David Axelrod, “Songs of Innocence,” “Songs of Experience” and “Earth Rot” (Now-Again/Universal).
Starting in 1969, the late producer, arranger and heavily sampled musician Axelrod issued a trio of instrumental psychedelic soul albums for Capitol that, while failing to hit at the time, have become underground touchstones.
Recorded at Capitol Studios on Vine Street, the albums featured a hand-picked roster of session players including bassist Carol Kaye, drummer Earl Palmer and other members of the so-called Wrecking Crew.
Beat-heads will recognize some of these melodies: the influential San Francisco producer DJ Shadow sampled a piano line from “The Human Abstract” for a track on his landmark record “Endtroducing.”
The late producer J Dilla was an avowed fan who, like Axelrod, preferred patient rhythms that accented beats one and three instead of the usual two and four.
The three records came out between 1969-1970 and are available through the major streaming services. The Highland Park-based label Now-Again, whose proprietor had a long-time friendship with Axelrod and now represents his estate, just issued sublime vinyl pressings from the original master tapes. Heard with proper volume, they continue to astound nearly 50 years later.
Sasami, “Not the Time”/ “Callous” (Domino).
With a sound that mixes ‘90s distorted jangle-rock and guitar pop as practiced by My Bloody Valentine, the Breeders and Teenage Fanclub, the L.A.-based singer and songwriter Sasami Ashworth’s initial songs possess an enviable effortlessness, as though her muse has its own lane on the aesthetic superhighway. That essence glides through “Not the Time.”
Best known for her work as part of guitar rock band Cherry Glazerr, Ashworth recently inked a deal with respected imprint Domino. Lyrically, she focuses on relationship drama, and sonically, she taps some serious electricity to power her effects pedals.
The B-side, “Callous,” features a slower, more hypnotic beat, one powered by maracas and made harsh with electric guitar. Still in the studio working on her debut album, Ashworth seems like she’s on to something.
Papercuts, “Parallel Universe Blues” (Slumberland).
As with nearly every other San Francisco indie musician, Papercuts’ Jason Quever recently moved south, specifically to Echo Park, and issued his fifth solo album as a kind of greeting.
Quever, who has recorded, produced or played with respected artists including Cass McCombs, Beach House and Dean & Britta, draws on 1990’s suggestive grunge, shoe-gaze and Brit-pop across the album. “Kathleen Says” sounds like an homage to the similarly titled Velvet Underground songs about Lisa, Candy and Stephanie.
Ty Segall, “Class War” (In the Red).
This loving version of one of the first great L.A. punk songs, the Dils’ “Class War,” doesn’t arrive with the distorted aggression of the original, at least to start. Rather, Eagle Rock-based Segall’s cover opens with crisp acoustic guitar strums that more suggests Cat Stevens.
The opening couplets, sung in sweet falsetto, correct this — even if by his tone Segall might be addressing a group of preschoolers: “I, I want a war/Between the rich and the poor/I wanna fight/ And know what I’m fighting for,” Segall sings.