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A nice pairing of black metal bands that neither take the genre too seriously nor play lightly with, or within, it. Both bands, neither a newcomer to the KFJC library, do a solid job with the axe grinding and “cookie monster” vocals, neither stops there. Kudos to Wormwood for knowing that a piano can be among the blackest of instruments, and using melody to set up a solid and eventually very satisfying countertension to the axe and drums. Teen Cthulu brings energy, enthusiasm and sweeping backgrounds to a thrashing pair of shorter songs. This is a fine release, even for those, such as myself, who don’t know the genre well but are willing to give an honest listen.
Programming note: The two Teen Cthulhu songs are separated by about one second – good luck!
Batoh-san occasionally steps away from Ghost to do some of his own work, which simultaneously does and doesn’t sound like Ghost, attesting to the strength of his influence on the band, while showing that it is not his work alone. This disc is an interesting slice of Batoh-san’s solo output of the last twenty years, from the ghostly presence of “Benthos” to the almost comic sincerity of “World of Pain” to the shamanistic meandering of “Magakami”, to… well, every track seems to have its own vitality, so you are encouraged to screen before broadcasting to determine which tracks most appeal to you. Fortunately, this is not difficult, as the tracks quickly resolve their character before exploring it.
3WR: Moody broody beauty
If you want to know how passionate Talibam! are about improvised music, read the text underneath the CD holder (despite the clear plastic, much squinting and manoeuvring is required). The music plays out with such passion, producing a set of tunes surprisingly individualistic for improvisation. The band will go to great lengths, even serving up improvised (and mostly unintelligible) lyrics on track 4. Everything can vary – instruments, tempo, genre, mood – both within and between songs. It is at times difficult to believe that this is all improvised, as the musicians are so well synchronized. Full of surprises at every turn – very entertaining and rewarding listening.
Jesse Rakusin, or, as he’s known on stage, Howlin’ Magic, likes to drive wild fuzzy feedbacked amelodic madness out of his guitar and onto the world. Apparently he also likes to write his tracklist in crayon. The work is talented and enthusiastic, if a bit limited in scope – the tracks tend to blend together – and a little familiar sounding (just a little). Tribalistic percussion enhances the effect nicely. How to best describe? “Semi-melodic noise guitar”? “Instrumental free-psyche”? “Folk music for an expanding universe”? There’s no need to get hung up on terminology when you can get spaced out on vibrafuzz!
Raw, uninhibited creativity of the kind oft sought. Variant timings, random accents, freeform lyrics (check the liner notes), general insanity. Mouth noises, musical laughter, kitchen materials as instruments (try track 8), musical yawning, even possibly intentional burps and coughs. This will drive the neighbors out of their house, so you probably love it already. The songs paint complex, emotional, and very feminine pictures – well, that’s what they did for me, but these may be musical Jackson Pollacks, and you’ll only know after you’ve listened – carefully.
Quick Picks: 1, 5, 8, 9 (but do yourself a favor and explore)
Playing percussion, harp, and double base, often using avante-garde playing styles, The Sealed Knot serves up a ponderous, methodical skullcrushing that will leave you with a confused smile on your face. Two tracks, and they’re long. Loooooooooo – holy crap – oooooooong! Not just long in time, but in space, musical space, whence they drop off into silences so gently that you plunge in after, attentive and alert, to find… nothing? Something? At the edge of perception, is that the percussionist? Sneakily, they return before you abandon, teasing you onward, occasionally coalescing just enough for you to get a flash insight, but then they’re gone again, leaving you to swim for it. Is that a life preserver… the faintest hint of a beat?! No, wait…
Extremely challenging material.
Colleen, a band comprised of one woman not named Colleen, has made a bit of a splash in the techno scene. This time around, she applies minimalist techno sensibilities to classical instruments. The results are intriguing – on the one hand, the rich sonic textures of the instruments make them perfect candidates for these treatments, on the other, such familiar instruments beg to be applied to more challenging material. The net result is a subtle tension that focuses attention on the music and helps create an expansion of time within each piece. The effect varies depending upon how much attention you pay, which turns things inside out and yields music that is static each play, but dynamic across plays. A pleasant enigma.
