Sunday, April 09, 2006

Some Releases I've Reviewed Over The Years

Just to give you an idea of what kind of music I'm into, here's a few reviews I've made for KFJC over the years. Some are from many years ago, like the early 90's. Listed in no particular order.

Mono - “Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky ” - [Virgin Records Limited]

Japan’s Mono returns for their third full-length release with only slight refinements in their sound . Most tracks feature
Mono’s characteristic song structure: slowly building lengthy tracks, with delicate, icy guitar figures riding layers of droning strings and thick distortion that increase in waves of intensity and volume, until they explode in soaring crescendos of transcendent noise. Their sound on this outing, however, is a little more lush, with a greater emphasis on strings and more orchestral arrangements than previous recordings. There’s also a couple of shorter, quieter, less dynamic tracks that failed to impress this listener. For the most part, however, this is dynamic, almost sweepingly cinematic music, that achieves Mono’s stated goal of evoking feelings and emotions via music that are difficult to capture and describe in mere words. Play! DL

Comets on Fire - “Blue Cathedral ” - [Sub Pop Records]

Bay Area-based, KFJC favorites, Comets On Fire, return with their third studio full-length release. The material on this LP
represents the next logical step in the continuing developmentof the group’s sound. It is very similar to their previous efforts, however, the songs are a little more structured and the keyboards play an increasing role in their sonic attack. Nevertheless, from the ripping, heavy, psychosludge of the opening track, to the early-70’s Floydian prog-psych of “Brotherhood Of The Harvest", to the Chasney fueled acid folk of “Wild Whiskey", this LP is anoutstanding soundtrack for substance abuse. A little more subtle and refined, perhaps, but these guys are still just about the coolest stoners west of Dead Meadow. Highly recommended! DL

Electric Masada - “John Zorn 50TH Birthday Celabration ” - [Tzadik]

Electric Masada is a new variant of Zorn’s long running and multi-facted Masada project. The group, which may be Zorn’s
most exciting and creative project ever, features many of the top players in the Downtown NYC scene such as, Marc Ribot
(the big star of this CD, IMHO) and Ikue Mori. On this disc, they are captured live in September 2003 as part of Zorn’s
incredible month long series of concerts at Tonic (NYC) to celebrate his 50th birthday. Rocking riffs, free jazz skronk,
hard swinging grooves, and atmospheric electronic exoctica are all blended together to create the unique and incredible
Electric Masada sonic attack. Powerful, yet lyrical; this is improvisational music at its finest. Genre blurring; this casts
a light down the path of the future of music and beautifully represents the forward thinking aesthetic of KFJC. One of
the top releases this year - don’t miss out! DL

Dara - “S/T ” - [Ecstatic Peace]

Dara has been a multi-media underground artist for a number of years (including, most notably, a stint in His Name Is Alive), operating in both the Ann Arbor/Detroit and NYC areas. This one-sided 12” is her debut solo release and she’s responsible for all sounds contained withiin. Organs, synths, guitars, and assorted electronic noisemakers generate white noise drones and electro beats to create little lo-fi pop gems and instrumentals. Vocals, when present, are almost spoken, not sung,
and are delivered in a little girl voice that reminded me of Cynthia Dahl. Nothing here is gonna change your world, but a quick hit of her outsider electro-noise pop will surely leave a smile on your face. DL

Masada - “John Zorn 50TH Birthday Celebration ” - [Tzadik]

Masada is one of Zorn’s longest running and most popular projects. For those who may be unfamilar with Masada, the project represents Zorn’s attempt to create a new form of Jewish music, one that celebrates and preserves Jewish musical traditions while integrating elements of modern music, as well. Elements of klezmer, Eastern and Middle Eastern music, jazz, avant-garde, and classical are integrated to create the unique Masada sound. On this disc, they are captured live in September 2003 as part of Zorn’s incredible month long series of concerts at Tonic (NYC) to celebrate his 50th birthday. The quartet is in top form, with Zorn and Douglas weaving complex lines around each other (especially on tracks 4 and 7 - yow!) over the solid rhythm section of Cohen and (the great) Joey Baron. Whether they’re executing ensemble passages with cool precision or blowing freely, for the most part, this is improvisation at its finest. Inspiring! DL

Nadler, Marissa - “Ballads of Living and Dying ” - [Eclipse Records]

