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MP3 Kenneth Johnston - A Texas Travel Guide: The Best of Kenneth Johnston and The Curable Interns Vol. 2

This cd of mostly acoustic and electric guitar instrumentals could be the ambient/art-rock soundtrack to a strange and beautiful movie - no computers/loops or abrasive weirdness.

18 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Psychedelic, WORLD: World Traditions


Here''s why:

Due to the fact that a lot of the material on previous recordings released on the New Gomorrah Historic Archive Series was either - a) taken from old and less than perfectly recorded cassette tapes; or, b) was recorded on good equipment by amateurs who had no idea of what they were doing - there is no consistent sound quality on those cds. The material on this cd, The Best of Kenneth Johnston and The Curable Interns Vol. 2: A Texas Travel Guide was chosen both for sound quality and performance intensity. Although most tracks appear on previous Curable Interns/Rooster Kiev/Kenneth Johnston/Zenobia Marsh cds, these versions have better noise reduction, eq, and better(and sometimes radically different) mixes in general.

Here is information on the tracks on Texas Travel Guide:

1. North From Van Horn on 54 - from the Rooster Kiev cd, performed on an Epiphone EL 00 in open C tuning. 2005

2. Portrait of Medusa as a Young Ballerina - this is Signal Child from the Zenobia Marsh cd remixed as an instrumental. Instruments used: strat thru a Reverend OD into a Pignose, Fender jazz bass, Tacoma Papoose, EL 00. 2005

3. Dance of the Shadow People - short excerpt from The Beulah Variations(also called Transfiguration of St Claire on the Ring Hog Hill cd). Prepared guitar solo for a Gibson "The Paul" through a Peavey Artist. 1987

4. Hawaii, Hard Liquor, and You. Slide guitar with extra pickup attached at the head of the guitar for E6 tuning on The Paul through the Peavey Artist. Record live in 1987 at The Combined Effort on Chimes St. in Baton Rouge. From the Solo Guitar cd.

5. La Luz Adivinadora acoustic guitar solo played on a Crafters short scale guitar. From the Rooster Kiev cd. 2005

6. When Lugosi Calls. A remix/re-edit of the last two and a half minutes of When the Circus Comes to Town from the Zenobia Marsh cd. EL 00, Fernandes Sustainer guitar through a Reverend OD into a Pignose, fender bass, thrift store guitar mechanically modified to sound like a sitar, and Zenobia Marsh on vocals. 2005

7. The Cthulhu Variations. Also called Waking Up on the Bottom of the Ocean. This is the same track from the Solo Guitar cd but with a different ending. It was recorded live(although edited) using a mechanically prepared Stratocaster in 1987 at the Combined Effort with Electric Earl supplying the electronic effects. I removed as much hiss and background noise as I could without damaging the quality of the music, but the hiss is still noticeable.

8. Blue Modo. Electric guitar solo for The Paul. 1986 from Horsehead Point cd

9. McDonald Observatory. Acoustic guitar solo in open G. EL 00, 2005 from the Rooster Kiev cd

10. Behind the Wall of Clouds. From the Zenobia Marsh cd, this version is somewhat cleaned up, a few errors edited out, and a few seconds added to the end Fender bass, Strat through the Rev OD into the Pignose, slide and rhythm on a Telecaster thru a Reverend Hellhound, and the EL00. 2005

11. Sumerian Starship Cumbus (Turkish 12 string banjo) solo. Tuned dgdgcd. 2003, from the Horsehead Point cd.

12. Prepared Guitar Rhythm. Prepared Strat through a Peavey Artist, middle portion of Balinese Rhythm from the Solo Guitar cd. Recorded live in 1987 at the Combined Effort.

