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Music Reviews

Dalaba, Leslie – “Timelines” – [Tzadik Records] (CD)

lombard   9/28/2005   A Library, CD

Released as part of Tzadik’s Oracle Series in October 2004, this is an amazing undertaking by trumpet player Lesli Dalaba. In an attempt to represent a history of the earth Dalaba did extensive research using geophysical and archeological data. She then plotted a timeline of the earth musically (see timesheet on CD and in the liner notes). Joined by Carla Kihlstedt (vioin), Zeena Parkins (harp), Ikue Mori (electronics) and Amy Denio (voice), Dalaba paints an intriguing portrait of the earth’s life, with sounds of water, buzzing, crackling, thunder, static, a march to symbolize human migration, and female voice.

-Cynthia Lombard

Arvo P?rt “Triodion” [Hyperion]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Arvo P’rt‘s choral works from between 1996 and 2002 exquisitely sung by choral group Polyphony on the budget classical label Hyperion. Well-presented liner notes. His ‘tintinnabulation? style is still dominant in these eight pieces in various languages: English, Russian, Latin… The highlights are tracks 2 and 6, which are stunningly beautiful, 5 and 8 are also recommended. Arvo continues to prove Schoenberg right: there is still plenty of good music to be written in the key of C.
1. Dopo la vittoria(10:00) – As dance-like as Arvo’s ever gonna get. Very Italian madrigal-like.
2. Nunc dimittis(7:33) ‘A setting of the Nunc Dimittis, it is naturally a partner piece to his Magnificat that we have in the library.
3. …which was the son of…(7:30) ? As funny as Arvo’s ever gonna get. A setting of one of those ‘X begat Y begat Z…’ bible texts.
4. I Am the True Vine (10:15) ? A series of notes repeated with rhythmic fluctuation, spread around the voices. Blah.
5. Littlemore Tractus (6:28) – A little help from the organ for this track.
6. Triodion (14:13) ? Sublime setting of three odes from the Orthodox prayer book.
7. My Heart’s in the Highland (9:11) – Setting of a Robert Burns poem, with organ and tenor soloist. Tenor rarely varies from his one note, very critically appreciated work but it drove me batty.
8. Salve Regina (12:13) – More help from the organ for this work that builds to a big climax.

-Cujo, Sept. 2005

Uri Caine “Dark Flame” [Winter & Winter]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Who is the greater genius? Uri Caine for adapting Mahler’s lieder music into these unusual arrangements, or Mahler for writing such universal music. As a devout Mahler fan, I approached this album with trepidation, and I still am trepidated. Notables violinist Mark Feldman and bassist Michael Formanek guest star. If you enjoy this, we also have the later album where Uri appropriates Schumann lieder, and we don’t have an earlier, different Caine/Mahler effort (Primal Light) focusing on the symphonies. My preferred tracks were 2, 5, 10, and 13, but I have the feeling you may have an entirely different set of favorites and may even consider this a five-star album.
mahler-jazz fusion jam with piano, violin, trumpet, drums, and spoken word (track 1), woman singing gospel (2), cabaret (3), cabaret funeral waltz turns into caine original jazz turns into a narrated letter (4), an instrumental attempt at a funeral march and trio, with fireworks (5), chinese recitation and instrumentation (6), male German preaching over crazy guitar riff and pounding drums alternates with a motherly voice reciting English poetry over a piano-x duets (7), a man laments while the cabaret ensemble and mild electronics accompany (8), spoken word over the cabaret ensemble, still not too sure what he’s talking about after repeated listens. last words are ‘what was there to do… but die?’ (9), chinese instrumental (10), pleasant cabaret waltz with male vocal(11), short German spoken word over toy-pianoesque accompanist(12), lively instrumental cabaret arrangement. my favorite track, probably because it sounds most like the original Mahler (13), another version of track 2, but purely instrumental (14)
-Cujo, Sept. 2005

