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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.

Sons of The Pacific – “Seedy C.D.” – [Broken Records]

humana   4/10/2009   A Library, CD

This is surf plain and simple out of the Bay Area. A quartet of guitars, bass, and drums producing refreshing, fun sounds that evoke images of manta rays, grave robbers stealing through cemetaries, and spiders spinning their webs. Occasionally you hear them in brief choruses of vocal hurrahs (1, 5). There???s a cover of ???Out of Limits??? and a nice mixture of mellow with energetic tempos. I haven???t earned the right to say this, but in the spirit of Phil Dirt: Surf???s Up!

Swords of Fatima, The – “Two Days, Two Swords…Walk Alone At Midnight” – [Bmi]

humana   4/8/2009   A Library, CD

Out of Los Angeles come the sounds of surf with undercurrents of bellydance motifs and traces of Bollywood. Guitarist Buko Pan Guerra indulged in a marathon of bellydance DVDs, and Swords of Fatima was the result. With the help of Nickei Scott on drums, this ???Twopergroup??? offer up 12 frenetic instrumentals 4 to 5 minutes long, guaranteed to kick you into gear with the crashing and rolling drums and the driving force of the guitar. Images of bellies gyrating are never far away.
Picks: 2, 8, 12.
PGM: Most songs end at :05, but 9 and 10 end at :09.

Carlton and The Shoes – “This Heart of Mine” – [Quality Records]

humana   3/31/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: Once upon a time called Carlton and his Shades, but changed to ???the Shoes??? due to a typo, this Jamaican group headed by Carlton Manning is nothing short of charming. Earl Chinna Smith is on lead guitar, and Manning himself offers up the vocals. The songs are a mix of love songs and songs with a conscience and songs that are spiritually inspiring. All are upbeat, mellow, and worthy of a spin.
Picks: A2, A3, B1, B4.

Midnite-Lustre Kings – “Infinite Quality” – [Lustre Kings Productions]

humana   3/30/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: From St.Croix, Virgin Islands comes the sound of Midnite, founded by Ron Benjamin and his brother Vaughn, whose clear vocals are heard on every one of the songs he wrote for this album. Also appearing on every song in some way, shape, or form is Andrew ???Moon??? Bain, executive producer of Lustre Kings. As you can hear, reggae is valid even when not created in Jamaica. The society-conscious lyrics and upbeat riddims sometimes are reminiscent of hip hop. Give it a spin and listen to cellos and violas in addition to horns, guitars, and keyboards.
Picks: A2, A5, A6, B2, B6.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – “a Stranger Here” – [Anti]

humana   3/27/2009   A Library, CD

Country blues: How a 77-year-old can sound as youthful and strong of voice is beyond me, but with his vitality Ramblin??? Jack Elliott is keeping a lot alive–not the least of which is the memory and tradition passed onto him by Woody Guthrie. These songs are much more blues-inspired than folk, but the distinction between the two is unimportant, as the liner notes tell us. What matters is that Ramblin??? Jack has many stories to tell, and whether it???s a simple acoustic guitar backing him up or an accordian and vibraphone, he tells them in an entertaining way. Crack open a beer and mellow out on the front porch in a rocking chair as you let these fine tunes wash over you.
Picks: 7, 5, 9.
PGM: Start looking for songs to end around :08.

Wooden Shjips – “Dos” – [Holy Mountain]

humana   3/26/2009   A Library, CD

Psyche/Garage: This is the second full-length release from San Francisco four-piece Wooden Shjips. They have been compared to the Doors (primarily because the vocals sound so much like Jim Morrison). The first three tracks fall soundly in the realm of psychedelia, and the last two have a more garage-y, krautrock sound. Dusty Jermier is on bass, Eric ???Ripley??? Johnson is on guitar, Nash Whalen is on organ, and Omar Ahsanuddin plays drums. Upbeat, catchy, often repetitive, but in a good way. If you???re looking for a good long psyche-out try 3.
PGM: 1 ends at :05, 5 at :07.
Picks: 2, 1.

Sun RA – “Live At The Horseshoe Tavern” – [Transparency]

humana   3/22/2009   CD, Jazz

Jazz: These are the live recordings of three concerts during 1978 at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, and Disc 10 is a 20-minute 1968 radio interview of Sun Ra with several guys at WBAI. Sun Ra sounds anything but humble in this interview in which he explains that he speaks to the world, and has since elementary school, where he taught and led students. The concert discs are truly the eclectic jazz mix that characterizes Sun Ra???s compositions, with Discs 3, 6, and 9 containing more vocalized ???sermons??? and almost sounding like revival meetings. ???Look to the sky…the best things in life are free…sing with the birds…??? This is vintage Sun Ra. See back cover for programming notes.

Boratto, Gui – “Take My Breath Away” – [Kompakt]

humana   3/20/2009   A Library, CD

Electronica/Dance: This second full-length release from the Brazilian electronic music producer starts off rather repetitively, full of frenetic beats and energy. Later, however, the tracks take on a refreshing unique quality, and it was difficult to narrow down my picks. 5 is the only one featuring vocals from Luciana Villanova, and they are lovely. The final track is the only somber one among so many cheerful upbeats, and it is uniquely beautiful with piano by Boratto himself. Enjoy.
Picks: 5, 3, 11.
PGM: 10 ends at :09, 11 at :07. The others end as early as :05.

Last Days – “Safety of The North, The” – [N5MD]

humana   3/7/2009   A Library, CD

If you need a good cry, slap this on the platter and play it end to end. Cinematically exquisite, with an emphasis on the painful aspect of exquisite, Graham Richardson???s (aka Last Days???) 15 songs (or ???scenes???) describe a family???s move from the city to the rural and wild safety of the north. Although nowhere can you be safe from losing someone, and thus the manipulation of emotions through evocative use of simple guitar, piano, electronics, field recordings, voices that whisper and sing lovely lyrics so beautifully (see 2, my favorite). The track titles give you an idea of how each song is going to feel. It???s all moving, sad, and yet hopeful ambience, with 7 being a work of art as life support machine sounds morph into lovely music that again give way to the machines which win out in the end.
PGM: All tracks end as early as :26 (track 15), except 4 which tracks into 5, and 14 which tracks into 15.

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