Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marc Edwards, Sakura Sakura (Three Variations)

Drummer-bandleader Marc Edwards returns with a further adventure into the psychedelic-electric-space-free music he has been getting together of late. This one gathers three different lineups for variations on the traditional Japanese song Sakura Sakura (Dog and Panda Records).

Essentially three different bands--Marc Edwards and Star Clusters, Marc Edwards and Slipstream Time Travel, and Mark Edwards and Sonos Gravis--each do a 20-minute electric collage of tumbling drums, multi-electric guitars, bass and sometimes keys soloing collectively and at various points sounding the traditional melody and doing variations around it.

The personnel features of course Marc Edwards, then various combinations of players that include Ernest Anderson III, Tor Snyder, Gene Janas, Takuma Kanaiwa, Alex Lozupone, Alexis Marcelo and Colin Sanderson.

It is very vibrant free rock, a sort of Ascension in the metal zone. It is bracing. You will either gravitate towards it by predisposition or not. And that has something to do with your open mind about a free metal blast or the opposite. I like it! You make up your own mind. But give it a hearing, by all means.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Violones Barbares, Saulem ai

If you want to hear something in the world-traditional zone that makes a uniquely eclectic musical blend, a modern yet primal mix of instrumental-vocal styles, you would do well to hear the second album by Violones Barbares, Saulem ai (World Village 479090).

They are a trio composed of musicians of Mongolian, Bulgarian and French extraction, respectively. Two play violins of a special sort, each with five principal strings and 11 sympathetic resonating strings. The third member plays a special percussion set up that gives him a mix of "ethnic" percussion and the bass drum-hihat of a typical drum set. The vocals make use of Mongolian throat singing, Bulgarian folk singing and much else.

The repertoire has both original and traditional elements from a world mix as diverse as the areas the Mongolians influenced historically and beyond. So we get Gypsy sounds, Afghan, Kazhakistanian and much other regional traditional elements, transposed to make for a driving contemporary mix that emphasizes the virtuoso fiddle styles of the "front line".

It's rather incredible music. It sounds authentically "world" in every way and it rocks! Listen to this one and enter a special place!

Monday, April 14, 2014

KiT, Tambutronic

Curacao, the Caribbean island off the Venezuelan coast, is home for the group KiT (Kuenta i Tambu), a group that does a remarkable kind of dance music called jiga. They give us a very, a very intensely concentrated set of such sounds on their US debut Tambutronic (Jiga Musica).

Now this is not the sort of music I would ordinarily cover. It has some relation to hard-core house and hip-hop, but then there's a very Afro-Carib flavor to it that puts it way over the top for me. The female lead singer half-sings and half-raps much of the time, but in a way much more Carib-Afro than hip-hop.

The tracks feature very hip electronic beats with a mix of sampled and live instruments. It grooves irresistibly to the extent that it totally won me over. This is music that overwhelms. Either you surrender wholly to it or you really have to leave the room. That's how it hits you.

There are aspects of it that remind me of zouk, but much harder-edged, and much more Afro-based. For you guitar fans, sorry to say there aren't any here. It's music you should check out though. It is music of a very sensual sort--the lyrics suggest things once you understand them and some of those things are naughty. Lyrics are secondary though. It's the sound of the vocals and the rhythmic r-bomb of the whole thing that utterly kills.

Whew!

Friday, April 11, 2014

PJ Rasmussen, Another Adventure

Electric guitarist-composer PJ Rasmussen gives us his breakthrough album, Another Adventure (Third Freedom Music 002). The group coheres nicely thanks in part to the hip charts PJ wrote, and thanks to the musicianship of all concerned. It's a septet for all but two tracks, when the addition of bari and alto make it a ninetet. The constant is Rasmussen on electric with Steve Davis on the trombone plus good players in tenor/alto, trumpet, piano, bass and drums. They can solo well and do.

The thrust of the album is in the compositions, which combine a little metal, jazz-rock, postbop and some free-outness in ways that refresh. It's the unexpected and directly projected, good horn lines and some cool guitar solos, good rhythm and Jim Ridl nicely shining on piano.

This may not set the world on fire. It is excellent listening regardless. Rasmussen gets it together here!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Max Johnson Trio, The Invisible Trio

Up-and-thriving free jazz bassist Max Johnson has gone into overdrive lately after some time making the scene around New York. He has a recording recently out and there's another on the way.

The one that's ready-in-hand is the Max Johnson Trio's The Invisible Trio (Fresh Sounds). The music stands out with a good gathering of Max of course on bass and compositions, Kirk Knuffke on cornet and Ziv Ravitz on drums.

