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Cory Allen – The Source

CA The Source

CD PR025 time: 40:53 (Also available as an LP, first 100 copies on coke clear vinyl)

1) Divine Waves – 12:11 2) White Wings – 8:53 3) Neon Mandalas – 6:58 4) Crown Canal – 12:48

Cory Allen: Hammond Organ, Harmonium, Tanpura, Rhodes Electric Piano, Violin, Voice, Mbira, Balalaika, Tibetan Singing Bowl, Gong, Tingsha Bells, Chinese Bells, Balinese Nut Shell Shaker

With Brent Fariss: Bass, Henna Chou: Cello and Lyman Hardy: Drums and Percussion

Artist: http://www.cory-allen.com/ Record label: http://www.punctumrecords.com/

Preorder link: http://www.punctumrecords.com/shop/coryallen-thesource

Without any prior guided experience to an astral realm of enlightenment, I feel a bit underqualified in commenting on certain aspects that may have influenced or inspired this album, but I feel perfectly at ease in speaking on the restorative nature of music, meditation and private contemplation.  The mind is often so pre-occupied with distractions that thoughts become fragmented, confused, and the ability to concentrate is diminished—so at times a realignment is in order.  Cory Allen’s new album, The Source provides a gentle yet intensive framework to cleanse the mind and re-focus awareness.  In tech-speak: defragmenting the hard drive.

The Source, I think, is both a reflection of Allen’s own achievement of radial balance and self-unity, as well as a sonic guide for others to experience.  With repeated auditions of the album, awareness of both the individual instrumentation and the gestalt of the overall effect of the work increases.  For those less familiar with Cory Allen’s oeuvre, and before listening, an important aspect to keep in mind, is to suspend conventional expectations of musical structure and melody, and allow oneself to be drawn into the experience of both listening and feeling the sounds in the recording.  Also, Allen’s work often uses a loosely rules-based construction including guided improvisation.

Divine Waves slow-dances on the edge of something resembling a liquid jazz with the initial two, three and four note phrases exchanging between cymbals and bass (plucked and later bowed).  A tanpura joins the ensemble and its whirr is sustained by merging with the bass, cymbals, and chiming of inter-mingled bells and bowls.  I hesitate to say that the cello is a later mournful addition to the group, yet it adds a wistful calm with an electric piano gently weaving throughout.  The instrumentation in the latter part of Divine blends into a soft vibrating drone and is as much about the sound heard, as well as the interaction of the vibrations being felt (to experience this, I recommend listening with well-placed speakers at a volume roughly equivalent to match the original live sound of the instruments versus using headphones).

Initially focusing on the interplay of two and four notes phrases on a balalaika, White Wings’ bowed cello and bass, drums and harmonium absorb and weave while stretching varying dissonances.  A first sonic alignment appears at a little more than two-and-a-half minutes, before meandering many times again with loose guidance (visually, like a flock of migrating swallows as they gather in the autumn, at sundown, seeking a resting place for the night).

 

The most intensive experience on the album is within Neon Mandalas; initially there is a chorus of deeply toned voices (which I think should have extended even longer), and once held in that realm, other elements are introduced with their fleeting movements (percussion, drums, bass and tanpura).  A choir of gently plucked Mbiras (like a gentle steady rain) and bells provides a sonic background for an emergent and focused organ that dissolves into a returning familiar plucked acoustic bass phrase—a sort of arrival.

Crown Canal seems to represent a departure, reflecting on the fullness of the experience.  The cello has a somewhat somber recurrent melody, reminiscent of a recessional or postlude, and has a tonality of resolution within a duo of a harmonium and tanpura.  The ensemble is gently punctuated with percussion and voices.  Despite being the longest piece on the album it has a curious absorptive quality, which compresses a sense of time, while achieving a state of steady entrancement.

The more I have listened to this album, it seems there is a general framework describing Allen’s own experience—the album appears to be a journey in four parts, describing what I interpret as: preparation, journey, arrival and return.  The recording and mastering achieves a profound clarity and realism that I have come to know in Cory Allen’s previous albums, The Great Order and Pearls that feel as if the listener is within the environment where the music is being created.

The Source will be released on June 30th, 2015.

More on Cory Allen’s previous albums that I have reviewed can be found here.

CA Source LP

The vinyl version of The Source–beautiful color!

****

This is a solicited review.


