Saturday, 21 March 2020

Devo ‎– Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

Style: New Wave, Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warner Bros. Records, Virgin

01.   Uncontrollable Urge
02.   (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
03.   Praying Hands
04.   Space Junk
05.   Mongoloid
06.   Jocko Homo
07.   Too Much Paranoias
08.   Gut Feeling
09.   Slap Yer Mammy
10.   Come Back Jonee
11.   Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')
12.   Shrivel Up

Producer – Brian Eno
Written-By – Bob Mothersbaugh, Gary Jackett, Gerald, V. Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh

What’s Most Impressive about Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is its authority: Devo presents their dissociated, chillingly cerebral music as a definitive restatement of rock & roll’s aims and boundaries in the Seventies. The band’s cover version of “Satisfaction,” for instance, with its melody line almost completely erased and the lyrics delivered in a yelping, droogy chant to mechanical rhythms, at first comes across as an intentional travesty, a typical New Wave rejection of the oldfart generation. But what Devo is really doing is reshaping the old message into their own terminology — claiming one of the greatest anthems of the Sixties, with all its wealth of emotional associations, for their own time. It’s a startling gesture, yet a surprisingly convincing one. 
The same could be said for the whole album. The primitive guitar work and pulsing beat suggest a gamut of early Sixties borrowings, but the group is also reminiscent (the vocals especially) of some of the artier New Wave bands such as Wire or the B-52s. Yet all of these influences are flattened into an arid, deliberately fragmented science-fiction landscape. There’s not an ounce of feeling anywhere, and the only commitment is to the distancing aesthetic of the puton. 
I suspect, though, that in adopting this style, Devo would argue that they’re simply being good journalists — that the futuristic deadpan comedy of their stance reflects the current pop-culture reality. “Too Much Paranoias” for example, starts out as a mocking, jarring little ode to dread that’s genuinely frightening, then turns into an overt joke in which the chief villain is apparently a McDonald’s hamburger (“Hold the pickles hold the lettuce,” in a spasmodic shriek), but the joke is equally scary. And the group’s attitude remains poker-faced throughout. In the lobotomized anthems that end side one, “Mongoloid” (a sort of bastard cousin to the Ramones’ “Pinhead,” with a great, stuttering guitar line) and “Jocko Homo,” it’s impossible to tell whether these guys are satirizing robotlike regimentation or glorifying it. The answer seems to be that there isn’t any difference. 
Brian Eno’s production is the perfect complement to Devo’s music. Eno thickens the band’s stop-and-go rhythms with crisp, sharp layers of percussive sound, full of jagged edges and eerie effects that whip in and out of phase at dizzying speeds. On every cut, Devo seems to know exactly what they want and how to achieve it almost effortlessly. Such apparently random strategies as the “What Goes On”-style organ in “Mongoloid” or the neat-Byrds-like guitar intro to “Gut Feeling” coalesce into a barbed, dislocated texture that draws you in even while it sets your nerves on edge. 
Though the group’s abstract-expressionistic patterns of sound are closely related to Eno’s own brand of experimentation (not to mention the recent work of David Bowie, who was once slated to produce this LP) and to a host of other art rockers, Devo lacks most of Eno’s warmth and much of Bowie’s flair for mechanized melodrama. For all its idiosyncrasies, the music here is utterly impersonal. This Ohio band either treats humanity as just another junky, mass-cult artifact to be summarily disposed of, or else ignores it completely. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is a brittle, small masterpiece of Seventies pop irony, but its shriveling, icecold absurdism might not define the Seventies as much as jump the gun on the Eighties.
Tom Carson / Rolling Stone

Robert Wyatt ‎– Rock Bottom (1974)

Style: Psychedelic Rock, Avantgarde, Prog Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Domino, Virgin

1.   Sea Song
2.   A Last Straw
3.   Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road
4.   Alifib
5.   Alife
6.   Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road

Produced By – Nick Mason
Voice, Keyboards, Drones, Music By, Liner Notes – Robert Wyatt

The upper half of the cover to Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom shows a deceptively simple scene: three girls, one holding four small balloons in her hand, play around on the shore of an ocean. Behind them, two gulls glide over the waves, and a steamboat sails towards a distant lighthouse, leaving a ripple of water behind. A small sand castle stands by the girls, caressed by waves. And yet, below this peaceful, mundane scene lies a hidden world, filled with mystery and awe: giant jellyfish swim amongst contorted seaweeds and barnacles, mountains rise, twisting out of the ocean floor, endless canyons fall, and exotic plants of every sort grow in the safety of salty sea water. The album itself feels very much like that.
Rock Bottom begins in a relatively straightforward manner with Sea Song and Last Straw. Both of these densely atmospheric songs feature Wyatt’s airy voice singing pleasant, peaceful melodies above a jazzy backdrop of pianos, synths, and acoustic basses. But after the last note of Last Straw fades away and the trumpets of Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road enter, playing a dramatic fanfare, the album evolves into a complex, unorthodox work.
Dissonant horns, Alice In Wonderland-esque lyrics, percussive instruments of all sorts, ranging from militaristic snares to tribal bongos, and ever-present jazzy baselines all converge together and form a surreal, at times disquieting, soundscape. The melancholy vocal melodies are still there, but, with the addition of the frequently-schizophrenic instrumentation, they are tinged with a touch of paranoia and instability. The latter is reinforced by decidedly abstract lyrics, which range from a recitation of a nonsensical poem about the life of a highwayman to whispers of “Not nit not nit no not, nit nit folly bololey, Alifi my larder.”
The unorthodox lyrics, instruments, and melodies all combine to create an atmosphere that is as enticing as it is disturbing. The whole album is melancholic, brooding, and a bit paranoid, but it has an indescribable, quirky quality that makes everything oddly soothing. From Alfib’s sunny bass solo to the icy Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road, the album never feels overbearing, even when all of the instruments play in full force.
Rock Bottom invites listeners to dive into a hidden world, where conventional rules are forgotten and imagination becomes reality, where fear and beauty are one. Who knows, maybe you’ll never want to leave - I sure as hell don’t...
vanderb0b / sputnik music

