Jeff Grace is a film composer of independent films, often horror. He has been nominated for numerous awards from different organizations within the film music world. The two soundtracks on this CD, “Trigger Man” and “The Roost”, both films by the independent film maker Ti West, are rich, sonorous compositions full of mood and intensity. “Trigger Man” has Dave Eggar on 18th century stunt cello and Dave Schommer on percussion creating a wide range of sonic emotion to compliment the film action and tension. “The Roost” is composed for a string quartet and organ, setting up the thrills for the zombie terror that takes over this film. But do not think these are just background music. These two pieces stand on their own, creating an early 21st century example of contemporary classical music. Challenging but accessible, dramatic but not overwrought, these string and percussion pieces offer a variety of sounds and timbres which work as well on screen as they would in a concert hall. Soundtrack music may be the classical music of this century.
This is the second Zomes undertaking, the project of Lungfish star Asa Osborne. This time he takes on a vocalist, Hanna Olivegren, whom he met at a concert and had come up and improvise with his playing. The outcome was so good that they performed live again and then did a transatlantic collaboration which ended up being the “Time Was” CD. This sounds like a natural pairing and it works. Asa plays S..L..O..W.. organ sounds on the type of organ your parents’ friends once had in the family room. It is dirge like throughout with that familiar lo-fi buzz and hum that hits on some sonic memories for me. The tempo rarely picks up to a stroll. It is slow. This lets Hanna sing in Swedish and chant and hold out notes and hum and create dark sonic moods of drawling mystery. Listen to it at night.
This is a gorgeous, haunting collaboration between two very prolific artists. Philippe Petit is everywhere, rocording with everyone that matters, on every label that we at KFJC honor and trust. He calls himself a “musical tour guide”, not a musician. Okay. Whatever you call him his musical soundscapes are lush and rich creating chilling moodscapes for Cosey to moan and mumble mostly unrecognizable “lyrics” that feel awkward and unsafe. Part of it sounds underwater, part of it muddy but all of it wonderful and terrifying. The only drawback is that they are a bit short. But I will take what I can get from this team.
Mary Wells, Motown’s first big superstar, continued her rise to fame with these two albums, her second and third. It’s Motown, so listeners know what to expect, especially with the classic hits. The strong backup singers, the strolling wap wap rhythm that ties the pieces together, the lyrics about lost and mixed up love: it’s all here. But Mary’s voice, just a bit lower than the typical Motown singer, a bit raspy, sounding like she sometimes may not hit the note, add a different angle to the songs. Her inflection, her tone give these stories a maturity and an edge that one would not expect from a twenty something, which was how old she was when she recorded them. She has insight into the pain of being the one not picked, of wondering why she was left alone, of suffering the lack of interest of the one that is loved. Maybe that I am older these songs hit a different cord. These are beautiful, painful treasures, filled with much more sorrow than one might expect.
Mr. Wilcox, on his self titled CD “Mr. Wilcox”, comes from Oakland via Virginia and Vermont. He is a one man band of sorts because he writes, performs, produces, engineers and self releases this work. All of this “me” focus is often a red flag but not in this case. These are eight musical experiences which play like tone poems with observations and poetry recited over the sounds. The sounds: real and falsified field recordings, drumming, electronic dabbling and guitar strokes all create strange, sometimes unclear emotional settings for Mr. Wilcox to talk about…. relationships, of course, but also family, nature, time, change. These are poems more than lyrics so it is all a bit obtuse (and his voice, with it’s Virginia accent adds just the oddest inflection.) He states that in the last six years he has “endured bouts of cancer, bankruptcy and homelessness” and the CD encapsulates that time. Definitely. This is truly DIY at it’s most interesting, experimenting with different ways to express ideas and create moods.
