Friday, June 29, 2012

Rich Osborn, Giving Voice, Guitar Explorations

In the tradition of solo acoustic guitarists like Fahey, Kotke, and the others who flourished in an earlier day, Rich Osborn dedicates himself to making starkly acoustic original music with a improvisational feel but at the same time an attention to form. This is to say what he is up to on his album Giving Voice (Free Range Ranga 0001).

There's an Indian classical influence at times, open tuning musical sonorities, an attention to acoustic sound as sound, some modified picking, and a spacious ambiance.

Since new age has come about after the heyday of Fahey and his cohorts, and the influence of the latter's guitar playing has had an effect on that music, one sometimes wonders about the fine line between something ambient and mellow and yet with artistic integrity, whatever that means, and things that lack that.

But if you listen enough to Osborn's album, you affirm that what's going on is beyond new-age noodling and into the integral zone.

He has a voice and it's a good listen. Nothing more need be said.

Extra Life, Dream Seeds

Judging from their new album, Dream Seeds (Northern Spy), Extra Life is a very quirky alt rock band with a somewhat disturbed vision of lyrical reality, a musical sensibility and song producing capability, and a peculiar lead vocal style thing brings them into a land unto their own, like a little island that via geographical isolation gets different things happening.

It's a concept album centered around dreams and children. Charlie Looker, the main songwriter, lead vocalist, synth, and acoustic guitarist for the band, apparently had a series of harrowing dreams involving children (he teaches elementary school). He took them as the raw material for the lyric content and devised an interconnected set of songs.

With Caley Monahon-Ward on electric guitar and Nick Podgurski, drums, the threesome crafted some very creative arrangements.

The songs are in an art mode--with twists and turns of all sorts musically, and lyrically a bizarre series of imagery/symbolism.

It's like nothing else around right now. That in itself is a recommendation. It should be heard by anyone concerned to experience what's going on in avant rock nowadays.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Twin Atlantic, Free

Twin Atlantic is a Scottish hard-hitting alt band and Free (Red Bull) is their first full album. They are in the guitar-bass-drums-vocals bag. The vocals have that youthful sound (who first sounded like that? Green Day?). The songs are well turned. The arrangements and musicality of the band are right there with their own personal flourishes.

They sound like something the young folks will grab onto. We adults can appreciate them too because it's not garbage. The lead vocal style is emotional and it took me a few listens to get on that wavelength. It's music that affirms that rock has not died. No more than any other music outside the direct pop-pop-plopping perpetual motion-in-stagnation machine.

So it's good for the new young folks rocking to their own internal time sense and musical consciousness. It's good. They are good. We are good.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lee Ranaldo, Between the Times and the Tides

Right. Lee Ranaldo, the guitarist from Sonic Youth. He has a solo album out that's interesting. It's called Between the Times and the Tides (Matador).

The songs are something that Sonic Youth could have done--they have that pulsing-winding chordal sectionality about them. And there's a neo-psychedelic feel to the music. Having Lee sing all the vocals gives it a slightly different thrust. His voice is fine, but of course if you are a Sonics listener you can hear some of the others chiming in. That takes about two seconds to get beyond and then you are set for a very enjoyable set of songs.

He plays in the guitar style that is a so important half of the guitar sound of the Sonics. The songs stand out. Everything has an edginess that makes it good and the songs are memorable at the same time.

You like the Sonics, you will like this. It's different enough that you should hear it and probably buy it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Copernicus, Victim of the Sky, 1985

Copernicus has graced the underground of fringe rock and cult prognostication for many years. In the latest of the ongoing series of reissues/new issues of his music/rants we have Victim of the Sky (Nevermore Inc CD 2086), originally an LP from 1985.

In many ways this is one of the more interesting of his albums. The new wave-avant band seems very much in tune with what Copernicus is doing; Copernicus in turn seems more keyed to the band than is sometimes the case.

They do things that are more songlike at times, the raps are concise and we get a great version of his "From Bacteria" rant.

