Live @ Radio 3PBS FM

[Sound Vault Records,]


[Marriage Records,]

Live in the Earth:  Sandoz in Dub, Chapter 2

[Soul Jazz Records,]

Live at Jazzit

[No Man's Land Records,]

Out of the Walled Pathway

[Stray Dog Army,]

Hello Everything


Ideal Circus

[Night Bird Music / Terra Humana,]

Intrinsic Motion


Déformation Professionnelle


Black Sheep Boy Appendix



[Room 40,]

Stealing from Helpless Childress / Look Up

[Ad Hoc Records,]

Rain in the Leaves - The EPs, Volume 1

[Sunbeam Records,]




[ESP Disk,]

Bacalao Con Pan


Consider this a year-end wrap up of sorts.  Some records have just arrived recently, while others sat around for a few months, allowing air to breathe through.
Dutch tenor monster Kris Wanders doubles up with Australian tenor mad-man Andy Sugg in a powerful head-to-head meeting.  Recorded in 2004 at a live radio broadcast, the quintet is a wild concoction of Australian talent let loose.  Wanders and Sugg attack each other without even considering a break.  Loose, jagged lines spew from their horns at will, while guitarist Tom Fryer concocts freely based jangling and solos and the true rhythm section of drummer Ted Vining and bassist Rory Brown give a strong backbone to the proceedings at hand.  Three elongated pieces [all parts of the same "Invocation"] give every player ample room to stretch out.  Music without a net or improvisation of the highest order, this live broadcast will hopefully make more people turn their heads to the southern hemisphere for some kick-in-the-butt sounds.
Groovy sounds from Luke Fischbeck [who's been making music for over seven years] infiltrate your eardrums on the off-the-wall release "Widows". Instead of categories, Fischbeck's main concern is to release music that is weird, unpretentious and ultimately his very own.  With the help of seven other musicians - playing dulcimer, fiddle, banjo, trombone, cello percussion - the leader plays a softly spoken guitar, recorder and other trinkets that bring about music that can only be labeled childish.  Not to say that anyone is being na?ve in anything that is played.  It's just that there is a sense of honesty and real warmth in each of sixteen pieces, which makes it real hard not to become absorbed by these sounds?no matter what their origins may be.
Electronic and digital dub pioneer Richard Kirk delivers a solid record with his Sandoz project.  "Live in the Earth: Sandoz in Dub Chapter 2" brings together a massive beat sound, with samples of horns, reverberating percussion and some nicely done up repetitive beats.  The feel for the most part is down-tempo and the groove is laid back.  Bit of reggae, ton of deep dub and good rhythms all around, this is one record that brings the summer sun into our dreaded winter months.
No doubt about it, Amy Denio loves klezmer music and everything that speaks of eastern European flavours.  Whether solo or with numerous projects, she has nurtured klezmer sounds for the last couple of decades.  Her latest output is a band by the name of Die Resonanz Stanonczi, who have just released a live record.  Quartet is made up of Johannes Steiner on diatonic harmonica, Norbert Asen on clarinet, percussionist Robert Kainar and Amy Denio on saxophones, clarinet and vocals.  Much of their common music is revelatory in its ability to uplift.  The way in which the harmonica and clarinets mingle is revelatory.  These are the sorts of sounds you can expect to hear at a Jewish wedding, in Kazimierz during its annual festival of Jewish music or at select stages over the next few months.  Watch for this quartet to play live in a town near you.
James Brewster's project Mole Harness is another keen exercise in folk electronica.  Blending just the perfect amounts of drones, jangling guitars and leveled-off synths, the music is like one big, long drone.  Imagine sound of church organ, then multiply this by a hundred and take away that chamber effect.  Minimal in its approach and keeping to the true spirit of acid music [what you hear will get you far off into the next galaxy]; Mole Harness is a never ending rocket ride, going off in an unknown destination. Finger licking good buzz is guaranteed each and every time.
Album number 10 marks tenth anniversary of Tom Jenkinson's Squarepusher project.  With each consecutive album, he's been able to reinvent his sound and find a new niche.  This time around, "Hello Everything" presents a much more organic, while at the same time an even more acoustic sound.  By stripping down layers of his hyperactive beats, he has allowed sunshine to pour in through the cracks.  While tracks such as "Hello Meow" and "Plotinus" still feature the same familiar over-the-top schizo d'n'b beat, other stuff is much more organic.  "Vacuum Garden" for instance is a full six minutes of creepy, hollow sounds that don't feature one single beat, while the closing 11 minute opus "Orient Orange" negotiates between percussive interludes and soundtrack story-telling spaciousness.  Until Jenkinson's next incarnation, "Hello Everything" stands as a fine momentum of his progress so far.
Though I'm not huge on the standard piano/bass/drums jazz trio, once in a blue moon, I age myself by a few decades, pretend that all my hair is actually gray, sit by the fireplace, sipping well-aged whiskey and like to listen to some standards.  "Ideal Circus" from pianist Edouard Bineau serves as the perfect evening music for such an occasion.  Well rounded in its ability to bring out warmth, Bineau's trio treads the middle ground with enough conviction.  Neither breaking out in pure sweat, nor drooling in tedious boredom, the unit does enough twists and turns to convince me of hidden value in their work.  Even their version of Cat Stevens' "Sad Lisa" swings in its own subdued way.  Recommended for those with taste for the inevitably same.
