A Cool Million

A Cool Million

Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions.
Published, somewhere, monthly since July 1991. Feel free to re-print this article.

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A COOL MILLION


American Composers Forum Received $1 Million as a McKnight Endowment Grant for
its Innova Recordings Label and Recording Assistance
Program. “The McKnight grant is a tremendous vote of confidence in Innova and
the artists we serve,” said label director Dr. Philip Blackburn. “This endowment
will enable us to serve more artists, increase our staff, and remain at the forefront
of recording and distribution technologies. Commercial labels are narrowing their
artistic focus in order remain profitable. We maintain faith in the artists and
their visions, so this grant definitely helps us buck the trend in the recording
industry. Innova works in partnership with artists to guide them through the complexities
of releasing a CD, and provides them with the technologies and industry relationships
to create awareness. “Innova connects non-mainstream artists to new audiences
using distribution technologies now common in the world of popular music, but
strikingly absent from the world of classical and new music,” Blackburn explained.
Five Web radio stations, Liquid Audio MP3 tracks, printable music scores, multi-media
enhanced CDs and a variety of purchasing options are among Innova1s offerings.
DVD releases are also in the works. “Innova pushes the boundaries of contemporary
music unlikely to find support in the conventional record industry,” said Forum
executive director Linda Hoeschler, “New releases are selected for the integrity
and originality of the work, the artist1s willingness to support and promote the
work, and the technical quality of the sound recording.” Artists who publish with
Innova can receive a low-interest loan through the Forum’s Recording Assistance
Program with no money down. They retain 100 percent of the net profit, full artistic
control and all rights to their work. Founded in 1975 by the American Composers
Forum, Innova Recordings currently offers more than 75 titles. Visit them on the
web at http://www.innova.mu. One representative
and fascinating new recording on the label is Thomas and Beulah by Amnon Wolman
and Rita Dove. Composer Wolman united with poet Dove to provide a performance on digital acoustic piano and a soprano for a cycle of recitatives for a neo-operatic
biography of U.S. Poet Laureate Dove’s grandparents. A multimedia portion of the
disc provides 15 minutes of video along with complete texts, scores and background
information on this theatric work.



VOODOO VICTORY


The Voodoo Glow Skulls signed to Victory
Records
and VGS vocalist Frank says, “We are very excited about this! Victory
is one of the few independent labels out there that still maintains punk/hardcore
credibility.” The band went into the studio to record on February 25 and plans
are underway to release a new album in June. As yet untitled, VGS promise the
new release will showcase their trademark combination of Latino ska punk rock.
Watch http:/www.victoryrecords.com for summer tour dates.



BACK INTO THE FIELD


Strapping Fieldhands return to the scene with their first album in five years.
The Philadelphia band’s announcement of the release of The Third Kingdom marks
first new studio album since 1997’s Wattle and Daub. The Third Kingdom is out
on Strapping Fieldhands’ own Omphalos Records label. Through Omphalos, the Fieldhands
released their debut LP, Discus, which SPIN called one of 1994’s “Ten Best Records
You Never Heard.” For this release, Omphalos Records has obtained national distribution
with Big Daddy Music Distribution. The band has retained a steady following and
critical acclaim for its unique “pastoral psych” sound. After disbanding in 1997,
the Strapping Fieldhands regrouped in 1999, writing new material and recording.
Touring resumed last year, looking to take their skiffle and ’60s freakbeat back
to the masses. The Third Kingdom will be available in record stores May 2002.
Strapping Fieldhands will tour the U.S. extensively this spring and summer.


