Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Makaya McCraven ‎– Universal Beings (2018)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: P-Vine Records, International Anthem Recording Company

New York Side
1-01.   A Queen's Intro
1-02.   Holy Land
1-03.   Young Genius
1-04.   Black Lion
1-05.   Tall Tales
1-06.   Mantra
Chicago Side
1-07.   Pharaoh's Intro
1-08.   Atlantic Black
1-09.   Inner Flight
1-10.   Wise Man, Wiser Woman
1-11.   Prosperity's Fear
London Side
2-12.   Flipped OUT
2-13.   Voila
2-14.   Suite Haus
2-15.   The Newbies Lift Off
2-16.   The Royal Outro
Los Angeles Side
2-17.   The Count Off
2-18.   Butterss's
2-19.   Turtle Tricks
2-20.   The Fifth Monk
2-21.   Brighter Days Beginning
2-22.   Universal Beings

Alto Saxophone – Josh Johnson
Cello – Tomeka Reid
Double Bass – Anna Butterss, Daniel Casimir, Dezron Douglas
Double Bass, Percussion – Junius Paul
Drums – Makaya McCraven
Electric Piano – Ashley Henry
Guitar – Jeff Parker
Harp – Brandee Younger
Percussion – Carlos Niño
Recorded By, Mixed By – Dave Vettraino, David Allen
Tenor Saxophone – Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings
Vibraphone – Joel Ross
Violin – Miguel Atwood-Ferguson
Producer – Makaya McCraven

Chicago-based drummer, composer, edit guru, and jazz adventurist Makaya McCraven recorded this splice-and-dice 22-song opus live in four different cities with a cast including saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, harpist Brandee Younger, cellist Tomeka Reid, and vibraphonist Joel Ross. 
Working in “pop up” studios in New York, London, Chicago, and Los Angeles, McCraven then cut the collective improvisations to match his considerable vision. As he did with his prior records and mixtapes, McCraven post-produced, edited, and arranged the music into four suites. Like precedents from Bitches Brew to DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing….., the results speak to the mixer’s re-contextualization skills as much as any musician’s standard technique. Does it stand up? Is this spiritual jazz for remote control mavens? McCraven’s deft, sensitive drumming dots the lengthy recording (the double vinyl LP divides the music up by giving a side to each city it was recorded in) as he crisscrosses Afrobeat, cosmic exploration, hip-hop, Brazilian, and a smidgen of straight-ahead. 
You could needle-drop anywhere within Universal Beings to experience a moment, but the hour-plus suite is like a circular journey across a desert, a city, and a sea: Fortify yourself, cast off expectation, and ride the undulating serpent of sound. Beauty awaits in the blazing pulse of “Prosperity’s Fear,” the hypnotic spinning wheel of “Flipped Out,” the heaving Rhodes sunspots of “Voila,” the free-jazz-meets-drum-and-bass caterwaul of “The Count Off.” Hype abounds as London’s insurgent world-jazz scene clashes with Kamasi Washington’s West Coast jazz-hop challenging New York’s old guard. Universal Beings is the first album to bring it all together in one cosmic, groove-heavy collage. 
Ken Micallef / JazzTimes

John Cale ‎– Music For A New Society (1982)

Style: New Wave, Art Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Island Records, ZE Records, Domino Recordings Co. Ltd.

01.   Taking Your Life In Your Hands
02.   Thoughtless Kind
03.   Santies
04.   If You Were Still Around
05.   Close Watch
06.   Mama's Song
07.   Broken Bird
08.   Chinese Envoy
09.   Changes Made
10.   Damn Life
11.   Risé, Sam And Rimsky Korsakov

Composed By – John Cale, Sam Shepherd
Mastered By – Graeme Durham
Producer – John Cale

