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( r ) – “Under the Cables, Into The… ” – [Important Records]

Unpredictible solo project by Italy’s Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo, who makes all of the sounds himself. A journey full of side trips, with drones and oscillations, solo piano, harsh ringing noisescapes, low lethargic vocals, layers of overdubbed guitars, humming industrial, etc… Not leaning toward any one style, more of an overview of the various audio interests of Palumbo, aka ( r ). Recommended to just go with it and see where it takes you. Prediction: this will be the only record ever to have both a cover of an Avril Lavigne song and a track recorded by Grawer at KFJC.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:32 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Segel, Jonathan – “Amnesia/Glass Box ” – [Magnetic Motorworks]

    2 pieces in 3 parts each, commissioned by a NY dance company. Outstanding compositions, heavy on electronics, with Segel adding percussion, guitar, bass, and his signature violin (still doing it with laid back world-folk-rock band Camper Van Beethoven). Each track here is an intricate gem, succcessfully combining many elements into a cohesive whole. My favorites: Track 5, a purely electronic piece with a level of sophistication that would do Wendy Carlos proud, and Track 6 which starts with a lazy, almost hiphop beat, devolves into a many-layered ambient section, goes gently techno-ish for a short time, and fades off into quiet electronics. Segel continues to impress as a solo artist.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:30 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Lasha, Prince & Odean Pope Trio – “Mystery of Prince Lasha, the ” – [Creative Improvised Music]

    Tenor sax man Odean Pope is in fine form here, backed by his longtime trio-mates on bass and drums. Prince Lasha adds his soprano/alto saxes, clarinet, flute, and piccolo. For a cat who was playing with new-jazz heavyweights like Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and Elvin Jones during the ’50s-60s, Lasha is not very well known. He’s a welcome discovery for me, because he’s brilliant on the soprano sax, and I also like his unusual piccolo work. His playing is a good match for Pope’s solid tenor. Once or twice it sounds like the two horns may not be 100% in tune with one another, then again maybe it’s advanced jazz harmony or something. More often, the players blend well and rip crazy lines together. Track 2 is sweet and low, has nice bass/drums, and reminds me of an old Wayne Shorter date. A worthy addition to CIMP’s incredible catalog.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:29 am
  • Filed as CD,Jazz
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  • Niacin Sun [coll] – [Bananafish]

    The provocative Bananafish magazine never fails to amaze me with the wide-ranging compilation CDs they release to accompany each of their issues. On this one, Joe Colley becomes sort of a master of ceremonies, interspersing his 8 pieces of found sound (thrift store cassettes) among the tracks by the other artists. The Colley pieces range from amusing to heartbreaking, giving us peeks into the lives of people we’ll never know. The Track 13 piece is a continuation of Track 3. Burning Star Core whips up a whooshing mass of processed voices and instruments. Monotract gives us a fast-moving slice-and-dice-fest, Nelson Gastaldi offers a warped musical collage, and Mecca Normal does a nice job of improvising with voice, piano, and guitar. Jim Leftwich and his 6 minutes of incomprehensible mumbling doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it’s there for those who appreciate his work. As usual, a challenging yet rewarding listening experience from the Bananafish folks.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:28 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
  • 1 comment
  • Urinals, the – “Negative Capability… ” – [Warning Label Records]

    31 tracks by arty LA punkers, circa 1978-81. When they weren’t playing typical SoCal surfcore thrash, they were experimenting with Wire-type minimalism, banging-on-junk drumming, and even carefully worked out vocal harmonies. Their avant-garage leanings led them to cover some interesting material (13th Floor Elevators, Soft Machine), and, well, some dumb material too (the Jetsons Theme), but what the heck. If you missed them back in the day, Byron Coley’s excellent liner notes will fill you in on the story. Looks like the story’s not over yet, though; it appears that this worthy band has now re-assembled in some form or another.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:26 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Mezmer, Nate – “Kill the Precedent ” – [Mad Seven Records]

