Friday, 15 May 2020

Annabel (lee) ‎– The Cleansing (2017)

Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul, Classical
Format: Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Youngbloods

1.   Acquiescence
2.   Move With Me
3.   Paris, Room 14
4.   Scarlet One
5.   The Cleansing
6.   Far
7.   See Her
8.   Autumn Requiem
9.   Paris, Room 14 (Live Version)

Mastered By – Steve Kitch
Performer, Songwriter – Richard E, Sheila Brown Ellis

You could be forgiven for thinking Annabel (lee) is a person. The identity projected to the press for Annabel's debut album, 2015's By the Sea... and Other Solitary Places, was kept purposefully vague, at least by the Ninja Tune sub-label that released it, If Music. Yet, that's apparently the name under which Sheila Brown Ellis (formerly Annabel) and Richard Ellis (aka Richard E) produce their haunting, trip-hop-tinged mutant jazz and post-folk.

The duo's debut was touted as an unlikely collaboration between a classically trained violinist/cabaret singer from New York and a London-based dance music composer, but it looks like they're married now and living in Los Angeles together — makes sense, because from the sound of their albums, they are the perfect team. Their tastes mesh in blissful ecstasy, drawing on the finest classical, '70s folk and jazz influences, as well as brilliant poetry like that of William Blake and Edgar Allan Poe.

The differences between their debut and The Cleansing are subtle. The production is a little more focused on their new album, a little less Nina Simone trying to claw her way back through the ether to our plane of existence and a little more Billie Holliday being serenaded by Antonio Carlos Jobim on the beach at sunset. In this more serene, summery context, the mind-bending lyrics are drawn into greater focus, hitting deeper parts of the brain than ever before. This is the stuff you can imagine the Heliocentrics and the Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble putting on before drinking ayahuasca.
Alan Ranta / exclaim!

Erick Cosaque ‎– Chinal Ka 1973-1995 (2019)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Heavenly Sweetness

01.   Guadeloupe, île de mes amours
02.   Joué zizipan
03.   Déséré nou dé May
04.   Kominiké
05.   L'heureux noir
06.   Jean la line la cléré
07.   Donatien
08.   Lundi bon matin
09.   Dé ti mo pawol Cwéol
10.   Dé chate colé
11.   Roger a di wha wha
12.   Embawgo
13.   Jan Pol Rabalkoto
14.   A koz don biyé 100 F
15.   Zombie Dance
16.   Wolémin oupwi

“Avec 45 ans de carrière et une vingtaine d’albums, il y a de quoi écrire un livre sur Erick Cosaque, figure majeure du gwo ka, style rythmé par ce gros tambour né pendant la période de l’esclavage. Ce tonneau de salaison -le gros quart- était laissé aux esclaves déportés aux Antilles françaises pour en faire des tambours avec des peaux de cabris. Cet héritage musical africain résonnait alors au coin des rues, lors de manifestations improvisées, ou pendant le travail, rythmant la coupe de la canne à sucre. Souvent associé à la rébellion et à la survie, cette pratique à la fois rustique et complexe a toujours été isolée, marginalisée et enfermée dans une classe sociale relativement pauvre, même après l’abolition de l’esclavage.

Bien qu’actif depuis le début des années 70, Erick Cosaque a connu cette censure et s’est imprégné des différentes façons de jouer sur son île dès l’adolescence. Sous l’impulsion de son camarade Guy Conquête qui utilisait alors le gwo ka comme vecteur de ses revendications politiques, Erick Cosaque a rapidement appris les 7 rythmes caractéristiques du genre, la danse associée et le chant, berçant les Antilles de sa voix charismatique. 
Cette compilation balaye 20 années de carrière de l’un des instigateurs de la renaissance d’un genre traditionnel à la frontière de l’interdit, affichant alors la palette de directions artistiques prises par le musicien, intégrant habilement et sans retenue le jazz, la soul, le spoken-word, le funk ou le zouk entre les lignes de son gwo ka. Ce recueil, compilé par Fred Martin (Les mains noires) pique des morceaux dans les albums des différents groupes montés par le guadeloupéen tels que Voltages 8, Cadence Gilles ou X7 Nouvelles Dimensions, ajoutant guitares électriques, claviers ou saxophones pour appuyer ses appels au réveil de la Guadeloupe. ”
Heavenly Sweetness

Butthole Surfers ‎– Locust Abortion Technician (1987)

Style: Post-Punk, Avantgarde
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Blast First, Touch And Go, Latino Bugger Veil

