Woven Time - Piano Solo
[Dusty Groove, www.dustygroove.com]
The Holly Martins
no. no. yes. no.
[Edgetone Records, www.edgetonerecords.com]
Fait ses courses
Noetinger / Doneda / eRikm
Opsvik & Jennings
A Dream I Used to Remember
[Loyal Label, www.loyallabel.com]
Boutaiba Sghir / Bellemou & Benfissa / Groupe El Azhar / Cheb Zergui
1970's Algerian Proto-Rai Underground
[Sublime Frequencies, www.sublimefrequencies.com]
[Room 40, www.room40.org]
Marvellous Boy - Calypso from West Africa
[Honest Jon's, www.honestjonsrecords.com]
Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Kim Myhr
Stems and Cages
[MNJ Records, www.mnj.no]
Christy & Emily
[Cave 12, www.cave12.org]
The People's Record
[Fylkingen Records, www.fylkingen.se]
Rauschgold - Alec Empire Plays Staubgold
Bob Blank - The Blank Generation - Blank Tapes NYC 1975-1985
Yann Novak / Jamie Drouin
[Henry Art Gallery, www.henryart.org]
I Love CQ
[Drag City, www.dragcity.com]
Ken Vandermark / Max Nagl / Clayton Thomas / Wolfgang Reisinger
[Cracked an Egg, www.crackedanegg.com]
Eddy Meets Yannah
Pop in Swing
[Fremeaux & Associes, www.fremeaux.com]
Stefan Keune / Hans Schneider / Achim Kramer
Live at the Folklore Center, NYC - March 6, 1967
[Tompkins Square, www.tompkinssquare.com]
Conscious Mental Field Recordings
Quit Having Fun - Boring Machines Compilation # 1
[Boring Machines, www.boringmachines.it]
Shinkei / Luigi Turra
[Non Visual Objects, www.nonvisualobjects.com]
Mort Aux Vaches
Jahtarian Dubbers Vol. 2
Moon & Moon
VII Acts of an Iron King
[La Societe Expeditionnaire, www.la-soc.com]
At the Movies
[Cracked an Egg, www.crackedanegg.com]
Vienna Scientists V - The 10th Anniversary
[Vienna Scientists, www.viennascientists.com]
The Ex Guitars meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo - Volume 1
[Smalltown Superjazz, www.smalltownsuperjazz.com]
The Great Allure
[Glacial Movements, www.glacialmovements.com]
The Solo Concert
The Holmes Brothers
Feed My Soul
Once in a blue moon a pianist appears that has a self-imposed style that few can accuse of derivatives. Swiss pianist Katharina Weber is one such performer. Her abundant key strokes are over-flowing in rich textures, hyper-active in their sense of ideas and highly confident in assurance. Amongst the short to medium-length pieces, Weber attacks the keyboards with a sense of urgency, while retaining an aura of grace and humility. Lyrical and played with an extraordinary tightness and appreciation for space, "Woven Time" is a knock-out release that is sure to expose Weber to a wider audience.
Guitarist maestro Jorge Ben was one of the co-founders of Brazil's Tropicalia movement in the 60's. While he released a good number of records during this timeframe, none strikes me as complete and revelatory as his self-titled effort from 1969. The joy of hearing his sparkling voice hit those high notes, the crescendos he manoeuvres through end up sending rousing, spine-tingles down my spine. Soul-salsa-psychedelia rarely sounded this exhilarating. "Jorge Ben" is for those moments in life when you need to get your jollies out, when life is just too good to sit still and moat. Use with utmost care, this record is known to cause addiction.
The Third Man is a radio show I followed quite closely as a kid. I used to stay up late at night listening to the intense cohorts of the main character as he smuggled his way through undergrounds of deceit and intrigue of post-war Vienna. One of the characters in the series was a novelist, Holly Martin, which is where the band The Holly Martins derives their name. Their debut release, curiously titled "no. No. Yes. No." is a complete oddity in feel and execution. Comprised of alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, guitarist Eric Vogler and vocalist Lorin Benedict, this trio is a blend of the obtuse and the somewhat familiar. Real star of the show is Benedict, whose vocalizing stretches the boundaries and runs the gamut of harmonizing with strings and reeds, while retaining its own irrational feel. No words are sung, just Dadaistic phrases. This is all one wants and needs from a band that exists not so much to please but rather to challenge.
I know next to nothing about French [I'm guessing] outfit Automelodi. Their Fait ses Courses album in a succinct span of 39 minutes deviates between retro 80's beats, harmonic discourses and tight pop songs. Especially calling is Patrick Gosselin's wonky guitar riffs, as well as Xavier Paradis' down-trodden vocals. Not a bad effort per se, but the problem remains that I've heard music that is more filling and down-to-the-point quarter of a century ago, when Heaven 17 and Re-Flex ruled the world.
