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Jazz Percussion Genius. A comprehensive look at the musical career of Moondog a.k.a Louis Thomas Hardin. Mostly short pieces from early in his career when he was homeless in New York playing for money on street corners with his custom-made triangle drums (Trimba). He was lucky enough to find a few visionaries to help get his music recorded. Blind for most of his life and dressing like a viking after he was said to have looked like Jesus, Moondog lived on the edges of society. Offered to play once at Carnigie Hall if he didn’t wear the viking outfit, he declined. He appeared with such luminaries as Janis Joplin, William S. Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, Allen Ginsberg and hailed by artists such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich as the originator of minimalism. The Native American influences in Moondog’s music are right up front and inviting. Let’s hope there are more reissues of Moondog’s early works, this type of musicianship shouldn’t be lost to old 78s in a garage. –Numa
Numa’s Picks: 7, 8, 12, 21, 24, 26
Ambient Free Noise. A new release from bay-area free noise duo Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman. The Yellow Swans are ‘Drifty? with this release. Each Yellow Swans release features a new name staring with ‘D?. Drift in this release is not only another name change, but reflects the music as well. Their sonic explorations takes you on a journey through outer-space and inner-space. No obvious beat to be found here, the syncopation is an individual experience. Guitars melt into and out of the electronic buzz and unlike other Yellow Swan releases, the drum machine is hard to spot. The ambient yet industrial sound on this album is solid. Side 1 reflections: Electrons flowing along the high-tension high-voltage power lines in the desert. Sucked into the back of a 1950′s black-and-white television and blasted on the inside of the tube. Licking the Wonka Wallpaper while being cut in half by a table saw. Trees felled as twilight falls. Side 2 reflections: Travels through a sunspot radiation storm. Floating, gentle, and melting. — Numa
Solo acoustic beauty. Being one of the lucky few to have a copy of James Blackshaw’s ‘Celeste? here at the station, I’m happy to see that his music is becoming more accessible with this release on Important Records. Celeste was a limited cdr release, but with this album, Blackshaw’s beautiful work on a 12-string guitar can be experienced by more than a couple hundred lucky souls. The rarity of his recordings have limited his broader appeal, but that is about to change. Calming sounds for journeys through a natural setting can be found here on “O True Believers”. The four tracks included on this release offer a sample of the remarkable range of his abilities. Comparisons of Robbie Basho, John Fahey, and Leo Kottke are not uncommon to his work. James Blackshaw can take you on a ride through eastern cities with his raga-inspired The Elk with Jade Eyes or through a rainy forest with Transient Life in Twilight. Breathe deep and take in this extraordinary guitarist’s passion. — Numa
Thanksgiving is Portland-based Adrian Orange. Bedroom-sounding recordings from Adrian Orange who has been compared to Will Oldham with his styling. His songs are simple and perplexing at the same time. Most of the tracks are just his pastoral lyrics with acoustic guitar accompaniment. His vocals can be slightly off-key and have obscure lyrical content and themes. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. The one thing you don’t doubt on this recording is his passion for the message. Adrian throws himself fully into his songs. This release never lets you get overly comfortable by tossing in the occasional track to throw of your equilibrium. Adrian Orange has been putting out albums since he was in high school; he is only 20 and has already released 10 separate recordings. Expect many more recordings from Adrian Orange. This album was hit and miss at times, a little raw. — Numa
FCC unfriendly language on 4, 9, and 19
Anvil Salute from Norman, Oklahoma, is a best described by themselves as semi-improvised droning fractured folk. This is their first full release on the foxglove series from Brad Rose and Digitalis Industries. This album was recorded in April of 2005 at Mainsite Contemporary Art in Norman, Oklahoma. Percussion is a strong suit with Anvil Salute, their pieces make extensive use of many different percussion instruments from sleigh bells to caba’as. No semblance of lyrics to be found here, Anvil Salute stands on their musical merits alone. Their music evokes a feelings from relaxing acoustic pieces to tribal dances to free jazz with flute instead of a sax. I know what you are thinking, how can all this work together? Anvil Salute makes it almost seamless between tracks. — Numa
Grouper is Oakland-based Liz Harris. Ambient but unsettling. Looped tape hiss and hazy sounds fill this album setting the base for her beautiful yet haunting mix or indistinct post-processed vocals with pulsing guitars and keyboards. I couldn’t escape the feeling of drowning in the while I listened to this album. Curious whales happening by with their large sad eyes wanting to help only to know I was doomed. Harris’ voice is that of the helpless creatures that can do nothing but empathize with your demise. Perfect for a rainy day. Another fine release from Alaska-based Free Porcupine Society. — Numa
A excellent collection here from Brad Rose/Digitalis Industries. A sampling of spectral folk to psychoacoustic fields and singer/songwriters to mild noise. The placement of a few larger names (Six Organs of Admittance, James Blackshaw, Wooden Wand, Nick Castro) here helps to give exposure of some artists that should be heard by all. A great collection that highlights many of the outstanding artists that have been released on Digitalis. This massive collection has 59 artists and spans 3 CDs. It rates right up there as one of the best collections I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. A two CD treatment might have been just right in length, 3CDs make it epic though. It sometimes makes some large jumps in themes from traveling through space with channel ghosting to confessional folk, but that is a part of the charm. Right after the first three tracks I was hooked. The tracks are mostly short (~ 3 minutes) and glued together in ways that keep the listener involved and actively listening.
Headphones optional, seatbelt prohibited.
Language: Disc2 Track6 – “fuck”
Summary: Art/Punk/Noise akin to Sonic Youth
This is the first split 7-inch of Not Not Fun‘s Bored Fortress 7-inch club. This release features noise-rock stylings Chicago-based Coughs and LA-based Night Wounds. Coughs “Sexual Hijinx” (5:27): Sonic Youth-style noise rock. Concussive guitars bottom out to the unabashed screams from Anya Davidson. This track is pretty heavy compared with the tracks from their 2005 debut release Fright Makes Right, it is driving and unforgiving. Night Wounds “Hex Appeal” (2:46): Noise-punk stylings here from Night Wounds. This side of the split is quite a bit lighter compared with the Coughs. Slightly distorted vocals accompany the clean guitar thrashings and sax with the drums trying to hold it all together.
Good stuff from Not Not Fun here, looking forward to the other 5 releases in the Bored Fortress 7-inch club.
Summary: Minimalist improvised guitar instrumental work with breathing room.
This 2005 release features the ever-evolving sounds of David Grubbs. Grubbs’ works range from more structured songs with Squirrel Bait and Bastro to improvisational work with Jim O’Rourke in Gastr Del Sol as well as many solo albums. The two instrumental pieces on this CD were written to accompany enlarged-pixel artwork of Angela Bulloch. The first piece, ‘Z Point? (8:14), uses source material from the 1970 film Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni. The first half of ‘Z Point? is spotted with sounds from Germans speaking to repetetive explosions that were taken from the final scene of the film. The second half of “Z Point” is more traditional with two guitars battling, one acoustic the other electric, to the end. The second piece, ‘Horizontal Technicolour? (13:12), is based upon footage shot by Bulloch in Death Valley (where a large portion of Zabriskie Point was filmed). The soundscape is more cohesive than in ‘Z Point? with rising and falling effect-laden guitar distortions.
Listening to this short release left me wanting for more. A bit short at 21:26 to sit down with on its own, but a great supplement with other Gastr Del Sol and Jim O’Rourke works.
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