Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Sonic Youth ‎– Dirty (Deluxe Editon 2003) (1992)

Style: Alternative Rock, Noise, Grunge, Indie Rock, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: DGC, Geffen

           The Original Album (Released 07/21/92)
1.01.   100%
1.02.   Swimsuit Issue
1.03.   Theresa's Sound-world
1.04.   Drunken Butterfly
1.05.   Shoot
1.06.   Wish Fulfillment
1.07.   Sugar Kane
1.08.   Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit
1.09.   Youth Against Fascism
1.10.   Nic Fit
1.11.   On The Strip
1.12.   Chapel Hill
1.13.   JC
1.14.   Purr
1.15.   Créme Brûlèe
           The B-Sides
1.16.   Stalker
1.17.   Genetic
1.18.   Hendrix Necro
1.19.   The Destroyed Room
           Additional B-Sides
2.01.   Is It My Body
2.02.   Personality Crisis
2.03.   The End Of The End Of The Ugly
2.04.   Tamra
           Rehearsal Recordings
2.05.   Little Jammy Thing
2.06.   Lite Damage
2.07.   Dreamfinger
2.08.   Barracuda
2.09.   New White Kross
2.10.   Guido
2.11.   Stalker
2.12.   Moonface
2.13.   Poet In The Pit
2.14.   Theoretical Chaos
2.15.   Youth Against Fascism
2.16.   Wish Fulfillment

Producer, Recorded By – Sonic Youth
Producer, Recorded By, Engineer – Butch Vig
Songwriter – Sonic Youth

If anyone had told me in 1992 that ten years later I'd be stepping up to praise this record, I'd probably have shot him. When Dirty first came out, it was an almost universal disappointment to anyone who'd listened to Sonic Youth beyond Goo-- and amidst the cries bemoaning what a major-label contract had done to their music, it wasn't as clear then that, beneath the glossy sheen Butch Vig and Andy Wallace had inflicted upon their beloved chaos, there was a damn good record waiting to be heard. Sure, it won them the seeds of a new fanbase-- though the majority had probably been re-alienated by the time they got around to Washing Machine-- but back then, it felt like a slap in the face from David Geffen himself. 
Listening to the instrumental B-sides and rehearsal takes that make up the second disc of this deluxe reissue, though, the final Dirty product makes a lot more sense. Even if they're mostly meandering jams with cells of future songs congealing here and there, these tracks show how the big-league production simply smoothed out the frayed edges of the group's sound. Of course, the noisier parts of songs like "On the Strip" still feel more calculated than the ecstatic beauty that seemed to organically materialize in the past, but the record really isn't anything worse than the band beginning to play with some of the toys they suddenly had at their disposal. 
But is the second disc worth more than a cursory listen? Not really, at least beyond the covers. Hearing Kim Gordon grunt her way through Alice Cooper's "Is It My Body" or flatly drone above the acoustic shambles of the New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis" is a pleasure to which I'll gladly return, but once the insight is absorbed from blueprints of "Wish Fulfillment", "Youth Against Fascism" and "Drunken Butterfly", among others, they don't make for the most compelling of repeat visits.

It's also worth re-examining the subject matter of these songs because, as Byron Coley points out in the liner notes, Dirty marked the first record where Thurston, Lee and Kim made direct statements with their lyrics instead of using a Beat-like detachment to throw smoke clouds over their true targets. Where lyrical content in the past had dealt with surreal portraits of unlikely pop icons or had offered subverted political commentary like "Total Trash", Dirty had them throwing pointed barbs like "Youth Against Fascism" or offering elegiac tributes to murdered friends ("100%" and "JC")-- not to mention that Kim's prior feminist manifestos had never been so bitingly succinct as they are on "Swimsuit Issue" and "Shoot". 
Even among the less confrontational tracks, there are still so many more great songs on Dirty than a lot of people ever realized. "Theresa's Sound World" fuses some of the better guitar interplay of Daydream Nation and Goo into a concise proclamation, while "Sugar Kane" and "Purr" are pure pop songs dressed up with a thousand pounds of overdrive; even a near throwaway like "Crème Brulee" is salvaged by Kim's sultry delivery. The four B-sides that accompany the original tracks on the first disc are enormous finds, too-- especially the LP bonus track "Stalker" that shows how only Sonic Youth could conjure the Sex Pistols covering Lynyrd Skynyrd. They might be a little rougher around the edges, but each of these tracks is as good as anything that made it onto Dirty proper. 
The only thing that really stands out as worthy of true criticism now is the tendency toward mining and repackaging some of the older material that becomes visible through the cracks of this reissue. "Orange Rolls, Angels Spit" recycles the riff from "Stereo Sanctity" into a grungy vehicle for Kim's angst, while "Shoot" fails to look any farther back than "Kool Thing", slowing the trendy alterna-hit down to an unsettling dirge about a woman ready to gun her way out from under some asshole's thumb. Several other tracks have that familiar vibe to them without borrowing outright from previous songs, showing that even if they weren't entirely catering to the new ears Nirvana's success was sending their way, they were at least taking it into consideration on a semi-conscious level. 
Of course, we should be clear about one thing: there's no chance of Dirty usurping Evol, Sister or Daydream Nation on my list of favorite Sonic Youth records, and even this 180-degree change of heart won't make me apologize for all the shit I've talked about it over the years. Still, even if there's a distinct possibility that I'm in the minority of Dirty-haters who'll eventually come around, this package at least makes a good case for reassessment. But if I'm talking like this when the expanded remaster of Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star comes around, just do me a favor and put me out of my misery.
Scott Hreha / Pitchfork

