Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chicken Scratching With The Residents - (2010)

“Chicken Scratching” is the description The Residents use to label a style of electronic music that is frenetic and tense. These songs were issued as a download from a number found on a dogtag that was sold at the Talking Light shows during the USA/Canada leg of the tour.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Talking Light - (2010)

The story of the Talking Light piece is basically that of an older man who questions, not only decisions he made as a teenager, but also if the events he remembers from that time happened at all. "A dead infant clutching a ring with an inscription the teenager cannot read" is the stuff of dreams. The following stories in the show may or may not shed light on the inscription. Questions remain unanswered. The Residents study death, not as a horrific end, but as the ultimate question that we all ask while wondering if any of it is even real. "What are ghosts" ask The Residents - spirits of those no longer inhabiting the flesh, but unable to leave their lives behind? Or could ghosts be a manifestation of something even less tangible, like loneliness, unfulfilled desire or isolation? In a world where nearly everything has become defined and categorized, how do we fill our obvious, purely human need for the fuzzy , vague and supernatural - with TV commercials? The ghost of a morbidly obese woman haunts her lesbian lover, filling the void of death with food commercials and Dr. Phil. A man becomes obsessed by the spirit of an executed serial killer who stuffed the mouths of his victims with Pudding Roll Ups, an extinct kid's food from the 1980's. A dead boa constrictor named Leonard (after Leonard Cohen, of course) plagues the mind of its former owner, currently consuming Oscar Meyer hot dogs by the dozen. These are just a few of the "ghost stories" told through the magic of The Residents' Talking Light. The first part of this tour consisted of sixteen shows performed in the USA and Canada while the second leg of the tour will take place in Europe starting in late April. This posting features the show from Webster Hall, NYC that took place on Feb 9th 2010. It is divided into three parts instead of individual tracks. The setlist is as follows.

Demons Dance Alone, Sleepwalker, Story: The Talking Light, Six More Miles, Mirror People 1, They Are The Meat, He Also Serves, Mirror People 2, Story: Leonard, Semolina, My Window, Death In Barstow, Mirror People 3, Story: The Unseen Sister, Mirror People 4, The Old Woman, Lille, Bury Me Not, Die-Stay-Go.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Neu! 75 - (1975)

After a three-year break, Neu! members Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother buried their differences temporarily, and reunited for another go at the "motorik" sound they had developed with their debut in 1971. The strange tension and presentation of Neu! 2 and the emergence of their former band Kraftwerk may have precipitated the reunion, but, whatever the reason, the end result proved worth the time, effort, and bickering it took to crank this one out. One thing that is noticeably different on 75 is the presence of synthesizers and the preference of them, it seems, over Rother's guitar. "Isi," which opens the album, features Dinger's metronymic percussion holding down the 2/4 rhythm and a trademark one-note bassline provided by a piano, but the gorgeous sonic washes and flourishes normally handled by Rother's guitar-slinging hands are now painted with a synth. "Seeland" offers a return to the six strings with what would in subsequent years become Rother's ornate "singing" style of playing. Dinger's rhythmic patterns here are deceptively simple. They create a long, trudging 4/4, syncopated every other line, and punctuated by a small ride cymbal at the end of each phrase as Rother's guitar provides both cascading single string notes and a shifting, pulsing bassline. It's a beautiful wasteland, this track; sparse yet full of melodic interplay and layered guitars and keyboards. The last track on side one is "Leb Wohl," an exercise in white noise, industrial textures, and natural or, "found" sounds, a piano and gorgeous, spare and intricate guitar chords. For side two, Neu! adds Dinger's brother, Thomas, and Hans Lampe on various percussions to allow Dinger to play guitar, piano, and organ, and to add some bottom end to the band's sound. The funny thing is they come off sounding more like a melodic punk band on "Hero," with Dinger's growling vocals being reminiscent of a young Mick Jagger on steroids. His Keith Richards-style chords stand in stark contrast to Rother's more lyrical approach. Perhaps this isn't such a surprise when we consider the Damned's first album was recorded in 1975. The ten-minute "E-Musick" becomes Neu!'s signature track for this disc, however. With distorted percussion — courtesy of a synth and sequencer, as well as a drum kit put through a phase shifter, Rother's melodic synth lines are free to roam, wide and far, carrying within them a foreshadowing of his guitar solos a few minutes later. These long screaming lines, reminiscent of Steve Hillage at his best, with Dinger's wonderful rhythm backing and treatments of the instruments, provides a definitive statement on the Neu! "motorik" sound. This is music not only for traveling, from one place to the next, but also for disappearance into the ether at a steady pace. This may have been Neu!'s final statement — at least in the studio; Dinger issued (without Rother's permission) an inferior live '72 album — but at least they went out on a much higher note than Neu! 2, and in a place where their innovations are still being not only recognized, but utilized.

