KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Carter, Christina – “Bastard Wing ” – [Eclipse Records]

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

First solo recordings from Christina Carter of Charalambides, recorded in a Houston boathouse in 1995. Primarily consisting of improvised piano and voice, this is a late-night album if there ever was one. Wistful and dreamy, melancholy and haunting, BASTARD WING is an impressionistic musical vision made all the more so by a post-production mix that adds some well-placed reverb and environmental sounds.

Voices in My Lunchbox [coll] – [Plug Research]

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

Plug Research returns with what is surely one of their most interesting projects to date. “Voices in My Lunchbox” features four tracks–no, wait–four songs (my god, when was the last time we used that term in electronic music?) from a variety of producers, each exploring the possibilities of vocals in an electronic context. First up is Carmen Tejada, grafting operatic vocals onto some minimal electronic beats and jazzy electric guitar. Next is Quarks, with not much more than a snatch of koto and a metronomic ticking to accompany some whispery female vocals in Japanese. Smyglyssna and Cornelia open Side 2 with a track that begins with an insectoid buzzing and ends with a long, low hum. And finally there’s Kit Clayton, offering up some abstract dubbiness along with slurry vocals from Mike Donovan. I’m not really sure what all these people are singing about but it’s sounds good to me. Anxiously awaiting Vol. 2…

Super Rap [coll] – [Landspeed]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

What we’re gonna do right here is go back…way back…back into time. Back to Harlem, circa 1979, where a new musical form was about to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the 70’s disco inferno. That new sound was called hip hop, and helping to document its birth was an independent record label called P&P Records, run by Peter Brown & Patrick Adams. Having experienced a modest amount of success in the disco market, they were perfectly situated to capitalize on this newest underground sound. The P&P tracks collected here are about as “old school” as “old school” gets; Chic’s “Good Times” rhythm even gets an airing on the track by Sicle Cell & Rhapazooty. Other tracks delve deeper into rap’s disco influences, particularly the instrumentals by Super Jay and Cloud One. And the futuristic, proto-electro side shows up on tracks by Troy Rainey and Naomi. All in all, though, this collection is about a time when rap was FUN. Drop the needle on any track and you’ll soon be wanting to throw your hands in the air, and wave ’em like ya just don’t care!

Stroboscopica Vol. 2 [coll] – [Plastic Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soundtrack

Plastic Records continues to document the 70’s output of the Italian Cometa production music library with this second volume in the STROBOSCOPICA series. Like most production music, the tracks herein are short, simple, and indexed by instrumentation, tempo, and style. While certainly not in the same league as the full-length film scores of Morricone, Allesandroni, et. al., the music here is functional and fun. More reminiscent of 70’s television than anything else, the somewhat cliched compositions evoke suspense, anxiety, mystery, action, romance, and the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Phil Pratt Thing [coll] – [Pressure Sounds]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

You may not be familiar with the name of Phil Pratt, but you will certainly be familiar with some of the reggae artists he produced: Ken Boothe, Big Youth, The Heptones, and Dennis Brown, just to name a few. This latest Pressure Sounds compilation rounds up some of the best work from Pratt, a publicity-shy producer who never really got the attention he deserved. Several of the tracks on this excellent retrospective are multiple variations on the same riddim. For example, Al Campbell’s soulful vocal on “Going the Wrong Way” is followed by the “Discomix” dub version, then a DJ toast over the tune by Big Youth. For “Talk About Love” Pat Kelly & Dillinger team up on the SAME version and the results are exhilarating… easily worth the price of the album. Pratt’s story is the typical one of record company ripoffs. He left the music business in the late 80’s and today runs a cafe in London. What a shame.

Interstellar Fugitives [coll] – [Submerge]

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

The latest manifesto from Detroit’s Underground Resistance posse is a new take on the classic electro sound, replete with vocodered vocals and stabbing synths. Alongside veterans like The Suburban Knight, Drexciya, and UR themselves, this compilation features several newcomers: Chaos, Perception, and Chamaleon, just to name a few. For a compilation, the sound is remarkably consistent, particularly over the first three sides. Favorites here include the funky opener, “Maroon,” and the electro house of “Soul Saver.” With Drexciya’s unique aquaticisms on Side D, things start to go a bit pear-shaped, and Side E even features two tracks with a Middle Eastern flavor! Rounding out the compilation are a brooding instrumental track by Chamaleon and a funky closer by UR. In short, an album that documents Detroit’s continued musical vitality.