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SOULFOOD

SOULFOOD is a shrinking-world electronica project that produces mystical, trans-cultural
‘ethnotechno’ as aesthetically superior independent productions. Drawing primarily
from indigenous cultures, these electro-ambient-folk visions are soothing as they
are ethnic. On Guitar Meditations (SOULFOOD Music), guitarist Billy McLaughlin
joins SOULFOOD for a tranquil blend of acoustic guitar and synthesizer meditations.
McLaughlin is a lauded jazz guitarist for this reflective aural experience aimed
at setting a mood massage, meditation and yoga. Another pairing is Inlakesh
with SOULFOOD on Entering Dreamtime (SOULFOOD Music). Inlakesh
is a didgeridoo duo that brings two styles and excellent technique to this sonic
exploration or Aborigine mysticism and Tibetan traditions. They also combine with
DJ Free of SOULFOOD’s synthesizer’s ethnic percussion for a sound experience rich
in rhythms. Go direct to the wellspring of these fantastic visions at http://www.soulfoodmusic.com.


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Listen to or Buy Entering Dreamtime at CDNow



NEW WOMEN ON DISC


Gretchen Lieberum offers jazz vocals and subdued trip-hop on Brand New Morning.
Already hugely successful on MP3.com, this eminently listenable recording should
take her farther as a rare example of ‘haute hop.’ However, I would really like
to hear her in an acoustic jazz setting…Louise
Goffin
offers her own mix of quality vocals and hip electro sounds on Sometimes
a Circle (Dreamworks). Here the forward-moving, slippery, quick-paced beats lend
a brisk, horizontal motion to the vertical soaring and floating of Goffin’s effective
pop vocals. Goffin is the daughter of ’60’s husband/wife singing duo Carole King
and Gerry Goffin…Ja, a.k.a Janice Franco,
a smooth, multi-lingual jazz vocalist. In an acoustic jazz setting she performs
Brazilian and jazz standards on Passion of My Soul (BAP Records). Important in
this production is the subtle but effective percussion from BAP Records founder
Larry Fratangelo, a journeyman world-class percussionist. Delivered in a classic
style, this album recalls the popular success of peerless American jazz talent
and fresh Bossa Nova rhythms that first fused in the ’60’s. Ja delivers this material
in Portuguese, Italian and English…The success of Katrina Carlson’s Apples for
Eve (Kataphonic Records), released September 11, 2001, was closely tied to the Kenneth
A. Carlson film Go Tigers!, released
September 14. The tragic events of that time did nothing to help either the film
or Carlson’s record. Classically trained for opera, Carlson exudes technique
on this album of radio-ready pop songs. Also a film and television actress, Carlson
is surely well acquainted with the ups and downs of show business and is already working
on a sophomore release to include Goo Goo Dolls members and other musical guests…Erin
O’Hara
finds in West African polyrhythms a shifting, constantly interesting rhythmic bass for the ebullient, fun Indestructible Joy (Mother Trucker
Records). This Irish singer has a rich voice and gives us dark, sincere tones
and bright, glistening upper register singing. Guitarist Tom Gavin joins Erin
on this sophisticated folk-rock album… A tough and triumphant rock sound comes
from Marianne Pillsbury on
The Wrong Marianne. Full of vigor and energy, these songs are pure fun even when
Marianne defiantly proclaims, “I’m not your layaway girlfriend.” This 5-song DIY
EP promisingly presages her full-length due out this spring on Bondage Records,
San Francisco. Singing and playing acoustic guitar in her rock trio Katie
Garibaldi
delivers her 13 originals on After the Storm. Sung softly and sincerely,
these are fine songs on the third album from a hard-working adolescent alt-folk
artist charming her way with sad and celebratory love songs delivered with authenticity
and melody. There’s a sad, majestic beauty to Nina Nastasia’s songs, like a slow-moving
distant funeral march against stark landscape. On The Blackened Air (Touch & Go),
her second Steve Albini-produced album, Nina surrounds herself with musical
talent that works with David Bowie, Indigo Girls and even Cirque du Soleil. This
large, talented ensemble present varied and understated arrangements of cello,
viola, accordion and more behind her dark and direct vocals and guitar… Gothic
darkwave electronica serves as the background to medieval-styled vocalist Regan,
providing a slow-melt dance track for fetishists public and private. After a college
career in Classical music, she has turned her talents toward the dark side on
The High Priestess (High Priestess
Productions). Producer Nick Launay has worked
with Kate Bush, Killing Joke and more. These are a good starting point for appreciating
the seductively sinister beat music…


