On May 5th, Centripetal Force will be unleashing what will certainly be regarded as an instant classic kosmische country record by the hotly anticipated Prairiewolf.

Birthed just last year, the band consists of Stefan Beck (A.K.A. Golden Brown) on guitar and lap steel, fellow music journalist Tyler Wilcox (of Aquarium Drunkard) on bass and Jeremy Erwin, the good soul behind the great Electric Miles Davis blog, The Heat Warps, on keyboards.

The trio finds where disparate artists such as Sandy Bull and Neu! overlap, and they weave those influences together into hypnotic soundscapes that flow with the ease of a tranquil river. With the help of Mellotrons, Rhodes and vintage drum machines, you can hear elements of spiritual jazz, analogue ambient music and of course Grateful Dead-leaning cosmic Americana in this sunbaked debut. To give us a deeper appreciation of the drum machine and why it was such a natural choice for Prairie wolf’s music, Jeremy Erwin made us a deep playlist dedicated to the instrument. Give it a listen here, and check out the keyboardist’s liner notes for the mix below:

  1. Call Me the Breeze – J.J. Cale
  2. Rhythm Ace Demo (excerpt) – Sandy Bull
  3. Love is Forever (live) – Sandy Bull
  4. Why Can’t We Live Together – Timmy Thomas
  5. Africa Talks to You (“The Asphalt Jungle”) – Sly & the Family Stone
  6. The Goose – Parliament
  7. California Dreamin’ (Reprise) – Eddie Hazel
  8. Aht Uh Mi Hed – Shuggie Otis
  9. Revolution Dub – Lee “Scratch Perry” & the Upsetters
  10. Congoman (Original Black Ark Mix) – The Congos
  11. Unable – Antena
  12. Fotschi Tong – Cluster
  13. The Big Ship – Brian Eno
  14. Kometenmelodie 2 – Kraftwerk
  15. Spoon – Can
  16. Conception – Kingdom Come
  17. Panico A Las 5am – Angel Rada
  18. Cheree – Suicide
  19. Small Hours (Instrumental Version) – John Martyn

The first sounds you hear on JJ Cale’s 1971 debut is the steady plunk of an Ace Tone FR-1. Though Cale insists his use of the primitive beatbox was pure utility – “I didn’t use a real drummer because I had no money,” he told an interviewer in 2004 – kicking off an album titled Naturally with the mechanized throb of a pre-programmed beat was a sort of rallying cry. A relinquishing of control to the solid-state heartbeat.

Call Me The Breeze

Cale wasn’t an outlier. Around the same time, Sly Stone, Sandy Bull and Shuggie Otis leaned heavily on drum machines for their largely one-man-band productions, and like Cale, the machines weren’t simply timekeepers but featured prominently in the mix. What began as utility had become texture. Mid-tempo soul became prayer sessions. As the decade progressed, the meditative nature of that constant throb wafted through Lee Perry’s Black Ark, Kraftwerk’s Kling Klang and Can’s Inner Space studio, imbuing all it touched with a sort of zen psychedelia.

Dub Revelutions

Naturally, the machine went stratospheric in the hands of James Mtume, who was presented with a beatbox by the Yamaha corporation as the Miles Davis band began a tour of Japan in the summer of 1973. “Miles handed it to me, saying, ‘See what you can do with it.’ We were in experimental mode, so instead of using it to create rhythm I wanted to see whether I could use it to create texture. I played it through six or seven different pedals, phase shifters, wah-wah, and biphase mutrons and so on, while pressing down three or four rhythms at the same time… It was a total tapestry.”

Nne (Part 1) (Live at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY – March 1974)

Toward the end of the decade, avant garde minimalists Suicide and British songwriter and experimentalist, John Martyn used a beatbox to bridge the astral and the earth bound – the latter anchoring his echoplex-drenched guitar meditations with a Korg Minipops as a string would tether a kite.

John Martyn – One World, Reading University 1978

Making music with these primitive, pre-programmed drum machines can be a difficult task. Whereas most musicians want interplay, the drum machine forces you to work on its terms. Play quietly lest you lose the beat. Internalize the throb. Give yourself up to these parameters, abandon control and you allow the music to shift into a very meditative state. That’s the zone we explore in both this playlist and our new Prairiewolf LP. That liminal space where the machine rests between utility and texture and all turns spiritual. Pure astral traveling.  

-Jeremy Erwin

Click here to preorder Prairiewolf today!


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