Des Demonas (In the Red)
I’m not a subscriber to the “worst times spawn the best punk” school of thought—after all, times are always bad on some level—and perhaps because the underlying rot has always smelled the worst in the nation’s capital, great punk has always come out of D.C., no matter who’s president. But these incredibly dark times have definitely provided some rich fodder: See “The South Will Never Rise Again,” the rousing leadoff track on Des Demonas’ terrific debut. The band—something of a D.C. dream team including members of The Make-Up, Medications and CityGoats—doesn’t let up, dishing Farfisa-soaked scuzzy noise for a solid half hour, and Jacky Cougar Abok seals the deal with a bracing bark halfway between Mark E. Smith and Damo Suzuki, a perfect vehicle for righteous indignation. Invigorating stuff.
Flowering Jungle (Gold Robot)
Cleveland-bred, L.A.-residing Ted Feighan began releasing music as Monster Rally in 2010, following in the footsteps of magpie collage artists like Mr. Scruff and Avalanches. In time, Feighan carved out a distinct aesthetic of hazy, harmless grooves forged from tropical/exotica records and rudimentary funk drum tracks. Though the production values are cleaner on Flowering Jungle, he hasn’t wavered from his formula—and it is a formula; there aren’t any standouts or variations of mood. Fortunately, it’s a congenial, likable mood, languorous and chilled out but askew enough to avoid elevator/lifestyle boutique territory. There’s even an occasional light touch of menace—Cleveland in the rear view mirror—but nothing that would make anyone take Flowering Jungle off the stereo on a sunny, untroubled weekend afternoon.
Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia—The Sound of the Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 (Tiger’s Milk/Strut)
Since 2013, the Tiger’s Milk crate diggers have been uncovering fantastic Peruvian music past and present, and Andina is a sinewy, stellar addition to its catalog, an instant cure for winter blahs. The compilation covers a rocky period in Peru’s political history, but the groups on Andina eschew the topic of national administration for the politics of dancing. It’s a varied collection devoid of flimsy Andean clichés—the conjuntos feature a variety of lead instruments (electric guitar, piano, accordion) and stylistic leanings (folk, jazz, psychedelia), and the whole thing is soaked in layers of baião rhythms and a contagious elation. For those inclined, there is also a corresponding cookbook, and I am not kidding.
At the House of Cash (Drag City)
Outlaw country, insurgent country—why not acid country? And what else could you call an album recorded at Johnny Cash’s studio—at the behest of the man himself—which features fiddle and dobro masters Buddy Spicher and Bashful Brother Oswald, but kicks off with the line “Flyin’ saucers outside my window / Come on boy, away, away…” and follows with Soft Machine organ solos? On Nashville underground legend Chris Gantry’s never-released 1973 album, strings and mellotrons flutter about; oboes, harps and tablas swing by—and when Gantry isn’t crooning like a countrified Nilsson on “Different” and “Clair Oh Clair,” he’s narrating a shaggy-dog Bible story or the tale of a single human tear. It’s small wonder that Music Row shut its doors to such shenanigans. But these are inspired shenanigans for anyone whose tastes run to the freaky.