Music Reviews

Brozman, Bob Orchestra – “Lumiere ” – [Riverboat Records]

Jawbone   10/31/2007   CD, International

Drop the proverbial needle anywhere on this compact disc by Bob Brozman and be prepared to take a musical journey that crosses many borders and genres. Skipping from Hawaiian to Klezmer to French to Indian to African and Okinawan it travels the world, sometimes within one song. All instrumental and all Bob, all the time…actually, it’s called the Bob Brozman Orchestra, because he multitracks a myriad of stringed instruments. He is helped out here and there by a couple of people on percussion, though. A well deserved egofest from a massively talented figure of blues/folk/world music, it is consitently exotic and smooth, but with a punch, like Martin Denny on steroids.


Guru Guru – “Guru Guru ” – [Brain]

Jawbone   10/31/2007   A Library, CD

By my count, this is the seventh release of the three nutty Germans who called themselves Guru Guru. Released in 1973, it finds them tight and in top form musically, but running out of ideas and focus. The two shorter tracks, “Samantha’s Rabbit” and “Woman Drum” are fun and quirky. The two longer songs that finish the disc, “Der Elektrolurch” and “The Story of Life” are sufficiently psychedelic, if not affected and dated, but the longest track “Medley” is a mess of disjointed, chopped up, rehashed fifties rock and roll and disappointing originals.

An interesting time capsule into one of the rockier, less proggy Krautrock bands of the early seventies.


Zepubicle – “Scientists Levitate Small Animals ” – [solponticello]

Jawbone   10/31/2007   A Library, CD

Shoe gazing, guitar grazing, organic netherworld of scraping, scratching moonscapes. Athens, Georgia trio Zepubicle, recorded this long, continuous piece live at Mercury Art Works gallery in December 2006. For convenience, the piece is broken into 5 tracks with Marshall Marrotte on guitar and bass, Killick on h’arpeggione, Jeff McLeod, guitar and Chapman stick, and guest Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion. At times, quiet as to be almost imperceptible. Other times exploding into crashing chaos.

A jazz ensemble loses its way or a rock outfit forgot to wake up one day?


Susanna – “Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos ” – [Rune Grammofon]

Jawbone   10/31/2007   A Library, CD

Norwegian chanteuse Susanna Wallumr??d, who is also half of the Rune Grammofon duet Susanna and the Magical People, whispers her way through this hushed, low key release. This is late night balladry, not to be exposed to sunlight for fear of shrinking into nothing. She steers close to pop and jazz vocal territory, staring them down in her headlights and barely grazing their fur as she whistles past, narrowly missing them. Spare, sparse, mostly piano, guitar and vocals, this is a beautiful edition to the library.


El Saffar, Amir – “Two Rivers ” – [Pi Recordings]

Daryl Licht   10/29/2007   CD, Jazz

AMIR EL SAFFAR: Two Rivers CD (Pi Recordings) – I must confess that I had never previously heard of Iraqi-American Amir El Saffar nor of any of the members of his solid ensemble. As the material on the appropriately titled ???Two Rivers??? (referring, literally, to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but also, symbolically, to the combination of two different musical traditions in the music on this CD) reveals, he???s a talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, and bandleader. Not only has El Saffar received extensive training in classical and jazz music in the United States, but he has also traveled to Iraq and immersed himself in a traditional form of the Iraqi music, the maqam.

Your introduction to maqam begins with the opening track ???Menba??? (Maqam Bayat) / Jourjina???, a showcase for El Saffar on trumpet, voice, and the beautiful and hypnotic santoor, which is an Iraqi hammered-dulcimer. While a few other cuts, most notably, the album???s other lengthy piece ???Blood and Ink (Maqam Awshar) / Aneen (Maqam Mukhalif)??? also focus mainly on the traditional sounds of maqam, the majority of the compositions on this disc are an excellent synthesis of the instrumentation (like the buzuq, dumbek, and oud) and stylistic elements of the maqam form and those of modern jazz. The resultant music is what one might expect/hope for: an organic, flowing, Middle Eastern-influenced style of ethno-jazz, which is best exemplified by tracks such as ???Flood (Maqam Hijaz Kar)???, ???Diaspora (Maqam Lami)???, and ???Khosh Reng (Maqam Awj)???, in which El Saffar and Mahanthappa engage in a fiery exchange of short solos. Genre-blurring, innovative, and well-executed, ???Two Rivers???, for the most part, hits all the right notes! DL

Bad Trips, The – “Bad Trips, The ” – [Rocketship]

