Fresh Frith

Fresh Frith

FRESH FRITH

Britain’s ReR MegaCorp, distributed
domestically on Cuneiform, reissues Fred Frith’s Accidental: Music for Dance,
Vol. 3
and Gravity titles. From the avant-guitarist, these are two
varied discs. The title of each is a reverse barometer of the weather system
contained therein. Gravity is possessed of levity and a even a cartoonish
experimentalism. Accidental, however, is so purposeful as to border on
the aggressive in its repetitive purposefulness. Gravity is Frith’s lighthearted
celebration of dance from all cultures. Perhaps it is the streak of dance-music
appreciation that caused him to later collaborate on the musical score to Sally
Potter’s The Tango Lesson. Percussion here is light and largely marked
with handclaps. The guitars sound twang-y and bring folk-instrumentation to
mind. Indeed, much of Frith’s source material for this album was scratched on
napkins while listening to Greek musicians while on holiday. Violins and horns
add a jubilant feel to the music. Many musicians help vary the sound of each
tracks and some of these guests are from Samla Mammas, Manna, The Muffins and
Henry Cow. Gravity is an entertaining and multi-cultural pocket folk
festival. Certainly, Gravity, of all the Frith releases is the most accessible,
the easiest to enjoy. The disc contains a rendition of “Dancing in the Street”
and it is the only Frith album where this does not seem out of place.

Accidental is Frith on all voices and instruments. This instrumentation
is mostly guitars, violin, junk percussion, and radio found sounds. British
choreographer Paul Selwyn Norton commissioned this music for a dance piece made
in Tel Aviv, Israel. It was recorded in 1995-1996 winter. This reaches back
to harsh, angular art sounds that hearken back to Frith’s Henry Cow days. This
is the sound he was freeing himself from on the more unfettered Gravity.
In a way, though, this is then a back-to-basics approach where Frith returns
to his roots but employs modern production techniques. As Gravity benefits
from the exuberance of Hellenic folk musicians Frith encountered, so Accidental
reflects the tension of an Israel shuddering from the assassination of Yitzhak
Rabin. It was shortly after this event that Frith was in Israel recording the
music in all-night sessions.

These reissues are co-releases with Frith’s own Fred Records. Along with the
back catalog will appear new release. Frith on the Web: http://www.fredfrith.com.


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TOM WAITS NO MORE

Tom Waits sold over a million copies of Mule Variations and won a Grammy
for it. Never one to rush albums anyway, Tom Waits took time to top that excellent
opus and with the dual release of Alice and Blood Money, both
on the Epitaph-distributed Anti label, he has. For the fans, any mention of
new Waits activity suggests the question, Will he tour? Well, these albums were
created, like Frank’s Wild Years, for performance and have already been
performed. The cover of the booklet of Blood Money shows Waits in a tux
casting stark shadows with a mechanic’s light. Shades of Big Time,
indeed. It seems that only official announcement of the dates and venues awaits.

Again recalling Frank’s Wild Years, Alice gives us another character
in the Waits pantheon. Performed in Hamburg in 1992 and thought abandoned by
Waits, Alice is loosely based on the Alice Liddell that so obsessed author
Lewis Carroll. However, this Alice becomes more of an archetype: that one woman
that becomes the prime source of joy and pain in a man’s life. As Waits has
always been more a celebrator of the sad than the serene, this Alice becomes
the focus of mad melancholia in this recovered masterpiece.

Blood Money also has an inspiration, Woyzeck. Like, Alice this
was a performance directed by Robert Wilson. The songs Waits and his wife Kathleen
Brennan composed here were for George Buechner’s Woyzeck play. Like Alice,
acoustic instruments are almost exclusively employed for this dark and carnivalesque
work. Psychically akin to Bone Machine, Blood Moneyis the malevolent,
demonic side of Waits given full creative reign. Waits and Brennan fully incarnate
the tortured spirit of Woyzeck, a man driven by punishing forces beyond his
control to despair and suicide. On this album Waits performs on a 1929 pneumatic
calliope adding to the funhouse nature of this personal, Götterdamerung
circus.