Five of the finest Czech string musicians gather to give interpretation to Leos Janacek’s song cycle inspired by the poetry, people, and music of Moravia (now the eastern part of the Czech Republic). Although Janacek passed on in 1928, this is not an homage so much as a part of the continued effort to understand and appreciate his work, which tells much of how this composer has enthralled the Czech people, although he is little known elsewhere.
The one thing that stands out immediately is the recording fidelity. While folk songs are often captured as field recordings, this disc was made by experienced musicians in one of the Republic’s finest studios. The voices and instruments ring out in their purity, and it becomes much easier to appreciate the music when tone, overtone, and color are all intact. The singers and playing alike are top notch. The excellent liner notes include all lyrics, with English translation. Many are simple seeming (“My Lover’s Horses”, “Rosemary”), but some seem to mean other than what they say (“Gnats’ Wedding”, “Game Warden”, “Carnation”), although that may be due simply to the gap between my experience and Moravian country life. Some of the songs are, or are derived from, real Moravian poetry and/or folk songs, the rest were composed by Janacek as inspired by such. All have that special quality of putting much meaning into few words.
Programming notes: Tracks are short (0:23 – 3:34) and sweet, violin and voice heavy, clear and simple, but not insubstantial. Strong folk sound.
It all starts slowly. Very, very slowly…
I never noticed her approach. I don’t know how I could have missed it, but I did. She was just there, an anthropomorphization of a pink pair of panties, floating in the air in front of me. I knew exactly what to say.
“Hello!” She was unduly chipper. I wanted to sit on my bed, listening to this music. That’s all I wanted. I was doomed to more than that. “How are you today?”
“Ummmm… OK.” My wits kicked in. “Do I know you?”
“Don’t you remember me?” The panties bobbed in front of me, seemingly agitated. “Well, it has been a while…”
“Since?” This conversation was not going anywhere I wanted to be, if I actually wanted to be anywhere.
The band brings things together, but not closely, as if they were obsessed with protecting each other’s personal space.
“Well, I think the last time I saw you was that summer picnic so many years ago. You had grown so big!” I shrugged. It had been a long time since I stopped growing big and started growing fat. She gave me that sweet sideways smile again. “You remember your Uncle Joe?”
Uncle Joe was only whispered about anymore, and that rarely. I tried to remember what they’d say. “Uncle Joe…”
The band swells just a little, like during the openings of one of those stage rock megasongs that was maybe a grand composition, maybe just a way to chew up a side of vinyl.
She bobbed even more. “Well, the divorce was pretty messy, so I understand if you don’t want to talk about it.” She calmed a little, then raised herself up – errr… floated higher. “I was,” she dips a little, raises up again, “I am, your auntie!”
I stared. Not at her, not at the wall, not at anything. I just stared. “Auntie…”
“Yes!” She beamed, “Auntie Panty!”
A clarinet, sounding like 90′s squonk jazz, but lighter, breathy, wanders into the mix. The sound is still light, barely composed. It makes a nice background for our conversation.
“Auntie…,” I couldn’t get it all out. You’d think I would have remembered this. I can’t recall seeing her before, and now she won’t go away.
“So how have you been keeping yourself?” She swayed now, seemingly at ease. “How’s your love life been?”
I blanched. To discuss that… with… “Uhhhh…..”
She rose a little higher. “Oh, you don’t have to tell me… yet. I know it may take you a while to get used to me being around again. I’ll give you plenty of time!”
She floated down a little at last, now below my eye level, and gave me that sideways smile again. “I’ll be going now. See you real soon!” With that, she floated out my bedroom door, and, somehow, closed it behind her.
The band kept going for a long time, delicately keeping on without really going anywhere. Just like me.
Dom Elchklang offers up their 15th anniversary compilation, in which they ask, by way of almost their entire stable of artists (with the notable exception of Moose without a Sofa), why the bloody hell after 15 years we only have two of their titles in our library. Kinda like sonically jumping up and down on our heads wearing spike heels and screaming, “WHY NOT??!! WHY? WHY? WHY?”. Yeah, it’s like that, and we’re like total bitches for sonic spike heels, squirming with pleasure and muttering about how naughty we’ve been. Frankly, they have a point – we should give this label more respect.. The artists collectively have a definite Dom Elchklang sound, yet individually have excellent variety. Most importantly, it has Korea Soundblaster on it. You already love it, you just haven’t heard it yet.
