Milton Cross??? instrument is the violin, and the first track on his CD gives him a chance to show his classical skills as he races around the strings while an accordion (or organ?) drones in the background. The rest of the tracks exhibit Cross??? prowess as field recording master, with crunching leaves on 4, rain on 5 and 10, water flowing through 7, and bird sounds on 5 and owls on 10. The violin can be heard plucking on 2 and 7, and returns more emphatically on 8 with a cheerful sound. On 10 the violin is present in the background as it comes and goes amid wet outside noises and owl hoots. PGM: 9 gets increasingly quiet at :29, and 10 ends at :14. The rest end as early as :05.
Spanish electroacoustic folk: Sit down, close your eyes, and let these songs wash over you as you listen to their lush textures and try to discern one sound and its source from the others. You???ll hear acoustic and Spanish guitar, toy accordion, violin, glockenspiel, laptop electronics, and field sounds. Minimal vocals (1), primarily laptop (3, 7), acoustic/folk (1, 2, 8, 12), field sounds (9, 11). Highly pleasant ambience abounds. See liner notes for track times, favorites, and musicians. PGM: 1 ends at :09, 12 ends cold.
Surf: Just as charming as the songs on this CD is the story behind them, contained on tracks 1, 3, and 9. Strong Farfisa organ on 7 and drumming on 5 and 10. ???Some say that Beachkrieg were drawn to the Bay Area in their search for Phil Dirt, the longtime KFJC DJ, whom they believe is either some sort of Tiki god, or possibly a high ranking Prussian officer (sources conflict on this).??? So says Beachkrieg???s My Space page. Given this devotion to our own Phil Dirt, and their thank you to KFJC inside the CD, all that???s left to say is, ???Surf???s up!???
Indie Rock: Fresh is the best way to describe the sounds on this CD from the San Francisco-based foursome of Satomi Matsuzaki (vocals and bass), John Dieterich (guitar), Ed Rodriguez (guitar), and Greg Saunier (drums). Matsuzaki???s clear, childlike vocals stand out in most of the tracks (the words sung in Japanese are in italics in the insert). Lyrics are interesting if confusing at times, and guitar work and bass are often stellar in their dissonance and innovative tempos. Deerhoof has some longevity and this CD proves that the band still has a lot to offer. See insert for lyrics and my favorites. PGM: Songs end as early as :07.
These 49 short tracks cover John Baker???s tenure at the BBC Radiophonics Workshop between 1963 and 1974. Alan Gubby and others salvaged these gems from over 30 reels of tape created before synths, digital, sampling, and multitrack recordings evolved (22 has an interview on technique). Each and every one is a tribute to an artist whose creativity and vision graced the soundtrack world with upbeat, jazzy, whimsical, sometimes eerie themes for TV (15 is ???Dial M for Murder???), news bulletins, plays, game shows, dramas, documentaries, and children???s programs. I???ve circled my favorites. Great liner notes and back CD cover. PGM: Most tracks are under a minute so don???t get caught.
Brad Barr turns out a fine solo CD of folk acoustic guitar here with utterly enjoyable melodies that exhibit his skill at guitar-picking. Overall upbeat and very pretty, all but a few of these are original compositions. 3 is a cover of the Cuban ???Maria La O???, 6 is a cover of a Kurt Cobain song, and 8 is a track by Le Ferret Trio which is quite nicely done and calls to mind a carnival atmosphere. It???s amazing what one guitar can do with such a versatile player. The only tracks with extra sounds are 5 (rain) and 10 (percussive noise). 1 and 11 form nice bookends to the rest of these very pleasant tracks. PGM: Most tracks end around :10 so be wary.
Avant Rock/Psychedelic: This is plain weird and therefore great. Hailing from Philadelphia and featuring boss bass and electric guitar by Vonorn and rich vocals from Lynnette Shelley, Red Masque offers a unique array of tracks with ultra-cool and creepy lyrics touching on themes such as Polyphemus, moths, spiders, snails, and carbon???s role in dating fossils. The music here is intense, varied, and ranging from folk to Old World accordion to horror soundscapes to all-out brilliant rockouts with psyche guitar solos. This will appeal to many. Bravo! Picks: 2, 9, 11, 1. PGM: Almost all songs end around :02.
