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Music Reviews

Glasgow TIki Shakers – "Happy Halloween" – [Tip Top Records]

Cousin Mary   9/18/2019   A Library, CD

This surf/tiki trio from Los Angeles is here at their spookiest, zaniest best. Great instrumentals and arrangements with all the scary touches such a howling, chimes, birds, cats, whistling wind, horses neighing, gunshots, squealing tires, growling and moans. Good fun with the horror, but good music even without it.

Various Artists (A Simple Procedure) [coll] – [Estuary Ltd.]

lexi glass   9/11/2019   A Library, CD

KFJC DJs are masters of the “superimposition,” Cy Thoth’s term for a live mix of multiple records at once. So here’s an advanced challenge:

Choose 42 records. Cue up eight at a time. For each record, using a chart inspired by the I Ching, determine whether to press play, press pause, change its playback volume, or switch it out for another record.

Follow this simple procedure, and you’ll have performed John Cage’s 1952 work Imaginary Landscape No. 5. For this 2015 release from Estuary Ltd., label founder Mark Cetilia (of Mem1, recently added to our library), commissioned fellow artists to create 42 original works to be used as source material for a new imagining of Cage’s piece, here spread over two CDs.

In contrast to the jazz records Cage used to create the original version, Cetilia’s source material is far more abstract. Overall, the tracks on CD1 have a subtler feel – icy drones (T5), ocean waves (T6), glacier caves (T15), electronic birds (T10) and insects (T14), treated piano and guitar, organ (T20), and some serious ASMR mouths sounds (T3) – while the tracks on CD2 are propelled by livelier rhythms, from dance beats to dogs’ barks to noise textures.

At the end of each CD is an instance of Imaginary Landscape No. 5. For the first, Cetilia uses the 42 tracks each pressed onto a 7″ record to create an analog version of the piece (CD1-T22). For the second, Cetilia used software to edit the original files to make a digital version (CD2-T22). Each landscape matches the material on its disc, with CD1’s analog version softened by a sea of surface noise, while CD2’s digital version cuts abruptly from one sonic idea to the next.

St Hugh, William – “The Luciferian” – [self released]

whngr   9/5/2019   A Library, CD, Music Reviews

Lovely and somber orchestral movements from this mysterious project out of Fairhaven Massachusetts. Primarily string compositions with sparse accompaniment from timpani, cymbal, and flute (I suspect all instruments are synthesized) that evoke a lonely and perhaps haunted soul’s journey towards damnation. This release is so new and possibly cvlt that as of this writing it had only a singular presence on the internet (bandcamp) and thus prompted me to submit my first ever addition to discogs. Though nothing about this album is exceptional or ground breaking it does feel very personal and it is easy to imagine the artist pouring him/herself into this release with abandon. Slightly lacking in emotion it  can feel cold and intellectual or perhaps dead inside, not unlike a sociopath trying to connect with the strange emotive world they sometimes encounter at the cemetery where they often go to reflect. 

Bootsy’s New Rubber Band – “Blasters of The Universe” – [Rykodisc]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

This double Bootsy-blast dates from way back in 1994, but it hasn’t aged a bit. The Boots takes all the lessons he learned from he sojourn with James Brown and Funkadelic and distills them down to two hours of solid boogie! The tracks on Disc 2 are extra-funkified version of Disc 1 tracks, without the banter. Any of the tracks will boil water but go for CD2 if you really want to blow your speakers. Reviewed by Goodwrench, January 14, 2015.

Booker T. & The M.G.’s – “Soul Dressing” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

A collection of cuts recorded at various times during ’62, ’63 and ’64, some with Lewis Steinberg on bass and the rest with his replacement, the legendary Duck Dunn. The music itself is the Stax sound stripped to its essentials and sinew. Glorious, glorious stuff. Reviewed by Johnny P., January 8, 1992.

Booker T. & the M.G.’s – “Green Onions” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

The first Booker T. & the MG’s album (1962) and this provided the blueprint for it all. Not just this band but the entire Stax/Volt sound and aesthetic. Stripped down, no-bullshit ensemble playing. Pre-Duck Dunn with Lewis Steinberg on bass. – Reviewed by Johnny P., February 12, 1992.

Blowfly – “Twisted World of Blowfly, The” – [Pandisc Records]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

While many Johnny-come-latelys having been using the foul word as a career (2 Live Crew, etc.), the man called Blowfly has been doing it for more than thirty years. He’s like a R’n’B Redd Foxx. This is all old material, but new versions helped out by members of Fishbone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Some are lame, but most aren’t. Reviewed by Lucifer, July 3, 1991.

Blind Boys of Alabama, The – “Higher Ground” – [Real World Records Ltd.]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

This group has been around for 7 decades! Since forming their group at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, they have kept alive the spirit and energy of pure soul gospel music. The Blind Boys’ music has not only endured, but thrived, helping both to define the sound of the American south and to push it forward through the 20th century and well on into the 21st. This is one of their best known albums (a Grammy winner) from 2002. The sound is fresh and often more gutsy than traditional gospel music. The best known tracks on this album are: “People Get Ready”[1] and “I Shall Not Walk Alone”[11]. I especially like [9] and [10]. Reviewed by Ann Arbor, May 23, 2018.

