Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Impulse Story - (2006)

Albert Ayler was a lightning rod for criticism both from within the music community and from without. His free-thinking approach made him a bane for jazz traditionalists, and his incorporation of popular American musical styles like soul, R&B, and even rock made him a sellout to the free jazz crowd. His volume in The Impulse Story series -- one of ten individual artist titles to accompany both the book The House That Trane Built: The Impulse Story by Ashley Kahn and the four-CD label history set of the same name from Universal, is in many ways the very evidence of both points on the scale. There are ten cuts on this set, and the first three -- "Holy Ghost," "Truth Is Marching In," and "Angels" -- come from the celebrated Live in Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings double-disc set. They offer the best recorded evidence up to that point -- 1965 and 1966 -- of Ayler's use of gospel music and marching rhythms in his free jazz approach. All are lengthy pieces with three different lineups. There are two shorter tunes from Love Cry, recorded and issued in 1967 -- including a lovely short version of "Bells." The lineup was bassist Alan Silva, Don Ayler on trumpet, and drummer Milford Graves. Three more come from the very controversial New Grass set, one with wildly varying musics and lineups. There's the title track, Albert's spoken word apologia "Message from Albert," and "Free at Last," with Pretty Purdie on drums and Call Cobbs playing electric harpsichord, as well as Bill Folwell on electric bass, backing vocalists, and a slew of horns arranged faux Memphis style. There is only one track -- the title -- from the equally combative Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe issued in 1969, which featured Bobby Few on piano, a pair of bassists -- Folwell and Stafford James -- with Mary Maria Parks singing and Muhammad Ali on drums. Finally, there are two tracks from the posthumously released Last Album: Parks' "Water Music," with the same lineup sans Parks left over from Music Is the Healing Force, and a completely crazy duet between Ayler on bagpipes and electric guitarist Henry Vestine recorded during those same sessions. In sum, this package is perhaps even more controversial than the individual albums it was culled from, and not the best introduction to Ayler out there. But then, given that no period of his music could make everyone -- with very few exceptions -- happy, this is perhaps the most fitting package of all. (

Paint On The Shadows - (2009)

Mystery hides in the shadows, dreaming of colors that don't yet exist. Noveller is Sarah Lipstate. She is a young musician and filmmaker currently living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. When she is not busy working on Noveller music or making films she also plays guitar in the band Parts & Labor. Paint on the Shadows is her overdue debut LP full of beautiful floating guitar lines, breathtaking soundscapes and precise sculptures of spiraling sound created by Sarah using double-neck guitar, a tape player, and various electronic manipulations. Sitting comfortably between some of the most well done 'avant-garde' music and the new generation of new sound masters. These are studio tracks recorded by Colin Martson and produced by Sarah Lipstate and Carlos Giffoni.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hitman's Heel - (2011)

The collection of road songs. Ballads, gypsy rolls, Italo Western piano tunes, heavy guitar riffs entangled with sound loops and Autoharp picking could best be described as industrial blues transporting the audience into a world of the uncompromising explorer. Their new album goes back to the basics. After deciding to give up their house in Berlin 2010 the couple is on the road in search of new horizons. Celebrating this restless nomadic lifestyle they decided to go back to classic songwriting, without sequencing or electronic processing. Concentrating purely on their instruments (guitar, autoharp, keyboards, drums) their songs can be performed on any stage and unplugged. Disregarding fashion, conventions or everyday standards, their lyrics speak of the world they are discovering.