13. Wilderness Ridge This is the beginning and the end of the version on the Rooster Kiev cd. The end portion has been re-edited. 1988 compiled from live recordings. Played on The Paul

14. Grinnygog. Solo for the short scale Crafters guitar. Combines traditional Scottish dance tunes like Banish Misfortune and Wee Cooper of Fife with North African style guitar. From the Rooster Kiev cd, 2005

15. The Ring Hog Hill Theme. This was a favorite to play live. This version was recorded in 2001 and is on the Zenobia Marsh cd. This recording has been cleaned up considerably of clicks and dropouts.

16. Music Box Interlude, This melody is from a music box made in around 1900.

17. Nautical Twilight. A combination of a remixed/remodeled instrumental version of Adolescent Machine that incorporates Sunrise on Horn Island. From the Zenobia Marsh cd, 2005. Instruments used include the EL00, a zither, a manual Royal Typewriter, a Strat through the Rev OD into the Pignose, the Fernandes with a sustainer thru the Pignose, an oscillator, and a fender bass .

18. The New Gomorrah Broadcasting System. Within a matrix of shortwave radio noises and a mysterious interval signal one can hear a recording from 1973 of Amazing Grace by the Florida Vista Apartment Singers accompanied by modified thrift store guitars, and an excerpt from the 1977 recording of Surf Out by The Curable Interns. After the station''s carrier kicks in, we hear a numbers transmission, an interval signal, and then the program begins. Ekilbay Denilba is the announcer. The outro music, which was revived as Sunrise on Horn Island, is actually from 1977 and was part of the Surf Out composition. Seventeen year cicadas provide the sounds at the end of the track.

Here is an article by Sally Espa on Kenneth Johnston:

Ambient/Art-Rock from Louisiana

A new collection of original music has been released by Kenneth Johnston, the guitarist, composer, costume designer, and sometimes choreographer for the Curable Interns. The album is called "A Texas Travel Guide: The Best of Kenneth Johnston and The Curable Interns Volume 2." The music ranges from simple but atmospheric acoustic guitar solos, to prepared electric guitar approximations of a gamelan orchestra, as well as ensemble pieces with a more rock sound. The overall feel of the music is similar to some of the English art-rock bands of the late sixties/early seventies like Syd Barrett''s Pink Floyd, early Roxy Music, Brian Eno''s solo work, or at times, even King Crimson. I interviewed Kenneth Johnston at the Brew Ha-Ha coffee shop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and began by asking him about the name of the band.

"The name for the band, Curable Interns, came from a dream, " explained Kenneth Johnston as he sipped his coffee. "In 1986, I was in the process of finding compatible musicians to form a band around the type of music I was playing at parties and art galleries. At the time, the type of music I was producing was described as a combination of art rock, space music, and ambient music. I had recorded a cassette tape, which I intended to sell through a mail order business, but could not think up a suitable name. There was a deadline of sorts to be met with filling orders, and at the last minute a friend told me that she had a strange dream, a nightmare actually, about a field hospital full of patients inflicted with a strange disfiguring malady. She remembered, in the dream, asking a nurse sitting at a desk doing paperwork what had happened to the affected people. The nurse replied in a disinterested voice, "They all have Curable Intern." Bingo! That became the name for the band, and, retroactively, similar work that I had done in the past."

He pointed out that his latest CD is available at The Compact Disc Store just across Jefferson Highway. I had to ask the obvious question, If this collection is Volume 2, what happened to Volume 1?

"It was my intention to release both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 at the same time, however there were some problems with the sound quality of Vol. 1 that became evident at the last minute which will probably involve re-recording two-thirds of the material. Vol. 1 is the ensemble work, some of which the listener unfamiliar with Curable Interns music will find quite abrasive. Volume 2, however, is the material that is of the best recording quality and performance intensity that I feel is on that fine line between being both experimental and listenable. It is called Texas Travel Guide because, firstly, I love to go hiking and camping in the Hill Country as well as in the desert mountains of West Texas. I do think that this is good travel music - music to listen to during those stretches of distance where one cannot receive any radio stations. And, secondly, early on I received extremely helpful advice and substantial acts of kindness in marketing my first CDs from several independent record stores in San Marcos and Austin. Thirdly, I used to live in Austin and regularly visit that area. I have family who live in the Dripping Springs area, as well as in Houston."

