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Music Reviews

Domino Ensemble

Domino Ensemble

Purple Ego

Domino Ensemble’s new album features 11 new songs, which blur the lines between a wide variety of styles and genre definitions. From experimental jazz musings, down to funk, fusion, and progressive, anything goes. The line-up explores a wide variety of interesting sounds, making me think of artists as diverse as Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, as well as John Zorn, and many others.

Some of the album highlights include “Common Features,” a song that combines a distinctive rhythm section with atmospheric distorted guitar chords in the background and some incredible textures. I love how this song brings something truly memorable to the table in terms of allowing different elements to clash and collide so seamlessly. The fuzzy radio voices in the background are almost like a glue, holding it all together. The song “Not Exactly” what I mean is another highlight for me. I love the brushed snare tones, as well as the ever-evolving melodic landscape of this track. From uplifting melodies, to soaring dissonances, anything goes. “Gritty Throat” is another awesome song, which begins with a playful theme, with the double bass following along, but later drifting out on its own. This is a very minimalistic piece, which only has an understated arrangement. However, it serves as a sort of interlude, allowing the album to breathe and gain even more interesting dynamics, going out in full blast with the following track Domino, showcasing an atmosphere that makes me think of albums by Tom Waits in some ways. I love the ways in which the rhythm comes together and falls apart so many times, eventually giving the song a dreamy tone and a more experimental feel.

Ultimately, what I love the most about this album is the incredible variety of textures and organic sounds within. The ensemble has a warm, roomy tone which reminds me of old jazz records. On the other hand, the band is not afraid to experiment with distortion effects, li-fi dynamics and many other elements adding a grittier character to the mix. The sheer variety of sounds and influences in this release is also quite fantastic, giving the tracks a unique and memorable feel that truly stands out.

dominoensemble.com

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Music Reviews

Eszter Balint

Eszter Balint

Airless Midnight

Red Herring

I didn’t immediately recognize Eszter Balint’s name, but she’s been around the downtown NYC Avant Garde scene her entire life. Raised in a theatre space by Hungarian actors, she was djing between sets by Sun Ra and the Lounge Lizards by the time she was thirteen. She played the teenage cousin tagging along on an aimless road trip and playing “You Put A Spell On Me”, over and over again in Jim Jarmusch’s classic film, Stranger Than Fiction. More recently, she’s had a recurring role on the F/X series, Louie. Airless Midnight is Balint’s third album and her first since 2004.

Airless Midnight feels like an Absinthe-fueled hallucination. My favorite tunes have a dissipated folk and jazz flavor abetted by the guitar stylings of Chris Cochrane (John Zorn), Dave Schramm (Yo La Tengo) and Marc Ribot (Tom Waits). “Calls At 3am” is captivating with hazy, disconnected, one-sided narrative of someone trying to maintain connections, however tenuous. “Exit At 63” continues the theme of disconnection with its meditation on a man suffering early-onset dementia. The tune is a compassionate depiction of a sad situation. This is a record where small gestures and a few well-placed notes are more powerful than all the overdubs in the world. Airless Midnight is one of those quiet works that rewards repeated listening.

eszterbalint.com

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Music Reviews

The Road To Jajouka

The Road To Jajouka

Various Artists

Howe

Perched upon the Rif mountain range of Morocco, the Master Musicians of Jajouka — dubbed “the 4,000 year old rock ‘n’ roll band” by William S. Burroughs — have fascinated listeners with their ceremonial trance music for years. Rolling Stone Brian Jones was an early devotee in the West, featuring their music on his 1971 album Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka. Ornette Coleman found their hypnotic blend of wind instruments and native percussion so entrancing that he cut “Midnight Sunrise” with the group on his 1976 release Dancing in Your Head. Led by Bachir Attar, the Master Musicians of Jajouka are being helped out by this benefit record, The Road To Jajouka. Produced by Billy Martin, drummer for Medeski Martin & Wood, the record features a wide assortment of artists from around the world, and for the most part it’s a compelling trip.