Wall of sound minus the satchel of noise is what "Dos D'anes" sounds like. Jerome Noetinger, Michel Doneda and eRikm feel so in tune with each other, one has to wonder how long they've been playing as a working trio. Doneda's constant soprano whistles work hand in hand with eRikm's electronic waffles and Noetinger's waifs. To blow a whistle, to hush a tune and to unnerve the senses, the trio reveal hidden nuances and brilliant passages of musical revelation. If only we could see them work in a live scenario on this side of the ocean, things would be that more perfect.
Duo made up of multi-instrumentalist Eiving Opsvik and guitarist Aaron Jennings [who also plays banjo, electronics and provides vocals] is an intriguing one to say the least. Their release, oddly titled "A Dream I Used to Remember" is full of small sketches of [mostly] instrumental music that reaches the realms of folktronica, pop, rock and tid-bits of jazz. Gloriously orchestrated, the two throw a mish-mash of bass, percussion, organ, keyboards, and banjo and treat it with luxurious feel of soft bed of melodies that pop in and out of the audible range. A choir that is thrown into "September and Starry Eyed" gives the track a glorious, uplifting feel, while the nearly epic tentative march of "Sunroad" seems like a fitting way to close off the record. Repeat listening sessions allow the listener to drown in Opsvik & Jennings' dream again and again.
Francesco Giannico's name is a new one in my vocabulary. What's more, his "Folkanization" record barely does enough to lift the veil from his shrouded way of music making. Strummed guitars, banjos, harp are put through electronic treatments. I believe there is some sort of a term that's put forth to describe what Giannico is up to. Regardless, the music is pensive - lurking in the shadows - as the interplay of instruments [all of them played and processed by Giannico] weaves slowly through the landscape. Far eastern and Indian elements even pop into the picture, while harsh and noisy interludes are audible on a couple of the tracks. Inescapably, the result is lush, [though never lulling] drift of rich, forward-driven music.
Rarely do I go into a musical trance as when I hear Algeria's native Rai. The music is warm, soothing, while exhuming a most natural flow. "1970's Algerian Proto-Rai Underground" is a re-issue of 2008 release that features some of Algeria's best known Rai groups of the 70's. With horns blasting far and wide, Boutaiba Sghir's "El Fermlia" [The Nurse] goes a long way to inducing a trance-like state of mind, while the chants on Groupe El Azhar's "Touedar Aakli" [My Reason is Lost] are other-worldly, as they entice and seduce. Not a weak number in the bunch, this compilation is heaven sent. The only drawback is its relatively short length. Running at only 43 minutes, one would like to hope there will be a follow-up volume released soon.
Hear is a trio made up of bassist Hannes Strobl, drummer Tony Buck and no-input mixing board guru Toshimaru Nakamura. Their "5 Pieces" album presents music that is austere, organic but mostly fertile in ideas. Strobl tends to scrape the hell out of his bass, while Buck's percussive drills are made up of elusive scrapes on the cymbals or light brush strokes. It is Nakamura that has a role of adding sprinkles of vivid colour to the mix. Surprisingly, he is quite restrained as his board emits light fluttering of rumbling hums side by side high-pitched squeals. Blend of the three players is masterfully mixed. Their responses to each other are intuitive and propelling. One must really listen closely to hear Hear. Amazement is in the most minute details.
British label Honest Jon's is known for pulling musical rabbits out of their hat. "Marvellous Boy - Calypso from West Africa" is another example of what the label does best, in excavating past musical gems from an early grave. This time around, it's calypso from West Africa that has been so splendidly resurrected. Elated sounds from outfits such as Mayor's Dance Band, Ebenezer Calender and his Maringer Band, The Rhythm Aces and numerous others make it onto the eighteen track compilation. Listen as the euphoric horns bluster on "The Tree and the Monkey" by E.T. Mensah and his Tempos Band or Famous Scrubbs' laid back grooves on "Scrubbs Na Marvellous Boy". Not a weak number in the bunch, "Marvellous Boy" is a hot heart-stealer that will surely propel you to move your feet.
Berlin's electro-pop queen, Barbara Morgenstern decides to move away from the genre that so heavily defined her career. "bm" sees her go into a territory full of lyrical vignettes, melancholy numbers and songs that simply linger. Starting off the album with a slowly paced "Driving my Car" [which she sings in English, German as well as Polish], the glossy advert of "Come to Berlin" through to the broken-up "My Velocity", the album is hard to clearly define in its own snug subgenre. Robert Wyatt provides his unmistakable vocals [and verbiage] on the piano-driven, sombre "Camouflage". In all honesty, a challenging record to put ones finger on, but a satisfying listen through and through.
