GEORGE & CAPLIN
He Really Got Through to Advertising
[Beta-lactam Ring Records, www.blrrecords.com]
[Digitalis Industries, www.digitalisindustries.com]
NICOLE MITCHELL'S BLACK EARTH ENSEMBLE
Black Unstoppable CD / DVD
[Lal Lal Lal, www.haamu.com/lallallal]
[Mr. Bongo Recordings, www.mrbongo.com]
BLOOD ON THE WALL
[The Social Registry, www.thesocialregistry.com]
BAKER / HUNT / SANDSTROM / WILLIAMS
Extraordinary Popular Delusion
[Okka Disk, www.okkadisk.com]
Craze - FabricLive 38
[Fabric Records, www.fabriclondon.com]
Corydon and Manjrekar
Gaseous Opal Orbs
[Record Label Records, www.recordlabelrecords.org]
M.B. + E.D.A.
Mind of Fire
[Subliminal Sounds, www.subliminalsounds.se]
[More Mars, www.moremars.tk]
[Handmade Records, www.handmaderecords.net]
ROB BROWN ENSEMBLE
Crown Truck Root Funk
[Aum Fidelity, www.aumfidelity.com]
THE GARIFUNA WOMEN'S PROJECT
THINK OF ONE
[Crammed Discs, www.crammed.be]
ROBBIE AVENAIM / DALE GORFINKEL
Sonic Systems Laboratory
[Split Records, www.splitrec.com]
MOLJEBKA PVLSE / SEVENTEEN MIGS OF SPRING
Ravha / Electricity Gardens
[Topheth Prophet, www.topheth.org]
THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND
13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
One Offs, Remixes & B-Sides
GOLIATH BIRD EATER
MICHAEL BLAKE SEXTET
Amor de Cosmos
AXEL DORNER / DIEGO CHAMY
What Matters to Ali
The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull
[Southern Lord, www.southernlord.com]
[Soft Abuse, www.softabuse.com]
[Payne Street Records, www.paynestrecords.com]
Live at Glenn Miller Café
[Ayler Records, www.ayler.com]
Lo Spazio Delle Fasi
[Dotnum Dunton, www.dotnumdunton.com]
BOB JAMES TRIO
[ESP Disk, www.espdisk.com]
FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS
Urban Mythology, Volume One
[Thirsty Ear, www.thirstyear.com]
NIK BARTSCH'S RONIN
[ECM Records, www.ecmrecords.com]
THE LORDS OF OUTLAND
You Can Sleep When You're Dead
[Edgetone Records, www.edgetonerecords.com]
These records have nothing much in common as far as I can tell, other than the fact they were located in the mountains that are building up in my bedroom.
Denver duo George & Caplin have been on a high, releasing a number of LPs and CDs on quite a regular basis. Running at just under the 30 minute mark, oddly titled "He Really Got Through to Advertising" sees them polish off their skills, mastering the art of folk-tronica. Bit of electronics, but largely reliant upon guitar doodling and percussion, the album sways gently from track to track. When vocals are present, as on the lovely "Nebraska Broadcaster", they're whispered rather than sang. Duo's employment of beats is sparse, with much of these coming across as if they were recorded two decades ago. Harmonica adds a nice layer of nostalgia to the proceedings. Very evenly paced record; one full of warmth and strangely enough some satisfying beats forcefully reminding one of the past, while treading firmly in the present tense.
Formed in 2005, Peloton are a Scandinavian quintet that is raising some eyebrows on the other side of the big pond. Translated from Finnish, their name means fearless. Oddly enough, their music is not the adventurous type of sounds one may expect. If anything, they remind the listener of early 70's era Miles. Karl Stomme's trumpet playing may be feisty, but I wish he stretched out more. Saxophonist Hallvard Godal has some nice moments, but those seem to be overshadowed by the band's insistence to tread on the jazz fusion territory. Stand out for me is Steinar Nickelsen's moog work, which accentuates the rhythmic qualities of the band as a whole. Petter Vagan's lap steel and guitar work is quite interesting too, but once again, the desire to stretch out and play from the gut is not evident. Still, I'm willing to give these guys some time to see the direction they mature in.
Two electronic whiz-gurus stand behind Manpack Variant - Jaime Fennelly and Chris Peck. With a wad of toys and devices, they create atmospherics that are thick and in parts, insanely noisy. "Flash Pumper" starts off the proceedings with some white noise, interspersed with guitar machinations. Twenty-two minute long "Matted Fur" gives off a drill-like drone that near the end turns into an evenly pumped fuzz-guitar frenzy. "AC Ferries" again delivers a pleasing trance-inducing guitar drone, which throws in some hellish vocals in for good measure. "Sticky Wickets" shines as a coherent record on the longer pieces, where duo gets to explore the sensual feel of grotesque, doom soundscapes.