Doug Kaplan and Aeron Small, two guitarists who have known each other for a long time, collaborated on this, their first work under the name of The Big Ship. It’s a very well executed series of songs filled with looping guitar segments, the sound of old typewriters, wind, electronic scratchy noises, plunking acoustic guitar and a few vocals. You get the picture. It sounds midwest to me. Not sure why. It just does. These are rich orchestrations of melodic sounds, quiet but not sleepy, full but not overwhelming. They’re challenging but they are not going to rip your ear off. It’s more of a soothing challenge. It’s nice. And creative. And pleasant. And not perfect but that’s okay. I think you will be happily surprised if you try it.
Hailing from Alabama, once again comes Man or Astro-Man? It’s been twelve years since the last album and this one continues on the track they once started on in the mid-90’s. With the crazy mix of surf and 60’s space and technology themes, Man or Astro-Man? hit all the right places with their infectious take on surf. The album is set up like some sort of space exploration with command center gone wrong. It’s a countdown to possible breakdown, but who cares, because this time, not only is there reverb surf guitar madness, there are vocals. Five tracks with vocals singing about what you would expect: technical malfunctions at the teleport, space related confusion (or is that a reference to a relationship gone wrong?), spies breaking into the mainboard. And then there are these shorter pieces called Defcon 5,4,3,2 and 1 which are almost…. almost experimental surf sounds. Or dark surf. Remember Eeviac? It’s sort of like that, but more mature. A definite must for surf fans. A definite must for anyone who needs a lighter moment.
Midday Veil is doing a lot of different stuff to alter your mind: somewhat “spiritual” lyrics of a pseudo pagan nature, heavy synthesizer ramblings (kosmische style), psychedelic guitar journeys, extended wordless chanting-like experiences, ambience, atmosphere. This is a “Seattle multimedia ensemble” which probably need to be seen as much as heard. I call it goth-psych. Singer Emily Pothast’s intriguing vocals pull the listener into this kind of other world where kind of ritualistic actions provoke kind of spiritual interactions with some sort of otherworldly beings. It’s all a little too much and extremely sincere but actually quite seductive. The songs do weave through their styles, each song slightly different from the others, some more goth influenced, others definitely psychedelic in nature, all quite smooth. It’s easy to get lost in the visuals of your mind that the sounds take you on which is the point…. I think.
YEAH! If I was twenty something living in Brooklyn this is the band I would want to make: girl/boy duo with two other band mates,focus on the girl/boy harmonies, noisyscratchygratingpoppyharshrelentlesscatchy songs about sexual tension not blatantly stated but simple lyrics repeated with grinding guitar blasting drums powerful bass. Many reviews make many musical comparisons for them. My comparison time frame pushes me back to early Sonic Youth, dirty grinding sticky Sonic Youth. It’s a glorious mess, but not messy. They know what they are doing this Derek and Isabel and Tommy and Gregg. Mmmmmmmm I love it. The cover picture says it all: house party, trashed out thrift store/street find furniture, coupled on the floor thrashing away at the instruments, duct tape in place, don’t show my face. A picture says a thousand words: you either get it or you don’t.
Sao Paulo Underground’s “Tres Cabecas Loucuras” does not initially feel quiet as underground as the group name suggests, but once you start listening more closely to the different sounds coming out of this CD, a greater appreciation is gained for what is being done. Three Brazilians, one American. It could turn nasty but it doesn’t. It’s Brazil so of course it’s tropicalia. And lots of percussion. There is a cornetist, so it’s jazz. There are electronics so it’s experimental, and avant-garde and ….. Which is kind of the point, that it is just hard to classify but surprisingly not trying too hard. These four guys with beards churn up their sounds with just the right mix. The blips and squeaks of the electronics fit nicely with the acoustic four stringed cavaquinho and Brazilian percussive beats. These accomplished musicians make it all work. The American, Rob Mazurek, has a list of music, art and performance street cred a mile long, especially on the Chicago scene. Very enjoyable and surprising.