    Passionate, literate MC out of Davis, CA, challenges the big picture. We all know Bush and Cheney have got to go; Nate’s all over that, seemingly gearing up to take them out himself. After that he’ll go after Clear Channel, and after that the FCC, both of whom get called out several times, as well they should. On a smaller scale, he disses local hiphop wasteland KMEL, and gives props to (I think) Kev at KZSU. We also get some better-than-average MC bragging on a couple of the tracks. Strong production and beats by TOMC3 (Dopestyle 1231), using some crazy B-library material (Jesus Christ Superstar, Iron Butterfly?) to spice up the music. Track 9 slips a bit; I don’t need quite so much information about his ex-girlfriend, and the Moody Blues sample kinda sinks it. But when Nate is all up in your face on the larger social issues, and bragging a bit about his verse abilities, he’s pretty hard to beat.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:25 am
  • Filed as CD,Hip Hop
  • 1 comment
  • Pan American/To Rococo [coll] – [Unhip]

    Two pleasant technoscapes, on the minimal side, all instrumental. The third installment in Unhip’s commendable new series of split seven-inchers. Pan American’s offering is dark and murky, while the To Rococo Rot track crackles with a more upfront beat. Both pieces are uncluttered and nicely done. The playing speed isn’t specified so it’s up to you. I prefer the way 33rpm brings out a deep space feel on Side A, and a laid-back reggae-style groove on Side B. Both tracks do benefit from a 45rpm spin if higher-caffiene beats are called for.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:24 am
  • Filed as 7-inch,A Library
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  • Orchid – “Dance Tonight! Revolution… ” – [Ebullition]

    More over the top hardcore from Orchid, in my book possibly the most astonishing band ever. Short blasts of furious guitar/bass/drums power, and unbelievable screamed vocals. Read the lyrics, they’re somewhat vague but thoughtful as hell. Revolution, philosophy, love, it’s all here. The final two tracks are longer than the others and slow things down once in a while for contrast. This material was recorded in 1999; Orchid is, sadly, now defunct. I’m sure gonna miss ‘em.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:23 am
  • Filed as 10-inch,A Library
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  • Murray, David – “Interboogieology ” – [Black Saint]

    Saxophonist Murray had already released something like a dozen records as a leader by the time this LP was first released in 1978. Cornetist/composer/conductor Butch Morris, featured here, was a requent collaborator. The rhythm section is Johnny Dyani on bass and Oliver Johnson on drums. Track A1 is a deep simmering stew with inspired horn work, strange wordless vocals by Marta Contreras, and a one-minute drum solo toward the end. Murray’s tenor plays a duet with Dyani’s bass on A2, a simple theme made interesting by the unusual interplay between the two. Drummer Johnson is a powerhouse on B1, a blazing bebopper that’s refreshing after the slow proceedings on Side A. B2, a bossa nova type thing with some really weak singing and lyrics, is my least favorite; as a saving grace, though, the band manages to kick this tune into stronger jazz territory at a couple of points. My picks are the two compositions by Morris, A1 and B1.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:21 am
  • Filed as 12-inch,Jazz
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  • Nico – “Desertshore ” – [4 Men with Beards]

    2002 reissue of a compelling 1970 classic. Nico (1938-88) mapped out a large part of today’s goth landscape. She paints the bleakest of lyrical pictures, her icy vocals accompanied on half these songs with her well-known harmonium drone. Hugely important here is the uncanny work of producer/arranger John Cale, who plays nearly all the other instruments, and adds exactly what each song calls for: scraping avant-garde experiments, sweet sunlit piano, a heart-tugging child vocal, queasy drones, Arabic nightmares. An outstanding collaboration by two remarkable artists. At just 28 minutes, this LP is over far too quickly.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:19 am
  • Filed as 12-inch,B Library
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  • Yxayotl, Xavier Quijas – “Singing Earth ” – [Canyon Records]

    Guadalajara’s Yxayotl demonstrates that the native music of Mexico did not begin with the trumpets and violins of mariachi. Ancient musical styles of Mexico’s Aztec people, as well as the Mayans of Central America, come to life here on authentic handmade drums, clay flutes, rattles, and rainsticks. Surprising similarities sometimes to African drumming, voodoo ritual trance music, and, if you squint your ears, there’s even a hint of Residents-like bad dream soundtrack. Exotic, spiritual, and weird. I love the subtle offbeat scraping on Track 2, and the muttered vocal offering to Mother Earth on Track 9.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 29, 2006 at 7:18 am
  • Filed as CD,International
  • 1 comment
  • Eneidi, Marco/Spearman, Glenn – “Creative Music Orchestra ” – [Music and Arts Programs]

