Monday, 4 May 2020

Greg Foat ‎– The Mage (2019)

Style: Contemporary Jazz, Folk, Jazz-Funk, Soul-Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Athens Of The North

Tracklist:
1.   Of My Hands
2.   Endless Love
3.   Drifting
4.   The Magic Radish
5.   The High Priestess
6.   Incantation
7.   The Mage

Credits:
Alto Saxophone – Rob Mach
Bass – Phil Achille
Choir – Simon Ljungman & Friends
Congas – Eric Young
Drums – Clark Tracey, Malcom Catto, Moses Boyd
Guitar – Ray Russell
Guitar, Percussion, Field Recording – Warren Hampshire
Harp – Heather Wrighton
Piano, Harmonium, Synthesizer, Percussion, Arranged By, Producer – Greg Foat
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Art Themen
Tenor Saxophone – Duncan Lamont
Vibraphone – Nat Steele
Vocals – Kathy Garcia

“The Mage” is Greg Foat’s 9th album. Those familiar with his music won’t find anything too surprising here, his compositions and arrangements showcasing now familiar downtempo folkscapes and free jazz, with notes of hip-hop and soul flowing comfortably into the analogue mix. Foat has that rare gift of bringing together musicians from different generations and musical backgrounds and arranging them and their talents into sounds that can be beautiful and uplifting. Introspective and retrospective with an eye on the future one might even say. Having enjoyed much of his music in recent years, especially the wonderful “The Dancers at the edge of time”, it was with keen anticipation when I first clicked play on this album. 
And now I pause. For reflection. For thought. Am I missing something? I don’t think so. As I listen to “The Mage” I can’t help feel the composer has lost his way a little. The trademark sound is there, the excellent collection of musicians is there, in fact, all the ingredients that would normally make for an enlightening Greg Foat experience are there, but it’s just not doing it for me. The compositions just seem to lack something. Having thought about this for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a few reasons for this… 
No.1: Despite the fact that on each track I’m immediately pulled in to the gorgeous sound and feel of the music, after a minute or so of each tune it just gets a bit boring to be honest. The phrase ‘style over substance’ springs to mind. 
No.2: There’s a lot of sax on the album. That should potentially be a good thing, right? Trouble is, some of the sax playing just seems to miss the mark for me. It’s like Kamasi Washington’s less gifted twin brother has infiltrated the band. He might know in his head what he’s trying to achieve, but in reality, it just doesn’t sound right. 
No.3: Timelessness. Whereas on other albums I would happily shout to all who would listen that this guy Greg Foat has the magic touch and prophetic understanding of a Mage, creating timeless music to die for, this time around he seems to have replaced that vitality and intuitive elemental grace with some kind of pale imitation of the Mage. 
That all sounds a bit harsh I know. And I don’t want it to be… if I was listening to Greg Foat for the first time my thought process could well be more easy going and less critical I suppose. So it is in fact very important to say that it’s most definitely not all bad by any means. In fact, it’s not bad at all, it’s still rather good in many ways. I still love certain elements of this album, and it’s plain to hear the touches of genius one might have been expecting… but it’s fleeting glimpses only for me. It’s good, but it’s not great. And maybe I’m just in the wrong mood or something, and it is, of course, wrong to expect brilliance on a consistent basis, but for me, it’s just a little bit disappointing. 
Considering the treasures revealed when listening to several other Greg Foat, and Hampshire and Foat albums, this one is little like discovering a rare oyster, only to find when the oyster is opened, that the pearl is missing.
Mike Gates / UK VIBE

Pet Shop Boys ‎– Introspective (1988)

Genre: Electronic, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Parlophone, EMI

Tracklist:
1.   Left To My Own Devices
2.   I Want A Dog
3.   Domino Dancing
4.   I'm Not Scared
5.   Always On My Mind / In My House
6.   It's Alright

