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Atlantic Waves 14dec10: The Wire - Below The Radar

www.thewire.co.uk

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Atlantic Waves 07dec10: China - Traditional (repeat)

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Atlantic Waves 30nov10: Belgium

Griff Trio was formed by Rémi Decker and uses the skills of three virtuoso bagpipe players (either playing solo or in polyphony), arranged in a modern, though not superficial way. Their repertoire is a balance between new composition and traditional music, using different types of bagpipes, as well as whistles and singing. Griff Trio already blew away the dust of old myths concerning bagpipes; “Pipes but no kilt” is their motto… They play tunes in their particular own style using an army of windbags, tubes and pipes of each format plus the icy warm voice of Raphaël the Cock. With musical traditions as an inspirational source their playing regards harmony and virtuosity in both early and more contemporary music.

The next time you hear a Euro-sceptic politician question just what the EU has ever done for us, point them in the direction of Mec Yek. For the European Community’s value isn’t merely economic; the free and frank exchange of culture has been much welcome too. Twenty years ago, Mec Yek simply wouldn’t have existed – their personnel, spanning the continent’s western and eastern reaches, would have been unlikely to have crossed each others’ paths. Fronted by a pair of spirited Roma sisters, Mec Yek is the brainchild of Piet Maris, frontman with past WOMAD faves Jaune Toujours. His fascination with Eastern European gypsy culture has culminated in forming this tradition-savvy yet musically adventurous combo, one powered along by accordion, clarinet, double bass and drums. Along the way they’ve picked up an ever-increasing gaggle of admirers, including fRoots who praised the combination of “earthy traditionalism and hot jazz”. Exactly the kind of mongrel sound that the isolationist politicos would hate. (Nige Tassell, Womad 09)

La Panika is a Tzigano-coppered brass band. Brass band but not just that, La Panika is the fruit of one thousand meetings, one thousand tumults, one thousand madnesses, one thousand events. Panika became an inescapable brass band of the gypsy musics of the Balkans, strongly influenced by the roms musics of the Black Sea.

Since 1996, Dirk Swartenbroekx is making funky records under the name of Buscemi, one of his favorite actors. His style is deep. Difficult to categorise: nu bossa, nu lounge, house music, brazilian grooves, afrobeat, drum ‘n bass… Dancemusic with a latin feel is maybe the best description of the sound of Buscemi.

La Fanfare du Belgistan: The Belgistan, a small autonomous (and purely fictional) region of Eastern Belgium, proudly presents its Fanfare: an ensemble of five horns and two percussionists bringing the unique sounds of Belgistani music to the world audience… Its hellish dances, wild and mysterious rhythms, and hypnotic melodies will appeal to both lovers of Arab and Gypsy music and fans of jazz. The Fanfare’s extensive collection of classic and exotic musical instruments (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpet, sousaphone, derbouka, tapan, karkabas, guembri and many more) produces the most eccentric sounds and eclectic experiences: from traditional Gypsy songs to original and modern compositions, as well as some Asian-inspired groove music and contemporary improvisation. The mood is happy, even dizzying. Trance and dance come together for an unforgettable experience.

Jaune Toujours: no linguistic or other borders (singing in French, English and Dutch), catchy songs, punky attitude, drum&brass, Balkan madness, accordion dub and Belgian ska.

Klezmic Zirkus finds its identity between tradition and modernity, structure and improvisation. Its unbridled rythms apeal to the body, its soulfull melodies to the heart, its sometimes elaborated structures to the mind.

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Atlantic Waves 23nov10: Croatia

A crescent-shaped country in southeast Europe, Croatia extends from the fertile plains of the Danube to the mountainous coast of the Adriatic Sea. In the Adriatic, Croatia has 1,185 islands-many are major tourist areas. The 1991-95 civil war between Croats and Serbs caused massive damage to cities and industries. War halted the tourist trade and drastically cut industrial output, including a lucrative ship-building business. Since the war, Croatia has progressed politically and economically; it applied for European Union membership in 2003.

Croatia is rich in folkloric music, including a well-known polyphonic choral tradition. This choral tradition was particularly popular during the communist era, when large women’s choirs were sponsored by the state. The best-known of these Croatian folkloric ensembles is Lado, who survived the collapse of both communist Yugoslavia and the war-torn 1990s intact.

More on Music of Croatia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Croatia

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Atlantic Waves 16nov10: Oi! A Nova Música Brasileira! 2/2

A two-disc set looking at Brazil’s underground music scene, Oi! A Nova Musica Brasileira! (Hey! The New Brazilian Music!), shows how wide Brazilian artists are willing to spread their net for influences. Whereas the popular music in Brazil is still largely inspired by templates set in the 70s, that of mixing the homegrown styles of samba, choro and bossa nova with jazz, rock and pop, here we get a wider variety of traditional Brazilian styles such as coco, maracatú and brega as well as the Western strains of post-punk, new wave, electronica and hip-hop. It’s a continuation of the Brazilian indie scene that started in the early 90s with bands such as Nacao Zumbi and Mundo Livre S/A. The connection with that movement, set in the Northeast and known as mangue beat, is represented here by Otto, who having released four albums and having been recording for over 10 years could not be deemed ‘new’, but who seamleesly fits into this record with “Crua,” his moody riposte to an ex-lover. Further mangue beat flavours are added by China’s “Colocando Sal Nas Feridas”, a funky guitar-laden hip-hop with a chorus as propulsive as anything the Beastie Boys ever produced. Mini Box Lunar, with “Amarelasse” offer a completely different tropical twist, resulting in something that could be the soundtrack for an especially-energetic episode of Looney Tunes. It’s no surprise then that they are being compared to Os Mutantes.

There are no shortage of female singer-songwriters coming out of Sao Paulo at the moment, but Tulipa has to be one of the most inventive. “Pedrinho”, featured here, is a sparse bossa-style number with the texture and slow, unravelling effect of Juana Molina’s best compositions. Porcas Borboletas and Mombojó both show completely different sides to Brazilian music, largely eschewing the percussion and samba/bossa guitar shapes that so define much of the music. “Nome Proprio” by Porcas Borboletas is a vitriolic punk number that personally reminds me of Dutch bands De Kift and The Ex with it’s angular riffs and up-front vocals. Mombojó, on the other hand, offer something far more serene. “Justamente” could easily be a track from Phoenix’s classic “United” album; from the hushed vocals to the bouncy bass line to the infectious guitar riff and synthesizers, it ticks all the same boxes.

All of the songs mentioned so far have come from the first disc, devoted to music that fits the more band-oriented worlds of indie, pop and rock. The second disc is more of an electronic affair, showcasing some of the new electronic genres coming out of Brazil such as technobrega and electromelody, as well as interpretations of hip-hop and dub. 3namassa, joined by CéU, one of Brazil’s hottest singers write now perform the sultry acid-jazz number “Doce Guia”, which could have featured on either disc. After this is when the beats really start to roll; Catarina Dee Jah’s “Kay Fora” sounds like a modern version of Althea & Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking”, Curumin serves up the Salt ‘n’ Pepa inspired baile funk of “Caixa Preta” and M. Takara and R. Brandão’s “Bença do Batuque” could possibly mark the start of techno hip-hop. One of the real highlights of this disc are the electromelody and technobrega songs that constitute a large part of its middle section. It’s a very primitive sound defined by an infectious computer game melody and drum machine beat, quite rightly described as the northeast’s version of Rio’s baile funk. Perhaps the best example is Maderito & Joe’s “Eletro do Maciota Light”, a song which manages to sound like Ace of Base, nu-school R ‘n’ B and a distressed morse code signal all at once. Finishing off the set are a number of trip-hop, dub and indie-tronica tracks such as Júlia Says’ beautiful “Cá”, which sounds like Italo-disco of the very highest order.

What makes this release so remarkable is not just the breadth of talent on offer, or their ability to take on a myriad of influences, but the fact that these artists manage to do this while also producing something that is distinctly theirs. With the Tropicalia movement of the 60s and Mangue Beat in the 90s Brazilian musicians have shown that it is possible to use an anthropophagical approach to making music, consuming all influences around you but crucially producing something that reflects yourself as the end result, and this is something which is thankfully mirrored on many of the tracks on this excellent release. It should also be noted that the liner notes, complete with map of where the artists come from and descriptions of different genres makes this the perfect companion for anyone hoping to get an idea of what is happening in Brazil right now. (www.soundsandcolours.com)

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Atlantic Waves 09nov10: Oi! A Nova Música Brasileira! 1/2

A two-disc set looking at Brazil’s underground music scene, Oi! A Nova Musica Brasileira! (Hey! The New Brazilian Music!), shows how wide Brazilian artists are willing to spread their net for influences. Whereas the popular music in Brazil is still largely inspired by templates set in the 70s, that of mixing the homegrown styles of samba, choro and bossa nova with jazz, rock and pop, here we get a wider variety of traditional Brazilian styles such as coco, maracatú and brega as well as the Western strains of post-punk, new wave, electronica and hip-hop. It’s a continuation of the Brazilian indie scene that started in the early 90s with bands such as Nacao Zumbi and Mundo Livre S/A. The connection with that movement, set in the Northeast and known as mangue beat, is represented here by Otto, who having released four albums and having been recording for over 10 years could not be deemed ‘new’, but who seamleesly fits into this record with “Crua,” his moody riposte to an ex-lover. Further mangue beat flavours are added by China’s “Colocando Sal Nas Feridas”, a funky guitar-laden hip-hop with a chorus as propulsive as anything the Beastie Boys ever produced. Mini Box Lunar, with “Amarelasse” offer a completely different tropical twist, resulting in something that could be the soundtrack for an especially-energetic episode of Looney Tunes. It’s no surprise then that they are being compared to Os Mutantes.

There are no shortage of female singer-songwriters coming out of Sao Paulo at the moment, but Tulipa has to be one of the most inventive. “Pedrinho”, featured here, is a sparse bossa-style number with the texture and slow, unravelling effect of Juana Molina’s best compositions. Porcas Borboletas and Mombojó both show completely different sides to Brazilian music, largely eschewing the percussion and samba/bossa guitar shapes that so define much of the music. “Nome Proprio” by Porcas Borboletas is a vitriolic punk number that personally reminds me of Dutch bands De Kift and The Ex with it’s angular riffs and up-front vocals. Mombojó, on the other hand, offer something far more serene. “Justamente” could easily be a track from Phoenix’s classic “United” album; from the hushed vocals to the bouncy bass line to the infectious guitar riff and synthesizers, it ticks all the same boxes.

All of the songs mentioned so far have come from the first disc, devoted to music that fits the more band-oriented worlds of indie, pop and rock. The second disc is more of an electronic affair, showcasing some of the new electronic genres coming out of Brazil such as technobrega and electromelody, as well as interpretations of hip-hop and dub. 3namassa, joined by CéU, one of Brazil’s hottest singers write now perform the sultry acid-jazz number “Doce Guia”, which could have featured on either disc. After this is when the beats really start to roll; Catarina Dee Jah’s “Kay Fora” sounds like a modern version of Althea & Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking”, Curumin serves up the Salt ‘n’ Pepa inspired baile funk of “Caixa Preta” and M. Takara and R. Brandão’s “Bença do Batuque” could possibly mark the start of techno hip-hop. One of the real highlights of this disc are the electromelody and technobrega songs that constitute a large part of its middle section. It’s a very primitive sound defined by an infectious computer game melody and drum machine beat, quite rightly described as the northeast’s version of Rio’s baile funk. Perhaps the best example is Maderito & Joe’s “Eletro do Maciota Light”, a song which manages to sound like Ace of Base, nu-school R ‘n’ B and a distressed morse code signal all at once. Finishing off the set are a number of trip-hop, dub and indie-tronica tracks such as Júlia Says’ beautiful “Cá”, which sounds like Italo-disco of the very highest order.

