Thursday, 9 July 2020

Serge Gainsbourg ‎– Histoire De Melody Nelson (1971)

Genre: Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Philips, Universal Music, Mercury

1.   Melody
2.   Ballade De Melody Nelson
3.   Valse De Melody
4.   Ah! Melody
5.   L'Hotel Particulier
6.   En Melody
7.   Cargo Culte

Vocals – Jane Birkin
Producer, Arranged By, Conductor – Jean-Claude Vannier
Recorded By – Jean-Claude Charvier, Rémy Aucharles

Serge Gainsbourg had no great attachment to genre. By the time he came to rock music, in his early 40s, the French star had traced his oblique, provocative course through chanson (French vocal music), jazz, and light pop. He'd made percussive café jams about suicide and given Eurovision popstrels France Gall and Françoise Hardy songs full of blowjob puns. Later on he'd make a rock'n'roll album about the Nazis and a reggae take on the French national anthem. A pattern emerges: Gainsbourg hops from style to style, but with a terrific instinct for finding the most startling content for any given form. 
So it's no surprise his rock work-- the early 1970s albums, of which Histoire de Melody Nelson is the first and finest-- was so original. Melody Nelson is a collaboration with composer and arranger Jean-Claude Vannier, who assembled a bunch of top sessionmen for the album. But Gainsbourg and Vannier had little interest in the conventions that had accreted around early 70s rock. Like a lot of 1971 records, Histoire de Melody Nelson is a concept album: Unlike most, it's only 28 minutes long. The songs are lavishly orchestrated, yet the dominant instrument isn't guitar or organ but rather Herbie Flowers' lascivious, treacly bass, playing a seedy, rambling take on funk. 
That bass is the first sound you hear on Melody Nelson, quietly tracking up and down in a windscreen-wiper rhythm: Gainsbourg starts talking in French 30 seconds later, describing a night drive in a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. The album is routinely described as "cinematic," but the music is more of a mindtrack than a soundtrack-- a tar pit of introspection when Gainsbourg's brooding narrator is alone at the record's beginning and end, then giddy and savage by turns as he conducts his affair with the 15-year-old Melody across the short tracks in the album's middle. One of these-- "Ballade de Melody Nelson"-- is, even at two minutes, one of Gainsbourg's most assured and alluring pop songs.

A lot of Gainsbourg's records are hard sells for Anglophone ears-- the music is there to illuminate and pace the man's riotous, sensual wordplay. But Gainsbourg's alliance with Vannier produced a true collaboration: The arrangements seem to respond almost intuitively to the twists in Gainsbourg's language and narrative, to the point where they're carrying as much storytelling weight as the words. Even if your French stops at "bonjour", the music lets you know that this is a record about a dark, obsessional love. On "L'hôtel Particulier", for instance-- describing the sleazy grandeur of the rented rooms where the narrator and Melody make love-- Gainsbourg's voice shudders with lust and dread, and the music responds, flares of piano and string breaking into the song over an impatient bassline. 
The actual story of Histoire de Melody Nelson is pretty negligible in any case-- man meets girl, man seduces girl, girl dies in freak plane crash. Melody herself (played by Jane Birkin, Gainsbourg's then-lover) is a cipher-- a breathed name, a ticklish squeal or two, and red hair. The album is all about its narrator: A natural obsessive just looking for an object; introspective before he meets Melody, more so after her death. First and final tracks "Melody" and "Cargo Culte" are musical siblings, with only the wordless chorales on "Cargo Culte" really distinguishing them. 
Together these songs take up more than half the record, and when people claim Melody Nelson as an influence, it's almost certainly with this pair in mind. The soundworld they create is like nothing else in rock-- orchestra, bass, and voice circling one another, blending slow funk, intimate mumbling, and widescreen scope. One precedent is the epic soul Isaac Hayes had been pioneering, but where Hot Buttered Soul is full of warmth and engagement, the bookend tracks of Melody Nelson are a trip through far more hostile territories, the black spaces of a man's interior. 
Gainsbourg realized he'd made something special-- he named his publishing company Melody Nelson after his fictional muse-- but, restless as ever, he didn't follow it up: His next album was a sequence of pretty acoustic songs, mostly about shit. Herbie Flowers, whose bass is the undertow pulling the album together, surfaced a year later playing on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side", whose bassline is the first ripple of Melody Nelson's wider pop culture influence. Since then it's been left to others-- Jarvis Cocker, Beck, Tricky, Air, Broadcast-- to pick up this record's breadcrumb trail. But Gainsbourg's dark focus, and Vannier's responsiveness, aren't easily equalled. This reissue on luxuriously hefty vinyl is the first time the album's been released in the U.S.-- a superb opportunity to hear a record that's been occasionally imitated but never matched.
Tom Ewing / Pitchfork

Paper Tiger ‎– Rogue Planet (2019)

