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Music Reviews

Black Sun Productions and Val Denham – “Somewhere Between Desire and Despair” – [Tourette]

billiejoe   4/12/2017   A Library, CD

Abstract, spoken word, album released in 2009. BSP is Massimo and Pierce of Switzerland who are known for their live performances and underground porn. AKA Anarcocks. Worked with HR Giger. Denham is from England and has worked with Throbbing Gristle, Marc Almond, and Psychic TV. She is also a visual artist. Much like the album art I have no idea what is going on and that is okay! Lyrics about pain, trans soldiers, gender, despair, and hope.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Eide, Khalifa Ould & Abba, Dimi Mint – “Moorish Music From Mauritania” – [World Circuit]

Hemroid The Leader   4/12/2017   CD, International

Dimi Mint Abba was born in 1958 to a low-caste Mauritanian family specializing in the griot tradition. She is accompanied here by her husband Khalifa Ould Eide and her two daughters. Moorish music is highly structured improvised music, with intricate vocal and rhythmic interplay. Handclaps, rattle, hand drums, hammer-ons. She died in June, 2011 in Casablanca, Morocco. Her fans included Youssou N’Dour and Ali Farka Toure.

Tracks 1-6 feature tidinit/lute, 7-11 feature electric guitar. Fans of Gnawa and Saharan blues music will find much to enjoy.

She began her career in 1976 when she won the Umm Kulthum Contest in Tunis. Her winning song “Sawt Elfan” (“Art’s Plume” – Track 7) has the refrain “Art’s Plume is a balsam, a weapon and a guide enlightening the spirit of men”, which can be interpreted to mean that artists play a more important role than warriors in society.

Den Arkaiska Rosten – “Tzigah Idhe” – [Cloister Recordings]

lexi glass   4/9/2017   A Library, Cassette

This Cloister Recordings cassette is the second release from Sweden’s Den Arkaiska Rösten (“The Archaic Voices”), the project of Girilal Baars and Per Åhlund. Baars is a professionally trained vocalist who has previously worked with the vocal group Äijä, a composer of operas, and a sound engineer. Åhlund has several solo sound art/electronic projects and has worked with Sophia, among other bands.

This cassette holds two sidelong pieces in which the sounds of the voice, in all of its many forms, are used to create a twisted, haunting landscape. Sounds of mouths, tongues, teeth, saliva, and breathing become howling winds and falling water. Deep utterances that resemble traditional throat singing rise from the lowest register, and a chorus of droning chants builds and closes in. Individual voices can be heard singing melodies or wails of regret, but soon disappear back into the fray. While vocal sounds are the main focus, weird electronics and drum beats can be heard humming beneath. The overall effect is like the spirits of everyone that’s ever lived rising from some ancient burial site to deliver us this cryptic message: it was like you said / it was not like you said.

Aquarius, Rene – “Blight” – [Utech Records]

lexi glass   4/9/2017   A Library, CD

Blight is the first solo album from drummer René Aquarius, of the Dutch free jazz duo Dead Neanderthals, and it’s another excellent addition to our collection of releases from Milwaukee’s Utech Records. The only instruments played on these eight pieces are drums and cymbals, but Aquarius uses closely placed microphones, reverb, and an equalizer to create a varied collection of dark, unusual sounds. We hear low drones, deep rumblings, metal meeting metal, metal catching light, a dying heartbeat, the long lingering after-echoes of a cymbal crash. Even through the effects and other technical tricks, the tactile feel of Aquarius’ playing remains, giving the tracks a rich quality that I usually associate with expertly recorded jazz albums. From this material, Aquarius crafts a quiet, slowly shifting air of mystery. The original concept and skillful execution make this an intriguing listen for those of us (all of us?) that are into dark ambient sounds.

