Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Morphine ‎– Cure For Pain (1993)

Style: Alternative Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rykodisc, Light In The Attic ‎

Tracklist:
01.   Dawna
02.   Buena
03.   I'm Free Now
04.   All Wrong
05.   Candy
06.   A Head With Wings
07.   In Spite Of Me
08.   Thursday
09.   Cure For Pain
10.   Mary Won't You Call My Name?
11.   Let's Take A Trip Together
12.   Sheila
13.   Miles Davis' Funeral

Credits:
Backing Vocals – Dana Colley
Baritone Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Dana Colley
Bass, Guitar, Guitar, Organ, Lead Vocals – Mark Sandman
Drums – Billy Conway, Jerome Deupree
Producer – Mark Sandman, Paul Q. Kolderie
Arranged By – Morphine

With their cult following growing, Morphine expanded their audience even further with their exceptional 1994 sophomore effort, Cure for Pain. Whereas their debut, Good, was intriguing yet not entirely consistent, Cure for Pain more than delivered. The songwriting was stronger and more succinct this time around, while new drummer Billy Conway made his recording debut with the trio (replacing Jerome Deupree). Like the debut, most of the material shifts between depressed and upbeat, with a few cacophonic rockers thrown in between. Such selections as "Buena," "I'm Free Now," "All Wrong," "Candy," "Thursday," "In Spite of Me" (one of the few tracks to contain six-string guitar), "Let's Take a Trip Together," "Sheila," and the title track are all certifiable Morphine classics. And again, Mark Sandman's two-string slide bass and Dana Colley's sax work help create impressive atmospherics throughout the album. Cure for Pain was unquestionably one of the best and most cutting-edge rock releases of the '90s.
Greg Prato / AllMusic

Masayoshi Takanaka ‎– The Rainbow Goblins (1981)

Style: Fusion, Psychedelic Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Universal Music, Kitty Records

Tracklist:
01.   Once Upon A Song
02.   Seven Goblins
03.   The Sunset Valley
04.   The Moon Rose
05.   Soon
06.   Magical Night Light - Rainbow Paradise
07.   Thunderstorm
08.   Rising Arch
09.   Just Chuckle
10.   Rainbow Was Reborn
11.   Plumed Bird
12.   You Can Never Come To This Place

Credits
Bass – Akihiro Tanaka
Drums – Masahiro Miyazaki, Shigeru Inoue, Shuichi Murakami
Keyboards – Kiyosumi Ishikawa, Izumi Kobayashi
Percussion – Makoto Kimura, Yuki Sugawara
Saxophone – Koji Satsuma
Producer, Composed By, Arranged By, Guitar – Masayoshi Takanaka

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Alfa Mist ‎– Antiphon (2017)

Genre: Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Impartmaint Inc.

Tracklist:
1.   Keep On
2.   Potential
3.   Errors
4.   Breathe
5.   7th October
6.   Kyoki
7.   Nucleus
8.   Brian

Credits
Alto Saxophone – Maria Medvedeva
Bass – Kaya Thomas-Dyke, Rudi Creswick
Drums – Gaspar Sena, Jamie Houghton
Guitar – Jamie Leeming, Mansur Brown
Keyboards, Piano, Producer – Alfa Mist
Trumpet – Johnny Woodham
Violin, Strings – Lester Salmins, Tobie Tripp
Vocals – Jordan Rakei, Kaya Thomas-Dyke

Alfa Mist’s latest project ‘Antiphon’ sees him explore his love affair with jazz music in what is arguably his finest work to date. 
Through listening to the Are We Live podcast, I’ve learnt a lot about Alfa Mist not just as an artist, but as a person. And the deep, thoughtful nature of his personality is evident in this latest project which he based upon a conversation he had with his brothers regarding mental health. The entire release is bubbling with expression as offbeat chords, unfamiliar time signatures and wandering solos leave you no choice but to immerse yourself in every second of every track. 
Alfa opens up the EP with “Keep On,” a 10 minute jam style track bursting with solos and tight drum patterns. And it’s not the only record on the release on which Alfa refuses to conform to typical 3 - 5 minute track lengths, ‘Errors’ which was premiered by Stamp the Wax follows a similar formula where you’re sucked into wandering solos and drum crescendos. 
‘7th October’ is the only track on the release on which Alfa raps, and for someone who doesn’t class themselves as a rapper, his flow and lyricism cannot be faulted. Having also showcased his rapping ability on his 2nd Exit project and previous release 'Nocturne’, I’m sure many would be keen to hear an entire rapped release at some point, myself included. 
‘Potential’, featuring harmonies from Jordan Rakei, is hypnotic dream-like piece fuelled and driven by the emotion of a spoken narrative about family relationships. This sort of raw authenticity runs throughout the entire EP, from the stunning vocals of Kaya Thomas Dyke on ‘Breathe’ to the improvised hazy feel of ‘Nucleus.' 
The London Jazz scene, and jazz music in general, is going through a very exciting time at the moment and it’s thanks to artists like Alfa Mist who are pushing the sound in new directions. Hopefully there will be a live show or two around the corner as well, fingers crossed.
Josh Mason / Somewhere Soul

Monday, 21 January 2019

United Future Organization ‎– Bon Voyage (1999)

Style: Acid Jazz, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Mercury, Brownswood Records, Instinct Records

Tracklist:
1.   Good Luck Shore
2.   Tres Amigos
3.   Flying Saucer
4.   Happy Birthday
5.   Niji
6.   Pilgrims
7.   Dans Ce Desert
8.   Somewhere
9.   Labyrinth - Enter At Own Risk

