Friday, 14 December 2018

Laurie Anderson ‎– Big Science (1982)

Style: Avantgarde, Minimal
Format: CDVinylCass.
Label: Warner Bros. Records

A1.   From The Air
A2.   Big Science
A3.   Sweaters
A4.   Walking & Falling
A5.   Born, Never Asked
B1.   O Superman (For Massenet)
B2.   Example #22
B3.   Let X=X / It Tango

Vocals – Laurie Anderson
Music By – Laurie Anderson
Mastered By – Bob Ludwig
Producer – Laurie Anderson, Roma Baran
Producer (Assistant) – Perry Hoberman

Art rock is a curious genre and no albums sums its up better than Laurie Anderson’s masterpiece Big Science. Listen with today’s ears and all that’s immediately audible is an impenetrable wash of robotic melodies, soft percussion, existentialist lyrics and eerily clinical vocals. A sculptor by trade, Anderson set out to craft an album echoing the experimental spirit of the early 80s punk-art scene she inhabited. Now, 25 years later Big Science is regarded as one of that era’s seminal works.  
The decision to produce an anniversary edition was taken by Anderson and notoriously experimental label, Nonesuch, and is the precursor to her new album, due for release in 2008. A new generation are being prepped for exposure to Laurie’s offbeat ideas and unique take on modern society. She was preoccupied by the impact of technology on human communication, creating a mood of futuristic minimalism, which still resonates today.  
Commercial success was not on Anderson’s agenda when Big Science was first released back in 1982. Originally music was merely a means by which she could give life to her artwork, but she quickly developed a sound uniquely her own, comprised of electronics, voice enhancers and quirky witticisms. The track that first got her noticed was the breathy epic ‘’O Superman’’ which became a favourite of Radio 1 innovator – John Peel. It shot to number two in the UK charts in 1981, acquainting the public with Laurie’s hypnotic art rock.  
Despite the odd lapse into beard-scratching territory there is much to appreciate. From the enigmatic opener ‘’From The Air’’ which places the listener at the heart of a hauntingly calm plane crash, to the endearingly deadpan yodelling and cyclical melodies of the title track, and the marimba-led closer ‘‘It Tango’’ which gives a flippant look at the battle of the sexes. There is the odd moment where the pieces of the musical jigsaw fail to fit –the bagpipe laden squawking of ‘‘Sweaters’’ comes to mind. But it’s all part and parcel of the Big Science experience – an album of distinctive electronic mood music which was, exactly as it proclaims on the sleeve, ‘the record of the time’.
Serena Kutchinsky / BBC Review

Anderson .Paak ‎– Oxnard (2018)

Genre: Hip Hop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Aftermath Entertainment, OBE, 12Tone Music

01.   The Chase
02.   Headlow
03.   Tints
04.   Who R U?
05.   6 Summers
06.   Saviers Road
07.   Smile/Petty
08.   Mansa Musa
09.   Brother's Keeper
10.   Anywhere
11.   Trippy
12.   Cheers
13.   Sweet Chick
14.   Left To Right

With its languid pace and sunstruck mix of hedonism and tragedy, Los Angeles has always had a powerful and enduring relationship with funk music. The onset of G-funk in the ‘90s channeled the whining synthesizer experiments of Zapp and Parliament Funkadelic into something sepulchral and nihilistic and, in doing so, defined parameters for L.A. Funk. And now, you can hear Parliament-by-way-of-Dr. Dre in the music of Thundercat, Dâm-Funk, Terrace Martin, and Dre’s own Aftermath Records artist, Anderson Paak. 
On Oxnard, Paak’s follow-up to his 2016 breakthrough Malibu, the rapping, singing, and drumming polymath approaches funk from a rap perspective. When Paak allows himself to be instinctive and loose, Oxnard blends these influences with a comforting ease. Cloaked in natty threads and a horndog ladies-man persona, he favors bubbling bass, silky textures, and sunset timbres, forever somewhere between Snoop Dogg’s “G’z Up, Hoes Down” and Bootsy Collins’ “I’d Rather Be With You.” In that richly instrumented, sometimes misogynistic, and sexually debauched space, Paak has enough leeway to showcase his versatility as a vocalist. 
In the best possible way, Paak has a voice like ’80s R&B singer El DeBarge after a pack of cigarettes. Though Paak doesn’t have DeBarge’s piercing falsetto, his pitched-up, suggestive rasp is apt for a self-styled lothario. Throughout Oxnard, he exalts blowjobs and carps about a “petty bitch” and, on “Sweet Chick,” has sex with a skater who “watches anime while [he’s] laying dick.” Even his vaguely political song, “6 Summers,” opens with artless wish-casting: “Trump’s got a love child/And I hope that bitch is buckwild/[...] I hope she kiss señoritas and black gals.” Individually, his moments of hetero-masculine bluster are mostly passable—”Sweet Chick” is particularly enjoyable—but, in aggregate, they seem like a sock stuffed down the front of his jeans.
Torii MacAdams / Pitchfork