Daryl Licht   10/27/2007   12-inch, A Library

Debut LP (limited to 500 copies on vinyl only!) from the Bad Trips, a new SoCal-based project led by psychedelic guitarist extraordinaire, Grady Runyon, of Monoshock and Liquorball fame. 5 tracks of lo-fi, instrumental kraut-psych jamming. Like most live to cassette basement recordings, this tends to lose focus at times, but scorchers like ???War On Drugs??? and ???First Priority??? make this a clear winner! DL

Serpent Power – “Ourobouros ” – [Locust Music]

Daryl Licht   10/27/2007   12-inch, A Library

Originally, Serpent Power was a Bay Area group, led by poet David Meltzer, whose music was a nice blend of lysergic folk and pop elements. They released one album on Vanguard in 1967 that is well regarded among many collectors. Soon after making that first recording, the original group disbanded for a variety of reasons and Meltzer put together a new incarnation of Serpent Power. This limited, vinyl only release documents previously unissued recordings made at the studios of legendary Berkeley, CA radio station KPFA in 1969 by this ???Mark II??? version of Serpent Power. It contains two side-long tracks of authentic hippie free psych jamming, highlighted by segments that feature unique sonic treatments such as eastern-influenced banjo freakouts (courtesy of J. P. Pickens) and (Daniel Moore???s) wailing shenai. While I???ll readily admit that there???s nothing particularly groundbreaking nor exceptional about these recordings (though they???re surely every bit as significant and worthy as the next release from NNCK or Sunburned Hand Of The Man!), this is still a nice artifact from those long destroyed acid days. DL

Branca, Glenn – “Symphonies Nos. 8 & 10 ” – [Blast First]

Daryl Licht   10/27/2007   A Library, CD

For the recording of “Symphony Nos. 8 & 10 (The Mysteries) ” Branca assembled an orchestra consisting of a drummer, a bassist/keyboardist, and 8 guitarists. Together they create the trademark dense, yet still dynamic, wall of evolving riffs, drones, feedback, and tones (all propelled forward in many segments by simple, but relentless, percussion) on which Branca has built his reputation. It seems as though each movement gets more harsh and jarring as the album progresses and, personally, my favorite track was the sublime Second Movement of Symphony Number 8, which strikes the best balance between droning, shimmering walls of beautiful sound and raw power.

If you???re not yet aware of Branca, this CD might very well be a good place to begin your explorations, as these seminal recordings are among his best and most ???accessible??? (if such a term can really be accurately applied to any of Branca???s work) compositions and, for better or worse, clearly influenced the development the ???post-rock??? movement made so popular in recent years by bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mono. DL

Apothecary Hymns – “Trowel and Era ” – [Locust Music]

Daryl Licht   10/27/2007   12-inch, A Library

“Trowel and Era ” is the debut full length from former Court & Spark member Alex Stimmel’s solo project, Apothecary Hymns. On this release Stimmel takes elements of indie rock, “American primitive”, 60’s British psych and folk, and 70’s major label rock (which, I know, sounds potentially bad, but is incorporated tastefully by Stimmel) to create a diverse range of excellent pop and rock tracks. Over the course of the album’s 9 tracks there are solid takes on contemporary indie rock (“Abandoned Factories”), acid folk (“The Father”), retro-sounding popsike (“Watching The Bay”), late 60’s/early 70’s English “group folk” (“The Marigold” and “A Sailor Song”), and, even, some over the top fuzz boogie (“All True Love Is Happiness”). In summary, “Trowel And Era” is a well-crafted and stylistically diverse set that’s not to be overlooked and I look forward with great anticipation to future releases from Stimmel’s Apothecary Hymns. DL

Parker, William & Drake, Hamid – “Summer Snow ” – [Aum Fidelity]

Daryl Licht   10/27/2007   CD, Jazz

I was very impressed with Parker and Drake???s first duo release, 2001???s ???Piercing The Veil???, so it was with much anticipation that I greeted their long awaited second volume of studio recordings ???Summer Snow???. Once again, Parker and Drake use an interesting assortment of instruments (doson’ngoni, shakuhachi, dumbek, water bowl, talking drum, frame drum, gongs, and tablas, in addition to their normal tools in the Jazz trade, the bass and drum kit) to create these intriguing, hypnotic, and beautiful tracks which incorporate Jazz improvisation with pan-global ethnic musical traditions. Although they apply a similar basic approach and instrumentation, this material on this set is decidely more focused on quieter, more meditative pieces and, as a result, I found this to be, overall, somewhat less impressive than ???Piercing The Veil???. Still, with excellent ethno-groovers like ???Sky???, ???Pahos???, and ???Faces???, there???s plenty of material to satisfy those who crave unique, genre-blurring sounds. DL

