Sunday, 10 May 2020

Brian Eno ‎– Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)

Genre: Electronic, Rock, Experimental
Format: CDVinyl
Label: Island Records, Polydor, EG Editions, Virgin

01.   Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
02.   Back In Judy's Jungle
03.   The Fat Lady Of Limbourg
04.   Mother Whale Eyeless
05.   The Great Pretender
06.   Third Uncle
07.   Put A Straw Under Baby
08.   The True Wheel
09.   China My China
10.   Taking Tiger Mountain

Arranged By – Eno, Phil Manzanera
Bass Guitar – Brian Turrington
Drums – Freddie Smith
Guitar – Phil Manzanera
Percussion, Backing Vocals – Robert Wyatt, Eno
Vocals, Electronics, Snake Guitar, Keyboards, Producer – Eno

Brian Eno’s first solo record, Here Come the Warm Jets, is, by any metric, a classic rock album. Countless moments of gorgeous pop appeal are nestled within Eno’s bizarrely experimental song structures. The album’s creation was a ‘kitchen sink’ experience – Eno having roped-in sixteen seemingly incompatible musicians, from a variety of musical backgrounds and genres, to assist in creating his record. The goal was to induce a competitive atmosphere, and for accidents to happen, with the knowledge that said accidents could equate to genius. For Robert Christgau, Warm Jets was reminiscent of The Velvet Underground in that it was at once an off-putting, and yet engaging, listening experience. Warm Jets may have moments of dissonance peppered throughout but, on the whole, the album is decidedly more brilliant than confounding. Ultimately Here Come the Warm Jets set a very high bar for whatever was to follow. 
To avoid the sophomore slump, Eno created his Warm Jets’ follow-up in a less abrasive, more minimalistic and tightly controlled atmosphere.  Instead of brining on so many diverse players, Eno locked-down a core of dedicated studio musicians. He even implemented his “Oblique Strategies,” a deck of cards, printed with vague or highly specific suggestions, on their faces which could be used in moments of indecision to inspire a path forward or a solution to a problem. The album’s title was taken from an opera originating from China’s Cultural Revolution and thus Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy could be described as a concept album in as much as general themes like East Asia, revolution, paranoia and politics run throughout several of the songs. With that said, there is no cohesive theme to the record as a whole. Instead, what Tiger Mountain offers is ten tracks showcasing Brian Eno’s range as a producer and musician. Where Warm Jets felt fun and somewhat moored to Eno’s glam Roxy Music past, Tiger Mountain feels serious and immediate and intense. 
Tiger Mountain’s opener, "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More" is a languid jangle of a tune and a bellwether for Eno’s relationship with the guitar going forward – the instrument’s power being reduced to that of a mere rhythmic pattern laid atop other rhythmic patterns. Lyrically the song is a collection of Orientalist tropes: a woman seated in lotus position, China referred to as Cathay, rice picking, espionage, microtechnology and bonsai. There also appears to be no separation in the writer’s mind between China and Japan. There’s a smirk underpinning the whole song suggesting Eno is fully aware of the ridiculousness of the words and the ways in which the West (mis)reads the East. 
“Back in Judy’s Jungle” introduces an odd but interesting element which returns several times throughout Tiger Mountain: the carnival. The instrumentation, which includes whistling, combined with the song’s waltz-like rhythm lends the track a jolly, festive air. “Judy’s Jungle” might as well be the soundtrack to a trapeze act or juggling. The lyrics, telling the story of a bungled military operation, are also heavily evocative of some dark comedy. The final product is a song not dissimilar to the whistling theme from The Bridge Over the River Kwai or Yossarian’s whistling in Catch-22. The carnival sound also returns on “Put A Straw Under Baby,” a melancholy dirge punctuated by toot-toots of an organ. 
Eno’s best use of carnival atmospherics however is found on “Mother Whale Eyeless.” This time in the form of what sounds to be an organ playing music written for calliope. Adding to the whimsy is a child’s chorus singing about a blind whale who lives in the sky and a man in the whale’s belly missing his raincoat. The juxtaposition between Eno’s flat delivery of the verses and the soaring pitch of the children’s chorus is marvelous. Equally as impressive is the juxtaposition of the relatively straight ahead rock riff opening the song that launches into space when the organ abruptly cuts in and suddenly the rhythm becomes denser and multi-layered. The two sections merge by the track’s raucous conclusion into a fiery cacophony gradually fading into nothing. “Mother Whale Eyeless” boasts Tiger Mountain’s first moment of sublime perfection and is certainly one of the best songs in Eno’s impressive catalog.  
There has been enough ink spilled already about the importance of “Third Uncle” to the history of punk rock. It’s not worth lingering on the subject other than to say that the connections are obvious and undeniable. Despite his glam/prog associations, Eno’s work and talent went well beyond the parameters of those rather limited genres. The sounds of Wire, Gang of Four, Devo and all things Mancunian can be found in this single track. “Third Uncle” also feels like a 180 BPM reminder of what is missing from most of popular music today: aggressive passion. Despite an ice cold vocal delivery by Eno and a rocket-propelled rhythm, “Third Uncle’s” high pressure intensity pulses with life. 
The album’s centerpiece, “The True Wheel” rolls-in like a glam rock express train. The song’s driving beat, distorted guitar, hammering piano and fields of weirdly off-key organs still sound like the future. Then, instead of doing the obvious, Eno throws in that same children’s choir again to create a massively catchy chorus. Just when things settle back into traditional glam territory, Eno throws a wrench in the works by suddenly changing the well-established tempo in the middle of a weirdly minimal guitar solo. The song concludes with a reference to the Modern Lovers, more proto-punk and Eno singing in a nerdy-but-aggressive style that surely acted as a direct influence on David Byrne. “The True Wheel” is nothing short of a masterpiece. 
Tiger Mountain concludes with “China My China” and the album’s title track. While neither has the power of “The True Wheel” both are worth mentioning for some unique musical innovations. Rhythm, or an ambient lack thereof, has often been the key to Eno’s brand. On “China My China” he deploys the sound of typewriter keys as a percussion instrument. While “found sound” surely happened prior to the recording of Tiger Mountain, few examples of its power or perfection standout like the clack-clack of the typists on “China My China.”  The titular track, “Taking Tiger Mountain,” comes across as a kind of mournful a synth and (almost slack-key) guitar take on “We’ll Meet Again.” Though most of the song is instrumental, a chorus of voices eventually croons about the need to “be kind,” among other sweet sentiment. The soft verses seem to drift away as they close the album. Despite having the feel of vaguely ethnic “island” music, “Taking Tiger Mountain” is oddly apropos as a final track pointing the way toward Eno’s ambient future.
Jon Burke / Soundblab

