Cudamani – “Cudamani” – [Vital Records]

humana   6/7/2009   CD, International

International: Cudamani, which means sincerity or wholeheartedness, is the name of the seven-tone gamelan orchestra from the village of Pengoskan, Bali. 33 male musicians were recorded by Wayne Vitale (director of Gamelan Sekar Jaya) on July 27, 2000 in Bali. The first 2 tracks are based on the 7-note scale, and are recent compositions for gamelan. The last 3 tracks are more traditional compositions from older times (1930 and 1920) and are meant to accompany dance. 3 is the only track containing vocals. Each track features gongs, metallophones, or flutes, and summons images of a culture that searches for purity through musical form and interpretation. Cudamani plays for artistic expression rather than for financial gain.
PGM: Each track ends at :14.

Terauchi, Takeshi & “Blue Jeans” – “Let’s Go Eleki Bushi” – [King Stereo]

humana   6/6/2009   CD, International

Japanese surf: Terauchi is Japan???s electric guitar surf hero. He started out in country and western but after the Ventures??? pivotal 1962 tour of Japan, he fronted surf bands and hasn???t looked back. The Blue Jeans change over the years, but Terauchi???s distinctive riffs and guitar remain constant. The 18 tracks on this CD are each a delight. 1 sounds distinctly Japanese. 6 has actual surf sounds and vocals. 12 starts with a baby crying. You can pretty much pick any song and be pleasantly surprised if you like surf.
PGM: All songs end around :03.

Sly and Robbie – “Master of Ceremony “Dub”” – [Attack]

humana   6/6/2009   CD, Reggae

Reggae: Sly is the drummer, and Robbie the bassist, of this famous Jamaican duo who have been working together since 1975. The 10 songs on this CD are primarily instrumental except for the glorious intros. 3 has some vocals to ???Legalize It???, and 10 also has vocals as an outro. The rest is pure dub, upbeat and characteristic of this pair who have played on about 50,000 tracks together. 10 is based on George Benson???s ???Breezin?????? and provides a nice finish to the CD.
Try: 3, 5, 7, 10.

Cause Co-Motion – “Because Because Because EP” – [Slumberland Records]

humana   6/5/2009   12-inch, A Library

Who needs uppers when you???ve got a gem like this on hand? Six very short, high-energy songs featuring Arno on vox/guitar, Liam on bass, Jock on drums, and Alex on guitar and you???re good to go for an hour or two. The guitar work is rocking and the youthfulness of this post-punk, low-fi group is contagious. I loved it. It will have you dancing frenetically if you have even a passing fancy for rock and roll.
PGM: Very short pauses between A2 and A3, B1 and B2.

Blackshaw, James – “Glass Bead Game, The” – [Young God Records]

humana   6/1/2009   A Library, CD

Put a 12-string guitar or piano in the hands of James Blackshaw and sit back and let him take you to realms of gorgeous melodic beauty. Lavinia Blackwall lends her vocals on 1 (no lyrics, only voice), John Contreras is on cello, and Joolie Wood adds violin, clarinet, and flute to the lovely textures created by Blackshaw. Blackshaw wrote this classically-flavored music, and it is indeed healing, as Michael Gyra states on the back CD cover. All instrumental.
Picks: 4, 5.
PGM: 1 ends at :25, 2 at :18, 3 at :22, 4 at :20, and 5 at :18.

Strike100 CD [coll] – [Shitkatapult]

humana   5/30/2009   A Library, CD

Electronic: This collection celebrates the 100th release in the Shitkatapult catalog. Most of the tracks on these 2 CDs are previously unreleased, and the overall feeling is one of gentle mellowness, even on the noise tracks. CD1 features an Apparat Remix of a Johnny Cash tune, ducks quacking in field recordings on 7, high-tension wire evanescence on Jan Jelinek???s song played by Frank Bretschneiden (13). CD2 has more melodic textures, with piano on 2 and 5, lullabies by Anders Ilar on 11, and beautiful vibes on the Ag Penthouse remix of 12. All in all a most relaxing, enjoyable experience.
PGM: CD 1: Vox on 6; CD2: Vox on 1, 5, 12. Look for all songs to end as early as :10.

Akritas – “First Drop of My Life, The/Pan” – [Anazitisi Records]

humana   5/26/2009   7-inch, A Library

Bundled with the “Akritas” 12″ comes this one and only 7″ 1973 single of “The First Drop of My Life’ and “Pan” from Greek band Akritas. Stavros Logarides does vocals, guitar, and bass, Giorgos Tsoupakis is on drums, and Aris Tasoulis is on organ for “First Drop” and piano for “Pan.” After a mellow and somewhat mournful beginning, “First Drop” picks up with a chorus and jazzy outro. “Pan” is my preferred track, with its quick-tempo piano and chorus at the beginning, and Logarides’ distinctive voice and guitar closing out the song. The lyrics may be in Greek, but the progressive rock on this offering has a universal appeal.

