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Posts tagged “Guitar

twincities – variations for the celesta

Eilean [02]

Eilean: [02] – Eilean Records: CD-R (an edition of 80) Time 48:16

Tracks: 1) Prelude in E Major, 2) Evenings Wait; The Morning’s Break, 3) Early Ferns, 4) The Sun Looks Quite Ghostly When There’s A Mist On The River And Everything’s Quiet, 5) Faint Whirs Of The Smallest Motor, 6) They Carried Teapots And Tiny Gas Canisters, 7) A Ship’s Bell (Sings), 8) The Weight Of The Frost On A Branch, 9) And The Guitar Plays War Hymns, 10) (Sings)

Long ago I found myself curiously attracted to an old celesta (celeste) in the back corner of my high school band room. I’d plug it in when I was sure that no one was around and adjust the controls and the small piano-like instrument made pleasantly sonorous yet mysterious sounds: belltones with alluring sustains and tremolos…

Eilean Records is a new French-based label run by Mathias Van Eecloo and twincities – variations for the celesta is the label’s first release (although ironically labeled [02]). Long Islander (New York) Fletcher McDermott creates music in his basement studio in the guise of twincities (funny, when I think of “Twin Cities” I think of Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota).

Eilean Bottle

Eilean is Scottish Gaelic for Island and the label’s works will each relate to a point on an imaginary map with up to one hundred predetermined locations. Coincidentally, McDermott lives on an island (albeit a rather large island). Eilean releases will vary in quantities from 75 to 200 physical copies and there will be up to 100 releases with hand made covers and related artwork in this map series. Connections to the place where the music is created will be memorialized with an image of a small bottle containing the soil from the musician’s locale. On the reverse of the image with be the map quadrant assigned to the musician. Each release will be a part of the puzzle of the overall map…the music connected to the artist, a point on the map and a small vial of soil. In effect, an imaginary hybrid island with a small yet tangible existence. Islands of the imagination, islands of the mind, perhaps even islands of isolation. Have any of you ever read the short story The Man Who Loved Islands by D. H. Lawrence?

Eilean Map

I’ve noted before that I’ve listened to shortwave and ham radio operators for decades and in some respects this album is like roaming the radio dial late into the night on an old analog shortwave set using the fine-tuning knob. The music is like traveling and it takes the listener to different places. The feeling of being taken on a tour through a shortwave realm isn’t literal like in Kraftwerk’s song Radioland (from their 1975 album Radioactivity), rather it’s more subtle in the background and doesn’t distract from the aura created by the music and other sounds. The album at times also evokes Godley and Creme’s song Get Well Soon from the 1979 album Freeze Frame (waxing rhapsodically about Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline late into the night), although that song is more melodic.  The celesta isn’t the dominant sound generator in this album, but each piece has a strong thread weaving throughout along with other well-disguised instrumentation, found or ambient sounds and faint voices. Rather than repeat the track names, I’ll just reference the track number in my overview:

1) variations opens with rapid-fire automated Morse code, soothed with slow comforting celesta responses. 2) The celesta is transformed into restful wind chimes with long passages of deep resonant tones and distant faint melodies. There are some comparisons to the recent works of Kane Ikin’s otherworldly explorations (seek out his recent 12k label releases). 3) Is like hanging on the edge of a dream while awakening in the misty early morning light—the calm and the quietude. The celesta treatment is like it could be from portions of the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet—rather mysterious, almost ominous.

 

4-7) This collection of tracks seems like a suite, at first sonorous, gentle and deep tones and mysterious atmospheres (in time, a slower Morse code reappears), transitioning into an edgier realm (6) and finishing in a gritty drift across the radio dial, sharper sounds with kalimba-like percussives. 8) Sways gently and is the most peaceful track on the album. It evokes some of the feeling of Robert Rich’s recent album Nest. 9) This piece is a broad soundscape (in some respects like those created by the band Lambchop as links between songs…William Tyler’s moody electric guitar drones). The celesta is treated like chimes sounding like church bells, in memoriam. 10) A gritty close, like the beginning, and the distant music returns one last time from a far away island.

twincities cover

Eilean Records is off to a fine start with twincities variation for the celesta. Visit their website soon for the next planned destination which will be released on 5/5/14 and monthly thereafter.

 

Photo of TC by TJ Boegle

Photo of twincities by TJ Boegle

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This is a solicited review.


Steve Hackett Band – Scottish Rite Auditorium

 

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We were fortunate to be in the audience for both the afternoon soundcheck and evening’s concert on Friday night March 28, 2014 in Collingswood, New Jersey.  We had seats at the head of the mezzanine and also had a chance to see sound engineer Ben Fenner and lighting engineer “Tigger” perform their magic–they’re on their toes the entire evening!  I have a photo of the set list, but I won’t give it away entirely, but rest assured that there are minor changes each evening according to those who attended the Thursday show.  The added songs last night included: Squonk, Carpet Crawlers, Lilywhite Lilith, The Knife (from the Ant Phillips days!) and many other favorites from the early to mid 1970s.  The Scottish Rite Auditorium is part of Masonic arts complex and in the interior of the building has an eery Moorish feel to it, so the music was appropriate, if not haunting at times.

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet for this “Genesis Extended” Tour, do so before the ship sails (as in The Cruise To The Edge) and then the band is off for a European tour.  More information here: http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html

Thank you, as always to the Band (Steve Hackett, Roger King, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend, Nad Sylvan and Nick Beggs) as well as their fabulous crew, tour manager and Jo Hackett.

More photos!

032814 Watcher032814 Steve Gary 032814 Roger Steve Gary 032814 Hackett Band 032814 Hackett Band 2 032814 Carpet032814 The Knife 032814 The Knife 3 032814 The Knife 2032814 The Knife 4032814 Hackett Band Goodbye CWLast night’s encore opened with Watcher of the Skies, always a favorite of mine!032814 Roger Watcher Edit

All Photos are copyright 2014 by wajobu, please do not use without permission and credit–thank you.

 


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).

 


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.

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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.


Ed Cherry Trio at The Sidedoor Jazz Club

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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.

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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:

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* – 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.

SONY DSC****

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.

JSUD

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.

TS Cover

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.

RS 4EVRNDVR

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).


Review: Cock & Swan – Secret Angles

C&S Secret Angles 500x500

Hush Hush Records # HH011 CD: About 38 minutes

Band: http://www.cockandswan.com/ and http://dandeliongold.bandcamp.com/

Label: http://www.hushhushseattle.com/ and http://hushhushrecords.bandcamp.com/

Tracks: 1) Following, 2) Secret Angle, 3) Animal Totem, 4) Night Valley, 5) Looking Out, 6) Red Touch, 7) Inner Portal, 8) Kicking In, 9) Melt Down, 10) I’ve Got A Feeling, 11) Night Rising, 12) Myself Inside

I’m thrilled that Cock & Swan have a new album.  With each release it’s apparent that their confidence is growing, and even better, they’re still experimenting.  From their earliest albums like Drawing From Memory (2007) and Unrecognize (2010) their sound ranged from rough synthesized foundations, tape and microphone experiments to nearly extreme lo-fi acoustic recordings.  The 2012 album Stash (I reviewed early last year) had moved their sound from more electronic towards “…a record focused on acoustic instrumentation…”  For their forthcoming album (to be released on September 10th) Secret Angles they are combining the acoustic instrumentation with more of their electronic roots—the sound is fuller, rhythmically engaging and more up-beat.  Secret Angles moves between many different genres: progressive, electronica, acoustic and electric folk, house, dance and many others—it doesn’t dwell in one realm for long, but the album is not at all disjointed—it’s quite cohesive.

The acoustic and analog roots of Cock & Swan are still strong, and they appear as Following begins with the sound of tape mechanisms and immediately a seductive pulse, electric guitar riffs and Ola’s soft voice initiate their hypnotic spell.  By contrast the title track shifts to a darker, looped and gritty electronic foundation (and we are awakened briefly from our pastoral spell).  Animal Totem is quite reminiscent of the latter day Everything But The Girl’s track Before Today from their album Walking Wounded, when ETBG’s music shifted from coffee house to a darkened house vibe, but C&S’s Animal Totem is earthier and more acoustic with broad clarinet washes added by Hungerford.

 

With Night Valley, the album shifts to an even glitchier more experimental sphere where Ola’s voice and some of the instrumentation are bent and shifted and the sound enters a mysterious territory.  Looking Out continues with electronic, vocal loops, an almost Mellotron Brass sound and what I call “heavy drums.”  As I noted with their album Stash—tracks like these are reminiscent of King Crimson’s earlier work as on In The Wake of Poseidon.  The album also contains some short instrumental and vocal links (Red Touch and I’ve Got A Feeling) which are samples disguised elsewhere in other tracks.

Tracks often start with samples and a vibe that are then absorbed into the mix of a song; Inner Portal illustrates this with Ola’s vocal and breath loops coupled with what almost sounds like a ship’s steam-powered horn and it’s woven together with a heavy dub beat and coarse under-pinnings.  The chorus adds an acoustic guitar (a contrast of the heavy with the delicate).  This is a great track and one of my favorites on the album, along with the first three.  By comparison Kicking In is quite stark in its percussion and rhythm section before gathering momentum into the vocals.  Melt Down is the most electronically layered of the songs, and Ola’s vocals calm the mood and fill the spaces.

