Sunday, November 30, 2008
Butch says: The Albatross. Since the recording of Bath Of Bacon (almost two years before this one) we had become a "proper" group. For all that, we still pooled our skills in the studio, and this isn't a bad two weeks' work.
I think that, lyrically, a lot of the songs are a bit trite and immature, and our inability to take ourselves seriously is much in evidence. A record, I feel, of its time. We were young(ish) and cocky and I think it shows. I still haven't learned to sing on this one, which bugs me too. Still, it was cheap and cheerful, and it helped us to meet an awful lot of people.
I was told, incidentally, that if we released this on Glass we could expect a top global sale of 2,000. We released it on Glass and sold about 25,000 copies.
Butch says: One day's rehearsal in Kevin Haskin's living room, five days' recording and two days' mixing was all it took for us to make my favourite of the Glass records.
Now that the band had done a few dates with decent p.a. systems and stuff, I was beginning to have some sort of a bead on this singing business. Also, having exhausted the initial stick of JB songs (several of the A Scandal In Bohemia tunes had actually been written at the time of Bath Of Bacon, but were rejected back then as needing further development), I was obliged for the first time to write about my life as it was at the time, which was very different to the way I lived when writing the first two records.
Now I was "in a band", had left my day job, had been to Europe... I even started to write songs that were not self-consciously deferential and mocking. Hence, I guess, the arrival of the first recorded "big ballad" in Only A Rumour, where David J. harmonies at the end STILL give me the shivers.
I think that now we had started to learn about actually creating recordings rather than just recording the sound of a bunch of pals fooling around, and the disc does have a nice, unified feel. Credit John A. Rivers for his high-speed mixing job. When I think about it, this l.p. doesn't really have any "great" tunes, in the sense of numbers that people request or whatever, but it has a nice totality, a good, atmospheric vibe. This one I'd actually defend at length if I had to.
rocky says... There are five irrefutable reasons for spending some time with this. They are: "Southern Mark Smith," "Just Like Betty Page," "Girlfriend," "The Human Jungle," and last but not least, "Big Saturday" -- these are all simply buttery good slabs of pure pop confection. Pristine.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Been driving all night / my hand's wet on the wheel. The first time I heard these (played by some Indianapolis public radio station as we were driving back from West Virginia to Chicago at 2am), I was stunned out of my listless drivezone. Even eM, drowsing at my side, awoke to ask, what is this?
Death giveth back. The arrangements are modern yet classical, beautiful though brutish, restrained but powerful, dramatically understated. And Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's voice is just so achingly effing poignant. Makes it hard to forget the fact that she knew she was dying when she sang these.
"Inevitably, these are deeply personal as well as public utterances, and in this sense, Lieberson's 'cycle' of five sonnet settings have a Mahlerian impact on the listener, a sense of being witness to something essentially intimate, almost an invasion of privacy...These are, indeed, life-enhancing, uplifting songs, rejoicing in the joys and passions of a love that death cannot destroy. Lieberson wrote memorably singable lines for his wife's unique voice, and his orchestrations are rich and inventive, evoking the sultry, hot-house atmosphere of Latin-American ardour." Hugh Canning, International Record Review, 01/02/2007
Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs — a setting of five love poems on deep and wrenching subjects such as passing delight, memory, fear of separation and transcendence beyond death — is one of the most extraordinary affecting artistic gifts ever created by one lover to another... The score is achingly lovely, a genuine mixture of modernism and romanticism that has been sumptuously orchestrated and charged with the same appreciative ripeness that pervades Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs... I hope the Neruda Songs are recorded, for they are just as universal as they are shatteringly personal. Tim Page, Washington Post, 01/03/2006
2~ Comfy in Nautica
3~ Summertime Clothes (formerly 'bearhug')
4~ Daily Routine
8~ Song for Ariel
9~ Brother Sport
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Allmusic: Because the term emo has come to define a sensibility more than a particular sound, it can be difficult to pin down even if you're not an outsider. Yet there's a general consensus — by no means universal, but fairly solid — that Washington, D.C.'s Rites of Spring were the first true emo band. Their music epitomized emo (or emocore, as it was then more often referred to) in the original sense of the term: an emotionally charged brand of hardcore punk marked by introspective, personal lyrics and intense catharsis.
