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Lucky 13 – My Favorites This Year…

…A Not-So Comprehensive List

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2013 has been a quirky year; for a time I found that inspiration had vanished and I wasn’t interested in listening to music or writing about it at all (a rare occurrence).  I’m guilty of having purchased less music this year (an economic curtailment of necessity).  Nonetheless, there has been some great music in 2013 (and my slice is a tiny piece of what’s out there).  This year I read some music-related memoirs by artists whose work I’ve admired for decades (Burt Bacharach, Neil Young, Michael Feinstein–of his time spent with Ira Gershwin and other books), some histories of Jazz Standards, Blues, Rock and Roll, and records labels (including one of my favorite indie labels, Merge Records).  I was also fortunate to attend a number of live shows, and I’ve posted photos of some of those throughout the year.

Is it me or have record labels and artists reduced their output somewhat?  Is it a lull in a normal cycle or a sign of the economic times?

Some of the music on this list will be familiar if you have checked-in to read my reviews and some I have not reviewed.  I also have some albums I’m still listening to and I haven’t decided if I’ll write reviews for them (an archival release by The Books, La Luz’s first LP, Mary Lattimore and others).  One album in particular that I’ve enjoyed recently (although it was NOT released this year) is a live archive solo recording of Neil Young at the Canterbury House in 1968 entitled Sugar Mountain—the album is mostly material that Young wrote or co-wrote with Buffalo-Springfield, and it was recorded right after Buffalo-Springfield broke-up.

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A double live CD has also just arrived of one of the last (very lively hot Jazz) gigs played by the house band at Eddie Condon’s in New York City before it closed in 1985—One Night at Eddie Condon’s (Red “The Commodore” Balaban’s Condon Band), with Ed Polcer, Dr Palu Squire, Jack Maheu, Tom Artin, Bobby Pratt, Dave Shapiro and Danny D’Imperio, recorded by Doug Pomeroy)–thanks to Tom Artin for sending this great piece of Jazz history!

****

The Lucky 13 (all albums purchased–not promos)

Yellowbirds SFTVF

Yellowbirds – Songs From The Vanished Frontier – Royal Potato Family:  This is my favorite album of the year—just love it–the vibe, the sounds.  Please see my June review.

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Harold Budd – Jane 1-11 – Darla:  The music with companion videos release won’t be available until early 2014, but another beautiful album from HB.  I reviewed this album in June, as well.

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John Scofield – Überjam Deux – Emarcy:  I reviewed this album in August—an excellent follow-up to the original Überjam, and a great vibe with Jazz, Blues and more!

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Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith (CD/DVD) – InsideOut:  As I noted in my review of last year’s studio release of Genesis Revisited II, I feel like Steve Hackett is the keeper of the spirit of the work of Genesis during the 1971 to 1977 era.  So many of the earlier recordings (weak on the engineering and mix, except The Lamb) were greatly improved and enhanced, and this comprehensive 3 CD and 2 DVD set documents the fabulous and memorable Hammersmith show in May of 2013 before the band traveled to the US for their fall tour.  The SH Band will tour further in support of this in the southeastern US and Europe and Russia is 2014 (bassist Lee Pomeroy will be replaced by Nick Beggs, a familiar face to Hackett Band fans…I really enjoyed Lee on this tour, he really brought out just how musical Mike Rutherford’s bass lines are in these earlier Genesis classics).

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Wire – Change Becomes Us – Pink Flag:  I was a big fan of Wire in the late 1970s and then I just plain lost touch with their work.  The Words On Music label has a compilation of reinterpretations of their well-known single Outdoor Miner from their 1978 Chairs Missing album, and then I noticed a post earlier in the year by Marc Ostermeier (of the band Should ,and WOM and Tench labels) that a new album was forthcoming.

Juliette

Juliette Commagere – Human – Aeronaut:  Late in 2010 Commagere released her album The Procession on Manimal Records—a diverse combination of songs with dense and gorgeous vocals instrumentation—part art-rock, progressive and electronica.  Commagere has returned with another beautifully recorded album of lush songs with her strong vocals and support from husband Joachim Cooder, Ben Messelbeck, Amir Yaghmai, Ry Cooder and recorded by Mark Rains and Martin Pradler.  The sound is deep, full, inventive and often fantastical—she is doing her own thing, and I love it (catchy melodies and all).  There are times when she channels Elizabeth Fraser as on Low.