Two Japanese DJs team up with a French DJ to release acid-jazz records heavily rooted in bossanova.... Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke doesn't it? Generally, United Future Organization's Bon Voyage is little more than a bad joke -- the epitome of novelty dance music in the Pizzicato Five, or even Brand New Heavies (egads!) vein. However, Bon Voyage shows ever-so-fleeting glimpses of the loungey, crime-film soundtrack jazz which makes Dimitri from Paris so winning. The album begins with the disastrous "Tres Amigos". The song babbles for an endless six minutes of knock-off Brazilian rhythms (the album art also somewhat shamefully features photographs of the three DJs with a map of Brazil as background). The only redeeming quality is that it reminds me of the Sex and the City theme music, which is also lousy but at least it reminds me of Sex and the City which is excellent -- however, such a lengthy chain of causation is not exactly what I'm looking for. "Somewhere" is even worse as it doesn't hint at Sex and the City or any other stellar television. 
So by the time the third track -- "Good Luck Shore" which is truly excellent (Gainsbourg samples, pouncing percussion and a hook-filled string of vocal splices) -- rolls around, I'm generally so exhausted that I'm too impatient to separate the good from the abhorrent for the remainder of the record (UFO provides little middle ground). While UFO, with Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, prepares a steaming take of bopmaster James Moody's composition "Flying Saucer", they all too readily regress into the world music, chain coffee shop background noise excess of "Pilgrims". 
Any listener who perseveres through the tandem of "Labyrinth -- Enter at Your Own Risk" (Yes, that's really the title and it fits the song most snugly) and "Happy Birthday" to endure the alleged "bonus track", the "Organic Audio Mix" of "Tres Amigos" is a masochist.
Eamon P. Joyce / popMATTERS 

Ibeyi ‎– Ibeyi (2015)

Style: Indie Pop, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
LAbel: XL Recordings

Tracklist:
01.   Eleggua
02.   Oya
03.   Ghosts
04.   River
05.   Think Of You
06.   Behind The Curtain
07.   Stranger / Lover
08.   Mama Says
09.   Weatherman
10.   Faithful
11.   Yanira
12.   Singles
13.   Ibeyi

Credits:
Music By – Lisa Kainde Diaz
Recorded By, Mixed By – John Foyle, Richard Russell
Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Arranged By – Naomi Diaz
Vocals, Piano, Synth, Bass, Arranged By – Lisa Kainde Diaz

"Ibeyi" is the Yoruba term for the divine spirit that exists between twins. It is also the name of 20-year-old French-Cuban duo Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz. Currently based in Paris, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi grew up on both sides of the Atlantic. Their father was Cuban conguero and master percussionist Miguel "Angá" Díaz of Irakere and Buena Vista Social Club. Díaz passed away when Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi were only 11, and their older sister Yanira followed him seven years later. But the sisters have taken up their legacies via their own music and their family's shared beliefs in Regla de Ocha. Regla de Ocha, also known as Santería, is a widely practiced Afro-Cuban religion based on the worship of orishas, which have roots in West African Yoruba culture. Musically, Ibeyi ground themselves firmly within these traditions, but they weave them together with jazz, soul, hip-hop, and downtempo/electronica. The result is their deeply evocative self-titled debut. 
In many ways, Ibeyi is an extended ritual—a consecration of life and love, both past and present. Fittingly, the album opens with a Yoruba prayer to Eleggua, the gatekeeper of crossroads and pathways, whose blessing alone allows ceremonies to proceed. The presence of Eleggua and other orishas saturates the album, thematically and musically. In "River", for example, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi pray to Oshun, the orisha of rivers and fertility. As the song begins, a bass-heavy drum beat churns through a slow-moving current of looped "ah"s, and Lisa-Kaindé intones, "Carry away my dead leaves/ Let me baptize my soul with the help of your waters/ Sink my pains and complaints/ Let the river take them—" she chokes up, "—river, drown them!" The track feels monumental; this is, after all, a call for rebirth. Yet, upon stripping away the vocals and reverb, it becomes apparent that the only other instruments involved are a MIDI controller (or two) and the occasional smattering of piano. And that's exactly what makes Ibeyi so remarkable. Instrumentally, their music is sparse. But it always feels full, with emotion and the kind of spirituality that is as deep as the people and circumstances that created it. And so it makes sense that Ibeyi is teeming with ghosts. Most prominent among them, of course, is their father's. On "Think of You", the sisters sample Angá's drumming, which fades in and out, specter-like, during the refrains when his daughters list the things that remind them of him (laughter, walking on rhythm, etc.). On "Mama Says", he resurfaces in the frustrations Lisa-Kaindé expresses as she sees her mother struggle to find meaning in life after his death. And during the chant break, she and Naomi pray to Eleggua, who was their father's orisha. 
Vocally, Lisa at times channels Nina Simone, and in her higher register, she can even recall Kate Bush circa "Wuthering Heights". Her ability to imbue deep emotion and otherworldliness into simple lyrics, meanwhile, is Björk-like. Naomi, in turn, explores the ways that Yoruba tradition and contemporary rhythms can meet. It's not quite what her father did on his last project, in which he fused Afro-Cuban music with jazz and hip-hop, but they both move from the same impulse. Naomi will sometimes play hip-hop beats on cajón, or add electronic booms and claps that thunder through a track like "Oya", in reference to the song's namesake—Oyá, the orisha of storms and cemeteries. 
The texts and subtexts in Ibeyi keep unfolding, but it feels immediate and direct regardless of how much of that text the listener is familiar with. Part of that is the nature of the language: Ibeyi do not just sing about their father, or Yanira, or once-lovers, or the orishas; they sing to them. By and large, they sing in terms of "me," "you," and "we," and at times, the lines between those entities are blurred. Which means that we are automatically implicated, living with them, or at least standing very nearby. 
If there is a critique to make, it's that the production can at times feel too smoothed over. Some of the rougher edges and raw(er) emotion that got the twins noticed in the first place get ironed out a bit. And one side effect is that a few of the album's final tracks sound somewhat similar in tonality, tempo, and their vibe. But Ibeyi still find subtle ways to create shape, as in the single piano key that pulses like a heart monitor in "Yanira", their song to their late sister, or the chilling dissonance in the twins' harmonies throughout. 
By the end of the album, Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé come full circle to face themselves, ending as they began: with a prayer. This time, it is to their namesake, Ibeyi. It is a joyful moment. And it is also, as every debut album attempts to but doesn't always succeed in being, a declaration of self.
Minna Zhou / Pitchfork

