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Music Reviews

Vanishing, the – “Still Lifes Are Falling” – [Gold Standard Labs]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

the vanishing – “still lifes are falling” – [gold standard labs]

high energy aesthetics coupled with lo-fi production yields danceable dark wave goth featuring distorted reverb-soaked female vox, programmed and live drums, a sax that haunts, fuzzed-out synths that taunt. clean lyrics (except as marked) decry various aspects of the current state of the human condition: “buried beneath the plastic sheen / is a world that’s painted violently”

mad hatter

Emotional Joystick – “Bellicose Pacific” – [Zod]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

emotional joystick – “bellicose pacific” – [zod records]

enjoy this man-up from Milwaukee, WI: bleeps, blips ‘n breaks galore are to be found on this full length release from emo::joy and all tracks take aim to please! soundscapes and synths accompany breaktech beats a la aphex twin-esque abrasion mixed with more chill ‘n chunky loops as well. simple video-game like melodic lines work well with the harmonic progressions that back them with a sometimes sparse, sometimes symphonic, ever schizophrenic feel.

note: tr13 = bonus round / hidden track after ~ 3:o3 of silence

mad hatter

The Tough & Lovely – “Born Of The Stars” – [Spoonful Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

This is the first full-length release from a 5 member rock and roll band from Columbus, Ohio founded in 2002 by guitarist/songwriter Andrew Robertson. The CD was released 8/2004.

For lack of a better term, I would call this music ‘garage rock? though that wouldn’t give an indication of the years spent listening to and reverse engineering their rock and soul records, the excellent songwriting, the solid rhythm section that’s in no particular hurry, and – the first thing you will notice – Lara Yazvac’s tough and lovely singing.

In a good portion of the lyrics people are breaking hearts, getting their hearts broken, holding on, letting go, doing a lot of crying. (I don’t remember life in Ohio as being that dramatic.) Written down they would probably look silly, but with Ms. Yazvac’s voice and the band backing her up it works.

Here is a partial list of influences that I was scribbling down as I was listening: Kinks, Pretenders, Del Shannon, Shangri-Las, The Capitols (Cool Jerk), X Ray Spex, Lowell Fulson (Tramp), the entire Atlantic Rhythm and Blues box set.

Every convertible sold should come with a copy of this CD.

–Hunter Gatherer

Domenico + 2 – Sincerely Hot – [Luaka Bop]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   CD, International

‘Domenico? is Domenico Lancelotti, and ?+2? is Moreno Veloso and Kassin. This is the second of three releases which feature one of the three. It was recorded between 10/2001 and 4/2002 but for some reason not released until 9/2004.

(By the way, the first release – ‘Musical Typewriter? by Moreno + 2 – is in the International library and filed under Veloso.)

All three of them are Brazilian, and Domenico is a drummer. As a result there are plenty of Latin beats. The lyrics are in Portuguese in all but one song, but you can read the translation in the liner notes if you want to read the lyrics that mainly concern themselves with leaving, desire, and waiting.

This is very smart and funky Brazilian pop with varied influences. They definitely took their Burt Bacharach pills before recording some of the tracks (2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13). 12 is an instrumental. Some tracks have a great funk feel (4, 5, 8) There are duets that made me laugh even though I had no idea what they were singing about (5, 11).

Language: 7 (suck your breast/suck your ass). Also 3 tracks right into 4 with no warning.

–Hunter Gatherer

MTKJ Quartet “Making Room For Spaces” [Nine Winds]

Thurston Hunger   12/8/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Like ROVA, MTKJ feels so strongly bout the connection between
members that they’re all in for a letter and all in for the
long haul. (Well ROVA stuck with it even when it became ROAA)
Anyways this is NOT your father’s West Coast jazz, nothing
as sunny as a convertible drive by the beach, instead we’re
looking over the edge of windy, desolate seaside cliff. We’re
treated to stellar composition, utilizing dramatic pauses
(tightened by Paul Kikuchi’s snare rolls) and major thematic
shifts, check out the 3 minute mark into the leadoff track!
Just gorgeous, later that same piece sounds like Salt Peanuts
are mixed in. Composition includes other moments of homage
along with setting up great dual play between Kris Tiner’s
trumpet and Jason Mears’ reeds. Everyone gets a chance to
solo shine, including bassist Ivan Johnson who can tiptoe tap
on the great intro to #4, or get rubbery as he desends down
the end of the final cut, leading a Mears landing. The album
title speaks volumes in the silence these guys keep alive
like fragile bubbles in convoluted metal sculpture pulled
through a soap rinse. Gaze with your ears.

Nomo – ?Nomo? – [Ypsilanti Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/1/2004   A Library, CD

Nomo is a 17-piece band from Ann Arbor, Michigan led by composer/arranger/saxophonist/etc. Elliot Bergman. This is their first full-length release, released in May, 2004. And it was produced by Warn Defever of His Name Is Alive. Nomo has also released an EP previously, 2 songs of which are on this release.

