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Ahmed, Ilyas – “Between Two Skies/Towards The Night ” – [Digitalis Industries]

humana   9/12/2008   A Library, CD

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.

Beaks Plinth – “Kai Kohola Leo ” – [Gigante Sound]

humana   9/11/2008   A Library, CD

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.

Performing Ferrets – “Messthetics #216 No One Told Us ” – [Hyped 2 Death]

humana   9/3/2008   A Library, CD

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).

Robert Dow – “Selected Works (2008) ” – [Self-Released]

humana   9/2/2008   A Library, CD

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.

Ima Fucking Gymnast – “…So Freakin’ Juicy! ” – [Olfactory Records]

humana   9/2/2008   7-inch, A Library

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.

There Is a War/Diamonds In The Mine [coll] – [Go Midnight Records]

humana   9/2/2008   7-inch, A Library

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.

Blue Gene Tyranny – “Out of The Blue ” – [Unseen Worlds]

humana   8/27/2008   A Library, CD

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.

Strings of Consciousness – “Fantomastique Acoustica ” – [Off Label]

humana   8/18/2008   A Library, CD

Experimental/Alternative: This is a fantastic CD containing four songs from the 14-member collective that calls itself Strings of Consciousness, and 9 remixes by various artists. Mellow, cool sounds emanate from this union of acoustic music (cello, violin, double bass, guitar, trumpet, vibraphone, piano, Tibetan bowls, harp, harmonium, saxophone) and digital technology (laptop, samplers, turntables, electronics). Indeed, the music is atmospheric and gorgeous with amazing sounds emanating from depths of emotional consciousness, flowing together to beautiful effect. Voices are heard only on 1, 9, and 10. 10 is an intense set of edicts reminiscent of Orwell???s 1984. PGM: FCC on 10 (???fucking???). Last two tracks are MPG1 videos. 10 ends at :17 and others end as early as :08.

Liguori, Gianmarco – “Penta / Beat Instrumental ” – [Sarang Bang]

humana   8/15/2008   7-inch, A Library

Other/Experimental/Jazz: I absolutely, positively love this–it is way too short, in my opinion, and that is my only complaint about it. Gianmarco Liguori hails from New Zealand, and composes fabulous music even though he doesn???t read music. On Side A he offers us ???Penta,??? whose catchy beat is reminiscent of Take 5 with a bossa nova feel. Kim Paterson smoothly inserts trumpet into the mix of drums and congas (also from Paterson) and fender rhodes and synthesizer from Murray McNabb. Liguori is of course on guitars and synthesizer. The layers of jazz are cool and effervescent like the fizz from champagne served at a fancy bar. Side B has ???Beat Instrumental,??? which I like even better than ???Penta.??? There is a jazzy lounge feel, cool, smooth, cosmopolitan, with bass by Liguori and Andrew Atwill. Both sides fade out, leaving you feeling like you???re waking from a dream you don???t want to let go. Fabulous.

Yeager, Ian – “Music for Guitar + Computer 1 ” – [Pax Recordings]

humana   8/15/2008   A Library, CD

Improvisation/Experimental: This is Yeager???s debut CD. The young musician, who was raised and educated in Indiana but now lives in the Bay Area, is a performer, composer, and improvisor. These tunes are simple guitar strummings mixed gently with computer blipping and popping to create a soothing, mellow ambience conducive to dreaming, relaxing, spacing out. Each of the 14 tracks is lovely, but not incredibly distinguishable from the others. Good for mixing, calming down a set, destressing. Try: 4, 1, 6, 9, 11, . PGM: Track 7 has very quiet spaces but doesn???t end till :06. Others end as early as :05.

Television Personalities – “Camping In France ” – [Overground Records]

humana   8/14/2008   A Library, CD

Rock: At first blush, this CD seems to offer a great band with hack vocalists, but after the first two tracks you realize that the Television Personalities (TVPs) are so much more. This is a live recording of a 1985 concert in France, with most of the 17 tracks written and sung by Dan Treacy of England. Although the group never enjoyed major commercial success, Treacy on guitar, Jowe Head on bass, and J.J. Bloom on drums deliver some great 60s sounds and interesting lyrics. Yes, the vocals on the choruses are sometimes laughable, but they???re supposed to be. As the liner notes say (in French): ???Because the discs of the TVPs are, finally, as funny as some sad clowns.??? Picks: 13/14, 9, 8, 6, 3. FCC: Track 8: ???fuck???; Track 17: ???I ejaculate on you???. PGM: Although most songs track since this is a concert, 6 ends at :28, 12 at 1:10, 15 at :12, and 16 at :08, some with talking intros to the following tracks. Play 13 and 14 together because they are a unit.