01.   Sweat Loaf
02.   Graveyard
03.   Pittsburg To Lebanon
04.   Weber
05.   Hay
06.   Human Cannonball
07.   U.S.S.A.
08.   The O-Men
09.   Kuntz
10.   Graveyard
11.   22 Going

In 1987, when the Butthole Surfers were at their crazed, creative crest, the UK music scene was in a prissy state of uncertain transition. At Melody Maker, a vanguard of us journalists, determined to turn up the dialectical heat, hailed the new maximal/minimal expansiveness of hip-hop, Prince in his preposterous finery, The Sugarcubes and The Cocteau Twins' overspill of glossolalia, the momentous new shapes and rhythms hammered out on the electro-goth anvil by Skinny Puppy, The Young Gods and Front 242, and, from America, what Simon Reynolds unabashedly hailed as “the return of rock” - the combined gale force of, among others, Sonic Youth, Big Black and Husker Dü. All of this represented an aesthetic revolt against the studied smallness, the tapered, anti-rockist, anti-flamboyant, Peelite correctness into which indie (cf The Wedding Present) and tasteful, white socked, post-Style Council Red Wedge retro-crews alike had lapsed. It felt time to rail against this decency, this too-British caution, to get back on the road to excess. Locust Abortion Technician, released in March 1987, was the epitome of this. It impacted like a whale on a beach, exploded by the deadly build up of its internal gases. This, right here, in every right head, was the state of rock. 
Of course, the Buttholes themselves had no particular mind to be part of any music press agenda or manifesto. They were midway through their own trajectory, having formed as part of a neo-punk explosion Stateside in 1981 (seeing Britpunk journeymen 999 at a small club in San Antonio in their home state of Texas, had been for them, a “life changing experience”). Later, they would swell up commercially, be produced by John Paul Jones, straighten out, become MTV darlings and hang out with Johnny Depp. In 1987, their hugeness was only notional. They played at small, dangerously overcrowded and thankfully long-extinct venues in Hammersmith, frontman Gibby Haynes haranguing a lairy, greboid throng with his trademark bullhorn. 
When I interviewed them for Melody Maker, they turned up mob-handed, oblivious to close inquisition. They discussed watching The Medical Channel with its gruesome footage of high voltage electrical burns victims, the miles of roadkill left on Texas highways when deer fatally strayed in front of oncoming traffic, Jimmy Swaggart, the Ku Klux Klan band scene, or the time drummer Theresa Nervosa was banned from The Oporto, the pretty licentious Soho bar that was the Melody Maker hangout in those days, for exposing her breasts to patrons. 
The Buttholes were more than petty delinquents, however. Their drug-fuelled, fast backward into the future explorations of rock's history took in punk, metal and psychedelia, were at once debasing and elevating. Past titles like Rembrandt Pussyhorse represented sublime revolts against good taste. They weren't here to deflate but to inflate, to hoist their methane-filled freak balloon high. 
This is evident in every last, clogged fibre of Locust Abortion Technician. It begins with 'Sweat Loaf'. A sepulchral, ambient loop, which eventually gives away to a dialogue between an all-American TV ad boy, the sound tweaked a la the skit 'ESP' which kicks off The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Axis: Bold As Love. “Daddy... What does regret mean?" “Well son, the funny thing about regret is that it's better to regret something you have done than to regret something that you haven't done. And by the way, If you see your mom this weekend, will you be sure and tell her... SATAN! SATAN! SATAN!” From there, it plunges into an ugly and freewheeling pastiche; the heavy, bass mimickry of Black Sabbath's 'Sweet Leaf', sliding in as if on the back of a greased pig down a waterlogged hill. Haynes jabbers - in what he described as his “multiple voices in real time” - into his bullhorn. Although his vocals are barely comprehensible, they're a crucial part of the barrage, while his use of “Gibbytronix”, to tweak his voice and the overall sound adds a crucial dimension of self-abuse and polymorphous perversity to the mix, that is uncannily similar to that practised by Prince on 'If I Was Your Girlfriend' On Sign O' The Times the same year. 
Self-indulgent, noisy, flippant, sloppy, inauthentic, distended, and celebratory of Black Sabbath, Satanic creators of the heavy metal, the pariah music of the 80s, 'Sweat Loaf' tramples on the taboos of every decent 80s indie fan in the giddy course of its several minutes. But the mudslide has only just begun. 
