Iasos: Celestial Soul Portrait
17th June 2013
In 1989, professor Joel D. Funk, at the psychology department of Plymouth State College in New Hampshire, found that the music of Iasos bears striking resemblance to that which people hear during near-death experiences—at the very precipice between life and death, the mundane and the infinite.

By the mid-1970s—prior to ambient’s “musical furniture” and the coming age of New Age—Iasos had his hands on his first synthesizer and had made in-roads into both aborning genres. In dialogue with Vista, a benevolent music-maker from a distant dimension, Iasos conducted groundbreaking experimentation with tape reversal, feedback, and the electronic processing of acoustic instruments (phase-shifted flute, echoplex), working with some of the first commercially available synthesizers, and inventing innovative visual effects for his own mind-expansive live sets. In translating the tones of his galactic muse for the ears of Earth humans, Iasos helped midwife new genres into existence and utterly transform the compositional possibilities for every contemporary musician—all while living the life of a poor pirate eccentric in the Marin County dock system’s only telephone-equipped houseboat.

Spotlighting selections from the first decade of Iasos’ inter-dimensional output, The Numero Group’s Celestial Soul Portraits 2LP/CD compilation (due June 18, 2013) features a bevy of never-before-seen photos, a 4,000-word history of Iasos, and an insight into the life and “crystal giggling energy” of Iasos, the other Greek god of ’70s exploration into music’s electronic stargate.
Sixth Station: Deep Night
24th June 2013
A raw cry from the dark night of one man’s soul. Cloistered away from the popular culture of 1982, rural Illinois priest Tony Trosley painted a pastoral refraction of early 1970s Laurel Canyon watercolors with this stand-alone set of songs. The Sixth Station—named for a grim New Testament tableau in which Veronica washes the tortured face of Jesus—managed to avoid overtly Christian themes in favor of a mystical Humanism that resonates timelessly, and to any sort of listener. This Deep Night is as profound and eerie as the images conjured by its title.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, guitar-wielding men of the cloth came somewhat into vogue. Brother Juniper, Father Tom Belt, and the St. Louis Jesuits each found modest success with their takes on liturgical folk music. Born in 1951, Father Tony Trosley trod out of this tradition to arrive in quite a different place. Raised in the St. Louis area, Trosley entered the seminary immediately after high school. It was there that he took up guitar and set out on a musical sojourn that would result in an LP more than a decade later.Assigned to a parish in Peoria, Illinois, Trosley charted his long course toward Deep Night, adding crew along the way to fill out the recordings. Deep Night’s title cut is its purest moment, featuring Trosley alone and transparent, his 12-string tone shaped by a phaser pedal. The entire album, tracked in a tiny chapel with rented equipment over one extended evening, was mixed live with only a handful of overdubs. A few disastrous live performances around Central Illinois sealed the album’s fate as a one-off, though producer Scott McDaniel proposed a second LP. Father Tony Trosley, cloistered as he was from popular music culture of the day, could hardly avoid recording a folk and rock anachronism, but the sound of Deep Night defies placement on any timeline, aural or historical. It’s every bit as darkly profound and eerie as its name implies.

King Bullard Version: Songs of the BOS Label
17th June 2013
  On Cleveland's late 60s gospel scene, the BOS label was the refined, professional ying to Boddie's lo-fi yang, galloping to the fore bearing a torch for Curtis Mayfield's robe-wearing roots. Founded by gospel impresario James Bullard, BOS is the first chapter in story that includes stints producing major spiritual albums for the Birthright, Roadshow, and Word labels. BOS got its start inside Lester Johnson and Bill Branch's Way Out concern, running the devotional wing of Cleveland's largest black-owned record company, and picking up a ton of Way Out's soulful flavor in the process. Compiled here are BOS's less traditional moments—12 bridges between FM R&B and AM sermons from a time when those worlds were splitting apart. 
Iron Leg: The Complete Mickey & the Soul Generation 
15th July 2013
Erupting at the same time, but at a different studio, was the mixed instrumental combo Mickey & the Soul Generation. Best known for their 1969 paper hit “Iron Leg,” the group came to semi-national attention following Nipsey Russell’s performance of the Iron Leg dance on Johnny Carson. Though they shared a label with Ben E. King, they lacked access to the same promotion and marketing resources. A tour with Sam & Dave and opening slots for James Brown, Kool & the Gang, and The Supremes found them performing for thousands nightly, but still sleeping on floors. By the mid-’70s the group had fractured, with members joining the army, bottling Coke, and starting families. Their run would end in 1977 with two members turning in a passing Average White Band impression called “Southern Fired Funk” before their handful of 45s fell completely out of vogue and made their journey to thrift shops and cut-out distributors.
At the dawn of the century, Josh Davis (AKA DJ Shadow) tracked Mickey and his Soul Generation down for the purpose of reissuing their recordings on his upstart Cali-Tex label. “Mickey and the Soul Generation are my favorite funk band,” Davis wrote in 2002. “They were strong contenders for the title from my very first listen back in ’92. ‘Iron Leg’ being the standout track on an otherwise flaccid jazz-funk compilation of the day. Already a favorite rare-groove selection in the ever-accepting UK club scene, I too found myself buoying my bedroom DJ sets with snatches of the irresistible Soul Generation Sound. It became an instant priority of mine to locate an original.” That 2003 reissue was met with critical praise, and ultimately turned a new generation of music lovers onto rare funk and soul. Numero has gone back to the scene of the crime and re-canvased for new leads, helping Davis expand on his original work, with updated liner notes, tons of newly discovered photos, and a previously unreleased track.
Express Rising: Express Rising
29th July 2013
A decade ago, Dante Carfagna issued a somewhat anonymous LP under the Express Rising heading. That self-titled affair went in and out of print before 2003′s summer gave way to fall, thanks in part to its release by the frustratingly obscure Memphix label, but thanks more to how it broke new ground for the instrumental rap generation’s interest in the sub-sub-basement of record mining.
A decade ago, Dante Carfagna issued a somewhat anonymous LP under the Express Rising heading. That self-titled affair went in and out of print before 2003′s summer gave way to fall, thanks in part to its release by the frustratingly obscure Memphix label, but thanks more to how it broke new ground for the instrumental rap generation’s interest in the sub-sub-basement of record mining.

