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ILLUHA – Akari

ILLUHA Akari

Label: http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/akari/  CD 12K1080 Time: 58:54

Artist Website: http://illuha.com/

1) Diagrams Of The Physical Interpretation of Resonance 2) Vertical Staves Of Line Drawings And Pointillism 3) The Relationship Of Gravity To The Persistence Of Sound 4) Structures Based On The Plasticity Of Sphere Surface Tension 5) Requiem For Relative Hyperbolas Of Amplified And Decaying Waveforms

ILLUHA’s new album is a more introspective progression from their previous works, some of which have been recorded in large spaces with vast natural reverberation (like their last studio album Shizuku – 12K1067).  Akari is like the successively magnified views in Charles and Ray Eames’s film The Power of Ten, while still being in the dome of the sky, the experience of the sound moves inward, and despite being ever closer to the point of focus a vastness of even more detail is revealed.  The album has a comforting intimacy, and from the first quite unexpected (to me!) muted acoustic guitar harmonics there is also a deeply tactile quality.  The instrumentation on the album is diverse, but it never distracts; each sound or ensemble has the space it requires and it tangibly enhances the experience.

The recording is profoundly crystalline and as one meanders through the scenes there are moments of illumination to be discovered…finding light in the darkness where color and detail are exposed.  The broader ambient sounds that open many of the tracks are subtle (like The Relationship of Gravity…) forming a backdrop for the journeys that Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date lead us through.

I think the quality of sound-light in some of the passages of Akari is like the photo below that I took on a walk, early in the Fall of 2012.

Find a comfortable place to rest and get lost in this.

Light

 

One of my favorite ILLUHA pieces is a live recording from their CD Interstices (see the excerpt of Interstices III below, CD also available from 12k).

 

Nicholas Szczepanik – Not Knowing

NSZCZ Not Knowing

CD TANGENT001  Time: 52:56

Label: http://www.desirepathrecordings.com/ Artist: http://www.nszcz.com/

Auditioning long form musical works take time and with the many modern distractions it’s often difficult to dedicate an extended period to focused listening, but for Not Knowing I think you’ll want to make the time (especially if you are familiar with Nicholas Szczepanik’s previous work such as Please Stop Loving Me).  In fact, if one is in the right frame of mind (like in a state of meditation, self-hypnosis or deep relaxation) the sense of time is often compressed, and one wonders ultimately where the time has gone.

This piece was originally available in a shorter version on the limited 12 part release CD3 series Ante Algo Azul from 2011, and it was a favorite of mine back then.  So, I was delighted to hear that an extended version would be released by Desire Path Recordings as part of their new Tangent series.

I liken Not Knowing, which is different in form and sound from PSLM, to a dream sequence in roughly four parts, although there are threads of sound that keep the piece connected throughout.  The first 12 minutes or so is a deeply pulsed and hypnotic mediation that brings one to where memories and dreams might become lucid, but still out of tangible reach.  It’s at this point where an imagined orchestra appears from the ether and it flows.  Is it a literal sample of another piece or is it combined with electronics?  It appears like unresolved memories in a dream.  I can hear chords of Elgar…wait, then Dvorak…but wait, there’s the flow of Debussy, a sleight of hand used by other composers, hiding themes from elsewhere, leaving the brain to search for a source, and the sound is ethereal and uplifting (dare I say even heavenly for the non-believers?).

 

Then the music and perceived vision seems to drift out of reach and almost dissolves.  At the point in a dream when one loses touch, but wants to return to the visions, and then the melodies and harmonies arrive again, but in a shrouded form with layers of choral vocals.  And within this new realm the piece moves into a less recognizable and deeper unknown territory before gently returning to the original sonic thread, albeit in an altered and transitional chordal-tone state and ultimately the arrival back into the warmth of the visceral pulses.

Although quite different in presentation and instrumentation, I compare the journey in this album to that of some other favorites of mine like Vangelis Papathanasiou’s Rêve from the album Opéra Sauvage and Tangerine Dream’s Desert Dream from their double live album Encore.  The development and sound architecture of the piece is clearly influenced by the works of French electronic composer Éliane Radigue, to whom Szczepanik dedicates the album.