In hangs together as an album well. The thing about Copernicus, he grows on you. He is over the top in interesting ways. But ultimately you'll like him or hate him. That's the way it can be in life. This is one of his best, something most definitely to like if you are disposed so.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Heatwarmer, 2009

Heatwarmer (Table & Chairs) gives us the debut of Luke Bergman's unit, released at the end of 2009, recorded in his bedroom (mostly) over several years and now available at the moment as a download-only album on the Table & Chairs's site (on a pay what you wish basis).

He writes songs and arranges them in various interesting ways as a kind of modern-day Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks of Pet Sounds/Smile provenance. That doesn't mean that this album is on that level. But hey, this is the first outing.

The point is that the music has quirky arrangements and the songs are a little bit off-center in pleasing ways. And all this is a good thing.

Here's somebody to watch. Meanwhile check out the first album.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kate McGarry, Girl Talk

How is it that Kate McGarry now has her fifth album out, Girl Talk (Palmetto 2152), and I am just coming to know her music? Serendipity of singers, I guess.

I don't know the others but this one sure is nice! Is it jazz? Well it's finessive vocalizing and that is one definition. More importantly to me, she has an extraordinarily beautiful, expressive, very musical voice. There are moments when I hear some of Imogen Heap's wordless vocal phasings, and maybe Chris Connor and June Christy come to mind just a tad. But that again is secondary to her immediacy.

It's her with a small band, doing some standards and such, and doing them with all she has, as the saying goes. "We Kiss in A Shadow" is lovely, as is her version of "Charade." To do an old evergreen and to make it seem new takes a musical vision, and she has it.

Whatever she does on this CD, she does it well. A wonderful singer!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Georg Breinschmid, Fire

Georg Breinschmid, firebrand contrabassist and bandleader, firebrand eclecticist extraordinaire, returns with a second offering of madcap doings, aptly titled Fire (Preiser Records 91203). It's a full CD of live and studio outings by two of his ensembles, plus a bonus EP disk with assorted added material.

There used to be a category in the record business, long ago, called "novelty." Now that isn't quite what this is--it's too musical, but there is a sense of humor and over-the-top exuberance to this music that makes it rather untypical.

Georg plays a LOT of contrabass here: slap bass swinging, arco thematics, and otherwise very extroverted bass wielding. There are two ensembles involved, as I mentioned above, both sans drums. Twelve Breinschmid originals are here, all over the place, as well as some dizzy-paced Humgarian folk tunes, middle-European ditties, polkas, watzes, sambas, all kinds of things.

Much of it has a hard-swinging, almost Hot Club sound (without the guitar), especially when Roman Janoska takes up the violin. The duos with trumpeter Thomas Gansch are opportunities for lots of playing, some humorous vocals, and an extension of Georg's repertoire to a kind of archaic cabaret thing.

It's not like anything else out there and it's filled with lots of fun. Certainly Georg's bass playing is of high interest but the whole program tickles with the unexpected, and manages to do so very musically. And when it's serious about its jazz, it's serious new swing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Perfume Genius, Put Your Back N2 It

Perfume Genius gives you the slow, kind of sad thing. Twin Peaks and the Smiths lurk somewhere way in the background, but the vocals are youthful in a later manner. Put Your Back N2 It (Matador) is the new, second one. It's a Seattle-based thing and Michael Hadreas is the singer-songwriter that's behind it.

I like the sound, the arrangements, Michael's voice, the songs. It's moody. I am moody right now. I am always moody anyway. This isn't exactly "life is wonderful" music.

It's different enough not to be the same. That's a logical thing. But Michael is different in ways that make a difference.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lunatic Soul, Impressions

Lunatic Soul is the side-project of Mariusz Duda, singer and driving force behind the band Riverside. Lunatic Soul's third album, Impressions (Kscope) is a further exploration of ambient soundscapes of sophistication and musical merit. Duda's vocals are conceived as a part of the musical whole, as another instrument in a matrix of instru-mental sound. It's a post-prog band sort of sound with a bit more in the way of electronics and beats than perhaps is the norm for this genre. It doesn't detract but instead gives the whole thing a cosmic, modern edge.

