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This mostly instrumental album (1972) was Cale’s second solo effort, and it’s a transitional work in that he had been writing songs for a while–”Vintage Violence” was his previous solo record and that one was all songs–but he was not ready to leave behind the 1960′s avant-garde instrumental sounds he had been known for before the Velvet Underground came along. So there is some of that here. Cale was also classically trained on viola and piano, and that’s another influence that plays a big part on this record. There are three nice, medium-length piano pieces, and The Royal Philharmonic appears on an 8-minute orchestral suite on Side 2 and then joins Cale on the final track. There are a few oddball tracks: “The Philosopher” is all slide guitar, trumpet, and junk percussion; “King Harry” has actual lyrics but Cale delivers them in a creepy whisper; and there is a track on Side 1 that features Legs Larry Smith (of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) giving instructions to someone at a television studio with Cale’s overdubbed violas underneath. Ron Wood appears to be on this record someplace. I wouldn’t call every track strong, but if you’re a Cale fan, or even just curious about him, you’ll find some things to like here.
Swiss artist Meirino joins forces with the Bay Area’s own Wittmer (aka Misanthropic Agenda) to bring us a foundation of distant hums, rumblings, gurglings, and notes veiled in deep layers of corrosion. Closer up in the mix we hear all manner of glitchy sounds, static, labored breathing, sometimes voices. The overall impression I get is that we have somehow stumbled into a place where terrible things happen and we do not know the way out. This disturbing, evil CD would have been right at home on ‘Radio Free Hatred.’ The artists specify that all three tracks (11 minutes, 8 minutes, and 14 minutes) are to be listened to in one continuous session.
Guerineau, Sylvain/Kent Carter/Itaru Oki/Makoto Sato – “D’une Rive a L’autre” – [Improvising Beings]
Free jazz sounds from this international quartet, all four members having been based in France since the 1970s and well-known on the jazz/improv scene. What we get here are wide-ranging workouts on tenor sax, trumpet/flugelhorn, bass, and drums. Plenty of variety in this music, with some quiet, ambient-ish sections contrasting with wild sections full of high energy blowing and banging. And of course, everything in between. Trumpeter Itaru Oki also plays a bit of flute. I especially enjoyed bassist Kent Carter, who is solid and also gets some unusual sounds out of his instrument.
2013 release from now-defunct Portland OR band. Layers of noisy guitars. Atonal goodness. Lots of chord changes. Morose vocals. “I don’t want to talk about it any more; I just want to go back to sleep.” A pop sensibility at times. I hear many influences in their music–in various places The Cure, Sonic Youth, Versus, Sunny Day Real Estate, and various shoegaze bands came to mind. A dense guitar-attack sound overall. A3 is a short irresistible track in which the vocals switch back and forth between singing and yelling.
Trio playing a potent mix of politically themed California Chicano rock and Native American traditional material. Some tracks bring the raw plugged-in energy of a good garage band, while others take a more elegant approach with a 12-string acoustic guitar. Track 4 on Side 2 is a charging rocker with lyrics in Spanish and an aggressive cumbia beat, and it really works.
Good luck with this one. The Mae Shi is/was a So Cal quartet with two brothers and (I think) various others over the years. This 2004 effort is spaZz rock with a capital Z. They said they didn’t want to make a boring rock album and yeah they absolutely didn’t. They whipped out more than 30 tracks, ranging in length from 6 seconds to just under 3 minutes and said OK here it is, deal with it. Expect mass quantities of high energy thrash and deranged vocals, broken up by various electronic bits and pieces and weirdness–it’s like they used every idea they ever had and smooshed them all together, one after another. This record has, according to the band, eleven songs about the Old and New Testament, ten songs about a prehistoric bird, three songs about vampires, two songs about werewolves, two songs about poisoning in the middle ages, one song about sharks, one song about California, and one song about dolphins in the military. You’re going to want to put this CD on continuous play and bite off a big chunk.
