segunda-feira, 23 de julho de 2018

William Parker ‎– Voices Fall from the Sky (2018)

Style:  Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD
Label: Centering Records

01.   Espirito (feat. Omar Payano)
02.   Airlift (feat. Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez)
03.   Bouquet for Borah (feat. Andrea Wolper)
04.   City of Flowers (feat. Andrea Wolper)
05.   Despues de la Guerra (feat. Bernardo Palombo, Jean Carla Rodea)
06.   Small Lobby (feat. Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez)
07.   So, Important (feat. Kyoko Kitamura)
08.   We Often Danced (feat. Fay Victor)
09.   Voices Fall From The Sky (feat. Amirtha Kidambi)
10.   Revolution (feat. Timna Comedi)
11.   A Tree Called Poem (feat. Morley)
12.   All I Want (feat. Ernie Odoom)
13.   Baldwin’s Interlude (feat. Ellen Christi)
14.   For Julius Eastman (feat. Lisa Sokolov, Yuko Fujiyama)
15.   Aborigine Song (feat. Lisa Sokolov, Yuko Fujiyama)
16.   Life Song (feat. Ellen Christi)
17.   Band in the Sky (feat. Lisa Sokolov, Yuko Fujiyama)
18.   Sweet Breeze (feat. Leena Conquest, Eri Yamamoto)
19.   Morning Moon (feat. Lisa Sokolov, Yuko Fujiyama)
20.   A Thought for Silence (feat. Ellen Christi)
21.   Poem for June Jordan (feat. Leena Conquest, Eri Yamamoto)
22.   Autumn Song (feat. Lisa Sokolov, Yuko Fujiyama)
23.   Falling Shadows (feat. Ellen Christi)
24.   Tour of the Flying Poem (feat. Mola Sylla, Cooper-Moore)
25.   Prayer (feat. Leena Conquest, Eri Yamamoto)
26.   The Essence of Ellington (feat. Ernie Odoom)
27.   Lights of Lake George (feat. Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay)
28.   For Fannie Lou Hamer (feat. Leena Conquest)
29.   Deep Flower (feat. Ernie Odoom)
30.   The Blinking of the Ear part 1: Meditation on Freedom (feat. AnnMarie Sandy)
31.   The Blinking of the Ear part 2: Without Love Everything Will Fail (feat. AnnMarie Sandy)
32.   The Blinking of the Ear part 3: Dark Remembrance (feat. AnnMarie Sandy)
33.   The Blinking of the Ear part 4: Heavenly Home Meditation on Peace (feat. AnnMarie Sandy)
34.   Natasha’s Theme (feat. Leena Conquest)

Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay - Voices
Karen Borca - Bassoon
Angelo Bradford - Guitar, Percussion
Rob Brown - Sax (Alto)
Gerald Cleaver - Drums
Jim Clouse - Engineer, Mastering, Mixing
Timna Comedi - Harmony, Voices
Leena Conques - Voices
Jean Cook - Violin
Cooper Moore - Piano
Lois Eby - Paintings
Yuko Fujiyama - Piano
Jason Kao Hwang - Violin
Steven Joerg - Art Direction, Production Assistant
Morley Kamen - Voices
Amirtha Kidambi - Voices
Masahiko Kono - Electronics, Trombone
Ernie Odoom - Voices
Bernardo Palombo - Voices
Omar Payano - Voices
Heru Shabaka Ra - Trumpet
Jean Carla Rodea - Percussion, Voices
Annmarie Sandy - Voices
Dave Sewelson - Sax (Alto)
Lisa Sokolov - Voices
Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez - Piano, Voices
Steve Swell - Trombone
Mola Sylla -  Voices
Dario Acosta Teich - Guitar
Fay Victor - Voices
Andrea Wolper - Voices
Eriko Yamamoto - Piano
William Parker - Bass, Composer, Dusungoni, Ngoni, Percussion, Primary Artist, Producer

When bassist and composer William Parker released the triple album For Those Who Are, Still, I incorrectly assumed that any future ambitions the modern jazz icon would have wouldn't be on such a large scale. Voices Fall from the Sky demonstrates that, even as a sexagenarian, Parker can still deliver the goods in large packages. This is a triple album comprised entirely of vocal pieces, some old, some new, some jazz, some wildly not, and some arranged in wholly original ensembles. There are 17 different vocalists lending their expertise over 34 tracks lasting three hours and 15 minutes. Even if some of this material is recycled (in the most technical sense of the word), it's still an achievement suitable for everyone's gawking. To call it a jazz album is akin to assuming that a fancy buffet is out to focus on only one dish. It may not be one of jazz's best albums of the year, but it's still one of the best albums of the year. 
The three discs that comprise Voices Fall from the Sky follow their own loose themes. The first one, named after the album, is all new material and features an enormous cast of musicians. The featured vocalists are Omar Payano, Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez, Andrea Wolper, Bernardo Palombo, Jean Carla Rodea, Kyoko Kitamura, Fay Victor, Amirtha Kidambi, Timna Comedi, and Morley Shanti Kamen. To name every instrumentalist would take up even more room, though it's worth mentioning that some of jazz's most valuable hired hands, as well as Parker's mainstays, are helping out -- pianist Cooper-Moore, trombonist Steve Swell, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and pianist Eri Yamamoto, just to name four. 
If we're going to talk about genres, things start to sway from the jazz path as early as track four, "City of Flowers", which sounds like Andrea Wolper was suddenly possessed by the ghost of Schoenberg and a case of the hiccups while Karen Borca's bassoon and Masahiko Kono's electronics try to exorcise the demon within. "Despues de la Guerra" switches gears to a Latino-meets-12-tone-scale attack for two guitars. Parker may steer things back to the jazz idiom eventually, but that doesn't make it traditional sounding in any sense.

