From 2003, this is Ellen Allien’s second release on her own BPitch Control label. Berlin techno parties must have been a blast with sounds like this playing into the early morning. Here we have Allien’s charismatic voice singing over an eclectic mix of techno beats mixed in with glitch, tweak and odd computer modulated vocals and sounds. Each track is pretty unique, standing on it’s own as well as fitting together in the whole work. I’m finding this early work almost more experimental, more quirky than her later work. These pieces are not afraid of challenging the listener and of taking a chance. With beats. Always. One of my favorite finds over the last year.
This 2002 release marked a return, of sorts. of the wonderful Scroggins family and their infectious stripped down funk sound. This time around, daughters have joined in and the beat is still pumping. Remember, ESG is all about the bass, and man is there bass. Simple bass lines repeated over and over almost take on the power of a vocalist. Without the bass, there is no ESG. Minimalism is the word for this funk post punk project. Some songs just have Renee Scroggins simmering vocals accompanied by bass. Others have that oh so familiar drum beat, a little guitar, some tambourine or other percussion thrown in. That’s it, but what an “IT”. A real joy to continue to hear them. Some of these tracks are even more stripped down then songs of the past, and a bit slower, but the sound, the beat, the thump thump thump is so infectious. Your head will bop and booty will shake.
Dionne Warwick is truly one of the greats. Unclassifiable for some: jazz, blues, gospel, soul, r&b, pop? Where does she fit in when actually she fits in everywhere. These 25 songs plus some promo material are from one of her golden eras when she was on Scepter Records and was working with the brilliant team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Recorded between 1962 and 1971, these recordings capture an era that in some instances, remains timeless. The quality and catchiness of Bacharach’s instrumentation, the depth yet simplicity of David’s lyrics, found their interpreter in the unique voice of Warwick. They were a trio made for each other and the continued hits demonstrated their quality. This collection comes from rarities and lost bits of the time. Many of the selections are recordings of her classics sung in other languages: French, German and Italian. When Warwick stole Paris in her concert tour, she was asked by many to record in their language and the results are here. Superb renderings of her choice work. Also there are alternate takes and some obscurities of equal quality. With each song, Warwick sings in her unique way, nailing the lyric with superb style and interpretation, rising above but not dominating the glorious orchestrations of Bacharach. Also, this was 1962 when the trio’s first hit came about. One can not disregard the barriers and walls of prejudice they overcame with this artistic relationship. A profound collection. And she is Whitney Houston’s aunt.
Daniel Levin (cello) and Mat Maneri (viola) have composed six pieces of improvisation using instruments not usually noted for duets let alone jazz duets. Using Jung’s comments about consciousness vs unconsciousness, they explore the freedom of improv with an organization of sorts that flows from melody to full on busrts of string sound. Classical, free form microtonal interplay between the two guide, float and battle throughout the selections. Whether bowed or plucked, the listener can never predict what will happen next yet each new phrase is a pleasure to the ear. Skronk and melody all in one.
Feixs Da Housecat, electronic pop/house music king supreme, plays it up with this 2009 release. Twelve tunes of bubble gum electro house catchiness, most with vocals by breathy, squeeky or monotone female vocalists which add an edge of naughty. (Think of his work with Miss Kitten). Songs about Prince,living in a platic world and machines are all just edgey enough to make you question. The electonic beats are a variety of riffs on old gaming system soundtracks (Elvi$), low rider street bass (Kickdrum, which will blow out the speakers) and of course early house. The lyrics are suggestive sometimes but fun. This is just fun. Felix knows his style and works it to the end. Dance happy.
Electric Machine Gun Tits are Naoko Nozawa (vocals and synth) and Tora Fujimoto (vocal and guitar). Several years in the bay area, from Japan, singing in English and Japanese. Power, power, power. Hard drum machine pounding, raucous rhythm guitar, screamed repeated phrases for lyrics about pineapple junkies, fake fur, monkey brain and sushi. Cheap electronic toy noises from Naoko who yells and laughs insanely while wearing a rainbow unicorn plushy. Intense rideculous fun. You will be covered in cooked ramen. Fox and I have seen them twice, opening for Bob Log and Shonen Knife and both times they kind of stole the show. Like riding a roller coaster going 0 to 100 in 2 seconds flat.
