Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Elvin Jones - Midnight Walk (Atlantic, 1967)

After Trane's passing, and after the previous couple years of being a blistering powerhouse of polyrhythms, it seems as though Elvin Jones needed something fun to play. He got with his brother, trumpeter Thad Jones, and they recording some good time, funky, soulful r & B numbers. The title Midnight Walk basically explains the vibe of this record. Not much avant-garde here, just lots of simple yet lovely and catchy numbers.

With the great Hank Mobley on tenor sax, solid Donald Moore on bass and the legendary Dollar Brand on piano, this is a classic crew of heavy hitters. The chemistry between these players is outstanding. Of course, as bandleader and as the greatest drummer of all time (says I), Elvin can't help but still knock our socks off at several points on the record. You have to listen closely. The brilliance is in the subtlety of Elvin's playing. Check the busy undercurrents, the explosive drum fills, notice how Tintiyana begins, tension created by imposing a 4/4 line on his 3/4 drumming.

And if this line-up wasn't heavy enough, the record was engineered by Tom Dowd. Wow, this one gets me every time...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Cure - Paris (Elektra / Asylum, 1993)

If you want to bitch about The Cure being capitalistic by the early 90's, I'll give you that. If you want to say you were sick and tired of them putting out every damned live show they felt like, I'll give you that too. But, did you ever hear this one?

I remember digging through the cut-out bin at K-Mart when I was 18 and finding this failed gem of a cassette for $2.99. It was quite a nice surprise to see the track listing of older, darker, more cult classic songs like "The Figurehead" and One Hundred Years" (this was pre-internet, so I wasn't familiar with every available release by the band. Guess I had stopped following Rolling Stone at that point).

Recorded at Le ZĂ©nith de Paris, in October 1992 during their Wish tour, what makes this show so special is the voracious crowd. They can't get enough of these classic early goth tracks, songs that make up what the band (Smith) was originally about. Its pretty powerful to hear the whole place singing along to the keyboard line on "Play for Today".

A moving recording for those fans partial to the early work.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vestibule - Body Without Orgone (Mixtape, 2011)

My latest mixtape. Enjoy.

Coil - Something (Live)
Ann Clark - Sleeper in Metropolis
Actress - Maze
Pinch and Shackleton - Torn and Submerged
Monolake - North
Eleven Tigers - Songs for You
Coil - Further Back and Faster
Arthur Russell - Me For Real
Nagamatzu - Roma Distruta
Ezekiel Honig - Between Bridges
Boards of Canada - Telephasic Workshop
Xambuca - Varra
Burial - Night Bus

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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Tear Garden - The Last Man to Fly (Nettwerk, 1992)

This is the best output of a very special collaboration. Edward Ka-Spel (The Legendary Pink Dots) enlisted cEVIN Key (Skinny Puppy) for this project after Key served as sound engineer for a Dots tour in Canada in 1985.

This is a shift in sound for both of them in that the sound is essentially psychedelic rock. Dirty electric guitar slithers through dirgey bass lines and a slow, bobbing, dub-influenced live drum kit sound. The vocals are trademark Ka-Spel but more pleading and the music is obviously Key but less abrasive, more sensitive, and ambient groove-based.

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Xambuca - Joulupukki (Erototox Decodings, 2011)

The Sami, Europe's northernmost inhabitants, are an indigenous arctic culture inhabiting Fennoscandia (the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Kola Peninsula, Karelia and Finland). There, underneath the Baltic Sea, lies the Baltic Shield, the exposed Precambrian northwest segment of the East European Craton. It is composed mostly of volcanic rock belts which have undergone numerous deformations through tectonic activity. This region contains the oldest rocks of the European continent. During the Pleistocene epoch, great continental ice sheets scoured and depressed the shield's surface, leaving a thin covering of glacial material and innumerable lakes and streams. The Baltic Shield is still rebounding today following the melting of the thick glaciers during the our current ice age, the Quaternary Period.