Divin - (1981)

Divin is a particularly portentous recording, with minimal, bumping electronics propelled by legions of robot drum machines and draped in gauzy ghost shapes. The result is an austere electro-hybrid that fully anticipates much of the minimal electronic threat currently stoking so many boilers. But what really makes Divin stand out from a thousand animated circuit boards is its odd recording quality. The whole thing feels like its broadcast through a thick greyscale fug, the same kind of muzzy distance that that makes the weakest of shortwave broadcasts seem so hopelessly forlorn. Rumour has it that Agi was also the man behind the legendary Voice records, who issued the ultra mysterious Brast Burn and Karuna Khyal records that turned up on the Nurse With Wound list alongside Tolerance themselves and were later reissued by Paradigm. So call Divin another thrilling piece in the puzzle.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Island Of Living Puke - (1986)

Another in the line of eccentric rock experimentalists led by Zappa and Beefheart, Zoogz Rift was influenced by those two as well as figures artistic (Dali) and literary/sociological (Ayn Rand, author of the objectivist pillar Atlas Shrugged). Born in New Jersey but later a resident of California, Rift began recording in the 1979 with Idiots on the Miniature Golf Course, for Snout Records. The album began a long association with his two major collaborators, Richie Häss and John Van Zelm Trubee (also a member of the Ugly Janitors of America), and proved similar to the zany freak-out of Beefheart, to whom it's dedicated. Much of Zoogz Rift's eccentricities began to be overwhelmed by his growing musical ability in the mid-'80s, and though albums like Amputees in Limbo, Island of Living Puke and the three volumes included in the Water trilogy were hardly commercial propositions, they found Rift embracing synthesizers and samplers as well as the traditional guitars. His last LP in a long series for the punk label SST Records was 1989's Torment, after which Rift recorded for Trigon and the German label Musical Tragedies. (

Monday, March 21, 2011

Soul Machine - (1995)

Formed as a duo by ex-Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison and ex-Mule, Laughing Hyenas, and Jesus Lizard percussionist Jim Kimball, the Denison-Kimball Trio specialized in cool, jazzy instrumentals. With the addition of reeds player Ken Vandermark in 1995, the group was renamed DK3. The recipient of a degree in classical guitar from Eastern Michigan University, Denison formed Jesus Lizard in the late '80s with former members of Scratch Acid, David Yow on vocals and David Sims on bass. Although they initially relied on a drum machine, the band was solidified with the addition of drummer Mac McNeilly before recording their debut album, Head, in 1990. Over the next decade, Denison and Jesus Lizard released an additional seven albums before disbanding in 2000. Performing as a guest on albums by the Revolting Cocks (Linger Ficken' Good), Sally Timms, and Firewater following the demise of Jesus Lizard, Denison joined with Kimball to form the Denison-Kimball Trio. Their debut recording, released in 1994, provided the soundtrack of an indie film, Walls in the City, starring ex-Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow. Their second album, Soul Machine, followed a year later. (

Uptown Avondale EP - (1992)

The Afghan Whigs' final recording for Sub Pop, Uptown Avondale is anything but a contractual obligation -- a five-track EP comprising four R&B covers and a remake of Congregation's unlisted bonus track "Milez Iz Ded" (here retitled "The Rebirth of the Cool"), it's a soulful, scorching collection that captures the band at their gritty best. Quickly dispelling any lingering doubts that Greg Dulli's soul-man aspirations are anything but genuine, the disc's covers of chestnuts like Freda Payne's "Band of Gold" and the Supremes' "Come See About Me" are remarkable, remaining true to the music's R&B roots but infused with the Whigs' noise-punk energy -- Dulli sings like a man possessed, rejuvenating this familiar material with both reverence and attitude. (

A Factory Record EP - (1991)

Anyone who knows anything about the Teenbeat label knows that Mark Robinson (leader of the label and of Unrest) is a Factory Records fanatic. Thus it is only fitting that he would release a single comprising covers of great tunes from the Factory discography. On this co-release with Sub-Pop (part of its single-of-the-month series), we get covers of songs by Crispy Ambulance, ESG, Crawling Chaos, and Miaow (in that order). The Miaow cover was later released on the BPM compilation, which is stil available from Teenbeat.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Animals Move - (2002)