Moving Waves - (1972)

The album that boosted Focus into at least semi-fame outside of continental Europe, Moving Waves blasts off with their hit single, "Hocus Pocus." Built around a killer guitar hook by Jan Akkerman and a series of solo turns by the band, this instrumental replaced "Wipeout" as a staple of FM radio. The bizarrely hilarious vocal and accordion solos by Thijs van Leer — one of which absurdly concludes with rousing stadium cheers — have to be heard to be believed. After this over-the-top performance, the other tracks seem comparatively constrained: the gentle "Le Clochard" features some gorgeous classical guitar over Mellotron strings. The album concludes with "Eruption," which while mimicking the multi-suite nomenclature of Yes and King Crimson, is essentially a side-long jam session. Stop-time Emersonian organ solos alternate with languid sections of jazzy guitar redolent of Santana, while still other sections are flat-out electric blues-rock stomps. It's impressive playing, though it comes off as a bit meandering after the tightly structured solos that began the album.

Selected Works

Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American journalist and author, who created the genre known as gonzo journalism, a highly personal style of reporting that made him a counterculture icon. Thompson, who had a number of run-ins with the law as a young man, joined the U.S. Air Force in 1956. He served as a sports editor for a base newspaper and continued his journalism career after being discharged in 1957. In 1965 he infiltrated the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, an experience he recounted in Hell's Angels (1967). The book led to writing assignments for Esquire, Harper's, Rolling Stone, and other magazines. In addition to his irreverent political and cultural criticism, Thompson also began to attract attention for his larger-than-life persona, which was highlighted by drug- and alcohol-fueled adventures and a distaste for authority. In 1970 Thompson introduced his subjective style of reporting with the article “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” in which he was a central part of the story. A 1971 assignment for Sports Illustrated to cover a motorcycle race in Nevada resulted in perhaps his best-known work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972; film, 1998), which became a contemporary classic and established the genre of gonzo journalism. First serialized in Rolling Stone, it documents the drug-addled road trip taken by Thompson (as his alter ego Raoul Duke) and his lawyer (Dr. Gonzo) while also discussing the end of the 1960s counterculture. The book featured frenetic artwork by Ralph Steadman, who illustrated many of Thompson's works. In Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 (1973), Thompson chronicled the 1972 presidential campaigns of George McGovern and Richard Nixon. Later works include The Great Shark Hunt (1979), Better Than Sex (1994), and Kingdom of Fear (2003). Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cerberus Shoal - (1995,2004)

To mark their tenth anniversary, Cerberus Shoal had reissued their first album from 1995. The disc is certainly a bold statement for a debut. Many of what would become CS’s trademarks—sudden changes in mood, extended formal procedures and a flare for the theatrical—appear in compact form on this debut effort. “Daddy As Seen from Bar Harbor”, an eleven-minute mini-epic, combines muttered speech-song with frequent shifts and juxtapositions in instrumental dynamics; both of these quasi-theatrical elements continue to be integral to the group’s aesthetic to this day. In fact, “Daddy” might be perceived as a smaller suite within a larger connected whole, as the album begins and ends with different versions of “Rain”, one with vocals and one lacking them. The album’s compositions and instrumental deployment reflect and anticipate developments in what would eventually be dubbed “Spacerock” or “Post-rock”: Amp’s drone-heavy ruminations are certainly invoked, and the slow arcs in volume and intensity so often associated with Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor make embryonic appearances here. However, Cerberus Shoal’s approach is neither specifically arch-like nor monotonously heavy. Their ability to switch textures and dynamics unceremoniously, musically mirroring the surrealism of their submerged narratives, is this disc’s most memorable feature, and one which would be further exploited on their sophomore effort, And Farewell to High Tide. In retrospect, it has proven to be one of the few constants in the history of a group whose approach and personnel have long been in flux.

