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Music Reviews

[coll] Gauguin Years, The: Songs and Dances [Nonesuch]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, International

What it is: Field recordings of indigenous Tahitian music.
What it sounds like: The most interesting tracks (to me) are some combination of chant, prayer and song (6, 8, 10, 17, 18, 22, 24). Most of them involve a kind of call and response with a ‘preacher? or storyteller and a chorus. It must be a similar experience to hearing a catholic mass in a language you can’t understand.
Some tracks are beautifully harmonized a cappella prayers and laments that can sound quite alien to western ears (2, 4, 11, 12, 13, 16, 21, 25).
Some tracks are ukulele/guitar accompanied by one voice (3, 15, 20, 23, 26), a chorus of voices (1, 14), or no voices at all (9). These sound like ‘traditional? Polynesian music (as opposed to the slicked up stuff presented to tourists, but you can hear the roots of that here).
Rounding out the collection are some tracks of drumming (5, 19) and a brief wind instrument (nose flute perhaps?) solo (7). I’ve indicated my favorites on the back, but everything is good and the recording quality is quite excellent.
About the recording: Originally released in 1968 as part of a series of South Pacific field recordings. All tracks recorded in Tahiti by Francis Mazi’re.

TULEAR NEVER SLEEPS

Ann Arbor   1/13/2005   CD, International

This is the first compilation of music of the Tsapiky (Tsa-peek) guitars from south west Madagascar. They are handmade box shaped lutes. The gentle rhythmic lute-like musical style is similar to many of its African neighbors but it’s distinct. The tsapiky is at the center of the group which includes vocals, bass, drums and dancers. The vocal styles vary and the lyrics tell stories about people, relationships and aspects of life. A beauty! AArbor

CAPTAIN YABA – YabaFUNKRoots

Ann Arbor   1/13/2005   CD, International

This music is ‘griot funk? from Sierra Leone. Originally released in the 1990’s this album apparently had little impact at that time. Yaba’s sound slowly grew in popularity by word of mouth. Yaba himself died of TB (in his early 30s) in April of 2001. For about 4 years from 1999 until 2003 the album was out of circulation. RetroAfric re-issued it re-packaged with added tracks from the original session. Funky African style beats underpin Yaba’s gentle 2-string gourd guitar (koliko) grooves, a muted trumpet & vocals. A beauty! AArbor

added: 03/31/04

Butcher, John/Robair, Gino “New Oakland Burr” [Rastascan]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Recently issued capture of two 2001 sessions between local
percussion-plus purveyor (and chief man at Rastascan) Gino
Robair, and UK sax whacker John Butcher. The album starts
with high-pitched twitting over a (bowed?) rumble droner;
it’s hard to tell if that whistling is amplified Butcher or
Robair sawing on some styrofoam or both. The key is that
both guys are willing to stretch their sonic repetoire to
the point of illusion. Thus at times on this you’ll get the
“drummer” squonking away, while the “horn” player is tapping
out a spit-rhythm or other percussion. On other tracks, both
guys approach an alien sound together, like on “Slug Tag”
where they are speaking metal slowscrape. Robair’s ebowed
snare appears on the “Pudsey Surprise” like a fly trapped
buzzing in window screen, Butcher bugzaps some electrosax.
A lot of turf covered here from the drone-tundra of “Fid”
and “Peal” to more squigglery on “Blagovest.” Humor not
to be discounted, hear the sax whinny on “Vug” and Robair
gets in on the joke, but I’m not sure on what instrument.
Would have been great to see this in person live, these
tracks are as short as they are strange…so they are very
easy to squeeze in and play musical ears.

Fontaine, Brigitte “Brigitte Fontaine” [Saravah]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format

1972 a completely fascinating audio enchantment. Fontaine
sounds strong but soft, subtle yet striking. She’s always the
focal vocal point accompanied by sparse backing and sometimes
just naked by herself (or herselves as several tracks feature
great moments of Brigitte multitracked like the beginning of
#2, #6 & #8 which features gaspy sobs as well!) At other
times she’s pitched up against a more gravelly male voice
(Areski I believe who she would record more with). It starts
with a breezy folk-pop smile of a song but boom #2 kicks off
with a piercing shriek. On track #3 we have a few seconds of
audie realite babysitting, then #4 a ponderous chamber ditty
that recalls Nico. Before this scant 30 minutes is up you
will have heard incorporated a cuckoo clock approach, a
harmonium harmonizing with Brigitte and then protest shouts,
sad pining with an Arabic lilt (Areski’s influence?), other
moments that feel like hymns and it ends up with a kind of
proggy number. Lady Fontaine is a champion chameleon, an
artful performer and in my estimation an absolute and
essential genius. French and twisted! Worship her.