"We Often Danced" combines soulful saxophone and muted trumpet and a modern string section for over 14 minutes so that Fay Victor could give a mostly spoken-word performance outlining the story of African-Americans trying to find something to live for during times of slavery. The disc wraps up with "A Tree Called Poem" where Morley Shanti Kamen and William Parker keep the song a duet for over eight minutes. "Light dances off sparkling buildings" she sings with all feeling and no effort. 
The second disc is simply named "Songs". Here, Parker arranges songs from earlier in his career to suit the core vocalists of Lisa Sokolov, Ellen Christ, and Leena Conquest, with Ernie Odoom and Mola Sylla singing just one apiece. "Songs" is split into recording sessions from the 1990s and songs taken from the 21st century William Parker albums Wood Flute Songs, Corn Meal Dance, Stan's Hat Flapping in the Wind, and For Those Who Are, Still. The instrumentation has been boiled down to just Parker and a rotating bench of pianists including Yuko Fujiyama, Eri Yamamoto, and Cooper-Moore (the exception is the AMR Ensemble, who give Odoom a New Orleans dirge to sing over top of on "All I Want"). 
As one would expect, these songs are skeletal and vulnerable. Just a few standouts are Lisa Sokolov singing the fragile "Aborigine Song" and Leena Conquest letting is loose on "Prayer". Worth noting is the fact that Parker also penned a haunting piece in memory of Julius Eastman for the "Songs" disc: "Can you bring those who have died / Back to life to live again / To feel the rain and wind again?" Fujiyama's piano and Sokolov's voice are a deadly perfect combination. 
The third and final disc is probably the most ambitious one of the three (and that's really saying something). On "Essence", Parker throws the human voice in front of a series of large ensembles like the William Parker Orchestra, and AMR Ensemble, the Kitchen House Blend Ensemble, and Parker's own Double Quartet. If you remember the bassist's 2012 double album Essence of Ellington, you have a decent idea of how well Parker handles the big band homage trick without sounding like some Duke cover act retread. 
Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay gives a delightfully wordless performance to the cinematic throwback tune "Lights of Lake George" from Double Sunrise over Neptune while Leena Conquest gets the final word on "Natasha's Theme" from Alphaville Suite: "They have killed all the poets / Who have cried for the world / And the children who wore numbers." The centerpiece of "Essence" is the poetically-titled "The Blinking of the Ear", a four-part suite featuring just Yamamoto on piano, Leonid Galaganov on drums and AnnMarie Sandy stretching her operatic range to sing notes of freedom, healing, and peace. 
In a career full of lofty goals and incredible highs, William Parker has once again sculpted an album that will stand apart from the pack through beauty alone. Once you take into account Parker's ambitiousness and his strong sense of social obligation, Voices Fall from the Sky rests on even sturdier ground. This is an album to take with you into the next lifetime.
John Garratt / popMATTERS

Laika ‎– Good Looking Blues (2000)

Style: Trip Hop, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Too Pure

01.   Black Cat Bone
02.   Moccasin
03.   T. Street
04.   Uneasy
05.   Good Looking Blues
06.   Widow's Weed
07.   Glory Cloud
08.   Go Fish
09.   Badtimes
10.   Knowing Too Little

Synthesizer, Electric Piano – Guy Fixsen
Trumpet – Matt Barge
Bass – John Frenett
Clarinet – Pete Whyman
Djembe – Lou Ciccotelli
Flute – Louise Elliott
Guitar – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Murphy Fiedler
Vocals – Margaret Murphy Fiedler
Mastered By – Tony Cousins
Mixed By – Guy Fixsen
Producer – Fixsen, Fiedler
Sampler – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Murphy Fiedler
Turntables – Danny Doyle
Written-By, Engineer, Programmed By – Guy Fixsen

To some-- the hip, the jaded-- Laika's third release is likely to seem a bit of a disappointment. And in a way, I guess it is: after the sonic barrage of their first album, its two successors may seem a bit dry. In fact, by some standards, Laika have gone downhill not just since their first album, but since the first 20 seconds of their first album, which were arguably 20 of the most exciting seconds electronic music produced in the 1990s. Consider, for example, the generally shoddy treatment Stereolab has recieved from hipsters regarding their post-Emperor Tomato Ketchup LPs. 
The thing of it is, see, that the phenomenon known as electronic music-- half music and three halves public relations-- has always set itself up as The Future. The Future, of course, is always one step ahead, and this has led to the development of a freakishly malproportioned set of criteria by which electronic music is to be judged: one which values innovation above all other things. Constantly striving to push the envelope (in order to push the product, naturally), electronic music plunges blindly ahead into what so many fawning reviews refer to as "uncharted territory." This is all fine and good, except for one thing: left behind in the neverending move forward lie vast expanses of half, sorta and barely charted territory. 
Few blues singers are criticized for lack of innovation-- they're instead evaluated on their musicianship, songwriting and knowledge of their craft. Meanwhile, electronic music's mainstream has been largely unable to value itself as a tradition to the extent that artists are allowed to explore the nooks and crannies of their own genre. When an album like Good Looking Blues is released-- one that moves towards accessibility-- the general reaction tends towards dismissals of the "I've heard this before" or "Nothing new here" variety. 
Admittedly, Good Looking Blues doesn't seem like much at first-- pretty run-of-the-mill trip-hoppy shit: some loops here, some scratching there, a dash of hip-hop for flavor, shrinkwrap it and call it a day. Certainly, it's nothing like the grinding and irresistible Silver Apples of the Moon. But as bands like Stereolab have proven, a sheen of accessibility can conceal a wealth of texture, and Good Looking Blues more than makes up for its lack of originality with plenty of detail and craft. 
While generally more song-oriented than previous outings, Good Looking Blues is built on a foundation of acid-jazzy, polyrythmic beats-- the kind that just seem to shuffle along until you pay attention to them, at which point they prove to be more layered than Barthes' S/Z. Organic texture is provided throughout by such unhip instruments as the bass clarinet, the trumpet and the flute. Margaret Fiedler's vocals are much further up in the mix than on past releases. This is a welcome thing for the most part, though at points you may wish you could gloss over the lyrics: the opening "Black Cat Bone" in particular, whose stilted rap is basically Blondie's "Rapture" updated for the new millenium. 
Still, Good Looking Blues shows a Laika that has learned from its past mistakes-- they don't get lost in their own loops like they used to-- and willing to stretch out and explore their surroundings. I'd gladly see electronic music lose its innovation if it meant more music like this album's creepily sublime title track or the quiet Reichian beauty of "A Single Word." Of course, the hipsters would never stand for it.
Zach Hooker / Pitchfork 