What makes this release so remarkable is not just the breadth of talent on offer, or their ability to take on a myriad of influences, but the fact that these artists manage to do this while also producing something that is distinctly theirs. With the Tropicalia movement of the 60s and Mangue Beat in the 90s Brazilian musicians have shown that it is possible to use an anthropophagical approach to making music, consuming all influences around you but crucially producing something that reflects yourself as the end result, and this is something which is thankfully mirrored on many of the tracks on this excellent release. It should also be noted that the liner notes, complete with map of where the artists come from and descriptions of different genres makes this the perfect companion for anyone hoping to get an idea of what is happening in Brazil right now. (www.soundsandcolours.com)

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Atlantic Waves 02nov10: LIFEM 2010

Building on last year’s inaugural festival, the London International Festival of Exploratory Music (LIFEM) continues its musical journey with exciting exploratory sounds from all over the world. It begins by celebrating the 75th birthday of composer Terry Riley, the father of American minimalism. Following a public discussion with Tony Herrington, The Wire‘s publisher, Terry takes the stage with Mercury Music award-winning tabla player and multi-instrumentist Talvin Singh and progressive saxophonist George Brooks, on what is a rare visit to Europe. The festival ends with the oldest active early music group in Europe, Hortus Musicus, from Estonia. They celebrate two more 75th birthdays: those of Estonian Arvo Pärt and Georgian Giya Kancheli. In between comes the UK premiere of Flemish Belgium minimalist composer Wim Mertens, a rare UK performance by French Catalan musician Pascal Comelade, the only UK performance of UK composer Gavin Bryars, the UK premiere of Estonian power folk band Svjata Vatra and a rare UK performance by Brazilian minimalist jazz pianist Benjamim Taubkin.

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Atlantic Waves 10aug10: Mara Abrantes, Fernanda Takai

Mara Abrantes was born in 1934 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lives in Portugal since 1958.

Fernanda Takai is perhaps better known as the lead vocalist of pop rock band Pato Fu. She has also been working on a solo career since 2007. Takai was raised in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais (Brazil). She is of Japanese and Portuguese descent.

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Atlantic Waves 03aug10: Music From Minas Gerais (Brazil)

The state of Minas Gerais, located on the southeast region of Brazil, has peculiar characteristics that contributed for the transformation of its music, one of the richest and most diversified of the country. The mountains, the miscegenation of many different people, the intense religious belief, the exuberance of the popular manifestations and a strong cosmopolitan vocation generates complex harmonies, mixture of rhythms, sinuous melodies, experimentations and unusual fusions.

Minas Gerais has been a cultural hotbed ever since the Clube da Esquina movement in the 1970s. The current scene is increasingly diverse, with many artists embracing genres such as rock, samba, choro, hip-hop and MPB. The Forum da Musica de Minas Gerais was formed in 2007, representing over 400 producers and artists, with the focus of bringing their music to the rest of Brazil and beyond.

COMUM (Co-Operative Society of the Music of Minas Gerais) is a non-profit organization that was created with the purpose of giving support, take out of the informality and to integrate musicians, producers and all the professionals tied to the musical productive chain of the state of Minas Gerais, and that are not linked to the major record labels. Since it was founded, on December of 2007, COMUM is establishing itself as one of the most active, creative and representative organization of the state, proposing a new approach to the commercial relation on the musical market basing on concepts of creative economy and solidarity networks. One important action in this path was the creation of a trade service bank among its partners. COMUM also integrates the Forum of Music of Minas Gerais, where it develops, in partnership with the state government of Minas Gerais and SEBRAE, a Program of Music Exportation that expects punctual actuations on the most important national and international fairs.

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Atlantic Waves 27jul10: In Spanish

01. Son De La Frontera: “Bulería Negra del Gastor” (4:49)
02. Diego Carrasco: “Poeta Cai” (5:01)
03. Peret: “Que Levante El Dedo” (4:04)
04. Daniel Melingo: “Narigón” (3:19)
05. Mercedes Sosa: “Tonada Del Viejo Amor” (4:06)
06. Juana Molina: “Un Día” (5:35)
07. Aníbal Velásquez Y Su Conjunto: “Mi Sombreron” (2:43)
08. Tito Chicoma Y Su Orquesta: “Fat Mama” (2:54)
09. Peru Negro: “Son De Los Diablos” (2:28)
10. Novalima: “Chinchivi” (4:05)
11. Los De Abajo: “Pa’ Huitzilpochtli/Anda Levanta” (1:58)
12. Conjunto de Arpa Grande: “El Perro” (2:20)
13. Compay Segundo: “La Negra Tamosa” (4:01)
14. Yerba Buena: “El Burrito” (4:01)
15. Lhasa: “Con Toda Palabra” (4:36)

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Atlantic Waves 20jul10: Music from Malaysia

The Rough Guide To The Music Of Malaysia delves behind the tourist-destination facade to explore a wealth of musical styles: from Arabic-influenced pop with a distinctive Bollywood flavor to the pulsating roots sound of local Malay groups. Featuring a heady mix of both traditional and modern sounds, this album presents Malaysia’s potent musical force.

Blending a huge variety of styles and cultures, from Arabic and Chinese influences to rock and roll and Malay folk, Malaysian music is instantly appealing to a wider audience. Siti Nurhaliza is probably Malaysia’s leading female singer in any genre and an icon for Malaysians at home and abroad. It was her third album, Cindai, and especially the title track which features on The Rough Guide To The Music Of Malaysia, that brought her into the mainstream.

A composer, producer and accordion player, Pak Ngah has written numerous popular songs and produced many leading singers. ‘Hati Kama’, his song included here, features his trademark sound and production and is from an album that featured both Siti Nurhaliza and Noraniza Idris. Born in 1968, Noraniza Idris is one of the greatest stars of modern Malay music and she can be heard on ‘Yo Allah Saidi’.

In the 1960s, under the influence of (primarily) the Beatles and other 1960s British pop groups, a new music emerged in Malaysia that was dubbed pop yeh-yeh, the term derived from the Beatles lyric, ‘She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah’. A pop yeh-yeh group, Fredo and The Flybaits were one of the most popular bands in the 1970s and ‘Nasib Si Gadis’ mixes Malay elements with rock and roll.

S. Atan has worked with many of Malaysia’s leading musicians over the years. On this album, he performs one of P. Ramlee’s (a cultural icon who appeared in over sixty films and wrote over 250 songs) most famous tunes, ‘Berkorban Apa Saja’.

The opening track features the group Mari Menari blending ghazal and masri. Performed at weddings, ghazal combines Indian, Arabic, Malay and Western music, and masri is a rhythm of Middle Eastern origin that is sometimes compared to a bellydancing rhythm. Zaleha Hamid was in a ghazal group before turning her attention to singing other Malay traditional styles and dangdut, the Indian and Arabic street music that emerged in Indonesia in the late 1960s. She combines Malay roots music with dangdut on ‘Setia Menuggu (Main Chali Main)’.

The album contains a data track that includes an interview with the compiler Paul Fisher, music information from The Rough Guide to World Music book and travel information from The Rough Guide To Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei book. Paul Fisher is the founder of Far Side Music – the leading specialist in music from East Asia – a broadcaster, DJ, journalist and cameraman.

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Atlantic Waves 13jul10: China

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Atlantic Waves 15jun10: Drag City

It begins with a crash, possibly an acoustic referral to Ferrari’s realization that he was suffering from cardiac arrhythmia. Immediately thereafter, the pings of the EKG machine and other patient monitoring equipment surface, a constant reference point throughout this suite from the late composer. Though divided on disc into seven tracks, the work flows seamlessly, conveying an institutional feel as befitting its derivation. It’s difficult not to think of anonymous exam rooms, source-less hums, snatches of conversation from fellow patients or medical staff, interjections of children, antiseptic surfaces and, above all, the repetitive noise from electronic devices from elevator doors to cardiographs. They all swirl together, creating an atmosphere at once surreal and vaguely threatening while at the same time affording a sensual fascination with this unique sound-world.

Ferrari seems to use this occasion to occasionally lapse into memories, as during the fourth track when we’re transported to a horse-riding lesson, apparently somewhere in the American West, as indicated by the accent of the instructor. It’s a momentary, dreamlike episode though, as we’re quickly thrust back into the reality of the city, the hospital and their attendant sounds. Still, he escapes once more, into what seems to be a Japanese marketplace, a welter of voices and noise, only to be rudely awakened by someone — a doctor? — asking, “Do you have any questions?”

In between, there’s a fantastically rich array of sounds, woven the way only Ferrari could, with exquisite care for timbre and separation, allowing vast amounts of air to circulate around the elements, enabling each to be perceived at the same time as individual pieces and parts of the whole. Too, there’s that sense of unbalance, of being in a new situation, a potentially life-threatening one. David Grubbs, in his liner notes, thinks Les Arhythmiques is more “stamped by dread” than any of his other work and while that may be the case, it’s only one tinge. Whatever qualms or thoughts of his all-too-soon demise, he clearly retains an intense love of pure sound. His heart may be malfunctioning but his ears and brain remain as profoundly observant as ever. It’s a stunning listening experience, a fine, sad late piece from one of the great sonic minds of recent decades. (Brian Olewnick, www.squidsear.com)

David Grubbs’ new piece Hybrid Song Box.4 began as the accompaniment to installation artist Angela Bulloch’s 2008 eponymous artwork, which was part of the Guggenheim’s Theanyspacewhatever exhibit last year. It’s difficult to think of this piece then as existing wholly on its own, as its existence is rather dependent on Bulloch’s art. Releasing this work, however, gives it a dual meaning or rather, creates two points that the meaning lies between. Hybrid Song Box.4 is a song on an album that can be enjoyed sans Bulloch, without knowing anything about her art and at the same time, it is the accompaniment to an artwork of hers and is intimately entwined in her ideas and in the meaning of the Theanyspacewhatever exhibit.

Solely as a piece of music, the song is a fairly standard Grubbs guitar piece – though saying it’s “fairly standard” shouldn’t be taken as an indictment, but rather merely a note that it fits snugly within Grubbs’ body of work. Structurally, it’s rather fractal, featuring repetitions within repetitions as short segments are repeated fairly quickly and longer segments repeat more glacially. There is a pleasant feeling of movement in the piece, as the more dense parts are broken up by long sections of pulsing feedback. The sparseness plays off well against the saturated sections but is warm enough that it never feels like simple meandering. The structure is almost pop in its composition, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as Grubbs’ entire aesthetic is very much a dialectic between pop and more avant-garde elements.

