Fern Knight – “Music For Witches and Alchemists ” – [Vhf]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

This is the second full length release from Fern Knight, a project led by Margie Wienk, a talented player of many stringed instruments who has performed with a number of groups, most notably, Espers. And Espers is the appropriate name to drop, as Wienk is supported on this release by Espers’ Greg Weeks (acid leads and vocals), Otto Hauser (percussion), and Meg Baird (vocals). Not surprisingly, the music they create is top notch contemporary acid folk (augmented on some tracks with unique sonic treatments from instruments such as accordian, harmonium, harp, and bowed saw!) that bears an uncanny similarity to the music of Espers. Highlights include “Awake, Angel Snake”, “W. Memphis”, and “The Dirty South”. I’m not sure how this album slipped under our radar when it was initially released in 2006, but I’m certainly glad KFJC caught up on this instant acid folk classic!

Jesu – “Conqueror ” – [Hydrahead]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

On their latest release Justin Broadrick???s Jesu continues its evolution down the musical path illuminated on the ???Silver??? LP. Although this release contains the same basic sonic elements as all previous Jesu recordings (thick, ???wall of sound??? guitars, mechanical rhythms, layered, droning keyboards, and reverbed/delayed vocals) the emphasis continues to focus more on the pop spectrum. So, yeah, there???s still thick guitar feedback heaviness, but now it comes in waves, accompanied by dreamy keyboard dronescapes, instead of the precision pound and massive blocks of riffage featured on their self-titled double LP. Personal favorites include the fuzzy dream pop of ???Transfigure??? and the distorto pop dirge “Weightless And Horizontal”.

This special, Japanese-only issue also contains a bonus disc with the two lengthy tracks from the, as of yet, unreleased ???Sun Down / Sun Rise??? LP. The first of these two tracks,???Sun Down???, is another piece that sounds very much like an extended version of the material on the first disc. ???Sun Rise??? continues to feature similar elements of sound, as well, but lowers the level of sonic density considerably to create a more ambient piece that even includes some electronica informed touches. Personally, I thought these two tracks were among the better pieces on this two disc set.

While I must admit that I found this release, overall, to be quite enjoyable, I???m not sure how interested I???ll continue to be in future Jesu titles if Broadrick???s sonic evolution continues further down its current path. When the ???Sun Down / Sun Rise??? LP does come out, it (also containing only two lengthy tracks) will make a fitting bookend to the ???Heart Ache??? CD (still the best Jesu title, in my humble opinion!) and, perhaps, a good note on which to close out the Jesu phase of Broadrick???s career before he runs its good name and reputation into the ground of disrepute like he did with Godflesh.

Powerhouse Sound – “Oslo / Chicago : (((Breaks))) ” – [Atavistic]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   CD, Jazz

The Jazz world???s current leading light (in my humble opinion, and that???s saying something when you consider the curriculum vitae of some of the other potential contenders, such as John Zorn, Matthew Shipp, and William Parker) returns with the debut release from his new project, the aptly named, Powerhouse Sound. It seems Vandermark???s goal with the Powerhouse Sound was to create a unique, new sound by combining contemporary Jazz with a variety of funky rhythms and electronic sounds, ranging from the dub experiments of the legendary producers of reggae to classic funk and the sampling of hip hop. Several tracks are also informed by the influence of experimental rock, an element that has been present in previous Vandermark projects.

Vandermark originally formed this project in Norway, where he and bassist Nate Mc Bride were joined by Ingebright Haker Flaten (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), and Lasse Marhaug (electronics). Apparently, he was so pleased with the results of their efforts that he also formed a domestic version of the group, in which he and Mc Bride joined forces with Jeff Parker (guitar/effects) and John Herndon (drums). This double disc set features one studio album by each ensemble playing a similar set of compositions.

Although the Chicago group is featured on the second CD of the set, I preferred their performances, so I???ll address that disc first. Vandermark (who plays only tenor saxophone on this outing) is stellar throughout, whether crafting soulful melody lines or pursuing wild freedom chases. The rhythm section section of Hearndon and Mc Bride provides an excellent foundation for Vandermark and Parker???s sonic adventures. Mc Bride???s thunderous bass also supplies a great deal of the raw rock power. Perhaps the star of this disc, however, is guitarist Jeff Parker (Tortoise, Chicago Underground, etc.), who delivers reved-up R & B riffs, hallucination-inducing electronic treatments, and incredible improvisational leads. Together they create tracks that move seamlessly from groovin??? Jazz passages to delayed washes of electronic ambience to slamming funk and noisy, out-rock that are truly amazing!

