THE GRAVES BROTHERS DELUXE Light - (2005) Since their formation in 1998, The Graves Brothers Deluxe have released a smoldering heap of albums, singles, and EPs, leading them to tours of Japan, Spain, Mexico, and the USA, plus international radio & TV appearances. Most recently, the Brothers were seen performing on ANTHONY BOURDAIN'S NO RESERVATIONS on the Travel Channel. GBDLX also work in the world of film soundtracks ("Reeling," "Neurotique," and "Madalien the Small"), music videos (by award-winning director Nara Denning), and in 2009 released the self-titled MAHIKARI album, a collaboration with ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE's Kawabata Makoto and the BOREDOMS' Yamamoto Seiichi. Other collaborations are currently underway, including one with Eddie Shaw of '60's icons THE MONKS. Other some-time host bodies for the Graves include Nolan Cook (the RESIDENTS, DIMESLAND), Drew Cook (DIMESLAND), Bap Pawiftni (TERRIFYING SICKOS), Jai Young Kim (SECRET CHIEFS 3), Sean Greaves (TSOL, JOYKILLER), Roger Kunkel (THIN WHITE ROPE, ACME ROCKET QUARTET), Jozef Becker (THIN WHITE ROPE, TRUE WEST, SIPPY CUPS), and more. Regardless of whoever happens to be possessed on any particular evening, the Graves Brothers Deluxe promise to scare your children into behaving.
TEDDYBEARS Soft Machine - (2006) Though the members of the Teddybears used to be in a Swedish grindcore band together back in the '90s, you would be hard-pressed to hear those harder, noisier influences in Soft Machine, their first U.S. release. Instead, brothers Jaokim and Klas Ahlund and Patrick Arve use drum machines, methodically layered electric guitars, keyboards, and a whole lot of bass to propel their alternative dance-fueled music forward. The album is a high-energy, rhythm-driven affair, with synthy basslines and rock-solid beats holding down the tracks while sloshing guitars lay out circular, effects-laden riffs. Many will probably be familiar with the Teddybears' sound thanks to the appearance of their song, the Fatboy Slim-esque "Cobrastyle" in a 2006 Heineken commercial, which combines guest vocalist Mad Cobra's simple, catchy lyrics with handclaps and head-nodding made-for-road-trips chord breaks, and the rest of the record pretty much follows suit, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good because the band has hit upon an effective kind of brightly nocturnal dance-rock that plays nicely, but bad because as Soft Machine progresses, the formula they use becomes more and more apparent, and just a little less fun every time; by the time "Little Stereo" comes around, the poppy reggae melodies and straightforward drums are a bit tiresome in their predictability. This isn't to say that the album's without its strengths — Iggy Pop helps to give a convincing Killers treatment to "Punkrocker," and though he sounds a bit stilted at times, Osterberg's voice is as strong as it's been in a long time, while "Automatic Lover" features a great plodding vocoder and plenty of cascading electronic bleeps, and everything moves along well. No, Soft Machine isn't any more groundbreaking than any of the other 21st century alternative dance albums out there, but it covers the basics — beat and melody — well enough to make it enjoyable nonetheless. (allmusic.com)
TOM WAITS Bone Machine - (1992) Perhaps Tom Waits' most cohesive album, Bone Machine is a morbid, sinister nightmare, one that applied the quirks of his experimental '80s classics to stunningly evocative — and often harrowing — effect. In keeping with the title's grotesque image of the human body, Bone Machine is obsessed with decay and mortality, the ease with which earthly existence can be destroyed. The arrangements are accordingly stripped of all excess flesh; the very few, often non-traditional instruments float in distinct separation over the clanking junkyard percussion that dominates the record. It's a chilling, primal sound made all the more otherworldly (or, perhaps, underworldly) by Waits' raspy falsetto and often-distorted roars and growls. Matching that evocative power is Waits' songwriting, which is arguably the most consistently focused it's ever been. Rich in strange and extraordinarily vivid imagery, many of Waits' tales and musings are spun against an imposing backdrop of apocalyptic natural fury, underlining the insignificance of his subjects and their universally impending doom. Death is seen as freedom for the spirit, an escape from the dread and suffering of life in this world — which he paints as hellishly bleak, full of murder, suicide, and corruption. The chugging, oddly bouncy beats of the more uptempo numbers make them even more disturbing — there's a detached nonchalance beneath the horrific visions. Even the narrator of the catchy, playful "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" seems hopeless in this context, but that song paves the way for the closer "That Feel," an ode to the endurance of the human soul (with ultimate survivor Keith Richards on harmony vocals). The more upbeat ending hardly dispels the cloud of doom hanging over the rest of Bone Machine, but it does give the listener a gentler escape from that terrifying sonic world. All of it adds up to Waits' most affecting and powerful recording, even if it isn't his most accessible. (allmusic.com)
