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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MAGAZINE

MAGAZINE
REAL LIFE (1978)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

Howard Devoto had the foresight to promote two infamous Sex Pistols concerts in Manchester, and his vision was no less acute when he left Buzzcocks after recording Spiral Scratch. Possibly sensing the festering of punk's clichés and limitations, and unquestionably not taken by the movement's beginnings, he bailed — effectively skipping out on most of 1977 — and resurfaced with Magazine. Initially, the departure from punk was not complete. "Shot by Both Sides," the band's first single, was based off an old riff given by Devoto's Buzzcocks partner Pete Shelley, and the guts of follow-up single "Touch and Go" were rather basic rev-and-vroom. And, like many punk bands, Magazine would likely cite David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Roxy Music. However — this point is crucial — instead of playing mindlessly sloppy variants of "Hang on to Yourself," "Search and Destroy," and "Virginia Plain," the band was inspired by the much more adventurous Low, The Idiot, and "For Your Pleasure." That is the driving force behind Real Life's status as one of the post-punk era's major jump-off points. Punk's untethered energy is rigidly controlled, run through arrangements that are tightly wound, herky-jerky, unpredictable, proficiently dynamic. The rapidly careening "Shot by Both Sides" (up there with PiL's "Public Image" as an indelible post-punk single) and the slowly unfolding "Parade" (the closest thing to a ballad, its hook is "Sometimes I forget that we're supposed to be in love") are equally ill-at-ease. The dynamism is all the more perceptible when Dave Formula's alternately flighty and assaultive keyboards are present: the opening "Definitive Gaze," for instance, switches between a sci-fi love theme and the score for a chase scene. As close as the band comes to upstaging Devoto, the singer is central, with his live wire tendencies typically enhanced, rather than truly outshined, by his mates. The interplay is at its best in "The Light Pours out of Me," a song that defines Magazine more than "Shot by Both Sides," while also functioning as the closest the band got to making an anthem. Various aspects of Devoto's personality and legacy, truly brought forth throughout this album, have been transferred and blown up throughout the careers of Momus (the restless, unapologetic intellectual), Thom Yorke (the pensive outsider), and maybe even Luke Haines (the nonchalantly acidic crank).

1. Definitive Gaze
2. My Tulpa
3. Shot by Both Sides
4. Recoil
5. Burst
6. Motorcade
7. The Great Beautician in the Sky
8. The Light Pours out of Me
9. Parade
Bonus Tracks
10. Shot by Both Sides (Original Single Version)
11. My Mind Ain't So Open
12. Touch and Go
13. Goldfinger

M

M
LE BAPTEME (1997)
320 KBPS

M is the alias of French pop enigma Mathieu Chédid, an uncommonly idiosyncratic and far-ranging talent best known on North American shores for his contributions to the animated cult favorite Les Triplettes de Belleville. Born December 21, 1971, in Boulogne-Billancourt, Chédid was the son of French pop icon Louis Chédid (on whose 1978 hit "T'a Beau Pas Être Beau" the six-year-old made his recorded debut) and the grandson of renowned poet and novelist Andrée Chédid. As a teen Chédid collaborated with fellow pop scions Pierre Souchon and Julien Voulzy (children of the legendary songwriting duo Alain Souchon and Laurent Voulzy) in a series of short-lived groups like Les Bébés Fous and Les Poissons Rouges. A gifted multi-instrumentalist, he also emerged as an in-demand session player, contributing to recordings headlined by Philippe Chatel, NTM, and Billy Ze Kick. Upon completing his debut solo LP, 1997's Le Baptême, Chédid adopted the alias "M," abbreviating his first name while also playing on the pronunciation of "aime," the French word for "love." Developing a vividly theatrical stage show complementing his playful melodies and operatic vocals, M completed his transformation with both a guitar and a coiffure in the shape of his one-letter persona (to picture the latter, imagine a younger, space-age Grandpa Munster). This debut album is a classy and entertaining display of groovy pop mixed with humorous chanson and a good starting point to discover the artist.

1. La Fleur
2. Le Baptême
3. L'amour Ma Thématique
4. Nostalgic Du Cool
5. Manque De Q
6. Je Suis Une Cigarette
7. La Mort De L'âme
8. Pickpocket
9. Les Acariens
10. Le Rose Pourpre Du Coeur
11. Coup De Vent
12. Le Temps Mue
13. Machistador
14. Souviens Toi
15. Souvenir Du Futur
16. Machistador Extended
17. Céline Attendue