Japan ‎– Tin Drum (1981) (2003 Remastered)

Style: New Wave, Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Virgin, The Town Huse

1-1 The Art Of Parties
1-2 Talking Drum
1-3 Ghosts
1-4 Canton
1-5 Still Life In Mobile Homes
1-6 Visions Of China
1-7 Sons Of Pioneers
1-8 Cantonese Boy

Bonus Disc
2-1 The Art Of Parties (Single Version)
2-2 Life Without Buildings
2-3 The Art Of Parties (Live)
2-4 Ghosts (Single Version)

Despite taking its title from a German novel ('twas ever thus with the literary references for singer, David Sylvian), Tin Drum remains Japan's most Eastern-influenced album. It's all there in the song titles of course. This, their final effort, showed the band really becoming what they'd always wanted to be all through their career: An art-rock band, with aspirations towards the musicianly end of what pop could aspire to (and, aptly, a huge fanbase in their spiritual home of the Orient). Ironically as the band disintegrated (mainly due to Sylvian's urge to strike out alone) following this release,they finally shook off the sub-Roxy Music/glam goth associations that had hampered them in earlier years. 
One of the reasons that Tin Drum broke the band out of their image straightjacket (for which they were in no small part responsible, due to their propensity for make up and fey tailoring) was the departure of guitarist, Rob Dean, after the previous album, Gentlemen Take Polaroids. Moving away from the rockist trappings of six-strings, and hanging out with The Yellow Magic Orchestra's Ryuichi Sakamoto had shown the band the light. With Richard Barbieri's spectral keyboards taking the high ground, aided by the almost fusionist tones of Mick Karn's fretless bass and Steve Jansen's masterfully polyrhythmic drums, Tin Drum is, in places wonderfully minimalist and exotically esoteric. 
On top of this Sylvian's voice had matured beyond the aforementioned Ferry-lite comparisons. His mournful deep-throated trills suited songs that explored lost love (Ghosts) and the fascination with all things Eastern (the amazingly deft Visions Of China, Canton and Cantonese Boy). As with fellow so-called new romantics, Duran Duran, these boys almost straddled the line marked 'muso', yet avoided crassness with the simple application of taste. Tin Drum has no flashy waste or needless bombast, just evocative skill that remains fresh to this day.
Chris Jones / BBC Review

Japan ‎– Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980) (2006 Remastered)

Style: New Wave, Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Caroline Blue Plate, Virgin

01.   Gentlemen Take Polaroids
02.   Swing
03.   Burning Bridges
04.   My New Career
05.   Methods Of Dance
06.   Ain't That Peculiar
07.   Nightporter
08.   Taking Islands In Africa
09.   The Experience Of Swimming
10.   The Width Of A Room
11.   Taking Islands In Africa (Steve Nye Remix)