 

Only once did I feel like I had a sense of some monotony drifting in during the track, Night Rising—after a while it didn’t really take me anywhere…a bit like some of Edgar Froese’s (Tangerine Dream) solo work of the late 1970s.  It’s a vocal and rhythm-section drone.  The album closes with Myself Inside, which harkens back to Cock & Swan’s stark early work—an acoustic guitar (in the character of a child’s toy piano), a simple rhythm and Ola’s vocals layered with deep breathing.

Since I’m working with a promo recording, I don’t have access to the lyrics or the personnel list for the album, so I’m not sure if there are other musicians on the album besides Johnny Goss and Ola Hungerford.  It’s also worth noting that Johnny Goss provides engineering and recording support for other Seattle-based musicians, including one band that recently caught my attention, La Luz (absolutely infectious 60s surf-pop) fronted by Shana Cleveland.

After Secret Angles, I’ll be very interested in hearing where Cock & Swan takes us next.  Don’t miss this album, and seek out a copy of their last, Stash too.

C&S by Angel Ceballos

Cock & Swan – Ola Hungerford and Johnny Goss – Photo by Angel Ceballos

****

This is a solicited review


Review: John Scofield – Überjam Deux

JSUD

CD: Emarcy B0018605-02 Time: About 62 minutes www.johnscofield.com

Band: John Scofield: Guitar, Avi Bortnick: Guitar and Samples, Andy Hess: Bass, Adam Deitch: Drums, Louis Cato: Drums, Special Guest: John Medeski: Organ, Wurlitzer and Mellotron

Tracks: Camelus, Boogie Stupid, Endless Summer, Dub Dub, Cracked Ice, Al Green Song, Snake Dance, Scotown, Torero, Curtis Knew, Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely

Between his solo and collaborative work, John Scofield has appeared on more than a hundred albums since the 1970s (including his early work with Miles Davis).  His first Überjam album was released in 2002.  As with the first album, Scofield moves all around and in between music genres, Jazz, Rock, Blues and Funk.  Many of the tracks on Überjam Deux start with a sound or rhythm sample and the quartet (switching between drummers Adam Deitch and Louis Cato) build a groove and just chill there or get their funk-on.  My two favorite tracks are Boogie Stupid (which reminds me of Roy Buchanan’s work) and one of the five tracks with John Medeski Curtis Knew, where Medeski brilliantly has his way with a Mellotron—just delicious.  In recent years I’ve greatly enjoyed Scofield’s collaborative work with Medeski, Martin & Wood.   Überjam Deux is a joyful album and I can’t help but think that John Scofield was sending positive vibes to his son Evan during the recording of this album earlier this year (Evan died far, far too young in July, from a rare form of cancer).  A bitter-sweet album, yet excellent for a road trip or listening at home.

Rest in Peace, Evan.

More on the album in this video

 

Curtis Knew

 


Review: Silmus – Ostara

Silma - Ostara

Volkoren #46 – CD Time: 29:00

Available at: http://www.silmus.com/ & http://www.youmakemusic.com/music/cd/silmus-ostara

Label: http://volkoren.com/  Photography by: Jan Borger

More Information: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SILMUS/159349577522537?fref=ts

Tracks: 1) Birth 2) Bright 3) Fortunate, My Child 4) Mono No Aware 5) Song For You 6) Clearing Up 7) Lives Lighted Out 8) Ostara 9) Disappearance (The Horse Ride) 10) Storm Lay Down

Some observed rituals are ancient and have roots in far away and nearly forgotten times, and various natural orders remain mysterious until the moment when one is firmly planted within the experience—there is no book to be read (although advice might be given) yet somehow deeply planted instincts guide…trusting that it will all turn out as we hope.  There may be unexpected turns, but that is part of the adventure…the journey through life.  If I have my history correct, Ostara is a pagan goddess of fertility and referred to centuries ago during the annual Festival of Easter—rebirth, the cycle of life and in some languages ostara also translates as “loop”.

Bright

 

Silmus is Dutch musician Gert Boersma (acoustic and electric guitars, bass, ukelele, vocals), and along with producer Minco Eggersman (guitars, mandolin, percussion and synthesizer), Jan Borger (piano, bass, synthesizer, Hammond, accordian) and Mirjam Feenstra (vocals), Boersma has created a sonic novella of the anticipations, sensations and emotions of becoming a parent—the delight of wonderment and discovery.

Clearing Up

 

Released in late 2012, this debut album (which is beautifully recorded, mastered and illustrated) contains often dream-like vignettes displaying tenderness and crystalline musicality that guide the narrative without any self-absorbed sentimentality—themes are developed, explored and nimbly resolved.  There is an enchanting innocence as the sounds coalesce with ethereal movements in the electric and acoustic instrumentation and occasional subtle voices.  This album is curious in that it allows moments of deep and absorbing reflection, yet one is not cast into the depths to awaken in a chilled haze (despite the album artwork); instead the feeling is the presence of warmth and refreshing clarity after the music has gently departed.

Ostara

 

A few have placed Silmus’ work in the canon of some well-known ambient artists, but I think his work is more engaging, closer to some instrumental works of Anthony Phillips, selections from albums like New England and Dragonfly Dreams.  My favorite track on the album is the nearly-mystical Mono No Aware.

Let’s hope for more from Silmus.

Gert Boersma

This is a solicited review.


Review: Yellowbirds – Songs From The Vanished Frontier

Yellowbirds SFTVF

The Royal Potato Family – RPF 1312 – LP, CD, Digital – About 35 Minutes

http://royalpotatofamily.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/YellowbirdsMusic

Songs: Side A: Stop Tonight, Mean Maybe, Love Stories, Young Men Promise, The Ceiling Side B: The Vanished Frontier, Julian, For Girls Who Love To Sing, What’s Out There

Sam Cohen: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Organ; Annie Nero: Vocals; Brian Kantor: Drums, Percussion, Vocals; Josh Kaufman: Guitar, Organ, Vocals

Something different…and even better it has an excellent sleeve design and is available in white vinyl…

 

The new Yellowbirds album is: mysterious, drifting, lush, orchestrated, cheerful, danceable, hopeful, syncopated, witty, retro, autoharpy (I know, not a word, but very 10cc*), uplifting, sonorous, jangly, toe-tapping, catchy, spirited, amorous, languid, romantic, edgy, bathed in reverb, fuzzy, harmonious, bluesy, intimate, ragged, orchestral, stark, melancholy, reflective, sad (but wait!), buoyant, lively, driving, dramatic, thoughtful, inviting, tuneful, lyrical, spacey, philosophical and inventively melodic.

I love the combinations of organ, guitars, bells, zither, Mellotron, strings, bass-lines, and the (at times) witty vocals.  Yellowbirds’ last album, The Color was exceptional, but this album is even better.  Deftly crafted songs, and an supportive record label that takes care of its customers.

Buy it.

 

 

*Autoharpyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zW2wmna2sg&feature=youtu.be&t=4m18s


Review: Roger Eno and Plumbline – Endless City/Concrete Garden

RogerEnoPlumbline

LP/CD or Digital Time: 37:43 Hydrogen Dukebox Records: Duke 157djv

Released May 20th in Europe and July 2nd in US and Canada

Label and Album: http://hydrogendukebox.com/ and http://www.endlesscityconcretegarden.com/

Roger Eno and Plumbline: http://www.rogereno.com/ http://www.neutralmusic.com/

Tracks: Side A: 1) Taking Steps, 2) Geometry, 3) Codewords, 4) Suspended Animation, 5) Ulterior Motives, Side B: 6) The Weather Inside, 7) Back to the Beginning, 8) The Artificial Cat, 9) Pulling Strings, 10) Beauté de Passage

Time plays tricks as one gets older…what used to seem like an eternity might now seem like months, weeks or even a blink of an eye.  In the proper hands, time can bend under the spell of music.  Transparencies, the last album by Roger Eno and Plumbline (Will Thomas) appeared about six years ago…seems like a while ago, but the memory of it is clear enough that hearing their new album Endless City/Concrete Garden, is like picking up a conversation with an old friend that paused mid-sentence and then continued, flow uninterrupted after an unexpected reappearance—like they never left.  But something is different, new experiences have somehow changed things.

RogerEnoPlumblineTransparencies

A paradox exists in this album, on one hand there is an apparent idée fix of love, loss and tragedy (as noted by reference to the curiously obscure works of the poetess Arlette Feindre) yet the album is not gloomy; it is woven with ethereal moments of warmth, reflection and comfort, beginning with the familiar gentle cascades of piano in Taking Steps.  There are scenes of rhythmic playfulness, as in Codewords, with a gamelan-like opening.  Also an ironic solitude is present in some tracks like Pulling Strings where one could be walking alone late at night in a city full of people and noise, yet remain focused on more powerful inner thoughts (a strange loneliness in a crowded place).  Despite the calming softness to this album, it isn’t amorphous; it has a purposeful direction.

