[Split Femur Recordings, www.splitfemurrecordings.com]
Namanga - Plays compositions of Piotr Zabrodzki
[Vivo Records, www.vivo.pl]
The Elastik Band
The Elastik Band
[Digital Cellars, www.digital-cellars.com]
Winners & Fools
Suns of Arqa
Suns of Arqa Re-Mixs Muslimgauze
Man vs. Prototype
LD & The New Criticism
Amoral Certitudes EP
[Kvitnu / Nexsound, www.kvitnu.com / www.nexsound.org]
The Webster Cycles
[Cold Blue Music, www.coldbluemusic.com]
[Light in the Attic, www.lightintheattic.net]
The Blue Album
[Smog Veil Records, www.smogveil.com]
[Tripping Horse, www.trippinghorse.com]
Dennis Gonzalez NY Quartet
Dance of the Soothsayer's Tongue - At Tonic
[Clean Feed Records, www.cleanfeed-records.com]
Gilbert Holmström Quartet
Live in Sweden 1967
[Gilmont Music, www.ghq.se]
Ofrendas de Luz a Los Muertos
[Beta-lactam Ring Records, www.blrrecords.com]
Joys of Summer
Delon & Dalcan
[Boxer Recordings, www.boxer-recordings.com]
An Aerial View
[Glacial Movements, www.glacialmovements.com]
Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette
Setting Standards - New York Sessions
[ECM Records, www.ecmrecords.com]
Masse Mensch Material
[Cold Meat Industry, www.coldmeat.se]
Sun Plexus 2
En Souvenir de L'Horreur
Compost Black Label - Series Vol. 3 - Mixed by Jay Shepheard
[Compost Records, www.compost-records.com]
He Can Jog
[Audiobulb Records, www.audiobulb.com]
[Helmet Room Recordings, www.helmetroom.com]
Memories of Björn Bolssen
[Valeot Records, www.valeot.com]
[FallOut / Soundlink, www.soundlinkmusic.com]
The Dust Dive
Claws of Light
[Own Records, www.ownrecords.com]
The Classical Variations
[Winter & Winter, www.winterandwinter.com]
The Demolition Series
...Of Memory and Dreams
[Seven Things, www.seventhings.co.uk]
I Like It Like That
[Mr Bongo, www.mrbongo.com]
Steve Lantner Trio
What You Can Throw
Berger / Knutsson / Spering
[Country and Eastern, www.countryandeastern.se]
[Pangaea Recordings, www.pangaearecordings.com]
[No Man's Land Records, www.nomansland-records.de]
I'm about ready for a little game of word association. To put it more simply, let's think of what pops into my head when I hear the music residing within the confines of these discs.
Äänet [Finnish for voices or sounds] makes me think of a cold, barren winter landscape. Take three French musicians - guitarist Remi Charmasson, pianist Stephan Oliva and bassist Claude Tchamitchian - and add a Finnish trombonist - Jari Hongisto - to the mix. I envision dark forests covered in rustic snow. Can you just picture the soft layer of snow that is resting on the meadows of Finland as the quartet lays out their brand of soft improvised music. I fall on the ground, close my eyes and start to make a series of snow angels on the bed of this eerie sounding Aquarian Forest.
1971 was a good year. I'd just learned how to walk and was slowly making my first steps. I remember trips to my grandparents house and the walks through the woods across the street. They had a huge German sheppard that they kept locked up behind a fence and that damn dog scratched me once, nearly taking my eye out in the process. This was the same year Chicago based sextet String Cheese made their self-titled debut. When I listen to Sally Smaller softly lay out her vocal caresses, I think of a better time. The band is quite rupturing and not all of this music is whisper quiet. They know how to rock out which is good. Fact remains, they spread their time between straight-ahead folk-rock numbers and those that are more trippy. Great album that takes me back to music I didn't have any access to as a kid.
"Jigsaw" is a bizarre release, yet it resonates quite nicely with my state of mind. It's subtle and it's endearing in a quiet way. I don't feel Mark Lippett who is responsible for the Planivaar moniker trying overtly hard to be "heard". He just is. His electronic concoctions just sit there, waiting to be embraced. Whether you feel the cold, crackling freeze outside is a different story. I, for one, welcome the darkness that Lippett has on offer. The chill is gone and my sense of well-being starts to be slowly restored.
It's next to impossible for me to put words down on paper about Zdzisław Piernik's record. His interpretations of Piotr Zabrodzki's music are quirky, filled with irony and quite fun. OK - so I hate the word fun to be used anywhere near a critical review, but let's face it, this music is full of this stuff. Sure, it's contemporary, serious and all of that good stuff people will have us believe, but truth is, it's brimming with life and quirk, quirk and once again, more quirk. Piernik's tuba playing recalls slowly engaging mytha horns that I once heard in Switzerland. Zabrodzki's work on the piano, bass and organ is a revelation in itself. It's sharp, volatile, yet it carries with it a sweat smell of confidence. Quite haunting and absorbing stuff.
