Monday, 30 November 2020

Tom Waits ‎– Nighthawks At The Diner (1975)

Genre: Rock, Blues
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Asylum Records 

A1.   (Opening Intro)
A2.   Emotional Weather Report
A3.   (Intro)
A4.   On A Foggy Night
A5.   (Intro)
A6.   Eggs And Sausage (In A Cadillac With Susan Michelson)
B1.   (Intro)
B2.   Better Off Without A Wife
B3.   Nighthawk Postcards (From Easy Street)
C1.   (Intro)
C2.   Warm Beer And Cold Women
C3.   (Intro)
C4.   Putnam County
C5.   Spare Parts I (A Nocturnal Emission)
D1.   Nobody
D2.   (Intro)
D3.   Big Joe And Phantom
D4.   Spare Parts II And Closing

Bass – Jim Hughart
Drums – Bill Goodwin
Electric Piano – Mike Melvoin
Piano – Mike Melvoin, Tom Waitse
Tenor Saxophone – Pete Christlieb
Vocals – Tom Waits

Tom Waits' first two albums, 1973's Closing Time and 1974's The Heart of Saturday Night, documented his estimable strengths as a songwriter, but they didn't always give much of a sense of the personality that came through in his live performances. In front of an audience, Waits transformed himself into something resembling a minor character from a Jack Kerouac novel, a witty but bedraggled hipster from the seedy side of Los Angeles. His third album, 1975's Nighthawks at the Diner, was designed to show off Waits as an entertainer as well as a tunesmith; producer Bones Howe set up a nightclub facsimile in a recording studio, paired Waits with a solid band of jazz-inclined studio musicians, brought in an audience, and recorded what was in essence his first live album. As entertainment, Nighthawks at the Diner is one of Waits' most thoroughly enjoyable albums. He's clearly jazzed by the presence of an audience, and his skills as a storyteller are marvelous. Much like Lou Reed's Live: Take No Prisoners, this is an album where the between-song patter sometimes outshines the songs, and there's no arguing that Waits is a very funny guy who plays brilliantly to a crowd, spinning eccentric, evocative tales of life on the bad side of town that make it all sound like a ball. The band is excellent, too; bassist Jim Hughart, drummer Bill Goodwin, pianist Mike Melvoin, and sax player Pete Christlieb give Waits the ideal three-a.m. ambience to bring the songs to life. If Nighthawks at the Diner has a flaw, it's that Waits' beatnik spiel sometimes overwhelms the music, and a number of the "songs" are more spoken word routines than anything else. But "Better Off Without a Wife" and "Nobody" show he hadn't lost the ability to write a memorable song, sing it all the way through, and make it connect. And if this plays more like a "show" than a "concert," it's a show you'd gladly pay to hear more than once. Nighthawks at the Diner is a must for Tom Waits fans, and while beginners might not get as strong a sense of his music as they would from many of his other albums, it's hard to imagine anyone not being charmed by it.
Mark Deming / AllMusic

Sunday, 29 November 2020

The The ‎– Soul Mining (1983)

Style: New Wave, Synth-pop, Indie Rock  
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Epic, Some Bizzare

1.   I've Been Waitin' For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
2.   This Is The Day
3.   The Sinking Feeling
4.   Uncertain Smile
5.   The Twilight Hour
6.   Soul Mining
7.   Giant
8.   Perfect

Credits: Cello – Martin McCarrick Accordion – Wicks Drums – Andy Duncan, Zeke Manyika Fiddle – Paul Boyle Synthesizer, Soloist – Thomas Leer Bass Guitar – Camelle G. Hind, Jeremy Meek Piano – Jools Holland Violin – Anne Stephenson Percussion – Frank Want Harmonica – David Johansen
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals – Matt Johnson Producer – Matt Johnson, Paul Hardiman, Mike Thorne

In his brilliant 2006 book Fear of Music, Garry Mulholland listed Matt Johnson's second album – his first as the The – as one of the "Greatest Albums Since Punk and Disco". But, tellingly, he called it "a hidden masterpiece". That was nearly a decade ago, and since then Soul Mining appears to have dropped even further out of public view and off the critical radar. Perhaps that's because Johnson keeps a such a low profile these days: since a show at the Meltdown festival in London in 2002, the The's only new releases have been film soundtracks and a solitary song, Mrs Mac, released online in 2007. No one in 2014 seems to mention the The as an influence. Curiously, Johnson's legacy appears confined to dance music: if no hip young band or singer-songwriter drops his name, there's been a plethora of unofficial re-edits of Soul Mining's closing track, Giant, in recent years.

All this means that an extravagant, £40 deluxe box set version of Soul Mining comes as a bit of a surprise, although it's worth noting that, 31 years ago, the critics unanimously thought it was an album for the ages: reviews of the "most important pop artist of the decade" proliferated. Indeed, Soul Mining must have seemed weirdly unprecedented in 1983, even in the unlikely event that you had been paying close attention to Matt Johnson's career up to that point.

He had started out in 1977, posting small ads in the music press in search of musicians. They mentioned Syd Barrett and Throbbing Gristle as influences, and that's pretty much exactly what his early releases sounded like. Recorded with Wire's Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, the 1981 album Burning Blue Soul and single Cold Spell Ahead offered up a kind of post-punk take on psychedelia, refracted through Throbbing Gristle's forbidding worldview: trebly guitars and dead-eyed Madcap Laughs vocals both drenched in effects, churning grey noise and primitive sound collages. They bore almost no resemblance whatsoever to the music on Soul Mining. When Cold Spell Ahead reappeared here under the name Uncertain Smile, it was virtually unrecognisable, the primeval drum machine and echoing guitar murk replaced by a flawless, rich production involving crack session players. Johnson played marimba, and his voice had changed from reedy and blank-eyed into something deeper and more emotive. The ungainly second half of the song had been excised in favour of a sumptuous extended piano solo from Jools Holland. The latter is a genuinely astonishing performance, marred only by the vague fear that a lightbulb may have gone on over the former Squeeze keyboard player's head while he was playing it – "I can play boogie woogie piano along with anything!" – and that the whole business may thus have planted the seed that flourished into the annual grimness of the Hootenany.

