Roden, Steve / Mem1 – “Floating Wave of Air, a” – [Estuary Ltd.]

humana   2/16/2016   A Library, CD

This is a fascinating experiment in sound, bringing together two performances five years apart featuring the collective talents of Roden (acoustic objects and electronics), Mark Cetilia (analog modular and electronics), and Laura Cetilia (cello, voice, and electronics). There is a sparseness that allows for the different noises to saturate each other in a natural way that fools you into thinking this is one performance. Cello as texture is what you get, along with a windswept feeling like no other.

Kennedy, John F. – “Presidential Years 1960-1963, The” – [20th Century Fox]

humana   2/15/2016   12-inch, A Library

It seems fitting that I’d spend President’s Day listening to this documentary album of speeches made by John F. Kennedy during his presidency. Of course any listening to this man is shadowed by the knowledge that he was assassinated, but this sampling of his speeches is quite informative. As someone born the year he died, and who grew up on Cape Cod in a Kennedy-loving family, I found his words almost innocent, although I really still can’t believe how offensive it is to hear him say “Negroes” repeatedly in the Birmingham speech. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but what a rude awakening to realize that even though the times are a-changing, they are doing so at a rate that is much too slow.

Fullman, Ellen – “Long String Instrument, The” – [Superior Viaduct]

humana   2/15/2016   12-inch, A Library

The same four years I spent in college, Fullman spent developing a sound installation in Eindhoven, Holland. Her instrument consisted of 70-foot-long metallic wires amplified by a wooden resonator box. The music recorded on this album is the result of Fullman and another musician traversing these wires with rosined fingers. The result is fairly enjoyable and challenging, bringing true meaning to the word sound sculpture. On the last track, Fullman plays another creation of hers, the Water Drip Drum, which is an aluminum pan into which water drips and whose position is controlled by a foot pedal. Read the sleeve notes. I envy Fullman her musical education, which was primarily self-taught.

May, Brian – “Thirst” – [XOZMIQ]

humana   2/15/2016   12-inch, Soundtrack

This is a re-release of May’s soundtrack to the 1979 Australian movie dealing with the bloody inheritance of Kate. All you need to do is read the track titles to know how she goes from human to vampire, and look at how Side A vinyl goes from red with white (depicting innocence) to a completely red Side B. The Main Title and End Titles are orchestrally beautiful and upbeat, mostly, belying the horror that follows as Kate undergoes her transition. The creepiness is tempered at times by the “ceremony” tracks (A6 and B5), which sound like Gregorian chants, but are actually just gory in the rituals they accompany. This is pretty great stuff.

Wright, Cory Outfit – “Apples + Oranges” – [Singlespeed Music]

humana   2/8/2016   CD, Jazz

This lively jazz release lives up to its name–the mixing of crisp apples with juicy oranges provides a counterpoint to the ears with the fine musicians conversing in a challenging and stimulating way. Oakland-based Wright composes the music and plays tenor sax and B-flat clarinet, and each piece is sustainable in its energy, with the likes of Lisa Mezzacappa contributing bass and Jordan Glenn on drums. This is not a snoozer at all, but rather uplifting and energizing.

Khan, Shujaat Husain & Goudarzi, Katayoun – “Spring” – [Self Release]

humana   2/8/2016   CD, International

This 2-CD release is a treasure, with its rich textures and sounds. Goudarzi’s voice is seductive as she sings/recites from memory the poetry of Rumi, accompanied by the masterful sitar music written and performed by Khan. Abhiman Kaushal gives everything a heartbeat with his tabla, and Ajay Prasanna’s flute weaves its way into this international brew in a mesmerizing way. The overall effect is compelling and tantric.

Callenberg – “Lost In The Mail” – [Bend Records]

humana   2/8/2016   A Library, CD

I can’t help but find this second release from Swedish singer-songwriter Anders Callenberg very appealing. Is it his easy voice? Is it the acoustic guitars and harmonica? Or maybe it’s the gentle electronic beats. All of these elements combine to create an overall mellow musical experience. Tracks 1, 5, and 6 are acoustic; tracks 2, 4, and 8 are electronic; tracks 3, 7, 9, and 10 are a nice combination of the two. Echoes, beats, strums, voices–trying to figure out the lyrics–a worthwhile endeavor and listen.