While Rites of Spring strayed from hardcore's typically external concerns of the time — namely, social and political dissent — their musical attack was no less blistering, and in fact a good deal more challenging and nuanced than the average three-chord speed-blur. Although they didn't exist for long or record that much (two releases in just under two years), and didn't attract much attention outside of D.C. during that time, their influence was tremendous and far-reaching. Not only did they map out a new direction for hardcore that built on the innovations of Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade, they spawned a host of imitators, first locally, then elsewhere; these descendants in turn gradually brought emocore to a wider underground audience, from which point it mutated into varying strands that often bore no surface resemblance to Rites of Spring, but owed them a great debt nonetheless. Additionally, half of the band went on to join Fugazi, whose status as punk icons helped shed light on Rites of Spring's small but still-potent recorded legacy.Rites of Spring were formed in March 1984, with a lineup of lead vocalist/guitarist Guy Picciotto, guitarist Eddie Janney, bassist Mike Fellows, and drummer Brendan Canty. Canty had played in the local hardcore band Deadline from 1981-1982, while Janney was a seasoned veteran of the D.C. scene, having been a member of the Untouchables (1979-1981), the short-lived, Ian MacKaye-led Skewbald/Grand Union (1981), and the Faith (1981-1983), which some credit with laying the groundwork for the early emo sound. Breaking free from hardcore's stylistic straitjacket, their music was powered by melody, tuneful (if hoarse) singing, guitar solos, and compelling instrumental interplay. Frontman Picciotto's lyrics were by turns nostalgic, heartbroken, confused, and desperately searching, expanding hardcore's range of subject matter into territory rarely covered (save for Hüsker Dü). Owing in part to the draining intensity of their shows, Rites of Spring didn't play live very often, but when they did, their gigs were full-fledged events, inspiring fierce devotion among fans and usually ending with the stage covered in flowers and smashed instruments. Rites of Spring signed with Ian MacKaye's Dischord label and recorded their self-titled debut album in early 1985. Eventually hailed as a landmark in some quarters, at the time it didn't receive the kind of widespread critical attention that Zen Arcade had the year before.
In January 1986, the band returned to the studio and cut a four-song EP, upon which point they disbanded; the EP was released posthumously the following year as All Through a Life. Picciotto, Janney, and Canty promptly regrouped as One Last Wish, which moved Janney to bass and put ex-Faith member Michael Hampton on guitar. They disbanded by the end of the year, and in 1987, the entire original lineup of Rites of Spring reunited under a new name, Happy Go Licky, and played a more experimental brand of post-punk influenced by Gang of Four and Mission of Burma. Again short-lived, the group's only recordings were live, but gave Canty the connections to join up with Ian MacKaye in Fugazi later that year; Picciotto would follow him several months later. Mike Fellows, meanwhile, formed Little Baby with ex-members of Soulside, and went on to play with Government Issue and Royal Trux. In 1991, Dischord compiled all of Rites of Spring's recorded output — the Rites of Spring album, one unreleased song left over from the sessions, and the All Through a Life EP — onto the CD release End on End, which was remastered in 2001.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Call it Kindling. So I was out there gathering firewood, and I found a couple of sticks floating around the Forest, and I've bundled them up here for loving burnage.
rocky says: this 5-song EP is the missing link from old New Order (Movement) to new New Order (PC&L and beyond). My copy was taped from Processed and provided constant walkman accompaniment during those morning walks to LTHS South Campus in the Fall of 1984. Simply Beautiful stuff. Man meets machine and they discover they have more in common than they thought possible, and the twain shall never part.