My first introduction to flautist Nicole Mitchell was at Guelph Jazz Festival a few years back. Her Black Earth Ensemble raised the roof off the hall and their music was pumped with energy, grooves galore and music that yelled out pure joy. Dual release "Black Unstoppable" [issued on CD and DVD] recalls that concert quite vividly. Winds are especially strong here, with Mitchell leading the way on flutes and piccolo. Tenor saxophonist David Boykin blows a ton of masterful phrases, while David Young is a powerhouse on trumpet and flugelhorn. Jeff Parker's guitar delivery is as adventurous as always, while Tomeka Reid colours the landscape with stunning cello playing. Ugochi Nwaogwugwu delivers some soulful, perfectly uplifting vocals on three tracks, but ultimately, it's Mitchell and her warm delivery that makes this set such an inviting one for me. I make frequent visits to Mitchell's shrine. Very addictive stuff.
There's one thing you can say about Finnish trio Maniacs Dream - they're loud. How loud are they? Loud to the point of being obnoxiously, ear-popping levels loud. As I type this, the stereo is playing at a mere two, and 15 minutes in, I can already feel my ears getting fried. The name of the game is volume and sheer power. Drums are being massacred by Bella, while bass gets a work-out from Fricara and those lovely guitar-scrapes are done up at maximum levels by Hesedelic. Two long tracks - 47 and 22 minutes in length - each one being harsher than the previous one. Recommended solely to those who enjoy being run over by sheer amounts of over-the-top electrical current.
Vincent Helbers is the leader/producer and keyboardist behind Flowriders. Their debut "R.U.E.D.Y." is an album full of soulful vocals, steaming beats and grooves that resonate for hours after record has come to a stop. Colonel Red and Nia Saw throw out some funk-inspired vocals, while flautist Han Litz breaks out with steaming flurried playing. Guitarist Bas van der Wal gives off mostly delicate scorches of smoke, while percussionist Richard Spaven throws a steady beat. This is music that is luscious, sultry, full of deep soul and funk and ideal for a lazy summer afternoon.
The weirdest concoction of world music, electronica and folk music, Snöleoparden is the guise of one Jonas Stampe. Musically, for the most part, the album comes off sounding like a bunch of grade school kids doodling away on their instruments. Many of the instruments used on the record are in fact home-made. There is a ton of glockenspiel, xylophone and even hakim ghoula. Laptop was utilized to record a couple of the songs, while the rest were put down on a 4 track. What works best on the record is the sound of a 6-year old Pakistani boy basking his heart away on the transcendental "Dreng". It's moments like this in music that I live and die for. Scrumptious and most surprising release to start off the new year.
New York City boys and girls Blood on the Wall rage but in a self-contained way. Their "Liferz" release is pumped with emotion but the energy seems not to be squandered selflessly. Rather, they attack the song form and pump out just the right amounts of fury - enough to have hooks and melodies - something that welcomes the listener to revisit again and again. Brad Shanks and his sister Courtney trade off on vocals [though Brad is more apparent] and their gnarly come-what-may attitude is spread all throughout the album's length. If there's anything that the band reminds me of, it's the sound of Mudhoney in their late 80's heyday. Raw, furious and carelessly pleasing, Blood on the Wall is bound to be with us for a long while.
If there's anything that has captivated me about the sheer power of the saxophone recently, it must be the blatant blowing of Mars Williams. Former member of NRG Ensemble, Williams has a keen ability to blow absolutely powerful phrases, without overdoing anything. "Extraordinary Popular Delusions" is just about that - controlling the power within safe, shielded vicinity. Though all pieces are improvisations that the quartet [pianist Jim Baker, percussionist Steve Hunt and bass/guitar player Brian Sandstrom] work out at regular weekly gigs in Chicago, the music sounds as if it were partially composed. The cohesion of the band is incredibly tight. The way Baker's wildly coherent piano motifs run alongside Sandstrom's electric guitar wails are noteworthy. Wonderful record, one that I'm hoping will find a larger audience for the quartet outside of the Windy City.
One of the world's best DJs [in the club sense of that word], Craze spins out the 38th installment of FabricLive series, put out by Fabric Club in London. What a wicked trip through a wildly varied concoction this is! Next to Coldcut's messed up, mixed-up variation of "True Skool", we've got the ecstatic grooves of Earth, Wind and Fire's "Brazilian Rhyme", which is then followed by Armand Van Helden's "I Want Your Soul". Then, near the end of the mix, we get The Chemical Brothers and their ultra-funky "Get Yourself High" back to back with Kid Sister's attitude-licious "Pro Nails". Weirdly enough, all the transitions are seamless and the music is filled to the brim with vibe, grooves and much needed, positive swing.
