Tonight the Explorers Room returns, after a two-week absence, to bring you three hours of psychedelic chants and dances and lush music full of life. Tune in and experience a sprawling, teeming, wild world of sound.
Tune in to the Room tonight and together we will try to deal with this horrible new paradigm through music. Also, to a lesser extent but not at all for nothing, Jean-Jacques Perrey's passing. What a bad week in a bad year.
My heart goes out to all my brothers and sisters and comrades who are the Other of any stripe in this society. The American "unity of negative forces" may be proud to display their hate for you, but the Explorers Room loves you, for whatever that's worth. Solidarity now as the struggle continues.
Tonight in the room I'm going to play it sort of loose and put on a lot of records that I have, because listening to records is a blast. Most of the stuff tonight will be from my collection of LPs, and some of those will be very new to me. Some, I will be playing for the first or second time, some will be stuff I've had for ages and been wanting to play.
In recognition of Singles Going Steady, when WFMU DJs often play whole shows of 45s and other singels, Explorers Room will be playing a
full program of exotic 78s, mostly music, some stories, many from the
excellent blog, 78 Toeren: Curiosa Wereld Jazz. Everyone involved in
these recordings is very likely long-gone and infrequently remembered,
so come dance a crackly foxtrot with me and a bunch of happy-to-be-heard
music ghosts as we revel in the dusty clouds of time.
Explorers Room will spend an evening chasing down the various
historical obsessions of the Bee Gees – it will be a program of
unapologetic melodrama, heroic sentimentality, hastily remembered
historical vignettes, bizarre period details, and a kind of boyish
fixation with costume drama. Perhaps because they wrote as such a
tight-knit brother-trio, the Bee Gees are some of pop music's most
idiosyncratic and particular artists; they almost seem to live in a
completely different reality from our own, where supporting monarchy is a
rock n roll concept and anguished references to Horatio Nelson never go
out of style. Will feature dynamite harmonies, an overworked
mellotron, and absolutely no selections from after 1973.
And once again I humbly, but also sort of proudly, beg you to make dollar-style support gestures to this great and glorious enterprise that is WFMU and Give the Drummer Radio. It is a tragic thing that doing something so good and right brings with it the reality of being constantly out of money and under threat of extinction, but it's also completely amazing that every year real human beings support its existence through personal generosity great and small. Almost gives you some kind of hope for the species. After all, if civilization can't keep WFMU around, then what's the point of having civilization at all? Pledge to WFMU today, so we don't have to wake up tomorrow and realize the terrifying pointlessness of a human civilization without freeform radio to act as counterpoint to our myopic, wanton destructiveness.
Tonight in the Explorers Room we try to find the exotic and sublime in the changing of the season without being super lame and pumpkin patchy about it. I love autumn but it always freaks me out what it portends in terms of winter – seasonal depression, constant cold toes, not very exotic – so I'm trying to go into this season looking at it as more than just winter's waiting room, like it's something strange and spectacular (which it is). Sort of a pedestrian show concept, I know, but I promise it won't be pedestrian in execution.
And if you want to keep hearing unusual executions of bizarre/oddly specific concepts and otherwise weird, ambitious, gloriously freeform radio programs, please consider making a donation to this utterly valiant enterprise, the good ship WFMU. It's week two of the quiet fundraiser and we still need a lot of help to keep the lights on and the needles droppin'. There's nothing like this station anywhere else on earth, largely because things like this don't benefit the gods of big-big money, so it falls to you the mighty listener to protect the existence of WFMU. No one else will take care of that for you, or for us: it requires a collective effort, which is sort of righteous. Think of it like a perpetual revolution, because it is one. Donate, and give your dollar a hero's journey.
A while back, I made a cover for a single, to be called Virgin Lava, by the contemporary electronic-exotica outfit, Kava Kon (in collaboration with the Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Ensemble). It didn't come out right away, obviously, and in the time since, Kava Kon finished and released a pretty great full-length, their third, the exotic-but-not-exactly-exotica Maritime Mysteries.
But just the other day, Virgin Lava actually dropped, and I'm very, very excited to finally hear it and spread some word about it. Because it's even better than I'd hoped it would be (and I had high hopes based on the demos I'd heard). Three tracks of totally psychedelic swamp exotica from another dimension, dripping with jungle rain, teeming with birds and insects, haunted by wordless voices. All three are exquisite, classically "exotica" compositions (in a way), but rich and exploratory within its formal structures, densely populated with small details and thick atmospheres, and synthy in a way that pushes the sound to an unworldly place not exclusively tied to midcentury exotica. "Dagobah Landing" even seems to be invoking Can, at times (specifically, but not exclusively, Landed, "Unfinished"). Also, a certain planet of primordial swamps.
At their best, Kava Kon gives us a vision of exotica as a living form, progressively-evolving and capable of inspiring new reveries on an old kind of wonder. This release is one of the finer examples of this notion that I've heard – it reminds me of Jungle Obsession, and I mean that – and I highly recommend you check it out. It's on bandcamp, I'll link to it now. Also, check out the art! That's me, I did that.
Tonight we'll be hearing drum-driven dialogue between artists and cultures, from the Akiwowo train man of Nigeria to the edifice of the Waldorf Astoria, with genuine African percussions, ethnoforgeries, knowing appropriations, and earnest collaborations, as well as a wealth of percussion orchestras, big bands, and rumba outfits. It's a rhythmic hodge-podge of exotic and exoticist sounds, in other words: we're gonna give the drummer some.
On that note, it's time for WFMU's October hush-hush fundraiser. You're not going to hear too much about it on air, unlike the big one that comes later, but it's still a crucial time to help, if you can, keep this station lubricated and roaring down the tracks. As my esteemed colleague Gary, of Bodega Pop, said:
"If the shared cultural experience of mind-warping music radio curated by
people with awe-inspiring collections and zero obligation to advertisers,
corporations, or government agencies is something you care about, then show your love by pledging here, and ensure its continued existence on this planet –
which, I hardly need to remind you, is your planet, too."
Tonight's Explorers Room will explore themes, as they appear in funk and jazz, of eschaton, apocalypse, and final judgment
in terms of both Revelations and revolution; as well as the world being
"disordered," gone wrong, an inferior or incomplete creation of a
lesser god, or a manifestation of hell. These themes, particularly
common to eschatological and Gnostic art and theology, are perhaps best
exemplified in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel, who
employed vernacular visual language and grotesque, esoteric imagery to
pursue polemics of discontent against the hypocrisies of the social
order and the corruption of the material world itself.
themes and methods also appear in abundance in revolutionary and
counter-culture music of the 1960's and 70's, nowhere more saliently
than in Black Power and black empowerment musical circles, where visions
of Earth/America as a hallucinatory madhouse – cruel, depraved, and
spiritually unstable – transform into incendiary poetic allegory for the
experience of the oppressed, living in a world designed to exploit and
alienate them. The dead will rise and be judged according to what
they've done. Will be funky.
Tonight in the Room we'll be immersing ourselves in jazz selections with Egyptian themes, with all the exoticism, Orientalism, Afrocentrism, and Afrofuturism that implies. And with no small amount of selections from Sun Ra (and his cohort), for whom Egyptological themes were an absolutely essential aspect of the cosmology. Prepare for an extremely spiritual night of jazzy magic as we travel both forward and backward in time (simultaneously) to an Egypt unconquerable by Napoleons, where the mummies were never unwrapped. Tonight, 7-10.