Tuesday, 31 July 2018

SPK ‎– Zamia Lehmanni: Songs of Byzantine Flowers (1986)

Style: Industrial, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Side Effects, Normal

A1  Invocation (To Secular Heresies)
A2  Palms Crossed In Sorrow
A3  Romanze In Moll (Romance In A Minor Key)
A4  In The Dying Moments
B1  In Flagrante Delicto (Introduction)
B2  In Flagrante Delicto
B3  Alocasia Metallica
B4  Necropolis
B5  The Garden Of Earthly Delights

Graeme Revell - Composer, Engineer, Multi Instruments, Producer
Sinan - Voices
Brian Lustmord - Supervisor

SPK was the electronic/industrial/ambient brainchild of Graeme Revell - now known for his soundtrack music for numerous films and television programs. His sense of composition and orchestration (and I don't use that word in the traditional sense...) which are apparent in his current work have been present all along, to which this recording, originally released in 1986, will testify. This music is played/constructed/composed with creative brilliance and genius - there are many contemporary artists that owe a great debt to his pioneering work, and much of what passes for innovation in this genre doesn't hold a candle to this. 
Revell utilizes all sorts of sounds - keyboards, orchestral instruments, percussion, ethnic instruments from around the world, voices (including solo voices recorded specifically for this music, as well as altered recordings of choirs and altered and looped voices from primitive culture rituals), found sounds (ambience from a railway yard, clanking chains, printing factory noises, a child's swing, sheet metal) and recordings from nature (toads, crows), mixing them not at random, but with precision and skill and emotion, to form a cohesive whole that is nothing short of astonishing. The resulting music has elements of the sacred as well as the profane - it is darkness and light, possessed of a heavenly beauty and gut-wrenching power, subtle and overt. The loveliness of many passages will bring tears to the eyes - and a chill to the spine. 
Some of the notes from the CD insert are revelatory - a quote from Wellesz (from BYZANTINE MUSIC AND HYMNOGRAPHY) portrays Byzantium as `...the centre of civilization...' for Europe during the Dark Ages, `...and it now laid the foundation for the music of Christendom through a fusion of elements, religious and secular, eastern and western.' The image is an apt one - this recording is itself a blend of sounds from all over the world, an audio lens through which Revell shines the light of diverse cultures and belief systems, illuming the mind of the listener. There is also a verse quoted from `Byzantium' by W. B. Yeats, which expresses some of the mood of this album: 
`...by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
in glory of changeless metal
common bird or petal,
and all complexities of mire or blood.' 
The instruments (include in that definition: taped sounds) on this recording are played by Revell - the voices are by Sinan (who also appears on earlier SPK releases), Jan Thornton, and the Choir of the Russian Old Orthodox Church of the Holy Annunciation-Assumption of Sydney, Australia. There are voices that sound like they were recorded in perhaps Bali or Vietnam that have been made into loops - and Revell has done this with great care, preserving the rhythm of the lines sung so that the layers he has added contribute to that rhythm and feeling, rather than clash with it. Several of the tracks have an obvious influence of the Balinese gamelan orchestras, as well. 
The mood changes from track to track, from section to section of each piece - but it does so logically, never jarring the listener. It's easy to experience to this in a `trusting' way, allowing the composer/performer to lift the listener and pull him/her along on this journey. As some of the titles reflect, there is darkness to be found here - but there is also much light. This is a stunning sonic document.
 Larry L. Looney / amazon.com

Nels Cline ‎– Lovers (2016)

Style: Contemporary Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Blue Note

1-01.   Introduction / Diaphanous
1-02.    Glad To Be Unhappy
1-03.    Beautiful Love
1-04.   Hairpin & Hatbox
1-05.   Cry, Want
1-06.   Lady Gabor
1-07.   The Bed We Made
1-08.   You Noticed
1-09.   Secret Love
1-10.   I Have Dreamed
2-01.   Why Was I Born?
2-02.   Invitation
2-03.   It Only Has To Happen Once
2-04.   The Night Porter / Max, Mon Amour
2-05.   Snare, Girl
2-06.   So Hard It Hurts / Touching
2-07.   The Search For Cat
2-08.   The Bond (For Yuka)

Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Julian Lage
Bass Clarinet, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone – Douglas Wieselman
Bassoon – Sara Schoenbeck
Celesta, Synthesizer – Yuka C Honda
Cello – Erik Friedlander, Maggie Parkins
Clarinet [Bb Clarinet], Alto Saxophone – Gavin Templeton
Contra-Alto Clarinet, Clarinet – Ben Goldberg
Contrabass, Bass Guitar – Devin Hoff
Drums, Percussion – Alex Cline
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, Effects – Nels Cline
Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Baritone Saxophone, Bass Saxophone – JD Parran
Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Oboe, English Horn, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet – Charles Pillow
Harp – Zeena Parkins
Trombone, Bass Trombone – Alan Ferber
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Cimbalom, Celesta – Michael Leonhart
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Valve Trombone – Taylor Haskins
Trumpet, Trumpet (Slide Trumpet), Flugelhorn, Alto Horn – Steven Bernstein
Vibraphone, Marimba, Percussion – Kenny Wollesen
Viola – Stephanie Griffin
Violin – Antoine Silverman, Jeff Gauthier
Violin, Viola – Amy Kimball

Fans of Nels Cline are accustomed to his adaptability. After starting his career in jazz’s progressive currents—and playing alongside saxophonist Julius Hemphill—the guitarist later became a member of Wilco, starting with Sky Blue Sky. He’s also maintained a feverish schedule as a solo artist: participating in improv-noise summits with Thurston Moore and recording an album with the fusionists in Medeski, Martin & Wood. 
Still, ardent followers of this guitarist may be unprepared for his latest reinvention. Romantic “mood music” isn’t what most listeners expect from him—even if refined, soft-touch playing has long been one aspect of his overall sound. On his 2xCD debut for the Blue Note label, Cline has delivered a chamber-orchestra set that’s notable for relying on some “Great American Songbook” standards by the likes of Jerome Kern and Rodgers & Hammerstein. 
This isn’t a setup for some punkish deconstruction, either. The album starts off with a quarter-hour that sounds surprisingly straight-ahead. (Even the adventurous touches in the early going can be traced back to Gil Evans, Miles Davis’ sometime big-band arranger). Cline and his talented supporting musicians play “Glad to Be Unhappy” without any hint of camp—instead endeavoring to treat familiar themes with tenderness. Outside of those performances, the album offers some pensive Cline originals, as well as covers that wouldn’t normally be assigned to a “standards” group. 
It’s this final batch of songs that gives Lovers an edge. The inclusion of pieces by experimentalist Arto Lindsay and Third Stream saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre honors Cline’s diverse fascinations, yet what's more interesting is the way that Cline makes these compositions seem like natural extensions of a program that also includes music by Henry Mancini. After Cline and his band have moved on from Tin Pan Alley in order to visit No Wave New York, the “for lovers only” feel is maintained. The orchestra’s performances may briefly include rougher attacks, though not to such a degree that the album’s conceit is ever risked. 
Much credit for this unusual achievement is due to conductor and arranger Michael Leonhart—as well as to the cast of contemporary-music ringers that Cline has assembled for his backing ensemble. Harpist Zeena Parkins, cellist Erik Friedlander, and keyboardist Yuka Honda are all familiar to frequenters of America’s experimental music venues, though you’ve rarely heard them as restrained as they are on Lovers. 
Initially, this can feel like a waste of good avant power. But over the course of the album, the benefits become clear. Leonhart’s arrangement of the melody to Sonic Youth’s “Snare, Girl,” goes well with the mournful lyricism of Rodgers’s “I Have Dreamed.” And a droning, exploratory version of Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo’s “Lady Gabor” winds up sharing a sound-world with Lindsay’s Ambitious Lovers track “It Only Has To Happen Once.” 
Cline’s guitar playing delights in this parade of upset expectations, too—sounding dirtier in Kern’s “Why Was I Born?” than during the various resettings of modernist rock. He plays lap steel during “Dreamed,” and swings amiably on other vintage cuts like “Beautiful Love” and “Secret Love.” The only task he doesn’t quite pull off is the composition of original themes that stand with the classics he’s selected. Almost half of the first CD is made up of Cline originals, and these pale a bit in comparison with the surrounding material. Though thanks to its sly and measured embrace of the experimental, Lovers still has all the originality it needs to endear.
Seth Colter Walls / Pitchfork