Genre: Electronic, Hip Hop, Funk / Soul
Format: Vinyl
Label: Wah Wah 45s

A1.   Yeah Yeah
A2.   The Cycle
A3.   [Quick Wash]
A4.   Slinky
A5.   Lullaby
A6.   Cheeky Chops
A7.   Slow Motion
B1.   An Ancient Secret
B2.   [Safe With Me]
B3.   Old
B4.   Posture Poseurs
B5.   Bioluminescent
B6.   [Mega]
B7.   What I Wish I'd Said
B8.   Time Travels

Lyrics By, Vocals – Raphael Attar
Trumpet – Chris Williamso
Written-By, Performer – Adam Radley, Greg Surmacz, Matt Davies, Oliver Cadman, Sam Vicary
Arranged By, Producer, Mixed By – Greg Surmacz

The Leeds and London-based outfit are back with their third album ‘Rogue Planet’ a combination of elements from live recordings and improvisations, with an emphasis on blending organic sounds with electronic production techniques. It’s a trip through Electronic, funk, hip hop and soul, brimming with textured samples and intriguing progressions, demonstrating the enviable musicianship on show here. Paper Tigers previous playing credits include Yellow Days, Werkha, Nubiyan Twist, Cinematic Orchestra and have collaborated with Shafiq Husayn, Chester Watson and Foreign Beggars on previous projects. All this should give you an idea of what to expect from ‘Rogue Planet’ but expectations should be left at the door as this is a cosmic leap from their previous work. 
Band leader Greg Surmacz explains: “There is still humour and a sense of playfulness hopefully – largely provided by our MC Raphael Attar – but the overall sound is much more lush, jazzy and soulful. We wanted to make something that fits into our universe but hits a deeper emotional nerve.” 
‘Rogue Planet’ has a diverse range of guests from the legendary Steve Spacek on lead single ‘The Cycle’ to Olivia Bhattacharjee on ‘Bioluminescent’ and Chicago-born/LA-based MC Lando Chill on the ironically titled ‘Slow Motion’ which with his quick-fire delivery is anything but. The album is a rich and varied listen with G-Funk-esque melodies running throughout, joined by reverberating celestial horns and scattered drum patterns. The result is music which is interesting and technically proficient, but remains vibrant, colourful and funky. 
People say you should never judge a book by its cover, in this instance you should never judge an album by its intro track. As ‘Yeah Yeah’ opens you may get the impression you’re in for a bit of Grime with the stripped back beats and MC Raphael Attars clever swaggering rap “Looking like I couldn’t give a f**k” but Paper Tiger flip it on the following track ‘The Cycle’ (featured above) which ends on a nice jazz fused outro [QUICK WASH]. ‘Slinky’ goes all lo-fi with some dreamy instrumental work which just floats out into the atmosphere but don’t get too high because MC Raphael Attars bitter-sweet rap of a single fathers ‘lullaby’ of reassurance to his child brings you down to earthly reality but just ever so briefly before your sent off again with another instrumental delight ‘Cheeky Chops’, tight beats and some smooth saxophone accompaniment. Solid drum work and a slick flow from Lando Chill brings a bit of bounce to the collection here and sets you up perfectly for ‘An Ancient Secret’ with its playful vibe sliding into a space jazz outro [Safe With Me]. Back with MC Raphael Attar and reflections on the daily grind of living in today’s world and what comes with that sudden feeling you may be getting on a bit, ‘Old’ is a slice of reality but with a humorous take rather than that of melancholy. Next up is ‘Posture Poseurs’ an electronic mini adventure with some fine horns that leads up to our third guest vocal track ‘Bioluminescent’ , staggered beats, improv style organ and heavenly vocals from Olivia Bhattacharjee hit all the right notes. [MEGA] comes in with a fast paced but brief interlude of twisted electronica, staccato style beats and dub flavoured sirens led along by a cool modulating synth line. ‘What I Wish I’d Said’ is back with the rhymes of MC Raphael Attar on a bed of understated beats and spaced out synth, its’ a brutally honest take on things often thought but never said when an acquaintance or friend is in an abusive relationship, gritty and unflinching. So we come to the end of our journey with a perfect outro track ‘Time Travels’ minimal beats with organ infused piano and a cool double bass, lo-fi bliss and a fitting end to a quality body of work. 
The album and its music bring a message of not opting for the easy route in life, and always challenging oneself. “This world in which we live is somewhere we all want to hide from at some point and we certainly hope our music offers something to get lost in, but this album feels more connected and optimistic: hopeful rather than escapist. In these challenging times it’s important to engage, no matter how tempting it is to do the opposite.” A transmission of hope from the far reaches of the universe.
Adrian Barr / backseat mafia

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas ‎– Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas (2018)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Smalltown Supersound, Calentito