BRENDAN BENSON

BRENDAN BENSON
LAPALCO (2002)
320 KBPS

On Lapalco, Brendan Benson enlists help from like-minded popster Jason Falkner for a golden power pop record reminiscent of Matthew Sweet's best work on albums like Girlfriend. Five years in the making, Benson's sophomore effort was long-awaited by the devoted fans of his debut, One Mississippi, which Esquire writer Jeff Gordinier listed among "the greatest overlooked pop masterpieces of the decade." But it's on Lapalco that Benson really hones his jangly melodicism and crunchy bubblegum riffs, fusing influences like the Kinks, T. Rex, the Beatles, and Paul McCartney's solo work into something more meditative than his debut. The album begins with the electronic keyboard gurgle of "Tiny Spark," an instant single that sounds upon first listen like you've heard it a thousand times before. And that's not all Benson can do. "Metarie" is wistfully repetitive. "Life in the D" plays John Lennon's solo career through Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers, and you half expect Benson to break into, "I'm just sittin' here watching the wheels go round and round...." The album has its moments of cringing goofiness, too, like, "I've been a little bit down on my luck, I think you know where I'm coming from. I need a pickup and I don't mean truck, I think you know where to get some" ("You're Quiet"). But, it's forgivable, especially with the last three tracks, "Pleasure Seeker," "Just Like Me," and "Jet Lag," where Benson stakes claim on a sound all his own — bittersweet, down-tempo, semi-acoustic, melancholy with a sense of humor and just a little bit psychedelic.

1. Tiny Spark
2. Metarie
3. Folk Singer
4. Life in the D
5. Good to Me
6. You're Quiet
7. What
8. Eventually
9. I'm Easy
10. Pleasure Seeker
11. Just Like Me
12. Jet Lag

SUBLIME

SUBLIME
STAND BY YOUR VAN (1998)
320 KBPS

A little over two years after Bradley Nowell's tragic death, Sublime released its second posthumous album, Stand by Your Van. Sublime never had the chance to tour the material from Sublime, which turned out to be their most popular album. That means that all 16 tracks on Stand by Your Van are taken from their first two albums, before Nowell's songwriting had truly come into its own. Nevertheless, he had several good songs on 40 Oz. to Freedom and Robbin' the Hood, and by consolidating the best moments from those two relatively uneven albums, the live record offers something of a "greatest hits" of their early years. If the performances aren't that different from the studio versions — they're simply a little rawer, a little faster, a little looser — they're still strong and energetic, capturing the essence of the group's live show. Ultimately, that energy is what makes Stand by Your Van the best posthumous Sublime record to date. Nobody outside of hardcore fans needs this record, but the quality of the music is better than either the What I Got... EP or the haphazard outtakes album Second Hand Smoke, and that alone makes its release somewhat noteworthy.

1. Don't Push
2. Right Back
3. New Thrash
4. Let's Go Get Stoned
5. Greatest Hits
6. Date Rape
7. S.T.P.
8. Badfish
9. D.J.S.
10. Work That We Do
11. Poolshark
12. Ebin
13. All You Need
14. Waiting For My Ruca
15. Caress Me Down
16. KRS-One

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

COCOON

COCOON
MY FRIENDS ALL DIED IN A PLANE CRASH (2007)
320 KBPS

Cocoon are an English-language folk-pop duo from France whose full-length album debut in 2007 garnered critical acclaim and commercial success internationally. Formed in 2006 in Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne, France, the band is primarily comprised of Mark Daumail (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, ukulele, banjo; born December 6, 1984) and Morgane Imbeaud (harmony vocals, keyboards; April 14, 1987). Their influences include classic folk-rock bands such as Pentangle and Fairport Convention as well as contemporary folk-pop acts such as Devendra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens. Cocoon made their recording debut in 2006 with an independently released EP, I Hate Birds, which was picked up for release on the well-regarded French indie label Sober & Gentle. The duo subsequently began working on its full-length debut album, My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash (2007), which was preceded by the release of an EP, From Panda Mountains (2007), featuring three new versions of songs previously released on I Hate Birds ("On My Way," "Tell Me," "I Don't Give a Shit"), one of which would become the lead single from My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash ("On My Way"). Not only was My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash critically acclaimed upon its release, it was also commercially successful, breaking into the Top 40 of the French albums chart and the Top 100 of the Belgian and Swiss albums charts. Fans of Elliott Smith and quality folk/pop, try this.

1. Take Off
2. Vultures
3. On My Way
4. Seesaw
5. Christmas Song
6. Tell Me
7. Owls
8. Paper Boat
9. Cliffhanger
10. Chupee
11. Hummingbird
12. Microwave

ADAM AND THE ANTS

ADAM AND THE ANTS
PRINCE CHARMING (1981)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

Kings of the Wild Frontier brought Adam and the Ants massive popularity in England, and it brought enormous pressure for Adam and guitarist Marco Pirroni to stand and deliver another slice of dynamite. The first single, the punchy horn-laden "Stand and Deliver," suggested that they were up to the task, but when Prince Charming appeared in late 1981, it was pretty much universally panned and it still stands as the weakest record from Ant's classic period. With its ridiculous song titles and cover photos, which suggest that the Ants were moving away from Native Americans and toward pirates, it's hard not to view it as a descent into camp, yet Adam claims in the liner notes for Antbox that he believes that Prince Charming is "a very serious record based on very classical, historical themes." That may be true on certain tracks, but it's hard to see where "Mile High Club," "S.E.X.," "Mowhok," and "Ant Rap" fit into that scheme, but he's right about the intent — this is a markedly different record than Kings, intentionally so. The group have not only moved on in image, they've also left behind their signature Burundi beats while upping the cinematic qualities inherent in their music. So, "Five Guns West" and "Mowhok" are given neo-spaghetti western backdrops, while eerie guitars, mariachi horns, and trilling vocals underpin "That Voodoo." There are a lot of little details like that to dwell on in the production — "Picasso Visita el Planeta de los Simios" sounds absolutely terrific — but apart from "Scorpios," "Stand and Deliver," and the cheerfully ludicrous "Ant Rap," the songs just aren't there. Kings had style, sound, and songs, while Prince Charming simply has style and sound — which, in retrospect, isn't all that bad, but it's also not hard to see how it sparked a backlash at the time.