The crew on Oslo disc achieves a similar sound on most of the tracks, but on a couple of pieces the differences in instrumentation do effect the final product and, in my humble opinion, not for the better. Simply put, Jeff Parker is able to cover more territory and, therefore, the Chicago unit more is versatile and their performances are more cohesive and flowing as a result. A couple of the tracks on the Oslo disc that rely too heavily on Lasse Marhaug???s electronics tend to lose focus and stall out a bit at times. On a positive note, however, the interplay betwen the two bassists, Mc Bride and Haker Flaten, provides for some incredible and often quite rocking moments. While, again, I certainly did find the disc created by the Chicago ensemble to be the superior document, it would be wrong for readers to leave with an overly negative impression of the disc produced by the Oslo quintet, as, overall, this is still quite an interesting and solid set of performances.

In summary, Vandermark and company have delivered some of the funkiest, most rocking, innovative and challenging work of their collective careers. ???Oslo/Chicago: Breaks??? is a tour de force that should not be overlooked. Outstanding!!!!!

Sapat – “Mortise and Tenon ” – [Siltbreeze]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   12-inch, A Library

Sapat is yet another project to emerge from the loose and expansive collective of Louisville, Kentucky area musicians that have issued albums under such monikers as Kark, the Phantom Family Halo, and so on. While some of their releases have found favor with these ears (Phantom Family Halo) and others haven???t (Valley Of The Ashes), all have contained loose, improvisational jamming of uneven quality. ???Mortise And Tenon??? the debut LP from Sapat on the revitalized Siltbreeze imprint (!) continues in that, err, ???tradition???. The majority of the tracks contain a unique blend of rough, organic ???American Primitive??? instrumentation, loose basement psych jamming, and Krautrock kosmisch groove, the best of these being the awesome ???Maat Fount???. There???s also a couple of more structured, more rock oriented tracks. My personal favorite among these is ???Lovely And Free???, a solid dose of lo-fi, angular, art punk that almost sounds as if it could have been created by some band of freakish brethren a couple hundred miles north and 30 years ago. While not uniformly great, ???Mortise And Tenon??? is probably the strongest signal yet to emenate from the Black Velvet Fuckere universe.

Plants – “Photosynthesis ” – [Strange Attractors Audio]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

Plants are a new and appropriately named project from Portland Oregon. Centered around the husband-wife team of Joshua and Molly Blanchard and supported by a variety of guest musicians, Plants use a wide array of instruments (cello, saw, banjo, organ, bells, recordings of ???found sounds??? and, of course, both acoustic and electric guitars) to create these eight tracks of rich drones and fragile acid folk. Although there???s certainly nothing groundbreaking about material on ???Photosynthesis???, there???s no denying its charms as a soundtrack for mindlessly gazing at the smoke as it floats away through the filtered light of the trees on a breezy, but hot, summer day.

Poem Rocket – “Invasion! ” – [Atavistic]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

Poem Rocket is a long-running NYC-based project led by the duo of Michael Peters and Sandra Gardner. ???Invasion!??? is their first release since 2000 and contains two discs, each of which focuses on a particular aspect of the group???s sound.

Disc 1, which is subtitled ???A Parade Of Vigilance???, features 10 tracks of gorgeously recorded, acoustic guitar-based pop, often augmented with little lysergic touches such as droning synths, miscellaneous percussion, and various loops and samples. Personal favorites included ???Underwater???, ???The Keeper???, and the disc???s one sonic outlier, the densely layered dronescape ???The Ocean As Itself (Reprise)???. Disc 2, which is subtitled ???The Abdomen Of Memory???, contains 9 tracks of pop-rock that I found to be very reminiscent of the kind of material that was quite popular within certain softer circles of the international underground in the early 1990???s as represented by such diverse labels as Creation, Sub Pop, Too Pure, and so on – a pleasant blend of simple drums patterns, rumbling bass lines, distorted guitar chords and jagged, multi-effected electric leads, and tasteful keyboard treatments. Highlights from the second disc included ???Sound Byte Hit??? and ???Pulse (I Hope You Dream Something)???.

When listening straight through, I found that both discs tend to be a bit sonically monolithic. Perhaps, some editing (like taking the strongest tracks from each disc and combining them into a single disc) would have yielded a more dynamic and higher quality final product. Still, there’s enough solid material on these two discs to merit adding this enjoyable, but far from innovative, album to the KFJC library.

