this is certainly not a mike watt lead "project," sam dook was the frontman who molded & sculpted watt's clay into the final product. the album has been released by a local Brighton, England record company: Bleeding Heart Recordings.
the title cut commences side 2, a fitting song to frame the LP- a song based upon a traditional japanese legend/folk- tale which serves to introduce the color, tenor, potential perils, and themes that actually tie together the songs; i might have placed this as the opening track on the LP. Regardless, it works just fine here- as side two has a distinct personality compared to side one.
Kaori Tsuchida from Funanori (with watt) and The Go! Team (with sam dook) wrote the lyrics as well as taking over the vocal chores here; musically, this is the only song that sounds remotely like the go! team. essentially, the story runs similar to pandora's box...this is an origami box that she "was never to open". Can yielding to temptation, alter one's destiny-karma? Kaori's vox is beautiful here; coupled with a catchy pop tone, great melodies, and tight instrumentation. it sounds like a hit single to me, in a more enlightened world.
sam does a masterful of blending violin/viola/ cello, and his uncanny ability to stack the various instruments, forming a very peppy /poppy tune. it's not hard to spot that the core of this track- bass & drums came from the jam sessions featuring only watt on bass & dook on drums... sam must have been happy to have found this jam to sample/loop and be the foundation for the most "listener friendly" track on the album. what really makes this one happening for me, is what sam dook does with his drum parts; a charlie watts "get off of my cloud" (or is it 'satisfaction'??) type drum beat reaps the benefit of sam's percussion & drumming skills...layers of dubbed hip-hop beats accentuate the punch , bolstering a pretty simple basic track; the real and very organic string playing by Lizzy Carey on violin & viola (with some tasty plucking) along with Simon Janes (cello) and Shige Ishihara on keyboard... it seems clear that sam dook put days/weeks/perhaps months (?) layering & stacking his percussion with looped drum fills that really drive this title track- along with sam whipping out his bass to go underneath and for good measure, we even have a banjo to push the song along where needed as a backdrop.
slipstream: A slipstream is a region behind a moving object in which a wake of fluid (typically air or water) is moving at velocities comparable to the moving object, relative to the ambient fluid through which the object is moving.(WIKIPEDIA)I'm guessing that sam gave the title 'slipstream' to watt to conjure up his impressions of what kind of story would jive with that... mike watt's bass line from the get-go reminds me of paul mcCartney (again)as he spins a tale inspired by a true story set in SAN PEEDRO... watt expresses in 3 verses what happens in his slipstream- wanton ignorance of the laws of physics often end in death; while dogs are not as smart as humans, they possess an uncanny amount of common sense . Would a dog have the ego or lust to make an attempt to shatter a world record drop into water? absolutely not. according to mr. watt, "a little bit of knowledge is dangerous," the moronic part of the brain/emotions makes a man who earns a bronze medal @ age 19 in 1964 Tokyo Olympics actually really believe at 45 years old (or any age) he could survive a dive of 385 feet? Larry Andreasen did survive a jump of 160 feet a couple years before; double the drop and physics should make dumb, appear way dumber. ahh, but the ego and glory of man are too much...