In fact, circumstances had conspired to make the change in Johnson's music look more sudden and extraordinary that it actually was: he'd recorded, then abandoned, a whole album of intermediate material between Burning Blue Soul and Soul Mining. Even so, the latter still seems like a startling album. Johnson was only 22 when Soul Mining was released. The lyrics contained the occasional hint of histrionic gaucheness – "the cancer of love has eaten out my heart" seems a pretty melodramatic way to say you got dumped – but more often they're strikingly precocious: Uncertain Smile's brilliant drawing of a confused relationship, The Twilight Hour's painfully accurate depiction of self-obsession. In fact, they often feel more nuanced and mature than the lyrics Johnson wrote later, when he developed an alarming tendency to say inarguable things about war and religion in a slightly pompous and condescending manner that made you wonder if you didn't feel like arguing about them after all. There's a wit and ambiguity about That Sinking Feeling's sly mockery of the Thatcher government's ethical crusades – "I'm just a symptom of the moral decay that's gnawing at the heart of this country," he sang, the sweet harmony vocal on the last word sounding like a musical wink to camera – that seemed to desert Johnson later on.

More striking still is the ease with which Johnson marshals a kaleidoscopic array of musical influences into something coherent and unique. Quite aside from Holland's boogie-woogie piano, over the course of Soul Mining's seven tracks, you variously hear folk fiddles and accordion, the popping basslines of contemporary funk, punishing industrial beats, electronics derived from New York's then current club music – both the post-disco boogie of the Peech Boys and D-Train and the electro of Newcleus and the Jonzun Crew – and African-inspired polyrhythms. But Soul Mining never sounds disjointed, never feels like an exercise in smart-alec showboating: Johnson's songwriting holds its disparate elements tightly together.

Curiously, all this eclecticism had the same chemical fuel as the similarly open-minded Balearic dance scene that would arrive half a decade on. Years later, Johnson would bemoan the fact that Soft Cell's Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing had beaten Soul Mining to the title of the first ecstasy album. Like his Some Bizzare labelmates, he was ahead of the curve when it came to MDMA: indeed, he consumed it so enthusiastically during Soul Mining's making that one set of recording sessions in New York had to be abandoned altogether. If it offers no reference as blatant as Cindy Ecstasy's rap on Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing's Memorabilia, you can still make out the drug's influence on the euphoric communal chant that closes Giant, the horizontal, beatific atmosphere of the title track and the bittersweet cocktail of fuzzy elation and fragile introspection with which This Is the Day greets the sun rising after a long night.

An album made under the influence of a largely unknown drug that five years later would go on to change pop culture for ever, a patchwork of catholic musical influences stitched tightly together by one man's peculiar, expansive vision of pop: Soul Mining is a brilliant and very idiosyncratic album. Maybe that's why it's never really cited as an influence these days: you can't hope to mimic something this personal and unique.
Alexis Petridis / The Guardian

Friday, 27 November 2020

Tom Waits ‎– The Heart Of Saturday Night (1974)

Genre: Jazz, Blues, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Elektra, Asylum Records

A1.   New Coat Of Paint
A2.   San Diego Serenade
A3.   Semi Suite
A4.   Shiver Me Timbers
A5.   Diamonds On My Windshield
A6.   (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night
B1.   Fumblin' With The Blues
B2.   Please Call Me, Baby
B3.   Depot, Depot
B4.   Drunk On The Moon
B5.   The Ghosts Of Saturday Night (After Hours At Napoleone's Pizza House)

Producer – Bones Howe

If Closing Time, Tom Waits' debut album, consisted of love songs set in a late-night world of bars and neon signs, its follow-up, The Heart of Saturday Night, largely dispenses with the romance in favor of poetic depictions of the same setting. On "Diamonds on My Windshield" and "The Ghosts of Saturday Night," Waits doesn't even sing, instead reciting his verse rhythmically against bass and drums like a Beat hipster. Musically, the album contains the same mixture of folk, blues, and jazz as its predecessor, with producer Bones Howe occasionally bringing in an orchestra to underscore the loping melodies. Waits' songs are sometimes sketchier in addition to being more impersonal, but "(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night" and "Semi Suite" are the equal of anything on Closing Time. Still, with lines such as "...the clouds are like headlines/Upon a new front page sky" and references to "a 24-hour moon" and "champagne stars," Waits' imagery is beginning to get florid, and in material this stylized, the danger of self-parody is always present.
William Ruhlmann / AllMusic

Yazmin Lacey ‎– When The Sun Dips 90 Degrees (2018)

Genre: Hip Hop, Funk / Soul
Format: Vinyl, FLAC
Label: First Word Records

A1.   90 Degrees
A2.   Something My Heart Trusts
A3.   Burn & Rise
B1.   Heaven
B2.   Body Needs Healing

Bass – George French
Drums – Tom Towle
Guitar – Charlie Bone
Keyboards – Peter Beardsworth
Percussion – Owen Campbel
Lyrics By, Written-By – Yazmin Lacey
Producer – Peter Beardsworth, Tom Towle

This EP follows on from her two recent singles, ‘90 Degrees‘ and ‘Something My Heart Trusts‘, both of which are included here, along with three previously unreleased tracks, ‘Heaven‘, ‘Body Needs Healing‘ and ‘Burn & Rise‘. This set illustrates again Yazmin’s candid songwriting delivered in her uniquely laidback soulful style, whilst a glorious fusion of neo-soul and jazz performed by Pete Beardsworth and her trusty band rides throughout.

In recent times, Yazmin has made live appearances on Jazz FM, BBC Radio 4, 1Xtra and NTS, & received widespread acclaim across the airwaves, including BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music, Worldwide FM and Mi-Soul, plus Spotify love from the likes of The Independent and heavy support from DJs such as Gilles Peterson, Jamz Supernova, Tom Ravenscroft, Huey Morgan and Jamie Cullum. Yazmin appeared heavily in The Guardian / The Observer’s recent extensive feature on the UK’s new Jazz movement too.

Initially a Brownswood ‘Future Bubbler’ graduate, Yazmin self-released her debut EP, ‘Black Moon‘, last year. This lead to a Maida Vale session late 2017 with Jordan Rakei, Moses Boyd, Oscar Jerome and now label-mates, Children of Zeus. She kicked off the year with a performance at the Worldwide Awards with Skinny Pelembe, and has recently done shows with artists such as Ezra Collective, Tall Black Guy and Fatima. Yazmin has a UK tour scheduled for later in the year, as well as several festival appearances across Europe locked in. There’s a lot more to come from this Notts-based Londoner yet.

In Yazmin’s words: “‘90 Degrees‘ is about that time of the day / night when there’s a shift in pace and energy. When you decide to lock off from the ‘outside’ world and create your own atmosphere, take some time to give thanks for what’s breathing love into your life and smoke off the fuckeries. Everyone needs a little routine for self preservation.”