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Listen to or Buy Sometimes a Circle at CDNow


Listen to or Buy Apples for Eve at Amazon.com


Listen to or Buy After the Storm at Amazon.com


Listen to or Buy Blackened Air at CDNow





KING CRAB RECORDS

Mick Turner is one of The Dirty Three and with Will Oldham plays in Bonnie Prince Billy and Marquis de Tren. Turner joined with Dirty Three bandmate Warren Ellis in forming King Crab Records in 2001. Right off, Ellis takes the opportuntity to make available his 3 Pieces for Violin. This is music originally created for Canadian dance company The Holy Body Tattoo. Around a tango theme, Ellis composed very rhythmic, entrancing music that Ellis admits is a deconstructed, transmogrified collage of tango elements. Created while musing about the floor-sounds made by tango dancers in a studio, this is the first solo release from Ellis, who also performs in Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Also on the label is Prepare to Die from Nate Denver’s Neck. The group initially formed briefly in London in 1967. This reunion album made over 1999-2001 is an electro-folk effort with strange, primitive electronics, a heavy metal heart and a bemusing, child-like sense of humor. Rounding out a triumvirate of releases on this ambitious label is the Observatory EP from Bud Early. Tentative, but not pensive, this reflective, impressionistic album is full of bright imagery supported by a sparse rock trio and gentle, rolling rhythms.



NIN LIVES


Nine Inch Nails was the critics’ choice as Best Tour of the Year in Rolling Stone
magazine. Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records capitalizes on that success with two
recordings. And All That Could Have Been (Nothing/Interscope)
is 16 tracks recorded during that lauded Fragility 2.0 tour. Captured raw and
arena-sized, this is the 100-lb hammer-sack industrial rock that made Nine Inch
Nails a byword in heavy music: “Terrible Lie,” “Head Like a Hold,” “Starfuckers,
Inc.” and more. There is also a special companion CD Still And All That Could
Have Been. Besides being available in stores with the previously described recording,
this second CD can be had singly at http://www.nin.com/still.
This continues the live aspect, featuring four NIN tracks recorded live, but especially
“deconstructed.” That is, they are performed minimally, minus the bombast and
thunderous delivery Reznor is know for. For comparison purposes, there is only
one common track, “The Day The World Went Away.” An excellent augmentation of
the live disc, this album showcases the melodic success of Nine Inch Nails compositions,
delivered as the real songs they are and not just amplified catharsis. A must
for the hardcore fans, Still includes new vocal track, “And All That Could Have
Been” with four new instrumentals.


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JEWS WITH REDUX

Jews with Horns is perhaps the most energetic and exciting of albums in The Klezmatics’ discography. This funky East-meets-West fusion was a 1995 pioneer in the rising popularity of spirited klezmer music aimed at a wider audience. This was a successful, attention-getting disc for the group and features such special guests as Marc Ribot on electric guitar and the inimitable Moxy Früvous with backing vocals. Two years after this 1995 release, the group followed up with Possessed. This is more reflective, a more mature klezmer soul album that shows another facet of the sophisticated ensemble. The heart of this album is the inspiration provide by Tony Kushner’s play A DYBBUK: Between Two Worlds. Kushner also provided such moving, sephardic English lyrics as


“Let us in!

Let us tell you where we traveled

How our hopes our lives unraveled

How unwelcome everywhere we’ve been.”


Once again Moxy Früvous is on hand along with such other guests as Adrienne Cooper
and John Medeski on Hammond organ. Rounder Records
re-issued both discs this year.