After making two albums in the vein of typical post-punk and one synthpop/post-punk crossover, Japan successfully created their own and unique music. Comparing Gentlemen Take Polaroids to other artists of the same time is quite hard, because I've failed to hear anything remotely resembling this. While having sung in a punk-ish David Bowie style on previous records (except for Quiet Life), frontman and singer David Sylvian swapped his earlier singing voice to baritone, making the music sound more mature than ever. Growing up and becoming more mature applies to the music as well. Average song length is longer, greater instrumental diversity, and the lyrics are deeper and better than ever before. Even though David was only 22 at the time of recording and despite being in the music business for merily 3 years, he is very confident and targeted. Knowing his musical capabilities, and acting as band's sole song writer, David knows exactly what kind of music he wants to create. 
Kicking the album off with the strong title track, it's easy to point out how he has progressed in just over a year. Guitars no longer rely on power chords, but rather play in the background, with quirky synths and interesting fretless bass becoming more apparent. The title track is a dynamic masterpiece alternating between the experimental, free-floating middle parts, and the casual pop chorus found throughout the song. As for as diversity goes, it might actually alienate some listeners. At times, you can draw paralells between the works of minimalist artists like Brian Eno. Burning Bridges is by far the strangest track on the album, refraining from the likes of rock almost completely, but instead focusing on creating a strange atmosphere, utilizing a wide variety of synths and recording techniques. An important element to the album's quirkyness is bassist Mick Karn's fretless bass playing. It's often played in a way that almost sounds anti-catchy. The basslines are for the most part independent, and they give off a totally freaky, psychedelic vibe. However, it perfectly fits the music because of its strangeness. 
Furthermore, David has enough brain to lay off with the whacky sound, and instead deliver some very pretty ballads. Both Methods of Dance and Nightporter stand out as top notch tracks. Both are seven minutes in length, and don't fail to impress the listener in any way. Methods of Dance follow the title track's song structure, with similar elements such as the synth. However, it is much more melodic, with David singing in a much more passionate way and sharing the chorus with a female background vocalist. Nightporter on the other hand sticks out from the other songs completely. It doesn't contain any bass or drums, only vocals, piano, synth and additional woodwind and string instruments. Nightporter is the ultimate "looking out of the window while it's raining outside" song, reeking with sadness, but also beauty.  
In short, this album is strange, but good. Recommending it to everyone would be a pretty crazy thing to do, because it might be a bit hard to swallow for some listeners. Nonetheless, the album's strange sound shrouds the real element behind it: the grace. In every song, you always find moments that you can savour. If you like broadening your horizons, this album is perfect for you. Approach with an open mind.
smaugman / sputnik music

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Talking Heads – Remain In Light (1980)

Style: New Wave, Art Rock, Funk
Format: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Label: Sire

A1.   Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
A2.   Crosseyed And Painless
A3.   The Great Curve
B1.   Once In A Lifetime
B2.   Houses In Motion
B3.   Seen And Not Seen
B4.   Listening Wind
B5.   The Overload

Drums – Chris Frantz
Guitar – Adrian Belew, David Byrne, Jerry Harrison
Bass – Brian Eno, David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth
Keyboards – Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth
Percussion – Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Jose Rossy, Robert Palmer, Tina Weymouth
Voice – Brian Eno, David Byrne, Nona Hendryx
Producer – Brian Eno