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1,2 ANEW

Geffen is reissuing remastered versions of Peter
Gabriel
‘s first two albums. The intelligent and sophisticated songs presented
on these 1977 and 1978 albums only hint at the hip dance-pop Gabriel became
known for in the MTV years. 1, with its moody rain-spotted car cover,
has all the psychological landscape of a compelling novel, or moving movie.
There are the unsettling low points of life covered in the melancholy “Humdrum”
and the Randy Newman-flavored “Excuse Me.” The moment of transformation is captured
in the memorable “Solsbury Hill.” This ambitious rock album includes not only
the London Symphony Orchestra, but Robert Fripp, Tony Levin and Steve Hunter.
Somewhat more obvious on the two-sided vinyl original releases is the dichotomy
of a more upbeat Side 1 compared to an apocalyptic Side 2. 2, with its
jarring image of a black and white Gabriel tearing down and through his world,
is not necessarily any darker. However, it is somewhat edgier and opens with
a Joe Jackson-flavored “On The Air.” This seems a metaphor for not pop success
but all the tension that being “in the spotlight” implies. Released at the height
of the punk movement, Gabriel employs on this Fripp-produced album a more sparse,
uncluttered sound typified by the successful single “D.I.Y.” 2 is the
ex-Genesis lead vocalist’s post-art-rock album of lucid pop vision.


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ZINE SCENE

Continuing a fine, quarter-century tradition with readers in all fifty States
is Farming Uncle (Box 427, Bronx, NY 10458). There’s a rural, anti-establishment,
almost survivalist tone to the photocopied digest. Mostly filling it are ads,
which themselves offer entertainment value going from Native American tribal
leader classifieds to notices for mood-altering herbs. Interspersed are factoids,
quips and short articles, such as herbal remedies for menstrual problems and
the Asian Indian derivation of Southern U.S. cattle… Shannon Colebank (POB 5591,
Portland, OR 97228) is hard at work with her prolific self-publishing venture
Whizzbanger Productions. First, there is the one-sheet Whizzbanger Newsletter.
No. 5 (October 2001) focuses on circumcision and the patriarchy inherent in
Christianity. Also available from Colebank is The Whizzbanger Guide to Zine
Distributors
. Issue Six (March 2002) continues a fine tradition. This is
a useful, international directory compiling self-descriptions from 80 zine distributors
in 18 countries. The spiral bound volume includes other features, among them
poetry. Another spiral-bound Whizzbanger product is Aftermath. Containing
mostly a post-September 11 journal and poetry from Colebank, this provides an
underground publisher’s perspective on the terrorist attacks. Shannon also compiles
here relevant excerpts from other publications and letters and writings from
others.


DVD REVIEWS *************************************************

Johnny Thunders
Johnny Thunders Live: In Cold Blood
Cult DVD/MVD

This DVD captures Johnny Thunders in all his infamy live March 13, 1982 in New
York City. However, Thunders seems more dead than alive, or at least in need
of a good nap. After the title selection, there is what seems to be very apt,
“Too Much Junkie Business.” Of course, Thunders’ music is as loose and rolling
as a junkie’s rolling nod, so none of the songs suffer. As a matter of fact, Thunders,
apparently a walking coma and constantly fumbling with the basic mechanics of
a guitar strap, launches into his guitar parts with vim and accuracy on each
tune. There are nine songs performed all together. (3.5)

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Toy Dolls
We’re Mad / Idle Gossip
Cherry Red Films

The back of this DVD proclaims Toy Dolls “the north of England’s most famous
punk rock outfit.” The punk angle is emphasized with ransom-note style cut-and-paste
graphics. However, the brightly colored toy dolls pictured on the cover fit
better with the jubilant power pop container herein. That is, the group is
more spirited and lively than anything sneering or snotty. Brightly colored
clothes and fiercely fun sounds mark the two video-films by these high-speed
guitar jesters of post-punk. As a bonus, this DVD includes the original promo
vide of “Nellie the Elephant,” the group’s chart hit. The 95-minute collection
is the first ever DVD from the group. This is an excellent release for fans
of The Young Ones and The Dickies. (3.5)

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STYLUS COUNCIL (VINYL REVIEWS) **********************

The Rat Hole Sheikh
Jag Mår Så Illa
Subway Star Records

This 7″ EP contains four tracks. They get better as you go along. The first
cut on Side A is the title track and is a cover from the Swedish “Progg” era.
The original was harsh vocals and acoustic guitar Mike McCann, a.k.a. The Rat
Hole Sheikh, decided to go with “schoolboy harmony” style vocals and put the
punk energy in an electric guitar. This causes his voice to get overpowered.
The song, originally done by The Schoolboys, is about smiling through a hangover
looking forward to the next meeting with a bottle of homemade wine. This is
actually the first (and Mike says the last) song he has done in Swedish. Also
on Side A is “Who’s Fooling Who.” This is an upbeat and solid garage rock number.
More rootsy rock starts off Side B: “Down in Hell.” This is rock-n-roll with
a primitive, vintage style. Even more primitive is the Charley Patton-inspired
“My Voodoo Dolly” with Delta blues pulled from a Rat Hole. (3)