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Listen to or Buy Possessed at CDNow





BOOK REVIEWS ***********

William Herrick

Jumping the Line

AK Press


“Jumping the Line” is a hobo phrase for “riding the rails,” or hitching a ride
on a freight car. It also brings to mind crossing boundaries, maybe even switching
sides. Herrick has done both. Beginning life as a rail-riding hobo, Herrick developed
an awareness of the plight of the downtrodden and eventually became not just a member
but an employee of the American Communist Party. Herrick was a hard-working element
of the Party and an able union organizer and cell initiator. Willing to put his
life on the line in backing his beliefs, Herrick traveled to Spain with the Abraham
Lincoln brigade to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Comintern, the
International Communist Party, hoped this effort would lead to a home for Communism
in Spain. While Herrick’s soldiering was brief (he took a bullet to the
neck, nearly crippling him), the Communist atrocities and double-dealing there
made him see the Party in an entirely different light. Returning to the States,
an anarchist at heart, Herrick had a wife to support and was tied to the Party
for a paycheck. His outspokenness about the Stalin-Hitler pact led to his dismissal
and his full emergence as an anarcho-social democrat. Appearing in these pages, as Herrick formalizes his distrust of all power, are such figures as Emma Goldman,
Cole Porter and Herrick’s former employer Orson Welles. This fascinating work
is historically enlightening and a textbook in the formation of practical anarchism
from an adventurer-author struck from the same mold as George Orwell. (4)


More on the book from Amazon.com




REVIEWS ******************



Various Artists

Backcomb ‘n’ Beat: Dream Babes, Vol. 3

RPM Productions



Continuing their examination of classic girl group sounds of the ’60’s, this volume
focuses on the years 1964-1969. These were the years that also gave us the birth
of psychedelic rock and these singers, while dulcet and innocent in voice, are
swathed in heavy, beat music harder and more mysterious than vocal pop of today.
The singles collected here are British independent productions, the creations
of Joe Meek, Mark Wirtz, Mike d’Abo and more. This was a productive time for girl
groups and this disc collects such excellent material as Sylvan’s death disc “We
Don’t Belong,” Glenda Collins (Meek’s premier girl singer) and the harmonies of
the Scots singers in The McKinleys. All this and more is exquisite material crowded
off the charts during a fertile period for girl group production. (4)


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Tom Jones

Loaded: The Brassed up Funked out Club Sides

RPM Productions


Tom Jones albums, like any vocal pop star of the 60’s and 70’s, are very mixed
affairs, a potpourri of then-current styles taking a shotgun approach to hitting
the charts with any one formulated track. This collection culls together the most
energetic, hard soul cuts to put together a mythical pure-funk album from the
dynamic maestro of blue-eyed soul. Toughening up the sound here is Jones’ regular
guitar hand, Big Jim Sullivan. This hard rock pioneer was tutor to Jimmy Page
and Ritchie Blackmore gives the selections the necessary punch. Jones’ choice
in soul covers — “Lodi,” “Polk Salad Annie,” “Venus,” “Witch Queen of New Orleans”
and more — show his knowledge of the obscure and the grinding potential of the
popular. Parallel to Elvis Presley in his overt sexuality and his ability to incarnate
electric blues styles, Tom Jones presents a charged sound experience on Loaded.
(4.5)


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Hefner

Dead Media

Too Pure/The
Beggars Group




Hefner always takes great care in their sophisticated indie rock albums that resonate
with the suggestion “would that the entire genre realized this potential.” Each
track is crafted with lo-fi adeptness to be the equal to anything else in the
field. Certainly skilled in production and arrangement, these songs breathe beyond
technique to full-lunged deliveries from the entire body of underground sounds.
Darren Hayman, songwriter and organizing principle of this group referenced Joe
Meek and Lee Perry as guiding spirits on this particular album. Thus we find joining
their intelligent use of distorted guitars and tasteful horn harmonies, deep beats
marking loping rhythms. The effect is not unlike Gary Numan’s early experiments
with Tubeway Army or Kraftwerk with guitars. Combined with their easy, even breezy,
delivery, this collection of Hefner songs is a memorable and hallmark opus. (4)


