Which is the evil twin’ This or its doppleganger “Defixiones”
released at the same time? On this Diamanda continues her
cadaverous cabaret. Rhythm and blues in blood red hues. Deep
fistfuls of piano thump, while her voice crawls up and down
the octaves. Choking whispers, spewing flame, nasally
drawling every word split into a trillion trilling notes.
If Chaka Khan is every woman, then Diamanda is every succubus,
possibly including Mariah Carey and Cher. Yes this is that
scary in parts. At times her fiery flagrant vocalizations
border on self-parody. There seems to be no limit to the
tops for her to go over. It’s mostly just Diamanda and her
piano, with a bit of delay on her voice here (harrowingly so
on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”), some weird trembly ghost
treatment of piano there (notably on “Dancing in the Dark”
and “My World Is Empty Without You”). This is one live album
obsessed by death. The snake sings cause it can shed its skin
and survive, not so true with our mortal coils.
Which is the evil twin’ This or its doppleganger “Defixiones”
A minstrel’s ministrations. The second “full” length release
(16 more songs were held back for a release later this year)
from this vagabond troubadour. His warped and wavery delivery
channel Tiny Tim and Al Jolson as much as Syd Barret. On a
few tracks he’s augmented by assistance, but it is mostly
his bubbly nylon-string guitar and his breath-taken voice.
Recorded somewhere behind his teeth, you can hear his lips’
soft smack and his tongue coiling around his brainstem. The
move from four-track to Jimmy Johnson’s home studio cost
no intimacy, which is Banhart’s calling card. Pop quiz,
who has heard of Vashti Bunyan? Not only did this UK pop
singer have an effect on Devendra growing up, he had the
grace to invite her to join him on the title track. Her
path, thorny ejections from art school and the celebrity
machine likely serve as inspiration to Banhart to stick
with the path he knows so well. Past the cornfields and
the grooves of citrus fruit that dot the landscape here,
not looking at photos or mirrors, but probing his body
and mind with his own grubby fingers. #9 instro, #12 has
a false start. A jagged, jangly jongleur.
So there was this killer party, a decade or two ago…but
the Kit, in their Detached manner are only just now showing
up, more than fashionably late, still more fashionable than
the bulging-eyed zombies who are still at the actual party.
There are some tricks here that help to set up the canonized
noise pop. Opening trick played is of the “High Llama” suit
then a second or two of electrowash right into a bloody,
pumping heart, the towering trump rock the Kit shoots the
moon for most of the time. With its pretty screaming of
“No, You’ll Never Die” you know the kids are still alright,
and still feeling immortal. They still have old Beatle lps
too, a harmony chorus on “Pill Cake” shouts twistedly. “The
Race” alternates from anthem aims to less pressurized feel
with guitar nebulae. Over the entire album, the guitarplay
generally scores plenty of body blows. “Ice Queen” spades
some dirt gracefully upon a casket and the solemn, somnolent
acoustic guitar of “Spider” ends this album.
Provocative release with somewhat arbitrary slicing
(several “parts” have quite a bit of change in them,
and there is no deadtime between ’em). Often the music
here feels like there are two clocks not quite ticking
at the same second. Maroney’s “hyperpiano” is prepared
piano, often the damping of strings by objects (or
Maroney’s hands) induces a not unpleasant harpsichord
hangover. I think he’s sliding some metallic objects in
parts…for a nice wobble to some otherwise mechanical
movements. But the composition is more peculiar than the
monkeying of keys. Even when not in hyperpiano mode,
Maroney leaps pretty odd Conlon Nancarrow-y intervals.
Chords are struck with a very precise “mistiming”,
unravelling in a disheveled manner. It grew upon me.
When Dresser’s bass moves to the front, the “fluxations”
are most accessible…by track four an almost minimalist
momentum is built but it gets properly unhinged before
long. Ned Rothenberg tosses in a solo on #5 that fits
with the bi-clock beneath, while connecting to a Village
Vanguard vibe. While soul jazz pumps involuntary muscles,
this twitches very voluntarily to mindmath.
Liner notes present the confession of a former
flame thrower falling in love with a fountain.
Cooler composing heads prevail, at least for
now; however this certainly has flashes of
Ware’s scintillating solos (the “Weave” cuts)
Overall, there’s a quasi illbient undervibe.
Fans of the recent El-P should enjoy the
“Sufic Passages” with its bass and cymbal
smooth ride. That’s an easy entry. I dug the
opening track, very tense, very “Angel Heart”
with all players getting limber. The twin
strings of Daniel Bernard Roumain and Mat
Maneri are thickened further by Matthew
Shipp’s banks of synth strings. Especially
on the title track, which will either be
beautiful or bogged down for listeners. I
think this is a nice first step towards a
balance between blast and ballad…chops and
comps…purists can still return and burn
with older Wares.
