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Music Reviews

Moondog – “The Viking of Sixth Avenue” – [Honest Jons]

Numa   3/30/2006   CD, Jazz

Jazz Percussion Genius. A comprehensive look at the musical career of Moondog a.k.a Louis Thomas Hardin. Mostly short pieces from early in his career when he was homeless in New York playing for money on street corners with his custom-made triangle drums (Trimba). He was lucky enough to find a few visionaries to help get his music recorded. Blind for most of his life and dressing like a viking after he was said to have looked like Jesus, Moondog lived on the edges of society. Offered to play once at Carnigie Hall if he didn’t wear the viking outfit, he declined. He appeared with such luminaries as Janis Joplin, William S. Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, Allen Ginsberg and hailed by artists such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich as the originator of minimalism. The Native American influences in Moondog’s music are right up front and inviting. Let’s hope there are more reissues of Moondog’s early works, this type of musicianship shouldn’t be lost to old 78s in a garage. –Numa

Numa’s Picks: 7, 8, 12, 21, 24, 26

Yellow Swans – “Drift” – [Root Strana] (33 rpm)

Numa   3/30/2006   12-inch, A Library

Ambient Free Noise. A new release from bay-area free noise duo Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman. The Yellow Swans are ‘Drifty? with this release. Each Yellow Swans release features a new name staring with ‘D?. Drift in this release is not only another name change, but reflects the music as well. Their sonic explorations takes you on a journey through outer-space and inner-space. No obvious beat to be found here, the syncopation is an individual experience. Guitars melt into and out of the electronic buzz and unlike other Yellow Swan releases, the drum machine is hard to spot. The ambient yet industrial sound on this album is solid. Side 1 reflections: Electrons flowing along the high-tension high-voltage power lines in the desert. Sucked into the back of a 1950’s black-and-white television and blasted on the inside of the tube. Licking the Wonka Wallpaper while being cut in half by a table saw. Trees felled as twilight falls. Side 2 reflections: Travels through a sunspot radiation storm. Floating, gentle, and melting. — Numa

Mecca Normal – “Observer, The ” – [Kill Rock Stars]

Thurston Hunger   3/30/2006   A Library, CD

Something about JEAN SMITH’s voice, the way it speaks to you
in between sing-song syllables. Stretchmarks of imagination,
instantaneous creative birth. Stories seemingly leap out of
her forehead, get bounced off the strings of DAVID LESTER’s
guitar. DAVID offers tight little balls of furious distortion
as well as choppy chords, but JEAN’s voice!?! So recognizable,
so welcome! I am woman hear me warble! And hear my world! Her
brilliant words, you get a sense of being so in the scene that
you become detached from it. Welcome to Paradox Paradise! Most
people aren’t that *aware* when they are actually there. So
calling this “The Observer” is genius, undeneath that title,
and down there in the interaction is a thread of online dating.
I am reminded of men coming for a princess’ hand, but none
being worthy. Behold Lady Sexullectual, not in an ivory tower,
no phallic prison, instead she’s out having coffee, shopping
for oranges, hugging goodbye, updating her profile. “Fallen
Skier” you are no match for her. Meanwhile, the staff are
encouraged to drink half-price when they show up. And we all
show up. Torched and torching songs from a two-foot eternal
flame that burns brighter and brighter. -Thirsty Hunger

Sanjah – “musen / is ” – [Psf]