For Trondheim Jazz Orchestra's seventh effort "Stems and Cages", they've decided to invite guitarist Kim Myhr to step into the spotlight as their artistic leader. Thirteen person strong ensemble, the orchestra's music isn't what one may first associate with a big band. There is little in the sense of rambunctious, dithering fun. In fact, much of the album concentrates on distinct details. Ingar Zach's percussive scrapes are amplified well, as is Sidsel Endresen's restraint vocal calls. Jim Denley's saxophone and flute gyrations are understated, while Martin Taxt's tuba blows, while energetic, seem to simply hang in the air, waiting for someone to bounce them back. Christian Wallumrod's prepared piano is oblique and stark. The music has its ebbs and flows, but never does it become redundant. Staying on this side of obtuse, "Stems and Cages" is about the discreet sounds.
I know very little about Christy & Emily. I can tell you that Christy Edwards plays guitar, harmonica, drums and sings, while Emily Manzo plays piano, organ, drums and also sings. On their "No Rest" album, the duo seems to be on a mission to proof that they can in fact put eloquent songs together. Mission accomplished. What's more though is their music is very sombre and sparse. Listener gets hints of individual instruments though we're never overwhelmed by a scenario where instrumentation has gone haywire. Their voices are sad though never approaching hopeless. Mixture of blues, jazz and folk appear in this music. Approach seems to be very well thought out, with production kudos going out to Faust's Hans Joachim Irmler. "No Rest" is ideal music for a rainy day.
Everybody needs a bit of rock-fuelled chaos in their lives, which is where Darling come in. Quartet made up of bassist/vocalist Adrien Kessler, guitarist Vincent Haenni, drummer Andrea Valvini and keyboardist Anne Cardinaud, the band rocks fast and they rock hard. Vocalist's persistent hollering phrasings are on the spot. He's pissed as hell [though I'm not exactly sure what the issues are that propel him into this ecstatic state] and he doesn't hold anything back. Rhythm section is particularly tight. It only propels Cardinaud to act out in mish-mash of keyboard hums. Like a drunker, more straightforward Pere Ubu mixed with elements of hardcore, the band rocks hard and solid. Recommended to those who hate to hear a negative response to anything they demand.
Reliable ambience comes at us in the form of Pjusk's "Sval" album. Norwegian duo made up of Rune Sagevik and Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik offers the listener a ton of ambient sounds that slowly dissipate, gently roll and simply stand still. Occasional crackling noises remind me of breaking ice in the tundra waters, while the gaseous movements sound weary, nearly foreboding. One can't believe how rapidly these 65 minutes disappear. With every nook and cranny being filled to the brim with fascinating ideas, you can't resist repeat listening massages. "Sval" is custom made for a gloomy day or simply as a replacement for an after-work gin and tonic.
Moving onto Sweden, we dig into Club 8's latest release "People's Record". One thing the listener can't fail to notice is an overt change with the band. Nearly three years after their previous record, duo of Johan Angergard and Karolina Komstedt return with music that is heavier in its percussive focus. It swings, it rocks, it even features an electric organ. Choruses are more up-front and lively. Element of wilting, love-torn desperation seems to be missing altogether. Karolina's vocals have rarely prior to this point sounded so jubilant, while Johan's guitar work is more chipper and forthright. African elements even creep into the picture, which is something of an oddity for the band. Don't think for a minute that their overt love of pop is gone. Melodies are still the key that holds the band together after so many years. "People's Record" is of the people and for the people.
Staying in Sweden, we unearth Daniel Rozenhall's self-titled album. Five tracks represented here are pulled from two LPs, one released in 2001, while the other one in 2003. As the liner notes rightly point out, "Rozenhall's music has nothing to do with greeting phrases. This is the way a farewell sounds." Though I will agree to a point, I can't see this music as being quite so dire. Yes, there is plenty of gloom - thrilling treble sounds that cascade themselves as if in a line-up, one on top of the other. There are crescendos and organ-like concoctions that resemble an alien invasion. Longer tracks make best use of time and space to allow Rozenhall opportunity to stretch out. Music not only of farewells, but of new beginnings. Foreboding but shining a ray of bleak hope for the future.
It's no surprise that Alec Empire was given the keys to Staubgold's catalogue. Over the years, he has proven himself to be a man of varied tastes and had his hand in many musical genres, often running parallel with each other. "Rauschgold" features eighteen nuggets of Staubgold's rich catalogue. In one way or another, these are tweaked or selected by Alec Empire and Staubgold's proprietor Markus Detmer. From Groenland Orchester's flaunting beats of "Haudura", through Alec Empire's twisted mix of Heaven And, onto his vision of Klangwart's "Zweitoneins", the music is scorching. Beats, guitar riffs, heavy samples, "Rauschgold" plays extremely well as a quick snapshot tour of a very crucial label.