Should – The Great Pretend

Should WM 38

Words On Music – WM38 CD Time: 43:15 (To be released on March 25, 2014)

More on Should and the album: http://www.words-on-music.com/WM38.html

Tracks: 1) Don’t Send Me Your Regrets 2) Loveless Devotion 3) Mistakes Are Mine 4) In Monotone 5) Down A Notch 6) Everybody Knows 7) Dalliance 8) A Lonely Place 9) Amends 10) Gold Stars 11) Don’t Get To Know Me

I was around for the punk and post-punk eras (Wire’s Pink Flag and Chairs Missing being pretty prominent in my studio days along with early Talking Heads albums and many other bands and genres).  I have to admit that I missed a great deal of the original Shoegaze bands largely due to austerity and having a young family, so other pleasant distractions reigned from the late 1980s into the late 1990s (although bands like Cocteau Twins, The Sundays and Scritti Politti found their way to my vintage stereo).  I missed the early days of the band Should, but I remember their second album Feed Like Fishes from the edges, and their 2011 album Like A Fire Without Sound is a recent favorite (by then I was well out of my musical seclusion).

Relationships are often complex entanglements, whether one is embarrassed to admit being in one, longing to be in one (longing to be OUT of one, perhaps?), or preferring to be just plain left alone (whether misanthropic or morbidly shy).  The songs on The Great Pretend have pleasantly simple and catchy foundations of melody, chords with lyrics of young and even mature longing or angst.  The songs build gradually and the instruments and voices weave into dulcet yet deceptively intricate compositions.  The album never sounds heavy, and if anything it’s ironically upbeat at the moments when lyrically it’s just the opposite (at times avoiding directness, shrouding emotions, much like the album’s stylized cover).  A side note: The Great Pretend is also the title of the last track on Like A Fire Without Sound.

Don’t Send Me Your Regrets opens the album and is a sort of foreword, largely a verse without a chorus.  To me, it’s more of a song fragment that sets a mood, much like some of F. M. Cornog’s East River Pipe songs like Wholesale Lies from The Gasoline Age.  The one cover on the album (and it’s a great one) is Loveless Devotion by Over The Atlantic’s Nik Brinkman and Bevan Smith (from their album Dimensions) and it’s a softer interpretation with staggered harmonies from Marc Ostermeier and Tanya Maus accompanied by crisp guitar and bass.  The rougher edges of the original version appear towards the end of the song.

What’s a bit different on this album compared to Should’s last is that rhythms seem more energetic (dare I say danceable?) as in Mistakes Are Mine, Everybody Knows (with drum machine and statement-response lyrics) and Dalliance, yet there are moments (like In Monotone) that are more contemplative with gentle keyboards, light electric guitar and drums; it’s a Shoegaze One Note Samba.

Down A Notch is an excellent first single for the album, another example of an upbeat song with paradoxical lyrics.  A Lonely Place is a duet reminiscent of some of Brian Wilson’s songs from the romantic yet melancholic Pet Sounds era, it reminds me of Caroline NoAmends explores a darker mood and sound.  Gold Stars is like a gentle sonic waterfall, similar to Turned Tables from Like A Fire Without Sound.

The album closes with the curiously upbeat yet shy introspection of Don’t Get To Know Me, and there it is again, the complexities of relationships and emotions—songs that often express feelings better when one is at a loss for words.

Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal at Infinity Hall

Rosanne Cash 022014 027In the past few months I’ve heard and seen a number of interviews with Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal in support of Rosanne’s latest album The River & The Thread (produced and arranged by John).  In particular, check out her interview from the CBS Sunday Morning program—it’s a great piece about the roots of most of her music, but also the inspiration for the songs on River, and how blues legend Robert Johnson, the civil rights movement, Rosanne’s parents (Johnny Cash’s childhood home and her own first home) and a bridge all mixed together to form a thread that makes up her story.

http://rosannecash.com/rosanne-cbs-sunday-morning-jan-19/

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I can’t say that I have all of her back catalog of albums, but I have many of them.  Rosanne noted (with her dry wit) last night, “…this is a song from back when I had hits…” and in describing the journey that led to the latest album (paraphrasing) “…you spend a great deal of time wandering around in your 20s figuring out who you aren’t so you can figure out who you are when you’re…older…”

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John Leventhal is an extraordinary musician and arranger, and the two of them have the same chemistry on stage as they do on River.  At one point Roseanne noted (after a guitar solo by John, with heavy country and blues roots…again paraphrasing), “…hard to believe that this guy is a native New Yorker…”  John treats his guitar like it’s a full band.  It was also really nice that John played soft lead-in vamps on many tunes as Rosanne recounted stories related to the development of the album.