Damián Anache – Capturas del Único Camino

 

Damián Anache Cover

 

CD Time: 57:57, Digital, 300 copies of CD or 150 copies of Deluxe CD #CCL011 & #IR003

Tracks: 1) Paisaje Primero, 2) Paisaje Propio, 3) Paisaje Artificial, 4) Paisaje Natural

Websites: http://damiananache.com.ar/ &

https://damiananache.bandcamp.com/album/capturas-del-unico-camino

Labels: Concepto Cero  & Inkilino Records

 

Think of the hour just before sunrise, in Spring especially, the Sun hasn’t yet peeked above the horizon.  The songs of birds and sounds of other animals slowly rise with the Sun.  Eventually there is a wondrous sonic aura filling the morning, until the Sun is firmly in the sky and the impromptu performance gradually fades.   A similar effect occurs at sunset as the gentle evening-song of birds and other fauna greet the night.  The sound landscape can, at certain locations, grow to be almost deafening, yet there still remains a feeling of ease and relaxation.  Other sounds might enter: wind, rain, trees moving, a distant coyote howling to its pack or even the sounds of a city or shipyard.  Taken as a whole, the soundscape has no apparent patterns or melodies, and it spontaneously exists without apparent forethought or design.  Isolate individual elements with the ear and some patterns may be detectable, whether from a songbird or the rubbing of an insect’s wings.

 

Although Argentine composer Damián Anache’s method of creation for his debut album Capturas del Único Camino is different in its technical execution, the resulting experience is similar to how sound is generated in our environment.  Anache’s works have been performed at events at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia (Rome), National University of Cordoba (Argentina), Museum of Modern Art in Ecuador (Quito) and the Cultural Center of Spain in Buenos Aires, among others, in addition to his guest musician appearances at several performances of live experimental music, and as a producer of local rock bands in Argentina.  This album is also an outgrowth of the research project Spatial Sound Synthesis in Electroacoustic Music, directed by Oscar Pablo Di Liscia at the National University of Quilmes.

In Capturas, Anache prepared a collection of recordings using acoustic instruments (piano, guitar, glockenspiel, percussion, etc.), voices (the composer’s voice, including falsetto), electronics and field recordings of water (distant and near-field).  He then generated a series of four interconnected soundscapes using a software-based technique to randomly select and place the recorded sounds into an interlocked linear progression (I’m not familiar with the software, so I’m taking this at face-value).  While the recordings are largely abstract, non-representational of place and without identifiable melodic or harmonic structure, they can be quite spatial in their interaction with each of the other recorded elements.  There are also transitions between the four parts where fragments of the subsequent movement appear towards the end of the previous movement coupled with a mild crescendo to generate a disguising sleight-of-hand between the sections.

Damián Anache

In Paisaje Primero, strings are plucked, hammered and bowed lightly, percussion is struck gently and the sounds are untreated and naturally resonant.  This is the softest and most spacious of the four movements, more furtive than calming, and is without a detectable melody or pattern.  Voices appear in Paisaje Primero within about two minutes of the transition to Paisaje Propio.  There are also gentle whispers and hushed vocalizations combined with placid trills and hisses.  At times, the voices have a character of bowed strings, and I could be wrong, but I also detect some sounds of what could be a cello.

Near the close of Paisaje Propio synthetic sounds are combined with the voices and the character of Paisaje Artificial shifts quite dramatically from the acoustic environment of the first two movements.  Paisaje Artificial is more industrial with a static-electric atmosphere, where sounds could be generated by the interaction of conflicting frequencies of radio interference or magnetic waves as one moves through space.  Some sounds are pure sine-wave, and the higher frequencies are crystalline and sometimes piercing; so the listeners’ ears should be somewhat prepared, especially if headphones are in use.  On the cusp of passing from the Paisaje Artificial realm, the electronics seem to be mildly treated for the appearance of water in Paisaje Natural.  Water is presented near and far, as drips, a stream, bubbles, waves and perhaps rain falling from a roof to the ground.  There are short cycles in this piece that last about three or so minutes, like passing rain showers, so there is not only gentle motion in the individual recordings, but also in the overall movement.  Near the mid-point of Paisaje Natural the sounds of birds appear in the distance, and the treatment of the recording shifts from one existing within the recordings to one of observing from a vantage point of some kind of shelter (this may be unintentional, and purely my own interpretation).

Capturas del Único Camino is well-suited to both a pure listening experience or as part of an audio-visual installation.  Despite its apparent minimalist structure and execution, Damián Anache has created a curiously soothing yet complex realm in his debut recording.   Rise early in the morn or linger at dimmity, and let the music be revealed.