Credits:
Written-By – Chris Lowe And Neil Tennant


As Neil Tennant has helpfully pointed out, this album is called Introspective because all its songs are introspective. Truthfully, this isn't saying much – introspection is what Pet Shop Boys do. After all, their signature hit starts "When I look back upon my life …" and most of their great records involve a certain amount of self-reflection, which they frame with glorious disco-inspired pop. The resulting distance – the horribly familiar inability to stop questioning yourself, even in the middle of joy – used to be misread as irony. Then in 1990 the band made Behaviour, where Tennant sounded more honest and vulnerable than he ever had, and people called it their first great album. It is a great album – but for me the six long tracks of Introspective from 1988 are more rewarding. 
You could hear the album as a journey away from distance. It starts with Left to My Own Devices, pop's greatest celebration of ambivalence. On the rest of side one we experience the downside of autonomy – a lonely Tennant conceding the need for companionship on I Want a Dog, then failing to connect to a lover on Domino Dancing. On side two he's redeemed – pledging himself on I'm Not Scared, admitting his faults on Always on My Mind, and finally opening out to the world on It's Alright. In the end, Introspective rejects its title.

That's why I still love it, but not why I fell for the album in the first place. I was 15, awkward, mistrustful of dance music, adrift from pop. Introspective changed that – it's a collection of extended mixes for songs that mostly weren't yet singles, and these longer versions are the definitive ones. I know now that a lot of this album draws inspiration from years of fabulous, opulent disco mixes. But at 15 it was a beautiful education in what you could do with pop given space and ideas. Left to My Own Devices inverts itself, scrambles its earlier verses and takes off to a private, string-soaked dream world. I Want a Dog turns from a squib into something profoundly sad. The Sterling Void cover It's Alright is a nine-minute love letter to house music.

Best of all is the longer Always on My Mind, where the band gradually skeletonise the song, lose touch with it entirely and then, after seven minutes, drop in the riff and flood the track with colour. It was my introduction to the breakdown – dance music's greatest gift to the world – and it set my music taste back on track. That's still my favourite moment in all pop – and the emotional crux of a rich, hopeful record.
Tom Ewing / The Guardian

Binker ∞ Moses ‎– Journey To The Mountain Of Forever (2017)

Style: Free Jazz, Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Gearbox Records

Tracklist:
      Disc One: The Realm Of Now
1.   The Departure
2.   Intoxication From The Jahvmonishi Leaves
3.   Fete By The River
4.   Trees On Fire
5.   The Shaman's Chant
6.   Leaving The Now Behind
      Disc Two: The Realms Of The Infinite
1.   The Valley Of The Ultra Blacks
2.   Gifts From The Vibrations Of Light
3.   Mysteries And Revelations
4.   Ritual Of The Root
5.   The Voice Of Besbunu
6.   Echoes From The Other Side Of The Mountain
7.   Reverse Genesis
8.   Entering The Infinite
9.   At The Feet Of The Mountain Of Forever

Credits:
Drums – Moses Boyd, Yussef Dayes
Harp – Tori Handsley
Tabla – Sarathy Korwar
Tenor Saxophone – Binker Golding
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Evan Parker
Trumpet – Byron Wallen
Producer – Darrel Sheinman

A double album with a title—Journey To The Mountain Of Forever—straight from the annals of Prog Rock (maybe with a short diversion via the Coltranes' spiritual jazz). A cover design that's a close relation to Led Zeppelin's Houses Of The Holy—a link made more explicit by an inner sleeve illustration that features a character in a Led Zeppelin tour t-shirt. Track titles that Yes would be proud of. It's—rather surprisingly—the excellent second album from the exciting young UK duo of Binker & Moses: saxophonist (and inner sleeve illustrator) Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd to be precise. 
Binker & Moses burst onto the UK scene in 2016, releasing the high-energy Dem Ones (Gearbox Records) and winning awards. The debut was full of inventiveness, musical twists and turns, and some seriously hard-blowing and hard- hitting playing from both men. Journey To The Mountain Of Forever retains that inventiveness and ability to surprise, but also exhibits a more varied musical approach, enhanced by the presence on the second CD (or the second disc, given that this is also available on vinyl) of a few guest artists 
Record 1 is a duo set, opening with the slow-burn of "The Departure," a tune that displays Binker & Moses' more controlled and restrained side. "Intoxication From The Jahvmonishi Leaves" finds the pair getting down and funky, driving irresistibly forward with Boyd's muscular drumming setting a rock-solid foundation for Golding's flowing tenor lines. "Fete By The River" is a jaunty, Sonny Rollins-ish, toe-tapper. Three tracks in, and the duo have shown an enviable breadth of musical creativity. 
The guest players, including legendary free-jazz saxophonist Evan Parker, ensure plenty of sonic variety on record 2. Binker and Moses remain at the centre of things, however, refusing to be intimidated by the presence of experienced improvisers like Parker and trumpeter Byron Wallen. The duo's creative breadth continues—"Gifts From The Vibrations Of Light" combines mystery and grace, thanks to the contributions of harpist Tori Handsley and tabla player Sarathy Korwar: Golding and Parker dart around each other on "The Voice Of Besbunu." A double album would be a step too far for most young players, but Journey To The Mountain Of Forever never fails to surprise and delight.
Bruce Lindsay / All About Jazz