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Charlene Bartley ‎– The Weekend Of A Private Secretary (1957)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: RCA Victor

Tracklist:
01.   The Weekend Of A Private Secretary
02.   That's For Me
03.   She Didn't Say 'Yes'
04.   Moon Over Miami
05.   I've Got A Crush On You
06.   Mixed Emotions
07.   I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You
08.   Orchids In The Moonlight
09.   Under A Blanket Of Blue
10.   We'll Be Together Again
11.   Sand In My Shoes
12.   Memories Of You

Credits:
Bass – Don Aless, Milt Hinton
Guitar – Don Alessi
Orchestra – Hal McKusick's Orchestra, Tito Puente And His Orchestra
Vocals – Charlene Bartley

The Weekend of a Private Secretary is as hip and delightful as its title promises. A singer whose fierce intelligence and droll wit more than compensate for her limited vocal range, Charlene Bartley is the very essence of postwar chic, navigating the rhythmic twists of Tito Puente's lively arrangements with sophistication and style. Bartley is a consummate storyteller, interpreting lyrics like "She Didn't Say Yes" and "Sand in My Shoes" with inimitable pluck. While Puente's Latin treatments lend the session much of its energy, co-arranger Hal McKusick is no less vital to the album's success, crafting simple but effective settings that underscore Bartley's modernist outlook.
Jason Ankeny / AllMusic

Fred Frith ‎– "The Technology Of Tears" And Other Music For Dance And Theatre (1988)

Style: Fusion, Avantgarde, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: RecRec Music, SST Records

Tracklist:
A "The Technology Of Tears"
1.   Sadness, Its Bones Bleached Behind Us
2.   You Are What You Eat
3.   The Palace Of Laughter, The Technology Of Tears
B "Jigsaw"
4.   Jigsaw
5.   Jigsaw Coda

Credits:
Alto Saxophone – John Zorn
Instruments, Voice – Fred Frith
Trombone – Jim Staley
Turntables – Christian Marclay
Voice – Tenko

"Sadness, Its Bleached Bones Behind Us," and "You Are What You Eat" are unrelenting slices of hard-edged sounds over a pulse. "The Palace of Laughter, The Technology of Tears" is an imaginative, intense, varied suite comparing music which represents the past "frozen tears" of sadness -- displayed as images before us by the media, etc. -- with the "hot tears" of the moment that cannot be absorbed by technology. "Jigsaw" and "Jigsaw Coda" (1986) creates patterns with constantly shifting accents and sub-divisions..uneven pieces to be fit together..."Propaganda" (1987) music for a theatre production is a series of brilliantly evocative soundpieces with electronics, guitar, and sound effects...feedback and explosions in the distance, tantric harmonizing in the desert, "A deeper understanding of conflict", "The Relentless Landscape," "The Excellent Hyena," "The Wolf Demon." With John Zorn, alto sax, Tenko, voice, Christian Marclay, turntables, Jim Staley, trombone.
Gene Tyranny / AllMusic

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Hailu Mergia ‎– Lala Belu (2018)

Genre: Jazz, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Awesome Tapes From Africa

Tracklist:
1.   ትዝታ = Tizita
2.   አዲስ ናት = Addis Nat
3.   ጉም ጉም = Gum Gum
4.   አንቺሆየው ለኔ = Anchi Hoye Lene
5.   ላላ በሉ = Lala Belu
6.   የፍቅር እንጉርጉሮ = Yekfir Engurguro

Credits:
Bass – Mike Majkowski
Drums – Tony Buck
Keyboards, Accordion, Melodica, Producer – Hailu Mergia
Written-By – Hailu Mergia
Recorded By  – Javon Gant

Mulatu Astatke is by a long chalk the most widely known exponent of Ethio-Jazz. Propelled on to the world stage by the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch's 2005 movie, Broken Flowers, and subsequently picked up by record labels and festival bookers in Europe and the US, Astatke deserves all the acclaim that comes his way. But, curiously, his international breakthrough has not opened any big doors for other, comparably talented Ethiopian musicians. Prominent among those who are worth checking out is Astatke's near contemporary, the composer and keyboard player Hailu Mergia. Both musicians played key roles in the development of Ethio-Jazz in the early 1970s, before the military putsch which overthrew Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie went on to effectively close down the Addis Ababa music scene (a trauma from which Ethio-Jazz did not recover for almost two decades). 
Mergia's relative obscurity is in part self-inflicted. He emigrated to the US in the 1980s and spent many years working as a cab driver in Washington DC, happy to make music at home, for his friends and family, or on a portable keyboard in the back of the cab, while waiting for fares. Lala Belu, recorded in London in 2017, is Mergia's first studio album in 15 years. He is accompanied with soul and precision by drummer Tony Buck, a founder member of The Necks, and Buck's fellow Australian and Berlin resident, double bassist Mike Majkowski. Some of the tunes are Mergia originals, others are his arrangements of traditional Ethiopian folk music. There are sumptuous melodies and trance-inducing vamps, and turbocharged extended-passages driven by drums and bass. Mergia's solos—on organ, Fender Rhodes, acoustic piano, synthesiser, accordion and melodica—are spellbinding, as are the passages of collective improvisation. Lala Belu is a work of flawless and exquisite beauty. And stick around for the hidden tracks: a couple of minutes after the apparent ending of the final track, another ten minutes of extraordinary music follows.  
Mergia's return to the public arena is in large part due to the championing of US label Awesome Tapes From Africa, which over the last four years has reissued several of his classic albums from the 1970s. These include 1977's Tche Belew and 1978's Wede Harer Guzo, which set benchmarks for Ethio-Jazz as high as any set by Astatke. Astonishingly, Lala Belu is not just as good as its illustrious predecessors, it might even be better than them.  
In an era when five-star reviews get thrown around like confetti, here is an album which really deserves that ranking.
Chris May / All About Jazz