1. Scorpios
2. Picasso Visita el Planeta de los Simios
3. Prince Charming
4. Five Guns West
5. That Voodoo!
6. Stand and Deliver
7. Mile High Club
8. Ant Rap
9. Mowhok
10. S.E.X.
Bonus Tracks
Original 1981 demos and writing tapes
11. Prince Charming
12. Stand and Deliver
13. Showbiz
14. Picasso Visits the Planet of the Apes
15. Who's a Goofy Bunny Then?
16. Scorpio Writing

MONSTER MAGNET

MONSTER MAGNET
SUPERJUDGE (1993)
320 KBPS

Having already shown that the world of drug-damaged early heavy metal-meets-space rock was well within their capability, Wyndorf and company took things to an even crazier level with Monster Magnet's major-label debut, Superjudge. Anyone taking anything on this album seriously, as some sort of satanic plot or anything like that, needs to just give up and go home -- the song titles alone are crazily ridiculous enough: "Cyclops Revolution," "Elephant Bell," "Dinosaur Vacume," and the baldly but perfectly named "Stadium." A couple of nods to musical roots surface -- the Willie Dixon-written classic "Evil (Is Going On)" kicks reasonable butt, but it's the storm through early Hawkwind standout "Brainstorm" that's the real signpost. There's more than a little of that British band throughout, only arguably even more strung out and insane, a celebration of a stoner culture that had persisted for years and looks set to always be around. Only the Dixon cover and "Black Balloon" stay at three minutes in length; everything else takes a little or a lot more time to satisfyingly sprawl, like the steady stomp of the title track or the monstrous "Cage Around the Sun." Wyndorf's ear for composition, production, and playing is evident throughout -- everything is scaled for the biggest arena in the universe, while his voice positively compares with Ozzy Osbourne's early wailing, yet with a scraggly, rougher edge. Occasional acoustic guitar and sitar parts (with appropriate flanging) help in adding variety and more psychedelia to the proceedings, "Black Balloon" in particular ending Superjudge on a subtle, mysterious note. The spiraling riff explosions and solos of "Twin Earth" and "Dinosaur Vacume" are matched with strong rhythms (due credit to the team of Calandra and Kleiman, who never sound lazy), while any band with lyrics like "I cut off my own head/I don't need it where I'm going to go!" clearly knows how to get in touch with the unapologetic rawk fan out there.

1. Cyclops Revolution
2. Twin Earth
3. Superjudge
4. Cage Around the Sun
5. Elephant Bell
6. Dinosaur Vacume
7. Evil
8. Stadium
9. Face Down
10. Brainstorm
11. Black Balloon

ELLIOTT

ELLIOTT
FALSE CATHEDRALS (2000)
320 KBPS

Elliott is playing rock in a dramatic fashion. Having thrown typical sound mixing out the window, they have sought to transition themselves into something new and remarkable by bringing vocals, bass, and drums up in the mix and pushing the guitars down. Chris Higdon's vocals are tragic, yet reassuring; depressing, yet glorious. The bass, guitar, and drums are there, too, but the vocals are most mesmerizing. Everything flows together beautifully behind that impressive voice. Heartbreaking and expansive, Elliott's False Cathedrals grows as each song passes. Largely scoped for a darker, driven record too often wanted but not performed to quite such a degree of perfection, False Cathedrals satisfies many fans searching for something akin to Radiohead's unique creativity but in a more indie rock manner. Nevertheless, there is a secret to listening to this. False Cathedrals is made for all lonely people, it seems. For some reason, the thought of listening to it with another person seems incomprehensible. False Cathedrals displays the sadness and awesome greatness of a band like the Cure. Similar to much of the Cure's darker material, Elliott has the ability to evoke feelings and responses from painful pasts and lonely nights. Utilizing a large, rock & roll drum-driven sound, Elliott showcases a band on the verge of accomplishing great things by doing something as simple as changing the engineering of an album.