Laika ‎– Sounds Of The Satellites (1997)

Style: Downtempo, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Too Pure

01.   Prairie Dog
02.   Breather
03.   Out Of Sight And Snowblind
04.   Almost Sleeping
05.   Starry Night
06. Bedbugs
07.   Martinis On The Moon
08.   Poor Gal
09.   Blood+Bones (Moody Mix)
10.   Shut Off/Curl Up
11.   Spooky Rhodes
12.   Dirty Feet+Giggles

Credits: Drums, Piano, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Rob Ellis Vibraphone – Alonso Mendoza Flute – Louise Elliott Percussion – Lou Ciccotelli Sampler, Guitar, Vocals, Bass, Synthesizer, Drums, Trumpet – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler
The World Trade Center in New York is one of the tallest buildings on earth. Heaving its twin towers over one hundred stories into the sky, its most stunning engineering feature hits you when you step inside: each of the nearly acre-wide floors is wide open from edge to edge with no central means of support.  
Laika construct a similar feat on Sounds of the Satellites, the group's sophomore effort. Repeated listens reveal layer upon layer of sound, but the end result isn't dense; the album floats along, spacious and atmospheric while reaching toward the ionosphere.  
Every teenaged, amber-sunglassed, Tom Rowlands wannabe with a sampler is looping electronic bleeps and hip-hop beats, but only a choice few bands are using new technology intelligently to enhance their music instead of using it as a crutch. Stereolab and Spiritualized are shining examples; Laika is another. 
The core of the group is Margaret Fiedler and Guy Fixsen, musical polymaths who split command of vocals, guitar, bass, minimoog, trumpet and sampling. Former drummer for PJ Harvey Rob Ellis is also on board, along with guest flutists, vibraphonists and percussionists to flesh out the pair's gently orbiting compositions. 
Expertly blending dub and hip-hop technology with live instrumentation that nods to jazz, trip-hop and dreamy pop, the cyborg fusion of smooth organic grooves in a warm electronic bath is subtly addictive. And I do mean warm; most computerized music is sorely lacking in soul, leaving listeners in a cold synthetic wash, but Laika's sound is as endearing as the dog they named themselves after, the first animal to be shot into orbit. It helps that the group writes actual songs, not just repetitive dance tracks.  
"Almost Sleeping" is a gorgeously smooth track, the languid beat, gentle vibes and light modulations in tone emphasizing the lassitude of the lyrics: "lose track of days, whiling away/I don't have strength to get away." The lilting flute that closes out the track is a lovely touch. The odd, Lee Perry-ist machine clunking that opens "Starry Night" is softened by wah-wah guitar and soft moog flourishes, setting the twilight scene: "the air is still / the earth sleeps / we move with the grace of the moon / sweeping through the clouds / one by one the stars break through." This is a cosmonaut's perfect lullaby. 
The album may be mellow in places, but it's not all zero-gravity floating; "Bedbugs" is a funky, Curtis Mayfield-style story of a player with edgy guitar licks, "Poor Gal" a jungle-influenced rave up, and "Shut Off/Curl Up" a dark look into the bruised psyche of an abused woman. A richly textured, deceptively complex album with intriguing sounds and solid songwriting, Sounds of the Satellites is tailor made for those who want to leave the earth for a while - throw on the headphones, stare up into the starry blackness and bliss out. 
Jared O'Connor / Angel Fire (1998) 

Laika ‎– Silver Apples Of The Moon (1994)

Style: Downtempo, Trip Hop, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Too Pure

01.   Sugar Daddy
02.   Marimba Song
03.   Let Me Sleep
04.   Itchy
05.   Coming Down Glass
06.   If You Miss
07.   44 Robbers
08.   Red River
09.   Honey In Heat
10.   Thomas
11.   Spider Happy Hour

Bass – John Frenett
Drums, Percussion – Lou Ciccotelli
Flute – Louise Elliott
Guitar – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler
Marimba – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler
Melodica – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler
Sampler – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler
Saxophone – Louise Elliott
Synthesizer [Moog] – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler
Vibraphone [Vibes] – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler
Voice – Guy Fixsen, Margaret Fiedler

Coming from the same label that brought us P.J. Harvey and Stereolab, the omens were good for Laika; my expectations were increased by the excellent cover resplendent with a couple of 1962 Albanian postage stamps (an excellent year for them it has to be said) and it’s not every band that can boast a Hot Press Single of the Week among its accolades. I hurled the CD into the machine, my breath well and truly baited. 
And then? What a bummer! Silver Apples Of The Moon ambles along, apparently intent in the knowledge that if the remorseless rhythmic shuffle and airy fairy flute frolics don’t get you, the marimbas surely will. Admittedly listening to this album in the midst of a Dublin winter with the flu breeding down my throat isn’t the most appropriate environment to appreciate the finer points of a record which might just have the potential to be huge along the beaches and in the nightclubs of Rio de Janeiro but you’d need to be on some exotic drug and/or under severe hypnosis to enjoy Silver Apples Of The Moon around these parts.
Nick Kelly / Hot Press

domingo, 22 de julho de 2018

Funkadelic ‎– America Eats Its Young (1972)

Style: P.Funk, Psychedelic Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Westbound Records

A1.   You Hit The Nail On The Head
A2.   If You Don't Like The Effects, Don't Produce The Cause
A3.   Everybody Is Going To Make It This Time
B1.   A Joyful Process
B2.   We Hurt Too
B3.   Loose Booty
B4.   Philmore
C1.   Pussy
C2.   America Eats Its Young
C3.   Biological Speculation
D1.   That Was My Girl
D2.   Balance
D3.   Miss Lucifer's Love
D4.   Wake Up