Monday, February 22, 2010

East Broadway Run Down - (1966)

Around the ten-minute mark of the title track, things get very interesting indeed — moody and spooky as Jimmy Garrison hangs on a single note, making his bass throb along while Elvin Jones widens the space and fires drum and cymbal hits in all directions. Coming off bass and drum solos that never seem to fit anywhere in the piece, it's a supreme moment of tension-building, one that gets repeated after Rollins and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard restate the theme in unison. This is the sound of Rollins' group working in unity. For much of "East Broadway Run Down," though, the rhythm section is off doing their thing, usually together, while Rollins meanders about in limbo, seemingly trying to figure out what it is that he should be doing. That Rollins was having an off day for this recording is a suspicion that's strengthened by Hubbard's part — where Rollins is wandering, Hubbard is charging ahead, focused and tight, fitting with the rhythm section, keeping the tension up. The remainder of the album is more on the mark, with "Blessing in Disguise" being quite enjoyable — it starts out in a cheerfully traditional vein and gradually, subtly, starts to slide off into an improvisational area only to come back again to the traditional, and so back and forth. Rollins floats his sax line around the melody with only occasional excursions toward the outer regions. "We Kiss in a Shadow," though, is charmingly straightforward, a ballad rendering supported by Jones and Garrison locking together on a nice rhythm construction that lets Rollins float around the melody. (

Taint Pluribus Taint Unum - (1987)

Recommended to those who want to experience The Cows at their most impenetrable and noisy. This is not to say that this record is worthless, but it is relentless. And, if you tire of guitar feedback, screeched vocals and a rhythm section that only infrequently knows what it's doing, this may be more than you can handle. However, fans of Japanese noise acts like The Boredoms and some of John Zorn's more extreme jazzcore outfits might think this is pretty cool. This album has been long out of print and surprisingly has never been released on cd. It can be assumed that Amrep could not get the rights from the very defunct Treehouse records label.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Land Of Thin Dimes - (1999)

Behold, Land Of Thin Dimes, a dark and spooky eponymous record. Ringleaders Nolan and Drew Cook interweave otherworldly guitar-textures and also own their own go-cart factory. With co-conspirators Rubberman, The Mysterious Mangum, and Crosskill, these men of Dimes have delivered a record that is sweet, nervous, and unpredictable. Like a soundtrack to some crazed non-existent film, Land Of Thin Dimes is largely instrumental, leaning more toward the development of characters ensnared in their own rich, hypnotic themescapes than on any historically accurate song formula. Influences range from The Who, King Crimson and Hendrix, to The Residents and Mad Professor but their sound is uniquely their own.

Amber Headlights - (2005)

Amber Headlights can best be divided into blustery rockers and pastel moments of graceful, low-key melancholy. Dulli sounds troubled and tortured (as usual), but he's downright angry on the soulful rocker "Early Today (And Later That Night)" as a series of intertwined guitar solos rage in the background. He settles for an annoying drum machine-laden led beat on "Cigarettes", but his tuneful singing and the song's soaring chorus make up for the rhythmic misstep. This is the disc's best performance; you can almost hear Paul Westerberg's distant influence. "Pussywillow" drones along, all dark tones and weeping guitar. The symphonic overlay adds a touch of class without making the track sound too polished. If the guitar hasn't already pierced your heart, the desperately sung chorus certainly will. The piano-led "Get the Wheel" evolved into "Follow You Down" on a subsequent release, but this version is still a heartbreaker. Dulli's smoky voice drifts between the ivory keys, then is quickly overcome by silence at the song's end. It sounds unfinished, but it's still dazzling. If you're a longtime Dulli follower, you'll recognize "Domani", "So Tight" and the somber "Wicked", which have already found their way onto other releases. You won't mind owning them twice. For a fractured album that spent several years in limbo, Amber Headlights does two things very well: it's an impressive introduction to Dulli's far-reaching musical talent, and a spiritual cleansing for the wry vocalist himself. It's likely that the rough, ragged lyrics and afflicted vocals will help you exorcise some of your own demons along the way.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Arkansas - (2009)

The original Buny Boy disc was slightly incomplete. You may not have been aware of this. Some of you might be, because if you went to the Bunny Boy show, you heard songs that weren't on the record. This also includes some demos and different versions from the Bunny Boy experience. Plus, this features an extremely attractive photo of Harvey on the front cover. This collection can be considered the third (and most likely, last) installment in the Bunny Boy saga. It was also limited to 500 copies! Hand numbered in digipak packaging.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rising Sun - (2010)