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Emanative ‎– Earth (2018)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Jazzman

Tracklist:
01.   Dawn Child (Sunrise)
02.   Heaven's Mirror
03.   Ìyáàmi
04.   Spice Route Suite
05.   Sandhyavandanam
06.   Egosystem (Solar Noon)
07.   Reflection
08.   New Day
09.   Heaven's Mirror (Reprise)
10.   Minute's To Midnight For This Planet
11.   Raga Requiem (Dusk)

Credits:
Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Tamar Osborn
Bass – Suman Joshi
Bass Clarinet, Flute, Tenor Saxophone – Ben Hadwen
Drums – Malcom Catto
Electric Piano, Synth, Sampler – Geoff Woolley
Percussion – Chris Menist, Phillip Harper, Vince Vella
Percussion, Tabla – Sarathy Korwar
Piano, Organ – Jessica Lauren
Sarod, Rabab – William Rees
Synth – Benjamin Page
Trombone – Tony "Trombony" Hayden
Vocals – Emmanuel Mario
Written-By, Performer, Mixed By, Arranged By, Producer, Drums, Percussion, Balafon – Nick Woodmansey

Every so often an album comes along that is so sweeping in its cultural scope, and so far beyond the norms of critical discourse, that it almost beggars description. Such a disc is Earth, the fourth physical-release album from drummer and producer Nick Woodmansey's Emanative and the follow-up to the band's outstanding The Light Years Of The Darkness (Brownswood, 2015).  
Unlike the earlier album, whose source material comprised tunes written by Sun Ra, Joe Henderson, Alice Coltrane, Don Cherry and Arthur Blythe, all the pieces on Earth are originals written by Woodmansey and the band. In this, and every other sense, the album is an extension of its predecessor. It embraces spiritual jazz, soul jazz, cosmic jazz, Indo jazz, Yoruba ritual music and Maghrebi and Middle Eastern trance musics, and gives tips of the hat to electronica and Jon Hassell's Fourth World template. That combination in itself is enough to tickle outward-facing pleasure receptors. But—and herein lies the real genius—the music is more than the sum of its diverse and toothsome parts. The album is not the touristic pot-pourri of styles and traditions it could easily have been and the tracks can be considered as chapters of a cohesive and focused suite rather than separate entities.  
With a total of 21 musicians in the collective ensemble, this is Emanative's largest line-up to date. The core octet is augmented by seven additional musicians and there are a further half-dozen guests. The Pyramids's Idris Ackamoor, who guested on the 2015 album, playing Pharoah Sanders's "Hum Allah Hum Allah Hum Allah," returns, together with the band's David Molina. Other guests include British saxophonist Nat Birchall and onetime Egypt 80 keyboard player Dele Sosimi , in whose London-based Afrobeat Orchestra Emanative's baritone saxophonist Tamar Osborn is a longstanding star. Part of the album's success derives from Woodmansey eschewing the temptation to throw the kitchen sink at the music—each track features a different subset of the musicians to hand.  
All 78 minutes of Earth are so uniformly engaging that it is impossible to pick out particular tracks as highlights. But to give you a taste... "Ìyáàmi" features Dele Sosimi as lead singer, making obeisance to the titular Mother Goddesses of the Yoruba spirit world. After a scene-setting balafon intro from Woodmansey, Sosimi's raw and intense invocations, sung in Yoruba, carry the track for another nine mesmerising minutes. Otherwordly is not the half of it. "Spice Route Suite" is more reflective but equally entrancing, with Nat Birchall casting his impeccable spiritual-jazz spell over serpentine Persian-esque accompaniment. Each and every track is a delight.  
The sleeve art on the front and rear of Earth's liner booklet chimes with the ethnic and cultural comingling suggested by the gatefold sleeve of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew (CBS, 1969). Intentional or not, the reference to Davis's epic masterpiece is wholly appropriate.
Chris May / All About Jazz

Matthew Dear ‎– Asa Breed (2007)

Style: House, Techno, Downtempo, Experimental, Minimal
Format: CD
Label: Ghostly International

Tracklist:
01.   Fleece On Brain
02.   Neighborhoods
03.   Deserter
04.   Shy
05.   Elementary Lover
06.   Don And Sherri
07.   Will Gravity Win Tonight?
08.   Pom Pom
09.   Death To Feelers
10.   Give Me More
11.   Midnight Lovers
12.   Good To Be Alive
13.   Vine To Vine

