Afrojazzfunk [coll] – [Superclasse]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Soul

DJ Zaz hand-picked these nine quintessentially-70’s grooves that are definitely more “jazz funk” than “afro.” In fact, some of them border perilously close to disco! Check out the highlights, though: some fine electric piano from Mal Waldron on the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band’s “Red Match Box;” the short-but-sweet funk of “Pat’s Jam” by Seven Seas; a GREAT guitar solo on “Sweet Lovely Girl” by The 13th Floor; and the AWB-ish funk of “Funky Bafoussam” by Jean-Michel Tim et Foty. If you can appreciate these tracks, then gorge yourself on the full 70’s retro-feast.

Young, Claude – “Numbers Ep, the ” – [Deta Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

Detroit icon Claude Young (aka The Brother from Another Planet) checks in from London this time with an EP on the brand-new Deta label. Five tracks total, but really only two proper tracks and a bit of fiddling. “The Numbers” on Side A is a propulsive, moody, and multi-layered groover, bracketed by a short preample and coda. “Ghost” on Side B is a throbbing slice of dubby, filtered tech-house, followed by a bit of reverse-mastered soundscape to wind up the EP. Overall, this is about as experimental as the dancefloor gets. Sad to note that, like many of Detroit’s greatest, Claude had to go overseas to get this released.

Wimme – “Gierran ” – [Northside]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, International

Wimme (“Vim’ -may”) Saari sings in a style known as yoik, a traditional style of unaccompanied singing from Finnish Samiland. But this CD is FAR from traditional. As on his previous (debut) album, Wimme has again collaborated with members of the Finnish ambient techno band RinneRadio to produce a totally compelling hybrid of folk and electronic music. The Samis have strong cultural ties with Native Americans, resulting in a curiously alien-but-familiar quality to the vocals. The opening track is perhaps the most dramatic, featuring shamanic chanting against a backdrop of thudding electronic beats. Other highlights include: the propulsive “Rainbow,” which recalls the sound of a jew’s harp; the aquatic dub of “Destiny;” and the 10-minute ambient opus “Angelica Archangelica.” Scattered throughout the CD are short acapella tracks which serve as a more traditional counterpoint to the experimentation elsewhere. Another stunning release from Wimme.

Why? – “Oaklandazulasylum ” – [Anticon]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

With only the most tenuous connections to hip hop, this solo album from Anticon’s Jonathan Wolf (aka Why?) further expands the stylistic palette of that adventurous Bay Area collective. It’s a bedroom production that sounds a lot like the softer side of Shimmy Disc in their glory days. Quirky melodies, constipated and otherwise processed vocals, acoustic guitar strumming and oddball samples all mix together to keep things varied and interesting throughout. Programmed beats surface here and there, but mostly the album has a folky tripout vibe, flowing seamlessly through a variety of half-baked and fully-baked ideas.

Wailer, Bunny – “Dubd’sco Volumes 1 & 2 ” – [Ras Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

After leaving The Wailers in the mid-70’s, Bunny Wailer started his own record label and released his first and best solo album, BLACKHEART MAN. This was followed a few years later by BUNNY WAILER SINGS THE WAILERS, a very successful tribute album featuring the rhythm section of Sly & Robbie. DUBD’SCO features the dub versions of both classic albums. Whereas many dub records only feature snippets of the original vocals or none at all, these tracks retain enough to make them recognizable to almost everyone, even those with only a passing interest in reggae. The overall vibe is upbeat and Bunny’s dub production skills are surprisingly strong; every track is a winner.

Various Artists – “8, 8.5, 9 Remixes ” – [Fat Cat]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

Not a compilation, but…no, wait…it is a compilation: a limited-edition CD collecting tracks from two previous Fat Cat releases by the Berlin-based Thorsten Profrock, aka “Various Artists.” Here we have the original tracks “8,” “8.5,” and “9,” plus remixes of same by Arovane, Funkstorung, Autechre, Pole, and Monolake. (For the trainspotters, the Autechre remix here is different from the original release, and the Arovane mix was originally released on Din, not Fat Cat.) The original tracks are firmly in the minimal electronic/dub mode of German labels Chain Reaction, Rhythm & Sound, etc., and the remixes are exactly what you might expect from the remixers involved. The Monolake mix in particular is awesome.

Unspoken Heard – “Jamboree ” – [Unknown Label]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

Four solid vocal tracks and two instrumentals await you on this latest EP from the Washington DC-area crew. “Jamboree” is one of the HAPPIEST hip-hop tracks I’ve ever heard, party rappin’ over a jazz swing bed. “Music” and “Track Runners” offer some of their philosophy on the hip hop biz, and “Birth” is a meditative and heartfelt poem to Heard member Asheru’s baby girl. Great stuff!

