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Music Reviews

Archie Shepp – ?Attica Blues? – [Impulse!]

Hunter Gatherer   1/5/2005   CD, Jazz

This is a 3/2003 reissue of an album originally released in 1972.

Saxophonist Archie Shepp is one of the pioneers of free jazz. He has a degree in comparative literature, is a composer, and is a published playwright and poet. He’s also a radical who makes no secret of his anger about social injustice.

So given the topic of the Attica prison riots (in which a four day revolt was squashed by 1,000 state troopers who killed 29 inmates and 10 hostages) I was looking forward to popping in this CD and hearing about what a shit whitey is.

But Mr. Shepp is smarter than that. Plenty of rage is here, and you can hear it in his alto and soprano saxophone lines throughout the whole CD. You can especially hear it in the cacophonous funk-based free jazz (free funk?) of the title track.

The rage almost gives way to despair later in the CD with lyrics like ‘I would rather be a plant than a man in this land.’ Even on the prettiest song Ballad for a Child, discordant strings belie the lyrics ‘What the world needs is a baby’s smile.’

2, 4, and 7 are spoken word ‘invocations? of which 4 is the most interesting. ‘Blues for George Jackson? refers to the Black Panther leader shot to death under suspicious circumstances while in prison.

There are elements of R&B, soul, funk, and even big band underneath the jazz elements, making each track seem familiar but not quite comfortable.

Most of the songs track through, so watch the endings. Also, the last track features some spontaneous (to put it nicely) singing by a 7-year-old.

–Hunter Gatherer

[coll] Night Gallery [Alchemy]

Thurston Hunger   1/3/2005   A Library

Five fingers of death from the hand of Jojo’s Alchemy label.
LSD-march provide a driven rain of rock with Fukuoka Rinji’s
violin slicing right through it on the first track, then go
down tempo for a ballad…and wind up with a very sparse,
morose number. The duet Doodles offers two appetizers for
the main course of their street-sweet-smart full length.
Miminokoto just are getting their ankles wet in the psyche
riff-improv rock of track #6 when they get potted out.
Their next two contributions are more gentle drift spaced
psych, mixed a little roughly. Chouzo haunts with their
spooky shizuka-y vibe…the general sense is lying on the
bottom of some liquid looking up. The Up-Tight work out
all the kinks, the jams, and any other hang-ups one may
have with solid, stand on the edge of the stage/abyss
rock and roll. Their “Sweet Sister” starts with a tribal
drum anticipation and reverbed vox that climbs up towards
an unavoidable guitar throttling.

Vanishing, the – “Still Lifes Are Falling” – [Gold Standard Labs]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

the vanishing – “still lifes are falling” – [gold standard labs]

high energy aesthetics coupled with lo-fi production yields danceable dark wave goth featuring distorted reverb-soaked female vox, programmed and live drums, a sax that haunts, fuzzed-out synths that taunt. clean lyrics (except as marked) decry various aspects of the current state of the human condition: “buried beneath the plastic sheen / is a world that’s painted violently”

mad hatter

Emotional Joystick – “Bellicose Pacific” – [Zod]

Funkminsta Fulla   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

emotional joystick – “bellicose pacific” – [zod records]

enjoy this man-up from Milwaukee, WI: bleeps, blips ‘n breaks galore are to be found on this full length release from emo::joy and all tracks take aim to please! soundscapes and synths accompany breaktech beats a la aphex twin-esque abrasion mixed with more chill ‘n chunky loops as well. simple video-game like melodic lines work well with the harmonic progressions that back them with a sometimes sparse, sometimes symphonic, ever schizophrenic feel.

note: tr13 = bonus round / hidden track after ~ 3:o3 of silence

mad hatter

The Tough & Lovely – “Born Of The Stars” – [Spoonful Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   A Library, CD

This is the first full-length release from a 5 member rock and roll band from Columbus, Ohio founded in 2002 by guitarist/songwriter Andrew Robertson. The CD was released 8/2004.

For lack of a better term, I would call this music ‘garage rock? though that wouldn’t give an indication of the years spent listening to and reverse engineering their rock and soul records, the excellent songwriting, the solid rhythm section that’s in no particular hurry, and – the first thing you will notice – Lara Yazvac’s tough and lovely singing.

In a good portion of the lyrics people are breaking hearts, getting their hearts broken, holding on, letting go, doing a lot of crying. (I don’t remember life in Ohio as being that dramatic.) Written down they would probably look silly, but with Ms. Yazvac’s voice and the band backing her up it works.

Here is a partial list of influences that I was scribbling down as I was listening: Kinks, Pretenders, Del Shannon, Shangri-Las, The Capitols (Cool Jerk), X Ray Spex, Lowell Fulson (Tramp), the entire Atlantic Rhythm and Blues box set.

Every convertible sold should come with a copy of this CD.

–Hunter Gatherer

Domenico + 2 – Sincerely Hot – [Luaka Bop]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   CD, International

‘Domenico? is Domenico Lancelotti, and ?+2? is Moreno Veloso and Kassin. This is the second of three releases which feature one of the three. It was recorded between 10/2001 and 4/2002 but for some reason not released until 9/2004.