Black Forest / Black Sea – “Black Forest / Black Sea ” – [Music Fellowship]

humana   8/10/2008   12-inch, A Library

Black Forest/Black Sea is comprised of Jeffrey Alexander on guitar and Miriam Goldberg on cello, although they also play electronics, omnichord, live sampling tools, and other things (sitar?). Side A of this fourth full-length release also features Margot Goldberg and Stefano Pilia, while Gillian Goldberg lends her lyrics to Side B. Side A is a 19:20 instrumental exploration of atmospheric, exotic drone that is more disquieting than calming. About 5 minutes in the guitar gets more melodic and acoustic sounding, and toward the end there is the distinct sound of a whistling teakettle, and something that sounds like a hog squealing. It would fit in well on Peaksville Asylum. The first 12 minutes of Side B (which I believe are one single track) consist of the weird sounds of bird whistle imitation (by a slide whistle and human?), and Gillian Goldberg’s rich vocals in the first few minutes. Tambourines come in and then there???s a psychedelic folk-acid freakout that makes time expand. Right before the 7 minutes of the second track is an abrupt change-up signalled by cello chords and bells in background. The second track is much more mellow with melodic guitar that offers the calmer side of folk.

McDonas, Thollem – “Racing The Sun Chasing The Sun ” – [Creative Sources Recording]

humana   8/8/2008   A Library, CD

Solo Piano: ???This album consists of live recordings of the first halves of two solo piano concerts laid side by side, woven in and out of each other…All music is in the order it was performed.??? So say the liner notes to this CD from innovative, genre-defying Bay Area pianist Thollem McDonas. His virtuosity is evident on every track, as is his classical training. The intensity of McDonas??? limber fingers racing and chasing each other on the keys is alternately eye-opening and mesmerizing. If you enjoy classical music, piano in particular, this CD is for you. Even if you don???t, you may want to slip one of these tracks into your set to shake things up a bit–they are accessible in a KFJC kind of way. PGM: Tracks end as early as 0:11. Picks: 3, 5, 6, 9.

Cosmic Debris Volume II [coll] – [a Silent Place]

humana   7/28/2008   A Library, CD

Cosmic Debris Volume II – Coll.: CD (2007) A Silent Place
Avant garde/experimental/improv: Steve Roden delivers the first two tracks, and My Cat Is An Alien (MCIAA) provides the third and last track. Maurizio and Roberto Opalio from Torino, Italy (MCIAA) give us 19:38 of “multilayered echoes of voice, toy piano, space drones” along with a tumult of Japanese bells played by Ramona Ponzini. Steve Roden, a visual and sound artist from California, opens the CD with a 13:08 piece using objects and field recordings to create a starry soundscape that summons images of spaceships during graveyard shifts. His second track is melodic, upbeat, and pleasant, featuring Roden on electric guitar. This simple song lasts 6:52. Tracks 1 and 2 start quietly and end early at 0:13 and 0:08, respectively. Track 3 ends with sounds of MCIAA packing up and leaving stage, with footsteps walking away underneath the sound of the Japanese bells.

Carter Tutti – “Feral Vapours of The Silver Ether ” – [Divine Frequency]

humana   7/28/2008   A Library, CD

Carter Tutti: Feral Vapours of the Silver Ether CD (2007) Divine Frequency
Ambient electronica: Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti turn out a shimmering release of utterly relaxing, trippy ambience that takes you ???into the sunset sky and a misty door??? (as the lyrics in Track 2 say). Every song on here is a gem in its own way, but if you???re looking for instrumental ambience, try 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, and 11. The other tracks feature Cosey???s clear, sometimes sultry voice (see 6 especially) delivering lovely lyrics. Track 4 sounds like she???s chanting a high mass, whereas 9 is like a requiem where you let go of life (???breathe life???s fire and shine…now all past glories rest???). 5, 7, and 8 are my favorites, but try them all for yourself to see which psychic beats emerge from the primordial ether to speak to your unconscious. PGM: All end as early as 0:10.

