Or, The I-Ra Arkestra
Of all the hundreds (thousands?) of artists Yo La Tengo have covered over the past quarter century, Sun Ra is probably the most unexpected. Jazz from Saturn meets indie rock from Hoboken? Sounds like a recipe for disaster on paper. And yet! For more than 15 years, YLT has dipped heavily into Ra’s vast catalog with uniformly successful results. Thus, we have today’s long awaited volume of the Sunsquashed Archives, featuring ten truly Saturnian tracks played onstage from 1997 to 2010. Dangerous horn blasts, Acetone organ scrawls and multiple drum kits abound. Some of these are Sun Ra covers, while others are YLT originals featuring members of Ra’s still-going-strong Arkestra. And then there’s my personal favorite — the massive version of the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda” with the Arkestra in tow. The noise breakdown/buildup here is a breathtaking thing to behold. Faster, faster!
For kicks I’ve included Youtube links to the Sun Ra originals.
1. False Alarm, 2003/04/19, 9:30 Club, Washington, DC (with Sun Ra Arkestra)
2. Nuclear War (Sun Ra), 2007/12/06, Maxwell’s (Original version)
3. Rocket #9 (Sun Ra), 1997/08/07, Tower Records, NYC (Original version)
4. Dreaming (The Cosmic Rays), 2000/09/15 WXPN, Philadelphia, PA (Original version)
5. Periodically Double or Triple (with Arkestra), 2010/07/10, Wiggins Park, Camden, NJ
6. Little Honda (The Beach Boys), (with Arkestra) 2010/07/10, Wiggins Park, Camden, NJ
7. Somebody’s In Love (The Cosmic Rays) (with Chris Stamey, David Kilgour, Mac McCaughan) 2004/10/10, Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC (Original version)
8. Clumsy Grandmother Serves Delicious Dessert By Mistake (with Arkestra), 2005/12/28, Maxwell’s, Hoboken NJ
9.Nuclear War Medley, 2003/03/15, WFMU
10. It’s Christmas Time (The Qualities), 2002/12/04, Maxwell’s (Original version)
Thanks again to all the tapers! In case you missed it, we’re posting these rare, fan-curated Yo La Tengo recordings in tandem with Jesse Jarnow’s Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock, out NOW on Gotham Books. The first four installments are here, here, here and here. Some of those links may be kaputt, but have no fear, I’ll re-up them soon. Jesse is on Twitter and Facebook, offering many more YLT treats. And of course, the band itself is at www.yolatengo.com.