 

Like their album last together, Endless City/Concrete Garden has taken its form across an ocean and between time zones, the contrasts of cities (New York City and Los Angeles) and the countryside of East Anglia in the UK.  The pieces this time around often have a foundation in more recognizable instrumentation: piano, guitar and even a koto, with arrangements including violin, cello, percussion and electronic treatments.  Percussive mantras also form the basis of some pieces as in The Artificial Cat. Treated field recordings make appearances throughout (I could swear there is a train horn hidden within The Weather Inside).  It’s not always clear from whose hands the sounds are created, but Roger Eno’s piano work is unmistakable, as in Back to the Beginning…it starts out like an etude and then moves on to tell a story.  The haunting Beauté de Passage appears to open with what sounds like Frippertronics, but with closer listening, I think it could be a treated accordion…how appropriate, how French. C’est tragique, mais enchantant aussi.

RogerEnoPlumblinePic

***

Note: The album is being released as an LP with CD included or as digital files.  It’s not yet clear to me if the CD will be available on its own—no word from the record label on this.


Review: HearCapeCod – SoundSignals and Upstream

HearCapeCod SoundSignals Front

Volume One – SoundSignals – #HCC001

Notes and Detailed Credits: http://hearcapecod.org/soundsignals/

CD 1 (Time: 39:08): Sound Signals: Act 1: On Land, Act II: On Water, Act III: A Year, Coda: Route Six

CD 2 (Time: 46:24): Signals Remixed: 1: Goldmund, 2: Marcus Fischer, 3: Loscil, 4: Taylor Deupree, 5: Neara Russell, 6: FourColor, 7: Steve Wilkes, 8: Simon Scott, 9: FourColor & SoundSignal

HearCapeCod Upstream Front

Volume Two – Upstream by Fordham Wilkes – #HCC002

Notes and Detailed Credits: http://hearcapecod.org/upstream/

CD (Time: 37:08): 1) Gates of Summer, 2: The Language of Birds, 3: GP Road Resonator, 4: Dive Down, 5: Upstream, 6: June, 7: Shifting Sand, 8: Fog, 9: The Message

Websites: http://hearcapecod.org/ & http://www.fordhamwilkes.com/

Sound Archive: http://www.hearcapecod.org/ListView.php

Recordings mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k Mastering

Since the middle of 2011, Berklee College of Music professor, percussionist and Blue Man Group alum, Steve Wilkes has been working on a project to capture the sounds of Cape Cod over a year and to map those sounds as an aural history of the region (the far eastern end of Massachusetts in the northeastern United States).  The project was funded in part by the Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship.  The region has undergone many environmental and man-made changes, from rising sea levels and coastal erosion to residential development.  It was Wilkes’ feeling that the region is measured and analyzed in many ways (like bird population counts, temperature and sea levels), but there was yet to be a base-line environmental sound analysis examining animal, environmental and cultural activity in the region.

At this point, the project consists of 3 CDs: 1, a collection of regional sounds; 2, the sounds remixed by a number of musicians who will be familiar to many, and 3, a song-cycle inspired by the region at various times throughout the year (which also incorporates many of the environmental sound recordings and the detailed credit links give an excellent overview of the variety on-location recordings).  The album artwork evokes pleasant memories of worn edged blue-green beach-glass.

HearCapeCod SoundSignals Back

CD 1 is a sonic time capsule, and at first it reminded me of a number of sound effects and spoken word recordings of the 1940s and 50s, and for a brief moment, I thought I was hearing a snippet of the old records by Bert and I.  It also had the immediate effect of taking me back in time to the days when I summered on “The Cape” as a child with my parents in the early 1960s.  The documentation of the region also harkens back to some of the expansive sound archive work by Alan Lomax.  This CD chronicles the sounds of land, water and activities that mark the course of a year from a First Night Noise Parade to the calming summertime beach surf.  It closes with the reading of the poem Route Six by Stanley Kunitz (being the road that travels down the center of the “flexed arm” of Cape Cod, reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean).

Having lived in a beach-town region in nearby southern Connecticut, I am also reminded that a resort region like The Cape has two lives—the times when the summer-folk occupy and the off-season when only the locals remain.  The off-season is the time when locals can take long walks on the shore beaches and see very few people.  Life goes on in a different way after the tourists have left in the autumn.

Taylor Deupree’s Remix

 

Wind Chimes Field Recording That Inspired TD’s Remix

 

CD 2 is a sensitively created set of interpretive remixes by many well known artists in the current electro-acoustic, ambient and electronic music communities (see list above).  The field recordings from CD 1 are delightfully co-mingled with the offerings from each of the artists (well documented at the web link also noted above).  I was immediately struck by the opening notes of the first track by Goldmund (Keith Kenniff), the piano melody being very reminiscent of Anthony Phillips’ Death of a Knight from Henry: Portrait from Tudor Times (from the album The Geese and The Ghost), before drifting into a dream-state with seaside, night-time crickets and Morse Code pulses.

FourColor Remix

 

Field Recording for FourColor Remix

 

Most of the remixes are by artists who have done work strongly connected with outdoor environs and water (as in the Flaming Pines label Rivers Home series), like Marcus Fischer, Taylor Deupree and Simon Scott (to name a few).  The character of this disc ranges from contemplative to glitchy (FourColor) to playfully rhythmic (as in Loscil’s remix).  The remix by Steve Wilkes includes the first HearCapeCod recording made in Truro at Corn Hill Beach in the summer of 2002.  The CD closes with a collaboration of FourColor and SoundSignal (Wilkes) and is the most melodic and rhythmic of the tracks of the album.  This CD forms a strong connection to the foundation provided by Wilkes’ research and recordings.  As much as I’m tempted to suggest that this CD be made available separately, after spending time with the entire set, it is actually a quite inseparable part of the whole.

HearCapeCod Upstream Back

CD 3 Upstream, is a song cycle by the duo Fordham Wilkes (Ginny Fordham: vocals, Steve Wilkes: drums with Crit Harmon: guitars and Keiichi Sugimoto: guitars) and is inspired by years of memories of time on Cape Cod and it is the most personal of the three discs.  Fond recollections of places run deep for many and they have different effects on people.  This is where the project transforms from being objective (CD 1) to the most reflective and personal (while avoiding sentimentality).

The album has a sense of welcoming and ease, enjoying summer breezes, wading in tidal pools, walking in sanctuaries or along beaches.  There is no heavy foreboding or hand-wringing of what was or could be; the feeling is that of the now and hopefulness, and Ginny Fordham’s voice brings a relaxing calm to the album.  Gates of Summer opens CD3 and is forms an instrumental and melodic transition from the last track of CD2.  The Language of Birds plays rhythmically with a juxtaposition and syncopation of the instrumentation and avian field recordings.

GP Road Resonator

 

The Field Recording Forming Basis for GP Road Resonator

 

The ever-present drone of automobile traffic is also a reality of summers on The Cape (whether passing over the Sagamore or Bourne bridges before necking down to Route 6 or at the half-way point to Provincetown, in Eastham) and these sounds are merged with fleeting views to salt marshes in the pensive GP Road Resonator.  As in CD 1, there are songs of Land as well as Water, as in Dive Down and Upstream (as much a metaphor for returning to and rebirth of the area as it is the traffic on Route 6 that one is “swimming” against!).

CD 3 is also a reflection of CD 1’s A Year, The Cape in song over the course of a single circumnavigation of our Earth around the Sun.  As the album progresses through the summer and into the end of a year (June, Shifting Sand and Fog) it grows more contemplative with the advancing of the calendar, melding dreams with reality.  Each Spring many look forward the approaching time outside and then seemingly in the blink of an eye, Summer is over.  The album closes with The Message, an inspiration left in a voicemail, which ultimately is the beacon announcing the sense of place of The Cape that inspired the HearCapeCod project.

****

The release date (May 28, 2013) for this set is at the unofficial “gate of summer” season, just after Memorial Day weekend.  These albums will be available at: Booksmith Musicsmith, Orleans, MA: https://www.facebook.com/BooksmithMusicsmith , Muir Music, Provincetown, MA: https://www.facebook.com/muirmusic5 , The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History: http://ccmnh.org/, CD Baby: SoundSignals On CD Baby, iTunes: http://www.apple.com/itunes/  and Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/ 


Review: Berserk! (Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari and Lorenzo Feliciati)

BERSERK_600600_72DPI

RareNoise Records CD RNR031 Time: 49:41 (vinyl soon and hi-res digital)

http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/berserk and www.facebook.com/berserkband

Tracks: 1) Macabre Dance, 2) Fetal Claustrophobia, 3) Blow, 4) Not Dead, 5) Clairvoyance, 6) First, 7) Dream Made Of Wind, 8) Wait Until Dark, 9) Latent Prints, 10) Dream Made Of Water

Band: Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (Voice, Electronics, Organ, Guitar) and Lorenzo Feliciati (Electric and Upright Bass) with: Gianluca Petrella: Trombone & Effects (tracks 1,2,4,5,7,10), Fabrizio Puglisi: Piano & ARP Odyssey (6,8,9), Jamie Saft: Keyboards (1,2,9), Eivind Aarset: Guitars (3,4,7,9,10), Sandro Satta: Alto Sax (3,9), Cristiano Calcagnile: Drums & Effects (4,5), Pat Mastelotto: Drums & Effects (6,8,9), Simone Cavina: Drums (1,2)

Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari aka LEF and Lorenzo Feliciati form the core of Berserk!, along with some other familiar names in the RareNoiseRecords stable, including Feliciati’s fellow Naked Truth bandmate Pat Mastelotto.

