Monday, 18 June 2018

Everything Is Recorded ‎– Everything Is Recorded (2017)

Style: Trip Hop, Beatdown
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: XL Recordings

01 Intro
02 Close But Not Quite
03 She Said
04 Wet Looking Road
05 Mountains Of Gold
06 Show Love
07 Echoes In The Bone (Interlude)
08 Bloodshot Red Eyes
09 Cane
10 Purify (Interlude)
11 Be My Friend
12 Everything Is Recorded

Drums, Percussion, Sampler – Richard Russell
Producer, Arranged By – Richard Russell
Engineer – John Foyle
Mastered By – Mandy Parnell
Mastered By [Assistant] – Hal Robinson
Mixed By, Programmed By – John Foyle, Richard Russell
Photography By – Ed Morris
Artwork – Maharishi Hardy Blechman

To best understand Richard Russell, watch him play “Please Forgive My Heart” in the studio with Bobby Womack. Outside of a few taps on his MPC, Russell’s almost not there, but as piano, bass, and drums move around the legendary soul survivor’s voice, his invisible touch provides the song’s underlying heartbeat. That unobtrusive quality helps explain how Russell has helmed XL Recordings into one of the lone record label success stories to be had in the 21st century, from signing a teenager named Adele to serving as the imprint that notoriously fussy artists such as Thom Yorke and Frank Ocean trust to press up their music.
While Russell put his own creative work on the backburner for decades, when he was diagnosed with the rare autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome in 2013, he decided to focus on making music again. That didn’t necessitate a move from the background towards the spotlight. For his latest project, Everything Is Recorded, Russell has surrounded himself with the XL Junior Varsity Team—meaning no Adele or Vampire Weekend, let alone Frank or Thom, but a few appearances from Sampha, Ibeyi, and Young Turks-signed Kamasi Washington. The bigger names that do appear on this album follow a similar attention-deflecting strategy to Russell’s, with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside near impossible to pinpoint without a credits list. The ultimate effect of all that ego sublimation is a somewhat scattered album with quietly stunning highs, if not much of a centering force.
Russell’s niftiest trick is take the premise that “everything is recorded” to heart, relying on his sampler to make voices from generations past duet with new artists in the present moment. But “Close but Not Quite” winds up being too on the nose. The song springs from a studio session where Russell paired Sampha with a snippet of Curtis Mayfield, finding a common ground not just in their heavenly, heart-breaking falsettos, but also their “gentle soul[s], in an era where a lot of soul artists were quite macho,” as Sampha put it in a New Yorker profile. The juxtaposition of string-laden early ’70s soul with 21st century machine rhythms is intriguing, but when both gentlemen address the theme of “speak[ing] the unspoken,” they end up undifferentiated, their messages redundant across the span of time.
Russell does better when he chops up a sample of Keith Hudson, whose haunting, brooding music in the ’70s and early ’80s earned him the nickname “The Dark Prince of Reggae,” for “Wet Looking Road.” The gloomy atmosphere and desolate vocal from Hudson provides an ink-black backdrop for British rapper Giggs. Similarly, when Russell utilizes the slink of Grace Jones’ “Nightclubbing” for “Mountains of Gold,” the sparseness of the track allows space for Sampha, Ibeyi, and Ratking’s Wiki all to operate effectively around Ms. Jones.
The surprise sax solo from Washington that closes “Mountains of Gold” feels like an afterthought, though, tacked on to the end of the song. The same goes for “She Said,” which pairs Washington with recent Rising subject Obongjayar. It’s a more nimble showing from Obongjayar than the abrasive song on Everything Is Recorded’s 2017 EP wherein Obongjayar shrieked over a distorted din from the Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis. Yet once again, Washington’s bold playing is reduced to a non-descript sax solo, made to grapple with a flatulent digital bassline from Russell.
The slower that Russell moves, the better for allowing the disparate components of Everything Is Recorded to settle into something exquisite, as on the gorgeous “Bloodshot Red Eyes,” an R&B ballad adrift in outer space. Quivering electric keys and a simple clap, plus a smattering of synthetic strings, are all that newcomer (and son of Ghostface) Infinite needs to send the track soaring. His voice transubstantiates heartbreak into something approaching the beatific.
The album’s other standout is “Be My Friend,” which also foregrounds Infinite, his voice layered this time so as to become a choir. Russell brings in a sample of Dallas preacher TD Jakes talking about the illusion of solitude: “It is possible to be alone and not live alone/It is possible to feel alone and not work alone.” It’s a poignant insight, but the same sample crops up multiple times across the album, so that by the time it lands here, it sounds like a rare miscue from Russell—a heavy-handed move from someone who’s trained us to expect a light touch.                                                           
 Andy Beta / Pitchfork

I'm Not A Gun ‎– Mirror (2008)

Style: IDM, Post Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Palette Recordings

01.   Longing Mind
02.   Arcanum
03.   Ghost Has Gone
04.   Four Steps
05.   Turning Circle
06.   Looking Into
07.   The Dance
08.   Bright View, Windy Blue
09.   9th Day
10.   Lacuna

Drums, Producer [Electronic Production] – John Tejada
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar [Classical Guitars] – Takeshi Nishimoto
Mastered By – Hive, John Tejada
Written-By – John Tejada, Takeshi Nishimoto
Artwork [Graphic Design] – David Grey