NYC-based musician and artist, Marissa Nadler, throws her hat into the ring of the, currently hot, solo femme acid folk scene with her debut release, “Ballads of Living and Dying”. Nadler’s obviously been exposed to a diverse array of influences from
old-timey americana folk to modern avant acoustic guitarists, such as Fahey, etc., to psychedelia and beyond. The tracks on this LP range from pretty straightforward solo folk to atmospheric, late night folk-psych. As the title suggests, the lyrical content explores dark themes (death/suicide, ill-fated loves, etc.), all delivered in Nadler’s sweet, ethereal vocal style. Nadler also appears to be a fairly accomplished musician and performs on a variety of stringed instruments (six and twelve string acoustic guitar, banjo, ukelele, and autopharp), as well as organ, to weave her tapesry of sound. Personal favorites include “Fifty Five Falls”, ”Mayflower May”, and her haunting treatment of Poe’s “Annabelle Lee”. An interesting and excellent release
from this promising new artist. Recommended! DL

Boris “Akuma No Uta” [Fangs Anal Satan]

Although they are not as well known as such Japanese underground heavyweights as Fushitsusha or High Rise, Boris (yes, the name was inspired by the Melvins’ song) have been producing high quality heavy psych/rock/doom/drone for more than a decade. The highlights of the album are the lengthy tracks that begin each side. “Introduction” (on the A-side, naturally) is an incredible, heavy feedback drenched, doom droner. The B-side’s, “Naki Kyoku” is a heavy psych epic that features some awesome guitarwork. The remaining four, shorter tracks are all heavy rockers, with some being in the slow grind vein and others being more punkish, up tempo scorchers. Stylistically, this is certainly their most varied release to date and, perhaps, their best, as well. Play! DL

Fursaxa - “Madrigals in Duos ” - [Time-Lag]

Fursaxa is the (mostly) solo project of Tara Burke, a Philadelphia resident who has been intriguing us for years now with her efforts in a number of groups, most notably, Un. On “Madrigals In Duos” , her third full-length release, she displays all the required skills to earn her “acid folk” merit badge. Some tracks are more straightforward, in a lo-fi folk-psych vein, featuring mainly acoustic guitar and vocals. Other tracks shoot straight for the heart of that 3AM vibe, combining cosmic organ drones with ghostly, wailing vocals. Finally, there are a couple of noisier tracks, with dissonant electric guitars and repetitive, driving, hand percussion. Beautiful and otherworldly music. Mandatory for play on late night shows. DL

Trans Am - “Liberation ” - [Thrill Jockey Records]

“Liberation”, the 7th full-length release from Washington D. C.’s, Trans Am, finds the band continuing to feature a familar mix of sonic elements - Krautrock, 80’s Synthpop, Electro-Ambience, Punk, and Post Rock. Despite its similarity to their
previous work, however, this album represents a new pinnacle of acheivement for the band. On “Liberation”, which features a strong theme of opposition to the policies of the Bush Administration, the band has a acheived a nearly perfect synthesis of cover art, “lyrical” content, and music. The cuts on this album (most of which track) flow almost seamlessly from synth-driven Krautrock grooves to danceable synthpop to late-night, electro-ambient pieces and driving rockers. The combination of political soundbites/synthesized vocals and ominous analogue sounds works perfectly to convey their damning indictment of Bush’s war in Iraq and evoke fear of Big Brother’s ever intrusive gaze/grasp. A beautiful record - sonically diverse and conceptually complete. Highly recommended! DL

Parker, William/Joe Morris/Ham - “Eloping with the Sun ” - [Hypo Production]

Three of the leading lights in the world of improvised music combine forces to create this very unique release. Performing respectively on the sintir (a Morroccan bass lute usually associated with Gnawa music), banjo and banjouke (a ukelele hybrid), and frame drum, these remarkable musicians create a sound that is both reminiscent of traditional instrumental Middle Eastern and African folk music and seemingly totally new at the same time. On each of the five tracks, Parker and Drake lay down a rhythmic groove while Morris freestyles over them like Earl Scruggs on crack. Innovative and hypnotic - play! DL

Jackie-O Motherfucker - “Change” - [Textile Records]

Jackie-O Mofo checks in with this field report as they continue on their journey down the path of musical exploration and cut-out bin obscurity. Always a fairly “free” unit, Jackie-O has toned down the louder, more raucous elements of their earlier releases in favor of a more textured, organic approach. The opening track, “Everyday”, sets the standard for that new (sub)genre that all the alleged “Americana” experts have completely missed: late-night, downcast, “free country”. “Sun Ray Harvester” is an eastern-tinged piece of atmospheric, bang and clatter, basement improv/psych. “7” is a 47 second waste of vinyl. “777 (Tombstone Massive)” mines a similar vein as ”Sun Ray Harvester”, except the eastern influences are replaced by more jazzy elements and the track is way more chaotic, in general, due to the abrupt changes that occur as a result of the track’s “cut and paste” editing.The album’s final track, “Fantasy Hay Co-Op” is another tense, late-night offering that centers around a couple of repetitive figures and is, as a result, more focused and satisfying (IMHO) than “777 (Tombstone Massive)”. Overall, this is quite an interesting and enjoyable release. Play! DL