Earthy jazz sounds honoring the late, esteemed bassist Malachi Favors (aka Big M) who was the original bassist in this Ritual Trio, headed by Chicago percussionist Kahil El’Zabar. As a member of The Art Ensemble of Chicago and the AACM, Favors was a huge influence musically, and also as somewhat of a father figure, on El’Zabar from an early age. After Favors passed away in 2004, El’Zabar decided to reform the Ritual Trio with Ari Brown on saxophone and Yosef Ben Israel on bass. This 2004 date is a tribute to Big M, with guest Billy Bang on violin. On various tracks, you’ll hear El’Zabar on either trap drums, “earth drums” (African hand drums) or kalimba. He also adds some flute and, on the final track, vocals. Tenor saxophonist Ari Brown plays with a great raw tone and also checks in with some first rate piano on a couple of tracks. If you’re a fan of big, booming, acoustic double bass propulsion, then you’ll enjoy what Ben Israel is up to here. Track 7 is a bluesy vocal piece with piano, bass, violin, and flute, but no percussion–not my favorite track here. Everything else, though, is a fragrant stew of low down African-influenced jazz grooves. Tracks are medium length, in the 6 to 11 minute range.
Here is M.C. Schmidt (of Matmos) with something he’s calling a suite for prepared piano, flutes, and electronics. And that’s pretty much what it is–along with percussion, homemade instruments, voices, bird calls, a steel bowl, and more. Two long pieces of electroacoustic adventure. For the most part this is spacious music and all the instruments and sounds are given room to breathe. The piano tones sometimes remind me of gamelan sounds, but on a small scale, not one of those big gamelan orchestras. When the Asian flute comes in, it makes for an exotic listening experience. Track 2 has a passage where someone is speaking in Chinese, and there are also vocoder vocals, and at another point backward vocals. Local sound wizards Thomas Dimuzio and Wobbly are collaborators on this, adding electronic textures and (one would think) treatments with their Buchlas and Super Manetrons and whatnot. At one point I heard what sounded like classic analog Moog sounds and that was nice.
Here is a French F trio keeping the darkwave sound alive. Reminiscent of bands such as Lost Sounds and even approaching a no-wave thing in places. Bass, drums, keyboards, vocals. No guitars that I could detect. The vaguely evil-sounding keyboards are the best part. I heard some horn-like sounds in a couple of places so maybe they invited a sax or a trumpet to the party. Some of the singing is in French but I’m pretty sure there are some other languages in there too–German maybe, and English too I think. Bleak and dreary and good.
Saxophonist Logan was a respected, though erratic, figure in the early days of free jazz. He only made a couple of records and played with a small number of notable musicians, and then pretty much disappeared for decades. With a great deal of support from admirers, he seems to be making somewhat of a comeback and that’s a good thing.
This CD is an airy, spacious affair featuring Logan on sax and solo piano (track 3), Jessica Lurie on sax and flute, and Larry Roland on bass. No drums. Guitarist Ed Pettersen (who also produced the CD) plays mostly subtle textural /looping things underneath, which gives the music an interesting flavor. My favorite parts are when Logan is on sax and Lurie is on flute–we hear some truly inspired conversation.
The liner notes tell us the story of how Logan was tracked down and brought into the studio to record this CD.
A fantastically odd record. Hard to describe. Amazingly creative. Sara and Jason, a duo from Oregon or maybe Washington, certainly have some strange ideas about how to put music together. Things that really shouldn’t work together somehow do.
They both sing, so we get male and female vocals along with guitar, violin, mandolin, percussion, keyboards. Drum machine. Unidentifiable sounds. A handful of guests add various instruments–woodwinds, viola, synths and samples, percussion. It takes a few listens to hear everything that’s going on and even then you won’t. Every track is deep and interesting.
The first track is low and slow and swampy. In fact the whole record sounds like it emerged from a swamp somewhere and wants to crawl into your brain. Which it does. If I were wearing a mood ring it would be green-blue. Or maybe blue-violet. I forget which of those means tripped out and happy but that’s the color it would be. Maybe a bit of orange for confusion and wariness.
This review sucks, I know. Why did I mention swamps and mood rings? The record is really strange and great; I should have just left it at that.
Sometimes all it takes is a little dose of RLLRBLL to make everything OK. Here’s a nice new four track EP to hold us over until… well, who knows what– one can never tell what this band will do next, musically speaking. But RLLRBLL is always a trip worth taking. They continue to cover a lot of stylistic ground for a three piece. To wit:
Appealing noisy pop quartet from the Netherlands. Nothing fancy here; pretty much your basic two guitars/bass/drums/vocals lineup. Occasional extra coloration in the form of keyboards, vibes, and violin. The first track is reminiscent of classic shoegaze–mid-tempo and dense throughout, with floaty vocals semi-buried in the mix. It’s probably my favorite track. The other tracks feature dynamic arrangements with some twists and turns to keep things interesting. And overall the songs are pleasantly melodic. You really can’t go wrong with any of the tracks.