Nadler, Marissa – “Songs III: Bird On The Water ” – [Peacefrog Records]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

On ???Songs III: Bird on the Water??? Marissa Nadler continues her exploration of both traditional (with the accompanying lyrical themes of death, love lost, and so on) and more modern outre-folk forms. Unlike her approach in making previous albums, where the majority of the tracks were solo performances, on this outing Nadler (who is a talented multi-instrumentalist, in addition to being blessed with an incredibly beautiful singing voice!) receives excellent support from members of the great Espers. On nine of these eleven tracks her vocals and acoustic guitar work are augmented only by minimal embellishments like Otto Hauser???s lysergic bells/percussion on ???Dying Breed???, Helena Espvall’s excellent string work on “Thinking of You” and ???Feathers???, Orion Rigel Dommisse???s haunting keyboards on ???My Love And I??? and the cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat”, and Greg Weeks??? trademark acid leads on ???Rachel???. Two tracks, ???Mexican Summer??? and ???Bird On Your Grave???, however, are given a more full band treatment and the combination of droning keyboards and psychedelic guitar takes Nadler???s music to new heights of acid psych beauty. ???Songs III: Bird on the Water??? is certainly Marissa Nadler???s most fully realized and best effort to date. I look forward with great anticipation to hearing her continuing development on future releases.

Lubelski, Samara – “Parallel Suns ” – [The Social Registry]

Daryl Licht   10/24/2007   A Library, CD

Amidst her busy schedule, providing support for luminaries such as Thurston Moore and MV and EE with the Golden Road, talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Samara Lubelski, somehow found enough time to craft her third solo album. While the material on this CD, as that of her previous releases, would still be properly categorized as falling under the general rubric of psychedelic folk and pop, the nine tracks on ???Parallel Suns??? display a somewhat sharpened sonic focus. Whereas some of the material on her earlier solo efforts reflected the more dark, lo-fi, and improvisational modern free folk approaches favored by the groups with which she has previously participated, such as Hall of Fame and the Tower Recordings, on this outing Lubelski (backed by a solid supporting cast, including members of Metabolismus, P.G. Six, and Hamish Kilgour of the Clean) has created nine tracks of polished, light, and dreamy psychedelic folk and pop that almost perfectly capture the sound and spirit of those classic and highly prized private press rarities from the 60???s. I???ll readily admit that listeners who were expecting and seeking the somewhat more experimental sounds of her earlier work may be slightly surprised and disappointed by ???Parallel Suns???, but lysergic pop gems like ???Taste The Candy???, ???The Cloistered Palace??? and ???Ego Blossoms??? make this disc a winner (if also a slightly guilty pleasure!) in my book. DL

Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma) Vol. 3 [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Daryl Licht   9/24/2007   CD, International

Sublime Frequencies returns with the third volume in their ongoing series of releases documenting the folk and pop music of Myanmar. This set focuses on the ceremonial folk music created by various Nat Pwe ???orchestras???.

In Myanmar, many people still believe in a folk religion (yeah, I know, ALL religions are really folk religions; some are merely able to present a more deceptive facade of legitimacy due to their large, formal, organizational structures and their varying, but significant, levels of influence over both cultural attitudes and governmental policies, but, I digress…) based on ghost spirits called Nats. Believers participate in ceremonies called Pwes in order to pay tribute to the various Nats with the hope of enjoining their assistance or, conversely, avoiding their wrath. The music on this disc was recorded live at various Nat Pwes throughout Myanmar and features some of top practitioners of the form.

These groups use an assortment of percussion (such as bamboo sticks, bells, cymbals, gongs, wood blocks, and xylophones, in addition to a wide variety of drums) to create an incredible foundation for layers of alternately melodic and chaotic oboes and reverb-drenched vocal stylings. The resultant music is an maniacal and hypnotic vortex of authentic, organic, asian folk sounds, which have been beautifully captured on these sixteen glorious tracks. Another fine and very much appreciated release from the sonic ethnographers at Sublime Frequencies! DL

Akron/Family – “Love Is Simple ” – [Young God Records]

Daryl Licht   9/19/2007   A Library, CD

The talented crew from the Akron/Family return with their third full-length release ???Love Is Simple???. The material on this disc seems to constitute some vague sort of ???concept album??? or, at the very least, a ???song cycle???, based on the premise contained in its title that ???Love Is Simple???. They???re not singing about ???romantic love??? in the micro, interpersonal sense (although one would suspect that they would readily acknowledge the role of such ???love??? as part of a greater, more generalized ???love???), they???re singing about ???love??? in the macro sense; about love of life, love for humanity and, by extension, love for the planet. Everything about the material on this set, from the actual lyrical content to the heavy emphasis on choral passages to the pan-genre scope of the music, is intended to evoke the spirit of communal experience and brotherhood.