Kinski - “Airs Above Your Station ” - [Subpop]

After 30+ years of psych/spacerock, it takes something pretty special to really make an impact on me. Unfortunately, this latest full-length from Seattle’s Kinski (their third) is not such an album. It is, however, an enjoyable record of (mostly) instrumental contemporary psych/spacerock, filled with the standard elements of the (sub)genre: analogue synth tones and drones, Krautrock rhythms, and thick, shoegaze, distorto-haze, applied in different combinations and intensities on various tracks to create music that is at some times spare, delicate, and melodic and other times is propulsive and soaring. “Semaphore” (which should already be familar to you, as a live version of it was included, under a different title, on KFJC’s, “…Devil’s Triangle, Vol. 4” compilation) and “Rhode Island Feakout” are the most straight-up rockers on the album. Both versions of “I Think I Blew It” are blissed out, ambient solo pieces by leader Chris (Ampbuzz) Martin. I find “Your Lights Are (Out Or) Burning Badly” to be reminiscent of GYBE, but in a shorter and way stripped down form. “Schedule For Using Pillows And Beanbags” is the album’s epic centerpiece. As I said, certainly nothing groundbreaking, but still an enjoyable listening experience. DL

Migrantes - “Monsoon Moods ” - [Eclipse Records]

This is the second full-length release from the Arizona Duo, Migrantes. Two tracks (A2 and B2) are actual songs in a folk psych vein. The remaining four tracks are more “otherworldly”, Featuring mainly droning organ and Caroline’s ethereal, effected vocals. “Gesture”, which features Jason on electric guitar, is the most loud/aggressive of these tracks, while “Baboquivari”, offers the most pure drone bliss. A nice soundtrack for rainy days and late nights. For those about to float…DL

Davis Redford Triad - “Code Orange ” - [Holy Mountain]

Hot on the heels of their recent stunning live performances (one at the Hemlock and one here at KFJC), comes this new disc from the Davis Redford Triad. “Code Orange” is a live collage of performances from their Spring 2002 tour. It includes material from their prvious releases, as well as rocked-out, electric versions of material from leader Steven Wray Lobdell’s excellent solo album, “Automatic Writing By The Moon“. In addition, there are three new pieces, which will appear onthe next DRT studio album. All the tracks are instrumental psych jams, some more Krautrock influenced, others more middle-eastern tinged, but all driven by the unique, effects-laden, colorful sonic attack of Lobdell and his old ES335. Overall, this certainly is worth a spin or two, but I can’t deny that it seems a little pale in comparison to the scorching brilliance of their recent shows. More proof that Dolphy was right. DL

Shipp, Matthew - “Equilibrium ” - [Thirsty Ear Recordings]

Anybody who has been at KFJC for, oh, more than a week or two, should already know that Matthew Shipp is widely regarded as the finest pianist in Jazz today. What is, perhaps, even more impressive to me than his incredible talent as a pianist, is the fact that he continues to explore new territories, rather than resting on his laurels. He could easily and, quite rightly, be satisfied with the adulation of his colleagues and fans and with the fact that he, unlike the majority musicians of any style, can make a living creating music he loves. But Shipp, through both his performances and his work as curator of Thirsty Ear’s peerless “Blue Series”, continues to push his limits and expand the concept of what Jazz is and can be. This outstanding release is the logical “next step” down Shipp’s personal path of sonic exploration, in that it brings together all the aspects of his recent recordings into a seamless mix of Jazz, beats, and electronic music. There are tracks (3) that remind you of the organic, ambient, post-music soundscapes of the “New Orbit” CD. There are tracks (2 and 4) that mix Jazz with electronics and beats, as heard on the “Nu Bop” CD. The remaining material is reminiscent of his “Pastoral Compusure” CD, in that fairly “straight ahead” Jazz tracks combine, in a less heavy handed manner, some of the elements described above to organically morph into a more modern, new form of Jazz. This is a brilliant album that, truly, can (and should) be played on almost every show. Don’t be afraid of the blue dot. Enjoy!!! DL

Sole - “Selling Live Water ” - [Anticon.]