Transient Waves – ” ” – [Fat Cat]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

This latest release on Fat Cat Records comes from a trio out of Dearborn, MI. The A-side is an epic of trance-funk, looping a single guitar riff over and over, at times filtering it and at other times fading it out altogether to reveal a naked underbelly of dub. Throughout, the track is embellished with an occasional instrumental flourish but more significantly with female voices, double-tracked and oh-so- precious. They mumble and they whisper, they sing and they scat, adding just the right amount of off-kilter-ness to the beats. This track made me smile! On the B-side you get two deconstructions (uh, I mean “remixes”) of the original, courtesy of Skye and Two Lone Swordsmen, which are interesting in their own way but, really, it’s the A-side that captured my heart.

Tied + Tickled Trio – “Tied + Tickled Trio ” – [Bingo]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Jazz

Forging their own unique musical path, Germany’s Tied + Tickled Trio blur the boundaries of jazz and electronic music on this outstanding debut album. Spearheaded by Enja recording artist Johannes Enders on tenor saxophone and piano, the five-member trio (plus guests) create moody, layered, jazz soundscapes that owe as much to classic Blue Note as they do to dub and ambient techno. Sampled beats, echo-laden production, and tweeky electronics collide with classic jazz instrumentation on this all-too-short album. Every track is a winner, but “Mutant,” “Nordlied,” and “Constant” earn bonus points for extreme genre confusion. This is truly jazz for the 21st century…an amazing debut.

Ticklah – “Polydemic ” – [Razorfish Studios, Inc.]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Jazz

Acid jazz, much like trip hop, seems to be one of those genre labels that unintentionally demean the style of music it s trying to categorize. So we won t call this acid jazz; how about “60’s-influenced groove jazz?” Whatever you call it, it’s damn fine music from Victor Axelrod, aka Ticklah. Mostly instrumental, with the occasional soundbite and female vocals on one track, this will probably appeal to fans of the Greyboy Allstars or Medeski, Martin and Wood. Highlights include the funky “Toe Foo,” the organ-based “Ray Castoldi World Tour,” the soulful and sample-heavy “Japanese!!!,” and the reggae groove of “Ticklah’s Swing.”

T-Cisco – “Destructive Edit, the ” – [Ubiquity Recordings]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

According to his press release, T-Cisco (aka Theodore Feyder) is currently a bartender at San Francisco’s DNA Lounge. Judging from the quality of his debut CD, that gig won’t last for much longer! This is one of those albums for which the term “musical stew” was invented. Mr. T takes elements of hip hop, salsa, drum’n’bass, techno, soul, jazz, and maybe a few more styles I’ve overlooked, and blends them all together in a flurry of rapid-fire edits that, contrary to the album title, are VERY constructive indeed. Not content to merely orchestrate samples, T-Cisco also lays down his own live guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards on here as well, resulting in a full-bodied musical experience that resonates more with every listen. You can even hear the musical stewpot bubbling on a few tracks. No, wait…that’s a water pipe. Never mind!

Tarwater & Tikiman – “Like a Miracle Ep ” – [Soul Static Sound]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

I LOVE THIS RECORD!!! Raggamuffin rapper Tikiman, fresh off his collaborations with the dub-house posse Rhythm & Sound, here teams up with German post-rockers Tarwater for a totally unique and engaging musical hybrid. “Like a Miracle” combines a repeating violin motif with some downtempo beats and Tikiman’s vocals: part toasting and part singing, with the occasional outburst of “rock!” interspersed throughout. Following this up is an electro-dub version, “Miracle Electric,” which features some amazing interplay between an electro synth and the violin from the original. On Side 2 you get “The Bridge,” a bluesy downtempo number that recalls Horace Andy’s excellent work with Massive Attack, and “Miracle/Bridge,” a VERY heavy dub which combines both tracks. Awesome stuff.

Taborn, Craig – “Junk Magic ” – [Thirsty Ear]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Jazz

After his stint with Carl Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra, it should come as no surprise to find keyboardist Craig Taborn joining the other forward-thinking jazzbos from Thirsty Ear’s “Blue Series.” This quartet session features Aaron Stewart on tenor sax, Mat Maneri on violas, and David King from The Bad Plus on drums, with Taborn multi-tasking on acoustic piano, electric keyboards, and a healthy dose of laptop tricknology to spice up the mixture. “Junk Magic” is the perfect opening salvo, starting off with a slow and plaintive melody, then slowing morphing into a funky digital groove before the track grinds to an abrupt halt. “Mystero” features some stuttering (sampled?) drums, earthy sax, and sci-fi keyboards. On “Shining Through,” Maneri’s viola is processed to sound like its emanating from an ancient Victrola. “The Golden Age” is an 11-minute denouement, eschewing the rhythmic complexity found elsewhere in exchange for layers of spacey electronic textures. Another fine addition to the Blue Series: grasping at the future of jazz and pulling it into the here and now.