1. Voices
2. Calm Americans
3. Blessed By Your Own Ghost
4. Drive On To Me
5. Calvary Song
6. Lipstick Stigmata
7. Dying Midwestern
8. Shallow Like Your Breath
9. Superstitions In Travel
10. Carving Oswego
11. Lie Close
12. Speed Of Film

Monday, March 29, 2010

FRANCOISE HARDY

FRANCOISE HARDY
LA PLUIE SANS PARAPLUIE (2010)
320 KBPS

Four years after her duets album (Parenthèles, 2006) and 6 after "Tant de Belles Choses", Françoise Hardy, THE French pop icon, returns with an album that could easily be summed up as a back to the basics outfit. Indeed, on "La Pluie Sans Parapluie" (Rain Without an Umbrella), Françoise recalls the ghosts of her past fame and produces a genuine pop album. Of course, the arrangements have been updated since the late 60s/early 70s but, still, it's the closest she ever sounded like she used to. To achieve that, she surrounded herself with a team of younger songwriters such as Alain Lubrano (with whom she's been collaborating for about 10 years), La Grande Sophie, Arthur H, Thierry Stremler, The Ben Christophers, Jean-Louis Murat and a few more. The result may not be up to the best she produced but falls pretty close which is more than I've been expecting in 2010. A nice album, really.

1. Noir sur blanc
2. Mieux le connaître
3. Champ d'honneur
4. La Pluie sans parapluie
5. Les Pas
6. Le Temps de l'innocence
7. Je ne vous aime pas
8. Esquives
9. Mister
10. Memory Divine
11. Un cœur éclaté
12. L'Autre côté du ciel
13. Les mots s'envolent

BEIRUT

BEIRUT
THE FLYING CLUB CUP (2007)
320 KBPS

Beirut's second LP purportedly takes inspiration from French chanson of yesteryear (as opposed to the Balkan folk of yesteryear). Bandleader Zach Condon has found a new home in Paris, and a new muse as well, quickly absorbing fodder from the likes of Francois Hardy or Jacques Brel. The music remains quite recognizably Beirut--in all its oom-pa glory--but the production value is stepped up a notch. It's through the dense arrangements that it reaches new heights, this without question being the fullest offering yet. The band appeared on Owen Pallet's (Final Fantasy/Arcade Fire) new album in exchange for the use of Arcade Fire's Masonic church studio, along with the exotic pile of instruments within. Pallet ended up contributing several string arrangements and the band made full use of the studio. The result is a truly orchestral take on the simpler gypsy stomp of Gulag Orkestar or the straight-up eight-piece live band of the Lon Gisland EP. Opener "Nantes" features a perfectly broken organ and introduces the wealth of percussion that continues throughout the album, as well as some samples of French TV or radio (the most explicit Franco-features are these sampled tidbits). Waltzing glockenspiels give way to a celebratory, raucous chorus on "La Banlieu." "Un Dernier Verre" features a skittering, jazzy piano bit (in 3/4 time, natch). The Flying Club Cup lacks the immediate hits that made Gulag Orkestar explode (like "Postcards from Italy" or "Mount Wroclai"). It works as an album rather than just a collection of songs. It's a more pensive presentation--dare I say it: more mature. Beirut remains mind-boggling work for a 21-year-old, and it's exciting to watch Condon's musical palette expand as he gathers the life experience to match his voice.

1. A Call To Arms
2. Nantes
3. A Sunday Smile
4. Guyamas Sonora
5. La Banlieue
6. Cliquot
7. The Penalty
8. Forks and Knives (La Fête)
9. In The Mausoleum
10. Un Dernier Verre (Pour La Route)
11. Cherbourg
12. St. Apollonia
13. The Flying Club Cup

DOGS

DOGS
WALKING SHADOWS (1980)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

The Dogs were formed in Rouen (Normandie) in 1973 around Dominique Laboubée (vocals, guitars), Paul Peschenaert (guitars), François Camuzeaux (bass), and Michel Gross (drums). At first, the band could have been filed under pub rock for its set lists comprised of many covers, from the Velvet Underground to the Flamin' Groovies. But they quickly came up with some English-sung original material, mainly inspired by their British and American peers, from the Flamin' Groovies to Dr. Feelgood. Like locals Little Bob Story, they were something way more than just a regional phenomenon, and despite an unsuccessful commercial career, the Dogs left a considerable legacy with the release of their two most famous LPs: 1979's Different and 1982's Too Much Class for the Neighbourhood. The constant support of France's veteran music magazine Rock & Folk wasn't enough to make the Dogs explode to a larger scale, but they remain a treasured cult band for many, especially since their definitive end with singer Dominique Laboubée's death in 2002, at the early age of 45.
This album was described as The Flaming Groovies meets The Stooges in a Paris bar in the 70s'.

1. Secret Life
2. Boy
3. Algomania
4. Walking Shadow
5. Disfigured
6. Underworld
7. '79 (I've Lost My Mind In)
8. Skin On Skin
9. Anna Jane
10. Evil Heart
Bonus Tracks
11. Cette Ville Est Un Enfer
12. Trouble Fête

BJÖRK

BJÖRK
JOGA (1997)
320 KBPS

This little CD is a mini gem that comprises all of the Joga singles into one EP, if you will. There are 2 great mixes of Joga one is done by Howie B., the other is the Buzz Water mix. They are minimalistic mixes and are a nice counterpoint to the menace at the end of the album. The B-sides are of mixed quality. Sod Off is excellent in parts, but is incredibly grating in others, the song is a puzzler. So Broken is a guitar driven song that has Bjork go way off the handle with the vocals, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Lastly, here comes Alec Empire. The hardcore master comes and offers his services; basically the songs are Alec going into a self-indulgent rage of hardcore beauty. If you started the song a minute in, there is no way you'd know it was a remix, but it doesn't matter. They're still pretty damn solid, and I like the way the vocals are worked into the remix. Overall, this limited edition compilation of the gems from the Joga singles is a must have for all Björk fans and a worthy addition for the others.