The album’s blurry boreal cover captured Carfagna’s mysterious persona. Though he’s been attached to such seminal compilations as Chains and Black Exhaust, a grip of Eccentric Soul titles, and the recent electronic soul collection Personal Space—and though his signature “Records I barely like but maybe you will” approach to writing helped build the Wax Poetics brand–Dante remains a tough man to pin down. He doesn’t even have a working doorbell.

Which may be a good thing, as he recorded his second album in the middle room of his third floor walk-up in Chicago’s Dog Patch neighborhood. A notorious homebody, Carfagna cut much of this second self titled LP after a long nights of Camel filters and bottled New Glarus—while watching his neighbors departure for morning straight-world commutes. Reaching back to 2008 and an Akai four track, these 11 songs break from the foraging tradition employed by Dante’s debut, swapping out breakbeats and samples for guitar, Wurlitzer, banjo, steel guitar, synthesizer, and an arcane drum machine.

As for packaging, this second Express Rising album treads the same vague path of the first. Shade-tree urban apartment domestics adorn the cover, and ambiguity creeps into the credits list, which nods at “Motorcycle John” for technical assistance and KK Blagg for “extraordinary contributions.” Who they are, and just what the fuck they did to make mention is left up for speculation.

Reached for comment, Carfagna had this to say about himself and about Express Rising: “My last record came out ten years ago. Much has changed and much has not.”

Express Rising has no label, but it will be distributed by The Numero Group.
Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label
29th July 2013
In 2004, with the release of its third compact disc, Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label, the Numero Group—with just a year in the books by that point—had, by all accounts, told the first truly fascinating account of R&B’s underworld. From the original liner notes:

Arrow Brown inhabited the same south side Chicago landscape as Afro-Noir author Iceberg Slim's ghetto heroes, and it's hard to imagine he didn't draw inspiration from the same dark sources as Airtight Willie, White Folks, or Blue Howard. By all accounts, Brown was drawn to the underground, fancying himself a rogue entrepreneur and, most likely, a bit of a pimp or con man. Throughout the late '60s, his business, both personal and professional, though largely unknown, is generally speculated to have been outside the law. Yet, not unlike Slim, he had massive creative impulses searching for a way to get out. And so, by the early '70s, Brown put together an oddball cast of family, friends, and girlfriends, all of them interchangeable, and created what amounted to a musical commune; a band, a production company and a record label to produce his own music. Seemingly unwilling to completely divorce himself from his former life, he named this company Bandit.
And these, from the subsequent press kit:

"A strange, parallel soul universe." —New York Times

"Pop music history is rife with tales of cracked visionaries, hustlers and single-minded Svengalis, but none were more bold or bizarre than Chicago soul impresario Arrow Brown. Wild kitchen sink productions that were over-the-top even by the era's standard."—Mojo

"A confluence of greed, paranoia and disorganization prevented Bandit from becoming anything beyond a home-brewed fantasy. Brown died without fanfare in 1990, soon after which one of his sons angrily pitched the label's master tapes, records and notes into the alley. Numero began to reconstruct the Bandit legacy one the strength of one important clue: a phone number." —Chicago Tribune

"A unique and bizarre history of one the strangest chapters in Chicago's musical history. It's a chapter that's been mostly skipped over to this point, but that shouldn't obscure the fact that Brown's completely under-the-table recording company/commune/harem produced a clutch of impressive, honey-drenched soul tracks in its 12 years of operation." —Pitchfork

Half a decade after the release of The Bandit Label, the story we stuffed into our 2000-word, 16-page booklet was feeling woefully incomplete. Survivors and hangers-on from Arrow Brown’s derelict kingdom had stepped forward, and new tracks had been discovered. Our CD package was losing any traction it had gained, and its admirers kept elbowing us re: Bandit’s inevitable return to wax and its native formats. Never close to content with throwing a product together, cut to fill only its hole in the marketplace, the Numero Group—older, wiser, stronger—has instead subjected 003 Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label to a full-on rebuild, adding stories to the edifice along the way. Our formerly paltry liner notes are now a 20,000-word work of astonishing nonfiction. We’ve de-grimed four dozen new domestic and promotional images, placing them all in an LP-sized '70s-style pulp paperback, cloaked in Eliza Childress’s sumptuous two-panel cover art. The original CD’s 20 tracks get blown out into a whopping 36, spread out across three LPs, one them replicating 1975’s original insanely decorated Magic of the Majestic Arrows long-player.

In 2005, novelist/essayist Jonathan Lethem went out and bought Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label and sent to us this unsolicited note:“Haunting…haunted…Like a little novel."

That still sounds about right...this time only far, far moreso. 
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