David Coulter/Michael Gira/Jean Marie Mathoul/Charlemagne Palestine “Gantse Mishpuchah: Music in 3 Parts” [Fringes]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Holy crap, this is intense. Three dense electro-acoustic drones that never let up and chill your bones. An album apparently recorded by correspondence between main players David Coulter, Michael Gira, Jean Marie Mathoul, and Charlemagne Palestine (all of whom except Mathoul are found elsewhere in our library). I have no idea what Gantse Mishpuchah means (is it Yiddish? Whole Shebang? Apr 2006: I have been alerted it means Whole Family), but one thing is clear: the apocalypse is upon us, and it is a drone.
Part # one (22:17): Sounds as if inspired by an L.A. traffic jam. Makes the floor shake. Some bells/gongs/pianos are chimed along the way, and towards the end somebody is actually strumming a guitar.
Part # two (15:35): Sounds as if the sounds of your Louisiana back porch was partially interpreted as a drone. Things that sound like frogs, owls, and creepy-crawlies interrupt the grasshopper-like drone. A thumping Afro-cuban beat melts in and out, as do some vocal and/or radio samples.
Part # three (15:47): Sounds as if inspired by an orchestra of one-stringed cellos and basses tuning up before a concert. Unyielding organ. Faint clips of people talking – possibly an urban street scene, looping of said voices. It ends abruptly then is followed by a few seconds of sounds of wind.
-Cujo, KFJC, September 2005

Charles Ives “Holidays Symphony/Unsanswered Question (rev.)/Central Park in the Dark/Unanswered Question (orig.)” [Sony Classical]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Washington’s Birthday (10:27): A wintry soundscape is difficult to break open. A vast simultaneous pop tune medley led by a jew’s harp livens the mood for a few minutes, until the cold sets in again. A solo violin tries to interrupt and keep the mood up, but ultimately fails.
Decoration Day (9:57): What we would call Memorial Day. Quiet contemplation leads off the piece. The Dies irae is hinted at here and there. A trumpet plays Taps over tremolo strings, and then a brilliant march erupts as you head back into town. When asked to name a masterpiece, Stravinsky named this piece.
The Fourth of July(6:04): Begins with a warped take on the Marseilles (the French national anthem!) Finishes with orchestral fireworks.
Thanksgiving and Forefathers? Day (14:57): A calm giving of thanks gives way to a huge celebration around the dinner table. Strings and celesta then lead a phenomenal austere and pastoral interlude. Catharsis is reached when the chorus enters singing Duke Street – an incredible moment.
The Unanswered Question (revised version) (7:13): over a slowly shifting bed of strictly diatonic strings, a trumpet asks a 5-note question, and a woodwind quartet answers. Repeat 5 times, woodwinds getting more and more atonal and crazed. Existential burning consumes you.
Central Park in the Dark (7:26): You’re sitting in the park around 1900. It’s pretty quiet. As you begin to listen to your surroundings, all sorts of distant sounds and music become apparent. Before you know it, there’s music everywhere, and someone’s singing ‘Hello, my darling!? Then you come to your senses and it’s quiet again.
The Unanswered Question (original version) (7:01): see above, but slightly more complex. I prefer the revised, but only because I heard it first…

For fans of chaos, puritanism, yankee doodling, American music, bombast, rhythmic complexity, and for those unfamiliar with Ives. He is America’s greatest composer yet. This CD is quite possibly the desert island Ives CD.

If you really enjoy the music on the disk, you should also check out Ives’ similar works “Three Places in New England” and his “2nd Orchestral Set – From Hanover Square North The Voice of the People Again Rose…” (or something like that).

‘Cujo, Sept. 2005

Present Music “Haunted America” [Innova]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Music commissioned and performed by Milwaukee’s Present Music chamber ensemble for their 2001-02 season. The Innova label was new to me, but I now dig it.
Jerome Kitzke – HAUNTED AMERICA – (18:22): This 9/11 response piece is the highlight of the disc. The composer leads the percussion & chamber ensemble reciting snippets of Allen Ginsberg: ‘Hey America – What Haunts You?’. This wild and potentially emotional ride has an arresting bells-and-whistles start and on the way you will hear strains of native american, pop, and klezmer music. I even heard strains of China and Bobby McFerrin. And it ends with the always welcome outburst of laughter.
Michael Torke – SONG OF ISAIAH – (13:45): Yuck. A woman interminably sings the Song of Isaiah over some indistinguishable circle-of-5ths and rhythmic structures.
Kimmo Hakola – CHAMBER CONCERTO – (31:55 total): Yet another example of Finland exporting fantastic new music. Here is a 5-part suite with fun-to-pronounce Italian subtitles. I give permission to play individual movements by themselves. Very dramatic overall work with moods ranging from the angry (Sono furioso!) to the lyric (Sono amoroso!).
— Cujo, Sept. 2005

Boduf Songs – “Boduf Songs ” – [Kranky]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   A Library, CD