Flotation Toy Warning ‎– Bluffer's Guide To The Flight Dec (2004)

Style: Psychedelic Rock, Brit Pop, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Talitres Records, Poinyt, Misra

01.   Happy 13
02.   Popstar Researching Oblivion
03.   Losing Carolina; For Drusky
04.   Made From Tiny Boxes
05.   Donald Pleasance
06.   Fire Engine On Fire Part I
07.   Fire Engine On Fire Part II
08.   Even Fantastica
09.   Happiness Is On The Outside
10.   How The Plains Left Me Flat

Written-By – Flotation Toy Warning
Cello – Sarah Kaldor
Drums, Electronic Drums – Colin Coxall
Guitar, Bass, Vocals – Nainesh Shah
Guitar, Bass, Written-By – Ben Clay 
Viola – John Greswell
Violin – Anne Marie Kirby, Gwen Cheeseman
Keyboards, Sampler, Vocals, Arranged By – Vicky West
Lead Vocals, Sampler, Programmed By, Written-By, Lyrics By – Paul Carter
Producer – Flotation Toy Warning, Steve Swindon

If Flotation Toy Warning is out to lull listeners with sheer melodic excess, perhaps it's working a little too well. Over the course of the band's elegant avant-pop debut, it subjugates effect to ambition, inflating concise pop sound-bites to epic proportions (10 songs in a daunting 72 minutes). Sitting at the digi-pastoral nexus of Scott Walker's overstated vocals, the Flaming Lips' neon popscapes, Brian Eno's ambient experiments, and Neutral Milk Hotel's found-sound dalliance, FTW engages in much repetition that seems unnecessary-- many of these ideas could have been winningly discharged in half the time. Instead, they intricately bloat and dawdle, and you might feel "over" a song before it breathes its admittedly gorgeous last.

In its first minute alone, "Happy 13" gathers up sloshing water samples, wheezy electronics evoking everything from keyboards to bagpipes, crashing drums, acoustic strumming, and a request to "please leave all shiny objects behind." Gradually adding spectral harmonies and twinkling detuned piano to this mind-cramming dream travelogue, it shuffles through dizzying permutations. "Popstar Researching Oblivion" introduces some common FTW motifs: Chuffing, vaguely martial percussion; wavering organ gasps; ripe, elegiac brass; spangled sheets of reverb; and angelic choruses intoning fat, fallow syllables. The multitude of instrumental parts is so similarly colored and oft-repeated that it sometimes blurs into obscurity, but the band can also be glorious in this state of resonant disarticulation. When Paul Carter hunkers down to tell stories, it's less interesting.

Musical standouts "Donald Pleasance" and "Losing Carolina; For Drusky" broaden the sonic palette further, with trad-indie guitar arpeggios contorting though starry expanses of limpid strings and icy chimelets. Lyrically, the former revolves around Carter's steadfast, suitably despondent eulogy at the funeral of "our love." It's a great concept, but as on many of the tracks, the band's sonic accouterments prove more moving than the vague libretto. In the latter, a nightingale song flits around the fairly incomprehensible tale of Drusky, who wanted "God to return his youth" while "resurrecting his mother and his pet pigeon."

The most memorable track might also be the shortest and simplest, "Happiness Is on the Outside", which finds Carter casting distant "hellos" into an amorphous blizzard of melodic interference. Beating within the chilly precipitation of his a.m.-wire salutation is Carter's most pressing query (even if he sometimes asks it indirectly): "Can you tell me why you left me here all on my own?" At song's end he promises, almost threatens, to eventually open the page of his diary that rejoices in solitude, and relates "how [he] took your throne as the meanest bastard in the all Albuquerque." But hey, why's the Brit in Albuquerque, and who left him there? Often, the intangibles of his downer vocal timbre denote felt emotion, but Carter would also do well to let loose some colorfully site-specific sentiments, giving his syllables a chance to catch up with the magical Victorian tapestries looping around them.
Brian Howe & Brandon Stosuy / Pitchfork

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Marxman ‎– 33 Revolutions Per Minute (1993)

Genre: Hip Hop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Talkin' Loud

01.  Theme From Marxman
02.  All About Eve
03.  Father Like Son
04.  Ship Ahoy
05.  Do You Crave Mystique
06.  Sad Affair
07.  Droppin'Elocution
08.  Dark Are The Days
09.  Drifting
10.  Demented
11.  Spot On My Nose
12.  Sad Affair (Bodhran Mix)

Credits: Scratches – DJKI Banjo – Tom McManamon Backing Vocals – Sinead O'Connor, Andy Kane Bodhrán, Low Whistle, Tin Whistle – James McNally Low Whistle – Davy Spillane Written-By – Marxman Producer – Adam Fuest, Leroy Quintyn, Marxman

Once touted as the Anglo-Irish answer to Public Enemy, revolutionary socialist rap group Marxman never quite achieved the same level of notoriety as Chuck D. & co., but it wasn't through lack of trying. Unceremoniously banned from BBC Radio upon the release of protest single "Ship Ahoy" -- which featured MC Hollis Byrne tastelessly uttering the phrase "tiocfaidh ár lá," the motto of the Irish Republican Army -- their star would continue to shine only in the underground, where 33 Revolutions Per Minute would rightly be regarded as one of Bristol hip-hop's most accomplished and original efforts. MCs Hollis Byrne (an Irish-born emigrant) and Phrase (a Bristol-born Jamaican), driven by a quest for social justice, were brutally honest in their depictions of racism ("Ship Ahoy"), malignant colonialism ("Sad Affair") and domestic abuse ("All About Eve"), issues that few in the mainstream before or since have been willing to tackle honestly. Talented rappers though they are, the mastermind behind Marxman was Dublin electronic artist Oisín Lunny, combining elements of the soon-to-be "Bristol Sound," gloomy electronics and Northern soul, with traditional Irish musicians, enlisting the help of Sinéad O'Connor to sing "Ship Ahoy"'s moving chorus, and Davy Spillane, whose flute sounds underpin "Dark Are the Days," Gang Starr supremo DJ Premier guest-produced "Drifting." Nevertheless, it's Lunny's stunning arrangements that make 33 Revolutions Per Minute such a unique experience.
Dave Donnelly / AllMusic

Masia One & ALX‎ – Freedom Fades EP (2020)

Genre: Hip Hop, Reggae, Pop
Format: MP3
Label: Nusantara Records

1.   Freedom Fades
2.   Chiney Virus
3.   Social Distancing (feat. Sabotawj & DJ Canini)
4.   L to W
5.   Good News

Producer & mix engineer: ALX

Freedom Fades was not written as a HIT record, but as a HUMAN record.  The moods and emotions are expressed accompanied by the simplicity of lo-fi Hiphop beats. Raw lyricism, released in a stream of consciousness with less edits and more a reflection of my current reality.  When I was feeling frustrated, alone or missing a loved one, I would scribble the words as the thoughts arrived to the tip of my pen. This is how the Freedom Fades EP began for producer ALX and I at the beginning of the pandemic. Trading voice notes and melodic ideas over the phone, while I paced around in home isolation in my apartment in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. ALX, across the border in Singapore would brighten up my days by randomly sending beats…”Check your inbox sis, I got one for you.” This collection of songs is essentially the new norm through our eyes. 