I AM SPOONBENDER Buy Hidden Persuaders - (2006) During a period when pop music was overtaken by uninspired, pedestrian rock and MTV-ready teen bands, bland R&B, and ultra-commercial hip-hop, I Am Spoonbender burst out of the indie underground with a sound so futuristic that it made even the most adventurous of contemporaries seem somehow status quo. Drawing on elements as wildly divergent as B-movie kitsch and avant-garde art and film, from new wave and electro-pop to experimental and electronic interests, the band's music was somehow both backward and forward looking, oddly grounded in the noir-like mood of old-school weird science but going beyond the paranoid razor's-edge of cyberculture toward destinations unknown. Beyond simply a pop band, I Am Spoonbender was a distinct concept. The project was about noticing the beauty and details of objects that most people take for granted in everyday life, finding hidden connections, exploring the subjective nature of reality, and extrapolating meaning from synchronistic or seemingly coincidental occurrences. The theory and philosophy behind the band was born out of the band members' experiences with chance, telepathy, altered states, the occult, psychic phenomena surrounding communication devices, and other extrasensory and paranormal ideas, all of which informed and were informed by the music. Although their esoteric blend was decidedly not commercial, in the conventional sense of the word, I Am Spoonbender helped launch pop music past the trappings of 20th century pop music and into the 21st century. To my knowledge, this is the band's most current release. It is comprised of three tracks, each one clocking in at over ten minutes with the first track close to twenty minutes in length. ONE. YOU HAVE BEEN SUGGESTED 1. was that a commercial ? 2. ESPionage 3. project spellbinder a: scheme b: product c: sold! 4. what do you see in ice cube 3 ? 5. the drug companies did a good job 6. three folded words TWO. PENETRATE TO DEEPER LEVELS 1. which brand are you ? 2. chapped lip hypnotist ( turn me on in session ) 3. love of the evolved THREE. SLOWLY REPLACED IN MIRRORS 1. so, it turns out that life was a movie they saw ? 2. dear mirror - who are we now ? 3. meeting yourself : i'm you
THE RESIDENTS The Bridegroom Of Blood - (2009) The Residents have collaborated with members of Gamelan Sekar Jaya on a number of projects. This collection includes two versions of Bridegroom of Blood, one recorded at the Brava Theater from Icky Flix, and one from Gamelan Sekar Jaya's anniversary concert at the Cowell Theater. The Cowell performance includes a string section. The other selections are from the Wormwood Fillmore '98 show, an arrangement of Santa Dog for Gamelan, a sketch for Gamelan which was never performed, and the ethereal Gamelan based instrumental version of Burn my Bones from Animal Lover.
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE Danse Manatee - (2001) Animal Collective were formed in Baltimore County, MD, by longtime friends and musical collaborators Avey Tare (David Porter), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb), and Geologist (Brian Weitz). The group's penchant for genre-hopping and studio experimentation has drawn comparisons to everyone from the Residents and the Flaming Lips to the Incredible String Band and the Holy Modal Rounders. Danse Manatee (originally titled Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist) explores the fringes and intersecting boundaries of freak folk, noise rock, ambient drone, and twisting, melodic psychedelia. The album was recorded in many different locations, including Avey's parents house, the house the band shared in Brooklyn Heights, and Geologist's college dorm room and radio station. To create the sounds the group made use of guitar, synths, samples, and did percussion with whatever was lying around. At the time of recording, the band was into extreme frequencies. Their goal was to experiment with intense high and low sounds and how they occupied space in the room and moved around in the listener's head. This created a challenge during the mastering process, as they could not raise the volume of the whole mix without causing the sounds to digitally distort.