"slipstream" is dook and watt's best combined effort on the album; there are fabulous transitions/bridges/and meshing of disparate styles musically & lyrically. to bridge the alternating verses, trumpets & french horns (uncredited) lead into mr. dook bringing in a story of a man who is fighting himself while in reality, lusting for an enemy to combat that will not appear; this where a nice surprise comes via a new vocalist for the two verses about the above. Fanny Bissa pops out her lines with a certain panache reminiscent of Aimee Man; however, Fanny has a little more oomph without aimee's shrill icyness. A fine addition to the LP! Sam Dook takes this opportunity to take our diver right into the maelstrom of Bimini Island. Stumped trying to figure out what this song was about in Sam's "Slipstream" ... i googled Bimini Road and all sorts of fascinating stories appear; is there a connection between Bimini Road/Atlantis/and the Bermuda Triangle?? The google search provides a plethora of fascinating theories/myths/and truths??!! Shortly after mike watt puntuates the "crash landing" in the San Peedro waters that may as well be a cement parking structure, Sam proffers some notions hinting at the Bimini/Atlantis/ Bermuda Triangle situation of endless possibilities :
The Bimini road has a fork in its cloakHere is further proof of Sam Dook displaying a penchant for bridging these seemingly disparate tales in a most thought provoking and clever guise. I find it fascinating listening to how sam threads similar concepts lyrically thru out this LP, surprisingly linking songs into intertwined thoughts that give the record a smattering of cohesion, where musically at times, this album can seem like a grab-bag of tunes cobbled together by swapping sound files across continents in a manner that can seem like cut-ups at times. Taking watt's tale of the moronic diver and splicing it with sam's own version of the slipstream, we end up with quite a tale of dueling (or dovetailed?) themes that just might make sense. Dook, amazingly, takes the original bass/drum jams and strings together some great musical sounds/concepts on 'slipstream' that display some of Brian Wilson & Paul McCartney's more intricate techniques from their halcyon years of 1966-67. This song and "thinkin' 'bout thinkin'" are prime examples of why Sam Dook displays on TAMATEBAKO some serious compositional skills and a keen ability for production. Sam might be someone to hire if you want artsy ambitions blended with a Jeff Lynne-style affinity for producing a record that flashes plenty of pop-filled/catchy/ ear-candy. we have quite a debut record from Sam Dook! it will be interesting what new tricks sam dook & mike watt have up their sleeves for Cuz LP #2. this is a surprisingly solid record from what seems at first, quite the "Odd Couple." when Dook's vox comes back in for his final verse-it features a classic gerry rafferty "baker street" type tailor made dub-in that sounds & feels like british pop music at its timeless most...this song alone, makes the album worth buying!!!
Sam's slipstream piggy backs on our moronic diver's notion of breaking a world record for diving height ending in tragedy; the end of SLIPSTREAM indicates our voyage will carryover to the next tune. the obliterated body finds another world to continue chasing for the key. in this case, down deeply into the sea and maybe a different place, another era...this could involve discovering the Bimini road actually being man-made; or a bad trip thru the bermuda triangle to finally have the big sleep take him all the way down to Atlantis?
You walk beside a frozen lake You sometimes give you sometimes take While leaving what you cannot make You cling to fear but never want to breakor
The howling wind chose not to stem The tempest laughs and you do descend But the golden seer chose to defend
Aha! The moment has arrived where we finally get that British psychedelic/stoner ballad - replete with sam's singing in a proper English accent. sam's acoustic guitar, mike watt's spartan bass keeps time in a "billy talbot style" , and Kaori Tuschida shadows the minimal playing with a very '60's sounding recorder that also pushes the song forward as well. would you prepare my pipe bilbo baggins? what's great about the song is its soothing & dreamy nursery rythme sound & feel; SYD BARRETT has chosen to channel himself thru Sam Dook... Result? It works! it would not be a cuz song without sam dook deploying at least one special effect; at 48 second mark, sam throws in a crinkling sound effect just prior to the line:
Green grows the leavesor is the green merely "filthy lucre" and a fistful of paper currency? peter green's "green manalishi??!! then again, dook as Syd Barrett could be admiring his buds sprouting from the leaves or maybe everything is more shining with an iridescent shimmer... who cares?
"Fickle Fortune" is likely the most literal sam dook tune on the TAMATEBAKO LP. fans of robyn hitchcock are likely to enjoy this sleepy number... According to mike watt, he convinced sam to sing along with the demo version of this song, which watt was either fond of and/or thought would be fun to try and sync up with the two different vocal takes... i thought it was a clever way of double-tracking the vocal and playfully making us certain that we are listening to a studio album (done the file transfer way) . there is never any doubt that other than the drum/ bass parts culled from the 3 days of jamming ( that comprises a half dozen of these tunes), that this pure jizsaw puzzle /cobbling together of countless parts & layers is as far from live music as possible. apparently, dook & watt had a helluva tough time playing on top of sam's demo vocal & getting the timing in link what sounds like a self-backing vocal. a 7 year series of conversations across the Atlantic and all the way to san PEEDRO meticulously & skillfully patched together to make for a most intriguing LP. Sam, please feel free to include a peaceful Syd Barrett-like ballad on the 2nd cuz album...
not surprisingly, the following track steers us into yet another completely different detour.