It’s not easy to spend time indoors for such long periods of time, (especially for SE Asians used to tropical weather all year round). Much of my time is outside the home, and so a new atmosphere and daily routine brings a new vibration.  It is my hope that the words and melodies on this project inspire a personal reflection, a comfort and maybe even a little humour in this pandemic era.  Most importantly Freedom Fades is my exploration into how an artist can go beyond the music, to effect positive change in their community.  Through innovation, activism and donating proceeds back to causes I believe in, I feel it is important to move the role of artist farther away from that of ‘celebrity’ to a more powerful role, a voice for the people. 
Masia One

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

VA ‎– Rough Trade Shops - 25 Years (2001)

Genre: Electronic, Rock, Pop
Label: Mute

1-01.   Pere Ubu - 30 Seconds Over Tokyo
1-02.   Buzzcocks - Boredom
1-03.   The Congos - Fisherman
1-04.   Cabaret Voltaire - Nag Nag Nag
1-05.   The Normal - T.V.O.D.
1-06.   Stiff Little Fingers - Suspect Device
1-07.   Throbbing Gristle - United
1-08.   Subway Sect - Ambition
1-09.   Television Personalities - Part Time Punks
1-10.   The Raincoats - Fairytale In The Supermarket
1-11.   Crass - Reality Asylum
1-12.   Joy Division - Transmission
1-13.   The Go-Betweens - People Say
1-14.   Swell Maps - Let's Build A Car
1-15.   Young Marble Giants - Final Day
1-16.   The Fall - How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'
1-17.   The Birthday Party - Mr. Clarinet
2-08.   ...And The Native Hipsters - There Goes Concorde Again
2-02.   Scritti Politti - The Sweetest Girl
2-03.   Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding
2-04.   Foetus - Gums Bleed
2-05.   The Smiths - Hand In Glove
2-06.   Cocteau Twins - Sugar Hiccup
2-07.   Einstürzende Neubauten - Krieg In Den Städten
2-08.   Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Tupelo
2-09.   Talking Heads - Road To Nowhere
2-10.   Sonic Youth - Death Valley '69
2-11.   Tackhead - Hard Left
2-12.   Dub Syndicate, Lee Perry - Jungle
2-13.   The Sugarcubes - Birthday
3-01.   Pixies - Bone Machine
3-02.   Mudhoney - Touch Me I'm Sick
3-03.   Spacemen 3 - Revolution
3-04.   The Lemonheads - Different Drum
3-05.   Coil - Further Back And Faster
3-06.   Stereolab - The Light That Will Cease To Fail
3-07.   Huggy Bear - Her Jazz
3-08.   Mazzy Star - Fade Into You
3-09.   The Chemical Brothers - Song To The Siren
3-10.   The Chills - Pink Frost
3-11.   Lambchop - Soaky In The Pooper
3-12.   Gescom - Sciew Spoc
3-13.   Plastikman Plastique (Video Mix)
3-14.   GAK - Gak 4
4-01.   Cornershop - 6AM Jullandar Shere
4-02.   Studio Pressure - Presha III
4-03.   Boards Of Canada - Everything You Do Is A Balloon
4-04.   Echoboy - Flashlegs (Suite)
4-05.   Jeb Loy Nichols - As The Rain (Adrian Sherwood On-U Sound Remix)
4-06.   Clinic - Monkey On Your Back
4-07.   Le Tigre - Hot Topic
4-08.   I Am Kloot - To You
4-09.   Lemon Jelly - In The Bath
4-10.   Peaches - Fuck The Pain Away
4-11.   Ryan Adams - My Winding Wheel
4-12.   Tindersticks - Talk To Me (91 Version)

Design – Angela Hayward
Liner Notes – Jon Savage

Rough Trade's story began in 1976 with a shop in Notting Hill, branching out within a couple years to become a label and a distributor. Beginning with Pere Ubu and concluding with Tindersticks, Rough Trade Shops: 25 Years chronologically distills the history of the pioneering independent outlet into four discs and 56 tracks, concentrating on old and new favorites that have graced the shop's new release racks. Just about every style associated with U.K.-based independent and underground music between 1975 and 2000 is accounted for. The first half concentrates on the punk and post-punk staples of the Buzzcocks ("Boredom"), the Birthday Party ("Mr. Clarinet"), the Cocteau Twins ("Sugar Hiccup"), and the Smiths ("Hand in Glove"), throwing in the occasional pleasant surprise like the short-lived Native Hipsters ("Look There Goes Concord Again") and diversions into reggae (Lee "Scratch" Perry, the Congos). The second half does a lot more hopping around stylistically. Spacemen 3 ("Revolution"), the Pixies ("Bone Machine"), the Chills ("Pink Frost"), and Clinic ("Monkey on Your Back") represent the guitar-based efforts, while Gescom ("Sciew Spoc"), Boards of Canada ("Everything You Do Is a Balloon"), and Plastikman ("Plastique") hit upon more electronic and experimental terrain. Since this compilation includes acts distributed and sold by the like-named shop, label, and distributor, there are major gaps with the Rough Trade bands proper -- no Galaxie 500, Scrawl, AR Kane, or This Heat. Since the label itself released nearly 300 singles, no package short of complete would avoid such a pitfall. But quite successfully, 25 Years provides a fantastic skip through Rough Trade's existence. Many great artists have Rough Trade to thank for bin space, recording costs, and retail distribution. Here's hoping for 25 more years -- and here's hoping that they're less turbulent financially.
Andy Kellman / AllMusic

Tom Waits ‎– Closing Time (1973)

Style: Smooth Jazz, Piano Blues, Ballad
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Asylum Records, Elektra

A1.   Ol' '55
A2.   I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You
A3.   Virginia Avenue
A4.   Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)
A5.   Midnight Lullaby
A6.   Martha
B1.   Rosie
B2.   Lonely
B3.   Ice Cream Man
B4.   Little Trip To Heaven (On The Wings Of Your Love)
B5.   Grapefruit Moon
B6.   Closing Time

Bass – Arni Egilsson, Bill Plummerr
Cello – Jesse Ehrlich
Drums – John Seiter
Guitar – Peter Klimes, Shep Cooke
6 String Guitar – Peter Klimes, Shep Cooke
Pedal Steel Guitar – Peter Klimes
Trumpet – Delbert Bennett, Tony Terran
Vocals – John Seiter, Shep Cooke
Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Celesta, Harmonium, Harpsichord, Written-By – Tom Waits
String Quartet Arranged By, Producer – Jerry Yester

Revisiting Tom Waits' debut album Closing Time is to simultaneously journey into a thought experiment, a musical treasure hunt and a simple sensory experience. To fully embrace it one has to set aside expectations that Waits is going to growl his way through the songs, a difficult task if his later music is your benchmark. At the same time, disguised and awaiting discovery, are nuggets of the styling that have established his place in the pantheon of great American musical artists. Ultimately the experience of the album is as an autonomous collection of work that delivers on its own terms.

