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Music Reviews

Bern Nix Trio – “Alarms and Excursions” – [New World]

Cousin Mary   1/30/2010   CD, Jazz

Jazz guitarist Bern Nix was a member of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time Band and that influence shows. He listened to Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian and those influences show, too. But these are just influences, Nix takes jazz guitar into a whole new realm. These tracks are rather free and modern with the one exception of “Just Friends” which is rather traditional, almost soft guitar jazz.

Very intriguing, melodic, guitar fans should check this out.

Mills, Jeff – “Good Robot, The” – [Axis Records]

Belladonna   1/27/2010   12-inch, A Library

I love techno pioneer Jeff Mills and I like robots ok. Actually robots are scary but this EP is not and I wish it was.
The tracks contradict themselves with a choice of: a- cinematic, dreamy beauty or b- repetitive anxiety ridden beats and nothing in between. I love the dreamy, droney, sweeping tracks but the beats make me want to punch someone, they go nowhere and inspire nothing. So I half like this and I half like robots.

Emptyset – “Emptyset” – [Caravan]

Belladonna   1/27/2010   12-inch, A Library

aka James Ginzburg & Paul Purgas, based in Bristol UK. After a few minimal techno 12″ releases, this is the looong awaited full-length LP.
It’s amazing!! Minimal electronics, a mix of beats and excellent techno tracks along with long sonic soundscapes and tones that will appeal to the droners too.
They give a nod to Alva Noto and Deathprod (Dark Ambient/Drone) and you can hear those influences. They say “Emptyset acts as a research project connecting the ideas of a modern dancefloor with experimental approaches to music and its design” and that sums it up quite nicely. Even if you don’t like the beats, check out the drones!!

Gale, Eddie – “Ghetto Music” – [Water]

Cousin Mary   1/27/2010   CD, Jazz

Francis Wolff, co-founder of Blue Note, personally financed the production and release of this music in 1968, but Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music got lost after Liberty Records took over Blue Note.

Very beautiful music that brings out both the joy and pain of ghetto life. Tight instrumentals with two basses and two drums in the rhythm section, fine sax from Russell Lyle, and Eddie Gale showing his range on everything from trumpet to bird whistle. Vocals are a standout from the Noble Gale Singers.

Notes: thumb piano in track 5, especially nice vocals on track 1.

Shelton, Aram (Fast Citizens) – “Two Cities” – [Delmark]

Cousin Mary   1/27/2010   CD, Jazz

Aram Shelton moved to Oakland, California to study and teach at Mills College but he teams up here with some Chicago pals for this intriguing set of improv pieces. One can hear influences of Ornette Coleman and Roscoe Mitchell, but the overall sound is quite original and certainly is well played. Sometimes engaging (horns on track 6, strings on track 2) but challenging to hear for the first time with occasional whiny, aimless moments.

Kimbrough, Junior – “First Recordings” – [Fat Possum Records]

Cousin Mary   1/26/2010   10-inch, Blues

Mississippi native Junior Kimbrough (1930-1998) released his first album when he was 62 in 1992, so any earlier recordings are precious in that context alone. In 1966 he made his first recording at American Studios in Memphis for Quinton Claunch, founder of Hi Records. (Rumor has it that Fat Possum plans to reissue much of this label???s output.)

Kimbrough succeeded in moving away from ???blues??? commonly heard in the 1960???s and getting back to his Mississippi roots, but he somehow did in a new way. This is spectacular stuff ??? Kimbrough???s intensity, voice, and guitar are in fine form and are very affecting. Emotional, stark, very beautiful.

Ubangi, Bobby – “Inside The Mind Of…” – [Rob’s House]

lombard   1/26/2010   12-inch, A Library

Sadly, this debut full-length by Atlanta rocker Bobby Ubangi (born Benjamin Jay Womack) was released in the months prior to his death from lung cancer on July 1, 2009.

It’s a fuzzy, lofi (recorded on 4-track) release full of garage rock and spare songs. On first listen (before I knew the back story) it struck me as fun and upbeat. Although there are some love-themed songs, upon closer listen, this album got downright depressing, with lyrics perhaps speaking to his impending death. The album concludes with “Sinking” in which Bobby sings: “sinking…everybody’s watching me drown.”

Various Atlanta friends help out on the release by Bobby Ubangi (whose prior projects included the Lids and Gaye Blades) including folks from Black Lips and King Khan.

Nelson, Red – “1935 – 1938” – [Document Records]

loun   1/25/2010   12-inch, Blues

A healthy helping of golden era Chicago blues from a less well known, though not necessarily less talented artist – “Dirty Red” Nelson Wilborn. The very laconic delivery, common for the era, can make it difficult to feel the deep pain punctuated by irrepressable spirit and double entendre, but it also makes the seeking worthwhile. Many of the tracks sound a bit scratchy, but in turn the sound of the original pressings (these are recovered from 78s) appears to be preserved at the best quality achievable. My favorite was “What a time I’m havin'”, which is also notable for being a protest song – WWII soldiers were promised a per-diem bonus that was long delayed before it was finally paid, but there’s lots of good stuff here. A notable document and solid collection of blues.

