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Music Reviews

Vlor – “Six-Winged” – [Silber Records]

humana   11/30/2009   A Library, CD

Vlor began in 1997 when Brian John Mitchell and Russell Halasz recorded guitar in a racquetball court. For this CD, Mitchell is joined by guests such as Jon DeRosa of Aarktica, Jessica Bailiff, Annelies Monsere, Martin Newman of Plumerai, Paolo Messere (and many others). The music is, for the most part, relaxing, reverby guitars (although 16 features an amazing bit of beauty produced by a dulcimer or lute). 8 is the oddball, in a great way, in that it???s the only fast-paced rock song in a sea of calm shoegaze. Just the thing when you have unpleasant houseguests.

Muldaur, Geoff, and The Texas Sheiks – “Geoff Muldaur and The Texas Sheiks” – [Tradition & Moderne GmbH]

ArtCrimes   11/30/2009   CD, Country

Geoff Muldaur has a long, long history with the jug band sound, having been in Jim Kweskin’s jug band group 40 years ago, which was to spin off three or four future bandleaders after disbanding. (That’s where he met his ex-wife to be, Maria.) He’s got the right voice for this material (he sings about half of the leads here), understands the terrain well, and has a crackerjack band of musicians from Austin and beyond (including Berkeley old-timer Suzy Thompson). Steel guitar all-star Cindy Cashdollar is a standout, as well, and Jim Kweskin himself is here too, singing lead on “Fan It,” “Under the Chicken Tree,” and “Blues in the Bottle.” This project was built around giving support to Stephen Bruton, longtime lead guitarist for Kris Kristofferson and many others, during a period when he was suffering from cancer (he passed away May 2009). The sessions were pretty relaxed and exactly what this music needs in terms of polish. It’s all cover tunes, with jug band, hokum, & country blues sources. Skip James’ “Hard time Killing Floor” is as chilling as it ought to be, with a falsetto vocal from Johnny Nicholas. Between this and Maria’s new release, “Garden of Joy,” the jug band scene is in good health for another few years. ( (crimes) )

Sonny & The Sunsets – “Tomorrow Is Alright” – [Soft Abuse]

humana   11/27/2009   A Library, CD

Out of San Francisco come the mellow, acoustic sounds of Sonny & the Sunsets. Guitars, keys, tambourines, bells, fingersnaps accompany the clear vocals of Sonny Smith, whose lyrics are stellar. There are nice back-up vocals from the Sunsets, all contributing to a consistently upbeat vibe that isn???t surf, but is reminiscent of the 70s and Bob Dylan on occasion. Definitely worthy of many a listen, especially since each song is likable in its own way.

Things About Comin’ My Way [coll] – [Black Hen Music]

ArtCrimes   11/25/2009   Blues, CD

The Mississippi Sheiks were a hugely popular Mississippi duo (with a couple of other floating members) playing a very stripped-down and aggressive style of country blues in the 1930s. Among their key songs are the still-played-today “Sittin’ on top of the World” (later versions cut by Cream, Doc Watson, and the Grateful Dead) and “World is Going Wrong” which Bob Dylan modified for an album title of one of his two collections of folk and blues cover tunes. As a tribute to their catalog, the Vancouver-based Black Hen label recorded new versions of Sheiks songs, some of them instrumentals, with an eye towards updating them rather than doing a strict recreation of their sound. The results range from the still plenty blues-oriented John Hammond and Kelly Joe Phelps, to Danny Barnes’ banjo pickin,’ to jazz inflected Bill Frisell and Madeleine Peyroux and the almost art song approach of Robin Holcomb. As is always the case with these collections, some of this may not float your boat but in general many of these performances capture the spirit of the Sheiks, if not their actual sound. ((crimes))

Muldaur, Maria – “and Her Garden of Joy” – [Stony Plain Records]

ArtCrimes   11/25/2009   CD, Country

Once upon a time, Maria Muldaur (then named Maria D’Amato) was a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band, along with John Sebastian in his pre-Lovin’ Spoonful days, and she also spent some time in Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band. Here we are some 40 years later and she’s once again playing with Sebastian, Kweskin, and a cast of other jug band enthusiasts (Taj Mahal, David Grisman, and Dan Hicks among them). With a mixture of covers from the jug band era and new tunes written somewhat in that style, as well as a couple of new swing tunes by Dan Hicks, it’s a bit of a way-back machine but a nice change of pace. Some of the topical tunes from the (first) depression are still relevant today. Muldaur has always had a great voice for this kind of music, and it’s clear she has considers this music, and American blues in general, to be a big influence for her. ((crimes))