Some music never ages as is the case with long forgotten outfit The Elastik Band. Their recordings made between 1967 and 1970 are now available as an eponymous titled compilation. Perhaps best known for their "Spazz" single, they made music that was rich in psychedelic, luscious, sharply spat out vocals and jingly guitars. My first reaction to their music when I heard it so many years back was that of excitement. Here was a band that was shaking things up. Evidence of this is heard in the words of an Australian DJ who took offence to "Spazz" and stopped the record. That people could be so easily offended by anything this band sang about seems strange. How world has changed over the years. For collectors everywhere, take heed, for The Elastik Band lives on.
Swedish electro groove-meister John Dahlbäck returns with his consecutive album in tow. "Winners & Fools" is light fare for the most part. Relying heavily on mid-tempo beats and few guest vocals, his album is like a shot of sunshine into a dreary winter morning. Very little in terms of actual substance here, which means as soon as you hear the record, you're bound to forget most of it. Don't mistake this for filler territory. It's just that it's a little bit on the fluffy side to make a difference in the overall direction of music - techno - or otherwise. Word association - indifference with a big grin.
When I hear the word Muslimgauze, I automatically think of the oppression happening in the Palestinian State. Men behind Muslimgauze, Bryn Jones was actually quite a reclusive character, preferring to venture on a solo path. It took a Japanese record producer to bring Suns of Arqa [Michael Wadada] with Jones to make a collaborative effort. "Suns of Arqa Re-Mixs Muslimgauze" is an interesting work in that it unveils a conceptual collaboration that is enlightening and progressive. Jones' dub beats are augmented with Middle Eastern vocals that in turn get a lighter percussive treatment from Wadada. If anything, the music is more reflective, less edgy, while retaining some of its usual political outrage. Masterful music that comes wrapped up in gorgeous, highly limited Soleilmoon packaging.
Atlanta natives The Fabric leave a sense of memorabilia in my head. There's no denying that their "Man vs. Prototype" release is a throwback to Depeche Mode, Erasure and so many bands making this sort of music back in the early 80s. When I want to spend some quality time with music, I'm looking for emotion, for dedication for something that will make me want to come back. Sad to say, The Fabric's re-heated and robotic pop is lacking the heart that should be beating at its center.
LD Beghtol possesses a voice that is simply to die for. His quirky styling, sweet, honey-dripping, Byrds-inspired vocals are a perfect fit for the band he's put together. The New Criticism is a perfect vehicle for his poppy ideas. Blackgirls pianist/vocalist, Dana Kletter lends her chirpy vocals to "What You Will", while LD plays most of the instrumentations. The jingly guitars along with Hammond organ and toy piano make for a fun listen. Don't expect miracles on "Amoral Certitudes" but expect your heart will be broken in two. Expect jubilation, anguish and everything that love throws your way.
Graphorrhea is the writing of long lists of meaningless words, which occurs in some manic disorders. Critikal is a quartet from Ukraine who take this practice to heart. Made up of Dmytro Fedorenko on variety of arrangements, bass and drum programming, Andrey Kiritchenko on computers, field recordings and guitars, Tobias Astrom on effects/feedback and manipulations along with Jeff Surak who plays autoharp, micro cassettes and processing, the band strikes at their target early on in the game. Not just pure glitches or noise for the hell of it. Instead, the four musicians bring forward a variety of influences and techniques to the common table. Bits and pieces of microtonal work, along with field recordings and instruments being processed left and right is what happens on majority of these tracks. It's scarce, it's amplified, it's alien but best of all, it's filled with an element of surprise. "Graphorrhea" represents a mixed concoction of the weirdest elements imaginable, served up to go down with an element of adventure.
Sound artist/composer Steve Peters has infused "The Webster Cycles" with a great amount of subtlety. Composed between 1980 and 1981, the piece "is intended for any combination of wind instruments or voices." With a glowing dedication that goes out to Stuart Dempster, the half an hour piece is played with great care by trombonist J.A. Deane. Overdubbed trombone layers are gently laid over a bed of more trombone parts, which Deane plays on top and below. Like a ship calling at a foggy harbour, the music is full of gentility and procrastination. Are we waiting for something "greater" to occur in this music when the tones are so rich right at the start? With no climax in sight, this is the sort of sounds that could go on for hours. Restrained, infused with tranquil prowess, "The Webster Cycles" is timeless music meant to be scrutinized in utter silence and tranquility of natural landscape.