Emperor X, the stage name for Chad Matheny (and sometimes some of his friends) , emerges from his bedroom with a broken Tascam 388 and eleven musically unsophisticated tracks infused with the pungency of simple honesty. The Emperor pushes most of his equipment, already hovering on the verge of death, and himself to the brink, then sings and dances for a while before heaving the equipment over the brink to keep himself from falling in. Your favorites may not be the same as mine, but you’re bound to have at least one. Lose yourself for two to five minutes at a time.
Lubomyr (don’t call him “Bud”) Melnyk is one of those brilliant-to-the-point-of-insanity types that always makes us happy, should they choose a career in music. Lubomyr is obsessed with the role of the audience, assigning us a role as important as the musician or the instrument. It is only due to his then-burgeoning curiosity in the use of recording equipment (the utility of which he originally vehemently denied) that this recording (which, oddly, does not appear on his official website) was ever made. This is Continuous Mode Piano, which is simple arpeggio repition, or, if you have the ears to hear it, a brilliant and subtle interplay of overtones. Even the critics disagreee, and it is noteworthy (and brutally ironic) that the man who maintained that modern recording techniques could lose the spirit of a piece is dogged by critics who apparently can’t find the spirit in his work. Can you find it? Even if you can’t, it’s worth a listen.
The soundtrack for glacial drift. Days, or years (centuries?) pass by with each pensive strum of the guitar strings, while found sounds embody the slow, overwhelming stress of ice on ice. Excellent for deep in the night or to bring the tempo way, waaaay down. Frenchman Johannes Buff debuts in fine style with two long lovely tracks with which to while away a pleasant hour, or to burn through a black rage – this is surprisingly apropos for both.
What happens when you take a short track of sounds recorded from a bicycle and pass it around a group of sample freaks? Good things, man, good things. The inside of the “booklet” (really a poster) contains lots of pro-cycling chatter, and the packaging ain’t green by coincidence, but it’s really about the musical qualities of the bike, and the wild things these DJs turn it into. It’s crunchy, textured beat beat tastiness with plenty of track to track variety. The final track is the original sample that every other track (except, as clearly noted, track 12) was composed entirely from, so you can make your own track, should you so choose. Drop it in and turn the samplitude to 11!
If I ever find myself in Belize, I hope I have this disc with me… and a waterproof CD player. These are the sounds I want in my ears when I dive the Blue Hole – a deep, mysterious, all-too-brief soundtrack for a deep, mysterious, all-too-brief dive. Robert’s music floats lazily over the chasm of noise, contained by reefs (riffs) of structured music with an incongrously geometric aspect.
OK, I’ve beaten that metaphor to death. Hell, it deserved it. This disc deserves listening. Much, much listening. You can try to burn it into your brain, but it will slip away, floating into the depths… Aaaah! Zombie metaphor! Take that! Die! Die! Die! . OK, I think I’m
This is a collection of mostly excellent material frequently marred by poor production. Track 1 is unfit for play unless you plan on hovering over the volume control and slowly adjusting it from max, which you’ll need to hear anything in the first few minutes, down to normal, as the piece slowly, continuously, builds volume. It’s a good idea, but the sound seems engineered for a concert, not a CD player. There’s a good piece underneath it all, too. Track 2 works nicely at all levels. Track 3 starts out very slowly, then hums along a while, then drops dead for about a minute and a half before we hear some chatter amongst two people – a hidden track? without music? in the middle of the album? are they serious? seriously??? Ignoring track 3 is probably a winning strategy. Finally, Quiet American brings us 3 tracks of moments exploded into minutes, short tracks for the genre, but just about right for what he’s doing. The evenness and clarity of the production stands out against that of prior tracks – everything is just right. This should have been a “must play” disc, but only turned out notable. Maybe next year…
Alice Coltrane composes and, with help from some notable friends, performs, on harp (tracks 6-8) and piano, nine pieces dedicated to the memory of her husband John, whom you may have heard of. This release includes the six tracks of the original Monastic Trio release, plus two tracks from the quartet sessions (track 3 is also a quartet, despite the album name) inserted at the beginning, and a piano solo that was not included on John’s Expression LP at the end. Alice is the featured performer, and proves worthy of the treatment, moving through the pieces with delicate fluidity, gently showing us the depths of her sorrow. The backing is mostly light, though substantial, and carries her along nicely. Satisfying listening.