From the tight horn section opening to the woman singing ‘la la la? fade out, this CD is great all the way through. It is Afrobeat/Afropop that leans variously towards jazz, reggae, space rock, and other genres. Fela Kuti is the spiritual godfather of this band. Think of them as a jazzier Antibalas that doesn’t want to execute Bush’s cabinet.

It’s amazing that this many musicians (4 percussionists, 6 horns, several guitarists) trying to meld this many styles is anything other than a big mess of ‘world music.’ Instead they are tight, keeping a steady beat and theme going while different instruments (sax, fuzz guitar, Fender Rhodes) solo over the top.

All tracks except for 4 and 10 are instrumentals.

–Hunter Gatherer

Triosk – “Moment Returns” – [Leaf Label Ltd]

Funkminsta Fulla   11/30/2004   A Library, CD

triosk – “moment returns” – [leaf label]

triosk administers measured yet delicate doses of minimalist meanderings and moody muses to create an aural tonic that is smooth, sensitive and sophisticated… no bitters here. “moment returns” mixes well with both psychoacoustic sound clash and downtempo acid jazz with equal ease. sparse sound samples form an interactive organic environment which complements this contemplative piano trio nicely.

mad hatter

Tinariwen “Amassakoul” [world village]

Thurston Hunger   11/23/2004   CD, Format, International

Founded in the late 1970’s by guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib,
Tinariwen has been a loose collective of soul soldiers and
guitar shamen ever since. If blues is born of pain, then
these Tamashek men and women, driven from their native Mali
for a stretch, still feel that sharp emptiness…it’s built
into their name which allegedly translates as “desert” or
“empty spaces.” The burrowing guitar is a striking signature,
present on all cuts here except the floaty flute and chant
drone that closes the CD. The guitar is usually under chatty
call-and-response vocals that are infectious enough to sing
along with despite no clue what is being said. While the
guitar can recall the pluck of the Ex, and the electric zap
of Junior Kimbrough, it really is a unique flavor to savor.
Elements of sauntering reggae rhythm, gnawa loops, french rap
are captured as well. Dig that mod mad nomad sound!

Theramin “We Were Gladiators” [Psychotica Records]

Thurston Hunger   11/23/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Solid battering-ram rock from Italy’s Theramin targetting our
shores with english lyrics… and “talks” too, as featured
on “Near by the Saint Leonard river” which wisely tells us not
to think too much. Drummer Sacha Tilotta offers said talks,
and when he’s not a ponderer, he’s a pounder. Drums on this
album sound great and fight for life. Tracks often go through
stark passages where either Sacha’s drums or Stefano Garaffa
Botta’s guitar drop out for a few bars before dynamics damn the
torpedoes and full boar ahead. Good yelping female guest vox
by Giovanna Cacciola on “In My Place.” String suite sweetens
“To Be Away” which like much of the album features prominent
and vital basswork by Michael Herman, a key to heavy-hitting
rock. And this here is some kinda Italian Kung Fu which lands
every punch.

Bettye Swann – “Bettye Swann” – [Honest Jons]

Hunter Gatherer   11/10/2004   CD, Soul

This collection by Honest Jons covers semi-obscure soul singer Bettye Swann’s career with Capitol from 1968 and 1970. (Her work with Money Records was recently released on Kent Records.)

This is country-inflected soul music that will have you singing into a hairbrush or crying into a beer, depending upon your disposition.

–Hunter Gatherer

Chris Joss – “You?ve Been Spiked” – [ESL Music]

Hunter Gatherer   11/10/2004   A Library, CD

ESL Music has re-released sound engineer and Frenchman Chris Joss’s 3rd album and added two tracks from his 1st album The Man With A Suitcase and a Flash video of the single Discotheque Dancing.

This album is paying homage to the 70’s with its waka-waka guitar, disco beats, and Hammond organ while at the same time the clear production, occasional sample or scratch keeps it sounding fresh and new.

The tracks sound like the theme song of a cop show I wish I could have seen or a porno ‘I’m glad that I didn’t. You can’t go wrong playing one of these instrumentals.

If you ever find yourself evading the police in a stolen Ford Torino make sure to pop in this CD.