Raccoo-oo-oon – “Behold Secret Kingdom ” – [release the bats]

Daryl Licht   10/26/2007   A Library, CD

Iowa City???s prolific Racoo-oo-oon returns with their most cohesive, raucous, and best release to date, ???Behold Secret Kingdom???. The
Racoo-oo-oon sound is built on a foundation of percussion – ranging from simple, heavy tribal pounding to minimal, organic basement percussion improvisations, and even the percussive effects of elements not traditionally associated with the ???rhythm section??? of a “rock” band, such as tripped-out electronics. They then pile on (in varying combinations and intensities on each track) noisy blasts of guitar, droning, gurgling synths and electronic washes, wailing saxophone, and seemingly wordless, reverbed and delayed vocals (more like moans and wails) that function more as an additional instrument in this awesome aural assault, than as a means to convey any actual lyrical content. The final result of this sonic synthesis are these eight incredible tracks of joyous free-psych

The excellent opening track ???Black Branches??? sets the tone for the entire album. Like most of the tracks on this release, it begins with a vaguely ???normal??? heavy rock progression that builds as it develops, with additional dissonant guitar, wailing vocals, electronic noises, and percussion increasing the tempo, intensity, and volume of the piece until it reaches the breaking point – collapses – and then coalesces, only to begin the cycle all over again on the next track. So proceeds the rest of the disc: from the epic ???Antler Mask??? to the absolutely scorching ???Invisible Sun??? and on to the ultra-heavy stoner crush of the album???s closing track ???Tail At Prospect Peak???. There are a couple of more ambient pieces that provide a brief respite from this outstanding sonic onslaught, but even these, especially ???Fangs And Arrows???, eventually evolve until they reach a fairly feverish peak. With ???Behold Secret Kingdom???, Racoo-oo-oon has delivered a potent dose of artistic psychedelic out-rock that???s not to be missed! DL

Hala Strana – “Heave The Gambrel Roof ” – [Music Fellowship]

Daryl Licht   10/26/2007   12-inch, A Library

Steven R. Smith is, in my humble opinion, a nearly criminally overlooked and underappreciated musician who has been creating great music as both a solo artist and as a member of such projects as Thuja and Mirza for many years. He began his Hala Strana project in 2002 and ???Heave The Gambrel Roof??? is the fourth full length release under the Hala Strana name. Although numerous musicians have contributed to the project over the years, most Hala Strana recordings are solo productions and only the opening track of this LP features any outside contributors. As always, Smith uses an array of instruments (many which he built himself!) such as the bouzouki, cello, harmonium, hurdy gurdy, spike fiddle, and, of course, the more common tools of the modern music trade, the electric guitar and organ, to create this collection of dronescape miniatures and dazzling, pan-global acid folk.

Four of the eleven tracks are interpretations of Albanian folk tunes and two of these are among the highlights of the album. The spectacular ???Wedding Of The Blind??? opens the B-Side with a rich dronescape that builds until Smith cuts in on guitar with a righteous, almost rockin??? groove. The title track displays, at least, a reflection of its Balkan roots, combining layers of plucked, strummed, and frenetically bowed acoustic instruments to mesmerizing effect. Several of Smith???s original pieces are also quite impressive. ???Grain??? is the best among several more contemporary sounding acid folk tracks on the LP. ???Molars Of Smoke??? exhibits a Far Eastern influence, with lots of hand percussion, bells, and, in general, a spacious ambience that makes it the album???s most psychedelic track. ???Marl??? is a jubilant piece that borders on ???pop??? territory. ???Heave The Gambrel Roof??? is a carefully constructed, beautiful, and hypnotic release that???s truly one of Smith???s best! DL

Wooden Shjips – “Dance, California ” – [Sick Thirst Records]

Daryl Licht   10/26/2007   7-inch, A Library

This is the debut 7??? from local project, Wooden Shjips. The A-Side, ???Dance, California???, is an amphetamine driven mixture of white hot, acid punk guitar leads over crunching, Kraut/Spacerock rhythms that would fit quite comfortably next to bands like Simply Saucer, Chrome, and Shatter. The B-Side, ???Clouds Over Earthquake???, is an excellent, more traditional take on the classic Kraut/Spacerock sound. I look forward with anticipation to their upcoming full-length on Holy Mountain, which is due to be released soon, as these tracks are both outstanding! DL

Wooden Shjips – “Wooden Shjips ” – [Holy Mountain]