About halfway through John Cale, a 1998 BBC documentary about the Welsh experimental rock authority, the focus shifts to the beauty of its subject’s home. "There are certain patterns of behavior you pick up when you’re young that never leave you, moments of tranquility that you get when you’re young that are always the most valuable," drawls Cale in voiceover, a soft and pliable topnote to the tender folk song underneath. The camera swoons over leaves rustling under a waterfall, cattle trotting benignly through verdant fields. "That sense of nostalgia is always with you, because it’s a way of inuring you against the passage of time." The film then smash-cuts to a white cow wedged into a slaughterhouse warren, eyes pleading as it’s shot in the skull, its throat is slit, and torrents of dark blood stream forth. It’s a transition of cruel and abrupt apathy, a needlessly gruesome pivot—Cale isn’t even present—and one that director James Marsh must have believed embodies Cale’s volatility throughout his long career. 
Cale has long carved mercurial paths—first in the Velvet Underground, where his eerie bass, piano, and viola parts pushed the band toward the eccentric end of the art-rock spectrum, then as a producer, when he captured the raw spirits of the Stooges and Patti Smith on both artists’ classic debut albums. The 73-year-old’s 15 solo albums touch on protopunk and classical and are niche to the point that some have been out of print for years; one of those works, 1982’s Music for a New Society, has been singled out as a pernicious lost masterpiece, the spare and depressive about-face to his agitpop screed of the previous year, Honi Soit. 
When Music was finally reissued this year, it came bundled Jekyll-Hyde style with M:FANS, a new reworking of the album. The latter isn’t as hagiographic as the acronym suggests—Nick Zinner isn’t here shaking a tambourine or anything—but is rather Cale’s attempt to revisit bleak characters through a lens of rage instead of sorrow, as well as process the death of his occasional nemesis Lou Reed. Hearing both versions of the album together, especially by hopscotching to compare tracks directly, is a harrowing yet rewarding spree, not least because Cale’s originals often sound more modern than the new versions. 
On Music for a New Society, sparse keyboard lines languish in chilly air, arid spaces imbued with acute confidence. Cale unfurls somber, detached appraisals of miserable lost souls, including mothers on murder sprees ("Taking Your Life in Your Hands") and loners exhaling their death rattles ("Sanctus (Sanities)"), atop deconstructed bleats of churchy organs and dissonant strings. There are wisps of tight pop melodies perched atop a confluence of oddities—"Thoughtless Kind," a spooky dirge, pairs a thickly processed a capella refrain ("The best of times/ With the thoughtless kind") with rough cackling and an agitating percussion line reminiscent of a ticking clock. "Close Watch," its title cribbed from Cale’s septuagenarian spirit animal Johnny Cash, anatomizes loneliness via plodding piano and decomposing bagpipe bursts. Aside from the lone straightforward rocker, "Changes Made," on which Allen Lanier of Blue Öyster Cult plays guitar, the semi-improvised record feels meticulously plotted and borderline intrusive—the most revealing scrawls yet from the solitary confinement of Cale’s fulminating mind. 
M:FANS is less reclusive, just by virtue of its premise—Cale is collaborating with himself, the ultimate glum foil—but also because it fills every swatch of white space with his later-career electro-industrial leanings. That needling chronograph tick on "Thoughtless Kind" is now gregarious, beefy with fizzing synths and hyper-processed coos. Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors joins him to sing staccato microtones on "Close Watch," a brusque and R&B-leaning reimagining virtually unrecognizable from its weepy source material. "Sanctus (Sanities)" also proves malleable, Cale intoning a requiem of personal and general-interest doom ("It was a marriage made… in the grave!" is not the least histrionic line) over a driving mechanical stomp Nine Inch Nails would’ve relished. It’s a lot of futurism sourced from the '90s, which highlights Cale’s prescience in the first go-‘round. 
Cale is clearly still curious as an artist; in recent years, he’s collaborated with Danger Mouse and represented the motherland at the Venice Biennale. Hell, he practically flirted with Bond villainy two years ago, when he commanded a horde of wasp drones onstage in London. Still, there’s a greater vigor, and a real lack of vanity, to releasing a notorious lost album and upending it in the same breath. That these projects work in tandem, three decades removed, gives nostalgia a good name. 
Stacey Anderson / Pitchfork

John Cale ‎– Fear (1974)

Style: Art Rock, Glam
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Island Records, Culture Factory, Vinyl Lovers

1.   Fear Is A Man's Best Friend
2.   Buffalo Ballet
3.   Barracuda
4.   Emily
5.   Ship Of Fools
6.   Gun
7.   The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy
8.   You Know More Than I Know
9.   Momamma Scuba

Backing Vocals – I & D Chanter, L Strike
Bass Guitar – Archie Leggatt
Drums – Fred Smith
Guitar – Phil Manzanera
Performer – Eno
Executive-Producer – Eno, Phil Manzanera
Producer, Written-By, Composed By, Keyboards, Guitar, Bass Guitar – John Cale