Rosanne Cash 022014 003

Most of last night’s show was taken from River, her previous albums The List, Black Cadillac, King’s Record Shop, and Seven Year Ache…I haven’t yet compiled the full set list (but see the photo below).  One of the highlights (in addition to TWO power failures during the show…it was sleeting outside) was a perfect (even with power interruption) cover of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billy Joe, which has a strong connection to The River & The Thread (the Tallahatchie Bridge is on the cover of the album).

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Their encore last night included taking some requests from the audience (including a verse from Runaway Train) along with a gorgeous version of 500 Miles from The List.  John’s one trip to the piano with an arrangement that had elements of gospel and the light touch of Count Basie—brilliant; even better, it’s a song that one of my cousins used to sing to us younger cousins in the 1960s.  It was a special moment, and a lovely evening of music.  Thanks to Rosanne and John, and all at the Infinity Hall (in snowy Norfolk, CT).

Rosanne Cash 022014 051

http://rosannecash.com/home/

Venue: http://www.infinityhall.com/

Rosanne Cash 022014 023Set List

Rosanne Cash 022014 SetlistAll images are by wajobu and copyright 2014.  Please contact me if you’d like higher resolution images and all I ask is that you credit me if you use an image.

Porya Hatami – Shallow

TCH06_spine_300

Tench Records: CD TCH06, about 43 minutes

Tracks: 1) Fen; 2) After The Rain; 3) White Forest

Artist links: https://soundcloud.com/poryahatami & http://poryahatami.bandcamp.com/

There are unknowns and misconceptions when it comes to learning of others in far away lands and different cultures, but we have a universal language: Music.  Music with or without words, music of nature or created with found or built objects.  This is perhaps where we can find common ground and even Peace among us.  We can hope.

Years ago when I was in school I had a friend from Tehran, Iran who sadly I have long since lost touch with (I always marveled at his design work, because it was rooted in ideas and techniques so different from my own), and later I got to know another person from a different family who fled Iran during the 1979 Revolution.  This person’s family was persecuted because of their beliefs (sound familiar?).  We became friends and colleagues in the mid 1980s after he made his way to America via Europe and we have since learned of each other’s heritages (and enjoyed many spirited discussions over the years!).  We all have stories, histories, struggles and desires—we have far more in common with one another than we often think.

 

Porya Hatami is from Sanandaj, Iran and although we have never met in person, I believe I feel Hatami’s deep and universal desire to reach out and share the experiences of his culture and environment in the hopes of achieving connections we can all appreciate while preserving our regional identities.  With all the turmoil and fear bred by our countries and political establishments, Hatami’s music is a magical beacon of hope and beauty observing the natural world around and more of what binds our humanity instead of what separates us in our beliefs and politics.

Some of Shallow is taken directly from the fens and streams, some from the sky and rain, and some from soft breezes in the trees (as in White Forest), while parts are symbolically reminiscent of those places and experiences (real or imagined).  There is deep sense of warmth in Hatami’s work.  At times it’s so delicate and tender and at others it gently soothes and envelops–allowing one to drift freely into an imagined experience (like where Fen transforms from an environmental to more of an inner dream or even underwater experience at the mid-point of the piece, before returning again to the outdoors—as if from reality to dream and back again).  After The Rain opens as if soft comforting rays of sunshine have entered the morning with a fresh mist still falling from trees or eaves (you can decide).

