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Music Reviews

Saigon Rock and Soul: Vietnamese Classic Tracks 1968-1974 [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   7/30/2010   12-inch, International

No reason for Saigon’s to be bygones, not with the Sublime Freq empire of sound around. As usual stellar liner notes to match the sounds, lots of fuzz flying rock as caught on the first two tracks, but when the Viet vocalizing takes center stage, with its fragile flutter and soft break, that’s when this collection soars. To my ears, the language itself has a heartbroken beauty to it. Check out the strange angel with “Long, Uneven Hair” or Phuong Dung’s closing “Riddles” with its sort of English blues infusion that gains a burst of energy. The other tracks on that last side all bump some trumpet. Throughout the instrumentation is tighter than an ao dai. Dig the heartful of soul backing vox on “Magical Night.” Thai Thanh’s titanic “Dawn” is a pretty amazing exercise in composition and engineering, the song almost splits in two in parts, has a regal grand piano strut through. Often the slower songs really get me, the notes choked in the throat and heart like on “Starfish.” Even when love does lovers wrong, the Vietnamese do it right as on Giao Linh’s track (which may have a Dan Bau rattling in the bamboo with the village birds gossiping). I bet there are some other amazing tracks on cassettes in San Jose, hope those folks connect to Porest and more volumes follow. My oh Mai this is Viet Damn good!

-Thurston Hunger

Fresh & Onlys, The – “Grey-Eyed Girls” – [Woodsist]

Thurston Hunger   7/30/2010   12-inch, A Library

Powder pop out of the Rice-A-Roni cooker. Irrepresible goofy
charm, krispy koan lyrics, and a nice variety in sound
(much too broad a palette to call ’em garage” in my book).
When they bring the energy, which is often, the whole damn
world spins a little faster see “D.Y.” for proof. And how
can the Lurch moans on “Happy to Be Living” not put a smile
on a rock critic’s saggy face? This is music to be smitten
with, by and to…this is not an album to have even a penultimate
tango in Paris with. And yeah Tim Cohen’s baritone singing
may set your audio compass for Magnetic Fields north, but
I think he and the band could deliver some killer Blue Oyster
Cult covers as well, but fortunately they are on their own
original tip, a fresh if not only one. Mostly short, sharp
sure-shot pop in candy color flavors, although “The Delusion
of Man” devolves into bombast as Man is wont to do. The kind
of band that Saturday Night Live would play if the hadn’t
sold their souls. Sounds even better coming out cheap-ass
car speakers, expecting more, better, sooner from this
fine 8-legged band.

-Thurston Hunger

Black C – “70’s Baby” – [Rightway Productions]

Thurston Hunger   7/30/2010   CD, Hip Hop

Last man standing from the Hunter’s Point Hit Squad, and
then the RBL Posse. Black C (Chris Matthews) plays a different
kind of hardball but doing it here over some soft 70’s soul
moves. Things move faster now than then, so we find a lot of
samples sped up…including #5,6,10,15 and 17. On “What
Could’ve Been” that ramp up works well, but later on it gets
a little gremlinized. Overall the beats though really capture
the plan, I bet some instro versions would’ve nailed heavy play.
Check the work over Willie Hutch on “I Got Money”, also the
convertible cruise on “The Life” with Moe the Hustla in the
passenger seat. “Why They Hate” starts with a phone call
confession, but has solid producton, wah-wah never fails
and these violin and trumpet trills work really punctuate
C’s short jab rhyme flow. The Cheffz bust out a gremlinized
Al Green for the finer things on “Gave U My Luv”. “Can’t
Go Back” does the best at capturing that 70’s flow. Mandatory
two tracks on herb, “Mary Jane” tips the blunt to both the
Magical Diamonds as well as the Posse’s original spark,
“Don’t Give Me No Bammer.”
While “My Bed Room” is supposed to be for the ladies, the
track after, “I’ll Never Tell” works the X chromosome a
little better, nice rhymin’ Simon. The closer has Martha B
add angel’s wings to the nostalgia of a nearly 40 year old
rapper. I’d say this lp mostly still has the mindset of
youth, but the introspection reflection of rap still alive
and recording beckons. Ruthless ain’t necessarily truthless.