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Roger Eno – Ted Sheldrake – Backwater:  Thirty Years after his first work Apollo with brother Brian and guitarist Dan Lanois, Roger Eno compiled this tribute to friend and neighbor, Ted Sheldrake.  Although I reviewed this album in November of 2012, it wasn’t officially released until January of this year.

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Cock & Swan – Secret Angles – HushHush:  I am eagerly awaiting my blue vinyl (Kickstarter-funded) copy of this digital release that I reviewed in August.

Ferry Jazz

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – The Jazz Age – BMG:  Back in March I did a brief comparative analysis of this album and Steven Wilson’s latest (see below).  I think this is a really spirited and fun reinterpretation of earlier works by Roxy Music and BF.  Being a lover of old acoustically recorded 78s of the pre-Jazz and Jazz ages, I get this.

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Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories) – kscope:  A strong album (I think it’s Steve’s best to date), beautifully recorded and engineered by Alan Parsons.  My favorite song is Drive Home.

William Tyler - Impossible Truth

William Tyler – Impossible Truth – Merge:  A brilliant solo guitar album by Lambchop and Hands Off Cuba alum, and a great follow-up to his previous Tompkins Square release Behold The Spirit.  I reviewed this album in March.

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Celer – Viewpoint – Murmur:  As I noted when I reviewed this album in April, I find this album absorbing and romantic—a great piece for getting lost.

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Ron Sexsmith – Forever Endeavour – Cooking Vinyl:  I love Ron’s work–started listening in 1997 with his third album Other Songs.  Forever Endeavour is sparsely arranged, but strings, horn, percussion, pedal steel or electric bass are right there when they’re needed.  Other than that, the songs are Ron’s voice, and his acoustic guitar.  He has a gift for wordplay and expressing emotions with a deft efficiency that flow so naturally with his melodies.  Some songs on Forever Endeavour are ironically upbeat, like Nowhere Is and Snake Road—in a sense, keeping the faith.  The CD has two bonus tracks (songs written with Don Black and recorded by Don Kerr), Life After A Broken Heart and Autumn Light, and they are just plain gorgeous additions to this album.  Here’s a live recording of Autumn Light.

****

Two of my favorite new discoveries in 2013

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Meridian Brothers – Desesperanza – Soundway:  I heard about Meridian Brothers in an NPR Alt Latino podcast and was instantly hooked by this band from Bogata, Colombia–buying as much of their back catalog as I could find in physical releases.  Their music is surreal and playful—a combination of Joe Meek, Esquivel and Raymond Scott.

La Luz Brainwash (7″) – Suicide Squeeze: This is a single (my version is on clear vinyl) that was released by La Luz just prior to their new album It’s Alive—It’s infectious and fun!  I got to La Luz thanks to Johnny Goss (one half of Cock & Swan).

Garrard 401 Turntable – My Plinth Design

A bit of a diversion from music reviews!

I’ve had some people ask for some more information about one of the turntables listed at my About page.  The plinth for my Garrard 401 is made of solid aluminum parts (mill finish) and it can be disassembled easily and transported.  Normally people have concerns with resonance issues making turntable plinths from metals (favoring wood, slate or other dense non-metallic materials).  I’ve had absolutely NO issues with noise or resonance with this turntable plinth design, and there are even ways to “deaden” the metal if it’s even needed.

Parts are attached with threaded Allen wrench studs and the three “feet” at the bottom are threaded to be adjustable.  The top plate “floats” on four loose brass pins (at the corners) and the top is separated from the base with soft rubber washers.  The design is built around a Thomas Schick tonearm–a REALLY great tone arm, I love it.  The solid cylinder of aluminum supporting the tonearm is isolated from the turntable deck by 1/16″.  Here are some photos of the design with dimensions.  I’m sure it can be adapted for use with other tonearms.  If you decide to build one yourself, you’re welcome to use this design, but if you post about it somewhere, please credit “wajobu” as the designer.  I wrote about this a few years back at the audio forum audiokarma.org.

Garrard 401cGarrard 401c parts

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Keep vinyl alive!

Steve Hackett Band – Genesis Revisited – Glenside, PA

Ah, the completion of my trifecta of Steve Hackett Band concerts on this 2013 US/Canadian Tour.  I had a chance to see the second of two shows held in Glenside, PA at the Keswick Theater (even better to attend the concert with my brother!).  It’s evident that the theater is undergoing a restoration…so a bit of the feeling of Darktown was the aura of the venue (with Gog and Magog swarming around and the ghosts of Keswick conspiring a bit on the house PA system, briefly!).