We all need a venting catharsis now and then—some folks resort to primal scream therapy, but generally I’ll pick music to assist with exorcising my darkened bilious tendencies.  The new self-titled album from Berserk! seems like an effective cure for those intractable days when the pile gets too deep and the unrelenting Myth of Sisyphus comes to mind.  Despite the band and album moniker, there is a broad mix of dynamics in the album and it’s marked by many (nearly neck-snapping) contrasts in sound and rhythm.

Berserk! isn’t a broad spectrum motoric assault on the senses, but it deftly selects its points of release, building like a suspense thriller with the rage boiling over every so often.  The album also teases and mocks (from the gently maniacal whistling in the opener Macabre Dance to the background telephone ringing in Fetal Claustrophobia…yes, I turned my head to see if my phone was ringing!).  There’s also a brief moment of saxy playfulness (albeit dark) in the reflective interlude Blow before entering the backstreets and dark alleys of Not Dead (shades of the growling Tom Waits and Sparklehorse duet Dog Door from the 2001 album It’s A Wonderful Life) with raspy voices and clusters of percussion pushing against an unyielding darkness.

 

Feliciati’s bass work throughout the album is reminiscent of Percy Jones’s work with Brand X, particularly the earlier freer-form improvised and less commercial version of “The X”.  The aggressive horns, meandering piano, fast-changing rhythms and moods (as in Fetal Claustrophobia) also remind me a great deal of one of my favorite King Crimson albums, Lizard (under-appreciated until Steven Wilson remastered it with Robert Fripp).  The treatment of Gianluca Petrella’s horns throughout much of the album often sounds like the thundering Mellotron horns used in Lizard.  The sharp inventive contrasts in instrumentation also remind me of Frank Zappa and early albums by Godley and Creme (as in the albums L and Freeze Frame).  Yet, there’s little humor in Berserk!—the focus is strictly business.

The middle portion of the album is furtive and contemplative in spirit (like the tracks Clairvoyance and First) and eventually LEF’s vocals (sung here, not spoken) break through, channeling John Wetton.  Note: Don’t forget to listen for R2D2.  There’s a brief pause (the calm before the storm?) with ethereal atmospherics and horn work in Dream Made Of Wind before the closing section of the album begins with a tender solo piano largo and transition to a massed rhythmic vocal and ultimately a full band assault in Wait Until Dark leading into an alto sax ensemble of Latent Prints (the feeling of KC’s Lizard returns) and moves into a roaring full-clustered rip.  The album closes with the ominously thunderous and raging vocal domination of Dream Made Of Water—there’s the Berserk!

Had a tough day in the trenches? Hold the rage at-bay (warn the neighbors, shut the doors and turn up the amp) and have a listen.  I think you’ll feel better.

LEF_FELLorenzo Feliciati and Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari – Courtesy of RareNoiseRecords

****

This is a solicited review.


Review: North Atlantic Drift – Monuments

North Atlantic Drift - Monument

Sound In Silence #sis015 Limited Edition of 200 CDr in hand numbered sleeve w/ insert

Band: http://northatlanticdrift.com/ & http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/ & https://soundcloud.com/northatlanticdrift

Label: https://www.facebook.com/soundinsilencerecords?fref=ts & http://soundinsilencerecords.bandcamp.com/

Tracks: 1) Passing Time, 2) Monuments, 3) Concrete Oceans, 4) Sandlab, 5) I Have Never Seen The Light, 6) Scholars Of Time Travel (part 2), 7) Sun Dial, 8) So Long As They Fear Us (on the CDr only)

The overlapping musical origins of Mike Abercrombie and Brad Deschamps have led to a sound that shifts between music genres: Mike’s roots being in electronic music and Brad’s in post-rock.  They share common interests in the works of Eno, Satie, Stars of the Lid and others, and their music is soothing yet with a clarity of awareness of the out there beyond what is often the prosaic miasma passing these days as ambient instrumental music.  It’s kind of like lightly sleeping with one eye open; taking in a view and related sounds while acknowledging what might lurk in the underneath or the above.  At first, the presence of a musical fabric sets a scene and then a transformation to what might be a song in search of a lyric or even a deep transitional groove—it fits well.

At times the change in sound can be more than just a nudge (an unforeseen entrance of percussion or a back beat as in the middle of I Have Never Seen The Light—a wake-up of sorts, as if to ask: “Are you paying attention?—Don’t drift off just yet!”).  It appears like a coalesced awareness from within a dream or as if sleeping in the warm sun when a cool breeze unexpectedly but pleasantly arises (a well known Canadian experience, I suspect).

 

There are threads between pieces on the album (and also to North Atlantic Drift’s first EP) like with the common sonic roots in Passing Time and Monuments (the undercurrent that binds) with the themes further developed with sustained and reverberant electric guitars.  I’m somewhat familiar with their previous album Canvas as well as their two EPs Amateur Astronomy and their first work Scholars of Time Travel, the root of the sixth track SOTT (part 2) on MonumentsPart 2 is the awakened day to the original EP’s quiescent night with first an undertow of processed piano, and then the Sun rises as the undisguised piano is revealed.

North Atlantic Drift Band Photo

I find that North Atlantic Drift’s music has a stronger connection to recent work by Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) as opposed to Eno, Satie or SotL, yet the overall sound is more rooted in tangible instrumentation; the alignment with Guthrie’s work being that moods are set with an opening wash of sound (while a spring is being gently wound) and then a release to a fuller rhythmic soundscape.  The most visually reflective track on the album is Sun Dial, the slow sweep of shadows passing as the light and activity waxes and wanes with the field-recorded ephemeral sounds of a day.  The extra track So Long As They Fear Us on the CDr (not the digital download) is a return to the quietude, like sitting on a porch (in the dark) on a comfortable rainy night with a safely distant thunderstorm.

And don’t forget to go back to their album Canvas—copies are still available.

 

Recent Discography

Amateur Astronomy: http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/album/amateur-astronomy

Canvas (first full album): http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/album/canvas

Scholars of Time Travel: http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/album/scholars-of-time-travel

*****

This is a solicited review.


Concert: Zammuto with Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nadia Sirota at the Spaceland Ballroom, Hamden, CT March 29, 2013

Z Living

Zammuto

http://zammutosound.com/home.cfm http://www.thebooksmusic.com/ http://temporaryresidence.com/

Nick Zammuto – Guitar and Electronics, Nick Oddy – Guitar and Keyboard

Mikey Zammuto – Bass, Sean Dixon – Drums

Valgeir Sigurðsson

http://valgeir.net/ & http://www.bedroomcommunity.net/artists/valgeir_sigurdsson/

Nadia Sirota

http://www.nadiasirota.com/ & http://nadiasirota.bandcamp.com/

Promoter and Venue

http://www.manicproductions.org/ & http://spacelandballroom.com/

V & N 1Valgeir 1 IABNadia 1 IAB

 

 

 

 

I missed the last Zammuto tour in 2012, so I was determined to go see them this time around—and it was a great coincidence that they ended up stopping so close by in Hamden, Connecticut at the new Spaceland Ballroom with promotion by Manic Productions from nearby New Haven.  Valgeir Sigurðsson (producer and founder of Iceland’s Bedroom Community record label and Greenhouse Studios) and violist Nadia Sirota started the evening’s show with an introspective and sensitive performance of work from Nadia’s latest album Baroque and Valgeir’s album Architecture of Loss (in addition to some earlier VS work).  I think that the performance would’ve been enhanced all the more with a better piano and subwoofer system, but their performance ranged from the contemplative (my son says “chill”) to visceral.  I’m less familiar with Sigurðsson’s and Sirota’s individual works, but this performance was a great introduction.  My only other hope for this new venue is that the lighting improves to allow one to see the musicians better during their performances (and perhaps some more tables and chairs).

Z MotherZ Stick

I’ve followed Nick Zammuto’s work since his days with The Books, and have appreciated his mining for music and inspiration in unexpected places, whether from old or new family home movies to skillfully edited (often bizarre) instructional videos.  The humor and wordplay also makes his work all the more attractive.  The difference (to my ears) between The Books and Nick’s latest incarnation in the band Zammuto is that the music is even more rhythmically infectious and at times, downright joyful.  I also appreciate that Zammuto has created in their first eponymous album music created by artists staying true to themselves and their work—always pushing the boundaries and seeking inspiration from the most unlikely of places…making the serious silly and the mundane musical…and to be doing it in beautiful Vermont is all the more enticing.  Their work is also an example of what I see as a proper usage of auto-tune technology—not to correct a singer who can’t sing, but to enhance the statement of the art and sound.