-Thurston Hunger

Severin, Steven – “Codex Astra – Circles of Silver” – [Erototox Decodings]

cinder   7/28/2010   A Library, CD

This is the first of four releases in Steven’s (founding member of Siouxsie & The Banshees) Codex Astra series, which are based on quotes from Aleister Crowley. All four will be released together on vinyl eventually. This is two tracks of smokey, mournful drones. The first one giving you that chilly feeling, the kind where you can see your own breath. The second taking you on a trip to outer space, on a comet. You can almost hear the burning flames in the sky. Edition of 777 copies, artwork by Chandra Shukla (Xambuca), mixed by Thomas Dimuzio.

Duck Dive / Edibles [coll] – [Stunned Records]

cinder   7/28/2010   A Library, CD

Duck Dive is a guy named Gonzo out of Indonesia, while Edibles are an Eternal Tapestry/Plankton Wat side project out of Portland. Tagged as ambient, electronic, experimental and dub. People who love 70s sounding synths, frogs, crickets, Moogs, swamps and psychedlic sound excursions will dig Duck Dive. I can picture the little mallard with his moog, tripping out in the pond. This track is a perfect blend of natural sound and retro electronic! Edibles is full on spaced out dub. Not quite traditional, but super nice and relaxing… I almost forgot I was listening to it, that’s how chill it is! Great stuff from both bands! This was originally a limited cassette release.

Budos Band, The – “Budos Band III, The” – [Daptone Records]

Cousin Mary   7/26/2010   CD, Soul

All instrumental tracks belong to the soul funk tradition, but also have rock, Afro-beat, and rather cinematic sounds. Not pushy or showy, could work for background or bed. Fun remake of Day Tripper on track 11. Cool organ on some cuts, including track 2.

Maybe the band had something darker in mind when they named the album and tracks and put a cobra on the cover. Soul metal? No, more like instro-soul.

Fasteau, Kali Z. – “Animal Grace” – [Flying Note]

Thurston Hunger   7/21/2010   CD, Jazz

Her band, her label, her world. It starts out with Kali’s mesmerizing mizmar over Louis Moholo just charging on the drums, and the album never relinquishes that persistent quest for creativity. I was a little worried that a live album might reign in some of the wild nature of earlier recordings but the full array of her multi-dimensional, multi-instro mentality is in effect. Maybe some of the voices spontaneously rising from the band would have been better captured, but
they would pale in contrast to the digito-glotto incantation on “All Things” and “They Speak Through Me.” Two different live sets (the first a two piece with Moholo, the second a quartet) both compelling, but the first seemed more organic, proving a (bo) tree of sound grows in Harlem.

-Thurston Hunger

Coleman, George – “Bongo Joe” – [Mississippi Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/21/2010   12-inch, A Library

Refreshing repressing of 1968 recording. Bless you Mississippi and Master Stollenwerk (really, that’s his name?). Anyways George Coleman was a completely charming, nasally nutball. He likes to whistle like a dog, and bark like a bell, and he commands a 55 gallon oil drum made out of rattlesnake hide. Well, some of that’s true. Just like his song-stories. He’s kind of giving improvised sermon/stand-up over his syncopations, often times creating a dialog between himself (switching to falsetto for female). It stands the test of time, and withstands replays…where normally one might feel the PUNchline coming, with Bongo Joe on the mic he manages to miss cliches by a country mile. This recording is deep in tone, the mic down in that drum and a cavern of reverb on Coleman’s voice. And it might be deepin meaning too, but it’s definitely playful on the top. There’s six sides to every question, but sadly one two sides to this vinyl.

-Thurston Hunger

Moon Duo – “Killing Time EP” – [Sacred Bones Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/21/2010   12-inch, A Library

Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada pump out primeval psychoactive pummel pop. Atavistic attack, the drums set on auto-pilot
and these songs just tunnel through to the center of the planet. Title track has vox from a phasey graveyard over a muzzled mantra. They’re all about the analog cobwebs over the repeato riffage. Verses are curses, and all the bridges are out. Set the controls for the center of the moon. Keep the songs simple (though the band’s sonic influences are complex). Minutemen get a second in the lyrics of “Killing Time” and “Speed” works on an Alan Vega calibrated delay. “Dead West” has two chords buried beneath an avalanche of fuzz, and “Ripples” has a sleepwalker sleep drumming, an instrumental to push the belly button lint right out the other side.

