Palais Schaumburg – “S/T” – [Phonogram]

humana   2/6/2009   12-inch, A Library

A band that existed in Germany for a few short years in the early 1980s, Palais Schaumburg is characterized by a frenetic, bass-driven weirdness that you could dance to if you had enough energy. The lyrics, translated on the inside sleeve, lead to headaches if you try to analyze them, so just let the percussion peppered with piano, guitar, synth and horns by Thomas Fehlmann, and treated voices that often sound like they???re switching between 45 and 33 rpm wash over you as you indulge in this avant-garde effort.
Try: B5, A3, A4, B1, B3.

Yellowman Feat. Fathead – “Just Cool” – [Vp Records]

humana   1/31/2009   CD, Reggae

Jamaican Yellowman (so-called because of his albinism) exhibits his signature rude reggae and dancehall DJ skills here on these tracks from 1982 that have been remastered. Fathead joins him with his ???oinks??? and ???ribbits,??? among other vocalizations. Every tune is upbeat, if not clean. The last two are bonus, longer tracks.
FCC: 1, 3, 10, 12

Baker, Steven – “Lunar Etudes – Time Differentials” – [Edgetone Records]

humana   1/31/2009   A Library, CD

Line this one up for the Day of Drone! Five tracks that represent a sonic exploration of the moon???s orbit of the earth. Baker builds instruments such as the Chalice, Microtonal Drone, and Leaf Springs on Daf–all out of metal and woodwork–to convey harmonics that inspire meditation. Thollem McDonas appears on 2 with a 117-year-old Cornish pump organ. Track 4 is appealing with its sound resembling gamelan bells, very intense and trance-inducing.

Br??ckner, Michael – “Days In The Sun” – [Self -released]

humana   1/30/2009   A Library, CD

Electronic/ambient: Germany is a hotbed of electronics, and Br??ckner does the genre proud with this release. It???s a luxury to let one song track through to the next, as they are all of a piece, with 9 (???The Siren???) seeming the most distinct because of its jarring siren start. The long tracks (1 and 8) are never boring because of their ambience. Br??ckner???s wife adds her rich voice to 1 and 3 (which she sings in English and is very melodic), and his daughter adds her pretty voice to 7 (although she sings in a different language). Field recordings of crowd sounds are heard throughout, and book???s pages turning open 4, which is a cool journey (???In a Book???). Beats heard on 6, 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, and there???s an oasis in 11 followed by a male-spoken, computer-manipulated poem. Fascinating. 9 is the most versatile track.
PGM: Everything tracks through.

Ellis, Alton – “Mr. Soul of Jamaica” – [Treasure Isle Records]

humana   1/30/2009   12-inch, Reggae

This is an uptempo album that is viewed as being definitive of rocksteady, a dance style that preceded reggae. Tommy McCook and the Supersonics back the pleasing voice of Ellis on these songs, whose tempos are slower and more relaxed than ska. Check out the cover of ???You Make Me Happy???. ???Willow Tree??? is sweetly melancholy, although the riddim can???t help but make you smile anyway. All tracks are enjoyable, but I???ve starred my favorites. Ellis??? influence on the trajectory of dancehall, reggae, and hip hop is significant, albeit little-known.

Cosi, Valerio/Franchini, Enzo – “Conference of The Aquarians” – [Last Visible Dog Records]

humana   1/25/2009   A Library, CD

Electronic/jazz/rock: Valerio Cosi and Enzo Franchini got together in Italy to do some free jazz improvs, and later Cosi added overdubs and radio manipulations (especially on 8). Cosi???s alto sax screams and squawks on 1, yet sounds smoky on 2. Franchini???s cymbals and drums are the highlight of 4, and his vibes close out 7 quite nicely. Cosi adds sitar, double bass, electric guitar, piano, synth, and electronics (see scraping on 2, glass-breaking sounds on 6, and radio voices on 8). Snake-charmer vibe to 3. These pieces move in various ways, but mostly they are fast and weirdly accessible.
Picks: 7, 6, 3.

French Quarter – “Self-Titled” – [Gilgongo Records]

humana   1/25/2009   A Library, CD

Minimalist pop: Almost 21-year-old Stephen Steinbrink from Arizona offers us fresh sounds featuring his rather sweet voice backed by gentle guitar, percussion, toy piano (?), and other keys. His songs are simple and inviting, with lyrics marked by a refreshing innocence. There???s a more psychedelic sound to 4.
PGM: 5 and 6 end around :10, and most others around :05.
Picks: 8, 1, 4, 10, 5.

Monkey Power Trio – “Lest We Be Misunderstook” – [Pochontas Swamp Machine]

humana   1/24/2009   7-inch, A Library

This is a fine product of the 13th reunion of five friends who one day out of the year become the Monkey Power Trio. Highly amusing are each of these songs, from the mellow ???Hit it With a Bible??? to the Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired, more rocking ???Kraken.??? Recorder, guitars, and bass back up humorous vocals. There???s a soul vibe to ???Juicy Peaches,??? which mentions Captain James T. Kirk. ???Buddha Sings??? is like a Sunday school song. One guy sings the lyrics while the others chime in commentary as chorus–it???s humorous and fun. Not bad for a once-a-year gig.