By now, most people know that nerds are cool. I recently realized that my nerdiest relative, the uncle who went to MIT, gave me my favorite album, Remain in Light by the Talking Heads, (a pretty nerdy group of folks in their own right). I don't remember exactly when he gave it to me, but I think it was probably Christmas, seventh grade. That would make the year 1985 and me 12. I was on the verge of great things, and his gift of the Talking Heads' Remain in Light definitely did its part to push me over the top. Within a year I would have a punk rock mullet, pick up a guitar, start smoking pot, and start worrying about not getting laid. I got to know the album front to back, and even though the album was five years old, as they vaulted to stardom with the inclusion of "Burning Down the House" on the Revenge of the Nerds soundtrack, I was able to cop the ultimate music snob attitude: the I-like-their-older-stuff-better attitude. Life was good and I began my charade of cool and being a few steps ahead of the masses that continues to this day.
Remain in Light pulled me in for the first time with its unfamiliar rhythms and art-rock sensibilities. I pored over the lyric sheet when I first received the album, and the perfection of their post-modern inscrutability continues to be a source of pleasure. Possibly even more important was David Byrne. I'm no idolater and I eschew celebrity, but David Byrne was an object of rare obsession for a moment in late eighth grade. My status as a celebrity slut skyrocketed to its peak when I bought a poster from the hottest girl in my class. I never would have had the guts to talk to her then, and still wouldn't today, but the prospect of acquiring a centerpiece for my shrine thawed out my normally frozen larynx. I even went so far as experimenting with the slicked back hairstyle David rocked in the poster, but my rapidly lengthening locks were not particularly cooperative, and soon after I graduated to "accidental" dreadlocks.
My musical interests became even more tangled, and my fascination with David Byrne and the Talking Heads faded. I had just been introduced to the sophistication of jazz. The intensity of metal beckoned. My excitement about hip-hop came to a head with Public Enemy, NWA, and all members of the Native Tongues family. At the same time, I was swept up in the local punk scene, playing in some bands and partying with the rest. And there was always classic rock on the upstate radio stations. But at 17, when packing for a move, I dusted off my Talking Heads tapes and records, bringing them back into rotation. But before long, I was distracted once again.
After a long lull during my bicycle racing obsessed college years, Remain in Light was periodically brought back into rotation for one reason or another. Most recently, it was the rising popularity of dance rock bands like the Rapture. The Talking Heads did that, and did it without resorting to the synth-heavy tactics favored by their new wave peers and most of today's resurgents. A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a great new band, Los Amigos Invisibles, signed to David Byrne's Luakabop label. Before that, it was Z-Trip and Radar's set at the Transmission Theater for San Francisco's now-seminal scratchaholic party, the Future Primitive Soundsessions, where they juggled "Once in a Lifetime" to great effect.
But the real reason the album has endured despite the constant assault of incessant influxes of fresh blood into my musical world is that it's really fucking good. It's moody without being whiny. Danceable, but musically sophisticated. Remain in Light is the Talking Heads' finest work; the peak before the plateau. It is sandwiched between two live albums, followed by solo projects from all members and only a few more studio albums.
Remain in Light's awesomeness was made possible by the formidable talent of the band and the amazing cast of collaborators. Years later, when I entered an "experimental" phase and developed a love for Adrian Belew, I realized he was responsible for many of the guitar solos on Remain in Light. As I read more about some of my favorite artists, many of them cited Brian Eno as an important influence. Wouldn't you know it, he was there too! Much later, as I explored music from '70s and that funky pop masquerading as jazz found on CTI, Kudu, and other now defunct great record labels, who should be playing percussion in Weather Report but Jose Rossy, also the percussionist for Remain in Light. After settling on hip-hop as my preferred genre, I can return to Remain in Light and David Byrne's post-modern rap about facts, truth and reality at the end of "Crosseyed and Painless". And now, as I explore the music of sub-Saharan Africa from the West African funk of Fela to Antibalas' and Tony Allen's reinterpretations of the same to soukous, Remain in Light stands as an early example of the same explorations by American artists.
The longevity of Remain in Light makes it an essential album for me. No matter how much I neglect it, it always comes back. It's not my first album; that honor goes to Men at Work and their smash debut Business as Usual. It's not my current favorite; that changes at least once a week. But Remain in Light's eclectic musical intellectualism suits me well, and I will continue to come back to it for as long my ears continue to function. 
Luke Stiles / Popmatters

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Rip Rig + Panic ‎– God (1981)

Style: New Wave, Avantgarde, Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CDVinyl

01.   Constant Drudgery Is Harmful To SOUL, SPIRIT & HEALTH
02.   WILHELM Show Me The Diagram (Function Of The Orgasm)
03.   Through Nomad Eyeballs
04.   Change Your Life
05.   Knee Deep In Shit
06.   Totally Naked (Without Lock Or Key)
07.   Try Box Out Of This Box
08.   Need (De School You)
09.   HOWL! Caged Bird
10.   Those Eskimo Women Speak Frankly
11.   The Blue Blue Third
12.   Shadows Only There Because Of The Sun
13.   Beware (Our Leaders Love The Smell Of Napalm)
14.   Miss Pib
15.   It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Brrod
16.   Bob Hope Takes Risks
17.   Go, Go, Go! (This Is It)
18.   The Ultimate In Fun (Is Going To The Disco With My Baby)
19.   Hey Mr. E! A Gran Grin With A Shake Of Smile
20.   Billy Eckstein's Shirt Colla
21.   Bob Hope Takes Risk (12" version] )