Balky Mule, The – “Length of The Rail, The” – [Fatcat Records]

humana   5/24/2009   A Library, CD

Folk Rock: Sam Jones is the Balky Mule, and in this CD he offers upliftingly simple, quirky folk with refreshing lyrics. Music was recorded in Bristol, UK, and singing in Melbourne, Australia, and mixed by Jones on his VF160 multi-track recorder. Gentle sounds of guitar, percussion, voice (compared to the Kinks??? Ray Davies), and some electronics combine to make this a down-home production that will appeal to many.
Picks: 4, 2, 3, 6, 9.
PGM: 6 and 12 are instrumentals. Look for songs to end as early as :06.

Foot Village – “Fuck The Future II” – [Gilgongo Records]

humana   5/17/2009   A Library, CD

Out of Hollywood come the organic, primal sounds of drums, screams, and sometimes dramatic poetry. Foot Village is the citizenry of ???the first nation built after the foreseeable apocalypse.??? The only electric sound comes on the last three remix tracks (12, 13, 14). There is laughable acting and spoken word on 2, 4, 9, 10. On most there are screaming and yelling over often proficient percussion. I prefer the guy???s voice to the banshee screeching of the female, but you decide. Get out your Advil, because the future is headache-inducing.
FCC: 2, 11.
PGM: 7 ends at :14.

Toots & The Maytals – “Pass The Pipe” – [Mango / Island Records]

humana   5/12/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: This is feel-good music that you???d expect to hear coming out of a transistor perched on the sand next to a beach towel, the mellow, upbeat rhythms and the honey voice of Toots Hibbert adding to the overall warmth of a perfect summer day. Elements of gospel, ska, soul, reggae, and rock imbue these tunes and make you ???Feel Free??? for sure. Listen and hear why this group is credited for originating the term ???reggay???.
Picks: I like it ALL, but have a slight preference for Side A.
PGM: The last song on Side B fades out and then fades back in again, so don???t think it???s over till it really is!

Gamelan Sekar Jaya – “Kali Yuga: The Age of Chaos” – [Self -released]

humana   5/10/2009   CD, International

International: This 30-year-old Bay Area ensemble (recognized as the premiere Balinese gamelan ensemble outside of Indonesia) here offers music composed for a dramatic dance work dedicated to the victims of the 2002 and 2005 bombings in Bali. Thirty musicians evoke a variety of moods from the bronze gamelan orchestra, ranging from chaos to hopeful prayer. Take a listen to this group that, with the help of guest Balinese musicians and artists, keeps the traditional music of Bali alive and perpetuates it with new compositions.
PGM: All songs end at about :08 except 1, which ends at :15.
Picks: 2, 6.

Elfin Saddle – “Ringing For The Begin Again” – [Constellation]

humana   5/8/2009   A Library, CD

Folk/Experimental: Together Emi Honda from Japan and Jordan McKenzie from Canada create some beautiful music, much of it classical sounding (9 mimics the breaking of waves), although 4 sounds distinctly Japanese, while 7 sounds almost Yiddish. Accordion, ukulele, excellent percussion, saw, banjo, xylophones, and guitar (which sounds great on 3, my favorite) conspire along with the pretty voices of Honda (who sings in Japanese) and McKenzie to spin tales of blossoms (4), powerful sunrises (6), and even parades (5). Nathan Gage on contrabass and tuba, along with Jessica Moss on violin and Nick Scribner on trumpet, fill out the musical palette of this fine offering by Elfin Saddle.
PGM: See inside envelope for track lengths and early ending times.

Long Lost, The – “Long Lost, The” – [Ninja Tune]

humana   5/1/2009   A Library, CD

Husband and wife Alfred and Laura Darlington are artists in the true sense of the word, and this album is finely crafted in every detail, from the music to the lyrics right down to the artwork in the liner notes and on the CD itself. Laura???s amazingly lovely voice is often joined by Alfred???s nice voice in fetching duets or just layered over itself in tantalizing, heartwrenching harmonies. Guitar, flute, clarinet, toy and thumb piano, and electroacoustics accompany these gentle songs that range from romantic, effervescent pop (1, 13) to the desolation of forsaken dreams and loneliness (9, 11). My absolute favorite is 5, but each and every song is a treasure, meant to be listened to while reading the lyrics and taking in the artwork unique to each song in the liner notes.
PGM: Every song ends around :04.