It was another fabulous night and the band was energetic and tight for this penultimate show on the US tour (the last being tonight in New Jersey before returning to the UK for a brief rest and then a series of UK shows).  If you can, go see the concerts–they are a real treat.  Last night The Lamia returned to the setlist once again.  As always, if you copy and share the photos, please credit “wajobu.com”–thank you.

More on the UK Tour and beyond here: http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html

Hackett Watcher RogerRoger King & “Watcher” Nad Sylvan at the opening of Watcher of the Skies

Hackett Glenside WatcherThe closing section of Watcher of the Skies

Nad & Steve

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From the Ridgefield, CT show (although Horizons was part of the Glenside set)

 

Blood on the RooftopsFrom Blood on the Rooftops (one of my favorites)

From the Ridgefield, CT show (although Blood on the Rooftops was part of the Glenside set)

 

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Hackett Supper Bacon“He’s been stamped human bacon…” from Supper’s Ready

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Farewell GlensideThanks to the Steve Hackett Band for a very memorable US and Canadian Tour! (L to R: Roger King, Rob Townsend, Nad Sylvan, Steve Hackett, Lee Pomeroy and Gary O’Toole)

Benjamin Finger – Listen To My Nerves Hum

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Time Released Sound – TRS 030 CD – 16 tracks/031 Vinyl – 11 tracks (300 copies)

http://timereleasedsound.com/ - Mastered by Lawrence English

[Frank] Benjamin Finger is a freelance photographer and director from Oslo, Norway who has completed several short films and music videos in addition to his work in television and photo exhibitions.  He has two previous albums Woods of broccoli (2009) and For you, sleepsleeper (2011).  More on his previous music work is here:

http://benjaminfinger.bandcamp.com/

Listen To My Nerves Hum is a curious album—it took a few listens to settle-in with me.  It’s neither soundtrack nor is it a cohesive album of music with a connective tissue other than the pieces are built upon simple (and often repetitive) phrases on piano (co-mingled with voices or field recordings).  I tried to find a thread that would tie things together.  The album (for me) in the end is more like incidental music to shorts scenes in a film either built upon visions or daydreams.  Some tracks conceal mysterious hosts and surroundings (like Birthslides and Consonace of Fear), others sound celebratory (Ano Nuevo Acid Crackers’ fireworks and Ode To Blissa’s marching band with prominent snare drum cadence).  Some tracks are somber, almost funereal as on Fearless VK.  In particular, I found the first track Birthslides to be appropriate for the approaching Halloween season—rather furtive and mysterious.

Consonance of Fear (Vocals by Inga Lill-Farstad)

 

Some parts of Listen are quite pleasant and tranquil (Road To Salema, By Sinus and Outside of You), and others I found quite dissonant or distracting (such as Das Paris Des Second Empire Benjamin).  I also detected that when adult voices were part of a given mix, the metronomic piano was played on the lower pitch end of the keyboard whereas with the sounds of children upper register notes were used.

Road To Salema

 

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It’s a pity that I didn’t get to see one of the original 70 deluxe CD version before it sold out (boxes with collages and a small hanging sculpture made from antique piano parts known as The Hammerheaded Wippin Bird, Time Released Sound being well-known for their handmade releases): http://timereleasedsound.com/shop/releases/benjamin-finger-listen-to-my-nerves-hum-deluxe-version/

The vinyl LP (limited to 300 copies) is available here: http://timereleasedsound.com/shop/releases/benjamin-finger-listen-to-my-nerves-hum-vinyl-version/

Perhaps the label might consider releasing Tracks 12 through 16 as a digital EP to accompany the vinyl LP.

The CD version has 16 tracks, 11 tracks are on the LP: 1) Birthslides 5:06, 2) Consonance Of Fear Vocals – Inga-Lill Farstad 3:13, 3) Bogatynia In Mother 2:30, 4) Leaving Linjavegen 3:56,  5) Das Paris Des Second Empire Benjamin 2:22, 6) Road To Salema Vocals – Inga-Lill Farstad  2:50, 7) Ano Nuevo Acid Crackers 3:46, 8) Editions Du Scorpion 3:12, 9) Sevilla On Tape 5:00, 10) Returning To Birthslides 4:06, 11) Ode To Blissa 3:00, 12) By Sinus 2:40, 13) Fearless VK 4:08, 14) Lapse 2:54, 15) Voice Crackers 3:06, 16) Outside Of You 2:30

****

This is a solicited review.