Damián Anache CD

****

This is a solicited review.


Karl Culley – Stripling

Stripling cover

Label: Sound of Jura http://www.soundofjura.com/

SOJCD1501  CD Time: About 36 minutes

Websites: http://karlculley.co.uk/

Lyrics: http://karlculleyblog.tumblr.com/

Sounds: https://soundcloud.com/karl-culley

Tracks: 1) Semi-Precious, 2) Come Over To Me, 3) School Of The Heart, 4) Spinneret, 5) The River To The Cave, 6) If We Were Free, 7) Namesake, 8) Mote, 9) Infinity Pool, 10) Whey-Faced Phantoms, 11) A.J., 12) Memory’s Like A Hunting Hawk

Youth, on the verge of adulthood, in search of meaning and perhaps companionship.  Young enough and determined to look forward and hope and old enough to reflect on memories and retain some wisdom from experiences; this I interpret to be the theme of Karl Culley’s latest album Stripling.  This is Culley’s fourth album, and he now lives in Krakow, Poland, where the album was recorded, but still with strong roots remaining in the north of England and Scotland.  His previous albums are: Bundle of Nerves, The Owl and Phosphor.

The songs on Stripling range from hypnotic meditations to something that might cause a gathering of folks (in a pub, perhaps) to spontaneously dance (or at least vigorously toe-tap).  The sonics are relatively intimate and unadorned: It’s Culley, his guitar and his voice, but it’s a deeply resonant recording.  Contrary to some of his finger-style guitar contemporaries like William Tyler, Daniel Bachman or James Blackshaw there are no lengthy rambling instrumentals.  The songs are penetrating and get right to their point with an atmosphere, a memory or story.  While others have made comparisons to the work of John Martyn and Bert Jansch, I’ll add the early acoustic works of Gordon Lightfoot (with echoes of his subtle vocal warbles) and the technical crispness and vigor of John Jorgenson and Tommy Emmanuel.

Judging from the reflective nature of his lyrics, it seems like Culley’s work takes time to gestate, but once a piece is fledged it’s cohesive and thoughtfully formulated.  There are curious ironies and juxtapositions between rhythms and words.  The somewhat brief Come Over To Me seems to be based on heavy subjects, yet the meter, fingerings and melody are lively, but not exactly upbeat.  Mote has lyrics (“Floating like a mote through sun or angels trapped in amber, we fall…”) that reference the abstract yet there is a steady grounded rhythm and melody.  Whereas Semi-Precious, School Of The Heart, Spinneret and Namesake are reflective, even tender meditations, with the rhythmic fingerings of Spinneret reminiscent of some of Nick Drake’s work—and there is a humble elegance in Namesake.

Karl Culley Pic

The mood of a song and lyrics can also be direct and related like the more serious The River To The Cave—not sentimental or wallowing, but observant of circumstances.  Vibrant lyrics and melody align in If We Were Free, with much of the verses being slightly-pitched spoken word observations with the final incantation “3 men are lowered into the ground…” abruptly punctuated with silence before returning one last time to the vigorous refrain (reminds me of Richard Thompson’s work).

Stripling isn’t without musing, delighting in the possibilities of enjoying a figurative or literal swim in the reverie of an Infinity Pool—it also is curiously similar rhythmically to the acoustic version of Layla that Eric Clapton recorded a number of years ago.  There are also moments where advice is presented or experiences recounted as in Whey-Faced Phantoms, which evolves into a cautionary mantra and A.J. recalling the desolation of unexpected endings—in both, the melodies and harmonies echoing the starkness of a mood.

 

The album closes with Memory’s Like a Hunting Hawk, intensively focused with desire.  There is, however, a pensive gentleness in the longing…solemn and hauntingly lyrical all at once.  Also of special note are the pen and ink illustrations that decorate the CD and cover, as if from a notebook of youth: pondering, exploring, even brooding yet freely expressing.  This CD made a long journey to me, and I’m glad it finally made it.

Stripling BackStripling CD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

****

This is a solicited review.


Twigs & Yarn – Still Forms Drift

T&Y wajobu

Eilean Rec 88 CD Time: 40:53

Label: https://eileanrec.bandcamp.com/album/still-forms-drift and http://www.eilean-records.com/

More on Twigs & Yarn: http://www.twigsandyarn.net/

Tracks: Hibernate, Sonora, Channeling, Cave Bears, In the Valley, Lend a Hand, Laelaps, Floes

Lauren McMurray and Stephen Orsak are Twigs & Yarn, and on their previous album (The Language of Flowers, my favorite album of 2012), the duo created it over a great distance (between Japan and Texas).  Their work presses all the right buttons for me: it’s inventive, tender, melodic, and at times unexpected.  T&Y takes me on a new journey every time I listen, yet there’s an inexplicable familiarity that I find comforting.  There is also a curious child-like quality of discovery in the music.

