Music Reviews

Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo – “Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo ” – [Vibraphone Records]

cinder   8/29/2007   A Library, CD

From Italy, part of bands: Larsen and Blind Cave
Salamander. 22 minute solo EP.
Track 1 – recorded on his mobile phone. Tiny toy
Track 2 – Leonard Cohen cover. Simplistic guitar and
excellent dead pan singing.
Track 3 – Heavy breathing. Awesome buzzing melodic
drones. Live recording from WFMU.
Track 4 – guitar playing and random room noises fill
the background. Very beautiful. Good for that summer
sunset beach drive.

Carter, Tom / Robert Horton / Michael Shannon – “Turnstone ” – [Three Lobed Recordings]

cinder   8/29/2007   A Library, CD

Recorded in a long 5 hour beer fueled session, Turnstone is the highlights from those experimental minutes. Shannon drove down with a car packed full of instruments from Seattle to the SF area, and met up with Carter and Horton. Sometimes sounds like a mini
orchestra warm up, and sometimes like distant plucking strings and fog fueled horns of the eve. A little droney, a tad feedbacky, a bit stringy, very pretty.

Vopat – “Calcutta ” – [Brutal Sound Effects]

cinder   8/29/2007   A Library, CD

One long 30 minute track. Serious low frequency grumbles and growls from Indiana. Deep meditating rolling electronic droney trip outs. It starts like a dark moonless night in the forest, planning your next attack on that juicy rodent…then you remember your beautiful flower bed garden back home, as the sun comes up and birds chirp. The sunrise is excellent. Ah isn’t life great!

A Band – “A Band ” – [Qbico]

Max Level   8/27/2007   12-inch, A Library

Seriously disturbed instrumental/vocal improv, recorded over a couple of days in England 1991. This group is referred to as “A” Band, due to their tendency to perform live under names such as Antidote, Adversity, Arachnid, etc.) They were a large ensemble that varied in membership during its existence, but it was anchored by Richard Youngs, Neil Campbell, and Jim Plaistow. Sonically indescribable surrealistic freakout with horns, flutes, keyboards, guitars, percussion, male and female voices talking/ yelling, stuff crashing and breaking, crazy electronic effects… the musical direction changes every few minutes as many different sections were edited/mixed into continuous side-long pieces. Brilliant and definitely not for the timid listener.
QBICO limited edition of 350.

Vocokesh – “…all This and Hieronymus ” – [Strange Attractors Audio]

Daryl Licht   8/23/2007   A Library, CD

F/i co-founder Richard Franecki???s dependable spacerock project, Vocokesh, returns to deliver its eighth transmission. Dependable is the operative word here, as the 11 tracks on this release reflect no more than a few minor innovations in the group???s sonic attack. The band has dropped the somewhat more song oriented approach that was present on their previous effort (2005???s ???Through The Smoke???) and returned to their familar style of improvised, instrumental jamming. In addition, Franecki???s sitar work plays an expanded role on a couple of cuts, which gives those tracks a more ???Eastern??? flavor, as well as a more languid feel that???s more ???spacey??? and less ???rocking???. Otherwise, it???s just another solid dose of classic spacerock, featuring driving fuzz riffs, analog synth atmospherics (courtesy of former KFJC DJ and talented multi-instrumentalist, Doug Pearson!), and masterful psychedelic guitar leads. Like I indicated above, overall, there???s nothing particularly new nor groundbreaking about the material on this release, yet there???s still something pretty satisfying in hearing masters of the spacerock art form plying their trade in full glory.

3/3 – “Sanbun No San ” – [Shadoks]

Max Level   8/22/2007   12-inch, A Library

Japanese power trio 3/3 made this gritty blues-flavored rock album around 1975. I keep hearing that this band is considered to have had a large influence on Japanese punk and no-wave and psyche-rock; maybe so, but as much as I like this record, it doesn’t strike me as being particularly groundbreaking; much of it, for example, recalls Jimi Hendrix, which I’m not at all saying is a bad thing. The boys do crank the energy level up in a few places to a nearly Damned-like thrash, and yes they were probably ahead of the curve on that one; in 1975, punk rock hadn’t seriously broken out yet, but listening to this record you might think it had. The final song is laid-back, relatively speaking, with a gentle guitar intro. A muddy recorded sound on this release but screw that; this record rocks and is a total gas to listen to. Reissue edition of 300 copies. Originally released on LP in an extremely limited edition of 15 copies.