Walter Babiuk - Viola
S. Barnes - Composer
Harold Beane - Composer, Guitar, Vocals
Dianne Brooks - Vocals
Terry Brown - Engineer
Rick Capreol - Assistant Engineer
Bruce Cassidy - Trumpet
Arnie Chycoski - Trumpet
George Clinton - Arranger, Composer, Cover Design, Producer
Bootsy Collins - Bass, Composer, Vocals
Phelps "Catfish" - Collins - Guitar, Vocals
Lee DeCarlo - Engineer
Zachary Frazier - Percussion
Ramon Tiki Fulwood - Percussion
Funkadelic - Primary Artist
Clayton Gunnels - Trumpet, Vocals
Ernest G Harris, Jr. - Composer
Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins - Composer
Eddie Hazel - Composer, Guitar, Vocals
Prakash John - Bass, Vocals
Steve Kennedy - Vocals
Mia Krinsky - Production Coordination
Tyrone Lampkin - Percussion
Ronald Laurie - Cello
Cordell "Boogie" Mosson - Bass
Billy "Bass" Nelson - Composer
Victoria Polley - Violin
Albert Pratz - Violin
Bill Richards - Violin
Bob Scerbo - Production Supervisor
Peter Schenkman - Cello
George Semkiw - Engineer
Josef Sera - Violin
Garry Shider - Composer, Guitar, Vocals
George Simkiw - Engineer
Stanley Solomon - Viola
Al Stanwyck - Trumpet
Ollie Strong - Guitar (Steel)
David Van De Pitte - Guitar (Steel), String Arrangements
John Vanderpool - Engineer
Frankie "Kash" Waddy - Percussion, Vocals
Randy Wallace - Sax (Alto), Vocals
Paul Weldon - Artwork
Bernie Worrell - Arranger, Composer, Horn Arrangements, Keyboards, Melodica, String Arrangements, Vocals

It was the early 70s. The Vietnam War was happening. And so was heroin. The drug was taking its hold on the inner city black neighborhoods, and it also took its hold on George Clinton’s close friends and bandmates. Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson, Tiki Fulwood and Tawl Ross. All worn down because of the drug. Clinton started working on Funkadelic’s fourth album American Eats Its Young, replacing his old bandmates with a new group of funky musicians called the House Guests consisting of bassist Bootsy Collins, his older brother guitarist Catfish, Kash Waddy on drums, Chicken Gunnells on trumpet, and Robert McCullough on saxophone, a group that were notable for backing James Brown. Together, with Clinton and synth legend Bernie Worrell, this newly formed Funkadelic made one of the most politically charged and musically diverse albums of all time. The playful looseness of previous records replaced by more structured and focused arrangements, still wacky in their own right, but tighter and cleaner. Challenging the listener both musically and emotionally. 
Clinton became serious. Like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, he was inspired by The Beatles and The Who and wanted to make a concept record about the black struggle. He cleaned up and got to work. “That album was really a test to see if I could do it straight after all that acid. All the ones before that I did on acid, and I wanted to see if I could make any kind of sense! The songs have got horrible names but they’re pretty straight. I did that album straight. I mean, as much as I could do it and prove to myself that I could control myself. The sixties was over, so I tried to regroup and see if I could write an album of songs that was chronological” he said in an article on The Quietus. 
For two years Clinton travelled the world to record the album; Toronto, Detroit, London. The band would play for hours in the studio, then Clinton and Worrell would arrange the jams into songs. What came of this was a double album tied together by its musical experimentation and political message. Right off the rip, ‘You Hit The Nail On The Head’ kicks the door open with a heavy fusion funk jam that, right as you feel comfortable in its rhythm, takes a hair pin turn into a laid back, slinky ‘Sanford & Son’ groove. The first words are sung, and they set a tone for what’s to come; “Just because you win the fight don’t make you right / Just because you give don’t make you good.” 
It's a strong statement sung in a whimsical way, but that’s Clinton’s genius; he’ll grab your attention, making you think that you’re in for a joke, then lay it to you straight. This continues throughout the record, but the subject matter is just as eclectic as the music. The song titles speak for themselves; ‘If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause’, ‘Everybody Is Gonna Make It This Time’, ‘Wake Up’. All politically charged. But then there’s ‘We Hurt Too’, a lush orchestral ballad addressing male vulnerability. “Just because it is said that a man is not supposed to cry / Just because we conceal what we feel, we hurt deep down inside / Why don’t they realize that it’s just a disguise to hide the way we feel?” he sings. An appropriate message, not only to the black community, but to the world at large - it was this song that made AEIY seem so real to me. So fresh and, ultimately, just so sincere. 
But it’s the music that really sold me. The orchestral arrangements in ‘We Hurt Too’, the pedal steel on ‘Biological Speculation’, the signature Funkadelic psychedelic rock on ‘Loose Booty’, and the title track. This smorgasbord of styles and ideas come together to create a chaotic masterpiece. “I took all the different things and threw the shit all together,” he told The Quietus. Some might find this confusing but, for me, it left me wanting more. Thinking: “What’s to come on the next song?” and, ultimately, it gave me the confidence to do the same with my music. I could relate to it and it all made sense. Mixing different musical styles seemed like the most appropriate way for Funkadelic to say what they had to say; the band seemed vulnerable on all fronts and it was charming. 
Funkadelic’s music is cerebral. Each record is a thoughtful timepiece about the black struggle. What sets them apart, though, is their attitude. They’re having fun and won't let the hard times get them down. They are going to address the insecurities head on and throw a party in their honour. It’s okay to cry! Life sucks but that won't stop me from dancing! As a young black man, this is exactly the message I needed to hear. And as a young musician these experiments helped me understand one thing: Don’t be afraid of anything!
 Sinkane / Drowned In Sound

Roxy Music ‎– For Your Pleasure (1973)

Style: Art Rock, Avantgarde, Glam
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Island Records

