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Music Reviews

Del Novas, The – “A Surf Odyssey”

Cousin Mary   8/21/2019   A Library, CD

This four-piece band is from Sonoma County. Although they have traditional surf music influences such as spy, space, and Tiki, their jazz influence is especially interesting. For example “Surfin’ Wes” is referring to jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. Some nice dreamy stuff, well played with a delightful difference.

Shoup, Wally / Bill Horist / Paul Kikuchi – “Chemical Language” – [New Atlantis Records]

abacus   8/16/2019   CD, Jazz

free and expressive rock more than anything, heavy on both on creative on sonic levels, this seattle jazz improv power trio rips throughout. wally is the ultimate party man, rip roaring with jazz heads for decades, bill’s precise preparations and explorations redefine what guitars are meant to do, and kikuchi flows freely within the intuitive improv these heads carry (and with a wealth of technical and extended techniques to boot). the album title basically lays it out for you, cuz i guess sound is psychoactive on a chemical level or something?

Kale, Karsh – “Up” – [Six Degrees Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/14/2019   CD, International

UP is …

… the title of this album distributed by Six Degree Records, with vocals in English & Hindi, with no obvious FCCs.

… the beats by Karsh Kale (pronounced “Kursh Kah-lay“), a British-Indian New York resident who plays drums, guitar, piano.

… the tempo of most of the songs on this release, which mixes Indian and Western instruments: traditional tabla & drum machines, guitar & sitar, flute & strings & piano.

… the unspoken command to rise up and dance to these tunes. Faves are 4 & 7, the rhythms going beyond energetic to nearly ecstatic.

Naxatras – Live Rituals At Gagarin 205

carsonstreet   8/8/2019   A Library, CD

Naxatras/ Live Rituals at Gagarin 205

Naxatras is a psychedelic rock band from Greece. This is their first live album. Recorded at the release show for their album “III” in Athens. The band continues to expand stylistically towards progressive rock, jazz and acid-rock. Naxatras is John Delias on guitar, John Vagenas on bass and vocals and Kostas Harizanis on drums. The band says: “Naxatras comes from the word “Nakshatras” that refers to the various phases of the moon in Hindu astrology. It sounded cool and fitting with our music, maybe because of the connections that Hinduism has to psychedelia and spirituality, but we spell it differently because it looks better with an “X”!”.

Bell, William – “Soul of a Bell, The” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

William Bell was the best-kept secret on the entire Stax/Volt roster. He was there from the very beginning, and continued recording with the label ’till the end. A versatile musician, he was both a writer and a singer. As a singer, he could hang with anybody – as his gutsy cover of Otis’ “Loving You Too Long” attests – and he possessed a sweet, understated voice. The first half of this is ballads, the other half more up. Both are sublime. Do yourself and your listeners a favor and play this … a lot (especially the ballads). – Reviewed by Johnny P., October 9, 1991.

Basehead – “Play with Toys” – [Emigre]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Inventive Washington D.C. duo that uses mostly live instrumentation mixed with imaginative samples. Languid, clever stories of a lovelorn individual over slow non-cliche mixes. A whole new approach here: had a good one. – Reviewed by Lucifer, January 29, 1992.

Basehead – “Not In Kansas Anymore (Unedited)” – [Imago Recording Company]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Follows in the style of their “Plays With Toys” CD. Michael Ivey’s voice is predominant, as is his attitude – he’s definitely pissed off with social and criminal justice – racism – police treatment. Humor on some tracks – but not as enlightened as on “Play With Toys.” Some tracks deal with the pleasure of smoke (try playing together with Ring Tee.) Overall, a step down from “Toys”. Reviewed by Ned Walker, February 24, 1993. [N.B – lots of FCCs]

Bar-Kays – “Soul Finger” – [Rhino Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

I don’t know why Stax Records they they needed a younger clone of Booker T & the MGs but they did, and even got Book and MG drummer Al Jackson to mentor them. A more aggressive, maybe even more energetic and enthusiastic than the MGs, but lacking in that rock solid, yet slinky panache. Still, quite a nice record, this. Reviewed by Johnny P., 1994.

Ramuntcho Matta – “96” – [Akuphone]

ravensparks   8/7/2019   A Library, CD

Miguel Matta Echaurren, (Ramutcho Matta) sound artist from the early 80’s to now. Works on a variety of sound collaborations to explore different aspects of sound and noise. This CD plays with enunciation, (articulation, elocution, pronunciation, speech pattern, manner of speaking, intonation, inflection) 

of French word art mixed with electronic-instrumental and noise (squeaky floorboards, buzzing, carnival sounds, etc) 

Favorite Track: 05 Radis Courgettes Carottes. A love ode to produce.

Guitar-like

01 Au Moment de S’endormir(slow eloquence in word art)

04 Un Couer Blanc (circus-like carnival sounds at end)

11 J’avais Oublie

Fun Word Art Enunciations

**05. Radis Courgettes carottes—A Must Play! A love ode to produce! Lots of rolling RRrrr’s. Love the slow loving pronunciation of produce with a gentle buzz cut sound noise slicing and reverberating in the background.