Licketts, The, “Journey In Caldecott”, CD, International Corporation

ophelia necro   8/22/2007   A Library

Elusive Texas duo The Licketts are Mitch Greer and Rachel Smith. I believe this is their 4th release. Very trippy and eclectic blend of psychedelic and orchestrated folk/rock arrangements with elements of jazz, electronic and international music. Guitar, flute, oboe, violin, drums, sitar!, harp and other built instruments not credited. Clever song titles, nice artwork. 15 tracks running from a little over one minute to almost seven and a half minutes long. Some are instrumental, contemplative and peaceful, while others are a bit more lively and some even a bit funky. Track 2 and 14 are the only tracks with clearly understandable, unburied lyrics. Tracks 7, 9 & 11 have buried and harder to understand lyrics. There is a lot of different stuff on here that should appeal to a lot of very different tastes, so if you don’t like one particular track you might enjoy one of the others. This release is very diverse but it is also very safe. Where is the big bad wolf when you need him? I guess even the rabbits and unicorns need a jam session once in a while.
The Lickets website is an interactive game where you can journey through the land of Caldecott, look around the forest and gather items while listening to the album, check it out at www.thelickets.com

(collection) Four Studies For A Human Portrait (Tribute To Francis Bacon), CD, Vital Records

ophelia necro   8/22/2007   A Library

Francis Bacon was a modern surrealist painter (1909-1992). He created a significant body of work from 1929 until his death (of a heart attack) at the age of eighty-two. This collection (released in 2005) is a tribute to him, each of the 4 artists on the collection have chosen their favorite Bacon painting to create a unique sound collage.
The first track is a piece by Henrik Nordvargr Bjorkk of Sweden, self described as a dark ambient, drone, research project. The piece is inspired by Bacon’s 1955 painting “Portrait of a Cardinal”. Bjorkk’s piece is 10 minutes and forty-nine seconds. It is very dark. I can imagine being in a place where very bad things are happening, unspeakable things but they are in the distance for now. Vocal manipulations, pitch shifting. Did someone slip something in my drink? Everything is slowing down…are those maracas or a rattle? 5 minutes in we are trying to find a way out of this horrible place. My legs feel heavy and I can’t see so good. A cracking fire? Go towards the light, droney and rhythmic.
Track two is a 10 minute, 48 second piece by Japan’s experimental electronic noise project CONTAGIOUS ORGASM (aka Hiroshi Hashimoto) inspired by Bacon’s 1950 painting “Fragment of a Crucifixion”. This piece instantly puts you in a very creepy place where the gruesome sounds of raw flesh being sliced to the bone, breathing, wet footsteps, movement, muffled sounds of a television or voices, rattling chains, a woman’s moans. 3 minutes into the piece it starts getting weirder with some suspenseful keyboard loop effects, buzzing, more breathing and backward masking. 7 minutes it sounds like someone is having fun and it’s probably not you in less you enjoy the sounds of “falling spiders” from the old arcade game Centipede, metal scrapings and more audio torture manipulations of noise ending in slurping. Why have you forsaken me?
Track three is a 10 minute, thirty three second piece by HENTAI ( aka Jakob Nybo from Denmark) inspired by Bacon’s 1946 “Painting”. Mechanical manipulations, bringing to mind the inner workings of some machine, the monotony of a factory. Something happens 5 minutes in, scary pounding rhythms, screaming? or is it the sounds of pigs squealing? It quiets down again and then back to the machine. Pounding rhythms joined once again by horses? pigs? chickens? squealing and grunting noises, then quiet again back to the machine and carcasses swaying in the sun. I feel that this piece probably sounds the most like the painting it is inspired by would sound.
The final track is a 12 minute, 16 second piece by Scandinavian experimental musician LASSE MARHAUG based on Bacon’s 1978 painting “Figure In Movement” after the previous tracks this seems a lot more pleasant (the painting itself is the most pleasant visually of the 4 as for content and color scheme) but still has an noisey element, with static bursts, droney, rumbling and monotonous electronic manipulations. It ends with the sound of wind when it hits a microphone and a high pitched buzzing sound, reminding me a lot of the old tv show The Outer Limits.

Creepy ambient noise.

For more info about Francis Bacon please visit www.francis-bacon.cx
Ophelia Necro

Sealed Knot, The – “Live In Concert At The Red Hedgehog ” – [Confront]

loun   8/21/2007   A Library, CD

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 – “Les Ondes Silencieuses ” – [The Leaf Label Ltd.]

loun   8/21/2007   A Library, CD

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.