1. Joga (Howie B. Main Mix)
2. Joga (String & Vocal Mix)
3. Joga (Buzz Water Mix)
4. All Is Full Of Love (Choice Mix)
5. Joga (Album Version)
6. Sod Off
7. Immature
8. So Broken
9. Joga (Alec Empire Mix)
10. Joga (Alec Empire Hardcore Mix 1)
11. Joga (Alec Empire Hardcore Mix 2)

KEB' MO'

KEB' MO'
JUST LIKE YOU (1996)
320 KBPS

On his second album, Keb' Mo' begins to expand the borders of his Delta blues by recording with a full band on a couple of tracks and attempting more expansive, rock-based song structures. The attempts aren't entirely successful and it's ironic that he decided to try rock-oriented material after he received such praise for his traditionalist debut. Still, there are a few songs on the album that rank with the best on his first album, which suggests that Just Like You is merely a sophomore slump.

1. That's Not Love
2. Perpetual Blues Machine
3. More Than One Way Home
4. I'm on Your Side
5. Just Like You
6. You Can Love Yourself
7. Dangerous Mood
8. The Action
9. Hand It Over
10. Standin' at the Station
11. Momma, Where's My Daddy
12. Last Fair Deal Gone Down
13. Lullaby Baby Blues

Sunday, March 28, 2010

GENESIS

GENESIS
1976-1982 (2007)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

If the grouping of albums on this 2007 box set initially seems a little odd — it is neither a collection of the band's early work, nor all of their albums after Peter Gabriel's departure, nor is it their most popular work — it soon becomes apparent why these five albums are grouped together and reissued as remastered double-disc sets, with one disc containing a CD of the album, the other a DVD with a 5.1 mix and extra video material (in the U.K., the first disc contains hybrid SACDs of the albums, raising this question why they aren't in this format in the U.S., especially since the bonus disc in this box is a hybrid SACD in all territories). These are the key art rock albums from the Phil Collins-fronted lineup of Genesis, the ones that the fans value, certainly more so than the pop-oriented Genesis and Invisible Touch. Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford reunited in 2007 for a tour, so it made sense to box up their key texts as a deluxe reissue, because this is indeed the music that the fans will want to hear on the tour. If the remastered sound wasn't enough of an incentive for hardcore fans (although it often is), the set also includes plenty of supplemental material, highlighted by a bonus disc containing 13 rarities and B-sides, including the single "Paperlate." That's not the end of the bonus material, though: there's also a 48-page book, and each DVD is packed with extra material, including promotional videos, TV appearances, replications of tour programs, and new interviews with the band about the making of the albums. Of course, to get all these juicy bonuses, you'll have to buy the real thing but, until then, you can still sample the exquisite sound quality of these remasters.

A TRICK OF THE TAIL (1976)
1.Dance On A Volcano
2.Entangled
3.Squonk
4.Mad Man Moon
5.Robbery, Assault and Battery
6.Ripples...
7.A Trick of the Tail
8.Los Endos

WIND & WUTHERING (1976)
1.Eleventh Earl Of Mar
2.One For The Vine
3.Your Own Special Way
4.Wot Gorilla?
5.All In A Mouse's Night
6.Blood On The Rooftops
7."Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers...
8....In That Quiet Earth"
9.Afterglow

...AND THEN THEY WERE THREE (1978)
1.Down And Out
2.Undertow
3.Ballad Of Big
4.Snowbound
5.Burning Rope
6.Deep in the Motherlode
7.Many Too Many
8.Scenes From A Night’s Dream
9.Say It’s Alright Joe
10.The Lady Lies
11.Follow You Follow Me

DUKE (1980)
1.Behind the Lines
2.Duchess
3.Guide Vocal
4.Man Of Our Times
5.Misunderstanding
6.Heathaze
7.Turn It On Again
8.Alone Tonight
9.Cul-De-Sac
10.Please Don’t Ask
11.Duke’s Travels
12.Duke’s End

ABACAB (1981)
1.Abacab
2.No Reply At All
3.Me and Sarah Jane
4.Keep It Dark
5.Dodo/Lurker
6.Who Dunnit?
7.Man On The Corner
8.Like It Or Not
9.Another Record

BONUS
EXTRA TRACKS 1976–1982 (2007)
1.Paperlate
2.Evidence of Autumn
3.Pigeons
4.You Might Recall
5.Naminanu
6.Inside And Out
7.Vancouver
8.Me And Virgil
9.It's Yourself
10.Match Of The Day
11.Open Door
12.The Day the Light Went Out
13.Submarine