Is "Night-Time Stories" really the first Robert Owens album in a decade? It seems the Chicago house vocalist has gone into semi-retirement, only to return with a fine slab of vinyl. Right off the bat, I'll state that not all tracks on the album are killers that one may expect them to be. In fact, it's the more subtle productions that stand out most. The soft-hushed "Now I Know" is a highlight in the ballad corner, while the nearly 10-minute extended "Press On" is tops in the minimal house production side. I could do without some of the shorter pieces, like the backward-looking "Happy", which seems redundant. Other than that, the album sees a fine return to form by a vocalist who should be making bigger waves, was it not for the musical genre he's attached himself to.
Following his very limited Minerals Series release "Recordings", Jack Marchment returns with a very solid "Corydon and Manjrekar". Amongst his influences, this musician/producer names DFA, Neu alongside Nelly Furtado and Alfred Hitchcock of all things. Don't get frightened, as his music isn't creepy, nor is it pop-oriented. The guy is really in search of the perfect tempo [medium], the perfect pitch [mid-level] augmented by nicely floating melodies that are spun inside his tunes. Ethereal may be a better word to describe this music, though it's not to be confused with ambient. Profoundly atmospheric in the best sense of that word, "Corydon and Manjrekar" is pleasing to my ears, brain and just about every limb of my body too.
I thought that Fluorescent Grey's "Lying On The Floor Mingling With God In A Tijuana Hotel Room Next Door To A Veterinary Supply Store" was one of the key [and most overlooked] records from 2006. Robbie Martin [or Fluorescent Grey] ripped through a massive pool of found sounds, alien rhythms and obscure beats. This time around, on "Gaseous Opal Orbs", he's using a variety of tools. On "Teleological Attractor", he's modifying sine wave tones and pure white noise. The result is a strange, warbled effect, which in places gets even soothing. For "Physically Modeled Theme for Children", he did away with samples and used digital physical modeling synthesis, which turns out to sound like a high-reverb dub track. Finally, for the closing eleven minute piece "Are you aware of the pink light emanating from your naval?" is made from samples and modulation of a Super Nintendo sound chip. This stuff is as hectically pleasing and as diverse as his previous stellar record. Let's just hope this album turns more heads than the previous one.
On "Regolelettroniche", Italian sound artist Maurizio Bianchi is credited with rulelectronics, loops and waves, while his younger musical partner, Emanuela De Angelis [co-founder of Mou, Lips!] contributes drones, re-echoings and rulelectronics. When they come together under the keen ear of Lawrence English [who was responsible for final mastering of the record], their sound is that of a never-ending drone. The 25-minute "Cosmic Norms" is one extended slab of drone - scorching, scraping and rough around the edges, while "Universal Order" [only half the length of the previous track] is a loop that is reminiscent of ghastly sounds inside of a deep, ominous cave. The album ends off with "Electronic Rules", which may have appropriated sounds of deep water explorations [sound of bubbles popping? someone gasping for air?]. As a whole, a highly evocative piece of work; one that hopefully spells out a successful, long-term relationship at its primal stages.
After being silent for 11 years, Swedish psychedelic guru S.T. Mikael returns with "Mind of Fire". With some of his albums from the 80's and 90's fetching in excess of $1000 on E-Bay, perhaps this was the most ideal time to return to making music? This time around S.T. Mikael comes together with a couple of members of Dungen to give the listener an even more intense, outer-body experience. Best numbers are the first five, longer pieces on the record. The uplifting "Wizdom" rocks and skewers the minds, while "Are You Dreaming Again?" is a far-out, nearly ballad-like meditation of sorts. Nine vintage bonus tracks included are hit and miss [recording quality wise]. If anything, they break the coherence of the record and the only good thing about them is that they're attached after the album proper. Otherwise, "Mind of Fire" is a fine bite of Scandinavian psychedelia. Since the record is highly limited to 2000 copies, I would recommend you get your slab of this freak-out music without delay.
Fervent is one A.M. who hails from Larissa, Greece. His debut "Conjestion" is a trippy ride through computer-created cacophony, field recordings and auxiliary found noise. "Ferver" is one heavy layer of glitch madness, while "Scarecrows Against Reasoning" features an abusive use of guitar delays, overdubbed three times. Effect is quite spectacular in its denseness and completeness. Final piece - half an hour long "Organ Piece for Anna / Comm" features a walkman, samples, guitar and a closed circuit and was overdubbed in less than three hours. Resulting sound is a thin layering of high-pitched waves, oscillating atmospherics and scraping, ear-splitting, mushed-up sounds. Refreshingly brave and pushing the envelope, Fervent is off with an excellent debut, which I hope will carry over into future releases.
What started off four years ago as a side project for Trond Harald Jensen has become an obsession. Laconic Zero's "Tribeca" is essentially a one-man project for Jensen, who is joined by guitarist Dag Solvberg. Produced by Shimmy Disc honcho Kramer, the album sees Jensen playing up a storm on his ancient Commodore 64 [anyone still remember those mighty machines?] and bass guitar. Together with Solveberg's fuzzy guitar, the result is metal with an electronic backing. Nineteen tracks on the record run an average of two minutes each, which means each one is carefully maximized in terms of its purpose. Music is fast, molten, but at times also quite barren. Jensen never overpowers any of his tunes, letting the natural playful affinities shine through brightly. Quite hyperactive with a huge grin, "Tribeca" is a sort of a record that can be enjoyed by those who miss metal 80's glory days as well as the younger generation of kids discovering the sounds from scratch.
