Hannant, Beaumont – “Sculptured ” – [General Production Records]

loun   6/5/2007   A Library, CD

Thirteen years after its initial release, Beaumont Hannant’s Sculptured still sounds fresh and innovative. I’d have expected this to be throroughly bitten into submission by now, but apparently it never surfaced far enough into the mainstream to have caught the attention of the masses. In a sense it’s a shame, but on the other hand I get to enjoy these songs with wide eyed wonder, since I have never heard them, or derivatives, before.

There is a certain mystique to Mr. Hannant, who exploded onto the British electronic scene in the mid 90’s, but seems to have vanished before the decade was out. Reviewers speak of him with a seeming reverence, although none that I checked had bothered to comment on what he may be up to these days. Yet I can understand a certain longing for the time-frozen creator/producer of this disc, a desire to leave him in the time in which he fathered this work – there is a timeless mystery to it which leaves one content to remain in the time and space of the music for a while… perhaps a very long while.

Masterful manipulations of eclectic sounds, and an absolute must-play!

Lusine – “Podgelism ” – [Ghostly International]

loun   5/23/2007   A Library, CD

Jeff McIlwane, or, as the cool kids call him, Lusine, seems to have released more remixes than songs. Most notably, “Flat”, for which we now have two copies of the four remixes, included here and on the “Flat Remixes” vinyl EP, does not appear on any currently available Lusine release. I find that the inclusion of four remixes of one song weakens the CD considerably, giving the inherently repetitiousness nature of beat remixes (and it’s unquestionably all about the beats here) a pall of opression by hammering you with the same beat over and over (the quirky departure of (*GASP*) vocals in the Dear remix are more than offset by the Cepia mix, in which he spends a minute building up, lays down the beat track, and walks away, returning four minutes later to pot down), a beat that, while masterfully crafted like all the beats here, isn’t strong enough relative to the others to merit so much attention.

Of course, since this is a beat remix album, why would you possibly play it end to end? (My excuse: music reviewing!) Slap the disc on the platter, audition tracks until your hips make it skip, back it up and lay it down!

Cooke Quintet – “An Indefinite Suspension of the Possible ” – [Black Hat Records]

loun   4/11/2007   CD, Jazz

A wonderful depth of sound and style is to be found on this oft reminiscent release. Taking the intriguing mixture of cello, trombone and koto (the Japanese stringed instrument which is layed on the ground and plucked) for a full spin around its realm of interesting possibilities while Michael Cooke takes a dance with every wind instrument he can get his hands on, these (for jazz) youngsters deliver a surprisingly mature and thoughtful work which often exudes joy without jumping out of its track. This is the truly pleasant surprise of this work – how it encompasses such a rich degree of feeling yet still manages to sound largely as a single piece. Repeat listens are well rewarded, but there is plenty to behold on the first pass, even for jazz neophytes. Tracks are longish, and a bit weighty, although sparse in sound at times. A welcome entry from a group with a lot of potential. Suspend your disbelief, don’t worry about what’s possible, and enjoy what has already been realized.

Ishizuka, Toshiaki – “In The Night ” – [Psf]

loun   3/21/2007   A Library, CD

Ishizuka-san delivers a meditative, resourceful, and brilliant offering of pure percussive bliss from way back in 1999. Not to be confused with drum solos, these tracks are as explorative and innovative as any piece of experimental music. The focus is on sound, level, and timing, and drumbeat occurs only rarely. There is a very large dynamic range, so make sure the loud bits are as loud as you can get ’em to avoid not being able to hear the quiet bits. Deep, contemplative, and inspired percussion for a nice change of pace.

Harrington, Willam C. – “Urban Electronic Music ” – [Angry Vegan Records]

loun   3/21/2007   A Library, CD

It’s late at night, or early in the morning, not that you care. The streets stink, but it’s a familiar stink of food and oil and, most of all, people. You’re sitting on the curb, not because you’re drunk, but because your feet hurt. You walked off the last of your drink a few miles back, and now your feet aren’t so sure it was a good ides to not wait the 40 minutes until the next bus came by, but your head and heart are still certain of that decision.