SWANS Children Of God - (1987) Kicking off with "New Mind" — which, while having the same general pace of most earlier Swans songs, also sounds distinctly different with its clearer, inventive arrangement, call-and-response vocals, and Gira's declamatory but not screamed lead vocal — Children of God finds the band making their own particular great leap forward. The simmering changes that were apparent in the albums just before this one's release fully come to the fore, as Swans take the courage to explore both their huge-sounding, bombastic side and gentle, if often still disturbing, delicacy (due credit especially to Westberg, Kizys, and Parsons, possibly the best musical lineup Swans ever had until the final years). The results are fascinating, ranging from the spare piano melting into ambient feedback of "In My Garden" and the twisted gospel blues of "Our Love Lies" to the acoustic guitar and organ on "You're Not Real, Girl" and the raging pounder "Beautiful Child." Equally importantly, if not more so, Jarboe now assumes a full role with Gira as co-leader of the band; while all lyrics are still Gira's, the two share lead vocal duties (though aside from the title track, no duets) throughout the album. The weary, evocative croon which Gira developed into his major vocal trademark here emerges to full effect (though he can still roar with the best of them at points) while Jarboe's cool, rich tones are simply astounding, as evidenced on an even more compelling version of "Blackmail," originally from the A Screw EP. Though Children is dedicated without any apparent irony to Jesus Christ, Gira's words remain as irreverent, challenging, and obsessed with overarching issues of religion, power, sex, love, and control as before, but with an ever-increasing depth and beauty to match the lusher musical textures. With flute, oboe, and strings adding further texturing to the often quite lovely songs created by the band, Children remains perhaps the key album of Swans' career — the clear signpost towards their ever-more ambitious albums in the future. (allmusic.com)
JOHN ZORN Femina - (2009) John Zorn returns to his famous "file card" technique of composing with Femina, a disc he wrote and conducts with an all-woman lineup, dedicated to women in the arts. Among those honored here are Meredith Monk, Simone de Beauvoir, Frida Kahlo, Madame Blavatsky, Isadora Duncan, Hélène Cixous, Gertrude Stein, Abe Sada, Sylvia Plath, Louise Bourgeois, Margaret Mead, Loie Fuller, Dorothy Parker, Yoko Ono and the moon goddess En Hedu'Anna. Written in four parts, the disc opens with Laurie Anderson's narrative cutting to pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, played over Ikue Mori's electronic doodles. The next card is some bang-up percussion from Shayna Dunkelman that washes out into Carol Emanuel, Jennifer Choi, and Okkyung Lee's strings. Zorn's score reveals his choice to place certain sound blocks next to another. Sometimes the transitions are abrupt, noisy, and feverish, other sections meld into gently flowing sequences. As with the original Spillane and his Naked City band, the astonishing revelation is that this music and its segues are not post-production studio creations, but live performance by these talented artists. Like many other works by Zorn, sheer beauty is often juxtaposed against noise, and scary themes jostle the passages of tranquility. But, then, fans of his music must always expect his music to abruptly awaken.
RETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR Daytrotter Session - (2008) On June 30th 2008, The Retribution Gospel Choir stopped by The Horseshack in downtown Rock Island, Ill to perform a few songs from their debut album. The Horseshack is home of Daytrotter....and what is Daytrotter you ask? About Daytrotter.com - One band a day, every day, 28 Daytrotter Session songs each week - There are so many music/entertainment websites that copy one another, scrambling so fast to “discover” or present something new to the world. And just because you get there first, it doesn’t really make you an explorer. We did poke a stars and stripes into the moon, but we could always see it. We knew it was there. It wasn’t new. We can always come along and say we did, saw, heard something first, but we’re never right. What Daytrotter is attempting to do is to not kid around with you and tell you that we found something that you never knew existed. We are going to contribute to the musical landscape, not just toss it around like a used book or a stolen pick-up line. We’re going to give you something that you truly have never heard. We are not giving you songs from someone you love’s record album, We’re giving you exclusive, re-worked, alternate versions of old songs and unreleased tracks by some of your favorite bands and by a lot of your next favorite bands.
NASH THE SLASH Children Of The Night - (1981) Nash the Slash's second full-length solo album, and solo it is indeed, with Nash playing all instruments. Hillage does a wonderful job producing Nash, bringing out a much harder sound than heard on his debut solo release Dreams and Nightmares. This album rocks, complete with covers of the Rolling Stones (and brilliant version of "19th Nervous Breakdown," which seems perfectly suited for Nash) and Deep Purple, with Nash altering the words of the classic "Smoke on the Water" to "Dopes on the Water." He even covers Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve," although the version found on this album is not as powerful as Nash's original cover found on a 7" single (released on Nash's own Cut-Throat Records). There are a number of interesting instrumentals full of wonderful noises that produce an awe-inspiring sound, especially the opening track "Wolf," which includes brief moments from Peter and the Wolf. This is a very strong album, full of interesting sounds, that stands up to repeated listenings.
THE LOUNGE LIZARDS Voice Of Chunk - (1988) After a few revisions to the band's lineup, John Lurie had a brilliant cast for his Lounge Lizards' Voice of Chunk, which came out on his private label in 1989. Now that Lurie's got his strong Strange & Beautiful label, Voice is in wide circulation. And that's a good thing. It's probably the best work this lineup of the Lizards had to offer. Keyboardist Evan Lurie and guitarist Marc Ribot show themselves clearly up to fulfilling the leader's noirish, additive aesthetic. Additive, you ask? Lurie's a builder. He takes small cells, little turns of phrase, and then layers instruments, approaching the nugget, making for muted thrills as listeners glean the simplicity of the melodies and the sophistication of the instrumental combination (Roy Nathanson on saxophones, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, percussionist E.J. Rodriguez, drummer Dougie Bowne, and bassist Erik Sanko round out the octet). The solos appear more ascetic, or at least more downturned, in their key signatures and structures. If you're wondering where to find a window on Lurie, a fantastic guy with soundtrack and film credits galore, this is as fine a place to look as any.