John Tejada and Takeshi Nishimoto have been recording and performing together as I'm Not A Gun since 2003. With a trio of excellent records released on Berlin's City Centre Offices imprint, the duo are treating things as more of a family affair for their fourth effort, Mirror, putting it out via Tejada's own Palette Recordings. Those unfamiliar with the project may be taken aback at first: The finely wrought melodic techno that Tejada has become so widely known for is nowhere to be found in the mix, the synths and sequencers left at home in favor of more organic instrumentation; centered on a core of guitar, bass and drums, Mirror showcases a collection of downtempo gems that reference everything from jazz to IDM to ambient.  
Tracks like "Looking Into" and "Four Steps" sputter into existence in a cloud of chopped and screwed guitar samples before blossoming into a languid weave of interlocking guitar lines and head-nodding rhythms, and others, like the gorgeous "Bright View, Windy Blue," get right to the point, underpinning dense clumps of guitar chords and sparkling drones with the sort of galloping beats that would seem right at home on a Mice Parade release.  
The album resembles a stripped-down revision of the revered Chicago post-rock ensemble Tortoise at times, while at others it veers towards the sort of electronically augmented instrumental pop trafficked in by Christopher Willits. But despite all of this unabashed eclecticism, Tejada and Nishimoto never fail to hit their mark, making Mirror conspicuously free of filler. Of course, Tejada's masterful production skills make the album worth a listen on their own merits. With every instrument crisply recorded and situated precisely in the mix—not to mention a judicious approach to the use of effects—Mirror is a real treat for the ears.  
Even though Mirror isn't really much of a departure from the duo's previous releases, it does find Tejada and Nishimoto refining their techniques and solidifying their signature sound. What's refreshing is that they aren't pushing themselves for the sake of the "new," instead opting to do what they already do so well: crafting lush instrumentals that are a welcome respite from the constant thump of the dance floor and a perfect soundtrack for the morning after.
Fonte / RA 

I'm Not A Gun ‎– Everything At Once (2003)

Style: Abstract, Future Jazz, Post Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: City Centre Offices

01.   Jet Stream
02.   Frequent Syndrome
03.   These Thoughts Break
04.   Long Division
05.   Monovision
06.   Make Sense And Loose
07.   Search For Sleep
08.   Drunken Anecdotes
09.   Dazed In The Moment
10.   Vacant Sky
11.   Flash Bang Imagery

Guitar, Bass – Takeshi Nishimoto
Guitar, Drums, Bass, Recorded By, Mixed By – John Tejada
Written-By, Producer – John Tejada, Takeshi Nishimoto
Mastered By – Loop-o
Photography By – Markus Knothe
Cover – Aesthetic Investments

O projecto I’m Not A Gun emana um tiro à queima-roupa que segue as pegadas dos discos anteriores da City Centre Offices (onde podemos encontrar, entre outros, Opiate e Denzel + Huhn) . “Everything at Once” é a eminente alvorada da dupla Tejada/Nishimoto que decidiu refugiar-se nos “relaxes” de fim de tarde para produzir um disco viajado: a Los Angeles de Tejada, a Fukuoka (Japão) de Nishimoto e a Berlim da City Centre Offices misturam-se num fértil cruzamento de referências.
Com dezenas de singles (mais de quarenta!) editados e formação clássica, John Tejada costuma estar associado ao techno californiano (como Dj, remixer, produtor, ou dono de pequenas editoras), à electrónica, à bateria e à guitarra. O japonês Takeshi Nishimoto é conhecido essencialmente como o guitarrista de excepção que é (o que já lhe valeu avultadas distinções) muito devido ao seu ar multifacetado que o faz trabalhar frequentemente na música clássica, jazz e electrónica. A colaboração entre os dois é por isso um importante e inovador desenvolvimento (no conteúdo e na forma) de ambos os músicos numa área em que não costumam trabalhar frequentemente. Tejada ficou encarregue das programações, bateria e guitarra, enquanto que Nishimoto ficou com o baixo e (também) com a guitarra. 
“Everything at Once” é para muitos o eco desenvolvido do som que já ficou conhecido como o de Chicago, mas a verdade é que se estende e transforma muito para além desse estereótipo. E podia ser apenas jazzrock com pitadas de folk music, mas não, é mais do que isso. É um disco orgânico em terra electrónica. É a experimentação dos instrumentais descontraídos com recurso aos instrumentos rock clássicos (e por isso mesmo, cada vez menos utilizados) e uma abertura de mente em relação a uma música ambiental simultaneamente livre e autónoma. Mas também pode ser menos do que isto. Pode chegar a ser enfadonho e a conter uma monotonia sonolenta. Chegar a pedir mais e a ficar-se pelo mesmo. Mas não, também não será bem assim. “Everything At Once” é, afinal, um conjunto de temas onde se distinguem o inicial “Jet Stream”, o jazz-indie-folk “Search For Sleep” ou “Long Division“ mas onde poderia ficar de fora, por exemplo, “Make Sense and Loop”. Não que este seja um mau tema, mas a sua saída asseguraria uma continuidade e conformidade maior ao álbum, que o beneficiaria em muito. Este não é um daqueles discos que o tempo se encarregará de apontar como uma marca, mas não deixa de ser interessante assistir a um certo bel-prazer da dupla Tejada/Nishimoto ao fazer música assim. 
A arquitectura rítmica e o consequente jogo guitarra/bateria/baixo são explorados de forma eficaz, e muitas vezes com enorme sentido de correspondência. Vagueando por deliciosas improvisações instrumentais e texturas sonoras de primeira água, este disco deixa claro que o jazzrock, ou também aquilo que se convencionou chamar indietronica, consegue continuar a mostrar novas perspectivas deixando de lado algumas “utopias” recentes sobre tudo o que gira em torno de Chicago.                                        
Tiago Gonçalves / bodyspace