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.

Boston Spaceships – “Planets Are Blasted, The” – [Guided By Voices Inc.]

humana   3/7/2009   12-inch, A Library

Pop punk: Out of Ohio come these nicely penned songs by Robert Pollard. Chris Slusarenko on guitars, bass, and keyboards, and John Moen on drums and percussion back Pollard???s vocals to pleasing effect. Mellow prettiness mixes with basically good garage-y punk (reminiscent of the Beatles), all strengthened by Pollard???s erudite if confusing lyrics (see record sleeve for lyrics). Enjoy!
Try: 2, 6, 11, 3, 10, 13.
PGM: Very small segue between A2 and A3.
FCC: B7: ???shit???

Mute Socialite – “Cheap Clocks/Violet Smith” – [Dephine Knormal Music]

humana   3/6/2009   7-inch, A Library

This short outing by Mute Socialite shows the band???s fondness for free jazz, improv, and noise. Side A is peppy, chaotic, and appealing, featuring Liz Albee???s trumpet. It???s obvious that there???s a structure to the chaos. Side B starts off with scraping noise. Melodic organization enters in, although there???s a quick return to the frenetic. The song has phases and there are screaming and voices in it. It???s full of stops and starts and is my least favorite of the two. A is 5:40, B is 6:27.

Heavy Hands – “Smoke Signals” – [Language of Stone]

humana   3/6/2009   12-inch, A Library

This is rocking psyche as opposed to the shoegaze psyche of Citay. This New York City trio of Ambassador Hazy on gutiar and vocals, Mystical Revelation on bass, and Cristal Voyager on drums are heavy-handed on the psyche aspect of things, but it works for them. The B side is stronger than the A, featuring unique openings. A3 and B5 start out slow but have cool change-ups in tempo that bump the songs up a notch. Every song has lyrics that are hard to make out but often sound like Jim Morrison. Picks: B8, B6, A5.

Marissa Nadler – “Little Hells” – [Kemado Records]

humana   3/1/2009   A Library, CD

Dream folk: Marissa Nadler???s unmistakable soprano vocals come lilting on a wind of surreal, haunting bliss on her fourth full-length release. It flows along on the river of notes from her acoustic guitar, telling beautiful, sad tales. Most of the songs are very simply set to piano, guitar, or organ, but drums and lap steel, synth, theremin, and other guitars join in quite nicely at times, especially on 3, where the drum adds a heartbeat to make ???Mary Come Alive???. As Nadler sings in 7, ???I???m more than blue, I???m violet.??? Gorgeous lyrics, melancholy vocals, heartwrenching melodies–truly Nadler at her best.
PGM: 1 and 9 end at :03; 2 and 5 at :09; 6 and 10 at :06.
Picks: 3, 4, 7, 8, 10.

Bitter Tears, The – “”Jam Tarts In The Jakehouse”” – [Carrot Top Records]

humana   2/28/2009   A Library, CD

Their myspace page says the Bitter Tears sound like ???Sour Vaudevillians on a joy ride with Webb Pierce and the Vienna Boys Choir.??? I say these 10 songs are jaunty, quirky, and fun, and I???d love to see the band live, which I hear is essential (the front man has been known to wear a wedding gown). Playing ???dead genres??? of western swing, showtunes, and polka, these guys deliver a nice selection highlighted by off-beat lyrics, accordion, horns, strings, guitars, and vocals. I???ve rated them on the back.
3WR: Fun Folky Humor
PGM: Look for songs to end as early as :07.

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