Shallow is available here: http://www.tenchrec.com/TCH06.html

Deep Winter Listening – Icebound Edition

I think I’m ready for Spring, but since that’s expecting too much at this point I’ll just stick to what’s spinning here lately…

WT

Tompkins Square Records - Imaginational Anthem Volumes 1 to 5 (boxed with William Tyler’s Elvis Was A Capricorn, live performances) and Volume 6 (Tompkins Square TSQ 2790 and 2851):  I purchased this on intrigue after a few other TSQ label purchases and upon learning that Hallock Hill’s Tom Lecky had a piece on Volume 5.  It’s a wide-ranging collection of mostly acoustic guitar (American Primitive “fingerstyle”) works by some musicians well known (Max Ochs, John Fahey, James Blackshaw, Jack Rose, William Tyler, Daniel Bachman and Robbie Basho) and others more obscure.  The WT live CD is a bonus in the box, which is not sold separately—his wizardry is hypnotic.  Volume 6 has 14 historic recordings transferred from 78s.  It’s a really fascinating collection.

RR

Robert RichMorphology (Anodize AD 1304):  After really enjoying Rich’s last CD Nest, I thought I’d try this 2010 live recording (released in 2013).  At some sections it’s more rhythmic than Nest, but this again takes me back to the Modular Moog days of Tangerine Dream’s double live album Encore.  Turn down the lights, turn up the volume and take a ride.

LC N

LambchopNixon (MRG175):  This is a reissue of the 2000 release to help celebrate Merge Records’ 25th anniversary.  I opted for the CD, which includes a second CD White Session 1998 “How I Met Cat Power” recorded in 1998 (Lambchop “represented” by Kurt Wagner on vocals, tape loops and guitar recorded for Radio France).  Gone is the jewel box of the original and everything is contained in a double gate-fold sleeve with enhanced artwork.  This album was my introduction to Lambchop and the 5 track bonus CD (with 4 tracks from Nixon and The Saturday Option) is like having a private concert by Kurt in your living room.

78Proj

The 78 Project – Volume 1 (http://The78Project.com – 78P-001):  Somewhat like the Black Cab Sessions, this is the first of what looks like many forthcoming albums, most of the songs are traditional, recorded in one take on one blank lacquer disc on a 1930s vintage Presto direct-to-disc recorder working at 78 RPMs in full ruby-cut monaural with ambient noise and all.  Artists on this first volume include Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal, Marshall Crenshaw and 9 others.  The LP is mastered for 33-1/3 RPM.  Old school and a fascinating concept.

PH

Porya HatamiShallow (Tench TCH 06): Recorded in Sanandaj Iran, Hatami’s latest album is a gorgeous instrumental work with three extended pieces (Fen, After The Rain and White Forest) of field recordings, loops and minimal instrumentation that are hypnotic, peaceful and produce a strong sense of place, and an escape.

TAD

The Autumn DefenseFifth (Yep Roc YEP-2354):  The core of the band is still Wilco’s Patrick Sansone and John Stirratt and this album for the most part picks up where their last album Once Around left off—well crafted songs with a relaxed but catchy vibe (some feel like they’re from the 60s and some could be from the 70s–make me think of Graham Gouldman’s work.)

HGM 1HGM 2

Hiss Golden MessengerPoor Moon and Bad Debt (Tompkins Square 2660 and Paradise of Bachelors PoB-11):  I got to HGM by poking around in TSQ’s back catalog and that led me to these two albums by the core of M. C. Taylor and Scott Hirsch (the latter being a reissue of Taylor penned and recorded songs which were a reaction to the 2008 financial crisis).  Stark at times, but I was immediately drawn into the genuine nature of the lyrics and roots-like instrumentation and arrangements.  Real solid albums and I’m looking forward to their 2013 album Haw when it arrives.

SRS

Steven R. SmithTableland (Emperor Jones EJ35CD website: http://www.worstward.com/):  Smith has a number of musical personas and in addition to music he is an instrument builder and print maker.  I’m most familiar with one of his aliases, Hala Strana (that work is more eastern European and traditionally-rooted).  Tableland is a (sadly, this 2001 CD is out of print, but download is available here: http://worstward.bandcamp.com/album/tableland) haunting and somewhat moody collection of largely electric guitar-based soundscapes that could easily be a soundtrack for a roadtrip to a long forgotten territory.

RC

Rosanne CashThe River & The Thread (Blue Note Records B00195t202):  Some musicians and artists with well-known predecessors often have periods of distancing themselves from those strong roots, breaking away to establish themselves.  Rosanne Cash (whose dad was Johnny Cash) and John Leventhal have produced a beautiful album of songs tracing RC’s memories and influences that have gradually resolved with time and understanding of the struggles of humble beginnings and the trials of fame.  The song Night School is stunning.  Get the CD version with the bonus tracks.