Tsigoti – “PrivatePropertySpeakstoThePeopleofTheParty” – [Esp-Disk]

humana   1/25/2010   A Library, CD

Thollem McDonas proves his versatility and social conscience with this new release from Tsigoti (formerly Waristerror Terroris war). The lyrics printed on the liner notes are crucial to appreciating McDonas??? spoken and sung vocals backed by himself on beat-up piano, Andrea Caprara on drums, Matteo Bennici on bass, and Jacopo Andreini on electric guitar. The music itself is mostly fast-paced, off-beat, punk rock that perfectly complements the anti-war themes of the songs. This is in a league with Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

Rollerball – “Two Feathers” – [North Pole Records]

lombard   1/22/2010   A Library, CD

Released at the end of 2009, “Two Feathers” by Portland’s Rollerball is a glorious combination of sounds. Known for their ongoing evolution as a band since they got their start in the early 1990s in Montana; the latest incarnation includes spacy shimmer, loungy female vocals (in places), active keys and percussion, saxophone, glimpses of retro tropical sounds, a pinch of psychedelia, and moments of cacophony with processed male vocals. From track to track the sound changes considerably, with different flavors for different listeners. I equally enjoyed the loungier upbeat pieces with female voice that the album starts with, as well as the experimental/jazz-influenced work out that brings it all to a close.

A companion DVD includes an additional six tracks with accompanying video (some from the 90s). The second piece on the DVD, “Two Brunos” is a tour film from 2005 in Italy and Slovenia with both band interviews and performances by Ovo and Ronin.

Ayers, Kevin – “What More Can I Say…” – [Reel Recordings]

lombard   1/21/2010   B Library, CD

30+ years ago musician Kevin Ayers passed along a pile of unwanted reel-to-reel recordings to guitarist G.F. Fitz-Gerald, thinking that maybe he could re-use them. Eventually Fitz-Gerald took a listen and it turned out that the tapes housed some lovely 1970s-era demos by Ayers. A well-known figure in the English psychedelia scene, Ayers was a founding member of Soft Machine. According to his website, upon hearing these newly unearthed recordings, Kevin Ayers “…found them to be a refreshing reminder of a musical innocence, unique to the nineteen seventies.”

“What More Can I Say…” is a beautiful collection of lo-fi material, with some spoken interludes, a work-in-progress descriptive demo of his “Doctor Dream” piece, spare guitar, piano, and organ. Archie Legget, Eddie Sparrow, David Bedford, Mike Oldfield and Robert Wyatt also appear on various tracks. It’s a quite satisfying time capsule.

Voice Crack – “Earflash” – [Dexter’s Cigar]

cinder   1/21/2010   A Library, CD

These guys were a Swiss improvisational group that started in the early 70s and are now disbanded. By the early 80s, they would take apart normal everyday items such as radios, brass instruments, turntables, etc, and recreate and manipulate them into “new sounds using magnetic and radio waves in a complex system controlled by movements of their hands and by light.” Almost like finding the inner hidden child inside an old man, a new life in ways. What you get is crazy skidding alien transmitted signals, glitchy and itchy electronic sounding television warnings. Big timpani sounding drums give it that primal base sound as well.

Red Mass – “Red Mass” – [Red Lounge Records]

ophelia necro   1/20/2010   10-inch, A Library

Montreal based project featuring the Roller of CPC GANGBANGS. Sounds like CPC Gangbangs meets Velvet Underground. Psychedelic space rock ‘n’ roll with elements of noise, folk, punk and electronic music. Dark poppy hooks laced with strange sound effects. Male vox, guitar, drums, electronics, keyborads and flute (on Little Man). Red Mass is a collective featuring many artists/musicians from around the world.

Regular 10″Comes in ultra deluxe Gatefold Sleeve!!
Limited edition of 400 in Black Vinyl

4-Way Split [coll] – [Art Fag Recordings]

humana   1/16/2010   7-inch, A Library

Rock: All of the acts on this split hail from the U.K. except the Dum Dum Girls (featuring Frankie Rose) and possibly the Crocodiles. ???Hollow Hollow Eyes??? and ???Moon Tan??? are upbeat and sung by males. The first has a catchy organ and the second has great percussion. ???Brite Futures??? is also upbeat with guitars, and ???The Weekend Starts Here??? is mild guitar thrash with male vocals. A nice sampling of four cool bands.

Attic Ted – “No Regrets” – [Pecan Crazy Records]

Cousin Mary   1/16/2010   7-inch, A Library

Self-described as “Country Gothic Carnival”, this Texas band mixes organ, electronics and samples, voice, and drums for a bouncy weird result with flavors of calliope and video game noises. Great fun, makes me tap my foot and want to polka.

PGM – last seconds of each track are some cool, sort of leftover noise.

Murgai, Neel – “Neel Murgai Ensemble” – [Innova/American Composers]

Cousin Mary   1/15/2010   CD, Jazz

Compositions that are improvised during performance show influence of Indian music and jazz with Murgai on sitar, daf, and throat singing plus Mat Maneri on viola, Sameer Gupta on tabla and Greg Heffernan on cello. Lush sonority and radiance, nice beats at times with dramatic buildup that is characteristic of a raga. Unusual and accessible, a global village you can hear.