Between the animalistic funk of 2003 single "Dog Days"-- a dance track that cheerfully nuzzled its way into a SXSW/CMJ mindset-- and 2004's Backstroke LP, there was a lot of talk of Matthew Dear's shapeshifting abilities. He'd already proven, both under his own name (recording for Ghostly and its Spectral sublabel) and as False (for Richie Hawtin's Plus 8 and Minus labels) and Jabberjaw (for Perlon), that he could stretch and twist his Slinky-like tracks to traverse any hairpin of techno's staircase. Now, word was, Dear was turning towards even greater accessibility with a record that would bring a new sense of songform to his gritty, agreeable beat structures. 
But while six of Backstroke's eight tracks featured vocals (as did "Dog Days") and fell into the occasional verse/chorus structure, the record failed to deliver Dear a wider audience. His voice, even with its odd pitch, put its shoulder to the wheel in the service of pop, but the tires were worn from burning rubber behind a disco stoplight; its tracks felt like retreads-- cracked, wobbly, a little thin. I still enjoy the record, but compared to the staggeringly confident tracks Dear released as Audion in just the last year -- "Mouth to Mouth", "I Gave You Away", remixes for Claude VonStroke, Hot Chip, and Black Strobe, anthems all-- it's difficult to hear Backstroke as the work of the same individual. 
With his new album, Asa Breed, Dear finally makes good on his long-awaited metamorphosis. It's not that the record is a straightforward pop romp: It's still anchored in Dear's lumbering beats, its rhythms cobbled together from misfiring drum machines and colored with barely-in-tune keyboards and yellowing room tone. Still, Dear pulls together his widest array of elements yet, not just in terms of instrumentation-- electric and acoustic guitars, live drums, and haphazard percussion all play strong roles-- but also style: Hints of new wave, indie rock, Afropop, and even country enliven Asa Breed. Dear's mercurial approach to genre, however, feels less like dabbling than a kind of shambling dandyism, trying on mismatched styles with a sidelong wink in the mirror.

The most immediate change is that Dear's voice now sits front-and-center in every track. Actually, make that front-and-center and side-to-side: Virtually every song features two- or three-part, multitracked vocals, encompassing his natural baritone, a more idiosyncratic midrange, and finally a warbly falsetto, generally digitally smeared as a sort of pitch-correction. It's not the greatest voice in the world, but he uses it well, sliding into the notes, lingering on his vowels, and greasing the mechanistic clutter of his backing tracks. It's a suggestive and evocative voice, though exactly what's being suggested is often left ambiguous. On the downcast "Deserter" it's impossible to miss the influence of Joy Division's Ian Curtis; on the ruminative "Fleece on Brain", his backing Ooh-oohs sound like a scrap of 1960s pop that's wafted in on some errant, psychedelic gust. Sometimes, the vocals themselves mutate into something approaching pure musicality, more sensibility than sense: On "Will Gravity Win Tonight?" it might take you dozens of listens to realize that the background babble is really the mantra-like repetition, "More work to be done."
Philip Sherburne / Pitchfork

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Confusion Project ‎– Primal (2018)

Style: Jazz-Rock
Format: CD
Label: Soliton

01. The Old Oak
02. Primal
03. Monologue I
04. Into The Forest
05. Monologue II
06. Lost
07. Monologue III
08. Upstream
09. The Wind And The Stone
10. The Climb
11. The Landscape

Credits:
Michał Ciesielski - piano
Piotr Gierszewski - bass guitar
Adam Golicki - drums

The Tri-City Confusion Project has been created by the pianist and composer Michał Ciesielski (graduate of the Academy of Music in Gdańsk and a several-time winner of the K.Komedy Composer's Competition), Piotr Gierszewski (bass guitar) and Adam Golicki (drums). A year after the warmly received debut album "How to Steal a Piano?" (2014), Confusion Project has released their second album: "The Future Starts Now". However, the band's third album is a kind of conceptual suite that talks about searching for true human nature and original sensitivity.
The music of the Confusion Project from the first album is characterized by an illustrative character and specific aesthetics that deeply stimulate the imagination. This time, however, the whole album took the form of 11 chapters of a musical story about a particular dramaturgy, narrative and message.
The conceptuality of the suite does not, fortunately, deprive the music of the Confusion Project's unpredictability, which could be feared after the album being one long whole. Each subsequent fragment of the album reveals to the recipient huge amounts of creativity and ingenuity of the creator of the suite, Michał Ciesielski, in building a fascinating, totally addictive climate.
Contrary to the initial fears that appeared before the release of the album, "Primal"is a very communicative album in which the expressive and legible melody is adjacent to truly masterful solutions.
In the full reflection, the contemplative story is woven into "monologues", being solo miniatures of each of the individual trio musicians (" Monologue I-III "). These fragments, however, are an integral part of the whole, which should be listened from beginning to end.
The Confusion Project musicians have managed to reconcile the ambitious form of a long 52-minute concept suite, with exceptional accessibility of music that can also appeal to the less-listened to jazz audiences. In terms of aesthetics, the fans of progressive rock music in the '70s can also be interested in "Primal" .
Particularly noteworthy is the extremely careful edition of the album with a sticker containing beautiful photographs taken in the Stołowe Mountains.
"Primal" is an exceptionally mature album. Very important for today's Polish jazz, and certainly a breakthrough for the Confusion Project, whose subsequent achievements will be seen through the prism of this album. 
Robert Ratajczak / longplayrecenzje

Collocutor ‎– The Search (2017)

Style: Avant-garde Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation
Format: Vinyl
Label: On The Corner Records

Tracklist:
A1.   Disappearance
A2.   Conversation 1
A3.   The Search
A4.   Conversation 2
B1.   Here To There To Everywhere
B2.   Conversation 3
B3.   Arrival

Credits
Baritone Saxophone, Alto Flute – Tamar Osborn
Bass – Suman Joshi
Guitar – Marco Piccioni
Percussion – Magnus Mehta, Maurizio Ravalico
Soprano Saxophone – Mike Lesirge, Tamar Osborn
Tenor Saxophone – Mike Lesirge
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Simon 'Shwaa' Finch
Producer – Tamar Osborn

