Music Reviews

Islandman feat. Okay Temiz & Muhlis Berberoglu – “Direct-to-Disc Sessions” – [Night Dreamer]

aarbor   4/15/2023   CD, International

A spectacular direct-to-disc recording featuring outstanding Turkish musicians young and old. Folktronica meets percussion genius on a unique one-take recording that finds Turkish downtempo specialist Islandman jamming with legendary percussion innovator Okay Temiz, and contemporary saz virtuoso Muhlis Berberoğlu. Islandman’s subtle and responsive beat-science and Berberoğlu’s scintillating agility on the saz, Temiz’s visionary rhythm force leads the session into unknown territories of improvised future-folklore. Temiz showed up for the session equipped with an eclectic mix of homemade instruments including an electrified flute made of industrial bathroom piping, and a shaker with a contact mic wired to a wah-wah pedal. He put all these instruments on a table, and he put a stereo microphone left and right. Then he grabs one of his instruments, and he moves around the mics to create a live ambisonic sound – a very open space. He’s not afraid of the physics of sound, or the technology of sound recording – he always wants to be very edgy. All the tracks here have folk song melodies in them and all are from different regions of Turkey. They have different senses of rhythm, specific to the regions. The coolest new record I’ve heard this year. AArbor

Birituro, Isaac and The Rail Abandon – “Small Small” – [Wah Wah 45s]

aarbor   4/14/2023   12-inch, International

Small Small is a very Ghanaian saying. In English it could be ‘bit by bit,’ ‘one step at a time,’ or ‘slow and steady’. Sonny Johns (British singer songwriter) was first introduced to the phrase on his first trip to Ghana in 2016, when he met Isaac Birituro (Ghanaian xylophone player) in Kalba, and the phrase popped up over and over ever since. Sonny and Isaac are The Rail Abandon. They finished this album (their 2nd) over the intense year of 2020 influenced by the difficulties that they, and the world, had been through. The album is about loss, frustration and struggle, but it’s also about the light at the end of the tunnel; about overcoming difficulties to find a brighter future and no matter what separates us, whether that be language, culture, continents or boarders, when we listen to each other and learn from each other, there’s really not much that separates us.  The music is a poignant mix of European and African sounds. Vocals are in English and in Birifor (Isaac’s language). “Fun Tony” is audibly a tribute to Tony Allen (whose mother was Ghanaian). AArbor

Ahmed, Yazz – “Polyhymnia” – [Ropeadope Records]

aarbor   4/14/2023   12-inch, Jazz

Born in London to a British mother and a Bahraini father, Yazz Ahmed spent her childhood in Bahrain before returning to London at the age of nine. She started playing the trumpet at an early age, encouraged by her maternal grandfather Terry Brown, a jazz trumpet player. In addition to the trumpet she plays the fluegelhorn and is a composer. This is her third album, released in 2019.  Polyhymnia is the Greek muse of music, poetry and dance, a character whom Ahmed describes as “a goddess for the arts“, it is a six-movement suite devoted to “six women of exceptional qualities, role models with whom [she] felt a strong bond”: Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Ruby Bridges, Haaifa Al-Mansour, Barbara Thompson, and the Suffragettes. Most Americans know that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in November 1955, but don’t know that the bus number was 2857, which is the name of the track devoted to Rosa. Ruby Bridges was also a Civil Rights activist. She was the first and only African-American child to enter the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960, escorted by 4 Federal Marshalls, as a part of the integration of the New Orleans school system. An advocate for female education Malala Yousafzai was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 2014. Haifaa Al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female film director. Her wish is to empower women and girls to use the arts as a “gentle way to catalyse a change”. Barbara Thompson is one of the UK’s leading saxophone players who is also a bandleader and composer despite having Parkinson’s disease. Ahmed’s music brings in many elements: a New Orleans carnival for Ruby Bridges, the number 2857 represented metrically and melodically for Rosa Parks, reworking the Suffragettes’ protest song, “Shoulder to Shoulder” with jazz harmony, Arabic scales and rhythms for the track “Deeds not Words”. Her use of Arabic musical materials throughout are very distinctive and quite wonderful. She even had a quarter-tone flugelhorn specially made, to allow her to use scales specific to Arabic music. The musicians here are mostly women and from Tomorrow’s Warriors – Started by the Jazz Warriors it is the leading program producing the most exciting New London Jazz artists. AArbor

Fishdoll – “Noonsense” – [Paxico Records]

karma   4/14/2023   12-inch, A Library

2018 debut album by Beijing-based electro-soul musician Fishdoll. She composed all songs herself, starting with the tone and the chord structure before trawling her library for music to sample. The album feels like you are slowly descending underwater. All tracks, whether vocal, synth, or instrumental heavy, have a low-bpm, ethereal feel. Interesting, thought provoking music that pushes the boundaries of electronic, ambient, and soul.