Linkwood & Foat ‎– Linkwood & Foat (2020)

 Style: Deep House, Ambient, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Athens Of The North

1.   Es Vedra
2.   Marina
3.   Pressure
4.   Bentley 101
5.   Sa Talaia
6.   Neutrino
7.   Push It
8.   Mysterious Richie

Instruments – G. Foat, N. Moore
Written By, Producer, Arranged By – Greg Foat, Nick Moore

Athens of the north is not just here to release great music but to support our artist development and experimentation, to this end we always try to bring good people together to work on new music. This LP fuses two massive talents, for the first time to AOTN we introduce House and Techno legend Linkwood, joining him is one of the |UKs most respected Jazz Artists Greg Foat, who will need no introduction to AOTN fans 'Linkwood & Foat' is the first LP to be recorded in the new 'Athens of the North Studio', which was designed and built specifically for our artists so that they can create without the time pressures or expenses of studio hire elsewhere. With no fixed plans, no rules or expectations, the pair relaxed in the new studio and started making music. The result is very special indeed Linkwood had just returned from walking in the wilds of an Ibiza summer and Greg had similarly been immersed on the sun drenched south coast of the Isle of wight. This freedom and sense of space saturates the grooves of the LP juxtapositioned against a deeper late night basement club feel they both love so much, the pull between nightlife and the freedom of nature. It's extroversion and introversion, the freedom and escapism of the two seemingly opposing environments permeates this recording.
Phonica Records  

