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Music Reviews

McGregor, Chris Septet – “Up to Earth ” – [Fledg’ling Records]

ArtCrimes   12/17/2008   CD, Jazz

Joe Boyd produced three Chris McGregor projects for Witchseason Productions, each one using a larger group, culminating in the “Brotherhood of Breath” big band. But this session, the middle of the three, was never released, as Polydor had dropped Boyd’s production deal and Boyd’s new client, Island Records, didn’t want to promote a jazz release, so it took nearly 40 years for this session to reach the marketplace. Thanks to McGregor’s widow Maxine, Joe Boyd, and David Suff at Fledg’ling, McGregor’s early studio work is now fully in print and with royalties going to the right places (the Akarma vinyl release of “Brotherhood of Breath” is more or less a bootleg). McGregor’s first British session was performed with the black South Africans he had worked with for years in the Blue Notes, but “Up to Earth” added white English players as well, notably Jon Surman on sax and (on half of the tracks) Danny Thompson on acoustic bass. This expanded palette doesn’t change the basic strategy McGregor employed: fairly tight ensemble work to open each piece, and then breaking out to free playing over a groove, highlighting soloists (often several at once). McGregor’s piano work suggests Monk, and the overall sound is jubilant and spirited… not surprising with the South African players drawing on not only jazz but their own African influences. (crimes)

Electric Bird Noise – “Le Vestibule – Vestibule Transitoire ” – [No More Stars Records]

lombard   12/16/2008   A Library, CD

Electric Bird Noise is the project of Brian Lea McKenzie. On this 4th release, originally performed live on CFOU in Quebec on the radio show “Le Vestibule,” he creates mesmerizing atmospherics using guitar, loop machine, and effects. There’s a bit of a progressive influence at the start, as well as cinematic leanings and spacy drones. In places it’s spooky and you’ll hear what sounds like a large slab of quivering metal. Excellent music for mental journeys.

Tiny Concept – “For Tiny Bullshits… ” – [None]

lombard   12/16/2008   A Library, CD

Recently in town for some tour stops, including a live mic at KFJC, Tiny Concept is a one-woman band from Bordeaux, France. It’s fantastic, minimal rock with pronounced drum (machine?) and wispy female spoken vocals in a low-key 1980s vein, with similarities to Free Kitten’s sparer moments. This was recorded in Nashville in summer 2008 by Sikhara‘s Scott Nydegger.

Medicine and Duty – “Don’t Use ‘a’ ” – [Foolproof Projects]

Max Level   12/15/2008   A Library, CD

Andy Pyne and Matt Colegate of the UK–previously known as the chaotic duo project Raised By Wolves, which I loved–surface again as Medicine and Duty with new colleague Jack Cooper. This time, instead of RBW’s anarchistic guitars and drums, the focus is on aggressive electronics and drums, noisy repeating patterns, and rough textures that hit us like the sonic equivalent of a nasty dust storm. Everybody in the band contributes vocals as well, and the vocals are as inscrutable as the music. What the hell are they singing about, anyway? Overall, I have to say that as much as I like what this trio is up to, I enjoyed the organic-sounding guitar/drums madness of Raised By Wolves more than I did this project, mostly because the shrill electronic noises of this new lineup can be a tad overbearing sometimes.

Woman – “Mazes ” – [Endless Latino]

humana   12/14/2008   A Library, CD

Woman is four guys from Knoxville, TN who claim their music is hyphy (rambunctious) and post-punk. Chris Lowe on vocals, Jason Stark on drums, Damion Huntoon on bass, and Tyler Mucklow on guitar here offer us four songs that are definitely high-energy. Although Track 1 declares itself ???Not Quite Metal,??? I beg to differ. The lyrics are unintelligible but ever-present in these tracks, as is the thrashing guitar. The drums are great. My favorites are 2 (???No Mr. 31,??? in which they prove they can count to 31), and 3 (???Sssubtle Lady??? in which the music is anything but subtle). Each song ends around :04, and from what I can tell, the lyrics are clean.

