Music Reviews

Thee Sacred Souls – “Thee Sacred Souls” – [Daptone]

aarbor   6/6/2023   CD, Soul

Daptone recordings are known for their old school all analogue/strictly tape recording studio sound, and this one is no exception. You are transported back into an earlier time with a very retro sound which moves away from Daptone’s established James Brown-inspired funk ‘n’ soul. Instead it offers an enticing mix of Latin soul, neo-soul, and the type of vocal harmony-based R&B popularized by acts like Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. This release from 2022 can fool a listener into believing they’re listening to a 40 or 50 year old record. Some of the tracks are a bit too saccharine for me, but others have appealing more modern elements. The Daptone label is still recovering from the deaths of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. Recently Daptone Co-Founder Gabe Roth launched Penrose, a California-based imprint that hearkens back to the soul stylings of the early ’60s which is how Thee Sacred Souls came to record on Daptone. These guys are pointing the way to Daptone’s future. AArbor

Malladi Brothers – “At Silicon Valley, 2023” – [Sankritilaya]

karma   6/4/2023   CD, International

The Malladi Brothers are a renowned Carnatic duo. They are known especially for their skilled improvisational alapana and kalpana swara, and their emphasis on rare ragas and compositions. This live recording of a performance in Santa Clara in April 2023 highlights their skills in Carnatic standards as well as rare pieces. They begin with a varna in Kedaragowla and kritis in Dhanyasi (a raga which seems to be in vogue right now) and raga Janaranjani (Pahimom Sree Rajarajeshwari). The submain piece, Thyagaraja’s Eramuni Nammiti, is in the Persian-derived melakarta raga Vakulabharanam. The main piece was the classic Sri Subramanyaya Namaste by Dixitar in raga Kamboji. The Malladi Brothers’ sparing use of N3 (the high seventh which is an accidental in this raga) lends their rendition a classic feel. The ragam-thanam pallavi, 30 minutes of continuous improvisation, is primarily in the Hindustani raga Suddha Sarang. Excellent concert that has something for longtime connoisseurs of Carnatic music, or newcomers to the art.

Liyou, Lucy – “Dog Dreams” – [American Dreams Records]

karma   6/3/2023   A Library, CD

Second album from Lucy Liyou, currently based in SF. This album and its three long tracks cannot be confined to a single genre. It is a meld of ambient, Korean shamanic music, jazz, spoken word, and field recordings. ‘Dog Dreams’ is a literal translation of a Korean term that ranges in meaning from daydreams to nightmares. This album perfectly captures the uncanny feeling of a dream. It’s an intense therapy session that shatters conceptions of reality and requires presence and attention from the listener.

Kool and the Gang – “Kool and the Gang” – [De-Lite Records]

karma   6/3/2023   12-inch, Soul

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the Johnson administration, you know Kool and the Gang. This is their 1969 debut album, 4 years before ‘Jungle Boogie’ and their mainstream success of the 70s. This all instrumental album is a prototype of the band that became a household name. This album is R&B focused as opposed to their later funk/disco releases, and has been reissued on beautiful purple vinyl.

Casual War – “Burn” – [Staalplaat]

karma   6/3/2023   A Library, CD

Just in time for summer, desert rock from a duo based in LA and DC. They recorded the tracks separately at their respective homes during the pandemic. The artists’ goals were to show that intimate connection was possible even when we were stuck at home. The powerful yet restrained vocals atop the sludgy, psychedelic instrumentation transport you to the slow heat of the Mojave, and show that no matter what, all of us are burning together.

Xantotol – “Thus Spake Zaratustra” – [Nuclear War Now! Productions]

whngr   5/31/2023   12-inch, A Library


Minimalist, ugly and relatively short-lived low fidelity black/doom metal with woozy and morose synthesizer interludes.

Very early 2nd wave out of Poland with a genuine investment in Satanism. Formed by Mala (gtr,vox) and Jacek “Venom” Szczepańsk (drms) in 1991 who would go on to create the Fullmoon Collective, a resource for disseminating Satanic literature and philosophy throughout Poland by connecting to international Satanic groups including, Order Of Nine Angels (UK), and Luciferian Light Group (USA). Influenced by Swiss projects Hellhammer and Samael, Xantotol was perhaps the first Polish trvly black metal project, eschewing interest in Paganism, National Socialism, ancestral worship or indeed anything coming from Scandinavia at the time who Szczepansk believes were still primarily playing death metal at Xantotol’s inception .

Kutno, Poland – 1995


whngr   5/31/2023   A Library, Cassette

Two 31 minute tracks of highly repetitive minimalism that evoke a natal heartbeat, a clothes dryer with a sneaker in it, or perhaps war drums. In headphones, after about eight minutes, a feeling of disorientation may result, at thirteen minutes one may feel a distortion in equilibrium, and at twenty-seven minutes a disconnection with the ego as the lizard brain begins to take over. This cassette might be therapeutic for some or potentially tortuous to others; a relaxing ceremony or an incitement to spree killing depending on the listener’s consciousness/conscience or lack thereof.

A mysterious cassette with no origin or background though it does contain a phone number that this miserable volunteer is moderately afraid to dial. What kind of mad man is behind this recording? With a hand-typed jacket and non-existent url? There is something satisfying about the lack of information however; a true oddity that harkens back to a less informed time when a strange cassette was just that. Full stop.

Davachi, Sarah – “Two Sisters” – [Late Music]

whngr   5/31/2023   A Library, CD

Dulcet Lush Minimalism

Solemn sweeps of organ, pensive church bells and somber choral passages on this beautiful and haunting album by one:

Sarah Davachi originally from Alberta,Calgary. Composer and performer with education and a slew of credentials from the University of Calgary, Mills College (Oakland) and currently is pursuing a PhD in Musicology from UCLA. Educated and deeply considered her work emphasizes subtle variations in tones and tuning, textures and timbre that allows for exploration of temporal space and the word, electroaccoustic appears several times on her online CV.

Los Angeles, California – 2022

Egyptian Project – “Ya Amar” – [Six Degrees Records]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

Ya Amar means “my moon” – it’s a compliment on someone’s appearance. On these 10 tracks the defenders of Egyptian tradition collaborate with a young French musician Jerome Ettinger. They mix the sounds of the Nile delta and Cairo with trip hop, electro, hip hop and a bit of classical music. I was wishing for something a bit more edgy, I wished he had taken more chances. AArbor

Korwar, Sarathy – “Kalak” – [Leaf Label Ltd]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

Born in the U.S., Sarathy Korwar grew up in Ahmedabad and Chennai in India. He began playing tabla aged 10, but was also drawn to the American music that he heard on the radio and leaking through the doorway of his local jazz music shop. At 17 he moved to Pune to study Environmental Science, but instead dedicated his time to music, studying tabla and translating his skills to the western drum kit; and playing as a session musician. He then moved to London where he trained as a classical tabla player and continued to adapt Indian classical rhythmic material to non-Indian percussion instruments. Korwar has since established himself as one of the most original and compelling voices in the UK jazz scene. KALAK is Korwar’s third studio album, released in November 2022. In rhythmic step with the past and the present, it sets out to describe a route forward. It celebrates a rich South Asian culture of music and literature, which resonates with spirituality and community, while envisaging a better future from those building blocks. AArbor

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