Adult is Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller and “Detroit House Guests” is the CD that came out of their project inviting six very distinct artists into their Detroit home at separate times, collaborating with that artist and creating work from that collaboration. It’s a fascinating concept that offers so many varying outcomes. Fortunately, each collaboration is unique and of superb quality. Adult tend to fall into an electronic art punk art damage sound, pulling from the 1980’s/90’s but definitely making it their own. The influences are sometimes obvious on this new CD, which makes it more fun, but you can figure them out for yourself. The 12 tracks are definitely filled with the style and sounds of each collaborator but in the end the songs are Adult. The list of artists is so unique, from big names to lesser known to the mainstream alternative but equally valued by those in the know. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe brings his electronic soundscapes, twisting and beating with frightening authenticity. Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum adds her powerful deep vocals, drums and electronic play to mix with the sound of Adult. Michael Gira (Swans) and Douglas J. McCarthy (Nitzer Ebb) do what they do best with their onslaught and push. The new people for me were Dorit Chrysler and Lun*na Menoh, Dorit Chrysler is an internationally known theremin player, cofounder of The New York Theremin Society and founder of America’s first school for theremin. She also has this amazing voice, very emotional and cerebral at the same time. Lun*na Menoh is an artist, performance artist (Les Sewing Sisters), musician (Seksu Roba), and conceptual clothing designer. With Adult she uses her interest in sewing machines, using them to establish beats and rhythm. Put these all together and you get 12 tracks of electronic beats, monotone vocalization, art performance, emotional distance. Exceptional quality.
Rory Block needs no introduction to those in the know of blues singers and musicians. Winner of numerous blues awards, Block has established a catalogue of respected recordings. “A Woman’s Soul”, which is a tribute to Bessie Smith, is the first in her”Power Women of the Blues” series which will honor a variety of distinguished female blues singers. Tribute albums can be a dangerous thing, a slippery slope. They often fall flat because the interpretation is to try and sound exactly like the original or to change the artist’s work so much that it just sounds ridiculous. Neither is the case in this wonderful 2018 collection of the familiar and the obscure and rare of Bessie Smith’s own catalogue of tunes. Smith’s voice was powerful, her interpretation unique within the confines of the blues musical pattern. Black takes these songs and makes them her own, in a great way. First, the instrumentation: Block plays all instruments – acoustic guitars, bass and percussion which is things like blocks, sticks, and boxes including oatmeal boxes. She puts this together in a manner that sometimes falls toward old country, and that is a good thing. Then her vocals: she has this vibrato that accentuates key words and phrases. Top that with her holding out specific notes and the meaning gets layered and put in your head. Her pitch rises and falls with the story she is telling, sometimes working out a guttural vocalization which hits the spot. This is a double thumbs up. Pure joy.
“Our New Quarters” is Julian Fane’s 2007 release on Planet Mu. Ten tracks of lush, orchestral faux gaze (not quite nu-gaze) float the listener down an auditory river. At once slightly Sigur Ros or Damon & Naomi and then avant garde vocalizations and elongated strings mixed with electronics, Fane shifts sounds and tone like the differences one encounters when on that river. His lyrics are eloquent poems of desperation and sadness, observances of what will come (not good) and what is around (not good). The guitar work balances his tenor voice, often beautifully indecipherable, making you fill in the text based on your level of sadness. Fane once was a broker working the NASDAQ. He gave that up and went into music. We need more people to make choices like this. Wallow on in your ennui oh wayward son.
Peggy Scott-Adams does not play. When she wants a man, she gets him, no matter whose man he belonged to. And you better not touch her unless she says go. Peggy is serious and it’s great to hear her sing about it. These 16 hits from 1996, when Peggy started her solo career, to 2006, cover a lot of territory and are renowned within the blues and r&b community for pushing the boundaries of topics to discuss. Spousal abuse, losing your man to another man, ageism, talking to women about how they need to keep themselves up and not become a man’s pawn: it’s all here. The lyrics may not always be PC but they are honest. Her vocal style is sultry with some diva, southern gospel trills and holding out notes with great skill. She can belt it out like the best of them when needed. And she talks to her audience: ladies, and gentlemen, listen up. The instrumentation falls into that late ’90’s electric piano, drum machine sound but her voice takes over and you kind of forget about it. She might play Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco but I’d rather see her in Hayward at Shirlene’s Iron Horse or the Why Not. Get my drift?