BLB

Ben Lukas Boysen – Gravity (Ad Noiseam ADN168CD):  The striking cover illustration drew me into the wake of this album and Boysen’s placid rhythms and harmonious aura suspended time.

HB AS

Harold BuddAvalon Sutra (Darla DRL 285):  This is a completely remastered (by sound engineer Bradford Ellis, who has worked with Budd for 30 years) reissue of the Samadhisound double CD that was first released in 2004 (often referred to as Harold Budd’s last album before he retired from composing and recording—lucky for us it was a false alarm!).  This double CD has new artwork and photographs, and the recordings have greater depth and clarity.

HB JM

Harold Budd & Jane MaruJane 1-11 (Darla DRL 287):  This is a two disc CD and DVD video release.  The CD is the same as DRL281, and the second disc includes video companions (by artist Jane Maru) to each of the tracks on the album.  Some of the videos are a very light touch with minimal effects and others explore colors, depth of field, transformation and the passage of time.  I wrote last year about this very special Harold Budd album.  Jane Maru did the cover artwork for this and the original CD release—she also does some really wonderful batiks.

 

Kraftwerk

And let’s not forget a favorite of mine – Kraftwerk!

I’m ready for the Spring Thaw!  Happy listening.

Ed Cherry Trio at The Sidedoor Jazz Club

Ed Cherry Trio 020114 0581

Ed Cherry Trio 020114 0595A chance to listen to some great music locally, and thanks to a recent Facebook post by guitarist John Scofield (photo with Ed Cherry at JFK Airport) that was the nudge I needed to see what The Sidedoor Jazz Club (located in Old Lyme, Connecticut) is all about*.  Born in New Haven, Connecticut, New Yorker Ed Cherry (among his many music associations) is known for his decade long work with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.  I think Cherry’s sound is somewhat like Grant Green with a playing style akin to Wes Montgomery.

The two sets by the trio of Ed Cherry – guitar, Chris Beck – drums and Matt Bianchi – organ included works by Thelonius Monk, Wayne Shorter, George and Ira Gershwin (Summertime), Duke Ellington, Duke Pearson and others, including a gorgeous interpretation of the Heyman/Sour/Eyton/Green standard Body and Soul (one of the best known versions is the 1939 recording by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins).

The trio played a number of selections from Cherry’s latest album It’s All Good including Edda and Cristo Redentor.

Ed Cherry Trio 020114 0608

The  music varied from spirited to soulful, and blues to smooth and with the warmth of (here’s hoping!) an early Spring sunny day.  There was a great chemistry between Cherry, Bianchi and Beck whether it was a nod to take a solo, a swell from the organ or syncopated fill on the drums.  At a few points the microphone was close enough to Cherry to hear brief moments of humming like Oscar Peterson, echoing his guitar melody and phrasing.  It was a very enjoyable evening of great music.

Ed Cherry Trio 020114 Bianchi Beck 0588Ed Cherry Trio 020114 Beck 0591

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Cherry - It's All Good

Ed Cherry’s Website: http://edcherrymusic.com/

Record label for It’s All Good: http://www.posi-tone.com/itsallgood/itsallgood.html

Ed Cherry’s Selected discography:  Solo: It’s All Good (2012), The Spirits Speak (2001) , A Second Look (1997), First take (1996).  With: Hamiett Bluiett – With Eyes Wide Open, Mark Weinstein – Three Deuces, Paquito D’Rivera – Havana Cafe, Dizzy Gillespie – Live in Montreaux 1980, Dizzy Gillespie – Live at Royal Festival Hall, Dizzy Gillespie – Live at Blues Alley, Jon Faddis – Hornucopia, Henry Threadgill – Makin’…A Move, Jared Gold – Supersonic

 

Here’s a late 2012 WGBO recording of Duke Pearson’s Cristo Redentor by the same trio that played last night:

Ed Cherry Trio 020114 0573

* – The Sidedoor Jazz Club is part of the Old Lyme Inn (http://thesidedoorjazz.com/) and is laid out a bit like a smaller and narrower version of The Blue Note Jazz Club (in Greenwich Village).  The acoustics and sound system are quite good, most of the seating is clustered a bit like a dumbbell (seats near the bar at the far end of the space and near the entry with minimal seating in the middle in front of the performers).  If seeing the musicians with a clear stage-front view is important to you, it’s best to get there early for good seats (there can occasionally be a large party of dinner guests with reserved seats ahead of you), but the space is intimate enough that seeing the artists and hearing the music is generally good no matter where your seat is.  I appreciate that the house PA system is kept at a very tasteful volume level—easy on the ears.  Desserts and cocktails are served and are reasonably priced.

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Review: Benoît Pioulard – Hymnal Remixes

Hymnal Remixes

450 CD copies, first 15 copies signed by BP, also digital (to be released January 21, 2014)

Remix label: http://losttribesound.com

Available at: http://losttribesound.bandcamp.com/album/hymnal-remixes

Artist website: http://pioulard.com  Original recording label: http://kranky.net

CD 1 Remixes – 44:51: 1. Mercy (Fieldhead), 2. Margin (William Ryan Fritch), 3. Excave (Squanto), 4. Litiya (The Green Kingdom), 5. Homily (Cock and Swan), 6. Florid (Brambles), 7. Censer (Field Rotation), 8. Reliquary (Part Timer), 9. Margin (Zachary Gray), 10. Foxtail (Graveyard Tapes)

CD 2 Remixes – 53:29: 1. Hawkeye (The Remote Viewer), 2. Censer (Segue), 3. Knell (Widesky), 4. Florid (Loscil), 5. Foxtail (Radere), 6. Gospel (James Murray), 7. Reliquary (Benoît Honoré Pioulard), 8. Margin (Ruhe), 9. Gospel (Window Magic)

****

I want to note that sound quality and production are very important to me, almost as important as the music itself.  So, given that statement, please read this review carefully.  Comments seen as criticisms are not of the music or the writing, but largely on the choice of production methods and sound quality.  I think very highly of the music penned and played by Tom Meluch (in his guise as Benoît Pioulard).  With that in mind, please read on.

****

Hymnal

Hymnal – The Original

I’ve enjoyed Benoît Pioulard’s previous kranky releases as well as the more experimental vinyl EP Plays Thelma on Desire Path Recordings, so coupled with the early press accounts of Hymnal I was hopeful that it would be a great album…

I feel that there are many exceptional songs on Hymnal (Hawkeye, Reliquary, Excave, and especially Margin, and Litiya) along with some comforting drones (like Censer), but in general I feel there is a lack of presence in the recordings—they sound flat, out-of-phase and firmly entrenched in a claustrophobic mid-range (nothing at all like the sumptuous reverb of the intended muse “religious architecture”).  Pioulard’s songs on this particular album are lost in a limiting boxy haze.

I’m a big fan of lo and mid-fi recordings and some musicians do it so well; East River Pipe (FM Cornog), more recently Will Samson and especially (one of my favorite albums of 2013) Bryan Ferry’s The Jazz Age (recorded in monaural with Jazz-era microphones).  Granted, some artists and writers create works within strict limits and can be quite successful (shades of a single color, certain textures or excluding a specific vowel in a written work), but with all the praise I take a contrarian view on the technical execution of Hymnal.  The quality and depth of recordings matter to me, unless there is a stated goal for why sound must be altered so dramatically.

I learned recently of Benoît Pioulard’s other off-label work, such as his 2011 digital EP Lyon (and in support of how I think Meluch writes some great songs).  Have a listen to the gorgeous and unadorned song Tie:

 

It has some of the qualities of recordings by Nick Drake and Bert Jansch (think The Black Swan).  I’m certainly not advocating that Pioulard chooses between one recording approach or another, I’m suggesting perhaps a sound somewhere in the middle, with the vocals higher in the mix and a fuller sound.

Hymnal Remixes

Hymnal – The Remixes

Original songs can find new life in covers or remixes.  So, when Lost Tribe Sound announced this collection of Hymnal reinterpretations (by artists such as Loscil, Cock & Swan, Brambles, The Green Kingdom and William Ryan Fritch) I thought that some of the depth that I felt was missing in the original might be introduced or restored.