The world of multi-instrumentalist Yoshio Machida is a multi-faceted one. While he's been known to do amazing work on steel pans, he also plays a multitude of other instruments. His latest release "Hypernatural # 3", which sees him complete a trilogy, has Machida playing field recordings, Max/MSP, piano and bass. Sounds are delicate and nearly everything is simply hinted at. Through much of the album, I got the impression many of the sounds were records being played backwards at half-speed. Regardless, crackling noises, the pensive sounds which accompany this recording, it's Machida's field work that sets the record apart. From the serene waves crashing on the shore on "Scene 27: Symphony", to the melodies of the birds on "Hypernatural", the sounds seem to co-exist with natural. As if by some supernatural force, as the sounds infiltrate the system, the listener becomes one with the music. Absolutely gorgeous stuff!
Following an EP and a 7" release, The Blakes have released their self-titled full length debut. In a span of barely 35 minutes, they rush through thirteen songs about love, hate, misery, drunkenness, hangovers and everyday observations. Vocalist/guitarist Garnet Keim has a set of chords that are rough and unpolished around the edges, which suits the band just fine. His brother Snow is similar in that department, also delivering quick, pulsating bass lines that keep their music together. Drummer Bob Husak answers the call and ravages the music with lightning speed machinations. Best thing is, if there is any particular track that bores you, all you have to do is wait anywhere between two to three minutes to skip over to one that catches your imagination. For fans of Pixies, Counting Crows and most rock bands infused with a guttural understanding of basic blues chords.
Bassist Tim Alle, vocalist Michael Hudson, drummer Bobby Richey and guitarist Mick Metoff were Pagans. Recorded in Madison, Wisconsin, "The Blue Album" is their last proper live recording from their very last tour together. Rampaging through nine tunes in just under twenty minutes, Pagans take no prisoners. You're either with them or you're an enemy of their belief system. This is pure music, full of ambitions, fury, lust and punk galore. If someone ripped one of the band member's heads off, I imagine the show would go on as planned. Essential stuff for all lovers of 80s punk-a-rolla.
Guitarist and keyboardist for Tripping Horse, Antonia Zernatto says, "It's important for me to keep my classical background when making rock music with Tripping Horse. I love the sound of violin and piano, and it's the perfect addition to our style of music." What style of music is it that this quartet puts down? I would put it down somewhere between speed metal, rock and hardcore. Lead vocalist Manuel Leal-Garcia [who claims to be inspired by Salsa and Latin beats] ravages the landscape with shouts, screams, hollers, but can also hold his own with slowed-down vocalizing. Layers of guitars, keyboards, along with an excruciating rhythm section pumps out the tunes in quick succession. The band's debut takes me back to days of youth when mosh pits were akin to war zones.
Trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez tends to blow me away. Literally. With each release, his playing gets tighter. While enrapturing himself with some of the best musicians on the scene, his writing gets stronger. On "Dance of the Soothsayer's Tongue", his all-over-the-map trumpet playing draws out a carefully knitted map for the other members of the quartet to unravel. Tenor guru Ellery Eskelin shapes the landscape with muscular playing that juxtaposes the leader's rhythmic analogies quite well. Rhythm section - bassist Mark Helias and percussionist Michael T.A. Thompson - propel matters forward, while Thompson is even allotted a ten minute solo take in the form of "Soundrhythium". Five part "Afrikanu Suite" is one of the highlights. With its ever-changing rhythmic tempo, the landscape is one of a ton of little nooks and crannies for the listeners to explore. Another great addition to Gonzalez's already solid body of work.
Swedish saxophonist Gilbert Holmström is sadly one of the least documented figures in that country's rich jazz tradition, which is why "Live in Sweden 1967" is such a welcome treat. Recorded over a span of two months in 1967, leader's quartet at the time featured trombonist Pider ?vall, bassist Sven Hessle and drummer Anders Söderling. What a wile ride for all players this record is. Opening up the proceedings are the upbeat rhythms of "Joy", which features Holmström's post-bop, free-reeling tenor delivery, while Avall gives out a series of quite muscular tone bursts on the trombone. In fact, much of the session is made up of a dueling battle between Holmström and Avall, each of the two outwitting the other in a series of harshly-played phrases. The treat is found at the end of the record as Lars Lofstedt guests on Sonny Rollins' "Oleo/Doxy". His trumpet concoctions are marvelously timed to coincide with those of the leader, which allows Holmström to play a game of tag with Lofstedt. Marvelously executed recording, one that serves as a crucial missing link to the world of Swedish jazz in the 60's.
Spread over two lengthy tracks is Soriah's limited edition release "Ofrendas de Luz a Los Muertos". I've no idea what category Soriah's music may fit in? Electronic world? Ambient? Death? Gloomy freak music? But that's not the point. Fact is these guys are all over the damn map. They spread themselves wide open to all sorts of influences. My favourite are the Tuvan chants that persist through most of "Esqueleto de Chapulin". Taken with a static filter of noise and distant, wailing voices, these two are onto something. In places, this music is mostly spooky. As intonations of eerie voices filter in and out of the picture, the revelatory but subtle layering of electronic soup is concocted in such a way as to make the entire thing a true journey or self-discovery. I guarantee this record won't be an easy listen but I can firmly state that it is one trip worth taking.