The three gentlemen in the band called Angst had definitely done their rock & roll homework when they made this album, and they knew the elements that mix to make a great three-minute song. This mix of up-tempo pop with elements of country twang and punk energy has an innocence and enthusiasm that makes the album timeless. The bluesy organ work on the slow-burning cover of "Motherless Child" could have come from any Steppenwolf album, and there's a hint of Mersey in the harmonies of "Time to Understand." There are some clinkers among the stellar tracks, but even those are rather endearing; "My Dinner With Debbie" is a love song to a woman who is a good cook, and it sounds like it was written and recorded by a band who had missed several meals. Overall, Cry for Happy is a marvelous work of pop craftsmanship that has three or four pieces that should've been at least minor hits. Listen to the hook-laden perfection of "I Could Never Change Your Mind" or "Long Road" and listeners will find themselves wondering what the radio programmers were listening to that was half this good.
SNAKEFINGER Greener Postures - (1980) This is the peculiar and unique material of a cult guitarist extraordinaire. Each song is a quirky island in a sea of sonic oddity. The gamut on Greener Postures runs from the edgy depression ballad "Living in Vain" to "I Come From an Island" with an oppressive beat and stark message that could come from the Residents' The Mole Show. A listen to this album forces consideration of his immense contribution to the Residents' sound.
ARAB STRAP Elephant Shoe - (1999) All of the same words ("languid," "somnolent," "depressing," "miserable," et al.) employed to describe Arab Strap's first two efforts apply to their third as well, but a virtually imperceptible shift is afoot on Elephant Shoe — a shift that none of their previous work hinted at. If both The Week Never Starts Round Here and Philophobia were one-night stands put to music, Elephant Shoe turns out to be skeptical domestication. It is an album unmistakably touched by the vulnerability of being in love — or at least trying to love — as opposed to remembering, yearning for, or altogether avoiding it. Whereas the title of their previous album literally translated to "fear of falling in love," "elephant shoe" is a phrase uttered by Scottish youth afraid of saying, "I love you," a way of implying the sentiment while deflecting its articulation. Elephant Shoe, in a sense, then, is Arab Strap's warped way of saying those three powerful little words. That doesn't hinder the typical brutal honesty of Aidan Moffat's lyrics. Even his most peaceful and content emotions are infused with hints of violence and misgiving. He is frequently scathing, spitting out ultimatums like "If you go/Go for good," but such a breakup couplet suggests a long-term relationship in the first place. There are a fair share of cabaret-soaked moments — funereal soundscapes, mournful cello, lounge piano — but even in the face of Malcolm Middleton's beautifully forlorn electric guitar strumming, an underlying buoyancy is manifested in the use of punchy drum-machine rhythms on songs such as "Cherubs," "One Four Seven One," and "The Drinking Eye." The sex is no longer dirty, the guilt no longer flailing in the dark, and the misery no longer entirely hopeless. It is an emotional step forward that may not be an entirely convincing evolution for Arab Strap — and may, as is love's nature, prove short-lived — but it is palpable, and considering their history, it is a courageous progression. Still, the album fits in the record collection next to Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Joy Division, Portishead, the Smiths, and Tindersticks. (allmusic.com)
HENRY ROLLINS Live At McCabe's - (1990) A shorter release from the man, but still chock-full of awesome adventures. "I Wish Someone Had Told Me" and "Misunderstanding" are two of his best stories — not just for the content, but for the sheer wit of the delivery. Any fan of good spoken word will want this. "On June 9 & 10 1990, I shard the McCabe's stage with Exene Cervenka and Hubert Selby, Jr. As I remember is was a good time. Thanks for listening. "- Henry Rollins
WALL OF VOODOO Call Of The West - (1982) Wall of Voodoo's second full-length album, Call of the West, was a noticeably more approachable work than their debut, Dark Continent, and it even scored a fluke hit single, "Mexican Radio," a loopy little number about puzzled American tourists that's easily the catchiest thing on the album. But while Wall of Voodoo's textures had gotten a bit less abrasive with time, the band's oddball minor-key approach was still a long way from synth pop, and frontman Stan Ridgway's songs were Americana at it's darkest and least forgiving, full of tales of ordinary folks with little in the way of hopes or dreams, getting by on illusions that seem more like a willful denial of the truth the closer you get to them. There's a quiet tragedy in the ruined suburbanites of "Lost Weekend" and the emotionally stranded working stiff of "Factory," and the title song, which follows some Middle American sad sack as he chases a vague and hopeless dream in California, is as close as pop music has gotten to capturing the bitter chaos of the final chapter of Nathaniel West's The Day of the Locust. In other words, anyone who bought Call of the West figuring it would feature another nine off-kilter pop tunes like "Mexican Radio" probably recoiled in horror by the time they got to the end of side two. But there's an intelligence and wounded compassion in the album's gallery of lost souls, and there's enough bite in the music that it remains satisfying two decades on. Call of the West is that rare example of a new wave band scoring a fluke success with what was also their most satisfying album. (allmusic.com)