Thurston Hunger   3/30/2006   A Library, CD

You don’t have to speak a word of Japanese to know that KAN
MIKAMI means exactly what he sings. His voice has this deep
resonance and resolution, at times it sounds like he might
dip all the way down into Gregorian intoning. The “voice” of
his partner MASAYOSHI URABE is every bit as impassioned on
sax. Whereas MIKAMI works the lower registers, URABE sails
up high to the squeakier part of the sound spectrum. Great
sparky sax on the opening number. On the second piece, URABE
blows a honky squonky tonk harmonica, while MIKAMI allows
TOSHIAKI ISHIZUKA to help stoke an angry fire. Man is this
recorded well, with enough cushion of reverb to give it that
kinda of excited hall of sound. #3 finds gusty flute leading
to more gutty sax. MIKAMI again is oozing emotion, like a
thin white-hot duke. Deep growl to choked whisper in seconds,
all the while keeping a sort of Dirty Three guitar strumble
flowing. This song goes through some harrowing passages,
I think URABE is blowing that thing on the cover…and it’s
calling legions from faraway planets to come here and sit
and listen to the voice of MIKAMI. By the end, you’ve got
the sound of a lonely king on a melodica throne. There’s
no ease in expertise. This album is alive. -Thurston Hunger

Vijaya – “Vijaya ” – [Exergy Music]

Thurston Hunger   3/30/2006   A Library, CD

Singer/songwriter LOTTA KARLSSON (aka Vijaya) hooks up with
her Stockholmies to produce a pop gem. It’s got that old
Drag City been-up-all-night-might-as-well-wait-for-sunrise
kinda vibe. Her voice is solemn but still pretty. The songs
are stark in structure, but glorious here in realization;
thanks largely to a certain Svengali Dali, MATTIAS OLSSON.
Something about his mellotron. It just knows how to capture
the happiness in sorrow, with that little tremble. It really
does add a theatrical grandeur to tracks, whenever it rushes
into the mix, you feel your universe expand. Most of these
numbers end up riding off into a seven-second sunset like
the heroes they are. Other players add coloring, some nice
light smokey trumpet from PER STYREGARD illuminates the
“Great Big City.” In fitting with the all-nighter energy,
most of the tracks are groggy, but still alert. “Your Gun
Will Never Set You Free” does charge things up a bit, and
recalls MATTIAS’ excellent work with Ak-Momo. “Reflections”
also gets a vox humana to prance about a plucky guitar line,
but the rest have a sort of saddle sadness, vague aire of
country (again like Drag City denizens, Edith Frost for one.)
Lyrics are often sweetly self-help straightforward. I’d love
to see more bands (like Low) visit Roth Handle Studios to get
this tarnished but varnished feel. Aces! -Thurston Hunger

Darondo – “Let Me People Go ” – [Ubiquity Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/30/2006   CD, Soul

Maybe Daron’s going to get that Dough after all? One love nugget
of a soul strike delivered here, and nicely rough around the
edges. This is physical therapy that applies some deep tissue
work to your hips. Darondo’s a man who knows the sexual/sacred
strength of the falsetto. “Legs” has got a flirty kick, and
his voice screeches with a *need* to pleased. And those bass
boop backups give it a nice Sly fly feel. For a relative
unknown, it’s great how easily this album slides in with
James Brown, Al Green and such. His voices oozes confidence,
and clearly he’s having fun slipping and sliding with it.
This album feels a lot sexier than it is lyrically, Darondo
seems more focused on the hearts and minds with his words,
but for me his voice takes the short cut past all that, and
stirs things up. I wish there more sections where they’d just
drop the music down to a drum, a minimal bass line and let
the voice work things out. The backing music comes and goes,
well on “How I Got Over” it attains a solid Al Green gospel
groove. And again noodly gritty bits generally here make this
thing feel more real typically…like its happening out on
the back porch of some mom and pop diner from the late 70’s.
The only thing that didn’t click with me wa “I Want Your Love
So Bad” which has a sort of Sproul Plaza sunshine lazy jam,
but the rest of this could raise a People’s Party in Berkeley
any time, any decade. Sweetback snack! -Thurston Hunger

Schwartz, Damian – “Arena En Los Zapatos ” – [Apnea Records]

aarbor   3/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Dami’n Schwartz first came in contact with techno and electronic music at age 15. Now in his early 20’s he likes to develop multiple musical concepts often using surprise, jazz, harmony and melody as elements in his solo productions. Jazz seems to be a prominent influence in his DJ sets. These 4 tracks are warm, friendly and very listenable, so do! AArbor