As with post-prog today the harmonic sequences are not in the realm of "Giant Steps," of course. They are hypnotic, revery-inducing progressions of sophisticated elementality. The sound of the instruments and the electronics are the experience, the sound of the studio-as-art-platform, not soloing or intensely rhythmic advances (though rhythm is there). And not, for that matter, song form in this case (except the final two numbers, "Gravestone Hill" and "Summer)". This is a motion picture for the ears, as an old phrase has it. But that it is. There is narrative, but what it means is left up to the listener and what he or she finds in the brown study.

Not to say this music is amorphous. It isn't. What goes down is not without interest. And there is content, as opposed to the New Age norm, where all is surface and it's as if someone decided, "let's play music that has all the trappings of real music, but let's leave out the content." That's not what's up here.

It's pretty convincing as an essay in the state-of-the-art of ambiance today. It's not a huge revelation. It's just very nice. Very nice.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gazpacho, March of Ghosts

Following Friday's posting, we continue logically to Norwegian post-progger's album March of Ghosts (Kscope), which was created in a white-heat burst of inspiration following their tour and the resultant double CD London (see Friday's post).

This is a thematically unified package of some brilliance: art songs of a high caliber, nicely wrought arrangements, melancholy, vocals and musicianship of distinction. It's symphonic, it has some Euro-Mideast folk elements to brighten up the program and it shines with a kind of largess. High art, this is.

Based on this and the previous live album, I would have to sat that Gazpacho plies some of the most creative and interesting post-prog music today. March of Ghosts has a one-vast-work flow to it that triumphs. It's very beautiful...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gazpacho, London

Gazpacho is a noteable Norwegian post-prog outfit. Their double-CD release from last fall, London (Kscope), affords you an in-depth listen to the band and its many facets in a live setting.

They play a sound-scape orchestrated sprawl-carpet of ambitious, somewhat melanchology music that excels in song form, arrangements, great vocal presence and instrumental skills. I accidently skimmed a review that compared them to Radiohead. Maybe so. I hear also a little of the Steve Wilson influence plus perhaps Jeff Buckley and the recent band Ours. Though it's possible that Gazpacho never even heard the latter. But there is a resonance.

What's going on here has teeth. It is formidable post-prog. It is impressive. It is moody. It is very, very good.

It's another rather extraordinary band in the Kscope stable. Find this one, keep it, and listen to it if you want something really worthwhile in this vein.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gavin Harrison and 05Ric, The Man Who Sold Himself

Gavin Harrison? Porcupine Tree's drummer. 05Ric? Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, bassist. Their third album, The Man Who Sold Himself (Kscope 5:1 DVD and CD) came out last February and it's a beauty. It has some of the art-song-meets-fusion qualities of classic Allan Holdsworth & IOU, it has the push and thrust of later King Crimson, and it manages to evoke all that without sounding like all that.

Gavin's drumming is superb, as is 05Ric's bass playing. The vocals are right on, the musical backgrounds always interesting and space-ly hip, and sometimes more than that too (like some of the guitar work), and the songs are grab-worthy.

So how come I am just coming to this one? I am running late. Better Nate than Lever Brothers?

Oh ye prog, fuze, post-progs and post-fuzes! Do not miss this one.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ramon & Jessica, Handyman's Honeymoon

I covered a Ramon & Jessica album a few months back (see index). Here's another. Handyman's Honeymoon (Porto Franco 036) is I believe their second. I am not sure if I am getting this singer-songwriter alt duo better than I did with their last album or if this one is more lucid, but either way I am getting it.

They cover whimsically and poetically in their lyrics topics that are much more complex than the simple folkish-naive delivery would at first indicate. And that is part of their charm. As I believe I mentioned the last time there is a sort of knowing innocence projected here, a little reminiscent of Edie Brickell but only in a vague identity sense.