FLYING LOTUS Los Angeles - (2008) Before he started experimenting with left-field hip-hop beats and electronic samples, Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, experienced a moment of enlightenment. While filming a documentary about his great aunt/spiritual advisor Alice Coltrane and his cousin Ravi Coltrane, their cab driver asked if they were musicians. Alice responded that, in fact, the three of them were, except Steven didn't know it yet. It was a turning point, and soon after, when he viewed an ad challenging aspiring beat-makers to send in music to be used for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim bumpers, he took a chance on a whim, sent out a demo, and landed himself a paid position pumping out silky tracks for promos of his favorite shows. As an avid gamer, it was only natural that he would create downtempo Boards of Canada beats sauced with retro 8-bit bleeps and chimes, and these were a perfect fit for the Nintendo generation fan base of Adult Swim. Lotus' second full-length, Los Angeles, expands on fractured Zelda grooves, muddy bass stamps, and glitched drum loops to stir up nonintrusive computer chillout music modeled for a hip graphic designer's headphones. It could be considered headphone candy, but with the beats as liquefied and squishy as they are, headphone Slushee is more appropriate. "Golden Diva" rides the line between cold and sugary, crackling and popping like melting ice as carbonated hiss rotates in and out of the void behind unintelligible syllables diced together from stray vocal bits. In the same fashion, "GNG BNG" flips a Middle Eastern sitar groove into a mangled keyboard line slithering over a distorted rototom beat, before dropping down into "Auntie's Lock" to end the album in a quiet hush with breathy whispers over electronic piano loops. Like 2006's 1983, the patterns are subtly atmospheric and individual grooves feel tailored for the attention deficient, never lingering for very long before switching into a new tapestry. Loaded with 17 tracks, it's an entertaining and fitting addition to the Warp catalog that makes for some highly hypnotic video arcade/coffee parlor mood music. (allmusic.com)
YOUNG WIDOWS Split Series Vol 1-4 - (2009) Following on the heels of their breakthrough Old Wounds album, Young Widows have assembled an all-killer-no-filler split single series, featuring new, unreleased Young Widows jams, split up over four separate 7" singles, accompanied by a handful of their favorite friends and artists on the opposite sides of each single. Those artists include Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Melt-Banana, Pelican, and My Disco. All songs by all artists are brand new and exclusive to this series. Each single is strictly limited to a one-time pressing of 2,000 copies. The artwork for the four singles fits together to form one large, beautiful puzzled image. This posting includes only the tracks from The Young Widows and they are more of what you would expect to hear if you are a fan of the killer Old Wounds album.
LOW I Could Live In Hope - (1994) Like so many of their contemporaries, Low are repeatedly lumped into numerous derivative and nondescript headings intended to encompass slow-paced, instrument-driven music that maintains an indie aesthetic. Quite simply, no category can truly reveal the beauty and glory of Low's debut record I Could Live in Hope. Sad core? Not even close! I Could Live in Hope is an incredibly joyous journey of spirit and songwriting sensibility. The record remains patient and sparse throughout (just guitar, bass, high hat, and snare, and angelic vocals by the husband and wife team of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker), but succeeds beautifully. Low truly behold the gift of understatement. Working with long-time producer and New York underground mainstay Kramer, Low examine their own fears and haunting experiences, occasionally linking them with Biblical references, while consoling listeners with warm layers of ethereal vocals and waves of guitar reverberation. Tracks are simple one-word titles but that's all that they require — too much information would spoil the record's elegance. And that's probably why they open the record with "Words," a song about the overuse and misuse of language, that sets the tone for the entire album, right up to their plaintive and passionate cover of "You Are My Sunshine." Every small nuance of production is evident — Sparhawk's fingers not quite connecting on a chord change or sliding over a fret and echoing infinitely — making I Could Live in Hope a true testament to both Low and Kramer's penchant for capturing the lushest of soundscapes.