On April 5th, 2015, Twigs & Yarn did a live segment on KOOP Radio in Austin, Texas that was (thankfully) streamed over the internet, and T&Y noted they hope to release another album later in 2015.  I will link to the recording of the program if it is posted by KOOP (EDIT: Here is the link to the entire program: https://www.mixcloud.com/fadetoyellow/episode-164-fade-to-yellow-still-forms-drift/).

Over the course of their new album, Still Forms Drift I wonder if there is an intentional arc of how the pieces were developed.  I detect that the tracks move from more melodic to experimental, and from rhythmic to more atmospheric and subdued, so there is a nice combination of moods and progression on the album.

 

A layered sonorous hum opens and eases the listener into Hibernate; sounds eddy between the channels (headphone or speakers).  The music builds gradually and blends into a delicate yet immersive fabric where voices and distant cloaked sounds are revealed.  Sonora is absolute magic—so romantic, delicately rhythmic, playful and with a hint of some of Raymond Scott’s electronic experiments of the 1950s and 60s.  As it progresses, there is increasing comfort, dissolving enmeshed sound, then melodic humming.  Exploring the layers, with repeated listens is like a treasure hunt, but then just listen again and disappear into it.  It’s like a tender and pleasurable whisper during a dream.

Channeling moves to the outdoors, contemplating with the fauna and environs, then dissolving into a trance of gentle guitar, voices and comforting pulses.  Gradually, the reverie subsides and a gentle reality emerges.  Cave Bears opens a bit like an antique bell-chime clock, steady and somewhat glitchy.  Beats, shifted repeating sounds and guitar harmonics are added and the rhythm slows.  In The Valley is another memory of place, although more ambient and disconnected compared to Channeling.  There is a slight grittiness to it as it progresses, with sounds that are less tangible, as in the edge of a dream.  Lend a Hand is a song with two different parallel veiled spirits; an expression of yearning that moves in and out of focus…one voice moves to the distance, but then returns; as if eavesdropping on a one-sided conversation weaving in and out of gentle waves of guitar and entwined low resonant hums…a slowly rocking boat in the doldrums.

 

Perhaps the most meditative (and curiously metallic) of the pieces is Laelaps.  I speculate that it’s an evening of lying on the ground outdoors with gazes cast to the sky in contemplationIf I have my Greek mythology correct, it was Zeus who cast the dog Laelaps into the stars as Canis Major in pursuit of the Teumessian fox, Canis Minor.  With a largo of synthetic electronic sounds and somewhat compressed voices Floes closes the album with hints of a lullaby reminiscent of a well-worn music box.

There is so much wonderful in this album, and I was instantly smitten.

T&Y 88

****

This is a solicited review.


Steve Hackett – Wolflight

Wolflight Cover

Label: InsideOut Music: Two Clear Vinyl LPs (with CD IOMSECD 417)

Time: About 65 minutes with bonus material (Other formats available)

LP 1: Side 1: Out of Body, Wolflight, Love Song to a Vampire; Side 2: The Wheel’s Turning, Corycian Fire, Earthshine, Loving Sea

LP 2: Side 1: Black Thunder, Dust and Dreams, Heart Song; Side 2: (Extra Tracks) Pneuma, Midnight Sun (with Todmobile), Caress (on LP 2, but not the enclosed CD)

Website: http://www.hackettsongs.com/index.html  Shop: http://hackettsongs.sandbaghq.com/

After a pair of tremendously successful Genesis Revisited tours in Europe, UK, Japan and the US (with many sold out concerts and shows added due to demand), I’m thrilled that Steve Hackett is back again creating new music.  He did the historic material from his Genesis era a worthy justice, clearly an important part of his life (and heck, mine too) and career, and some of that material will always be part of his live shows, but clearly it was time to move on to new things.

I was fortunate to have a chance to hear a preview of Wolflight in Steve Hackett’s studio in the autumn of 2014 and my immediate impression then was that the music is incredibly cinematic—vibrant sound and images in the tales unfolding in the music, whether vocal or instrumental.  The music is drawn from experiences, places visited, dreams, nightmares, ancient history and inspired by love.  I sense that there is still even a bit of delicately blended (and not yet completely written) autobiographical experiences.