Drawing on a wider canvas of styles than ever before, touching on spiritual jazz, deep African rhythms and Ethiopian modes, the Orchestra take their sound to new heights with stunning musicianship and virtuoso arrangements throughout. The tracks themselves flow as a sinuous whole. The reflective intro overture, Awakening, originally came to composer Pierre Chrétien in a dream, the hard Afrobeat of Agbara whips up a heavyweight groove, driven by prepared marimbas rather than traditional electric guitar lines, Negus Negast touches on dark Ethio-jazz, inspired by Strut label-mate Mulatu Astatke, Lotus Flower is a spiritual soul-jazz piece featuring the muted trumpet stylings of guest Nicholas Dyson (musician with Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Temptations and The Coasters), Mamaya moves us into heavy 12/8 Afro-jazz territory, based around traditional Guinean rhythms, the more laid back 12/8 Afro-jazz of Serenity features the flute and clarinet work of multi-instrumentalist Zakari Frantz, Consecration explores modal territory, a track composed during the very early days of the group, and the album closes with Rejoice, a storming cover in two parts of the Pharoah Sanders` 1981 classic.

Clusone Trio - (1992)

Recorded in 1991 in Italy, Clusone Trio marked the debut offering from one of the most delightfully iconoclastic groups to come down the improv pike in decades. With spiritual leader Han Bennink percussively playing the god Dionysus to Moore's Pan and Reijseger's Abelard, the Clusone's burst onto the improv scene fully formed, replete not with a sense of humor but with humor as the backbone to "serious" improvisation. They could play anything and usually did. Check for a moment the cacophony that gives way to bluesed-out bebop in "The Pipistrello 1" suite, where everyone from Alban Berg to Neil Hefti is invoked, or the angular elegance in Herbie Nichols' "Sunday Stroll," or the over-driven tonal alchemy in Moore's own "New Shoes," or finally the Monk-laced banter between Moore and Reijseger in Misha Mengelberg's "Rollo II," with its staggered eight notes and chomping flatted ninths. Clusone Trio are a music band, and their debut proved that music could wear the faces of anarchy, chaos, and even anger in its attempt to find the absurdities in joy and illuminate them. This is jazz for those who've tired of changes and the same old "rhythm harmony melody" clichés and are looking for something a bit funnier, a bit more audacious, and a bit more dangerous.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tabula Rasa - (1993)

Einstürzende Neubauten's '90s productions may not have been anything like old fans might have expected, but Tabula Rasa tries to maintain the tradition without falling into repetition and instead brings something new to their music. Tabula Rasa is a very diverse album. Even though only songs "Die Interimsliebenden" and "Headcleaner" really stand out, every song has a catch that keeps it interesting. The keyword for Tabula Rasa is "ambience." Neubauten maintain their aggression throughout the end of of the album, and all the power and noise unbend in the 15-minute magnum opus, "Headcleaner." Before that there's 22 minutes of quiet but tight, dark ambient. The opener, "Die Interimsliebenden," may be the only relaxed song on the album, and that's why Tabula Rasa may be difficult to listen to all the way through. The tracks as single songs are very good indeed, but as a whole they form a very tight — and maybe too tight — whole. And Blixa Bargeld's weird lyrics don't ease the pressures. (

"Reservoir Dogs" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - (1992)

Only five songs here were featured prominently in Quentin Tarantino's rousing crime film ("Little Green Bag," "Hooked on a Feeling," "I Gotcha," "Stuck in the Middle With You," and "Coconut"), but the record includes Steven Wright's introductions from the film (separately indexed, thankfully), as well as Tarantino's infamous interpretation of the meaning of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and Harvey Keitel's monologue on how to rob a jewelry store. In total, that's about fifteen to twenty minutes of material. Padding out the rest of the disc are three new songs that were heard in passing in the film — "Fool for Love" is very good, "Harvest Moon" passable, and "Magic Carpet Ride" is abominable. After this, the disc has passed the half hour mark by two minutes. The amount of music you'll actually want to listen to makes it even shorter, but it is a soundtrack you'll want to return to. (

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Singing Lawn Chairs - (2007)

The Singing Lawn Chairs are a Residents tribute band comprised of Peeair and Mr. Spagandy. usually Peeair is behind the keys, while Mr. Spagandy sports the microphone. Not much else is known about the duo other than that they are from Gainesville florida and formed around 2001. It is believed that they split sometime in 2007. This posting features a CD that was given to me while waiting in line for The Residents Bunny Boy Show outside The Blender Theater in NYC on Otober 9th, 2008. The disc includes the group covering 25 tunes from The Residents all of which will be recognizable by any Residents fan, however The Lawn Chairs do make many attempts to rework the songs at times making this an interesting experience. Is this as good as anything The Residents themselves have done? no, but just how many Residents tribute bands are or were out there? Check it out for yourself.

