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Music Reviews

Tarantula – “S/T ” – [Self-Released]

lombard   3/29/2005   A Library, CD

Tarantula is a young-ish 4-piece band from New York. They cite influences from both classical and the rock world and are comprised of cello, violin, guitar/bass, drums/percussion, glockenspiel, and melodica. This release has an upbeat, European gypsy-music/chamber rock feel to it, especially with the prominent strings. It’s all instrumental music that the band describes as “melancholic melody.”

-Cynthia Lombard

Roberts, Alasdair- “No Earthly Man”- [Drag City](CD)

lombard   3/29/2005   A Library, CD

Scottish folk-inspired musician Alasdair Roberts initially caught the attention of Will Oldham when he was in Appendix Out. Even back then he acknowleged folk inspirations, including Vashdi Bunyan, who he covered on one album. This release explores even older Irish, Scottish & English traditional songs. The lyrics are intense on these ballads about poisoning, fratricide, shipwrecks, infanticide and lost love. “A Lyke Wake Dirge” is a charm song, traditionally sung while viewing a dead body. Voice-with strongly accented vocals-is prominent. A beautiful, mesmerizing release.

-Cynthia Lombard

Cooper-Moore & Assif Tsahar “tells untold” [Hopscotch]

Thurston Hunger   3/29/2005   CD, Format, Jazz

Tsahar’s Hopscotch label as been delivering pure beauty as of
late, whether en masse with Underground Orchestras or in more
subtle style as with these above-the-clouds duets. While I
remain a charismatic agnostic, it is still hard not to hear
the harp as a heavenly harkening. And there’s something about
the thumb piano, that seems to summon up otherworldly vibes
as well. This release even pipes in a shofar, a ram’s horn
for ancient atonement. But this album doesn’t strictly serve
up its spoils past mortal coils, there’s rootsier-than-the-
holes-in-a-bluesman’s-shoes “diddley-bow” on “Deviations”
and the CD closer as well. It’s a one-string, rubber-band
thing that rumbles and stretches. Or if you want neither
angels nor men, how about computer? While not credited, #8
has Assif spiraling tenor scurries into what sounds like
a bubbling cauldron of circuitry (but possibly a homemade
concoction of Cooper-Moore?’) For as much competing bliss
and brimstone as is found here, this album hangs together
supremely. At once refreshingly relaxing, and gloriously
gnashing. The melody at the end feels like coming home,
the rest of the joys are definitely otherworldly.

Cluck, Diane “Oh Vanille / Ova Nil” [Important Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/29/2005   A Library, CD, Format

Even without a few heartfelt harmonies dubbed in, and the
gracefully guided crack of her voice, the words alone cut
right past the ear to the heart. “And you fade from me like
you know I’m dying.” Ouch. But really you’ve got to hear her
vocalize that sentiment, it winds up catching the body
language of hurt, all in an ornate loneliness despite being
surrounded by a 1000 midwives. Is it a paean to a child lost
during childbirth?’ Listen to “Bones and Born Again” and tell
me. The recipe here is simple enough an acoustic guitar (oft
a 12 string rattler!) and some songs in a shaky voice, I
guess you’ll want to hear her soon. Shaky…but unswerving.
And that weird (New England?) clip to her voice, like a lost
Roche sister? Enunciation of renunciation? Arrow of my
sparrow? These songs take flight, like the woman singing
pretty sad songs strung on a clothes line. Stringing songs
along. They can dry out their tears and catch the scent of
her breeziness. Coaxed, comforted. An essential album for
those with souls cracked but intact.

World Psychedelic Classics Vol. 3: Love’s A Real Thing: The Funky Fuzzy Sounds Of West Africa [coll] – [Luaka Bop]

Hunter Gatherer   3/28/2005   CD, International

In this amazing compilation released this month (3/2005) from David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label, we are treated to music recorded in West Africa in the early to mid-70s. While the music is surely African in origin, it is under the heavy influence of the Western pop and rock sounds of the previous decade. The result is like hearing James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Latin and Cuban rhythms held up to an African aural fun house mirror.

Of course the very deepest roots of most Western music have origins in the cultures of Western Africa, and maybe this is why these twelve tracks sound so natural and strange and familiar all at the same time. The liner notes do a great job putting this in context, but the gist of it is that cheap record players, imported vinyl, and cheaper studio technology all came together to make this music possible.

All tracks are strong, so picking a track at random is not a bad way to decide. I particularly like 1 (check out the video on the CD, too), 3 (lots of yelps and call-and-response), 7 (in which a bunch of countries are scolded: ‘Do you think this world is yours? Better change your mind?), 8 (this is one of the ‘funky and fuzzy’s referred to in the title), and 10 (a little surfy and with steel drums). 4 is an instrumental.

–Hunter Gatherer

Boom Bip — ?Blue Eyed In The Red Room? — [Lex]

Hunter Gatherer   3/21/2005   A Library, CD

Boom Bip is Cincinnati native and producer/musician/smartypants Bryan Hollon. This is his second full-length solo album, released in March 2005. (He has also released a collaboration with Dose One which we have in Hip hop/CD and a remix album called Corymb (A/CD).)

The music on this album is clean, beautiful, cerebral, and airy (on most tracks at least) electronic music. Above all it is cerebral. You could actually hum along with some of the songs. Live instruments appear (guitar, drum, autoharp, strings), though usually highly processed.