This first full-length from Xambuca states dedication to the Saami people and the nation of Sapmi. The music here seems to equate not only to the 3 billion year old geological history of this icy multi-cultural region, but to the ancient pre-christian shamans, cult images and animal ceremonies so important to its people. Unfortunately, and much like the rest of Scandinavia, Swedish priests eventually refuted and abolished anything they deemed heathenism, superstition or witchcraft.

Joulupukki is cerebral electronic music fueled by dark ambience and introspection. These are soundscapes that are at once glacial and volcanic, driven by minimal beats that feel post-industrial and post-techno. There is a consistently somber mood presented here. Certain pieces hint at martial percussion and there are even sounds that invoke concepts of science fiction and Marinetti's retro-futurism that are all shrouded in Orwellian discontent. Later there is a track of doom-laden electric guitar that ever so slowly cuts through the breakers of the Baltic Sea.

Under this monumental weight, the Atlas that is Joulupukki manages to attain catharsis. The latter pieces over-driven, the beats big, brutal and nasty, the record seems to therapeutically expunge itself of all emotion, culminating in a final cut that is a defiant ship lost in a storm, battered by rogue waves yet faithfully waiting for the calm. In this state of mind, devoid of all concern, there is nothing left but a meditative stasis.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

V/A - Pomegranates: Persian Pop, Funk, Folk and Psych of the 60s and 70s (B-Music, 2010)

Finders Keepers has impressively researched the exciting and turbulent political times of Iran's 1960's - 70's. The compiler, Massha Taghinia is an American born of Iranian parents and many of these tracks come directly from his mother's record collection. Because of this connection, we receive a rare glimpse of the superstars of that country's Pop, Folk, Funk, Proto-Disco and Psych. Not only is every track delightful but the overall experience is enhanced by the idea that all of this music happened under the Shah's reign. A curious experience ranking with Sublime Frequencies collections of rock n' roll tracks from Cambodia during the period under the Khmer Rouge. We are privileged this has have fallen on Western ears.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sybille Baier - The Colour Green (Orange Twin, 2006 / recorded 1970-73)

Fans of director Wim Wenders' first knew Sybille Baier's face from the 1973 film Alice in the Cities. Her music has been featured in Jochen Richter's Umarmungen und Andere Sachen(1975) and in Wim Wenders' Palermo Shooting(2008).

Much the same as Nick Drake, it was decades after the fact that her music gained general notoriety. With one of the most charming voices I've heard, she sang brave and honest pastoral folk songs that she composed in her dark, bleak manner. I'm reminded of Sylvia Plath every time I listen. Unlike the hippie psych folk popularized by Vashti Bunyan, Baier didn't need any gimmicks, bells or whistles. This fraulein kept it simple but somehow elegant with production akin to the atmosphere of early Leonard Cohen recordings. I only wish there was more.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Senor Coconut - El Baile Aleman (Emperor Norton, 2000)

What could possibly be as good as a Kraftwerk record? An electro-latino record covering Kraftwerk. German composer Uwe Schmidt knows how to masterfully fuse various genres of music so well that you can't tell if its tongue-in-cheek or not. Trans-Europe Express (Cumbia), Showroom Dummies (Ch-Cha), Autobahn (Merenge)? Seriously, what's not to love here?? This is the most brilliant nonsense I've ever heard.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Louvin Brothers - Satan is Real (Capitol, 1960)

Ira, Ira, Ira... what happened to you? You preached the gospel yet set such a poor example. I mean, if you want people to take the Lord Jesus seriously, you have to be a better role model. What you chose to do was to drink way too much corn liquor and beat the shit out of your wife until she shot you in the chest multiple times. Granted, you're a stubborn mother fucker, you lived, but come on man, what were you thinking?

And Charlie, besides pioneering Close Harmony (thanks for that), how the hell did you put up with your bro and all this misbehavior? At least you didn't get a bad rap by association. I'm sure you were no angel but at least you never got caught.

I don't believe in Hell, the rapture, the tribulation, the day of judgement or Jesus answering any sort of prayer but when I drink enough (like while I'm writing this) I begin to feel my church-raised childhood creeping in. Then some false sense of guilt arises that makes me feel bad about every decision I've ever made...and isn't that what Christianity is all about? Praise the lord and pass the whiskey. And by the way, Satan's Jewelled Crown is one of the prettiest songs you will ever hear.