Alto-saxophonist Rob Brown always grabbed me as one of the better, angular, free-wheeling powerhouses of our time. His latest ensemble was brought together during 2006's Vision Festival. Along with the leader, it features pianist Craig Taborn [who also plays electronics], bassist William Parker and percussionist Gerald Cleaver. It's Cleaver that steals the show for me. Take a listen to the introduction to "Sonic Ecosystem", where Cleaver is mashing about with bells and shaking about, while Taborn goes "outside" to play strings inside of his piano. Parker is agile and adaptable to Brown's angular blows, while at the same time, staying true to his own self. Even though all pieces are credited to the leader, much of the time, the quartet sounds as if they're improvising straight from the gut. "Crown Trunk Root Funk" is an exceptional record, one that shows the birth of an ensemble that sounds as if it's already at its creative peak.
Garifuna word for voice is Umalali, which is also the name of the new album by The Garifuna Women's Project. Originating on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Garifuna has deep-rooted traditions in Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Over 50 women of varying generations took part in this recording, which was more than a decade in the making. Late vocalist and guitar legend Andy Palacio and Garifuna Collective form the back-bone of the music. Women's vocals are tender, with hints of sunshine. They're lively and keen to express the deepest extremes of emotions. The music radiates in the glory of a style that is really beyond categories. Guitars are briskly played, while percussion is sparse, at once becoming one with many of the vocalists who sing here. Neither calypso, rumba, reggae, this is music rooted in human transcendental tradition. You can almost smell the scent of the earth moving beneath the musicians' feet as they storm up the vibes into life. Unforgettable sounds from Garifuna women - sounds that awaken all senses with the ease of the play button.
Antwerp-based collective Think of One is on a cusp of something big. It's not just that they blend musical genres and cultural traditions at will. I think what counts in their music is the fact that it's not the blatant will to do this but the way it just naturally happens. Merging their love for Moroccan shaâbi style, their desire to have dance styles come through, their love of urban music, and their respect for Gnawa music, their "Camping Shaâbi" release indicates a true willingness to come up with something quite coherent. Vocals are split as there are sections sung in Arabic, French, English and even Flemish dialect prevalent in Antwerp. Music is quite upbeat and very danceable. A song which appears to be a throw-back to the 80's, such as the rap heavy "Oppressor" [which is sung in English] works quite well. Even the metal-heavy "Hamdushi Five" works on many levels. On a personal note, I'll take the soothing, ballad concoction of "Sharia Orabi" any day. Very strong album, showing off what could happen in an ideal world, where cultures cohabit in a tight community.
If drone music is to develop further, "Sonic Systems Laboratory" release would be its current driving force. Produced by Robbie Avenaim and Dale Gorfinkel - aka Sonic Systems Laboratory - over a course of a 32 minute timeframe, the pair explores the tonalities of the vibraphone. These are not just any vibraphones, but specially prepared ones. Both musicians work on the textural side of things, coaxing sounds to escape via treatment with electrically powered rotating disks that rub the ends of the bars. This sounds like an ultra-hollow, dry pitch that is sustained in the air for what seems like an eternity. Then, various sticks are used to strike the bars, which make for quite an alien, almost chewing and clock-like sound. Final section features a further sustained sound [that resembles an overdubbed section] that results from close miking techniques. I could drown in these inviting sounds forever. Why is it the most adventurous, most vibrant records are edited to such trim lengths?
"Ravha / Electricity Gardens" is a split collaboration between Swedish collective Moljebka Pvlse and Israeli duo Seventeen Migs of Spring. The 27 minute long "Ravha" by Moljebka Pvlse features sustained bells from Karin Jacobson, squeaky violin playing from Maria Nordin and a ton of rich, all-encompassing field recordings made by Mathias Josefson. Crackles, sounds of dry leaves underfoot and strange cacophony populate the extended piece. "Calm Gardens (at night)" feature a true collaboration between both groups. While Seventeen Migs of Spring members add layers of thick, luscious drone, Moljebka Pvlse contribute electronic treatment, violin bits and styrofoam sound. The last five tracks are solo pieces by Seventeen Migs of Spring. All of these are imbedded with a deep, dark, drilling drone that careens even deeper into the listener's collective mindset. This is truly a great collection, which only begs for the floodgates to be opened for more from these two undervalued bands.