Diabo Na Cruz ‎– Lebre (2018)

Style: Alternative Rock, Folk Rock, Pop Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Columbia, Sony Music

01.   Forte
02.   Procissão
03.   Roque da Casa
04.   Terra Natal
05.   Balada
06.   Terra Ardida
07.   Tema da Lebre
08.   Malhão 3.0
09.   Montanha Mãe / Contramão
10.   Lebre
11.   Portugal

Strings – Luís Figueiredo
Portuguese Guitar – Luís Coelho
Cello – Ana Cláudia Serrão
Double Bass – Margarida Afonso
Guitar – Joana Cipriano
Violin – Ana Filipa Serrão, Ana Pereira

O rock e a tradição nacional voltaram a soar na música portuguesa. Depois de Virou!, Roque Popular e Diabo na Cruz, a banda de Jorge Cruz lançou um novo álbum: Lebre. Aqui, as letras populares do vocalista continuam a ser um dos elementos diferenciadores da banda que, desde 2008, tem vindo a ser uma das mais distintas no panorama musical português. 
A intensidade e os graves de Forte e Procissão abrem a corrida que esta Lebre faz ao longo dos onze novos temas. Aliás, o segundo tema enuncia que “ainda a procissão vai no adro”. Os acordes mais agudos são introduzidos no terceiro tema: Roque da Casa. Tudo isto sempre acompanhado da aliança entre os ritmos do rock e os do folclore mais tradicional. 
Terra Natal traz um apelo à nostalgia onde “os baloiços eram a baliza na escola” e a recordação de “almoços no pátio” e “manhãs no quintal”. O sentimento é facilmente transposto para o ouvinte e permite uma ainda maior proximidade com o povo português. O ritmo do disco eventualmente acalma com uma Balada, assim devidamente intitulada. 
Logo de seguida, Terra Ardida repõe o ritmo. Neste tema, o coro inicial, assim como no refrão, aludem a sonoridades que estamos habituados a ouvir em filmes ou feiras medievais, com uma forte percussão e cordas mais rítmicas. Tema da Lebre  faz a transição para o Malhão 3.0, num chamamento àquilo que Portugal mais tem: alegria e dança, tal como nas festas populares pelo país fora. 
A intensidade regressa com Montanha Mãe / Contramão. Com um tom ligeiramente mais agressivo, esta agregação de duas músicas mantém um ritmo arrojado no álbum, que nos leva para o tema que dá nome ao disco. Lebre transporta uma calma com um toque de suspense e melancolia, servindo de penúltimo capítulo do álbum. 
Portugal, o último tema presente em Lebre, descreve aquilo que é o nosso país. Um tema com um ritmo em crescendo que dá um toque épico e triunfal à música, o que contrasta com o resto da obra muito popular e próxima do ouvinte. Quase nos permite retirar uma ideia de coragem para o futuro, como um eco do Quinto Império de que Fernando Pessoa tanto falava. Portugal encerra um álbum muito positivo que congrega tudo aquilo que é a imagem de Jorge Cruz e da sua banda lisboeta. Lebre são cerca de 45 minutos de pura intensidade. É um álbum muito ritmado e que volta a trazer aquilo que é mais português, sempre de mão dada com o bom e velho rock.
Rui Costa / Preto No Branco

João Donato ‎– Donato Elétrico (2016)

Genre: Jazz, Latin, Funk / Soul
Format: CD
Label: Selo SESC SP

01.   Here's JD
02.   Urbano
03.   Frequência De Onda
04.   Espalhado
05.   Tartaruga
06.   Soneca Do Marreco
07.   Combustão Espontânea
08.   Resort
09.   Xaxado De Hercules
10.   G8