ORNETTE COLEMAN The Shape Of Jazz To Come - (1959) Ornette Coleman's Atlantic debut, The Shape of Jazz to Come, was a watershed event in the genesis of avant-garde jazz, profoundly steering its future course and throwing down a gauntlet that some still haven't come to grips with. The record shattered traditional concepts of harmony in jazz, getting rid of not only the piano player but the whole idea of concretely outlined chord changes. The pieces here follow almost no predetermined harmonic structure, which allows Coleman and partner Don Cherry an unprecedented freedom to take the melodies of their solo lines wherever they felt like going in the moment, regardless of what the piece's tonal center had seemed to be. Plus, this was the first time Coleman recorded with a rhythm section — bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins — that was loose and open-eared enough to follow his already controversial conception. Coleman's ideals of freedom in jazz made him a feared radical in some quarters; there was much carping about his music flying off in all directions, with little direct relation to the original theme statements. If only those critics could have known how far out things would get in just a few short years; in hindsight, it's hard to see just what the fuss was about, since this is an accessible, frequently swinging record. It's true that Coleman's piercing, wailing alto squeals and vocalized effects weren't much beholden to conventional technique, and that his themes often followed unpredictable courses, and that the group's improvisations were very free-associative. But at this point, Coleman's desire for freedom was directly related to his sense of melody — which was free-flowing, yes, but still very melodic. Of the individual pieces, the haunting "Lonely Woman" is a stone-cold classic, and "Congeniality" and "Peace" aren't far behind. Any understanding of jazz's avant-garde should begin here. (allmusic.com)
DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN I Wish My Brother George Was Here - (1991) Del Tha Funkee Homosapien may be the cousin of gangsta rap icon Ice Cube, who was the executive producer on this debut, but it would be hard to imagine two more dissimilar artists. Yet, just as Ice Cube helped popularize and legitimize West Coast gangsta rap with NWA, Del helped lay the foundation for what would become California's thriving underground scene with his seminal debut, I Wish My Brother George Was Here. Predating similarly seminal debuts from like-minded artists like tha Alkaholiks, Souls of Mischief, Freestyle Fellowship, and Pharcyde, Brother George takes the Parliament-Funkadelic-derived G-funk sound popularized by NWA and spins it into exciting new directions, replacing gangsta rap's nihilism with a healthy sense of the absurd. Released while Del was still a teen, Brother George offers a take on city life that's wry and bemused rather than tense and violent, addressing such crucial issues as having to ride the bus ("The Wacky World of Rapid Transit") and shiftless friends ("Sleepin' on My Couch") with a refreshingly assured comic sensibility. Bolstered by a pair of terrific, typically irreverent singles, ("Dr. Bombay" and "Mr. Dobalina"), Brother George imbued the otherwise grim West Coast hip-hop scene with a welcome dose of irreverence, proving that you didn't have to conform to any single image to be taken seriously as a rapper. Although for the most part an endearingly lightweight effort, Brother George does address serious topics on occasion, with "Dark Skin Girls" attacking media and personal perceptions of African-American beauty with a viciousness that borders on blatant sexism. Del has accomplished much since the release of Brother George — the Deltron 3030 album completed his evolution from smart-ass b-boy prodigy to indie rap superhero — but nothing he's done since has quite matched the charm, fun, and sheer exuberance of his stellar debut. (allmusic.com)
THE JESUS LIZARD Live At Exit/In - (7-14-2009) The Jesus Lizard are currently doing the reunion tour thing with all original members and when I first found out about this my heart nearly stopped. More or less I figured that this dream would never happen and now I am honored to say that I am just a few hours removed from paying witness to an incredible night of Lizard classics played live at Irving Plaza in NYC. It was like the mid 90's all over again on one hand and on the other, like seeing them live for the very first time. What a show it was! So now more than ever is the perfect time for me to post a live set that the band played at Nashville Tennessee's Exit/In venue from July 14th 2009. Miracles in music like this do not happen that often. All hail the mighty Jesus Lizard!
