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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 

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…

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.

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).

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.

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.

Jones, Tutu – "Staying Power" – [Bullseye Blues & Jazz]

humana   9/22/2019   Blues, CD

Wowza! As you’re swinging to these blues, be sure to read the liner notes about how Tutu was accomplished by the age of 20, created his first guitar by nailing his uncle’s fishing line to a board when he was a tot, and grew up with father and uncles surrounding him in the blues tradition. His wife sings backup on Track 3, and there are some soulful blues tunes on here as well (e.g. Track 8). Dallas has itself one fine shining star.

Por Rumbas [coll] – [EMI]

humana   9/22/2019   CD, International

This compilation will get you dancing and tapping your toes for sure. Rumba, after all, is a style of music and dance, as is flamenco, which is the style of most of these tracks. Steep yourself in a wonderful Spanish tradition of rhythm and dance. As the translated sleeve says: “To dance you need only the right music and some grace; here is the music.” Bailar!

Yahya, Gulcin / Somakci, Pinar – "Cinucen Tanrikorur" – [Cinar Muzik]

humana   9/22/2019   CD, International

A taste of Turkish music is in store with these compositions by Cinucen Tanrikorur, who was a lute virtuoso in addition to being an architect and composer. Gulcin Yahya studied lute (or oud) with Tanrikorur and joins her talents with those of Pinar Somakci on kanun (a dulcimer-like instrument). The strumming and plucking on these tracks are soothing, yet invigorating. Open your ears to some classical Turkish music.

Fiesel, Christian – “Astronauts Volume 1” – [Aural Films]

SAL9000   9/22/2019   A Library, CD

Thia album by German artist Christian Fiesel is volume 1 in a series of ambient space music being released on the label of Jack Hertz, Aural Films. This series commemorates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 1969.
Christian Fiesel has been inspired by science fiction and space travel since he was a kid and a fan of TV shows such as ‘Space 1999’ and Star Trek. This all-electronic album, Astronauts Vol. 1, is space gloom, yet represents an expansive new freedom, curiosity and the desire to explore new worlds.

Bill Baird – Owl

cadilliac margarita   9/20/2019   A Library, CD

1 of 8 in a series of Arthur King Presents records, The prolific Bill Baird brings us spacey mellow psychedelic eltctro krautrock. Mostly instrumental— guitars, bass, drums, and analog synth, and a few saturated vocals drop in here and there. This is  both light and dark, heavy and mellow. He was inspired by his son’s obsession with Owls. Neat-O!

Sounds Like…The Flirtations

cadilliac margarita   9/20/2019   CD, Soul







Their 1969 LP + demos and a few bonus tracks from the early 1970s.

The Flirtations (Sisters Ernestine and Shirley Pearce, along with friend Vie Billups, who also performs under the moniker of Pearly Gates) began as a 4 piece with their other sister Betty and Lestine Johnson in NYC in 1960. After recording a few singles and mild success domestically, they were convinced to relocate to the UK where Northern Soul was still very popular. They hooked up with producer Wayne Bickerton and writer Tony Waddington, and released their debt full length album on Decca. They have recorded and performed ever since, working with several different labels.

Lovely full sound! Lots of clear and well-rounded vocals, plucky horns, dramatic strings, and upbeat percussion.

FAST FACT: Their big single (Track 1) was used in a KFC advertisement campaign in 2007.

Brown, James – “JamesBrownJazz” – [Verve/MGM]

Medusa of Troy   9/18/2019   CD, Soul

Over six decades of recording, Brown touched on jazz in a variety of projects – first, as an organist with his own hard swinging group; then a couple of vocal albums, one with a cocktail trio, another with Louis Bellson’s big band. There’s also JB’s tribute to fellow King Records artist Little Willie John that fired up his jazz influences. Despite being an influential funk band ever, JB’s band also introduced trumpeter Waymon Reed, trombonist Fred Wesley and saxophonists Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis and Maceo Parker, all of whom had enviable jazz credentials. (Parker’s rousing performance on “There” is thought to be his first recorded solo.) There are some highlights — a number of tracks are rare versions or previously unreleased — including “That’s My Desire (alt. mix)”, “After You’re Through (extended version)”, “Tengo Tango”, “Home At Last (alt. mix)”, “There (unreleased version)”, “What Do You Like (stereo single edit)”, “Go On Now (alt. mix.)”, “For Once In My Life (alt. mix)” and “Cottage for Sale (alt. mix)”. The material is from the 1960s and ’70s, and features a number of alternate mixes and singles edits, some of which have never been released.

This album really doesn’t belong in the Soul Library, even is JB is the “Godfather of Soul”. There’s more Jazz than Soul here. – Reviewed by Ann Arbor, April 8, 2009.

Brown, James – “Love Over-Due” – [Scottie Brothers Records]

Medusa of Troy   9/18/2019   CD, Soul

No one (except maybe Kevin O’Dante or the Reverend Dah) is a bigger JB fan than me, but just the same, I was prepared to hate this. Guess what? It’s not half bad. Not every tune is brilliant (they range from some smokin’ funk to some too-slick ballads) but there’s way more than enough to justify its existence, as well as some damn fine moments. Well done, JB! – Reviewed by Johnny P, September 21, 1994.

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