1.   Furuberget
2.   Norte Do Brasil
3.   Sin Tempo
4.   Bar Asfalt
5.   Epilog

Guest – Jon Christensen
Music Played By – Bugge Wesseltoft, Thomas Moen Hermansen
Recorded By, Mixed By, Produced by – Thomas Moen Hermansen
Recorded By, Mixed By – Jan Erik Kongshaug
Even when he's working with the right people, Prins Thomas needs his space. Like a jazz musician, he thrives on interplay, on sending and receiving ideas across an open plane—in his case, the wider, the better. His best work is defined by its clear articulation, the way every tap and shift seems to exist both entirely within itself and in relation to the sounds around it. Whether collaborating with Lindstrøm or reimagining the Swedish band Dungen, he is responsive in a special way. 
Which is part of what makes his collaboration with the jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft so fruitful. Wesseltoft is no stranger to electronic music—he was expanding the idea of big-band jazz to include crinkling techno textures as far back as 1997's New Conception Of Jazz, and remixed Thomas's song "Bobletekno" in 2016. But his stark piano chords finds their ideal home among the slowly expanding landscapes that Thomas loves to build. Their musical languages aren't identical, but they're related, and it's a pleasure to hear each of them move through this hour-long conversation. 
Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas was recorded at Rainbow Studio in Oslo, where for decades the producer Jan Erik Kongshaug worked on albums by Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Bennie Maupin. Rainbow Studio was for many years a go-to for ECM Records, the German label known for framing complex, frosty jazz with pristine production, and Kongshaug brings that ideal to bear across the album's five tracks. 
As with many ECM recordings, some of the LP's most interesting moments are its plainest. In the opener, "Furuberget," Thomas patiently places conga hits and synthesized brushes of percussion around Jon Christensen's scattering drumbeat, over which Wesseltoft's gentle piano hovers like a soft mist. Wesseltoft excels at writing short phrases—a single chord might be left to decay for a few seconds before he follows it with a brief run of notes—that would seem at odds with the bright, rounded tones forged by Thomas. But Wesseltoft's playing benefits from the propulsive sounds that totter along beside him, and his airiness gives Thomas' landscaping a sense of shadow and emotional purpose. 
At times, the space between the duo seems to collapse. In "Norte Do Brasil," they're practically indistinguishable. Gently insistent analog synth rhythms interlock and braid into lines that seem to disappear as soon as they're voiced. A chirping vibraphone sets a subtle samba rhythm. On "Sin Tempo," Wesseltoft sets a rainy cluster of chords adrift while Christensen brushes his snare drum in a way that sounds like a distantly crackling fire. That fire grows in presence as the song progresses, with Wesseltoft dutifully carrying things forward until the benevolent flames seem to surround the piano on all sides. 
Perhaps more than anything, Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas proves its artists are expert manipulators of time and space. Across the record, moments that at first seem unremarkable expand and become strangely emotional, even as nothing much happens. It’s a trick that was perfected by their ECM forebears, who played only what was absolutely necessary and left plenty of room for the listener to fill in on their own. Wesseltoft and Thomas draw reactions out of their audience one drop at a time, until all that empty space has been filled.
Marty Sartini Garner / RA

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Molero ‎– Ficciones Del Trópico (2020)

Genre: Electronic
Format: Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Holuzam

1.   Phasma Gigas
2.   Simi Vulpa
3.   Jaguar Capybaras
4.   Manglares
5.   Selvas De Ewaipanomas
6.   El Espanto En Sierra Nevada
7.   Parra Jacana
8.   Tierras Bajas Tropicale

Art Direction – Paula Lavanderos
Mastered By – Brian Pyle

Em 44 minutos e com as mãos num Yamaha CS-60 Synthesizer, Molero impõe a sua imaginação em cima da imaginação dos outros. Foi a forma que o músico venezuelano, nascido em Maracaibo, teve para enfrentar as visões ocidentais criadas sobre a região de onde é oriundo. Foi também um escape do próprio para entrar dentro da ficção. E para criar a sua ficção.

Tudo aconteceu quando encontrou um livro do século XIX, “Vom tropischen Tieflande bis zum ewigen Schnee”, de Anton Goering, e começou a juntar o que ali leu com as visões da Amazónia de outros escritores (Victor Segalen) ou realizadores como Werner Herzog. Viu a ingenuidade exótica e uma curiosidade galopante nas descrições e emoções pela floresta. Foi o acto de tentar perceber o que os outros tentaram perceber – ou que não perceberam – que o levou a “Ficciones Del Trópico”.

Actualmente a residir em Barcelona, Alexander Molero montou um estúdio em sua casa e passou alguns anos e pensar em como poderia recriar essas percepções em sons, músicos. Depois de anos de investigação e trabalho, em 2017 e 2018 dedicou-se por inteiro a compor as oito peças de “Ficciones Del Trópico”. A fazer com que a imaginação dele vencesse a imaginação do “outro”, tornando-se ele próprio um outro, um desconhecido. Os títulos das canções fazem referência a pássaros, animais, paisagens, são estímulos para um descoberta continuada desta ficção. Ou realidade. Floresta real ou imaginada? Uma ficção.