The album kicks off with "Ol’ 55", a tribute to post coital bliss, a song of resilience in the face of disappointment. Waits languidly counts the song in before his piano sets a mellow mood. The  use of “lickety-splickly” in the second line lets us know we should take this song only so seriously. It wraps you in a 70’s folky embrace, think Randy Newman and James Taylor birthing a love child: this could be their offspring's debut single. 

The guitar and choral vocal support veer uncomfortably close to overwhelming the performance, hinting at the more anthemic Eagles cover that brought the song and Waits wider attention. It drowns the wistful elements of the lyrics; after all our narrator was booted out of his lover’s bed at 6 a.m. and unceremoniously told to be on his way. 

Next, Waits makes a first person introduction to the late night world of bars that much of his future work will inhabit. “I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You” is a canticle for every drunken man’s romanticizing of a face in the crowd. An addled and inebriated logic attaches itself to the  fantasy that the stranger across the room shares his loneliness. The conceit that he hopes he doesn’t fall in love and finally that she doesn’t do the same with him embeds itself in his thoughts. And then she’s gone. There was never contact, nor likely was it ever on the cards. Two songs in and Waits has straddled the gap between his tender age of twenty-three and the weary emotions of an older man clinging to the prospect of a redemptive encounter. The fact that he presents it with a romantic feint is an early indication that we are in the presence of someone with an uncanny understanding of the vulnerable underbelly of the human condition.

It is also a precursor to "Martha". Here Waits slips effortlessly into the character of "Tom Frost", who exhales an elegy on the death of youthful innocent love down a telephone line to his old love. We don’t get to hear "Martha". in fact we are not even sure she is listening. Waits has invited us to bear witness to the nostalgic musings of a disappointed, dissatisfied man. The genius of the song is that it holds its tension in a one-way encounter. “Frost’s” pain is aching, his distress camouflaged with self-reflection until the devastation of the last two lines

“And I remember quiet evenings

Trembling close to you” 

"Virginia Avenue" is a drunken stagger of a song, pushed and pulled along by Delbert Bennett's trumpet- a requiem for the lost hopes in the life of a bar hopper. It is getting closer to the sound Waits wanted for the album, a desire that was redirected elsewhere by producer Jerry Yester’s insistence on a more folk-based sound.

Waits floats between his past and future artistic self on the album. On "Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)" he reveals his penchant for parentheses in song titles. We hear the sound of country rock (a sound he would jettison from this point forward) and the heartache so often associated with that genre.

In "Midnight Lullaby" he mines old sources - 18th Century English nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" and American South lullaby "Hush Pretty Baby" - to create a piano and trumpet soaked ode to tenderness. Waits is an empath as much as he is a barroom slugger. This signaling of his love of vernacular and tradition folded into new material foreshadows his later songwriting technique. 

His intent to create a jazz piano-infused album establishing his late night crooner persona is captured on "Little Trip to Heaven (On the Wings of Your Love)"  and "Grapefruit Moon”. Meanwhile  "Ice Cream Man” swings along, demonstrating Waits’ range and willingness to use sexual innuendo to communicate his message. The album may be awash with melancholy but Waits wants to be sure we know there is a twinkle in his eye. 

On "Rosie", Waits delivers a late night lament that the titular character of the song is out of reach. She evades him, whilst he pleads for a clue on how to persuade her. He is more bemused than desperate, reaching for a high note that he cannot quite hold to call her name, the perfect metaphor for the song. 

"Lonely" is perhaps the most poignant song of the collection. It is the antithesis of "Little Trip to Heaven (On the Wings of Your Love)" which sees Waits channeling Sinatra in an uncomplicated love song. "Lonely" imparts the sense that you are listening to the singer secretly: a door has been left ajar and he’s alone in a room. You stand quietly outside,he doesn’t know you are there. The lyrics, whilst not sophisticated, hold a profound sadness that seeps from the voice and piano. When the song finishes you tip-toe away. 

Waits chooses to see the album out with its title track, "Closing Time". He introduces it with “let's do one for posterity”. The “one” he lays down is an instrumental, with Tony Terran on trumpet duties. Terran weaves his way around Waits’ plaintive piano, and the cello and bowed double bass pour their lilting honey into the gaps. Yester is quoted as saying, “At the end of it, no one spoke for what felt like five minutes, either in the booth or out in the room. No one budged. Nobody wanted the moment to end."  

This album is not without flaws, be they Yester's over eager production or an occasional lyrical lapse by Waits. But, it is an outstanding debut. Waits recorded some of these songs separately and live around the same time, and versions of "Ol ’55" and "I Hope I Don't Fall in Love With You" as solo piano or acoustic guitar pieces give a flavor of what he may have delivered if left entirely to his own devices.

Bones Howe would take over Producer duties for Waits’ next handful of albums, as Waits honed his craft and his voice into the malleable and distinctive instrument he is renowned for. Steeped in jazz sensibilities, Howe was the perfect foil for the growing artist. Howe recounted their working relationship this way “Tom would say to me, ‘You hold the stick for me to jump over, and every album you hold the stick a little higher.’” With the textured and accomplished Closing Time, Waits handed over a stick already held at quite a stretch. 
Phil Hale / eject

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Carl Orff & Gunild Keetman & Margaret Murray ‎– Music For Children (Schulwerk) (2013)

Style: Educational, Folk, Nursery Rhymes
Format: CD, Vinyl, MP3
Label: Trunk Records