Fire on Fire – “Orchard, The ” – [Young God Records]

humana   12/13/2008   A Library, CD

Colleen Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin are back, this time with Tom Kovacevic, Micah Blue Smaldone, and Chriss Sutherland. They???ve gone from using electric instruments in Cerberus Shoal to all acoustic here with these 12 tracks of down-home Americana. Banjo, accordion, guitar, jembe, tamborine, bass, oud combine with the harmonies of each of the band members??? voices in a predominantly upbeat slice of the life they share in their house in Maine. It???s quite obvious that they play music for the joy of the expression (9), and the lyrics are cool: (???It???s your family that drives you out of your mind??? [3]; life as a chess game [7]). Picks: 9, 10, 12, 5, 3. PGM: Watch for songs to end as early as :07.

Pop Ambient 2005 [coll] – [Kompakt]

humana   12/12/2008   A Library, CD

Pop Ambient 2005 – Coll.: Kompakt (2005)
Kompakt has done it again, this time providing us with a nice sampling of ambient offerings. Whether you enjoy soothing yet energetic percussive pulses (4, 10, 12) or shimmering sound structures that advance like a wave that takes you with it, then washes over you gently as it leaves you on the shore in bliss (4, 5, 9), there???s sure to be something here for you. It???s like musical comfort food. Picks: 5, 4, 3, 10, 12. PGM: Most tracks end around :05, but 5 and 9 end at :09, and 8 ends at :12.

3WR: Healing/Comfort/Peace

Shudders, The, “Big Heat,” Compact Records, 12″, 33 rpm

ophelia necro   12/10/2008   A Library

Female trio out of Oakland, Ca. The Shudders play raw and minimalist glammed-out garage rock. Nice follow up to their 7″ released and added earlier this year. The singer sounds a bit cutesy like Kathleen Hannah (Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, etc.) and there is a riot girl vibe without hairy pits and man bashing. 7 tracks clocking in at 23 minutes.

Handsome Family, The – “Drunk By Noon ” – [Carrot Top Records]

lombard   12/9/2008   7-inch, Country

On this 2008 7″ single from the Handsome Family (husband and wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks) we get some lovely country tunes, with a dark edge. Recorded in their home studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “Drunk by Noon” is a wonderful cowboy tune from their 1996 album “Milk and Scissors.” Its dour subject matter (beautifully written lyrics by Rennie) leaves the listener pondering inebriation, cancer, and mortality. (We actually have this track in our library on a “Little Darla” compilation, as well as a Sally Timms cover of it).

“Drunk by Noon” is a bit more upbeat and poppier (with male and female vocals) than the “AA” side’s “The Blizzard,” which is a cover of a 1964 Jim Reeves song.

“The Blizzard” is a heart-wrenching, depressing tale about a finding a man frozen on the plains “just 100 yards from Mary Anne.” You can hear the wind blowing, and sense the sadness of the lonesome, snowy trail and a lost love.

Anthology of American Folk Music [coll] – [Smithsonian Folkways]

ArtCrimes   12/8/2008   CD, Country

Commonly known among fans of traditional music as the “Harry Smith Anthology”, this collection originally was released as three separate two-LP sets by Folkways back in 1952. Smith was a true American eccentric, with a golden ear for recordings from the 20s and 30s and a knack for finding connections across a great expanse of folklore, mythology, politics and whatever else you got… bundling what seemed to be at first glance unrelated themes into this cohesive statement on America’s history. He was smart enough to group this music by function, not by style, so that any listener would have country, cajun, blues, jazz and gospel interchangeably entering the ear, rather than making some kind of studied path through each genre as if they existed independently from each other. Themes such as “Social Music” let you hear what people played for pleasure or purpose in their own communities… wherever they may have been… telling you as much about those folks as a photo or written account (and this package adds both of those resources as well). Smith’s own collection was huge, but he narrowed it down to these 84 selections for an overview of America’s recorded music from the pre-depression years. The results have been played by tradition-minded artists ever since, from Dylan throughout his career thru the folk boomers of the 60s to Beck and Nick Cave. (crimes)

Alcorn, Susan – “Curandera ” – [Majmua Music]