Balde, Daby – “Introducing Daby Balde ” – [World Music Network]

aarbor   3/29/2006   CD, International

This series is all about introducing up and coming African musicians to the rest of the world. Daby Balde is a former cab driver who was born into a noble family who didn’t support his musical interests. He’s from the Casamance region in southern Senegal. The southern Senegal sound is different from that of Dakar, it’s almost griot-like. Balde’s voice is slightly gruff but powerful in a very human way. The backing instrumentals are quite wonderful. AArbor

Blaktroniks – “This Is Your Drug on Brains ” – [Reflective Records]

aarbor   3/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Blaktronics is supposedly the branch of Physics that deals with the behavior of free blaktrons. The sound here has been described as “a sound that shifts and grows, morphs and innovates, transforms on the edge of your ears, on the tip of your tongue. A sound that seizes the past and hurtles it toward the future, blurring the boundaries of genres and moving bodies. Music that uses technology without ever sounding used.” Good copywriting but is it true? Listen and judge for yourself! AArbor

Zorn, John – “Bar Kokhba Sextet ” – [Tzadik]

aarbor   3/29/2006   CD, Jazz

3 sets (+ 3 CDs) of John Zorn’s Masada Songbook as tackled by the Bar Kokhba Sextet: who are the Masada String Trio (Mark Feldman – violin, Erik Friedlander – cello, Greg Cohen -bass, Plus Marc Ribot on guitar, Joey Baron on drums and Cyro Baptista on percussion. The Masada Songbook is a collection of hundreds of jazz pieces based on Jewish scales. The sound combines modern free jazz, more traditional jazz, ethnic flavors, hints of classical music and psychedelic space rock (think Ozric Tentacles). There are multiple takes of some of the pieces. Dig in, find your favorites and enjoy -there’s something for everyone here! AArbor

69 (Six Nine)[A/Ka/ Carl Craig – “Sound on Sound ” – [Planet E Communications]

aarbor   3/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

“Six Nine” is Carl Craig, who was born in 1969. Sound on Sound has been described as “Carl Craig’s timeless masterpiece of sonic grooves”. In ‘Rushed’ Craig samples the synth intro of the new wave jam “Hypnotic Tango” and pairs it up with backwards percussion. “Sub Seducer” has a wonderful distorted wash of sound. “Sound on Sound” is beatless, angular synth sounds. “Poi Et Pas” (my personal favorite) is a reference to “Peut Etre Pas”. Don’t miss – it’s a classic. AArbor

Beatfanatic – “Adventures in the Land of No-F ” – [Raw Fusion]

aarbor   3/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Beatfanatic is from Stockholm but you’d never know it by listening to this record. This is his 1st and from what I hear the 2nd is also great. This one is funky, jazzy, hip hoppy and Brazilian sounding and way fun. His inspiration includes King Tubby, Carl Craig, Sugarhill Records, and Aretha among others. From track to track you never know what you’ll hear and that’s the best part. AArbor

Bollywood:An Anthology [coll] – [Silva Screen Records Ltd.]

aarbor   3/29/2006   CD, International

Two CD set jam packed with songs from Classic and Modern Bollywood films. The 1st CD (Bollywood Classics) starts off with an outstanding Geeta Dutt track followed by tracks from Asha Bhosle, her sister Lata Mangeshkar and the 2 best known male singers: Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. The 2nd CD (Bollywood Contemporary) is even more interesting and well, contemporary! pick your favorite and play! AArbor

Jacobs, Henry – “Wide Weird World of Henry Jaco ” – [Important Records]

aarbor   3/29/2006   A Library, CD

I listened to the entire recording before I read the liner notes, which was a huge mistake that I urge you not to make!!! How this album came to be and what it is: An acquaintance of Jack Dangers found a large collection of tapes and records beneath the house he’d just purchased in Mill Valley. Jack listened to them and realized that they were the work of Henry Jacobs. He cleaned them up and returned them to Jacobs. This is a subset of Henry Jacobs legacy from his years of radio shows on KPFA and elsewhere. Who is Henry Jacobs? Henry had a long + illustrious career in Radio + TV. He collaborated with an impressive crew of people. His signature sound on KPFA was a blend of ethnic music and jazz with tape experimentation + mock interviews. He morphed ethnic music with looping rhythms over 50 years ago. He also did the first surround sound + light shows (Vortex Sound + Light Experiments) in 1957. Hysterically funny! AArbor