Z Mikey 2 IABZ Nicks IAB

Last night’s set was tight, energetic and enhanced by a multimedia show of short films synchronized to the music.  Much of the songs were taken from the latest Zammuto album on the Temporary Residence (independent) label.  We were also treated to some songs from The Books era, a Paul Simon cover and some unreleased tracks.  This was the second performance by new guitar/keyboardist Nick Oddy and he has immediately absorbed the often intense and delightfully quirky parts that Gene Back (up until recently) contributed to the band—bravo!Z Mikey IABZ Sean Mikey

Zammuto Set List: 1) Groan Man, Don’t Cry, 2) The Shape Of Things To Come, 3) Idiom Wind, 4) Too Late To Topologize, 5) Zebra Butt, 6) FU-C3PO, 7) Harlequin, 8) Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon, 9) Yay, 10) The Stick, 11) Tahitian Noni Juice – That Right Ain’t Shit – from The Books The Lemon of Pink, 12) Classy Penguin, 13) The Greatest Autoharp Solo of All Time – A remarkable bit of video/sound editing!, 14) Smells Like Content – from The Books – Lost And Safe and the non-encore 15) The Fig and the Finger

Z Finger

If you haven’t seen Zammuto live yet, go see them—it was a very memorable concert.  The link to their current tour is noted above, and I’m told that Nick is working on material for a new album.

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Please note that all photos are by wajobu.com unless the image is suffixed with “IAB”, in which case it’s by Isaac Burns.  We retain all copyrights to the images, but if you choose to borrow or share an image, please at least credit one or both of us.  Thank you.

Manic Productions ZammutoZammuto Album

 
 

Concert: Stick Men – Infinity Hall and Bistro – March 27, 2013

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Stick Men: https://www.facebook.com/stickmenofficial

Tony Levin: http://www.papabear.com/

Pat Mastelotto: http://patmastelotto.com/

Markus Reuter: http://www.markusreuter.com/

Stick Men dot Net will take you to: http://iapetus-store.com/album/deep

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I’m not often prone to numerical connections, but it occurred to me last night on the long quiet drive home from the woods of northwestern Connecticut that here I was in year 13 of this century and it has been (almost to the day) 31 years since I had last seen Tony Levin on stage in Syracuse, New York with the 1982 incarnation of King Crimson (Fripp, Bruford, Belew and Levin) in support of their incredible return album Discipline.  Although Tony Levin might disagree, to my eyes his energy and spirit hasn’t aged a day in those 31 years.  Last night’s concert in Norfolk, Connecticut was an incredible display of musicianship, sound and an intimate connection between the musicians and the audience (especially in a small hall like Infinity with great acoustics, sound system and a beautifully restored historic building).

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In one way or another this trio of Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter all have a connection to King Crimson (and Robert Fripp) in various incarnations and ongoing KC ProjeKcts, but Stick Men while embracing KC’s influential work, have continued to develop their own voices in progressive rock including vital relationships with other bands, artists in addition each members respective solo work.

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The Bows Come Out!

The set list last night was largely from their new album DEEP (all but two tracks) in addition to some real treats.  Tony Levin made a special point to express appreciation to the audience for being so receptive to the new material, rather than insisting on hearing only the old (including many King Crimson favorites)–in effect progressive rock music…PROGRESSES.  One thing that I wanted to see after listening intensively to DEEP is just how much of the melodies each instrument would take, and I was surprised to see that many sections that I thought were coming from Reuter’s Touch Guitar turned out to be melody exchanges between Reuter and Levin (the Chapman Stick being an extremely versatile instrument—not just for the bass line).  Here are the tracks (along with some brief notes…not on every track, and nothing that I can write will do justice to the intensity and clarity of the sound last night–something to be experienced first-hand!):

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1) Nude Ascending Staircase: As is the beginning of the album DEEP, this performance set the tone for the entire night, a seriously raucous (and fun) sound with deep visceral notes from Levin’s stick.

2) On/Off

3) Crack In The Sky

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4) Breathless (from Robert Fripp’s 1979 solo album Exposure): This Fripp album is incredible, and it’s still as vital as when I first placed the LP on my turntable in 1979.  This was an absolutely shredding performance of this piece.  Markus Reuter’s faithful interpretation of Fripp’s work (searing guitar) was just chilling.  The trio seriously cooked on this.

5) Cusp

6) Infinity Improv (free improvisation): Tony Levin noted that they record each of their performances (and I had noticed some stage and ambient microphones on stage before the show) in the hopes that some of the improvisations and recordings could lead to future releases.

7) Horatio: Thunderous!

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8) Whale Watch: Tony Levin noted that despite his many years of having played the Chapman Stick, he was still learning more about what the instrument could do (and its often unpredictable results).  He noted that some nights Whale Watch could turn out differently, depending on whether the instrument needed to be wrestled to the ground (I’m paraphrasing).  It’s the story of being on a whale watch, from the start of an ocean journey to spotting, pursuit and arrival to see a whale up-close.

9) Industry (from the 1984 King Crimson album Three of a Perfect Pair): The growl and electronic percussion.

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Pat is A-blur

10) Hide The Trees: The growing tension, exchange and release in this piece is deliciously enticing.

11) Open, Pt. 3 (from Stick Men’s 2012 improvisation-based album Open)

12) Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part 2 (from the 1973 King Crimson album Larks’ Tongue in Aspic): It was exciting to hear this piece live again, as it was in the concert in 1982 (and previous KC concerts that I had attended)—also, on the heals of the recent 40th anniversary release of the re-mastered album.

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Tony Levin playfully taking a stage photo for the ongoing Crimson Chronicles

13) Encore: A Stick Men arrangement of Stravinsky’s Firebird: Let’s hope that this ends up on a future live album—a forceful and experimental rendition of Stravinsky’s 1910 work.

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After the Encore

It was a real treat to observe the persona of each musician on-stage: Tony Levin’s classic broad stance and kinetically expressive movements (resulting in many blurry photos!), Markus Reuter’s calm scanning of the crowd as he switched from touch-fingering his guitar to using it in a more conventional guitar-stance, and Pat Mastelotto’s highly expressive performance on percussion and electronic devices—and just when I thought that he had no more tricks in the bag, out he’d pull even more paraphernalia, including a bow!

At one point during the night Tony Levin noted that King Crimson was still alive, not broken-up, yet (somewhat comically) Levin noted that Robert Fripp had recently attended a Stick Men show (and paid for his ticket, despite a guest pass) and in response to a question about when a King Crimson tour might occur again, Fripp responded “Pain.”  I think Mr. Fripp has moved on, and is enjoying his semi-retirement and over-seeing of the re-mastering and re-releasing of their massive archive of concerts and other recordings.

Stick Men Deep

If you’re within striking distance of a Stick Men show—please go see them!  They’re appearing at the Iridium Jazz Club this Friday (March 29) and Saturday (March 30) nights in New York City.  I’m sure they’ll be on the road again soon.  Bravo and thank you to the Stick Men!  Oh, and buy their new album DEEP–see also this great review of the album by my friend over at Horse Bits: http://horsebits-jrc.blogspot.com/2012/11/deep-by-stick-men.html

Stickmen Infinity 032713 083 sm

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Note:  Click on any photo to see an enlarged version.  Please contact me if there are any factual errors in what I have written above.  I have many other high resolution photos of the show, and if you chose to copy or repost any of the photos, please credit me “wajobu.com”.  You can’t see them, but the photos ARE watermarked.

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Cheerful Pat!


Review: William Tyler – Impossible Truth

William Tyler - Impossible Truth

Merge Records CD MRG465 - Time: About 54 minutes

http://www.mergerecords.com/artists/tyler%20william and http://www.sebastianspeaks.com/

Tracks: 1) Country Illusion, 2) The Geography Of Nowhere, 3) Cadillac Desert, 4) We Can’t Go Home Again, 5) A Portrait Of Sarah, 6) Hotel Catatonia, 7) The Last Residents Of Westfall, 8) The World Set Free

I posit that William Tyler is a thinker, and is perhaps more comfortable expressing himself with music than with words (although his spoken thoughts on the Merge teaser video have a distinct and interesting clarity).  Tyler has worked in a number of bands prior to his solo albums including the Silver Jews, the ongoing experimental collective Hands Off Cuba and Lambchop (in addition to his record label, Sebastian Speaks).  Tyler’s work brings a wide range of colors and moods to Lambchop’s sound, where he has been a principal guitarist for many years.  Impossible Truth seems to me to be a more cohesive and mature work than his last solo album on the Tompkins Square label, Behold The Spirit.  Nonetheless, I urge readers to seek out this very strong album.

Behold The Spirit - WilliamTyler

The titles of the tracks on this album are like the names of short stories, and from the moment the cord is pulled on the first note of a track we are thrust right into the middle of the scene, without shyness or any lack of confidence.  It almost feels like Tyler propels a well-worn yet vibrant flywheel at the start of each piece, and from that moment he is shaping and sculpting the sound and mood until the story is told.