Two of the stand out tracks feature vocals. Do’s And Don’ts starts with a mantra of thou shall not believe/thou shall not be led and launches into a litany of choices one has to make. By the end of the song, the mantra and the litany are buddies. Vocals by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals.

Another stand out track is The Matter (Or Our Discussion) with ethereal and beautiful vocals Nina Nastasia that contrast with the blunt 5a.m. truths of the lyrics. The song should make sense to anyone who has ever fallen out of love.
–Hunter Gatherer

Lekan Animashaun — ?Low Profile (Not For The Blacks)? — [Honest Jons] — (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   3/20/2005   12-inch, International

This is classic Nigerian Afrobeat music by baritone sax player and then leader of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70, Lekan Animashaun. Originally recorded in 1979, this LP was re-released by Honest Jons Records in 2004. Copies of the original album are exceedingly rare because harassment from the Nigerian government delayed its release and when it was finally released it wasn’t promoted very well.

The release contains two songs about 11 minutes long, one on each side. Both tracks settle into a groove with scads of horns, scads of percussion, bass, guitar, and organ. Different instruments step forward to add their thoughts and then recede back into the music. Then some lyrics are shouted by men and answered by a female chorus. Rinse and repeat.

The lyrics are translated into pidgin English, which is to say enough English to get the point across.

The first song Low Profile (Not For The Blacks) is a reference to a statement by General Obasanjo. Commenting on a rise in robberies by armed bandits, he helpfully suggested that people keep a low profile.

Se rere is an exhortation to be good and act right, similar to what Dr. Laura does at the end of her show each day.

Three word review: Nigerian Soul Stew

–Hunter Gatherer

Willie Hightower — ?Willie Hightower? — [Honest Jons]

Hunter Gatherer   3/20/2005   CD, Soul

Willie Hightower is a largely forgotten southern soul singer who had a too few hits and who is too obscure for the magnitude of his talent. This collection of his work by Honest Jons Records should renew interest in this singer who is still performing today.

This is the third in a series: Check out Candi Staton and Bettye Swann in Soul/CD for more great soul music.

Mr. Hightower has an expressive voice that growls, moans, shouts, croons, and overpowers all arrangements. His voice is like that root beer that says ‘stands up to ice cubes? on the can. The most obvious influence is Sam Cooke. A quote in the liner notes describes his voice as ‘Sam Cooke after a night on the tiles.’ To my ears he sounds somewhere between Otis Redding and Sam and Dave.

The tracks with Fame of Muscle Shoals (1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10) are particularly tasty. Time Has Brought About A Change is an answer song to Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Going To Come. With lyrics like ‘But now I’ve got my pride deep down inside/And no one will ever take it again,? it’s obviously about the civil rights movement. This song, along with Poor Man and If I Had A Hammer, gives a sense of his ability to personalize and express what was going on around him at the time.

–Hunter Gatherer

The Sound Of Philadelphia [coll] – [Soul Jazz Records] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   3/20/2005   12-inch, Soul

Soul Jazz Records has put together an awesome 20-track set of songs from the mid-60s to the mid-70s when funk and soul recordings made in Philadelphia dominated the charts and airwaves. (This is actually part two of a series started with their Philadelphia Roots compilation, which we have in the Soul collections on CD.)

This Philly compilation differs from most in that it reaches beyond the obvious Gamble and Huff hits (though they are certainly present here) and includes more obscure tracks, especially ones featuring the session musicians that made the Philly Sound possible. They are listed in the liner notes, but since they only got union fees for their playing I will list them here as well: Ronnie Baker (bass), Norman Harris (guitar), Earl Young (drums), Karl and Roland Chambers (drums, guitar), Vince Montana (vibes), Bobby Eli (guitar).

Though one or more of these musicians are on almost every track, in particular check out A3, B3 (The Family is actually MSFB), and B4.

The music is varied and not laid out in a neat stylistic order, so you will have to bounce around to find a track that works for you. There is straight ahead soul by uber-foxes The Three Degrees and Frankie Beverly. There are proto-disco tracks like 100 South Of Broadway and Hot Pants. There’s some party R&B by Ruby & the Party Gang. There’s soul with fuzz guitar by Yellow Sunshine. All tracks are worthwhile, just bounce around and you’ll find something you like.

There is a little bit of confusion around two of the tracks by The Three Degrees: D5 is the instrumental version of B2. They both appeared together on a 7″ on Neptune Records. The A side (with vocals, B2 on this collection) is called What I See and the B side (instro, D5 on this collection) is called Reflections Of Yesterday. A minor point sure, but one that must be cleared up.

Instrumentals: A5, B3, B4, C1, D2, D3, D5

–Hunter Gatherer

Enslaved – “Isa” – [Back On Black]

Tyke   3/17/2005   A Library

It must be something to do with the climate. What else
could you blame for so much great Black/Death Metal
coming from the Nordic climes, whose total population
could probably fit into one of the smaller LA suburbs ?
And Enslaved keep the winning streak going with this
exceptional release. This Norwegian 5-piece (yes, they
add the subtlety of keyboards to the usual guitar/bass/
drums line-up) is one of the finest exponents of the
genre, and they bring a wide range of colours and
textures to bear here, with the high-point being the
closing 12+ minute epic ‘Reogenesis? with Arve Isdal’s
lead guitar playing simply scintillating. Death never
tasted so sweet !

Terry Tyke

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