What’s interesting as well is the way the piece is described in the liner notes, as a soundtrack to the installation. Soundtrack is a weird term. A soundtrack, at least the way most people use it, is for a film, accompaniment for moving pictures – though to be fair, there are probably soundtracks to “experimental” (read: boring) one-frame exercises. Soundtracks are used to accentuate moments of the film, to ironically comment, to reveal something, to help gloss over lethargic parts. The question is, what does this mean for Hybrid Song Box.4 to be described as such? Bulloch’s piece is a series of cubes lit from the inside with swiss cheese holes to allow the light out. If this is a soundtrack, it makes more sense to think of it as the soundtrack to the emanating light, and Grubbs’ original performance lends some credence to that thought, as it looks like the performance space was lit as if it was near a massive version of Bulloch’s piece.

There is a better way to understand this though. As the New York Times review of the show notes, theanyspacewhatever is a cinematic term taken from French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. There are ordinary objects that surround us, that we see every day, but that because they are so common are really part of the background of our experience, and theanyspacewhatever describes the way films use these objects as transition shots. These shots take these glossed-over objects and change their being from background to foreground. In this final way, perhaps the meaning of Hybrid Song Box.4 as a soundtrack makes the most sense: a soundtrack for a cinematic moment taken out of context, almost as if the installation itself is merely a transition, and the viewer – without knowing where the shot is coming from or going – is merely privy to this one moment. (Andrew Beckerman, Dusted Magazine)

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Atlantic Waves 08jun10: Drag City

I still cherish the description of British-American art collective Art & Language once given by Mayo Thompson, the head of four-decades-and-running concept/psych-rock outfit the Red Krayola: “the baddest bastards on the block.” Truth be known, I’ve lost touch with Art & Language’s recent form (except to mourn the passing of Charles Harrison in August 2009), so they may not be the ‘baddest bastards’ any more—but suffice to say, I’ve never seen art and theory with such rigour and such antagonistic, ornery force as their ’70s period.

Tellingly, Thompson first fetched up with Art & Language in the ’70s. The albums produced in that first blush, Corrected Slogans, Black Snakes and Kangaroo?, aren’t the most puzzling in the Red Krayola’s long career, but they are among the most formally intriguing. By shackling Marxist dialectic and art-historical commentary to rude, crabby post-punk music, Thompson created music that conducted itself with a perpetual question mark over its head. Nothing you think you understand, it seemed to say, makes any sense here. It was a very rigorous music performed with a strange ‘off-the-cuff’-ness that was permanently surprised by the recombinations and juxtapositions it coughed up. In line with the best post-punk, you could hear the musicians thinking as they played—and in some cases, you could hear them wondering what the hell was going on.

The five portraits here are of singular figures in American mythology: Wile E. Coyote, President George W Bush, President Jimmy Carter, John Wayne, and Ad Reinhardt. (Reinhardt, perhaps, deserves the sub-heading ‘American modern art mythology,’ but never mind.) Of course, those coming to portraiture-via-music will expect vague mythologizing via lyrics, a bit of mysticism, maybe some rock heroics (U2 does MLK, in other words). The Red Krayola, being the baddest bastards in modern rock, give you the minutest, most programmatic painterly detail of each portrait, framed by songs that riff on motifs lifted from other, apparently relevant songs. Most hilariously, Ad Reinhardt (the abstract artist who, in the ’60s, painted his canvases in shades of black) cops a Mozart Sonata and…The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.”

I’ve been borderline-obsessed with the Red Krayola for a long time now, but even I can admit that Thompson’s practice sometimes gets maddeningly diffuse. The ‘forced cohesion’ that he so values, and passed on to partisans like David Grubbs, is in fine form here. There’s an inherent clumsiness in the way he forces lyrics like “The iris and shadow beneath / The lid of the right eye, / A shadow of the inner corner of the left eye, / The opening of the left ear / Of President Jimmy Carter” against something that sounds like a defrocked 12-bar blues that’s still hard to process. Of course, this leads into a purple patch of messy free improvisation, before the Raincoats’ Gina Birch continues the tale. And on it goes.

If the last Red Krayola With Art & Language record, Sighs Trapped By Liars, surprised with its gentility, Thompson’s dialectical relationship to/with form pretty much dictated that its follow-up had to jut out at right angles from its predecessor. That push-me-pull-you is intrinsic to the Red Krayola’s practice, God bless them. It’s also what makes their history so uniquely and individually compelling. (By Jon Dale, Dusted magazine)

“Let’s get right down to business,“ mutters Bill Callahan, and he and his backup band gradually constructs “Our Anniversary,” starting with guitar and a barely brushed snare and blending in sweeping strings. Immediately, any long-term listener will understand why the man we knew as Smog started performing under his Christian name – very little remains of the self-flagellating lo-fi angstmonger who gave the world Wild Love, Burning Kingdom and The Doctor Came at Dawn and helped make the ‘90s even more depressing. The transformation that began with 1997’s Red Apple Falls is now complete. He retains a rigorous ear for detail, but he’s opened the windows, and his conversational baritone exudes a mature authority. The music is, if more conservative, unarguably richer and more thoughtful. If much of his back-catalog sounds like it came from a mental hospital, Rough Travel For a Rare Thing seems to emerge from a very productive, very well-organized home office.

For anyone who only got on board in time for the post-Smog stuff (officially starting with 2007’s Woke On a Whaleheart), this elegant live record brings back some of his earlier songs, performed through Callahan’s new perspective. An intriguing concept not fully actualized – four of the songs are from 2005’s first-rate A River Ain’t Too Much to Love, on which Callahan 2.0 had already fully emerged. “The Well” and “Rock Bottom Riser” build expansive arrangements over threadbare structures, allowing Bill and the band to sustain and develop their moods in ways the abbreviated studio versions couldn’t. The most interesting self-cover is “Bathysphere,” a ruthlessly bleak fan favorite from Wild Love rendered here as only vaguely ominous dad-rock.

Nothing terribly exciting here, but as it comes from a guy who made his bones as one of the most genuinely fucked-up-sounding people in music (an image his stint as Mr. Cat Power did nothing to diminish), it may be a welcome relief to hear him act like an adult.

Perhaps acknowledging it as a fans-only affair, Drag City released it as a double-vinyl exclusive (for, in the words of the typically cheeky promo copy, “in-the-know tastemakers and their gullible friends”). Right down to the packaging, it’s a classy show. (By Emerson Dameron, Dusted magazine)

Jon Pitt does an exceedingly accurate job of describing the core of Scout Niblett’s aesthetic in his review of 2005’s Kidnapped by Neptune. The quiet/loud dynamic and the Nirvana/grunge influence are fundamental to her last few albums, so much so that one might remark that there is little difference to be had between Kidnapped, 2007’s This Fool Can Die Now and her most recent, The Calcination of Scout Niblett. What makes Niblett interesting, though, is the way these outdated strategies (grunge hasn’t been popular in the aughts at all and is hardly rife for a comeback at this point) are merely a facet of her work, and the way in which they are tempered by other elements to create something wholly new.

It’s tough not to listen to Calcination without hearing decade’s old echoes – Bleach especially – but at the same time, these are merely reminders or remnants and not merely tools of pastiche. The music itself possesses a clarity – a clarity that grunge fights hard against. So wrapped up in Niblett’s work is already a tension between the this clarity – a kind of unambiguousness – and what she imports from her influences. Her voice complements this clarity. It is strong and full, a traditional voice arising from folk. These echoes though aren’t merely the reverberation of the American neo-folk movement, but echo back to Niblett’s British roots.

There is also a tension in Calcination as well between the loud/soft dynamic and the consistency of the album’s tone. Pitt, in his review, mentions that Albini’s production, “juxtaposes the quiet and the loud, embracing a bipolarism that repeatedly interrupts, jars and startles the listener to attention.” However, what’s masterful about Calcination is that through the changing dynamic, there is a remarkably steady tone. That which might be jarring in another context, calling attention to itself and pulling the listener out of the moment, is here a natural part of the music. It can’t startle because it doesn’t seem out of place.

Calcination itself is a process of heating something in order to break it down; there may be the idea of process in Calcination, of dynamics, but the steadiness of the tone gives the illusion of stillness. It takes an incredibly steady hand and a reservoir of patience to pull off this tone, but delightfully, still below the surface is that tension. There are these competing moments in her music then, and it is the way they compete that makes her aesthetic unique and beautiful. (By Andrew Beckerman, Dusted magazine)

Rangda is a mighty new project from the all-star coalition of Richard Bishop (here listed sans knighthood), Ben Chasny (best known as the Six Organs Of Admittance leader) and improv drumming legend, Chris Corsano. Notably, while Chasny and Bishop are most closely associated with virtuosic acoustic guitaring, False Flag finds the two wielding electric instruments, taking every opportunity to shred mercilessly through fuzzball workouts like opener ‘Waldorf Hysteria’ and ‘Serrated Edges’. In fact, all three musicians cut loose and rampage over their respective instrument at just about every turn – Corsano is his usual imperious self, setting his kit ablaze (figuratively speaking, at any rate) during ‘First Family’ in particular. Somewhere along the line Bishop sets his axe down in favour of a spot of piano, and Corsano turns his hand to organ and clarinet (although a cursory scan through the album doesn’t necessarily make it clear as to where this might be), but the musicians’ primary roles yield enough terrific results to last the album – an especially brilliant moment comes four instrumentals in, when ‘Sarcophagi’ arrives as a spooked slow jam, capturing some spine-tinglingly lovely duelling guitar work and sensitive, atmospheric percussion from Corsano. Highly recommended. (Boomkat)

Sometimes the best gigs are the happy accidents– stumbling on an unknown band, or being convinced to see an artist by a friend only to become a convert yourself. That’s how I was introduced to Major Stars: Hijacked, dragged to a tiny Baltimore bar where the band was headlining. And then, boom: Wayne Rogers launched into the first of many acid-rock solos and full-front assaults. I was awestruck in a way you assume people felt when first seeing, say, session guitarist Pete Cosey (best known for his work with Miles Davis) or Wayne Kramer (MC5).

I don’t throw those comparison points around lightly, either. But Rogers, partner Kate Biggar, and third guitarist Tom Leonard do play as if the merger of those two turn-of-the-70s titans was the most natural thing the world. The Major Stars sound begins with the post-blues/proto-metal of the MC5 at their most raucous. Unlike many 21st century bands known for guitar pyro, Return to Form trucks in muscular anthems rather than sprawling mess. Tunes like “Black Point” and “Low Grade” are as memorable for their rhythm section’s heavy-machinery lurch as the feedback splatter. Which just makes the freaky, near-freeform soloing– think electric jazz before it was tamed into fusion or psychedelia at its most caustic– all the more surprising when it erupts on “Black Point”.

But despite what you may have heard– or how the above sounds– this is not is a noise band, at least in the feedback-for-its-own-sake sense of the word. At their best, Major Stars combine tight riffs and chops with a deep, abiding love for joyous guitar slop. Vocalist Sandra Barett only sometimes adds to the band’s hummability quotient. If nothing else her slightly droning style adds a human presence, sometimes tough and sometimes surprisingly fragile, to what would otherwise be an hour of epic screech and murk. But she’s not Major Stars’ focal point by a longshot; the guitarists have a lot more charisma. Major Stars’ leads alone could command an arena, if bands this hairy hadn’t been banned from arenas a long time ago.