Over the course of this album, the Akron/Family, once again armed with a wide array of instruments and musical influences, delivers an amazing cornucopia of sonic diversity; sometimes all in one track! For example, ???Ed Is A Portal??? begins like some kind of rural freak folk revival, complete with chorus, which builds in intensity until it morphs into a beautiful segment of acoustic-based, uptempo pop, before abruptly changing gears to conclude with 90 seconds of neo-electronica. There are two additional excellent, lengthy, and similarly scizophrenic tracks ???There???s So Many Colors??? and ???Of All The Things???; the former featuring the disc???s most straight-up ???rock??? moments, while the latter is highlighted by an incredible out-rock eruption. Still, other cuts are more focused, but equally stellar. Case in point, ???Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music For Moms???, which is a riveting dose of communal psych, dominated by steady, almost tribal, percussion, layers of primal vocalisms and ???Crickets???, a beautiful, countrified lullaby, tastefully augmented with field recordings.

Despite vibe of brotherly love that they???re obviously trying to promote with this recording, it is clear that the Akron/Family is also aware that the choatic nature of their approach may not always provide a welcoming, ???user friendly??? experience for some members of their potential audience. For example, in ???Phenomena??? they acknowledge, ???Some might think this isn???t the right sound???. Although such introspective self-awareness is wise, I would submit to you that, for the most part on ???Love Is Simple???, the Akron/Family has gotten the sound exactly right and the result is their best work to date.

Parker, William / Raining On The Moon – “Corn Meal Dance ” – [Aum Fidelity]

Daryl Licht   9/18/2007   CD, Jazz

William Parker must either go without ever sleeping or somehow be able to suspend time. His masterful bass work graces seemingly almost every significant contemporary free jazz release and he leads several of his own ongoing projects, in addition to working as a music teacher and author. This disc is the second full-length release from his Raining On The Moon project and all the material was composed (both the music and the lyrics) by Parker. In addition to Parker on bass, this sextet is rounded out by an outstanding cast of musicians: Rob Brown (alto saxophone), Hamid Drake (drums), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Eri Yamamoto (piano) and Leena Conquest on vocals.

This album may be somewhat of a surprise to the uninitiated. There are very few moments of the extraordinary free jazz for which Parker is famous; although, the players do perform quite admirably in their limited opportunities to step out, with Yamamoto???s contributions being particularly noteworthy. The nine tracks on this album focus on music in the long-running tradition of jazz pop vocals. In particular, it would seem, comparisons to the Sun Ra Arkestra seem unavoidably appropriate. Musically, this fine ensemble, like the Arkestra, creates swinging celestial afro-jazz of a high order. In fact, ???Gilmore’s Hat??? (a nod to long-time Sun Ra collaborator/right hand man John Gilmore, one might presume) includes lines such as ???rocketship to the moon??? and ???a place in space???. In addition, the big star of this set, incredible vocalist Leena Conquest, sounds uncannily like Sun Ra???s famous ???space vocalist??? June Tyson, beautifully delivering socially conscious lyrics which focus on issues such as poverty, oppression, and racism. Despite the heavy subject matter, however, the overall tone of this material is joyous and optimistic. Highlights include ???Doctor Yesterday???, ???Tutsi Orphans???, ???Soledad???, and the amazing ???Land Song???. ???Corn Meal Dance??? is another triumphant release from one of the giants of contemporary American music.

Pink Reason – “Throw It Away + 2 ” – [Criminal I. Q. Records]

Daryl Licht   9/13/2007   7-inch, A Library

This is a repressing of the debut 7″ EP from Green Bay???s Pink Reason. It was originally released in a very limited edition of only 300 copies on the band’s Savage Quality Recordings imprint. The A-Side contains the highlight of their short career, ???Throw It Away???, a stunning dose of dark, driving, lo-fi, doom punk that harkens back to the late 80???s/early 90???s heyday of DIY 7??? releases. The B-Side contains two tracks, neither of which is nearly as successful. “Slate Train” is a short track that contains similar sonic elements as ???Throw It Away???, but is much slower and quieter and, as a result, isn’t nearly as engaging. “New Violence” is a quirky, yet still somewhat appealing, track that takes an entirely different approach, using only synths and a drum machine to accompany leader Kevin De Broux’s vocals. Not that any of that really matters as ???Throw It Away??? is among the best 4 minutes I’ve heard committed to 7″ vinyl in a while and the “must play” track! DL