This is a really interesting collection, and the recordings in most cases have the clarity and sonic diversity that I had hoped for in the original album.

The two CDs are split loosely into two categories: 1) rhythmic with vocals and 2) more on the ambient side, largely instrumental.  After a couple of listens I was quite surprised that I found myself leaning more towards the feel and sound of the more actively engaging CD 1.

As with the original album Mercy (I’ll call it track 1.1) opens the collection and it’s a bit of an assault on the ears (the original being a full-on harmonium before the vocals enter), but in the remix version the harmonium is tamed and a slow march beat is overlaid.  The sound is far more spacious, as if entering a cathedral.  William Ryan Fritch’s remix of Margin (1.2) is an almost frenetic orchestration compared to the original and Zachary Gray’s version (1.9), which starts off quite stark with lone guitar and vocal and gradually the instrumentation and soundstage expands—I think both are quite successful, and in Gray’s version the vocals are clear as the song develops (makes me wonder all the more why Meluch chose to shroud such a great song).  Squanto’s remix of Excave (1.3) is a series of repeated fragments made into a rhythm and sounding very much like some of Peter Gabriel’s mid-career work.

The Green Kingdom’s and Cock & Swan’s remixes of Litiya (1.4) and Homily (1.5) are quite enchanting.  The sound of Litya softer, fuller and more comforting than the original—the soft electric guitar and cello overlays give the track such an easy feel, and Pioulard’s largely untreated vocals weave right in, so well.  I have to admit that Homily is one of my least favorite tracks on the original album and Cock & Swan have woven their unusual magic, making it an ethereal journey (supplemented with Ola Hungerford’s vocals) while maintaining some of the original grit, and I assume that the crisp nylon guitar overlay is Johnny Goss’s.  Brambles transformed Florid (1.6) into a (quite unexpected) “chill dance” piece—it has a languid vibe.  Field Rotation put Censer (1.7) into a time machine and it emerged from an old modular Moog during Tangerine Dream’s Stratosphere era.  The original version of Reliquary is furtive and mysterious, and Part Timer (1.8) stretched this concept further with his stark (and at time minimally orchestrated) interpretation.

 

The Remote Viewer’s version of Hawkeye opens CD2 (2.1) and its origins are deftly shrouded, and at first I didn’t care for it much, but it has grown on me—it’s delicately fragmented with some quirky treatments (very Boats-y!) and at times it sounds like Mark Isham’s early experiments from back in his Windham Hill label days (yes folks, I’m that old).  My two favorite tracks on CD2 are Segue’s version of Censer (2.2) and Loscil’s (at times, visceral) remake of Florid (2.4).  Curiously, Censer is given a gentle heartbeat, which despite the motion has a rather soothing effect to it.  The remix of Florid somewhat belies its connotation, elaborate in its sonic depth, but not ornate.

Widesky’s Knell is an expansive fragmentation of the cathedral bells of the original and then all is absorbed into a rather compressed package of the experience (kind of like a snow-globe)—it’s a bit edgy for my ears.  Sorry, but Radere’s version of Foxtail (2.5) just didn’t work for me—too strident.  James Murray’s Gospel (2.6) meanders and bends with a broad color palette and is a contrast to Window Magic’s version (2.9) that is narrower, more primary shaded.

Pioulard’s remix of his own track Reliquary  (2.7) shrouds the original even further; the furtive character is diminished—a curious approach.  Ruhe’s version of Margin (2.8) is an almost unrecognizable adaptation of the original with only the slightest of rhythmic and vocal fragments remaining—in kind of a trance beat.

Sometimes sequels or remakes are better than the original, and that’s how I feel in this case on the production side of things.  Despite my comments on the source material, I urge listeners to purchase a copy of Hymnal and judge for yourselves—some might disagree completely with my assessment on the sound quality.  I’ll continue to look forward to Benoît Pioulard’s future recordings.

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This is a solicited review. 

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.

HB Jane1-11

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!

Steve Hackett Hammersmith Digi w info.indd

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).

Wire CBU

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.

C&S Secret Angles 500x500

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.

Wilson Raven

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.

celer murmur

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.

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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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