Terminal Lovers – “As Eyes Burn Clean” – [Public Guilt]

lombard   11/24/2009   A Library, CD

With a “street date” of today, this brand new release “As Eyes Burn Clean” from Terminal Lovers delivers a heavy wallop of masculine psych. It begins with an ominous piece that verges into heavy territory that wouldn’t be all that odd to hear amongst a set of metal-tinged sounds. Yet other tracks are more melodic, with male vocals and even a hint of instruments more familiar to a jazz release. Hectic rock workouts are at the core, but all tinged with a psychedelic haze.

Six Organs of Admittance – “Luminous Night” – [Drag City]

lombard   11/24/2009   A Library, CD

On their August 2009 release, “Luminous Night,” Six Organs of Admittance covers the gamut of spacy, magical, and heavy psych. It begins with a lovely instrumental that might feel at home at a hipster-filled Ren Fair, with its flute and viola accenting the standard guitar/bass/drums.

As we move into the album, we get a combination of instrumentals and pieces with Ben Chasny’s vocals.

It’s all quite mystical and will perhaps transport you into another world.

Analog Africa No. 5 – Legends of Benin [coll] – [Analog Africa]

Cousin Mary   11/21/2009   CD, International

German Samy Ben Redjeb scoured African markets for these gems recorded by musicians in Benin between 1969 and 1981 and released them on his label “Analog Africa”. He also wrote the excellent notes in the accompanying booklet that tells a lot about the musicians and about how he found their music.

Wonderful African music with great instrumentals, vocals (some French), and driving beats. One hears influences of Latin, funk, reggae, and even an accordion (Track 2) reminiscent of Zydeco.

Note: Benin (I found 3 pronunciations: buh-NIN or be-neen or Bay-nahn?) is in West Africa between Togo and Nigeria.

PGM: Track 14 begins with a song that is about 7 minutes long, then silence, then another song that begins at the 9-minute mark (about 4 minutes remaining).

Highly recommended!

Crepuscule Trio – “Unveil” – [Circumvention Music]

Cousin Mary   11/21/2009   CD, Jazz

Excellent effort from these fine Southern California players – Ken Kawamura on sax, Alan Cook on drums and percussion (especially tracks 3 and 9) and Anthony Shadduck on bass. Improv and composition show some roots in straight ahead jazz and swing but are firmly in the modern era.

Listenable and original.

Running In Place – Locked Grooves From WFMU [coll] – [Wfmu]

Max Level   11/21/2009   12-inch, A Library

An LP full of freaky and fun locked grooves from our friends at WFMU in New Jersey. Plenty of stuff to discover here, and always a groove or two you didn’t come across the last time you played the record. Happy hunting! I won’t disclose my favorite cuts because even if I did, you may never be able to find them yourself. Well OK, here’s one: Side A, Track 33 has two Beatles chords alternating forever. How fun is that? Some cuts are quite clever, others rock out with a good beat, some are just annoying, others are, well, stupid (a guy says “chicken pot pie…chicken pot pie…chicken pot pie…”, another guy says “moo… moo… moo…” and they never ever stop.) You’ll even hear Dave Emory’s voice in a couple of places. What’s interesting about playing any locked groove for a really long time is that eventually the repetitive zen factor will cause audio hallucinations; you’ll start hearing words that aren’t there, new melodies will appear, the thing will seem to change even though it really doesn’t… that’s been my experience anyway. So have fun with this. If you needed proof of how weirdly cool the folks at WFMU are, look no further… further… further…

Gas – “Compressed Gas” – [Siltbreeze]

ophelia necro   11/17/2009   7-inch, A Library

Threesome (sometimes foursome) from New Zealand. Guitar, bass, keyboard and percussion. The members take turns doing the vocals as well as taking turns with the instruments. This makes for a pretty interesting listen since no two songs sound the same. Recorded at various locations in Christchurch, New Zealand 1996-1998. My picks are “Cubicle” and “Pushing Against Me”.

Bad Statistics – “Lucky Town Gone” – [Pseudo Arcana]

ophelia necro   11/17/2009   A Library, CD

5 piece out of Wellington, New Zealand. Sophomore release. Really weird vocals by Thebis Mutante (sounds like he is seriously tripping on something), repetitive tribal rumblings beneath. Guitars, reeds, bass, drums, organ and electronics. Elements of prog, drone, doom rock, etc.

Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, The – “Here Be Dragons” – [Ad Noiseam]

Cousin Mary   11/14/2009   12-inch, A Library

TKDE is based in the Netherlands and mixes traditional instruments with electronics to a mostly comfortable but occasionally unsettling effect. Strings, bass, piano, voice and trombone dominate at various times in this dreamy music.

???Here be dragons??? might refer to the places on old maps that were outside the known territory where pictures of dragons appeared in the reaches of the ocean.

PGM: Many tracks begin VERY quietly for the first 15-30 seconds.?? Released on 2 12″ LPs, includes a copy on CD.

Reid, Steve – “Steve Reid/NOVA Featuring The Legendary Master Brotherhood” – [Soul Jazz Records]

Cousin Mary   11/13/2009   12-inch, Jazz

Drummer Steve Reid (born in 1944, still performing) has played with everyone, it seems, from Sun Ra to Martha and the Vandellas. His work shows the effect of his time playing in Africa, he also credits John Coltrane as an influence.

Very cool re-issue of a 1976 recording ??? jubilant, high energy with a driving beat. Sometimes it has a Latin sound; sometimes it dips into free jazz. Interesting piano continuo on some tracks lays a nice bass line, fine playing from all.

Music that makes you feel you are alive. Wow.

PGM: Organ alert: A-2 and B-1.

Noertker’s Moxie – “Druidh Lacunae” – [Edgetone Records]

Cousin Mary   11/11/2009   CD, Jazz

Bassist Bill Noertker composes and arranges all the tracks on this brand new release (October 2009) that walks a thin line between the avant garde and tradition. Fine performances from all, including Annelise Zamula on sax and flute. Liner notes have track-by-track descriptions that work well for DJ???s front or back announcements.

Low key, but with an edge.

T.D. Skatchit & Company – “T.D. Skatchit & Company” – [Edgetone Records]

humana   11/10/2009   A Library, CD

Tom Nunn and David Michalak are the maestros of the skatchbox, contructed out of cardboard boxes and played with combs. Is it dogs panting, or frogs croaking, pigs oinking, helicopters rotoring? A bevy of artists join these two creative people, adding voice, viola, trombone, sax, gongs, electronics, and slussomatic (which sounds like the computer from ???Lost in Space???). It???s a wild, weird ride, and it???s very KFJC.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – “Vs. Children” – [Tomlab]

lombard   11/10/2009   12-inch, A Library

What a delightful slab of vinyl from Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. This 2009 release “Vs. Children” includes simple production, elaborate song titles (including “Tom Justice, The Choir Boy Robber, Apprehended at Ace Hardware in Libertyville, IL), and story-telling lyrics which take us on a road trip around the U.S.A. and into the depths of human emotion surrounding procreation.

We begin with the aforementioned criminal choir boy in Illinois, then journey to Wisconsin as thieves on the lam. Along the way there are regrets about lost love located somewhere in Charlotte or maybe Montpelier. Family and children are ghostly presences throughout, leading to some melancholic moments of reflection on parenthood, with chilling lyrics like “oh my god/what if we had an accident/oh my god/til you’re dead/that’s how long you’re a parent/til you’re dead.”

These conflicted feelings about parenthood are woven throughout, with the final track “White Jetta” indicating a dying mother’s last hope: “She says she hopes I’ll want a family after she’s died/she says the less you feel like a child/the more you’ll want a child/to stay the same to never change.”

Wow. With dead-pan vocals, this just cuts to the bone and is a wonderful piece of art in its entirety. Take a listen to the entire album; something we don’t do often enough these days.

No Paws/Hey Buddy and The Pals [coll] – [Bridgetown Records]

lombard   11/10/2009   A Library, CD

This is a fun little (3-inches to be exact) CD EP from two young inland empire bands released in 2008 on Bridgetown Records.

It starts with three poppy, lofi tracks from No Paws (No Lions). Upbeat, fuzzy, and simple; it reminds me of the early days of K Records with its DIY spirit. Keys, drums (or machine), and group singing. By track three (recorded live at the fab college station KSPC), there’s a talk/yell style of singing that’s just so infectious.

The last 3 songs are from Hey Buddy and the Pals. Their sound is more swagger rock/punk with a bit of the blues on their opening track (and most aggressive) “Stillborn.” It gets prettier on “Big Growl” with buried vocals, but still a lofi sound. “Motherly Love” has an anthemic beginning and delivers throughout.