Bloom Project (Romus, Rent and Thollem McDonas) – “Sudden Aurora” – [Edgetone Records]

humana   5/1/2009   A Library, CD

The Bloom Project is Rent Romus on alto and soprano saxophones and Thollem McDonas on piano. Together they bring us songs based around the theme of ???sudden aurora??? (the song titles make a poem). Listening to this is as pristine an experience as I imagine witnessing the actual aurora borealis would be. Both musicians are in rare form as they express themselves through their instruments and music that they???ve composed. It???s easy to get a feel of each musician???s philosophies from these works of art. Conventional piano on all but 9, 10, and 11, where the wires are tweaked and plucked.
Try: 8, 13, 7, 5.
PGM: See inside of jewel case under CD for early end times of each song. Track 12 is :47 of silence.

Midnite – “Unpolished” – [Rastafaria – Roots, Dub & Culture]

humana   4/26/2009   CD, Reggae

Reggae: Vaughn Benjamin pens and offers lead vocals on some substantial songs dealing with solid themes such as loving the life you live and basing your faith in Jah and a woman who is ???worth all of the precious stones they???ve stolen from the earth.??? Read the lyrics printed in the liner notes to catch the abundant puns. Vaughn also offers percussion along with Dion Hopkins on drums and percussion, Joe Straws on bass, and Ron Benjamin on keyboards, guitar, and background vocals. The songs are upbeat and inspirational.
Picks: 2, 5, 6, 9.
PGM: Most songs end around :03.

Tahiti, Aditi – “Time Canvas, The” – [Majmua Music]

humana   4/25/2009   A Library, CD

Experimental minimalism: The concept of this CD is interesting, with each of the 10 songs adding a minute to the one before it (except for 8, which adds two minutes, unfortunately). Tracks 1-4 feature primarily accordion, while 5 and 6 sound like a toy piano, 7 introduces the voice of Tahiti chanting shiva-style, 8 is harsh blowing of some kind of horn, 9 is a relief wash of bells of some kind, and 10 witnesses the return of the accordion. Minimal settings abound, with the only complication coming from layering in Tahiti???s unique artistic way.
Picks: 6, 9.

Brown, James – “Original Disco Man, The” – [Polydor]

humana   4/23/2009   12-inch, Soul

As with everything he did, James Brown made his mark on disco with this enjoyable album. Just play the title track for a history of how James Brown is the ???Original Disco Man???. Even if you hate disco, the Godfather of Soul manages to inject enough funk and soul into the songs to make them palatable. Even in its slickest disco moments, Brown grounds us again with his trademark screams and themes from earlier times (see Side 1, #2, which borrows sections from ???I Feel Good???). His female backup singers are delightful, as are his spoken interludes (almost like a sermon on Side 1, #3). Hints of the Village People (yes, there???s a cowbell!) on Side 2, #1. My favorites are the bluesy-beginning Side 1, #2, and the funky Side 1, #3, but each song on here is notable in its own way.
PGM: Side 2, #3 has chorus of ???You funk them all??? (at least that???s what I think they???re saying).

Cheval Sombre – “Cheval Sombre” – [Double Feature Records]

humana   4/19/2009   A Library, CD

Shoegaze/Psychedelic: There is a shimmery quality to each of these songs, a mellow spaciness underpinned by a consistent drone. 10 is like a country song with music sounding like lap steel and mention of Blue Ridge Mountains. The echoey quality of Cheval Sombre???s voice is set against pretty instrumentation and field sounds of rain that often make the songs feel like waves gently breaking and receding on a shore. A lot of the songs end on a long drones that track (2 into 3, 5 into 6, 9 into 10, 10 into 11).
3WR: Dreamy Lyrical Daze
Picks: 6, 1, 2.
PGM: 6, 7, and 11 end at :05.

Handsome Family, The – “Honey Moon” – [Carrot Top Records]

humana   4/10/2009   CD, Country

Country: This is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of love songs celebrating the 20th year of marriage of Rennie Sparks (who pens the amazing lyrics) and Brett Sparks (who composes the lovely music). Lap steel, dobro, violin, guitars, drums, and occasional keys accompany the rich deep voice of Brett (joined on some songs by Rennie). Exquisite nature images imbue the songs, making this an album as much about love of place (Albuquerque) as about love of another human being. Track 8 is the only anomaly in its vaguely electronic setting. Track 11 is a waltz about a preying mantis. All are worthy of a listen.
Picks: 2, 5, 12.
PGM: Most tracks end around :05.

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