The Spy’s
Original Punkrock
Incognito Records

During this Windsor, Canada quartet’s 1978-1980 existence, they only released
a single: “Machine Shop” b/w “Underground.” Those tracks are presented here
along with 1979 demos on Side A. Side B is a 1995 reunion show. Pressed together
on 200-gram vinyl, this package documents the entire story of the group that
gigged in Windsor and Detroit after inspired by guitarist Dale “Elad” D’Amore’s
on-stage jam with Sonic’s Rendezvous to form a band. Certainly loose and unrefined,
this collection spills over with infectious enthusiasm and the hope that late
’70’s punk gave to many: it could be easy and fun to have a noisy rock band.
(4)


The Gruesomes
Cave-In!
Jaguar Club/Incognito Records

The Montreal “Goresome Foursome” emerges from obscurity to once again show how
garage revival should be done with fourteen new tracks. Also a very rhythm-focused
group, Cave-In! pops and bounces with crisp, clean recording that brings
the bass and drums right to the front. These neo-60’s Canadian legends do not
disappoint in the least with this gem that holds up in comparison to their classic
’80’s releases. (4.5)


Bob Log III
“Bubble Strut!” b/w “The Slide Guitar Ride”
Dropkick Records, 38 Advantage Rd,
Highett, Vic. 3190, Australia

The hand-decorated paper sleeve of this 7″ declares “recorded live-to-acetate
at Corduroy Records, Monday 17 December 2001.” The two sides contain all the
loose, extemporaneous energy that implies. The instrumental cow-punk of “The
Slide Guitar Ride” matches nicely with the cartoonish, hiccupping twangcore
of “Bubble Strut!” (4)


The Sights
“If That’s What You Want” / “People” / “Say Say” / “Nobody”
Fall of Rome Records

This is a double-7″ collection of four tunes recorded by the Detroit trio to
follow up Are You Green? The group reaches back to ’60’s rock for their
brand of pop songs that feature harmony vocals and rumbling drums between the
verses. The group delivers their warm, vocal-oriented sound with skill and enthusiasm.
(3.5)


CD REVIEWS *****************************

One & Twenty
I Don’t Remember Falling
Blakhol Records

One & Twenty is a quartet with a funky side to their rock-n-roll. Featured in
this ensemble is the powerful, soulful voice of vocalist Carol Thomas. Thomas,
a black woman and guitarist, takes One & Twenty down an R&B-inspired style path
not usually encountered in rock groups. Having originally started as an acoustic
outfit, I Don’t Remember Falling finds the group having entirely fallen
in love with electric rock and performing the original music boldly. If Nina
Simone, with a lyric similar to Thomas, had decided to go rock and roll, the
result would have been something like One & Twenty. (3)


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Mark Eitzel
Music for Courage & Confidence
New West Records

This album covers allows Mark Eitzel to apply his refined art-pop voice to the
fine selection of memorable songs. Each takes on new life, as “Snowbird” here
is entirely effective yet entirely unlike the version popularized by Anne Murray.
The versatile Eitzel takes on jazz vocal standards (“I’ll be Seeing You”) to
folk (Phil Och’s “Rehearsals for Retirement”). Together, all include such as
the originally saccharine “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” (Culture Club) and
funky “Move On Up” (Curtis Mayfield) take a somber, introspective almost dark
demeanor on this exquisite album of rendered gems. (3.5)


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Peter Murphy
Dust
Metropolis

Peter Murphy’s album Dust is rich in lyric content the vary arrangement
of the words in the lyric booklet and Murphy’s gentle but precise delivery points
to this album as vivid poetry in a sophisticated post-Gothic setting. Much world
influence goes into Dust. However, the kanun (zither), table percussion
and more never overpower. The dark and moody strings (cello) and somber singing
temper the bright, eastern sounds. Dust is a bridge between the sounds
of Bauhaus, which Murphy fronted, and the atmospheric world sounds of Bill Laswell.
(4.5)


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Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
In C
Squealer Music

Composer Terry Riley initiated the minimalist movement from California with
his 1964 opus “In C.” On this album, Acid Mothers Temple, the Japanese Hawkwind,
perform their version in overdrive. Included is the group’s own single-chord
experiments “In E” (performed during their 2001 U.S. tour) and the potent “In
D.” Like a fusion of Blue Cheer and Curved Air, AMT is a churning space rock.
Their wide swath of fuzz gives each piece substance and considerable weight
on this classic disc of rooted neo-psychedelia. (5)


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Brother JT
Maybe We Should Take Some More?
Birdman