Sound/video artist and painter Richard Garet gets a full release all by himself following his excellent contribution to the "Territorium" compilation of earlier this year.  "Intrinsic Motion" is a carefully gathered audio piece that takes equal parts from field recordings, microphone play, certain notions of feedback and the all popular studio processing.  Just when you thought the entire CD would be high frequency doodling [as is the case on about half of the first piece "Endless Scenery"], Garet decides to pull a rabbit out of a hat.  The following piece "For Shimpei Takeda" features a bunch of chirping birds, wind sounds [or was that a subway car whooshing by?] and delicate sparkling of haunting sound. Since variety is the spice of life, the remaining two pieces feature everything from deadly quiet passages, through to more squelching, high-pitched noise to what appears to be a drone-like church organ that is spun in a loop.  Another fine release from the Austrian folk who love minimal music.
Polish glitch-artist Paul Wirkus set himself a task which was to record an album in its entirety live straight to DAT without any overdubs.  Live scenario on his second full-length has proven to be a successful one in that it allows much more freedom than ever before.  Though glitches, pops and clicks still exist [they form the backbone of these pieces for the most part], Wirkus has turned into a mediator of sorts.  He now negotiates between the rough terrain of static loops, field recordings, guitar pedals, radio tuning and happenstance sounds to deliver a true work of sourced-out sounds.  What's best about this album is its ability to tell a tangible story.  Music concrete or concrete vision realized, "Déformation Professionnellle" sees Wirkus at the strength of his game.
As an appendage to the "Black Sheep Boy", its appendix is more than just an afterthought.  It's actually a final chapter to Okkervil River's grand album.  Fully realized, with a beginning, middle and end, it goes from theme to theme in seamless fashion.  Encompassing rock, blues and even folk idioms, the band sounds more like a less urgent Crazy Horse during its heyday.  Mature themes of abuse, loss, loveless relationships make it into the band's repertoire, while their sounds remains vital and reverent throughout.  As the band ends "Last Love Song for Now" with the phrase "over and over and over again", you're not quite sure whether they've reached a high note or whether the Black Sheep Boy character has reached his final day of doom on a kitchen floor in a pool of blood.
I've read a review that described Richard Chartier's work as not being an easy listen.  That depends on what side of the fence you sit on, I guess. To be fair, his drones and work with miniscule frequencies is not pop music, but then again, it's not something to be scared of or run away from.  His most recent work, "Current" is a 20 minute piece that starts off with barely audible high frequencies.  By mid-point, the frequencies taper off and become less-than-audible hums and spatial buzzes.  Calmness rules in Chartier's world.  Let it take over and it will surely rule in your domain.
Finally, after a wait of two long decades, we get the complete Blitzoids recordings in one nice, tidy package.  Combining both their full lengths - "Stealing from Helpless Children" and "Look Up" - this compilation also includes rarities released solely on various compilations.  The De Chiara brothers [Chris and Steve] along with Jim Nichols had a particular knack for wild and sharp knuckled rock forms that borrowed as much from the Canterbury scene as they did from punk and DIY esthetic of The Residents.  Gritty anti-pop, post-punk, jazz-thrash and more importantly independent as hell, this compilation stands as the test to Blitzoids music.
Most commonly referred to as the "Welsh Bob Dylan", Meic Stevens is a folk icon that was overlooked simply based on the fact that much of the material he sang, he sang in Welsh.  "Rain in the Leaves" presents his output of EPs recorded between 1967 and 1970.  Mostly accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, the music is sparse and reflective.  If you think Welsh is an easy language to get your head wrapped around, think of how Super Furry Animals handled this hurdle [their take was to popularize their native tongue?period].  Sure, it's a tad jagged, but once you get used to it, the words become one with the warm, detailed guitar plucking and you've all but forgotten Stevens is singing in a foreign tongue.  An essential compilation for folk completists and those who'd like to lend their ear to another form of the folk idiom.
Japanese sound and visual artist [and Amorfon label head] Yoshio Machida strikes out with a solo steel pan album entitled "Naada".  Over the course of five pieces, it sounds like he's simply doodling on the steel pan, which couldn't be further from the truth.  Machida's actual goal is to showcase the delicate timbres of the steel pan.  By using a multitude of overdubbed portions and layers of delays, he's able to achieve a minimal effect on his instrument.  Flow of the record is such that there are no crescendos or violent climaxes, which means the sweet, tender sounds of the steel pan flow smoothly and reverberate clearly.  I've rarely hear a record that has such a resounding, calming effect during the very first listening session.  Highly recommended.
Recorded in 2001 at the Knitting Factory, "Expedition" is an adventure in the realm of free music's freedom.  Guitarist Hans Tammen [who actually plays something called endangered guitar] joins forces with saxophonist / bass clarinet player Alfred 23 Harth, bassist / electronics manipulator Chris Dahlgren and percussionist Jay Rosen.  Their output is a blistering, saucy mix of free jazz, raunchy rock and metal.  While their dialogue is crystal clear, the ideas fly too quickly at times, allowing for momentary sensory overload.  Free spirited in its ideals and anything but reheated music, this album rocks like a ton of bricks.
Irakere [meaning vegetation and whip in Yoruban language] is a famous Cuban ensemble.  Formed over three decades ago, everyone from Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D'Rivera and Chucho Valdés [who founded the ensemble] escalated their musical life in this ensemble.  These are the jams of freedom.  Equal parts funk, jazz and salsa, these guys play up a real storm.  This is not to say that all numbers will get you up and dancing, but a large majority certainly will.  Even the instrumental pieces will have you up shaking your booty.  Blistering good fun for all.  Now excuse me, while I'm off to the travel agent to book a cheap flight to Cuba.