But occasionally the devotion to six-string mayhem overwhelms the songwriting, and unless you really get off on reams of guitar raunch, Major Stars on CD may still not be for you. Sure, Return to Form has the sound of hardcore 1970s psych down, even if the mp3 is about as ideal for capturing the music’s oomph as cheap hi-fi’s and transistor radios were 40 years ago. But for music as much about volume and spectacle and physicality, it’s undeniably easier to be wowed when the band is within spitting distance– flopping all over each other, axes and hair flying, amps approaching critical mass. Return to Form may not always have the tunes or the funkadelic special effects to keep casual listeners interested in the comfort of their own homes/cars/heads. Still, if the album sometimes feels like an advertisement for the next Major Stars tour, well, it’s still a pretty damned good advertisement. ( Jess Harvell, Pitchfork)

Introducing: Ryan Trevor is an unexpected relic of the late 1970s, a self-produced, self-released record mired in the sounds of the Beatles and late 1960s Los Angeles psych bands. Many have compared Trevor to Emitt Rhodes, which doesn’t seem quite right to me aside from the whole “guy who played every instrument and produced the album” angle.

I knew there was some Southern California band that had a similar sound to Ryan Trevor’s, it was driving me crazy and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which one. The other night while I was checking out the Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets box set I figured out who I was thinking of: The Penny Arkade, a terrific band that worked with Mike Nesmith on a legendary unreleased album that was finally issued on CD by Sundazed in 2004. If not for the synthesizers, several of the songs on Introducing could almost be mistaken for Penny Arkade outtakes. You could also say Ryan Trevor is something like a psych-pop Kenneth Higney. Okay, maybe he’s not quite as weird as Higney, but there’s a distinctly strange, outsider quality to a lot of the music on the LP.

Ryan Trevor started recording the album in 1976. At the time he was already a professional songwriter and had co-writing credits on two Barry Manilow songs. A few years later he found some degree of success writing songs for “Sesame Street.” Trevor was an avowed Paul McCartney fanatic, though he doesn’t quite wear the influence on his sleeve as much as you might guess. After the bombastic symphonic “Prelude,” “Nights In The City” (a song Barry Manilow had turned down) starts off with a borrowed riff from “Taxman,” then goes off in a more interesting and original direction.

“Different Form Of Harmony” is easily the strangest on the album. The lyrics are boilerplate psychedelia—”try and sing high and you’ll find / it’s the same form of harmony / and melody sings through your mind”—but the music is weirdly slow and dark, and some of the backing vocals are screechy and sinister, almost like something off of Comus’s First Utterance album. But the best songs—fairly straightforward pop tunes like “England,” which is sung in a full-throated British accent, and the closing track “Rama (Come And Take Me)—are the least weird of the bunch, and sound like they could have been written by the bubblegum songwriter Tony Hazzard. It’s odd that “England” and “Different Form Of Harmony” even exist on the same slab of vinyl, which is part of what makes totally independent, private-press albums like this one so much fun to listen to. The mistakes and odd stylistic choices amplify the quality of the songs that actually work. (By Rob Hatch-Miller, Dusted magazine)

There have been some thorough examinations of post-punk– Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again being the most exhaustive– but could any study ever be complete? The reservoir of out-of-print/never-in-print gems from the fertile late 1970s and early 80s would have to dry up, and that hasn’t happened yet. The last few years alone have seen excellent reissues of San Francisco’s Units, New York’s Interference, London’s Lines, and Georgia’s Method Actors. Writing about the latter, Pitchfork’s Andy Battaglia guessed that the “post-punk vault… would almost have to be empty at this point.”

You’d think so, but mere weeks after the Method Actors release, Drag City has unearthed another treasure deserving of a new audience. Formed in Louisville in 1978, the Endtables lasted less that two years, releasing just one four-song EP while together. The Endtables compiles that EP, a posthumous two-song single, and six live tracks, painting a quick, sharp portrait of a band that sounded like they were in a hurry. Chugging along at a palpitating clip, the group flies toward the sun of the Buzzcocks and Gang of Four, but something about their hyper energy makes them a little more off-kilter than those groups. Like a sonic game of Jenga, their tunes feel like they could spill into unruly cacophony at the slightest nudge.

That never happens, but it’s not for lack of pushing and shoving by guitarist Alex Durig and singer Steve Rigot. Rigot in particular has a uniquely skewed rhythm, biting off his words in strident yelps like the Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey if you cut all of his lines in half. One of the best things about post-punk was the way many singers– Ian Curtis, Mark Mothersbaugh, David Thomas– turned technically imperfect voices into weapons through phrasing and attitude. Thomas may be the closest parallel to the bulbous Rigot, who certainly deserves a place in that patchwork pantheon of inventive vocalists. Durig is equally creative, slashing his chords across the songs like a whip across skin. But it’s Rigot’s delivery that gives these songs a mix of robotic staccato and wiry nerve.

Highlights abound– the engine-rev of “Process of Elimination”, the rubber-band snap of “Circumcision”– but the six studio songs are most notable for how little they deviate from the quality level established in the first note. The live tracks are less even– endearingly earnest and raw but often rather illegible. A few little twists, like an interlude of Clean-style garage swing in “Europe”, a song they never recorded in the studio, hint at some other places this band could’ve gone. But as a self-contained document of a lightning-quick, pretension-free moment in time, The Endtables is pretty spot on. ( Marc Masters, Pitchfork)

The late Hamper McBee was a moonshiner, carnival barker, and ballad singer of legendary proportions. First “discovered” and recorded by folklorist and performer Guy Carawan in 1964, Hamper’s prodigious talent and personality won him admirers not only in his native Smoky Mountains but throughout the folk music world, where his wholly unique approach to old-time ballads and lyric songs struck like revelations. He drew from both the oral tradition and from records — he especially loved Bradley Kincaid, Vernon Dalhart, and, surprisingly, Burl Ives — to create a repertoire entirely his own, and that he sung in a warm, powerful voice seasoned by prodigious quantities of cigarettes, booze, and joie de vivre.

Recorded by renowned country music scholar Charles K. Wolfe and filmmaker Sol Korine at Hamper’s home in Monteagle, Tennessee, in 1977, ‘The Good Old-Fashioned Way’ compiles the best of McBee’s traditional ballads, affecting original compositions, and outlandish, side-splitting stories of life on the carnival circuit, at the moonshine still, in the back of Sheriff Bill Malone’s patrol car, and as Hamper McBee. You’ve never met anyone like him before. You’ll be glad you did. (recordstore.co.uk)

A sepia-tinted kaleidoscope of garage rock, surf guitar, psilocybin’d folk and one of the oddest pop sensibilities this side of Beefheart and his Magic Band, cult artist and obscurantist favorite Michael Yonkers’ unreleased 1977 solo gem, Lovely Gold, shines with a 2010 dust-off and release from indie label Drag City. During the social tumult of the late 1960s, Yonkers had retreated, sequestering himself in his parents’ basement to experiment with tape loops and homemade synthesizers. A broken back, suffered in an industrial accident, would cause him to retreat once again. Recorded six years after that incident, Lovely Gold is the sound of an artist moving inward, into his own fractured and fascinating inner landscapes.

Indeed, this is freak folk before there was a name for such a thing. Rumbling percussion, effects-warped guitars and Yonkers’ warbly voice all intertwine and dovetail into an avant-everything wonderland of psychedelic minimalism. Songs like the rumbled croons and strums of “I Knew You’d Remember” give the first side of Trout Mask Replica a run for its money; “Drifting Off” forms a mid-album vortex of burbling noise effects beneath a slinky chorus melody; and “Will It Be” predates — and outweirds — the best of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s moody down-tempo material with a wash of haunting wails and shadowy sonics.

Yet however strong the Lovely Gold’s remainder is (and it is), the album would be crippled without its blistering title track. A four-minute paean to adrenalized freak-rock, “Lovely Gold” starts off as an ominous and nervy sway of circular surf-pop before steadily building, building, building into a guitar implosion gone nova as Yonkers pushes his instrument — and himself, by the sound — to its outer limits. Drag City was kind enough to pack in a bonus track (the unsettling moans of “Nevermore”) with this long-overdue release, but the sound of Lovely Gold meeting the light of day is bonus enough. (Travis Woods, Prefix mag)

Cave is a five-piece psychedelic group that originally formed in Missouri in the mid-2000s. After a few years of formless outre jamming with a constantly shifting lineup, the band settled into its current form, relocated to Chicago, and released a series of EPs, singles and albums on zeitgeist-attuned underground labels like Permanent, Important and Trensmat. The band’s latest full-length, 2009’s Psychic Psummer, was its most cohesive work to date and presumably led to its signing on with the renowned Drag City for its latest EP, Pure Moods.

Pure Moods clocks in at 25 minutes and three songs, opening with the relatively terse “Hot Bricks,” which showcases the group’s knack for conventional song form with a catchy melody and a hypnotic rhythm section. Traditional notions of rock music begin to dissolve on “Teenager,” whose repetitive chorus is a direct nod to Cave’s acknowledged forebears Oneida. The tune steadily builds throughout its seven-minute running time, and it’s easy to imagine the effort being a hypnotic, head-banging revelation live. The production is refined enough to allow individual instruments to shine but retains the signature warm and fuzzy atmosphere of this brand of muscular jamming.

Closer “Brigitte’s Trip (White Light/White Jazz)” has an unwieldy title to match its 13-minute running time, and although it never fully derails it can be a tedious listen at times. Despite being technically expert, the predictable deployment of synth squiggles, wah-wah peddles cascading out into space and the notoriously fickle pleasures of the buildup and release dynamic fail to come together. There’s no question that the quarter-hour jam is meant to signify a new evolution in Cave’s sound, but unfortunately the track sputters rather than explodes, at times bordering on indulgent prog wankery.

Although Cave’s skill at expansive jamming can’t be questioned — the band’s exemplary full-length record is a testament to this fact — it is the poppier material on Pure Moods that I kept coming back to. Opener “Hot Bricks” is notably satisfying, a studied survey of the appeal of krautrock maneuvers expertly condensed into a hummable rock tune. It is the potential of this new direction that is most thrilling about the new EP. Pure Moods is a typical stopgap, but the members of Cave hold their own as representatives of the Midwest contingent of the new American psychedelia currently exploding coast to coast, from Wooden Shjips to White Hills. (Max Burke, Prefix mag)

Jeff Eubank is not a name that often surfaces in modern day music, which is sad. He released one of the great, lost albums in music history in 1983. What made it extremely rare was the fact it was limited to 500 copies and pressed privately. I had heard a number of tracks through the years but despite my passion for vinyl, an affordable copy had always eluded me. I could afford.A Street Called Straight has finally been re-issued in vinyl and CD form.

This private pressing occurred at a time when albums and bootlegs such as this had a sound ranging from very good to almost unlistenable. This album falls into the excellent category and may have the best sound for a recording of this type I have heard. It’s CD sound, which was created from the original tapes, is equal to much of what is being produced today.

Eubank was a product of Kansas City but his music has a light, airy California quality which can best be classified as light psychedelic folk/rock. While it was issued during the early eighties, it really would have fit better in the late sixties or seventies.

Eubank provides the vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards, flutes, plus he wrote all the songs. He is joined by electric guitarist Allen DeCamp, saxophonist and flutist Mark Cohick, bassist Don Harris, synthesizer player Scott MacDonald, conga player Gary Schroeder, and drummers John Cushon and Fred Blizzard.