    Big band, big bang, free radicals, free jazz! Physics gets
    physical, brownian motion leaves no bodies at rest. Marco
    Eneidi charged up as a particle player with large ensembles
    galvanized by the likes of Bill Dixon, William Parker and
    Cecil Taylor, Eneidi returned to orbit the Bay Area and
    in sonic covalence with Glenn Spearman amassed the momentum
    of these 21 musicians. Sax sparks much of the suite, with
    Marco on a pretty beefy alto! Not sure which violinist
    takes flight early in the suite, but that was a grabbing
    individual moment as were the variousl lonely sputter solos
    on the concluding piece, it’s name indicates that Spearman
    was looking to ignite/inspire some of the college kids rolled
    into the Orchestra. By all accounts, Spearman was that sort
    of leader, with or without a band. “Interlude” has vocal
    bookends and this cool waffle-stomping theme that ends up
    tiptoeing towards the end… As much as individuals shine,
    (and a tip of the tom-tom to Don Robinson taking on 19 with
    a little Spirit-ed percussion help, Robinson is an anchor)
    still it’s moments when the whole troupe is on maneuvers that
    moved me most. In “Ghost Dance” after a flickering 30 seconds
    the crew unites to form a rocket ready to launch: strings
    sliding in on the edge of the horns. Excellent! “Naked Mirror”
    shifts some of the players a note out of phase from the sort
    of minimal cyle produces a nice industrial-strength jazz. After
    a nice Goodheart-led trio take in that, back to the skyscraper-
    shifting cycles. -Thurston Hunger

  • Reviewed by Thurston Hunger on January 27, 2006 at 2:28 am
  • Filed as CD,Jazz
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  • Reverberations From Springs Pt – “Reverberations From Springs Pt ” – [Pax Recordings (Sf)]

    What is this, the new crime jazz? Improv alley assasin work?
    Nope, just four KFJC-friendly folks finding their collective
    voice. What’s interesting about this collaboration is that a
    lot of the “soloing” is done in the subtler regions, Rent
    Romus stars as the one fanned flame, while the other three
    are working more atmospherically if not aquatically. Ernesto
    Diaz-Infante’s guitar preparations have always been of the
    babbling brook, here they deftly flow with the electronic
    dialings and dealings of Robert Montoya. Montoya seems to
    be pulling up large envelopes of sound that press up against
    your ear rather than pierce it off. Similarly, check out how
    Marcos Fernandes’ percussion patter rides in and out of the
    waves of Ernesto’s guitar on say “Who Created the Canon?”
    On that track the smokey trails of Romus’ sax are what you
    chase, but deeper listening opens up high-freq precipitation
    from Montoya (I think that’s where the canon is invoked?)
    Check out Montoya’s opening salvo on “Elation Within…”
    glitch-pong sets up a reeling as much as rhythm. Overall
    Rent remains a force for me, his restraint as powerful
    as his melodic attacks. He doesn’t overuse the twin-reed
    run (but it does show up nicely in part 1 of the “Offering”).
    He also knows when *not* to blow, and let the sounds of his
    bandmates pool up. A solid sender of a release, with nice
    strata throughout.

  • Reviewed by Thurston Hunger on January 27, 2006 at 2:28 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Tortoise & Bonnie Prince Billy – “Brave and the Bold, the ” – [Overcoat Recordings]

