Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The Group ‎– The Feed-back (1970)

Style: Abstract, Avantgarde, Prog Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Schema Easy Series

Tracklist:
1.   The Feed-back
2.   Quasars
3.   Kumâlo

Credits:
Composed By – The Group
Contrabass [Uncredited] – Walter Branchi
Drums [Uncredited] – Renzo Restuccia
Guitar [Uncredited] – Bruno Battisti D'Amario
Liner Notes – Franco Evangelisti
Percussion [Uncredited] – Egisto Macchi
Percussion, Piano, Timpani, Vocals [Uncredited] – Mario Bertoncini
Piano, Trombone, Violone [Uncredited] – John Heineman
Trumpet [Uncredited] – Ennio Morricone

The Feed-Back, by Italy's Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza (aka the Group), is a wild ride along the seams of free jazz, 20th century avant-garde classical music, psychedelic rock, and emerging funk. While no members of the unit are credited we know that on this recording, the revolving ensemble of composers/studio musicians include Ennio Morricone (trumpet), bassist Walter Branchi, drummer Enzo Restuccia, guitarist Bruno Battisti D'Amario, percussionist Egisto Macchi, percussionist/pianist Mario Bertoncini, and trombonist and violinist John Heineman. (On different recordings, Franco Evangelisti -- who penned the liner notes here -- and Frederic Rzewski were also in the band). These three extended pieces get pretty outside, but are always circular due to grooving drums and basslines. On the opening title cut, dissonant harmonies on trumpet, violin, reverbed electric guitar, and trombone are brought together by breaking snares and a funky bassline, even as other instruments, such as an angular piano played in the middle-lower register, channel-to-channel psych guitar, and near droning horns dialogue together. This is where Stockhausen and Don Cherry meet Idris Muhammad and Melvin Sparks. "Quasars" is more on the psych rock tip. A tribal, chant-like pulse swirls in the foreground as the violin takes the front line. But the near-Motorik drums and one-note bassline hold the individual elements in tension -- think the Velvets in their freer moments. The set's longest cut, the side-long "Kumâlo," is the spaciest thing here, developing with incremental piano played on the keys and its strings, and disjointed sounds from myriad instruments and sound effects are layered in, appearing and disappearing. They are moved forward initially by a hypnotic breakbeat. Morricone's trumpet is played in the high register with a mute before unwinding itself in full tone atop restrained feedback, taut violin, dissonant guitar, and rumbling piano. The drums pick up the tempo in dialogue with the guitar -- using a sitar-like effect -- and the interplay of the other instruments becomes more frequent and dizzying, all before it turns around on itself and Eastern modalism and Krautrock psych take the center. The disaster quotient for this date was high; there are times when it feels as if the entire proceeding will just collapse in on itself. Instead it spirals out, rippling across genre lines, textures, and dynamics like water. The Feed-Back is a timeless classic, as relevant in the 21st century -- it shows younger players how improvisation is done -- as it was in 1970 when, if anything, it was ahead of its time.
 Thom Jurek / AllMusic

Lambarena ‎– Bach To Africa (1994)

Style: Classical, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Cass.
Label: Sony Classical

Tracklist:
01.   Cantate 147
02.   Sankanda. Lasset Uns Den Nicht Zerteilen
03.   Mayingo. Fugue Sur Mayingo
04.   Herr, Unser Herrscher
05.   Mabo Maboe. Gigue De La Quatrième Suite En Mi-bémol Majeur Pour Violoncelle
06.   Bombé. Ruht Wohl, Ihr Heiligen Gebeine
07.   Pepa Nzac Gnon Ma. Prelude De La Partita Pour Violon N°3
08.   Mamoudo Na Sakka Baya Boudouma Ngombi
09.   Agnus Dei
10.   Ikokou
11.   Inongo. Invention À 3 En Ré Majeur
12.   Okoukoué. Cantate 147
13.   Was Mir Behagt, Ist Nur Die Muntre Jagd
14.   Cantate 147 Jésus Que Ma Joie Demeure