Selected Tracks Vol. 1, 2004-2008: This compilation of Andy Stott???s work from 2004 to 2008 features his signature fusion of dubstep, house, techno, and electronica. Twelve tracks offer a selection of beats, from the darker in mood to the more upbeat, and all of them are dancy. This UK musician has definitely carved out a place for himself in the world of electronica at a young age. I prefer the more varied and textured tracks (4, 5, 11) to the more minimal, spare ones (1, 2, 3). The percussion is pretty cool on 6, 9,. PGM: Tracks end as early as :10.
Psychedelic/Pop: This is superior listening in my book. It???s very well-produced and just very appetizing on all kinds of fronts. Gustav Ejstes/Dungen shines on piano, and guitars, bass, and flutes join him as he sings Swedish lyrics on some of the tracks. A lot of the tracks have a dreamy, upbeat quality to them with a nice momentum of beats and an overall romantic quality that is tempered by discordance at just the right moment. If you love psyche guitar, play 4 and 9 (which is more mellow and jazzy). Picks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9. PGM: 8 tracks to 9 seamlessly. Some tracks end as early as :06.
Rock/Pop: Dylan Von Wagner (aka The Screaming Pelican) lends his voice (which sounds somewhat like Bruce Springsteen???s) to every song on this, and is accompanied only by guitar (Josh Collins) as far as I can tell. So this is a primarily acoustic album. I much prefer Side B to Side A. The songs are more distinct from each other and more interesting. Side B track 3 sounds like Elvis and is fast-paced like a receding train. Side B track 4 is a sad, acoustic ballad. FCC: Side B, track 7 ???fuck???.
Psychedelic/Experimental: Every song on here is worthwhile, and the range of moods is wide. Edward Ka-Spel???s British-accented vocals alternate from eeriness as though echoing through a tube (1 and especially 6 where he narrates in a Rod Serling-like way), to playfulness on 4 (a song about texting) and 7 (where a banjo adds to the innocence). Track 3 has an acoustic folk feel, while Track 9 has a tropical element to it and is purely instrumental with its jungle percussion, while Track 10 is haunting and depressing with its lyrical content about a virtual world of lonesomeness. Track 10 is perhaps the most epic of the tracks in its simulation of water sounds and outboard motors whirring with minimal keys and synths and chanting lyrics. It???s like a dramatic plunge into the deep. Enjoy.
Classical: The notes found on the back album cover give pertinent details on each of these clarinet pieces, whose composers are somehow affiliated with University of Redlands in California. This is exactly what you???d expect to hear if you were attending a university concert–classical elegance with an intellectual bent. Only clarinets are heard here, and this impresses you with the versatility of the instrument. I highly recommend the Christopher Hobbs track (Side One, #2) for its variety of movements, tempos, and moods. Alexandra Pierce???s composition (Side 2, #2) is noteworthy since she focuses on how the structure and movement of music relates to that of the human body. PGM: Do not panic because of the pauses–the tracks are long but have definite silences between the movements.
Psychedelic pop: Drop this onto your turntable and sail back through time to the 60s. This Portland, Maine band is definitely a throwback to earlier times when catchy, upbeat melodies and captivating lyrics (too bad they aren???t printed out) provided the soundtrack to a more mellow life. Jonathan Balzano-Brookes (vocals, guitar), Tim Brrns (guitar, vocals), Philip Willey (guitar, accordion, keyboards), and Joe Domrad (drums) deliver a well-produced album of sounds that hearken to a more psychedelic, innocent time. A couple of the tunes have a folk/fairytale element to them (???Five Charming Animals??? and ???I???ll Be There in July???). This is a mood lifter and worth a listen. They???ve been compared to The Byrds and The New Pornographers.
In 2005 Ilyas Ahmed released these two CDs from a Minnesota farm where he was holed up. Read the liner notes for enlightenment. This is a re-release. Pakistani-born but U.S.-raised, Ahmed is portrayed as a loner, and these CDs are his postcards to the world. CD1, ???Between Two Skies,??? is a subdued, gentle collection of guitar strummings occasionally accented by piano, bells, and Ahmed???s unintelligible vocalizations (yes, they are eerie, but not overpowering). CD2 is more spare and intense than CD1 in that it features mainly guitar. It???s pretty guitar, but the overall mood of both CDs is contemplative and sad (although I???ve starred some more upbeat pieces). This is good for an injection of mellowness or as bed music. PGM: CD1, track 7 ends at :13. CD2, track 4 ends at :11. All other tracks end as early as :07.