When a flute fades in to start off track 1, “Trial By Fire”, on Selwyn Birchwood’s excellent, newest CD, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Within seconds the lap steel guitar pulls in and we are off. Birchwood’s approach is to play off old blues’ styles but to make them his own. Tone is a bit swampy at times, gritty and rough, which is the best. His guttural baritone takes to the forefront of an exceptionally tight four piece outfit: Birchwood on guitar, lap steel and vocals, Regi Oliver on all things sax plus flute, Huff Wright holding it down on bass and Courtney “Big Love” Girlie on drums and percussion. Lyrics are about men loosing their women and drinking through their pain, dealing with alcohol, relationship troubles, with contemporary references like intervention, texting, cell phones. But there is more: songs about the police state and workers in the corporate machine make us remember we are in the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. Through all of this, though, there is a southern church feel, a religious tone that is not overbearing but is apparent. It’s not bludgeoning the listener, just part of Birchwood’s personality. Blues isn’t just old tyme and reissues. This new stuff is kicking some butt. Enjoy.
This one caught me off guard and kind of blew me away. Southern Avenue have only been around for a few years but sound like they have been together forever. This blues and soul blues quintet are creating a sound rooted in traditional blues but sounding contemporary, of this century. Not falling into that scary overproduced or not dirty enough sound of many modern blues recordings, Southern Avenue have successfully blended blues and dirty Memphis soul without sounding retro. This is new stuff, listeners, and it will get you moving. Started by guitarist Ori Naftaly who left Israel to come to the US to play the blues, he met up with vocalist Tierini Jackson who introduced him to her drum playing sister, Tikyra Jackson. The band is rounded out with Daniel McKee on bass and Jeremy Powell on all things keyboard. Ten songs take you through seering musicianship that’ll turn your head, as will Tierini’s outrageously strong vocals which sound slightly reminiscent of Beyonce. It must be a Memphis thing. Just dive in. It’s such a great surprise.
This rerelease of Midori Takada and Masahiko Satoh’s 1990 “Lunar Cruise” is a beautiful, unique album, rich in diversity of sound. Recorded after the two of them performed in countries in Africa, Europe and Asia, this album is full of the musical traditions from these parts of the world. All instrumentals, each track stands on it’s own. The diverse instrumentation flows from synth beats to minimalist marimba, middle eastern jazz to gongs and electronic drones. Satoh plays a variety of synthesizers and Midori plays percussion. Their interaction is thrilling to listen to because of the ease with which they play together and the comfort displayed in the diversity of sounds.
Estonias own iconic dreampop, shoegaze master’s album from 2008 is a lush, gorgeous treat for the ears and senses. Ten tracks flow beautifully from one to the next, with the stand out guitar work guiding the listener through each song. Harmonies abound with exquisite exactness, pristine in their execution. Lyrics, sung in English, have that dreamy nature, about things that seem like floating or slipping in and out of sleep. I missed the whole dreampop/shoegaze thing when it hit, my ears being somewhere else. DJ Slowdivine continually persuaded me to get with it and finally I have. This is superb work of a sound that is unique yet familiar, haunting yet comfortable.
Part of the stupendous Fabric mix series, “Meat Katie FabricLive 21″ is a full mix set by Meat Katie. Meat Katie is Mark Pember, English electronic musician and DJ who created a style called tech-funk which is a mix of techno, tribal, hip hop, breakbeat and house music. It all fits in these 17 tracks and man is it fun, fun, fun, fun. There was this famous club in LA that we used to go to after hours called Jewel’s Catch-One. It was the scene and had THE best music around. You were meant to dance there. House music with the simple repeated phrases or whoops, yells, operatic diva trills played over and over pulsing through your sweaty body. This is what Meat Katie’s mix reminds me of. I have played this so much before reviewing it. (That’s why the cover is trashed.) It’s a continuous mix so you could just let it play all the way through, though each song stands on it’s own. The opener, ” Banned Practice” samples Bauhaus” “Kick In the Eye” and that starts the mood. The Diva voices are there. The testifications are there. The beats are there. The mix is smooth, clean and phresh. Get ready to sweat. Yet another on my list of “This Is The SHIT!!!!!!!”. Work it.