“Hand of Fatima” begins the journey, featuring Medeski Martin & Wood along with guitarist Marc Ribot and Attar, and the mixture of the ancient sounds of Jajouka and Ribot’s snaky guitar is mesmerizing. East Indian singer Falu joins up with saxophonist John Zorn, bassist Flea, and Billy Martin on “Djebala Hills,” and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo sounds right at home on “Boujeloudia Magick.”

There are a few missteps, such as the collaboration between Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and DJ Logic on “Baraka,” which attempts to wed urban beats to the Master Musicians sound, to no great effect. But all is forgotten on the magnificent “Jnuin,” with Ornette Coleman sounding as spry and imaginative as ever, his harmolodic style of playing meshing perfectly with the group’s shifting rhythms and repetitive melodies. Howard Shore and the London Philharmonic Orchestra conclude the disc with “Al’Aita.” Shore and Coleman wrote the score to the film version of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, inspired by Ornette’s work with the Jajouka musicians on “Midnight Sunrise,” and his cut here is from the soundtrack to The Cell, featuring Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians of Jajouka.

This is literally a timeless music, haunting, intriguing and somewhat foreign to our ears, but one that can elevate the listener as few other experiences can. Try The Road to Jajouka with open mind and ears, and you’ll find yourself transported to a place and a culture of which you’ve never dreamed. Some of you might not come fully back — and isn’t that why you travel to begin with?

Howe RecordsJajouka Foundation

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Music Reviews

Tom Waits

Tom Waits

Bad As Me

Anti

Tom Waits hits the ground running on Bad As Me with “Chicago,” and it sets the pace for the rest of the record with its cinematic references and frantic pace. It sounds like a chase scene we’ve seen a hundred times, heightened by musical clues until the tension becomes palatable. From there it’s “Right Raised Men” with Augie Meyers providing horror movie Vox organ stabs as Tom bemoans the male condition with typical Waitsian characters: “Gunplay Maxwell,” “Flat Nose George,” and “Ice Pick Ed Newcomb,” men who only exist in ’40s detective novels and Tom Waits records.

Waits has assembled a top-notch band for his 20th record, the first in seven years. Keith Richards and longtime Waits collaborator Marc Ribot, along with Los Lobo’s David Hilalgo, handle the guitars, Flea and Les Claypool share bass duties, and Chicago bluesman Charlie Musselwhite is along on harp. The album features some classic examples of Tom Waits’s fractured mixture of blues, movie scores, and Americana, such as the Captain Beefheart-inspired title cut or the woeful celebration depicted in “New Year’s Eve.” The bittersweet “Last Leaf” is slow and gorgeous, with Waits and Richards harmonizing on a reflection of longevity and loss. Waits turns his attention to current events, such as “Talking at the Same Time” — Someone makes money when there’s blood in the streets — or the chilling “Hell Broke Luce,” a sobering tale of a soldier ground up by the American war machine, watching his friends die and coping with meth. It reminds you of Real Gone‘s “Hoist That Rag,” and is one of Waits’s best tunes, his vocals sounding like they are shredding his throat with disgust.

Bad As Me, while being a great record, isn’t on a par with Mule Variations or Swordfishtrombones as being a classic Tom Waits album, and part of that can be attributed to the decision to master the record for computer speakers and iPods. I have the vinyl for this, and where his previous LPs can sound astonishing — remember, Tom Waits knows what to do with sound — this record sounds over-compressed and lifeless, almost as if you were listening in another room. But even so, any new Tom Waits is cause for celebration, and Bad As Me triumphs as another excellent example of the one, the only Tom Waits.

