When Treehouse Records store owner Mark Trehus started his own label a few years ago, he said he intended it to be "just a little hobby thing" -- the sort of operation that puts out limited-edition vinyl LPs by out-there sonic wizards Paul Metzger and Milo Fine (issued this past spring).
But then Trehus fell all the more in love with Charlie Parr's music. And then he wound up with the rights to late bluesman and producer Dave Ray's old record company, Sweet Jane Ltd. And then he made what he considers "a major discovery" in the Sweet Jane archives of a 1963 solo radio session by Ray's bandmate Spider John Koerner.
"I got so excited by all this stuff, I had to see what I could do with it," Trehus said.
He's hosting a triple-release party Friday at the Cedar Cultural Center for the first CDs ever issued on his label, Nero's Neptune. Two of the discs are Koerner collections: the unearthed radio recording, now titled "March 1963," and a reissue of 1972's "Music Is Just a Bunch of Notes," newly packaged with the a first-ever DVD of the Koerner-co-directed movie "The Secret of Sleep." The third CD is the brand-new Bo Ramsey-produced album by Parr, "When the Devil Goes Blind."
Friday's gig will feature sets by both Koerner and Parr, and it will kick off with the first screening in 40 years of "The Secret of Sleep." Filmed on the California coast in 1969 and starring Koerner, Willie Murphy and their communal cohorts, the movie is one madcap hippie-dippie affair.
The dusted-off Koerner music, however, is absolutely timeless and deserves the polished new packaging, including liner notes by Tony Glover.
"March 1963" was recorded in Milwaukee just a few hours after the nine-hour recording session that became Koerner, Ray & Glover's landmark debut for Elektra, "Blues, Rags & Hollers." Songs include "Creepy John" and "Ramblin' Blues" from "Blues, Rags," plus other originals that would pop up on later albums. They're played with a howling intensity and a stomping foot that, on headphones, sounds like it's kicking the inside of your head.
"Music Is Just a Bunch of Notes" was made for Sweet Jane after Ray assembled his own studio. Willie & the Bees (then the "Bumblebees") backed him on six of the 12 tracks, including lively reinventions of such KR&G tunes as "Ramble, Tumble" and the Koerner/Murphy staple "Thief River Falls." Among the solo cuts is one of Koerner's best standards, "Everybody's Going for the Money," added so last-minute that its title was left off original pressings of the LP.
As for Parr's disc, it's a clear step up for the Duluth-based acoustic bluesman and storyteller, whose previous albums were (charmingly) made in garages and other lo-fi locales. This one was recorded at the hi-fi Wild Sound Studio and mixed by Tom Tucker. It's still just Parr and his resophonic guitars or banjo on the recordings, though. When you hear songs such as "South of Austin, North of Lyle" and "Last Day," you'll know why other instrumentation wasn't needed.Menacing Phantom
With their fractured electronic beats and dissonant guitar drone, Phantom Tails couldn't have been much more out of place than they were last week at sunset in Stevens Square Park near downtown Minneapolis, surrounded by pickup basketball games and a crowd waiting for the "Dr. Strangelove" screening. The year-old quartet still mustered up a cool set but should be more at home in the Hexagon Bar on Friday, the release party for its debut album (10 p.m., free, with Fort Wilson Riot).
Talking after the park gig, frontman Orion Treon, 27, sorted through the band's tangled family tree: He and drummer/programmer Logan Kerkhof grew up together in Corpus Christi, Texas ("home of Selena!"). They and the other Phantom Tails members previously played together in the Plastic Chord. They also are all in other bands, including Me & My Arrow and the Nightengales. They started Phantom Tails after another Plastic Chord member moved to New York.
"The rest of us decided to try something new and came up with the ideas for this band really, really fast," he said.
Those ideas indeed have an instantaneous quality on PT's album, "Sounds of the Hunchback Whale," an explosive dance-punk collection with traces of '60s garage-rock. Synth-tinged rockers such as "Real Savage" have a snarling Faint-meets-Gang-of-Four tone, while the rhythmically madcap "Light of the World" could be a Yeasayer outtake.Random mix
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TBT fiddler Ryan Young guests on the debut album by Kilometers Davis, hosting its CD party Friday at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis and Saturday at Beaner's in Duluth. The young, piano-laced quintet's multiple singers/songwriters are not the only resemblance to the Band on its album, "Reading Books About How It's Done," which also boasts a little Avett Brothers flavor. ...
Maybe rock's best band since the Dirty Three to substitute violin for guitar, Mother of Fire just released an eponymous album on De Stijl Records. Frontwoman Naomi Joy sings like a cross between Nico and Kim Gordon in hazy, pulsating but powerful songs such as "Ten Drilled Mass," and you'd swear she's playing an amped-up guitar, not a dangerously distorted violin, throughout the record. ...
Cloud Cult, Brother Ali, Tapes 'N Tapes, Doomtree and P.O.S. all gained stars on the newly repainted walls outside First Avenue last week, but the Hold Steady (which had one before) made the biggest deal out of the commemorative makeover. The band printed up T-shirts for its two shows last weekend with the First Ave star on the front. ... The good news came with the bad for Brother Ali last week, who canceled his U.K. tour dates when his father died in a car crash Sunday. I know for a fact that Dad was proud of his son.
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