Richard Dawson is a an English folk/blues singer, songwriter and guitarist whose unique approach pushes definitions of style. Hailing from Newcastle Upon Tyne, Dawson’s work approaches heartache with a hammer, a subtle hammer but consistent and relentless yet achingly beautiful. Supposedly he accidentally broke the guitar he uses, liked the sound and so kept it. The guitar playing is like Eugene Chadbourne or Bill Orcutt, prolific style and skill with luxuriant and dynamic finger work. Moments of pure beauty will be attacked… attacked… with pulling, stretching, almost destroying the guitar. Dawson does collaborate with harpist Rhodri Davies, whose harp playing style is the same of reconstructing/deconstructing how the harp could be played. Davies performs on track 3 of this album.
“Nothing Important” came out in 2014 and pushed Dawson forward in his work. These are four tracks that I can not get enough of. Track 1, “Judas Iscariot” and track 4, “Doubting Thomas”, bookend the album. They are glorious solo guitar instrumentals which showcase Dawson’s skill and emotion. Judas and Thomas, both who chose to question, challenge and make mistakes, besides feeling left out, begin and end a theme that is present in the album.
The two tracks with vocals, “Nothing Important” and “The Vile Stuff” showcase all the greatness that is Dawson. “Nothing Important” is a series of vignettes from the narrator’s life, from birth through family experiences, the passing of family, the loss of a newborn. Dawson describes objects from the time as pieces of remembrance but questions why he can’t remember the faces of the loved ones. In “The Vile Stuff”, the narrator describes experiences of friends and of himself, snippets of experience filled with detail that may appear mundane to others but hold significance to the narrator. Yet there is a sense of loneliness, weariness and longing embedded with the celebration of friends. Dawson’s singing style is so unique: stretching out words to uncomfortable lengths, odd phrasing and emphasis, paring sentences together in ways not expected. His lyrics, his playing, his singing breaks me when I hear it. You’ll need a kleenex. This is a highly welcome addition to our collection.
Yes, this is Dr. Emanuel H. Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap. His story is fascinating. Born in 1908 in Heilbronn, Germany of the German-Jewish Heilbronner family of soap makers, Emanuel learned his trade of soap making and earned a degree in chemistry. Emigrating to the USA in 1929, he dropped the Hiel from his name due to associations to Nazism. He begged his parents to come with him but they did not and were eventually killed in the Holocaust at Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt. He continued his trade as soap maker eventually creating the Dr. Bronner’s soap we know today. He adopted the label “Doctor” to his name. In the mid 1940’s, either while at the University of Chicago, invited by a student group, or not invited by a group, or on a street corner, Dr. Bronner was arrested for speaking his “Moral ABC” (some reports say vehemently) and institutionalized at the Elgin State Insane Asylum. After shock therapy treatments, Bronner escaped from the asylum. He blamed his eventual blindness on these treatments.
His soap business grew, with his famous label espousing the tenets of “Moral ABC” and “All One God Faith”. He worked toward what is now Green ideology, with his business focusing on ecological awareness and sharing profits with workers. It continues to this day.
