Friday, July 29, 2016

Ken Hatfield, 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar, CD and Book Set

Ken Hatfield brings to us lyrical joy in his 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar (Arthur Circle Music, book and CD set). He has been one to straddle the fence between jazz and classical worlds, and this set of preludes has a delightful directness that does show some of those mixed roots. Yet it is all well combined so you do not feel the pull of either way on the melodic-harmonic results.

The book gives you the complete set of preludes and the recommended fingerings. The music is no doubt hard to play as well as Ken does on the CD, yet with intensive woodshedding these can be mastered by those without a great deal of technical preparation, I would think.

They are so attractive I am tempted to get my dusty old classical guitar out of its box (we just moved) and learn a few.

This is marvelous music!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

eBraam with Guests and Dean Bowman, The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say before I begin that Ana Isabel Ordonez is owner of Ruby Flower Records, the label that happily has released ten of my own albums with an 11th on the way. The CDs I review here I have no financial or artistic connection with, so I approach the contents with an impartiality.

OK, so we have at hand two versions of the Fusion-Prog-Jazz-Rock opus The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor (Ruby Flower). It is out in two versions, one with a narrative of Ana Isabel Ordonez' striking story line from her first children's book of the same name; the other with only the music by eBraam and Guests. The music in the second version is somewhat rearranged and at times lengthened in parts.

You get an idea of the vividly primal illustrations from the book version with several of them on the CD. This narrative-music edition at hand today will be the basis of two ballet versions: as choreographed by Virginie Mecene for the Martha Graham Academy, and by Sifiso Kweyama in Cape Town, where the ballet will be performed this fall by the Jazz Dance Theater as part of the festivities honoring Desmond Tutu.

The music was written by Dutch pianist-composer Michiel Braam and his eBraam band with some beautiful guitarwork by guests Pieter Douma and Jorg Lehnardt. It is an eclectic blend of fusion jazz with memorable themes and a wide variety of grooves and moods to fit Ms. Ordonez's story of love and liberation.

The music holds its own, Dean Bowman's narrative captures the essence of the story nicely and ultimately the ballet will send the whole thing further into the story zone that the book gives us so amusingly and deeply.

Children of all ages will take to this, whether they have read the first book or not (though they should, ideally while listening to the CD).  It holds its own with brilliance and a total experiential vibe.

Ana Isabel Ordonez carries the day!


You can get both on Here is a link to start you off:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Magnet Animals, Butterfly Killer

What can I say about Magnet Animals? They are an avant alt band that consists of the two killer electric guitarists Todd Clouser and Eyal Maoz (the latter's music I have covered pretty extensively on these pages), Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on electric bass in a strong forward moving mode, and drummer Jorge Servin putting a hard spin on the rhythm.

Todd does the vocals and they are spoken, poetic, sort of abstract for what you'd expect in lyrics with this kind of music, but not the less interesting for it.

The guitars do all kinds of wonderful things, from neo-surf to space-out kinetics. They are why this album appears on this blog. It's contemporary-retro psychedelic-revisionist musical slabs of being elsewhere while you are here.

It's first tier and unexpected. There is nothing quite like it out there. Four musical planets in orbit around a cool place! Get it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sandy Ewen, Damon Smith, Background Information

For today's offering we return to Balance Point Acoustics releases, Damon Smith's indie label of avant improv. Judging by the release number (BPA-1) this must be the first. (No, Damon just reminded me that the first was in fact his duet with Peter Kowald, recorded in 2002 and reviewed here.) This one is a most uncompromising duet between electric guitarist Sandy Ewen (and I've covered a good amount of her recordings lately. Type her name in the index for those.) and Damon Smith on upright bass, electric 7-string upright bass and field recordings. (I've been covering many of his recordings here as well. See index for them.)

All this on the album Background Information. Sandy Ewen comes through with all manner of prepared and extended sound worlds on her guitar, as we (or I anyway) have come to know via other recordings. She and Damon rethink their instruments to allow them to sing out in unorthodox ways throughout. The result is a pull-out-the-stops series of four improvisational segments that explore with care an evocative noise-timbre-color world of extra-musical sound.

It works! And it works mightily. Fascinatingly. Meditatively. Is it their best album(s)? Probably not precisely. But it does occupy convincingly interesting musical terrain and consistently so. It in its own way is a kind of primer for ways to get away from typical sounds on guitar and bass. Both are indefatigably original for this, so do not hesitate--order a copy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Security Project Live 1

Security Project is a powerful group devoted to re-exploring the music of Peter Gabriel. Live 1 (7D Media) takes some of the best performances from their tour of Europe in February-March of last year.

Brian Cummins does the lead vocals and somehow manages to sound like Peter without not sounding like himself, if you can grab onto that. His is a voice of distinction and power. Drum ace Jerry Marotta kicks up some heat and does backing vocals. David Jameson is on keyboards and eigenharp. Then there is the formidable string section of Trey Gunn on touch guitar and Michael Cozzi on electric six-string guitar. They do much to make this live remaking special, as does David on his synth parts.

If you dig Peter Gabriel the music will cover all the reasons you do, with very familiar and excellent songs redone with some hard-hitting bite.

I found myself responding to this one and as I listen again while typing up my short blurb I feel that way once more. He was one of the brightest lights of '80s-'90s prog after all. And this refashioning keeps the magic alive. Recommended.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Merzbow, Keiji Haino, Balazs Pandi, An Untroublesome Defencelessness

Chaos and mayhem of the best kind are in order on the just released Merzbow, Keiji Haino and Balazs Pandi album An Untroublesome Defencelessness (rarenoise CD, double LP or DL).

