Talkhouse Playlist: Drunken Sufis Go Down the YouTube Rabbit Hole

The no-rules experimental group give us a video playlist of overlooked experimental performances.

With this Talkhouse Playlist, experimental group Drunken Sufis’ drummer/producer/founder John Thayer takes us on a trip down the experimental YouTube rabbit hole. With videos of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, John Cale and more, this playlist is sure to provide hours of bizarre instruments, infamous performances and downright fascinating personalities. Drunken Sufis are releasing their latest album, Pala Pala, on limited-edition cassette at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn on October 26. Check it out, and enjoy the playlist!
Dave Lucas, Talkhouse Marketing Manager

Rules are for Chumps: Chaos Magicians, Noisicians and Plunderphiles

“Noise accompanies every manifestation of our life. Noise is familiar to us. Noise has the power to bring us back to life.”
– Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band – Live in Paris 1980

Watch this twenty-seven-minute music video and witness the spawning of post punk. The grooves are polyrhythmic skronk masterpieces, organized dissonance of the highest order accompanying the shamanic ramblings of an unstable and impatient sorcerer.  I’m pretty sure Don Van Vliet is Drunken Sufis’ biological grandfather who abandoned us and refused to take a paternity test. Music is better because of this man.

The Mothers of Invention – Live in London 1968

Zappa is the ultimate sonic prankster, goading you into clapping along until suddenly there’s nothing to clap along to. You feel lost, confused and tricked. Just when you’re ready to leave he turns on the fuzz and takes a solo. Now both you and Zappa are smiling, but for very different reasons. This video is forty-eight years old and still sounds like the future.

Miles Davis Electric – Berlin 1973

There are a number of amazing lineups from electric-era Miles, but for sheer destruction this one wins. This band legitimately wants to hurt you. I don’t think Al Foster stops abusing the cymbal the entire track. Look at Pete Cosey on guitar; the only time he’s not the coolest person is the room is when Miles is on stage. This was a year after Hendrix died and Miles doesn’t want you to forget it. Subterranean dark magic.

The Lounge Lizards – “Voice of Chunk”

John Lurie is a genius and the Lounge Lizards are one of the greatest jazz ensembles to ever come out of New York City. Voice of Chunk is an incredible album from front to back, but the title track is an all-out burner. The intensity of this live performance from ’89 is transcendent. Watch the way Evan Lurie moves around the piano: beginning with a free-playing intro, hitting the groove, then taking it to a salsa montuno as the horns bring it to a close. Marc Ribot’s solo is a gift to humanity. North African desert blues, modern classical and downtown funk collide under the watch of one of the baddest New York bands to ever exist. Perfection.

Sun City Girls – Live at Bumbershoot

An infamous show from an infamous band. This is how Sun City Girls decided to woo Sub Pop.

Sun City Girls created their own world. They have a massive discography, some of which is terrible, but much of which is amazing. They’re the George Gurdjieff of American underground music: playful, challenging and merciless. Simultaneously creative giants and audacious buffoons. This is art.

Sun Ra Arkestra – East Berlin 1986

Witness a band of virtuoso African Americans led by a being from Saturn conjure a new kind of music in East Germany, 1986. “We must all learn to travel the spacewaves if we want peace in this world.” I couldn’t imagine a better galactic ambassador.

Aphex Twin – “Aisatsana” Live at the Barbican London, 2010 

After fourteen years out of the public spotlight, Aphex Twin hangs a midi-controlled piano from the ceiling and has it swing like a pendulum for the entire length of the performance. It’s a hypnotic and beautiful recording that ends up as the last track on his next album, Syro. Brilliant.

The Jon Hassell Concert Group – Live from the World Trade Center 1989

Mixed live by Brian Eno, this performance takes place in the Financial Center within the Twin Towers. Hassell, along with Terry Riley and La Monte Young, studied in India with master musician Pandit Pran Nath. You hear this influence on Hassell’s trumpet playing as he utilizes the trumpet more as a sound generator than as a brass instrument. I highly recommend listening to his Daniel Lanois-produced album Aka Darbari Java, which never leaves my phone. Perfect during the fever dreams of airline travel.

Last Exit – Deutsches Jazzfestival, Frankfurt 

Peter Brotzmann, Bill Laswell, Sonny Sharrock and Ronald Shannon Jackson define rule-free group music. Brotzmann enters and the beating ensues. Everyone is channeling something primal. This is an unironic “shreds” video made by fearless explorers.

The latest YouTube comment: “Laughing a lot. These guys are not too old to make so much noise? Masturbating in public is very ugly!”

Pharoah Sanders – “Kazuko” – An Abandoned Tunnel 1982

Pharoah is wonderful, a pure being of light. I could wake up to this every morning. The VHS hiss magnified by YouTube compression algorithms makes for amazing sample audio.

Glenn Branca Solo 1978 – Jeffery Lohn’s Loft, NYC

Nightmare music. True No Wave nihilism. At 1:24 he looks near criminal. Branca began as an actor. It takes a true showman to turn sonic abuse into performance art. Unhinged expression free of self-conscious limitations.

Christian Marclay on Night Music 1989

Another performance from Night Music, this takes place during the same year as the Lounge Lizards performance earlier on the playlist. Marclay’s turntable improvs are a Burroughs-style cutup for the postmodern age. Organizing noise into form is a principle of Drunken Sufis’ compositions and Marclay proves a master of walking the fine line between chaos and comprehension.

John Cage Playing Amplified Cacti and Plant Materials with a Feather – 1984

Performance footage from video artist Nam June Paik’s TV special, “Good Morning Mr. Orwell.” The title says it all. George Plimpton interrupts to say, “Listening to John Cage’s music is like chewing sand.” These are not tunes for the workers to whistle.

Cage was the best kind of radical” lighthearted and mischievous, a self-declared anarchist. “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”

Meredith Monk – “Double Fiesta” Live with Nurit Tilles, Bonn, Germany 1989

Euphoric glossolalia with Reichian piano accompaniment. Childlike, hopeful, whimsical and challenging, Monk’s vocals and piano always seem simultaneously in and out of sync. “When you start worrying about form then you’re not in the moment.”