Heligoland - (2010)

HELIGOLAND is the much anticipated fifth studio album from legendary trip-hop duo MASSIVE ATTACK and the first new studio album since 2003's critically-acclaimed 100TH WINDOW. HELIGOLAND features an all-star cast of guest vocals from DAMON ALBARN, HOPE SANDOVAL, MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD, GUY GARVEY and TUNDE ADEBIMPE. Long time cohort HORACE ANDY makes a return alongside Massive Attack founding members ROBERT DEL NAJA (3D) and GRAND MARSHALL (DADDY G). Damon also plays bass on `Flat Of The Blade' and keyboards on `Splitting The Atom' while PORTISHEAD's ADRIAN UTLEY plays guitar on `Saturday Come Slow'. The band also collaborated with DFA's TIM GOLDSWORTHY on selected tracks. The cover artwork features an original image by ROBERT DEL NAJA. Over the last three years Robert Del Naja has written and produced soundtracks for a number of films and documentaries, including `Trouble In The Water', '44 Inch Chest', `In Prison My Whole Life' and `Gomorra', the latter for which he won the David Di Donatello Award for Best Song. Massive Attack also won the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award at the Ivor Novello Awards.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Automate - (2003)

Experimental music is not always about pushing music — and the definition of music — into new territories. Occasionally it consists of making conventional music with unconventional means. After a casual listen, you might think that Automate is just another album of glitch electronica, with moments of house and an episode of noise. Wrong. This is the Vegetable Orchestra and there is not a single synthesizer, sampler, or computer involved. Automate features serious musicians imitating electronic music by playing amplified vegetables. The most natural way to use a vegetable (besides eating it) is as a percussion instrument, so most of the music here is beat-driven, tiny beats amplified by contact microphones. Microtonal radish marimbas provide the "looped" staccato patterns often used as melodies in electronic music (except they are not looped; everything is played for real). Various shakers and scratching effects with contact mics are used to recreate synth effects. And a blender becomes the drone in "Urgem X" (the orchestra allows the use of kitchen utensils and appliances too). There is a strong novelty or comedy aspect to the whole project, but the music stretches beyond that. It is surprisingly well written and arranged, daring, challenging, and often surprising. The cover version of Kraftwerk's "Radioaktivität" is hilarious, but the microsound mock-up "Automate" can fool more than a few Kim Cascone aficionados. And it is not for vegetarians only. I could not believe it either. Check it out for the novelty of it.

And the bands website....

Dark Night Of The Soul - (2009)

Musical visionary Danger Mouse, iconoclastic filmmaker David Lynch, and celebrated rock recluse Sparklehorse have converged to create Dark Night of the Soul, a project encompassing a new full-length album and limited edition book. As half of the acclaimed duo Gnarls Barkley, Danger Mouse is no stranger to high-stakes collaborations. With the help of Sparklehorse, he has recruited a remarkable cast of contemporary artists to lend their vocals, including the Flaming Lips, Black Francis of the Pixies, Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, James Mercer of the Shins, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Nina Persson of the Cardigans, cryptic Southern songwriter Vic Chesnutt, avant-folk icon Suzanne Vega, punk titan Iggy Pop, and even Lynch himself. To create the images that accompany the music, Danger Mouse chose David Lynch. Known for revealing the gripping horror beneath suburban banality, Lynch crafts eerie beauty from the most irregular of elements. For Dark Night of the Soul, the creator of Twin Peaks, Inland Empire, Blue Velvet, and Eraserhead, delivers a gorgeous, hypnotic series of photographs. This captivating project explores and escapes the reality of the world. The book package includes the full sequence of Lynch's images, a foreword by Danger Mouse, selected lyrics, and an art-printed CD-R, in a run of only 5000 copies, each individually numbered. For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. You can get that music here and burn it to any kind of CD-R you like.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra, Vol. 1 - (1965)

The German Happy Bird label issued this pirate of Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. 1 (1965) during the mid-'80s when the majority of Sun Ra platters were not widely available. Surprisingly, one distinct disparity is the radically improved sound quality of Other Worlds (1983), allowing greater attention to the subtle detail in the overtones and interplay. These seven sides became the first of what many free and avant-garde jazz enthusiasts had heard from Ra. At the heart of his post-bop performances is the flexibility of the support from the Arkestra, whose percussive talents were equal only to their unquestionable abilities on other respective instruments. The probing nature of longer selections such as "Outer Nothingness" and "The Cosmos" contrasts "Of Heavenly Things," providing Ra a chance to steer the combo's intrepid excursions from the all-too-rare perspective of a percussionist. His tympani leads motivate the cut, which is also highlighted by Ronnie Boykins (bass) and John Gilmore (tenor sax). All the more impressive is the consistent level of improvisational skills that each member brings to the ensemble. Jimmy Johnson's (drums) timekeeping ranges from appropriately propulsive and bombastic to a spurious foil for Ra's seemingly maniacal prodding. Indeed, this material solidifies the progression that the bandleader had made from his former tuneful, yet ever intricate big-band type of arrangements. While Sun Ra and His Arkestra may not be for everyone, parties whose tastes fall within Ra's unique realm are encouraged to locate Other Worlds and/or The Sun Myth (1983), which replicates the running order of Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. 2 (1965). (