Supersoul – “Soma-Rasa 1 ” – [Metatronix]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

An excellent four-track domestic EP from this mysterious new label and artist. Side One features two electronic/breakbeat hybrids not unlike the output from Miami’s Schematics/Chocolate Industries camp. Side Two surprises with a dub reggae track sampling Burning Spear, and a string-laden DJ Vadim remix of one of the tracks from Side One. Nice!

Sons and Daughters of Lite, Th – “Let the Sun Shine in ” – [Luv N’ Haight]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soul

Self-described as a mixture of African rhythms, Latin flavors, and Far Eastern textures, this long-lost collector’s item from the 70’s is a major rediscovery. The Sons and Daughters of Lite were formed in Oakland in the early 70’s, a time when black consciousness was expanding exponentially. This album perfectly captures that vibe with soulful vocals, funky grooves, and jazzy improvisation. The band quickly splintered into a myriad other projects, but many of the members continue to record today: band leader Basuki Bala is currently a member of the Afro-Caribbean Allstars, and percussionist Babatunde is currently recording a new album for Ubiquity.

Solvent – “Solvent ” – [Suction Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

Another bedroom producer enters the electronica sweepstakes and comes out a winner. Solvent is one Jason Amm from Toronto, but beyond that I can offer no personal details. His debut release is a playful and melodic excursion through analog and digital soundscapes. Many of the tracks have a childlike quality to them, echoed in song titles like “shifty uncle giggles,” “googly eyes,” or “nuf si gnippiks.” (Think about it.) Jason would obviously rather be playing with his electronic toys than hanging out with the guys and for that we can all be grateful.

Smith, Slim/Aggrovator [coll] – [Abraham Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   7-inch, Reggae

The history of reggae music was written on 7″ singles and here’s another slab of musical history courtesy of Slim Smith & The Aggrovators. Smith was one of the leading rocksteady vocalists, a one-time member of vocal harmony group The Techniques and later his own group, The Uniques. “My Conversation” is one of his most famous records and was recorded with The Uniques, although the record label gives credit to him alone. It’s a superlative rocksteady track, with sweet falsetto vocals that owe much to 60’s American soul groups like The Impressions or Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. On the B-side you have an instrumental version from The Aggrovators, slightly dubbed out but not as radical as the dubs King Tubby would start turning out a few years later.

Slits, the – “Typical Girls Live in Cincinna ” – [Basic Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

Wow! Under the bootleg-quality exterior of this album lies one of the GREATEST documents of the post-punk era from original riot grrls The Slits. At the time this live album was recorded, the band had progressed beyond their original punk sound into a sparser, reggae/dub groove under the influence of legendary producer Dennis Bovell. Bovell was obviously on hand for this tour, as evidenced by the startling dub effects here. In addition to several original tunes, the album features solid covers of “Man Next Door” (John Holt) and “Fade Away” (Junior Byles), plus a near-definitive rendition of “(I Heard It Through the) Grapevine.” Vocalist Ari Up is a true original; with hardly ANY technical proficiency, she yelps, yodels, whispers, moans, and shrieks, coaxing every last ounce of character out of her chosen instrument. Unfortunately The Slits broke up after only two studio albums. Ari went on to sing with New Age Steppers.

Sharp, Elliott – Tectonics – “Errata ” – [Knitting Factory Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

Elliott Sharp is certainly one of the most prolific and eclectic members of the New York “downtown” scene. While he’s released everything from blues to orchestra works, his Tectonics series (of which this is the third) focuses on more electronic sounds. This album appears to be a one-man show, with E# multitracking his 8-string guitarbass, processed saxophones, and computer-generated sounds. At times it all sounds incredibly intricate, at others it sounds like his equipment is shorting out. This is a most interesting hybrid music, though, which may sound completely different depending on the musical context in which you play it (i.e., what music surrounds it).

Ryme Tyme – “Control/Stimulant ” – [Saigon]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

Two drum’n’bass excursions from Saigon, the more experimental sublabel of No U Turn. “Control” is a moody, minimalistic, late-night kind of affair, punctuated by electronic bleeps, far-off sirens and snippets of voices low in the mix. “Stimulant” is of course the opposite, a jittery, over-amped hip hop track that features those roaring synth lines we’ve come to expect from No U-Turn.

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