Mat Sweet (nope not that one) comes from Southampton in the
UK, a place where evidently the sun rarely shines through.
Possibly eclipsed by the “Pitch Black Rainbow” Sweet pukes up
on the leadoff track? Sweet’s narcoleptic vocals and laconic
acoustic guitar still can’t dispel the sense that this album
(and life itself) are fleeting. Cryptic lyrics toy with the
flesh a la Devendra Banhart, and Sweet likewise enjoys the
thickness of thin vocals double-tracked. All turns sour in
Sweet’s world: wells are poisoned, steps are counted towards
oblivion, the sun is blackened, and Sweet tells us that we
are “sick of it down to our hearts…our souls…our bones”
As much as I’m a melancholic-oholic, I found myself yearning
for a bit more pep, some of which leaks into “Lost in Forests”
and “Claimant Reclaimed” by way of a fractured Gastr del Sol
feel. Evidently Sweet is involved with a half dozen other
projects which span a variety of genres but tend to share a
slowness. His work with sonic accoutrements is the highlight
here, backwards guitar on #1, #8 (panned nicely on the latter)
bowed songs and maybe bowed birds (is that their death-chirp
rattling?). The two instrumentals (#3, #7) are gorgeous and shimmering. I could see a cross-the-Atlantica collabortation
with Steven R. Smith in the offing.

Ferrari, Luc – “Anecdotals, the ” – [Sub Rosa]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   A Library, CD

I bought this and another Ferrari shortly before his passing
(8/25/2005). Quelle drag… This album is a great set of
splicing decisions with sound recordings he made from world
travels. Much of the sounds from *after* the year 2000, so
though he was 76, we still feel cheated…he still sounds
playful. Americans might jump to #10, but the polyglot power
of the other tracks cannot be ignored. The “Numero Quatro”
rhythm of the lead-off track is so insistently infectious,
it even spreads to the mad cow madness of #9. In Ferrari’s
hands and our ears, the world becomes a smaller, yet more
wonderful place…

In reading online, I see this quote from Ferrari that may
fit the recording/restructurings we find here…

“…radio was something completely new. I was a kid
during the Second World War and even before that my
parents had one of the first radio sets, and there was
Radio London. I can still remember those four timpani
strokes, and then that mishmash of voices scrambled by
electronic devices, through which you could hear those surrealistic messages, like cadavres exquis!

Though he’s an exquisite corpse now, he was better alive
…and is surely, sorely missed.

Haiku review times two:

Eaves dropping delight
Anecdotal evidence
Of Ferrari’s dreams

Sound invigorates
Decomposing composer
Concrete comes alive…

Zu – “Way of the Animal Powers, the ” – [Xeng]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   A Library, CD

Amazing how many bruises this album leaves on you after only
25+ minutes. Italian heavy hitters this time collaborate with
Fred Lonberg-Holm. The title is inspired by a Joseph Campbell
book; the myth explored here is that of the saxaphone snake
that slinked into the Garden of Rock, and convinced Adam and
Eve (that’s us listeners) to abandon our prejudice favoring
only the guitar as the chosen instrument. While they’ve
connected to Chicago before via Spaceways, Inc, this time
Lonberg-Holm followed the every road leading to Rome, and
brought with him a sizzling amplified cello. This band is
so heavy, so cohesive, so potent. Simply one of the best rock
bands going today bar none… Massimo delivers damaged yet
fortified bass at the same time, Luca Tomasso’s sax is the
flaming totem, but this time out is was Jacopo’s drums that
really caught my ear, and damn well tore it off. He even
offers exuberant vocals on the closing number. (There’s also
spoken words about Monte Cazzaza on the lead-off track.)

Zu Haiku Zu True
Zu Bruises Zu Zu Be Do
Zu Sax Drums Bass Zu

Eye Contact – “Embracing the Tide ” – [Utech]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   CD, Jazz

Eye Contact proved to be quite an eye-opener and ear-charmer.
Matt Lavelle is the catalyst here on bass clarinet (with
riveting digeridoo undertones on the first track) as well as
flugelhorn and trumpet (“Wiz Church” features a tight muted
solo over some skippery high bowing by bassist Matt Heyner.)
Though its title features a watery, this CD conjured images of
mountain climbing to me, that rush of how’d they get so high.
Simply put this is a STAGGERING release. Gotta hear more from
Lavelle who evidently escaped us for a decade or so in NYC.
The first track gets a ground-clearing by Heyner and drummer
Ryan Sawyer, then Lavelle just scorches (is that a) bcl? It
sounds like a hornet in a shenai for minutes before dropping
down into the familiar bubbly register. At 13 1/2 minutes in,
though getting stronger all the time, the piece takes a quiet
chimed tone with slow poetic playing, then a long enjoyable
climb back to thrilling heights. Next track is a horserace
neck-and-neck Lavelle galloping trumpet against Sawyer, at
the end the darkhorse bcl emerges to win. He brings flavors
of Addis Abada at the end of “Wiz Church.” And then all holy hell breaks out for “Father” – pure passion!