It has a very smooth and at times other worldly sound. The flutes combine with the keyboards and then intertwine with the guitars. The lyrics are poetic and folk based at heart. Eubank is a good vocalist and has the ability to adapt to the uniqueness of each song. My favorite tracks include “Adolescent Daydream,” “Kamikaze Pilot,” “Earthian Children,” and “No Need For The Ground.”

It’s nice to have A Street Called Straight available again. Is it essential? Probably not. Is it interesting? Yes it is. Is it good music? Definitely! (David Bowling, blogcritics.org)

Although eloquent folk singer-songwriting is seldom in short supply, any particularly good contributions to the genre are always guaranteed a warm reception. Elisa Randazzo arrives with a Drag City debut via a role in the ranks of label favourite The Red Krayola, contributing not only to numerous live tours but four albums, for which she supplied violin and vocals. Randazzo seems to have gone into the family business, having followed in the footsteps of both her mother (Victoria Pike) and father (Teddy Randazzo) who were well-known on New York’s songwriter circuit back in the 1960s. Elisa’s music seems to be more rooted in the folk-rock sounds of the early 1970s however, and while there’s no shortage of evidence pointing to the influence of Canyon scene sounds, conjuring up references to the likes of Judee Sill and Linda Perhacs, and even channelling Harvest-era Neil Young on the excellent ‘Colors’. In addition to some very fine, seasoned writing, the articulate acoustic guitar work, delicate vocal harmonies and lavishly conducted country arrangements make Bruises & Butterflies an understatedly very special record despite it being something that could have been made at any point during the last forty years; there’s so much craft gone into songs like ‘He Faded’, ‘Circles’ and ‘Darkerlands’ that only the most hardened of folk sceptics could fail to appreciate its timeless charms. (Boomkat)

It was a little disturbing at first to hear that Joanna Newsom‘s full-length follow-up to the ambitious and polarizing Ys would be a triple album. Where 2004’s The Milk-Eyed Mender was an unusual record with its share of quirks (her squeaky voice and fondness for arcane language, the harp), it also had its simple pleasures. Most of the tracks were short and the sound was spare; you pretty much liked it or you didn’t based on how you felt about Newsom’s sound and her ability to put a song together. Ys, on the other hand, was unapologetically dense. The five songs averaged more than 10 minutes each, and through them Newsom sang continuously; Van Dyke Parks’ arrangements were similarly relentless, seeming to comment upon and embellish almost every line. It was a rewarding album– filled with memorable turns of phrase and impressive storytelling. Many were enthralled, and almost everyone at least admired it. But in comparison to Milk-Eyed, Ys took some serious work to crack. So when I heard that Newsom would be following it with a 3xLP set called Have One on Me, I had troubling visions of 25-minute songs with lyrics that stretched to 5,000 words.

As it turns out, Have One on Me is a “triple album” in the vinyl sense, in the same way that the Flaming Lips’ Embryonic is a “double album,” even though it fits onto one CD. There are 18 songs here, and they total about two hours. To pick a couple of reference points from the CD era, that’s the same length as Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and just a bit longer than Biggie’s Life After Death. Two hours is a lot of music, but having it broken into three discs, each the length of a 1970s LP, helps. You can dip into Have One on Me at a given point, listen for a while, and move on to something else. But while the album invites sampling, I’ve found myself returning to a different section each time I sit down with it. The highlights are spread out evenly, and Newsom couldn’t have sequenced the record any better.

While songs here evoke moments of Ys and Milk-Eyed and Newsom’s harp is still the dominant musical focus, it’s striking how much Have One on Me feels like its own thing. Not a progression, exactly, more of a deepening. You can feel roots going down and an edifice being built. Her voice has gained depth and she sings with more force and clarity, so that’s part of it. And the arrangements are more judicious and draw less attention to themselves (some tracks are just harp, others add horns, strings, and percussion, but with a lighter touch). But the bigger difference seems to be the overall mood, which is expansive and welcoming. The best songs feel more like conversations rather than artworks to be hung on the wall and admired from several paces away. Newsom seems to sing from somewhere deep inside of them, and her earthy presence has a way of drawing you in, bringing you closer to her music than you’ve been before.

The name you’ll most hear in discussion of this record is Joni Mitchell. Part of it is that Newsom can sound a fair bit like her with her more richly textured voice. Sometimes, almost eerily so, like on “In California” (the way she wraps the vocal melody around the evocative title word is just a few miles up the PCH from Blue’s “California”). In addition to her voice and phrasing, the more approachable songs here, from the stirring harp-and-voice ballads “Jackrabbits” and “Esme” to the funny, weird, and hugely appealing road song “Good Intentions Paving Company”, have bluesy chord progressions that stand in stark contrast to the rigid folk modes of Ys. These songs sway and heave with a warmth and approachability that are new for Newsom. They, and several others like them, offer a fresh way into Newsom’s music for the curious.

“The phantom of love moves among us at will,” goes a line in “Esme”. Most of the songs here deal with love in some form, another quality that connects Have One on Me to the broader singer-songwriter tradition. Sometimes the love is romantic; other times its about friendship or family. Newsom sometimes approaches the subject from her elliptical perch, talking in pictures– “Each phantom-limb lost has got an angel (so confused, like the wagging bobbed-tail of a bulldog),” is the line that follows the one above in “Esme”. But though Newsom indulges her gift for imagery early and often, Have One on Me has moments of simplicity and directness, where the tangled phrases can be boiled down to, “Life can be difficult and lonely and we all need love, but holding on to it can be hard.”

One significant difference between Newsom and Mitchell is that the latter, especially early in her career, was writing songs that would sound good on the radio. For better or worse, Newsom is not a pop singer– that’s just not what she does. So I don’t want to overstate this record’s accessibility. A few tracks here, especially longer ones like the title track and “Kingfisher”, approach the winding density that marked Ys. On these, song structure is elusive– at any given moment you’re not sure if you’re listening to a verse, chorus, or bridge. The lyric sheet helps a bit, but with two hours of music to digest, you won’t feel too guilty about using the skip button here and there, or digesting the record in pieces. Helpfully, returning to the most immediate songs causes their charm and appeal to bleed into the tracks that surround them– so the album seems to grow and change as you listen.

Have One on Me begins with “Easy”, about a wish for the kind of life the title suggests, and closes with “Does Not Suffice”, which finds the narrator packing up a house to leave after a breakup, putting away all that reminds her lover of how “easy [she] was not.” The latter is subtitled “In California, Refrain”, it uses a similar gospel-inflected progression as the earlier song, and it’s flat-out gorgeous, heavy with sadness (“the tap of hangers swaying in the closet”) but also exhibiting quiet dignity and strength. It’s my favorite song here, and it comes last, which is a dependable sign that I’ll be returning to an album often. When I hear Newsom sing the word “easy” in “Suffice” and my mind jumps back to the opener, it reinforces just how many threads she’s weaved between those songs and how incredible it is to discover new things with every listen. (Mark Richardson, Pitchfork)

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Atlantic Waves 01jun10: Drag City

For those still digesting Spoils, Alasdair Roberts’s oft-impenetrable album from earlier this year, the prospect of another Roberts release so soon is kind of intimidating. In my review, I pegged Spoils as “simply another engrossing chapter in an incredible story,” but after spending a few months with it, it’s lyrical tangles and structural shifts still haven’t settled. Unlike the comparatively breezy The Amber Gatherers and the straightforward, brilliant ballad collection No Earthly Man, Spoils remains stubbornly locked within itself, its moments of clarity and emotional connection lost in the storytelling fog. The joy in Roberts’s work is in struggling through the thicket and meeting him at the end of the road, but I have to admit that, with Spoils, I’m still not there, which either makes it his richest work or his first overstep. I’m of the sort that won’t tire of trying to crack the album, but I haven’t been able to think of it with the same fondness as I do the others.

I approached The Wyrd Meme with some trepidation, thinking that Roberts might attempt to further confound, but it’s actually a perfect complement to Spoils. It distills the album’s sprawl into four tales that offer footholds and entry points. Rather than lose himself, Roberts seems more willing to guide.

This isn’t to say that The Wyrd Meme is accessible. No Earthly Man remains the best entry point into Roberts’s world, for it offers both context and the thrill of pure narrative. His other works, The Wyrd Meme included, heavily subject those narratives to myth, dreams, modernity, metaphors, allegories and stark emotion, all with a lightly disorienting psychedelic touch. It’s difficult and tricky listening, but when the fog clears and a track hits, Roberts is untouchable.

Perhaps it’s due to the compact nature of the EP, but The Wyrd Meme seems as succinct and direct as Roberts the songwriter can be. It would still take pages to fully unpack these tracks, but they mainly revolve around two themes: loneliness and storytelling, with the latter a substitute for the former. Roberts says as much in a delicate, careful way in “The Yarn Unraveller”: ”I would love to go along with you / I would love to be your fellow traveler / If that’s not to be / Then it’s not to be / And instead I’ll be your yarn unraveller.”

Still, sitting and recounting is not enough. In fact, according to “The Royal Road at the End of the World,” it’s mankind’s undoing, equal to the worst of our nature and what our imaginations can conjure. The adventurer confronts the storyteller, “Oh no, the ourobouros looms in the sky before us / Morphs into a foul abraxas / Falls from the sky and attacks us / You think you’re gonna scare me / With your fucking taxidermy?” The equivalence is struck after a back and forth between Roberts and his bandmates. Roberts sings, “The world ends in the skirl of the war pipes / The world ends in the mouths of the war dead,” with each statement echoed by the band, the music building, but then, suddenly, the band drops out and an accapella Roberts repeats, “The world ends in remembrance.” He lets the words hang in the air, after which the brief, simple love song “Coral and Tar” closes the EP with Roberts repeatedly asking a lover to come over, “because it’s been far too long.”

Singing, writing and listening are simple compensation for unfulfilled emotions, mere remembrance, as they’ve always been, and any attempt to pretend otherwise would be the end of it all. Not many artists actively encourage the listener to go out and experience the world after vividly describing the perils contained therein, but Roberts makes it clear that doing so is a necessary risk. (Brad LaBonte, Dusted Magazine)

It can be hard to judge work by an artist when you know that they can do pretty much anything once their mind’s set. Guitarist and Sun City Girls founder Richard Bishop has a fluid and not overly nerdy mastery of a shit-ton of musical styles. Dude can improvise or play intricate compositions; he can go slow and weird or fast as fuck; he can play like he’s at a Turkish funeral or Hindu religious ceremony or Western swing wedding, do a perfect Django-esque tune at breakneck speed, and then pull off a dirty bar-band take on “Radar Love”. It’s only when you take in all of it that you get close to what Bishop’s own style is: he’s a shape-shifter, plain and simple. As soon as you have him figured out and pinned down, he’s well onto the next thing. Even the most casual fan will warn that you never quite know what you’re going to get.

This time out, Bishop jettisons the guitar soli approach that’s defined the majority of his solo stuff. But he does so only after first clobbering the listener with a magnificent example of the form, “Taqasim For Omar”. The Omar in question on this particular guitar improvisation is the late Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid, whom Bishop credits in interviews as a major inspiration for this whole project. One minute into the second track, “Enta Omri”, we’re introduced to the Freak of Araby Ensemble, where they tastefully lay down tablas, bass, and doubled-up guitar until the final number, “Blood-Stained Sands”, which is all reeds (Moroccan chanter horns) and percussion.