West Hill Blast Quartet on Foolproof Projects is a free jazz recording of exceptional quality. Andy Pyne, drummer, comes out of several Foolproof music groups (Kellar, Medicine and Duty) and Ron Caines, saxophonist, comes from numerous improv jazz projects as well as the prog rock group East of Eden. Dan Spicer and Gus Garside round out the quartet. Track 1 is like walking into a room where the band has already started playing, all cacaphony with sounds flying everywhere, catching you off guard. It’s loud and intense. They have definitely studied their Ornette Coleman. The other seven tracks never seem as abusive but have equally stellar performances. Several tracks showcase Pyne’s drumming persona. Track 5 has vocalizations (but not words) to go along with the instrumentation. The last track ends quietly, making a lovely balance from track 1. This is good stuff.
Oh Almighty Mississippi/Change Records, you have done it again!?? This wonderful collection of Ethiopian pop/rhythm and blues from 1969- 1974 showcases some of the best of the time.?? This is the third vinyl release that Mississippi/Change has undertaken to rerelease the Ethiopiques CD collection of this music, and it is a sure fire hit, or else you are dead.?? Funky soulful rhythms set the??backdrop to those amazing Ethiopian vocals.????Seemingly traditional in??vocalizing style with bends and twists to the modern ’70’s, it turns into the perfect blend of two different approaches to music making something new and, dare I say, happy.?? The vocals at times almost sound out of tune/off key yet that is the ignorance of the western ear.?? It is astounding.?? And danceable.?? I challenge you not to move to this.?? It’s music from a house party long ago where couples may have held each others hands as they shimmied and shaked around the living room.???? Pure bliss.
Viva Melbourne! Viva Ooga Boogas! This is the Ooga Boogas’ second album and it is so much fun. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Mickey Young (of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and other projects) and his pals give up a bag of mixed styles, all good, all rock, ready to bounce around, even when the topics may not always be light. The variety of styles – some with country tinges, some with a darker side, some with a synth dance like flavor – mix so well, so smoothly, that the transition doesn’t jolt. It just seems like the next obvious thing to come after the previous song. Tight musicianship, easy vocals, good rhythms. All smiles even in the dark moments. Enjoy!
This is a remastered version of Detroit techno king Carl Craig’s “The Secret Tapes of Dr. Eich”. Originally released in 1996, this double LP is a prime example of Craig at his dance floor best. Reviews use words like “essential” and “classic” and listening to this it’s easy to hear why. Starting off with low bass and background electronic sounds, a beat starts like a heartbeat. A vocal sample comes in talking about people suffering catastrophic violence while sounds of a person in stress are heard in the background. The heartbeat gets faster- silence – and then loudly a voice states “welcome to our world”. And the dance beats start for four glorious sides. Craig sticks to a 4/4 beat keeping it clean and simple but oh so smooth. Its mathematical beauty is fascinating and wonderful to follow. A beat starts. Then a new set of sounds come after, layering in, fading out, re-introducing. It’s like listening to a mandala. And side D “Country Boy Goes Dub” even samples a classic beat from Liquid Liquid. If techno has a concept album, this might be it. On Craig’s Planet E label.
Erkin Koray is a Turkish guitarist and baglama player who is considered the first person to bring rock and roll to Turkey. Playing since the late 1950’s and still a formidable force in Turkish music today, Koray is known for mixing traditional folk songs with rock music. Being well versed in a variety of styles, his guitar playing is highly praised. The selections from the Pharaway Sounds 2 CD release cover his first psychedelic single “Anma Arkadas”, his biggest seller “Saskin”, several covers including the Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon”, as well as many of his 1960’s and ’70’s releases on 45’s. Koray’s interest was, and still is in psychedelic and prog rock and this is displayed repeatedly in the fuzz guitar, extended guitar solos and elaborate arrangements of these pieces. CD 2 gets more tripped out but both CD’s are excellent samples of this Turkish godhead.
A split 7 inch with Psychic Ills and Moon Duo. Though both bands are supposedly good friends, this is presented as their first release together.
Psychic Ills: “Take Me With You” Gone are the long electronic synth trance repetitions. This is slow stoner psych blues rock. How’s that for a list of adjectives? It’s like a slow train chug chug chugging with a classic rock beat, echoey guitar, a simple organ line melody in the background all filled in by Tres Warren’s lazy, subtle vocals. Singing about taking him with you when you leave. Definitely a transition piece between the psych rock of the “Hazed Dreams” LP and the more straight ahead rock heard on the most current LP “One Track Mind”. Listening to this I see the color amber.