Tom Waits: badasme.com

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Music Reviews

Golan

Golan

Silhouette

Skeemin’ Productions

He’s a serious contender for Calmest Record of 2008. Jazz guitarist Sebastian Albu spent a month bumming around Vietnam and Thailand with a cheap guitar and a notepad. No point in taking the ’59 Les Paul because it rains over there all the time and things get broken so easily. The music on this disc is an amalgam of experimental and light jazz, and while there are no fireworks, there’s plenty of composing genius and solid musicianship. All the songs have a unique style. Some have Pink Floyd-like whispers (“The Wind Blows Through A Broken Oak”); others feel like incidental music in an Italian art film (“Frick Park At Midnight”) or a country fiddle (“My Muse”). All have evocative and poetic titles like “Summer Silhouette in the Rain” or “Pueblo Por La Noche.” Albu explores some sound textures outside of the normal canon of Jazz instruments. Lurking behind the guitar are soundscapes straight from Arthur Lyman’s exotica of bird calls, rain sticks, and rice rolled on a drum head. Albu captures the essence of jazz improv without sacrificing the territory of listenability to unlistenable hipness.

Sebastian Albu: www.sebastianalbu.com

Categories
Outsight

Shades Of Gray Like A Melted Penguin

Shades Of Gray Like A Melted Penguin

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.

Please, keep Outsight informed: Email Outsight at outsight@usa.net

Ratings are (1) = :(, (5) = 🙂

Outsight Radio Hours Internet radio Webcasts with live interviews:
Sundays 6pm-8pm EST

News And Views

Giving You The Benefit Of The Dub

Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble (PiL, etc.) sprung upon the world in September a missive for the dub massive: Version 2 Version: A Dub Transmission (ROIR). The album also features Bernie Worrell, Karsh Kale and Abdou Mboup. The protean, organic, slow-beat sound of this album is an escapist headspace for the headphones set. (I am taking it in with my Sony MDR-7506 Professional pair as I write.) Also on ROIR and making a nice match is the album from Dub Trio entitled Exploring the Dangers Of. Somewhat more exploratory and eerie, the young white guys in this trio offers a virtual sonic tour of the spooky caverns crisscrossing the earth beneath Lee Perry’s Black Ark Studio.

Listen to or Buy Version to Version at Amazon.com
Listen to or Buy Dub Trio at Amazon.com

Roll Out The Redbone

Rounder Records released six classic Leon Redbone albums back in July and August. The mysterious bluesman (who to me looks like comedian Don Novello and they even work the same events) is responsible for delightful and entertaining music drawing from early country and ragtime styles. Songs like “Dancin’ on Daddy’s Shoes” and the whimsical “When I Kissed That Girl Goodbye” on Whistling in the Wind showcase the humor and light melodies of Redbone’s particular brand of nostalgia. There are a lot of talented guests on this album, such as guest vocalists Ringo Starr (“My Little Grass Shack”) and Merle Haggard (“Settin’ by the Fire”). On No Regrets, the particular, cheeks-full affect of Redbones intonation seems a blend of Louis Armstrong and Dr. John on this jazz and Western swing album. On this album, compare Redbone’s album-closer “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” to Elvis Presley’s take. Guests include Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas. Hank Williams, Jr. shows up on Red to Blue for a little banter before “Lovesick Blues”. This is one of the many gems from the past that Redbone reincarnates. Hank pere as well as Patsy Cline and many others previously did “Lovesick Blues”. The second installment, released in August, was made up of Sugar, Up a Lazy River, and Any Time.

Listen to or Buy Whistling in the Wind at Amazon.com
Listen to or Buy No Regrets at Amazon.com
Listen to or Buy Red to Blue at Amazon.com

ZZZZZ…

Each month I try to find a CD or two sent to me that is perfect, soporific audio to drift off to sleep to. Mind, you this is not a slam against the CDs. Indeed, I am recommending them for relaxation. This month Kranky, which has a lot of titles that fit the bill, offers Loscil and The Dead Texan. “Loscil” — doesn’t that sound like a prescription-only sleep aid? The gentle, fluid grooves of the chill-out electronica of First Narrows is mostly excellent to meet with the sandman except for “Mode” which has a peculiar, high-pitch squeak to it that sort of breaks up the album’s mood. The self-titled album from The Dead Texan is even and subtle as a large tract of undeveloped land in The Lone Star State. This is sweeping, surreal, cinematic space music (as in wide open space) from guitarist Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid, Aix Em Klemm). But what about waking up from such blissful repose to dive into the mad rush hour to the day job? For emerging from the shadows in the harsh glare of the day ready to compete I recommend Shadowland by The Deep Eynde (Disaster). This is some motivating, urgent rock in the tradition of The Cult and Misfits.