“The Search” is the second album from Collocutor, the London based ensemble led by Tamar Osborn. There is a vintage, authentic feel to the seven original tunes, with themes of spirituality, searching, belonging, and a sense of emotional grounding running through and connecting the pieces together. Modal jazz blends beautifully, beatifically, with an innate soulful expression to give the listener an intimate and engaging experience. 
Collocutor are: Tamar Osborn, baritone and soprano sax and alto flute, Simon Finch, trumpet and flugelhorn, Mike Lesirge, tenor and soprano sax, Suman Joshi, bass, Marco Piccioni, guitar, Magnus Mehta, percussion, and Maurizio Ravalico, percussion. The first thing to mention is that collectively, the band work incredibly well together, So much so that one can feel the expressive nature of their music. It is perhaps as it should be; the instruments being purely a vessel from which the artists breathe life through the music they make. 
Collocutor is the brainchild of saxophonist Tamar Osborn and the project grew from her wish to simply write the music that wanted to be written, rather than focus on a particular audience or context. As such, the compositions draw inspiration from the many genres encountered over a course of a varied career, ranging from jazz, afrobeat, Indian classical and Ethiopian roots to polyphonic choral music and minimalism – the link being primarily modal music with a transportive effect. There is an authentic ethnic feel that flows throughout this recording, and indeed, one that seems to underpin everything else. The music is at times minimalistic, at times coursing with unadulterated adventure, and at times burning brightly as Osborn’s vision sparks into life, transporting the listener to either a previously unexperienced dimension, or to deep within his/her own soul; tempting and teasing out emotive responses to what is being heard. 
‘The Search’ is such a bold album in so many ways, not least given the fact that Osborn appears to have an inner strength and confidence to go with her heart and make music in the way that she feels is right for her. The expressive nature of the music is thoughtful, intriguing and engrossing. It beguiles and it soothes and it transforms and it awakens. It opens up the mind, body and soul in an almost meditatively healing way, if you let it in. Embrace the source, let it live with you for a while, contemplate, swim with it, travel with it, and your journey will be one of rewarding fulfilment. Pick at it, throw it on and turn it off, half-listen, or try too hard to analyse it, and it might leave you for cold, wondering what it’s all about. 
Wonderful brass arrangements combine with etherial soloing, making everything sound so real, so grounded, yet at the same time, of another time and place. Graceful interludes, incisive passages, and experimental sounds work harmoniously to enrich and elevate the music being performed. Juxtaposed, fractured and tempestuous outcrops grow fleetingly alongside peaceful, sublime, judicious landscapes. The music breathes. It rises, it subsides, and like life itself, it rests, it races, it questions and it answers. And most of all, it doesn’t dictate, it simply allows the listener to see a doorway. Whether the listener chooses to go through that doorway and encounter whatever experience unfolds, is entirely up to them.
Mike Gates / UK Vibe

Monday, 14 January 2019

Kate Bush ‎– The Kick Inside (1978)

Style: Art Rock, Pop Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: EMI, Sonopresse, Capitol Records

Tracklist:
01.   Moving
02.   The Saxophone Song
03.   Strange Phenomena
04.   Kite
05.   The Man With The Child In His Eyes
06.   Wuthering Heights
07.   James And The Cold Gun
08.   Feel It
09.   Oh To Be In Love
10.   L'Amour Looks Something Like You
11.   Them Heavy People
12.   Room For The Life
13.   The Kick Inside

The tale's been oft-told, but bears repeating: Discovered by a mutual friend of the Bush family as well as Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Bush was signed on Gilmour's advice to EMI at 16. Given a large advance and three years, The Kick Inside was her extraordinary debut. To this day (unless you count the less palatable warblings of Tori Amos) nothing sounds like it. 
Using mainly session musicians, The Kick Inside was the result of a record company actually allowing a young talent to blossom. Some of these songs were written when she was 13! Helmed by Gilmour's friend, Andrew Powell, it's a lush blend of piano grandiosity, vaguely uncomfortable reggae and intricate, intelligent, wonderful songs. All delivered in a voice that had no precedents. Even so, EMI wanted the dullest, most conventional track, James And The Cold Gun as the lead single, but Kate was no push over. At 19 she knew that the startling whoops and Bronte-influenced narrative of Wuthering Heights would be her make or break moment. Luckily she was allowed her head.  
Of course not only did Wuthering Heights give her the first self-written number one by a female artist in the UK, (a stereotype-busting fact of huge proportions, sadly undermined by EMI's subsequent decision to market Bush as lycra-clad cheesecake), but it represented a level of articulacy, or at least literacy, that was unknown to the charts up until then. In fact, the whole album reads like a the product of a young, liberally-educated mind, trying to cram as much esoterica in as possible. Them Heavy People, the album's second hit may be a bouncy, reggae-lite confection, but it still manages to mention new age philosopher and teacher G I Gurdjieff. In interviews she was already dropping names like Kafka and Joyce, while she peppered her act with dance moves taught by Linsdsay Kemp. Showaddywaddy, this was not. 
And this isn't to mention the sexual content. Ignoring the album's title itself, we have the full on expression of erotic joy in Feel It and L'Amour Looks Something Like You. Only in France had 19-year olds got away with this kind of stuff. A true child of the 60s vanguard in feminism, Strange Phenomena even concerns menstruation: Another first. Of course such density was decidedly English and middle class. Only the mushy, orchestral Man With The Child In His Eyes, was to make a mark in the US, but like all true artists, you always felt that Bush didn't really care about the commercial rewards. She was soon to abandon touring completely and steer her own fabulous course into rock history.
Chris Jones  / BBC Review

Nearly God ‎– Nearly God (1996) (USA & Canada Edition)

Style: Abstract, Trip Hop, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Durban Poison, 4th & Broadway

Tracklist:
01.   Tattoo
02.   Poems
03.   Together Now
04.   Keep Your Mouth Shut
05.   I Be The Prophet
06.   Make A Change
07.   Black Coffee
08.   Bubbles
09.   I Sing For You
10.   Yoga
11.   Judas
12.   Children's Story