Most importantly, you can thank Ira for this album cover, possibly the greatest one ever conceived.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quincy Jones - In Cold Blood OST (Colgems, 1968)

In 1966, Truman Capote scared the hell out of America with a novel containing brutality that most hadn't heard of before, much less read about. A year later, Richard Brooks adapted the novel for film and threw it in the faces of the rest of them that didn't read much. The film is incredible and lost the Oscar for Best Picture only due to The Graduate having a more accessible commercial appeal.

What I always found most notable about the picture was Quincy Jones outstanding score. The same man who was well known for his happy, bouncy big band feeling soundtracks dug deep into his psyche and manifested a true evil, a fear at the heart of all men and the first truly menacing jazz score.

This was also a true breakthrough for black composers in Hollywood. Jones had just done the music for In the Heat of the Night and although this was more popular with the mass audience, critics were more focused on his work with In Cold Blood, in which he really pushed the envelope, creating a genuinely disturbing theme. This is a magnificent achievement.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ornette Coleman - Love Call (Blue Note, 1968)

After years of searching for an affordable copy, I scored this vinyl at my neighborhood record store. Freaked out a bit when I first picked it up.

This is Coleman toned down just a bit. By 1968, he had mellowed. Don't get me wrong, this is still top notch freedom, but there's something magical about these sessions (this album was actually recorded alongside New York is Now) because he acquired the classic John Coltrane Quartet rhythm section. And that essentially means you're hearing the greatest rhythm section of all time (I dare you to disagree). However, at no point does this rub off on him. The entirety of these sessions still just sounds like Ornette Coleman, and this I find incredibly impressive. Together with his Alto sax and trumpet is Dewey Redmond's tenor sax, a strong voice in its own right. This is simply some of the best jazz you'll ever hear.

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Sun Araw - Ancient Romans Drag City / Sun Ark, 2011)

So I'm having this dream. I eventually reach that desirable lucid state only to find myself wondering "Is this primordial ooze or bongwater or a cocktail of both?" I'm not sure what Cameron Stallones is going for with this project but he's light years further into the cosmos than any of his fellow travellers. The undulating organs, warbly keyboards and noodly guitars are only bested by the far out vocal tracks and dubby bass. Much of this record feels like the middle of a wormhole. I say middle because it feels like you're warping but you have no idea if its forward or back. Listening to Sun Araw feels like being deep underwater and losing track of which way is up only to discover that it doesn't frighten you.

Alice and John Coltrane didn't die, they just started working for SETI.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Grauzone - S / T (Off Course, 1981)

Swiss band Grauzone was one of the most creative bands of the post-punk era. Most people will never know who they are because they only recorded one album and some singles. This is a shame. They had it all: rock, disco, synth-punk and pop, all with a genuine approach that really connects emotionally. The recording is meticulously approached. Too mature for a band that was together so briefly. You're gonna thank me for this one.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Barn Owl - Lost in the Glare (Thrill Jockey, 2011)

Do you love Earth? Do you find yourself listening to those three dirgey western rock records over and over to the point of obsession? Do you get tired of it? Do you ever ask yourself "Is there more? Will I ever feel satisfied by something like this besides Dylan Carlson?" Well pardner, do I have good news for you. Today, right now, right here, you can download your very own copy of the brightest, biggest, hottest star this side of the Mojave. All for the one time low low price of absolutely free. It'd be the right thing to do if you go out and buy the vinyl real soon though. Fellers gotta make a livin'.

Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras' dueling guitars mixed with farfisa, blissful e-bow drones and electronics create what sounds to me like the most creative take on Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" I've ever heard. Lost in the dry heat, beat down by the sun only to freeze in the cold Sonoran night, Carlson, O'malley and Anderson could never have made a record this interesting. I kid you not. This is fucking incredible. Still waiting for my vinyl so I can do it right. I need that full analog signal. It's gonna be one I spend many hours listening to in the future.

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