Steve Hackett Band – Ridgefield Playhouse – **Videos Added**

IMG_0354A small collection of photos from the Steve Hackett Band show in Ridgefield, CT on September 29, 2013.  I request that if you decide to copy or repost these photos they are credited to “wajobu.com”  Thank you.

 

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IMG_0368Due to my seating position, I didn’t have many opportunities to photograph Rob Townsend (woodwinds and keyboards) and Roger King (keyboards), but the entire band appears in the photo below.  It was another great show on the US Genesis Revisited Tour.

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Steve Hackett Band – Genesis Revisited II Show – On Broadway

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A GREAT show by the Steve Hackett Band last night.  Ian McDonald was in the audience and backstage along with Adam Holzman (keyboards on Steven Wilson’s recent album) and Francis Dunnery (who joined the band for a couple of the songs).  Steve noted to the audience how much Ian McDonald’s early work with King Crimson influenced him during his early period with Genesis.  The set list is here (top of page): http://www.hackettsongs.com/setlist/3tour.html  And it was a real thrill to hear so many songs that I haven’t heard in some cases for more than 30 years like The Fountain of Salmacis. Onward (for me) to Saturday’s sold out show in CT, but the band is playing a show at the Theater at Westbury (Long Island, NY) on Friday night. I didn’t take many photos last night, because I didn’t have a high quality camera and I wanted to focus more on the show and the music.

Left to right (after the encore): Roger King, Rob Townsend, Nad Sylvan, Steve Hackett, Lee Pomeroy and Gary O’Toole.

I have to say that the award last night (and the entire band looked like they were having fun) goes to Lee (playing right-handed guitars and bass left-handed) who had huge smiles on his face each time he fired-off those thundering bass pedals. It was a real treat to see such a great band again, this time…on Broadway…at the Best Buy Theater.

More on the tour and Steve Hackett here: http://www.hackettsongs.com/index.html

What’s Spinning – Autumn Equinox 2013 Edition

There’s so much great music out there, I just can’t get to it all (let alone afford to add it to my collection!).  And so, another installment of a brief overview of the best of what’s playing here.  Since the temperature has moderated with the season, I’ve been able to fire-up the tube amplifiers again.

Pausal

Pausal – Sky Margin (Own Records) http://ownrecords.bandcamp.com/

Simon Bainton and Alex Smalley return after their most recent album Forms.  Sky Margin is a series of mystical “flights”, with some tracks grouped (Vapour-Distance-Trails, Celestial, Balance-Topography, Solstice-Utopian).  Whereas Smalley’s work as Olan Mill tends more towards the melodically and harmonically directional, Pausal’s compositions are of the “out there.”  The music flows as from drifting gossamers with ethereal layers of instruments and field recordings.

 

Federico

Federico Durand – El idioma de las luciérnagas (Desire Path Recordings) http://www.desirepathrecordings.com/releases/federico-durand-el-idioma-de-las-luciernagas/

I live in an area where the sound of the night is anything but silent, but it’s not the sound of a city or machines, it’s the sounds of fauna (small mammals, birds and insects).  So, I have to admit that when I first cued Durand’s new album I had to look and see if I had left a window open.

I have missed-out on some of Federico’s recent albums (like El éxtasis de las flores pequeñas and Saudades by Durand and Tomoyoshi Date AKA Melodia), but I really enjoyed his collaboration with Nicholas Szczepanik (as Every Hidden Color), Luz on the Streamline Label.  El idioma is a blend of the outdoors, pastoral chimes, sensually treated piano, gentle guitars and many other instruments—a subtle and restful tapestry of sound.  Tracks like El espejo de mil años are in good company with Harold Budd and Brian Eno—peaceful, on the edge of a dream.  There is also a familiar melody (to my ears) in the title track.