Meredith Monk ‎– Dolmen Music (1981)

Style: Modern Classical, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: ECM Records, BMG Classics

1.   Gotham Lullaby
2.   Travelling
3.   The Tale
4.   Biography
5.   Dolmen Music
      5a. Overture And Men's Conclave
      5b. Wa-Ohs
      5c. Rain
      5d. Pine Tree Lullaby
      5e. Calls
      5f. Conclusion

Percussion, Violin – Collin Walcott
Piano – Meredith Monk, Steve Lockwood
Voice – Andrea Goodman, Monica Solem, Paul Langland
Voice, Cello – Robert Een
Voice, Composed By – Meredith Monk
Voice, Percussion – Julius Eastman
Producer – Collin Walcott, Manfred Eicher

Like much of Meredith Monk’s work, the atmospheres on this album are as foreign as they are familiar and comprise a vivid testament to the staying power of her compositional talents. When I first heard Dolmen Music as a teenager, I thought of it as folk music from lands that had yet to be discovered (admittedly, this interpretation was shaped by an oft-cited description to the same effect). Listening to it anew, I prefer to think of it as music that comes from a place so deep within, so familiar, that we tremble to hear it blatantly exposed. Monk’s music is all about the voice: it extends from the voice, begins and ends in the throat, reveling in its elasticity, its pliancy, its fragility. 
Gotham Lullaby
Over a sparse layer of four-note arpeggios, Monk sings and squeals, tracing her swan song in the dust. Sustained tones hover in the background just out of reach as her voice ebbs and flows along a wordless coast. This is a lullaby of trees, if not for trees; a dream of darkness between branches and the decay of leaves falling past the city’s edge; a place where the wind can still be felt… 
This little journey springs to life with a rollicking piano laced with ritualistic drumbeats. Monk carries full weight in her confident ululations. The emergence of a rain stick adds an air of ceremony, where the piano becomes our circle and Monk the medium who channels voices of the dead in a semblance of life. Words dissolve, wetted by the trickling of monosyllables, grunts, and cries. Monk converses with her self, as if the piano were not another voice but a landscape in which the voice has found purchase. She casts her lot into the chasm at her feet as one other voice takes up the call, floating like a severed head in the ether, its mouth agape to expel the song of its birth and its death. 
The Tale
A thread of piano and mouth organ supports a series of vocal beads in which we get our first and only discernible words. Over this conformist backdrop, she proclaims: 
I still have my hands.
I still have my mind.
I still have my money.
I still have my telephone…hello, hellooo, hellooooo? 
And between these seemingly innocuous interjections, she riddles our attention with rhythmic laughter against the sound of breaking glass, the detritus of the living. 
I still have my memory.
I still have my gold ring…beautiful, I love it, I love it!
I still have my allergies.
I still have my philosophy. 
This is not the voice of the insane, despite what its many disjunctions might have us believe. It is the voice of a larger social body gone awry rather than that of a single individual corrupted by its oppressive infrastructure. 
This is the most emotional composition on the album and makes me stop what I’m doing every time it comes on. It is a keen in reverse that scrapes the interiors of our lungs. Peeking out from the deepest recesses of articulation, Monk sings as if in mourning. Her utter abandon allows her access to divine control through the very lack of her desire to control. In doing so, she looses the strictures of emotional conduct, shedding the outer walls of her physical makeup. She cries as she sings, intoning and droning. Her register strays into animal territory, as if intent on communicating to any and all creatures that might be listening. She runs through this vocal catalog, as it were, as a way of rearticulating the nature of her supposed loss and the comportment of its breathing remnants. This piece in particular rests on a razor’s edge, seemingly content on lying back and letting the world press down until it is cleaved in two. She wakes and walks, a divided self, into the night. 
Dolmen Music
The last 24 minutes of the album are dedicated to its title piece, and what an epic journey it is. Dolmen Music unfolds liturgically, as delicate as it is persistent. A cello breathes into our ears with soft harmonics: introit. Women’s voices evoke the fundamental phonemic underpinnings of language. This language is not primitive so much as formative, spreading its vocabulary across space and time. Male voices process, lilting with “Ahs” that degenerate into a sort of ritualistic aphasia constrained only by time signatures. The cello returns: communion. The congregation partakes of a musical host and drinks vocal wine. And in the ecstatic peace that follows, Monk’s voices gather energy and speed with evangelical fervor. The voices work in canon, floating even as they crash into the limits of meaning. 
With this album Monk reinvigorated the linear song, the sole/soul singer, the monophonic performer. With the barest resources, she and her highly trained ensemble gave us an eternity of sounds. Dolmen Music makes a stunning addition to any music collection not only for its audible dimensions, but also as an art object, for it boasts one of the most perfectly suited covers in the entire ECM catalog.
Tyran Grillo / ECM

