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Sven Libaek was born in Norway and emigrated to Australia. He is known as a composer and performer in movie and TV soundtracks. He worked at one time for CBS Records in Sydney, producing recordings including those of the legendary surf band The Atlantics.
Inner Space was a 1973 soundtrack for a nature documentary about underwater life. The orchestra has a dreamy, watery, jazzy sound with very cool solos on flute, guitar, vibes, percussion, trumpet, organ, and piano played by Libaek. John Sangster on vibes is prominently featured and his interest in avant garde jazz artists such as Sun Ra and Albert Ayler occasionally peeks through, especially on Side 2.
Very accessible, would fit a Jazz Collective or the Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show equally well.
Paul Metzger’s Spontaneous Composition Generator was made with 37 music boxes with lots of modifications – it sounds very much at times like a prepared piano. Snippets of twinkly music box ditties intermix with slams and buzzes.
Milo Fine’s first piece Moosbrugger is noisy and at times shrill and sounds like percussion and prepared piano mixed with clarinet. The second track Ulrich is all percussion.
All tracks are rather whimsical and endearing with some very quiet spots throughout.
Number stations were radio broadcasts that transmitted spoken or morse code numbers that were considered spy operations during the cold war. This ensemble’s improvisational music echoes their seemingly random but actually coherent messages and makes up track titles based on what their message might be. Trombonist Curtis Hasselbring leads the septet that includes Mary Halvorson (guitar), Trevor Dunn (bass), Matt Moran (vibes and marimba) and Chris Speed (tenor sax and clarinet), drummers Ches Smith and Satoshi Takeishi. Lots of great playing, a few inspired solos, and skillful interaction. Fun and sometimes even funny.
Farthest South takes its name from the term used by early 20th century explorers to describe a point as far south as one can reach, implying a location that is not fixed, much like improvised music. These three Israeli musicians are joined in the this set by free jazz saxophonist Albert Beger.
The varied backgrounds of the musicians combine to produce a completely improvised intersection of jazz, rock, noise, and electronics. A rhythmic bass line sweeps us along with its forward momentum. No annoying excessive noodling or heaviness that infects so much freely improvised music. Very cool, recommended!
Ben Chasny on guitar leads these noisy, repetitive, psych-y tracks with lots of heavy bass and drums in addition to a second guitar and organ. Mission Abort has a bit more momentum; Blues For Jack Parsons is more on the somber side. Nice EP from this KFJC favorite.
Aloha Screwdriver is a surf trio based in Alameda, California that plays very high energy surf rock. This album flirts with spy, Russian, and horror surf music all the while pushing the definition of surf music. They played in high school as Chachi, Boba Fett, and the Wookiee. After going their separate ways to college, they reunited as Aloha Screwdriver. Well played with a unique sound.
Fine first release from this German three-piece surf band. Daniel Kutter on bass and drummer Falko Tomasez, formerly of the Space Rangers, are joined by Torsten Winzel on guitar for some aggressive, honest to goodness surf music. Well played and arranged, even the covers of known surf tunes are vibrant. More genius from Ulm!
Walt Dickerson’s dazzling vibe playing is stunning on this release. Andrew Hill’s piano, George Tucker’s bass (bowed on God Bless), and Andrew Cyrille’s drums are just as lush and gorgeous. The players share a very intelligent conversation and free jazz improv association. “To My Queen” is heart felt and honest, a powerful tribute that certainly convinced me of how Walt Dickerson felt about his wife. Fine and original interpretations of two standards on Side B. Very moving, first rate 1960′s jazz.
In 2010, Chuck O’Meara saw a no-name electric guitar for sale for $100 online and joked that he should buy it and have his many guitar playing friends use it to record a track for an album. Then he actually did it. Each musician had one week to make their track and to pass it to the next musician. It resulted in 2 CDs (69 tracks) of incredible variety (rock, blues, experimental, noise, etc., etc.), lots of fine playing, and a ton of creativity. Many of them rose to the challenge by determining what this particular guitar had going for it; no room for equipment snobbery here. Great stuff; I did not get bored listening to all the tracks on both CDs in one sitting. RECOMMENDED!!
PGM: No “vocals” except tracks 10 and 11 of CD2. See liner notes for individual track info on recording and artist. Tracks, many of which are very short, could be played a few at a time to show contrast.
Banque Allemande (“German bank” in French) is a 3-piece (drums, bass , guitar) rock band from Berlin, probably would be classified as punk or garage. Very raucous sound, high energy, shouted German vocals are quite a contrast to much of the cleanly produced electronic beats often associated with Berlin these days. Title translates to “If you want to be Chinese, you must eat nasty stuff”. Not nasty at all, this is great stuff!