Lambarena is a tribute to Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) in which Gabon - where he built and directed the hospital at Lambarene - and the gospel according to his beloved Johann Sebastian Bach are aligned into manifold encounters with ecstasy, mystery and passion. The collaborators behind the massive project were the French producer Hughes de Courson (Malicorne, Kolinda) and Gabon's master composer, poet laureate and cultural figurehead Pierre Akendengue, both men of profound musical intuition and creative audacity. 
The classical choristers and players were brought together with ten Gabonese ensembles of mixed voices plus soloists and virtuoso instrumentalists in Paris under conditions of absolute parity. During a recording session that lasted nearly one hundred days, de Courson and Akendengue explored the common ground and telling contrasts between the Gabonese and classical material. Brazil's Nana Vasconcelos, a percussionist of international renown, contributed an introspective and sinister language, hissing and rattling among and between the voices and instruments. 
Highlights are incessant, but the juxtaposition of a traditional chorus led by a female soloist of nearly frightening power with "Lasset Uns Den Nicht Zerteilen" from Bach's "St. John's Passion" exerts an inexorable fascination as it rushes by. Later, a muted moan from one of the African choirs, exhaled over what sounds like a Zen temple bell, foreshadows the tragic opening of the "St. John," "Herr Unser Herrscherr," which is itself orbited by tamtams and forest sounds. While a child wanders alone, piping fractured quotes from "Jesus Bliebet Meine Freude," a countertenor sings the pleading "Agnus Dei" and is met by women's voices chanting a pygmy rhythm. 
Bach addresses his God by erecting measured Baroque exaltations to His glory while the Gabonese agitate the divine by performing rituals that celebrate passages on the human timeline. Lambarena is an appropriate memorial to a man whose desire for the sacred caused him to love and heal suffering flesh. 
Christina Roden / RoostWorld

Zap Mama ‎– Sabsylma (1994)

Style: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Cass.‎
Label: Remark Records

Tracklist:
01.   Furahi
02.   Sabsylma (What's Your Name?)
03.   Mais Qu'est-ce? (But What Shall We?)
04.   India
05.   De La Vie A La Mort (From Life To Death)
06.   Citoyen 120 (Citizen 120)
07.   Loclat Africa
08.   Mr. Brown
09.   Awakening In Australia (Reveil En Australie)
10.   Fi Dunia
11.   Mamadit
12.   For No One
13.   The Mamas Of The Mamas (Les Mamas Des Mamas)
14.   Adiosio Omonie

Credits:
Engineer, Mixed By – Jean-Marc Geuens
Mixed By – Vincent Kenis
Producer, Mixed By – Marie Daulne

Notes:
Recorded in New York at Space Shuffle Studio and in Brussels at Jet and Madeleine Studios. Mixed in Brusseles at Jet, Caraibes, Impuls ans Synsound Studios.

Zap Mama's second album added a more polished, sophisticated and urban spin to the group's audacious musical mix, while retaining definite roots in traditional music from all around the world (India, Morocco and Australia also got (re)visited this time).

Teo Macero & Wally Cirillo ‎– Explorations (2010)

Style: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Fresh Sound Records

Tracklist:
01.  Teo
02.   I'll Remember April
03.   How Low The Earth
04.   Mitzi
05.   Yesterdays
06.   Explorations
07.   Smog L.A.
08.   Level Seven
09.   Transeason
10.   Rose Geranium
11.   Heart on my sleeve
12.   24+ 18+
13.   Sounds of may
14.   Thou swell
15.   Neally
16.   Adventures
17.   TC's groove

A studio Svengali to some and a certified genius to others, Julliard-trained Teo Macero is still perhaps best known for his high profile post as Miles Davis’ longstanding producer and collaborator. Macero’s earlier careers as a saxophonist and modernist jazz-meets-classical composer earn much less ink. This invaluable Fresh Sound compilation gathers some of the best of his output from those largely forgotten years. Seventeen tracks represent four separate Fifities sessions and the notes go into decent detail about the methods and intents behind the compositions. Some of the theory-related specifics are Greek to me, but Macero’s ambitious composerly goals are audibly evident even to the layman. On “Neally”, for example, from a September 1955 nonet session comprised of all-stars like Art Farmer, Eddie Bert and John LaPorta the band negotiates forward-thinking elements of counterpoint, polyphony, polyrhythm, atonality, and free improvisation all within the brisk span of just under five minutes. Several pieces also find Macero investigating the possibilities of overdubbing horn parts, like the Blindfold Test-perfect title composition where five separate Macero sax lines (3 tenor, 2 alto) improvise freely within the loose framework of a chromatic tone series. In addition to all the compositional heavy-lifting, Macero’s tenor beguiles with an aerated cool a/tonality that sounds like a possible progenitor of modern players like Stephen Riley and Mark Turner. The other MVP on three of the four dates is obscure accordionist Orlando DiGirolamo who takes to the musical experiments in textural dissonance like a duck to water, particularly on the first session in a quintet with Macero, bassists Charles Mingus and Lou Labella and drummer Ed Shaughnessy circa 1953(!). As far as protean Fifties free jazz/third stream goes it doesn’t get much better. 