(By the way, the first release – ‘Musical Typewriter? by Moreno + 2 – is in the International library and filed under Veloso.)

All three of them are Brazilian, and Domenico is a drummer. As a result there are plenty of Latin beats. The lyrics are in Portuguese in all but one song, but you can read the translation in the liner notes if you want to read the lyrics that mainly concern themselves with leaving, desire, and waiting.

This is very smart and funky Brazilian pop with varied influences. They definitely took their Burt Bacharach pills before recording some of the tracks (2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13). 12 is an instrumental. Some tracks have a great funk feel (4, 5, 8) There are duets that made me laugh even though I had no idea what they were singing about (5, 11).

Language: 7 (suck your breast/suck your ass). Also 3 tracks right into 4 with no warning.

–Hunter Gatherer

MTKJ Quartet “Making Room For Spaces” [Nine Winds]

Thurston Hunger   12/8/2004   CD, Format, Jazz

Like ROVA, MTKJ feels so strongly bout the connection between
members that they’re all in for a letter and all in for the
long haul. (Well ROVA stuck with it even when it became ROAA)
Anyways this is NOT your father’s West Coast jazz, nothing
as sunny as a convertible drive by the beach, instead we’re
looking over the edge of windy, desolate seaside cliff. We’re
treated to stellar composition, utilizing dramatic pauses
(tightened by Paul Kikuchi’s snare rolls) and major thematic
shifts, check out the 3 minute mark into the leadoff track!
Just gorgeous, later that same piece sounds like Salt Peanuts
are mixed in. Composition includes other moments of homage
along with setting up great dual play between Kris Tiner’s
trumpet and Jason Mears’ reeds. Everyone gets a chance to
solo shine, including bassist Ivan Johnson who can tiptoe tap
on the great intro to #4, or get rubbery as he desends down
the end of the final cut, leading a Mears landing. The album
title speaks volumes in the silence these guys keep alive
like fragile bubbles in convoluted metal sculpture pulled
through a soap rinse. Gaze with your ears.

Nomo – ?Nomo? – [Ypsilanti Records]

Hunter Gatherer   12/1/2004   A Library, CD

Nomo is a 17-piece band from Ann Arbor, Michigan led by composer/arranger/saxophonist/etc. Elliot Bergman. This is their first full-length release, released in May, 2004. And it was produced by Warn Defever of His Name Is Alive. Nomo has also released an EP previously, 2 songs of which are on this release.

From the tight horn section opening to the woman singing ‘la la la? fade out, this CD is great all the way through. It is Afrobeat/Afropop that leans variously towards jazz, reggae, space rock, and other genres. Fela Kuti is the spiritual godfather of this band. Think of them as a jazzier Antibalas that doesn’t want to execute Bush’s cabinet.

It’s amazing that this many musicians (4 percussionists, 6 horns, several guitarists) trying to meld this many styles is anything other than a big mess of ‘world music.’ Instead they are tight, keeping a steady beat and theme going while different instruments (sax, fuzz guitar, Fender Rhodes) solo over the top.

All tracks except for 4 and 10 are instrumentals.

–Hunter Gatherer

[coll] Relics: A Transmat Compilation – [Buzz] – 33 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   12/1/2004   12-inch, A Library

‘From Belgium to Detroit – with respect? it says on this LP, a re-release by Belgium’s Buzz Records of this compilation of early Detroit techno music.

It was originally released in 1992 on Derrick May’s Transmat label, and it covers Detroit techno from 1986 to 1990 with tracks from Carl Craig (Psyche, BFC), Juan Atkins (Model 500), and mostly Derrick ‘Mayday? May (Rhythim [sic] is Rhythim [sic]) who has over half the tracks on this album.

Some of Mr. May’s tracks hadn’t been released before or even been given titles. They show up titled as ‘A Relic? or ‘Another Relic.’ In between each track is a weird little ‘interval? less than a minute in length performed by Messrs. May and Craig.

The artists on this album were influenced by Alvin Toffler, and in Detroit in the late 80s the decline of the Second Wave was more than a abstract concept. Amid the decay they created a musicical version of the Third Wave, in which man and machine (in this case a Roland synthesizer) would merge and form something far funkier than the sum of its parts. The use of the word techno to describe the music was lifted from the techno rebels in Toffler’s book Future Shock.

All tracks are instrumental and entirely synth-generated. The beats are relentless, and everything else – melody, synth-strings, chords – are merely there to support the beat.

–Hunter Gatherer

Triosk – “Moment Returns” – [Leaf Label Ltd]

Funkminsta Fulla   11/30/2004   A Library, CD

triosk – “moment returns” – [leaf label]

triosk administers measured yet delicate doses of minimalist meanderings and moody muses to create an aural tonic that is smooth, sensitive and sophisticated… no bitters here. “moment returns” mixes well with both psychoacoustic sound clash and downtempo acid jazz with equal ease. sparse sound samples form an interactive organic environment which complements this contemplative piano trio nicely.

mad hatter

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