Bevel Emboss is a 4-piece band from the Netherlands. Their fine playing is evident on this all instrumental album from 2012 that mostly works as surf music but also crosses that genre’s boundaries. Very twangy, upbeat tracks have a rather “produced” sound. The mixture of acoustic and electric guitars gives it a nice twist. Track 11 has a phone call, not sure what language. Track 15 begins with classic Spaghetti Western whistling. My picks are 2 and 5, at least right at this minute.
Pinched Nerve turns out to be a one-man Casiotone and iPod band from San Francisco Bay Area. Some tracks have vocals. The lo-fi tunes are catchy and are frequently quite funny. Track 2 “Bookers” is a litany of gigs in local venues familiar to all who frequent the underground music scene hereabouts. Track 7 “Roadrunner” extols driving at night listening to the radio. Endearing.
The Spotnicks are a foursome from Sweden who began in 1961 and still tour with one of the original members. This release is from tapes made in the 1960′s in France. Some tracks have a rockabilly sound (track 2 or 20, for example), others would fit into the surf genre (3, 10, 11,16,18,19), almost all certainly recall the sixties. Although known as an instrumental group, quite a few of the songs on this disc have vocals (5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 22). Track 21 starts with a bitchin’ drum solo. The song Valentina has the same melody as the tune “Save the last dance for me”. Unique sounds from this blast from the past.
Tsigoti is guitar, bass, drums and Thollem McDonas on piano and vocals. Most tracks include angry yelling of indignant provocative lyrics. On first listen, I couldn’t decide if it was annoying because it was really not very good. On second listen, I decided that it was musically interesting and cleverly designed to make us squirm. Has a punk rock vibe and it might be called “punk experimental”.
PGM: Language on tracks 7 and 8. Tracks 5, 10, 16, and 18 have few to no “vocals” and are a bit more palatable.
All tracks on this album were recorded in Afghanistan by ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin in 1968. This was before the Soviet invasion and Taliban and the resulting wars. Music of the Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Pashtun, Herati, Kazakh, and Turkmen people includes a variety of lutes, bowed instruments, percussion, flutes and other wind instruments, and vocals. Most recordings were done live in public places so talking and laughter is sometimes heard. To my ear this is very beautiful and complex music, completely enjoyable in itself, not just a novelty snapshot of traditional music. Liner notes are excellent for background and track by track information.
These tracks come from 78′s mostly recorded in New York City by immigrants between 1916 and 1929. These years are significant. 1916 was the year after the genocide of Armenians and Assyrians in Asia Minor when presumably many immigrants arrived. 1929 was the year of the stock market crash that began the Great Depression, after which few of these records are found. Vocals and instruments such as clarinet, oud, and violin give these songs a characteristic sound, but with time signatures and keys that sound alien to Western ears. Audio is crisp and clear. Volume 1 is subtitled “Naughty Girl – To What a Strange Place” and represents music for dancing and joy. See liner notes for information on the musicians and translations of the titles.
Alvin Batiste is a jazz clarinetist who was the founder of the Jazz Institute at Southern University in New Orleans.This CD features a 1980 recording (just released in 2012) with that institute’s Jazz Ensemble. The first five tracks are good funk with vocals cuts, but the fine playing of Batiste cuts loose on tracks 6 to 10 which lean more toward jazz.
If you don’t think of Peru as a source of avant garde composing from 1948 to 1979, this album will make you think again. Lots of variety from full orchestras (least interesting in my view) to strings and pianos and lots of experimental electronic magnetic tape pieces. Electronic pieces are icy and chirpy with occasional explosions. Spoken word, which is mentioned in the liner notes, is inaudibile, whispered, or distorted. As out there as it gets!
Between 2007 and 2012, Samy Ben Redjeb managed to meet the right folks in Colombia to obtain the best of its 1970′s music by offering trades for African vinyl. (He found out that African music had been very popular with DJs in coastal towns.) This is the first of planned group of Analog Africa’s releases for the best tracks, especially those that show an African influence. A mixture of African and South American beats – who can tell where one leaves off and the other begins – are dominant in the percussion section. Most tracks have vocals, some have backup choruses, and all feature great instrumentals such as organ, trumpet, clarinet, etc.
The Bambi Molesters are a 4-piece band from Croatia. They are often considered one of the best surf bands around. This 2-CD plus DVD set was made at a live show in 2011 and featured four special guests on sax, trumpet, keyboards, and vocals. Mostly laid back and dreamy tunes (with some exceptions such as CD2, tracks 1-4) the guests give a special flavor to some surf classics, romantic Spanish songs like Siboney, and originals. Vocals mostly have rather dark lyrics and might appeal more to the non-surf fans; still the instrumental accompaniment is full of reverb and twang.
PGM: DVD is PAL format and cannot be played on Master Studio DVD player or computer. Has not been reviewed.
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