And that folkish naivete is also deceptive. There's good music happening. The instrumentation/arrangements are quite interesting: toy piano, banjo, guitar, ukulele, violin, piano, etc., meld together in ways that are different. Jessica sings in a disarmingly direct way. Jesse sings harmony most of the time.

The songs have an original peculiarity and memorability. The album has a marvelous home-grown charm. Listen a few times and see.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Susan Krebs Band, Everything Must Change

Singers. Jazz singers. There are so many today. Susan Krebs is one. As the Susan Krebs Band, she has an album called Everything Must Change (GreenGig 031). I've been spinning it on my player. I report back to you, my readers.

Susan fronts a band that plays modern, sensitively wrought jazz. Chuck Manning on soprano/tenor and Rich Eames at the piano do much to give Susan a "real jazz" cushioning, but the rhythm section does that too.

They've picked good vehicles. "Up Jumped Spring," the Hubbard classic with Abbey Lincoln's lyrics, sounds carefully phrased and articulated by Ms. Krebs and as the leadoff number it defines her thing: nuance, clean phrasing, pitch control and drama.

From there we get a bunch of great songs, done well for the most part. "What is This Thing Called Love," "A Flower is a Lonesome Thing,""Everything Must Change," and on from there.

Ms. Krebs doesn't strain to get the jazz effect. She lays back and lets her musicality pull her through. The Weil-Anderson "Lost in the Stars" is the only song I don't feel she quite pulls off. And no wonder. It's one of the saddest songs ever written. The feeling of being abandon by God in the Universe (especially after WWII) is not something that is easy to put across. It needs a pathos that Susan does not entirely project. Many others have failed before her, have not quite managed to combine the pathos with a loose jazz approach. So she is in good company.

In the end Susan Krebs is a superior instrument and the album brings it out very well. She has a beautifully cultivated vocal style and a distinctive voice. Yeah!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rose Tattoo Live in 1993 From Boggo Road Jail

As a companion piece to the set played by the Divinyls (see May posting), Rose Tattoo hits the stage stomping it at the Boggo Road Jail for a set of hard Australian rock, 1993 style (Umbrella Music DVD/MVD Visual 5364D). It has the in-your-faceness of post-Stooges hard-drive crashing badness. Or that's how I hear it.

Angry Anderson's energetic stage presence and blues-scream vocals put it all together and the band bangs away at it in the fashion of hard blues-primal rocking. For all its excesses, the rock scene then was beyond commercial, which is more than you can say for some of the crap that hits the airwaves today. These guys may not be musical innovators. But they play hard and they mean it.

So the music is loud, the visuals work, and here it is, one of the best Australian rock bands of the era going at it for an hour. Why the hell not?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Karl Berger, Dom Minasi, Synchronicity

The teaming of Karl Berger and Dom Minasi turns out to be an inspired idea. That's not surprising. Both players are known for their thoughtful approach to free improvisation, Karl Berger as one of the vibraphone greats and a pianist of big ideas; Dom Minasi as a guitarist deserving wider recognition, who uses his well grounded technical and artistic schooling as a ladder to the higher calling of pure spontaneous music making. Both are originals.

The album at hand, Synchronicity (Nacht Records), brings out the qualities of the two in beautiful ways. They concentrate on the simultaneous interlocking creation of spontaneous lines much of the time. And they succeed in creating some major free improv poetry of the highest caliber.

Half the album features Karl on the vibraphone. For the other half he switches to piano. Understandably the second half gives out with more vertical harmonic aspects, the former more strictly a horizontal movement.

In both cases there is the magic of the moment in time, the satisfaction of musical originality, excellently executed.