Palace: Come In / Trudy Dies
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
And I can hardly tolerate the blues.
Allmusic: To call West Side Soul one of the great blues albums, one of the key albums (if not the key album) of modern electric blues is all true, but it tends to diminish and academicize Magic Sam's debut album. This is the inevitable side effect of time, when an album that is decades old enters the history books, but this isn't an album that should be preserved in amber, seen only as an important record. Because this is a record that is exploding with life, a record with so much energy, it doesn't sound old. Of course, part of the reason it sounds so modern is because this is the template for most modern blues, whether it comes from Chicago or elsewhere.
Magic Sam may not have been the first to blend uptown soul and urban blues, but he was the first to capture not just the passion of soul, but also its subtle elegance, while retaining the firepower of an after-hours blues joint. Listen to how the album begins, with "That's All I Need," a swinging tune that has as much in common with Curtis Mayfield as it does Muddy Waters, but it doesn't sound like either — it's a synthesis masterminded by Magic Sam, rolling along on the magnificent, delayed cadence of his guitar and powered by his impassioned vocals. West Side Soul would be remarkable if it only had this kind of soul-blues, but it also is filled with blistering, charged electric blues, fueled by wild playing by Magic Sam and Mighty Joe Young — not just on the solos, either, but in the rhythm (witness how "I Feel So Good [I Wanna Boogie]" feels unhinged as it barrels along). Similarly, Magic Sam's vocals are sensitive or forceful, depending on what the song calls for.
Some of these elements might have been heard before, but never in a setting so bristling with energy and inventiveness; it doesn't sound like it was recorded in a studio, it sounds like the best night in a packed club. But it's more than that, because there's a diversity in the sound here, an originality so fearless, he not only makes "Sweet Home Chicago" his own (no version before or since is as definitive as this), he creates the soul-injected, high-voltage modern blues sound that everybody has emulated and nobody has topped in the years since. And, again, that makes it sound like a history lesson, but it's not. This music is alive, vibrant, and vital — nothing sounds as tortured as "I Need You So Bad," no boogie is as infectious as "Mama, Mama Talk to Your Daughter," no blues as haunting as "All of Your Love." No matter what year you listen to it, you'll never hear a better, more exciting record that year.
Me? Hey, I love those tunes. But I say fuck all that, and maintain yr indie street cred by skinny dipping straight into "Cold Morning Light" -- no shame there, my brother, sister. And "Breathless" ain't too shabby, neither. Oh, and, um... "One More Day", anyone?
This record is proof positive that vibe and groove will trump pyrotechnics every time.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
In essence, it is the only Grateful Dead or Grateful Dead-related record that features participation by every person who was ever in the group between 1965 and 1995.
Grayfolded was released 1994/5 in two parts on the Swell/Artifact label. Out of print by 2000, Oswald's fony label reissued the Grayfolded 2cd disc set (fony 68/95), which includes an essay by musicologist Rob Bowman, 2 timemaps of Dark Star, as well as several interviews, in August 2004.
In an interview in 1995 Oswald described how the project came about:
Phil Lesh called me up and talked me into doing it. At that point, I hadn't listened to any Grateful Dead music in about twenty years. I did think I was qualified, because I do think it's often a good idea to come into a project without a lot of prior knowledge and get kind of an alien's overview of what the music seems to be, and then put in your own two cents of what you think it should be. And I think that was the case for this. During the course of working on it, I went to a couple of Grateful Dead concerts, but other than that, I haven't listened to anything except these hundred versions of "Dark Star" that I found in the vaults.
On another occasion Oswald said that he had been asked (by David Gans) to produce something very short, he explained his response to this suggestion:
What interested me most about the Grateful Dead was their extended playing style. I wrote a counter-proposal to David saying, 'Well, I've been thinking about it and all I can hear is the opposite - something very long.
Who does not love French punkrocknewwave? For real! And from 1981!