 

Country Of Illusion starts mysteriously and sounding rather exotic (as if from a foreign land, sitar-like).  There are sweeping passages envisioning a changing scene and then there are pauses (almost like a moment of contemplation) before moving through a sonic curtain and then the next passage of the tale.  Some tracks show a greater tenderness (with solo acoustic guitar) than others like We Can’t Go Home Again or A Portrait Of Sarah (although musically the latter is quite adventurous, as are many relationships).  The Geography Of Nowhere has a resonant otherness of being on the edge of consciousness and sensing the tangible without being able to actually reach it.  There are others like Cadillac Desert and Hotel Catatonia that present vistas as broad and intense as a Montana sky (and I never knew what a big sky looked like until I saw one).  The fretwork, picking and phrasing are tracing the landscapes and wrapping the listener in the gentle or gusty breezes of sound.

The Last Residents Of Westfall sounds like a scene from a dying or deserted town as the music pans to each of the buildings in the village, all with their own story to tell, some jaunty and others subdued.  The closing track of the album, The World Set Free is the most reflective, but it enlivens joyfully as the track progresses—the acoustic bass being a steady and forthright heartbeat, and finally William Tyler releases to a growling close.  I am trying to resist comparisons, but the opening section is similar to the instrumental sections of Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter.

 

Tyler disguises his guitars as many different instruments, and his musicianship and intense fingerings give a sense that more than one set of hands is at work, yet there is never a sense of Tyler playing a guitar hero—my guess is that he sees himself as quite the opposite.  Just like Lambchop, William Tyler blurs the distinction of musical genres; first this is an instrumental acoustic and electric guitar album, there are hints of twang, country and roots in it, but also some blues, folk and rock and roll.  Merge Records has a wide ranging catalog of musicians and has been around for more than two decades.  I just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed their biography of the first twenty years of Merge, Our Noise.  Even though William Tyler has been part of the Merge family for many years in his work with Lambchop, I’m thrilled that he has released this latest brilliant solo album with Merge.  This is an album that I highly recommend.

Merge Records just posted this reinterpretation (homage?) to the film Two Lane Blacktop with A Portrait of Sarah as the soundtrack.

 


Invention, Influence and Innovation – Bryan Ferry and Steven Wilson

When is a musical work true invention?  When is it referential?  When is it derivative?  Can a work influenced by previous work still be considered original or innovative?  I suppose these are questions that could spark a (sometimes heated) discussion like: “What audio speakers sound the best?  Is it the east coast or west coast sound?”  Often, the proper answer is: “What ever speakers sound best to one’s own ears.”

Generally, I think that most art, design and music works are built on the foundations that came before them and there really is little actual invention, more on the side of innovation or variants of an original.  Dig deeply enough and one even can see that Frank Lloyd Wright’s and other modern architectural works (many seemingly original) have been influenced by the works of others or by some reference to design in nature or distant history (like many of Wright’s LA houses of the 1920s being highly influenced by ancient Mayan temples).

Ferry Jazz    Wilson Raven

I’m certainly not an expert on the extensive back catalogs of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson (including Wilson’s various side projects), but I have enough of their music in my collection to know that I generally like their respective work (some albums, in my opinion, being better than others—that’s the subjective part, like the what speakers sound better question).  Bryan Ferry and Steven Wilson are from two different musical generations and have been influenced by different works and people, but there is some overlap.

Ferry has noted that much of his seminal listening, writing and songs were influenced by early and mid-20th century instrumental jazz (including Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman): “I loved the way the great soloists would pick up a tune and shake it up – go somewhere completely different – and then return gracefully back to the melody, as if nothing had happened.”  With these influences and those of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and others, Ferry’s band Roxy Music (with a number of different musicians, including Brian Eno and later Eddie Jobson) would go on to create quite innovative and often influential art-glam-pop-progressive rock works in the 1970s and early 80s in addition to Ferry’s distinctive solo works.

Steven Wilson works within a cauldron of many genres (progressive rock, metal, ambient and jazz fusion), and it’s clear from his remixing/remastering work (such as the King Crimson back-catalog, most recently Larks’ Tongues in Aspic) that he has both a deep affection for those influences as well as a respect for the history behind them.  Wilson’s latest album The Raven That Refused To Sing is steeped in a mind-bending brew of musical influences, yet stays safely on the side of creatively paying homage while avoiding pastiche or cliché.  Throughout the album he tips his hat with musical phrases and instrumental sounds that have kept me looking back into my music collection for their roots (a most welcome research project).

Steven Wilson – Luminol

 

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing

 

Whether it’s a soaring guitar bend of Pink Floyd, a vocal introduction reminiscent of McDonald and Giles’ Tomorrow’s People, a Mellotron phrase from Genesis’ Watcher of the Skies, an electric guitar intro akin to the band Focus, acoustic guitar phrases of Ant Phillips’ The Geese and the Ghost or flute phrases of Jethro Tull, Wilson and his current band blend these deftly into the rather sullen tale of The Raven…   I can also hear more recent parallels in the menacing track The Holy Drinker, to the works of (Miles Davis scholar) Bob Belden’s jazz-fusion Animation project (the recent post-9/11 track Provocatism from the album Transparent Heart).  The musical and sonic success of this album is also thanks to the great live studio engineering care of Alan Parsons and gifted musicians Nick Beggs, Guthrie Govan, Adam Holzman, Marco Minnemann, Theo Travis and Jakko Jakszyk who have interpreted Wilson’s vision into a cohesive and often stunning recording.  The dynamics and emotions are broad, from the aggressive percussion/bass opening to the somber balladic close of the title track.  There are minimal overdubs on the album, except for using an original King Crimson MKII Mellotron (recorded at DGM).

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – Do The Strand

 

In contrast, Bryan Ferry is reinterpreting his own past work with vocals removed, leaving the melodies and harmonies of the original songs, and they’re are filtered through a time machine that brings the listener back to Ferry’s earliest musical influences—the sound, orchestration and recording techniques of the roaring and often buoyant 1920s.  Some fans of Roxy Music or Ferry’s original work don’t seem to appreciate the effort (especially the sound treatment, and the monaural recording), but being that I enjoy original pre-and jazz-age acoustic recordings, I think it’s a favorable re-examination of Ferry’s work while avoiding the temptation reissue yet another compilation for the sake of churning a back-catalog.  In fact, the recording sounds almost identical to the hi-fidelity of that period, a Victor Orthophonic reproducer and Victrola.

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – The Jazz Age – The Reinterpreted Tracks

 

Bryan Ferry – The Jazz Age – The Original Tracks

 

I like both of these albums very much, for different reasons, and while they are clearly influenced by works before them, they stand very well on their own.  Are either as groundbreaking as King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King?  No (again, my subjective opinion).  On the positive side, after a somewhat cool start, Steven Wilson’s album has been growing on me (my favorite track, by far, is Drive Home), whereas I liked Ferry’s album almost instantly—I was hooked by Do The Strand.  Are either of these albums what I would consider the best of 2013?  It’s a bit early for that–let’s wait and see.

Steven Wilson – Drive Home

 


A List Too Small – My Favorites of 2012

Thank you to all the artists and record labels for such wonderful and diverse music.

This is one list of many, it’s my list, and it leaves off many other favorites that I have enjoyed over the year in addition to the thousands of other albums and single tracks that make up music throughout the World.  What has helped me arrive at this list is what I have always loved about music: Does it move me?  In addition, is it creative, well recorded and produced with a degree of care that makes me pay attention to it?  There was a time when I was obsessed with highly produced and tightly engineered works, then I learned about artists such as East River Pipe and Sparklehorse, and many other genres of music were opened to me.

If you don’t see your favorite album on this list (or even your own album), it doesn’t mean a thing.  If an album has been reviewed on my website this year, it’s meaningful to many others and me, but this is only a very, very small slice of the music world.  Often people ask me about new music, and what I recommend.  When I started this website in late January, 2012 it was first a means to write about music that I enjoyed, but also to get to know other artists and learn about new music that they create, so I could pass it on.  Often, the best new music is that referred by a friend.  Please feel free to send me your comments and recommendations.

Special note: There are still three or four late 2012 releases that are either enroute to me, have yet to be released or have just arrived.  I need to spend proper time listening to and absorbing these albums.  Rather than delaying this list further, and if after listening to those last 2012 releases I feel that they hit a sweet spot, I’ll review those albums in early 2013.  I know of at least two 2012 releases that I’ll likely not receive until 2013.

I have three categories: Albums (12), Individual Tracks (6), and Special Releases (3) that don’t necessarily fit into a category.