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Neil Halstead

Sleeping On Roads

4AD/The Beggars Group



A master of the understated, “sublime” approach, Neil Halstead earned critical
acclaim with a half-dozen albums spread evenly between Slowdive and Mohave 3.
These tracks came about during the recording of the third Mojave 3 album. Having
broken up with his girlfriend, Halstead ended up recording solo material while sleeping
in the studio. Despite such a genesis, these tracks are not excessively maudlin.
Halstead revisited the material over time with different musical friends and the
material obviously brightened as it grew, thought there is plenty of the achey-breaky
heart here. Also, because these songs were done outside of a band setting and
studio-borne, there is more done here production-wise to affect the final sound
than other Halstead projects. There is also a less Americana feel than those other
projects, though an English folk sound can be detected woven in with the healing,
introspection and sonic experimentation. (4)


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President’s Breakfast

III c

Disc Lexia, 1707 33d Ave., SF, CA 94122



On III c, President’s Breakfast provide funky-jazz sounds with dub production.
However, the fun and free sounds bear a serious message. The theme of this album
and delivered through the spoken word portion of this funky beat kaleidoscope
is death row in America. These readings come from Kevin Cooper and Mumia Abu-Jamal,
both ‘live from death row.’ A bevy of guest artists, including Don Byron on “clarinet,
toothbrush” and Miya Masaoka on “koto, angles,” fully dress this music for its
courtroom appearance. This recording includes a lengthy exploration of John Coltrane’s
“Love Supreme” through the arranging of guest keyboardist Dred Scott. (3.5)


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Organic Grooves

Black Cherry

AUM Fidelity



This is the club remix album of Volume 1: Piercing the Veil, the debut collaboration
album from free jazz bassist William Parker and percussionist extraordinaire Hamid
Drake. Black Cherry is also the first non-jazz release on AUM Fidelity, though
it could not be said to be devoid of jazz. For, even as Organic Grooves bends
the tones of the Parker-Drake sound, Organic Grooves adds in some very jazzy keyboard
and guitar lines. Mixing well with Hamid’s ethnic percussion, on Black Cherry
the group trades in an “afro-cosmic” sound of rooted, electro-jazz sonic divination.
(4)


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Various Artists

Putumayo Presents Mississippi Blues

Putumayo World Music



The great Mississippi is a long and varied river. The river at one point is entirely
unlike the same body of water miles away. On this blues compendium, Putumayo travels
us up and down the river to hear the varied blues sounds that grew up along the
banks of the mighty Mississipi. While identified with Chicago blues and Detroit’s
Motown Records, Luther Allison was born in Widener, Arkansas and began his career
in that state. On this album with such artists as Ike & Tina Turner and Bobby
Bland, we heard the most developed, urban sounds to spring from rural roots watered
by the Mississippi. Known for some sophisticated electric blues of his own, harp
master Junior Wells was born in Memphis and got his start in the same Arkansas
stomping grounds. His contribution to this disc, “Come on in this House” is direct
from the Delta. More rooted sounds come from the primitive guitar greats John
Lee Hooker and Artie White and folk-blues legend Mississippi John Hurt. More Memphis
representation comes from the city’s namesakes barrelhouse pianist Memphis Slim
and pre-World War II maven of blues song, Memphis Minnie. (3.5)


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Eleanor McEvoy

Yola

Blue Dandelion Records



Eleanor McEvoy, one of Ireland’s popular singer-songwriters, already has put recordings
out on Columbia and Geffen. With that experience and accessibility, Eleanor creates
a warm, personal independent recording and treats us to some of the violin playing
that earned her a seat in the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. Eleanor’s
poignant, folksy songwriting richly accented by Brain Connor on Steinway piano
has previously been found suitable for production by Emmylou Harris, Marty Black
and Phil Coulter and more. Full of accurate hooks and expressive observations; Yola
is fully matured folk-rock from a talented veteran. (4.5)