The queen of modern antiquity returns, her
breath smelling of formaldehyde and absinthe,
to KFJC’s airwaves to revive the undead air.
Her banjo strung with her own hair. Here lie
short ballads of yore and gore, but wrapped in
such pretty petticoats (lots of xylophone,
autoharp and of course singing saw). If you
ever wondered what silent movie stars sound
like when they sing, here you have it.
Covers are disinterred (“Oh Death”, “Psycho”
and “House of the Rising Sun”). “Grandma’s
Feather Bed” makes one think that this
damned Dame was born unto her art, her Dad
appears on that and other pieces as well.
Ramshackles and chains around your heart.
Is it that Crescent?’ The answer lies in the first note
on “Fountains” – a resounding yes! An organ that shrieks
will be well-recalled, or now discovered, by many. With
no release since 1999, many thought Crescent were Snake
Pliskin…but their squatter-in-winter undub resurrects
to be heard through a dilapidated tenement with broken
windows. Not dead, just dormant..and storing up their
mesmerizing power. These Bristol-whippers have a bead
on krautrock trance but when ice reeds whistle in and
metal wolf-traps clang and steel strings snap in the
background, the end result is quite distinct. Brothers
Matt Jones (Amp) and Sam Jones (Flying Saucer Attack)
along w/ Rachel Brook are all also in Movietone, which
has a more familiar, tho’ still overcast-skies, brand
of pop. This is here is further afield, it follows the
rivers out of town…up north…into an imaginary
village. We are a part of the Hiber Nation.
Three’s company, New York Avant style? Swiss miss Sylvie
Courvoisier moves to NYC to join her violinist husband
Mark Feldman, and cellist Erik Friedlander makes three.
The trio may also be known as Abaton as this release is.
I really enjoyed the second disc of improvisations,
where the playing seems hyperdramatic. The first disc of
compositions by pianist Courvoisier seems restrained,
albeit with moments of madness. Maybe she is striving to
not spotlight herself, indeed she sits out “Poco a poco.”
“Abaton” has a tense Hitchcock running-up-and-down-stairs
vibe that leads to the furious flights Feldman excels at.
It is by far the most fervid of the four, by its end tho’
silence overshadows the return of the running strings.
The 19 improvisations, none longer than 5 minutes, are
like watching batting practicer: quicker crowd-pleasing
action. From pizzicato caves(#5) to weird whistly string
playing(#17), to wind-swept melodies(#11), firecracker
snap(#9). Lots of prepared piano too. Both rewarding in
In space, no one can hear you scream. In the vacuum of bass,
one is less likely to hear a sax scream. This album rides
on watery crests of tom rolls and cymbal crashes from JAY
ROSEN, while saxmen SONNY SIMMONS and MICHAEL MARCUS trade
a lot of spry cycles and merge for half-chords, keeping a
pretty taught tether to the melody of these compositions.
No doubt there are solar flashes (certainly on “Avant Garde
Destruct”), but the moonwalk cord keeps the hornmen closer
to the mothership, which works fine by this passenger (and
the Amsterdam-ned in attendance for tracks #5-#8). Two of
those live numbers, “12 Seasons of Love” and Simmons’ solo
rendition of “‘Round Midnight” balance a more stately flow
against burnished extended solos. Rosen returns invigorated
for a 2.5 min drum rollick to launch the closing “Requiem”
with rooted baritone from Marcus and cool oblique echos
from Simmons eventually join them. “Futura” and “Bring on
the Funk” give the listener the smoothest flight path,
I dug those, but along with “Avant…” my favorite was
a very nebulous “Tonal Magnitudes” with slippery scales
and solos. Next stop, Venus.
his album grew on me like fingernails on a corpse. To
say they are taken with the macabre is an understatement,
hell they are undertaken. Dying is their raison d’etre.
Their spectral folk sound is built upon acoustic guitar,
accordian, wounded theremin, singing saw, glass goblets
and an item they refer to as the “Poor Lady’s Gamelan.”
Apparently they are a 3 or 4 piece (depending on human
boomerang, Wei who comes and goes). Perhaps scariest of
all, they’re disinterred from the cultural graveyard
known as Santa Clara. Vocals will improve as liquour &
confidence are titrated into the mix. Either for the
singer Avery Burke or perhaps the listener. Hic?’ The
“16-line Love Song” is well haunted by Wei’s harmonies.
Dax’s vocals are frothier on “Alice” but the “singing”
of Avery’s hands steals the show on that via theremin.
Lyrics are well-laced. This Corpus Callosum is bigger
on the left hemisphere, and thick with promise. A very
bright darkness emanates.
Bostan-based set of musicians performing guided
improv, not by baton…nor by game piece…but by
the feet (and body) of dancer Masashi Harada.
Results traverse a very spacious nebula of sound.