'Graveyard', which follows, feels barely mobile with its marrow-shuddering bass throb, stone age percussion and Luftwaffe drones, with Haynes' vocals reduced to a 17 rpm death throe. It's as if rock has been catapulted like dead livestock back into the ooze of its atavistic beginnings. And shamefully, it feels good. 
'Pittsburgh To Lebanon' follows, blues plodding like a dinosaur with its hooves cased in concrete. All of this was assembled on a “work from home” basis, in a basic studio with rudimentary equipment and plenty of time between takes for recreational experimentation and ingestion. The lack of conventional discipline and lo-tech limitations are crucially all too apparent. 'Hay' again tempts a recurrence in these paragraphs of the barnyard motif with its backward taping and chorus of human braying in the background. 'Human Cannonball' is something like a “real song” with Gibby revealing that his actual vocals are closer to UK punk's abrasive snivellers in all their pointed “inadequacy” than the full-throated larynx-meisters of metal. But duly treated, his voice soars like sheet aluminium. 'U.S.S.A' tears a basshole in the Marshall Stack as Haynes yelps like a fugitive from an early Devo single – again, there's a sense of a punk/new wave sensibility colliding with the mores of the Deep Southern fried rock & roll heartland. More urgent vocal scrabble and metallic hyperspeed road-to-nowhere antics follow with 'The O-Men', taking rock to stupid and vital places it never visited before and hasn't much since. 
Then comes 'Kuntz', one of the album's most talked about tracks, in which Haynes works over a popular song from an unnamed Thai pop artist, taking the repeated refrain of “khan, khan khan” and alternately speeding it up and decelerating it, so that it more closely approximates the song title. The duality is typical – on the one hand, it's as if they've merely taken an innocent, Third World artefact and scrawled rude words all over it. On the other, the very act of seizing on it is an a quantum, druggy, lateral leap of thinking, elevating it, teasing out its hidden properties. The artist on the original track is unknown but the original, un-molested track was tracked down by WMFU and can be heard here. 
It turns out it's a specimen of a particular kind of bawdy and very popular Thai folk music called “look thoong” or "luk thung" (literally “child of the field”). The singer is bemoaning an itch he wants to scratch, the word “khan” meaning “itch”, while the word “duang”, which also crops up, means “moon” but is also a Thai reference for haemorrhoids. In the light of all this, 'Kuntz' feels even more inspirational. 
It's the closer, however, '22 Going On 23' which truly seals and defines Locust Abortion Technician. Based around samples of a phone-in show hosted by one Dr Harry Ruebens, it features the testimony of a caller who has been sexually assaulted, complaining of the trauma she still suffers, followed by another caller describing the frustrations of a homebound, loveless marriage. It feels morbidly intrusive, the sort of stuff a certain kind of stoner might tune into and giggle over, and to include it in a song, without apparent context, feels both squalid and questionable. However, the lurching, roiling bass and, crucially, the solo unleashed by Paul Leary, a slow, remorseless thing of cathedral solemnity, provide their own, implicit answer. This is the sheer, voluminous extent of Buttholes rock – squalid and sublime, staring up from the cesspit to the moon. Even the braying of the cattle, which could be taken as some sort of misogynist snook to the women callers actually ends up adding to a sense of authentic trauma. In this one track, The Buttholes tear up the petty list of inhibitions, no-go areas, size restrictions and taste directives which impeded the thinking of 80s indie and college types. Now, everything is wide open and justifiable. Nothing is sacred, all things are possibly art. 
The routes to the rehabilitation of old school metal, decried for so long by post-punk were many and varied but Locust Abortion Technician was undoubtedly one of the gateways for this, and many other things. You could say also it helped pave the way for grunge, a more codified, earnest and less waywardly colourful take on the ideas belched out here but then, way-paving isn't always the point, nor the ways yet clear. Locust Abortion Technician was released 25 years ago. Yet in many ways, it feels as yet unborn.
David Stubbs / The Quietus