Maybe We Should Take Some More? is experience-enhancing drug music from
a master if trippy sounds and the sonic collage. JT sang and played guitar in
the Original Sins from 1987 to 1998, but these headspace vaunts are unlike that
group’s garage pop though there are occasional similarities in this guitar-based
music. Partly melodic, partly gloomy, this lo-fi hypno-rock is preceded by ten
other solo albums as Brother JT continues to combine some present hooks with
resonant audio analogues of the poly-philosophical musings of chemical reverie.
However, this episode is unique in his discography as part drug experience documentation
and part clearly realized pop verses. Having created the experience alone, Brother
JT composed the album solely and then invited in others as musical collaborators
to realize the production. (3.5)


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Yume Bitsu
The Golden Vessyl of Sound
K Records

Yume Bitsu’s The Golden Vessyl of Sound is a set of untitled atmospheric
improvisations. Subtle space rock, disembodied voices and the sound of faraway
horns marks this atmospheric music. This arty drone music is a lo-fi minimalism
carried out without the support of a bassist. Occasionally featuring vocals
with complete lyrics on fantasy subjects, The Golden Vessyl of Sound
at these show itself to be neo-psychedelia with real heart and feeling. (3)


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Luciana Souza
Brazilian Duos
Sunnyside
sunnyside@attglobal.net

Coming out of relative obscurity, Souza achieved widespread success with critics
viewing Brazilian Duos as an exquisite jazz album. Part of the success
may be Souza’s realistic and natural recording technique. Souza opted for an
in-studio live recording capturing all performers simultaneously along with
the occasionally pops and clicks that reverberate authenticity. Of course, it
is more talent that mere technique responsible here. Foremost are Luciana’s
excellent vocals and lucid phrasing that draws the listener deep into each track.
Also, her vocals must and effectively do convey the gentle swing to tehse melodies
in the absence of a percussionist. Also, the duo settings – Souza performs with
three different acoustic guitarists – makes the songs intimate, small and personal
moments. Especially notable is Marco Pereira whose 8-string abilities enrich
the music with a wider range of tones. There is a subtle bossa nova influence
arising from her songwriter parents. (Father Walter Santos appears on the album.)
Beside hereditary, there is content here as Souza excellent gems from Jobim,
Walter Santos and more for these duo arrangements. (4.5)


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The Shangri-Las
Myrmidons of Melodrama
Cherry Red Records/RPM Productions

Combing their rare debut 45, several B-sides and unforgettable LP cuts with
a 4,800-word CD booklet, Myrmidons of Melodrama is an incredible document
of this female vocal group. With songs like “Leader of the Pack” and “Give Us
Your Blessings,” the girls were controversial and at the center of the teen
“death-disc” phenomenon. With tracks like the free and jazzy “Sophisticated
Boom Boom” and “Give him a Great Big Kiss” they were on the edge of stereo experimentation.
Admittedly, there recording career contains forgettable fluff. However, Myrmidons
of Melodrama
compile the crème de la crème into one important and memorable
collection. (5)


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Various Artists
Empire Made: The In Crowd, Vol. 2
RPM Productions

Following on the success of Empire Made: The In Crowd, Vol. 1, RPM Productions
released this excellent compendium of more 1960s soul and R&B from not only
the U.K. this time, but the U.S. as well. In this, the Volume 2, like
its predecessor is tied to the Terry Rawlings book, “Empire Made: The Handy
Parka Pocket Guide to All Things Mod.” The “soul” of this binational collection
is club hits of the ’60s along with some hip obscurities making their debut
appearance on CD. Stand out tracks include “Buzz with the Fuzz” (Chris Farlowe),
“Billys Bag” (Billy Preston) and a high-pitched rendition of John Lee Hooker’s
“Dimples” by a young Spencer Davis Group. The Healer himself is present with
“No-One Pleases me but You.” (4.5)


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Rev. Pearly Brown
You’re Gonna Need that Pure Religion
Arhoolie

Rev. Pearly Brown, also known as Blind Pearly Brown, was born blind in Macon,
Georgia in 1915. As a boy he heard Blind Willie Johnson play on the street,
inspiring Brown to also become an accomplished gospel-blues slide guitarist
and singer. His repertoire reaches back easily a single generation to slavery
days. This album is composed of the original Georgia Street Singer LP
(Folklyric, 1961). To this is appended four tracks recorded live with Brown’s
wife (backup vocals) and members of the Dirty Butter Band by Chris Strachwitz
on KPFA (Berkeley, CA) in 1974. This section includes discussion between the
host and Brown about the songs, Blind Willie McTell and more. (4)


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Troy Gregory
Sybil
Fall of Rome