Cette Semaine

L’Apres Fete

More atmospheric

Ni Un Ni Deux

Ceci Et Celia

Au Fond Du Fond

La grande plein 

Ballard, Hank – “Sexy Ways: The Best of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters” – [Rhino Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Hank Ballard wrote “The Twist” – Chubby, born and raised in Detroit, Ballard was discovered singing on a Ford Motor Co. assembly line (so the liner notes say). Ballard’s connections go way back: Johnny Otis picked him over Jackie Wilson – out of an amateur bank contest – to win a recording contract. Ballard is a good friend and singing buddy of Mr. James Brown. Some tracks on this CD are bluesy (3)(7). Some are gospelly (10), most are R&B. – Reviewed by Ned Walker, May 11, 1994

Baker, LaVern – “Soul on Fire” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

One of the earliest Atlantic superstars — a versatile singer who could torch up a ballad or growl out an uptempo number, who sounds little-girl sweet or make nonsense syllables a non-refusable proposition. This is a fine, fine re-issue. – Reviewed by Johnny P., 1994

Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters – “Baby Huey Story, The” – [Curtom]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

370 lbs. of pure soul … Baby Huey never got a chance to get off the ground … he died the same months of Jimi & Janis’ demise … this is a powerful soul/rock/funkfest produced by Curtis Mayfield and later released on his label after Baby Huey died … this record is so f****** amazing … the liner notes are very interesting as well … words can not describe the power & emotion in Huey’s voice … a couple of instrumentals to round it out and you got it … phenomenal!!! – Reviewer unknown, October 27, 1999

Amnesty – “Free Your Mind: The 700 West Sessions” – [Now-Again]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Forgive those transgressions brothas & sistas! Free your minds as you grasp this tight & cut your teeth on some seriously psychedelic Indianapolis soul funk! Prog rhythms & rock structures fortified & glistening with a smooth groovin’ soul gloss. Fat bottom bass vibes, funky horn infusions & effortlessly fresh vocal harmonies. Soul salvation complied from the original obscure 7-inch cuts & B-sides onto a single LP/CD. Sensational transitions throughout though by album’s end, the remaining grooves merely suffice as stripped guitar & vocals. Satisfactory enough but it’s almost like they ran out of steam. Funk-ee skillful soul o’ the early 70’s! – Reviewed by Guy Montag, May 23, 2007

Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir – “Shakin’ The Rafters” – [Columbia]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

The sounds captured here feature celebrity gospel singer Alex Bradford and the 120-voice Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir of Newark in a program of Bradford compositions. All songs are characterized by the big, booming organ accompaniment and echoing sound of in-church recording. Call-&response lyrics, lots of shrieking, clapping and carrying on. Great historical significance and great fun. – Reviewed by Peggy O, April 2, 1992

Axiom Funk – “Funkcronomicon” – [Axiom]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

A f****** mind blowing interstellar funk exploration. “This is your brain, this is your brain on funk.” There shouldn’t be any questions. An all-star line-up from Herbie Hancock, Brain, Buckethead, Bernie Worrell, Bootsie, etc. just check the liner notes. 2 CDs of funk, baby. The last track on Disk Two has Umar Bin Hasan of the Last Poets ripping out your guts for all the world to see with his spoken word. This is a variety of styles, so check it the funk out. – Written by Vinny Fink, August 2, 1995

Trabants – "Freakout" – [Lolipop]

Cousin Mary   8/7/2019   A Library, CD

Eric Penna is a guitarist and in this release a multi-tasking musician, composer and recording engineer. The album is instrumental and certainly can pass for surf music but is much more giving us glimpses of psych, spaghetti Western, and exotica. Nice touches of the Hammond B-3 and trumpet on some tracks. Interesting, different and well played.

(Trabants are East German automobiles.)

Niyaz – “Nine Heavens” – [Six Degrees Records]

ravensparks   7/31/2019   CD, International

Niyaz Nine Heavens is an Iranian Canadian trio started in 2004, this is their 2nd collaboration of mixing traditional Persian,Indian, Mediterranean folk and mystical poetry as lyrics with electronica.

“Mystical music with a modern edge”.

This is a two disc album, first CD contains their electronica editions. The second CD showcases their songs in their traditional acoustic form to better understand the traditional foundations they blended into modern beats.

Mesmerizing voice of Azam Ali combined with Carmen Rizzo’s beats reverberate to make this album a sumptuous celebration of the ethereal. A must play!