ArtCrimes   12/8/2008   A Library, CD

The pedal steel, rightly or wrongly, is so closely associated with Country Western music that any explorations outside that genre are inevitably colored by the association. But a few brave souls have escaped the shackles of the honky tonks by moving the pedal steel to another space entirely…Susan Alcorn does so here with unaccompanied improvs and variations on standards — both country and otherwise. She clearly has the skills required on this difficult-to-master instrument, but she applies them in such a way that you might instead be reminded of Fred Frith’s experiments with tapping and spare parts, rather than the wide open spaces evoked by the pedal steel on a million country classics. Even the few “songs” here are just signposts to improv journeys, rather than faithful navigations of melody and chord sequences. Fans of other pedal steel outsiders like B.J. Cole will find this a challenging road out of the country and into uncharted territories. (crimes)

Earpeace – “Earpeace E.P. ” – [Porter Records]

Max Level   12/6/2008   12-inch, Hip Hop

Cool abstract sounds from under the hip hop underground. Non Genetic (Shadow Huntaz emcee) adds his relaxed poetics to the quietly minimal beat backgrounds of Dawid Szczesny, who is working with turntable, sampler, and laptop. I like the vaguely unfinished feel of the music, which leaves the vocals plenty of room to operate. Non’s laid-back lyrics roll out over Szczesny’s cut-up beats, ping pong electronics, jazzy guitar chords, and soft sax sounds. A live bassist checks in on a track or two. Love this collaboration.

Czukay, Holger/Rolf Dammers – “Canaxis ” – [Spoon]

cinder   12/5/2008   A Library, CD

Holger Czukay was the bass play for the ever famous band, Can. Here he teams up with Rolf Dammers with 3 very mellow ambient tracks.
The first features a duo of two Vietnamese women singing with very melancholy tones. Looping and floaty, until about five and half minutes in where it seems the sun starts to shine. A choir, orchestral instruments, bass, keyboards & more interchange with each other through the 17 minutes. It ends about 8 seconds early.
The second track also features some vocals that are almost spiritual. Very calming and relaxing. Almost like a quiet camping trip on the mountain top with the Native Americans. Very meditative.
The last track was recorded straight from a radio broadcast in Germany, 1960. Very nice vintage sounding jazz tune. Sax I believe. Still has the hiss of the vinyl, very nice.

Thames / Wether [coll] – [Oh No No]

cinder   12/5/2008   A Library, CD

Wether is Mike Haley from Delaware, and Thames is Moskos & Hargreaves out of Quebec.
The first track (Thames) is live and killer. Starts off with rumbling crunched electronics, and then about 4 minutes in drops the fat beat. Shortly soon hammering of tin items and bleeping space controls take base. The rumbling is always there, but soon takes control again, waves and waves. 24 minutes of nice noise that’s never boring.
The following 5 tracks are by Wether. Whistling and boiling noise, ranging from 15 minutes, to 7 seconds! Track 4 is almost all blistering, but the last 2 minutes is as if you were suddenly under water in a submarine. More straight ahead than Thames. Use track 5 in between some mellow ambient tracks to wake up the listeners!

Dean, James, “Dean’s Lament”, 10″, Cleopatra

ophelia necro   12/3/2008   A Library

While interesting, the material on this 10″ is probably public domain and a rather blatant way of exploiting the dead film star, James Dean. James Dean was a very talented actor known for his work in the films “Rebel Without A Cause”, “Giant” and “East of Eden”. Dean was nominated twice for an Oscar and was the first and?? one of the few actors?? to receive a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor. Dean became a cultural icon and received legendary status due to his death in a car crash at a very young age (he was 24 years old).

Side A features a an extremely low fi recording of a late night jam session with Dean (on bongos) and Bob Romeo (flute?). The track has a soundtrack feel and sounds like something you might here in “Orgy of the Dead” (the Ed Wood film) or the soundtrack to a female “snake charmer” scene.” The “interview”?? is actually Dean explaining his motivation for his role in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Side B features another jam session track with Bob Romeo and Duke Mitchell and is more flute and bongos, very rhythmic and again brings to mind the dancing of natives…The disc concludes with?? a short interview with actor Gig Young for an episode of “Warner Brothers Presents”… In the interview which was done during the filming of “Giant” Dean, instead of saying the popular phrase “The life you save may be your own” instead said “The lives you might save might be mine .” Dean’s sudden death prompted the studio to re-film the section, and the piece was never aired – though in the past several sources have referred to the footage, mistakenly identifying it as a PSA. (The segment can be viewed on editions of Rebel Without a Cause).