A couple walks by, their conversation not stopping, their eyes pointed at each other, although you know they are watching you, just as you are watching them.

There is a certain rhythm to the city, a mesh of sound and noise that plays as the soundtrack to the daily drama of urban life. It is an elusive rhythm, usually unnoticed except in those rare moments of relative quiet in which one has the chance to reflect. Perhaps it is incorrect to call it a rhythm, it is more of a genre, an organic, unbidden genre. William C. Harrington issues forth this credible effort at an album in that genre. At first listen it seems like an eccentric electronic music album, but repeated listens evoke more and more of the cityscape, as not the sounds, but the patterns they form evoke that peculiar soundscape unique to the city and shared by cities the world over.

You can, of course, just listen to it as an electronic music album, and that works, too, especially given the un-urbanesque track names, although the music will take many inexplicable twists and turns, but that, too, is good music. Either way, relax, breathe deeply, accept the music, and hear what it has to say to you.

Bauls of Bengal, The – “Bauls of Bengal, The ” – [Empire Musicwerks]

loun   2/20/2007   CD, International

There are some things that can only happen on the subcontinent. With their unique blend of religious diversity and fervor, rigid social strata, and tolerance, the people of the subcontinent found a way to live with the Thuggees, who robbed and murdered as an act of devotion, mathematicians who practiced their craft like a religion, and the Bauls, who deliberately present themselves as both Hindu and Muslim, as well as other religions, and make a living by singing for their supper.

Baul music is folk music of a surprising depth and sophistication, handed down through generations that do little else but play music. Unlike many folk styles, Baul music is fluid and personal – each performer is expected to bring their own search for God and truth into the performance. Likewise, listeners should hear the piece in the context of their own search. Perhaps that is why track 4 ripped my attention away from whatever I was doing each time it played – perhaps it spoke to my own search for truth, or maybe it was just Purna’s sweet and powerful voice wrenching my heart with her passion.

All tracks are solid, and can be played wherever an American folk piece would fit – the Bauls were to Bob Dylan as Ravi Shankar was to the Beatles. Take a little time and listen to the search for God – it began before we were possible, and will continue long after we are dust.

Touch! Don’t Touch! – Music For Theremin [coll] – [Wergo]

loun   2/20/2007   A Library, CD

Upon its invention, it was thought that the theremin, that crazy instrument which is played without being touched, and which is the granddaddy of all electronic music, would revolutionize music and our understanding of it. The revolution never materialized, though, and the theremin found a niche in horror and sci-fi soundtracks due to its ability to make that so-desired woo-woo-woo sound, falling out of favor with fine musicians.

Lo and behold, it’s back, and these thereminauts, led by the grand-niece of the machine’s inventor, don’t shy away from its history, rather embracing it warmly in the form of track 7, a tribute to the theremin’s role in soundtracks, which should be the big hit (and not on name alone), and is recommended for all shows.

All pieces are solid, all are composed, but some (2, 4, 5, 6) are very slow in development and have quiet parts. Tracks 1 and 8 are also recommended, and, if you don’t mind slower moving pieces, check out 2 and 5, or listen to the whole thing and pick your own favorite. Get a booster shot of theremin and feel better now!

Parkins, Zeena – “Necklace ” – [Tzadik]

loun   1/31/2007   A Library, CD

A tasty seven course meal of avante garde delights. Zeena’s fans may be disappointed that she plays on only one of the seven tracks, but she is heavily involved in all of them, composing and processing. “16 Feet + Cello” is the major experimental piece, followed by Zeena’s harp piece, all sandwiched between two pieces (the second with three movements) composed by Zeena and performed by the Eclipse Quartet, which includes two of Zeena’s sisters. These pieces, while still avant garde by classical standards, fall into more recognizable musical terrain and offer both warm familiarity and a challenge to explore the music and oneself. A lovely session of string therapy for the aching soul.