Bob Blank's Blank Studios paid a key role in shaping music that came out of NYC during the 70's and much of the 80's. "The Blank Generation" follows some of the crucial acts that recorded at Blank Studios during this time. Everyone from Debby Blackwell, Sun Ra, Lydia Lunch, James Blood Ulmer, Gladys Knight, Lola make it on the record. Running the gamut of disco, jazz, funk, soul, Latin, the compilation is high on music that shaped an entire generation. Nearly 80 minutes of solid hits and lesser known cuts, Bob Blank is celebrated as a true revolutionary, even if all he did was to facilitate the recording studio space. "The Blank Generation" works really well, either as a highlight of a party or a trip back through time.
Envisioned as two separate sound installations, "+Room-Room" is a solid piece of work by Yann Novak and Jamie Drouin. Conceived for two adjacent galleries at Seattle's Henry Art Gallery, each of the composers put forward 31 minute 26 seconds track that investigates the possibilities of sound as seen through the ears of a separate room. Basis for the pieces were ambient noises that were recorded within the confines of each gallery. Novak's piece is calm, while retaining a drifting sound. As the piece progresses, the listener's ears start to focus on a sound that begins to resemble chirping of grasshoppers in the distance. Slow shift and gentle wave-forms give this piece a floating quality. Jamie Drouin's piece is bolder than its predecessors. Sounds are more firm, bustier and more forthright. Drone explores various territories of floating, rumbling sounds that soothe the ear and challenge one from falling asleep. Solid piece of work through and through.
I fail to understand Japanese trio Applehead. They're dressed up in cute animal costumes - Mayutan sings and is the pink animal, Fredy plays guitar, while Candy plays the drums. Vocalists comes across like Chipmunks on acid, while the instrumentation put forward by the remaining members is part corny and part ridiculous. Songs are all sang in Japanese and the [translated] lyrics don't make much sense at all, unless you understand what this means - "A goat read emails / A lamb put a nail on its legs / A bull polished a piece of furniture which he takes pride in." I give up! Perhaps you have to live in Japan to truly get this?
Maybe I'm just not getting something, but Magik Markers' minimal noisy pop just doesn't stick to the back of my mind. As much as I want to get intimate with the songs on "Balf Quarry", they pass overhead, without leaving so much as a distinct mark embedded. Elisa's guitar riffling is fine, but just that. Her vocals are muddied, to the point where the listener has issues understanding all that's being referenced in the songs [which could explain why lyrics are provided in the confines of the CD booklet]. Pete's drumming is all over the map. There's very little cohesion with what Elisa does to the pounding rhythms Pete puts forward. In the end, the resulting album sounds a tad amateurish but that's the whole point of the wonder and awe that is Magik Markers.
Subtitled "Play the Music of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy", C.O.D.E.'s record is a delight to the senses. Quartet consists of Ken Vandermark on clarinets and tenor, Max Nagl on alto sax, and a rhythm section of bassist Clayton Thomas along with percussionist Wolfgang Reisinger. Arrangements of the pieces are divided more or less equally amongst the band members. I'm blatantly partial to Dolphy numbers. Take in Vandermark's intoxicating bass clarinet blows on "The Madrig Speaks, The Panther Walks" or the evident humour on "Hat and Beard". Not that I'm saying the Coleman numbers are any worse or lacking in quality. The band's take on "Dee Dee" and "Free Jazz" are loose and tightly executed. I especially love the interplay between Vandermark's striking tenor and Nagl's assertive alto. Add to this the swinging rhythm section, and you've got yourself an hour worth of solid fun.
Eddy Meets Yannah's "Once in a While" was my summer release for 2007. It was smooth, rugged and had a rhythm from out of this world. No wonder then that I had high expectations for the duo's new release "Fiction Jar". Let me state for the record, the wait was worth it. "Take a Little Trip" features slow moving beats and Yannah's enticing vocals which soothe the mind, while "Nostalgic" offers a journey back in time to acid-infused beats of late 80's. One of the highlights of the records is "Z-Town Experience". Its jazz-inspired sampled horns put a rush into the already hard melodies the duo works up. Yannah's vocals are as sweet and tender as ever, while Eddy's production techniques have only evolved over time. With repeat listening sessions, "Fiction Jar" gets so damn addictive, the situation becomes surreal.