A1.   Do The Strand
A2.   Beauty Queen
A3.   Strictly Confidential
A4.   Editions Of You
A5.   In Every Dream Home A Heartache
B1.   The Bogus Man
B2.   Grey Lagoons
B3.   For Your Pleasure

Credits: Drums – Paul Thompson Guitar – Phil Manzanera Oboe, Saxophone – Andrew Mackay Synthesizer, Tape – Eno Words By, Music By, Voice, Keyboards – Bryan Ferry Bass (Guest) – John Porter Arranged By – Roxy Music
After the stylistic rush of their debut album, For Your Pleasure, recorded in February 1973 at George Martin’s AIR Studios in London, is probably the most consistent album of Roxy Music's career. While the second side contained songs that had been worked up by the band in concert and rehearsal, the first side was all new material, written by leader Bryan Ferry at a sojourn in a Derbyshire cottage. 
And what material it was – including “Do The Strand”, an ode to a fictional dance which ran through a catalogue of dance crazes that was to become a live favourite; the breathtaking “Beauty Queen” established Ferry in his frequently-returned-to role as night life commentator; “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”, a still-bizarre ode to an inflatable doll, is the moment where form and function unite – the group create a dense soundtrack for Ferry’s unhinged ramblings. The spirit of experimentation is never far away – Brian Eno’s stamp is all over the record, warping the sounds and adding tension to the repetitive drone of the second side stand-out “The Bogus Man”. 
Soon after the release of For Your Pleasure (housed in another stunning Nick De Ville-directed sleeve), the tensions between Eno and Ferry had come to a head; Eno embarked on his increasingly avant-garde solo career while Ferry guided Roxy Music ever closer to the mainstream with a series of fascinating albums, each less arty than the last.

Daryl Easlea / BBC Review (2007)

sábado, 21 de julho de 2018

Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band ‎– Clear Spot (1972)

Style: Blues Rock, Avantgarde
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Reprise Records

A1.   Low Yo Yo Stuff
A2.   Nowadays A Woman's Gotta Hit A Man
A3.   Too Much Time
A4.   Circumstances
A5.   My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains
A6.   Sun Zoom Spark
B1.   Clear Spot
B2.   Crazy Little Thing
B3.   Long Neck Bottles
B4.   Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles
B5.   Big Eyed Beans From Venus
B6.   Golden Birdies

Bass Guitar – Oréjon
Drums, Percussion – Ed Marimba
Percussion – Milt Holland
Harmonica – Don Van Vliet
Lead Guitar – Slide Guitar, Mandolin – Zoot Horn Rollo
Rhythm Guitar – Rockette Morton
Vocals – Don Van Vliet
Backing Vocals – The Blackberries
Effects – Don Van Vliet
Lacquer Cut By – PF
Written-By – Don Van Vliet
Producer – Ted Templeman

“And that pantalooned duck / white goose neck / quacked, ‘Webcor, Webcor.’” Those are the last lines on Clear Spot, from a song called “Golden Birdies.” Not exactly “I Can See Clearly Now,” I know, but if you find it hard to make sense out of lyrics like that, or feel that you must, rest easy. Captain Beefheart has come out of the haze. 
Even though his music has always been solidly rooted in the blues, Beefheart has remained a sort of cult figure: to his followers, a supreme genius; to many others, inaccessible both musically and verbally. Starting from Delta blues, which was never too rhythmically stable to begin with, Beefheart worked his way through rock and free jazz to build a totally original form of music. He handpicked and slowly trained the members of the Magic Band in the disciplines of a style which seemed to move from every angle at once, ricocheting back at you from the ceiling, feeling rhythmically askew yet never out of control. It took awhile, but once you got behind it, it could be breathtakingly powerful music, never sacrificing emotion for its avant-garde stance. 
The words to his songs fell all around the music in a similarly coherent clatter. Beefheart’s mind works in a unique way: you can’t always get to what he’s talking about, but it’s almost always been effective as impressionistic imagery. Besides, you know what a line like “Yella jackets and red devils / Buzz around ‘er hair hive hole” means. Many of the songs set Beefheart up as a sort of off the wall oracle relating oblique fairy tales and parables that were diffuse enough to mean whatever you wanted them to but seldom pretentious. And anybody who sings about “Mama flattenin’ lard with her red enamel rollin’ pin” can’t be too strange. 
The only trouble with all this was that most people didn’t have the time, or the musical exposure, or the attention span, or whatever was required to get into this music fully. And Captain Beefheart, just like every other stout hearted American, has always wanted to be a star. A rock’n’roll star. No matter how brilliant you and your limited circle of fans know you are, it’s never going to matter as much as it should if it’s not universal enough to be relatable to people who don’t want to be bothered with something that doesn’t hit them over the head and get their gonads right away. 
Beefheart made a strong step in this direction with his last album, The Spotlight Kid. It was the easiest listening since his early pre-Trout Mask Replica work, but somehow it missed. There was a certain tentative quality to it that disappointed some of his old fans and didn’t really win that many new ones. With Clear Spot, though, he’s gained his ground and looks to hold it for awhile. Which is just another way of saying that the Captain may have a hit on this deck, folks. 
It’s ironic in a way, because one thing this album proves is that the ascendance of Boogie has merely brought the masses that much closer to Beefheart and Beefheart’s roots. Meanwhile the man himself has tightened and directed his music for a new kind of concise fury. The words are as rangy as ever (except for some love ballads and specific sex grope chants) but their splintered refractions hit home more often than not. They’re the perfect crest for the dominant mode of Clear Spot, which is a surging tide of sound: rusty, demonic guitar flailing, raspy voice choking, punching, roaring and pounding drums underneath it all. Everything is pouring in and it’s all instantly relatable. You can still hear meshes of Bo Diddley, square dance, bebop, African drum and maybe European folk dance in Beefheart’s chunky loping rhythms, but somehow you never lose the heartbeat of rock’n’roll. 
“Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man” is a perfect example of how Beefheart mates musical culture: old blues, Stax horns doing a New Orleans boogie, slashing amped-up bottleneck guitar. Beefheart’s incredible growls gouging and rambling all over the place. “Low Yo Yo Stuff” is hypnotically compelling, with deep booming rhythms and upfront guitar. His old stuff showed a thorough absorption of free jazz masters like Ornette Coleman; here it’s used as seasoning, because the basic impetus is funk all the way, gravel ‘n’ greasy, with a bit of juju out of (though not derivative of) Dr. John. And the words are a total gas – in an effete era Beefheart slides on with the universal joy of good old fashioned non-ambivalent lust. 
“Too Much Time” and the ballads “My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains” and “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles” are all ventures into more or less new ground for Beefheart. “Too Much Time” seems rather strained – Otis he ain’t (which is no denigration; he can do things Otis couldn’t), and the horns seem rather perfunctory, lacking the edge and fullness that Stax gives the same cliches. The female vocal backup, as elsewhere on the album, is pleasant but seems almost like an afterthought or an attempt to give this album a marketable trendiness it doesn’t really need. 
“Head” and “Eyes” are both delivered with enormous tenderness, yet somehow Beefheart’s gruff voice sounds out of character with material like this, as if it’s just about to rant through the walls of the cut and start thrashing in the brambles once again. Still, both songs wear well, and “Eyes” is especially fine for some low, lovely mandolin work.
The main thing to he said about this album is that, even at its most violent, it’s comfortable. Its scope becomes endless by limiting itself (how’s that for rock critic bullshit?) and you can throw it on anytime. It feels good to listen to Clear Spot. and it feels good to know that Beefheart has finally become a bit less of a phantasmal, somewhat arcane father figure and come into his own as a flat-out, full-throttle rock ‘n’ roller. If this LP jives your buns the way it should, though, you should waste no time in securing a copy of the earlier, two record Trout Mask Replica. That’s one of the most overwhelming pieces of music ever recorded.
 Lester Bangs / Creem (1973)