Wolflight is an album of contrasts, from broad filmic passages, some briefly anthemic, to moments of delicate beauty.  There is no formula being rehashed from his earlier work, but some elements that are pleasantly familiar are mixed with the inventiveness and varied regional instrumentation that I have come to appreciate in Hackett’s work throughout his oeuvre.  Steve’s primary collaborators continue to be keyboardist Roger King and his wife Jo Hackett, along with live show bandmates and production team: Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend, Nick Beggs, Amanda Lehmann, Benedict Fenner and others.

Hackett 111314 019aOut of Body is the eerie wolf-howl call and then energetic overture to the album, a brief taste of what’s to come.  Title track, Wolflight opens gently, setting a scene of calm, but the challenges of the tale are expressed in orchestral and sharp-edged guitar solos in contrast with the acoustic twelve-string verses—a powerful title track that has proven to adhere well in my memory, despite the complexity of the piece.  In addition to the contrast of sound there is also the irony of subject—that of pleasure in pain and the attraction of potential danger, which is the exploration of Love Song to a Vampire with Hackett’s hushed verses (almost a lullaby), powerful refrains and soulful peregrinations on his Les Paul guitar.

The Wheel’s Turning revisits some of the sights and sounds of works as far back as the album Please Don’t Touch—carnivals of inspiration and a bit of time-travel (with shades of his Squackett collaboration with Chris Squire in the marvelous song from the album A Life Within a Day, Divided Self).  At first there’s the basic song then orchestral moves to a devilish romp with a brief homage to The Air Conditioned Nightmare (from the album Cured) and then his album Blues With a Feeling before returning to strains of Bach and the memory of that distant carnival.  Creating a strong sense of place, Corycian Fire, after a gentle opening, Hackett uses his highly processed vocals like an instrument to accompany the orchestral, choral and regional instruments in exploring the history of an ancient underworld, which has some similarities to his earlier and less adorned instrumental Steppes (from the album Defector for those who have listened since the early days).  Earthshine and Loving Sea are a respite from the album’s vigorous beginnings (an intermission similar to the days of changing a film reel in a theater).  Earthshine, a classical guitar fantasy merges into the joyful twelve-string and vocal harmonies of Loving Sea, sailing freely.

Wolflight Spinning

Black Thunder rumbles with raw emotion; part history and part social commentary on slavery and civil rights struggles of Martin Luther King with an homage (in the liner notes) to Richie Havens (and his well-known song Freedom) who worked with Hackett on his second solo album.  Dust and Dreams is at first a vamp of languid movements and drifting mirages that adds layers and builds to portray scenes of divergent impressions and ultimately it’s resolved in a returning to the comfort of Heart Song, dedicated to Hackett’s wife and creative partner Jo.

The bonus material on side 4 of the LPs (two solo guitar tracks on either side of a collaboration with the Icelandic band Todmobile) fits quite well with the overall album.  Pneuma (translates as breath, soul and spirit) is a subdued rumination, a calming re-centering of sorts.  Midnight Sun is powerful, melodic and pleasing in its chord structure and rhythms.  Caress gently closes the album (which is on the LP, but not the CD).

Despite the sharp contrasts in the instrumentation and sources of inspiration, Wolflight is a very cohesive album, which upon a few listens will become deeply and solidly embedded in the canon of Hackett’s work.  The Steve Hackett Band will be celebrating his 40 year solo career with a tour in 2015, Acolyte to Wolflight.  I hope to attend a show (but tickets sell quickly!) and I urge readers to get tickets to a show, which will certainly be quite a visual and aural experience, as all of Steve Hackett’s concerts have been since the late 1970s.

Seeing John Edginton’s recent documentary Genesis: Sum of the Partsone might be left with the impression that after Steve Hackett left Genesis in 1977 he went on to do a few minor projects and then disappeared into the ether.  On the contrary, after his highly innovative work with Genesis during the tremendously creative period from 1971 to 1977, Hackett has had a varied and successful solo career of nearly 40 years with as many albums, including some well-known collaborations, songs in international charts (Wolflight is in the UK charts, as I write this), and a faithful legion of fans who are spreading his work to a new generation of listeners.

If anything, Steve Hackett is more vital and relevant than ever with new-found and ever-growing energy that belies the span of his career—continuing to blaze new frontiers in music and live shows.