 

Julianna

Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe (Dead Oceans)

http://deadoceans.com/artist.php?name=barwickjulianna

After Barwick’s last album, The Magic Place on Asthmatic Kitty, I was curious to see if she could take her music to other places—without seeming like a repetitive formula of her last album…and on Nepenthe she has.  This time her inspiration is taken from a new sense of place, the stark and raw beauty of Iceland, in conjunction with producer Alex Somers (Sigur Ros and Jónsi associated).  The album has a sense of searching and loneliness, and Barwick’s voices are combined with rhythms and melodies, more so compared to her last album.

 

Juliette

Juliette Commagere – Human (Aeronaut Records)

http://www.aeronautrecords.com/Aeronaut/releases.html

Late in 2010 Commagere released her album The Procession on Manimal Records—a diverse combination of songs with dense and gorgeous vocals instrumentation—part art-rock, progressive and electronica.  Commagere has returned with another beautifully recorded album of lush songs with her strong vocals and support from husband Joachim Cooder, Ben Messelbeck, Amir Yaghmai, Ry Cooder and recorded by Mark Rains and Martin Pradler.  The sound is deep, full, inventive and often fantastical—she is doing her own thing, and I love it (catchy melodies and all).  There are times when she channels Elizabeth Fraser as on Low.

 

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Meridian Brothers – Desesperanza (Soundway) and Devoción (Staubgold)

http://www.soundwayrecords.com/release/meridian-brothers/meridian-brothers—desesperanza-sndw049

http://www.staubgold.com/en/album/139/devocion-works-2005-2011/?PHPSESSID=8757662324ab25ade22bf300633f8635

I have NPR’s program Alt Latino for getting me to the delightfully quirky Meridian Brothers.  I characterize their work as part Equivel, part Joe Meek and part Raymond Scott.  Just go along for the ride, it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard.  Devoción is a collection of earlier recordings and Desesperanza is their latest album.

 

 

Laith

Laith Al-Saadi – Real (Weber Works)

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/laithalsaadi3 http://laithmusic.com/

I first saw Laith and his trio perform live at an audio festival in northern Michigan a few years ago, and then saw him again a couple of years later.  He is an artist who puts his heart and soul into his music, mostly Blues (as does the rest of his band).  For this extended EP (six tracks with two alternate takes) producer Jeffrey Weber assembled Al-Saadi’s dream-band (Jim Keltner, Lee Sklar, Larry Goldings, Jimmy Vivino, Tom Scott, Lee Thronburg, Nick Lane, Brandon Fields and others) and recorded this album of original compositions (except for Robbie Robertson’s Ophelia) live to two track with no overdubs, treatments, mixing, editing, limiting, or compression.  Have a listen to the samples—great music, solid.

Review: Aaron Martin/Christoph Berg – Day Has Ended

Martin-Berg DHE DR-14

DR-14 – CD Time: 36:36 - Limited to 250 CD copies or digital download

http://dronarivm.bandcamp.com/album/day-has-ended

http://dronarivm.com/2013/08/28/aaron-martin-christoph-berg-day-has-ended/

Aaron Martin: 1) Slow Wake, 2) Burl, 3) Comfort of Shadow, 4) Night Never Came

Christoph Berg: 5) Pillows, 6) Today Has Been Alright, 7) Things Are Sorted, Finally, 8) Coda

 

Contemplation is too often overlooked; a time for reflection, giving the mind a chance to wander and resolve the events of a day before moving onward into the night.  The transition into night may come slowly as the Sun sets on the horizon, yet some of the scenes of the day’s past are lost to fleeting time in the camera obscura of the mind.

Listening to Aaron Martin and Christoph Berg’s shared CD Day Has Ended is way to refocus the mind and to put the swiftly moving retrograde of time and visions back into perspective and allow the mind to return to a more natural order.  Martin’s half of the CD (tracks 1 through 4) are starker and more direct despite mixing a variety of instrumentation (electric guitar, acoustic strings [banjo or lute?], organ, voices and the familiar cello—in most cases the calming narrator).  Slow Wake’s electric guitar gently percolates with cello weaving.  Burl is more serious and centered. Comfort of Shadow uses layered voices like gentle breezes with slow, low and enveloping cello harmonies reaching up from below.  Night Never Came opening with an organ is the most solemn and deliberate with a mournful and distant cello, which transitions into…

…Berg’s more broadly orchestrated compositions (tracks 5 through 8).  Pillows starts with a phrasing and melody very reminiscent of King Crimson’s Formentera Lady (from the album Islands), and the cello (with other stringed accompaniment) is the narration before gently dispersing.  Today Has Been Alright is the most reflective piece on the album, the foundation (at first) is deeply rooted, then an idée fixe appears on piano.  The pace quickens somewhat to replay that which is to be contemplated and absorbed.  Things Are Sorted, Finally is as in a dream-state when the thoughts of the day may reformulate and become enmeshed in dreams.  And finally to Coda, the calming end, the quietude.