Busdriver – “RoadKillOvercoat ” – [Epitaph Records]

loun   1/24/2007   CD, Hip Hop

Busdriver returns with 12 tracks of vibrant hip hop goodness, including the recently added “Kill Your Employer”. Busdriver lists John Hendricks of the jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross as his primary influence, and it becomes clear as the songs carry a rhyming and rhythmic complexity far beyond that of the average hip hop release. The songs have plenty of variance in their styling, and they’re all good stuff. Primary targets are the government and the music industry, but Busdriver spreads his attention around, even to himself. the focus is more on the flow than the invectives, and he delivers fast, precise rhymes of intricate rhythms, including a weave through Yes’ “I Get Up, I Get Down”, in which the new lyrics intertwine with the old. The music is more upbeat song than typical hip hop beat, so this record should have appeal even to those who ordinarily eschew hip hop titles. This is an endearing and infectious release that gets better with each listen. The tracks have all been pre-cleaned, except for track 2, which still has “shitfaced” audible. Highly recommended.

Messiaen, Olivier – “Eclairs Sur L’au-dela… ” – [EMI Records Ltd.]

loun   1/23/2007   A Library, CD

What may be Messiaen’s final symphony (at least he did not live to hear it played)is performed by the Berlin Philharmonic as conducted by Simon Rattle on this fine release. This disc is not for everyone – it is dramatic, seeping, wandering, sleeping, pensive and reflective. It is inspired by birdsong and carried out by orchestra. It is the antithesis of catchiness. Yet one tends to emerge from the listening a little bit refreshed. There is some variety amongst the tracks, but all are part of the whole. On the whole, a fine composition.

Namlook – “Music For Urban Meditation ” – [Fax]

loun   1/23/2007   A Library, CD

Min is in! Pete Namlook’s appropriately named Music for Urban Meditation joins the growing list of recent minimalist releases. Of course, Namlook isn’t deviating very far from his norm, and this release sounds very much at home amidst our fine Namlook collection. Musically it’s sparse, but sonically it’s rich, with variations in texture, timing, and pacing, resulting in a slow, persistent crawl through variegations of organic and mechanical environments, resulting in a fine musical analog for te modern urban experience. It’s slow, moody, and unrelenting, and it’s a fine listening experience.

Uton – “Highway Nation ” – [Barl Fire Recordings]

loun   12/13/2006   A Library, CD

Finn Jani Hirvonen presents us with five tracks of hyperminimalist drone. All tracks are less than eleven minutes long, so you can get your drone on in manageable timeslots. The sounds have a nice texture. Beyond that, well, like I said, “hyperminimalist drone”.

NOTE: Tracks are mastered at very low volumes, so a significant increase in levels is needed.

Oliveros, Pauline – “Lion’s Tale ” – [Deep Listening]

loun   12/13/2006   A Library, CD

Bang a gong! Or something similar… Our Gamelan loving friends from Berkeley spend 45 minutes striking serenity into the hearts of men. This magnum opus wends its subtle way along, carrying you with it, until you find yourself pretty much back where you started – in other words, it’s great Gamelan music. The synthesizer blends in nicely, using Gamelan sounds, but sometimes at very quick tempos. Lion’s Tale sounds less traditional, but is still a nice piece. A pleasant soundtrack for meditative contemplation.

West Africa Unwired [coll] – [World Music Network]

loun   12/9/2006   CD, International

A compelling case could be made that West African music has been the world’s most influential musical style, pushing not only northward into Europe via the Moors, but also across the Atlantic with the slaves to become the foundation for gospel music, jazz, the blues, and, eventually, rock & roll. Yet this music remains largely unheard in its original form. This disc contains a collection of what is known as griot music, the traditional generational music of the region, which embodies the wisdom of the ancestors. The music is rich, deep, and pleasing, and contains a musical maturity rarely found anywhere, courtesy of countless generations of refinement. The sound is consistent, but there is plenty of variety. All tracks are excellent. An unassailable choice wherever a blues track would fit.