Blackshaw leads a chamber-type quartet through a musical suite that accompanies Louis Feuillade’s 1914 silent film “Fantomas: Le Faux Magistrat.” This performance was recorded live at a Parisian theater October 2013. Blackshaw, best known as a guitarist, also plays grand piano here. The other three musicians play a wide variety of instruments among them: guitars, piano, saxophone, flute, vibraphone, violin, bass guitar, synthesizer, percussion, and electronics. The music throughout is quite beautiful in a melancholy way, and the recorded sound is excellent. Tracks A3 and D1 start as soundscapey things (tone poems?) and develop into something more musical. There is a recurring motif that shows up at various times throughout the album–an insistent pedal tone sort of thing on the low notes of Blackshaw’s piano. Nothing here really stands out musically on its own, but as accompaniment to a silent film, I’m sure it serves its purpose well.
Ferocious, disjointed noisemusic. Crashing, thudding drums, squealing distorted guitar, wall of feedback, buzzes and hums, tormented vocals. Amplifiers as weapons. Howling chaos and cacophony. “Let flowers burst from my chest. Let roots coil in my skull.” Most tracks are between 3 and 7 minutes in length. No vocals on # 3, 5, and 8.
Releases on Portland OR’s North Pole Records always bring a smile to my face. Here is a compilation of tracks by artists from Portland and elsewhere, grouped loosely under the banner of pop music. The leadoff track is a noisy slowburner by Paint and Copter, then comes Dramady with a perky pop song, followed by a stately acoustic guitar instrumental by Mattia Coletti. Quite a variety as you can see, and that variety continues throughout the CD. Among the other artists on this compilation are KFJC favorites Rollerball, Remora, Miss Massive Snowflake, Moodring, and OVO. In addition to those artists, I like the tracks by Coronation (upbeat and synth-y), Squarcicatrici (a wild jazz instrumental), Ronin (a galloping spaghetti western thing with some weird stuff in the middle) and the Sadnesses (a found sound noise piece.) It’s a cliche, I know, but there is something for just about everybody on here. Damn, though, I wish that wistful Remora track was longer than 1:26. The rockin’ Miss Massive Snowflake track is too short as well.
Airy, moody electroacoustic trio action with trumpet, drums, and vibraphone. Werner Hasler alternates between playing jazz trumpet and making odd textural sounds with his electronic processing. Gilbert Paeffgen’s drumming is super subtle and creative, perfectly supporting what the others are doing but rarely calling attention to itself. Karl Berger has played in just about every type of musical situation there is, and has developed his own distinctive style on vibes; sometimes he is content to set the scene for a piece with repeating patterns that interlock with Paeffgen’s drums, and other times his playing is more out front, taking the lead melodically or busting out a solo. Great musical interplay here. First rate playing by all.
Vocal and instrumental recordings from 1905-1928. (For some reason the album cover says 1916-1930, but I’m going with the liner notes because they date the individual tracks.)
A 23 minute EP of weird bedroom recordings. Everything performed by Mr. Long as I understand it. The foundation seems to be guitar, as there are lots of them coming in and out of the mix, balanced nicely with programmed beats, kitchen-utensil-style percussion, talking/mumbling, squiggling/squawking, and unexpected pockets of electronic strangeness. The music gets a bit guitar-riffy from time to time and that’s fun. It sounds as though he doesn’t know quite where he wants to go with this project but he doesn’t let that stop him from laying the stuff down. And he is creative, I’ll give him that. Worth an open-minded listen or two or three.
International group, as the name implies. Miya Masaoka and Larry Ochs represent the Bay Area improv scene as they join forces with Didier Petit and Sylvain Kassap of France and Xu Fengxia of China. Seven pieces of music, composed I believe but with ample room for inspired improvisations by the group. Ochs (saxes) and Kassap (clarinets) provide the reeds part of the conversation, Masaoka (koto) and Fengxia (guzheng) make lovely, interesting sounds with their traditional Asian string instruments, and Petit sort of ties it all together with his unusual cello style. Petit and Fengxia also do some vocals. Each player shows tasteful restraint; there is a lot of open space here and nobody tries to take over. It’s cool that five players with such different backgrounds and styles can find common ground and make coherent musical statements like these.
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