Half the songs on The Freak of Araby are covers of Middle Eastern tunes, and the other half are originals. Bishop is half-Lebanese, so it’s tempting to see this as some kind of “back to the roots” affair. In the Detroit suburb where he grew up, Rick and his brother Alan were exposed to a lot of Middle Eastern music; their grandfather used to play the oud and a double-reeded flute as well as records by the likes of Fairuz and Oum Kalthoum. If you hear echoes of Morricone or surf music here, that makes sense– pretty much any time you amplify Middle Eastern jams you realize how far that approach to sound has reached. You hear the Morricone because both Bishop and Morricone are masters at synthesizing disparate sounds from different cultures; too bad they’ve never gotten to collaborate.

The band, consisting of guitarist Rasheed Al-Qahira, percussionist Mohammed Bandari, bassist Ahmed Sharif, and hand drummer Abdulla Basheem, is ace. It’s true that a few songs could be a tad dirtier, more unhinged; undoubtedly they will in performance (at the time of this writing Bishop’s on a North American tour with the group). Bishop’s take on the lovely Corsican melody “Solenzara”, for example, never leaves the earth, but it’s not supposed to. That happens enough on the original “Sidi Mansour”, anyway. Then there’s the knotty yet hummable “Barbary”, which has echoes of the Sun City Girls’ Torch of the Mystics. Like that record, Freak is one of Bishop’s most cohesive and accessible albums. Since it also has such an NPR-friendly backstory, expect Bishop to appear on Terry Gross soon. Which means you can also expect a record composed entirely of synth dirge nursery rhymes about circumcision next time around. That, or a Sammy Davis, Jr. tribute record. Or both! (Mike McGonigal, Pitchfork)

To build a truly deep understanding of Gnawa music, its history, the story of the people who play it, and the religious and superstitious beliefs that inform it and determine its structure, you’d probably have to read a few books or live your whole life in Morocco. I’ll give the digest version here. There, Gnawa are practitioners of a musical-spiritual tradition rooted in Sufism, a mystical strain of Islam. The Gnawa tradition has its deepest roots in the Arab slave trade, in which sub-Saharan Africans were kidnapped and brought north over the desert to the Maghreb, in modern-day Morocco and Algeria, though today there is no ethnic dimension to it. Gnawa musicians, mystics, and dancers provide a communication conduit between people and the jinn, unseen beings of smokeless fire that are important not to anger. The word is the source of our “genie,” and one particular type of jinn, the mluk (literally, “the owners”) is said to possess people who cross its path. One of the purposes of Gnawa ceremony is to negotiate with the mluk and send it packing– it dovetails with the Sufi quest for spiritual purity.

An “Ouled Bambara” is a suite of Gnawa songs played during the Fraja, or entertainment, phase of a Gnawa ceremony. This set of field recordings made in Marrakesh by Caitlin McNally offers samplings of both this phase and the actual mluk phase. The recording carries the sonic flavor of the courtyards in which it was made, and the musical ingredients are simple. The singing is essentially a series of solo and group chants, and it doesn’t follow any song forms familiar to Western ears. The whole body of music evolves as one, pushed along by hand claps on some tracks, and iron castanets or shakers on others, and at the heart of the sound is the guimbri, a three-stringed, guitar-like instrument with a large, closed rectangular resonating box. The instrument has loose, thick strings and plays in a bass register, and the musicians frequently drum on the resonator while playing.

While it provides a harmonic outline, the primary function of the guimbri is rhythmic, and the musicians favor gradually shifting patterns, changing tempos and rhythmic emphasis as the song suites unfold. The CD offers about an hour of recorded ceremonial music, and it’s very transporting. Even without the extensive liner notes, it’s an interesting experience to sit in on a ceremony so different from any of our own. The accompanying half-hour DVD adds a visual dimension, showing the playing techniques for the guimbri and castanets, giving us a glimpse of the dances and trance states, including one somewhat frightening moment where a trancing dancer collapses. It includes interviews with each performer and brief insight into their lives. Mohamed Hamada, the same dancer who collapses, works a day job stoking the flames of a furnace, while Brahim Belkani shows off photos of himself with Dizzy Gillespie, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page.

It’s hard to rate a recording like this in the context of a bunch of indie rock and hip hop records, because it comes from a different angle entirely– music in this world is spiritual currency, not a product or a showcase, and it’s important not to go into listening to it expecting something catchy or straightforwardly funky. It’s a genuine field recording and makes no concessions to pop convention or avant-garde ideas. Of course, that’s also what makes it a fantastic document of a unique and thriving cultural tradition, one that has a curious place in Moroccan society as neither mainstream nor outcast. Come to listen with the right mindset, and you’ll learn a lot about it. ( Joe Tangari, Pitchfork)

It would be too reductive to strictly classify Japan’s Masaki Batoh and Swedish-born Helena Espvall as folk musicians. Batoh, of course, is best known for his 20-plus years as leader of the avant-rock mystics in Ghost, whose work has ranged from free noise to the hairiest of prog-rock; while Espvall is a classically trained cellist and member of Espers who has also played with such diverse artists as Eugene Chadbourne and Pauline Oliveros. Yet for their first collaboration as a duo, Batoh and Espvall clearly strive to find a common vocabulary, and do so primarily within the familiar comforts of folk-based material.

On Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh, the duo have plotted an unlikely hybrid, gathering songs and instruments from a number of regional folk traditions. Five of the album’s dozen tracks are interpretations of traditional Scandinavian songs, and Batoh also leads an abrupt detour to the Mississippi delta for a cover of Son House’s “Death Letter”. Despite the far-flung origins of the songs, however, there is a cozy sense of fellowship in these performances, as the two musicians sound almost effortlessly at ease with each other and their material. (Although in characteristic fashion Batoh does occasionally entangle himself while navigating the foreign tongues of the Swedish and English lyrics.)

If anything, Batoh and Espvall can in fact sound as though they are perhaps too deferential to one another, as neither seems eager to force the proceedings outside a certain comfort zone. As a result, the album– while it might be end-to-end the frankly prettiest record in Batoh’s career– contains nothing that should startle listeners familiar with either the work of Ghost or Espers. On the traditional Swedish songs “Kristallen Den Fina” and “Uti Vår Hage”, the duo play it about as straight as any two such intercontinental adventurers ever could. For these tracks, and on the bulk of the album, Espvall takes lead vocal duty, with Batoh contributing deft harmonies and accompaniment on guitar and variety of exotics.

From these traditional pieces, Batoh and Espvall cover the short distance to the original instrumental “Beneath Halo” and their lovely rendition of the anonymous medieval composition “Bicinium”. Combining Espvall’s expressive cello and banjo with Batoh’s guitar–and just his general ineffable mystical presence–these pieces drift through the room like miniature violet clouds, ready to evaporate at the slightest brush. Espvall’s vocals are double-tracked to delightful effect on “Kling Klang” and “Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa”, further heightening the music’s impression of ancient kindred spirits joined at play.

Those seeking improvisational fireworks will have to make due with the epic album-closing instrumental “Kyklopes”. Joined by Ghost members Takuyuki Moriya and Kazuo Ogino, on this track we at last catch a glimpse of Espvall and Batoh’s more dissonant side. Here Espvall’s cello provides a melancholic thunder and churn beneath Batoh’s considered interjections of string and fluttering percussion, calling to mind the image of voyagers finally ready to steer themselves together into uncertain waters. Throughout the album Batoh and Espvall are able to cast hints of some distant unified global folk lineage, and hopefully their partnership can continue in some form to reveal and expand upon this shared ancestry’s further secrets. (Matthew Murphy, Pitchfork)

Ben Chasny is one of the more prolific musicians of the last decade. He’s released one or two albums each year since 1998 under his Six Organs of Admittance banner, plus a bunch of EPs, one-offs, and 7″s, and because that didn’t keep him busy enough, he’s also worked with Comets on Fire, Badgerlore, and Current 93. It could be argued that he’s done more than anyone to establish, develop, and fuel this whole modern freak-folk thing, even if his profile has never risen as high as some of his peers’.

Luminous Night continues Chasny’s association with Chicago’s estimable Drag City label, and it’s something of a summary record, demonstrating most of the range he’s shown over the years, from pretty acoustic guitar ramblings to ambient noodling, droning psychedelic horrors, acid folk tunes, and rumbling noise. It’s heaviest on the middle three and has an overall dirge-like quality that wears a bit thin at times. The record opens with a fake-out of gorgeous acoustic plucking on “Actaeon’s Fall (Against the Hounds)”, a sound that harks back to School of the Flower. This is joined by jazzy flute and an even prettier surfed-out guitar before everything stops for a breath and comes back in on a decidedly more medieval note, the flute joining a viola on a positively ancient-sounding melody that occasionally lapses back into surf-jazz for a couple seconds.

Taken in the context of the whole album, “Actaeon’s Fall” plays something like a palate cleanser for the extended exercise in existential dread that follows. Chasny’s oddly deadpan, almost British-accented voice makes a good instrument for brooding, and he almost makes a point of separating his brand of acid folk from his hippie forebears by confronting his personal failings head-on, declaring, “I’m a vengeful man,” on “Anesthesia” as harshly droning guitars crowd in around him. He wraps himself in thoughts of death on “Ursa Minor”, singing, “Love can’t keep death at bay/ Good people dying everywhere/ When shadow’s your doctor the price you pay/ Is asking if god is even there.”

Chasny is careful to cut through the pallor of the densest tracks with small splashes of color, like the tabla that drives “Bar-Nasha” or the piano that wafts through the electronic haze of “Cover Your Wounds With the Sky”. Eyvind Kang leads “River of Heaven” with a haunting viola solo played in a style that sounds half European Renaissance and half Syrian. Genuinely haunting moments like that forgive some of the album’s more egregious indulgences in drifting noise and intentional obfuscation (see the brown guitar squall in the middle of “Enemies Before the Light”). But really, half the fun of Six Organs is hearing Chasny get away with being over-the-top on the strength of his sheer talent. Luminous Night doesn’t challenge School of the Flower or The Sun Awakens for Six Organs’ best albums, but it is a solid addition to a big catalog that gets more interesting all the time. (Joe Tangari, Pitchfork)

The standard take on Israeli trio Monotonix is that their insane live act is such a spectacle that the music doesn’t matter. To a large extent it’s true– the band definitely prioritizes antics over songs, happy to let their tunes fall apart completely if it means singer Ami Shalev can jump off a balcony or drummer Ran Shimoni can “play” his kit on top of the audience. There’s so much to watch at their gigs that once the dust settles, it’s hard to remember what you heard. So seeking out Montonix albums after seeing them live is kind of like wanting to know what music was playing at a circus.

The funny thing is, if you think of them more as carnival souvenirs than art, Monotonix’s records are actually pretty good. If you only want to hear progressive ideas or original sounds, you probably can live without them. But considering that this is devoutly derivative garage rock, there’s more going on in these tunes than you might imagine. And, most surprisingly, the band’s sound has already evolved in the span of just two releases.

