“Pluto” Lives On

Pluto [aka Lost Planet] — Shoehorse Emerging (Rastascan, 1995)

Lost Planet performs Wednesday, Feb. 2, at the Ivy Room — they’re the middle act between Pink Canoes (with Aram Shelton) and Light a Fire (with Karl Evangelista).

Mark Weinstein, a drummer with later editions of MX-80, is reconvening the band Pluto. Only they’re calling themselves Lost Planet now. (Get it?)

Near as I can tell, Pluto last recorded in 1998. The band members are all longtime friends and still get together for occasional gigs, though — here’s a notice about a 2010 appearance at 21 Grand — and they’ll be at the Ivy Room on Wednesday.

I don’t know if Lost Planet sounds exactly like Pluto did, considering they’ve had more than a decade to start trying different things. But the core shape remains: outer-rim rock improvising with a base of springy, choppy guitars and drums, and some sax thrown on top, to open some jazz options. Critics liken the band to Henry Cow, but Pluto is looser than that and more laid-back than Captain Beefheart.

I’m guessing Pluto’s music has always been all-improvised. Shoehorse Emerging certainly has that sound. They lean on particular riffs and one-chord jams long enough that it’s easy to believe everything was assembled without instructions.

I like the album. Now, for an opposing view, you can click here — you’ll find the album described as “energyless” by a disappointed MX-80 fan. True, Pluto lacks the poise-and-attack sharpness of post-punk. Maybe the reviewer just got hung up on a slower track and walked away. (The first half of “Late Night Visitor,” sixth track out of 15, doesn’t do much for me either, I have to admit.)

Or, maybe he had no affinity for jam music, which would be a requirement here. This band isn’t MX-80 and isn’t trying to be. The eight-minute “Journey of the Dunce,” one of the sunnier and longer tracks, bears some resemblance to Grateful Dead or Phish jams (but with a more coherent, less stoned feel).

Lost Planet has lost one sax (Ralph Carney) but still has another in David Slusser (although he often takes bass duties), and maybe guitarist Stephen B. Clarke will be encouraged to bring his trumpet along, too. In any event, Clarke and Len Paterson (a longtime Slusser collaborator) have enough guitar ideas to pack a show.

Here’s a sax-heavy excerpt from “Killin’ Mood.”

Pink Mountain: The Return Of

source: myspaceThe rock/noise colossus of Pink Mountain is playing at Amoeba Records for free tomorrow, July 15, at 6:00 p.m. in San Francisco. Woo hoo!

They’ve also got a new album they’ll be pushing with a mini-tour: a July 16 show at the Hemlock Tavern in SF, followed by shows in Portland and Seattle.

Pink Mountain is a quintet, a supergroup of local/ex-local improv folks plus Sam Coomes of Quasi on vocals and keys. They put out one album in 2006 that was just fanatastic: Big washes of guitar spinning dark psych rock or spiky noise, with jazzy sax twiddlings and thick synthesizers. They’ve appeared live a couple of times since then, and I’d always hoped the band would get together for some more recordings. Yes!

You can hear their sound on the Myspace link above, or at The Bay Bridged, a local-music blog, where you can also see a nice big picture of the new album’s cover.

Life After X-Legged Sally

Pierre Vervloesem — Not Even Close (Off, 2008 )

Oh my god this is awesome. It’s like a moving walkway with the speed set too high — you don’t lose your balance, but you often feel like you’re almost there.

I’m only vaguely knowledgeable about X-Legged Sally, the crazy Belgian rock band Pierre Vervloesem was involved in. Mainly, I saw their name on old Knitting Factory bills (back when the Knitting Factory was a free-jazz haven), and I’ve heard a track or two during my time on-air. Still, I love the dizzying craziness on this album.

It’s catchy stuff, mostly instrumental, with lots of synthesizers. Bouncy electronica mixes with prog-sounding ideas and some goofy vocalizing from Vervloesem and his wife, Michelle, sometimes. The music is fast and cerebral, but the overall package is fun — I’m reminded of Frank Zappa’s Jazz from Hell crossed with the synth nuttiness of Thelonious Moog.

Tracks like “Luis Luis” leave you feeling bombarded — just as you settle into one musical idea, it throws something else at you. “Martino” starts out loungy and nice but ends up more tense, with “bow-bo-bow” vocal chanting. One of my favorite moments comes in the opener, “Burba Bubba,” where the vocals go into a pattern that goes, “Yip – yip – yip – yip – ” then “voila!!” like a punch line. You’ve also got some Bacharach-like choralizing on some tracks, light and harmonized.

Then there’s “400 Personnes,” which includes a French narration against a dry, indifferent film noir backdrop. It’s oh, so Euro and (I’m assuming) wry and satirical. (If you speak French, you can judge for yourself with the video here.