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Audio files: This week — special guests Dave Allen and Justin Pearson

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Welcome back to “Audio Files,” where existential orphans with spiritual aphasia power-bock toward the sexy froth of a Siberian Dawn.

Last week we debuted a new feature wherein talented folks describe five albums they’d need if stranded on a desert island. (Yes, that ol’ cliche.)

I initially called it “Meadows of Asphodel” in reference to this desolate Greek void of negative space. But “Meadows of Asphodel” sounds like a diseased candyland for Medieval sex offenders, so I’m giving it the more muscular name of “Asphalt Meadows.” And this week I’ve got some damn fine participants.

Please come along — we’ll eat the world and vomit lava!

5 ALBUMS IN ASPHALT MEADOWS

with DAVE ALLEN

Dave Allen

As bassist and founding member of Gang of Four and Shriekback, Dave Allen is a bona-fide rock ‘n’ roll legend. He’s also the director of Insights and Digital Media at NORTH, a creative agency here in Portland, Oregon. His old independent label, World Domination, turned me on to some excellent artists over the years — Scenic, Sky Cries Mary, etc.

Below are Dave’s 5 faves, and it’s not just a list — it’s a highly entertaining and informative rock ‘n’ roll syllabus. (For more of Dave’s music writing, please go here).

CanTago Mago. “As a young high school lad in Northern England, this album made me question my allegiance to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and even Jimi Hendrix (though not as much..) This record sounded like nothing I’d heard before. Weirdly funky – take a listen to the drum beat on “Mushroom” – experimental, and at times veering off into modern jazz and avant-garde, with vocalist Damo Suzuki intoning more than singing, Can, with a production helmed by Holger Czukay, created an incredibly original soundscape. It’s an album that stands the test of time.”

Captain BeefheartTrout Mask Replica. “Not long after marveling over Tago Mago, I came across Don Van Vliet, a painter and sculptor who lived high above Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert, who was known as Captain Beefheart and fronted his renowned outfit, The Magic Band. According to Wikipedia, Trout Mask Replica was ranked #58 on Rolling Stone‘s 2003 list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, if that means anything. Vliet was a hard taskmaster, challenging and pushing the musicians who worked with him. He had difficulty retaining record labels but Frank Zappa had befriended him and allowed him free reign to make any record he liked. The result was Trout Mask Replica, like Tago Mago an album that inhabits its own sonic space. Unlike Can, Beefheart was more likely to include blues motifs alongside free jazz runs, and he often added horns into the mix. He reportedly studied Ornette Coleman, Theloniuos Monk and Cecil Taylor as well as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Take a listen to “When It Blows It Stacks” on The Spotlight Kid album for an example of the influence the blues had on him.”

Lee Perry – Return Of The Super Ape. “This was the album that turned a bass player into a bass player! Growing up I spent many hours alongside my transistor radio listening to the John Peel show. (A few years later, one of the highlights of my life was to be able to perform live sessions on Peel’s show with Gang of Four). Peel introduced me to reggae and most importantly to dub, where instruments in the mix dropped in and out, leaving huge amounts of space that could be filled by an engineer such as Perry with cascading, echoed beats that swirled for what seemed hours, as the songs chugged along guided by the firm hands of master rhythm sections such as Sly & Robbie. It is not hyperbole to say that this album is Perry’s masterpiece. A close second is Perry’s amazing production of The Congos — Heart of the Congos. It was records like this one that informed the music of Gang of Four.”

FunkadelicOne Nation Under A Groove. “What can I say? If you want to know where I got the angular, funky bass style that I applied to both Gang of Four and Shriekback, look no further than the bass playing genius of Bootsy Collins. I mean, hell, he played with James Brown! Joining forces with George Clinton and Bernie Worrell, along with what seemed like a cast of thousands, Funkadelic released One Nation Under A Groove in 1978, just one year before Gang of Four released Entertainment! I still have this album on vinyl and play it often. It sounds like the ultimate party album and is as fresh today as it was back then. I remember, at a show in York in Northern England in 1979, playing the title track of the album through the P.A. system, as Gang of Four and all of our friends from Leeds including the Mekons and Delta 5, along with the scion of the Manchester punk rock scene, Tony Wilson, formed a conga line and danced across the stage before we played. Great times.”

Betty DavisBetty Davis. “This has to be the most criminally overlooked album in history. Betty Davis, a musician, a feminist before we really used that term, a woman who influenced her husband Miles Davis by introducing him to Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and others of that era, recorded this album in 1973. It is sexy yet hard as nails, it is uncompromising yet slyly seductive and Davis could have wiped the floor with any of the female pop stars of recent history. Why this album didn’t take off we’ll never know but maybe, just maybe, Davis threatened the white male-dominated recording industry, who knows? Read the sleeve notes to a recent re-release of the album here.”

-- Dave Allen

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5 ALBUMS IN ASPHALT MEADOWS

with JUSTIN PEARSON

Where to begin?!

Vocalist…bassist…Jerry Springer Show guest (!)Justin Pearson wears a coat of many colors. But his dossier is no Dolly Parton song — it begets powerviolenceJohn Waters…burritos…and a great deal more. Let the man have the mike!

“This is one of those damn questions that just don’t make sense. See, if I were on an island, why the heck would I only have five albums, or any albums for that matter. And better yet, how the hell am I gonna play them? A turntable? No electricity I’d assume. An iPod? Batteries will run out. So look, if I’m stranded, I’m screwed, and probably pissed off. Better yet, music is going to take a back seat to getting my ass of the damn island. So, i’ll do my best with this question. Here to go…

“Lets just dive right in. This is exactly how I would be feeling upon my arrival…

Crossed OutDiscography LP. OK it’s a bootleg, but it’s all of the bands material from their short but very relevant existence. It’s a staple for my human life among “civilization,” and I’d want it to be part of my meager musical collection for island life. But I think objectively, I would not be able to relate while stranded, away from all the bullshit that we people manage to protrude on life as I know it. However, to reminisce about how things were back home, this would be a perfect. Totally brutal and crude music for island life.

Arab On RadarQueen Hygiene II would be a perfect second for when my mind started to ponder my entire existence and the relevance of what the hell I’d be doing at this point in life. Not only does this album embody some of the best riffs ever, but it’s sonically annoying, confusing, and brilliant. In my opinion, this is sort of impossible for a lot of artists to pull off. Not to mention, this band has raised the bar for timbre with all average rock instrumentation.

Geronimo, – S/T LP would fall in nicely here. W.T. Nelson is a brilliant man. The Maker of Trogotronic pedals brings forth one of the most sonically out of hand ways of creating music, and with such beautiful repetition from the rest of the band. Totally underrated stuff.

The Birthday PartyThe John Peel Sessions would obviously have to be part of this tiny list, a drop in the ocean if you will. I seem to have favored this collection over most of the band’s releases for the fact that it serves as a collection of material from many albums, but that most of the tracks are slightly different. There seems to be a different energy there, something that is a bit more raw. Plus Peel Sessions were an amazing thing to have happened to music. But the Birthday Party is easily something that I’d need to have with me for the sake of everything holy and unholy.

Lastly, PILFirst Issue would be in the line up for a few reasons. One, for nostalgia. Even though I hate that stuff, I think this surpasses nostalgia by sheer originality, wrapped up with the ethics and ideas that were put into this band. Simply a life-altering album for me, and would not be left out of this absurdly short list.”

-- Justin Pearson

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Many thanks to Dave and Justin for contributing this week. They have mended my soul. Now, back to my dance cottage of unmuffled screams.

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