Malignant – “Purity Through Putrefaction” – [Maggot Stomp]

atavist   8/31/2019   A Library, CD

Malignant are a Southern California-based band delighting in the sonic terrorization of late 80s/early 90s death metal. They don’t stray far from the genre, and why should they? Pummeling drums, crushing guitar, raw-edged bass, and you can just make out the lyrics of abomination, torture, torment, and blasphemy.

The first track is completely unlike the rest. It starts out with some pretty basic synths—a simple bass synth pattern with higher dee-yoo sounds (like something falling to the ground in a video game). Then a cinematic, orchestral swell comes in that’s quite beautiful and had me wondering where it came from. Are they sampling something from a soundtrack? No one in the band takes credit for playing keyboards, and certainly not for arranging an orchestra (or sampling a horror movie score), so it remains a mystery until the internet reveals otherwise.

The table is set for a death metal onslaught. Tracks 2 through 5 are pretty consistent, but 2 and 5 in particular stand out. Track 2 drops with pure ferocity and a satisfying groove before embarking on the fast-tempo assault. Track 5 brings the evil up a notch. To echo my comment about consistency, tracks 3 and 4 are certainly worthy specimens as well. If I have a nitpicky comment, the bass sound is quite good in the mix, but the moments where everyone except the bassist stops playing while the bass continues solo aren’t sharp enough and interrupt the flow of the tracks. However, overall the instrumentation is tight, and Malignant maintain a high level of fidelity to their chosen genre. You will want to spit your disgust at the world. Death Metal cannot die.

Tibetan Folk Music [coll] – [Saydisc Records]

humana   8/26/2019   CD, International

These are “traditional songs & instrumental music from the roof of the world.” I only wish I could appreciate them as much as I would if I had grown up hearing them. The male vocals are a lot easier on my ears than the high-pitched female vocals. The track titles are picturesque and simple, and the instruments are Tibetan versions of a dulcimer, a six-stringed lute, a transverse flute, and two-stringed fiddles. Rich liner notes enhance the listening experience.

Moran, Kelly – “Optimist” – [Obsolete Units]

humana   8/26/2019   A Library, CD

This is a wash of utter beauty from composer and pianist Moran, who hails from Brooklyn, New York. She plays many instruments, although it is her prepared piano that conjures hints of Philip Glass. Many refer to this as minimalist, but I think the layers and textures are just right for filling the spaces thirsting for musical loveliness.

Klimperei / Sacha Czerwone – “Pour Le Jardin” – [Jardin Au Fou]

humana   8/26/2019   A Library, CD

Klimperai is Christophe Petchanatz, who, together with Sacha Czerwone, created these sweet, sad songs that indeed would be pleasant to listen to in a garden. Czerwone is a composer and accordionist who adds her sweet vocalizations to these mostly instrumental songs. Sprinkled throughout are fieldlike birdsong, toy pianos, and loveliness. Each song is just long enough to make its way into your music memory.

Rumble At Waikiki – The John Blair Anthology [coll] – [Bear Family Records]

Cousin Mary   8/24/2019   A Library, CD

An absolutely stunning retrospective of surf music and other genres from guitarist John Blair. Track 1 is blue grass, Tracks 2-4 are rockabilly, and the last rather mellow tracks are acoustic guitar duos with Marty Tippens. The line notes describe his history as a musician and the meticulous detail reminds me of his book The illustrated discography of surf music, 1959-1965. If someone asks you for a definition of surf music, just play Geronimo (CD1, track 15). Fun radio ad for a show on CD1, track 11. Highest recommendation!

Black Children Sledge Funk Co.- Band – “Vol. 3 – Aviation Grand Father” – [PMG Audio.CD]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

Nigerian psych rock. Re-issue of 1979 album. This was the band’s third album, Vol. 3: Aviation Grand Father, is soul, funk, jazz and a little bit of early synth. In the mid-sevens Nigeria, everybody loved the Black Children Sledge Funk Co. Band. Blasting out of the bustling river port of Onitsha, their infectious, feel-good grooves were the perfect antidote to the dark economic clouds gathering over the country. Everyone in the band changed their last name to Black. Last track is an instrumental. – Reviewed by Carson Street, January 31, 2018.

Birmingham Sunlights – “For Old Time’s Sake” – [Flying Fish]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

The Sunlights are a dynamic young a cappella gospel group. They hail from Jefferson County, Alabama, where gospel music has flourished since the turn of the century. The Sunlights have received priceless instruction from groups like the Four Eagles and the Sterling Jubilees, and have taken that technical know-how and combined it with unusual syncopation for a fresh sound. This is lively, fervent, joyous stuff. Please enjoy.

P.S. Note there are 5 singers in this quartet — a fifth voice was added so the lead singer can “step out front” for long solo passages without sacrificing the groups 4-part harmony. – Reviewed by Peggy O, August 26, 1992

Biggs, Travis – “Challenge” – [Universal Sound]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

Multi-instrumentalist, martial artist, and magician Travis Biggs recorded and self-released this debut album in the mid-70s, then went on to work with higher-profile artists including The Supremes and Isaac Hayes. The current reissue comes to us in conjunction with Soul Jazz’s NEW THING! compilation, which featured the very best track here, “Tibetan Serenity.” While Travis plays several instruments on the album, his most obvious (and unique) contributions are the acoustic and electric violins, which make him sound like a funkier version of Jean-Luc Ponty. Check his Stevie Wonder cover, “I Wish,” or the instrumental track “Solar Funk for more highlights. – Reviewed by Rococo, January 11, 2006.

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