–Hunter Gatherer

Zoomers “Exist” [hyped2death]

Thurston Hunger   11/9/2004   A Library, CD, Format

Another fine reissue/revival from Chuck Warner’s Hyped2Death
efforts (aka Homework #204 on that label). Check the liner
notes. While this has one sort of ambling jam (“Freak at the
Greek”), most of the tracks are short tightrope walks over
inner anxieties and damp, cramped tape e.q. It sounds pretty
swank for 1981 cassette culture, though every once in a
while a track sorta goes through a tunnel of sound, some of
that those is a result of flanger fanaticism. Lyrics are
delivered in bursts, that sort of romance vs. robot approach.
The vocals often accentuated by a gasp or a whisper and oft
times both, they are nicely up front in the mix. Drums keep
time, squeeze in some rat-a-tight snare fills, occasionally
get completely lost. It’s the odder guitar fills (and sax,
piano and especially synthesizer with well-detuned delivery)
that augment the angst and make this a Louisiana winner. “All
We Need” is just too strange and estranging to simply file as
“rock” but this album (even that track) has moments that rock
solidly and artfully. There are some really wrong notes at
exactly the right moments on this!

[coll:] Voices In The Wilderness – [Tzadik]

Hunter Gatherer   11/2/2004   CD, Jazz

This double CD is part of 2003’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of Masada, the jazz quartet that John Zorn leads. Masada doesn’t play on this CD. Instead 24 songs from their song book are performed and produced by about 80 of Mr. Zorn’s musician friends.

The Masada Book is a collection of more than 200 songs written by Zorn with melodies and harmonies in an attempt to create a new type of Jewish music that is more than the traditional music with new arrangements. He wanted ‘a combination of Ornette Coleman and the Jewish scales.’ (As near as I can tell the Jewish’also called Spanish’scale is the same as a harmonic minor scale begining on the 5th tone.) The scale that the music is based on has that minor-third leap surrounded by half tones that gives the songs a definite ‘Middle east? or at least ‘non-Western? sound.

The arrangements and interpretations of the music are as varied as the musicians who perform on this release, ranging from straight forward acoustic jazz to rock-jazz fusion. The overall feeling is one of joyfulness and optimism. I felt that the vocals on some of the tracks didn’t really add anything to the songs, so I would recommend sticking to the instrumentals.
This release is a lot to absorb. Frankly, you’ll have to explore it for yourself. Here are a few suggestions to get started: CD1: 2-Kisofim, 8-Nevelah, 10-Tirzah; CD2: 4-Tannaim, 11-Tiferet, 12-Kedem.

–Hunter Gatherer

Existensminimum – “The On and On” – [Flora and Fauna]

Hunter Gatherer   11/2/2004   A Library, CD

The mastermind behind Existensminimum is Magnus Henriksson of Sweden. The word Existensminimum, literally subsistence level, is a Swedish social services term for the minimum amount of food or money necessary for a person or family.

But there is nothing minimal about the sound on this EP. Mr. Henriksson wrote and played most instruments on this CD with the help of a few musicians. But when playing live, 10 musicians are required to reproduce the sound.

Every song is so different from the others that I must describe them separately:

1. (5:01) – An uptempo, James Bond-y number in 5/4. It has a square 60’s lounge feel, and the singing is just short of over the top at times.

2. (3:59) – A great song with a driving synth groove and processed vocals.

3. (5:06) – Orchestral opening gives way to electronic drums. Sounds like Air or Zero 7 with much harder drums. Instrumental

4. (1:45) – Acoustic guitar soaking in reverb with vocals that start in falsetto.

5. (3:14) – A U2 parody? This is a big stadium rock-sounding thing featuring synthesizers.

–Hunter Gatherer

Odd Toot – “Mental Money” – [Hydrogen Dukebox Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/27/2004   A Library, CD

Odd Toot – or The Odd Toot, he will respond to either – is Simon Smith from Edinburgh, Scottland. This CD, released in April 2000, is his second full-length effort.

The music on this CD calls on different styles and genres much like Aquaman calls on his various sea creature friends. There is D&B, funk bass, jazz chords, flute and trumpet solos, processed vocals, samples from scratchy old recordings. There are even samples of Chevy Chase in Caddyshack and one that I believe is from Sing Along With Mitch.

Mr. Smith is a producer, engineer, and session musician. This shows in the immaculately produced tracks on this CD.

This CD could be worked easily into sets containing all kinds of music, except possibly country and polka. It just goes to show what can be had at Amoeba Records for $1.99.

–Hunter Gatherer

Dosh – “Pure Trash” – [Anticon Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/27/2004   A Library, CD

Dosh is Minneapolis-based drummer and keyboardist Martin Dosh. He is also associated with the bands Fog and Lateduster. This is his second full-length release. In his spare time he gives drumming lessons to kids.

This second full-length release is sort of a family affair. Most of the album was recorded and mixed while his wife was pregnant or had just given birth to a son Naoise (pronounced nee-sha). His wife and another son, Tadhg (pronounced tiger, without the er) can be heard speaking or singing on some of the tracks. The CD insert contains an illustration from Mrs. Dosh explaining each song.

For such an experimental CD it’s easy to listen to, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Although the drums sound very dirty or dusty the melodies and chords are beautiful and consonant, featuring his Fender Rhodes piano, an acoustic guitar, a saxophone, and what sound like sampled kids toys.