When ex-Velvet Underground virtuoso John Cale relocated back to Britain after a sojourn on the west coast of America, he was ready for a change in direction. Through his writer friend, Richard Williams, he took a three-year, six-album deal with Island Records. “There was a kind of dreamlike quality to London in those days,” Cale wrote in his autobiography, What's Welsh For Zen? “I was glad to be back there with a different ambience and a new record deal to fulfill.” Moving into a house in Chelsea and then to Shepherd's Bush, Cale found himself somewhat isolated, spending his time recording and writing after spending mornings listening to music. “I would load the turntable with boxed sets of the Beach Boys and Mahler and sit there drifting in a West Coast nostalgia.” These influences spill on to Fear which featured support from Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera and marked a return to the brooding territory of the Velvets albums. It was a dense, clipped, rock album that pointed the way towards punk perfectly. It reflected Cale's dope and alcohol altered mindset. “[I] was trying to be Lou. I was on keyboards, guitar and bass . . . the title song disintegrates into a frenzied 'say, fear is a man's best friend', less sung than shouted.” 
This track, “Fear Is A Man Best Friend”, and the eight minute “Gun” were towering achievements. Fear was well received by the UK press, and rightly so, as it brought Cale back to being a British artist. Nick Kent said in the NME that “there's more than enough lyricism and inventiveness dumped into the work to pale most other contemporary products into relative insignificance.” Although it is somewhat overlooked today, Fear demands repeated listening. 
Daryl Easlea / BBC Review

Neil Young ‎– Dead Man (1996)

Style: Soundtrack, Lo-Fi, Psychedelic Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Vapor Records

01.   Untitled
02.   Untitled
03.   Untitled
04.   Untitled
05.   Untitled
06.   Untitled
07.   Untitled
08.   Untitled
09.   Untitled
10.   Untitled
11.   Untitled
12.   Untitled
13.   Untitled

Composed By, Performer – Neil Young
Producer – John Hanlon, Neil Young
Production Manager – Tim Foster
Read By (Poetry Reading) – Johnny Depp
Recorded By, Mixed By – John Hanlon
Technician([Guitar Tech) – Sal Trentino
Voice – Gary Farmer-Nobody

A few months before Jimi Hendrix unfurled the guitar fireworks of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, Neil Young played a hypnotic one-note guitar break inside “Cinnamon Girl,” the opening track on 1969’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Even if Young’s style never approached minimalism in the classical sense, the very idea—an anti-solo solo—conjured a textural universe that Young has been exploring ever since, most often in live jams with Crazy Horse. 
But it took more than two decades for Young himself to make an album of solo electric guitar music, his 1996 soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. In a catalog that has ranged from the 1982 vocoder-touched Trans to the 2003 eco-rock opera Greendale, Dead Man remains the only release of its kind. A new reissue returns the spotlight to arguably the most satisfying oddity of Young’s half-century career, too committed to be dismissed as a novelty. 
Young creates a vocabulary of sound as if he’d been improvising movie scores for decades—a landscape of stark, expressive solo guitar to match Jarmusch’s psychedelic black-and-white Western. With the tracks unnamed on their original release, the high fidelity Neil Young Archives site now titles the half-dozen instrumentals as “Dead Man, No. 1” through “Dead Man, No. 6,” plus “Organ Solo.” They alternate with another half-dozen dialogue-based tracks, Young’s guitar pushed to the background while bits of the movie come up, largely featuring Johnny Depp, who reads the poetry of William Blake. Though they provide an emotional structure for the music and are unquestionably atmospheric sound-art, they’d be buzzkills even without Johnny Depp, interrupting perhaps the purest guitar playing of Young’s discography. (These buzzkills, of course, can be bypassed on mediums other than vinyl.) 
Young’s closest companion to Dead Man, perhaps even a prequel of sorts, is 1991’s Arc, a 35-minute extended edit of Crazy Horse’s live feedback jams. While Arc might be louder, Dead Man is perhaps even further out, pushing beyond songs and rhythms and noise, and building from the new logic of the world beyond. On “Dead Man, No. 1,” Young’s guitar scratches a fluttering, almost-steady pulse while muted chords flicker, disappearing before they can resonate and reveal themselves. It ends with a 30-second melodic coda that sounds like what the narrator of Young’s 1975 “Albuquerque” might be hearing in their head driving through the New Mexican desert. 
Each of Dead Man’s tracks offers subtly different strategies, from the dream swirl of “Organ Solo” to the sustained ghost tones and scandalously indulgent two-note solo of “Dead Man, No. 6.” The centerpiece is the 14-and-a-half minute “Dead Man, No. 5,” filled indelibly with Young’s favorite gestures as a guitarist: aching chord voicings, fuzztones, and spiky colors that open into broader fields of sound as ideas return and change shape. 
The form of these compositions remains ambiguous, give or take moments when notes begin to connect into melodic fragments that sound viscerally like Young, accidental shards of musical personality on display. For an artist so famously committed to spontaneity and chasing idiosyncratic muses, including making films of his own, it’s authentically shocking that the now 73-year-old Young has never gone further down this path. The seven fully instrumental tracks of Dead Man are Neil Young at his purest, like a rare electronic voice phenomenon recording of Young’s musical spirit as it rumbles and bends and intersects with the material plane. 
Jesse Jarnow / Pitchfork