“Sisters & Brothers” is a compilation of Dr. Bronner’s beliefs in achieving Moral ABC. Influenced by the writings and teachings of Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Paine, Hillel the Elder who supposedly taught the teenage Jesus, Mohammed, Jesus Christ, Confucius, Buddha…. , he came up with his philosophy of All One God Faith as the only way to achieve harmony on earth. These recordings made between 1968 and 1988 on “a variety of home recording devices” (i.e. tape recorders), show a man determined, obsessed even, with getting this point across of helping others, showing kindness, sharing, as a means to cure all. What is wonderful about these recordings, though, is the way they were made, and his tone. These are done on tape recorders so we constantly hear the clicking on and off of the recorder. There is some background noise and several of the selections start off or end with selections of, I think, Strauss, even once or twice with Dr. Bronner whistling and then testifying. And the testifyiing: his cadence is dynamic, taking on an almost Hitleresque Nazi tone. There is a dynamism, an affect, a determination that almost crosses over into demanding the listener. Screw free choice – you will do it. There is repetition: Moral ABC is stated repeatedly. so basically, not that it’s a problem, but Dr. Bronner had some mental health issue stuff going on, right? From the outsider art presentation style of his famous label, to manic proselytezing, to institutionalization…. But whatever, he made it work and his product run by the family continues to work in positive directions. Listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn…….
The Boys Next Planet is a collaborative project between Phil Monopolka and members of Ceramic Hobs, both noise maestros in their own right. Initially released on Monopolka’s side label Emerson, Lake and Headache, rereleased here on PMM, this 60 minute experiment is an endurance test in mundanity. I have listened to it straight through 3 times and my sensibilities have shifted a bit. What you get is recorded sounds of someones home life with their baby: crinkling paper, things being moved around, no real spoken words except for the occasional radio or tv voice. And then there’s the baby or babies or baby recorded numerous times with recordings played over each other. The constant gurgling, attempts at communication, cooing. No real crying, just continuous babbling. And the sound of children’s toys: the cheap electronic talk of toddler play seats and walkers, plastic animals, objects, just repeating over and over and over and over its seconds of dialogue that the baby activates by hitting the buttons again and again and again. It’s fascinating and maddening in its stupendous boredom. But such is life. Those momentous memorable moments are few and far between. This is the stuff of the everyday that we do not remember. This is what got us to where we are today as adults. Child rearing is hard. Life is hard. A superb conceptual work and the best birth control around.
My understanding of this is limited due to language barriers but I think I have pieced together a general understanding of what this double CD is about. “Tinh co gai Hue”, roughly translated as “Calculate the Girl Hue”, is a Vietnamese TV show from Saigon, 1975. I think. Or it takes place in 1975. This is the soundtrack to part of the show. What I found on the computer was over 2 hours long. It is in the style of Cai Luong which is modern Vietnamese folk opera blending South Vietnamese folk songs, classical music using traditional instruments, hat tuong or classical Vietnamese opera or theater based on Chinese opera and modern spoken drama. Basically it’s a 1975 modern day soap opera with music, dialogue, interludes, etc. Just listening and not understanding is a bit disconcerting because you never know where you are, what’s happening, why the music is coming in, why they are singing. It’s a lot. Which is wonderful
A bit of history is that after the Vietnam War, the North, then in charge, used this style of theater for television as a means to bring the South Vietnamese back to a way of life they led before. It was popular in the South starting around the 1930’s but the tradition of Cai Luong as a nostalgia for the past as well as a way of showing old style morals, proper relationships, love stories, etc. was a way of trying to get control over the people of the South. This version we have is also Hai Huoc which roughly translates as comedy and burlesque.
Perfect for mixing. Or play it straight to throw the listeners off. A really unique piece of sound recording, of which there are hundreds.
Wayne Everett’s “kingsqueens” is a sweet, well-played piece from 2002 that fills up so many of the wonderful sounds of the mid to late 1990’s and early 00’s that some of us once felt too above to like, but now can appreciate. Coming from a number of groups out of the So. Calif. Riverside, Huntington Beach scene, Everett’s work is influenced by shoegaze, Elliot Smith, Apples In Stereo harmonies, Spiritualized and dare I say, Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds”. These are all great things and Everett captures them full on and makes them his own. He sings, plays drums, guitar and percussion all along with a full band, some of which are friends from previous projects. Medium paced pop tomes about love and change and distance and a bit of positive are conveyed through interesting lyrics. Some selections are wonderfully orchestrated with a bit extra from harp and horns as well as strong backing vocals. A lovely entremets or aperitif to add to heavier sets of radio sound. Cleanse and feel refreshed.