Trip-Hop is a very interesting style of music to listen to most of the time. Even a more interesting one to review. Some albums will strike you as amazing right off the bat. Others will just sound strange and strewn about all of over the place. Nearly God is an interesting mix between the two, mixing some of the practical elements, with some really different ideas. Each song really does carry it's own separate tune but also contributes to the album as a whole in their own way. Some songs will come off sounding light and very acessible, and some will sound downright disturbing. It will be up to you to decide which ones are which.~
From the start of the album you can tell you're in for a ride. As the album opener, Tatoo is immediately immersive with its creepy, brooding atmosphere, paving the way for the record's bleak and depressing soundscape. Alone in a room with headphones on, Nearly God is as ethereal as it is eerie. This album will jump from one genre bending song to the next in the blink of an eye, and most of the time you don't even progress a song. Songs like Poems and Together Now are very light and upbeat, including very acessible vocals and song structures. Songs like Tattoo, Keep Your Mouth Shut and Judas will give off more of the macabre tone. Between the processed vocals and the very eerie background vocals, it will make you ponder as to whether some of the songs are beautiful or just creepy. But songs such as I Be The Prophet are almost standalone tracks that don't sound like anything you've heard on the album prior. Traditionally oriented strings as the main beat/rhythm of the song really make the song, (among others), some of the best on the album to listen to. With the female vocals and the same processed male vocals layered over the top of each other, it gives a great juxtaposition between angelic and demonic. The music itself is quite amazing, completely un rushed and takes it's time building a constant tone and mood throughout the entire listen. Between the different singing and talking/rapping (if you will) throughout the album, you get a great variety of genres all within one song. This album has almost constant layering, between the vocals and all of the random noises/ambience that is added. While in some releases this can be a nuisance, it is executed very well on this album and almost perfectly in some cases. 
The amount of guest musicians and singer/songwriters is a bit intimidating at times. It can make one wonder, how complete the listening experience is with the vocalist changing almost every single song. But overall the album still retains a very good feel of consistency throughout and still maintains to sound completely different each and every track. With songs that don't even speak English to songs that have one obscure beat then quickly jump to a sample of a pre-recorded generic rap song. 
Although the album does a great job with the atmosphere and almost flawless production of the vocals and music itself, it's not without its' faults. The length of the songs may not look that bad, the longest just clocking in at 6:54. But sometimes the album can feel like it drags on and on, and its just you listening to the same thing over and over again, waiting for something more to happen. Although each song will recapture your attention with each passing track, even some of the 4 minute tracks can seem a bit boring and monotonous. 
This album is very hard to really form a solid opinion on, some of the songs will completely draw you in and make you really listen. Others will just make you want to hit the skip button and see if the next track is better. I would say, if you're into trip-hop or this artist in particular, check this out. It might not be up to par with a lot of the other artists in the genre but it's worth a shot. To everyone who hasn't heard of this artist at all and have never heard of this genre, still check this out. There are better releases, I'm sure, but this is still one great album.
beans  / sputnik music

Saturday, 5 January 2019

David Moss ‎– Dense Band (1985)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz, Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Moers Music

Tracklist:
A1.   Stride
A2.   Shuffle
A3.   Slow Climb
A4.   New Feet
A5.   Fallaway
A6.   Surface Tension
B1.   Sixth Sense
B2.   Say So
B3.   Three Metal Moves
B4.   Next Witness
B5.   Dance Bend
B6.   Unsafe At Any Speed
B7.   In The Dark Times, Will There Be Singing

Credits:
Alto Saxophone – John Zorn
Bass – Fred Frith
Cello – Tom Cora
Effects (Rain, Manipulations) – Fred Frith
Guitar – Arto Lindsay, Fred Frith
Guitar, Soloist – Fred Frith
Scratches – Christian Marclay
Synthesizer – Wayne Horvitz
Turntables – Christian Marclay
Vocals – Arto Lindsay, David Moss, Tenko
Voice – Fred Frith, John Zorn, David Moss
Drums, Percussion, Steel Drums – David Moss, Jules Moss

IN 1985, David Moss released ''Dense Band,'' an album that distilled downtown noise improvisation into song-length chunks and added a funk beat now and then. It was a showcase for Mr. Moss's precise, clattery drumming and his peculiar specialty: improvised vocal gibberish that can evoke anything from a newscast in Lithuanian to a soprano wrestling a hyena. 
Two years later, he is touring with a group called Dense Band; the group made its American debut Wednesday at the Whitney Annex. 
The current Dense Band includes Wayne Horvitz on keyboard, Jean Chaine on electric bass, Christian Marclay on turntables and John King on guitar. It was a showcase for both Mr. Moss and Mr. Chaine, who made an impressive New York debut with ultra-fast funk patterns, whizzing melodies and strummed and plucked chords that took the innovations of the late Jaco Pastorius a step further. 
Nearly a dozen concise, varied pieces used stop-start patterns, rock and funk riffs, bursts of loud noise and relative quiet, and Mr. Moss's own sense of timing and timbre -part funk, part slapstick. He uses a drum kit that features bent-up, clanking cymbals as well as conventional ones, so a steady beat can sound like it suddenly collided with a garbage truck. 
Mr. Horvitz's bell-like keyboard sounds, Mr. King's guitar twangs and Mr. Marclay's selections from records - mostly swelling orchestral chords and operatic voices, rendered silly by their context - also contributed to the poised, cheerful cacophony. The only problem was the Whitney Annex's acoustics; the echoing concrete-and-glass room muddied the music.
Jon Pareles / The New York Times

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Blood Wine Or Honey ‎– Fear & Celebration (2018)

Style: Afrobeat, Future Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Do Right! Music

