The Saturday Evening News

ITEM: Thanks to our good friends at Aquarius Records — well they’re not our friends but boy do we like ’em — we now know that there are two new records from our favorite Portland or anywhere record label, Mississippi Records (no website, thank fuggin’ GAWD).  Here’s the AQ folks on the newz:

NATH, PANDIT PRAN Earth Groove: The Voice Of Cosmic India (Change / Mississippi) lp 11.98
Like a Pavlovian bell, just the mere utterance of this vinyl-only Portland label gets everyone aflutter, ready to eagerly acquire, no matter what the sounds contained inside. We suppose if they put out a record solely of sounds made by cement mixers, back-hoes or traffic noises and packaged it in a sweet homemade album cover with nostalgic photos of antique construction equipment, and called it something like “My Heart Belongs To The Public Works”, we’d sell out of them just as fast as their awesome compilations of pre-war blues or their reissues of obscure post-punk groups. As cool as that actually sounds, the not one, but TWO Mississippi releases we have this week are both super stellar and we know everyone is going to want at least one if not both of them.
Earth Groove is a reissue of the debut 1968 recording by Master Hindustani classical singer Pandit Pran Nath. Considering his major influence on the giants of twentieth-century minimalist composition and drone music of all forms, as well as the amazing dearth of available recordings on cd let alone on vinyl, this is a MUST HAVE!! Featuring two fantastic side long ragas, Raaga Bhoopali designed for meditation after sunset and Raaga Asavari designed for meditation after sunrise, this is spiritual music of the highest order made for the purpose of destroying negative energy. But it is its amazing sounds of buzzing tamboura drones and tabla rhythms with Pran Nath’s perfectly intonated and slowly unfolding vocal style that should please all fans of otherworldly cosmic sounds.
Master of the Kirana Ghirana school, it is believed that Pran Nath spent five years of his life in a cave perfecting his austere intonated singing style. Heavily emphasizing the alap, the opening section of the raga that is unmetered, improvised and unaccompanied (except for the tamboura drone), that sets up a slow tempo and can often last more than an hour. Pran Nath’s unwavering adherence to the principles of his vocal style was not that popular to the ears of modern Indians, but it is this recording that reached the open minds of minimalist composer La Monte Young and visual artist Marion Zazeela who persuaded Pran Nath to move to America and start his own school of music in New York. Just rattling off the names of his top students shows what an indelible influence Pran Nath was to late twentieth century music: Terry Riley, Charlemagne Palestine, Henry Flynt, Jon Hassell, Douglas Leedy, Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, Jon Gibson, Yoshi Wada, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison, W. A. Mathieu, Sufi Pir Shabda Kahn, Catherine Christer Hennix, and Simone Forti. Enough said.
After being completely enraptured with the extensive and expensive double disc Midnight we reviewed a while back, some folks may not have had the time or means to see what we were raving about, so it’s really nice to have this perfect and affordable introduction to Pran Nath’s intense and penetratingly beautiful sound world, while they last! 


Oh Graveyard, You Can’t Hold Me Always is Mississippi Record’s third (and arguably best) compilation of obscure gospel recordings. But instead of focusing on church revival songs featured on Life is a Problem, or the personal redemptive blues of Fight On, Your Time Ain’t Long, here we have a compilation of joyous private pressing recordings from the sixties and seventies featuring mostly small family vocal groups and band ensembles, like the Mosby Family singers, Straight Street Holiness Group, Laura Rivers, Rev. Lonnie Farris, Radio Four, Joe Townsend, White Family, Silver Quintette, James Carter & The Mighty Stars, Farris and Williams, Traveling Echoes, Brother Willie Eason, Happy Travelers and an anonymous final track that sounds like either small children or munchkins singing “We Shall Overcome”. Often sounding like they were recorded on street corners or in small community halls or city shelters, we can imagine that like the picture on the cover, these songs were recorded with the whole group surrounding one microphone. Although there are a few old school blues moments, there is a greater emphasis here on R&B and soul motifs than on previous gospel comps. Many of the songs feature mostly just guitar and bass, with the guitars playing out chiming circular riffs in an almost Afro-Caribbean vein, suggesting that many of the tracks were recorded far outside American urban centers (there’s no liner notes, so we’re guessing). One sweet instrumental track features some very nice Hawaiian-style slide guitar. This is a stunning collection of gospel tunes, amazing for its atypicality, showcasing an innocent simplicity and a transcendent independent spirit. 


Yes, we want these records, and will own them soon.

ITEM:  Looks like they found a shoe-filler for our recently-passed favorite Harper’s cat John Leonard (who filled the shoes of our previously favorite Harper’s cat, Guy Davenport.  Well.  Here’s info on the new cat.  Us?  We never heard of the cat.  Time will tell.

Which reminds us, we should renew our subscriptions.  Hard to get motivated after eight years of bummer cover stories like WHAT DEMOCRACY? or DEATH, TAXES, AND THE REPUBLICAN DEMONS WHO CONTROL YOU AND OWN YOUR SOUL, or DICK CHENEY: BABY EATER or whatever else Bad News we Already Knew, dig?  And now with the Economy (def. a capital E on that one) it’s like they still got room to bitch.  Nothin’ wrong with none of it, but how much of a Bummer can one Miltonian take?  A lot, man, hey you’d be surprised.  But still.  Like we said, depends on who replaces Leonard, and how.

All we know is what we did know, which is we was already fine and plan on stayin’ fine.  And why not?  If it’s worth doing, we’ve already done it, and if we haven’t finished then we’ll continue to do so till we do until we got it done, and done right.  Got that, comrade?  Like old Wild Al says, You Be Cool.


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