There's nothing more refreshing in jazz than a sturdy sense of humour. French septet Pink Turtle understand this concept well and on their album "Pop in Swing" bring this to fruition. Running through rock standards book, the band covers everyone from Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Bee Gees, Eagles, Police, Queen, Yes to Supertramp. Their versions are a mixture of jazz with a heavy emphasis on swing. Listen to the way they run through "Smoke on the Water", with the doo-wop choruses, the washboard rhythms and the trumpet blasts. I've never heard anyone be more carefree and cheerful while running down through "Highway to Hell". Patrick Bacqueville and Christophe Davot have vocals that are straight-laced, but one can detect a hidden smirk. Then comes their rendition of "Another Brick in the Wall" - full of zesty guitar work and snappy sax work - at which point, one has to ask the question - are these guys for real? They grew up with this music and they're doing what they can to bring their love of the music to their fans. Why wouldn't they be real? "Pop in Swing" is a blast. It's got fun proudly displayed on its sleeve.
On "No Comment", a trio of German improvisers presents what's best about truly free racket. Made up of saxophonist Stefan Keune, bassist Hans Schneider and percussionist Achim Kramer, ensemble runs the gamut from way-out-there free improv to more subdued tinkering. It would be an outright lie if I called Keune the star of the show. Sure, as he screeches full-blasts on his baritone [along with the alto bird calls he produces], one can identify his work as bold and uncompromising, but members of the rhythm section are certainly playing on par. Schneider's lightning-quick execution as he forcefully snaps the strings and Kramer's decisive smashes on his drum set add a thick layer of drama to the proceedings. The further one gets into this session, the more appreciation one has for the tight interaction of all members of the trio. Their ultimate gift is their ability to listen to one another.
When Izzy Young pressed record on the reel-to-reel machine on March 6, 1967, little did anyone know what a legend Tim Buckley would become. His performance at The Folklore Center in NYC was witnessed by only a few dozen followers and it was this intimate setting - Tim and his guitar - that allowed for some of his most touching renditions to come through. Essential fact about this recording is that six of the sixteen songs here have never seen the light of day on any of Buckley's albums. I love the way his voice soars above the acoustic guitar. The way he rubs across the strings with utmost passion. The manner in which his voice resonates anger and compassion on these songs makes my hair stand on end. "Aren't You the Girl" and "In the Rain Comes" are chock-full of emotional content. This is music that is bare, honest and painfully human. Kudos to Tompkins Square for dusting this gem off.
Facet [translating from Polish as a slang for man] is a trio made up of guitarist Maciej Sledziecki, bassist Adrian Myhr and clarinettist Joris Ruhl. Theirs is a music where less is more and more means having to turn your speakers up to ten to get at the tiniest details of the music. The notion that there are no credits given on the disc gives me a real notion that this is truly improvised music. Ruhl's clarinet gymnastics - spittle, rough bursts - jingle quite well with Myhr's gyrations and snaps on his bass. Sledziecki acts as the glue - adding cohesive, sometime wobbly guitar work and effects to all pieces. Music is subtle, progression is molasses-paced and the wonders truly lie in the tiniest details. "Conscious Mental Field Recordings" is a snapshot of the here and now as seen through the lens of three radiant improvisers.
There's no simple way to describe "Quit Having Fun" a compilation of music from Italy's Boring Machines imprint. Eclectic would do it some justice. Sombre perhaps. Lovely would fit the bill for something like Arbdesastr's "Other Floors". With Paolo Campagnola's insistence on gentle key strokes and wavy oeuvre, touching vocalizing, lovely just may fit the bill indeed. I found much of this music quite disturbing in fact. I mean, how else would you classify the terrifying sonic concoction that is Inhibitionists' "Lament for D.N." or Kluge's monster explosives of "Inner Voice"? Coma Stereo bring out whacky beats out on "Ghostly", while Black Forest/Black Sea's cello, guitar and phonorgan manipulations make for a rather soothing drone experience. The trip ends on a high note with Erika M. Anderson's eerie vocal-effects improvisation "Mouth like the sun". Over the course of two discs, the listeners are enticed by nearly two and a half hours of music that barks, speaks, manipulates, scores, snores but mostly is exceedingly restless.
Adjectives that describe "Yu", a new release by Shinkei and Luigi Turra. Sombre. Natural. Lonely. Quiet. Mostly, this is music filled with sounds of nature, processed sounds and auxiliary stuff that rumbles in one's mind. Truth is, you must turn up your stereo as close to the maximum on the volume dial in order to grasp what is happening throughout the hour long excursion. There are moments of drone, moments of dispersion but mostly moments of pure wonder. Sounds of kids playing on the swings is heard on "Nagoya Koen", while birds sing overhead and a torching, mechanical sound swirls in the air. Take nothing for granted. Accompanied by Non Visual Object's gorgeous trademark artwork, "Yu" is a serious headphone trip that is guaranteed to leave your head buzzing for a long, long time.