Tuma, Scott – “Not For Nobody ” – [Digitalis Industries]

humana   7/26/2008   A Library, CD

Americana: This second album from Chicagoan Scott Tuma is so lovely it???s heartbreaking. Only for the sentimental, these mostly instrumental pieces feature guitar, banjo, and occasional bells. Only the first and last tracks have vocals, a female making strange, haunting, child-like utterances. Tuma???s strength is in his ambient mellowness and lovely guitar work that floats in and out like a lullabye, a nostalgic one at that. PGM: Tracks 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 end a bit early, and 11 starts quiet. Field sounds (wind, bird chirping, chalk on board?) on 1, 8, and 12. Picks: 2, 4, 10. Ambient peace: 5, 6, 9, 11.

Geese – “Geese ” – [Vanity Case]

humana   7/25/2008   7-inch, A Library

Experimental/Psychedelic/Pop: The UK group of David Lazonby and Graham Bailey call their white vinyl an ???apocalyptic torch song??? in two parts (sides A and B, each of which is about 3:25). Side A is the calmer, more organized side, with clean-sounding guitars and drums, but it ends with an air siren that Side B picks up and takes off with into a more chaotic psyche reprise of the chorus ???The Plane???s Gone Dad.??? The m??l??e of sounds is due partly to additional voices, partly to the full-throttle guitar . The instruments fade first, then the voices, and finally you???re left with blips and bleeps and voices hitting notes, and at last you hear only a field recording. Very interesting and definitely something you???d hear on ???Apartment Life.???

First Communion Afterparty – “Ever Last Sting Live ” – [Mpls]

humana   7/18/2008   12-inch, A Library

Psychedelic Rock: First Communion Afterparty (FCAP) is a young band with high ideals in every sense of the word ???high.??? They are ???committed to an entrancing psychedelic layer-cake of sound,??? and they create this with guitars, keyboards, tambourine, and drums. The vocals are hazy and peripheral, although strong at times. FCAP see themselves as a family that likes to make music together, and this album supposedly cemeted their bond and helped them grow. Their sound is reminiscent of ???Go Ask Alice.??? See for yourself. Tracks 5, 4, and 6 are my favorites, and 6 may contain ???fucking??? but I just can???t tell so it shouldn???t be a problem with the FCC. Side A has 7 songs that follow close upon each other???s heels, with cheers and claps often the only indication of separation. Side B is blank, so skip it.
PGM: Track 6 flows pretty smoothly into 7 so you may want to just play both.
3-Word Review: Psyche-Rockers Escape Minnesota

Snellings, Beth and Yehudit – “Different Strokes ” – [Edgetone Records]

humana   7/17/2008   A Library, CD

Jazz Duo: Different Strokes is Yehudit on five-string electric violin and Beth Snellings on cello. Together they offer up 10 tracks (7 of them from a 2004 concert in San Francisco) of standards mixed with original compositions, with nary a bad one in the bunch. The liner notes are a must-read, and on them you can follow the smiles to my favorites. Particularly noteworthy is the way each musician takes turns playing solos, so eventually the violin and cello seem almost interchangeable and seamless (2, 8, 5). Clearly these women are secure in their musicianship and have no trouble sharing the spotlight. This is a CD that swings, and many will enjoy dropping it into their sets for a snazzy energy boost.
PGM: Each song ends as early as 0:09.
3-Word Review: Positively Primo Pizzicato

Fabulous Diamonds – “Fabulous Diamonds ” – [Siltbreeze Records]

humana   7/14/2008   12-inch, A Library

Experimental/Trance: Seven relatively short songs from this Australian duo with an international flavor that would definitely go well on Ann Arbor???s show. Impressive percussive beats from Nisa Venerosa, intriguing lyrics that often sound like chanting, and organ and sax overdubs from Jarrod Zlatic characterize this release. Tracks 1 and 7 bookend the songs with their lively rhythms that get your heart beating. Track 6 stands out for its sax and percussion which build momentum nicely. – Pax Humana

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