Starlight flicker of Phil Tomasic’s sliding guitar,
windy wordless vocals from the whole cast, breathy
work from Nmperign duo, rings of string from Aleta
Cole and Dan Levin. The sound always appears to be
way up high, although there’s mysterious dark matter
(not just molten trombone) in much of the silence
that this ensemble manages to preserve. This is
Halloween jazz with an otherworldy beauty. I wish
I had witnessed the Big band big Bang at the point
of creation. Proof of an expanding universe
The sum of the parts is greater than the whole : violin +
guitar + bassoon + percussion. Rachael Elliott’s bassoon
sounds like an old man lost and wandering a strange city
at night. Bryce Dressner, who rocks fairly straightforwardly
with The National, gets a chance to be far more interesting
here. Look what happens 3 1/2 minutes into the title track?
Percussionist Thomas Kozumplik is precise in his quests for
tinkering trinkets, he builds some of his own instruments.
Lastly Padma Newsome is the chief composer and the one
who united these four Yalies. His whistling violin on
“Turtle Soup” is as key an ingredient as its crushed ABC
radiocast excerpts. Tasty! Actually the album peaked a
little earlier for me, right there after tracks #2 and
#3. Keeping Dressner amped up I think is a good idea, his
playing gives this album more of a clamour than a chamber
state, recalls the promise of Tom Cora locking bridges
with the Ex! Many of the pieces take lengthy rests in
them, be forewarned. More singing from the winsome
Newsome should be encouraged. His soft soprano voice on
“Gentler We” plays nicely off the ominous music beneath.
Gear-head driven pagan prog rock to play Dungeons and
Dragons to, except it goes by too quickly. Scot Solida
is the lead sorcerer here, transmuting some personal
tragedy into music, by way of Midi cables and some at
times “overly clever” punning in lyrics. Their heart is
in the right place, but their head is at the forefront
enmeshed in a lot of synthesizers and some guitar
chain mail. They lose some hit points for drum machines
and faux British accents, but given some more time and
more faith in acoustic instruments, C & the C’s could
lead a revival of the nearly extinct brand of prog
rock Americana! A flesh drummer really would help
overcome the bred-in-captivity traps of trap-less
percussion. Does anyone remember Pestilence?
While prison workers are making Britney Spears dolls,
look what the sneakier thought-criminals have been up
to in China. Making beautiful noise! The first CD here
is almost flawless. The ISMU aka Intelligent Shanghai
Mono University tracks in particular are just bursting
with creativity that would be promising whether they
came from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico or the most
populous country on the planet. Check out the sounds
bounced off a bamboo squeak on 1-4, or how time is
running out for techno on 1-6. While track 1-1 fires
a static charge through your ears, not all tracks are
as wonderfully annoying. Yuhui Jiang’s pieces wrap
their broken glass in smooth silk. “Minibus Pimps”
are Chinese cabbies who’ve been hanging out with the
Fall’s Mark E. Smith, or so it sounds. Other “found”
sounds are also remarkable, please enjoy snake-meat
and accordion on 1-16. Pei Zhou gets wires through
thick and skin. Really a lot going on here.
WARNING 1-7 too gorgeous for FCC as a sexbot rebels
Rare is the guitar hero who first chooses an acoustic
over an electric with a phalanx of effects, that is
but one unique aspect of Cheval de Frise and nylon
stringleader Thomas Bonvalet. His counterpart is
drummer Vincent Beysselance who blends so well with
the complex melodies and runs of Bonvalet that he
can almost become lost in the shuffle of snare, the
flurry of toms and subtle heartbeats of hi-hat. He’s
a very good drummer, just paired w/ a flash guitarist.
On two tracks, (#6’s second half and all of #8) they
are joined by Simon Queheillard on a self-made
instrument that sounds like a tambura made of ice.
It shears across the top of the duo’s dense interplay.
The horse you cannot see, cannot be corralled; and
this band cannot be easily put in one pasture. Enjoy
the wild freedom of this exceptional duo.
A donation from KFJC’s Austin Space after he played the
rousing rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” from
this on his 2nd annual special for that song. For some,
this may have a cruise ship capability to repel (the
fine liner notes describe how my favorite band, SILVER
STARS, on this actually re-formed “when most of the
members returned home from Disney World.” All of the
recordings here were done in Trinidad and Tobago, tho’
at times the massiveness of the ranks of steel drums
overwhelms so much it seems these were recorded in
roller rinks. In addition to the densely charted
steel drums, each track has relentless shimmying of
other percussion hustling underneath it all. The
necessary imperfections in the tuning of the drums,
is a nice twist to the mechanical precision of the
strange arrangements to these party marches.