As if in a vacuum, Mudboy creates music that is outside of the realms of what some may consider acceptable but then again an approval rating was never high on his agenda. His "Mort Aux Vaches" release [gorgeously packaged in a wooden box] is stupendous in its ideas, revelatory in quiet design and unfolds in front of your eyes like a tightly woven carpet. The album's greatest appeal comes in the form of its subtlety. Even when he's feeding the listener squelchy toy organ motifs as on "Shantysea", there is a peaceful oeuvre that shines on the whole. When he decides to blast the air with his vocals on "Beebbub", his non-sensical words scream with passion and a devilish sense of rage. On "B.O.G" he shows off his child-like side. As he establishes a rhythm, you can make out gurgling and fire-crackling sounds. Forget about descriptions or labels as these don't apply in this case. Innovation is the guy's middle name. In the Olympic games of music, Mudboy is worthy of a medal for conviction.
I didn't think I would see the day when dub would be gelled with video game sounds. "Jahtarian Dubbers Vol. 2" accomplishes this trick quite well. Through thirteen numbers, the compilation runs the gamut of funky dub sounds, smooth rhythms but most of all, video game effects from early 80's. It's quite a hilarious trip listening to Clause Four's "Mars Reprise", as Space Invaders sounds attack the dub styling, or El Fata's "El Fata Ina The Dancehall", as squelchy sounds of Centipede colour the ragamuffin styled track. There's really not a weak number in the whole bunch. If anything, the album turns out to be a good time all around, and more than anything else makes me want to dig up my old Atari console from the basement.
Led by visual artist/horn player and vocalist Will Lemon, Moon & Moon invested a ton of thought into their "VII Acts of an Iron King". Conceived as an actual musical play, the album runs between rock, folk, noise all the way through operatic phases. I wish a lyric sheet was provided with the album so I could gather all that Lemon is trying to hash out on the record. Suffice it to say, the general themes of anger, tragedy, failure, even hunger and finally hope are tackled within the broader scope. Lemon's vocals are worthy of recognition, like an obsessed Jim Morrison, he howls, moans and bluntly delivers his message. The band's striking colouring on these pieces - lyrical, prog rock, folk elements, sombre, even experimental and noisy - is well conceived in delivering the ultimate point across. If anything, the album would make more sense with an addition of a DVD from a live performance of this piece. I imagine seeing this piece live has a somewhat greater effect than hearing the music alone.
It may not seem like the most conventional idea for a record but Gilles Aubry's "Berlin Backyards" actually makes some sense. Recorded during the winter of 2006, Aubry's mission here is to give the listener a full audio scope of Berlin's alleys. Anything that the tourists don't often see [or hear] is on his radar. Cars starting up, stalling, people walking between buildings, heavy machinery operating, distant sirens in the background, broken hose spilling water on the street. It's all fair game. Sounds are closely recorded with keen attention to detail. Nothing gets lost in the mix. If anything, this record is ideal for late-night exploration. If you've never been to Berlin's alleys, put on a pair of headphones, close your eyes, and you're there in a flash.
Velvet Elevator's music on "At the Movies" can be summed up in a flash - music to drink wine to. But wait, you can also reminisce about black-and-white celluloid classics or have a bath to. The record is broken up into three, easy-to-swallow sections - The 50's, The 60's and The 70's - each representing a decade of movie music. The 50's highlight is "Fly Me to the Moon", while The 60's have a handful of numbers that are quite good - "Desafinado" and "The Look of Love" amongst those. My favourite in the bunch comes from The 70's sub-section. There's nothing quite more telling than the "Theme from The Loveboat". The corniness of the vocals, the orchestrated lifts and the finger-snapping theme make this a highlight of this cruise through movie magic.
Switching from one Vienna-based label to the next, we come to "Vienna Scientists V" a compilation celebrating Vienna Scientists 10th anniversary. Running between acid jazz, dub, funk, soul and disco, the mix showcases tasty rhythms and beats from artists based in the Austrian capital. Ranging from broken-up dub rhythms of Makossa & Megablast, to Flaer's light-hearted soul, the compilation moves through to the jazzy downtempo of Scheckter and Rodney Hunter's chaotic techno-flavoured beats. One of the stand-outs is Mosquito Factory's slow jam "Do It Right". There's not a weak link in the bunch and the longer you stay with it, the greater the rewards are bound to be. If only this compilation came with a ticket to Vienna, I'd be an all-around happy camper.