*** 7" SINGLE ***
Response / I Cut My Teeth / Cosmic Retribution / Crawling In Place - (1995)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Postcards From Patmos - (2008)

The Residents have released a CD collecting some of the music from The Bunny Boy internet series. Deeply abstract and moody. The Residents entered the world of electronic synthesis in the 1970s during a time of legendary exploration and growth. When pioneers like Robert Moog and Don Buchla were creating analog synthesizers that were finally affordable for the masses, The Residents eagerly became one of the earliest groups to embrace the new technology. While recording The Bunny Boy album, The Residents employed an arsenal of digital synthesis equipment. However, when the time came to score the Internet series, the mood of the series seemed to call for the older analog synthesis that they had not used in decades. Enthusiastically unwrapping their older instruments, the group soon discovered that, other than the occasional and humorous oscillator drift, the instruments all worked perfectly. Of course, being out of tune was not considered a problem. To supplement their own collection, The Residents turned to old friends who had also kept some of their original analog units. Then, combining their new analog experiments with organic location recordings from their collection, the group quickly assembled these soundscapes to support the darkly humorous images found in The Bunny Boy videos. The Residents had come full circle, and again experienced the pains and joys of broken patch cables and dirty pots.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus - (1970)

Although Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus has the reputation of being Spirit's most far-out album, it actually contains the most disciplined songwriting and playing of the original lineup, cutting back on some of the drifting and offering some of their more melodic tunes. The lilting "Nature's Way" was the most endearing FM standard on the album, which also included some of Spirit's best songs in "Animal Zoo" and "Mr. Skin."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Plasmic Tears And The Invisible City EP - (2002)

Here's another example of Zen Guerrilla's prolific output: a 24 minute cd ep containing what they call, with good reason, a "flip-out psychedelic instrumental" that serves as the soundtrack to a film entitled "Plasmic Tears And The Invisible City". The disc starts off a lot more mellow than we are used to hearing from these notorious jams-kicker-outers, but gradually builds into louder, heavier realms of warm psych guitar swirl and motorik rhythm, not unlike the krautrock grooves of Ash Ra Temple or modern practicioners of the same like Circle and Mogwai. But then about 15 minutes in, it seems like the (presumably drugged-out) characters in the movie have entered some futuristic club or something, as the heavy 70s psych jams suddenly meet bleeping mechanical beats, shortwave radio noise, unintelligible voices, and even some sampled old timey jazz. It turns into a psychedelic funhouse sound collage -- definitely a "trip". It would be nice with visuals for sure.

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards - (2006)