Loma ‎– Loma (2018)

Style: Folk Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sub Pop

01.   Who Is Speaking?
02.   Dark Oscillations
03.   Joy
04.   I Don't Want Children
05.   Relay Runner
06.   White Glass
07.   Sundogs
08.   Jornada
09.   Shadow Relief
10.   Black Willow

Bass – Matt Schuessler (tracks: 2, 5, 6)
Drums – Josh Halpern (tracks: 10)
Violin – Emily Lee (tracks: 7)
Mastered By – Greg Calbi
Mastered By [With] – Steve Fallone
Performer – Emily Cross, Jonathan Meiburg
Recorded By, Mixed By, Performer – Dan Duszynski

On paper, the creative marriage of Shearwater and Cross Record doesn’t necessarily sound like the most productive union. Shearwater, the indie-rock band led by Jonathan Meiburg over the last two decades, favor big moments and dramatic sweeps where Meiburg’s expressive voice can leap and pirouette from chord to chord. Cross Record prefer subtler execution, letting singer Emily Cross’ voice glide along minimal melodies while multi-instrumentalist Dan Duszynski cooks up an eerie instrumental miasma. But when the two bands toured together in 2016, something clicked. Impressed by the duo’s performances, Meiburg pitched a collaboration, and the three musicians convened as Loma, a joint project that heightens each member’s individual strengths and shows off their surprising musical chemistry. 
Together, Loma play with space and momentum in a way that recalls the glacial patience of slowcore trio Low, only shrouded in Grouper’s earthy grain. Their self-titled debut marks the first time Meiburg has ever written lyrics for a voice other than his own, a practice he’s called a “relief” after spending years in a more traditional singer-songwriter role. And while Cross has usually applied her voice to simple, staggered melodies with Cross Record, here she gets to dance along Meiburg’s dynamic compositions. The lengths they go to meet in the middle, aided by Duszynski’s skillful engineering, lead them up some disarmingly emotional alleys. What could have been just an experiment in form becomes an exercise in getting under another person’s skin: Meiburg pens lyrics he wouldn’t sing himself and Cross adopts a persona slightly divergent from her own. 
Much of the album lingers in a dreamlike, reflective space. Even its most excitable numbers, “Dark Oscillations” and “Relay Runner,” seem to be sung from a liminal place, on the border between one state of being and the next. Over driving percussion, Cross strives to crawl out of stagnation by looking deep into herself, her voice swelling behind her like a chorus of past selves. The album’s chilling centerpiece “I Don’t Want Children,” powered by the kind of melody you’d hear lilting from a music box, looks to future potentials that are just as lost. Cross ruminates on absent figures as powerfully as if they were standing in front of her. She’s “wondering what could be—who could be,” her voice heavy with the kind of melancholy that only surfaces when you’re staring down a path not taken. That song’s slow tension builds throughout the album, rippling through the rich, acoustic tones of “Sundogs” and “Shadow Relief,” only to break with the pummeling closer “Black Willow,” a lurching, gorgeous, and terrifying song that finds Loma at the peak of their powers. Cross’ voice is multi-tracked to the point where it sounds like every possible incarnation of herself is singing at once. It’s overwhelming, that simultaneity, like coming unstuck in time, like understanding the totality of your choices as you’re making them. 
Duszynski and Cross were married when they began making Loma. At some point during the recording process, they decided to divorce. The album isn’t about their breakup (Meiburg wrote all but one song, “Shadow Relief,” before he even knew the couple intended to split), but it can be read in part as a cross-section of the states of mind that might lead to such a schism. Despite the collaboration behind its making, it’s rife with loneliness; Cross tends to sing as though she’s in an infinitely empty room, and Duszynski’s production amplifies the effect. But from that alienation arises a way forward. If she’s alone, she’s not stuck there. She finds a way to move.
 Sasha Geffen / Pitchfork

sexta-feira, 20 de julho de 2018

Massive Attack ‎– Mezzanine (1998)

Style: Trip Hop, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Circa, Virgin

01.   Angel
02.   Risingson
03.   Teardrop
04.   Inertia Creeps
05.   Exchange
06.   Dissolved Girl
07.   Man Next Door
08.   Black Milk
09.   Mezzanine
10.   Group Four
11.   (Exchange)

