Drugs, passion, jail, disease, and death are timeless subjects, as this 2-CD compilation from the Greek underground proves. Covering a span of 22 years, these folk songs might as well be set in current times, because all the banes of human existence stay consistent. We are self-destructive, addicted, and in need of escape. You don’t have to know what the lyrics say to understand that then, as now, music is one of the most helpful ways to communicate the human condition. “Rembetika” refers to the sound of disparate urban Greek music that have been grouped together since the 1960s as part of the Rembetika movement.
Joni Void (aka Jean Cousin) has served up a gem here, which he refers to as “a time travel experiment, emotional processing, abstracted narrative, for voice, tone & beats.” Samples (Boards of Canada on 12), vocals, phone sounds (6), camera sounds that create beats (8), and even snippets from his parents’ wedding reception (1) all create the sense of infinity implied by the album title: “a copy of an image within itself, a story within a story; without beginning or end.” Enjoy.
The CD cover calls this release “a soundtrack for a fictitious crime film.” True to its word, everything, from the track titles to the music to the cover design with fingerprints and mug shots, is in keeping with the crime theme. Most of the tracks, especially the first half, contain instrumental electronic ambience that is sinister and unsettling, just as you’d expect the soundtrack to an assassinous act to be. Joining the violins toward the end are ethereal vocalizations, especially on 11, and 12 has voices that sound like they’re taken from a trial. This is unique and haunting. Try it.
This is simply beautiful music composed and played by Julien Boulier, who can make keyboards and electronic sounds that resemble harp, violins, and bells. This French musician has indeed composed music that would make an atmospheric soundtrack, and the delight comes from imagining your own film. You know how ending credits can pull at your heartstrings and take you through emotions that leave you feeling clean and, well, cried out? That is what I felt when listening to this.
Each of the musicians in the Set Ensemble is also a composer, and this CD offers a wonderful sampling of the uniqueness of this UK-based group’s creativity. Track 3 is particularly interesting with the sound of a carrot and apple being chewed and digested. Among the other instruments decorating the sparse soundscape are cello, piano, a banana, crisps, contrabass, zither, and guitar. Watch your levels because sometimes things start out very quietly. But there’s art to the stillness…
Jeppe Hasseriis is the composer and producer of this ultimate trip of an album (yes, Sal9000, this one’s for you!). Aptly referred to as darksynth, outer-spacey electro ambience, this release is perfect for creating a Dr. Who type of mood. “Escape” (track 6) is my go-to, but almost any of these will do the trick.
This is a treasure trove of folk rock inspired by Joni Mitchell’s 1970 album “Ladies of the Canyon,” so of course I love it. These ladies celebrated the rebirth of folk rock and hail from the canyons of California. Some have religious overtones because they were sung at church picnics; the first features a gorgeous voice of a 19-year-old and lasts for less than a minute; another (track 4) comes from singer who went on to perform in Disney films such as “Pocahontas”; all of them are unique tributes to a genre that will not be forgotten thanks to the researchers who curated this compilation. Great liner notes, too.
This lovely music finessed by Narcisi breathes in and out in a chill way like an accordion, the instrument which Fidanza brings to the table on tracks 6 through 9. Electronic manipulations and field recordings are what’s in store on this release, and listening to it will take you through time quite easily and dreamily. Track 9 even sounds like it has a vox humana which indeed sounds like the celestial voice indicated by the track title. Enjoy.
Phoenix, Arizona-based musican Owen Evans (AKA R.O.A.R.) says his influences include the Beach Boys and Beatles, and this is apparent in his vocals. The title of this album is a great description of the songs, which tell of a sad divide between two or more people. The lyrics are printed on the back of the album cover, and are heartwrenching: “I can’t get enough of feeling lonely” (“Patetique”). “Wondering Why” is perhaps one of the most upbeat sounding. All are worthy of a listen. The magenta vinyl is lovely and looks like a fuchsia or bleeding heart.
Some of these songs written and performed by Vassalotti are down-tempo and ballad-like, while others are more upbeat. Throughout, Vassalotti’s guitar weaves his stories together while his echoey voice delivers the lyrics. My favorite track is “The Other Light.” The lyrics are thoughtfully included inside the CD cover, so pull out your magnifying glass and contemplate what this musician is communicating to you.
This is lively, spirited music from the Merina, an ethnic group in Madagascar that lies in the center of the island. The zither, lute, and flute are featured in these folk songs, along with some vocals chiming in. Track 18 is especially fun, with children’s voices accompanied by earth drum and rhythmic games that will spark joy in many a set. Great add for the International Collective.
These recordings from 1964-1968 on the Kent Recordings label are perfect for our Soul Collective. Alternating between the catchy pizzazz of soul and the ballad-like nature of blues, Z. Z. Hill’s hearty, smooth baritone skates those soul-rock-blues lines with ease. You can choose almost any song on these two CDs and be assured of finding a gem for your set.
This 2-CD compilation is perfect for our International music collective. These popular Portuguese songs from the “bad boys” of Lisbon are often melancholy and accompanied by mandolins and guitars. The first CD features women singers whose voices are a bit grating to me; in the second CD the women seem to have softened their voices, or maybe I just got used to them. All recordings from a time long ago that must not be forgotten.
This CD is a jewel traveling to us from 1995 and debuts the rich, hearty, nourishing voice of blues singer Sista Monica. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll learn that she moved to Santa Cruz. It’s true that her voice is an instrument, and though she is known for her blues, she stirs in elements of soul and rock and gospel (in the last song you can hear her gospel singing roots). This is a great add for our library. Sista Monica may have left the world, but her voice reverberates on.
Cellos, marimbas, woodblocks, oh my! Composers who are classically trained and yet value uptown as well as downtown elements, minimal jazz within structures that allow for musical freedoms galore. This is what Bang On a Can is all about. Julia Wolfe, Louis Andriessen, David Lang, and Michael Gordon are the composers featured on this unique CD that offers the ultimate challenging listen.
To say this album breathed life back into me is an understatement. From the first song to the last, Van Goat is a band that makes you WANT to “follow them under.” The horns bring to mind the jaunty liveliness of a New Orleans funeral procession, the percussion sets up a heart beat beneath the catchy lyrics and fast-paced numbers that defy classification–is it jazz, punk, Americana? Only two slow down enough to be ballads, and they are “Nothing Matters” and “Saliva Monster,” both featuring the powerful female vocals of Lindsay Alexis. Aidan Ward offers lead vocals on the rest of these amazing songs. I LOVE THIS!!!
From Nigeria and a remastering of a 1975 album, this is just the ticket for injecting some funk into your life. Felix Day and Kevin Coburn make music that gets into your blood and makes your feet shuffle. The songs are long enough to satisfy your dance craving and lift your mood.
Dubbed “The Best of the JSP Studio Sessions,” these blues songs are infused with rock and funk, which put them into an enjoyable blues league of their own. Lucky’s father and his wife collaborate with him on these tracks, and rarely has a family reunion such as this sounded so good. This should get plenty of play.
This is fresh jazzy experimental music from a Bay Area band whose upbeat tempo changes and fanciful saxophones bring to mind plenty of influences, such as Sun Ra. The horn infusions even made me think of Chicago for a brief second or two, but the mix of international sounding beats distinguish this as its own unique sound. Highly enjoyable and energetic.
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