Mr 76ix – “Hits of 76ix Par2 ” – [Skam]

loun   12/6/2006   A Library, CD

Mr. 76ix lays down a phat pack of beats for your chillin’ enjoyment. These are meaty beats with substance and breaks that stand nicely by themselves or can be used as backbeats. No lyrics to worry about. Lay ’em down and dance!

Klumpes, Adrian – “Be Still ” – [The Leaf Label Ltd.]

loun   11/14/2006   A Library, CD

Ain’t young love grand? Anglican Australia may be a prime destination for tourists and beer lovers, but for music enthusiasts it’s long been no more than a landing strip en route to checking out those didgeridoo jammin’ natives. In the vaccuum of international neglect, a new native (let’s face it, the convicts’ spawn are there to stay) musical movement may be starting to flower.

Klumpes, pianoman for the ambientesque band Triosk, strapped himself to his bench and recorded nine tracks in one sitting, then retired into the studio to heavily postprocess them. The result is a pleasant, if often disfocussed, release that oozes enthusiasm for both piano and electronica while never blurring the two. Klumpes is clearly neither competing nor collaborating with anyone, even referring to this work as “minimalist” (not even close), but that seems to be a good thing, leaving him free to compose, perform, and produce to his own delight. Like a teenage boy fumbling with a brastrap, the technique may not be the best, but you’ve gotta salute the enthusiasm. Some of the best playing occurs during the more repetitive parts, with the electronics begging off for a little while, as if in recognition of the brief transcendence. All the tracks are solid – I preferred the ones in the middle, but you may find your own favorites.

In years to come, Australia may find itself possessed of an underground musical movement in full bloom, but for now at least we can be content with this lick and a promise down under.

Aphex Twin – Chosen Lords – Rephlex

loun   10/21/2006   A Library, CD

Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin, or AFX, selects choice tracks from his Analords series of EPs to make this compilation for those who could not get their hands on the music otherwise. This is a solid selection of bright, airy techno dance grooves that carry you up without carrying you away. There is variety in the tracks within a sturdy framework of beat and meter. No surprises here, which is a good thing.

Paavoharju – “Uskallan ” – [Type Recordings]

loun   10/18/2006   7-inch, A Library

Paavoharju amazed and confused us earlier this year with their crunchy, warm, didactic, evolving neo-free folk music. Even among Finns, their music is unusual, and, despite the fact that Finnish music these days tends to be pretty good these days, Paavoharju still manages to set themselves apart in a good way. The A side is a nice, crunchy lullaby complete with softly crying baby, and is highly recommended for play on any and all shifts. The B side is similar in its sonic texture, but with neither singing nor baby feels a little barren. This gives its own special quality to the piece, which I suspect was deliberate. Very tasty, very delicious.

Clementi, Aldo / Ives Ensemble – “Madrigale ” – [Hat Hut Records Ltd]

loun   9/13/2006   A Library, CD

How does one articulate the unspeakable? How, given a means of communication, does one impart that which it was never meant to carry? Voice alone is not speech. Words carry only a fraction of the meaning that is imparted through them. Likewise, notes, lacking context, are not music. Reading reviews and biographies of Clementi, I encounter musical terms I do not know, references to a histories I never learned. Yet the spark that has been ignited in the authors is unmistakable.

Picture an illiterate yet sensitive mute before you: gesturing wildy, almost dancing, always looking directly at you as he struggles in near-futile effort to bridge the gap between you. Such a soul is Aldo, striving all his life to speak, both with instrument and composition, that which words could not say, and even I, with my uneducated ears, can hear distinct murmurings. Many reviewers say that the songs are downbeat and pessimistic, and I cannot refute such comments, only point out that he spent his entire life trying to communicate using the expressive but awkward tool of musical composition, which is itself a powerful statement of optimisim. Somewhere in there lies a message, if only I could understand it…


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