Julie & The Carjackers ‎– Parasol (2011)

Genre: Pop, Rock, Folk
Format: CD, FLAC
Label: Pataca Discos

1.   Mr. Williams
2.   Wait By The Telephone
3.   As We Walk Down This Road
4.   Someone
5.   Sing A Happy Tune
6.   One Thousand Stray Dogs
7.   Haystack
8.   Boxes
9.   The Chain On My Swing

João Correia - vocals, guitar, percussion
Bruno Pernadas - guitar, keyboards
Inês Sousa - vocals, percussion
Margarida Campelo - vocals, piano, keyboards
Nuno Lucas - electric bass
António V. Dias - drums, vocals

Julie and the Carjackers, peculiar banda. Díspar de um enfastiadiço e enfadonho projeto. 
Originais, têm em PARASOL o disco que promete fazer matutar quem o ouve e patrocinar um indie bacano. Repleto de tendências algo alienígenas, o novo disco dos dois garotos da capital esfrega-se numa brasilireidade promissora. 
Julie and the Carjackers chega a cogitar a memória de Bonnie & Clyde, auspiciando alcançar um carácter “pejorativo”, que lhes confira “credibilidade” ao nome alcançado entre um Licor Beirão e o simples molhar de lábios apreciador de tal ensejo. 
Era meia-noite, batia a última das 12 badaladas quando o feitiço da Cinderela se quebrou, mas mais importante que isso – Julie and the Carjackers apresentaram o álbum de estreia, o resplandecente PARASOL, no Café Concerto do CC Vila Flor, em Guimarães. 
Com uma abordagem indie folk, onde os sonhos se cruzaram com os clássicos, a banda de João Correia e Bruno Pernadas cativou o seu público fazendo-se valer tanto da melodia, como das harmonias e texturas que delinearam, usando transversalmente cenários sónicos que evidenciaram a sua arte de bem-fazer música.

Como a própria banda demonstra, “neste novo disco as canções dos Julie & the Carjackers surgem mais sofisticadas, com arranjos mais ricos e instrumentação mais complexa”. Isto porque “PARASOL mistura vários ambientes sonoros” e faz uso da diversidade instrumental duma maneira mais autêntica que o comum. Marimba, flauta, flugelhorn, trombone, guitarras, percussões variadas e  múltiplos teclados deram o mote desta mesma multiplicidade instrumental. 
A familiaridade deste local misturou-se com o intimismo do álbum da banda, dando-lhe um caráter inédito e amamentando uma simbiose perfeita entre a calmia sonora do disco e a “barulheira” do formato ao vivo. Formato esse que conta com a participação de quatro elementos que acrescentam a vivacidade imprescindível para a tal “barulheira”.

Harold Budd / Brian Eno ‎– Ambient 2: The Plateaux Of Mirror (1980)

Style: Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Editions EG, Polydor, Virgin Japan

A1.   First Light
A2.   Steal Away
A3.   The Plateaux Of Mirror
A4.   Above Chiangmai
A5.   An Arc Of Doves
B1.   Not Yet Remembered
B2.   The Chill Air
B3.   Among Fields Of Crystal
B4.   Wind In Lonely Fences
B5.   Failing Light

Composed By – Brian Eno
Composed By, Piano, Electric Piano – Harold Budd
Producer, Instruments, Effects – Brian Eno

Evolving metaphors, in my opinion, is what artists do. They produce work that gives you the chance to experience in a safe environment, because nothing really happens to you when you looking at artwork, they give you the chance to experience what might be quite dangerous and radical new ideas. They give you a chance to step out of real life into simulator life. A metaphor is a way of explaining something that we've experienced in a set of terms, a different set of terms.
-- Brian Eno, 1996 (Lecture reprinted here, courtesy of InMotion Magazine)

If they didn't follow each other chronologically, it would likely seem perverse that Brian Eno chose to follow up the recent and incredibly well-received reissues of his four best mid-'70s pop albums with these current reissues of his late '70s ambient albums. Not that the ambient albums aren't important or even enjoyable in their own way, but the close re-release of these two diametrically opposed bodies of work pinpoints the nagging contradictions that underlie Eno's fiendishly contrarious career.

While sharing certain sonic fingerprints as a remnant of their shared parentage, Another Green World and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) couldn't be more different from any of Eno's work in the Ambient series, of which The Plateaux of Mirror is the second. Anyone who knows Eno's biography knows that he had been slowly losing interest in pop music since he left Roxy Music back in the early '70s, his stellar production work for groups and artists as diverse as the Talking Heads, David Bowie and U2 notwithstanding. Considering how good he was at making pop music, the fact that he very rarely wishes to do so is very frustrating. But in light of Eno's consistent activism in the cause of generative (i.e., programmatically created, with minimal artistic intervention) music, we must consider the four chapters in the Ambient series as his "shots across the bow" of contemporary pop. Eno's devilish intent belies the music's unassuming nature.

Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror is not very impressive; particularly annoying is that it's, for all intents and purposes, intentionally banal. As the epigraph illustrates, Eno has long been far more interested in exploring the abstract idea-space behind the concept of modern music than in actual music itself. In fact, the impulse behind Eno's conception of generative music is the abnegation of the artist as the primary force in music's creation. As with much of the unremarkable new age music that poured forth in the wake of Eno's initial experimentation, Ambient 2 is almost entirely featureless. It is not designed to engage the listener on anything but a subconscious level. Trying to pay the music your full attention will result in nothing but frustration: nothing's really there.

However much we may reject the notion of music as sonic wallpaper, Eno and Budd explicitly refuse any other intent-- insomuch as intent may be said to exist in ambient music. In Howard Budd, Eno found the perfect collaborator: a pianist obsessed with achieving sonic perfection by subtracting mediocre notes from all his compositions. Eno contributed the ambient synth washes that compose the soundscapes; Budd tinkled the ivories a bit. The result was purposefully, profoundly tepid music designed to inspire not through force of its personality (there is none), but by the negative force of its innocuous invisibility. Ideally, the unexceptional nature of this music will create a vacuum into which your own ideas will naturally flow. Your results may vary.

Ultimately, Eno's ambient music exists on another plateau entirely from most pop fans' conception of music, and his strictly structuralist amputation of the artist from the art is counterindicated by most of the postmodernist composers and theorists he name-checks. One of the most pressing issues in the field of "New" music is the fine line between composition and improvisation: it must be noted that this conflict could not exist without the explicit acceptance of the musician as the master of the music.

What is art without the artist? In creating his ambient touchstones, potentially paving the way for purely digital generative music, Eno meant to create a definition of music as a primal force separate from human will and caprice, existing simply on its own merits and as an object totally independent of ulterior interpretation. This is certainly an interesting idea in theory, but who, in practice, is at all interested in art that exists for no reason? Art should exist to define the ideas and idioms of our life, not merely as a metaphor to reflect the formless substance of our days. In pursuing art without an artist, Eno managed to create a distinctive kind of stillborn monster: one which horrifies through its absence of a face.
Tim O'Neil / pop MATTERS

Four Tops ‎– Nature Planned It (1972)

Genre: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Motown, Elemental Music

01.   I Am Your Man
02.   (It's The Way) Nature Planned It
03.   I'll Never Change
04.   She's An Understanding Woman
05.   I Can't Quit Your Love
06.   Walk With Me, Talk With Me, Darling
07.   Medley:
        7a. Hey Mann
        7b. We Got To Get You A Woman
08.   You Got To Forget Him Darling
09.   If You Let Me
10.   Happy (Is A Bumpy Road)
11.   How Will I Forget You

Bass – James Jamerson
Congas, Bongos – Eddie "Bongo" Brown
Drums – Andrew Smith, Richard "Pistol" Allen
Guitar – Dennis Coffey, Eddie Willis, Mel Ragen
Keyboards – Leonard Caston
Percussion – Jack Ashford
Arranged By – David Van DePitte, Jerry Long
Producer – Frank Wilson

The sleeve has already triggered amusement at RC: nobody looked less ready for horticulture than this lot. Their last Motown album for 11 years, The Four Tops would soon be having rather more contemporary hits at ABC. However, 1972’s Nature Planned It was a credible attempt at modernising their sound in its own right, thanks to arranger David Van DePitte – who’d worked on their Still Waters and the three songs the Tops’ Obie Benson had given What’s Going On – and producer Frank Wilson.

The title track is beautiful, making love sound a work of nature. Borrowed by Ken Boothe, and with amended lyrics, drawing hundreds of pounds on the rare reggae market as Donna Distant’s I Found Love, the languid original remains unbeatable, sounding like it’s happening on a hazy horizon. She’s Such An Understanding Woman is in Jackson 5 territory, it’s buzzing and chirpy, if less energised. Happy Is A Bumpy Road subtly recalls their moody mid-60s hits, though it’s not as intriguing as The Supremes’ cut from ’71.

What is fascinating, though, is their Latin-funk cut of Todd Rundgren’s We Got To Get You A Woman, which, irritatingly, is part of a medley, though as Todd himself was not averse to them, it seems picky to gripe. It works, rambling though seven minutes of ticking groove. To normalise things, it’s followed by You Got To Forget Him Darling, which is 60s Tops by numbers, and If You Let Me, which shows that Lawrence Payton was good enough to front any group… if Levi Stubbs wasn’t in it. Dig it.
Ian McCann / Record Collector