Doom Exotica: Beaks Plinth is the newest project of Blanketship???s Jared Blum. ???Kai Kohola Leo??? is Hawaiian for ???Voices of the Lagoon,??? and these 12 short tracks resound with the murky sounds you???d hear near water: chimes and bells that sound like buoy warnings, huge barrel percussion, hollow flutes, the clanging of metal on metal, and eerie ???voices??? that sound like whale song. This is definitely weird and atmospheric, along the lines of nightmare more than Shangri-la, but a benign nightmare if such a thing is possible. PGM: 2 tracks to 3, and 12 ends at :07.
DIY rock: A compilation of quirky, humorous, and fun songs from the Performing Ferrets, a UK band made up of kids whose music is reminiscent of the Talking Heads. They???ve evolved since 1976 when they were fooling around with a harmonica, a Bontempi organ, reel-to-reel recorder, kazoo, broken tambourine and an empty mandolin-case drum. In addition to the ???lack of finesse in these performances that make them all the more enchanting,??? there are some killer guitar and drums on here. Definitely catchy, definitely worth playing. How can you resist lyrics like ???I believe in Aquafresh??? (15)? Enjoy. PGM: FCC on 20; there???s very little space between some tracks. Times and favorites are marked on back cover of liner notes (which are entertaining and illuminative in and of themselves).
Acousmatic, electroacoustic, field recording: You know the feeling–you???re lying down for a nap and letting the ambient sounds of your surroundings wash over you. Listening to these five rather long tracks is like that–a pleasurable experience of field recordings and sounds including water, gulls, footsteps on the beach, children???s voices, spray cans, hoses, machinery, bubbling water flows, bells, and chimes, among others. It really doesn???t matter–this is background music to a peaceful life. A nice thing to inject into any set. PGM: See inside front cover for end times and favorites.
Drum & Bass/Punk/Powerpop: These short bursts of energy deliver all the hyperactivity you???d expect from ???three teens in gym clothes playing punk rock.??? A few of the lyrics are haphazardly written out on an insert to the 7???. Notable is that a girl leads the group on vocals, and her voice makes you want to crack up laughing with its lyrics and simply because it infuses you with its youthful take on the world. Most of this is dirty (I???ve marked the tracks on the cover), but some are clean (I think; it???s hard to tell what they???re saying), and all are worth a listen if you???re feeling like waking yourself up.
Side A is ???There Is a War??? from A Gun Called Tension. It starts out with drums, then piano like chopsticks enters and establishes a dub beat, slow enough to make you try 45 in case you???re wrong about the 33 rpm. Clear voice speaking with voices joining him about the war between left and right, black and white, odd and even, rich and poor, man and woman, those who say there is a war and those who say there isn???t. ???Come back to the war, pick up your tidy burden.??? Doesn???t grab me. Low-fi, spare, with hip-hop and reggae tinges. Side B is ???Diamonds in the Mine??? from Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death. It features garage-y guitar and male vocals singing about lack–???there are no diamonds in your mine.??? Basic strumming and tambourine sounds. Hard to make out the words, but ???bitch??? is one of them.
Re-Release of an LP from 1977: A listen to this CD will convince you of the merits of re-releasing 30-year-old music so new generations can appreciate the greatness of music which in 1977 was considered avant garde. ???Blue??? Gene Tyranny (so-named because ???trouble was built into??? him, encoded if you will) offers four compositions. Track 1 is a poppy, lyrical romp that summons images of the of the Brady Bunch in all its 70s glory and optimism. Track 2 (which happens to be my favorite) is a fantastic instrumental collage of contrasting musical sections whose tempo changing is refreshing if dated in its style reminiscent of Lee Ritenour. Track 3 is like a gospel song with interesting lyrics., and Track 4 is an epic (25+ minutes) ???Letter from Home??? with narration and choral parts set to music framed by train sounds at start and finish. Expect an emotional ride as you listen to this blast from the past. PGM: Tracks end as early as :05.
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