Teta Lando ‎– Independência (1974)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Fanon Records, CDA

Tracklist
A1. F.N.L.A. - M.P.L.A.
A2. Irmão Ama Teu Irmão
A3. Cecília
A4. Lulendo Mpáxi
A5. Luvúvamo
B1. Iémbele Iémbele
B2. Angolano Segue Em Frente
B3. Poto Poto - Barro
B4. Menina De Nove Anos
B5. Pele Escura

What with the stresses and hardships caused by the Angolan War of Independence (1961-1974), it perhaps comes as no surprise that Angola’s first recording studio only opened in 1969. Some fine recordings by Lourdes Van-Dúnem since then suggest we could have been missing out up until then. This album by Teta Lando, a relatively young folk artist in his mid-20s, launched a brand-new label, CDA Records and was perhaps viewed at the time as the dawning of a new era for Angolan music, not to mention the Republic itself. Teta’s music focused on Angolan identity, the struggles faced by the folks as a result of the conflicts, as well as everyday matters important to his people such as love and family. The original album liner notes translate as follows 
“1961 marks the year of the start of the struggle against colonial oppression. The people’s desire for freedom spread through the countryside like bushfire. The grief and pain do not mean despair because the goal of independence was clear. This long play record launching CDA captures the chant and dress expression of an artist who is the voice of the people. The need to forget the harshness of the struggle and the joy of announcing victory is signalled. Teta Lando is devoted to the people, no-one better than he could sing Indepencencia.” 
In Angola, after the Portuguese had stopped the war in 1974, an armed conflict broke out among the nationalist movements. This war formally came to an end in January 1975 when the Portuguese government, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) signed the Alvor Agreement. Presumably “FNLA – MPLA”, the album’s excellent opener, is the first step in attempting to build bridges and heal wounds. Music-wise, my favourites here are all of the upbeat dance variety, as served up on the opener. Elsewhere, there are many pieces which are best described as a latin-brand of folk-rock; not understanding the lyrics undoubtedly hampers my enjoyment as I find little appeal in the make-up of the music itself. Generally speaking, there seems to be a tempered joy within this set; present relief and future hopefulness plays against past mourning and future uncertainty. I don’t speak a word of Portuguese mind – it’s all in the chords and the vocal intonations ; - )
The Jukebox Rebel

£ee $cratch Perry ‎– Heavy Rain‎ (2019)

Style: Dub, Reggae
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: On-U Sound, Beat Records

Tracklist:
01.   Intro - Music Shall Echo
02.   Here Come The Warm Dreads
03.   Rattling Bones And Crowns
04.   Mind Worker
05.   Enlightened
06.   Hooligan Hank
07.   Crickets In Moonlight
08.   Space Craft
09.   Dreams Come True
10.   Above And Beyond
11.   Heavy Rainford
12.   Outro - Wisdom

Credits:
Bass Guitar – Douglas Arthur Wimbish), George Oban
Cello – Ivan "Celloman" Hussey
Drum Programming – Prisoner
Drums – Lincoln "Style" Scott
Guitar, Synthesizer Juno 60 – Mark Bandola
Harmonica – Alan Glen
Keyboards – Brian Eno
Percussion – Mark Hebden , Mr. Magoo, Simone Soul
Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar – Crucial Tony
Saxophone – Paul Booth, Richard Doswell
Synth, Piano, Toy Piano, Stylophone, Melodica – Gaudi
Trombone – Chris Petter, Vin Gordon
Trumpet – Dave Fulwood
Violin – Samy Bishai
Producer – Adrian Maxwell Sherwood, Rainford Hugh Perry