Chatham, Rhys – “Piano Music – Echo Solo” – [Azoth Schallplatten]

morris   3/29/2006   A Library

Chatham has such a rich history…La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, Pierre Boulez, Stockhausen, all in the late 60’s early 70’s. When punk hit, he was inspired to encoporate guitar sonics into his symphonic compositions. Working with Glenn Branca (amongst other heavies in the NY scene of the mid-late 70’s) he opened up huge avenues of thought without which, bands like Skullflower, Swans, Branca, Sonic Youth, would not exist. These recording were commisioned for the Robert Kovich dance company, and are heady, prepared theory for piano. Trippy intonations, great liner notes describing the whole shabang. Check it-

Philip Morris

Quantic – “1 Off’s Remixes + B Si ” – [Tru Thoughts]

aarbor   3/29/2006   12-inch, A Library

Will Holland is Quantic – we’ve added other releases of his. Here he’s remixing Ghana Soundz (the Ogyatanaa Show Band), DJ Angola (“Bailalao”) and Rosie Brown (“Bliss”). Others like Fink and Pain’ remix his work (“Blackstone Rock and Not So Blue”) respectively. Diverse raw material to work with and very fine remixes. Don’t miss. AArbor

Arora2C Kush – 22Bhang Ragga3ADanchall Bhangra I 22 – 5BKush Arora Productions5D

aarbor   3/29/2006   A Library, CD

Kush Arora’s 2nd release. It fuses ragga toasting, Indian elements, beats and lots of passionate attitude. There’s a more deliberate sense of anarchy here in the music and in the track titles: Sex + Violence, Anarchy, Assassination Attempt? The vocals are by N4SA, Sukh, Mr. Frank, and the musicians are from India, San Francisco, and Jamaica. Burnt warped bhangra and dancehall in a dark dub style. AArbor

Pink Mountaintops – “Axis of Evol” [Jagjaguwar Records]

morris   3/29/2006   A Library

Black Mountain leader Stephen McBean offers up hook-laden jangly psych tunes on the Vancouver tip. Lots of Brian Jonestown influence, less methodone, more BC Bud. Stoked on life, playin’ with folks and tourin’ around. Solid record, can’t get enough of track 2 (Cold Criminals)…just a nice heavy bass driven tune with great hook…as is most of this release. Great stuff.

Philip Morris

Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath “Bremen to Bridgwater” [Cuneiform Records]

cujo   3/29/2006   CD, Jazz

This is now officially the happiest album I’ve reviewed, and it’s going to be tough to knock this one off its position. There are 3 live concerts here on 2 CDs: 1 in Bremen, Germany in 1971 and 2 in Bridgwater, England in 1975. Praise be to Cuneiform for releasing these concerts. The Brotherhood was a wind-heavy big band ensemble, we’re talking old-school, Duke Ellington big, and many a British jazz career got a big lift in their lineup (like Evan Parker, who plays on concert C).

There’s an incredible exuberant vibe on these tracks, a Charlie Brown kind of innocence to it all. The music isn’t quite so simple though: all those horns get deliciously wild and crazy, and they get pushed to the brink of total chaos time and again by Louis Moholo’s drums. Right when you think they’ve played themselves to the edge and are about to take the plunge off the cliffs of insanity, they get reeled back in to the hooks to extremely satisfying effect, whether they be pounding marching band / Mardi Gras tunes (my favorite picks) or more Glenn Miller-y swinging serenades. In typical big band pianist fashion, Chris McGregor himself stays in the background, though this may be a function of the (instantly forgivable) so-so recording (the bass is also buried). Excellent liner notes. Simply tremendous; I can’t get enough.

Super Standouts: CD1 tracks 1,2 CD2 tracks 1,6

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006