Jornada de 44 minutos com estética apurada e obediente a uma fórmula, para oferecer ao ouvinte a viagem contínua e única. É ficção dos trópicos, de sintetizadores cósmicos que imaginam os trópicos onde outros, como Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, Mike Cooper ou Jürgen Müller, viram galáxias e o mar. Uma abstração do real e da ficção, música de trajecto sem retorno, para quem se quer perder ou ficar perdido. O fim do exótico como o conhecemos. Uma galáxia na floresta. É assim “Ficciones Del Trópico”, o álbum de estreia de Molero. Um escultor de sons sintetizados.
Glam Magazine

Monday, 6 July 2020

Valentina Magaletti, Marlene Ribeiro ‎– Due Matte (2020)

Genre: Electronic, Pop
Format: Cassete
Label: Commando Vanessa

A1.   Intro
A2.   Apples From Peru
A3.   Part None
A4.   Icky Dream
A5.   Due Matte
A6.   Run For The Newborn
A7.   Viaggio Inverso
B1.   Viaggio Inverso (reprise)
B2.   Big Circle, Small Circle
B3.   La Luna di Pierpaolo
B4.   Brasilians On The Internet
B5.   Washing

Due Matte is an enticing album for me in several respects. It initially caught my eye due to the presence of Valentina Magaletti, a renowned contemporary percussionist with an impressive resume and a recent Noise Not Music favorite with Sulla Pelle. Joining Magaletti on this release is Gnod member Marlene Ribeiro, with whom I’m much less familiar. The first document of their collaboration also features one of my favorite examples of those bizarre medieval paintings you see cropping as macros every now and then; the framing of the two women, the homogeneity of the color palette, and the emphasis on the rich purple background makes it a both humorous and poignant selection for the cover design. Needless to say, by this point I (and hopefully you) am all in to see what the hell is going on with Due Matte. The label describes it as an “exercise in tropical concrete [sic],” and there’s definitely some choice processing going on to render these whimsical sounds so ambiguous and alien, but for the most part I feel like I’m hearing what’s really going on between the two musicians: just some very well curated percussion interplay, occasional vocals, possibly a bit of layering to produce soft intimate worlds of wonder. Certain tracks, however, display the beautiful results when more dissective techniques are used, like the calming drift phases of “Big Circle, Small Circle.” This hits a similar spot as Plastic Moonrise’s Papier Mâché: mysterious but always comforting, lightweight yet full of depth, perfect for sluggish afternoons.
Jack Davidson / Noise Not Music

Friday, 3 July 2020

David Greenberger & Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic ‎– 1001 Real Apes (2006)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz, Rock, Non-Music
Format: CD
Label: Pel Pel Recordings

01.   1001 Real Apes Overture
02.   Dad's Tray
03.   Cowboy Story
04.   Phantom Of Crestwood
05.   Minerals And Moon
06.   Freaky Women
07.   Nine Colors
08.   Six Bits Of Advice
09.   36 Meatballs
10.   Gravity / Massachusetts / Newton
11.   Firecrackers
12.   Dinosaurs
13.   All About Snakes
14.   A-E-I-O-U (Guitars, Pt.1)
15.   Daphne's New York City
16.   Swimming
17.   Chicago
18.   No Firebugs And A Prayer
19.   Theo
20.   I Ain't Coe
21.   Bruno 1
22.   How Records Are Made
23.   Plink Plink Plink (Guitars, Pt.2)
24.   Rosie
25.   Time Marches On
26.   Cautionary Tale
27.   I Like Beer
28.   They Made A Movie Out Of This

Drums – Rikki Bates
Vocals – Holly Koszela
Bass – John Styklunas
Clarinet – Kristen Maylor
Trombone – Liz Snow
Trumpet – David Snow,  ichard Furch
Tuba – Leanne Healey
Guitar, Computer, Performer – Michael Bierylo
Narrator – David Greenberger
Piano – Erik Lindgren
Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Ken Field
Synthesizer, Sampler, Percussion – Rick Scott
Producer – Bill Scheniman