01.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Cuckoo, Where Are You?
02.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Pat-A-Cake
03.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Meena, Deena
04.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Name-calling
05.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Street Cries
06.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Tinker, Taylor
07.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Bobby Shaftoe
08.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Little Tommy Tucker
09.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Bye Baby Bunting
10.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Ring a Ring O' Roses
11.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Improvisation 1
12.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Improvisation 2
13.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Tommy's Fallen in the Pond
14.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Tom Tom the Piper's Son
15.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - My Little Pony Needs New Shoes
16.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - The Baker Is Baking
17.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Trees and Flowers
18.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Ensembles
19.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental for Tuned Glasses, Glockenspiel and Violoncello
20.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Ding, Dong
21.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - The Day Is Now Over
22.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Small Hand Drum
23.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Big Barrel Drum and Small Hand Drum
24.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Piece in 3/4 Time for Hand Drums, Barrel Drums and Wood Block
25.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - The Grand Old Duke Of York
26.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Oliver Cromwell
27.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - The Campbells Are Coming
28.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece i
29.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece ii
30.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece iii
31.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece iv
32.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece v
33.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece vi
34.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece vii
35.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Where Are You Going to My Pretty Maid?
36.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Alleluja
37.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Old Angus McTavish
38.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Rondo
39.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Boomfallera / Curly Locks

01.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Sleep, Baby Sleep
02.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Three Instrumental Pieces (For glockenspiels, matallphones and Violoncello)
03.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Cradle Song
04.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Ostinato Piece - In 4/4 Time
05.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Ostinato Piece - In 3/4 Time
06.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Ostinato Piece - In 4/4 Time part two
07.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Dance, Lassie Do
08.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Mary, Helen, Caroline
09.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Dance
10.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - A Farmer Went a Trotting
11.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Bear Dance
12.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Simple Simon
13.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Five Ostinato Pieces i)
14.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Five Ostinato Pieces ii)
15.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Five Ostinato Pieces iii)
16.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Five Ostinato Pieces iv)
17.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Five Ostinato Pieces v)
18.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Fabian, Sebastian
19.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Three Blind Mice
20.   Children of the Italia Conte School - O My Deir Hert
21.   Children of the Italia Conte School - O Hush Thee, My Babie
22.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Five Fools in a Barrow
23.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Percussion Exercises i) For Percussion Instruments
24.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Percussion Exercises ii) For Percussion Instruments
25.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Percussion Exercises iii) For Percussion Instruments
26.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Percussion Exercises iv) Stamping, Clapping and Knee Slapping
27.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Percussion Exercises v) For Drums
28.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Saint Matthie
29.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Thistles
30.   Children of the Italia Conte School - How to Treat a Horse
31.   Children of the Italia Conte School - A Tempest
32.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Apple Howlers Song
33.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Stones
34.   Children of the Italia Conte School - Witches Scene from Macbeth
35.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Summer Is Icumen In
36.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Instrumental Piece i
37.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Two Dances i)
38.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Two Dances ii)
39.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - King Herod
40.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece ii
41.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Girls and Boys Come Out to Play
42.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Flute Cadenza
43.   Chorus of the Children's Opera Group - Song for Good Friday
44.   Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental Piece iii

Chorus Master – J. G. Wright, Margaret John
Composed By – Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman
Directed By – Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman, Walter Jellinek
Producer – Jonny Trunk

This is quite simply some of the most beautiful children's music ever made, with simple melodies and forgotten rhymes building gradually into more complex roundels and speech exercises. Performed by children in the late 1950s, this wonderful recording is educational, darkly nostalgic, and enchanting. History: This is the first time these important recordings have been in print since 1957. Their origins go back to the 1920s and the Günterschule in Munich, a progressive educational academy that specialized in music and exercise. Carl Orff was a teacher there, and worked on a new method of introducing children to music. Over the next few decades the "Orff Method" was developed and enhanced with the help of one of his former students Gunild Keetman. By the late 1950s the term "schulwerk" (literally "schooling" or "school work") had been adopted and with the inclusion of nursery rhymes and street cries it had spread across Europe as a popular education technique. A two LP recording was issued in Germany in 1957 to demonstrate some of the musical results -- this was followed by a pair of LPs issued in the UK, that were to include the music as well as early English nursery rhymes, songs and sayings. It is these recordings that are being issued here, along with the original and rare sleevenotes. The music is performed on what has since become known as "the Orff instruments": glockenspiels, xylophones, metallophones, drinking glasses, violoncello, bells, cymbals, drums, and the triangle. Rhythmic exercises are executed by hand-clapping, knee-slapping, feet-stamping, as well as using drums, whips, sand-rattles, and other percussion instruments. The spoken word is used for its meaning, its tone-color and rhythmic significance. Nursery rhymes familiar to most of us form a strong base to the album, but there are some here that you may have never come across before. Many of these date back to the 18th century, and Trunk also includes here the oldest song of all -- "Sumer Is Icumen In." Not only is the music absolutely captivating for adults and children alike, the CD comes with extensive 16-page sleeve notes explaining the origins of the songs and sayings. These are magical, rarely heard (and occasionally scary) recordings from the 1950s that highlight just how beautiful the simplest of all music can be. But the release also shows how incredible children's musical education once was. Performers: Chorus of the Children's Opera Group, Speech Ensemble from the Italia Conti School, and The Instrumental Ensemble.

Philip Glass From The Music Of David Bowie & Brian Eno ‎– "Low" Symphony (1993)

Style: Contemporary
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: POINT MUsic

1.   Subterraneans
2.   Some Are
3.   Warszawa

Composed By, Liner Notes – Philip Glass
Assistant Conductor – Karen Kamensek
Principal Conductor – Dennis Russell Davies
Music By (From The Music Of) – Brian Eno, David Bowie
Orchestra, Performed By– The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra
Written-By – Brian Eno , David Bowie
Produced By – Kurt Munkacsi, Michael Riesman