Get It!, the [coll] – [None]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soul

Good God! This be the real thang: funky funky funky soul from 1967-69, by some of the most obscure groups you’ve never heard of, like Willie Tell & the Overtures, or Jimbo Johnson & the Violators. They’re singing and shouting about dances like the Popcorn, The Get It, and the Yak-a-Poo. Lo-fi as hell, with loud, snotty horns, and wailin’ guitars, and unrelenting FUNK! All killer, no filler! And remember: “If ya can’t do the Get It, ya got ta quit it!”

Funky Music Machine [coll] – [Soul Patrol]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soul

The 45 RPM record labels featured on the cover of this LP represent just a few of the “holy grails” in the world of the fanatical funk and soul collector. Fortunately, for those of us too poor or perhaps just less knowledgeable about the genre, Soul Patrol has assembled yet another fine collection of these super-rare 45 gems on one extremely affordable LP. Twelve straight shots of lo-fi, hi-energy funk and soul from the 60’s and 70’s: all killer, no filler. Be sure to check out Hebrew Rogers’ “Can’t Buy Soul” and Al Reed’s “99 & 44/100 Pure Love” for starters.

Easy Tempo Vol. 4 [coll] – [Easy Tempo]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soundtrack

As the subtitle confirms, Volume 4 in the Easy Tempo series presents “a kaleidoscopic collection of exciting and diverse cinematic themes.” From bossa nova to blaxploitation, that’s no lie! Highlights of this volume include a super-funky version of Desmond Dekker’s classic “Israelites”, plus those waka-waka guitars and wordless vocals we love so well. Keep ’em coming!

Downtown Soulville! [coll] – [Soulville Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soul

There’s a helluva party goin’ on in downtown Soulville! The DJ’s are rockin’ the house with obscure 60’s soul, from labels like Punch, Blackjack, and Cross-Tone…records that would probably cost you a fortune if you could even find them to begin with…records by Carl Holmes and the Commanders, Billy Wade and the 3rd Degrees, and Little Daddy Walton, just to name a few. And the guests are learning how to dance the Tight Rope, the Soul Strut, the Skate, the African Twist, and more. So don’t be left out…git yourself on downtown and check out the sounds. You’ll be glad you did.

Build the Ark [coll] – [Trojan Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

Here’s the third in Trojan’s series of triple-LP box sets documenting Lee Perry productions from the oh-so-crucial 70’s. This box focuses on singles, alternating the vocal A-sides with the instrumental/dub versions. My advice is to head straight for Side Four, which features superb vocal contributions from The Meditations, The Congos, and Junior Murvin. But if it’s truly wacked-out dub you’re looking for, better check Junior Dread’s “A Wah Dat/Dub Dat” on Side Two. Even a genius like Lee Perry, however, can’t redeem Sharon Isaacs’ cover of perhaps the most heinous song ever written, “Feelings” (Woah woah woah…) Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Bazaar: Rare Jazz/Fusi [coll] – [Cosmic Sounds]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Following up collections from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Russia, the latest stop on Cosmic Sounds’ jazz tour of Eastern Europe is 1960’s Poland. And it’s a rousing success. Among my favorites are the four tracks featuring vibes player Jerzy Milian: three under his own name and a fourth as featured soloist with Jan Wroblewski and the Polish Radio Jazz Orchestra. Then there’s a really swingin’ track by the Novi Singers, one of the all-time greatest jazz vocal groups’from any country! Pianist and film composer Krzystof Komeda, perhaps the most familiar name here, is oddly represented by two versions of the same composition (“The Kitten”), both programmed on the same side of the record. Aside from that minor quibble, BAZAAR really is a valuable and entertaining document of a mostly ignored part of jazz history.

Battery Park Cologne.. [coll] – [Emi]

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

Here’s the first of two 12″ EP’s featuring artists from the second annual Battery Park electronic music festival in Cologne, Germany. The first track, by Dr. W and Mr. Fluex (sic), is a fantastic electro-soul workout with computerized vocals from Nik Frost. We’re talking “Prince meets Kraftwerk” here. The last track, by Computerjockeys, is an amazing rhythmic tour de force, almost drum’n’bass-like, incorporating the sampled sounds of a ping pong game. You have to hear this one to believe it! In between these tracks are two more from Dr. Walker and M. Flux, probably fine tracks by themselves but completely eclipsed by the aforementioned two. Bring on the second volume!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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