Moon Duo: “Zoned” Alan Vega’s love children. Continuing in the fuzzy, psych, caught in a loop sound, with maracas, this is harder sounding and a bit faster than the flip side. Drone rock, psych rock, space rock, call it what you want. It gets under your skin. Incessant drum beat, synth/organ, buzzy guitar, sort of indecipherable lyrics. Just be sure not to bump into the turntable when you get caught twirling in the studio.
The Invisible Hands is the latest project from Alvarius B., a.k.a. Alan Bishop. After moving to Cairo, Egypt, Alvarius pulled out songs he’d been carrying around for some time, songs he did not like and thought he’d never use. But they “resurrected themselves” (his words). Hooking up with Cairo musicians (Cherif El Masri and Aya Hemeda, former members of Eskenderella, drummer Magued Nagati and other luminaries from the Cairo scene such as Sam Shalabi on oud) Alvarius has put together a straight forward, solid, psych/folk and sometimes blues influenced album with hints of Egyptian musical stylings. The musicianship is definitely strong. But what is it about? Who knows. Even he doesn’t know. Some songs seem to be an obvious nod to current political situations. Others are obscure, dark and foreboding filled with violence and a bit of paranoia. Most obvious, though, is Bishop’s skill at phrasing. When he sings he is able to get at meaning and mood with just a slight change of inflection, a pause or a dropped ending. This is an interesting new project from a seasoned talent.
“Turkish Freakout 2”, on Bouzouki Joe Records, is Bouzouki Joe’s second volume of Turkish psych and folk rock from 1970-1978.
This project is a labor of love. Joe hunts out the bins for these 45’s and LP’s from back when. He is passionate about his selections, which is obvious in the liner notes. (These are also informative and funny.) This collection, especially sides A & B, spends more time on female vocalist. These cuts are often more folk based, a bit quieter and very hypnotizing. Side C really takes off. You’ll wish Baris Manco’s “Mozart” was three times as long. And hold on for the amazing Perihan singing kind of dirty against the psych hard rock blow out. Side D has an amazing blast from Cem. This collection will make you wish you could go back to Turkey in the 70’s, tripping to the rhythms of the time.
“Belly of the Whale” is a project of Interspecies.com and Greenmuseum.org. They sent the 17 electronic artists on this collection a selection of 350 marine animal calls to use for electronic compositions. Scanner, Kim Cascone and environmental sound artist Thanos Chrysakis, to name a few, lay down beautiful noodlings of electronic tweaks and sonic patterns mixed with the original blips, beeps,and glitches of whales, dolphins, seals, lobsters and shrimp to make this superb CD. Each piece is unique and worthy of play. And Merzbow, of course, takes the whole idea and turns it wonderfully on its head.
If someone doesn’t steal this CD from the library, I sure will.
ImpRec300 is a compilation of live recordings from eight groups. Seven are instrumental tracks and one is with vocals (Bardo Pond). Most tracks are about five minutes in length.
Side A tends more toward psych/Kraut/space rock. Mugstar’s selection is more of a slow jam, while Cave’s piece picks up the pace. Grails is like minimalist funk with repeated bass line and drum with some simple electronics. Bardo Pond does what they do best with the slightly mysterious vocals.
Side B is in a more meditative, ambient and drone vein. Master Musicians of Bukkake use what sounds like temple bells to definitely invoke the tone for side B. Chord has a very quiet piece as does Bass Communion & Pig. There is the surprising end piece by NHK yx. This last work starts out in a similar style as the previous three selections but turns into quiet electronic beats, changing the mood, slightly, of the rest of the album. It’s scratchy in all the right places.
This album is a celebration, of sorts, of Important Records 300th record in 10 years. It’s a great introduction to the label and some of it’s bands for those who are unfamiliar with what they are about. For those who know the groups, it’s enjoyable to hear the live recordings.
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