Starting a new series of albums, Ukraine's hidden electronic gem, Zavoloka begins the cycle with "Viter". Translating as wind in Ukrainian, "Viter" is a 20-minute examination of separate elements of folk music and electronics. While Zavoloka composed all seven tracks on the EP, she asked Olga Patramanska to perform violin parts and Anton Zhukov to play the bass. Zavoloka plays her parts on an old analogue synth, but what comes through the loudest are the violin and bass motifs. These are very airy and leave much room for the composer to show off. Beats are quite minimal and very rarely do they take away from the central melodies carried by the strings that are always found up front and center. Most rewarding release, proving there is so much life and joy in Zavoloka's music this time around that one can finally picture her heritage that she's putting forward on display.
The thing about Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra is they know how to write all-encompassing, epic songs. They also know how to rock out, something they do quite a lot on their latest "13 Blues for Thirteen Moons" release. This is music not so much to be savoured, but to be immersed in. With two guitars, two violins, cello, bass and multitude of drums, the atmosphere is thick, while the output is loud. With some strategically placed minimal passages populating each of the four long pieces, the band achieves a great story-telling technique. The overwrought chorus of voices rises up in a staunch demonstration of fury and frustration. Vocals sound angry but never resigned. This isn't rock, nor is it post-anything, but rather heads firmly in the direction of big-band improvisation [even though there's a real coherence to it all]. Consider this music to play at your next anger-management meeting. The blues of an urban landscape of tomorrow are ready to be served up today.
Going strong now for a number of years, UK's Nostalgia 77 outfit is one that I really started to appreciated with last year's excellent "Everything Under the Sun" release. They've now returned with a compilation of sorts. "One Offs, Remixes & B-Sides" doesn't come off as just a compilation but a carefully chosen track of tunes from past albums. Along with classic tracks from past releases, we're also welcomed by a variety of b-sides and remixes [done up by everyone from TM Juke, Povo, Bonobo, Grant Phabao]. There are also a number of live versions and alternate takes. The second disc especially disperses with the compilation tag, as each of the tracks melts thematically into the next. Strongest point is the final, 23 minute track, "The Impossible Equation". Taken off the vinyl only release of the same name, the piece is a perfect launch for all members of Nostalgia 77 Octet to take flight. All players get equal share of time and the playing is loose, yet their craft is very tight. Most welcome release which puts all of the band's strengths under the microscope.
Goliath Bird Eater is one of those bands that makes you stand up, shake your fist high up in the air and forces you to shout "wow!" Their debut "Blood Venus" is nothing short of 70 minutes of blood-curling metalicious grind-core, lick-heavy music. It reminds me of all bands I used to worship en masse during the mid 80's when the hardcore revolution was in full swing. Those were the days, I tell ya?.too bad with my graying head and a few extra pounds around the waist, they're not coming back anytime soon.
Native Vancouverite, saxophonist Michael Blake decided to come back from his present dwelling of NYC to his hometown to make "Amor de Cosmos". Inspiration for the album came from British Columbia newspaperman and politician, William Alexander Smith, who reinvented himself as Amor de Cosmos. With a diverse group of musicians backing him up, Blake asked five musicians to help him out on his quest. Trumpeter Brad Turner, percussionist Sal Ferreras, pianist Chris Gestrin, bassist Andre Lachance and drummer Dylan van der Schyff answered the call. Double percussion duties of van der Schyff and Ferreras [who doubles up on marimba] creates a power-house layer on which the music rests. Trumpeter Brad Turner is especially gifted at second guessing Blake's forward direction. His blowing is just as driven and inspired as the leader's. In fact their mini-duets are worth the price of admission alone. From calm, to composed, even touching on new music territories, Blake's album is a fine gem, just waiting to be uncovered.
One 45 minute piece. Two very fine musicians. Recorded in one day in April 2006. Trumpeter Axel Dörner joins percussionist Diego Chamy for an extended improvisation that takes the listener for an exciting ride. While anyone who knows Dörner from previous projects, shouldn't be at all surprised by what he does here. His trumpet tones are hushed and barely audible as ever. He relies on spittle and the sounds escaping from his horn are more akin to a whirlwind of quiet wind or perhaps dry leaves being trampled underfoot. Chamy relies on occasional strikes of a bell or carefully planed rubbing on the cymbals. Sounds are nearly as strange and unrecognizable as the ones Dörner throws our way. Near the conclusion of the disc, Dörner starts to play actual trumpet tones, while Chamy switches over to authentic rhythm on the toms. Through the peaks and valleys, "What Matters to Ali" is an album that takes the ears for a wild ride and back again. In order to grasp most of the details, "What Matters to Ali" must be listened to at maximum volume.