The songs have a layered feel. The first layer usually comes from his Akai Headrush pedal that has a 12-second sample memory. On top of that stacked up like spinning plates is any number of layers that could contain drumming, sounds from the innards of an open-faced Rhodes being played directly, samples, voices, etc. When it seems like it might all come crashing down, Dosh heads off in another direction.

–Hunter Gatherer

Breuker Kollektief, Willem “With Strings Attached” [bvhaast]

Thurston Hunger   10/26/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

To unfairly reduce the Kollektief, this is a group committed
to serious fun. The musicianship is top-notch, but the accent
probably falls on the fun. In selecting the six composers for
this collection, each one brought something unexpected if not
unaccepted to the concert hall. I think this attitude is the
key to Breuker, breaking the rules, breaking the walls down.
Typewriters turn up on at least two tracks, one of which you
have heard, even if you think not. George Gershwin shines in
the keys of Henk de Jonge, it seems so polished and stately
that it’s easy to forget his rebellious origins. Read the
liner notes for more info on that and the others here (as
well as the importance for lapsing copyrights). The one
composer still above ground is actually not just a composer
but a band member. Alfred Janson’s 20+ minute piece has some
sax daggers, trumpet wisteria that blossoms into fire, and
about 12:30 into it the strings fritter while Janson himself
straps on his accordion to carry out the vendetta with a
hint of a smoking scat-gun as well. Towards the end of that
piece, the players chase each other sonically (and probably
physically on stage to boot.) Tremendous, don’t miss the
return of the sinewy “Sensemaya” with snakey strings.
Hail to the Kollektief!

Jolie Holland – “Catalpa” – [Anti- Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/20/2004   A Library, CD

This is San Francisco-based Jolie Holland’s first solo release since co-founding and then leaving Be Good Tanyas, though it wasn’t originally intended to be. The tracks are mostly demo tapes that weren’t supposed to go “any further than my neighborhood” as she says. There is an unfinished feeling to many of the songs, and she coughs and laughs on some tracks. In another, you can hear an engineer dropping something (and he even gets a percussion credit). One song was recorded before it was finished, and Ms. Holland helpfully includes the extra lyrics of the finished version in her liner notes.

The result is that listening to this CD feels like crouching outside her window and eavesdropping as she sings her mysterious songs of loneliness and restlessness. She’s accompanied by her guitar and little else. At times it sounds a little like a field recording of old Appalachian folk (due to the way she sings and her picking style, I think) until you listen to the lyrics, consider the whole thing, and feel the influence of Woody Guthrie and Syd Barrett. The latter even gets a co-writing credit on The Littlest Birds.

There is something deeply American about the rootless feel of this release.

–Hunter Gatherer

Crimea, the – “Lottery Winners on Acid ” – [Double Dragon]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Staggering from the ashes of the CROCKETTS, Davey MacManus
(vocals/lyrics/guitar) and drummer Owen Hopkin re-invented
their music selves as THE CRIMEA in late 2002, tempering a bit
of their own chaos in and around Plaistow (which might be old
London???s answer to Hamburger Hill) & enlisting keyboardist
Andrew Stafford (dig the Roland VK-8 + XV-88) , bassist Joseph
Udwin & lead guitarist Andrew Norton (ex-DENZEL). MacManus,
a native of Dublin, plays occasional solo sets as KERNEL KROK;
his biopictorial lyrics read vivid in either setting, shambling to
a place called truth in a style somewhere between MUNGO JERRY
and the DEPARTURE LOUNGE. First three tracks here were all UK
singles ??? and they are terrific ??? rustic in all the right places and
seemingly fueled by sufficient libations???.last two tracks equally
good as drunken anthems/internal commentary/emotional palmistry
??????..Most excellent****
MITCH October 2004

Contrast, the – “Fade Back in ” – [Rainbow Quartz]

mitch   10/16/2004   A Library, CD

Peterborough UK (East Midlands) quartet lets a
third LP loose, featuring production by Andy
Hawkins & enhanced vocals from mainman
David Reid, whose mastery of the Rickenbacker
and various retro psychedelia steers a remarkably
consistent resonating sonic experience through a
swelling, driving journey of great highs ( # 1, 3, 4 +
12) and poignant lows ( # 8). Reid is a polished
storyteller in song, whether relating a post-alterca-
tion friendship ( # 2), warning of doom ( # 5),
belittling fickle fame ( # 6) or letting savvy harmony
convey self-depreciation ( # 10). Reid himself says of this
material that it is???.???the most focused & direct stuff
we have done. Sounds the most consistently like
the CONTRAST?????? Bass = Richard Mackman; rhythm
guitar/backing vox = Spencer Hart; drums = James
Crossley; keys = Hawkins ??? rock-solid powah pop.
MITCH October 2004

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