Listen to or Buy Loscil at Amazon.com
Listen to or Buy The Dead Texan at Amazon.com
Listen to or Buy The Deep Eynde at Amazon.com

Z’s Of A Different Flavour

Cherry Red‘s successful collection of outsider music of Songs in the Key of Z is being issued as a 2-CD set with Volume 1 and 2 together. Among the would-be music makers exposed on this collection are Wesley Willis, Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Joe Meek, Tiny Tim, The Shaggs, Captain Beefheart, and more. A book by the same name written by outsider music authority Irwin Chusid is also available from Cherry Red.

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Shirts For A Cure Project

The Syrentha Savio Endowment sister Website www.shirtsforacure.com features limited edition band merchandise from various bands to aid SSE in its efforts to provide funding for chemotherapy and other medication for underprivileged women who cannot afford the growing expense of fighting breast cancer. Thrice, Hot Water Music, The Bouncing Souls, Good Riddance, and Taking Back Sunday are some of the growing number of bands who will be participating. These exclusive designs will only be sold online or at SSE events, and will be available for a limited time. Says Thrice drummer Riley Breckenridge, “In buying a shirt, your money is going directly towards helping people in need, and by wearing the shirt, you’re increasing awareness.”

Things You Want To Read

Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs (Backbeat Books) is a treasure trove of facts and trivia about the often-losing battle fought for free speech in music. Musician and author Peter Blecha backs each paragraph with a heady density of factual information, names, dates and more, making this read educational and enlightening. Songs and albums that have been banned if not altered litter pop music and underground music history and Blecha gathers from those incidents to compile a fascinating story that touches on Billie Holiday, Frank Zappa, Sheryl Crow, 2 Live Crew, and more… Guestlist: Precipice Compilation Volume 2 is a hopefully ongoing project from Patrick Ogle (Precipice Recordings). The zine and disc package offers reading material from the helpful (finding a job when your band does not work out) to the funny (starting a cult when all else fails). The accompanying CD is rare, one of a kind, unreleased and out-take material from Lovespirals, Chris Connelly & William Tucker, Thanatos and more on a 16-track CD… “A History of Secret Human Experimentation in the US” covers medical and germ warfare experiments secretly done by our government since the early ’30s. This is just one of the many articles that will make you sad if not scared to be an American in the latest edition of The Justice Xpress (formerly North Coast Xpress) (POB 1226, Occidental, CA 95465 or doretk@sonic.net)…The new tour into the low brow from Rob Cohen and David Wollock is out on Penguin Putnam. It is the follow-up to Etiquette For Outlaws, Been There, Done That! Such subjects as childhood, sports, sex, travel, spirituality, crime and punishment, booze and drugs are covered and you can compare yourself to icons of wild or eccentric living such as Ozzy Osbourne, Albert Einstein, Hunter S. Thompson, James Bond, Babe Ruth, the Marquis de Sade and others to see how you stack up. Cohen and Wollock have worked as writer-producers on Fox-TV’s The Complex: Malibu and MTV’s Punk’d, among others.

More on the book Taboo Tunes from Amazon.com
More on the book Been There, Done That! from Amazon.com

DVD Reviews

Various Artists

Swinging U.K.