Earth is an ensemble that I've followed on and off from their early days over with Sub Pop. Their metallic, guitar-heavy and morosely slow jams always made me relax. In a nutshell, their music is still the slow-moving jam quality, but on their latest release "The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull", they are joined on three tracks by guitarist Bill Frisell. The guitar god adds finely picked layers of blues-soaked, blue-grass, non-genre specific playing he's so well known for. This time around, the quartet is even more laid-back than usual. Steve Moore's organ work is thick and luscious, while Don McGreevy is heard on acoustic bass, along with electric, which gives the band a more live feel. Dylan Carlson's riffs are stupendous in their almighty power and directness. This isn't someone who wastes any time at all at making empty statements. Earth makes music for the here and now. Take notice, for this could very well be their golden moment.
Formed by steel string guitarists Jan Thoben and Jochen Briesen back in 2001, Taunus has since been rounded off with bassist Derek Shirley, clarinetist Michael Thieke, vibraphonist Wilm Thoben and guitarist F.S. Blumm. On "Harriet", they define music as something that is delicate, fragile and wrought with a million shining details. Obviously, strings are a big part of the process and sound of various guitars is mesmerizing. Their delicacy and haunting beauty recalls a softer sort of folk music or even, blues-tinged sounds. Thoben's vibraphone strokes are gentle, trickling onto the surface one by one, while Thieke gives off slight, evenly paced blows on his clarinet. Hushed tones, delicate beauty and most of all, haunting atmosphere that surrounds the whole body, this is full spectrum listening, best experienced on a good set of headphones.
As a beginning to a three-part "Ceremony" trilogy, guitarist Steven R. Smith starts off fresh under the Ulaan Khol moniker. Not only are his guitar machinations well thought out, they're full of raw power and intense grit. Nine untitled pieces ravage the nervous system as they waver between scorching and those that are more minimal and hauntingly loop-centered. Even though many of the pieces have a surprisingly calming effect, make no mistake, this is full blown gloom and doom music. Smith is not out to convince anyone of his state of things - he lives all of it on the record. By the time he employs organ, the resulting wall of sound is thick, yet sparse. It's haunting yet it disturbs. On the seventh track, with drums fully employed, the music reaches its orgasmic potential. Smith rides the pinnacle of the peak to its maximum potential. His guitar tone is richer, while organ layers are thicker than before. Almost as if to recap the whole story, the last two pieces are gentler in their approach and an all-too brief record only forces me wait with anticipation for the next two installments of this trilogy.
Former Dr. Nerve member, guitarist/composer Steve MacLean is never a figure I had paid much attention to. Other than his work with Dr. Nerve, I'm not sure why he was outside of my radar screen, but his new 2-CD release "Bridges" made me look his way. The collection is an assembly of piece dating 1989 to 2006. MacLean is ultimately a huge fan of processed guitar and effects, which is fine, though too many of these pieces take away from the leader's playing by introducing keyboards into the mix. The sound then becomes somewhat watered-down and thin. Though MacLean's playing isn't bad, I wish he would pull some muscle into many of the pieces. Much of the time, it appears as if he's simply going through the motions instead of stretching his playing to outer limits. There is still some fairly descent playing and most of the second disc sees him hitting his stride. The lovely "Kora" features MacLean switch over to this ancient instrument for a serious solo work-out, while the title track is a disturbing film score to a movie about Bosnian ethnic cleansing [unfortunately, the film was never finished]. If only to investigate the many facets of MacLean's work, "Bridges" serves as a perfect first step.
Australian chanteuse Rosie Burgess has a superior set of vocal chords. Free of smoke and mostly free of any hoarse rasps, she sings tenderly and sweetly. Her latest release "Humble Pie" is a sign of a mature artist - someone who has surrendered to her music completely, someone who knows the value of a great song. Though this may be described as folk music for the rough, dry country, it's actually music with a smiley face attached. Burgess doesn't sing about depressing experiences. She's too busy ranting about the bright side of her life experiences to date. Her guitar flutters are sparse and melodious, while bare percussion and harmonica make for fitting companions. I don't know where Burgess is heading to next, but let's hope she retains some of the qualities that make this not just a fair release but a good one.
Scandinavian trio, Gyldene Trion is not one I'm immediately familiar with. They consist of saxophonist Jonas Kullhammmar and rhythm section, made up of bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg and drummer Daniel Fredriksson. Recorded last August, "Live at Glenn Miller Café" is a record that holds no punches. While the album contains three covers [two of which are Monk tunes], it's the pieces by the leader and bassist that contain the most potential. There, Kullhammar persistently tortures his horn into submission, while rhythm section gives off a solid, though not always complementary backing. On "Snake City Rundown", the trio is in a relaxed mode, as Kullhammar pops up with scorching playing against the back-drop of solid percussive mastery from Fredriksson. Consider "Live at Glenn Miller Café" a fine teaser for what's to come.
Hailing from Italy, Kidsok Nuit [or Giuseppe Mileti] takes an active part in researching electronic music from top to bottom. From past projects, it's evident this guy has tried everything - electroacoustic works, a/v installations, digital composition and even DJ sets. Hell, he's not afraid of anything! His highly limited CD-R release [40 copies!] "Lo Spazio delle Fasi" is a mish-mash of genres. There is pure noise. We're also treated to harsh treatments of sounds along with computer-generated blips and bleeps. Each of the six tracks is different in over-all process and results vary. Ambience that is scarred, harsh and oftentimes purely chaotic, Kidsok Nuit has certainly peaked my full attention.
