Jun 032012

This is my inaugural essay post under this auspice, and an extension of what I was trying to do with a blog I was running for 2 years. (R.I.P. “What Do We Have For Entertainment?”)

My wish, is to come crashing into RTH’s bedroom, shouting “You have to listen to this!”

I’d like to introduce drummer Jonathan Kane by way of 3 interwoven genres that appear in his music. I’ve laid out some notes on paper, in which drone, the blues, and New York No Wave funnel into each other, kinda like an upside down delta, in fact.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-I-Looked-At-The-Sun.mp3|titles=Jonathan Kane: I Looked At The Sun]

Which is appropriate, since Kane’s music (and I prefer to think of him as a bandleader, rather than the mere and often derogatory the drummer. Same way I think of Charles Mingus) draws so much from the delta blues perpetual motion boogie of John Lee Hooker, and the minimal chord structures and hypnotic vamp of Mississippi Fred McDowell. The latter’s blues, from the north hill country of his name-state, is marked particularly for sticking to the I chord rather than making the change to the IV or the V. Sometimes this blues will stick to dwelling on the IV chord. The harmonic shift gives a suspended sound, a minimalist drone.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/1-09-Wandering-Blues.mp3|titles=John Lee Hooker: Wandering Blues] [audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/15-I-Looked-At-the-Sun.mp3|titles=Mississippi Fred McDowell: I Looked At the Sun]

Perhaps the blues could be considered a minimalist form. Regional, rustic, but with close ties to the minimalist compositions of the downtown New York scene of the ’60s: La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich (see also: John Cale). The constant harmonies, steady drone, lock-groove, and gradual transformation are not a million miles away from the boogie of ZZ Top’s La Grange.

Fitting then, that Jonathan Kane provided chops for La Monte Young, playing 3-hour long pieces. Likewise, he has been the rhythm for experimentalist Rhys Chatham’s legions of guitarists.

Kane was also a founding member of the post-punk noise leviathan Swans, with Michael Gira. Kindred spirits to the fledgling Sonic Youth, Swans hit you with an abrasive wallop, a percussive assault. Theirs is not music for the faint of heart, conjuring some kind of unholy alliance of Joy Division and the hammer-strike drumming of Ginger Baker.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/1-01-New-Mind.mp3|titles=Swans: New Mind]

Kane played in Gary Lucas’ Gods & Monsters for a bit, and these days he heads up his own solo excursions, often with an ensemble he calls February. The band, also composed of guitarist Peg Simone and members of Clara Venus aid in coalescing Kane’s history to convey a sort of unstoppable machine, making music for the ultimate muscle car road trip down Fred McDowell’s 61 Highway. It’s the same groove we find in krautrock and motorik music like Neu!, but laden with Spanish moss, cold beer, and the occasional alligator.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/06-Thank-You-Fallettinme-Be-Mice-Elf-Agin.mp3|titles=Jonathan Kane: Thank You Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin]

Personally, I love to get lost in the whole propulsive behemoth of this music, let it enter my bloodstream, and enjoy the ride.


  6 Responses to “You Knocks Me Out”

  1. First of all, welcome to The Main Stage! I look forward to this series. I was a fan of your blog and the foreign stuff you offered my ears.

    I’m sucker for this pounding, repetitive type of music. I’d never heard of Kane until last night, but I knew and like Swans a bit when they came out. (The Vampire Rock vocals sometimes put me off.) The first song definitely reminded me of a Fred McDowell song I like a lot. I can’t remember the title, but the blues examples you provided make a lot of sense.

    I’ve got some of those Gary Lucas albums, so I guess I’ve known Kane’s work on those records a bit. This is the problem with buying stuff digitally and not having the sleeve notes to study. I can recall bit players on a Kew. Rhone. album I bought in 1983, but I don’t have a clue who plays on records I downloaded last week.

    Thanks for making this step. I look forward to more from your vaults!

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Forget Farfegnugen! This is music I want to drive to!

  3. trigmogigmo

    I liked the last one there pretty well. I suppose this is a bit analogous to jam band music, except that this is a lot more interesting with its more rock slant. What I mean is they find a groove and let it play out for a while, turning it over and around, building it up and backing it down, perhaps improvising (until the improvisation sticks and becomes a “part”). But like anything that is not instantaneously catchy, it probably takes quite a few listenings to really come to know. And there’s plenty of opportunity to end up with something that goes nowhere.

    Last weekend I had to take two long drives on the mind-numbing Interstate 5, and this would have been good to have on for a while. Unless it induced a trance-like lack of concentration.

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    Dude, you have to pull out the punches when you drive I5! And plug your nose at Coalinga.

  5. trigmogigmo

    So true! I’m cruising along, thinking “Isn’t that In-n-Out burger right after this hill?” when the sign saying Coalinga appears and I frantically stab the air recirculate button on the dash and hope the wind is blowing to the east….

  6. jeangray

    And here I thought this post was about the Journey dude.

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