JEF Films/Music Video Distributors

It is commonly known that The Beatles arose from the “Merseybeat scene”, but most would be hard-pressed to identify any other participants in that movement. This collection of two video programs (Swinging U.K. and U.K. Swings Again) contains such Merseybeat participants as The Merseybeat and Liverpool’s The Wackers. This is all pretty tame stuff, not like digging back to hear The Beatles howling “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” in Hamburg as everyone delivers the goods on a fine line between swinging and being a Monty Python skit on the scene. There is good stuff here from Millie (the petite singer that gives a whole new spin to lollipop), The Animals, Lulu & The Luvvers and more. (3.5)

More on the DVD from Amazon.com

Devo

Live in the Land of the Rising Sun: Japan 2003

Music Video Distributors

Somewhat wistfully and with a very dry sense of humor, an older and wiser Devo return to Japan a quarter century after their last tour there. The set list of the paper-suited band includes “Girl U Want”, “Mongoloid”, and “Freedom of Choice”. Interview clips break up the footage of the arena show. Bonus tracks material includes more extended interviews with band members as well as vault video footage from 1980. (3.5)

More on the DVD from Amazon.com

Charles Bukowski

Bukowski at Bellevue

Screen Edge/Music Video Distributors

This unearthed video footage is a rough little document of Bukowski delivering his edgy and downbeat barfly poems to college students in a small room in the spring of 1970. If you have ever seen the underground GG Allin video Spoken Word at Primal Plunge, Boston, MA May 5, 1989 you will know the stage management and venue style I speak of. Hank reads a dozen of his autobiographical skid row odes, at times with apologies. Among the standout pieces is “The Lesbian” which I could be convinced was an inspiration to the Talking Heads urban legend song “And She Was”. (4)

More on the DVD from Amazon.com

Various Artists

Pick a Winner

Load Records

Most of the time, I find Load Records release to be a load of shite. It is often complex layers of bleeps, the multiple exposure view into the minds of talentless hacks. At other times it is harder than 10-day-old Cream of Wheat but twice as tasteless. The funny thing is, many of the artists here may not disagree with me. Anyhoot, the DVD portion of this DVD and CD set ties it all together for me and now I see the light. The primitive graphics that looks to have pushed the limits of a Commodore 64 and video of playing with dolls all blends nicely. This unified vision of infantile creativity offering the cathartic and the cornball says more about all the commodification of sound art than a whole book of musicological punditry. (3.5)

More on the DVD from Amazon.com

CD Reviews

Matthew Burtner

Metasaxophone Colossus

Innova

The title is a nod to the great saxophonist Sonny Rollins, but Burtner’s saxophone gives us whistles and drones more than the round tones and melodies Rollins delivered on that excellent jazz primer Saxophone Colossus. Burtner here treats the ear more to improvisation on the use and shape of the sax perhaps more so than improvisations on a melody. “S-Morphe-S” is landscape-wide palette of tone coloring done with “singing bowl soprano saxophone hybrid computer instrument.” The 9-minute piece is disembodied and floating. (4)

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Rob Wasserman

Trilogy

Rounder

Über-bassist Rob Wasserman here provides us with a rich, three-disc set exploring his output in solo, duet and trio configurations with one ensemble form per disc. Duets and Trios previously came out separately and earned Grammys. This set contains those two as well as Solo, a collection of acoustic bass pieces. Wasserman possesses a talent that can exist in a wide spectrum of styles. He had been a member of the Grateful Dead side project Ratdog for years as well as working long term with Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, and Van Morrison. Other than Van, all those associations are captured here along with (duets) Rickie Lee Jones, Stephane Grappelli, and Aaron Neville as well as (trios) Willie Dixon, Neil Young, and Marc Ribot. These three discs brought together: “trioly” a thing of beauty. (5)

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Mutant Press

Evil

Three Hundred lb. Weasel Records

Part political punk (“Evil”), part demented disco (the Mutant Press classic “I’m Ultra Black”), the zany world of Jerome T. Youngman enters another episode of topical assaults such as “Guantanimo Shuffle” (sic) in a spirited, guitar-driven assault on mediocrity. Some of the pieces are personal, such as “Valium” and “Welcome to the Orphan Club”. The variety of moods and textures adds depths to this album where that mad music maker Super Jerome does all sounds and voices. (3)