Rogers Sisters, the – “Les Fantaisies Sont Bien ” – [Troubleman Unlimited]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   7-inch, A Library

Well this petit nombre was un hit fantastique back when they
sung in Uh-merican. It gets French kissed this time around
(although their still screaming in English). That same great
riff, the saxamoan swirl…the talky bits (albeit coated in
francaise sauce…).

On the flip, “45 Prayers” (like its Angli-kin also found on
the most recent “Three Fingers”), is served for strangers
in strange lands, this time Miyuki Furtado Japanslates
the number…though it retains its heavy breathing beat
texture as well.

The Rogers Sisters were born on turntables, (Daddy owned
a record store) long may they spin… I sure look forward
to their next record…

Haiku Review:
Fantasies are nice
Nicer still through french kissed lips
Foreign exchange fun

Oneida / Plastic Crime [coll] – [Brah]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   12-inch, A Library

Oneida (and this is the first imprint of Oneidan Fat Bobby’s
label) get a rustic rhythm going up and over the levee
with tub-thump drum and dangling banjos…on top of it a
drifty falsetto riding the rails of this railroad car rock.
About two thirds of the way, all the strings pile into
the caboose and cut loose from the insistent percussion.
Modern minstrel mode, but Bobby sends a synth pulsar in the
stead of the heavy beat, every bit as hypnagogic.

Chicago’s Plastic Crimewave Sound’s “End of Cloud” may be
mistitled. As this number to me sounds far more terrestial,
like a pounding, probing tunnel to the center of the earth.
Relentess dum-drum thwack attack and magma-coated guitar
sparking along the sides drive this deeper and deeper. At
some time, a sort of chanting is “unearthed” are we going
to reaquaint ourselves with the Residents Molemen? Are we
going to find an alternate university with members of Gong
forever youthful?’ Or are we going to hear some scattered
and slow-slurred poesy? Ah, ya peeked…

Silva, Alan & Parker, William – “A Hero’s Welcome ” – [Eremite]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   CD, Jazz

Gothic improv? At least parts have that sort of shadow and
spire sonic architecture, certainly when William Parker bows
his strings with the slow squeak of rusty cemetery gates.
Parker covers a lot of territory under the sounds of Silva,
spinning spidery webs of sound from contrabass. Moments when
he gets slappy and twitchy like on the beginning of the last
track summon an Ennio Morricone tenseness. Sometimes Silva’s
experimental keys (is it the Synclavier from “Emancipation
Suite?”) get crazy otherworldly, but he deftly switches at
just the right times to the acoustic piano (which sounds
like it was recorded on a new wood stage right at ear level.)
Back to earth, back inside the atmosphere. Just gorgeous.
I was stunned when I heard an audience at the end. They
were quiet as the night sky during the performance.
Midi-timpani (?) thumps away on the beginning of #4, the
thunder spoke and conversed with short staggers of piano.
A nice reminder of piano as percussion. The piano itself
never lurches and searches like the synth, its interspersal is the grounding that keeps the rest aloft.

Haiku review:

Silva screens synth dreams
Parker stretches canvas wide
Images collide

Nortt / Xasthur [coll] – [Southern Lord Recordings]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   A Library, CD

It’s the age-old story, monster meets girl, monster and girl
fall in love, girl realizes monster is indeed a monster, girl
tries to leave, monster writes love songs build on electric
piano dirge and shards of crackle guitar. That’s the first
three tracks of Nortt, the last track a more spacious synth
abyss float allows us time to ponder whether monster actually
ate girl. Meanwhile, Xasthur comes along with a sort of
Thin Lizzy guitar buried in the reverby grave of the Cocteau
Twins. “Blood from the Roots of the Forest” is the standout
with a lengthy hyperdramatic, standing-in-a-wind-tunnel intro
that gives away to more downed doom minor chord mope, but
then someone fires up the bass-drum pacemaker. On the closer
“Lurking in Silence” we see that Xasthur really wants to be
Mortiis sitting at a piano overlooking the cliffs. Good music
for a slasher cartoon. I hope KFJC’s Trix-ter is right and
these one-man metal bands unite into a true five-piece band,
there needs to be some serious in-fighting and friction added
to take this up a notch (or down a ring into the inferno).

