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Music Reviews

Crossing, The – “Voyages” – [Innova Recordings]

Medusa of Troy   10/16/2019   A Library, CD

The Crossing is the artist, in this case, a professional choir that specializes in performing new classical music. Donald Nally is the conductor. Voyages is the title of the album, the two works that make up this album, and the underlying 6-cycle poem, composed in 1921–1926, as a paean by the poet Hart Crane to his lover, a Danish sailor. Robert Convery is the composer of the album’s first half, the choir singing his 1994 arrangement of Crane’s words a cappella, poems intact. Benjamin C.S. Boyle composed the second half of the album as a cantata, where stanzas are plucked from the underlying poem and the choir is accompanied by its in-house string ensemble, with soloists emphasizing particular passages. The first six songs, Convery’s a cappella arrangement, are sweet and melancholy and faint enough that you may want to pay close attention and have the poem in front of you to make out the words. In Boyle’s half, the strings tend to be dramatic, undergirding the emotion in the words and forcing the soloists to be more emphatic.

But which, if any, should you play? Convery’s “Voyages” is good for quiet but deep listening. Boyle’s “Voyages: Cantana No. 2, Opus 41” provides more obvious peaks and valleys for the listener. Neither quite reach the delirious, dizzying sweep of words and feeling as an out and proud statement of queer desire from a time where such a thing was punished by law and society. However, both compositions, and the album as a whole, are lovely.

Musicians of The Nile – Charcoal Gypsies – [Realworld]

aarbor   10/16/2019   CD, International

The Musicians of the Nile were discovered in 1975 and performed at the 1st WOMAD festival in 1983. They are apparently a part of the gypsy tradition. Listening to them the link to gypsy music is less clear. The tracks on this album are flutes and buzzy reed instruments which remind me of a homework assignment I had in an Ethnomusicology class once: to listen to a piece like this and transcribe it into musical notation. AArbor

Reflection – Morerroronus World, The – [Clear Records]

aarbor   10/16/2019   A Library, CD

On the Clear label out of the UK, Reflection is 2 Japanese brothers: Ichiro and Kenji Taniguchi. Their debut album in 1996 was Erroronus World, this album from 1997 is the remix album with offerings from such heavy hitters as Plaid, 4 Hero and Morgan Geist among others. Check out tracks 2,3,4,6 and 7. AArbor 

EEDIO – Hero – [Device Recordings]

aarbor   10/16/2019   12-inch, A Library

Bertrand Alix is EEDIO. He’s a producer from Chilhac, France. This EP is his 2nd from 2003. He claims that his influences include: Depeche Mode, Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros and Massive Attack. Check out B2 Modulation.

AArbor 

Ima – “Ende” – [Buh Records]

lexi glass   10/15/2019   A Library, Cassette

This cassette is the first official single from IMA, the local electroacoustic duo of percussionist Nava Dunkleman and sound artist Amma Ateria. Compared to the live recording of their performance at the 2017 Garden of Memory festival (in our library), Ende is a much darker and more menacing vision; IMA describes this work as the “beginning of awakening to the aftermath of destruction and devastation.” Over four short vignettes, Dunkleman’s percussion moves from delicacy to total collapse, while Ateria’s electronic atmospherics build a heavy sense of dread. “Flower of Dust” (T2) incorporates fragments of Japanese poetry that build on the theme of downfall. The tape ends too soon, but luckily IMA’s first full-length LP is due out later this year, and I look forward to hearing more of their consistently elegant work.

Presson, Lee and The Nails – "Last Request" – [Self-release]

Sir Cumference   10/12/2019   A Library, CD

KFJC is getting a pre-release of the latest release of the Bay Area’s own Lee Presson and the Nails. Lee goes full Goth Swing with this selection of spookier tunes (and a couple not-so-spooky) just in time for the Halloween season (the album will be released on October 25.) My favorite is the Mission Impossible theme mashed with up with Take Five (don’t tell me you never wanted to do that yourself!) A swingin’ version of the theme to Psycho is sure to get your toes a tappin’ just before you hit the shower. I’m sure anyone could find something to squeeze into a set or two…

Hypnagogue – “Distant Light Receding” – [Self Released]

lexi glass   10/8/2019   A Library, Cassette

This 2019 cassette is the debut release from Hypnagogue, the solo project of Massachusetts-based artist James Rosato. On Distant Light Receding, Rosato uses guitar and magnetic tape to evoke the “harsh beauty of a coastal New England winter.” But to my ear, there’s no harshness at all to be found in these dreamlike drones, just a quiet warmth, like a lit candle on a snowy night. Five tracks over two sides that drift into one another in a continuous slow burn.