Martin Gordon

The Joy of More Hogwash

Martin Gordon, formerly of the California pop band Sparks, delivers a solo album with a great sense of humor. It is about time someone paid tribute to the flood of Spanish Prisoner spam offers as Gordon does here on “(Oh No, What Shall we Do?) Daddy Lost his Head in a Coup”. Gordon explores the love songs through various levels of comedic metaphor in “Fuss Me” and the computer hardware themes “Plug ‘n’ Play”. What this is all about is pop for the sake of fun. It is music that is infectious, accessible and undeniable. Fun stuff, and you want some of that. (3.5)

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Flamen Dialis

Symptome — Dei

Mio Records

This obscure electronic classic of Mellotrons and other tone-benders emerged from France in 1978. Like a cross between Wendy Carlos, The Residents and Stockhausen, this album stands as an early foreshadowing of underground and pop experimentation with electronic music. This is a must-have if you appreciate early Tangerine Dream, Tonto’s Exploding Headband and that other French creation, Magma. The instrumental music and wordless songs of this album are a wonderful world of the weird and eerie.

Shortstack

Shortstack

Planaria

Shortstack calls its music “doom country.” This old school hillbilly sound with modern electric blues and gothic overtones can also be heard on the Slim Cessna’s Auto Club release The Bloudy Tenent Truth Peace (Alternative Tentacles). Shortstack vocalist Adrian Carroll and Slim have similar heady and quavering voices that add to the full-custom fearful sound. (3.5)

Upsilon Acrux

Voluccris Avis Dirae-Arum

Planaria

Gearheads will want to know this recording features aluminum guitars custom made by Greg Bailey as well as real Moogs. Other than that this angular, challenging recording is mostly of appeal to the narrow segment of CD collectors that are on the lookout for old Skin Graft recordings, like Flying Luttenbachers. Call it progressive hardcore of edgy experimental art music or what you will, but this instrumental album sounds like a science fiction soundtrack run through the blender with King Crimson and offers nothing to hum to. If you need to be freed from the tyranny of melody, this may be the key to freedom. (3)

Stephen Lynch

Superhero

HaHa/What Are Records?

This is a collection of live, acoustic guitar comedy songs from Stephen Lynch. Comedians have the necessary and healthy role of saying in front of others what we would not say ourselves. Lynch not only goes farther than most (the c-word, incest and graphic pedophilia all are included), but also is as funny as the best. The hilarious album includes the classic Lynch song “Bowling Song (Almighty Malachi, Professional Bowling God)”, among his safest. (4.5)

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Victory at Sea

Memories Fade

Gern Blandsten

Keyboards and violin give the melancholy indie rock here that haute-hip chamber pop feel as well as a full and rich dynamic. The smoky voiced Mona Elliot is a fitting complement to the treble-heavy music. While none of the music stands out in a particular catchy or memorable way, this is recommended if you like Black Heart Procession, June of 44 or Shipping News. (3.5)

Play Pretty for Baby

Play Pretty for Baby

The Agency

Play Pretty for Baby is some swinging noise rock that at times sounds like NoMeansNo, as on “Free Radio” and “Paratroop Disco”. However, the band is at its best when the anvil-heavy tunes are rather funky in a James Chance/Contortions kind of way, as on “You’ve Asked me to Come all the way Here for This?” (3)

Gorge Trio

Open Mouth, O Wisp

Skin Graft

On this recording, guest musicians augment the trio. This includes members from Deerhoof, The Flying Luttenbachers and more. The organized and directed clamor may be a feat of logistics to keep together, but the effect is one more often challenging than it is musical. A trio that was once three-fourths of Colossamite recorded this mostly instrumental album. There is one track with vocals, due to guest vocalist Tennis Saya. (2.4)