Ravitz does yeoman service in a relaxed, swinging and tumbling mode. Kirk Knuffke comes through with that post-bop purity of tone, that wealth of ideas and heat. And Max kicks in with some very out-front and inspired bass. I knew he was good. I didn't know he had attained this level, though, until I heard this. It brings it home to you that the cat has arrived, so to speak. He is a leader in a convincing way.

So we get a very hip set of music that sparkles in almost classical new thing ways. Very recommended!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shan Kenner, The Behavior of Vibration

There are so many accomplished guitarists out there today. Not all get our complete attention due to the flux and flow of indie labels, self-produced projects and high-profile releases we sift through every day.

Shan Kenner has not crossed my path before, but based on his album The Behavior of Vibration (Guitar Lotus Recordings 2013-00) I would include him on my list of players who we need to pay some attention to, to support with our ears and wallets.

He fronts a quartet on the album in a program of mostly originals. Ryan Berg on bass, Darrell Green on drums and Albert Marques on piano provide the right sounds and Marques soloes effectively in a kind of post-Corea mode.

Kenner acquits himself well as a weaver of lines that have both tradition and originality within them. His tunes have some worthy lines and changes too.

I wouldn't say exactly that Shan's playing is "under construction" because it has both grit and polish, but I get the feeling that he still has room to grow if he could gig regularly with this crew. That is not to say he doesn't but he deserves to be in the public eye whether or not he is right now.

Kenner has real promise. Contemporary modern jazz guitar has room in its echelon for players who have the ears and inventive chops to do something worthwhile. Let him keep shining out there, please. Hire him for your club!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lou Reed, Tribute, The DVD Collection

Lou Reed has left us. There is a lack. The summing up begins. Part of that you can experience in a three-DVD set, Tribute, The DVD Collection (Chrome Dreams 3IS042). It is a collection of three interrelated programs, running to a total of 279 minutes. The three disks are The Velvet Underground Under Review; Punk Revolution NYC, Part One 1966-1974, The Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls and the CBGB Set; and The Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou 1971-73.

Watching all three together gives you a quite reasonable look at Lou and the Velvets and the early days of Reed's career, the context and impact of it all. The first DVD follows the Velvets formation, their rather erratic career and the way that what they offered differed from the psychedelic rock scene on the West Coast. The second DVD situates the Velvets in the New York punk revolution. And the third DVD focuses on the interrelationships of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, with Bowie as both catalyst to the other two creatively and in some ways too as parasitic upon and capitalizing on aspects of the other's visions.

There is so much in the three programs to digest that I will not attempt to cover it all. Several important themes emerge and the detailed discussions about it seem relevant. One of course would be how Andy Warhol's influence worked to allow and encourage the Velvets to present their music in uncompromised ways, in the raw. New York's gritty realism, its world of early gay liberation, hard drugs, dystopian variations of poverty, its emphasis on pushing lifestyle frontiers to both creative and destructive extremes, the never-steady balance between creation and self-destruction that underground New York was in part about helped in turn create Lou and the Velvet's ambiguous vision of rock-as-art.

The way the Velvets set the scene for NY's later punk underground gets plenty of attention on the second disk, and it gives you a look at some of the known AND lesser-known artists and bands in on the ground floor at the very first stages.

Volume three covers the time period after the Velvets split up, when David Bowie stepped in to help direct Lou's energy into a saleable mainstream as Bowie simultaneously benefitted himself from Reed's personal presentation and persona--and how that two-way situation was also present in the Bowie-Iggy nexus, though at least initially it did not help the Iggy-Stooges commercially as it did Reed.

There is a good deal of attention given to the success factor. The first Velvets album initially sold something like 6,000 copies. The Stooges fared similarly in the beginning. What was an underlying constant in the rock underground for a long while was the idea that the scene thrived on commercial quasi-failure. If the Velvets had created a pop smash in those first years they may have been less of a legend for it. How that relates to Andy Warhol's high art idea of small quantity production, the entrance of rock into the pop charts, the eventual disengagement with hit-factory mechanics and the rise of a separate FM rock identity could have been dealt with more as it is critical to where the Velvets fit in originally. The way it played out was that it was more conducive to legendary status to keep the following small and in-the-know, at least at first. The Velvets, Fugs, Mothers, Stooges and other bands had longevity by failing to capture the typical listener. Dylan was in part vetted by his initial underground, small local origins.

The aesthetic of rawness so important to the Velvets, the Stooges, punk and such is a theme that gets attention but could be underscored more forcefully in my opinion. That first blast of the Velvets seemed pretty crude at the time, I can remember. And that it was purposefully so was not an immediate revelation to all those seeking an underground local music.

The three DVDs worked together to make you think about the scene more than you would have otherwise. There are good interviews and insights. It's up to others to continue the discussion. This is a good start.