The Durutti Column ‎– LC (1981)

Style: Abstract, Indie Rock, Post-Punk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Factory

01.   Sketch For Dawn I
02.   Portrait For Frazer
03.   Jacqueline
04.   Messidor
05.   Sketch For Dawn II
06.   Never Known
07.   The Act Committed
08.   Detail For Paul
09.   The Missing Boy
10.   The Sweet Cheat Gone
Related Works
11.   For Mimi
12.   Belgian Friends
13.   Self Portrait
14.   One Christmas For Your Thoughts
15.   Danny
16.   Enigma

Credits: Martin Hannett - Producer Bruce Mitchell - Percussion Vini Reilly - Composer, Guitar, Keyboards, Producer, Writer

After some abortive collaborations, Reilly hooked up with a regular drummer, talented fellow Mancunian Bruce Mitchell, to create LC, Durutti's second full release. Self-produced by Reilly but bearing the unmistakable hints of his earlier work with Martin Hannett, LC, named after a bit of Italian graffiti, extends Reilly's lovely talents ever further, resulting in a new set of evocative, carefully played and performed excursions on electric guitar. Mitchell's crisp but never overly dominant drumming actually starts the record off via "Sketch for Dawn I," added to by a simply captivating low series of notes from Reilly that builds into a softly triumphant melodic surge, repeating a core motif again and again. His piano playing adds a perfect counterpart, while the final touch are his vocals -- low speak-singing that sounds utterly appropriate in context, mixed low and capturing the emotional flavor at play via delivery rather than lyrical content. As great as Return is, this is perhaps even better, signaling a full flowering of Reilly's talents throughout the album. Mitchell proves him time and again to be in perfect sync with Reilly, adding gentle brio and understated variation to the latter's compositions. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "The Missing Boy," the album's unquestioned highlight. Written in memory of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, on it Mitchell adds quick, sudden hits contrasting against the low, tense atmosphere of the song, while fragile piano notes and Reilly's own regret-tinged, yearning vocals complete the picture. For all the implicit melancholy in Durutti's work, there's a surprising amount of life and energy throughout -- "Jaqueline" is perhaps the standout, with a great central melody surrounded by the expected Reilly elaborations and additions in the breaks. As with the rest of Durutti's mid-'90s reissues, the expanded version of LC appears full to the brim with intriguing bonus tracks galore. The first three capture an abortive collaboration with another Manc drummer, funk performer Donald Johnson. A contribution to a holiday album, "One Christmas for Your Thoughts," finds Reilly back with drum machines, while the very first Reilly/Mitchell collaborations, "Danny" and "Enigma," round out this excellent release.
Ned Ragget / ALLMusic

Shri ‎– Drum The Bass (1997)

Style: Breaks, Drum n Bass, Ambient
Format: CD. Vinyl
Label: Outcaste Records

1.   Meditation
2.   Camels
3.   Village By The River
4.   Trains
5.   Inside Outside
6.   Camels (Instrumental)
7.   Before The Rain
8.   Bombay
9.   Maybe But Not Really

Sanjeev Bhasker - Vocals
Tina Grace - Vocals
JC-001 - Beatbox, Vocals
Meera Syal - Vocals
Eshan Khadaroo - Drums
Nitin Sawhney - Composer, Keyboards, Producer
Shri - Composer, Primary Artist
Dev Singh - Vocals
Shrikanth Sriram - Arranger, Composer, Liner Notes, Mixing, Producer
Mandy Parnell - Post Production

One of the rare cases in the British dance underground where an artist actually understands the ethnicities of the countries he's fusing, Shri is classically trained on the tabla, and uses his intricate knowledge of percussion to create a complex drum'n'bass outing with Indian environments.
John Bush / ALLMusic