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Layton

Grand Design

Leftwing/Lunaticworks

If you read closely the themed club nights for the opportunity to mindlessly dance around the floor pushed by the repetitive beats of The Cure, etc. in a mental puddle of well drinks, well there is a band out in L.A. that can do all that for you live or on disc. Be introduced to Layton and climb aboard the synthpop wayback machine. (3)

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Bookmobile

Keys

Woodson Lateral

Bleep, bleep, blurp and bleep. That is the sound of the electronic noodling that characterizes this generally irritating CD. Occasionally, the duo will do something really smooth and melodic, like the languid keyboard lines of “Circuits and Clay” only to force in the video game detritus like some station bleeding in that cannot be tuned out. (2)

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The New Transit Direction

Wonderful Defense Mechanism

Some Records

I need a wonderful defense mechanism that would allow me to respond diplomatically and politely to each formulaic and predictable indie rock CD that crosses my desk. Since I have not yet developed such a mechanism, I can only say that the post-punk angst comes out of this CD like something over-processed, homogenous and bland squeezed from a tube. (2)

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See Venus

Hard Times for Dreamers

March Records

See Venus is delightful, bubbling indie pop with lead female vocals from Rocky Ordoñez. Tasteful additions of cello, flute, percussion and more in the additional instrumentation department give the already hip sounds some sophistication. The music here is easy on the ears like gentle curves and pastel hues. (3)

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Susan & The Surftones

Night in Old Town

ACME Brothers

Susan & The Surftones is a bright and shining star of a surf revival band that looks back to such groups as The Ventures. The guitar instrumentals here shine with organ-fueled and fuzz guitar energy. However, the delivery is in no way ostentatious or technically splashy. The mood here is a bit dark, one would say noir. All this is not overwhelming and fits nicely on the tribute to the Old Town of Portland, Oregon noted in the liner notes to be “the location of the Shanghai Tunnels where drugged victims would literally be dropped off the barstools into the tunnels and wake up on the high seas…” Now the area is home to “Drag queens, punks, homeless, misfits of all types…” These are suitably acknowledged in the cover of “Chinese Rock”, one of the many covers on this rugged and reliable surf rock album. (3)

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Supatones

Unity Avenue

Do the Dog Music

This eight-song CD from Supatones should go over well with fans of No Doubt that would like a bit more of the ska sound. This third-wave ska group has a rocking, post-ska core approach but still plenty of horns and some brassy lead female vocals. The mix has one foot in the No Doubt style while recalling more trad ska female led groups like Hypocrite and also recalls the Skatalites and friends collaboration Tricia & The Supersonics Miss Jamaica Meets The Skatalites (Moon Ska). (3)

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The Visitations

Propaganda

This is a project of Elephant 6 collaborator Davey Wrathgabar. The acoustic guitar-led music throws pointed barbs at the American political process, but the music is so fun and upbeat it hardly seems right to call it protest music. This recording also features Jason NeSmith (Of Montreal) and Derek Almstead (Of Montreal, Circulatory System) and a rapping George W. Well, Dubya appears to be an unwitting participant in an EBN-style cut up called “Dubya Speaks”. This unplugged political topical album is a cross between Violent Femmes and Billy Bragg. (3.5)

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George Crumb

Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 8

Bridge

Bridge’s survey of the works of George Crumb continues with Volume Eight featuring Makokosmos, Volumes 1 & 2. Robert Shannon ably performs the 24-piece cycle. This series of works on astrological themes treats the keyboard as merely one part of the sound-making possibilities of the instrument. In addition, Shannon must whistle, speak, and sing to fulfill the score. This CD also includes a premier recording of “Otherworldly Resonances”. The work for two amplified pianos has a slowly played four-note motif upon which bright, colorful fireworks of sound erupt. (4)

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Zolar X

Timeless

Alternative Tentacles

Unearthing this gem of pre-punk science fiction glam is an excellent entry into Alternative Tentacles’ Re-Issue of Necessity series. Like an extraterrestrial version of The Monks, this group’s members wore their costumes onstage and off along with suitably alien hairdos. The music is shades of Spinal Tap and with all the dedicated camp, it seems the world is a poorer place without a documentary on these would-be aliens. At least we can thank Jello Biafra for compiling this collection of UFO-inspired album cuts, non-album songs and more, twenty tracks and all. (4)