Tower/Wind Chant, The [coll] – [Anticlock.Net]

humana   1/24/2009   7-inch, A Library

Slap this one on your turntable for a nice morning repast of sinister folk loveliness from Language of Light, then chase it with a dose of tribal percussion and banjo from Crow Tongue. Each song has fascinating lyrics, which are included in the covers. Out of Stillwater, Oklahoma, Language of Light (Frank Suchomel and R. Loftiss) deliver ???The Tower,??? which begins with a girl child???s voice telling a story as though through a tube, accompanied by guitar. Then the ???parents??? warn her never to go back to her ???cold and lonely path of dreams???. The sinister lyrics belie the pretty, calming nature of the music that includes violin by Justin Jones and vocals by Sarah Hughes. On the flip side, Crow Tongue (of Beating Heart, Pennsylvania) bring us ???Wind Chant,??? a very simple, appealing tune that ends with a high-pitched chant that could be a female, train, or the wind. tiMOTHy on guimbri banjo (his invention based on a Moroccan instrument) and AE Hoskin on percussion (djembe and kit). show us that the beat is the thing, and it is steady, repetitive, insistent. tiMOTHy???s vocals are deep, clear, and interesting. The song moves along for all its repetition, and reminds me of a Marikesh market.

Clarke, Jonnie – “Dread Natty Congo ” – [Dynamic Sounds Recording]

humana   1/16/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Dancehall vocalist: The clear, youthful voice of Jonnie Clarke is the standout instrument in these tracks whose subject is primarily romance with a bit of moralizing sprinkled in (B3). ???Remember Me??? (B4) was later sung by Diana Ross & the Supremes. There???s an upbeat, dancey party vibe going on throughout this album, produced by Bunny Lee and featuring Augustus Pablo on organ. The Aggrovators are mentioned on the back cover as well. I???ve starred my favorites.

Times New Viking – “Stay Awake ” – [Matador Records]

humana   1/16/2009   7-inch, A Library

Garage rock: ???Stay Awake??? is a good name for this EP–it consists of very energetic, fast-paced tracks that they recommend you ???play loud.??? Out of Columbus, Ohio come low-fi, distorted yet melodic sounds from guitarist Jared Phillips, drummer Adam Elliott, and keyboardist Beth Murphy. Murphy???s voice is the most evident, although Elliott???s is obvious on B2. B1 is the only subdued track. Try A2 and B2, and listen for interesting lyrics when you can make them out. PGM: Very small segue between A2 and A3; no segue between B1 and B2.

Sic Alps – “United ” – [Important Records]

humana   1/16/2009   7-inch, A Library

Psyche pop: The San Francisco duo of Matt Hartman (drums) and Mike Donovan (guitars) cover Throbbing Gristle???s ???United??? on this one-sided 7???. The song is as upbeat as the bright yellow vinyl it???s recorded on. Although you can???t really hear what they???re saying (beyond ???united???), their voices are pleasing, as is their low-fi musicianship. The result is one of gladness that the duo may stay united long enough to make more ???happy??? music together.

Denman Maroney Quartet – “Gaga ” – [Nuscope Recordings]

humana   1/11/2009   CD, Jazz

Jazz: As the stellar liner notes describe, Denman Maroney???s music is complex yet listenable. The conversations among the quartet???s instruments–Maroney???s piano and hyperpiano; Ned Rothenberg???s alto saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet; Reuben Radding???s double-bass and bass guitar; and Michael Sarin???s drums and percussion–take on blues form (1, 6, 7) in addition to jaunty and staccato avant-garde moods (5, 2, 3, 4). The result is a stand-up listening experience.
PGM: Endings as early as :10 on 5, 6, 7, and 8. Track 8 quiets way down near 1:00 for a subdued outro.

Liguori, Gianmarco – “Ancient Flight Text ” – [Sarang Bang]

humana   1/10/2009   A Library, CD

Gianmarco Liguori cooks up some enchanting sounds in New Zealand. All of these tracks are instrumental, featuring Liguori on guitars, electric bass, African piano, drum machine, treatments, and electronics; Murray McNabb on synthesizer, Fender Rhodes, organ, electronics; and Kim Paterson on drums, trumpet, percussion, and African piano. Liguori???s predilection for 60s soundracks is evident in these beat-driven, atmospheric pieces that are polished, pleasing, and just plain cool. Track 4 stands out with its guitars and the psychedelic hints mixed with jazz. Exotic and romantic flavors move through this CD to make it well worth a listen. Picks: 4, 6, 8, 1, 7.
PGM: Track 7 fades out at :05, Track 8 at :03.
3WR: Jazzy instrumental finesse

Woman – “Mazes ” – [Endless Latino]

humana   12/14/2008   A Library, CD

Woman is four guys from Knoxville, TN who claim their music is hyphy (rambunctious) and post-punk. Chris Lowe on vocals, Jason Stark on drums, Damion Huntoon on bass, and Tyler Mucklow on guitar here offer us four songs that are definitely high-energy. Although Track 1 declares itself ???Not Quite Metal,??? I beg to differ. The lyrics are unintelligible but ever-present in these tracks, as is the thrashing guitar. The drums are great. My favorites are 2 (???No Mr. 31,??? in which they prove they can count to 31), and 3 (???Sssubtle Lady??? in which the music is anything but subtle). Each song ends around :04, and from what I can tell, the lyrics are clean.

