It Was Half of 20 Years Ago Today

Recently I found this: a promo bookmark from the Hotel Utah, a cool little bar and music venue in San Francisco’s SoMa district:


I believe it’s from 2007. Click here for a full view. Then take a closer look at this entry:


Search my blog, and you’ll find references to three of those four bands. This would have been one amazing show: punk energy (Mute Socialite, led by Moe Staiano and featuring Ava Mendoza), tangly free jazz (Go-Go Fightmaster, who are the same people as Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch), fast-and-fluid prog (miRthkon). I’ll give Mezzkill the benefit of the doubt and assume they were awesome, too.

Don’t take my word for it. Check them out on Bandcamp! Mute Socialite, Go-Go Fightmaster, miRthkon.

Hell of a show. Wish I’d gone.

mutesocialite2007 predates this blog, so this seems like a good time to mention I had an older, primitive site — basic HTML text — where I used to recap my KZSU radio playlists. You’ll find, for example, a short writeup about Mute Socialite, complete with a ghastly formatting error.

In fact you can look up these bands on my old KZSU playlists by using the Find It! utility on Zookeeper, our music database. Type a word or phrase, and it will call up lists of artists, albums, and songs from the KZSU library, as well as relevant playlists. Give it a whirl.

Lastly — Special shoutout to Aaron Novik’s Kipple, who can be seen at the top of the bookmark. They’re on Bandcamp, too.

Prog Out on Sunday, Dec. 14

Interesting progressive-rock-related bill coming up Sunday night, Dec. 14, at a venue I’m not familiar with: Leo’s Music Club (5447 Telegraph Ave, Oakland):

MiRthkon is a prog band mixing heavy guitars with saxophones and bass clarinets, a mix of rock intensity and cerebral whimsy. My last mention of them was a show with Kayo Dot. Here they are live in a more recent show: Rock in Opposition 2013.

Surplus 1980 is Moe! Staiano’s post-punk band, a spastic loudness that’s gleaming with intelligence. They’ve been on hiatus; the band’s most recent output was a 10″ vinyl record that’s available at Squidco, among other places.

Jack o’ the Clock — which mixes the bucolic and the highbrow in a stew of prog, folk, classical, and jazz, is the band I’ve seen the most often out of these three. They’ve been taking a break as well, woodshedding new material, according to the emailer they sent out. Here’s some audience video of a performance from September a year ago.

Switchboard Festival, Aaron Novik

Gubbish and Kipple are two sides of the Aaron Novik coin.  (A coin that has about six sides, if you want to take the analogy literally.)

On the grand org chart of jazz, Gubbish draws a dotted line to Patrick Cress’ Telepathy (see here and here), mixing energetic small-group jazz with dashes of Klezmer, a love of odd time signatures, and a touch of snarkiness at the bottom of it all.

Kipple was an improvisational project of Novik’s, leaning towards grooves with funky bass and electric piano.  A comparison to Electric Miles would be too easy and too far off the mark;  I like the description of “retro future,” drawing a futuristic sound out of the space jams of the psychedelic past. Kipple doesn’t go too heavily for the synthesizers or the loops, but it does have repeated riffs that make for some good beats.

Why bring this up, considering both albums are so old? Partly because I played them on the air today (so, consider this a preview offshoot of the March 26 playlist posting).

And I did that because Novik’s Thorny Brocky — another band with a sound I’d guess is apart from these two — is the opener at Sunday’s Switchboard Music Festival in San Francisco.

Switchboard sounds like an eclectic good time: eight hours’ worth of bands from multiple stripes of the spectrum.

Of the other bands I know: The Real Vocal String Quartet brings a classical air to new-folky instrumental music; their new album isn’t at all “avant-jazz” but once I give it a listen, I might still write it up here, so there.  And the festival ends sometime after 10:00 p.m. with miRthkon, a local prog band that I geeked out about here and here.

A New Prog Vehicle

miRthkon — Vehicle (AltRock, 2009)

mirthkon-vehicleIt’s prog rock. But there’s so much more here that you won’t find in typical prog circles: a rollicking sense of humor, a heavy dose of real jazz (garbled, knotted free jazz, NOT the occasional major-7th chord that rock reviewers call “jazz”), and amusing spoken-word segments like futuristic (yet old-world) radio announcements. The album opens with one of the latter, congratulating you for the ownership of “a miRthkon vehicle.”

Even in the slower songs, changes come at a fast, fluid rate; you glimpse musical moments just in time to realize the band’s moved on, like a subway car streaming past. The fast songs are impossibly packed with ideas, from hard-edged guitars in complex lead parts to jazzy squiggles from the sax and bass clarinet, as on “Flashbulb of Orgasm.”

The guitar work is exquisite, but the horns really flesh out the band for me, either by adding unison lines to color the sound, or in the solos and extra flutter/fill-ins they provide. The easygoing but quick-footed “Bappsciliophuaega” presents a little of both, while a stretch near the end of “Johnny Yen” uses the horns for a cool end-of-song babble.

I love the way they’ve recorded the album (it’s mixed by Dan Rathbun of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum). Interludes like the strange insect buzzing at the end of “Trishna” or the alley-cat mewling after “Zhagunk” make for nice palate cleansers as well as interesting headphone trips. It’s like the whole album is telling you a story — something I miss in this shuffle-play MP3 world.

The two songs with lyrics are particularly fun. “Banana” is goofy, but “Honey Key Jamboree” takes the cake: It’s jumping, jazzy, and full of silly backing vocals.

“Camelopardalis” is the longest track, at nine minutes, full of free-jazz babble and impossibly thick, rapid-fire bass lines. Wait — a prog album without any songs longer than 10 minutes? Sure, and it’s no concession to pop. Vehicle is so densely packed, even three minutes feels like a novel’s worth of material.

I’d mentioned miRthkon briefly back in May, and the band briefly included Aram Shelton, who’s gone on to work his own projects.  The band will be playing the Starry Plough again on Oct. 30.


source:mirthkon.comI just got done playing miRthkon on the air — which, combined with this writing, makes me a liveblogger, I suppose. Taste the excitement.

They’re a local band that augments two-guitar prog rock with a saxophone and bass clarinet, and they make good use of all the pieces available to them. The horns bring in some credible free-jazz jamming and soloing, while the guitars shred forth with odd time signature melodies.

I played “Zhagunk” from an EP, The Illusion of Joy, that came out in 2006; they’re finally releasing a full-length CD and doing a show at the Starry Plough tomorrow night, May 30, to celebrate. I can’t make it to that show, but considering how I’ve been blown away by them two times previous, I’m thinking it’s going to be great.