1001 Real Apes is a spoken word/sound collage performance by David Greenberger and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. David Greenberger is the originator and publisher of The Duplex Planet, a magazine of interviews he conducted with elderly residents of The Duplex, a nursing home near Boston. For this performance David Greenberger will present selected stories from The Duplex Planet, with music and sonic landscapes provided by Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. The stories are alternately funny, moving, wise, silly, and inspirational, and provide a unique vision into the minds and souls of older people's streams of consciousness. The nature of these stories provides fertile ground for an exploration of how text, music and sound can co-exist in a performance. The focus of the performance will be to give life to the stories as well as the states of mind they come from. 
From a musical point of view the question is: How does one compose the soundtrack for a person's life? The text in this case presents no real conclusions. Where there is narrative, the story doesn't necessarily end; stream of consciousness is usually telling us about something beneath the surface. Film history provides us with numerous examples of how composers have dealt with this, most often by calling the current "new music" into complicity, as it is often thought to provide an easy rendering of states of confusion. Reading The Duplex Planet , though, one is struck by the fact that these characters are not confused. They have their own reality, their special place. And it is from this place that the music and sound for this performance needs to come. 
1001 Real Apes will run as a continuous performance piece for one hour followed by an intermission and a short set of new works and improvisations from Birdsongs. 
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic is a four-piece electric new music ensemble exploring and expanding the boundaries of contemporary music. The group has earned wide critical praise and international recognition for its innovative music, an unusual mix of classical, rock, minimalism, jazz, and free-form sound. Founded in 1980, Birdsongs has released material on the Rykodisc, Cuneiform, and Ace of Hearts labels. These recordings have been distributed and reviewed internationally, and the band has appeared live on both US and Canadian network radio broadcasts.
Michael Bierylo /

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Hiroshi Yoshimura ‎– Green (1986)

Style: Minimal, Ambient, New Age
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Light In The Attic, AIR Records Inc., Sona Gaia Productions

A1.   Creek
A2.   Feel
A3.   Sheep
A4.   Sleep
B1.   Green
B2.   Feet
B3.   Street
B4.   Teevee

Synthesizer, Sequencer, Computer – Hiroshi Yoshimura
Produced By  –  Kazuo Huehara

In 1967, the Canadian composer and philosopher R. Murray Schafer wrote, “The ear is always open.” He didn’t mean metaphorically: Unlike the lidded eye, the ear cannot close itself off to unwanted stimuli, leaving us particularly susceptible to intrusive sounds. Schafer’s observation turned up again in the liner notes to Hiroshi Yoshimura’s debut album, 1982’s Music for Nine Postcards, a contemplative ambient soundtrack composed for Tokyo’s Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. Echoing Schafer’s preoccupation with the rising volume of the industrialized world, Satoshi Ashikawa, whose Sound Process label first released Yoshimura’s album, wrote, “Presently, the levels of sound and music in the environment have clearly exceeded man’s capacity to assimilate them, and the audio ecosystem is beginning to fall apart.” Encouraging a “more conscious attitude” toward sound, he offered Yoshimura’s music—delicate Rhodes figures trailing pastel shadows, their spiraling as aimless as a slowly twisting mobile in a large, empty room—as a kind of palliative. 
Yoshimura, who died of cancer in 2003, was a polymath par excellence: composer, designer, historian. Most of his work existed in the overlap between sound, architecture, and everyday life, including installations and commissioned work for museums, hotels, runway shows, an aquarium, a sports stadium, the Tokyo and Kobe subway systems, and Osaka International Airport. Yoshimura’s activities made him one of the central figures of kankyō ongaku, or environmental music, a homegrown style that drew upon Erik Satie’s “furniture music” and Brian Eno’s ambient investigations, as well as centuries-old ritual traditions, to fashion a new kind of site-specific sound uniquely suited to Japan’s post-war economic boom. 
Yet listeners outside Japan remained largely ignorant of Yoshimura’s legacy until the past decade, when people like Spencer Doran, of the Portland, Oregon, duo Visible Cloaks, began advocating for his work. In 2017, Doran and Maxwell August Croy’s Empire of Signs label reissued Music for Nine Postcards, helping kick off what has become a broad revival of formerly obscure Japanese ambient and electronic music; Doran also curated Light in the Attic’s 2019 compilation Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990. GREEN, originally released on Kazuo Uehara’s AIR Records in 1986, is not just a welcome addition to that retrospective catalog; a cult classic of growing acclaim (a YouTube upload of the album has been played more than two million times in just four years), it is crucial in fleshing out the portrait of a musician that many Westerners are only beginning to understand.