Not that Rainford was a failure: Billed as a Johnny Cash-style reinvention, it proved a decent stab at marrying contemporary production to Perry’s rare moments of personal reflection. But Heavy Rain, essentially a dubbed-out reinterpretation of Rainford from Perry and UK producer Adrian Sherwood plus occasional guests, plays to Rainford’s considerable strengths while papering over its weaknesses. 
Sometimes these are closely related. Perry’s iconic vocal tone, growling and soft, like a bear in a Björk video, is one of the key attractions of any of his records. But he does tend to ramble in his dotage, making many songs on Rainford resemble strings of non sequiturs. Heavy Rain is hardly compact or fat-free, but Perry’s often nonsensical lyrics are less jarring when treated as another instrument to be rolled about in the mix, while his gravelly vocal timbre is perfectly suited for the regimen of echo and delay that it receives on songs like “Mindworker.” By contrast, the “Heavy Rainford” remake of Rainford’s “Autobiography of the Upsetter”—one of the few overtly autobiographical songs in the latter-day Scratch catalog—feels slight in comparison to the original song’s mood of profound nostalgia.

A similar logic of enhanced reduction applies to Heavy Rain’s musical bed. Perry and Sherwood strip Rainford down to its bones to better play about with individual elements, meaning that the dubs on Heavy Rain are both more minimal and more involved than their Rainford counterparts. “Here Come the Warm Dreads” (a remake of Rainford’s “Makumba Rock”) is a wonderful example. There’s not a great deal to the song—rolling bassline, shuffling drums, guitar skank, plaintive horn, and the occasional vocal interjection—but featured guest Brian Eno (on the right channel) and Adrian Sherwood (on the left) play merry hell with the mix, subjecting these elements to a magical mystery tour of production sorcery whose detail demands to be heard on good headphones. This approach also helps to highlight moments of individual brilliance: The plaintive refrain of Rainford’s “Children of the Light” works far better on Heavy Rain’s “Enlightened,” where it is untangled from Perry’s circuitous vocal and left to drift on a cloud of effects. 
Trombonist Vin Gordon, best known for his work with Bob Marley, is another notable highlight throughout Heavy Rain, adding such lilting melancholy to “Crickets in Moonlight” that the absence of vocal barely registers, while his instrument’s conversational tone on “Rattling Bones and Crowns” conveys more humanity than many singers’ most heartfelt confessions 
That Perry’s octogenarian genius is better suited to dub than reggae (and to moods over songs) is evident in the two new tracks towards the end of Heavy Rain—“Dreams Come True” and “Above and Beyond”—whose songwriting feels overly polite compared to the album’s prevailing air of anarchic fun. That’s no big stumbling block, though: Heavy Rain is a surprisingly inspired piece of late-period dabbling from a dub master.
Ben Cardew / Pitchfork

Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name ‎– Blue Velvet Revisited / MTM VOL. 42 (2015)

Style: Soundtrack, Experimental, Ambient, Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Crammed Discs, Made To Measure

Tracklist:
01.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - The Slow Club
02.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Lumberton
03.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Do It For Van Gogh
04.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - So Fucking Suave
05.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Now It's Dark
06.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Dorothy
07.   John Foxx - Lincoln Street
08.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - A Candy Colored Clown
09.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Frank
10.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Alligator Briefcase
11.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Jeffrey Nothing
12.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Until The Robins Come
13.   Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name - Don´

Credits:
Guest, Vocals – Kelli Ali
Performer – Blaine L. Reininger, Erik Stein, Jon Boux), Luc Van Lieshout
Written-By, Performer – Cult With No Name, Tuxedomoon
Written-By, Producer – John Foxx