Ikuisuus head Timo made his way into the studio to produce a glowing heart of warm fuzz on "Joys of Summer". Matomeri is not an easy project to get a handle on. How was this music produced? Simple, amplified guitars that were wrecked at maximum volumes? Percussion that is overpowering and over-the-top? Take all of these elements and mix tasty, hellish drones that stretch out from here to Mars and you get a glimpse of what this album sounds like. Two protracted pieces make the centerpiece of the record and the drones amassed within them are so sumptuous, so delectable, one only wants to press play again and enjoy the ride one more time. "Joys of Summer" may not be joyous but it comes highly recommended. Very tasty music from deep, dark woods of Finland.
Debut release by French duo Delon & Dalcan [Greg Delon and Andre Dalcan], "Tanz" is the sort of house music that goes good very late at night. In fact, being alone may be a good prerequisite to enjoying the duo's easy flowing mix of house, break-beats and bleeps. Taking much source material from 80's stars like 808 State, Delon & Dalcan are quite minimal in their approach. Sure, there are beats galore, but the rhythms, sequencing and variety is kept to bare minimum within each of the eleven tracks. Dance music to be enjoyed by yourself or ambient house, call it whatever you want, "Tanz" is music that catches on during successive listening sessions.
When asked to describe Ice Age with one uninterrupted drone, Italian sound artist Oophoi wanted at all costs to avoid clichés. He had no desire to introduce any "dark rumblings, massive low frequencies, cold atmospheres". Rather, he wanted to paint a white drone with his music. If there's one thing that can immediately be said about "An Aerial View" is that it's airy. Very light textures are played and manipulated on the theremin. Once one set of fluttery phases is gone, it's replaced by a new one that sounds nearly identical to what came before. And on it goes. For 65 minutes, Oophoi lays out the soft, textural tones that gather little momentum and do wonders to calm a tired mind after an exhausting day at the office.
To celebrate 25th anniversary of the Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette trio, ECM has issued their first steps as a band together in one box set. Entitled "Setting Standards - New York Sessions", the three CDs cover "Standards Vol. 1", "Standards Vol. 2", along with "Changes". Recorded in January 1983, the trio's burst of energy was marked by two album's worth of standards. Everything from "All the Things You Are", "God Bless the Child", to "I Fall in Love Too Easily" gets a new interpretation. The playing was solid for its time, and the rhythm section being especially supportive to Jarrett's wildly innovative bursts. It's not until we get to "Changes" that the music starts to prick up ones ears. It's here the trio abandoned the song format and moved into completely free improvised territories. While Jarrett is all over the map in playing half-melodies and dancing furiously across the ivories, Peacock and DeJohnette play off each other to excellent effect. By the end of the session, each of the players is on their way to mastering the fine art of communal playing, something they've been doing to great acclaim ever since.
The gloom and doom of Rome is fine for a while. Then you realize that twenty years ago, you heard similar stuff come from the likes of Sisters of Mercy. With that said, Rome's latest release "Masse Mensch Material" is still quite solid. In a sparse, dark and cold sort of way, they pursue a static sort of gothic domain. The brain behind the band, Jerome Reuter has a voice that is as indifferent as it's affecting. You can't turn away when he sings in a harshly brutal way,
"History smells of traitor
History smells of whore
It's flowing in our veins
It's oozing out through our pores."
Suffice it to say, twelve songs on, the music is us unforgiving as Reuter's downtrodden voice. The prophet of gloom and doom of post-goth music is here and three albums on, he's only getting overtly depressed and more bitter than ever before.
"Stembo" is a debut from pianist/trombonist Steve Moore. Based somewhere in the northwest US, he employs the help of musicians such as viola player Eyvind Kang, percussionists Tucker Martine and Matt Chamberlain, bassist Todd Sickafoose and multi-instrumentalist Doug Wieselman amongst others, to come up with an instrumental albums full of hooks, melodies, and unforeseen twists and turns. This isn't jazz, blues but rather instrumental music that tackles the tradition of soundtrack pastiche. Moore's piano ramblings are all over the place, though I do wish he took a bit more chances when hitting the ivories. As it stands, he's got a knack for playing it straight to the point where after a few minutes, some of the pieces become quite predictable. Doug Wieselman is better at stretching out on a few bass clarinet motifs that lead to some enlightening results. Likewise with viola master Eyvind Kang, whose off-the-wall playing adds bright colouring to the band's palette. As far as instrumental music goes, Moore's main preoccupations seems to be with overt need for melody, overstated rhythm and something that is easy to swallow. Here's hoping the second album will allow the composer to take more chances.