Dead Luke – “Hazy Visions of Bliss” – [Nudie Records]

karma   4/14/2023   12-inch, A Library

Dead Luke used to be with Zola Jesus and other musicians from Madison, Wisconsin. He has traded Green Bay for Half Moon Bay. This 2022 release is a trip through many types psychedelia. He begins with the meditative ‘Contact Established.’ ‘Altamont 1969’ sounds exactly what you’d listen to when the Grateful Dead couldn’t perform live. In general, the odd-numbered tracks are higher energy (e.g. the fuzzy ‘Necronomicon’ and the synth-focused ‘Transport’) and the even-numbered tracks are meditative (e.g. the drone-focused ‘Bliss’ and the almost-symphonic ‘The Ninth Crusade’). This album shows Dead Luke’s mastery of a wide variety of instruments and psychedelic styles. I can see this getting a lot of airtime at KFJC.

Sun Ra Arkestra – “Living Sky” – [Omni Sonic]

karma   4/13/2023   12-inch, Jazz

Third album by Sun Ra Arkestra with Marshall Allen as bandleader. Allen is a sprightly 98 years old, but shows no signs of slowing down. This album was commissioned by Ahmet Ulug, who runs the American-Turkish label Omni Sound (named after a quote by Sun Ra that he wrote in Istanbul).

This album is all instrumental, and starts with a reinterpretation of Chopin’s Prelude in A Major. “Somebody Else’s Idea” without vocals adds a different dimension. The EVI sounds like a human voice vocalizing, leaving the listener to interpret the meaning. Marshall Allen composes three songs for this album, and the two disc set ends with a cover of ‘Wish upon a Star’ (from Pinocchio).

Excellent jazz that shows that the Arkestra can be contemporary and relevant while respecting the tradition and teachings of Sun Ra.

Style and Fashion [coll] – [Soul Jazz Records]

karma   4/11/2023   12-inch, Reggae

Fashion Records is a UK based reggae label that flourished from 1980-2000. They were one of the more popular British reggae labels, and had some hits. Fashion essentially became defunct by 2000, they say this is because of declining continental interest, the rise of digital and the hegemony of Jamaican reggae. This 2019 release by Soul Jazz is a ‘greatest hits’ compilation. This 3-disc set includes lovers rock, dancehall, and jungle rock. This compilation provides a window into the transition from lovers rock to electronic jungle rock. It portrays a changing, diversifying world as told by two reggae fanatics and the artists they brought to their label.

Fuckwolf – “Goodbye, Asshole” – [Silver Current]

karma   4/10/2023   12-inch, A Library

Fuckwolf has been around since 2003, but this 2022 release is their debut album. They describe themselves as a scuzzy, 70s inspired rock band that harkens back to the days when the City wasn’t packed with tech bros. The songs are fun and high energy. The band’s name is the one thing you can’t say out of safe harbor; all the tracks are free of strong language.

Vulga – “Mayhem With Mercy” – [Deathrash Armageddon]

whngr   4/6/2023   12-inch, A Library

Hideous Malay Metal 

Low fidelity, highly distorted stomps for the Devil with immoderate vocal effects in moderate tempos. A beautiful and raw acoustic guitar ballad accompanied by tape hiss/background noise opens the B side.

This is garage rock spelled backwards, soaked in the blood of the jungle, recorded too early to be a rote emulation of Nordic or Northern Californian black metal; it’s more raw than Sarcofigo, stranger than Von, uglier than anything from Les Légions Noires, and far crustier than the sounds coming from Norway but the spirit is genuinely black. Strongly devoted to the rejection of notoriety, acknowledgement, or interest from anyone outside of their immediate circle of friends, they built their sound around simplicity, repetition, intensity, and a profound appreciation for British heavy metal act, Venom. A fantastically grotesque document of early black metal from Malaysia.

Formed in 1985, Vulga were a hybrid of two groups, Massrohendt and Sraet & Esimorp (Tears & Promise reversed) and this LP (recorded in ’91/’92) exhibits songs from the former on side A and the later on the reverse with some member cross-pollination… Isra Venomous (drms, vx), Baron Black Metal (bss, vx), Ancient (gtr), and a guy named Ben (gtrs, bss).

Ipoh, Parak – 2009

Tapes and Topographies – “Season of Loss, A” – [Simulacra Records]

whngr   4/6/2023   A Library, CD

Not Dark Ambient

Soothing drones in roughly five minute installments. Peaceful and pacifying, there is nothing here to test you. Nothing abrupt, nothing strange, and very little to distinguish these torpid tracks from one another excepting the only one with vocals (track 1, “Band Waves”), in Deutsch, that opens this meditative, sleep inducing, alpha wave extracting album. 

Tapes and Topographies is one Todd Gauthreaux aka Atomic/Gautreau (Tear Ceremony, Crushed Stars, Sonogram), prolific soundsman with over 60 releases under his belt (-3 to saving throw against sleep/paralysis).

Dallas, TX – 2021

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