Albums (Artist – Album Title – Record Label)

T&Y TLOF

1) Twigs & Yarn – The Language of Flowers – Flau

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2) Lambchop – Mr. M – Merge Records

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3) Zammuto – Zammuto – Temporary Residence

sh-grii-front

4) Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II – Inside Out Music

12k-faint-cover

5) Taylor Deupree – Faint – 12k

BillowObservatory

6) Billow Observatory – Billow Observatory - Felte

12k10701Gareth

7) Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – 12k

Pill-Oh KL

8) Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kitchen. Label

brambles-cover-alt

9) Brambles – Charcoal – Serein

almost-charlie-ty

10) Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday – Words On Music

CodyChesnuTT

11) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred – One Little Indian

SM DEEP

12) Stick Men – Deep – Stick Men Records

Individual Tracks (from other albums)

 

1) Library Tapes – Sun peeking through (from the album Sun peeking through) – Self Released

2) Cock & Swan – Orange & Pink (from the album Stash) – Lost Tribe Sound

3) Alex Tiuniaev – Daylight (from the album Blurred) – Heat Death Records

4) Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Praise of Tears (from the album In Miserum Stercus) – Komino

5) Kane Ikin & David Wenngren – Chalk (from the album Strangers) – Keshhhhhh

6) Olan Mill – Bleu Polar (from the album Paths) – Fac-ture

Special Releases

Celer Machinefabriek

1) Celer & Machinefabriek: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake, Numa/Penarie, Hei/Sou – Self Released

Trommer%20artworkPorya%20artwork

 

 

 

 

 

Darren%20McClure%20artworkThe%20Green%20Kingdom%20artwork

 

 

 

 

 

2) Birds Of A Feather: Michael Frommer – The Great Northern Loon, Porya Hatami – The Black Woodpecker, Darren McClure – The Black Kite, The Green Kingdom – The Great Blue Heron – Flaming Pines

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3) Simon Scott, Corey Fuller, Marcus Fischer, Tomoyoshi Date and Taylor Deupree (Recorded live in Japan October, 8, 2012) – Between (…The Branches) – 12k

Record Labels Noted Above

Flau: http://www.flau.jp/

Merge Records: http://www.mergerecords.com/

Temporary Residence LTD: http://temporaryresidence.com/

Inside Out: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/

12k: http://12k.com/

Felte: http://www.feltesounds.com/

Kitchen. Label: http://www.kitchen-label.com/

Serein: http://www.serein.co.uk/

Words On Music: http://www.words-on-music.com/

One Little Indian: http://indian.co.uk/shop/landing-on-a-hundred-1.html

Stick Men Records: http://stick-men.net

Library Tapes: http://librarytapes.com/

Lost Tribe Sound: http://www.cockandswan.com/ Note: I have not listed the weblink to the record label as Google has noted that the website MAY be compromised.

Heat Death Records: http://www.heatdeathrecords.co.uk/

Komino: http://kominorecords.com/

Kesh (Simon Scott’s label): http://www.keshhhhhh.com/

Facture: http://www.fac-ture.co.uk/

Machinefabriek & Celer: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ & http://www.thesingularwe.org/fs/

Flaming Pines: http://flamingpines.com/


Review: Benjamin Dauer – The Pace of Which

Twice Removed Records - The Pace Of Which - cover

Twice Removed Records – Time: About 39 Minutes – Limited Edition CDr (50 copies)

Record Label: http://twiceremovedrecords.blogspot.com/ & http://twicerememberedtwiceremoved.bandcamp.com/

Artist Websites: http://www.benjamindauer.is/ & https://soundcloud.com/benjamindauer

Tracks: 1) Anchors and Roots; 2) Either By Storm Or Low Frequency; 3) With Closed Mouth; 4) Melting Tines; 5) Waiting for the Rain; 6) From Ebb To Flow

Coming from Twice Removed Records on January 1, 2013 (a small label in Perth, Australia that releases short-run limited editions) is the latest (third) solo album from Benjamin Dauer.  I have great admiration for the various interests that BD pursues.  He has diverse accomplishments, from his design and digital media day-job at NPR (National Public Radio) in Washington, DC to raising awareness and environmental activism projects like Save The Pollinators.

I also appreciate BD’s musical pursuits as both a multi-instrumentalist solo artist and collaborator (with other musicians near and far), including his active participation with the Disquiet Junto (an ongoing music-making project where restrictions are used as a catalyst for inspiration).  Recently, I’ve been following with great interest the sound-sketch development (posted on SoundCloud) for a forthcoming album by The Dwindlers (his ongoing collaboration with poet Michelle Seaman).

From what I have heard of Benjamin’s previous solo work, it tends to be less rhythmic, a bit darker and more saturated than his (often Jazz-rooted) work with The Dwindlers.  There is an enmeshed yet subtle grittiness recalling earlier analog electronic and instrumental works (like the 1970 soundtrack to Frederic Rossif’s documentary L’Apocalypse des animaux by Evangelos Papathanassiou), while continuing to explore new aural horizons and narratives.  BD has an interesting quote at his website, which I think reveals that his solo work is less about an arrival at a particular sound, but more about the journey:

“As a musician & composer, I explore the boundaries of modern music through experimentation and play.”

In The Pace of Which, BD seems to be investigating different methods of creating musical atmospheres by blurring distinctions between musical genres (such as ambient, drone or others).  Each track takes a different approach, but there are some common elements in varied intensities.  Some of the pieces focus more on background with minimal foreground, whereas others the foreground elements are more pronounced, as well as the in between.

The background is predominant in Anchors and Roots.  The sound is broad, resonant on the edges, and heavily blended.  There are subtle placements of keyboards into the foreground, along with gentle clicks.  At a point where there seems to be a recognizable rhythm or melody, it disperses back into the haze.

 

Either By Storm Or Low Frequency takes time to develop; initially it has more hushed surroundings, with distance pulses and slow waves.  Sounds are buried down deep, almost immersed in rolling surf, reminding me of the analog warmth of Tangerine Dream’s album Rubycon (one of my favorite TD albums).  BD is quite good at disguising the instrumentation—sounds seeming to be more keyboard-based, with purer tones entering the sound-mantra and slowly dissolving as if being pulled back into a sonic undertow.

The foreground takes a more prominent role in With Closed Mouth.  The contrast of far and near is sharper.  The more dominant sounds could be the concurrent mechanics of the music being created, or blended field recordings.  There is interplay between reverberant sustained guitar and muted keyboards.  The result is a feeling of suspension, yet with some of the most tangible sounds on the album.  Melting Tines returns to clustered tones.  It’s a gentle wall of sound, punctuated by an almost reluctant guitar, and then veiled appearances of a piano.  An environmental-dominant foreground opens Waiting for the Rain.  It could be an early morning street scene of a city coming back to life on a gray morning with placid breezes.  The album closes with From Ebb To Flow, which again blends the sounds of the outdoors with an expanding tonal haze and an undercurrent of low frequency pulses before fading.

Since I tend at times to prefer more discreet sounds in mixes, I found that there were brief moments (particularly in the last track) where I was distracted by a “tape-saturated” ambience, but I stress that this is a particular quirk of mine.  I listen to music in the ambient and drone realms as vehicles to either clear my mind or to transport to a different (and often more pleasurable) zone.  Listening to works on the drone side of the spectrum, however, tends to be a more sensory intensive experience, even if the desired end result is a more numbed state of being.

Benjamin Dauer’s explorations in The Pace of Which will take you to many places with transformative and lush fabrics of sound—his work blurs the edges of the recognizable with richness beyond expected musical genre norms.  I’m looking forward to the further results of his experimentation and play.

***

More on Benjamin Dauer’s band The Dwindlers here: http://thedwindlers.com/

The Pelican and the Girl – From Allegories


Review: Taylor Deupree – Faint

Record Label Website and Links: http://www.12k.com/ & http://www.taylordeupree.com/

http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/artists/taylor_deupree/

Taylor Deupree’s Discography: http://www.taylordeupree.com/music/

12k2025 (CD, Deluxe CD & Digital)

Tracks: CD1 57:17 1) Negative Snow; 2) Dreams of Stairs; 3) Thaw; 4) Shutter; 5) Sundown & CD2 38:38 1) Thaw (Reprise)

Whether it’s his music, photography, collaborations, and even the work from his record label 12k, Taylor Deupree is an Artist (emphasis on capital A).  I’m a relative late-comer to his work, and I’m not even quite sure how that I came across his work or the 12k label, but I think that it had something to do with a 12k sampler CD, and then as I often do, I took a dive into his back catalog, focusing on physical releases (since those tend to be my preference—I’m old fashioned that way).

While Deupree has an extensive solo output, he also is an active collaborator with a wide range of artists (follow the discography link I noted above) in addition to many other musicians not listed for concerts and tours.  He also actively experiments with new approaches and directions in his work—reinvention invigorates.  Just as in his musical works, there is a peaceful desolation in his photography.  I’m drawn to many of his photos, especially his landscapes (I’m fortunate to have a copy of his book of photos and CD Sea Last), but this is one of my favorites:

Moss, Kyoto (linked from Taylor Deupree’s website)

I also enjoy his Instagram photos posts, many of them are taken on outings in the woods, the fields and a reservoir nearby his home.  It’s evident in his mastering of his own work and those of other musicians that the quality of the sound is important too (I often seek out music, not only for the artist, but the studio, sound engineer, producer and mastering engineer).  Each release by 12k, whether CD, LP, standard or deluxe edition, receives special attention in the design, execution and promotion of the work.  I admire this greatly—the time and attention is worth the money and the effort.