Saturday, March 27, 2010

[RE-UP] YES

YES
TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS (1973)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

I might as well wade in on this controversial album and place my two cents down on the progressive rock counter. It's a flawed masterpiece, to be sure, but what an aural adventure! After CTTE I think they couldn't help themselves but to follow the side-long opus trail that they had been so encouraged to follow by the voracious audience that was eating up everything they put out. Me and my friends included. By then we all worshipped at the Yes altar with good reason. Their music was innovative, courageous and inspiring at a time when top 40 radio was still in command of the biz. When this came out we couldn't wait to plop it on the turntable. It was, with the help of mellowing agents (If you know what I mean and I think you do), a religious experience. When I think of this album I recall driving through the Rockies in a funky Audi with a friend on the way to a gig in Estes Park and this cassette blaring through the speakers. If this music is pretentious then so are the mountains in Colorado. All I know is that it fit the scenery (and age) perfectly. Was Yes full of itself? Probably. Did they do the best they could? Definitely. Did they go too far and veer "over the edge?" Well, that's up to the individual listener. To me it's light years better than Tormato, which is when I lost interest in what they were doing, but that doesn't redeem it totally. That being said, the reissued version from Rhino is excellent and makes up for many of the original pressing's shortcomings on vinyl and fans might want to invest in it if they haven't already. "The Ancient" grates on my nerves a bit but once you get through the strange first half of the song it mellows considerably yet it still remains the weakest of the four. But there are moments on "The Revealing Science of God," "The Remembering" and "Ritual" that continue to amaze my ears even after all these decades. TFTO still pales in comparison with the three albums that preceded it and doesn't hold up as good as Going for the One or Relayer but it will forever hold a place in my prog heart as being the right album at the right time.

Disc 1
1. The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn
2. The Remembering - High The Memory
3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun
4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil

Disc 2
Bonus tracks
1. Dance of the Dawn (studio run-through)
2. Giants under the Sun (studio run-through)

MADE OUT OF BABIES

MADE OUT OF BABIES
THE RUINER (2008)
320 KBPS

This is the third album for Brooklyn's Made Out Of Babies. It was recorded in guitarist Brendan Tobin's studio and features guest appearances from keyboardist Jason Watkins (Mouth of the Architect) and bassist Greg Burns (Pedal Steel, Red Sparowes).
The Ruiner is a very unique and compelling CD. Heavy and oppressive doomy riffs give way to quirky and mellow acoustic sections, and then take off again. To describe it as experimental doesn't really fit, because even though there are some very unusual and strange things going on, Made Out Of Babies knows exactly where they are going.
Made Out Of Babies has the ability to play challenging music that is unsettling and dissonant, but know the exact moment to pull back into something melodic and less intense. Doing it that way gives the listener a better opportunity to absorb everything going on in each song.
Julie Christmas is an extremely versatile vocalist. She can croon quietly and smoothly, sing with intensity and passion, and scream and caterwaul with power and raw emotion. She's a powerhouse, and her style and charisma demand your attention. The Ruiner is not a CD that's easily digested. It is challenging listen that make take a while to fully comprehend, but it's well worth the effort.

1. Cooker
2. Grimace
3. Invisible Ink
4. The Major
5. Buffalo
6. Bunny Boots
7. Stranger
8. Peew
9. How To Get Bigger

PINK MARTINI

PINK MARTINI
SYMPATHIQUE (1998)
320 KBPS

While the cocktail lounge fad has seen more than a few musicians climb aboard as a career move, the members of Pink Martini are no bandwagon-riding aficionados. Fronted by pianist Thomas Lauderdale, Pink Martini is the real article--a band that approaches the music with unwavering seriousness yet never forgets the fun at the heart of it. Sympathique, the band's debut album reveals an incredibly diverse musical vocabulary on the part of frontman Lauderdale. And what singer China Forbes lacks in range and dynamics, she more than compensates for in attack, approach, and a clear understanding of the material. While most of the songs are upbeat, in the hands of Lauderdale and Forbes, "Qué será será," with its dark atmospherics should be rechristened "Qué será noir."

1. Amado Mio
2. No Hay Problema
3. Sympathique
4. Qué Sera Sera
5. La Soledad
6. Donde Estas, Yolanda?
7. Andalucia
8. Song Of The Black Lizard
9. Never On Sunday
10. Brazil
11. Lullaby

GRAND CENTRAL

GRAND CENTRAL PRESENTS
CENTRAL HEATING (1996)
320 KBPS

Back in 1996, this double CD compilation introduced the original Grand Central roster of Aim, Rae & Christian, Only Child, Tony D, Mr Scruff, Andy Votel and Funky Fresh Few to the world. This album was the proof that British producers could compete with the best of them. ...A true classic!
Now reissued for the label’s tenth birthday, this 21 track double-CD is a great re-introduction to a magnificent label on the verge of greatness. Listen and be inspired by top names like Tony D, Only Child, Andy Votel, Gripper, Rae & Christian, Aim, and others...

