Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Michael Yonkers Band - Microminiature Love (us 1968)

Michael Yonkers Band - Microminiature Love (us 1968, 2003 cd, Sub Pop SPCD 508)

Formed: 1967, Minneapolis, MN, United States

* Michael Yonkers (guitars, vocals, electronics),
* Tom Wallfred (bass),
* Jim Yunker (drums).

Related Artists:
Jim Woehrle and Michael Yonkers, Michael & the Mumbles, Michael Yonkers and Plastic Crimewave Sound, Michael Yonkers with the Blind Shake

Genres: Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock

01. Jasontown 2:40
02. Microminiature Love 3:00
03. Boy in the Sandbox 3:43
04. Smile Awhile 4:24
05. Returning 3:49
06. Puppeting 3:06
07. Killing the Enemy 3:38

Bonus Tracks:
08. The Clock Is Running 4:07
09. My House 3:11
10. Hush Hush 3:49
11. Sold America 3:34
12. The Thunder Speaks 3:34
13. Scat Jam 4:20

“The body was sawed off, and it was silvery, and there were a couple of large knobs on it, and –I swear this is true –some kind of antenna thing sticking out of it. Kind of spronging around, like a prop from a 1950s science-fiction movie. Then he plugged it in and we went for the first take. Hraww wrahhraw hhharah hhhrahhh! It was wah-wah-ing even before I knew what a wah-wah was! And I started laughing, it was such a shock!”~ Recording engineer Steve Longman on his first encounter with Michael Yonkers & his heavily-modified guitar.
This is one o’ those platters that is often relegated to the “Record Collector Rock” pile by snobby rockcrits (no money to be made pimping this kinda stuff, y’see) insuring that only a handful of those of us with an Appetite For Distortion will ever seek it out. You can remedy this situation by playing it for yer granny and gramps, 2.4 kids, Ma and Pa… it should be experienced by all and sundry.
A DIY electronics wizard, Yonkers cut his Telecaster in half, outfitting it with a variety of homemade effects and gadgets (the “antenna” that Longman saw was actually a theremin protruding from Yonkers’ guitar case– he’d made it out of a PIAA kit)– oscillators, a makeshift echoplex constructed from a cassette deck with an extra recording head– he also designed his own distortion boxes, one of which, the “Fuzz ‘N’ Bark,” earned raves from local musicians. “Microminature Love” was recorded at Minneapolis’ famed Dove Studios in an hour-long session (!) in 1969– most tracks being (natch) one take wonders (!). Initially, a deal was in place with Sire Records to release it, but for reasons unknown, this never came to be. The master tapes languished in Yonkers’ house for 35 years.
According to legend, Yonkers discovered his odd guitar tuning when he accidentally knocked over his axe at a gig– liking what he heard at first strum, he memorized the outta whack timbre and began using it regularly as it also conformed nicely to his vocal pitch. Its mournful drone blends in perfectly with the all-pervasive sense of doom hovering over this LP– Vietnam figures prominently in the lyrics, albeit in a cryptically poetic way, making this a work very much relevant to the political climate of today. Ditties like “Kill the Enemy” and “Boy in the Sandbox” positively reek of death– the latter particularly affecting with its irony-laden storyline– a boy who loved to play with his toy soldiers in his sandbox, growing to adulthood, sent to war and ultimately, “a tomb of sand.”
It is Yonkers’ fretwork that will keep you returning to MML, though– whirring and sloshing around in shapeless fragments one moment, slicing through the murk with punkish authority the next. I can think of no one doing anything quite this extreme at the time– not the Stooges, the ‘Five or even VU’s epic odysseys into Feedback Hell on the dozens of live boots I’ve heard. Yonkers was exploring a musical dimension that contained only himself– and fuck all the high-falutin’ types that would dismiss this magnificent goop as yet another poorly-executed stab at “downer rock”: Michael Yonkers was/is a one-of-a-kind innovator on par with Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and Sonny Sharrock. Too bad we had to wait over three decades to find that out.
~ TheePope (RYM).