Day Has Ended is to be released on September 23, 2013.

 

Album Review: Zinovia – The Gift of Affliction

Zinovia - TGOA Front

Tympanik Audio: CD TA079  Time: About 49 minutes

Music – Zinovia [Arvanitidi]: www.facebook.com/ZinoviaMusic

Label – Tympanik Audio: www.tympanikaudio.com/artists/zinovia

Artwork – Shift: http://www.futurorg.com/

Available at: http://tympanikaudio.bandcamp.com/album/the-gift-of-affliction

Mastered by Alexander Dietz  Mixed by John Valasis

Tracks: 1) The Blue Shade Of Dawn Covered Your Skin, 2) Communicating Vessels, 3) Chimera, 4) Entangled, 5) Emerge To Breathe, 6) Attached, Our Eyes Wide Open, 7) Sucking The Smoke From Your Lips, 8) Beneath A Stellar Sky, 9) A Time To Make Amends

I suspect that most of us live pretty ordinary lives, but every once in a while finding oneself on the cusp of an adventure seems rather tempting.  A while back, author David Schickler wrote a book Kissing in Manhattan; it’s mysteriously haunting and strange—as if eavesdropping on people, places and their situations; the kinds of experiences that only happen to others.  So, imagine arriving at home some night and seeing a note pinned to the door: “Meet me at ___ at 9 pm”, signed “___” (you fill in the blanks).  Would you go?

Zinovia - TGOA BackI’ve mentioned it before: my strongest connection to music is when it takes me somewhere—whether an escape, a fantasy, to relax or to find a groove, and Zinovia’s The Gift of Affliction is a nearly perfect connection; even better, it’s beautifully recorded and produced. This album has the broad pulse of a city, its dark spaces and verve with occasional tender moments. It tells a story with many possible beginnings and endings.

First, I posit that the sounds in this album have a connection to the vast works of fellow Greek countryman Vangelis Papathanassiou (listen to his 1990 album The City, and passages in the dark soundtrack to the film Bladerunner)—if only for historical influences or connections, yet Zinovia’s album has a clear and freshly expressive voice of its own.  I also wonder, given the recent political and economic times in Greece, if there are any political undertones or foreboding woven into the narrative.

Second, I am most familiar with Zinovia Arvanitidi’s recent collaboration (on Kitchen Label) with Hior Chronik as the duo Pill-Oh, their Kitchen Label release Vanishing Mirror was a favorite of mine in 2012.  I love the reflective track Melodico.  It’s a compassionate album, but The Gift of Affliction is quite different in every way, except in the strong musicianship and production.

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Throughout the entire album there is a constant shift from the ethereal to the grounded, reality to fantasy, electronic to acoustic; and as quickly as we are in a sonically amorphous zone, the vibe moves from solitary to a full ensemble of electronica or jazz undertones—a genre-bending and cohesive swirl.

It could be late at night or in the early hours of a morning; from the first plaintive beats of The Blue Shade Of Dawn Covered Your Skin all the characters are furtively introduced into the narrative with an broad ambience, beats, melodica and piano (the latter two, perhaps being the voices of the main characters).  Unexpected sounds enter and vanish in Communicating Vessels; there is movement of people, vehicles and information in this new place, yet despite all the motion there is a comforting presence of the familiar (the recurrent melodica and piano).  One doesn’t want to be swept-away too quickly. But adventures are not without complications, but why not enjoy the ride?

 

The mythic shift begins in Chimera, a fantasy of sound and voices, expansive, getting absorbed into the experience and the implausible.  Momentary introspection follows in Entangled—the deep and centered beats, one of the most absorbing (and longest) tracks on the album—I think my favorite too.  The narrating melodica returns, in conversation with the piano, they weave into each other, in and out of the pulse.  Emerge To Breathe is a shift from interiors to exteriors, traveling, sounds of rails and stations (like Kraftwerk’s Europe Endless, but more ominous).