Though he has since moved more into the central jazz spotlight, in 1965 pianist/composer Bob James recorded a little heard-of record called "Explosions", which was nothing but left-of-centre. Being joined by bassist Barre Philips, drummer Robert Pozar and the leader along with Bob Ashley and Gordon Mumma on electronic tape collage, James explores the inner workings of the piano. Not that all of this music is always overtly pensive, but truth is, James loved to slow things down a notch. Languid, relaxed explorations are fuelled by Phillips' striking arco bass flutters and Pozar's delicate percussive rumbles. Add to this electronically mish-mashed tape collage on a couple of the tracks that becomes a forceful factor for the trio to play against, and you've got some truly challenging music. It's a shame that James has never since been able to repeat this creative peak.
Continuing their quite popular Groove series, Putumayo has now traveled to Europe to dig up ten tracks from some of the continent's DJs, musicians and producers. Main emphasis here is obviously the premise of the groove. Some tracks groove more and some groove with a slower, more languid beat. Toufic Farroukh is featured with lazy beats of "Destins et Desirs", which highlights the sweet vocals of Jeanne Added. Germany's Jazzamor's "Nuit Magique" is sensual [with a sultry female vocal up-front"], while Spain's Guateque All Stars do an excellent, slow jam on "Superwhirly", which features sultry vocals of Shiva. Even Chumbawamba is on display with their cross-over, ballad-soaked "Jacob's Ladder". Each of the ten tracks goes down very easy and the only drawback is the compilation's measly 40 minute length. Is there no way the label could find more material or are they saving some more for part two?
Following a single performance at NYC's Tonic, guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and percussionist G. Calvin Weston decided to go into an impromptu recording session. Resulting project called Free Form Funky Freqs materializes in the form of "Urban Mythology, Volume One". Much of this stuff sounds nothing short of purely improvised jams. Still, the sound quality is good enough and the playing is strong enough to distinguish this from three amateurs playing noise in an abandoned warehouse. Especially pleasing is Reid's over-the-top soloing and scorching blues-soaked workouts. All the while, Tacuma and Weston play lead roles as well, as their solid barrage brings volume levels to their peak. There's more funk and blues here than one may expect. Add to this a healthy dose of rock, metal and jazz-inspired sections and you get a very strong beginning for this trio. Question is, will Volume Two be as solid as the band's debut?
"Concentrated listening and rhythmic dancing seem diametrically opposed. But to me music is an art of motion, and thus akin to dancing and martial arts?Musicians move in much the same way as martial artists" they create the requisite musical flow in the immediate present, as if of its own accord", says Swiss pianists/composer Nik Bärtsch in the linear notes to his latest CD "Holon". Right from the start of this musical journey, it's obvious that silence is as much a crucial factor in Bärtsch's palette as is sound. To say that his playing is sparse would be an understatement. In fact, the notes he utters on the keys of the piano are carefully chosen and executed with a hefty amount of delicacy and precision. Two percussionists - Kaspar Rast and Andi Pupato - give off a dueling sense of security to the leader, while Sha plays quite inspired, emotive passages on bass clarinet and alto sax. Bassist Björn Meyer has a resounding, pulsing tone that adds a funk-like sensibility to the proceedings. Question remains, is "Holon" meditative music, pulse-driven lesson in dance or is it a tight walk on the ropes of music and silence between?
Through the bends and curves, we arrive at The Lords of Outland and their latest release, an obviously titled "You Can Sleep When You're Dead". I've not listened to skronk-jazz since the days of Hal Russell really and it's not an area that I've paid an overt amount of attention to. The Lords of Outland certainly push in that direction, though they're somewhat more controlled in the amount of pure shronk that escapes from their instruments. Saxophonist/accordion player Rent Romus certainly tries his best to out-do the other members of the quartet, though I must admit CJ Borosque is no worse on various analog pedals. Ray Shaeffer's electric bass creates a mash effect, while Philip Everett's electronics work is the cream on the pie, taking the band to upper echelons of noisedom. They even manage to pull off a slower number, the nearly melodic, electronic-mashed "Disturbing Emergence". Fine release, begging the question whether there are more fine slabs of sound in the works.