A few notes from first disc—
Track 1-“Beni Beni”- folk singing, strong beat and strings—folk dancing music

Track 3- “Feraghi- Song of Exile”-soft beginning, voice of longing, ethereal electronics, 2nd wave passionate banquet celebration music, lost in trance

Track 4- “Ishq-Love and the Veil”-dulcimer, padded beats, addictive beat and melody
Flirtatious flute… Love trance

Track 5- “Allah Mazare” -strings and beat, calling passionately out for something…

Soares, Elza – “Deus E Mulher” – [Deck Disc]

Devlyn   7/25/2019   CD, International

Brazilian Samba legend Elza Soares (pronounced So-Ar-Ez) was married at 12. Lost her first two kids to malnutrition. Then she signed a recording contract in 1954 and has never looked back. She just turned 80, but like James Brown you could not tell that by the wall of sound that escapes from her throat. She is still a big enough star in Brazil that they chose her as one of the opening acts for the recent Rio Olympics.

The current incarnation of Soares’ music is dubbed dirty samba, an in-your-face combination of punk rock rage, with taut Afro-Brazilian backing rhythms coming from her large band of 30 somethings. Soares vocal delivery is percussive, hip hop-like, with an occasional gargle or moan to punctuate the chorus. All the while various drums bang, guitars soar and synthesizers wail out energetic Samba beats.

This album is only available in the States as digital download, so we got the CD from Brazil. So I had a Brazilian relative provide me with the English translation of titles I provide above. She tells me the stories that the songs tell are just as harsh and in-your-face as the vocal delivery. Lots of tales of men treating women badly and women pushing back just as hard. Track 3 Banho” (Shower), tells of various bodies of water churning up in response to life’s oh-so-many injustices. In track two, it is Exú, an Afro Brazilian deity that is doing his women wrong

Tanya Tagaq “Retribution” -[Six Shooter Records]

Devlyn   7/16/2019   A Library, CD

Oct. 21, 2016   Label: Six Shooter Records Inc.

Tanya Tagaq is an Inuk (Inuit) throat singer who has become a bit of a pop star by taking the techniques commonly used in her genre of native American music and extending it to new genres.

Tagaq honed her throat singing chops as a young woman by participating in throat battles with other woman in the remote Arctic villages she grew up in. These involved 2 women standing nose to nose making ridiculous sounds trying to gross out or break each other up.

1. The fist song , (Ajaaja 2:55) is the only sorta traditional Native American song on the album. Here Tagaq has written a simple call and response between a male and female singers behind a simple Inuk drum beat rather than the complex instrumentals and voicing found in the rest of the album. If you are into indigenous music go for it. If you are looking to see how how throat techniques could be used in Experimental, Ambient, Noise, Metal, Hip Hop or Pop music dive into other tracks.

2. For example, the 2nd song (Retribution 7:57) is perfect for Lauri Anderson fans (Oh Superman) on speed. It starts with Tagaq screeching, quickly moving on to her a recital of her poem about money and God. Meanwhile the underbed of rhythmical background chants and buzzes get more and more frenetic till she sounds like the little possessed girl from the Exorcist. As with most tracks, this one features 2 or 3 other throat singers along with Tagaq.

3. (Nacreous 4:01) comes off as a noise piece that starts and ends with a male throat singer doing that thing where he sings both a high note and low note at the same time with the same set of vocal chords. Then it layers in multiple voices, chanting and screeching into an inter-weaved hypnotic trance.

4. Tagaq screeches like an Eagle at the beginning of (Aorta 3:37) over a heavy metal-worthy drum beat & deranged gnashed-teeth voicings.  “Kill or Die”

5. (Centre 3:51) Features Shad’s hip hop and Tagaq’s breathy singing.

6. (Summoning 8:57) starts with Tagaq’s breathy singing over violin, with a whole Greek chorus of 50 voices for a background.  The song gets louder and louder and more frenetic as it goes on. This one is lovely experimental music. It would feel right at home in a Lexi Glass show.

7. (Cold 6:53) is a favorite. Another Lauri Anderson-worthy poem-song. Here the poem is about the unique physics of ice and the effects of global warming. Strings saw in the background and a steady rock drumbeat and male voiced drones drive the song steadily forward.

8. (Sivulivinivut 1:49) Is one of of the pretty free-form improvisations Tagaq and her trio of voice, violin and drum like to perform on the road. Short sibilant singing and spare violin. 

9 (Sulpher 3:00) Eeery ambient noise. Monks moan, Tagaq nashes and wails, violins saw.

10 (Rape Me 4:46) The one song on this album Tagaq did not write. This one is a Nirvana cover she can relate to given her deep activism trying to help women living in the Arctic deal with sexual assault. No words the FCC might object to, but it does repeat the words Rape me over and over again in Tagaq’s soft breathy singing voice

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Par Avion – "Surf The Friendly Skies/Nashville Surfline" – [Self Released]

Cousin Mary   7/13/2019   A Library, CD

Three piece surf music band from Southern California headed up by guitarist Bernard Yin (who has been in many bands including Brazil 2001), his wife bassist Rebecca Ramirez, and Derek O’Brien on drums (Social Distortion, Agent Orange). Excellent playing on these tracks, with some Latin, spaghetti Western and country tinges. Good twang and reverb and I hear that these guys actually surf!

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