M. Ostermeier – Still

Ostermeier Still

Tench – TCH-07 CD: About 35 Minutes

Label and Information: http://www.tenchrec.com/TCH07.html

Tracks: Stasis, Division, Hang, Counterpoise, New Lights, Congruence, Inertia, Parity

I read something recently by a musician whose work I admire about disconnecting from modern life, even for a short while, and in the time away a sense of one’s true self may return, even briefly.  During that time, relationships with others might even improve.  The mystic writer of the Victorian era, Richard Jefferies also wrote of this in some of his essays in the latter part of the 19th century.  The pace of what I call life’s ‘carousel’ is sometimes so dizzying, and at those moments, no matter what beckons it’s often time to get away and seek a refuge.  Personally, my quickest solution is to go for a walk in the woods, or even local streets away from the din in the mind or work at the desk.

M. Ostermeier’s new CD Still offers a cleansing respite with both passive and active listening. It took a few tries (first while doing other things and then sitting and focusing on the music) to condition myself, but by the time of the third audition, I was tuned-in.  Most of the pieces have a piano-dominant center, the primary melody or phrases, and there are sonic backdrops delicately stitched in which complement a given theme.  The melodic arrangement is often more akin to Far Eastern rather than Western musical structure, but it isn’t always the case.  There is no ominous darkness here, only soft and gentle light.  In fact, Stasis opens the album as if the Sun is rising and shadows can be observed to course slowly across the camera obscura of the imagination.

 

From what I recall of M. Ostermeier’s splendid last album, The Rules of Another Small World, this work seems more focused on acoustic instrumentation with electronics and sampled sounds taking a more secondary role.  The album is largely a preservation of the quietude, but there are moments as in Counterpoise, the only marginally forceful piece on the album, where after attention is grabbed it turns into an almost gentle pattering massage, which is eased with a slightly distant piano and other microtones.  The fabric of Congruence is gently percussive, reminiscent of dampened marimbas.  The CD closes at its most broadly sonorous and harmonic in Parity, with only a hint of foreboding, yet thankfully, no sudden dose of reality.

As is often the case with meditation or self-hypnosis, one loses a sense of time, after entering into a state of deep relaxation.  What the clock tells us is a half an hour feels as if it’s only moments, not easily parted from, but wanting to return–like a dream one doesn’t want to end.  It’s often difficult to find time to escape to a quiet forest, lake or one’s favorite place for truly as long as is needed, so in lieu of that disappear into some contemplation and take time to think, reflect and be Still.


Chris Jamison – Lovecraft

lovecraft-coverfinal

Future Spin Productions CD – Time: 38:26 – Release Date: March 31, 2015

Available at: http://www.chrisjamisonmusic.com/

Other Links: http://chrisjamison.bandcamp.com & https://soundcloud.com/chrisjamisonmusic

Tracks: 1) Always, 2) Blue Melody, 3) Juniper Blues, 4) What About Tomorrow, 5) Pedernal, 6) The Mockingbird Song, 7) Waves Of The Wind, 8) Roadside Bar, 9) Old 81

When first meeting some folks, it often takes time to get to know them.  It might take months or even years until an acquaintance becomes a friend.  For reasons that can’t often be explained, sometimes with a certain person or people, there’s a sense of ease or a bond and it just seems right from the start, and that’s how Chris Jamison’s forthcoming album Lovecraft feels and sounds to me.

 

Formerly of Texas, Jamison now lives with his young family in Arizona and he has self-produced four previous albums, and contrary to my normal listening preparations, I didn’t listen to any of his previous work, initially.  There is a grounded familiarity in Lovecraft, like being at a favorite place or in a well-worn cherished piece of clothing, and even if a song’s subject is somewhat melancholy there’s a comfort in it that brings some hope for better things ahead.  The album is tastefully humble and original in many ways, yet with a lilt of roots, blues and country, and it does kick-up some dirt too.  Most of the songs are quickly memorable, but the substance is far more than just catchy hooks.