Bass – Bob Locke, John Harris, Winston Blissett
Computer [Pro Tools] – Jan Kybert
Drums – Andy Gangadeen
Guitar – Angelo Bruschini
Keyboards  – Dave Jenkins , Michael Timothy
Vocals – Elizabeth Fraser, Grant Marshall, Horace Andy, Robert Del Naja, Sara Jay
Producer, Arranged By, Programmed By, Keyboards, Sampler [Samples] – Massive Attack, Neil Davidge

”Trip-hop” eventually became a ’90s punchline, a music-press shorthand for “overhyped hotel lounge music.” But today, the much-maligned subgenre almost feels like a secret precedent. Listen to any of the canonical Bristol-scene albums of the mid-late ’90s, when the genre was starting to chafe against its boundaries, and you’d think the claustrophobic, anxious 21st century started a few years ahead of schedule. Looked at from the right angle, trip-hop is part of an unbroken chain that runs from the abrasion of ’80s post-punk to the ruminative pop-R&B-dance fusion of the moment. 
The best of it has aged far more gracefully (and forcefully) than anything recorded in the waning days of the record industry’s pre-filesharing monomania has any right to. Tricky rebelled against being attached at the hip to a scene he was already looking to shed and decamped for Jamaica to record a more aggressive, bristling-energy mutation of his style in ’96; the name *Pre-Millennium Tension *is the only obvious thing that tells you it’s two decades old rather than two weeks. And Portishead’s ’97 self-titled saw the stress-fractured voice of Beth Gibbons envisioning romance as codependent, mutually assured destruction while Geoff Barrow sunk into his RZA-noir beats like *The Conversation’*s Gene Hackman ruminating over his surveillance tapes. This was raw-nerved music, too single-minded and intense to carry an obvious timestamp. 
But Massive Attack were the origin point of the trip-hop movement they and their peers were striving to escape the orbit of, and they nearly tore themselves to shreds in the process. Instead— or maybe as a result—they laid down their going-nova genre's definitive paranoia statement with Mezzanine. The band's third album (not counting the Mad Professor-remixed No Protection) completes the last in a sort of de facto Bristol trilogy, where Tricky’s youthful iconoclasm and Portishead’s deep-focus emotional intensity set the scene for Massive Attack’s sense of near-suffocating dread. The album corroded their tendencies to make big-wheel hymnals of interconnected lives where hope and despair trade precedent—on Mezzanine, it’s alienation all the way down. There’s no safety from harm here, nothing you’ve got to be thankful for, nobody to take the force of the blow: what *Mezzanine *provides instead is a succession of parties and relationships and panopticons where the walls won’t stop closing in. 
The lyrics establish this atmosphere all on their own. Sex, in “Inertia Creeps,” is reduced to a meeting of “two undernourished egos, four rotating hips,” the focus of a failing relationship that's left its participants too numbed with their own routine dishonesty to break it off. The voice singing it—Massive Attack's cornerstone co-writer/producer Robert “3D” Del Naja—is raspy from exhaustion. “Dissolved Girl” reiterates this theme from the perspective of guest vocalist Sarah Jay Hawley (“Passion’s overrated anyway”). On “Risingson,” Grant “Daddy G” Marshall nails the boredom and anxiety of being stuck somewhere you can’t stand with someone you’re starting to feel the same way about (“Why you want to take me to this party and breathe/I’m dying to leave/Every time we grind you know we severed lines”). 
But Mezzanine’s defining moments come from guest vocalists who were famous long before Massive Attack even released their first album. Horace Andy was already a legend in reggae circles, but his collaborations with Massive Attack gave him a wider crossover exposure, and all three of his appearances on Mezzanine are homages or nods to songs he'd charted with in his early-’70s come-up. “Angel” is a loose rewrite of his 1973 single “You Are My Angel,” but it’s a fakeout after the first verse—originally a vision of beauty (“Come from way above/To bring me love”), transformed into an Old Testament avenger: “On the dark side/Neutralize every man in sight.” The parenthetically titled, album-closing reprise of “(Exchange)” is a ghostly invocation of Andy’s “See A Man's Face” cleverly disguised as a comedown track. And then there’s “Man Next Door,” the John Holt standard that Andy had previously recorded as “Quiet Place”—on Mezzanine, it sounds less like an overheard argument from the next apartment over and more like a close-quarters reckoning with violence heard through thin walls ready to break. It’s Andy at his emotionally nuanced and evocative best. 
The other outside vocalist was even more of a coup: Liz Fraser, the singer and songwriter of Cocteau Twins, lends her virtuoso soprano to three songs that feel like exorcisms of the personal strife accompanying her band’s breakup. Her voice serves as an ethereal counterpoint to speaker-rattling production around it. “Black Milk” contains the album’s most spiritually unnerving words (“Eat me/In the space/Within my heart/Love you for God/Love you for the Mother”), even as her lead and the elegiac beat make for some of its most beautiful sounds. She provides the wistful counterpoint to the night-shift alienation of “Group Four.” And then there's “Teardrop,” her finest moment on the album. Legend has it the song was briefly considered for Madonna; Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles sent the demo to her, but was overruled by Daddy G and 3D, who both wanted Fraser. Democracy thankfully worked this time around, as Fraser’s performance—recorded in part on the day she discovered that Jeff Buckley, who she’d had an estranged working relationship and friendship with, had drowned in Memphis’ Wolf River—was a heart-rending performance that gave Massive Attack their first (and so far only) UK Top 10 hit. 
Originally set for a late ’97 release, Mezzanine got pushed back four months because Del Naja refused to stop reworking the tracks, tearing them apart and rebuilding them until they’re so polished they gleam. It sure sounds like the product of bloody-knuckled labor, all that empty-space reverb and melted-together multitrack vocals and oppressive low-end. (The first sound you hear on the album, that lead-jointed bassline on “Angel,” is to subwoofers what “Planet Earth” is to high-def television.) But it also groans with the burden of creative conflict, a working process that created rifts between Del Naja and Vowles, who left shortly after *Mezzanine *dropped following nearly 15 years of collaboration. 
Mezzanine began the band’s relationship with producer Neil Davidge, who’d known Vowles dating back to the early ’90s and met the rest of the band after the completion of Protection. He picked a chaotic time to jump in, but Davidge and 3D forged a creative bond working through that pressure. *Mezzanine *was a document of unity, not fragmentation. Despite their rifts, they were a post-genre outfit, one that couldn’t separate dub from punk from hip-hop from R&B because the basslines all worked together and because classifications are for toe tags. All their acknowledged samples—including the joy-buzzer synths from Ultravox’s “Rockwrok” (“Inertia Creeps”), the opulent ache of Isaac Hayes’ celestial-soul take on “Our Day Will Come” (“Exchange”), Robert Smith’s nervous “tick tick tick” from the Cure’s “10:15 Saturday Night,” and the most concrete-crumbling throwdown of the Led Zep “Levee” break ever deployed (the latter two on “Man Next Door”)—were sourced from  1968 and 1978, well-traveled crate-digging territory. But what they build from that is its own beast. 
Their working method never got any faster. The four-year gap between Protection* *and *Mezzanine *became a five-year gap until 2003’s 100th Window, then another seven years between that record and 2010’s Heligoland, plus another seven years and counting with no full-lengths to show for it. Not that they've been slacking: we've gotten a multimedia film/music collaboration with Adam Curtis, the respectable but underrated *Ritual Spirit *EP, and Del Naja’s notoriously rumored side gig as Banksy. (Hey, 3D *does *have a background in graffiti art.) But the ordeal of both recording and touring Mezzanine took its own toll. A late ’98 interview with Del Naja saw him optimistic about its reputation-shedding style: “I always said it was for the greater good of the fucking project because if this album was a bit different from the last two, the next one would be even freer to be whatever it wants to be.” But fatigue and restlessness rarely make for a productive mixture, and that same spark of tension which carried *Mezzanine *over the threshold proved unsustainable, not just for Massive Attack’s creativity but their continued existence. 
Still, it’s hard not to feel the album’s legacy resonating elsewhere—and not just in “Teardrop” becoming the cue for millions of TV viewers to brace themselves for Hugh Laurie’s cranky-genius-doctor schtick. Graft its tense feelings of nervy isolation and late-night melancholy onto two-step, and you’re partway to the blueprint for Plastician and Burial. You can hear flashes of that mournful romantic alienation in James Blake, the graceful, bass-riddled emotional abrasion in FKA twigs, the all-absorbing post-genre rock/soul ambitions in Young Fathers or Algiers. *Mezzanine *stands as an album built around echoes of the ’70s, wrestled through the immediacy of its creators' tumultuous late ’90s, and fearless enough that it still sounds like it belongs in whatever timeframe you're playing it.
Nate Patrin / Pitchfork 