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Menomena

I Am the Fun Blame Monster

FILMguerrero

The indie pop on this album is experimental, protean and piano-based. This is the first release I have ever seen inside a hand-packaged flipbook. Interestingly, most of the songs were composed with “Deeler”, a computer program written by the band’s Brent Knopf. Says Brent, “It’s a loop-based program that facilitates improvisational recording.” Step in the stream before the river moves on. (3)

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Baby Woodrose

Dropout!

Bad Afro

This is an album that has dropped out of the work for the band’s previous Money for Soul album and work for the upcoming album. We have here four covers recorded but not used for Money for Soul and added to that six covers recorded later. The ’60s garage groups paid tribute to here had an influence on the revival garage sound of Baby Woodrose. Bands covered include Love, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Sonics, and The Stooges. (3.5)

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Six Organs Of Admittance

The Manifestation

Strange Attractors Audio House

Six Organs Of Admittance, a.k.a Ben Chasny, presents two, twenty-some-minute guitar odysseys. More psychedelic than folk yet more deep than hippy-dippy, the incense scent of Eastern raga drifts over the music without becoming a cloying curry too heavy to be pierced for access to the headspace inside. The CD, a reissue of the original vinyl, is best enjoyed with headphones while floating through the universe only buoyed by one’s favorite floor-scatted pillows. And this is all in the first piece, the title track. Go extraterrestrial on the solar system travelogue that is “The Six Stations”. While playing Egyptian mode music, Chasny “plays”, via the stylus, the sun etching that appears as the music-less B-side of the original vinyl issue. (3.5)

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Music Reviews

Susana Baca

Susana Baca

Espiritu Vivo

Luaka Bop

There are few singers who have ever existed who have had the beauty, style, grace, and power of Susana Baca. She has to be the current star of Latin music, and her voice illuminates everything that hears it. Hers is a crystalline, creamy cherub that recalls heavily-filtered dream sequences in the bosom of heaven.

This Afro-Peruvian songstress has made it her singular mission to preserve the African traditions within her native land. But Espiritu Vivo is no ethnographer’s dream disc. Baca has a cross-eyed approach, looking towards the past and the future, Peru and the world, with a unique Pan-African and trans-global outlook. She accomplishes this monumental task with the help of a team up for the task: her usual gang of Latin performers along with keyboardist John Medeski, guitarist Marc Ribot, and the adept production help of Craig Street (Cassandra Wilson and k.d. lang).

Like Lady Cassandra, Baca has an amazing ability to make old material sound new and singularly her own. The Peruvian traditional song, “Caracunde,” Caetano Veloso’s “13 de Mayo,” Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro-Blue,” and Björk’s “The Anchor Song” are now all Baca’s and can never be reclaimed.

While I may have waxed a bit effusive (and corny?!) in this review, my words simply cannot do the singer or the CD justice. You simply have to listen for yourself.

Luaka Bop: http://www.luakabop.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Marc Ribot

Marc Ribot

Saints

Atlantic

Marc’s third album for Atlantic Records takes a sharp turn away from his recent journeys through the world music sector of sound and leads him back to the sometimes disturbingly beautiful world of avant garde jazz as voiced through a solo guitar. Starting out with a minimal and rhythmic offering, a cover of Albert Ayler’s “Saints,” this CD moves through a variety of covers that are given new voices by Marc’s guitar, transformed into instrumentals of emotion. The old, bluesy, dirt road grittiness of “St. James Infirmary,” the melodic and drifting “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” which is played heartbreakingly beautifully, and even through the lack of words, the notes carry all the meaning and power needed. Beauty and sadness and joy flowing through six strings like a sigh.

http://www.atlanticrecords.com