Molam: Thai Country Groove From Isan Vol. 2 [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Daryl Licht   8/21/2007   CD, International

???Molam – Thai Country Groove From Isan, Vol. 2??? is the second of two new CDs recently issued by Sublime Frequencies featuring authentic archival sounds from Thailand. It focuses on recordings from the 1970???s and 80???s which feature a unique hybrid of traditional Northeastern Thai (the geographic area known as Isan) folk song structures and instrumentation (like the khaen, a bamboo mouth-organ, and the phin, a Thai lute) and modern Western pop and rock influences and instruments. The resultant sound was (and still is!) something entirely new – a mesmerizing blend of organic Asian folk rhythms, hypnotic, bleeding keyboards, repetitive guitar figures, and amazing, jaunty, freestyle vocals. Although the material on this disc is almost uniformly great, several tracks still deserve special note for their transcendent qualities: ???The Generosity Of Our Fans??? by White Leg Group, Chai Mungpon???s ???Lady With the Big Eyes???, ???Two Brothers Leave Town For Bangkok??? from Doi Intanon And Group Suthep, ???Give Responsibility To the Son-in-Law??? from Soonton Chairoogruen (now there???s one in your face rock and roll statement of counter cultural defiance for you, huh?!?), and ???Finishing My Business In Burma??? by Aungkana Kunchai. Perhaps even better than the first volume, these unique and genre-defying tracks represent another great musical discovery from the fine folks at Sublime Frequencies! DL

Vandermark 5, The – “a Discontinuous Line ” – [Atavistic]

Daryl Licht   8/17/2007   CD, Jazz

A Discontinuous Line, is the latest (well, Fall of ’06!) blast from Chicago-based,
multi-instrumentalist Ken Vandermark???s long-running and great ensemble, the Vandermark 5. It marks a new era for the 5, with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm replacing trombonist Jeb Bishop, whose contributions to previous V5 dates I really appreciated. As always, the V5 incorporates a variety of influences to cover wide range of stylistic ground: alternating between tuneful, post-bop passages; minimal, neo-classicism; slamming rock/funk rhythms; and awesome freedom chases. Personal favorites included “Reciprocal” and the disc’s tour de force centerpiece “Some Not All”. Outstanding! DL

Soul Sides Volume Two: The Covers [coll] – [Zealous Records]

Hunter Gatherer   8/16/2007   12-inch, Soul

How can one go wrong with 12 soul covers? One can’t! Most of these songs were big enough hits that they should be familiar with listeners. But the covers are sufficiently obscure that they should be new discoveries with the possible exception of Al Green‘s I Want To Hold Your Hand. Personally I like covers because singers tend to cut loose to put their stamp on the song, and this album doesn’t disappoint.

My favorite track is Home Is Where The Hatred Is by Esther Phillips (originally by the great Gil Scott-Heron), informed by Ms. Phillips own struggles with heroin. “Did you ever try/to turn your sick soul inside out/so that the world/can watch you die?” After that I love O.V. Wright‘s cover of Latimore‘s classic Let’s Straighten It Out, which contains excellent relationship advice like “Instead of lying there crying your eyes out honey/you and me ought to be getting it on.” And be sure to check out the reggae-inflected covers of Express Yourself and Be Thankful For What You Got.

While these tracks are a little more produced than I usually like on my soul 45s, I love every track on this album. Drop the needle anywhere and give the Bay Area a badly needed dose of soul.

–Hunter Gatherer

Notes: #1 has a key change; #9 is an instrumental

Mekuria, Getatchew, The Ex, and Guests – “Moa Anbessa ” – [Terp Records]

Hunter Gatherer   8/16/2007   CD, International

Legendary Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria teams up with legendary Dutch band The Ex and some friends who join in on bass, clarinet, sax, trombone, and organ. The Ex were big fans of the albums he recorded in the 70’s (and you will be too if you check out the copy of Negus of Ethiopian Sax we have in International CD), and tracked him down in Addis Ababa. Some of the tracks were recorded in two days of studio work in April 2006. Others were recorded live in concert.