Wooden Shjips – “SOL ’07 (Pts. 1 & 2) ” – [Sick Thirst Records]

Daryl Licht   9/11/2007   7-inch, A Library

In advance of their highly anticipated debut full length on Holy Mountain, San Francisco???s Wooden Shjips tease us with this tasty 7??? single. Released in conjunction with Holy Mountain on the band???s own Sick Thirst imprint, this 7??? is limited to 500 copies and the proceeds from it will go to benefit the fine grassroots organization Food Not Bombs. This extended track ???SOL ???07??? stretches over both sides of the 7??? and is intended as a sonic commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the infamous ???Summer of Love???. It???s a respectable psych jam with droning organs, echoplexed vocals, and killer electric guitar leads being propelled by driving Krautrock rhythms. Now I???m fully primed for the debut full length – bring it on! DL

North Sea, The – “Exquisite Idols ” – [Type Recordings]

Daryl Licht   9/11/2007   A Library, CD

After many limited edition CDRs and compilation appearances comes ???Exquisite Idols???, the debut full-length release from the North Sea, the solo project of Digitalis Industries mogul Brad Rose. Over the course of this album???s eight tracks, Rose executes all the required moves to earn his ???acid folk??? merit badge. So, you???ve got a couple of takes on contemporary acid folk sounds such as ???Guiwenneth Of The Green Grass??? (which combines field recordings, hand percussion, and beautiful acoustic guitar work), the country-tinged ???Children Of The Ashes???, an acid folk raga featuring sitar ???And Then The Solstice Disappeared???, and the jubliant stomp of the disc???s closing track ???Feather-Cloaked Silver Priestess???. There???s also a couple of more experimental pieces, the opening dronescape ???Eternal Birds??? and the orgy of echoplexed percussion and electronics ???Cover Me With Knives???. Like the majority of the many releases currently flooding the scene under the general rubric of ???acid folk???, there???s nothing particularly ground breaking on this disc, but with ???Exquisite Idols???, Rose has delivered a well-crafted, nicely varied, and engaging set of contemporary acid folk that deserves repeated play. DL

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.

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

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

Howard, Noah – “Black Ark, The ” – [Bo’weavil Recordings]

Daryl Licht   7/13/2007   CD, Jazz

NOAH HOWARD: The Black Ark CD (Bo’Weavil) – I???m a big fan of the almost criminally under recorded and under appreciated alto saxophonist, Noah Howard. Ever since first hearing the Eremite reissue of ???Patterns/Message to South Africa???, I???ve scoured the ???net and the racks to purchase any of Howard???s all too few titles I could find (even scoring rare original vinyl issues of some releases such as ???Space Dimension???!), but ???The Black Ark??? remained elusive. And it was one of his most intriguing titles, too, with that colorful psychedelic cover and an excellent cast of supporting musicians that included Sirone (who was then still going under the name Norris Jones and is excellent throughout this disc) and (in his recording debut) Arthur Doyle. Recorded in 1969 in NYC and later released on the UK???s Freedom label, this was also one of Howard???s earlier releases as a leader. Now, the fine folks at Bo???Weavil have ended my quest with this welcome reissue of ???The Black Ark???.

This album features four solid compositions by Howard, who is also excellent on alto throughout, whether crafting soulful themes or pursuing more aggressive solos. While it has its moments, most notably the solos by Howard and pianist Leslie Waldron (Howard often leaves a lot of space for/relies on the contributions of the excellent pianists who have graced his recordings), the opening track ???Domiabra??? is, overall, a somewhat rough and less than fully satisfying initial shakedown for the group. The disc???s best track ???Ole Negro??? is next. It features the expanded rhythm section (Rashid???s brother, Muhammad Ali, on drums and Juma on conga, along with the piano and bass) laying down an incredible, almost hallucination producing foundation for the soloists. The other real winner on this CD is the longest piece ???Mount Fuji???, which contains trumpeter Earl Cross and Doyle???s most significant contributions and some fine free ensemble playing (vaguely reminiscent of Coltrane???s ???Ascension???) in the segments which connect the solos. The album???s closing track, the pleasant, but all too brief ???Queen Anne???, is highlighted by the solos of Waldron and Howard.

Like many similar releases from the period on labels such as ESP, BYG/Actuel, and so on, both the performances and the recording quality on this disc are, at times, somewhat uneven. Nevertheless, the music contained on this CD represents another interesting and appreciated document from a seminal era in the development of free jazz that richly deserves further exposure to a wider audience. DL

Copyright © 2021 KFJC 89.7 FM
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File