-Thurston Hunger

Shrine Afrobeat, The [coll] – [Ocho]

Cousin Mary   7/20/2010   CD, International

Compilation of Afrobeat considered “funky” by three DJs from Fela Kuti’s nightclub, The Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria. One might argue about the relative funkiness of each track, but few would argue with the relative fun and energy. Selections by Fela Kuti, Mulatu Astatke, Tony Allen and more.

PGM: Track 1 is about why a woman holds her breasts when she runs.

Stein, Norbert – “Silent Sitting Bulls” – [Pata Music]

Cousin Mary   7/20/2010   CD, Jazz

Pata, Horns, and Drums continues with improvisation based on Stein’s sometimes goofy, sometimes avant garde compositions combining modern and traditional traditions. Fine playing, but at times the instruments tend to mush together, more than interweave. Intriguing, irritating, original.

Walker, Peter – “Rainy Day Raga” – [Vanguard]

Cousin Mary   7/20/2010   12-inch, A Library

Walker was a guitarist who studied with Ravi Shankar.?? He simultaneously studied Flamenco and Indian ragas and realized that both begin with a drone to make a wall of sound and then melodies are added in.?? As it turns out, both are rooted in Spain and India’s shared history of Islamic conquest.

Walker gained some fame from providing music for Timothy Leary’s “experiments”.???? Gorgeous string work, very soothing – this was Walker’s first release in 1966 and the recording quality of the re-issue is very good.

Mushroom – “Naked, Stoned & Stabbed” – [4 Zero Records]

lombard   7/20/2010   A Library, CD

Take a hit of your preferred substance of choice and trip out to Oakland collective Mushroom’s latest blend of spacy psychedelia: Naked, Stoned & Stabbed. This 2010 release was recorded over the course of a weekend and was inspired by a recent gig in which they performed the 1971 Pete Townshend rock opera Lifehouse.

There’s plenty of guitar, flute, and keys (Farfisa organ, Wurlitzer piano, pump organ, mini moog) on here; making for some super groovy retro pieces, but also a heaping dose of pretty, spacy washes of sound. It’s cheerful, with moments of Latin flair, tropical heat, Eastern mystique (electric sitar) and outer space communications.

For the most part it’s instrumental, but the final piece is the Kevin Ayers cover “Singing a Song in the Morning” featuring vocals from Sonya Hunter and Josh Pollack.

Anderson, Laurie – “Homeland” – [Nonesuch Records]

lombard   7/20/2010   A Library, CD

Laurie Anderson’s new 2010 release “Homeland” is comprised of both a CD and DVD documentary. The pieces on the CD were written while she was on tour and she explains in the liner notes that she began the process by “making an ever-changing series of stories…and songs about America.” Her signature haunted talk-sing vocal style with effects recites her poetic musings about traversing the country. She’s joined by a range of collaborators, including Eyvind Kang (viola), John Zorn (saxophone), Rob Burger (keyboards), Antony (vocals on “Strange Perfumes”), Lou Reed, and Tuvan throat singers. Full of contemporary cultural references and commentary on modern society, it’s truly a deep listen from an important artist who has always been an experimenter. The documentary provides an inside look into the creative process behind the record.

Musics In The Margin 2: Musik Oblik [coll] – [Sub Rosa]

lombard   7/20/2010   A Library, CD

Meant to bridge the worlds of modern art, contemporary art, and outsider art, the “Art & Marges Museum” in Brussels worked with Sub Rosa to produce this compilation, the second in the series “Music in the Margins.” For this release, Musik Oblik, they cull together an incredible range of sounds.

It starts with Berlin visual artist and musician Klaus Beyer doing a few minimal, goofy, crazy tracks, including his interpretation of “Hey Jude,” some dramatic spoken German vocals with hand claps, and electronics. Other artists on here range from experimental and cacophonous (Wild Classical Music Ensemble) to a bit creepy (Baudouin Oosterlynck), to groovy and jammy (Othin Spake), to classical (Baudouin de Jaer), to spooky and adventurous (Jacques Brodier).