Johnston, now 55, claims that he did not learn to play guitar until he was 26 years old

"My parents bought me an unplayable acoustic guitar when I was 15. It was really just a toy. In college at USL I acquired an electric guitar that sometimes stayed in tune, but I didn''t learn more than three chords until I bought my first "real" guitar - an Epiphone acoustic, from Bob Sanchez back in 1976. What I was interested in before 1976 was buying worthless thrift store guitars and modifying them by replacing bridges or adding strings to turn them into drone instruments. I would invite friends over and we would create incredibly strange sounds with these modified guitars. There is a brief minute or so in the first part of the last track on the CD, called New Gomorrah Broadcasting System, that is taken from one of these sessions in 1973. I still have a couple of these mutant tamboura-sounding instruments. I also "prepared" these instruments by weaving nails or popsicle sticks through the strings. It wasn''t until I heard the Fred Frith album (Guitar Solos) that I realized how far one could go with the technique of prepared guitar. Many people think that some of the unusual sounding instruments on my recordings are computer generated effects, but it''s really a mechanically modified electric guitar played through the clean channel of an amp. By the way, I completely avoid midi stuff or computer generated sounds. While I do use computers for recording, noise reduction, and edits, I never allow them to become involved in the creative process! "

Johnston played in local punk and "outside" music bands in Baton Rouge, including Product Four, led by vocalist/songwriter Tokyo Joe Williamson. During the eighties he recorded two cassette albums that he sold locally and through a mail order business. Selections from the Xorian Guitar album by The Curable Interns received a respectable amount of airplay for a local band on the LSU radio station. He also performed his original music at art galleries, on street corners, for private parties, and even the Unitarian Church. Fortunately, several of what he considers to be the best of these concerts were recorded, and a handful of these live tracks appear on Texas Travel Guide, along with more recent recordings. By 1990 it became impractical for Johnston to continue with his musical efforts.

"I put music aside for most of the nineties due to "real world" employment issues, and the fact that most of the people I knew who liked to play weird music moved away. However, there were a few fans of the Curable Interns who had purchased the cassette tape albums I made during the eighties that kept in touch, and encouraged me to continue in this vein. I eventually realized that I could market my music in CD format over the internet. For packaging, promotion, and website design I needed appropriate graphics and a unifying theme. The theme became the mythological Horsehead Point culture. I drew upon specific influences for graphics - the surrealist work of Dorothea Tanning, Yves Tanguy, and Max Ernst; the designs (often associated with fantasy movies) of Paul Blaisdell and HR Giger, and the fantasy literature of HP Lovecraft. I found that by using a combination of model building, costume fabrication, photography, and digital manipulation of scanned-in images I was able to illustrate my concept of the ''Invisible World of the American South'' and its array of inhabitants and exotic creatures."

Since Johnston began promoting his material on the web, he has received very positive reviews from online magazines like Stylus as well as the Vanity Project music magazine published in Liverpool. And, the music of the Curable Interns has obtained a bit of airplay, mostly from European radio stations. His music was featured on the late John Peel''s program on the BBC, and was even the subject of an hour long "mini-special" on Radio Centraal from Belgium. Considering that there has been good critical response to his music, I asked him whether the Curable Interns were planning any public performances, or going on tour.

"The circle of friends who used to participate in the Curable Interns moved out of Louisiana long ago. Until I find competent musicians who are also responsible human beings that are interested in this material the Curable Interns will remain a recording concern. I could do the solo gigs like I did in the eighties, but I don''t find that as much fun as working with other musicians. But, in the meantime, I am promoting the Texas Travel Guide CD. I have confidence that there is an audience for this music, they just need to know that it exists and can be obtained at their local independent record store or through CD Baby on the internet. I am also re-recording part of the "Best of . . . .Vol. 1" CD and writing material for another art-rock/pop music project called The High Pink Clouds."

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