In which Philip Glass meets the vernacular and finds salvation. Or almost. But first, a few necessary points of clarification. The work on this disc is called the Low Symphony because the three movements it is made up of are developed from material 'borrowed' from a rock album made in 1975 by David Bowie and his then-collaborator, Brian Eno. The album was called ''Low'' and, even though there was no piece of music of that name included on it, Glass's re-working of three tracks from that name has been given that title, apparently with Bowie's blessing. 
I would unhesitatingly say that this is the most musical composition from Glass in many years. Depending on your Weltanschauung, that may mean a lot or mean nothing. In this work, the actual sound of the piece, and a firm grip on where it goes in the end, seems to be of more interest to the composer than the theory of how the notes got there in the first place. But then he is working with an original which delivers unusual material for a minimalist to work with: melody; direct emotion; a varied structure; a sense of drama. 
What is of overriding interest, however, is the use to which Glass puts these raw materials. For one, he has dispensed with the vocal renditions which were the core moments of two of the original pieces—Subterraneans and Warszawa; this music is purely orchestral. (One point worth at least noting is that Bowie is as big a magpie as Glass, having borrowed the main theme of Warszawa, completely intact, from Polish folk-music.) The other central point is that when Glass comes to develop the raw material he has inherited from Eno and Bowie, he immediately abandons the musical language of the original and dons the static rhythmic and harmonic patterns of the minimalist language he helped define. In that sense, the music shows its joins. 
The final point of main comment concerns Glass's actual arrangements. In each of the three movements, he provides the listener with an initial statement which is a close copy of the source material he is working from. However, it is never more than an approximation, and while this can be a positive thing, allowing the creative artist the aesthetic room from which to strike out into their own unique idiom, with Glass in this piece, there is an inevitable reduction in resonance from the original. I will give just a single example. The Low Symphony opens with a straightforward re-creation of the opening few minutes from Subterraneans, the last piece of music from Bowie's ''Low''. 
Yet it's not so straightforward. On the original, created entirely on synthesizers, the first theme is accompanied, and commented upon, by a distended, elliptical and entirely captivating series of descant melodic slivers (most of them emerging backwards), closer to Indian and Islamic music than anything else. Glass has not ignored these filigrees. On the contrary. But the solution to the problem of representing these within the context of an orchestra made up of conventional acoustic instruments is a rather lame major third tremolo sustained by the strings right the way through the initial exposition. The enigmatic quality of the original slips away. 
Other listeners could argue with conviction that Glass manages to create something new and musically valid from the materials he has picked. In a way, that is quite true: any artefact has finally to stand or fall on its own merits, or lack of them. And this work shows a stronger sense of traditional concerns such as form, harmonic movement and emotional impact than any other Glass I care to recall, so it certainly stakes a claim to be considered on its own. But then we come back to the name: Low Symphony. Glass wants us, the audience, to know where this music came from. He invites comparison. To which I can only answer that this is an encouraging—perhaps even courageous—work from a composer not usually given to the romance of music. But is it not ''Low''.'
kshadwick / Gramophone

Tosca ‎– Dehli9 (2003)

Style: Dub, Downtempo, Modern Classical
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: G-Stone Recordings, !K7 Records

1-01.   Oscar
1-02.   Me & Yoko Ono
1-03.   Gute Laune
1-04.   Mango Di Bango
1-05.   Wonderful
1-06.   Every Day & Every Night
1-07.   Dave Dudley
1-08.   Rolf Royce
1-09.   Sperl
1-10.   La Vendeuse Des Chaussures Des Femmes Part 1
2-01.   D-Moll (Session 1)
2-02.   Einschlaf (Session 2)
2-03.   Wien In E (Session 3)
2-04.   Schwimmer (Session 4)
2-05.   1504 / 7 (Session 5)
2-06.   Slow Hell (Session 6)
2-07.   Song (Session 7)
2-08.   Romanze In Es (Session 8)
2-09.   Fluß (Session 9)
2-10.   Ping (Session 10)
2-11.   2504 / 1 (Session 11)

Mastered By – Bo Kondren
Written-By, Producer – Richard Dorfmeister, Rupert Huber

Tosca have been at it for a while now, delivering a mellow blend of funk fused dub since their early releases of Chocolate Elvis and Fuck Dub, back when the K&D sessions were yet to be released upon the unsuspecting public. And since the genre forming excitement of K&D’s remixes, much of Tosca’s releases have been relatively down played, becoming a secret passion for those truly in love with the sounds coming from the G-stone stable.

Truth be known though, the duo consisting of Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber have been rather prolific since those early singles, releasing long players such as Opera and Suzuki, as well as a slew of remix compilations of tunes from those albums (Suzuki in Dub and Different Taste of Honey). And this year the pair have released yet another winner in the form of Delhi9, pushing their sound even further into the sparse regions of instrumental dub groove.

The sounds are definitely a little different from past releases, with most of the bass being played on a warm electronic fretless bass, and the melodies sounding fresh with piano, organ and flute tones, all still dubbed up with filtered echo’s as per their usual style. There is also a larger assortment of vocalist, with the return of Anna Clementi, plus the introduction of Tweed on the brilliant dub house tune Gute Loune, and Earl Zinger on the first single Wonderful.

Some who know me personally might say that I could not objectively write a review of Tosca’s material… but what do they know. I think the album is bloody brilliant. It’s a lovely mix of trip hop, acid jazz, dub house and bossa groove, and while all that might sound a bit much, the coherency of the instrumentation provides a flow from tune to tune that leaves the hips rocking like waves on a summer beach. And just to prove my contemporaries wrong, there is in my opinion one dud – on the Anna Clementi sung Me & Yoko Ono, Tosca find themselves being
quirky rather than kinky… I prefer kinky but that’s just me.

So all up a good buy and another quality release from the G-stone label. And you also get a second cd, which contains minimal piano arrangements written by Rupert Huber, and dubbed up by Dorfmeister, which is also a beautiful listen. Top job lads, bring on the remixes I say.

Tosca have been at it for a while now, delivering a mellow blend of funk fused dub since their early releases of Chocolate Elvis and Fuck Dub, back when the K&D sessions were yet to be released upon the unsuspecting public. And since the genre forming excitement of K&D’s remixes, much of Tosca’s releases have been relatively down played, becoming a secret passion for those truly in love with the sounds coming from the G-stone stable.

Truth be known though, the duo consisting of Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber have been rather prolific since those early singles, releasing long players such as Opera and Suzuki, as well as a slew of remix compilations of tunes from those albums (Suzuki in Dub and Different Taste of Honey). And this year the pair have released yet another winner in the form of Delhi9, pushing their sound even further into the sparse regions of instrumental dub groove.

The sounds are definitely a little different from past releases, with most of the bass being played on a warm electronic fretless bass, and the melodies sounding fresh with piano, organ and flute tones, all still dubbed up with filtered echo’s as per their usual style. There is also a larger assortment of vocalist, with the return of Anna Clementi, plus the introduction of Tweed on the brilliant dub house tune Gute Loune, and Earl Zinger on the first single Wonderful.

Some who know me personally might say that I could not objectively write a review of Tosca’s material… but what do they know. I think the album is bloody brilliant. It’s a lovely mix of trip hop, acid jazz, dub house and bossa groove, and while all that might sound a bit much, the coherency of the instrumentation provides a flow from tune to tune that leaves the hips rocking like waves on a summer beach. And just to prove my contemporaries wrong, there is in my opinion one dud – on the Anna Clementi sung Me & Yoko Ono, Tosca find themselves being
quirky rather than kinky… I prefer kinky but that’s just me.