Many of Yoshimura’s early releases were soundscapes designed to heighten listeners’ perceptions of the spaces around them. Music for Nine Postcards, written with the Hara Museum’s luminous interior in mind, was inspired by scenes glimpsed from the composer’s window—a kind of landscape drawing in sound, translating the movements of clouds and tree branches into simple, gestural motifs. In his notes to 1983’s Pier & Loft, the muted soundtrack to a fashion show held in a warehouse on the Tokyo Bay, Yoshimura wrote obliquely of nostalgic views of a disintegrating city. Cosmetics maker Shiseido commissioned 1984’s barely there A・I・R (Air in Resort) as the sonic complement to a fragrance, while 1986’s lulling Soundscape 1: Surround was distributed as the almost imperceptible soundtrack to a tastefully designed line of prefab homes. 
All of these recordings share certain sonic characteristics: They tend to be soft, unobtrusive, and meditative, dissolving like sugar on the tongue. But GREEN is different: lush and layered, with a sense of purpose that makes it unique in Yoshimura’s catalog. The shift in complexity is palpable from the very first track, “CREEK,” in which mallet-like arpeggios rise from a thrumming, struck-bamboo pulse like a flock of colorful birds bursting from the rushes. It feels more elaborate than Yoshimura’s previous work; it feels more musical, with a greater emphasis on harmonic surprise. 
This sense of movement ripples across the album, but it remains quietest at its center: The stretch of songs across “SLEEP, “GREEN,” “FEET,” and “STREET” reprises the abstracted mood of Music for Nine Postcards—an impression reinforced by the fact that “FEET” and “STREET” are essentially variations on a theme. Still, even at its most sedate, GREEN boasts an inviting array of timbres and textures. In one song, the gentle bite of an overdriven Rhodes keyboard jumps to the fore; in another, a buzzing FM bass tone bristles faintly. Yoshimura favors pentatonic scales and tends to avoid major or minor thirds, and as a result, GREEN often feels like an inviting frame in which to project your own feelings. Happy, sad, blue, agitated: It welcomes all comers, promises serene uplift when needed, and offers to sand the edge off any unwanted extremes. 
Curiously, all of GREEN’s song titles share an assonant ee sound. The titles were written in English on the original sleeve, along with a cryptic acrostic descending down the musical stave: “Garden River Echo Empty Nostalgia/Ground Rain Earth Environment Nature.” In the liner notes to the original release, Yoshimura wrote, “GREEN does not specifically refer to a color. I like the word for its phonetic quality, and song titles were chosen for their similar linguistic characteristics. I hope that this music will convey the comfortable scenery of the natural cycle known as GREEN.” By treating “green” as a phoneme, Yoshimura taps into the musicality of language, which lies beyond mere signification. However anyone else might hear this music, Yoshimura clearly believed his pieces belonged to the key of ee, and developed an evocative synesthetic world to accompany his mental images of that sound. 
If Satoshi Ashikawa saw Yoshimura’s work as a necessary corrective to the modern world’s persistent and worsening din, perhaps this is an opportune time to reconnect with the Japanese composer’s work. Numerous reports have detailed the ways that the world has quieted during the pandemic. With fewer cars on the road, seismologists can detect earthquakes from further away; even in the busiest cities, birdsong is once again audible. This pause opens up a space for Yoshimura’s music to fulfill its purpose: recalibrate our relationship with the sonic world around us. 
When GREEN was licensed to the American new-age label Sona Gaia for release on CD and cassette, the sounds of running water and birdsong were added, presumably as a selling point for the American market. Light in the Attic’s reissue restores the original edition, which, Doran says, is the version that Yoshimura preferred. Light in the Attic plans to reissue the adulterated “SFX Version” on streaming platforms this summer, alongside the original; eventually, you can compare for yourself. For a long time, the Sona Gaia version was the only one I knew. But in the past couple of months, I’ve been listening to the Light in the Attic reissue, sans nature sounds, while sitting outside on my porch, where the music mingles with the actual sounds of birds, neighbors’ voices, and the breeze through the trees, plus the occasional motorcycle revving rudely, a few blocks away. These sounds turn out to be the perfect complements for Yoshimura’s music, opening up its dimensions. The ear is always open, and all the world’s a stage.
Philip Sherburne / Pitchfork

Alabaster DePlume ‎– To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 (2020)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: International Anthem Recording Company

01.   Visit Croatia
02.   What's Missing
03.   Song Of The Foundling
04.   Whiskey Story Time
05.   Not Now, Jesus
06.   If You're Sure You Want To
07.   The Lucky Ones
08.   Why, Buzzardman, Why
09.   Not My Ask
10.   Turpentine
11.   I Hope

Acoustic Guitar – Leon Boydon
Bass Flute – Kirsty McGee
Bass Guitar – Lorien Edwards
Cello – Beth Porter, Hannah Miller, Jessica Macdonald, Will Calderbank
Drums – Dan Truen, Sarathy Korwar
Drums, Percussion – Phillip Howley, Rick Weedon
Electric Guitar – Ellis Davies, James Howard
Mbira – Pascal Makonese
Percussion, Bass Pedals – Paddy Steer
Piano – Daniel Inzani
Pianette, Clavinet, Piano – John Ellis
Piano, Voice – Danalogue
Synth – Chestnutt
Tenor Saxophone – Lorenzo Prati
Violin – Mikey Kenney, Tim Vincent Smith
Vocals, Tenor Saxophone, Guitar – Alabaster DePlume
Voice – Biff Roxby, Donna Thompson, Jess Connor
Voice, Flute – Ríoghnach Connolly
Composed By – Alabaster DePlume (Gus Fairbairn)
Co-producer – Mark Dressler
Producer – Alabaster DePlume, Daniel Inzani, John Ellis, Paddy Steer
Arranged By – Alabaster DePlume, Biff Roxby, Danalogue, Ellis Davies