    Gotta ‘fess up, I’m an old Oldham fan. Even when he’s perched
    in front of thousands of Bjork fans naked with nothing save a
    harpsichord, I’m on his side. His voice like a buckshot bird
    plummeting through the sky is always welcome. Add to my docket
    the fact that I dig covers (when they are suitably screwed
    with). So no wonder, I’m predisposed to dig this set of 10
    reworklings. Springsteen is probably seven years too soon for
    the cognoscenti to even consider being covered, but the hell
    with them. “Thunder Road” here is pretty damn fine, only the
    Miami Steve harmonies are reconstituted. There’s a chunky,
    clunky distorto-riff that straps itself to the song’s engines.
    “Love is Love” starts out like a Suicide blitz, indeed a lot
    of the Tortoise work here is bugged & fuzzed with factory
    drums machining away in grime and 4/4 time. That evaporates
    when “Pancho” gallops in on a xylophone with a breathy backup
    vocal from Sally Timms. But Devo’s “That’s Pep” revives that
    thickened bass…and Jeff Parker is bouncing around from
    channel to channel, his key to the successes here. At 1:45
    into “That’s Pep” it comes to a silent stop (the Minutemen
    cover also hits this sort of false death). From then on the
    sweltering sound of the earlier tracks is gone, “I Got Devil”
    is a slow dance with ‘I See a Darkness’, “The Calvary Cross”
    has a nice sun-on-the-hillside intro into a gangly, jangle
    ballad. “On My Own” eulogizes this release, blesses it
    with banjo for the Billy devotees. I really dug the more
    heretical numbers from the first half. “Cravo e Canela” is
    favela funky, and the sloppy seconds on “It’s Expected I’m
    Gone” taste like meaty Minutemen hours. Built with all the
    love of a mixtape. -Thurston Matewan

  • Reviewed by Thurston Hunger on January 27, 2006 at 2:27 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Billy Bao – “R’n'r Granulator ” – [W.M.O.]

    Perhaps another form of “rock concrete” (see also Starfuckers
    aka Sinestri out of Italy). “Evapogoration” is the standout
    here, featuring a driving rock und roll slinger that gets
    strained through a choke filter, it basically dies but is
    revived like a cracklin’ Lazarus. Love the geiger heart
    monitor and the three seconds of silence before tick-tick
    and it’s back. The lead off track never dies on us, but does
    sputter and lurch towards its finale. It is rock, but only
    just. “El Grado Zero del Pulso” could be a slow motion
    performance art drum solo. Every five or so seconds you get
    one drum beat, think taiko for dummies, but as slow as
    a stoned snail, other sounds crawl in after 6 or so minutes.
    Or you may hallucinate your own additions before that. Call
    it an ode to instant gratification? Call it a test? Heck I
    found myself wondering if the drum was being hit by a mic
    at times, since we’d get little feed squeals on the much
    anticipated drum strike. About 14 minutes in, we move into
    a nanodub space of sorts. You want isolationism, you got it!
    If you’re looking for a theme song to your radio show, look
    no further then this 18+ minute national anthem? Lastly
    “Para Ahuyentar ratas, humanos y otros insectos” tips off
    the nihilistas, with squelched rock for 1.5 minutes then
    someone sets off the galactic tinkle alarm. Don’t pretend
    you saw it coming, from then on out your on limited guitar
    life-support with a monolith of a drone at the edge of
    this sonic universe. Not for everybody, but not for nobody
    either…must locate an earlier 7″ from these folks that
    I heard once in an internet dream. Info on band members
    withheld until they show up to do a live set and prove that
    they’re not really the kids from Fame or soemthing. -Hunger

  • Reviewed by Thurston Hunger on January 27, 2006 at 2:26 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Thee More Shallows – “More Deep Cuts ” – [Turn Records]

    Something about this 2004 album feels like I’ve been hit by
    a tranquilizing gun, I’m laying on the floor physically
    immobilized, but my mind is racing. The pop music that drops
    here hits right in the middle of the ripple, it’s got that
    watery, whispery confidentiality, like early Lambchop. With
    saw, mellotron(?), piano in an empty prison, lacrimal strings,
    drum heads made out of the freshest paper roses, much sound
    here feels like it is built to fly gossamer, but then in
    comes a rumbling rickenbacker or that adenoidal android
    robodrum to start the album? Can’t pin this butterfly down,
    despite its prettiness, and the hushed vox, seems like
    something lyrical is lurking in deeper, eerier waters. Like
    that sound rushing in the ears at the end of 2AM, what is
    that EVP, ESP? This has all the weighty grandeur of a concept
    album, without the sticky over-cooked symbolism and boring
    self-reference (self-reverence?). Plus the rococo glow here
    is clearly home-built, an elegance sans arrogance, how
    else can you explain the recurring toy piano? This is just
    a dream of a pop album, and the reason your CD player has a
    repeat button. Just push it gently, like you’re carefully
    inserting the tranq dart deeper into your shallow jugular.
    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. -Thurston Pillowhead