Documentary soundtracks don’t typically fly off the shelves. Even more unusual is a soundtrack that precedes its documentary by at least a few months. But if that soundtrack possesses the title Blue Velvet Revisted, it’s going to pique some interest, especially at a time when Blue Velvet’s 30th anniversary commemoration is seeing the surrealist noir film return to theaters and when every snippet of news about the forthcoming “Twin Peaks” revival is gulped down by David Lynch cultists like damn fine cups of coffee. The soundtrack for Blue Velvet Revisited was created by the capable hands of frequent collaborators Tuxedomoon and Cult with No Name. The album doesn’t seethe and roil like Frank Booth turned noxious and feral, nor does it prove as haunting or wistful as a score by Angelo Badalamenti. In fact, despite a general atmosphere of foreboding, Blue Velvet Revisited is far less Lynchian than one might expect. 
Tuxedomoon have a history with film scores, and supremely psycho-sexual ones at that. In 2011, they put their experimental music prowess on display near the Louvre as they played along to a projection of James Bidgood’s dialogue-free fever dream Pink Narcissus. Their score honored the 40th anniversary of that film about the erotic fantasies of a vain street hustler, and it fit into the impressionistic blur of nightlife in the city. With this in mind, a jump from Pink Narcissus to Blue Velvet seems completely natural, even for an experimental outfit that has spent decades defining their sound as anything but. That previous companion film score was released on Crammed Discs, the same label responsible for Blue Velvet Revisited. It doesn’t take a Jeffery Beaumont to connect the dots. 
Crammed Discs is releasing this documentary soundtrack as part of their Made to Measure composer series, which has been resurrected after originally featuring instrumental music in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the likes of which went on to appear in films by notable directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Tom Tykwer and Wim Wenders. For Blue Velvet Revisited, they were invited by London’s self-proclaimed “electronic post-punk pioneers” Cult With No Name (as well as John Foxx) to join forces in accompaniment for the documentary that will showcase the choice bits from some 70 reels of Super 8 film shot by Peter Braatz on the set of Blue Velvet along with footage that was unused in Braatz’s 1988 surrealist documentary No Frank in Lumberton. Braatz also took over 1,000 pictures on set, and some of these never-before-seen shots are offered along with the physical vinyl and CD copies of this record. The music for the as-yet-unreleased documentary (no firm release date has been set, but it’s expected in the fall) is pensive, ominous and strange, but it’s far more tangential to the mood of Blue Velvet than one might expect. 
“The Slow Club” kicks off the album with a slow-burning theme song for a gumshoe strolling through fog, a muted horn providing an ambient-jazz mood while unhinged strings never let the listener get too comfortable. The opener’s syncopated beat actually provides one of the livelier moments on the record, as slow-moving piano and violin dominate much of the rest. Coarse violin notes define “Lumberton,” sounding like a track that could’ve been pulled from the score of The Last of the Mohicans (the same can be said of closing track “Don”). “So Fucking Suave” inches the pace forward with an off-kilter bass beat driving a song that diverts down avenues of gentle piano, muted horns and ethereal atmospherics. Appropriately, “Dorothy” may be the album’s most haunting and wistful track, ghostly and wordless female vocals rising up as if from the bottom of well. John Foxx’s contribution, “Lincoln Street,” spans nine minutes of sparseness, the occasional piano plink disrupting a subterranean burbling. This is immediately contrasted by a surge of avant-jazz in “A Candy Colored Clown” that jolts the listener back to attention. 
Anyone going into Blue Velvet Revisited expecting the exact tone as the 1986 cult classic film won’t come away from this record with much (unless you get the hard copy with its never-before-seen photos). After all, this is music to accompany grainy behind-the-scenes footage of real people making a movie, not characters caught in a bizarre psycho-sexual nightmare. Standing on its own, this soundtrack is moody ambient-jazz to put on in the background and little more—but one view of the trailer for the documentary and you can see how well-matched the sound and the images will be. Though the music of Blue Velvet Revisted may not quite sound Lynchian, it’s a fitting score to accompany a viewing of Lynch and his cadre of weirdos through someone else’s lens.
Josh Goller / Spectrum Culture

Jenny Hval ‎– Blood Bitch (2016)

Genre: Electronic, Pop, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sacred Bones Records, Su Tissue

Tracklist:
01.   Ritual Awakening
02.   Female Vampire
03.   In The Red
04.   Conceptual Romance
05.   Untamed Region
06.   The Great Undressing
07.   Period Piece
08.   The Plague
09.   Secret Touch
10.   Lorna

Credits:
Mastered By – Marcus Schmickler
Mixed By – Lasse Marhaug
Music By, Words By – Jenny Hval
Producer – Jenny Hval, Lasse Marhaug
Vocals, Instruments, Programmed By – Jenny Hval

