Monday, 17 February 2020

Elbow Bones And The Racketeers ‎– New York At Dawn (1983)

Style: Latin, Synth-pop, Funk, Disco
Format: Vinyl, CD
Label: Capitol Records. EMI, Hot Shot Records

Tracklist:
01.   A Night In New York
02.   Other Guys
03.   Happy Times
04.   Our Love Will Always Stand
05.   Happy Birthday, Baby
06.   Mama's In Love Again
07.   I Got You
08.   I Call It Like I See It
09.   I Belong To You
10.   You Got Me High
11.   I Wanna Remind You

Credits:
Producer – August Darnell

Ernest Hood ‎– Neighborhoods (1975)

Genre: Electronic, Non-Music
Format: Vinyl, CD
Label: Freedom To Spend

Tracklist:
1.   Saturday Morning Doze
2.   At The Store
3.   August Haze
4.   The Secret Place
5.   After School
6.   Gloaming
7.   From The Bluff
8.   Night Games

Credits:
Mixed By – Russ Gorsline
Zithers, Keyboards, Sounds – Ernest Hood


The original sleeve of Ernest Hood's 1975 album Neighborhoods describes the material within as a series of "musical pictures." Listen to the opening track, "Saturday Morning Doze," and you can hear why. Field recordings of chirruping birds and children playing, sourced by the late Portland artist, start quietly before fluttering synthesiser and gently strummed zither gather in their midst. In the original liner notes, Hood wrote of wanting to honour loved ones who played an important role in shaping the "comfortable memories" he was inspired by—"Saturday Morning Doze" evokes a long summer's day from Hood's own past. But for music so tied to personal history, it's remarkable how universal Neighborhoods, reissued by the New York label Freedom To Spend, still feels. 
Hood remains an enigmatic and largely unknown figure—Neighborhoods was his only album, and he pressed it himself in limited quantities. He had played in jazz groups with his brother Bill and the renowned band leader and saxophonist Charlie Barnet. But in the early '50s he contracted polio, which resulted in a year-long stint in an iron lung; he relied on a wheelchair to get around. Confined to Portland, Hood started experimenting with field recordings, slowly gathering the material that would imbue Neighborhoods with such indelible sepia tones. 
The album depicts a series of American suburban idylls. The majority of "At The Store" is a conversation between two boys at a shop, then on a porch, as cars pass on the street, all of which is bookended by a lilting keyboard melody. "After School" begins with pitch-bent synth notes, which fade as children mockingly sing to the tune of "Ring A Ring O' Roses." "August Haze," a languid track of crickets, shimmering strings and yet more scrawling electronics, reminds us that Hood was living through the twinkling cosmic jazz of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. But Hood's perspective is less celestial; it has the cosiness of fading sunlight in a backyard. 
What's striking about Neighborhoods is not only its fusion of proto-ambient, jazz, and musique concrète, but Hood's own steadfast commitment to exploring "memories of time past." Each recording appears carefully chosen for its emotional resonance, like the funfair sounds and fireworks found on "Night Games." Often, you sense that the environmental sounds came first, with the music scored around them. 
"The games we played, the mocks, the terminology and the feelings we experienced as youngsters are tantalizingly familiar," wrote Hood. "If I didn't exactly capture your territorial terms forgive me and just let the mood suffice." Hood does himself a disservice, because the album is more than just a collection of moods, however lovely and life-affirming. Listening to Neighborhoods feels like thinking of a memory for the first time.
Lewis Gordon / Resident Advisor