KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

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.

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.

Rhythm & Sound – “Smile ” – [Rhythm & Sound]

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

Another minimalist dub-house experiment from Germany. The A-Side features spoken word from Savage, in a thick Jamaican patois, about how we should all be happy and love one another. (Right.) The B-Side features two VERY abstract instrumentals. This stuff is DEEP, man. I mean REALLY deep. This is the music from 20,000 fathoms. And minimal. So minimal it makes Philip Glass sound as ornate as J.S. Bach. Did I mention how deep it was?

Push Button Objects – “Half Dozen ” – [Chocolate Industries]

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

Push Button Objects is one Edgar Farinas, resident of Miami, Florida and part of the local Schematics/ Chocolate Industries axis of electronic artists. Having released previous EPs on both those labels, as well as on Skam in the UK, this latest six-track EP finds him moving away from the hip-hop flavor of his previous work and into more abstract terrain. At times minimal, and at other times almost industrial in texture, this is a record that should appeal to fans of Autechre, Funkstorung, etc.

Potuznik, Gerhard – “20TH Door, the ” – [Interdimensional Transmis]

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

Viennese artist Gerhard Potuznik (aka Gerhard Deluxxe, or GD Luxxe, for this release) seems to be channeling the spirit of New Order on this six-track EP of electropop. The vocal on “Minds,” in particular, sounds uncannily like Bernard Sumner. If that doesn’t appeal to you, check out the gurgling instrumental “Hydraulic Buildings,” or the short-but-funky “Angels,” which ends in a locked groove.

Plaid – “Rest Proof Clockwork ” – [Warp Records]

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

Plaid’s latest album finds the ex-Black Dog duo of Ed Handley and Andy Turner expanding their electronic musical palette in all directions. From moogy Jean-Jacques Perry -isms, to hip hop beats and scratching, to orchestral pieces and more, this album jumps about restlessly but always manages to entertain. Plaid have ably reinforced their “major league” status in the electronic arena.

Plaid – “Peel Session ” – [Warp Records]

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

Recorded three years after The Black Dog’s Peel Session, doggie duo Ed Handley and Andy Turner return (minus Ken Downie) to the Peel studios in their Plaid attire. This time the result is far more exuberant, with beats taking priority over melody. From the opener, an energetic reworking of the latin-flavored “Scoobs in Columbia,” to the propulsive, minimal techno of the closer, “Cold,” this four-track EP successfully balances rhythmic complexity with shifting electronic textures. Another fine entry in Warp’s “Peel Sessions” series.

Pike, Dave – Set – “Got the Feelin’ ” – [Disques Wagram Ltd.]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Vibes player Dave Pike has spent a lifetime in jazz: recording his first album in 1956; working with Herbie Mann during the bossa nova craze of the early 60’s; touring and recording in Europe with the Dave Pike Set from 66 to 73; returning to the States and recording three albums for Muse in the 70’s; and finally, after several personal hardships forced an early retirement, releasing a well-received comeback album in 1998 on San Francisco’s Ubiquity label. This long-unavailable session from 1969 is 3/4 funk, 1/4 lounge, and 100% groovin’. Organ and vibes dominate the set of original tunes and instrumental cover versions of everything from James Brown to Burt Bacharach. And pay no attention to that buzzing sound in your speakers–it’s just an un-miked Dave singing along with his vibes!

Perry, Lee – “Kung Fu Meets the Dragon ” – [Justice League]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

More evidence of the otherworldly genius of Rainford Hugh Perry, captured in his prime at Black Ark Studios circa 1975. This dub “concept album” is based around instrumental tracks that were, for the most part, recorded specifically for this release, a musical tribute to the kung fu flicks of the 70’s. Joining The Upsetter’s band on this experryment is the melodica master Augustus Pablo. Weaving in and out of almost every track are the martial arts musings and mumblings of Scratch himself, carried to extremes on the wacked-out “Flames of the Dragon.” “Black Belt Jones” adds some whistling accompaniment to Scratch’s moaning and groaning, and “Skango” is perhaps the most melodic offering here, a swinging instrumental featuring the horn section of Bobby Ellis and Dirty Harry. It’s all good.

Murray, Sunny – “An Even Break ” – [Byg Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Jazz

If ESP-Disk was the original home of free jazz, then the French label BYG/Actuel was its summer vacation home. Between 1969-1971, BYG/Actuel recorded and released 52 essential documents of boundary-breaking music, including this exhilarating quartet recording led by drummer Sunny Murray. A frequent sideman to Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler, Murray is accompanied here by the double saxophone assault of Byard Lancaster and Kenneth Terroade, with the Art Ensemble’s Malachi Favors on bass. Spiritually grounded yet totally “out there,” this is free jazz at its apex.

Lexaunculpt – “Double Density Ep ” – [Orange]

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

Lexaunculpt is SoCal resident Alex Graham, and his “Double Density” EP is the first release on a promising new SoCal electronic label called Orange Records. Six tracks of subtle beauty and meticulous programming. Hippity-hopping beats and gorgeous melodies underscore this effort, while all manner of split-second sound textures keep things interesting throughout. Based on this release, I’d rank Lexaunculpt right up there with the very best electronic artists on the scene today.

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