Albaster DePlume is a spoken word artist, writer, saxophonist and bandleader. My first introduction was through his ‘Realistic Behaviour’ programme on Worldwide FM, where he introduces musicians from different backgrounds to play together and develop music live on air. This show is a development of his monthly ‘Peach’ concert series combining music and theatre originally established at London’s Total Refreshment Centre where he’s a studio resident. 
To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 is a new departure as all his previous records feature his poetry and singing performances. This is a collection of nine instrumental pieces taken from the three albums that preceded his 2018 critical breakthrough Corner of a Sphere, plus two new compositions recorded last year at the Total Refreshment Centre. There are four songs from Copernicus (Manchester 2012), one from The Jester (Bristol, 2013), and four from Peach (Antwerp/Manchester/London, 2015). 
The album is being co-released by Total Refreshment Centre, micro Hebridean indie label Lost Map (Eigg) and, crucially, by International Anthem, the Chicago-based ‘boundary defying’ label that’s also home to drummer/producer Makaya McCraven, bassist Junius Paul and guitarist Jeff Parker and a supporter of the jazz non-profit Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. 
DePlume (aka Angus Fairburn) met the Cy and Lee of the album’s title while working for the Manchester charity Ordinary Lifestyles, which supports people with learning disabilities, helping them live in their own homes. Together they made up melodies and tunes which were later used as the starting points for each composition. DePlume says: “We made these things to help each other be calm. Three labels and I have collected them together, in case they might do you good.” 
The beautiful Winter Hibiscus cover art by Raimund Wong sets the scene perfectly – the music is serene, delicate, cool and harmonious, spacious, gently orchestrated and with strong Japanese and Celtic folk themes. DePlume’s solo saxophone carries the melodies, and his tremulous and expressive vibrato takes on the identities of a number of different eastern and African instruments. The music works best for me is when at its simplest and most focused, such as on the opener Visit Croatia and the lilting Whisky Story Time. The two newly-recorded tracks What’s Missing and The Lucky Ones featuring Sarathay Korwar and Dan ‘Danalogue’ Leavers (The Comet is Coming), are two of the more adventurous pieces, but the closing section of The Lucky Ones reprises a gorgeous Japanese theme that stays with you long after the song is over. 
I can imagine many people using this music as a balm for difficult times, as DePlume intended. It has been conceived and performed for all the right reasons, and for that alone deserves to be heard so that you can make up your own mind. But there’s no doubt there will be much more to come from this original, inspirational and multi-talented artist.
Adam Sieff / London Jazz News

The Limiñanas ‎– I've Got Trouble In Mind Vol.2 - 7" And Rare Stuff 2015/2018 (2018)

Style: Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Because Music

01.   The Mirror
02.   Two Sisters
03.   Maria's Theme
04.   La Cavalerie
05.   Russian Roulette
06.   The Inventor
07.  The Train Creep A-Loopin - Live At Secret Location Sound Studio, Melbourne
08.   Nuit Fantôme
09.   The Gift - Anton Mix
10.   Angels And Devils
11.   Witches Valley
12.   Curse Of Santa Claus
13.   Time Will Tell
14.   Wunderbar
15.   The Woods
16.   Lord Of Flashington
17.   Silent Night

Guest, Mellotron – Renaud Picard
Guest, Oud, Bouzouki – Laurent Sales
Guest, Bass – Mickey Malaga
Guest, Bass, Backing Vocals – Peter Hook
Guest, Guitar – Alban Barate, Ivan Telefunken
Guest, Guitar – Nicolas Delseny
Guest, Guitar, Mellotron – Anton Newcombe
Guest, Lead Vocals – Anton Newcombe, Kirk Lake, Nika Leeflang, Odliz Bemer, Renaud Picard
Guest, Backing Vocals – Nika Leeflang, Renaud Picard, The Pink Tiles
Guest, Piano, Accordion, Organ, Guitar – Pascal Comeladepet – Benjamin Faconnier
Guest, Violin – Bertrand Belin
Guest, Whistling – Laurent Sales
Band, Backing Vocals – Marie Limiñana
Band, Drums, Percussion – Marie Limiñana
Band, Instruments – Lionel Limiñana
Band, Lead Vocals – Lionel Limiñana, Marie Limiñana