Anticon member, Sole, returns with a very ambitious and successful second full-length release. Musically, he throws everything but the kitchen sink at you, as jazzy horns, vibes, ambient drones, bleeding Krautrock electronics, and seductive pop guitars are all integrated quite comfortably with traditional hip-hop beats, scratches, and classic soul samples. Lyrically, he also covers a lot of ground, with compelling rants about things we can all relate to (work, relationships, life/death, geo-politics) and deeply personal, soul baring sketches (that you also might be able to relate to, depending on your particular
psychoses), as well. Overall, this is a stunning release that fulfills the goals of the Anticon”mission statement” by transcending the traditional preconceptions/lmitations regarding what hip-hop is and/or could/should be. Music for the advancement of hip-hop, indeed! Play! DL

Drake, Hamid and Assif Tsahar - “Soul Bodies, Vol. 1 ” - [Ayler Records]

Having been duly impressed with, “Piercing The Veil”, Drake’s outstanding 2001 duo release with William Parker, I was looking forward to this release with great anticipation. As the liner notes indicate, Drake is currently one of the most respected percussionists in the Free Jazz scene and, like Parker, his playing impresses in seemingly every context. Tsahar, while less known, has been a major contributor in the NYC Free Jazz scene for the last decade or so, through his performances and his efforts as the head of Hopscotch Records and co-founder of the awesome Vision Festival. After the useless introduction track, there are three lenghty tracks. Two of them (the first and third tracks) are awesome freedom chases that are reminiscent of John Coltrane’s duo blowouts with Rashid Ali. The first of these, “Soul Bodies”, starts out slowly, with Tsahar soloing, before it really takes off; whereas the latter, “Heart’s Mind” is pretty scorching from beginning to end. The second track, “Clay Dancers”, is an excellent Middle-Eastern flavored piece in which Drake chants in Arabic while playing the frame drumand Tsahar adds some very tasteful bass clarinet. Excellent! DL

Howard, Noah - “Live at the Unity Temple” - [Ayler Records]

Like all but the biggest names in free jazz, Noah Howard has labored in relative obscurity for many years, despite performing with such luminaries as Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and Sun Ra and having releases on such legendary labels as ESP, Freedom, and so on. On this release, Howard leads his long-running and very tight quartet through five original compositions, including two of his signature pieces, “The Blessing” and “Schizophrenic Blues”. Howard’s playing is crisp,
melodic, and clear: alternating intense freedom chases with passages of mournful, Coleman-esque alto wailing. Pianist Bobby Few is also quite impressive on this date, providing an appropriate foundation in every instance for Howard’s alto flights. In fact, my only real complaint with this release is that Few’s incredible assaults on the keyboard are often times difficult to fully
hear (and appreciate) amongst Howard and Duncan’s sonic attack; such is the nature of live to two track recordings. Overall, a very satisfying blast of free jazz - enjoy! DL

Gate - “Metric ” - [Majora]

This latest LP from Gate (the solo/side project of Dead C. guitarist, Michael Morley) is a reissue of a 1991 cassette only release on Morley’s own Precious Metal label. The sound here is similar to the Dead C. (in fact, “Hope” and “Constellations” were later recorded by the Dead C.), although these tracks have a noticeably more “normal” song structure. Each side begins with a quietier, somber track which is followed by two tracks of dense Dead C. distorto-disintegration. The final track on each side is short. “Evidence” is a spliced tape sampler and “Forced Sight” is an excellent track with thick feedback over a droning organ. A great record: possibly my favorite by the Dead C. or any of its members. Play! DL

Sun City Girls - “Kaliflower ” - [Abduction]

Another blast from the prolific Sun City Girls. Most of the tracks exhibit their trademark eastern influences with lots of chanting, an emphasis on percussion, and twisted, psychotic instrumental workouts. A couple of the tracks, however, have an almost “normal” pop/rock sound. Yes, this is probably their most accessible release to date, but it is still great. Hopefully, those of you who’ve been scared by their previous releases will now give some airtime to one of the most innovative artists going. One of the bestreleases of the year. Play! DL

Cohran, Philip & the A.H.E. - ”S/T ” - [Aestruarium]

Although he has been credited on only a few releases, Phil Cohran has been among the leading lights of the Chicago Jazz scene for over 40 years. Highlights of his resume include being a member of the Arkestra in the early 60’s and being one of the founders of the AACM, along with such notables as Richard Muhal Abrams, Lester Bowie, and so on. This release documents previously unissued recordings of Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble from the mid-60’s. The music sounds like what you’d expect from an associate of Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble crew: extended jams that display a heavy African/Middle Eastern influence, with lots of hand percussion, bells, and exotic, homemade instruments like the violin uke and the Frankophone (an amplified Kalimba). Highlights include the showcase for the droning violin uke, “Unity” and the two Frankophone showcases, “On The Beach” and “New Frankophone Blues”. Truly a great discovery. Play! DL

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