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Gasoline

Take it to the People

Estrus Records, POB 2125, Bellingham, WA 98227



The CD version of the album contains the LP tracks with four bonus cuts culled
from their out of print debut 7″ on Estrus. Coming all the way from the bustling
port and market town of Yokkaichi, Japan, Gasoline delivers primitive American
rock-n-roll with all the screaming, over-modulated fury of the typhoons that have
been known to strike Yokkaichi. The high priest of such potent garage rock, Tim Kerr,
engineered the whole glorious mess at his Sweatbox Studios in Austin, Texas. This
captures Gasoline primed and ready to deliver their intense rock-n-roll on a 2001
summer tour to the U.S. Here they demonstrated the energy they were prepared to
‘take to the people’ in the promised land of unrestrained hard rock that they
have so deeply incorporated. This electric nightmare blues mixes well with Jon
Spencer and Speedball Baby. (3.5)


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Total Sound Group Action Committee

Party Platform…Our Schedule is Change

Estrus Records, POB 2125, Bellingham, WA 98227


In this dynamic energetic garage rock combo, ace skronk engineer and guitarist
Tim Kerr and rawk vocalist Mike Carroll. They form a smashing, effective core
to this group, as they did in Poison 13. In their unrestrained aural assault they
blast through a number of explosive originals and a fiery but still joyfully rollicking
version of Small Faces’ “Happy Boys Happy.” Key on this track is the vigorous,
pumping Hammond organ and, as on many other tracks, the group backing vocals and
shrill whistle. This is sonic excitement. (3.5)


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Medusa Cyclone

Tangier

Small Stone Recordings, POB 02007, Detroit,
MI 48202



Medusa Cyclone provides a swirling, psychedelic headspace of sophisticated space
rock ideal for headphones escapism. Central to the group is organizing principle
and creative font guitarist Keir McDonald. With occasionally other musicians along,
this disc opens asteroid-strong, but has sea-foam-delicate episodes, like the
faintly Western “El Mar Caribe.” The varied textures and intricate arrangements
make Tangier exotic as Tangiers and a spicy blend of diverse styles to boot. (4)


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Tim Hardin

The Best of Tim Hardin: The Millennium Collection

Universal/Polydor



This retrospective of the legendary singer-songwriter features Hardin’s original
versions of “If I Were A Carpenter” and “Reason To Believe.” “If I Were A Carpenter”
provided Bobby Darin with his last Top 10 hit while Johnny Cash and The Four Tops
also rode it into the Top 40. Rod Stewart made “Reason To Believe” famous. However,
we can here hear Hardin’s own delivery of these classic songs as he, the author,
intended their delivery, and the effect is magical. Taken from Tim Hardin 1, Tim
Hardin 2 and Tim Hardin 3: Live in Concert, these powerful, poetic examples of
a late ’60’s master singer-songwriter are blueprints for the art form. Hardin
was one of the natives found on the shore of the continent of man-with-acoustic-guitar
discovered and exhausted in the ’70’s. Along with this is the politically incorrect
but fun and bluesy “Smugglin’ Man.” (4.5)


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Steve Morse Band

Split Decision

Magna Carta



Split Decision is a masterful album of instrumental hard rock from veteran guitar
ace Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs). Morse won five consecutive awards as “Overall Best
Guitar Player” in Guitar Player’s Reader’s Poll. He eventually had to be excluded
from voting to give other guitar-slingers a chance. This chop-laden disc is just
the sort of peerless Morse fare that won him such accolades. This ninth album
from Steve Morse Band is in diptych fashion, with the first half generally upbeat
and bold and a second half more reflective and relaxed. (3.5)


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