Filed under: Chicago Party, Universal Togetherness Band | Tags: Chopin Theatre
We are excited, pleased, and proud to announce that Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party is available on-line, off-line, digitally, physically, and visually as of today, March 3rd, 2015. Surely you’ve noticed the mighty mess of 15-second clips on our Instagram page, the flattering articles, or youtube advertorials? And I’m guessing you’ve already streamed the album, in its entirety, for free over at our Soundcloud page? If you happen to live in the Chicagoland area, it goes without saying that we’ll be seeing you tonight for the celebratory screening of Ultra-High Frequencies at the Chopin Theatre at 7:30 pm. Host, CopHerBox II owner, and Chicago Party creator Willie Woods will be on hand, as will performers Donnell Pitman, Andre Gibson (Universal Togetherness Band), and Jesus Wayne. The moral of the story is, Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party is here. Don’t touch that dial!
I spend a lot of time writing. Rare is the day when a couple thousand words don’t spill out onto the screen, filling space in many of the booklets, books, stickers, press releases, and website blurbs that Numero creates in a given month. This process has been honed over the last decade, as we’ve gone from first-person narratives to laboriously researched books covering the most minute details, earning Grammy nominations and other back pats from the world at large. In the end, I estimate that less than 10% of the people who buy our records actually read our notes. But that doesn’t mean we’ll stop writing.
I begin always by listening to my subject matter. I’ll hear a record two dozen times in the first week, memorizing the lyrics and song titles before never listening to it again. I haven’t listened to Ladies From The Canyon all the way through since 2006, and there are plenty of other titles that I might spend a decade not hearing as well. There is one record that is an absolute exception: Jordan De La Sierra’s Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose. In the half decade since it was shared with me, I have used it as a meditative device while in the pursuit of words nine out of ten times. I don’t anticipate this changing any time soon.
Five years ago, while deep in the overnight trenches with my newborn son, I began watching the HBO series In Treatment. The three season, 106-episode run was put down in a matter of weeks, but the theme, Richard Marvin’s “Sophie,” stayed with me for months. There was no soundtrack available, so I satiated my sonic curiosity with a single You Tube clip, playing it end on end for hours while crafting the liner notes for Syl Johnson’s Complete Mythology, my son in the crook of my right arm.
“Sophie” is subtly elementary—it could be played on one hand by a first year piano student. A lone synth washes in the background. But that simplicity has an extremely hypnotic effect, one that coaxed some of my best work out. After a few thousand plays, I wanted more. Lakeshore had yet to release the In Treatment soundtrack, and even still, none of Richard Marvin’s other work struck me in the same way.
There is no one in my life who I believe is better equipped to select the next record than my partner Rob Sevier. Be it a dance party or just a few people hanging out in a darkened living room, he has that innate ability to reach to the right spot on the record shelf and pull out the perfect LP. I called him into my office and asked, “What else sounds like this?” A minute later, he sent me a zip of Jordan De La Sierra’s 1977 LP Gymnosphere: Song Of The Rose. It immediately became my go-to album for writing and contemplation.
For context, I have left in the original draft of my press release:
Jordan De La Sierra came from the Terry Riley and La Monte Young’s “pure sound with shape” school of piano tuning. Notes that have not been confined by Bach’s Western, “well tempered” tuning. Instead, De La Sierra’s work incorporates the natural point of view, what Young called “well tuned,” where notes are not flattened or sharpened in order to fall into an octave of 12 equal semitones, but instead reverberate to the fullest extent of their potential at varying lengths, and simply bend within their player’s improvisations and textural sonic explorations.
Heavy stuff for 1977, and not exactly what the market was looking for—even in their native San Francisco. Still, Gymnosphere’s producer Stephen Hill convinced Unity Records—the label that has been referred to as the first New Age record company—to issue the unedited double album, clocking in at nearly 120 minutes, with an accompanying 20 page booklet crammed full of De La Sierra’s India-inspired drawings and musings on a pre-Star Wars concept he called “the force.” And of course it didn’t sell well. Gymnosphere was issued in a time before New Age had its own section at Tower. It wasn’t Classical, it wasn’t even 20th Century Classical. At the time, it was filed under World Beat.
After it’s poor showing, Unity neutered Gymnosphere, trimming it down to a single LP. No booklet. No musings. The 6’ 5” De La Sierra didn’t exactly disappear but by the time he returned in the middle of the ‘80s, an entire slew of post-Windham Hill wind-chime tinklers had come up behind him. Gymnosphere was scheduled for reissue on cassette and CD a handful of times, but was lost in various organizational shake ups. De La Sierra went into landscaping. Stephen Hill took his Hearts of Space radio program and created a worldwide “space music” phenomena. The tapes—five and half hours worth of Grace Cathedral-reverb drenched piano sonatas—sat on a shelf.
I don’t know if De La Sierra envisioned Gymnosphere as a mediative tool to inspire ideophones, but I do know that he hoped to galvanize the listener, to shape moods and emotions, and he thought it would be best if we listened at night. “May this music be a key for man in his search for himself,” he wrote in 1977. “That he may find his life in love, realizing ultimately that for him all that happens is impeccably correct, reflected in the tone of the situation at hand, through this mirror, the sound of our life.”