When the feminist artist Judy Chicago showed her painting Red Flag in 1971, she set the precedent for a subject of art that now has a rich lineage: menstrual blood. Red Flag was a photolithograph that closely depicted a woman removing a used tampon from her vagina. At the time, moon-cycles were so hushed and taboo that Chicago said many people had no idea what they were seeing. Period art has since taken many forms. The disarray of Tracey Emin’s 1998 “My Bed” installation included stained underwear. The 13 abstract canvases of Lani Beloso’s 2010 “Period Piece” were thickly painted with her own blood. And let us not forget, more recently, the punk singer Meredith Graves mixing her blood into the vinyl of Perfect Pussy’s debut record. In 2000, the artist Vanessa Tiegs coined a term for this field: menstrala. 
There is a long history of abject art that makes use of corporeal waste. Julia Kristeva articulated this in her book Powers of Horror: “These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands... on the part of death,” Kristeva wrote. “There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being.” But period blood is different. According to Kristeva, it “threatens the relationship between the sexes” because it “signifies sexual difference.” And so, in threatening men, the stigmas surrounding menstrala have not waned. This year, the artist Rupi Kaur posted on Instagram a poised self-portrait with a central red stain—and it was twice removed, “accidentally.” 
The Norwegian avant-gardist Jenny Hval takes on the possibilities of musical menstrala with Blood Bitch. In an artist’s statement, she called Blood Bitch “an investigation of... blood that is shed naturally... the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood.” With that, Blood Bitch, her sixth album, deliberately enters two other great traditions: vampire movies and—as with all of Hval’s work—the timeless cross-hairs of art and pop.

No contemporary artist sings words like “sublimation,” “clitoris,” or “soft dick rock” with such enveloping elegance or unfettered ease. On Blood Bitch, Hval continues with her subtle deliveries of “abstract romanticism,” “subjectivity,” and “speculum.” Her voice is at once extremely musical and coolly flat; occasionally, she whispers. On “The Great Undressing,” even as Hval makes a cogent metaphor between capitalism and unrequited love (“it never rests”), the yearning in her voice recalls Lana Del Rey. (In 2015, at least once, Hval’s touring troupe of singers, dancers, and performance artists did an unusual cover of “Summertime Sadness” that I will not forget.) Hval’s “Period Piece” weaves melodies like gorgeous latticework as she describes a sterile scene in a gynecologist’s office but turns it into her own personally transcendent experience. “Don’t be afraid,” she beckons, “it’s only blood.” 
Collaborating again with noise producer Lasse Marhaug, as on 2015’s Apocalypse, girl, Hval was drawn to reflect on her roots in Norwegian metal (in interviews, the duo have even noted ties between Darkthrone’s black metal classic “Transilvanian Hunger” and Blood Bitch’s lush, rolling penultimate track, “Secret Touch”). Though there are patches of harsh noise to be found, Blood Bitch parallels black metal more by its atmospheric nature, how it feels as though the record is thematically all-gravity and yet physically floating. The arrangements employ repetition, with recurring motifs and menacing synths that move in concentric circles. A subtle siren blare anchors “Female Vampire” and carries over “In the Red,” replete with the sound of incessant panting, as if someone is running in fear. On the former, Hval sings directly of “a strange slow rhythm, not exactly creating a rhythm, in and out of focus, vulnerable,” underscoring the nonlinear textures of Blood Bitch’s sound. At its most featherlight, Hval’s music is still positively saturated with ideas, all pulp, marrow, and (indeed) blood. 
Combined with copious interstitials and its horror premise, Blood Bitch is Hval’s most filmic album (which is saying something considering Apocalypse, girl listed characters from Bergman’s Persona in the credits) as well as her most conceptual and surreal work. It’s also slyly hilarious, adding levity to her repertoire. “The Great Undressing” starts with a meta piece in which Hval’s bandmates discuss the record itself—a classic expository scene. (Zia Anger: “What’s this album about, Jenny?” Annie Bielski: “It’s about vampires.” Anger: “No!” Bielski: “Yeah... Well, it’s about more things than that...”) Hval evokes true modern horrors, not just fantastical ones. On “Ritual Awakening,” she sings, “I clutch my phone with my sweaty palm,” soon flipping the object as “the coffin for my heart... It’s so loud/And I get so afraid.” Machines lock us. Whether it’s Anger deeming vampires “so basic!” or Hval singing of “useless algorithms,” Blood Bitch sounds fiercely present. 
Blood Bitch is also more a montage than any of Hval’s records. “Untamed Region” includes a sample of the British filmmaker Adam Curtis describing the disorienting power-trip of Russian politics: “It sums up the strange mood of our time,” Curtis says alongside choral sighs, “where nothing makes any coherent sense.” “Untamed Region” moves into a stately passage in which Hval vulnerably and assuredly dissects her own period, touching the blood. More extreme is “The Plague,” which goes from tabla taps to a distressed, vampiric Hval summoning skyward, “I don't know who I am!” It’s all cut with horror organs and absurdist dialogue (“Last night I took my birth control with rosé!”) before ghastly noise bleeds into a faint dancefloor banger. “The Plague” is like a repository of ideas, as if precisely documenting an active mind. 
“Conceptual Romance” is Hval’s best and loveliest song, and its genesis point is clear. Hval has often cited Chris Kraus’ 1997 theoretical novel I Love Dick as her favorite book. The text celebrates the interior intellectual life of its narrator, a failed experimental filmmaker, in the context of a peculiar love story—she’s become obsessed with a man named Dick and she writes letters to him. It began one night, when she believed she had “conceptually fucked” him (through conversation). She turns her fixed “infatuation” into an art project. When Hval sings of her “combined failures,” when she sings “I understand infatuation/Rejection/They can connect and become everything/Everything that’s torn up in your life,” it’s like she is writing her own love letter right back to Kraus (which Hval herself affirmed in a recent Wire feature). Hval said she was inspired by karaoke on Apocalypse, girl, and “Conceptual Romance” could be a result. Her most lucid writing casts the spell of dream logic. “Conceptual Romance” is Blood Bitch’s lightening bolt moment, but it throbs with grace, like a procession of clouds. 
“Why do people still not get it when we [women] handle vulnerability like philosophy, at some remove?” Kraus writes in I Love Dick. It’s a fine summation of Hval’s music. More than any of the musicians to whom she is often compared (Laurie Anderson, Björk), Hval is a clear disciple of Kraus. On paper, Kraus moves fluidly from reference to reference, dense with ideas; Hval’s music is like this, too, and never more than on Blood Bitch. Like *I Love Dick—*which tends to draw lines, life before reading, life after—it is primarily about female genius and voice. “I need to keep writing because everything else is death,” Hval sings on “The Great Undressing,” “I’m self-sufficient, mad, endlessly producing.” Blood Bitch conveys the visceral euphoria of creation. Blood, it reminds us, is not only a life force—it’s where we begin.
Jenn Pelly / Pitchfork