There’s a lot of doors into this fine release from this local
trio (and once and future veterans of KFJC’s pit). #4 offers
an acid-folk tablet of tabla, flute and bouzouki, as welcome
as it is unique on this CD. “Mondrian en Amerique” has more
complicated lines and colors than its title’s inspiration,
it’s kinda of Clusone-y in its sawing cello and giddy spurts
and stalls. On “4+#11m6m7” (known as track 7 to its friends)
a bassoon goes hunting in a forest of trinkling percussion,
bowed cello grows like shadows on the trees. “R’izhii” is a
hobo’s waltz with dixie DT’s and Klezmer shakes. “Augmented”
was my fave, very fluid, high register intertwined sax and
cello. “Iram” pumps a spastic, avant funk nicely. On #8 Alex
Kelly’s slithery cello (sounding like some analog electronics
oscillating wondrously) connects a more fiery beginning to
passages with chinese gong and sweeter pondering’s from band
and label leader, Michael Cooke. While Cooke is the obvious
sonic focal point, Kelly’s wildcard nature is what I think
elevates this band. The letter W and assorted batterie are
provided by Andrew Wilshusen, his talent is as an empath
between the other two gents. I could see him adding touches
of electronics to the mix as well. This ain’t “Was” jazz,
enjoy the evolving “Is.”
Recently issued capture of two 2001 sessions between local
percussion-plus purveyor (and chief man at Rastascan) Gino
Robair, and UK sax whacker John Butcher. The album starts
with high-pitched twitting over a (bowed?) rumble droner;
it’s hard to tell if that whistling is amplified Butcher or
Robair sawing on some styrofoam or both. The key is that
both guys are willing to stretch their sonic repetoire to
the point of illusion. Thus at times on this you’ll get the
“drummer” squonking away, while the “horn” player is tapping
out a spit-rhythm or other percussion. On other tracks, both
guys approach an alien sound together, like on “Slug Tag”
where they are speaking metal slowscrape. Robair’s ebowed
snare appears on the “Pudsey Surprise” like a fly trapped
buzzing in window screen, Butcher bugzaps some electrosax.
A lot of turf covered here from the drone-tundra of “Fid”
and “Peal” to more squigglery on “Blagovest.” Humor not
to be discounted, hear the sax whinny on “Vug” and Robair
gets in on the joke, but I’m not sure on what instrument.
Would have been great to see this in person live, these
tracks are as short as they are strange…so they are very
easy to squeeze in and play musical ears.
1972 a completely fascinating audio enchantment. Fontaine
sounds strong but soft, subtle yet striking. She’s always the
focal vocal point accompanied by sparse backing and sometimes
just naked by herself (or herselves as several tracks feature
great moments of Brigitte multitracked like the beginning of
#2, #6 & #8 which features gaspy sobs as well!) At other
times she’s pitched up against a more gravelly male voice
(Areski I believe who she would record more with). It starts
with a breezy folk-pop smile of a song but boom #2 kicks off
with a piercing shriek. On track #3 we have a few seconds of
audie realite babysitting, then #4 a ponderous chamber ditty
that recalls Nico. Before this scant 30 minutes is up you
will have heard incorporated a cuckoo clock approach, a
harmonium harmonizing with Brigitte and then protest shouts,
sad pining with an Arabic lilt (Areski’s influence?), other
moments that feel like hymns and it ends up with a kind of
proggy number. Lady Fontaine is a champion chameleon, an
artful performer and in my estimation an absolute and
essential genius. French and twisted! Worship her.
Despite a leading gentle mantra guided by Hamid Drake’s vocal
prayer, frame drum and soul…do not be deceived, this is
**horsepower** jazz. Peter Brotzmann knows how to whip up a
stampede. He rides into the fray with a gypsy’s tarogato,
calming cycles to go with Drake’s dream chant… But just
shy of six minutes, skyscrapers of sound shoot up through
the idyll. Cue the lurching Longberg-Holm cello…unleash
the dual drumheart of Zerang and Drake pumping at more than
capacity, and the race has begun. Brotzmann has amassed
some mighty thoroughbreds…plenty of NRG and BBQ to keep
the fire music flaming…but “Stonewater” does have some
stillness running deep in pockets. Ultimately it is the
sputtering saxes that stand-out, I’m telling you I hear
horses…lip-flipping, braying, raging stags. So even when
we get a little clarinet soft-shoe around 18 minutes in,
and then a very faint cello/bass duo, I’m waiting for
the hoofs…which leap in almost like a bad edit. For all
the fine playing, track one is acoustically imbalanced.
The second tracks stays strong throughout, a nice brass
oven at the end of its first third. The piece pauses
for a trumpet soliloquy at 13:36 (McPhee?) then it’s
over to Gustaffson for his pyrotechnique. Late in the
piece a drum duet locks in, invites in a swinging set
from the whole twelve and boom, a cliffhanger ending.
Years of music barely fit into 67 minutes, escape words.
Listen, follow one player for awhile, repeat..
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
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