Smoke Below – “Isolation 3000” – [Ehse Records]

humana   10/6/2019   12-inch, A Library

This is a very pleasant sounding release from Smoke Bellow, whose primary members composed this music in a backyard shed after they traveled to Melbourne from Baltimore. Although they felt isolated (thus the name of the album), the electronic tunes on here are fairly upbeat, and the voices, though echoey at times, sound imbued with wisdom gained from being in isolation. They have since returned to Baltimore and added a band member. The final track is my favorite with its flute and horn sounds.

Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra – “I Roam The Cosmos” – [Art Yard]

humana   10/6/2019   12-inch, Jazz

This is an unreleased performance recorded at Slug’s Saloon in New York in July of 1972. It’s pretty incredible that, even though Sun Ra left this earthly plain in 1993, his words, music, and compositions continue to reverberate through time and space. Vocalist June Tyson recites the lyrics to “Astro Black” over the backdrop of “Discipline 27-II”, followed by a call and response between Tyson and Sun Ra set to the horns and instruments of the Arkestra. The vibe is mellow and accessible. The liner notes are a must-read as they describe Sun Ra’s connections to Egypt, the sun, and the cosmos.

Zorn, John – “Music Romance Volume Two: Taboo and Exile” – [Tzadik]

Medusa of Troy   10/2/2019   A Library, CD

Taboo And Exile is part 2 of Zorn’s 3-part Music Romance series, released by his Tzadik label in 1999. For those new to Zorn’s wide swath of compositions, the album functions as an introduction and a sampler of Zorn’s many musical styles: jazz (Track 10), punk (2, 5), surf (9), Jewish music (3, 6, 8), experimental (7), exotica (1, 4, 11, 12). Track 10 (“The Possessed”), a free jazz tune full of skronky, screeching, screaming sax, is the only song where Zorn plays. Musicians on various tracks include: Marc Ribot, Fred Frith & Robert Quine [guitar], Bill Laswell & Greg Cohen [bass], Joey Baron, Dave Lombardo and Cyro Baptista [percussion], the Masada String Trio [strings] and vocalists Mike Patton and Miho Hatori. No apparent FCCs on the 2 vocal tracks. From grinding, fuzzy guitars to tribal rhythmic drums to lush, sweet strings, I love almost everything about this album – except the cover. I find the cover abhorrent. YMMV. But play this album.

Brainbombs – “Stinking Memory/Insects” – [Anthem Records]

whngr   10/2/2019   7-inch, Music Reviews

I’m not sure why Brainbombs captures my adoration every single fucking time. Just pure, unfettered genius in my opinion. Like they exist just for me. A deranged, sonorous love letter to my shriveled prune-heart. Maybe it’s the cold, flat monotony of the drums or the detached pentatonic fret-tickling of the guitar? Not likely, those are both qualities I rarely tolerate much less bask in. Perhaps it is the incessant bleets of the saxophone squealing away to its own cacophonous free-jazz composition? Or could it be the nearly broken “Euro-English” iterated dispassionately like a poetry recital by an adolescent sociopath, or the sado-sexual lyrics that, it could be argued, glorify the most horrific traumas one might have the misfortune to bear witness (or be subjected) to. Subjects that can, for this miserable volunteer, cut a little to close to the bone. On the surface I would say that none of these sound much like selling points but then there is the repetition. A ceaseless barrage of hypnotically simple garage/art-rock played in series relentlessly. Like a word spoken until its meaning is lost while rocking back and forth in your cell, a screwdriver repeatedly perforating a lung, or a hammer striking the back of a skull. Repetition. Like the collapsing will of the hostage whose will be crushed by their captors interminable and nefarious indoctrination, their ego folding in upon itself endlessly until only an echo of the self remains. It repeats ad naseum. Like a deranged sonic Stockholm-syndrome.

 Dear Bb,

If you’ll be my S.L.A., I’ll gladly be your Patty Hearst.

<3 -w

Beans/Parker, Williams/Drake, Hamid – “Only” – [Thirsty Ear Recordings]

Medusa of Troy   10/2/2019   CD, Hip Hop

Beans, AKA Robert Stewart, is a New York rapper and producer who’s a founding member of Antipop Consortium. As part of Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series of jazz collaborations, Beans worked with jazz bassist William Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake on this 2006 album. Beans contributes vocals on half of the 10 tracks, and electronic samples and mixes on all of them. It is an interesting but not mind-blowing, mix of electronic, hip-hop and jazz, The electronic music is by turns spacey, glitchy & droney. Parker’s and Drake’s contributions are solid. Many of the vocal tracks (“4” & “198” FCCs) tend to stand alone as hip-hop (“20” being an exception). Even where styles merge, there isn’t a lot of mingling and it becomes all too easy to tune out after the first two tracks (“5” and “1”). Perfectly fine, but not arresting.