Daryl Licht   10/26/2007   12-inch, A Library

After a couple of limited 7???s and one 10??? EP comes the highly anticipated the debut full-length release from the Bay Area???s Wooden Shjips. It contains five tracks of excellent psych jamming. The rhythm section of Dusty Jermier (bass) and Omar Ahsanuddin (drums) lays down steady, stone grooves which provide the foundation for layers of Nash Whalen???s droning, pulsating keyboards and Erik “Ripley” Johnson???s fuzz/wah/echoplexed guitar freakouts. The tracks on this release seem to build in intensity as the album progresses, with the final two cuts ???Blue Sky Bends??? and ???Shine Like Suns??? being the highlights of this disc. A solid debut that???s sure to be a crowd pleaser. I look forward with great anticipation to hearing the Wooden Shjips fulfill their full potential with even more peaked performances in the future. DL

MV & EE With The Bummer Road – “Mother of Thousands ” – [Time-Lag]

Daryl Licht   10/26/2007   12-inch, A Library

I???ve got to admit that I think that a) the whole MV/EE thing is way overhyped and b) they were better when acting as part of a greater whole in the Tower Recordings. So, I???ll admit that I was skeptical about this new double LP release from MV, EE, and The Bummer Road on Time Lag that has been getting lots of hype as being their best work to date. Reluctantly, I???ve got to admit that it is. There are several tracks of fairly pleasing acid folk, most notably, ???Sunshine Girl??? and ???Canned Heat Blues???. That being stated, however, about 50% of the material here is still only semi-competant basement ramble that, quite frankly, is no better than the hundreds of hours of tapes that I have of me and my friends jamming, so I could hardly call this release an unqualified winner. If you???re really into the whole acid folk, basement psych, drone raga scene, then you probably want this. If not, well…you???ve been warned. A keeper, but barely, in my humble opinion. DL

Bunalim – “Bunalim ” – [Shadoks]

Daryl Licht   10/26/2007   12-inch, A Library

One might have thought that the well of high quality 60???s/70???s underground music from Turkey must have just about run dry, but the fairly recent releases of gems by Selda, Ersen, and, now, this LP by Bunalim prove otherwise. This LP compiles tracks from singles recorded by various permutations of the band between 1969 and 1972. The majority of the tracks are the cool mix of Eastern folk and Western rock (Anadolu rock!) that I???ve come to expect, know, and love from Turkey. A couple of the tracks veer into less satisfying hard rock territory. Overall, pretty cool. DL

Caribou – Melodyday (Merge)

outlier   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

Ever had your head blown off by a pop song ??? Everything the 70s pop song tried but failed miserably to achieve is presented here in majestic form.?? Impossible to imagine how one could improve this brilliant move to the summit of popular music.?? Guitar lines magically wind thru harmonies and all the hallmarks of composer genius is fully appreciated in the marvelous melodies of this mastepiece.??Trip backward and forward in time, around memories and dreams, for this is the defining soundtrack for those cherished 3 minute escape plans.??


Nightcrawlerz – Beatniks of the New Century (Third Mind)

outlier   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

Formed in 1981 around the principles of cut-ups and the Third Mind manifesto advanced by Burroughs and Gysin in 1978.?? Experiments on historic texts, diary entries, newsclippings and everyday occurences are compiled into audioworks intended to reveal the underlying truths of these coded documents.?? The concept is that interacting two single thoughts produces a third new event, a collaboration that creates its own path.?? Basement recordings of the highest order, Nightcrawlerz interpret literary genius thru incidental inspirations.?? Barry Roth and Cary Loren attain sounds on par with the distracted genius of the Shadow Ring or the madcap moves of Jad Fair with a genuine audio art approach.??


Odd Nosdam – Level Live Wires ( Anticon)

outlier   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

Vortices of viral spirals spill forth from this East Oakland soundsplice specialist David P. Madson. ??Don’t know why he didn’t just go with Madson but whatever the moniker this stuff kicks.?? Tiny loop soundscapes layered and laid out with some tarpit toetappin tempos.?? Exceptional, uh sorry, make that – illin’ vibes and minddrillin sounds that cover a vast spectrum in its path from the damaged to divine, leaving alot of poseurs in its wake (Jel drums on “Up in Flames”).?? G-dog, I got no street cred…but I’ll bet my left nut you can find something here that will take your show up a level or two.??


Hot Troche – Yopaakuyu With Me (Illegal Art)

outlier   10/25/2007   A Library, CD

Take that Boredoms sound, spread it out a bit over time, take out the testicle yanking screams, add some some far east pop/soul/downbeat malformations, stir-fry with some electronics noodles and serve cold.?? This second release from Tokyo brokenbeats artist Ryohei Kobayashi is described as “the sound of fighting with cars”.?? Hyper-active helicopter haircut tunes that could tip over several listeners per play.?? Kinda like Sixes in performance technique but in the breakbeats soundsystem.??