The relentless driving of The Ex fits perfectly with the horns, especially the featured sax of Mr. Mekuria, creating a sound that is part punk, part free jazz, and part war chant. According to the detailed liner notes, Mr. Mekuria had something of a breakthrough in his style when he started to transcribe a vocal war song style called sh??llela for his saxophone. Check out Tezalegn Yetentu (10) for an example. There is a lot going on but somehow it all hangs together perfectly. Or turn to Mr. Mekuria’s solo on Tezeta (8) for a more lyrical sound.
–Hunter Gatherer

Language: 1 (fuck, suck)

Garrick, Michael Trio – “Moonscape ” – [Trunk Records]

Daryl Licht   8/16/2007   12-inch, Jazz

Michael Garrick Trio – ???Moonscape??? LP (Trunk) – This LP reissues an early (1964) and rare (only an edition of 99 copies!) 10??? release from British Jazz pianist Michael Garrick. On these recordings Garrick works in a traditional piano trio setting, ably backed by Dave Green on bass and Colin Barnes on drums. This album has long been hyped by hard core Jazz enthusiasts as being an early example of British Free Jazz, but, personally, I???d say that???s a bit of an overstatement, as the material is split evenly between compositions of fairly straightforward, yet pleasing, piano-based Jazz and somewhat more abstract improvisations, which never really go too far ???out???. Garrick is solid, though never overwhelming, throughout, with a very clean playing style and sound that is marked by an excellent sense of space and that classic, rich, grand piano timbre. Highlights include two bright, fairly uptempo tracks ???Music For Shattering Supermarkets??? and ???Man Have You Ever Heard???, the slightly subdued, but beautiful theme ???Sketches Of Israel???, and the best of the album???s more free-leaning tracks ??? A Face In The Crowd???, which features some particularly transcendent interplay between Garrick and Barnes. While there are certainly no mind blowing revelations to be found on these recordings, the short length (22+ minutes) of this album allows the somewhat limited charms of this set to be fully displayed without wearing out its welcome. DL

Jesu / Eluvium [coll] – [Temporary Residence Ltd.]

Daryl Licht   8/16/2007   12-inch, A Library

Jesu / Eluvium “S/T” Split LP (Temporary Residence) – This pairing of Justin Broadrick???s Jesu and Eluvium is the second release in a series of split LPs being issued conjointly by Temporary Residence Ltd. and Hydra Head Records. The material on Jesu???s side continues in the vein of their recent ???Conqueror ??? double LP. The opening track ???Farewell??? is the longest and best of the side???s three tracks, combining mechanical loops and beats with layers of droning keyboards to create a retro-shoegaze gem. ???Blind & Faithless??? uses a similar formula, but increases the BPM, to produce a respectable track of almost danceable ethereal dream pop that wouldn???t sound out of place on any number of albums on the 4AD label, circa 1991. The final and least satisfying track ???Why Are We Not Perfect???? is a plodding, somewhat electronica-leaning pop dirge. Eluvium???s contribution is the appropriately titled ???Time-Travel Of The Sloth Parts I, II, & III???, a fairly standard, side-long, post-rock instrumental dronescape that failed to impress this listener. Enjoyable enough in parts, but hardly essential. DL

Bittova, Iva & Skampa Quartet – “Leos Janacek – Moravian Folk Poetry In Songs ” – [Supraphon]

loun   8/14/2007   A Library, CD

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.

Daby Tour??: Stereo Spirit (2007)

humana   8/11/2007   A Library

World music: A breath of fresh air from a musician who refused to listen to his father’s negativity about how no one could be successful as a musician. Clearly Daby Tour?? has the heart of a musician and this CD proves his father wrong. Defying ethnic categorization, Tour?? mixes his African roots with his exposure to the “bubbling Parisian jazz scene” to compose, arrange, sing, and play all of the musical instruments on this album of positive, upbeat songs. “What I’m trying to do is to give people the best moment possible whilst listening to this album.” With his lovely vocals and skillful guitars, he succeeds. They’re all under 5:50, they all end at least a few seconds early, and they’re all great, but try 2, 5, and 9.

Vigroux, Franck & Sharp, Elliott – “Hums 2 Terre ” – [Signature/Radio France]

Max Level   8/7/2007   A Library, CD

Improvised duo constructions from two far-reaching multi-instrumentalists. A quote from the liner notes: “We create formal framings but fill them like punk rock.” Haphazard organization, in other words. The pieces are amoebic, ever-changing; colors are displayed and then hidden again. Beats appear but tend to get swallowed up in the general morass, never to return. Guitars and reeds mingle and separate, conversing along the way with piano, keyboards, electronics, computers, turntables, and minidiscs. Field recordings of dialog appear from time to time. Cool and brainy work, just as one would expect from this pair.