Resavoir ‎- Resavoir (2019)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: International Anthem Recording Company

1.   Intro
2.   Resavoir
3.   Taking Flight
4.   Plantasy
5.   Clouds
6.   Woah
7.   Illusion
8.   Escalator
9.   LML

Bass – Lane Beckstrom
Drums – Jeremy Cunningham
Drums, Percussion – Peter Manheim
Tenor Saxophone – Irvin Pierce
Trumpet, Keyboards, Sampler, Producer, Arranged By – Will Miller
Voice, Keyboards, Sampler – Akenya Seymour
Mastered By – David Allen
Mixed By – Dave Vettraino, Will Miller

Horatio Luna ‎– Yes Doctor (2020)

Style: House, Broken Beat, Dub
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: La Sape Records

A1.   Some Like It Hot
A2.   Yes Doctor
A3.   Mango & Setwun
A4.   Luna Landing
A5.   Your Love
A6.   Bubbly
B1.   Golden
B2.   Northern Beaches
B3.   Brunswick Massive
B4.   Brunswick Massive Pt. 2

Beats, Bass – Horatio Luna
Drums – Phil Stroud
Guitar – Ikey, Setwun
Keyboards – Mango
Synth – Dufresne
Producer – Horatio Luna

In July last year, the London-based DJ and tastemaker Gilles Peterson put together Sunny Side Up, a compilation of Melbourne’s incredible jazz talent. Like so much of Brownswood’s releases, the LP wasn’t just for serious jazz enthusiasts. This was music pushing the boundaries of what the genre could be.  Taking influence from Australia’s club and DJ culture, Sunny Side Up featured elements of broken beat, rhythmic house, hip-hop and neo-soul, helping introduce jazz to a whole new audience unaware of the city’s bubbling underground scene. 
Henry Hicks – aka Horatio Luna – is one of these artists. Alongside his standout track on last year’s Sunny Side Up, Hicks has been a key member of Australia’s growing jazz and club music scene for a number of years, working as part of Antiphon, the 30/70 collective and more recently operating as musical director on La Sape’s downundaground compilation. His debut LP Yes Doctor on the same label takes that boundary-pushing trend to the next level. Even among a scene that’s known for stretching the limits of what jazz music can be, Yes Doctor feels like uncharted territory.
In fact, to define Yes Doctor as a jazz album feels like pigeonholing the record. This is music that translates jazz back into the language of the dancefloor; it’s music to move to, made specifically for the club. As Hicks said in a recent interview with Low End Theorists, “jazz is dance music. It’s club music, it’s underground.” Yes Doctor, like Hicks’s live performances, shows that jazz can be as much a part of club music as its contemporary counterparts house, techno and dub. 
A large reason for this seamless fusion of genres is Hicks’s diverse skillset. As well as an incredible bassist, Hicks is an accomplished DJ with impeccable knowledge on the mechanics of the dancefloor (something he made clear in his recent Musical DNA Mix for the album). He knows how to get people moving, how to build and sustain intensity, and this is best expressed across three tracks: ‘Luna Landing’, ‘Your Love’ and ‘Bubbly’. Held together by Hicks’s dirty bass line, you can almost hear the grit soaked into the dusty grooves of each track. ‘Bubbly’ in particular brings to mind Moodymann’s jazz-influenced Black Mahogani. The track is built upon Hicks’s woozy, jazz-infused take on a house beat.  
Every track on Yes Doctor pulsates with energy and experimentation, but it doesn’t feel dense or overstuffed. That’s probably largely down to Hicks’s talent as a producer. The opening track ‘Some Like It Hot (feat. Throne Boy)’ is a clear nod to dub music. It sets the tone, gently leading the listener into the album with its mellow groove, reverb and hypnotic vocals. From the way Hicks pushes the bass to the forefront of the track (and the album more generally) to the reggae beat that runs throughout the song, it’s clear you’re entering Horatio Luna’s world. 
Significantly, Yes Doctor manages to retain the atmosphere of Horatio Luna’s immersive live performances. Each track feels carefully considered yet doesn’t sacrifice the raw, spontaneous quality of jamming. Like the best DJs and producers, Hicks possesses an ability to pull you into his own singular-sounding world. As Moodymann once said, “I’m there to share my environment. Not to give you a part of your own”. Like the Detroit house legend, Hicks’s influences are clear, but there’s nobody that sounds quite like him. He creates his own distinctive sonic environment, an immersive and intoxicating world you can’t help but get lost in.
Gary Hunter / Low End Therists

Bettye LaVette ‎– I've Got My Own Hell To Raise (2005)

Style: Blues Rock, Rhythm & Blues, Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Anti, DBK Works

01.   I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
02.   Joy
03.   Down To Zero
04.   The High Road
05.   On The Surface
06.   Just Say So
07.   Little Sparrow
08.   How Am I Different
09.   Only Time Will Tell Me
10.   Sleep To Dream

Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Chris Bruce
Drums – Earl Harvin
Electric Bass – Paul Bryan
Electric Guitar – Doyle Bramhall II
Piano, Organ, Electric Piano – Lisa Coleman
Recorded By, Mixed By – S. Husky Hoskulds
Producer – Joe Henry