Peter Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet Plus Two “Broken English” [Okka Disc]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Despite a leading gentle mantra guided by Hamid Drake’s vocal
prayer, frame drum and soul…do not be deceived, this is
**horsepower** jazz. Peter Brotzmann knows how to whip up a
stampede. He rides into the fray with a gypsy’s tarogato,
calming cycles to go with Drake’s dream chant… But just
shy of six minutes, skyscrapers of sound shoot up through
the idyll. Cue the lurching Longberg-Holm cello…unleash
the dual drumheart of Zerang and Drake pumping at more than
capacity, and the race has begun. Brotzmann has amassed
some mighty thoroughbreds…plenty of NRG and BBQ to keep
the fire music flaming…but “Stonewater” does have some
stillness running deep in pockets. Ultimately it is the
sputtering saxes that stand-out, I’m telling you I hear
horses…lip-flipping, braying, raging stags. So even when
we get a little clarinet soft-shoe around 18 minutes in,
and then a very faint cello/bass duo, I’m waiting for
the hoofs…which leap in almost like a bad edit. For all
the fine playing, track one is acoustically imbalanced.
The second tracks stays strong throughout, a nice brass
oven at the end of its first third. The piece pauses
for a trumpet soliloquy at 13:36 (McPhee?) then it’s
over to Gustaffson for his pyrotechnique. Late in the
piece a drum duet locks in, invites in a swinging set
from the whole twelve and boom, a cliffhanger ending.
Years of music barely fit into 67 minutes, escape words.
Listen, follow one player for awhile, repeat..

Bradford, Bobby/Wong, Francis/Roper, William “Purple Gums” [Asian Improv]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Roper’s tuba is smudgy and thick, he also plays the
conch shell…and this reminded me of one gigantic
conch shell at the bottom. Wong’s sax is smoky but
not so much so that you cannot see Bobby Bradford
darting in and out on cornet. All of these are
improvisations that work just fine on their own…but
on several of the pieces, Roper puts down the tuba
and delivers some monologues…that even when tackling
touchy issues like segregation (#4) do so with a noble
sort of whim. He’s not singing, but his voice is so
rich and sonorous that you want him to keep on talking
despite it somewhat distracting from the music. Well,
I sure…did he seems like quite a character, check
“You A Square.” If you want the straight music, they
have got you covered as well.

Birdbrain “I Fly” [Persian Cardinal]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD

Beak-tweaking pop from this Brooklyn Quartet. Yvette Perez’s
queerly cheering vocals and kewpie paroxysms ride on top of
a great trio of horns. Betty Boop over bop? Actually the horns
(two saxes and a trombone) sound like marching band refugees
trying to capture Albert Ayler in minimalism? The songs are
quick to flight, the album breezes by in a feather over 20
minutes. Perez’s vocals are stacked in teasing layers, they
definitely add to the braininess. The birdiness comes from
some of the horn’s tooty tweeting, and staccato woodpecker
sections. There are a few avian persuasion lyrics and a fowl
sample or two, but this stays fair and delivers a homerun
for fans of herky-quirky.
O Superband!

The BellRays — “The Red, White, & Black” — [Alternative Tentacles]

Hunter Gatherer   1/9/2005   A Library, CD

This is the 4th full length release by the BellRays, originally released in 2003 by Poptones. It’s being re-released on Alternative Tentacles and won’t be available until later this month (1/2005)

The music on this CD is “Rock & Soul,” fuled by the power of singer Lisa Kekaula’s soulful and expressive voice and Tony Fate’s driving and equally expressive guitar work. The band is from Riverside, but their sound is from Detroit.

The quality of the tracks is pretty uneven, both in the songwriting and the playing. And there is a self-seriousness in the music and liner notes that is off-putting. But on the tracks where everything clicks (especially 5,7,8,12 in my humble opinion) all is forgiven.

After listening to this CD you’ll no longer wonder what Aretha’s albums would have sounded like if Steve Cropper was replaced with Tony Iommi.

Language: Fuck on 3

Use the track listings on the inside of the liner notes. The back cover doesn’t contain the full track listing.

–Hunter Gatherer

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