- Tom Sekowski

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>> THE KRIS WANDERS / ANDY SUGG UNIT - Live @ Radio 3PBS FM / LUCKY DRAGONS - Widows / SANDOZ - Live in the Earth:  Sandoz in Dub, Chapter 2 / DIE RESONANZ STANONCZI - Live at Jazzit / MOLE HARNESS - Out of the Walled Pathway / SQUAREPUSHER - Hello Everything / EDOUARD BINEAU - Ideal Circus / RICHARD GARET - Intrinsic Motion / PAUL WIRKUS - Déformation Professionnelle / OKERRVIL RIVER - Black Sheep Boy Appendix / RICHARD CHARTIER - Current / BLITZOIDS - Stealing from Helpless Childress / Look Up / MEIC STEVENS - Rain in the Leaves - The EPs, Volume 1 / YOSHIO MACHIDA - Naada / HANS TAMMEN / ALFRED 23 HARTH / CHRIS DAHLGREN / JAY ROSEN - Expedition / IRAKERE - Bacalao Con Pan
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+ CHARLIE ALEX MARCH - After the Clouds Clear
+ YMA Sumac - Recital
+ WILLIAM BASINSKI - Variations for Piano & Tape
+ AXEL DORNER / JIM DENLEY - Distinctions / JOEL STERN / JIM DENLEY - Tape and Paint Game / PETER BLAMEY / JIM DENLEY - Findings
+ SHIT AND SHINE - Jealous of Shit and Shine
+ JOE McPHEE & SURVIVAL UNIT II WITH CLIFFORD THORNTON - N.Y. N.Y. 1971 / ANTHONY BRAXTON - Quintet (Basel) 1977 / CECIL TAYLOR UNIT - It Is In The Brewing Luminous / ELLERY ESKELIN - Vanishing Point
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+ TOP 7 2006