"Sand & Bones"
the wonderful beat era poet & friend of watt- Charley Plymell contributes a highly, distinctive & colorful recitation of some prose. finally, we get a song other than the title cut that has no need to rhyme any words. thank you charley! what makes this song happening, is Mr. Plymell phrasing this piece in a manner you just don't hear often, if it all. his reading is quite musical in nature - perhaps akin to a type of jazz that does not exist anymore. don't expect me to put my finger on it; sam dook & danny tobert provide nearly all the accompaniment- dipping into their 'Felix the Cat' bag of tricks, including sam playing a goodly amount of the bass along with Danny's homemade synth and wine glass harmonics...mike watt's contribution to this is minimal other than hooking up Sam Dook to make another favorite song/ completely unlike anything else here in structure...
i seem to hear a grab bag of musical parts that includes a somewhat eerie (in a cheesy Nino Rota elevator from hell kind of way ) / torn descent into the basement with Vincent Price acting out one of Edgar Allen Poe's death tales - pick your favorite. i'll go with 'pit & the pendulum'... thematically, it seems that we have more problems taking place underneath the ocean; charlie's voice seems to furnish a stylish combo of charles bukowski/william burroughs , with a deep timber uttered brilliantly-- impeccable & intentionally a slow herky-jerky cadence that vincent price would have really dug.
Favorite line on the entire album: (there is no escape):
"Who will dance in its ballroom?"This is followed /framed by what appears to be an "I am the Walrus"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" psychedelic cello-like sound, followed by a guitar passage reminiscent of Robert Smith's playing in The Cure! Did i say they like to layer these songs/tone- poems with countless sample/loops carefully colliding/congealing with bridges/breaks that really take you for a detour? often the bass will bring us back full circle and guide the piece home. methinks it is safe to say that people will not have strong opinions regarding Charley's offering, sculpted by the idiosyncratic sounds playfully constructed/deconstructed by sam dook & Danny Tobert... personally, what's not to love about "Sand & Bones" ???
"Spinning Basket Net"
Make your own interpretation here...the sole instrumental track starts with a Japanese-sounding part, then watt's bass leads us into something that sounds like Paul McCartney & Wings (credit/blame sam dook for this)- remember that somewhat annoying casio keyboard that Paul leaned on heavily with Wings? Not to worry some vintage Lennon/ McCartney psychedelia ensues with zillions of special effects- a keyboard aping a mellotron along with some solid instrumentation provided by (again, yea!) Petra Haden, Lizzy Carey, Simon Janes, and Simon Vincent joining the fold... watt's bass line bring the piece back from puter space a few times as lead instrument. pert near halfway, mike watt shoots the spinning pin wheels into outer space going faster & faster to the point of encircling Saturn... the wheels/rings/ and disasters at or in the sea/ card must be dealt with along with good & bad fortune/ magical & bizarre doings with Houdini & drone bees to assure any little kid who listens to this album plenty of nightmares. if you have dogs, they will prick their ears with deep concern at certain points, thanks to varying sonic frequencies provided by the king of effects for 2014 releases- ladies & gentleman, let's hear it for sam dook! finally, watt captains the ship back to its resting place.
"The Wheel & The Ring"
Sam ends the album with another stellar ballad consistent with English yore; it's somewhat akin to "John Barleycorn Must Die" in its balladry though not a borrowed tune nor a legendary story known by most people. Sam seems to tie many of his themes & concepts together quite nicely here; as Sam put it, "it's an interpretative story album for me." With this song- Sam connects the dots between the themes revealed thru his "found" traditional lyrics deployed on several previous songs on this LP , a real folk-tale "Tamatebako", and the nods to mysticism such as Bimini Road in "Slipstream" and with this song- Mr. Dook salutes the mythology & mysterious local lore about Chanctonbury Ring, which lies about 25 miles from Sam's hometown of Brighton.
Something about these lyrics compelled me to google this place, Chanctonbury Ring, the way he repeats the term/place instantly piqued my curiousity but again- complete with biblical references dueling with Edgar Allen Poe imagery... i suggest a peek at this site which immediately inspiring further curiousity... thanks for laying some trippy local history/mythology on us! Try this site. This inspired a deeper search for me about all things peripheral to Chanctonbury Ring, located in the Sussex Downd and the Devil's Dyke. There are numerous fascinating stories & legends that Sam lays out in his lyrics in a fairly literal manner regarding beliefs surrounding this site. Many think that the devil was involved with the formation of this site and Sam's lyrics relate the belief that the conversion of the locals from paganism to Christianity and things related in the Book of Ezekiel angered the devil and the legendary stories were spawned.