How do you explain the wrenching power of Sun Plexus 2? You could compare them to no-wave and say how wonderfully disconnected they seem to be from the reality of today's world of rock? Better yet, you could say the band puts together harsh vignettes about nothing at all, though brimming with an extreme amount of over-the-top energy. Prog-rock this is not. It's not hard-core, so what the hell is it then? Slashes of grunge-concoction that is wrapped around a center of noise and has limbs made out of fuck-if-I-care break-beat. All of this comes with intermittently wobbly voices, crunchy guitars, blasting electronics and a steady beat that may actually get you to dance. Welcome "En Souvenir de L'Horreur" as a saving grace for today's jaded generation.
Forward moving Black Label side of Compost imprint rolls along with the third volume of the series, this time mixed by Jay Shepheard. Fourteen tracks feature deep house, slow jams and masterful grooves courtesy of acts such as Mauel Tur & Dplay, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Minus 8, Phreek Plus One and others. By its very nature, most of this stuff is very repetitive, which is the whole point of the exercise. One of the stand-out tracks is the minimal mix of "Merging" (Wild Glitch Dub) by TJ Kong & Nuno Dos Santos feat. Robert Owens. In just under nine minutes the track undergoes little permutation as the beats are solidly engraved in your brain. Hypnotizing grooves, solid production values and an excellent flow-through job between the tracks, "Compost Black Label Series, Vol. 3" continues to amaze and mesmerize all at once.
Mysterious trio with the name Svartbag have just released their self-titled debut, which comes not with any sort of a bang, but rather a whimper. Relying heavily on guitars and electronics, they set up a meeting place where real instrumentation meshes just fine with electronic vibes. These aren't vibes really, but an atmosphere that they carefully build up. Some of the tracks feature a multitude of electrifying drones, while others taunt with feedback forms. A couple of the tracks remind me of longer instrumental pieces recorded by Yo La Tengo. As the guitars jingle-on together with the synths in a multi-coloured façade, one realizes this instrumental stuff from across the big pond is actually quite good. Maybe not a revelation or a discovery of unchartered waters, Svartbag's musical approach is heady enough to raise some eyebrows.
Going strong for a decade, Japanese duo Maju [cocoon] return to form with their fifth release. Simply titled "Maju-5", the music is subtle, sifting and very atmospheric. From the get-go, the band's premise seemed to be to challenge the ear, while soothing the mind. Not exactly ambient music, Maju's world is a strange off-shoot, where electronic elements coincide with an aerial overview of the two mainstays states of mind. Some tracks are credited to both artists, while a half are credited to Sakana Hosomi alone. One of the best features of the album is trying to guess the source of the sounds. Are they real or is it just tape of manipulated fuzzed out noise. The band's unique drone-scape is exhilarating in its capability to hold a balanced path between sameness and an ever-present desire for variables that are thrown in with due diligence. In keeping a level-headed view of the forest, one can see the mushrooms sticking their heads from underneath the soggy moss. "Maju-5" is another fine example of a musical style that's lacking a genre to cling to.
Erik Schoster hides behind He Can Jog alias. Though he's spent some time playing trombone and even photocopying Marxist zines, his main forte is making music. It took him around four years to produce "Middlemarch", an album that to my ears sounds very mature for his age. His main tool in the process are MAX patches - their manipulation and improvising on variety of themes. Results are oftentimes bewildering, as the music switches between simple beats to more complex fizzling moments of pure glitch. Guitars and percussive tools are often processed and meshed through his electronic gear to come up with an interesting, often tasty soup. Even when Schoster sings - as he does on "Contractors and Architects" - his vocal don't sound out of whack. In between the serene, rustling leaves of electronic madness, there is tender beauty waiting to be uncovered. All you have to look is listen closely and nod your head in agreement.
One half of Danish industrial duo Institute for the Criminally Insane, Kim G. Hansen has switched gears somewhat and formed Antenne. I've not heard either of the formation's first two releases, so I'll have to base everything on present release, entitled "# 3". Funny that this should be issued around the same time as Portishead's third album, as both acts share a particular love for trip-hop, though Antenne's approach is much less direct. Those whisper-quiet vocals are alluring and the atmosphere is nothing but pure sex. Dripping and inviting with warmth and ecstasy, the music tip-toes across the floor. Nothing is said in a direct manner, but rather with hints and suggestions of what could be. "# 3" is a wonderful record that will hopefully attract new fans to the project.
"Memories of Bj?rn Bolssen" is a debut release by Austria four piece Tupolev. Their sound is one of pensive movement. They love the sounds in between the music. Imagine magnifying the thoughtful pauses between the music and Tupolev is what you'll end up with. Pianist Peter Holy strikes ivories with extra care and absolute precision. Each note that dies is replaced with a set of new ones but only after the previous ones have vanished completely. Alexandr Vatagin does some nice bass work, but it's his cello contraptions that capture the listener's imagination. Paul Mohavedi plays standard rhythmic beats on the drums, but again, it's his pensive guitar modulations [see "Garlic '07" as an example] that get top marks. Finally, the gel that runs through the tracks is the electronics provided by Lukas Scholler. His sounds stick to the whole like butter on a fresh piece of bread. Never falling into a gimmick category, Scholler plays off the other members and gives an added textural quality to the band's music. Pensive, minimal and extremely somber, Tupolev is the soundtrack to falling leaves on a brisk autumn day.
