Blood Moon‘s Ancient Ocean is another album that caught my eye at Academy Records, where I think they had it on the shelf where the staff put what they like. It came out in June, so I’m a bit late on this…
Essentially the full-length vinyl debut of prolific Brooklyn-via-Louisville composer J. R. Bohannon, Ancient Ocean is a beautiful work consisting of four long ambient pieces. Admittedly, when I hear that something is ‘ambient’ I usually think ‘boring’ and pass on it. But nobody told me this was ambient music before I checked it out (based on the cool band and album name+cover), so just fell into it, and ended up really liking it.
Ancient Ocean sounds like the album cover looks: somber, aery, ornate. Synth and violin tones emanate, roll and collide like layers of heavy, engulfing fog. There’s a great depth to it. I like to listen to it while doing my law school reading.
I’m a big fan of zines. They’re an obsolete media form, but I cherish them in the same nostalgic, idiosyncratic, non-sensical way I cherish vinyl and cassettes. My favourite place to find them in New York is at Bluestockings book store, especially because the store often has really interesting ones about political and/or ideological stuff. I found the Nature Zine there, and since I love reading about nature and nature-y stuff, especially before I go to sleep these days (it calms me down), I’ve bought all three volumes of the Nature Zine as I’ve been able to find them on Bluestockings‘ shelves.
Each volume of the Nature Zine is a collection of short essays, photos, recipes and other miscellaneous writing relating to the natural world. The most interesting pieces are the essays (the recipes have more than three things and are therefore too daunting for me). The best are those that get philosophical about the way we, as humans living in the modern world, relate to what we’ve termed ‘nature’, examining the social and political repercussions of this. But a big part of the charm of the Nature Zine (and most zines in general) is its collage-y mix of everything into one compiled work, so I’m glad the zines are not just essays – even if the piece about how to identify venomous snakes wasn’t that interesting to me. It’s very possible somebody’s life will be saved by that, so, you know, it might be good that its there.
I’ve written plenty about my favourite record store in the world, Academy Records in Brooklyn. Going there for me is just a given drain on my wallet, because I will undoubtedly see some rare foreign album reissue with a note from the staff on it reading something like “awesome midwestern folk obscurity” or “incredible japanese psych underground classic!” Before I know it I’m out $35.
The other day I was in the neighbourhood and walked in just intending to browse casually, determined not to buy anything. I ended up looking through the Swedish section and saw this weird album cover. As I do whenever I find something that looks curious, I took a picture so I could look it up online at home.
As I soon learned, the album is a vinyl reissue of Joakim Skogsberg‘s rare, mysterious 1971 album Jola Rota. Skogsberg was part of the hippie scene in Stockholm back in the 60s, but as time went on he became increasingly interested in nature and escaping the city. Apparently, Skogsberg would go into the forest and hum into a tape recorder strange melodies inspired by a folkways recording of Japanese shamanist chanting. He later overdubbed cool droning and percussion sounds, building full songs around the forest humming tapes at recording spaces back in the city. The resulting album received a limited 1000 copy print with around 400 selling – the rest were melted down and used to make other records. Shortly after the release, Skogsberg left Stockholm to live in a small, rustic town filled mostly with elderly citizens, the youth having all moved to the cities. It would be something like 20 years before he recorded another album.
This kind of backstory alone was enough to convince me I had to own Jola Rota. It’s the kind of strange and magnificent that record geeks live and die for. Like Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence‘s OAR, it’s got a mystical, ‘heart of darkness’ honesty that’s impossible to fake. Two days later I went back to Academy and shelled out the cash…they got me again…
I’ve heard that Sono Sion‘s other films are incredible. If they’re anywhere near as interesting as Tokyo Tribe, I should probably check them out.
Tokyo Tribe is a Japanese rap musical about a bunch of warring tribes in Tokyo who, due to changed circumstances, have to gang together to take on a mafia kingpin-type when he…does something…
Point is, there’s a lot of Japanese rap, kung fu, sexy stuff and bright colours. Sure, around two-thirds of the way through the film, it starts to grow a little tiring. Sure, none of the ‘songs’ are particularly incredible. Nor are any of the fights especially mindblowing. But the combination of all of the above in one movie is too awesome to not enjoy.