TrouserPress's tepid words: Stylish but awkward, this French artist is at his best on weird, moody synthesizer workouts — those songs that rely on choppy guitar and weak singing aren't as effective. A version of Bowie's "Hang on to Yourself" (on Algorhythmes) is skittish and tense.
Not sure why I posted that 'review.'
Saturday, November 22, 2008
allmusic: Released on Avant, run by Yamatsuka Eye's Naked City bandmate John Zorn, and recorded by him with help from Martin Bisi [Recorded live at B.C. Studio, Brooklyn, Oct. '92], Wow 2 surfaced around the same time that Pop Tatari made its initial Japanese bow on Warner Bros.
Saying the first album is more experimental and uncommercial than the second is pushing it — it's not like the Boredoms were going to release catchy pop ditties all of a sudden. Rather, Wow 2 is just another wiggy slice of what makes the Boredoms' sound such a great, unpredictable experience. If anything, this release is actually more straightforward than Pop Tatari.
There's a lot of echo at points, especially noticeable on the scraps of unaccompanied vocals. Still, it's presumably intentional, as is the feeling that everything was recorded in single takes without overdubbing. Eye is the predominant vocalist throughout, and compared to the near Bomb Squad levels of musical interplay on Soul Discharge, the songs here are blunter and much more direct, with crunching lead riffs quite obvious at points.
Various flute and sax noises crop up in the usual tumult of sound; whether it's Zorn having fun is left unclear in the liner notes, but it's equally likely that the Boredoms simply tackle wind instruments the same way they do electric: with gusto. The spacy guitar on "Rydeen!!" sounds great — a nice indication of the semi-prog sense that creeps further into their music on later releases.
allmusic: One of the more overlooked groups in the early-'90s alternative rap movement, the Goats were an interracial Philadelphia trio who featured a live backing band before fellow hometowners the Roots shot to acclaim with a similar format.
The Goats sounded a bit different, though, mixing intelligent, Public Enemy-influenced political raps with good-humored Native Tongues positivity, plus a bit of aggressive, hard-partying funk-rock. Oatie Kato (born Maxx Stoyanoff-Williams), Madd, and Swayzack first got together in 1991, and became the first signing for the Philly-based hip-hop label Ruffhouse (which would soon land a distribution deal with Sony).
The group released its debut album, 1992's Tricks of the Shade, to strongly positive reviews, and shortly thereafter put together an in-concert backing band which took their sound in a rap-rock direction. However, Oatie soon left the group, dissatisfied with the behind-the-scenes excess; he went on to form Incognegro, and took much of the Goats' political perceptiveness with him.
The Goats' quirky 25-track 1992 debut bears the stylistic influence of hip-hoppers like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest; their juxtaposition of rock, funk and rap rhythms also recalls the heady eclecticism of the Beastie Boys.
In fact, a disgusted new outlook might be a more appropriate characterization, as a controlled abhorrence oozes from every pore of SlaughtaHouse, lashing out not only at easy outside targets (bigoted police, for instance) but also at those shady characters inside the "SlaughtaHouse" whose violence is enacted physically (Ace himself places the part of a mugger on "Who U Jackin?") rather than lyrically, bringing the entire community down in the process.
A loose concept album, it is at once an intense exposé and a roughneck paean to the hip-hop lifestyle that broke new ground by merging the grimy lyrical sensibility, scalpel-precise technique, and kitchen-sink beats of East Coast rap with the funk-dripping, anchor-thick low end of West Coast producers. The classic "Jeep Ass Niguh" was one of the quintessential cruising singles of the summer of 1993.
Its unlisted remix, "Born to Roll," with its subsonic gangsta bass, is an equally thumping highlight and (with its sample borrowed from N.W.A's "Real Niggas Don't Die") can be seen as the most explicit bridge between East and West. But other hectic, relentless tracks like "The Big East," "Rollin' wit UmDada," and "Saturday Nite Live" are just as excellent, and Ace's crew — particularly Bluez Brothers Lord Digga and Witchdoc — really shines.
allmusic: Pharoah Sanders' third album as a leader is the one that defines him as a musician to the present day. After the death of Coltrane, while there were many seeking to make a spiritual music that encompassed his ideas and yearnings while moving forward, no one came up with the goods until Sanders on this 1969 date.