Visual art and music are strongly connected in this release, a number of pieces arising from the music of outsider artist Adolf Wolfli‘s paintings. Wolfli, a prolific composer and visual artist, was committed to an insane asylum in 1899, where he crafted the majority of his work.

A fascinating collection that reminds us that the lines between high/low art, insanity/genius, and outsider/insider are often constructed by keepers of the institutions, rather than by an honest interpretation of the material. Everyone on here is an experimental artist in their own right.

Scout Niblett – “Calcination of Scout Niblett, The” – [Drag City]

lombard   7/20/2010   A Library, CD

On her new 2010 release, “The Calcination of Scout Niblett,” Scout Niblett delivers an emotionally intense ride in which her strong vocals provide the counter-point to moments of equally intense orchestration operating at the low end of the register. There’s catchy, heavy guitar that rumbles and feeds back, crashing cymbals, pounding drum. Even the pieces (like I.B.D.) that begin pretty, slow and spare add layers of instruments, building in intensity. There’s something quite beautiful about the interplay between her strong, lilting, howling vocals (a bit reminiscent of Mecca Normal’s Jean Smith here) and the heaviness of the guitar and drums. On the cover art she smiles and waves while holding a blow torch and that is perhaps the perfect visual accompaniment for her music, which is both sweet and scorching.

Internal Improv – “[small]” – [Scotch Tapes]

lombard   7/20/2010   A Library, Cassette

Limited to 25 copies, this 2009 cassette release by Los Angeles-area musician David Lucien (aka Internal Improv or [dav’s] Internal Improv) is a quick jaunt through his lo-fi experimental artistry. Super low male vocals, guitar, and tape fuzz begin it all and lead into a twinkly piece with some minimal beats. My favorite is the final piece, “Small,” with its muffled male voice and a lady joining in with the refrain “my body is a failure.” Quite evocative material.

Philippe Petit & Friends – “A Scent of Garmambrosia” – [Aagoo]

Thurston Hunger   7/16/2010   A Library, CD

Not the infamous tightrope walker, but a self-professed
“musical travel agent.” A former DJ, rock critic and scenester
his connections from all three serve him well, as his
musical dinner table includes guests cellists Helena Espvall
and the mightly Fred Lonberg-Holm; Tom Heasley’s tuba tips
in Andy Diagram’s trumped-up trumpet. This is an etch-a-sketch
of a release for spaced heads and Spacehead fans alike. On
Petit’s plate is a laptop of sculpted sounds, cinematic swirls
are the aim here, and there’s evidently a nod to David Lynch
in the title. “Pellicula” sounds like an air from Popol Vuh
that as been altered. Sustained notes or bytes are the common
thread, and vaporized into clouds of lingering tension. As
such, the growl of Herve Vincenti’s guitar adds a welcome bite.
There’s some clicky grit on “The Moon Woman”, not just the
vinyl revived but other sounds that helps to overcome the
ironically domininant amorphousness of this release. Not
necessarily droned, but beautiful.

-Thurston Hunger

Yuganaut – “Sharks” – [Engine Studios]

Thurston Hunger   7/16/2010   CD, Jazz

Naughty naugahyde in a Yugo? The car’s floor littered with
tiny toys, the passengers Stephen Rush tweaking keys, Tom
Abbs the midsection on items driving the transmission; low
notes floating from tuba, cello, bass and didjeriyahoo!
Lastly Geoff Mann is the man, dropping drums and trumpet on
the carpet. On some tracks, like “Vger” Mann gets way out
front (that is the most frantic track). But it’s often
te toys that are the engine. “Local Motive” is nothing
short of toy torture, frequently that carpet is nearly a
drone to work more subtle improvisations on top. The closer
defies the prototype as that is a Rhodes-fest of composition
by Rush. Not my 2112, but maybe you’ll connect. I liked the
seeming shepherd tones ever-rising through “Landfill/Sharks”
but my favorite was “Wrenchwork” which kept sending me out
to get Lost in Space. Seems the theme was part of the
improvising dream on that. Another nice Engine Studios outing.

-Thurston Hunger