Orphans is the most unwieldy Tom Waits collection yet. Packaged in a Cibachrome-tinted box are three discs containing 56 songs total. It claims 30 new tunes, but a mere 14 can be found on other records — six othersd have to be hunted for while the remainder have shown up in various incarnationson soundtracks, compilations, etc. This crazy thing began as a collection of outtakes, rarities, soundtrack tunes, and compilation-only cuts — some of which survive here in new form, including tracks from the Ramblin' Jack Elliot tribute, the Bridge benefit, and two Ramones covers, to name a few. In other words, the first conception for this mess was as a hodgepodge collection of attic material. Waits checked out the tune selection as it was and said something like "nah, bad idea; this would suck." So, he did what any self-respecting artist with a head full of ideas, two stomping, shuffling feet, and itchy fingers — and time on his hands — would do: he recorded new songs and re-recorded others, so the thing would have some kind of elasticity yet hold its rickety bone and far-reaching sources together by means of cheap glue, chewed gum, solder, and a visionary recording engineer named Karl Derfler. The end result is this daunting triple disc divided by title and theme: disc one is "Brawlers," Waits' rock and blues record, evoking everyone from T. Rex and Johnny Burnette to Sonny Curtis and Howlin' Wolf. It's a grand thing, since he hasn't released one like this before — the closest were Heartattack and Vine on one side and Mule Variations on the other. Travel, regret, murder, salvation, guttersnipe meditations on sorrow, and nefarious and broken-down innocent — and nefarious — amorous intentions are a few of the themes that run through these tunes like oil and sand. Disc two is "Bawlers," a collection of ballads, raw love songs, weepy wine tunes, wistful yet tentative hope — in the form of floppy prayers — and an under-the-table and wishing, bewildered, yet dead-on topical tome on the world's political situation. Disc three, entitled "Bastards," is even edgier; it's Waits hanging out there with his music and muse on the lunatic fringe of experimentation. Think Bone Machine's wilder moments and Waits' loopy standup comedy in the form of six spoken word pieces included here. Thank goodness he finally did this. If you've ever seen the man on a stage, you'll get why these are so important immediately. "Brawlers" digs deep into the American roots music that has obsessed Waits since the beginning of his long labyrinthine haul. There's the frenetic rockabilly swagger that probably makes Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent shake and shimmy in their graves. One of the movie tunes, a cover of "Sea of Love," recalls its place in the film for those who've seen it. If you haven't, it's a slanted, tarnished jewel freshly liberated from antiquity. The hobo ballad "Bottom of the World" recalls old country gospel, and "Lucinda" can only be described as a gallows dance tune. The slippery hoodoo blues "Road to Peace" is the season's most timely and topical political song. "Bawlers" is the set's bridge, and it's easy to see why: it's the most accessible disc in the box. There are some of the movie tunes here, from flicks like Pollock, Big Bad Love, and Shrek 2. Other cuts, such as "Goodnight Irene," recall "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)" from the Small Change album; the singing protagonist here is older and more desperate, almost suicidal. Resignation displaces hope; it's a long reach into the past and expresses the void of the present. The cover of the Ramones' "Danny Says" is completely reinvented; it's one of the loneliest, most sweetly desolate of Waits' many sides. It's not all darkness, however; there are gorgeous songs here too, such as "Never Let Go" and "You Can Never Hold Back Spring," where an indomitable human spirit reins and rings true. Finally, it comes down to "Bastards." The eerie, strange, cabaret-in-a-carnival music that is Weill and Brecht's "What Keeps Mankind Alive" enlists banjos, accordion, tuba, and big bass drum as simply the means to let these twisted words out of the box. Thankfully the cover of "Books of Moses," originally by Skip Spence, is here, as is Daniel Johnston's "King Kong." Neither of these cuts resembles their original version, and Waits brings out the dark underbelly inherent in each. "Bedtime Story" is the first of the Waits monologues here. It is the repressed wish of every parent (with a sense of humor) to have the temerity to tell this kind of tale to their children when they retire. Others include a reading of Charles Bukowski's "Nirvana," the hilarious monologue "The Pontiac," and the live routine "Dog Door." Perhaps the most inviting cut here is the piano-and-horn ballad "Altar Boy," a postmodern saloon song that would make Bobby Short turn red with rage. This disc is the true mixed bag in the set: unruly, uneven, and full of feints and free-for-alls. Ultimately, the epicenter of Orphans is Waits' voice. It's many expressions, nuances, bellows, barks, hollers, open wails, roughshod croons, and midnight whispers carry these songs and monologues to the listener with authority as an open invitation into his sound world, his view of tradition, and his manner of shaping that world as something not ephemeral, but as an extension of musical time itself. As a vocalist, Waits, like Bob Dylan, embodies the entire genealogical line of the blues, jazz, local barroom bards, and traveling minstrels in the very grain of his songs. That wily throat carries not only the songs he and his songwriting partner and wife, Kathleen Brennan, pen, but also the magnet for the sonic atmospheres that frame it. There is adventure, danger, and the sound of the previous, the forgotten, and the wished for in it. And it is that voice that links all three of these discs together and makes them partners. One cannot dismiss that even though some of these songs have appeared elsewhere, Orphans is a major work that goes beyond the origins of the material and drags everything past and present with sound and texture into a present to be presented as something utterly new, beyond anything he has previously issued. To paraphrase Ezra Pound in response to Allen Ginsberg's inquiry about what his poem "The Cantos" meant, these orphans speak for themselves. (

Disc 1: Brawlers

Disc 2: Bawlers

Disc 3: Bastards

Disc 4: Bonus Tracks

EP001 - (2006)

EP001 is the debut release by Thenewno2, a band composed of Dhani Harrison and Oliver Hecks. Originally released as a promotional single on August 28, 2006, the EP was released on the iTunes Store in early February 2007. The songs on the EP feature female vocals by Amanda Butterworth. Left over copies of the EP were initially made available for purchase on 24 October, 2006. On 29 November, 2006 Thenewno2 announced that it could also be purchased at Amoeba Music, 6400 Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, CA. As time went by Dhani and Oli realised that they were unable to keep up with the constant demand for more copies of their CD EP001 being pressed and so on 6 February 2007 they announced that their EP could now be purchased via download.