Bateria - Décio, Bruno Buarque
Baixo - Marcelo Dworecki, Zé Nigro
Vibrafone - Beto Montag
Clarone - Richard Firmino
Flauta - Anderson Quevedo
Sax Baritono - Cuca Ferreira
Trombone - Douglas Antunes
Trompete - Daniel Gralha
Sax Tenor - Daniel Nogu
Viola - Daniel Pires
Guitarra - Mauricio Fleury, Gustavo Ruiz, Cris Scabelloeira
Violino - Aramis Rocha, Robson Rocha
Violoncelo - Renato de Sá
Percussão -   Guilherme Kastrup, Mauro Refosco, Gustavo Cecci, Rómulo Nardes
Arranjo de Cordas -  Laércio Freitas, Marcelo Cabral
Fender Rhodes, Claninet, Farfisa, Moog, Pro-One - João Donato

A glorious return to electric modes for the legendary Joao Donato – a set that has him playing the kind of sweet funky Fender Rhodes lines we love in his 70s work – alongside some Farfisa, Moog, and Clavinet too! Donato definitely takes the "eletrico" in the title seriously – and works in ways that are far more than just a rehash of his older funk – a style that also blends in some cool, cosmic lines that Joao never would have done back in the day, and which honestly makes the whole thing sound like one of his most youthful records in decades. That magical sense of space and sound is still very firmly in place, and serves the master well throughout – and the backing on the set is by a host of younger jazz musicians, with instrumentation that includes tenor, trumpet, vibes, flute, and even some nice use of strings. Titles include "Here's JD", "Ubrano", "Tartaruga", "Frequencia De Onda", "Xaxado De Hercules", "Combustao Espontanea", and "Soneca Do Marreco"
Dusty Groove

Karin Krog ‎– We Could Be Flying (1974)

Style: Space-Age, Fusion, Jazz-Funk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Polydor, Philips, Meantime Records

1.   We Could Be Flying
2.   The Meaning Of Love
3.   Sometime To Go
4.   All I Want
5.   Sing Me Softly Of The Blues
6.   Raindrops, Raindrops
7.   Lament
8.   Hold Out Your Hand
9.   Time To Go

Drums, Percussion – Jon Christensen
Electric Bass – Steve Swallow
Keyboards – Steve Kuhn
Voice – Karin Krog
Producer – Johnny Sareussen, Karin Krog

Recorded for Polydor, six years after her landmark Joy album, this set features Norwegian jazz iconoclast Karin Krog in the electric company of keyboardist Steve Kuhn, drummer percussionist Jon Christensen, and Steve Swallow on one of his early electric bass dates. More song-oriented than her other vanguard dates, We Could Be Flying still showcases the singer in a restless, searching frame of creativity. Obviously influenced by the work Flora Purim had done with Return to Forever and the heyday of jazz-rock fusion, Krog nonetheless puts her indelible stylistic stamp on all the material here. The best tunes here were written by Kuhn, who seems to understand the subtlest nuances in Krog's performing style, as evidenced by "Meaning of Love," with its driven, wispy Latin rhythms and melodic lines that seem to bleed into one another, capturing the softness of Krog's enunciation. The seemingly rocked-up cover of Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" feels out of place here, the band feels stilted into trying to rein themselves into the conventional cut-time signature and fixed spaces where fills are almost unwelcome. While Mitchell's own version is far looser and spacier than this, the band seems to have misunderstood her original intent in this song. The co-write between Carla Bley and Krog on "Sing Me Softly of the Blues," finds the band back on its square, swinging the blues in cool nocturnal fashion with Christensen's swinging cymbal work carries the band underneath the singer's husky contralto. The finest moment here is the funky "Raindrops, Raindrops" written by Kuhn, where his electric piano and double-time bass and drums fall in just behind Krog's shimmering, airy performance. This recording is a fine document of its time, capturing its naivete, sense of adventure, and its willingness to step outside the jazz and vanguard box while never giving in to pop convention. Recommended.
Thom Jurek / AllMusic