Friday Five: The Solution, Telesonic 9000, Saturday's Cab Ride Home, Cat Lung, Dagoretti Records compilation
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features soul-rock by The Solution, synth-pop by Telesonic 9000, indie rock by Saturday's Cab Ride Home, prog by Cat Lung, and a Dagoretti Records compilation of vintage Kenyan nyatiti music.
The Solution, Will Not Be Televised
Ann Arbor's Scott Morgan has had so many near-misses in his music career, which has spanned The Rationals in 1960s, Sonic's Rendezvous Band in the 1970s, the Scott Morgan Band/Scots Pirates/Dodge Main in the 1980s, and Powertrane, The Hydromatics, and The Solution in the late 1990s and early 2000s. (And lots of other projects in between all those groups.)
I don't mean misses with quality: Morgan has an amazing voice that evokes Van Morrison at his most soulful, he's a great songwriter, and has made so many wonderful records. It's just that, for whatever reasons, Morgan's music is still mostly revered by hardcore aficionados when he should be at least as well known as his Detroit soul-rock contemporary Mitch Ryder, had as many hits as fellow Ann Arbor native Bob Seger, and be celebrated as much as his softball buddies in MC5.
One of those hardcore aficionados is Sweden's Nicke Andersson, founding drummer of early death-metal legends Entombed and singer-guitarist for garage-rock revivalists The Hellacopters. In 1998, Andersson and Morgan formed The Hydromatics after meeting when The Hellacopters toured the U.S., and the band recorded several R&B-steeped albums and singles. The twosome and their friends came together once again as The Solution to record 2004's Communicate! and 2007's Will Not Be Televised. The latter album was just reissued on vinyl by Spain's Bang! Records, and it features 11 soul-rock rippers, including several originals and numerous covers including Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson's 1968 smash "Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries" and "Can't Stop Looking for My Baby," a 1966 tune by Detroit's The Fantastic 4.
Bonus content: The 2004 video for "My Mojo Ain't Workin' No More," the single off Communicate, which was reissued on vinyl last year by the same label.
Telesonic 9000, E.C.H.O.
Dominick Gray is Telesonic 9000, a one-man project led by the Ann Arbor- and Toledo-based drummer who has worked out a retro-futuristic multimedia presentation for his live performances. Gray plays his acoustic drum kit to prerecorded tracks, backed by a screen displaying old film clips, most appearing to be from the 1950s and 1960s archival films and documentaries. He teased following up his excellent 2019 album, Progress, with a couple of 2022 singles, "Modern World" and "Information," both of which appear on the four-track E.C.H.O. EP.
The music Gray creates exists somewhere between mid-period Kraftwerk (post-prog, all electronic) and the modern retrowave movement, which plays with 1980s synth sounds, with the biggest difference being Telesonic 9000's beats are played on a drum kit rather than programmed, so the songs breathe a bit more. Gray also evokes Komputer—a Kraftwerk-devoted project whose 1998 debut album was called The World of Tomorrow, which also looked back at the past's optimistic view of technology with a wink and a nod.
Saturday's Cab Ride Home, It's a Nice Dream
While listening to the first Saturday's Cab Ride Home album since 2014's We Were All There, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out singer-songwriter Brandon Beaupre's influences. I imagine there are more Angels & Airwaves albums in his collection than Blink-182, but sometimes his enunciation reminded me of Tom DeLonge's. I also thought about Codeine, the 1990s slow-rock band whose vocalist, Stephen Immerwahr, would sing-speak his lyrics. And while it may seem a bit on the nose considering Beaupre's band name, I also hear Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard in his voice.
Beaupre takes all those influences—or those I perceive anyway—and mashes them into the highly appealing It's a Nice Dream. The Bandcamp page mentions the 10 songs were "recorded in basements and bedrooms without a computer," and the producing duties were helmed by multi-instrumentalist Austin Stawowczyk of Seaholm. Drummer Jay Jordan is the third fare in Saturday's Cab Ride Home, but this band is Beaupre's baby.
Cat Lung, Fragments
This might be the first prog-rock album I've had a chance to feature in the Friday Five. Yes, there have been jam bands with progressive tendencies, and some metal-tinged art rock here and there, but Cat Lung is pure prog. The Ann Arbor band could have easily fit in with the late '60s, early '70s Canterbury scene that produced Soft Machine, Gong, Caravan, and Robert Wyatt among many other legends who mixed jazz, rock, folk, classical, psychedelia, and anything else within arms reach. Fragments is the band's second record and first since its 2017 self-titled debut.
Various artists, Thum Nyatiti: Recordings From Western Kenya, 1930-1970
Dr. Pete Larson might be Friday Five's unofficial mascot because he appears in this column so often. Not only because of the Ann Arbor artist's own prolific musical output but also because his Dagoretti Records keeps cranking out great music that spans the gamut from improvised synth jams, free jazz, and historic recordings from in Kenya.
Dagoretti's latest Kenyan collection features 18 tracks recorded over a 40-year period featuring the nyatiti, an eight-stringed lyre of the Luo people of Western Kenya. I assume these songs were gathered from vinyl records, but the one track that's streaming so far doesn't sound ripped from a dusty 78-rpm record. Curator Michael Robertson's digitizing as well as Jim Roll's mastering at Willis Sound makes Tito Omondi's "J Nayau" free of crackles without muffling the vibrant performance. The full album comes out June 1.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.