There are only two tracks on Karma, the 32-plus minute "The Creator Has a Master Plan" and the five-and-a-half-minute "Colours." The band is one of Sanders' finest, and features vocalist Leon Thomas, drummer Billy Hart, Julius Watkins, James Spaulding, a pre-funk Lonnie Liston Smith, Richard Davis, Reggie Workman on bass, and Nathaniel Bettis on percussion.
"Creator" begins with a quote from "A Love Supreme," with a nod to Coltrane's continuing influence on Sanders. But something else emerges here as well: Sanders' own deep commitment to lyricism and his now inherent knowledge of Eastern breathing and modal techniques. His ability to use the ostinato became not a way of holding a tune in place while people soloed, but a manner of pushing it irrepressibly forward.
Keeping his range limited (for the first eight minutes anyway), Sanders explores all the colors around the key figures, gradually building the dynamics as the band comps the two-chord theme behind with varying degrees of timbral invention.
When Thomas enters at nine minutes, the track begins to open. His yodel frees up the theme and the rhythm section to invent around him. At 18 minutes it explodes, rushing into a silence that is profound as it is noisy in its approach. Sanders is playing microphonics and blowing to the heavens and Thomas is screaming. They are leaving the material world entirely.
When they arrive at the next plane, free of modal and interval constraints, a new kind of lyricism emerges, one not dependent on time but rhythm, and Thomas and Sanders are but two improvisers in a sound universe of world rhythm and dimension. There is nothing to describe the exhilaration that is felt when this tune ends, except that "Colours," with Ron Carter joining Workman on the bass, was the only track that could follow it. You cannot believe it until you hear it.
allmusic: French singer Brigitte Fontaine made a series of increasingly strange and eclectic art-pop in the 1970s that gathered a lot of acclaim in France, although she remains obscure to an international audience.
Initially she was an eccentric but accessible pop singer, presenting melodic and orchestrated material a la a more daring version of late-'60s/early-'70s Francoise Hardy. On her first album, she worked with arranger Jean Claude Vannier, who had also done arrangements for Serge Gainsbourg.
On subsequent records she got jazzier, and then into more difficult directions of avant-gardism and art song. Her albums were commendably wide-ranging, and undeniably erratic. She could employ African tribal rhythms, discordant progressive jazz, pretty folky melodies, throat-stretching a cappella vocals, spoken poetry, and pious classical arrangements, sometimes with a stoned recklessness.
allmusic: Brigitte Fontaine and Areski Belkacem's final release before a retirement that lasted nearly 20 years, 1977's Vous et Nous is a remarkable album. A 33-track double album (song lengths range from barely 30 seconds to nearly seven minutes), Vous et Nous often sounds like nothing so much as what Stereolab would be doing two decades later. (The members of Stereolab are acknowledged fans of Fontaine, and the band's lovely "Brigitte" was written in tribute to her in 1995.)
The instrumentation alternates between bleeping synthesizers and rattlingly primitive electronic drums on some songs and acoustic guitars and hand percussion on others. For the first time, Fontaine and Belkacem split the vocal duties about evenly; his gruff, mumbled vocals contrast nicely with her much sweeter tone, and the North African and Eastern European influences he had brought to her previous few albums are much more in evidence here.
The two versions of the title track, one with a minimal electronic background and the other featuring the same Balkan-style melody played on authentic instruments, are representative of the two stylistic poles of the album. Artistically challenging yet surprisingly accessible (at least more so to a contemporary audience than it might have been upon its initial release), Vous et Nous is an endlessly fascinating cross-cultural experiment.