Drum Island ‎– Drum Island (1997)

Style: Leftfield, Abstract, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Apollo

Tracklist:
01.   Bucci People
02.   Riversprite
03.   Lift
04.   La Danse Electrique
05.   Phizzz
06.   Tomcat City
07.   Glacier
08.   Earbubbles
09.   Å Dæven
10.   Untitled

Credits: Producer, Written-By – Ole J. Mjøs, Rune Lindbæk, Torbjørn Brundtland


The group Drum Island seems to be misnamed. Sure, there are plenty of drums on this album, but instead of an island, “ice floe” would be more appropriate. The tracks here are icy and have the beautiful logic of ice, the cracks and coolness and all. The album uses ambient sounds and silences to great effect; for example, “Watersprite” begins with the sound of someone swimming, then shifts into… lounge music. It’s great contrast and is a terrific effect. “La Danse Electrique” is a sweeping track, orchestral and epic in the best sense of the words; the wobbly melody of “Tomcat” filters in and out until it’s grounded by cymbals. On “Glacier” the aching guitar line is buoyed by some light breaks. And the final, untitled track, wavers in its ambience, adding layers of reverb and sound. The Scandinavians sure know how to craft their music. So come back to the island, won't you?
scoundrel  / discogs

Gang Gang Dance ‎– Saint Dymphna (2008)

Style: Abstract, Psychedelic Rock, Tribal, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warp Records

Tracklist:
01.   Bebey
02.   First Communion
03.   Blue Nile
04.   Vacuum
05.   Princes
06.   Inners Pace
07.   Afoot
08.   House Jam
09.   Interlude (No Known Home)
10.   Desert Storm
11.   Dust

Credits:
Drums, Sampler, Vocals – Tim Dewit
Guitar, Guitar Synthesizer, Sampler – Josh Diamond
Keyboards, Synth, Drum [Drum Pad], Sampler, Effects – BDG
Vocals, Rototoms, Horn [Carnival Horn], Recorder, Steel Drums – LZA
Music By – Gang Gang Dance
Lyrics By – LZA
Mastered By – Joe Lambert
Mixed By – Matt Boynton (tracks: 10), Sean Maffuci (tracks: 1 to 9, 11)
Recorded By – Chris Coady (tracks: 10), Matt Boynton (tracks: 1 to 8, 11), Sean Maffuci (tracks: 9)
Recorded By [Additional Recording] – Sean Maffuci
Photography By – Katie L. Thompson
Art Direction – We Bored Ragz

Gang Gang Dance's third album, God's Money, remains a revelation three years after its release. Pouring the muffled art-beats of 2004's Revival of the Shittest and the extended space-jams of 2004's Gang Gang Dance into structured songs, the record was starry and dreamy, yet also taut and focused. It made evident what was implicit from the start-- that these four hyperactive talents with underground pedigrees (see the Cranium, SSAB Songs, Angelblood, et. al.) could funnel their ideas into melodic pop without diluting them. 
It also suggested that Gang Gang Dance might become an all-out pop band. But three EPs since God's Money have defied such expectations. Though gems like "Nicoman" did surface, Hillulah, Retina Riddim, and RAWWAR were mostly mysterious experiments akin to the band's earlier releases. Not that any of them were anything less than good-- but none were the pop epiphany the band on God's Money seemed poised for. 
It turns out they had been working on that all along, and with Saint Dymphna their patience pays off. So clear and shiny it makes God's Money seem murky by comparison, this is predominantly a relative dance-pop album. But it still sounds completely like Gang Gang Dance, preserving their core of new-wave synths, tribal beats, otherworldly singing, and Residents-style loops. The biggest difference this time around is a lack of cavernous atmospheres. Here every sound and beat is laid bare, with no heavy reverb blanketing the songs like fog. The newfound clarity produces neither thinness nor tedium, but simply a direct, unadulterated power.
That power is clear immediately, when opening instr 
umental "Bebey" melts into the rhapsodic "First Communion". Here Lizzi Bougatsos' dreamy poetry ("Prisms have kissed my lids/ Sea salt has rubbed on my hips") and the band's coiled rhythms (particularly the beat-and-synth workouts of band MVP Brian DeGraw) hit on a momentum that could easily be the album's climax. But so many peaks pop up along Saint Dymphna's continuous stream that it's tough to catalogue them all. 
Two moments in particular show that the more Gang Gang Dance change, the more they stay the same. After a lengthy synth opening, "Princes" becomes an actual hip-hop song featuring a rap from Tinchy Stryder. Sure, it's slightly jarring to hear his pulsing cadence paired with Bougatsos' ethereal howls, but the band's familiar elements-- especially Josh Diamond's wiry guitar line-- fit snugly around him. Even more surprising is "House Jam", a gleeful rip-off of Madonna circa "Holiday". But put the track on repeat and you might be more surprised that you never realized how well Gang Gang Dance's sound could work as 80s disco-pop. 
Saint Dymphna ends with "Dust", a beatific instrumental that carries the band away like a magic carpet. Often when a group with avant-garde leanings flies close to the pop sun, the results can sound forced or off-key. But since accessible melodies have always bubbled beneath their music's surface, Gang Gang Dance's evolution sounds supremely logical. And anyone who thought that the cloudy sound of previous albums was a smokescreen should think again-- it turns out the band behind that curtain really is made up of wizards. 
Marc Masters / Pitchfork