Second album by Texas psychedelic freaks Bubble Puppy saw the band change their name for legal reasons. Demian suited them fine [though it didn't have the sinister tinge of the original name] and under this name in 1971, they recorded their second album. That self-titled entity is full of scorching vocals, masterfully crunchy guitars and blues-soaked riffs. Psychedelic movement at this point was starting to loose some steam as some of the hippies cut their hair and got jobs. Still, Demian played for those who remained true to the ideals of free love, peace, and goodwill towards all people. Tinges of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin are hinted at from time to time, but much of this stuff sees the quartet tread their own blues-hard rock path. Sadly, the following year, the band called it quits making this a much needed document of their all too-brief existence.
Brooklyn-based collective The Dust Dive make a grand return with their "Claws of Light" album. Taking all that is good in folk-music tradition - melodies, wispy melancholia - and throwing in kitchen sink - samples, radios, Hammond organ and more samples - the trio is confident in their vision of a blistering, decaying world. Vocalist Bryan Zimmerman sounds as if he were dying on most of the songs. He's tired, depressed and has enough of this dreary world and best of all, he's proud to let this feeling of helplessness come through. Pervasive mood in these songs is that of a sad, gray, dull day, where no hope exists for a better tomorrow. If this sounds like bliss to you, then "Claws of Light" is your personal jackpot.
As if putting out nearly twenty albums stamped with his name in the span of fifteen years wasn't enough, Winter & Winter now releases Uri Caine's latest installment in the classical-jazz cross-over series. To celebrate the Echo Klassik award [apparently the highest achievement in the world of German music], his chosen imprint unleashes "The Classical Variations", a collection of twenty previously released and unreleased pieces. Here, Caine tackles his usual drove of favoured composers - Mahler, Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, Verdi and Mozart. Highlights include Bach's "The Scratch Variation" which features off-the-wall scratching of DJ Logic, the gorgeous arrangement on "The Brass and Drums Variation" and Mahler's moving "Symphony No. 5, Adagietto", which is smothered in nice crackly-vinyl work from DJ Olive. For those who haven't had any contact with Caine's work over the last fifteen years in the classical music world, "The Classical Variations" are a good starting point.
You knew this was bound to happen. Berlin duo's Minit vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jasmina Maschina [really Jasmine Guffond] broke away for the time being to deliver the so-called solo album "The Demolition Series". It's not really a solo release per se, as Jasmina has a half a dozen musicians helping her out. Then again, it's her vocals that are up front. Everything was recorded and produced by her, so rightly, her name deserves to be in the spotlight. Funny I should mention the spotlight as Jasmina sounds like the sort of person that would actually run away from all attention garnished on her. Subtle vocals highlight her sparse guitar playing. Many times she's actually whispering the words to her songs. Addition of cello, piano, melodica, few samples and subdued electronics adds soft colouring to the album's hazy palette. As I said, it's Jasmina and her faintly audible vocals that make this album what it is. Don't expect anything extra-ordinary to appear on this release. This is simple music for the common people. Neither folk, nor pop, "The Demolition Series" hovers in an eerie world of subtle grace and discreet music.
I haven't got a clue what composer/sound-artist Bill Thompson uses to produce the sound given off on "...Of Memory and Dreams". Could it be a broken CD that is fed through a laptop or perhaps prepared guitar that is amplified and processed through his home-made software? No matter, the half hour work begins with an elongated, high-pitched sound. This is one of these extreme high-pitches that makes the listeners grab their ears for relief, especially after more than ten minutes have gone by. All the while, that sound still persists. Past the ten minute mark, the pitch alters slightly. Then, the sound gets somewhat fatter. At the twenty minute point, the sound becomes more subdued. It then takes a gentle tumble downwards in intensity, while maintaining more or less the same speed. Certainly a very challenging listening session but one that pays off dividends during repeated listening sessions.
Just when you thought summer couldn't get any sweeter, along comes "I Like It Like That", a collection of long-lost Fania 12". One CD is made up of originals, while the other one features exclusive re-mixes. In the original department we have people like Leni Sesar and the ultra-swinging "Morris Park", Peter Rodriguez with the rhumba styling on "I Like it Like That" and Ricardo Marrerro's sweet as honey version of "Feel Like Making Love". Tito Puente also makes an appearance with "Watu Wasuri", which was re-edited by Gilles Peterson. On the remix CD, Aaron Jerome reinterprets Rodriguez's "I Like it Like That", 4 Hero re-envision Ralfi Pagan's "I Didn't Want to Have to Do It" in a sweet way, and Sinden do an outrageously crazy mix of "Fever" by La Lupe. So many highlights, so little time, I suggest you pick up a copy of this package right away, before summer dies off for another year.