1930 - (1998)

There's a wider variety of unexpected sounds than those normally heard in a Merzbow listening session in this sonic inundation. Unguessed-at dimensions are accessed through 1930 via sensory overload of oscillations, infinitely layered static, frequencies from pitch to buzz — an explosion could get lost in this, and many do. It is the sounds of tuning in the radio, only to catch the low-end frequencies of an earthquake. Music has long explored — and exploited — its ties to emotions; the genre of noise, it seems, has moved on to exploring sound's physical effects. Merzbow, the leader of Japanese noise, has learned how to use sound to operate on your brain; he utilizes indiscernible frequencies to poke pinholes in your eardrums and bleed out your preconceived notions of sound, music, and how they can affect you. This listening experience is not simply a result of sheer volume (Merzbow is generally listened to very loudly): Even while turned down low, the sounds all combine into an irresistible force that messes with your physical being. It will scramble your brain, until consciousness barely registers anything but sound.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Paco De Lucia, Al Di Meola & John McLaughlin - (1996)

Guitar Trio is an excellent collaborative effort from three of the finest jazz guitarists of the post-rock & roll era: Paco de Lucía, John McLaughlin, and Al di Meola. Throughout the record, the trio doesn't just showcase their instrumental skills; they demonstrate their musicality. This is sympathetic, emotional musicianship, where each musician complements each other instead of trying to out-do the other. For jazz guitar fans, it rarely gets more exciting than Guitar Trio.
Now He Sings, Now He Sobs - (1968)

The original LP only had five selections, but the CD contains 13, with the added eight (from the same sessions) having first been released on the double-LP Circling In. Age 26 at the time, and on the brink of gaining major recognition in the jazz world, pianist Chick Corea is featured with a very strong trio that also includes bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes. The music includes 11 of Corea's originals, including "Matrix," "Windows," and "Samba Yantra," Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" and the standard "My One and Only Love" and is essentially advanced hard bop with an open-minded attitude toward free jazz. Listen to how part of "Steps-What Was" has hints of Corea's future composition "Spain."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kind Of Blue - (1959)

Kind of Blue isn't merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it's an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of "So What." From that moment on, the record never really changes pace — each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It's the pinnacle of modal jazz — tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality. All of this doesn't quite explain why seasoned jazz fans return to this record even after they've memorized every nuance. They return because this is an exceptional band — Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb — one of the greatest in history, playing at the peak of its power. As Evans said in the original liner notes for the record, the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to recording. Davis laid out the themes before the tape rolled, and then the band improvised. The end results were wondrous and still crackle with vitality. Kind of Blue works on many different levels. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable. It may be a stretch to say that if you don't like Kind of Blue, you don't like jazz — but it's hard to imagine it as anything other than a cornerstone of any jazz collection.

There Is Love In You - (2010)

Kieran Hebden's first Four Tet full-length in four years comes after a parade of collaboration albums, DJ dates, remixes, and one EP that sounded strikingly like John Carpenter soundtracking the original Halloween film. Appropriately, There Is Love in You is a reset album, one where Hebden pares his music down to the essentials. (Sorry, no dubstep workouts or pastoral ballads to be found here.) It's the most natural he's sounded on record in years, much more assured than Everything Ecstatic, which bore the brunt of Hebden's wish to snip the folktronica tag by floating an array of (somewhat) iconoclastic tracks. Here, the music consists of little more than soft tones, muted beats, and overlaid music-box melodies. Perhaps not a recipe for greatness, but in keeping with the axiom that a great artist can always shine no matter the materials or medium, There Is Love in You is an accomplished, beautiful record (despite the lack of shiny bits). Vocals, where they appear, are wordless and textural; the few samples are glitchy but warm and hypnotic. The nine-minute single "Love Cry" sounds like Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra making an epic children's record. Overall, There Is Love in You has the spartan precision of Phillip Glass but also, surprisingly, the warmth and vitality of classic Cluster as well. From his debut, Hebden has always made the more alien side of electronic music sound warm and inviting; this not only accomplishes that, but ranks with his best. (

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