The trippy/hobbit-like music that pulls all these notions together into more wondrous Syd Barrett-like imagery leave the listener with all sorts of questions; summarized is the essence of everything the debut cuz album is about and leaves this listener yearning for more...this album really does sound even better if you burn one prior to spinning the vinyl; then again, the music itself accomplishes the feat of repeatedly altering the listener's state of mind & perspective. Other than a few splashes of mike watt bass-lines laying low in the background, this song is all Sam Dook. The two ballads that comprise side 2 of the vinyl are a nice contrast to the 5 songs that Sam unearthed from the original jams with mike watt that were made to be samples with which to construct half these songs (including the bonus track available on i- tunes... "the lighthouse keeper")
"The Wheel & The Ring" is the perfect way to end this album, as it brings full circle the frequent references and sounds that point to numerous ominous spinning wheels in the sky, sea, and on Earth that are bolstered further by Charlie Plymell's "Sand & Bones" statesman-like imagery... Time & space with no escape conjuring imagery of trickery ("Houdini") counter-balanced with various tales of fate/faith/ doubt/ and death somehow tie this origami record album together and offer thematic cohesion, as a stark contrast to the grab-bag approach of many songs and the bold differences in vocal styles and the disparate sounds of watt and dook's yankee & british voices... What would appear in concept and on paper as almost diametrically opposing styles of music actually dovetail together in a pleasing manner. Sam Dook makes his first record album of his own a solid collaborative success with mike watt and it makes me look forward to cuz album #2.
Methinks it would be negligent in writing about this album to not describe a fantastic track that apparently just did not fit into the vinyl format...This "bonus" song- a sonic tone/ poem, "The Lighthouse Keeper"; features mike watt lyrics that might be the best he has ever written- watt's the one who said that - a strong statement from a musician not wont to brag.
This is the original version of this song- though anyone who has heard the band iL Sogno del Marinaio's 1st album "La Busta Galla" should recognize this song from the first real band mike watt has been part of since the minutemen; one where equal contributions come from each of it's three members. The version in italian, "il guardiano del faro" was a standout track on that album released early last year. It was more difficult to comprehend if you did not have a translation of the lyrics- but the sobering & tragic tale conveyed the mood , especially via the "recitation" of the lyrics by manuel giannini and drummer andrea belfi.
bonus track: "The Lighthouse Keeper"
This original version by cuz works even better the band il sogno del marinaio version about the tragic aftermath of a shipwreck forms a story full of vivid imagery bolstered by of the stark reality of the narrator's predicament- clinging on a raft to stave off death as long as possible.
sam dook really must have spent considerable time plucking these atmospheric bass-lines /chords from the days worth of original jams recorded strictly on bass and drums in 2007 and wraps them in a package akin to a cinematic sound score and watt's elaborate narrative heightens the strength of human conflict with mother earth...
Shipwrecked nowperfectly phrased!
Kaori Tsuchida's spoken words elevate the drama thanks to her unique phrasing unlike anything i've heard before; moving to Brighton, England after growing up in Japan helped forge a more captivating listening experience via her one-of-a kind accent that lends more gravitas & reaches out to ensnare the listener deeper into the story, allowing watt's finest words to convey a more zen-like acceptance of the dilemma than the version on 'La Busta Galla'... it allows her to make this real- time tale more gripping and the notion of limited chances of survival reveal larger possibilities thanks to said accent and distinct pace that inspires the listener to conjure a cauldron of outcomes not yet absolute. We are left with yet another piece of the tangled web the record begs us to question regarding multiple life-obstacles and the beguiling lack of answers to much of what might fascinate one soul while confusing/twisting/ and spinning the listener reoccuring themes scare the hell out of them.
Who could have imagined that complete opposites in singing sound & style- watt with his old man punk/ sometimes gruff and other times soothing bottom-end sound register and sam dook with his always pleasant & mild-mannered British gentleman's soothing radio-friendlytones, replete with proper English accent (another commonality with Syd Barrett) would actually mesh together quite nicely.
If you are wanting to enjoy an album with a stunning array of variety in sound and content-meticulously crafted/arranged/ and produced that ensures your thoughts & feelings shall be pleasantly provoked, I would recommend buying a copy of cuz's debut "Tamatebako."
this page created 8 sep 2014
this page created 8 sep 2014