Merzbow's noisy electronics, Haino's very electric outside guitar and Pandi's turbulent mass drumming give us truly avant noise-metal music as in-your-face as it is deep in space.

This is marvelously alive, extreme hard-core stuff that is neither polite nor in any way relenting. All three musical personalities remain distinct and brilliantly brash. Japan avant in all its boldness is yours to appreciate, cut-by-cut. One can just get mesmerized by it all, or one can very profitably and enlighteningly follow the three discrete voices and the way they interact in contrasting, intersecting sound-block masses throughout.

Guitarists will--if they are open to this kind of thing--gain a real appreciation of what Haino is doing. But then of course Merzbow and Pandi co-partner with Haino so that the insistent blend elevates the music onto an astral plane.

Some may be shocked by this--or annoyed. That is their business. The rest of us can entrench ourselves in the wildly stratospheric walls of sound. This is cosmic noise rock at its best! Latch on.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Gaudi, EP

Today's very enthralling program may not be a guitar showcase, does have some fine playing on bass by Colin Edwin or Bill Laswell and Lorenzo Feliciati, and some nice guitar from Eraldo Bernocchi, but is primarily a two-number soundscape of very attractive space-rock. Gaudi is the leader and composer here, on synths, programming and theremin. The album is simply titled EP (rarenoise 10" lp and download).

"30 Hz Dub Prelude" and "Electronic Impromptu in E-flat minor" are each filled with a big sound and nicely realized musical content. Together they fill out the 15 minutes or so of the EP. The ensembles include also Ted Parsons or Steve Jansen on drums, Brian Allen on trombone (for the first piece), Copp√® providing voice (for the first piece), Alessandro Gwis on piano (for the second) and the inimitable Merzbow on noise and power electronics.

The immanence (or "everywhereness") of the music is out front and stunning. Each work creates a cosmic universe that will boost your mood and put you in a very nice zone. Music like this must be done well to avoid the merely pleasant or new age, and Gaudi puts much care and heftiness into the mix to give us something far from banal.

I am very much into this slab of sound. I recommend it to you heartily.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Justin Piper, Avant Funk

If you seek some nicely conceived electric guitar in a program of advanced rock-funk instrumentals, you can confidently turn to Justin Piper and his DIY album Avant Funk (Just One Music).

The idea was for Justin to map out arrangements of 12 pieces and then realize them well with Tom Garrington on drums and Justin multiple tracking on guitars, bass, electric piano and programming.

The compositional ideas, riffs, melodic figures, power-chord changes and such serve to set off Justin's very fertile guitar rocking and at the same time give you a set of originals that stand on their two feet in their own right.

It's subtle and worthy artistry that won't leave you incredulous, gasping for breath at the superhuman chops on display. Because it is about musicality more than technical prowess, though Justin can certainly play some fine rock guitar.

It's an album that when I put it on--say from the second time forward, it reminds me of itself rewardingly and subtly-straightforwardly. It's music without cliché, yet it is very contemporarily rock saturated.

Do you get me? A very worthwhile spin this one most definitely is. Justin has talent and his refusal to wear it on his sleeve is refreshing and all the more likeable. Listen!

Ciro Hurtado, Selva

From Peru we have a new album by guitarist Ciro Hurtado and his ensemble, simply entitled Selva (self released). It is a series of very attractive Hurtado originals based on Latin American folk traditions and world influences.

The ensemble has strong traditional roots in its deft combinations of Spanish guitars, accordion, cajon, violin, bass, flute and Peruvian flute, and etc.

There are some beautiful vocals by Nelly Cortez, Suemy Gonzalez, Stephanie Amaro (Trio Ellas), Cindy Harding, and others. There is some interactions with Indian music, notably the Indian Classical vocals of Charanraj MR on one song, and that is remarkable as well.

What stands out is understandably the considerable artistry of Hurtado, but also the beautiful memorability of the songs, especially the ones with vocals/lyrics, and the eclectically authentic yet contemporary ring of the arrangements.

This is music that will perhaps haunt you. The few people who have heard this album as I was listening, non-specialists whatever that means, have invariably praised it. And that's because its lyric beauty crosses borders and speaks directly to the inner musical self.

Truly fine is this. Some songs will stay with you; all of it will appeal to those who respond to very fine guitar artistry, ensemble singularity, beautiful melodies and strong vocals.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Rest in Fleas

Rest in Fleas (Northern Spy 074) is not Cloud Becomes Your Hand's first album, but it is the first that woke me up to them. They are an alt rock sextet with a very original instrumental-vocal mix of the peculiar, the avant, the musically strong and the driving.

I come away impressed with them, very much so. The combination of slacker vocals and a formidable mix of guitar, violin, bass, synth, drums and malletkat comes at you with eight contentful and smartly musical songs. The arrangements give you pause and the structure of the music tends to be pretty iconoclastic--with a complexity not often heard in alt but with more balsy-ness than you might find in a typical prog offering.

I will not invoke Zappa and Beefheart at this point, but there is a lot going on here that does not sound very much like those masters yet has the musical cornucopia of plenty like they did at their best.

I strongly recommend that you immerse yourself in this one. Thank you to Northern Spy for putting this out! Thank you to Cloud Becomes Your Hand for your musical acuity and courage!