 

As much as I try to resist comparisons, it’s clear that there’s an homage to some musicians reaching back into the 1970s (instrumentation, vocals and studio vibe) like Jackson Browne of the Running on Empty era and earlier as well as the timing and presence of vocals in earlier works of Van Morrison.  It’s also clear that Jamison not only cares about the songs and instrumentation, but how the recording sounds, and he sought Sam Kassirer for the mixing who has worked with Josh Ritter, as well as mastering by Scott Hull of Master Disk in New York, who has worked with many well-known musicians.  Click on the photo below to view other album credits and musicians.

lovecraft-insideleft(take 2)

The album opens with Always, which has a steady awakening beat that features organ and electric guitar with Jamison’s strong vocals, yet the vocals don’t demand attention.  There are reflective and slow-swinging moments with languid electric guitar or piano as in Blue Melody and Waves Of The Wind, and whether the vocals are slightly saturated or clean, they are clear, but not over-powering.  The meditative slow-dance Juniper Blues channels some of Vince Gill’s work from The Reason Why album (These Days tetralogy); the sweet memories that still haunt, to paraphrase the lyrics.  Jamison also plays a bit with a sense of time, starting What About Tomorrow with sounds reminiscent of an old radio tuning into a memory and discussions of what could have been.  The song’s construction evokes the instrumentation of Al Stewart’s On The Border with Sebastian Cure’s guitar solo paralleling Peter White’s solo in Border.

In addition to telling stories, Jamison also remembers places, as in Pedernal, which I believe is the northern New Mexico mesa (Cerro Pedernal) that Georgia O’Keefe used as an occasional subject for her paintings.  The piece is at first instrumental, ambient and contemplative, then the vocals blend with the cello, vibes and organ, it’s a humble entreaty to listen, “May I sing you a song…”  The Mockingbird Song is an observation and appreciation with a soft spacious opening, almost trance-inducing.  It’s of chasing dreams, with a strong vocal and is reminiscent of Josh Ritter’s The Temptation of Adam, but more hopeful.  Mockingbird is an elegant song, and the harp along with hushed organ and vocals are just…perfect.  Another place, real or imagined is the intimate Roadside Bar with piano, percussion and the feeling of enjoyment and jamming with friends who sing along.  The album closes with the reflective, visual and optimistic returning depicted in Old 81.

 

So much music (or what passes for it) these days seems synthetic and lacking an authenticity that pushing the “SKIP” button on a CD or MP3 player might be a better option than wasting the precious time to be inundated by sound that is over-processed with samples and pitch-correction.  As much as I seek music that is more experimental and somewhat edgy, I also enjoy and have a deep respect for songwriters who take great care to compose and record with understated yet effective arrangements and skillful musicianship.

This album is the real deal and it’s a great companion for a road trip too.  Hit “REPLAY.”

Chris Jamison - Live

Photo of Chris Jamison by Lillian Reid

***

This is a solicited review


Marsen Jules – Sinfonietta

MJSinfonietta

CD DR-28 – Time: 45:56 (Limited Edition of 100 and Deluxe Edition of 100)

Dronarivm – http://dronarivm.com/2014/11/21/marsen-jules-sinfonietta/ & http://dronarivm.bandcamp.com/album/sinfonietta

Almost two years ago The Endless Change of Colour (12k1074) presented a peaceful timelessness borne from a phrase on a jazz record split into three stems disguised as something entirely different.  The resulting single movement instrumental work was grounded in a calming earthiness.

Sinfonietta is similar in form, although in contrast it’s loosely held to the bounds of sonic gravity.  From the opening, the music phrases materialize definitively then ease in gently to create a feeling of gazing over what could be a familiar realm below with the observer being gently suspended and the vision staying just beyond reach.  Recurrent themes occupy a somewhat narrower range of sound and emotion compared to TECOC, yet there are no detectable patterns and the entire work is elegantly devoid of monotony.  Periodically, slower flowing waves materialize and vanish gracefully, like evaporating clouds, a languid aurora or another vision from the imagination.

Even with a seemingly minimal palette, Marsen Jules (the nom de plume of Martin Juhls) cleverly interlaces and produces three dimensional visualizations in sound.  Listening to Sinfonietta, I feel as if I am serenely traveling in space, perhaps orbiting the Earth (or another as yet undiscovered planet) and marveling at the sights from my comfortable observation craft where I am quite content to remain.

Happy traveling.

 

This is a solicited review.


Steve Hackett – Ridgefield Playhouse – 13 Nov 2014

A great show last night by the Steve Hackett Band at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Connecticut for the Genesis Extended fall 2014 tour of the USA and Canada.  More information on the tour is here: http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html

This will be the last tour with exclusively Genesis material in North America, with a South American tour scheduled for early 2015.  Hackett will have a new solo album in early of 2015 with a planned late summer/autumn tour likely in 2015–stay tuned!  The Band: Steve Hackett (guitars), Roger King (keyboards), Gary O’Toole (drums), Nick Beggs (bass, Chapman Stick and guitars), Rob Townsend (woodwinds, keyboards and percussion) and Nad Sylvan (vocals and percussion).