Tracklist:
A1.   Fear & Celebration
A2.   The Undying Overrated
A3.   Loosefoot
A4.   Orwellian Woman
B1.   Anxious Party People
B2.   The Forest Is Expecting You
B3.   Peak Helium IV
B4.   The Young Ones

Notes:
"The debut album from Hong Kong trio Blood Wine or Honey.
A witches brew of brazen sax themes, lo-fi/hi-tech electronics, motorik drums and group-sung vocals, summoning a ritualistically euphoric sound that skirts post-punk, dance floor experimentation, bass/soundsystem music and tropical polyrhythms

After making their debut at last year’s Sonar Festival HK, experimental trio Blood Wine or Honey have released their hotly anticipated debut album Fear & Celebration. 
The title track opener, and drum-led Loosefoot capture the “celebration” side of the album’s theme, with intricate drum rhythms, saxophone flourishes and psychedelic twists marrying deep hazy synths with infectiously tribal-like grooves. 
The “fear” element is most prominent in tracks such as The Undying Overrated and Orwellian Woman, which are both more sparse, and darker, swapping the hypnotic party aesthetic for contemplative and experimental jazz moments. 
Peak Helium A is the standout track, and fits into neither camp, with its soft-synth soundscape echoing like a more optimistic Bjork or Kid A-era Radiohead. Its counterpart, Peak Helium IV, starts off in an almost identical nature, but soon develops into the textured polyrhythms that punctuate much of the record. 
This is an album full of refreshing, sometimes challenging, but often forward-thinking ideas, which will create a thought-provoking companion once you’ve exhausted yourself from dancing.
Chris Gillett / young post 

Angélique Kidjo ‎– Remain In Light (2018)

Style: Afrobeat, Funk, African
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Kravenworks

Tracklist:
1.   Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
2.   Crosseyed And Painless
3.   The Great Curve
4.   Once In A Lifetime
5.   Houses In Motion
6.   Seen And Not Seen
7.   Listening Wind
8.   The Overload

Credits:
Producer – Jeff Bhasker
Written-By – Brian Eno, David Byrne

Nearly 40 years on, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light remains a pinnacle of New York City rock, in part because it drew from anything but the strictures of rock‘n’roll. Instead it preferred cycling polyrhythms, mesmeric vamps, and dizzying layers and loops. But depending on which half of the band you asked, you might get a different answer as to its sources. For the rhythm section of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, the band’s newfound groove came courtesy of funk, R&B, and hip-hop (Frantz played drums on Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks”). But frontman David Byrne and producer Brian Eno traced the album’s inspirations to Afrobeat. It’s the latter that perked up the ears of Beninese icon Angélique Kidjo, who first encountered “Once in a Lifetime” in the early 1980s but never heard the entire album until 2016. “It might be rock‘n’roll, but there’s something African to it,” she recently told Rolling Stone about her first brush with the classic. 
In taking these coastal art rockers’ nervy sound back to Africa, Kidjo also picked a pregnant moment to cover the album in its entirety: The nuclear pall of the early ’80s compares all too easily to our current predicament. Kidjo’s own track record makes her a natural for such a task, given her expansive vision of the continent’s music (to the point that she has often faced the asinine accusation that her music isn’t authentically “African”). And she has plenty of help here, from Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes, Kanye/Rihanna producer Jeff Bhasker, and the man whose cephalopod-like drumming originally inspired the album, Afrobeat legend Tony Allen. While she foregrounds the 1980 record’s latent paranoia, social disquiet, and political loathing, Kidjo also imparts a tactile sense of resilience to offset the original’s despair. 
The ecstatic gush and worming electronics of “Born Under Punches” remain intact, right down to a glitch recreation of guest guitarist Adrian Belew’s arcade-on-the-fritz guitar solo from the Talking Heads recording. But it’s when Kidjo and her cohorts diverge from the source that the album’s headier moments arise. The band’s twitchy approximations of Nigerian pop polyrhythms on “Crosseyed and Painless” and “Houses in Motion” become more muscular and graceful with Allen himself behind the kit. 
But the star of the set remains Kidjo. Her poised and powerful presence fleshes out nuances in Byrne’s lyrics that the precocious singer often seemed to approach cerebrally rather than feel viscerally. While he may have gleaned certain ideas about African iconography from Robert Farris Thompson’s 1979 study African Art in Motion, Kidjo has that tradition fully ingrained in her extensive body of work. As Byrne once put it to Thompson about “The Great Curve”: “You think that’s very down and earthy, but I was talking about something metaphysical.” Kidjo, on the other hand, transmogrifies the song’s refrain (“The world moves on a woman’s hips”) back to flesh and blood. 
Kidjo also transforms the queasy ambience of the album’s last tracks into something resembling optimism. That dirge for a terrorist bomber, “Listening Wind,” might be the recast album’s defining moment. Against steadfast hand percussion, Kidjo assumes the role of the song’s protagonist, Mojique, while Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig sings backup in Kidjo’s native Fon. Their voices converge in the chorus into something that feels at once desperate yet emboldened, giving voice to that otherwise powerless protagonist. 
Whether it’s a coincidence or a more concerted reckoning with patriarchy, this year in music is revealing a number of black (both African and African-American) female artists tackling canonical works by male musicians, many of them white men, and reframing and recasting those classic songs and albums in a manner that feels refreshing and revitalizing. Bettye LaVette breathed life into neglected numbers as well as well-worn standards from the Dylan songbook; Meshell Ndegeocello reimagined both Jam-Lewis and Prince classics so that they might be heard and felt anew. Kidjo finds her own way into these songs, infusing them with a tactile sense of empathy. Rather than echo the emptiness of a line like, “The center is missing/They question how the future lies,” her voice imparts a sense of hope, allowing in a brief glint of light.
Andy Beta / Pitchfork