Disc one
1. "Central Introduction" - Tony D
2. "How Sweet It Is" - Mr. Scruff & Mark Rae
3. "Spellbound (featuring Veba)" - Rae & Christian
4. "Second Street Gogo" - Tony D
5. "Hand Of Doom (featuring Clita Johnrose)" - Andy Votel
6. "Through These Veins (featuring Afu Ra)" - Funky Fresh Few
7. "Pourquoi (featuring Buffy Brox)" - Only Child
8. "Good Advice" - Rae & Christian
9. "Rain (featuring Buffy Brox)" - Only Child
10. "It's Time Two (featuring Chubby Grooves)" - Tony D

Disc two
1. "Original Stuntmaster" - Aim
2. "Hemlock'd" - Andy Votel
3. "You Mean Fantastic" - Funky Fresh Few
4. "Loopdreams" - Aim
5. "When We Get Together" - Tony D
6. "Gotta Have Her" - Mr. Scruff & Mark Rae
7. "Lunagroove" - Only Child
8. "Baseball Fury" - Rae & Christian
9. "Spooky Driver" - Andy Votel
10. "Souldive (All City mix)" - Aim
11. "Northern Sulphuric Soul" - Rae & Christian

GUILLEMOTS

GUILLEMOTS
RED (2008)
320 KBPS

It can be difficult to know how to condition yourself as a Guillemots fan. First there was Through the Windowpane, a great English pop record full of classy melodrama and widescreen elation, then there were the wilfully eccentric live shows, known to descend into mind-boggling bouts of freeform jazz bombast. And now there is Red, yet another altogether different dragon. You can talk about forcing a square where a circle should be, but this is more like teasing a dodecahedron through a drinking straw. And yet with slick feline agility they somehow wriggle through with little resistance. To get a measure of the differences, penultimate track "Don't Look Down" is one of a few that holds a torch for the first record, leading in with the keyboard twinkles and filmic slow pace, but implodes midway like a fully-laden milk float combusting, and comes out the other side like the Annie cast on helium set to a drum 'n' bass beat. Amazingly, it's as palatable as ever. But that's just for starters. "Kriss Kross" is the hitherto undiscovered melding point between 2Unlimited (of brief 90s techno infamy) and The New Radicals' chiming pop, "Big Dog" is bright lights arena R&B, robotic seduction with a Jacko scream at its heart, "Get over It" is glittery, steroid pumped modern glam and "Last Kiss" is Tubular Bells with distorted bass funnelled into a rave anthem. The whole album's a curveball, but the quality of the songs is undimming and maybe we just got a little closer to discovering what Guillemots quintessentially are. Or maybe not.

1. Kriss Kross
2. Big Dog
3. Falling Out of Reach
4. Get Over It
5. Clarion
6. Last Kiss
7. Cockateels
8. Words
9. Standing on the Last Star
10. Don't Look Down
11. Take Me Home

Friday, March 26, 2010

GUILLAUME DE CHASSY

GUILLAUME DE CHASSY
+ STEPHANE KERECKI & FABRICE MOREAU
FARAWAY SO CLOSE (2008)

320 KBPS

On the heels of two highly-acclaimed duet recordings with bassist Daniel Yvinec (the latter recently named to head France's National Jazz Orchestra), pianist Guillaume de Chassy last year released a remarkable Piano solo (Bee Jazz, 2007). You see the trend: duo, solo—the band can't get any smaller, so de Chassy has released a record for piano trio.
It's characteristic of de Chassy's deliberate premeditation that he changes formats in this incremental way. Everything about the new record reflects this same careful musical intelligence.
The pianist's band mates have been effectively chosen. Bassist Stéphane Kérécki plays with a stolid, guitar-like musicality not unlike Yvinec's: strumming, he sometimes seems the star of the show ("Wish You Were Here," "Ida Lupino"). Drummer Fabrice Moreau, meanwhile, can provide both Paul Motian-like accents as well as bottom-heavy propulsion (evident in particular on the three takes of the slightly self-consciously extemporaneous "What Do You Mean?").
Many elements of de Chassy's musical universe are present in the repertoire. Echoing Chansons sous les bombes (Bee Jazz, 2004), the duet program with bassist Yvinec of classic French songs, there is Charles Trenet's "Coin de rue." A new reading of de Chassy's "Parenthèse" (an ephemeral whisper on the earlier solo-piano record) here reveals the beautiful inevitability of the composition in the trio setting.
De Chassy has been compared by more than one listener to Paul Bley, and rightly so. It therefore requires a little chutzpah to include "Ida Lupino," perhaps more closely associated with the Montreal pianist than any other composition. De Chassy nevertheless makes the number his own (he lets bassist Kérécki play the signature lilting figure throughout much of the performance), without radically overhauling the piece; what comes through is confidence in his own musical voice.
There are furthermore countless classical echoes—in "Après un rêve," based on a theme by Fauré; in the formal foundations underlying "Choral" and "Nocturne." De Chassy the soloist is anything but anodyne; he takes considerable risks, but never sounds free in an untethered way. Both the varied harmonic resources and the discipline in his playing in fact owe a lot to this classical pedigree.
All of the aforementioned strong points, however, recede before the album's opener, an exquisite setting of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Some listeners will be reminded of the Bad Plus's similar borrowings from the classic FM rock song book, and while I don't think they are trying to be cute any more than de Chassy is, this Pink Floyd cover seems to plumb greater depths. The trio's statement of the theme is achingly lovely; the reworking of the plodding middle section evokes an intimate yet nearly existential dread akin to the opening music of the third act of Tristan und Isolde. Perfect in every respect.