Set List: Dance On A Volcano, Squonk, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Fly On A Windshield, Broadway Melody Of 1974, The Return Of The Giant Hogweed, The Fountain Of Salmacis, The Musical Box, I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), Horizons (acoustic, preceded by an excerpt from Bay Of Kings), Firth Of Fifth, Lilywhite Lilith, The Knife, Supper’s Ready  Encore: Watcher Of The Skies, Los Endos (including an excerpt of Slogans)

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From Broadway Melody of 1974.Hackett 111314 024

From Broadway Melody of 1974.Hackett 111314 025

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Acoustic section with excerpts of Steve Hackett’s acoustic solo material, plus Horizons from the album Foxtrot.Hackett 111314 044

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The opening section of Supper’s Ready.Hackett 111314 047

From the opening section of Supper’s Ready.Hackett 111314 019

More about the color and the mood, rather than getting a perfect focus.Hackett 111314 059

Encore with Watcher of the Skies with Roger King on Mellotron and Nad Sylvan as the Watcher.


Harold Budd – Jane 12-21

HB Jane 12-21

CD: Darla DRL289 2014 Time: About 39 minutes

CD available at this link to Darla (To be released on September 9, 2014)

Tracks: Jane 12 through Jane 21 with track Jane 16 subtitled (For Pale Saints)

I took some time off from writing reviews; primarily to just take some time off, but also I have been awaiting preorders for a number of releases as well as getting more serious about making some music instead of just listening.  It’s a hard road training old fingers to do new things, but it’s about the journey for me, not just the destination.

What a treat it is to return to a new album by Harold Budd (and I understand that another collaboration with Robin Guthrie has been recorded and will be released in early 2015, the title will be Another Flower).  Jane 12-21 is another fine example of Harold Budd sitting at a piano (or other instrument) and just playing without rehearsal or embellishment, one take without revisiting and then moving on.  There are some apparent treatments and minimal overdubs.  It’s difficult for me to tell if the percussion is actual or keyboard-based sampling, but it does sound like actual percussion most of the time.

This album is simpler and less adventurous compared to Jane 1-11, and that’s not a criticism at all, just an observation.  The cover design is also rather stark by comparison, with one panel by artist Jane Maru and minimal information about the tracks, recording and times, adding a bit to the somewhat mysterious nature of the album.  Jane 1-11 was created in response to videos created by artist Jane Maru (which were later released as a companion CD/DVD: Budd Maru Collaboration ) so without the benefit of input from Harold Budd (so far), I wonder if Jane 12-21 was created as a response to further videos by Maru (see video for Jane 8 below).

The album contrasts between recordings that are intimate and those which are spatially broad, more distant (whether the distance and reverberation were achieved with actual spaces or electronically, I don’t know).  To briefly describe each of the tracks on the album: Jane 12 is a stark and up-close, yet resonant piano with brief references to Debussy’s Clair de LuneJane 13 also uses a piano with light melodic percussion.  After the first two tracks Budd moves to more experimental territory and Jane 14 consists of melodic percussion (bells, glasses) with reverb and has a very calming effect.  Distance, like a dream on the edge of consciousness is how Jane 15 sounds, with hushed piano and a spatial reverb.  Whether intentional or not, I do find some of the pieces referring back to other previous Jane 1-11 pieces.  Jane 16 does this for me—reminds me of Jane 8.  It’s placid keyboard chords with gentle piano accompaniment and minimal apparent treatments.  The piano is responding to the chord movement of the keyboard.

Air moving through pipes is how Jane 17 starts, it’s a strong sound with treated piano and minimal percussion, and a pronounced flow and movement.  Jane 18 bends and twists with a somewhat downcast sonorous keyboard.  The melodic references to the first Jane series return with Jane 19, again keyboard and resonant chimes.  It sounds a bit more reflective to me with shades of Budd’s earlier work.

Jane 20 has a breathy keyboard melody, somewhere between wind chimes and woodwinds along with a gamelan (at times sounding like vibraphone) and deep percussive overtones.  This track more than any other in the series evokes a scene from a film with a vast landscape of mystery.  Budd closes this collection with Jane 21, a modest and delicately resonant cross between piano and celeste and themes appearing in various other Jane tracks, making it part of the larger cohesive whole.

Harold Budd’s work takes me to a place where I like to be, and return there as often as I can.  I think you’ll want to add this album to your collection.


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