Lean Left is a new collaboration between The Ex guitarists - Andy Moor and Terrie Ex, percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark on tenor and clarinets. Recorded in a live setting in 2008 at Amsterdam's Bimhuis, their debut is full of scorching moments and flashes of pensive energy. Blast of fury opens up early up on the disc, as each member of the quartet tries to outdo their colleague with more noise than possible. Vandermark plays rough strides on his tenor, while Moor and Ex [each one in separate channel] run a score of rough guitar clusters. All the while Nilssen-Love pounds scorching barrels on his drum set. Each player is jostling for spotlight prominence. This is not to say every single minute of this record has the band playing at full throttle. Listen to "Right Lung" as Vandermark plays a tender tenor melody while Nilssen-Love plays along in affable rhythm on percussion. Let's hope there is more music from this quartet in the near future.
Splitting his time between Tokyo and London, Ian Hawgood likes to record on reel-to-reel, four-track, field recorder and computer. He uses the piano, pump organ, mellotron, vibraphone, guitar amongst others. "The Great Allure" is a nice addition to his already extensive catalogue. His sounds are textural, while the core of his music is centered on subtleties and gentle shifts in paradigm. Much of "The Yesterdays of Today, The Tomorrows of Now" centers around a sampled vocal and a sound of multi-layered mallets. "The Great Allure of Train Travel in the land mass that is America" focuses on a softly-executed sample of what could be a rushing train. This in fact makes for quite a nice repetitive drone. "Brightness in the centre where it all began" features a blistering, rather evenly spread drone of unknown origins. Taken as a whole, "The Great Allure" possesses an alluring quality of dead calm, subtlety and an over-riding sense of a musician at peace with his approach. Excellent slice of work.
Release of a new Francisco Lopez album is always an exciting event. One wonders what direction he will choose next. I'm happy to report that on "Amarok", he has chosen to stay more or less within the realms of what he was doing on many of his previous works. Starting the 64 minute piece off with nearly ten minutes of barely audible, glacial rumblings, suddenly he switches pace and amplifies the source sound. For the next few minutes, we get what can best be described as a freight train barrelling down a long tunnel. This stops very suddenly too. Over the course of the rest of the record, he alternates his sounds between those that are barely there [you really need to turn the volume gauge past ten to hear most of these bits], to those that pop out of nowhere and are rather vocal in their demure. My favourite moments are the arctic like connotations that Lopez draws up. Full of winds and what could pass for hailing snow in the tundra, they capture the soundtrack to a desolate, cold winter day out in the middle of Siberia. Snuggle up with a good pair of headphones and a warm blanket. "Amarok" is bound to take you places you've not been to before.
Founded nearly two decades ago, Origami Arktika is a Norwegian ensemble whose main point of existence is to spread the news of traditional music from their homeland. On their seventh release, "Trollebotn", they present music that is native to the Trollebotn area of Norway. Filled with tales of love, liquor, women, smoking, death and farmers, the songs are sombre and fill my head with visions of yesterdays that were bleak. But this bleakness doesn't mean there is no joy in the music the band presents. Rune Flaten's vocal prowess is often times understated. He tends to take each phrase by the guts. Listen to the way he lifts each single line of the song on "Guro Heddelid". As soon as you're ready to admit the song has finished, he comes back with another well executed concoction. The band's instrumentation is sparse and the songs are filled with an overwhelming sense of longing and drama. Consider "Trollebotn" a trip in time, to a land where the people lived off the land and day-to-day issues seemed much simpler than today.
During the early 70's, Art Ensemble of Chicago was still at the prime of their game. Having released a number of essential records during the latter part of the 60's, they were a force to be reckoned with in the world of forward thinking jazz. Between October 1973 and July 1974, Roscoe Mitchell played a number of solo gigs. Some of these were recorded and are now finally being released on "The Solo Concert". He splits his time playing variety of horns - soprano, alto, tenor and bass saxophones. It's the variety of horns and settings [Montreal, Kalamazoo and Pori, Finland] that make for a very interesting album. Mitchell is all squeals and squawks on his alto throughout "Jibbana", while "Eeltwo" brings out a softer, more melodic tenor side to his playing. His rendition of AEC's classic "Tutankamen" as performed on bass sax is pensive and bold, while retaining an edge. Every nook and cranny of this record is filled with improvisational prowess. In a setting of a stage, his horns and an attentive audience, Mitchell is not afraid to lay out his gut for the world to hear.
One must have a certain kind of appreciation for an outfit such as The Holmes Brothers. Even if you don't like blues per se, there is something to be said for a trio that continues to make honest music into their 70's. I mean, who needs the comfort of millions records sold, when you can have full backing of a core group of fans and know that the devotion you put into the music is real. "Feed My Soul" sees the group continue their mission of delivering the home-cooked soul goodness. Some of my favourite numbers here are Holmes originals. The smooth rhythms of "Living Well is the Best Revenge" and the heartbreaking lyrics of blues-soaked "Edge of the Ledge" show the real capabilities of these guys. Wendell Holmes' guitar picking is jagged one minute and down-right lyrical the next, while the rhythm section - bassist Sherman Holmes and percussionist Popsy Dixon - play a mean groove. "Feed My Soul" is a hearty meal for the mind and the heart.