Camberwell Now – 22All27s Well 22 – 5BRec Rec Music5D

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   A Library, CD

After This Heat flamed out, drummer/vocalist Charles Hayward recorded with Trefor Goronwy (bass, vox and more) and Stephen Rickard (mucking about with tapes) as Camberwell Now. This CD compiles all of the odd art-damaged and deliberate work from that project during its lifespan (1982-86). Much of the work has a morose charm (although the snake-tape handling on “Spirit of Dunkirk” moves more spritely.) Haywards taut
drumming is surpassed only by his interesting lyrical tangents.We wind up with tales of setting sail, of working class weariness. His poetic voice has a nice prophetic thickness to it, and while the songs aren’t easily loaded into memory, once in there they are not easily extracted. Singing styles
are also elasticated into characters, something not enough bands are brave enough to do. I loved this album well before I hit track 10 (another more upbeat number) and found myself singing along to the mantra of my favorite DC hero,

“In brightest day, in blackest night…”
” No evil shall escape my sight…”

Holy Hal Jordan!! Fortunately this didn’t escape the ear of the sonic crusaders at Recommended Records!!

Haiku Review:

This Heat afterburn
Bright sun shines in lyric mind
Dark drums beat below

Mccombs, Cass – “Prefection ” – [Monitor]

mitch   9/16/2005   12-inch, A Library

Juggling fact and fiction via the arching use of
slowcore-inspired organ/keyboard/guitar textures
of repetition, CASS is back ??? good news for fans
who favor rough-edged yet pretty pop???.???Equinox???
opens things with a ringing guitar pattern/swelling
keyboards/syncopated bass notes, each given a
turn at carrying the melody???

???Of all the creatures in the wood /
one law is perfectly understood /
Deep in the heart of Fountainbleau /
The marriage of a whore and a Jew /
the bride???s true dowry black rocks??????

???Subtraction??? builds on a frenetic drum line & one-note
bass???.extra clean guitar work on ???Sacred Heart??? lights
dark lyrical corner with bright musical fa???ade???.???Cuckoo???
is a sulking slouch of perverse moodiness, grey with
foreboding?????????Tourist Woman??? finds MCCOMBS calling
the kettle black with ???.???Romantics are doomed / and
that???s a good thing???.??? Elusive, allusive, high concept
and obscurantist, CASS MCCOMBS (best on # 1, 2, 5,
6, + 9) continues to produce high-quality indie pop.
MITCH September 2005

[coll] “PDX Pop Now! 2005” -[PDX Pop Now] (CD)

lombard   9/14/2005   A Library, CD

Non-Profit PDX Pop Now! has as its mission to evangelize music from Portland, Oregon via festivals and compilation CDs. In advance of their August 2005 festival (free and all-ages) they released this collection of Portland artists. It includes heavyweights like Sleater-Kinney and Decembrists (with a previously unreleased demo) along with a variety of pop, rock, electronic, and miscellaneous genred artists. There’s a nice 4-track recording from Mirah, a fun electronic piece from Glass Candy, upbeat girl rock from the Gossip, and a European-feeling gypsy-ish track from Shicky Gnarowitz.

Portland promoters
Pop Rock Electronic Odes
Lovely Ladies too

(added 9-14-2005)
-Cynthia Lombard

[coll] “A Second Tribute to Jandek: Down in a Mirror” [Summersteps] (CD)

lombard   9/14/2005   A Library, CD

Reclusive artist Jandek played his first live concert ever in fall 2004 and his first show in the U.S. in August 2005 and played a few more in September, including a NY show. This tribute to him, released in summer 2005 comes out just in time to celebrate his emergence from obscurity. Acoustic, folky, weird spoken word, psychedelic are terms to describe the folks covering Jandek on this release. George Parsons (#10) has the weird spoken piece, Marshmallow Staircase (#8) takes the psych route, and KFJC faves Six Organs of Admittance, Mountain Goats, Okkervil River and Kawabata Makoto round it out. Lots of lo-fi stuff to inspire.

Haiku Review:

Jandek fans rejoice
Folk psychedelic sojourns
Lo-fi beauty nice

(added 9-14-05)
-Cynthia Lombard

Eau Claire – “Eau Claire Ep, the” – [Clairecords]

lombard   9/14/2005   A Library, CD

Released in May 2005 this is an ethereal EP featuring Jessica Bailiff and Rachel Staggs. Bailiff lives in Toledo and released her first album in 1998. Staggs lives in Austin, Texas and was in Austin bands Swells and Experimental Aircraft. Recorded and produced by Low’s Alan Sparhawk (an old friend of Bailiff’s), Eau Claire’s EP is misty, spacy, and fuzzy with buried female vocals. It’s reminiscent of shoe gaze, space rock, with nods to bands like My Bloody Valentine and the mellow side of Lush. Nice beauty. (added 9-14-2005)

-Cynthia Lombard