There's no reason to stretch the facts, so let's have this out in the open. Pianist Steve Lantner is not re-inventing the piano tradition. Though his playing is highly melodic and full of zest, we've all heard trajectories such as these before. Though that's not really the point in this review. Point of his new CD "What You Can Throw" is to come up with some highly energetic improvisations. Sure, all five pieces have individual credits - two go to Lantner, one to bassist Joe Morris, one to Anthony Braxton and final one belongs to Ornette Coleman. However, what's striking is how fluid the musical interplay is amongst this trio. Joe Morris strikes me as a highly agile player, one who is able to counter-act Luther Gray's quick-witted percussive drama. Lantner plays a slew of broken-up, cluster-heavy hits on the ivories, which serves this music well. Just when you think you have his style all figured out, he jumps ahead and starts to play straight melodies. Best of all is that I hear suggestions of discreet humour coming across. It's almost as if each of the players strove to break out of the seriousness their regular musical roles had them locked in. A highly energetic release, one filled with terrific communication from all players.
Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger, saxophonist Jonas Knutsson, and bassist Christian Spering recorded "Up Close" over a span of three days in February 2003. Opening piece "Petit Dejeuner" was apparently recorded the minute they woke up. In fact, it features a lazy, sticky-eye alto sax motif that is relaxed, yet begins to build momentum. As we get to Paul Motian's "It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago", the trio starts to sound energized. The most rewarding piece on the album is the epic "Under the Rainbow". Each member gets a chance of play their hearts out until they're completely satiated. The elongated arco bass solo slowly gives way for the other two members to join in. The inter-woven tapestry of the pieces makes it a rewarding one to return to time and again. Eastern influences creep into this music and everywhere one turns, there is plenty of space allotted. Sure, this isn't fire music and rage isn't the order of the day, but still "Up Close" is improvisation that is complete and guttural.
Philadelphia collective Capillary Action is an outfit based around guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Pfeffer, who formed the band just a few years back. Their second album "So Embarrassing" is an odd concoction of speed-metal, hardcore, jazz rhythms and even acoustic folk elements. I don't know if the leader decided to throw all of these different elements into the mix on purpose or whether this is just the way the music turned out in the studio, but in some mysterious way, it all seems to make perfect sense. In a word, chaos would describe this album best. In traveling from speed-metal, through to soft-sung trajectories and then going back to a string section piece, the band proves it's treading many paths all at once. The crunchy guitars go hand-in-hand with the gorgeous viola playing of Jessica Pavone, which is supplemented in turn by trombones and saxophones. What's funny is just when you think Capillary Action's music will turn on itself and fall apart, it manages to surprise you with wildly pleasing melodies and unexplained coherence to boot. In a crazy, messed-up world, all you need is this record to clearly see the aching truth of the hour.
Meant as a follow-up to "Other Materials" compilation, Richard Chartier's "Further Materials" is a collection of hard-to-find work from various compilations. Recorded between 2002 and 2005, we're witnessing an on-going development of Chartier's already mature work. Large chunk of this material is quiet - deathly quiet. This is ultra-minimalism at its best, so I advice you turn up the volume knob quite high. Listening to this in an unobstructed environment [no kids running around, late at night, etc] helps you to catch the minute details of Chartier's work. Listen carefully as a slow drift envelops on "How Things Change" [from "For Morton Feldman" compilation]. Few minutes in, delicate glitches are heard, only to be replaced with an on-going motor-humming sound. Repetitiveness on "Untitled" is quite busy, with the gentleness of occasional pops and crackles appearing from time to time. Collection ends with live version of "Tempt" [from 2002 Berlin Transmediale], which actually contains some saw-like sounds that fully shock the senses into an upright state of alertness. What I love best about Chartier's pieces is the way he allows large chunks of silence to be worked into his compositions. Excellent compilation, allowing clear time-line to be drawn into this multi-faceted composer's work.
Amy Denio has had a long fascination with eastern music. From her days in Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet, Pale Nudes, Curlew, Tone Dogs and through to her solo stuff, the eastern European musical tradition was a strong magnetic force pulling Denio into its fold. Couple of years ago, she began a collaborative effort with three Austrian musicians. Die Resonanz Stanonczi [now simply annotated to Die Resonanz] is a feel-good, semi-klezmer, part-rock fused with jazz elements sort of record. This is where Denio feels at home. Her accordion, alto sax, clarinet and vocal magic do the trick in making this quartet come alive. The impetus for this band coming together is actually the band's harmonica player, Johannes Steiner, whom Denio admires. Add to this clarinetist/saxophonist Norbert Asen and percussionist/trombonist Robert Kainar and we've got ourselves a real rowdy bash. Brewing a stew of quasi-polkas, improvised motifs, chunks of jazz and even meditative over-tones, "Edelbrand" is a real throw-your-tie-off, loosen-your-collar party. Yahoo!