John Parish nearly outdoes himself with the beautiful, elegiac How Animals Move. If it weren't for the fact that basically everything he's turned his hands to has come out golden, one might be surprised. His second solo album is a mostly mournful affair, but its poetic melodies, bubbly textures, and percolating, suspense-packed notes are consistently invigorating. Guest stars like longtime collaborator and friend PJ Harvey, Portishead's Adrian Utley, Giant Sand's Howe Gelb, and vocalists Rose De Wolf and David Donahue add additional magic to the proceedings. How Animals Move is one of those albums that feels like a score to an imaginary film; some weepy, epic, road movie with transcendent emotions. But how many imaginary film scores do a cover of The The? Parish's does, with a subtle take on Matt Johnson's "Shrunken Man" that fits perfectly in with his own compositions. From the opening seconds of the violin solo in "Absolute Beauty Is an Absolute Curse," to the schizophrenic modern jazz amalgamation of "The Florida Recount,"; from the Talk Talk-like "Without Warning His Heart Stopped Beating," to the somber tone poems of "Lord It's a Happy Land," Parish's brilliance continues. The fractured anthemic pop of "Stable Life" contrasts beautifully with the 40-minute mark where PJ Harvey tackles "Airplane Blues" like a Dixieland "fifty-foot queenie." The album stuns with both atmosphere and tension. A little bit of DJ Shadow, a touch of David Holmes, a helping of Woody Guthrie, a hint of Miles Davis improvisation, and a nod to Ry Cooder all come to mind as inspirations for Parish here. It takes a true craftsman to chisel music that's as subtle yet as fascinating as the songs Parish consistently offers. How Animals Move is another wonderful opus from John Parish, and another example of his fine compositions and musical mastery. (

Dummy - (1994)

Portishead's album debut is a brilliant, surprisingly natural synthesis of claustrophobic spy soundtracks, dark breakbeats inspired by frontman Geoff Barrow's love of hip-hop, and a vocalist (Beth Gibbons) in the classic confessional singer/songwriter mold. Beginning with the otherworldly theremin and martial beats of "Mysterons," Dummy hits an early high with "Sour Times," a post-modern torch song driven by a Lalo Schifrin sample. The chilling atmospheres conjured by Adrian Utley's excellent guitar work and Barrow's turntables and keyboards prove the perfect foil for Gibbons, who balances sultriness and melancholia in equal measure. Occasionally reminiscent of a torchier version of Sade, Gibbons provides a clear focus for these songs, with Barrow and company behind her laying down one of the best full-length productions ever heard in the dance world. Where previous acts like Massive Attack had attracted dance heads in the main, Portishead crossed over to an American, alternative audience, connecting with the legion of angst-ridden indie fans as well. Better than any album before it, Dummy merged the pinpoint-precise productions of the dance world with pop hallmarks like great songwriting and excellent vocal performances. (

1997: The Missing Year - The Marlboro Eyeball Experience - (2009)

Also volunteering at the fund raiser was the house manager for the Fillmore in San Francisco. After seeing The Residents' performance, the promoter was so excited, he immediately invited the group to perform five shows at The Fillmore the following Halloween. Having never played this historic venue before, The Residents immediately accepted and began preparations.Soon another request came in, this time from the unlikely source of Marlboro cigarettes - in Germany. Searching for an event on which to focus their advertising at the Popkomm music trade show in Cologne, the tobacco giant suggested a short performance, 20-30 minutes in length, that could be video taped for television; it was to be performed 3 or 4 times with a changing audience. The small crowd was limited to people who won tickets in response to cigarette ads. (Leaving no opportunity for addiction unanswered, Marlboro also showered the audience with free smokes while waiting to take their turn as an audience member.) Aided by MTV producer and friend, John Payson, The Residents adapted a piece from the Adobe performance, transforming it into a 30 minute performance vehicle, Disfigured Night. The Residents performed Disfigured Night four times that evening; several months later, the piece was later broadcast on national television in Germany.

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