Fire on Fire – “Orchard, The ” – [Young God Records]

humana   12/13/2008   A Library, CD

Colleen Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin are back, this time with Tom Kovacevic, Micah Blue Smaldone, and Chriss Sutherland. They???ve gone from using electric instruments in Cerberus Shoal to all acoustic here with these 12 tracks of down-home Americana. Banjo, accordion, guitar, jembe, tamborine, bass, oud combine with the harmonies of each of the band members??? voices in a predominantly upbeat slice of the life they share in their house in Maine. It???s quite obvious that they play music for the joy of the expression (9), and the lyrics are cool: (???It???s your family that drives you out of your mind??? [3]; life as a chess game [7]). Picks: 9, 10, 12, 5, 3. PGM: Watch for songs to end as early as :07.

Pop Ambient 2005 [coll] – [Kompakt]

humana   12/12/2008   A Library, CD

Pop Ambient 2005 – Coll.: Kompakt (2005)
Kompakt has done it again, this time providing us with a nice sampling of ambient offerings. Whether you enjoy soothing yet energetic percussive pulses (4, 10, 12) or shimmering sound structures that advance like a wave that takes you with it, then washes over you gently as it leaves you on the shore in bliss (4, 5, 9), there???s sure to be something here for you. It???s like musical comfort food. Picks: 5, 4, 3, 10, 12. PGM: Most tracks end around :05, but 5 and 9 end at :09, and 8 ends at :12.

3WR: Healing/Comfort/Peace

Crystal Stilts – “Alight of Night ” – [Slumberland Records]

humana   11/24/2008   A Library, CD

Garage pop: This is music that sounds like surf with erudite lyrics by Brad Hargett (get out your dictionaries for 9). So what if those lyrics are sung in a very echoey, dark way that is faintly reminiscent of the Doors? They are thought-provoking, especially set to the strumming bass, ever-present tambourine, organ, and occasional harmonica that provide the texture for these mostly fast-paced songs. The CD ends on a nice, mellow note (11), but the standouts are the ones that make you want to dance: 2, 6, 5. PGM: 2 and 10 end at :06, 3 and 4 at :07, 6 and 9 at :05, and 8 at :10. The others end at :03.

Sallyangie, The – “Children of The Sun ” – [Earmark]

humana   11/22/2008   12-inch, A Library

British folk: In 1969, when this album was released, Sally Oldfield was 21 and her brother Mike was 16. It???s filled with enchanting tales of a different world based on knights, princes, and imagination. Renaissance and romance flavor nearly every track, and although the lyrics drip with sappiness, the sister/brother duo harmonize with each other beautifully to the accompaniment of their guitars, and other musicians add flute (which flies in and out like a bird), drums, finger cymbals, tambourine, triangle, and string arrangements of violins, viola, cello, and harpsichord. ???The Murder of the Children of San Francisco??? is a remarkable story sung by dramatic voices–the high-pitched sweetness of a child, the harsh indifference of the male, and the angry righteousness of the wife. ???Strangers??? bookends all the songs, reminding you to cut the singers some slack because they present this as a tribute to ???strangers with sunlight in their eyes.??? I admit it, I loved it. Give it a whirl.

Kubin, Felix Und Das Mineralorchester – “”Music for Theatre and Radio Play” ” – [Dekorder]

humana   11/21/2008   12-inch, A Library

Felix Kubin is an electronic musician (organ, piano, glockenspiel, Korg synthesizer) and composed the songs on this album to go with three plays. Side A has soundtracks to ???Zufall,??? by Vladimir Nabokov, and ???Hollywood Elegien,??? by Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler. Side B has tracks that go with ???The Raft, by Xentos Fray Bentos and Regie Lukas Simonis. All provide a pleasurable listening experience, but I particularly recommend ???Hollywood??? (A7) for its really lovely sounds (kind of like a music box with each discrete note coming across and accentuated by violin). ???Am Pool??? (A11) is pretty, slow, and sedate with organ. B4 (???The New Weapon???) has energetic beats. A10 and B1 make you feel like you???re on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, while B2 and B10 are whimsically funky. B11 (???Miraculous Rescue???) hints at island lushness and the relief of paradise with only hints of the foregoing dangerous adventure in the background.

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