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Attached, Our Eyes Wide Open is the darkest and most vulnerable of scenes on the album, yet there is an alluring comfort in the melody of a solo piano (with string accompaniment).  Key shifts are slowly introduced, along with an emotional realism and sense of doubt, yet still one is drawn further  into the fantasy of…

Sucking The Smoke From Your Lips and its out-of-focus depth of field with moving colored lights—a sonic tilt-shift in a smoky jazz club with the liberation of dream-like voices.  The adventure nears its end with Beneath A Stellar Sky, out in the open, holding onto the escape.  It’s a reluctant emergence and one last taste of the vibrations of the night.  A Time To Make Amends is the return from fantasy, the pensive melancholy, with a reflective and intimate close, accentuated all the more with the sounds of the internal workings of Zinovia’s piano.

In case you’re wondering, I did take the note from my door and went on the adventure, and you should too.

****

This is a solicited review.

Review: David Wenngren & Jonatan Nästesjö – Below

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Soundscaping 005 CD: About 34 minutes

Label: http://www.soundscaping.net/

David Wenngren: http://librarytapes.com/  Jonatan Nästesjö: http://jonatannastesjo.com/

Tracks: 1) Something There, 2) Feel Nothing, 3) Before I Leave, 4) Still Nothing Moves You

Writing reviews is a tricky business.  One tries to be objective and in the end arrives at mostly subjective.  Try writing a review for audio equipment, like for speakers, often the quickest way to create a flame-out with audiophiles (even with qualitative test data)*.  Writing about different types of music is also a challenge; some folks just don’t like Bluegrass, Jazz or Folk music, for example.  Writing about Ambient, Electro-Acoustic, Electronic or other types instrumental music often proves to be the most challenging.  Many listeners just can’t grasp (we’ll call it generically) “ambient” music since there are often limited tangible melodies, lyrics or other references unless there’s an artist’s statement or a known concept behind a given work.  I find that when writing about instrumental music, it’s most helpful to reference the work of other artists (who might be familiar reference points) or try and describe how the music makes me feel, or what I see or where it takes me.

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Often, music enhances experiences, and at times nothing is better than a restful sonic journey to the quietude, and Below helps to get us there.

I’m more familiar with David Wenngren’s work as Library Tapes, Murralin Lane and other collaborations, but Jonatan Nästesjö’s work is new to me (and he also has used the nom de plume Woodchucker for some of his earlier work).  Both are from Sweden.  Instrumentation in this work is not readily identifiable compared to most of what I know of David Wenngren’s work, but as a point of reference I’d place Below closest to Wenngren’s recent collaboration with Kane Ikin entitled Strangers.

From the first gentle whispers of the ineffable Something There to the broadest fullness of choral passages of Still Nothing Moves You this album presents an ever-changing yet serene oasis of sound.  There is mystery within, and a sensitive audio system is almost essential for this album (*-you pick whether the music is through speakers or headphones, and no, I won’t advise on what system is best).  Throughout Something There are fleeting ethereal apparitions that emerge from high up and then they are absorbed back into the haze.  Part way through the piece there is a moment where the dream subsides, and seemingly the mind reaches back into the scene to complete it, before it disappears into the ether.

 

Feel Nothing appears as if from the edge of a drifting consciousness—at times the faintest of voices can be heard.  One floats through time, soft sound-light appears and diminishes and there are moments when a tangible clarity focuses, but it’s still gentle as one moves through the broad spaces created by the music (hence the term often used to describe this type of music: “cathedral electronic music”), yet this album resists being majestic.

Before I Leave is more intimate and centered initially, and then almost undetectably a tide (of organs, perhaps) builds on loops and expands as if rising and withdrawing on a broad sandy coast before receding slowly back to the horizon.  Still Nothing Moves You closes this sonic novella with veiled choral and Mellotron-like flute passages and after building the sound is gradually lost in the distance.  The effect is reminiscent of Holst’s Neptune [The Mystic] from The Planets.

Whether leaving a listener with a feeling of walking through a quiet forest (as depicted on the album’s cover), on foot in gentle breezes at a beach or escaping to another realm, Below is a fulfilling and tranquil way to leave the here, for the there.

DavidJonatan-hiresPhoto of Jonatan Nästesjö and David Wenngren courtesy of Soundscaping

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This is a solicited review.

Wendy Artin, photos from the exhibition

To see Wendy Artin's website, please visit www.wendyartin.com

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