Eddie Hazel ‎– Game, Dames And Guitar Thangs (1977)

Style: P.Funk, Psychedelic Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rhino Handmade, Warner Bros. Records

Tracklist:
1.   California Dreamin'
2.   Frantic Moment
3.   So Goes The Story
4.   I Want You (She's So Heavy)
5.   Physical Love
6.   What About It?
7.   California Dreamin' (Reprise)

Credits:
Backing Vocals – Dawn Silva, Gary Cooper, Lynn Mabry
Bass – Billy Bass, Bootsy Collins, Cordell Mosson
Drums – Bootsy Collins, Jerome Brailey, Tiki Fulwood
Guitar – Eddie Hazel, Garry Shider, Glenn Goins, Mike Hampton
Keyboards, Synthesizer, Mixed By – Bernie Worrell
Producer – Eddie Hazel, George Clinton

As the guitar genius at the heart of the first three Funkadelic albums, Eddie Hazel pioneered a fusion of hard rock and funk. His interstellar playing, which reached its apogee on the monumental 10-minute guitar solo instrumental Maggot Brain, prompted comparisons to Jimi Hendrix. Yet chronic drug problems and a chaotic lifestyle found him jettisoned from the P Funk camp, making only sporadic appearances with them before his untimely death in 1992.  
Outside of his work with Funkadelic, he made one solo album, 1977’s Game, Dames And Guitar Thangs. Given a first time vinyl reissue here, it’s a short and sweet effort at just over 30 minutes in length, that’s dominated by two lengthy, rather straightforward covers – California Dreamin’ and The Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy). The much sampled Frantic Moment and So Goes The Story both feature prime Bootsy basslines and the soulful vocals of Brides Of Funkenstein. It’s not the most innovative effort in the P Funk canon, but it’s Hazel’s guitar work you’ll be buying this for and he’s on jaw dropping form throughout; offering up a coruscating range of solos that offset any lack of creativity.
Paul Bowler / Record Collector