Started by several personages of 80’s avant-funk vanguards The Pop Group and The Slits, and a young then-unknown Swedish transplant named Neneh Cherry, Rip Rig + Panic burst forth onto Bristol’s underground scene in 1980, a being hewn from little else except arrant ruination and an unflinching desire to subvert model and execution. God, their debut, would become an archetypal record of unhinged experimentation. Full of odd patterns and unequaled style, it aligned itself perfectly with the rapidly escalating free-from movement that was brewing in the deep, cobwebbed corners of Western metropolitan undergrounds. 
The Pop Group had always been an act keen to explore and slice up the sociopolitical facets of life. That, coupled with God's four-act, verbose track-list created an early impression of an album that had its feet firmly planted in a pointed concept. But whatever conceptual aspirations lie behind God, they are all but snuffed out by the record’s schizoid constitution. This was a running push-and-pull moment with no-wave and similarly abstracted music forms that came to germinate in the early 80’s - theory and message taking a backseat to aesthetic form. It’s music that drifts in a state of chronic mayhem, its wrecked presentation a dazzling end in itself.  
Mark Springer’s masterly exercises in cockeyed piano is the ace up God’s sleeve. He gives “Knee Deep in Shit” such an askew swing, that amped by the clattering percussion and Gareth Sager’s gruff-throated rants, the song exists in a condensed space of utter breakdown. He lays down the bedrock of God, as virtuosic as he is radically-inclined. Sager is the principal architect of Rip Rig + Panic for all intents and purposes, but his role as leader is as fluid as any other angle of the album, and God is a result of fusion, a collective of young visionaries coalescing in their want of something entirely not of the mainstream. 
Neneh Cherry’s marque of roughhewn soul, soon to become a permanent fixture in both Bristol’s and New York’s avant-garde scenes, gets its proper debut here. She had played around with Ari Up in a few previous acts, like the speedy punk of The Cherries and the dub convulsions of New Age Steppers. But the three songs she fronts here were the first show of her radiant capacities. Full-bodied and much less ragged vocally than Segar and Up, she confidently stirs opener “Constant Drudgery is Harmful to SOUL, SPIRIT & HEALTH” in its punch-drunk swagger, lending a compact foundation to a song that otherwise seems intent on cracking itself at the seams. Her haunted shrieks trade places with funky half-spoken crooning on “Need (De-School You),” and on the jazzy corrosion of “Eskimo Women,” she shows what Billie Holiday would have sounded like put through a meat-mincer. 
For all that swirling chaos, God feels exactly as it should – a product of immaculate choreography, improvisation that still tips its hat to a meticulously planned whole. Nothing here feels slapdash or sloppy in the prosaic sense. Ari Up’s pitched vocals are barely distinguishable through the rave piano variations that thrust “Change Your Life” forward, but burst forth on the dense disco of “Shadows There Because of the Sun.” All experimentation and aversion to conventional song structures gets dialed back for the gorgeously unsettled instrumental “The Blue Blue Third,” the band letting Springer create a moment of ordinary beauty. All of it feels as premeditated as any other quotidian album would. It’s disorder and anarchy, sure, but one that contains enough self-awareness to betray what it truly is – an ideological stance, an up-turning of the nose at the commonplace drudgery that had swept over the artistic niche and its corporative creeds, a call to crash out of the haven of boredom and into a whole new brand of creativity. And for the briefest instant, it looked like it was going to work.
butcherboy  / sputnik music

The Congos ‎– Heart Of The Congo Man (1977)

Style: Roots Reggae
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Black Art,  VP Records

A1.   Fisherman
A2.   Congoman
A3.   Open Up The Gate
A4.   Children Crying
A5.   La La Bam-Bam
B1.   Can't Come In
B2.   Sodom & Gomorrow
B3.   The Wrong Thing
B4.   Ark Of Covenant
B5.   Solid Foundation