MORPHINE Good - (1992) While it may not be as stellar as their future releases would be, Morphine's debut album, 1992's Good, did a splendid job of introducing the Boston trio's highly original sound. While it was the alternative crowd who immediately latched onto Morphine, their music was geared more toward the jazz scene — a wailing saxophone, lead bass (played with a slide), and lyrics influenced by '50s beat poetry were all-important ingredients. The opening title track remains one of the band's darkest, while other selections are a bit more upbeat — "Have a Lucky Day" and the inappropriately titled "The Saddest Song"; all the while, the band excels at creating different moods with each successive track. Other highlights include the mid-paced "Claire" and "The Only One," the slight salsa feel of "You Speak My Language," the frantic "Test-Tube Baby/Shoot'm Down," and the more calm and sultry "You Look Like Rain." On their next release, Cure for Pain, Morphine would improve further on the strength of their songwriting and cutting-edge sound, but Good still contains more than a few standouts. (allmusic.com)
THE RESIDENTS Our Finest Flowers - (1992) As part of their 20-year retrospective, the Residents shunned a typical greatest-hits package (there have been plenty of those), and instead recorded an album of reinterpretations of their own catalog — sort of. This is cut-and-paste revisionism, with a melody line from one song, bass parts from another, and lyrics from yet another. Being such, it will make much more sense to the hardened fan than the casual listener. With this, the band has created a sonically interesting album. "Jungle Bunny," for example, meshes together the Snakefinger song "Picnic in the Jungle" with "Monkey and Bunny," the song written with Renaldo & the Loaf, and brings out a little more of the humor. "Ship of Fools" takes apart "Ship's a Goin' Down" and places it underneath Mark of the Mole's "Worker's Hymn," switching over to a lovely snatch of God in Three Persons for the chorus — the result is undoubtedly more than the sum of its parts, and possibly not greater, but there is a catharsis to hear all these varying themes come together. The group almost makes sense of its history and creates mystery once again.
NOSAJ THING Drift - (2009) California has long been a prime breeding ground for instrumental hip-hop, from DJ Shadow's pioneering work in the form through Madlib's tireless explorations and iterations, and that's never been more true than in the late 2000s, as a cresting wave of interest in the work of the late J Dilla helped to spark something of a stylistic resurgence, while a handful of Los Angeles-based producers coalesced into a recognizable local scene centered around the venue Low End Theory. That scene's first prominent breakout star was Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, who earned widespread notice with his 2008 Warp debut Los Angeles, but 24-year-old Jason Chung (Nosaj Thing) followed shortly thereafter, dropping his aptly named LP, Drift, the subsequent spring. As with FlyLo's work, Nosaj pushes well beyond the customary bounds of hip-hop into glitchy IDM, ambient, and even dubstep territory, foregrounding highly abstract electronic textures more reminiscent of artists like Prefuse 73, Aphex Twin, and Burial than the beatmakers referenced above, with hip-hop's rhythmic drive never entirely absent but often reduced to a spare, skeletal framework. But despite some clear stylistic parallels, Drift is a notably more austere, measured work that feels classically restrained in comparison to the fragmentary, static-soaked clutter of Los Angeles. With a distinctive sonic palette of muted squelchy synths, wordless vocals, and largely inorganic-sounding percussion, the album is curiously playful in spite of its somber, almost funereal tone, as it floats from the airy twinkles and reverberant handclaps of the opening "Quest" to the denser, menacingly murky electro-funk of "Coat of Arms" and the sinuous "1685/Bach." The album's latter half takes on an unexpectedly spiritual cast, partially due to Nosaj's use of decidedly churchy, organ-like textures. Though brooding, minor-key tonality and middle-range tempos remain dominant nearly throughout, the brief, nearly beatless "2222" and hazily serene "Us" introduce a welcome note of warmth and reassurance, before the murmurs and heartbeats of "Voices" usher in "Lords"' climactic, doom-laden choral fantasia. It's quite a stunning sequence, and evidence of the breadth of Nosaj Thing's compositional prowess, which extends from a fine ear for minute detail to a rare sense of album-length sweep.