Nutimbre – “Cycles” – [dEN Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/6/2017   CD, Jazz

Label-leader and dEN-master Stefano Ferrian assembled
this five piece, with a decidedly electric timbre
although his spinning sax and Vito Emanuele Galante’s
trilling trumpet cross paths a lot. The album’s title
is the musical mantra for Ferrian’s compositions here
with heaps of arpeggiated arrays and hopped up cycles
of sound. Sometimes like on “Sharp Colors” they move
at a measured pace, but even that drops out and
let’s Simone Quatrana finger flip a solo on his keys,
as Fabrizio Carriero drum punctuates. “Closed Walk”
has a plodding gait, Luca Pissavini getting thick
with his electric bass (it feels like an acoustic
tree trunk.) Ferrian’s first solo sparcs nicely,
I get a little lost in Quatrana’s closing riffwork.
But I like the down Chicago feel to that piece. The
title cut has a more frenzied fusion feel for me.
I do like Ferrian’s kind of zig-zag melody use.
Another extended round from Quatrana on the closer
with some nice muted trumpet by Galante. Cycles
that are dizzying and perhaps refreshingly
Gillespie-ing? 2014 release, at least I found it
before Discogs has! -Thurston Hunger

Brahms – “Complete Quartets For Piano & Strings Vol. 2” – [Capitol Records]

Hemroid The Leader   4/6/2017   12-inch, Classical

The Piano Quartet in A major, Op. 26 by Johannes Brahms, for piano, violin, viola and cello. It was completed in 1861 and received its premiere in November 1863 by the Hellmesberger Quartet with the composer playing the piano part.
This quartet is long and shows the influence of Schubert. When performed badly it is quite interminable. None of that here, Victor Allen at the piano with members of the Hollywood String Quartet, Felix Slatkin- violin, Alvin Dinkin- viola, Eleanor Allen- cello.

Tikiyaki 5-0 – “Introducing The Exotic Sounds of ..” – [Future Primitive Records]

Cousin Mary   4/5/2017   A Library, CD

Los Angeles based Tikiyaki 5-0 is a combo of 4 musicians (bass, guitars, keyboards and drums) from the much larger Tikiyaki Orchestra. This EP features originals plus covers of Arthur Lyman’s “Taboo”, Les Baxter’s “Enchanted Sea” and “Song of Delilah”, and the surf classic “Shockwave”. Extremely good players and fine arrangements give us this wonderful intersection of Tiki and surf.

Ligeti, Gyorgy – “Ligeti Project, The” – [Warner Classics and Jazz]

Cousin Mary   4/4/2017   A Library, CD

Gyorgy Ligeti (pronounced jurj LIH-geh-tee) lived from 1923 to 2006. His early life was in Hungary where his creativity was restricted by first Hitler and then Stalin. In 1956 he fled to Vienna and also spent time in Cologne. In 1972, he was a composer in residence at Stanford University. His music is heard in soundtracks of Stanley Kubrick’s films such as 2001. Considered one of the leading avant garde twentieth century classical composers, his work embraced 12-tone and electronic music, especially music made with conventional instruments made to sound like electronic sources. This 5-CD set is a treasure chest of various styles and includes a book where the composer discusses each piece. Many pieces are very spare, very high frequency notes played by strings give a signature sound not unlike a swarm of cicadas. Other pieces are lush and lyrical. Some vocals are playful, all are very original. Most is not all that accessible, so don’t expect comfortable soundtrack material.

PGM: Very great dynamic range, from almost silent to very loud.

Zopoula, Hermas – “Espoir” – [Asthmatic Kitty Records]

humana   4/2/2017   CD, International

The story of this double CD is as happy and heartwarming as the music on each CD. Disc 1 was recorded in a West African studio, and Disc 2 has the more homey and true experience of guitarist and singer Zopoula’s magic, recorded live in and around his home in Burkina Faso. Jonathan and Heather Dueck visited Western Africa and had the great fortune to meet Hermas Zopoula, who acted as guide and friend to them during their stay. It was almost by accident that they discovered he was a musician as well as an incredible person. Some of his songs have heartbreaking lyrics, but the upbeat nature of his music attests to his faith and big heart. Enjoy.

Metlay – “Fade” – [Aural Films]

humana   4/2/2017   A Library, CD

This is a gorgeous aural experience brought to you by electronic and visual artist Mike Metlay. I happened to listen to this on a drive to Henry Coe State Park, and it was the perfect soundtrack for my ride. The colors in the track titles seemed to be in sync with the landscape passing outside my window. By the time “fade to green” was piping through the speakers, there were lovely springtime green hills to go along with the Earth mama feeling of the music. Birdsong was a nice addition to the track. Track 3 has some vocalizations that blend in well with the electronics, and there is some sampling thrown in on some tracks, though it is minimal. The entire CD builds from spare outings to the final, epic track that has layers of beauty. Even in the spaces, there is so much going on. Fading never sounded so good.