The Vocokesh, Through the Smoke (Strange Attractors Audio House, SAAH034) CD

Everybody knows that old adage about not judging a book by its cover. Well it’s nonsense. You can judge a book, a record, a dude, even a cover by its cover. It’s easy to do. Hell, most records have terrible covers, and well, most records are terrible. However, if you took a gander at the Vocokesh’s Through the Smoke with its goofy-ass “retro-lounge” cover (nicked from some probably-bad 1959 Warner Bros. release) and thought “gee this must suck, lookit those douchebags,” you’d be 100-percent wrong, my friend. Then again, if you had to go by its cover because you didn’t have any clue who the Vocokesh are, you’d be the bigger douchebag anyway. The Vocokesh are and remain one of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s finest musical exports (and hey the Oil Tasters, Couch Flambeau and the Frogs were from there – to name just a few great bands from Laverne and Shirley’s hometown). So if ya don’t know, the Vocokesh is made up of longtime scene stalwarts John Helwig and Richard Franecki (whom you may know from f/i) with various pals helping out here and there. If ya don’t know their previous stuff on Drag City and Strange Attractors (among other places), well what you should expect is some heavy instrumental vibing akin to but different from, say, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Popul Vuh, other big fucking names. Is it silly for me to put them alongside such obvious greats? Hell no. This is some great, ominous, filthy stuff. And unlike most of the European psych stuff I just cited, the Vocokesh also rock pretty fucking hard while evoking transcendental moon mountain mists and other nonsense. For as far-out as these guys go (and that’s pretty far, you’ll need more than a canoe my friend), Through the Smoke is still pretty heavily grounded.

Buy Through the Smoke direct from Strange Attractors Audio House.

In other, completely unrelated news, it appears all friends and family living on the Gulf Coast are safe, though most everyone’s houses were destroyed. At least they’re alive, which is what matters most. From just a music fan-standpoint (ugh), given its history, the devastation that New Orleans is struggling to endure is pretty fucking depressing. But obviously more importantly, my condolences go to the living and the dead victims of Katrina and its aftermath. If you can, please donate to the American Red Cross. Thanks.

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