- Tom Sekowski
+ Voice_Electronic Duo - Ved
+ Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Anatomy of Inner Place
+ Francisco Lopez - Live in Auckland
+ Peter Brötzmann/Han Bennink - Total Music Meeting. Berlin 1977
+ Sunburned Hand of the Man - Fire Escape
+ Troum - DARV? SH/AJIN
+ Wooden Wand - James & the Quiet
+ Jackie-O Motherfucker - Flags of the Sacred Harp / Jackie-O Motherfucker - Valley of Fire
+ Maquiladora with Makoto Kawabata - Kiss Over
+ Landfall - Landfall (The Frogression Tapes, vol. 2)
+ Vive La Fete - Jour De Chance
+ Duncan/Kontakt Der Jünglinge/Hausswolff - Untitled
+ Trouble Over Tokyo - Pyramides
+ Matthias Tanzmann - Restless
+ Kuniyuki Takahashi - All These Things
+ System 7 - Phoenix
+ DJ Donna Summer - Panther Tracks
+ Poker Flat Vol. 6 - Dead Man's Hand
+ Organum - Omega
+ The Orb - The Dream
+ Bärchen: Songs For Bruno, Knut & Tom
+ Back To Back Vol. 2 - Compiled & Mixed By Gummihz
+ Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch - When Good Things Happen To Bad Pianos
+ Justus Köhncke - Safe And Sound
+ Dinner Music For Clubbers - Peter Grummich Plays Staubgold
+ Martin Eyerer - Word Of Mouth
+ Roger Doyle - The Ninth Set
+ Jay Denham - The Truth
+ Daedelus - Live At Low End Theory
+ Current 93 - Of Ruine Or Some Blazing Starre
+ Claro Intelecto - Metanarrative
+ Borko - Celebrating Life
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+ PAUL BLEY TRIO - Closer
>> GEORGE & CAPLIN - He Really Got Through to Advertising / PELOTON - Selected Recordings / MANPACK VARIANT - Sticky Wickets / NICOLE MITCHELL'S BLACK EARTH ENSEMBLE - Black Unstoppable CD / DVD / MANIACS DREAM - Turku Hold'em / FLOWRIDERS - R.U.E.D.Y. / SNOLEOPARDEN - Snöleoparden / BLOOD ON THE WALL - Liferz / BAKER / HUNT / SANDSTROM / WILLIAMS - Extraordinary Popular Delusion / VARIOUS ARTISTS - Craze - FabricLive 38 / ROBERT OWENS - Night-Time Stories / JACK MARCHMENT - Corydon and Manjrekar / FLUORESCENT GREY - Gaseous Opal Orbs / M.B. + E.D.A. - Regolelettroniche / S.T. MIKAEL - Mind of Fire / FERVENT - Conjestion / LACONIC ZERO - Tribeca / ROB BROWN ENSEMBLE - Crown Truck Root Funk / THE GARIFUNA WOMEN'S PROJECT - Umalali / THINK OF ONE - Camping Shaâbi / ROBBIE AVENAIM / DALE GORFINKEL - Sonic Systems Laboratory / MOLJEBKA PVLSE / SEVENTEEN MIGS OF SPRING - Ravha / Electricity Gardens / ZAVOLOKA - Viter / THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND - 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons / NOSTALGIA 77 - One Offs, Remixes & B-Sides / GOLIATH BIRD EATER - Blood Venus / MICHAEL BLAKE SEXTET - Amor de Cosmos / AXEL DORNER / DIEGO CHAMY - What Matters to Ali / EARTH - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull / TAUNUS - Harriet / ULAAN KHOL - I / STEVE MACLEAN - Bridges / ROSIE BURGESS - Humble Pie / GYLDENE TRION - Live at Glenn Miller Café / KIDSOK NUIT - Lo Spazio Delle Fasi / BOB JAMES TRIO - Explosions / VARIOUS ARTISTS - Euro Groove / FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS - Urban Mythology, Volume One / NIK BARTSCH'S RONIN - Holon / THE LORDS OF OUTLAND - You Can Sleep When You're Dead
+ CHARLES GAYLE QUARTET - Blue Shadows
+ VARIOUS ARTISTS - Doom & Gloom - Early Songs of Angst and Disaster 1927-1945 / VARIOUS ARTISTS - In Prison: Afroamerican Prison Music from Blues to HipHop / VARIOUS ARTISTS - Black & Proud - The Soul of the Black Panther Era - Vol. 1 & 2 / VARIOUS ARTISTS - Globalista: Import-Export
+ GILBERT HOLMSTRÖM QUARTET - The Mandelbrot Set
+ STEVE JANSEN - Slope
+ TULLY - Sea of Joy / FARM - The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun / THE TIM GAZE BAND - Band on the Run / PETER MARTIN & FINCH - Drouyn / TAMAM SHUD - Evolution
+ EVANGELISTA - Hello, Voyager
+ SETH NEHIL - Amnemonic Site
+ ARTUR DYJECINSKI - A Year and a Half of Rain
+ UT GRET - Recent Fossils
+ VARIOUS ARTISTS - Poor Boy: Songs of Nick Drake
+ MARK O'LEARY - On The Shore
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WYWIADY / RELACJE
+ Wolę być didżejem - rozmowa z Matthiasem Tanzmanna [+ KONKURS!]