- Tom Sekowski
+ Henry Flynt - Nova'Billy
+ Les Rallizes Denudes - Are You Rallizesed? Shizuoka Stupa 1974
+ Jack Rose - Dr Ragtime & Pals/Self Titled
+ Clark-Hutchinson - A=MH2... expanded
+ The Deep - Psychedelic Moods
+ Dandelion - Dandelion
+ SHIRA U'TFILA - Sephardic Songs from the Balkans
+ Maja S. K. Ratkje - River Mouth Echoes
- - - - - - - - -
+ Jason Ajemian - The Art of Dying
+ Lily & Maria - Lily & Maria
+ Modern Sound Quintet - Otinku / Rudy Smith Quartet - Still Around / Steel An'Skin - Reggae is Here Once Again
+ Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators - Keep Reachin' Up
+ Daniel Levin Quartet - Blurry
+ Death in June & Boyd Rice - Scorpion Wind
+ Paul Bradley - Màs Memorias Extranjeras
+ My Cat is an Alien / Mats Gustafsson - Cosmic Debris - Split Art-LPs series - Vol. IV / Painting Petals on Planet Ghost - Fallen Camellias
+ Davor Mikan - Tuschung
+ Lars Fredriksson - Ting Qiu - Listening to Autumn
+ Setting Sun - Children of the Wild / Quitzow - Art College
>> Äänet - Aquarian Forest / String Cheese - String Cheese / Planivaar - Jigsaw / Zdzisław Piernik - Namanga - Plays compositions of Piotr Zabrodzki / The Elastik Band - The Elastik Band / John Dahlbck - Winners & Fools / Suns of Arqa - Suns of Arqa Re-Mixs Muslimgauze / The Fabric - Man vs. Prototype / LD & The New Criticism - Amoral Certitudes EP / Critikal - Graphorrhea / Steve Peters - The Webster Cycles / Yoshio Machida - Hypernatural #3 / The Blakes - The Blakes / Pagans - The Blue Album / Tripping Horse - Tripping Horse / Dennis Gonzalez NY Quartet - Dance of the Soothsayer's Tongue - At Tonic / Gilbert Holmstrm Quartet - Live in Sweden 1967 / Soriah - Ofrendas de Luz a Los Muertos / Matomeri - Joys of Summer / Delon & Dalcan - Tanz / Oophoi - An Aerial View / Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette - Setting Standards - New York Sessions / Rome - Masse Mensch Material / Steve Moore - Stebmo / Sun Plexus 2 - En Souvenir de L'Horreur / Various Artists - Compost Black Label - Series Vol. 3 - Mixed by Jay Shepheard / Svartbag - Svartbag / Maju - Maju-5 / He Can Jog - Middlemarch / Antenne - # 3 / Tupolev - Memories of Björn Bolssen / Demian - Demian / The Dust Dive - Claws of Light / Uri Caine - The Classical Variations / Jasmina Maschina - The Demolition Series / Bill Thompson - ...Of Memory and Dreams / Various Artists - I Like It Like That / Steve Lantner Trio - What You Can Throw / Berger / Knutsson / Spering - Up Close / Capillary Action - So Embarrasing / Richard Chartier - Further Materials / Die Resonanz - Edelbrand
+ Big Dipper - Supercluster - The Big Dipper Anthology
+ Brian Agro - Procession of the Ornaments
+ Elektronavn - Cosmic Continuum
+ Heaven And - Sweeter As The Years Roll By
+ Club 8 - The Friend I Once Had - Club 8 - Spring Came, Rain Fell - Strangely Beautiful
+ Giacomo Merega / David Tronzo / Noah Kaplan - The Light and Other Things
+ His Name is Alive - Firefly Dragonfly EP
+ Robin Saville - Peasgood Nonsuch
+ RLW / TITO - Mahlzeit / Kiko C. Esseiva - Sous les toiles
+ Borko - Celebrating Life
+ William Basinski + Richard Chartier - Untitled 1-3 / William Basinski - The River
+ Carl Stone - Woo Lae Oak
+ William Parker & The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra - For Percy Heath
+ Various Artists - Recycling Records Presents: The Best of Polish Smooth Jazz... Ever! / Yasushi Yoshida - Little Grace / Nicola Ratti - From the Desert Came Saltwater
+ Cuong Vu - Vu-Tet
+ Martin Baumgartner - Shoot's Huft
+ Lindha Kallerdahl - Gold
+ Worrytrain - Fog Dance, My Moth Kingdom
+ David Buchbinder - Odessa/Havana
+ She & Him - Volume One
+ Lead Sister II - Interplanetary Craft