It's music for keen, hungry ears and it delivers much for those ears to savor. In it's own way it's most certainly one of the high points in either player's recorded output. So I suppose that gives you the idea what I think of it. Listen. And listen again. And see if you do not think the same way.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Matta Gawa, Tambora

Avant psychedelic metal? Free rock? Matta Gawa does that. It's Ed Ricart on very electric guitar and Sam Lohman at the drums. Their second full-length album Tambora (New Atlantis) continues where the first left off, with barrages of guitar power, effects-laden, voltage drenched tirades of skillful and smart amperage, punctuated by all-over drumming that brings the controlled chaos into the clear channel of musical mind-blow.

Take the two-minutes of true outness of long psychedelic band jams from the classic era and use that as the basis for your musical existence. That in many ways is what Matta Gawa is about.

Such freedom requires much creativity and discipline. The fact that the music hangs together convincingly and in exciting ways shows that Ricart and Lohman have it.

The audience for this music is probably in part self-selecting. Those that might like this sort of thing, do, assuming they get the word. Here is the word...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jason Ajemian and the Highlife, Riding the Light into the Bird's Eye

This morning another release from the New Atlantis label: a CD of Jason Ajemian and the Highlife doing Riding the Light into the Bird's Eye.

According to the New Atlantis website Jason uses CAD drafting software (at least in part, in some fashion) to compose his compositional structures. I cannot tell how that works and I suppose it doesn't matter. It's a mid-sized band here and I am not sure who exactly plays but there are horns, electric skronk guitar, rhythm, vocals.

It's free-out-rock-soul-composed fare and it is well done. There are moments that remind a little of DNA meets the AEC of "Theme de Yoyo." But it does not stay in one place for long. There is something with a kind of modern work-song-meets-Funkadelic feel, then it's on to something energetic and out-pulsed segued to some great blow-out horn action, and then on from there with some out riffing-funking out.

There's no telling where exactly they will go. The getting there, though, is out, creative, working inside of forms that have had some popular credence, but exploding them outwards, so to speak.

It's a good go and I'm not sure there's much like it out there these days. So give it a try.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hyrrokkin, Astrionics

The trio Hyrrokkin gives us a rather blown-out, exciting free-psychedelic, avant-rock set on the cassette and download release Astrionics (New Atlantis NA-CAS-001).

The trio consists of Brett Nagafuchi (drums) and Paul Larkowski (guitar, bass) who are also members of the prog-punk group Kuan. The third member of the group, Edward Ricart (guitar, bass), dedicated readers of this blog will know (maybe) is also a member of the duo free-rocking Matta Gawa.

What transpires, conspires and aspires on the 20-something EP cassette at hand is composed-improvised psycho-amplitudinous goodness. They shake it, break it, but most definitely do not fake it. It's instrumental ultra-metal heaviness without the death-rattling vocals.

Now I must say that it's not JUST that it is that. It is that in the high art zone--it's very good that, is what it is. It is a that that you might be well-advised to purchase for five bucks on cassette (rattle around on the search engine of your choice and you will find the New Atlantis site).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Steeve Laffont, New Quintet

Who could have predicted a number of years ago that Django Reinhardt's style of swing would make a resurgence, with Django-adherents playing guitar very much in his manner in ensembles that adapt in varying degrees the ensemble approach of the Hot Club of France?

That it's generally dubbed "Gypsy Jazz" doesn't disguise that fact that it's a full-blown Django-revival school.

One of the very best of these guitarists is Steeve Laffont, which is well attested by his recent New Quintet (Le Chant du Monde). It's him on acoustic and sometimes moderately amplified guitar and an ensemble who swings along in Hot Club style much of the time; other times less so.

Steeve is the attraction here and he is quite excellent both in proficiency and in the essence of Django. Laffont can blaze lines, do those Django chordal bursts and get the sound just right.

The band plays music associated with Django's era, then strays to more contemporary material, like a funky version of Herbie Hancock's "Canteloupe Island" or Norah Jones's pop song "Don't Know Why." To my ears the less the Django-esque context prevails the more generic the music becomes, though Steeve's guitar work is always impeccable. Thankfully there aren't that many digressions.

This fellow is impressive!