Bass – Boris Gardiner, W. Wright
Drums – Michael Richards, Sly Dunbar
Guitar – Ernest Ranglin
Organ – Winston Wright
Percussion – Brother Joe, Scully
Piano – Keith Sterling
Rhythm Guitar – Robert "Billy" Johnson
Producer – The Congos
Mixed By – Lee "Scratch" Perry, The Scientist

Thursday, 6 December 2018

The Dolphin Brothers ‎– Catch The Fall (1988)

Style: Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Caroline Blue Plate, Virgin

1. Catch The Fall
2. Shining
3. Second Sight
4. Love That You Need
5. Real Life, Real Answers
6. Host To The Holy
7. My Winter
8.  Pushing The River

Steve Jansen - Percussion, Drums, Keyboards, Vocals
Richard Barbieri - Keyboards, Programming
Robert Bell - Bass
Danny Thompson - Bass, Acoustic Bass
Matthew Seligman - Bass Guitar
Carrie Booth - Piano
Clive Bell - Crumhorn, Khen, Thai Flute
Phil Palmer - Acoustic & Electric Guitars
David Rhodes - Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Martin Ditcham - Percussion
Katie Kissoon - Background Vocals
P.P. Arnold - Background Vocals
Suzanne Murphy - Background Vocals

Dalis Car ‎– The Waking Hour (1984)

Style: New Wave, Avantgarde, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Virgin, Paradox Records, Beggars Banquet

1.   Dalis Car
2.   His Box
3.   Cornwall Stone
4.   Artemis
5.   Create And Melt
6.   Moonlife
7.   The Judgement Is The Mirror

Words written and performed by Peter Murphy
Rhythms constructed by Vincent Lawford
All other instruments played by Mick Karn

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Ursula Rucker ‎– Silver Or Lead (2003)

Style: Downtempo, Future Jazz, Trip Hop, Spoken Word
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Studio !K7, Hostess Entertainment Unlimited

01.   Damned If I Do
02.   Soon
03.   What A Woman Must Do
04.   Untitled Flow
05.   Lonely Can Be Sweet
06.   Time
07.   Q & A
08.   Release
09.   This
10.   I/We
11.   Return To Innocence Lost

Ursula Rucker's 2001 debut album Supa Sista wasn't all it could have been. Yes, the verbals kicked and sure, some of the beats rocked, but the sparse, metallic atmospheres and raw, uncompromising nature of the poetics left many feeling cold and even a little alienated. 
Given Rucker's status as the urban wordsmith of choice for super-melodic acts like Japan's Silent Poets, Germany's Jazzanova, UK's 4 Hero and local Phillie heroes King Britt and The Roots, this austerity came as something of a surprise. 
Thankfully, Silver Or Lead addresses these issues head on. Instead of hiring a new set of beatmakers, Rucker has commendably re-recruited the same coterie of friends and associates that graced her first outing, commissioning tunes that better compliment her sassy attitude, melody and streetwise head-funk. 
A showcase of new and unreleased tracks as well as a retrospective of some of her finest moments (most of which have only been previously released on other peoples fulllengths), Silver Or Lead is a more mature and less inhibited record. 
Cuts like "Time", her philosophical team up with 4 Hero grooves, and the highly personal "Return To Innocence Lost" (which deals with the violent death of her brother) are included here, alongside a continuous flow of swirling soul and melodious thunk supplied by the likes of Rob Yancey, Jazzanova, King Britt, Mysterium and Lil Louie Vega. 
Within these streams and rivers of sound which take us through Afro-latino, hypnotic hip hop and deep drum & bass, verbal blow after verbal blow is rained upon us as Rucker invests the English language with a rhythm and power all of her own. 
There's a Septemeber 11 critique on "Release", self-reflection on "Lonely Can Be Sweet", poetic brutality on "What a Woman Must Do" and slavery tales on "Soon". Throughout, Rucker's velvety voice manages to both mollify and add a sinister dimension to the harshness of her subject matter. 
With her follow up, she has thus created a finely balanced document which is melodic enough to make the hips swing and thought-provoking enough to demand repeated listening.
Jack Smith / BBC Review