CERBERUS SHOAL Homb - (1999) The first recording done with Harbeson and Kovaceic aboard, Homb shows the band now fully settled into its own style of drone and psych exploration. Consisted in full here as a six piece, the band offers credits on everything from copper flutes to a-go-go bells and talking drums and just about anything in between. While still theoretically a rock band, Cerberus Shoal clearly is more interested in exploring wherever or whatever exists to perform on or with. What makes the multiplicity of instruments interesting is that the end result depends just as much on moody minimalism as full arrangements, over the album's five-song length. The first impression, though, with the opening "Harvest," is one of warmth, mixing what could almost be distorted radio chatter, plus movie samples and guitar feedback, with a gentle, swelling synth/organ rise and heartbeat drums. The song takes its time to continue and develop, calling to mind everything from turn-of-the-'70s Pink Floyd and Popol Vuh to modern post-rock along the way. From there, the sextet introduces rock back into things via "Omphalos" — while the slow pace and semi-orchestral development of the track calls to mind Godspeed you Black Emperor!, there's a different edge to this recording, not as overbearing or immediately climactic. The three-part "Myrrh" wraps up Homb, each section a lengthy composition in itself. "Myrrh (Waft)" starts with soft bells and chimes around a quiet melody, like "Harvest," introducing small, subtle changes here and there before slightly mournful, lost vocals and soft drums appear halfway through. "Myrrh (Loop)" first increases the energy of the proceedings, adding more instrumentation (especially via horns), then alternates between quieter passages and heavier, more portentous rock slams which still have a spiraling, strange beauty to them. "Myrrh (Reprise)" concludes this fine album with more gently persistent energy and a last, volume-rising blast to sign off with. A grand last touch. (allmusic.com)
ANDREAS AMMER & FM EINHEIT Radio Inferno - (1993) F.M. Einheit, the machinist for Germany's Einsturzende Neubauten, is a regular collaborator with Andreas Ammer, who adapted the text for this radio-drama-meets-medieval-poetry version of Dante's "Inferno." Featuring the vocal talents of Phil Minton, Blixa Bargeld, and radio DJ John Peel, this makes for a surprisingly good adaptation. Blixa's shrieks and whistles harmonize nicely with the amazing vocal range Minton possesses; their path is described by Peel's archetypal radio DJ voice. A good portion of Neubaten shows up to provide instrumentation for the fray, an odd sound sculpture drawing elements from both media-manipulation sound sculpting and old-fashioned experimental rock. The tone varies wildly at times, jumping from a grinding industrial beat to an operatic soprano and back, but musical themes are woven throughout, giving the piece a continuity it needs. The adaptation by Ammer is excellent, straying from the text where appropriate but maintaining the tone of the whole quite well. One of the better examples of what experimental music can produce in an accessible vein.
REMA-REMA Wheel In The Roses EP - (1980) Rema-Rema's only release was one of 4AD's first, following the four Axis singles and Bauhaus' "Dark Entries" 7". Released post-breakup, Wheel in the Roses hinted where a couple of the members would go with Mass and the Wolfgang Press, while another member — Marco Pirroni — would become an Ant. This four-song 12" eventually became a sought-after curio, aided in part by This Mortal Coil's cover of "Fond Affections" and Big Black's relatively straightforward interpretation of "Rema-Rema." It falls somewhere within the territory staked out by first-album PiL, third-album Wire, and a funkless version of the Pop Group, with wonderfully sludgy rhythms, hectoring vocals, and guitars that stun without catering to rock conventions. A bloodcurdling group-chant of "We are Rema-Rema" opens up "Feedback Song," the first song. Seven minutes in length, it's a funereal march with waves of electronic noise, squalling guitars, and a drunken piano that could've been played with a single finger. (The song would appear on the 1981 compilation Natures Mortes, made available on CD during the late '90s.) "Rema-Rema" is a lot more animated, with hardly intelligible lyrics ("Rema-Rema/Rema-Rema/Rema-Rema/Uhhh.../Rema-Rema/Something in the bathroom/Something in the hall") over a raucous, strident drive that should've made for the post-punk era's own "Louie Louie." The two songs on the B-side were recorded live, but it had to be performed in front of a crowd numbering in ten or less. The murky 4/4 of "Instrumental" isn't an instrumental ("You kicked me right between the eyes/You kicked me/You kicked me"), and if you dig deep enough, the fractured, echo-heavy "Fond Affections" shows all the makings of a torch song. This is hardly an essential or unique post-punk release, but it's delightful in its own darkly merry way, as an energizing slab of lunkheaded artsiness; it's more than a forgotten piece of 4AD history. In 2003, the label pressed up 1,000 copies on CD and made it available through mail order. (allmusic.com)
THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Dream - (1962) Monk's Dream is the Columbia Records debut release featuring the Thelonious Monk Quartet: Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums). Jazz scholars and enthusiasts alike also heralded this combo as the best Monk had been involved with for several years. Although he would perform and record supported by various other musicians, the tight — almost telepathic — dimensions that these four shared has rarely been equalled in any genre. By the early '60s, bop had become considered passé by artists as well as fans looking for the next musical trend. This is coupled with the fact that discerning Monk fans would have undoubtedly recognized many of these titles from several live recordings issued at the end of his tenure on Riverside. Not to belabor the point, however, but precious few musicians understood the layer upon layer of complexities and challenges that Monk's music created. On tracks such as "Five Spot Blues" and "Bolivar Blues," Rouse and Dunlop demonstrate their uncanny abilities by squeezing in well-placed instrumental fills, while never getting hit by the unpredictable rhythmic frisbees being tossed about by Monk. Augmenting the six quartet recordings are two solo sides: "Just a Gigolo" and "Body and Soul." Most notable about Monk's solo work is how much he retained the same extreme level of intuition throughout the nearly two decades that separate these recordings from his initial renderings on Prestige in the late '40s. Monk's Dream is recommended, with something for every degree of Monk enthusiast. (allmusic.com)