I often find that I’ll write something, strip out what’s useful, and then save the document for later contemplation. I’d completely forgotten about the above four paragraphs until stumbling onto “Sophie” again while working on a bio about Lester Bangs. He would have hated this shit, and howled to the moon about it being naval-gazing sonic wallpaper, but I know that in his Romilar-induced trance he found a similar kind of peace. Setting out on a journey that might take all night if he was lucky. We all have our own way.
My way involved another 40 clicks on the YouTube page for “Sophie” and then cracking the shrink on our Gymnosphere reissue. 50,000 word box set liner notes don’t write themselves, but they do require assistance.
Cities of Darkscorch urban planner Dustin Drase was invited to discuss the origin story of our “dope-huffing, hobbit-humping” box set. We still get emails, filled with intricate questions about advanced game-play scenarios, so perhaps this conversation will help shed new light (or cast new spells) on the first-ever Grammy nominated board game.
Filed under: The Notations
“I’m Still Here” by the Notations is as close to a hit (in the classic sense) as anything in the Numero catalog. In Chicago, the Notations are played on the radio—the actual radio! The jubilant chirp that punctuates “I’m Still Here” is to the Southside what Otis Redding’s dockside whistle is to Georgia. The White Sox of group souls, the Notations have performed at a majority of our Eccentric Soul Revues, and always deliver. We like this group a lot, and have wanted to compile their sweetest tunes for a long time, and so we did. The Notations Still Here 1967-1973 is available March 17th, 2015. If you want an affordable long-player—all killer/no filler—look no further than this gem.
Filed under: Medusa
While half of our staff was out in Los Angeles letting Grammys slip through our fingertips, the other half was sucking down beers and head banging to a reincarnated Medusa at Chicago’s Cobra Lounge. Led by original members and Denver transplants Gary and Donna Brown, their Chicago appearance was special for the inclusion of original frontman Peter Basaraba, who performed fan favorites from the group’s unreleased masterpiece First Step Beyond, and by all accounts, slayed it. Fancy photos are by Gabriel Guzman. First Step Beyond is temporarily unavailable on vinyl, but available on MP3 all day. Up-to-the-moment Medusa news is available at the group’s Facebook page.
When applying for an internship, writing a flattering rap about your prospective employer is guaranteed to give you an edge over the competition. So learned Paris Ross, who penned a bouncy tribute to her favorite radio station, WBMX, in the Spring of 1982. Program Director Lee Michaels was impressed; he not only brought Ross onboard for the summer, but recorded her song for play over the station’s influential airwaves. When Ross performed her WBMX rap at the station’s summer beach party, The Chicago Party was there.
Paris Ross’s untitled tribute to House music’s childhood home is just one of many Chicago memories preserved for eternity inside our forthcoming compilation Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party. We will stack history on top of history text Tuesday when we screen the DVD component of Ultra High Frequencies at Wicker Park’s historic Chopin Theatre (1543 W. Division St @ Ashland). Doors open at 6:30 and the program starts at 7:30pm. Admission is only $5, records will be available (and discounted), and refreshments will be refreshing.
Filed under: Universal Togetherness Band
When the Universal Togetherness Band finally called it quits in 1984, Andre Gibson continued to compose and record music in his home studio. Chicago’s indigenous dance music, Steppers, was taking root and Gibson got in on the ground level. Although the Universal Togetherness Band never released a sliver of vinyl over the course of their life span, Gibson has flourished in the age of CD Baby. We are not just saying this; Andre Gibson’s new music is awesome. Here are a few highlights.
To Be Continued (2011) The first drop of contemporary Andre Gibson music I heard was “Calling Steppers To The Floor,” en route to Bloomington, Indiana for a holiday party. The punch of the drums, the twinkle of the keys, and the posse of multiple personality vocals make this a gripping opener, but the album never loses momentum. If Teddy Riley was reincarnated as Dam-Funk and had Ariel Pink aid in recording a demo, it might sound like To Be Continued.
Search as I may through the Adobe Creative Suite manual, I can not figure out how the Chiat Records design team was able to to render this cover image with the cursor arrow on screen (check the hat). Moving along…
Let’s Getaway (2013) There may be no harder Andre Gibson track than “I Love It,” which has also been released as a single. Ingredients: A groove you could park an 18-wheeler in, an 8-bit tambourine (trampled and sampled), the perfect electric piano patch, a hook, natural and artificial percussion.
Nowhere is the improved fidelity of Let’s Getaway more evident than on “Una Pachanga.” The synth-bass pops out of the mix like spring-loaded snakes in a peanut brittle can, while the vocoder mocks you for trying to sing along.
The musical concepts expressed on Universal Togetherness Band is some of the most innovative material we’ve had the occasion to discover, and we would be disappointed if a musician like Andre Gibson ever truly called it quits. There’s already a new album underway for 2015, so stay tuned for more modern transmissions from UTB frontman Andre Gibson.