+ The Magic Carpathians - Acousmatic Psychogeography
+ Robert Schroeder - New Frequency
+ Namlook XXV - Pearl III
+ Krzysztof Stanisławski - End Of All Things
+ Lonelady - Nerve Up
+ Bomb The Bass - Back To Light
+ Gonjasufi - A Sufi And A Killer
+ Autechre - Oversteps
+ Galactic - Ya- Ka- May
+ Serena Maneesh - No. 2 Abyss In B Minor
+ Hoarfrost & Inner Vision Laboratory - Decline
+ Yarek & Friends - Spirits Of The Dust
+ Radio Massacre International - Time & Motion
+ Przemysław Rudź - Summa Technologiae
+ Vampire Weekend - Contra
+ Namlook XXIV - Pearl II
+ Efterklang - Magic Chairs
+ Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise
+ Gil Scott- Heron - I'm New Here
+ Cold Cave - Love Comes Close
+ Four Tet - There is Love in You
+ Current 93 - Baalstorm, Sing Omega
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>> Katharina Weber - Woven Time - Piano Solo / Jorge Ben - Jorge Ben / The Holly Martins - no. no. yes. no. / Automelodi - Fait ses courses / Noetinger / Doneda / eRikm - Dos D'anes / Opsvik & Jennings - A Dream I Used to Remember / Francesco Giannico - Folkanization / Boutaiba Sghir / Bellemou & Benfissa / Groupe El Azhar / Cheb Zergui - 1970's Algerian Proto-Rai Underground / Hear - 5 Pieces / Various Artists - Marvellous Boy - Calypso from West Africa / Barbara Morgenstern - bm / Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Kim Myhr - Stems and Cages / Christy & Emily - No Rest / Darling - Darling / Pjusk - Sval / Club 8 - The People's Record / Rozenhall - Rozenhall / V/A - Rauschgold - Alec Empire Plays Staubgold / V/A - Bob Blank - The Blank Generation - Blank Tapes NYC 1975-1985 / Yann Novak / Jamie Drouin - +Room-Room / Applehead - I Love CQ / Magik Markers - Balf Quarry / Ken Vandermark / Max Nagl / Clayton Thomas / Wolfgang Reisinger - C.O.D.E. / Eddy Meets Yannah - Fiction Jar / Pink Turtle - Pop in Swing / Stefan Keune / Hans Schneider / Achim Kramer - No Comment / Tim Buckley - Live at the Folklore Center, NYC - March 6, 1967 / Facet - Conscious Mental Field Recordings / Various Artists - Quit Having Fun - Boring Machines Compilation # 1 / Shinkei / Luigi Turra - Yu / Mudboy - Mort Aux Vaches / Various Artists - Jahtarian Dubbers Vol. 2 / Moon & Moon - VII Acts of an Iron King / Gilles Aubry - Berlin Backyards / Velvet Elevator - At the Movies / Various Artists - Vienna Scientists V - The 10th Anniversary / Lean Left - The Ex Guitars meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo - Volume 1 / Ian Hawgood - The Great Allure / Francisco Lopez - Amarok / Origami Arktika - Trollebotn / Roscoe Mitchell - The Solo Concert / The Holmes Brothers - Feed My Soul
+ Horace Tapscott - The Dark Tree
+ Various Artists - Spectra - Guitar in the 21st Century
+ Brotzmann / Nilssen-Love - Wood Cuts / Sven-Ake Johansson / Peter Brotzmann / Alexander von Schlippenbach - Up and Down the Lion - revised
+ Shiggajon - Fire sange i gul og rod / Alberorovesciato - Tigers on acid in the hell of the brushwoods
+ Gesellschaft zur Emanzipation des Samples - Circulations
+ Talibam! - Boogie in the Breeze Blocks
+ My Cat is an Alien & Enore Zaffiri - Through the magnifying glass of tomorrow
+ Robert Henke - Atom / Document
+ Allison Miller - Boom Tic Boom
+ Michael Renkel / Burkhard Beins - Activity Center - Lohn & Brot
+ Martin Baumgartner - Martin Baumgartner's Spielhuus
+ Rothkamm - ALT - 1989-2009
+ Tomasz Stanko Quintet - Dark Eyes
+ A Handful of Dust - Now Gods, Stand Up for Bastards & The Philosophick Mercury
+ Charles Rumback - Two Kinds of Art Thieves
+ Xu Fengxia / Lucas Niggli - Black Lotos
+ V/A - Strike 100
+ Strotter Inst. - Minenhund
+ David Sylvian - Manafon
+ Anthony Braxton - Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989
+ Carol Robinson - Billows