  • Reviewed by Thurston Hunger on January 27, 2006 at 2:26 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
  • 1 comment
  • Radar – “Easy Listening ” – [Tzadik]

    A refreshing, minimal approach to jazz from this Japanese sax/piano/bass trio. Mizutani Yasuhisa’s soprano sax work is uncluttered, never trying to do too much. He also adds a textural type of tapping, squeaking, rattling percussion. Pianist Katori Koichiro lays out notes and chords with lots of space between them. He moves over to accordion for some of the more atmospheric pieces. Inada Makoto is a fine bassist with a nice big tone. He composed all the material and seems to be the main man here. Many different moods on this CD, from pensive to conversational to even a bit goofy. Regardless of a track’s mood, all three musicians tend to play less instead of more. They all contribute vocals in various ways, creating on some of the tracks a theatrical, almost comical effect. One of the things that caught my ear is the deliberately stiff way Yasuhisa’s soprano sax enunciates the notes on Track 2, a creative tactic I don’t think I’ve heard before.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 26, 2006 at 11:15 am
  • Filed as CD,Jazz
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  • Hubsch,Van Bebber & Blonk – “S/T ” – [Kontrans]

    An odd trio lineup I’d have never come up with on my own: tuba, turntables, and voice. All improvised material, all three players using their instruments in unconventional ways. Some of the sounds here could have come, really, from any one of them, and, in trying to identify who’s doing what, ‘I’m probably not getting it right sometimes. That sound may be a tuba blurt, or it may be a slowed-down turntable manipulation, or a low vocal grunt. No way to know who’s making that tapping noise. Or that moaning sound. At other times, though, it’s more obvious what’s going on; that was Hubsch’s tuba for sure, those soundscapes (and the kitten and the rainstorm) are certainly from Van Bebber’s turntables, and those bizarre vocals couldn’t be anyone other than poet/ performance artist/ troublemaker Jaap Blonk. I really like the final track, by far the longest piece, but all tracks are creative and interesting. Many moods here, from laid-back and kinda wandering around to humorous to quite intense.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 26, 2006 at 11:14 am
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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  • Locus Solus – “Locus Solus ” – [Tzadik]

    A total Trane-wreck of a band. John Zorn/Arto Lindsay/Anton Fier, core members of the early Golden Palominos, among a ton of other downtown NY projects, reconvene here, live at Tonic, during Zorn’s 50th birthday celebration marathon in 2003. Typical of a Zorn-led band, the material is jagged stop-start-stop jazz/noise. Zorn’s alto sax spends most of its time in full-on shriek mode. Lindsay is on guitar and vocals, and if you’ve heard his most outside work then you’ll know the kind of scraping, noisy, metallic playing he is capable of. He also talks/yells a little bit, often not in English, adding another type of spice to an already quite spicy mix. Fier on drums doesn’t do anything that jumps way out on its own, but he’s always right there supporting the other guys, making solid additions to what they’re doing. Every once in a while there is a recognizable jazz interlude, with Zorn’s alto sax playing a good bebop-style run, but it’s never more than a few seconds before they’re back to torturing the baby pigs again. I like it.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 26, 2006 at 11:14 am
  • Filed as CD,Jazz
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  • Reanimator – “Music to Slit Wrists By ” – [Litterthugz]

    The Litterthugz crew out of the midwest (Doug Surreal, Bitch Ass Darius, DJ Device, Reanimator, and Kenny Kingston, to name just a few) scrounge and blenderize old soul/funk sounds, dub, straight-up hip hop, cool jazz, rock riffs, and the contents of your kitchen sink into some of the slyest, dirtiest grooves I’ve heard lately. Reanimator is a perfect name for this guy here, who totes a deeper crate than your average DJ and gives strange new life, over a beat, to music you’ve either never heard or you’ve forgotten about (Wendy Carlos? Jack Bruce? and that’s just for starters…). If you have a thing for well-assembled downtempo grooves, I suspect you’ll dig this CD, as I did. Mostly instrumental, but you may want to scout out the many dialog snippets ahead of time. All clean, too, unless I missed something.

  • Reviewed by Max Level on January 26, 2006 at 11:13 am
  • Filed as CD,Hip Hop
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