Can ‎– Tago Mago (1971)

Style: Krautrock, Avantgarde
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Spoon Records

A1.   Paperhouse
A2.   Mushroom
A3.   Oh Yeah
B1.   Halleluwah
C1.   Aumgn
D1.   Peking O.
D2.   Bring Me Coffee Or Tea

Holger Czukay - Audio Engineer, Bass Instrument, Guitar (Bass) Michael Karoli - Guitar, Member of Attributed Artist Jaki Liebezeit - Drums, Member of Attributed Artist Irmin Schmidt - Keyboards, Member of Attributed Artist
Damo Suzuki - Member of Attributed Artist, Vocals

Their other solution was smashing the crutch of language. After Can's original singer Malcolm Mooney had left the band in 1970, they'd encountered a Japanese street artist named Damo Suzuki "singing or 'praying' in the streets of Munich" (as Czukay put it) and immediately installed him as their new frontman. Suzuki is ostensibly vocalizing in English-- the lingua franca of rock-- but English that's either seriously mangled or almost totally faked. 
Tago Mago is seven songs in 73 minutes; the first half is big-beat floor-fillers, the second half yanks the floor away. For those first four songs, drummer Jaki Liebezeit is the star of the band, setting up rhythmic patterns of his own devising (isolate his part of almost any Can song, and you'd immediately know what you were listening to) and repeating them like mantras. His drumming is actually the lead instrument on "Mushroom", which could very easily pass for a post-punk classic from 10 years later; everything else just adds a little tone color. (The song might be about a psychedelic mushroom, or a mushroom cloud, or maybe just the kind that comes in a can.) And his deliberate, crisply articulated marching-band-of-the-unconscious beat is the spine of the overwhelming "Halleluwah", possibly the only 18-minute song that would be too short at twice its length. 
Then the trip turns sour and trembly. "Aumgn" is almost as long as "Halleluwah" but clammy, deliberately disjointed, and nearly rhythmless; its central sound is keyboardist Irmin Schmidt's repeatedly intoning elongated, mangled variations on the meditative "om." Both "Aumgn" and its follow-up "Peking O" mess with their listeners' perception of time-- everything in them happens much more quickly or slowly than it's supposed to, and as soon as any pattern of sound has stuck around long enough to grab onto, it shudders and evaporates. By the time the dreamy, softly throbbing one-chord piece "Bring Me Coffee or Tea" arrives to conclude the album, it's almost hard to trust it not to be a mirage. 
The bonus for the new edition (aside from a reproduction of the original sleeve, with four variations on a semi-abstract image concerning the mouth and the mind) is a three-song 1972 live recording: something identified as "Mushroom" that shares nothing but a couple of lines with the Tago Mago version, a "Halleluwah" that fades out after nine minutes without generating the studio recording's heat, and a half-hour workout on the band's three-minute German hit "Spoon". It's okay-- they were a solid jam band, and Liebezeit could pull off those remarkable rhythms on stage, too-- but it's mostly interesting for its perspective on how much less a band Can might have been without Czukay's keen razor blade slashing away their excesses and preserving their flashes of revelation.
Douglas Wolk / Pitchfork