Songwriter and bassist Troy Gregory is a noted scenester and involved person
with the underground revival sounds of Detroit. Sybil attempts to represent
his multiple musical personalities with a baker’s dozen of songs written by
or with Gregory and performed by such groups as Bantam Rooster, Larval, The
Volebeats and The Dirtbombs. (4)


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Dana Cunningham
Dancing at the Gate
RockingEchoMusic

Dancing at the Gate is a beautiful and soothing instrumental piano album
of a dozen tracks. Riding a wave of satisfying extra-Christian spirituality,
Dana enhanced her academic studies of piano with apprenticeship in healing modalities
at Esalen Institute along with Swedish massage therapy and energy work. Dana’s
scintillating, impressionistic pieces like “Light on Water” and “Wild Geese
(in accordance with a poem by Mary Oliver)” cleanse the mind with massaging
energy. (4)


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Oliver Mtukudzi
Vhunze Moto
Putumayo World Music

The “Big Voice” of “tuku music” from Zimbabwe is Oliver Mtukudzi. The title
translates as “Burning Ember” and this bright disc glows with his bright, contemporary
African music that successfully melds elements of Afropop with warm tribal rhythms
and backing vocals. At the time of this release, Zimbabwe is in the grips of
political turmoil and suffering under an AIDS epidemic that claimed the lives
of some of Mtukudzi’s family and band members. Each song is translated from
Oliver’s native Shona language, but for those not able to understand these lyrics,
that tone would be missed. This is because Vhunze Moto shines with hope,
optimism and good feeling despite such troubles. Perhaps the most serious sounding
piece is the song of warning, “Moto Moto (Fire is Fire).” Even this features
an effulgent soprano sax from Steve Dyer delivering the uplifting Zimbabwean
rhythms that captured the genius of Kronos Quartet (“Dumisana Maraire”) and
Robert Iolini (“Zimbabwe”). (4)


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Nod
Good Night Sleep
Smells Like Records

Nod changes genres like people change their clothes. This is their reflective
but not nodding CD that offers bouncing, gentle, lo-fi tunes like the grainy
remembrances of the drams of a good night’ s sleep. Darkish and gently stumbling
with somnambulism, these songs recall ’60’s rock and reflect simple but robust
melodies. Leaving off the overt angst and grit that characterizes underground
sounds contemporary to this release, Nod succeeds with a cohesive album of relaxed,
primitive midnight pop. (3.5)


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Timothy Prudhomme
With the Hole Dug
Smells Like Records

Here away from Fuck, which he fronted, Prudhomme sings and plays guitar in front
of an ad hoc journeyman ensemble: pedal steel maestro and producer Doug Easley
(Two Dollar Guitar, Pavement), Jack Adcock (Last Chance Jug Band) on congas
and bongos, organist Alex Greene (Big Ass Truck, Lorette Velvette), vocals from
Megan Reilly, theremin from Davis McCain and percussion from Geoff Soule (Fuck)
and Stu “Trainwreck” Sikes. Gentle and despondent, these downbeat, melancholy
tunes are given creaky, crackling production. (3.5)


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Kenn Lending Blues Band
Psychedelic Mind
Qualiton/Olufsen
Records
, Uraniavej 12, 1878 Frederiksberg C., Denmark

Brightly packaged in a fractal-festooned digipack, this CD suggests more that
is psychedelic than it offers. However, that is not to dismiss the lively electric
blues inside. While Kenn Lending is not exactly stunning as a vocalist, the
Kenn Lending Blues Band fueled by Hammond organ and Moog synthesizer from Dan
Hemmer is a quality unit. A standout track, “Black Clouds” does capture the
essence of a “Summer of Love” sound. (3)


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The Matchheads
Live, Farewell August, 1982
The Matchheads

This live swan song event features classic material from the group reaching
back to the late 1978s: “Pearl Harbor,” “Fat Bitch” and “Cadillac”. The vocal
style and lead-filled guitar delivery on tracks such as “East Berlin” mark the
group as one of the West Coast punk outfits that saw a connection between the
inspiring English punk and the 1960s rock arising from the same country. (3)


The Matchheads
Backtracks 1980-1982
The Matchheads

This overview of The Matcheads contains two 1980 tracks (“Why” and “Wanted Man”)
with another eight tracks from 1982 covering three lineups of the group. Those
early tracks have a thin, unsure band sound while lead singer Patrick Wickler
alternates between a punk yowl and an ’80’s rock crooning. The next four are
better recorded and the whole formula is more or less adequately presented resulting
in a power pop sound. Nearly back to the original lineup and the recorded tracks

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