This is music which explores the wilderness in simple garb. Arvo Part (sometimes spelled Paart and pronounced, approximately, “Pierre-t”) composed these pieces during his ’74-’76 binge (Part is noted for long silent periods between periods of intense output), and these recordings date from the early 80′s, except Tabula Rasa, which was captured in ’77. There is an undeniable spiritual element to his work, although it is more of an internal spirituality, and one can lose oneself in it without fear of betrayal.
The first piece to consider is the Cantus (track 2), which rains down like liquid sunshine. After that are the two Fratres, fraternal twins, which resemble each other but are nonetheless unique, track 1 being a sparse and probing piano and violin version, track 3 being aa warm and inviting version played with 12 cellos (yes, 12 cellos!). Finally, the Tabula Rasa takes us on a long and winding journey through the confines of our soul. This is one of the most replayable discs I have ever listened to, with comforting warmth and simplicity coupled with ever unfolding exploration. Highly recommended.
Imagine an alternate universe – one where prog never imploded, but instead – perish the thought – progressed! Consider what would happen as it absorbed the guitar focus of the eighties, soaked up some mellowness in the nineties, and got in tune with the imprecision of the naughties.
Of course, you can’t just pop in and out of another universe. You need to use tachyons to get there, and tachyoffs to get back, and who really wants to go anywhere in such a tachy outfit?
Not that there’d be any point to going. The universe exists, yes, but there our world has ended. Yes, just like it says on the cover. Can’t you read French? Merde! That world has ended, perhaps indicating that prog had to die for our salvation. Yes, it was a noble sacrifice, all those glitter capes and silk pantaloons – not to mention the lovely, perfectly tuned instruments.
But this is “progressive” in the “chord progression” sense, so it may or may not be what you call “progressive”, or what Wikipedia calls “progressive”, but, labels aside, there are elements that strongly evoke that old prog feeling. It’s like a friend you bump into after twenty years, and discover that there’s no need to talk about what’s happened in the intervening time. Just hang out and enjoy the good company friend.
Back to my wondrous story – the alternate Earth came to an untimely end, but our scientists were able to open a portal to that universe and record this, the last transmissions from a radio station in the foreign quarter of Free Tibet. Listen, and comtemplate what might have been.
With track titles like “The Brutal Chicken Divine” and “Nascar Santa Claus”, it’s clear that these musicians don’t take themselves too seriously, yet they do take their music seriously, and the tracks are all well crafted and engaging. My favorite is the extra-proggy “We Don’t Necessarily Like Paul”, but I’d rather just play the disc end to end.
Warm, fuzzy, and deep, this a discful of refreshing all instrumental ponderings – “Tales from Topiary Puddles”, and it’s not to be missed!
Listen up, yo! Listen up, yo! Listen up, yo!
What could three college educated twentysomethings have to add to the world of hip hop? Truth be told, not a thing. That’s the good news, if you dare to believe. It’s what they’ve taken from hip hop that matters. Hip hop, along with its amoral siamese twin, rap, has a well known and long history of soaring on (breathe) higher ideals only to come crashing to earth in a blaze of bling and bad living. Move.meant doesn’t care. They’ve seen the top of the mountain, and they’re determined to live there, so they keep their eyes (breathe) higher and their lyrics follow. They don’t berate, separate, or dissociate, no, they abate the hate and create love for their planetmates. While the beats are creative and grooving (breathe) higher, despite being a bit on the safe side, and the DJ’s accents are likewise, the vox makes Move.meant well worth the play. The flow is smooth, thick, and deep, with rhyming and vocabulary worthy of the best rappers. The (breathe) higher education shows its value here. But it’s the message that ices this thick marble cake, with righteous themes from the tragedy of poverty and the difficulty of having healthy relationships, to the awakening of the need to aspire (breathe) higher.
Hip hop’s definitely got a future, but now it looks just a little brighter. Pick a track (no losers), lay it down, and lift your spirits (breathe) higher.
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