Their debut Drag City EP, 2008’s Body Language, mined classic hard-rock and metal, often heading directly for Black Sabbath territory. Where Were You When It Happened?– deemed an LP even though it’s only five minutes longer– is grittier and grimier, lying somewhere along the crayoned line that connects the pre-punk blues damage of the Stooges to the scummy grunge of Mudhoney. Where Shalev previously preferred an Ozzy moan, here he has more of an Iggy howl, and it dovetails nicely with guitarist Yonatan Gat’s crunchier tone. There’s even a moment during the album’s best track, “Set Me Free”, where the pair unite in a vocal-and-feedback whine that’s as mesmerizing as anything the band does onstage.

Outside of that highlight, the album gets by primarily on sped-up energy. Tunes like the riff-riot “Flesh and Blood”, the swinging “I Can’t Take It Anymore”, and the rolling Mudhoney-rip “Spit It on Your Face” all sound a little faster, a little tighter, a little more manic than they rightfully should. Even the more down-tempo “Something Has Dried” has a tautness akin to the Jesus Lizard’s forays into slow slobber. The band does eventually run out of steam, ending with two weak attempts to add variety and texture through forced crescendos and meditative duets. But aside from those experiments, Where Were You has one crucial thing in common with the Monotonix stage act: it’s a lot of fun.

Again, there’s nothing genuinely new here, and the influences are so obvious I would bet that even someone who hasn’t heard music like this before could quickly smell the band’s debt to its predecessors. But just as you’d have to be made of stone not to enjoy at least some part of a Monotonix gig, anyone who likes garage rock would have to be an obstinate stickler for originality not to enjoy the best parts– that is, the majority– of Where Were You When It Happened? (Marc Masters, Pitchfork)

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Atlantic Waves 25may10: An Anthology Of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008 (pt 3/3)

This four-disc volume at first seems like a daunting, overwhelming prospect: in addition to being a vast and sprawling collection of works, it’s made up by a roster of artists whose work will (for the majority of Western listeners at least) be entirely unfamiliar. The Sub Rosa anthologies are unfailingly impressive collections of work, but this one more than most represents a deluge of new information and new sounds. Help is at hand thanks to the inclusion of two booklets: the first gives a full tracklist complete with artist biographies, while the second (penned by Zbigniew Karkowski and Yan Jun) offers some background context to this collection, with an essay on Chinese underground culture. Compiled by artist Li Chin Sung (aka Dickson Dee), the selection here draws new laptop and electroacoustic music from across not only mainland China, but Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia too, and while its impossible to give any kind of comprehensive or fully formed representation of a music scene as truly multi-faceted and subterranean as this, hopefully the collection will offer up a number of new avenues for you to pursue in discovering more about the intersecting cultural movements hinted at within. After an initial disc filled with glorious experimental sounds and cutting edge abstract electronics that border on the more academic end of digital musics, by the second CD slightly more pop-influenced sounds start to infiltrate the compilation: while the likes of Wang Jong-Kuen’s ‘Leaving’ and Dickson Dee’s own ‘Somewhere’ occupy a rigorous and uncompromising microsound approach, you can hear 4/4 dance music templates being utilised throughout Sun Dawei’s ‘Crawing State’. In addition to these extremes, sifting through the compilation reveals a particularly resonant affinity with noise music, with groups like Torturing Nurse and D!O!D!O!D! suggesting cross-pollinations of Japanese, American, and more European, industrial influences. Noise is truly a global language. In fact, one of the most striking things about the compilation, once you’ve worked your way through its full expanse, is that old notions of East and West don’t necessarily count for much within the context of music – at least not experimentally motivated music (for example, just compare the sense of forward-thinking post-digital innovation presiding over Dennis Wong’s ‘Para_Dot’ to Alva Noto’s hyper-minimal propulsions). In any case, there’s a abundance of revelatory moments and exciting, unfamiliar sounds spread across these four discs, and for any follower of experimental music, the anthology has to rank as essential listening. (boomkat.com)

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Atlantic Waves 18may10: Pascal Comelade

Each new album by Pascal Comelade is in itself a bit of an event. The man makes himself rare in France and is much more prolific in Catalonia, where he is considered to be an “essential” musician. In France, he is seldom mentioned in the media, and, in record shops, his music is often to be found in the “film score” section, with “experimental music” or even with “world music”. The last time he really got the attention of the critics was for his musical show “Psicotic Music-Hall” in 2002, a tribute to La Bodega Bohemia, a historical cabaret in Barcelona. Fortunately, “Monofonicorama 2005-1992”, his recent Best-Of album, put into perspective the importance of his works and demonstrated his many-sided musical vision, his multi-layered pocket symphonies, his bazaar of toy instruments and his playful ramblings, sometimes shared with big names in the world of the bizarre: P.J. Harvey (Love Too Soon) and Robert Wyatt (September Song) among others. A great way to brush-up on your Comelade culture and to prepare your ears for what is coming next is the Métode de Rocanrol, the new musical piece by the genius of the Pyrenees.

This new record, portraying a naked lady hiding behind a Minnie Mouse mask on its cover (photo by Les Krims), is a collection of images of great instrumental verve with no lyrics. An enchanted musical box. A fantastic voyage to the sources of primitive music that contains all that has nourished rock’n’roll. A record with many different sides – you will find traces of genres, either as direct references or as elaborately composed images, or simply have to treat it as a musical Tower of Babel.

Mètode de Rocanrol evokes the rebel streak of the bolero-torero served in a Catalan cobla (“The Hallucinogenic Espontex Sinfonia”), the mischief of the loud-talking Jamaïcan riddims (“Il Luna Park Galactico”, “Le Barman de Satan”), Kurt Weill’s carousels, majestic rumbas (“Jopo de Pojo Not Dead”), feverish New Orleans brass bands (“L’U”), the ghost of François de Roubaix, Eric Satie’s great open spaces (“Com un Rossinyol Amb Mal de Queixal”), the rhythmic soul of tango (“Smog on the Vermut”), the best of the 70’s Catalan rock of Pau Riba (“Noia de Porcellena”), the original sorrow of blues (“Stranger in Paradigm”), and a direct reference to 60’s rock (the messy riff of “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks on “Elvis Loved Dogs”, a musical interpretation of Kata Billups’ paintings).

Everything here has been reshaped, decoded, transformed, investigated to its very core and brought to a new light with psychotropic instrumentation: distorted or bottlenecked guitars, and even plastic ones, unruly banjos, clarinets, xylophones, accordions, saxophones, musical saws, muted and un-muted trumpets, toy pianos and real ones, mini-organs, almost drums, trombone, tubas and strings.

Comelade arranged this organized chaos into an eclectic work in the winter temperatures of 2006/2007. On his own, most of the time. He only opened his door to three companions in this spiritual escape: Didier Banon (drummer for the punk band OTH) on drums and percussion, the trombone player Enzo Tozoni, and his old partner Pep Pascual, master of the brass and wind section of Comelade’s work since the beginning.

Comelade is a great guy. His feet deeply anchored in the red earth of his birthplace, his antennae turned towards the invisible and the universal. He is a tightrope-walker, dancing on the spiritual lines among the folk music of the world, and rekindles their ancestral modernity. He penetrates the genres to tickle their spines, telescopes them into sober and figurative repetitive structures. Mètode de Rocanrol is on the same level as his greatest albums, his records with Dadaist names such as: “La Dialectique Peut-Elle Casser des Briques?”, “Petit Précis de Décomposition Bruitiste”, “L’Argot du Bruit”, “Filosophia des Plat Combinat”, “Patafisiskal Polska”, “Logicofobisme des Piano en Minuscul”… This man has reintroduced the idea of circus into serious music and the idea of seriousness into light music. Comelade forever.

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Atlantic Waves 11may10: Musica do Espirito Santo, Brazil (repeat)

01 _ Banda de Congo “Mestre Honorio” _ Ajuda Eu _ 02:39 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 1 of 20
02 _ Banda de Congo Amores da Lua _ Onde Esta’ a Baleia _ 02:44 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 2 of 20
03 _ Banda de Congo Panela de Barro _ Sao Benedito _ 02:17 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 3 of 20
04 _ Congo Folclorico Sao Benedito _ Madalena _ 03:06 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 4 of 20
05 _ Congo Mirim da Ilha _ O Velho da Palmeira _ 03:21 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 5 of 20
06 _ Silvio Barbieri _ La’ _ 03:38 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 8 of 20
07 _ Forro’ Bem Tivi _ Geovanna _ 02:29 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 9 of 20
08 _ Forro’ Raiz _ Ensinando Forro’ _ 03:11 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 10 of 20
09 _ Laion _ Remexe Mexe _ 02:33 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 11 of 20
10 _ Elias Wagner _ Um Peao na Cidade _ 02:46 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 12 of 20
11 _ H2O _ Entre Amigos _ 03:34 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 17 of 20
12 _ Alvaro Gabriel _ Gosto de Voce _ 03:17 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 19 of 20
13 _ Chico Lessa _ Afundei no Raso _ 03:07 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa azul) _ 2008 _ 20 of 20
14 _ A Camarilha _ Ladrao de Bicicleta _ 03:30 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa verde) _ 2008 _ 1 of 20
15 _ Fabiano Araujo _ O Aleph _ 05:19 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa verde) _ 2008 _ 3 of 20
16 _ Fe Paschoal _ Mimica _ 02:09 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa amarela) _ 2008 _ 12 of 20
17 _ Napalma _ Sinha’ _ 04:38 _ Musica do Espirito Santo (capa amarela) _ 2008 _ 17 of 20

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Atlantic Waves 04may10: An Anthology Of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008 (pt 2/3)

This four-disc volume at first seems like a daunting, overwhelming prospect: in addition to being a vast and sprawling collection of works, it’s made up by a roster of artists whose work will (for the majority of Western listeners at least) be entirely unfamiliar. The Sub Rosa anthologies are unfailingly impressive collections of work, but this one more than most represents a deluge of new information and new sounds. Help is at hand thanks to the inclusion of two booklets: the first gives a full tracklist complete with artist biographies, while the second (penned by Zbigniew Karkowski and Yan Jun) offers some background context to this collection, with an essay on Chinese underground culture. Compiled by artist Li Chin Sung (aka Dickson Dee), the selection here draws new laptop and electroacoustic music from across not only mainland China, but Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia too, and while its impossible to give any kind of comprehensive or fully formed representation of a music scene as truly multi-faceted and subterranean as this, hopefully the collection will offer up a number of new avenues for you to pursue in discovering more about the intersecting cultural movements hinted at within. After an initial disc filled with glorious experimental sounds and cutting edge abstract electronics that border on the more academic end of digital musics, by the second CD slightly more pop-influenced sounds start to infiltrate the compilation: while the likes of Wang Jong-Kuen’s ‘Leaving’ and Dickson Dee’s own ‘Somewhere’ occupy a rigorous and uncompromising microsound approach, you can hear 4/4 dance music templates being utilised throughout Sun Dawei’s ‘Crawing State’. In addition to these extremes, sifting through the compilation reveals a particularly resonant affinity with noise music, with groups like Torturing Nurse and D!O!D!O!D! suggesting cross-pollinations of Japanese, American, and more European, industrial influences. Noise is truly a global language. In fact, one of the most striking things about the compilation, once you’ve worked your way through its full expanse, is that old notions of East and West don’t necessarily count for much within the context of music – at least not experimentally motivated music (for example, just compare the sense of forward-thinking post-digital innovation presiding over Dennis Wong’s ‘Para_Dot’ to Alva Noto’s hyper-minimal propulsions). In any case, there’s a abundance of revelatory moments and exciting, unfamiliar sounds spread across these four discs, and for any follower of experimental music, the anthology has to rank as essential listening. (boomkat.com)

