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Music Reviews

Masada – “John Zorn 50TH Birthday Celebr ” – [Tzadik]

Daryl Licht   9/28/2004   A Library, CD

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]

Daryl Licht   9/26/2004   12-inch, A Library

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

Zdrastvootie “” 33 rpm [self]

Thurston Hunger   9/7/2004   7-inch, A Library, Format

Hauling sprawl free-rock from four Santa Cruzers nourished on
Beefhearts. A-side has a definite Lucas film on the fingers
of the guitar. Songs sort of explore, bump in the dark. Like
stairs built by hallucinating carpenters. A-side after its
Lucas leap settles into a walking rhythm then drops through
some trapdoor chords before striking the anthem ore for a
few measures then drizzles out softly to black inner groove.
B-side explodes out of the gate, drums alternating between
pacemaker ticks and heart attack thwacks. Then song comes
to a twang bar in the middle of the road, up the fretboard
go fretting fingers things get chittery for awhile, then
in comes the secret stair mantra. Whenever a rare chord is
struck, it’s heavy with ninths, flats, sharps, and other
accouterments. Quiet comes in (like a second track) and
it’s a race up a mountain to the finish (where it almost
sounds like a live gig). Flustery…in a good way. -Hunger
PS name is hello in russian, “zzz-draw-stvee-cheh”

Larry Stabbins “Monadic” [Emanem]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Solo saxaphone from UK soprano and tenor-drizer Stabbins.
For erudite enlightenment, seek the liner notes. I can tell
you that this album starts off with a buzzy, windy blower
that then tracks into a spiraling number. Not super cyclone
circular breathing, but spin and hold style. #2 then tracks
into a fuzzier, sputtering piece. About 1/2 way through #3
we move to a drier, tighter dart-like sound. Not harsh in
a Gustaffson style, but more bird like. The soprano takes
over and we get a sort of splintered take on the theme to
Close Encounters. Indeed, Stabbins often has encounters of
his own that drift very near melody. This solo outing has
many down-right hummable parts to go with the other more
peculiar saxy pyrotechnics. But plenty of squiggliness
and nasally wailing like on #5 half-way through. Back on
the tenor train certainly by 12 minutes into #7. That
piece starts with perhaps the most memorable melody on
the album but it gets well and nicely frayed over its
17 minutes. A surprisingly nasty almost R&B smoky start
on the last track before a very abrupt end to the album.
Word on the sleeve is that Stabbins has been a long-time
collaborator on the UK free scene, but this shows he can
stand alone just fine. Mind the tracking…

Trio X 3 “New Jazz Meeting – Baden Baden 2002 ” [Hat Hut]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Catchy like an abstract painting…dualing splatter platters
of trios cubed. This New Jazz Meeting features a trick that
is older than it sounds: splicing electronics w/ improv. On
the fly and in situ sounds are sliced & diced by top-notch
twiddlers: Philip Jeck, Bernhard Lang and Christof Kurzmann.
The first disc is all live, while the second (my slight fave)
was a studio effort. Electronics came in originally often
via percussion, and here that is a primary tactic. But also
treated textures hover at the edges of pieces, especially on
the studio disk. The use of lighter horns: Philippe Racine’s
flute, Marcus Weiss’s saxes and a very vital Steve Lacy are
open enough that they never obliterate whatever more subtle
programming is going on. NOTE : contrary to the “band-name”
never do we catch the starting 9 on the field all at once.
Tracks 1-2, 1-4, 1-6 have a few hectic (rewarding) moments,
occasional chainsaw cut-up, wail-out. The rest is much more
nuanced, deep but never engulfing. The liner notes deliver
the recipe in greater detail, and emphasize the secret
rhythms of Lang. 1-1 gets things started tunefully with
a weird waft of brain-funk. 2-6 showcases Lang on “flute”
(sampling Erik Dresher!). Great striking drones on 2-5. Of
the two epics, 2-7 is a winding tunnel that sustains
ominence. RIP Lacy, viva improv.

Orinoka Crash Suite “Two” [Narnack]

Thurston Hunger   9/1/2004   A Library, CD, Format

OCS is John Dwyer…or at least one of an army of John Dwyers
as seen in the Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, Zeigenbock Kopf
and grandma’s fave, “Dig That Body Up It’s Alive.” Prolific
is too weak a word. On Sesame Street, this is the album that
is not like the others…acoustic, subdued, tape-hissed,
vocally-hushed numbers. “Killed Yourself” sounds like the
singer drowned himself in a cute little aquarium, with one
of those fancy tiny castles. Guided by Voices managed to
get just the right type of poor recording on their earlier
stuff, I’d venture that here Dwyer has done as good a job.
The splotchy reverb and warble of the recordings just adds
stacks of unassuming ambience to these strumbly numbers.
The ending number drives home the point, it’s a true “home”
recording, old-school style…a child recounting Goldylox
and the three “beers?” “Intermission” serves up a fit of
fury… Usually it is the sounds, voices, tweaky guitar
on top of the acoustic underbelly that make these songlets
compelling. I find this a lot more bluesy than the most
recent Clarence Gatemouth Brown album. Half-cooked and
home-cocked. Don’t miss the Bisbees.