Khalab ‎– Black Noise 2084 (2018)

Style: Freestyle, Future Jazz, House
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  On The Corner Records

01.   Father And Grandpa
02.   Black Noise
03.   Dense
04.   Chitita
05.   Yaka Muziek
06.   Bafia
07.   Zaire
08.   Shouts
09.   Cannavaro
10.   Dawn

In recent years, a growing number of producers have engaged in exploring the potential of mixing electronic music with music, traditional sounds and field recordings coming from all corners of the globe — giving birth to some of the most interesting records of the decade. Some, like Nicola Cruz or Chancha Via Circuito, started by retrieving their local musical heritage (Andean rhythms and cumbia in their case) to give it a fresh and contemporary touch in combination with electronic influences, while others embarked on a process of research, observation and exploration, revisiting musical traditions from faraway lands in new ways. 
Italy has been an unexpectedly fertile ground for these second kind of producers, being the home country of producers like Clap! Clap!, Populous and Ninos Du Brasil, who all explore how electronic music can meet and fuse with global sounds in their own way.

And then there is Raffaele Costantino, one of Italy’s most renowned radio hosts. He also DJs and produces under the moniker DJ Khalab, and after three years of silence since his first and only album made in collaboration with Malian talking drum master Baba Sissoko, on July 20th he quietly dropped one of the most powerful records of the year – Black Noise 2084. 
Out for the London label On The Corner Records, his latest work is a visionary statement, a synesthetic work that expresses much more than just the music it contains. Starting from the title track “Black Noise”, the sharp words of Tenesha The Wordsmith harshly scan the rhythm of the music and intertwine with the layered polyrhythmic composition into a gloomy, tenacious trance. “We are deaf to the sounds that define us”; this track is a manifesto, and every manifesto is born out of the necessity to protest against a status quo – in this case, opposing the cliché around what black culture, black music and heritage are expected to be.

Black Noise 2084 boasts a number of exciting collaborations, starting from emerging talents of the British jazz scene, like saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, Shabaka and The Ancestors) and drummer Moses Boyd, whose signature sounds are immediately recognisable respectively in the frantic and upbeat “Dense” and “Dawn”, the closing track of the album. 
Tamar Osborn, an experienced saxophonist also hailing from London, gave her contribution to Khalab’s production in “Bafia”, an hectic bass-propelled track with hints of Chicago footwork, while the sound of Prince Buju’s kologo permeates the polyrhythms of “Shouts”. 
The entire album is built with and around original field recordings from the archives of the Royal Museum for Central Africa of Bruxelles, which DJ Khalab was invited to experiment with. The outcome is exciting. Track number 9 “Cannavaro”, produced together with his long-time friend and musical soulmate Clap! Clap!, is perhaps the best example of the producer’s clever and creative use of this material, as the theme of the whole track revolves around a sample of traditional singing that can be heard only after the first and a half minute of the track. 
With Black Noise 2084, DJ Khalab leaves little doubt of his artistic talent, offering a beautiful insight into his creative mind. He has explored the potential of his ideas to the fullest, giving new life to the field recordings he has used and raising the question as to what “black noise” could be, boldly escaping already existing boundaries and bringing together past and present with an actual, almost political intent. It’s a vision of contemporary tribalism, an ecstatic experience with cathartic powers, an immersive experience into the music, the sounds and the voices from faraway lands and forgotten times, now more current than ever.
Stefania Vulpi / Rhythm Passport

Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse ‎– Morphogenesis (2017)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Pi Recordings

1.   Inside Game
2.   Pull Counter
3.   Roll Under and Angles
4.   NOH
5.   Morphing
6.   Shoulder Roll
7.   SPAN
8.   Dancing and Jabbing
9.   Horda

Mixed By – Anthony Tidd, Steve Coleman
Alto Saxophone – Steve Coleman
Bass – Greg Chudzik
Clarinet – Rane Moore
Percussion – Neeraj Mehta
Piano – Matt Mitchell
Tenor Saxophone – Maria Grand
Trumpet – Jonathan Finlayson
Violin – Kristin Lee
Vocals – Jen Shyu
Produced, Composed By – Steve Coleman

Steve Coleman’s music has long been animated by a bobbing and weaving, thrusting and parrying dynamism. On Morphogenesis, the first recording by his drummerless Natal Eclipse octet, the brilliant, game-changing conceptualist makes the connection to boxing explicit in his liner notes and song titles like “Dancing and Jabbing” and “Shoulder Roll.” What allows this album to stand out is the group’s capacity for floating like a butterfly with its spinning variations—it’s not a stretch to think that Muhammad Ali impacted Coleman’s alto saxophone sound—while mining such deep, rigorous emotion. 
There has always been a happy antic quality to the way Coleman’s bands coalesce around heady combinations of blues, bebop, funk and African beats. Unlike the saxophonist’s other recent ensembles, this one features a pianist, Matt Mitchell, whose dark chording and muscular hard-bop solos anchor the music in a fresh and flexible way. Another key contributor is Jen Shyu, whose beautifully nuanced wordless vocals enhance the sweetness of tunes such as “Dancing and Jabbing” and blend magically into the rich Ellingtonian harmonies of compositions such as “Morphing.” 
Also featuring Coleman’s exceptional trumpeter of many seasons, Jonathan Finlayson, violinist Kristin Lee, clarinetist Rane Moore, tenor saxophonist Maria Grand and bassist Greg Chudzik, the band ranges from the knotty repetitions of “Inside Game,” with its bright, staggered melody, to the spooky, chamber-style “NOH,” one of five tracks featuring the brilliant percussionist Neeraj Mehta. As a soloist, Coleman is in characteristically unstoppable form, but the blues influence of Charlie Parker on his playing seems to have deepened. There are moments, within the ever-expanding circle of motion that is Natal Eclipse, when you want to freeze-frame a solo of his, step back and admire it in all of its expressive power.
Lloyd Sachs / JazzTimes

Hector Zazou ‎– Strong Currents (2003)

Style:  Ambient, Synth-pop, Experimental 
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Materiali Sonori, Telescopic

01.   Into Your Dreams
02.   Mmmh
03.   Beauty
04.   In The Middle Of The Night
05.   Let It Blow
06.   Under My Wing
07.   The Freeze
08.   Remember
09.   Is This
10.   Indiana Moon
11.   Morning
12.   Ocean Of Sound
13.   Blue

Piano - Ryuichi Sakamoto, Stefano Bollani
Guitars - Mathias Desmiers, Lone Kent, Dennis Rea, Pierre Chaze
Clarinet - Orio Odori, Renaud Pion
Flute - Marisa Rossi, Carlos Nuñez
Oboe - Marco Bardi
Bassoon - Carlo Bardi
Trumpet - David Macinai
Drums & Percussions - Bill Rieflin
Strings - Archaea Strings (Mauro Tabbrucci, violin; Vieri Bugli, violin; Marcello Puliti, viola; Damiano Puliti, cello)
Treated Violin - Jacques de Rignancourt
Sounds etc. - Hector Zazou

“It was once again Jacques Pasquier who had the idea of setting to music Rimbaud’s poems: he had asked me to compose something for the 100th anniversary of Rimbaud’s death, which was being celebrated at the Grande Halle of La Villette. It had to be a kind of ambient music for an event that lasted 24 hours. I suggested a collaborative work between Sakamoto, Sylvian, Laurie Anderson and myself. I can’t remember exactly why Laurie Anderson didn’t take part in the project. We went in the studio and came up with a work in progress, and Jacques wanted to finalize it on record. The other guests came later, gradually, as Jacques was able to find the money to pay them. There was no serious problem or misunderstanding with any of these people. Even with David Sylvian, who didn’t want the songs he sang to be included in the final version of Sahara Blue (there is another version in which he sings on two tracks). He never explained his reasons for refusing, and this hurt me; but time has passed and we are in touch again now”.
Hector Zazou