Faint is Taylor Deupree’s new album.  It’s available in the latest 12k packaging as a standard release, as digital files or in a deluxe edition (pictured here) with a second CD of extended version of the track Thaw as well as twelve prints of photos taken by Deupree with a handmade camera.  Faint overall is more restrained and pared-down to elemental sounds (though not at all stark) compared to his other recent work, yet it has a warmth that makes this album deeply comforting (hints of this are in the track titles).  I’m not sure of the timeline in the recording of this album (beyond that it was recorded over a two year time span), but there are similarities in Negative Snow to the environment in Simon Scott’s expansive album Below Sea Level.  It’s like taking a walk in a field that still has a foot in Winter, but the cold is subsiding in the sun and streams are returning to refill vernal pools.

Dream of Stairs is a gorgeous track with a lightly guiding keyboard thread (sounding like a Fender Rhodes piano) weaving through whispers of treatments, gentle guitars, remote looped voices, and ephemeral sounds of an almost intangible reality that might be captured on the edges of a dream.

 

Thaw (with a longer reprise on CD2 in the deluxe issue, akin to Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon) has a broader aura, like a fog lifting on an very early Spring morning where the air is warmer than the still-frozen ground.  There is an ethereal suspension into which a distant organ-like sound appears and retracts back into the haze—like gentle waves on a flat sand beach.  It has an ancient and mysterious sound like that in Creation du Monde, a very early post-Aphrodite’s Child soundtrack by Vangelis.  Shutter has a hazy analog-reverberant foundation behind a placid and heavily treated electric guitar solo that is later joined by gentle reminders of Dream of…  Sundown at first is a like a quiet seascape, watching distant ships passing and hearing far-off signals as a day draws to a close.  Closer sounds enter to illuminate the scene, like fleeting afterglows that fill a sky once the sun disappears below the horizon—nature’s reverberation of what was, before entering darkness.

It’s a restful and warm journey.


Review: Naked Truth – Ouroboros

RealNoiseRecords RNR029 (CD & Digital) Time: 49:51

Record Label Websites: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/

Sound Samples: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/naked-truth/ouroboros/

Tracks: 1) Dust; 2) Dancing With The Demons Of Reality; 3) Garden Ghosts; 4) Orange; 5) Right Of Nightly Passage; 6) Yang Ming Has Passed; 7) In A Dead End With Joe; 8) Neither I

Ouroboros, the eternal consuming and replenishing serpent can be seen in the singular (nothing outside of itself) or in a broader societal context.  In this case, my interpretation is more of a collective urban consciousness.  This is an album of motion, not of rest, an album of experiences, not of contemplation (at least until after the intense experience is over).  It’s a fusion-brew of industrial, urban and cosmic sounds, and a potent follow-up to the 2011 album Shizaru (the lesser-known fourth primate of see, hear, speak, and DO no evil).

Graham Haynes has joined the Naked Truth quartet on electric cornet and trumpet (following Cuong Vu’s departure) along with original members, King Crimson alum drummer Pat Mastelotto, English keyboardist Roy Powell, and Italian Lorenzo Feliciati on electric bass and guitars.

Shizaru from 2011

First a warning: Prepare your audio system (and your ears) for a workout.  Ouroboros will shake out the cobwebs.  The opening track Dust is the warm-up, the testing of the systems.  It’s a more keyboard dominant, brass punctuated bookend before entering the fuzzed sonic maelstrom.  It has the atavistic fibers of many eras, and I’m old enough to have been around for the many incarnations of King Crimson, Weather Report and other Jazz-Fusion, Progressive Rock variants, and it’s all there–the solid musicianship and the sometimes angst-filled drive.  There’s also a hint of Miroslav Vitous’s 1976 spacey funk inspired album, Magical Shepherd.

Track One: Dust

 

Next, place yourself in a traffic jam with an impetuous case of not-so-mild road rage (in the aggressive spirit of KC’s Neurotica, sans vocals), and that’s Dancing With The Demons Of Reality.  The pauses are the waiting at traffic lights, restoring momentary sanity, but tension builds with pressurized chromatics, electronics and percussion before subsiding.  Garden Ghosts is a respite; at first a progression of sonic fragments, a meandering prepared piano, percussion and fuzz-bass.  The trumpet is the roaming spirit joined by a languid beat, murky electronics and guitar background; ultimately it ends as a brass-teasing percussive danse macabre.

At the start of Orange it’s disguised as an atmospheric piece, a quiet evening perhaps—serenade with cornet, but then diverts quickly with syncopated rhythms (bass, guitar and keyboards reminiscent of Kazumi Watanabe’s work), before returning to the more sedate themes.  Right Of Nightly Passage is an instrumental recasting of the driving rhythmic “heat in the jungle” anagram.  Clustered horns interlace with the cadence of the frenetic scene.  The spirit of Miles Davis’s later more electronic work is channeled in Yang Ming Has Passed.  It’s a menacing and deeply rhythmic piece (sounding like it could be dock-side in a shipping yard) with traded riffs between bass, percussion and trumpet meshed together by a high-cover of electronics.

The heavy backbeat continues in the darkly raucous In A Dead End With Joe.  The trumpet soars and trills against the syncopated drums, electric guitar and keyboard phrases.  Neither I is the other keyboard-textured closing bookend of the album.  It displays some Far Eastern influences, and is more experimental and atmospheric with clustered brass, melodic percussion and roving piano before finding its beat.  By contrast to the rest of the album, it closes with a gentle yet furtive purity.

Ouroboros is an adventurous and deliciously brash album that reveals glimpses of the eternal and sometimes daunting cycle of existence from different perspectives.  Naked Truth is a sturdy, tight and vibrant quartet, and I’ll be very interested to see and hear where they take us next.

Naked Truth – courtesy of RareNoiseRecords

****

This is a solicited review.


Updated: What’s Spinning Today – Robin Guthrie, Olan Mill, Machinefabriek and A Winged Victory For The Sullen

Robin Guthrie - Fortune ***Updated with Souncloud link sample***

Soleil après minuit – SM1203CD – CD and 300 copies forthcoming on Vinyl

Robin Guthrie, long ago, moved on from his work with Cocteau Twins.  Some fans want him to keep looking back, but frankly, I’m glad that he has continued on with his own work (albums and EPs) and numerous collaborations with Harold Budd, Eraldo Bernocchi and others as well as film soundtracks.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my CT albums, and nothing is more searing, emotionally than the CT track (from their last album, Milk and KissesViolaine.

Fortune is a personal work, putting his life, emotions and experiences into his layered, chorus-and-echo-filled guitar sound.  I sense intense memories too.  I find that Guthrie’s work is filled with sound-color, which is also why I am so drawn to it.  My favorites include the languid ladybird, the refreshing like water in water, the tender and deeply-toned melody of perfume and youth, and and so to sleep, my little ones, which picks up where the EP Songs To Help My Children Sleep leaves off—enchanting.

 

Artist Website: http://robinguthrie.com/

Available also at: http://darla.com/?fuseaction=item_cat.ecom_superitem_detail&item_cat_id=41313

****

Olan Mill – Home

Preservation CIRCA512 – limited 300 copy CD release and Digital

With each Olan Mill release, I am drawn all the more to their work.  There is a subtle lag between rhythms, melodies and harmonies that gives a tidal flow, similar to some works of Ralph Vaughn Williams or Claude Debussy.  Also, I’m not sure how this will be taken by some current listeners of this genre, but some of Olan Mill’s work reminds me of early to mid 1970s compositions of Evangelos Papathanassiou’s, especially the soundtrack to the Frédéric Rossif  film La Fête Sauvage.

Record Label: http://www.preservation.com.au/product/olan-mill-home

 

Album overview at Experimedia:

 

****

Machinefabriek – Secret Photographs

Important Records – IMPREC366 – CD and Digital

This is a three track (more than 70 minute) soundtrack for a forthcoming film about Alvin Karpis (notorious bank robber and longest serving prisoner at Alcatraz Prison) by Mike Hoolboom.  Karpis was released from prison in 1969, moved to Spain and wrote a memoir.  He took photographs in the closing years of his life, and never shared his work with anyone until the collection was found for sale on ebay.  Rutger Zuyderfelt’s response to the work is separated into three parts (black and white, color and black and white).  It is a subtle guitar and electronics-based composition that gives the sense of taking a hushed and private tour through chambers of secluded memories.

 

Artist Websites:

http://www.machinefabriek.nu & http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/album/secret-photographs

****

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Erased Tapes – ERATP032 – Vinyl, CD and Digital Files

Released about a year ago, the eponymous A Winged Victory for the Sullen album is the work of Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie and LA composer Dustin Halloran.  I didn’t realize that there was a connection between Adam and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), but it was ultimately that connection and colleague Francesco Donadello that brought …Winged Victory… together.  Large spaces, grand pianos, string quartets and delicate woodwinds and brass are the framework for this lush and stunning album.

 

Artist Website: http://www.awvfts.com/

Record Label: http://www.erasedtapes.com/artists/biography/16/A+Winged+Victory+For+The+Sullen


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