Imaginational Anthem Volume Nine [coll] – [Tompkins Square]

lexi glass   10/1/2019   A Library, CD

Since 2005, local label Tompkins Square has brought us the Imaginational Anthem series, a showcase of guitarists playing in the American primitive style (Vol. 2 reviewed here). For this 2019 compilation, the ninth in the series, singer/songwriter Ryley Walker takes a broader interpretation of the project’s original theme, and curates a lineup of artists exploring both the traditional fingerpicking and more experimental – even electric! – styles. The works collected here bring strange, fresh sounds to the series, while still keeping its spirit. Listeners may recognize the work of Kendra Amalie (featured on our most recent Live from the Devil’s Triangle Vol. 22 compilation), her guitar accompanied a full band on the bold “Boat Ride” (T5), while Dida Pelled offers a silly, sweet cover of Norma Tanega’s “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” (T4). I’ve already made my obsessive love for Angel Marcloid’s Fire-Toolz project pretty clear here, so I see no reason to stop now: her offering “World of Objects” (T8) shuts down the argument that a guitar can’t sound modern – this spacey, proggy jam is from another galaxy, another age. My favorite track sprouts up at the end, as Dave Miller plugs in and gets heavy on “Seedlings” (T10). Something for everyone in this “deep-fried black hole” of a mix.

Drose – “boy man machine+” – [Computer Students]

atavist   10/1/2019   A Library, CD

Human—machine juxtaposition, taken very seriously. It’s a good use of its context, the Center for Automotive Research in Columbus, Ohio. Robots were building a race car during the recording. The building’s machinery has a compelling voice, and the recording captures this as well as its cavernous acoustics. Compositions are slow builds, with pounding percussion, to wailing guitar passages. I found the vocals hard to take in the early tracks—desperation shading into near whimpering. Over an hour and ten minutes of material is presented, and a bit of it feels like filler. Tracks 5, 6, 10, and 11 recommended. Track 12 is maybe the best, if you simply want a rock song. Track 13 is okay too. FCC on track 8 (fucking).

Bonnet, Francois & O’Malley, Stephen – “Cylene” – [Editions Mego]

atavist   10/1/2019   12-inch, A Library

Consistently beautiful, minimal compositions of guitar, awash in cavernous echoes. Stephen O’Malley of Sunn0))) provides guitar, and François Bonnet (who also works under the project name Kassel Jaeger) pursues studio manipulations of those sounds. The effect is tranquil but brooding, the slow unfolding of night shadows, wind howling on lonely mountaintops. The last track is distinct from the others due to its more assertive use of keyboard drones. Its title means “steps in the ashes”, and one can picture a film where a survivor steps out into the light of a ruin and considers a broken future. 

DJ T-Rock – “Who’s Your Daddy” – [Bomb Hip-Hop Records]

mickeyslim   9/25/2019   CD, Hip Hop

Wax-stackin’, needle-breaking, vinyl-jockey, DJ T-Rock from North Carolina. This is the world’s best scrath DJ on his first release from 1999 off of Bomb Hip-Hop Records, and it is one-of-a-kind. T-Rock works with a complete arsenal of sounds to create a constant, fast-flowing, sometimes hard to follow beat. Scratching that will melt your face and vocal samples that keep you under its spell. Alien invasions and killer robots. This is the real deal.

Ahti, Marja – “Vegetal Negatives” – [Hallow Ground]

lexi glass   9/24/2019   12-inch, A Library

Marja Ahti is a Swedish electroacoustic composer working in Turku, Finland. We’ve come across her work before, both from her solo project Tsembla (reviewed here and here) and from her collaborations with Kemialliset Ystävät. On this 2019 LP from Hallow Ground, the first release under her own name, Ahti draws inspiration from a quotation by the French surrealist writer Rene Daumal where he describes the inner workings of an animal – its structure, its metabolism, even its blood red color – as the inverse of that of a plant’s: the animal is the “vegetal negative.” Ahti explores these ideas – form, energy, color – with her palette of sounds. Tones made with analog synthesizers provide rhythmic patterns, field recordings of natural and manmade environments manifest energy, and carefully played bowl gongs and a harmonium exude warm washes of color. There’s also instances of inversion, as the synths imitate organs (T4), or as ocean recordings find their echoing alien counterpart (T1). Each of these four works rewards close listening, strengthening their pull on your awareness from the inside out.

Eleh – "Living Space" – [Touch]

Louie Caliente   9/24/2019   A Library, CD

Space-filling, mind-healing sound baths. Introspective and uplifting. Suitable for headphones and cathedrals alike.

Deep room-rattling hums. Microtonal tweaks and binaural bounces. Subsonic subconscious vibrations.

Minimal pulsating drones that evolve on a human time-scale. Glacial, not geological.

Explorations in resonance and repetition, featuring synthesizers, piano, organ, bass and chimes.

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