Making a swift return following 2018s fêted Shadow People, storied French psych rock duo The Limiñanas issue a second collection of rarities, standalone singles and unreleased material. Plotting a course through vintage US garage rock, classic French and pulsatant motorik beats, the duo’s psych/garage/yé-yé alloy has seen them become a wellspring of off-kilter but melodic psychedelia. Maintaining a prolific release rate since their inception a decade ago, it speaks for the quality of Marie and Lionel Limiñana’s offcuts that the material here is easily strong enough to be compared to many band’s official albums. 
Focusing on the highlights, a cover of The Kinks’ Two Sisters sees BJM leader and kindred spirit Anton Newcombe makes an appearance on vocals. Live favourite Russian Roulette originally by UK goth-punks Lords of the New Church, which featured members of Dead Boys and Sham 69 also highlights the couple’s wherewithal on cover versions. 
Found on the flip side of the excellent Istanbul is Sleepy which also featured Newcombe, Nuit Fantôme is a pocket symphony psych mantra that incorporates a spoken word verse, a massed chorus chant and suitably gothic atmosphere into four minutes, while La Cavalrie is excellent retro pop. Brilliantly locating the mid-point between the Mary Chain and New Order (unsurprising, as Peter Hook features on bass), The Gift (Anton Mix) streamlines the original down to a radio-perfect three and a half minutes. 
Showcasing their fondness for soundtracks, Maria’s Theme doffs its cap to is Morricone, while The Inventor is a curious but successful combination of Brian Jones’ Master Musicians of Joujouka project overlaid with a Kosmiche groove and what sounds like a Nouvelle Vague film playing next door. The sashaying garage rock of Witches Valley is reminiscent of The Seeds’ classic Pushin’ Too Hard, while The Woods and a live take on The Train Creep A Loopin’ are solid instrumental cuts. 
The Mirror is a slight misfire, with novelist Kirk Lake performing his lyrics as a spoken word piece, showcasing how difficult the form is to truly nail when compared with the likes of Gerard Langley from art rock outfit The Blue Aeroplanes. Featuring two curveball Yuletide tracks, one self-penned, The Cure of Santa and one traditional, Silent Night, aside from inessential items Wunderbar and Lord of Flashington (have they been watching Blackadder?) towards the close, I’ve Got Trouble In Mind Vol. 2 is a strong new addition to the duo’s catalogue. 3/5
Richard Lewis / Bearded Magazine

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Jon Hassell ‎– Aka / Darbari / Java - Magic Realism (1983)

Style: Abstract, Future Jazz, Tribal, Experimental, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: ArsNova, Editions EG

A1.   Empire I
A2.   Empire II
A3.   Empire III
A4.   Empire IV
A5.   Empire V
B1.   Darbari Extension I
B2.   Darbari Extension II

Mastered By – Greg Calbi
Percussion – Abdou Mboup
Producer, Engineer, Mixed By, Effects – Daniel Lanois
Producer, Composed By, Trumpet, Synthesizer, Mixed By, Effects  – J. Hassell

The first time I heard Jon Hassell’s music was a kind of eureka moment: “WHAT is this?” It was his 1978 album Vernal Equinox, and I was immediately drawn in by the looseness of it all, the use of percussion (which I’m always a sucker for), and the unorthodox processing of his instrument. But despite this album being my first introduction to him, the one I keep going back to is Aka / Darbari / Java: Magic Realism (Editions EG) from 1983. It’s an extremely inspiring and lush journey into woozy experimental territories that carries me away, but also makes me nerdily curious about its creation after several listens.

It starts out with a patient build, where small fragments of melody appear and depart again. It then takes you into a slow build over a loop that wraps you in atonal warmth, before the first percussive elements come in on the track “Empire III” and Hassell’s beautiful, airy trumpet melodies grabs a hold of you. It’s just so hypnotic and free, all done with such few elements: the percussive rhythms with the occasional bass-y pump, the melodic journey of the trumpet, and a very subtle high-frequency sample that weaves in and out.

Then comes the dubby and loopy “Empire IV.” From what I’ve read, this album was made using a great deal of digital sampling and processing with the Fairlight CMI — a new technological development in music production at the time. This must have really opened a lot of doors in terms of possibilities and surprises in the recording process. I would have just loved to have been a fly on the wall during the making of this, to see how he made use of this new technology to further his already well-developed sound.

“Empire V” is my favorite track on this album; I find myself imagining drifting in a small boat on a river surrounded by purple skies and Birds of Paradise, with the waves rolling and lapping against the hull of the boat. Talk about magical realism. This is what I love about music — that an idea or sound can develop from nothing and become so full of life in the ear of the receiver. And that the composer, performer, and instrument are merely a vessel, yet the only possible vessel for this new life.

Which leads us in to another epic trance-inducing moment: the meditative, almost 14-minute “Darbari Extension I.” The trumpet softly flies over the warm percussion and fragmented samples that add to the seasickness, never allowing it to settle into a repetitive space. On “Darbari Extension II” we hear echoes of the samples used on “Empire IV,” again going into an almost freeform dubby territory. The journey ends here — for now — like we’re in some multi-colored, shiny cave waiting to find out what’s next.

We can hear Hassell’s influence across so much music, including some of the most explorative and rule-bending stuff being made today. It’s impossible to pin down geographically, and is timeless — a gift to us all. It’s also taught me a lot about freedom in process, making a lot with few elements, and about letting the idea take hold without restrictions.
Carmen Villain / Self Centered