HSDOM – “untitled” – [Phaserprone]

humana   2/1/2016   A Library, Cassette

This release from the Brooklyn step sequencer contains four tracks, composed mainly of sounds that seem to come from the field, and vocal echoes that seem to come from the nethersphere. There are subtle beats that can be felt in the subconscious, and synth sounds that are most pronounced in Track 3. It’s a primal electronic type scritching on the nerves and yet sometimes it’s comforting.

Nielsdottir, Sigriour – “Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigriour Nielsdottir” – [Hornbuckle Records]

humana   2/1/2016   A Library, Cassette

The sweet story of Grandma Lo-Fi is best read while listening to this compilation of her songs. Turning 70 marked the start of a musical career in which she sang, used household sounds (including purring kitties) and various kitchen percussion and toys, and recorded them on cassette. Iceland has its unique musicians, but this one takes the cake. Makes you look forward to turning 70 and coming into your own. Her percussive rhythms call to mind tribal beats that span the globe. Enjoy.

roigk, stefan – “THE RISING OF MATTEO” – [Tochnit Aleph]

humana   2/1/2016   A Library, CD

Listening to this sound collage is a confusing experience. Roigk is a Berlin-based sound artist, and this texturing of field recordings, whirring drones, sporadic voices, and jarring noises represents a sonic opera. In looking at the cover art and track titles, you could imagine that Matteo’s rising has everything to do with him hanging himself, as the images are shown from an upside down perspective. Imagine what you want…that’s the point of the creaking doors and cryptic sounds. The story is what you make it.

Navitas Est Deus [coll] – [Scenester Credentials]

humana   1/29/2016   12-inch, A Library

On Side A we have Aseethe bringing us more noise than Mauul does on Side B. It’s all electronic-sounding, not musical at all, and sometimes it seems like there’s a locked groove on Side A, but there isn’t. Drone…check. Ambient…maybe, if your ambience borders on headache.

Hytta, Anne – “Draumsyn” – [Carpe Diem Records]

humana   1/28/2016   12-inch, A Library

This is a lovely album of spare music composed and played by Norwegian Hytta on Hardanger fiddle, viola d’amore, and vielle. Read the liner notes to get in tune with the music, which was inspired by imagining unpeopled landscapes and colors, particularly red and blue, and images of silent gardens and blind doors. Lovely classical and folk music.

Le Volume Courbe – “I wish Dee Dee Ramone was here with me” – [Pickpocket Records]

humana   1/19/2016   12-inch, A Library

Charlotte Marionneau is French-born but lives in London. Fortunately, she still has that lovely French accent. She wrote most of the lyrics on this album, and she sings a lot of them in French. Her voice is youthful, cute, and appealing. The musical settings are lovely (piano, strings) and the songs end much too early, leaving you longing for more. Sweet and evanescent.

Shook, Sarah & Disamers, The – “Sidelong” – [Self Release]

humana   1/11/2016   CD, Country

These are gritty tunes in the country style of telling woes that can be met with strong, hard liquor. The track titles pull you in, as do the lyrics. This isn’t feel-good country, but rather tell-it-like-it-is, warts and all. You come out from the catharsis feeling like you’ve grown a backbone.

Spike & Sweet Spots, The – “Strange Breed” – [Randy! Records]

humana   1/10/2016   12-inch, A Library

This debut album from the Chicago band that falls under the genre of folk rock is pretty easy on the ears. The lead singer reminds me of Bob Dylan, and the ballads, which are thankfully printed out in the sleeve, are rather endearing in their relatability, especially the last track, “Right Through Me.” Shannon & the Clams appear on Side A with “Heartbreak,” which is also enjoyable.

Black Wing – “Is Doomed” – [Flenser]

humana   1/5/2016   A Library, CD

This music is supposedly black metal, but it doesn’t seem black or like metal to me. That isn’t necessarily bad, unless you are really expecting metal. It features echoey voices that put you in mind of the Moody Blues, and steady beats that sometimes approach doom. The last several songs get shimmery and interesting, and there is a niche for them somewhere.

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