So all up a good buy and another quality release from the G-stone label. And you also get a second cd, which contains minimal piano arrangements written by Rupert Huber, and dubbed up by Dorfmeister, which is also a beautiful listen. Top job lads, bring on the remixes I say. 
Wayne Leslie / Resident Advisor

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Idris Ackamoor ☥ The Pyramids ‎– An Angels Fell (2018)

Style: Free Jazz, Afrobeat, Jazz-Funk, Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD,Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Strut

1.   Tinoge
2.   An Angel Fell
3.   Land Of Ra
4.   Papyrus
5.   Soliloquy For Michael Brown
6.   Message To People
7.   Warrior Dance
8.   Sunset

Drums – Johann Polzer
Congas,Percussion, Vocals – Bradie Speller
Double Bass – Skyler Stover
Electric Bass, Vocals – Skyler Stover
Guitar, Vocals – David Molina
Violin, Lead Vocals – Sandra Poindexter
Alto Saxophone, Lead Vocals – Idris Ackamoor

During a second listen to the title track on An Angel Fell, the latest release from Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids, I suddenly recall the climactic scene in Blade Runner where Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty delivers his famous, William Blake-inspired speech: “Fiery the angels fell / deep thunder rolled around their shores / burning with the fires of Orc.” Batty is a renegade android, an escapee from one of Earth’s off-world colonies, who continually interrogates what it means to be human and is all the while hunted by a character whose own human-ness is in doubt.

Fallen angels, or visitors from other planets, seem to occupy a similar role on this album: they observe human follies, warn against our impulses to conflict and environmental destruction, and offer the possibility of redemption. That title track veers between tight orchestration and 50s B-movie sound effects, the Pyramids’ sextet of extraordinarily talented jazz voyagers bridging the gap between earthy rhythms and extraterrestrial soundscapes.

This is not the first time that otherworldly visitors have graced planet Earth via what has come to be known as cosmic jazz. In the movie Space Is The Place (made in 1972 - the same year that Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids formed in Ohio), jazz visionary and Afrofuturist prophet Sun Ra lands his intergalactic Ra Ship in Oakland, California (which was home to the Pyramids during the mid-70s); having visited other planets where “the vibrations are different”, he expounds his theories of expanded black consciousness to the bemused young African-Americans he meets there.

This debt to Sun Ra’s legacy - both his music and his message - is explored fully on ‘Land Of Ra’, the captivating third track here, whose lyrics describe “a band of children from the land of Ra” who “travel space from star to star”. Like many of the album’s songs, it contains triumphant, almost euphoric passages and also delves into darker sonic realms. The track blends the heavily delayed guitar effects normally found in dub with its saxophone and violin-led melody, and it works perfectly. This playful borrowing from other genres is displayed across the album: opening track ‘Tinoge’ nods towards Afrobeat, ‘Papyrus’ glides into a kind of bossa nova kitsch.

The band started 46 years ago, disbanded for decades and then reformed, but their music has lost none of its potency or political relevance. The music that Ackamoor was making in the 1970s came out of intense social and racial tension, and that commitment to addressing the world’s ills through music remains. The arrival of the LP feels timely: Ackamoor stated that “loss of innocence and separation” were two themes guiding its development, as was a belief in the healing power of music. Humanity in 2018 could certainly use some healing, and it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the return of politically engaged jazz has come at a time of renewed global conflict.

‘Soliloquy for Michael Brown’ confronts the continued brutality of racial oppression in the United States, honouring the African-American teenager whose killing by Missouri police in 2014 sparked great civil unrest. It begins with an astonishing interweaving of Ackamoor’s sax and Sandra Poindexter’s violin: the two instruments summon deep grief and militant rage, then morph into a percussive groove that is transformative in its intensity. Ackamoor’s sax playing here is wounded and abrasive, as if depicting the deep scars of the legacy of racial violence.

Social injustice isn’t the only issue tackled by the LP, whose album art (by illustrator Lewis Heriz) depicts an angel sitting atop a rock as storms engulf the landscape in front of her. The funk-laced ‘Message To My People’ warns of ecological oblivion, the ominous roar of distorted guitars in the background. The track follows in the tradition of militant jazz and funk: music as sermon, lament and battle cry.

Despite the heavy subject matter, the album feels optimistic and imbued with a belief in the potential for humanity’s transformation. An Angel Fell ends with the shimmering, dreamlike ‘Sunset’, a celebratory and transcendent piece which seems to point towards a renewed respect and appreciation of nature as being part of our salvation. Ultimately, this is what the album promises: redemption and collective healing are within our grasp, if only we look outward and inward to be reminded of our true place in the cosmos.
Adam Quarshie / The QUIETUS

Nile Rodgers ‎– B-movie Matinee (1985)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warner Bros. Records

1.   Plan-9
2.   State Your Mind
3.   The Face In The Window
4.   Doll Squad
5.   Let's Go Out Tonight
6.   Groove Master
7.   Wavelength
8.   Stay Out Of The Light

Producer – Nile Rodgers, Tommy 'Rock' Jymi
Vocoder, Guitar, Cymbal – Tommy Jymi
Synthesizer – Rob Sabino
Bass, Guitar – Jimmy Bralower
Japanese Rap – Shizuko Orishige
Vocals, Backing Vocals – Alfa Anderson
Voice – Budd Tunick, Dan Nash, Hedy
Synthesizer, Bass, Backing Vocals – Nile Rodgers
Backing Vocals – Curtis King, David Spinner, Frank Simms, George Simms

Released in 1985, B-Movie Matinee proved a stellar departure from Nile Rodgers' initial solo outing. Leaving behind the more traditional trappings of his R&B-inflected debut, he instead looked to the synthesized future, driving his organic bass and guitars into what amounted to a concept album of sorts, fueled by memories of lazy Saturday B-movie afternoons. Bright, punchy pop punctuates this set. From the quirky sci-fi of "Plan-9" and the contemporary urban groove on "State Your Mind," which is one of the album's better tracks, Rodgers fills the space with eminently danceable, if somewhat same-y, songs using synthesizer tricks to thrill. "Let's Go out Tonight," meanwhile, proved the album's hot prospect, dipping into the Top 100, giving Rodgers his only solo chart hit. Rounding things out are the ballad "Wavelength" and Rodgers' immaculate instrumentation -- most notably the guitar and bass, which bound through the funky "Groove Master" with glee. Perhaps a little too light on substance, B-Movie Matinee still manages to please. Being Nile Rodgers can't be easy, as the mere mention of his name conjures such strong sonic images from his Chic canon, and it's hard to ignore those predispositions when listening to his solo material. But that's no detriment to the fine set he's unleashed here.
Amy Hanson / AllMusic