A cult artist the likes of Captain Beefheart, the Fugs and the Godz, Minneapolis' Michael Yonkers has been toiling in obscurity since the late '60s. With a solid foundation of surf rock and garage, Yonkers pushes the limits of distortion with guitar and effects modifications, and a raw and blunt approach to underground rock & roll.Born in 1947, Yonkers began playing guitar in the early '60s. Raised on Link Wray and the Trashmen, he officially started his music career as the leader of Michael & the Mumbles who played proms and dances in the Twin Cities area. Constantly redefining and stretching the limits of their sound, the group eventually evolved into Michael Yonkers Band with Michael's brother Jim on drums and Tom Wallfred on bass.In 1967, Yonkers cut his Telecaster down to a plank and began the other modifications on his equipment that would solidify the band's unique approach. Soon, Minneapolis music impresario Peter Steinberg landed the band a contract with Sire Records -- not unusual for a time when major labels were combing the underground for bands like the Mothers of Invention.Microminiature Love was the group's first full-length and was intended to be released in 1968, but for reasons still unknown, the deal with Sire fell apart and the band broke up, their brilliant debut left languishing on a shelf.In 1971, Yonkers' back was broken in an on-the-job-accident at an electronics warehouse -- a twist of fate that led to years of exploratory surgery that only made matters worse, and an allergic reaction to X-ray dye that left the guitarist with a degenerative spinal cord condition. But Yonkers kept recording, and released three solo albums on his own label in 1974 -- Grimwood (recorded in 1969), Michael Lee Yonkers (recorded in 1972) and Goodby Sunball (recorded in 1973) -- as well as Borders of My Mind with Jim Woehrle. Thy Will Be Done followed in 1976 and then Yonkers was relatively unheard of for two decades.In 1997, Get Hip Records released a compilation of songs recorded at Richfield, Minnesota's Dove Studios called Free Flight: Unreleased Dove Recording Studio Cuts 1964-69 which contained two songs from Microminiature Love, "Puppeting" (which was mislabeled as "Microminiature Love") and the anti-Vietnam war song "Kill the Enemy." These stripped-down, seminal art rock tracks caught the attention of De Stijl's Clint Simonson, who spent over a year searching for Yonkers. Simonson released the virtually forgotten Minneapolis psychedelic-garage album Microminiature Love in 2002. The vinyl-only edition quickly became a record collector favorite, and in 2003 Sub Pop put out the CD of this strange, lost album complete with six bonus tracks recorded circa 1968.
~ (Charles Spano).
Recorded in Minneapolis in 1968, but not released until about 35 years later, Microminiature Love is both of its time and out of time. Certainly there's some late '60s power trio hard rock- psychedelia to the way Michael Yonkers Band grinds out his creepy, unrelentingly minor-keyed songs of gloom. The bashing of the drums is as shaky in tempo as his voice is in timbre, wailing in a tormented tone that's something of a somewhat less off-key, more powerful forefather of later auteurs like Jandek. There were few other rock songwriters of the era as plugged into such an incessantly downer mood, and when he sings "heaven's turning into hell, life is turning into death" on the title track, you believe it, or at least you believe it's happening to him. Perhaps the closest reference point might be the Stooges, but Microminiature Love is much rawer in some respects than the Stooges' first few albums, sounding as if it's the product of a basement rehearsal that was caught on tape unbeknownst to the band. (Indeed, it's hard to believe that this was intended for release on Sire Records, although the deal never came to pass.) Some-of-the-time anti-establishment ethos is present in the anti-war protest of "Kill the Enemy," though rarely has it been offered in such a bluntly horrific and ugly fashion as Yonkers did here. Though limited melodically, Yonkers also cooks up some impressive guitar pyrotechnics here and there, particularly on "Boy in the Sandbox," which climaxes with truly frightening bursts of machine gun guitar. All that said, this isn't a great record or a lost masterpiece. It's far too monotonous for that, with most of the material sitting on a minor E chord as if it's trying to bludgeon itself to death by repetition. The CD reissue adds six additional bonus demos from 1969 cut in Yonkers's parents' basement that are quite similar in feel to the recordings that made it onto the projected LP.
~ (Richie Unterberger).

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...and also...
Michael Yonkers Band - Microminiature Love (us 1968) [2003 cd with Bonus Tracks].rar (108.88 MB)

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