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Atlantic Waves 27apr10: An Anthology Of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008 (pt 1/3)

This four-disc volume at first seems like a daunting, overwhelming prospect: in addition to being a vast and sprawling collection of works, it’s made up by a roster of artists whose work will (for the majority of Western listeners at least) be entirely unfamiliar. The Sub Rosa anthologies are unfailingly impressive collections of work, but this one more than most represents a deluge of new information and new sounds. Help is at hand thanks to the inclusion of two booklets: the first gives a full tracklist complete with artist biographies, while the second (penned by Zbigniew Karkowski and Yan Jun) offers some background context to this collection, with an essay on Chinese underground culture. Compiled by artist Li Chin Sung (aka Dickson Dee), the selection here draws new laptop and electroacoustic music from across not only mainland China, but Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia too, and while its impossible to give any kind of comprehensive or fully formed representation of a music scene as truly multi-faceted and subterranean as this, hopefully the collection will offer up a number of new avenues for you to pursue in discovering more about the intersecting cultural movements hinted at within. After an initial disc filled with glorious experimental sounds and cutting edge abstract electronics that border on the more academic end of digital musics, by the second CD slightly more pop-influenced sounds start to infiltrate the compilation: while the likes of Wang Jong-Kuen’s ‘Leaving’ and Dickson Dee’s own ‘Somewhere’ occupy a rigorous and uncompromising microsound approach, you can hear 4/4 dance music templates being utilised throughout Sun Dawei’s ‘Crawing State’. In addition to these extremes, sifting through the compilation reveals a particularly resonant affinity with noise music, with groups like Torturing Nurse and D!O!D!O!D! suggesting cross-pollinations of Japanese, American, and more European, industrial influences. Noise is truly a global language. In fact, one of the most striking things about the compilation, once you’ve worked your way through its full expanse, is that old notions of East and West don’t necessarily count for much within the context of music – at least not experimentally motivated music (for example, just compare the sense of forward-thinking post-digital innovation presiding over Dennis Wong’s ‘Para_Dot’ to Alva Noto’s hyper-minimal propulsions). In any case, there’s a abundance of revelatory moments and exciting, unfamiliar sounds spread across these four discs, and for any follower of experimental music, the anthology has to rank as essential listening. (boomkat.com)

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Atlantic Waves 20apr10: Extreme Music From Japan

Each track on this is exclusively made for this comp. This compilation offers a wide view of some of the amazing talent coming out of the Japanese noise underground. There are the regular noise greats like Masonna, Merzbow, Incapacitants, etc.; and also a few less established acts like Government Alpha and What A Smell. My personal favorite here is the wacky noise fest by Niku-Zidousha, “Untitled”. This song sounds like a cross between a broken video game, a Japanese mental patient, and pure feedback all fighting to take control. Or something. Other notables are Gerogerigegege “Her Name’s On My Cock”, which has low rumbling feedback and a distorted death metal-ish voice, and What a Smell “Oral Ejaculation”, which is simply a very well-done flat noise onslaught. Merzbow, Incapacitants, Hijokaiden, and Masonna are their usual harsh-ass fucked up distorted-beyond-belief selves, except on a couple Masonna tracks there are interesting guitar interludes interrupting the noise. The other tracks from the unfamiliar acts Government Alpha and Hentaitenno are no disappointment either. A very good representation of the finest noise Japan has to offer (despite the fact that Aube was discluded for some reason).

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Atlantic Waves 13apr10: Extreme Music From Women

The title couldn’t have been better. Dominant, yes, vicious, yes, raw, yes psychotic, yes, disturbing, yes, hazardous, and yes that too. This is absolutely some of the most brutal and violating material I’ve heard in quite some. This is definitely something everyone should endure and listen to at least once in their lifetime, but you just may not make it through, it’s that rash. Compiled of sixteen women, who’s main focus lies in harsh power electronics and experimentalism. Each artist gives you a look inside their mind and leaves it up to you whether or not you may want to stay.

Rosemary Malign meets us with a heavy dose of pissed-off and vile words that are thrown out among the flammable vacuum rhythms of “no you listen.” Lisa & Naomi Tocalty put down disjointed and flanged drones with ravaging shouts that destroy the mic as well. Dolores Dewberry changes pace slightly with darker and more disturbing track that works with drone emissions, nauseating loops and spoken word samples. In some ways it reminds me a little of baal’s current sound.

“Schizephrenesis II” from Candi Nook takes on a very radical trip backwards through “the wizard of oz” and many other old films that are treated with various distorted overlays. “Weird” would be an understatement. A disturbing encounter with a four-legged beast from Anabel Lee on “lycanthropy.” Warp artist Mira Calix gives us surreal atmospheres that entangle with reversed samples, layered mechanical drones, and subtle eerie string movements. It is not as aggressive as the others, but one of the more nicely composed and introspective tracks on this release.

Utilizing a menagerie of various overlapped phone messages that are attacked with dense waves of witch-like chants and shouts, Clara Clamp disengages you temporarily with “September 4.” Which leads into another somewhat pagan track from Debra Petrovich entitled “dislocated” – more minimal, yet haunting, being the longest on this release. Lockweld’s Karen Thomas pushes pulsating uncontrolled modulations, spiraling frequencies into our minds, while cold words are spoken in the distance.

Betty Cannery presents a harsh and expressive track entitled “closeted.” Somewhat reminiscent of LHD, Gaya Donadio throws down some very layered and charred drones and statics with “indiscretion.” “Tattoo” gives us a check into filtered abrasive relays and short-cut samples by Maria Moran. Fri Tost presents a foreboding piece with eerie bleak vocals and recycled haunts. Wendy Van Dusen also gives us a frightening short dark ambient piece entitled “dog.” Which leads us into another very experimental and frigid track “mindimi trek” by Cat Hope. Ending these assaults, Diane Nelson presents two tracks with very chaotic and haunting twisted loops and feminine howls.

Enjoy this at least once while you may, because this release shows you a world of musicians that you have never experience before, that is for certain. Not something I can tolerate every day or work to easily, but if you are looking for something different, this would be it. Be careful though. (Alan, Nettwerk)

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Atlantic Waves 06apr10: Extreme Music From Africa

Africa – the dark continent of the tyrants, the beautiful girls, the bizarre rituals, the tropical fruits, the pygmies, the guns, the mercenaries, the tribal wars, the unusual diseases, the abject poverty, the sumptuous riches, the widespread executions, the praetorian colonialists, the exotic wildlife – and the music.

As a follow-up to Extreme Music From Japan, Susan Lawly released Extreme Music From Africa. Compiled and co-ordinated after exhaustive research through special contacts from countries as diverse as Morocco, Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Uganda – and the Internet by William Bennett, this extraordinary compilation results in a totally unique vision of a totally unique continent.

A mixed bag of harsh noise and other electronic wierdness compiled by William Bennet of seminal noise posse Whitehouse. While the anonymous nature of these songs along with the extreme obscurity of their performers makes such claims almost impossible to confirm or deny, I’ve heard accusations that these pieces were actually produced by Bennet himself and dolled up as ‘African’ in a crass marketing ploy. If so, kudos to Mr. Bennet for his sharp (if evil) mind as well as his prolific talent, but the variety of styles explored within would seem to suggest otherwise. Either way, the music(?) here is pretty excellent across the board, and manages to keep momentum even across a number of relatively-similar drone pieces. If you think this compilation embodies the imperialist tendencies of ‘world music,’ you’ll love its follow up, the equally tokenizing Extreme Music from Women.

At the end, some kuduro by Angolan DJ Znobia.

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Atlantic Waves 30mar10: Extreme Music From Russia

The Susan Lawly record label doesn’t just release all the old / new Whitehouse releases but is a curator to the music of the past that has defined a generation through their Anthology releases and the music of the present with the ‘Extreme Music’ series. The first Extreme Music release showcased the talent from Japan and was followed by Extreme Music from Africa and Extreme Music from Women. All were essential purchases for those with any interest in how Extreme Music had grown up and come of age. Now at last the eagerly anticipated Extreme Music from Russia has arrived and the wait was most definitely worth it.

Those of you who think Extreme Music is a one trick noise pony has obviously never heard any of the series as the talents on display there blow that preconception right out of the window. EMFR continues with this tradition of redefining what constitutes Extreme Music by showcasing some of the most important musicians to come out from Russia and their interpretation and evolvement of this music. Sure there are moments of holocaustic brain frying thanks to i5067.70 and Comforter but I dare anyone not to be moved by the tracks by Volga, Kryptogen Rundfunk, Samka and The Podryyaniem Boys who take this genre into new levels. These to me are the stand out tracks from a recording brimming with talent and new ideas but you’ll find your own favourites as taste is a very personal thing. All the other contributors are equally brilliant in their own individual way and style and aren’t there just to make up the numbers. A special mention must be made to the informative and glossy booklet which is a fascinating read and emphasises the great attention and care and…dare I say it…love that went into this project. EMFR is a slight misdemeanour and should really be called ‘Great, uncompromising, and unusual music from Russia’ instead. Like all previous EMF releases EMFR will open your eyes…and ears…to a world you may never have known existed. Don’t you dare call yourself a purveyor and fanatic of music unless you add this to your collection.

EMFR is a totally indispensable and essential recording that has continued with the fine tradition first started with EMFJ. The next instalment in the ongoing series will be EMF China. Roll on that and the next Anthology release. They can’t come quick enough for this reviewer.

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Atlantic Waves 23mar10: Minas Gerais, Brazil

“Minas são muitas também na música.

A Coletânea Brasileiríssima Música de Minas no ar é uma amostra da diversidade e da complexidade do cenário musical das Minas Gerais, com seus sambas, rocks, riffs, cordas, teclas, tambores e metais.

O projeto integra o esforço da Secretaria de Estado da Cultura e do Governo do Estado em apoiar e divulgar a música mineira e marca o início das comemorações dos 30 anos da Rádio Inconfidência, que começou a operar experimentalmente em outubro de 1978 e entrou no ar, em definitivo, em fevereiro de 1979.

A partir de uma consulta feita a mais de 50 representantes da área musical, que inclui produtores, jornalistas e pesquisadores, foram selecionados 107 artistas para a coletânea. Dos sete volumes desta amostra, três CDs são dedicados aos dois mais importantes projetos surgidos na cena Independente de Belo Horizonte, o Música Independente e o Stereoteca, com shows realizados nos teatros do Palácio das Artes e da Biblioteca Pública Estadual Luiz Bessa.

O rock e o pop, os sons regionais e seus flertes urbanos, a música instrumental e sua harmonias desconcertantes e a veia mestra da música popular, conhecida como MPB, completam o diverso conteúdo musical desta coletânea nos quatro CDs restantes.

Bem vindo ao universo musical de Minas, o Estado que, também na música, é a síntese do Brasil.”

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