1. Wish you were here
2. Coin de rue
3. Choral
4. What do you mean ? (# 1)
5. Après un rêve (d'après Gabriel Fauré)
6. What do you mean ? (# 2)
7. Ida Lupino
8. What do you mean ? (# 3)
9. Parenthèse
10. Nocturne

PAT BENATAR

PAT BENATAR
CRIMES OF PASSION (1980)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

With Crimes of Passion, Pat Benatar escaped the dreaded sophomore slump, thanks in no small part to the song that would become the most well-known song of her career, "Hit Me with Your Best Shot." The rest of the album is mildly hit or miss, with a few moments of filler. Thankfully, Benatar avoids the synth-happy trends of the early '80s and delivers a hard rocking ten-song session of power pop tempered with a few ballads for balance. And while "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" was one of her most praised moments, her version of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" is probably one of the most underrated songs of her entire catalog.

1. Treat Me Right
2. You Better Run
3. Never Wanna Leave You
4. Hit Me With Your Best Shot
5. Hell Is for Children
6. Little Paradise
7. I'm Gonna Follow You
8. Wuthering Heights
9. Prisoner of Love
10. Out-A-Touch

[RE-UP] YES

YES
BIG GENERATOR (1987)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

The four-years-in-the-making follow-up to Yes' comeback album, 90125, Big Generator was also a million-selling hit, although not as successful as its predecessor, probably because the singles "Love Will Find a Way" (number 30) and "Rhythm of Love" (number 40) couldn't match "Owner of a Lonely Heart" from the previous LP, even if they were favorites on AOR radio at the time. Actually, it was the title track that was a carbon copy of "Owner," so maybe that was the problem. More likely, though, "Owner" was a one-shot (courtesy of producer Trevor Horn), and as Yes asserted itself more here, the band reverted more to its old style, making for some confusion. Nevertheless, this album was Yes' last major hit.

1. Rhythm Of Love
2. Big Generator
3. Shoot High Aim Low
4. Almost Like Love
5. Love Will Find A Way
6. Final Eyes
7. I'm Running
8. Holy Lamb (Song for Harmonic Convergence)
Bonus Tracks
(Japanese Remaster 2009)
9. Love Will Find A Way (Edited Version)
10. Love Will Find A Way (Extended Version)
11. Rhythm Of Love (Dance to the Rhythm Mix)
12. Rhythm Of Love (Move to the Rhythm Mix)
13. Rhythm Of Love (The Rhythm of Dub)

[RE-UP] YES

YES
9012: LIVE, THE SOLOS (1985)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

Definitely a Yes afficionado album...but well worth the listen. Jon Andersons solo of "Soon" is truly amazing. And Trevor Rabin's guitar solo is equally appealing...Too bad one cannot find more of Trevor's material in recorded format. The last tune "Whitefish" the band gets really rockin! I would still recommend this album even to the casual Yes fan and even more in the japanese remastered form displayed here.

1. Hold On
2. SI (Tony Kaye)
3. Solly's Beard (Trevor Rabin)
4. Soon (Jon Anderson)
5. Changes
6. Amazing Grace (Chris Squire)
7. Whitefish (Squire & White)

FALCONER

FALCONER
AMONG BEGGARS AND THIEVES (2008)
320 KBPS

Since when Mathias Blas has come back behind the microphone of Falconer, they have acquired a bigger awareness and confidence, starting to follow that debut album that is still remembered by many as their absolute peak.
The new "Among Beggars And Thieves" could only remark the main characteristics of the Northern band, wisely mixing a melodic classic heavy metal with some powerful, at times very strong folk influences that enrich also the lyrics of the album and that deal with the hard life medieval Sweden has been through in the past.
The music tries to fit the themes and, in full Falconer style, gives us many moments of thick concrete epos that seems recalling to mind foggy landscapes, snowy mountains and warlike atmospheres. At times supported by a valid female counterpart that increases the scenographic effect of the vocal parts, it's the singer who leads the game, laying his declaiming clear voice upon the mid tempos, standing the clash of the instruments in the most accelerated heavy scores (as the starting "Field Of Sorrow"), interpreting with cleverness the expressive peak of the final theatrical "Dreams And Pyres".
For who doesn't know it yet, the true Falconer are back and "Among Beggars And Thieves" is the touchable proof.

1. Field of Sorrow
2. Man of the Hour
3. A Beggar Hero
4. Vargaskall
5. Carnival of Disgust
6. Mountain Men
7. Viddernas Man
8. Pale Light of Silver Moon
9. Boiling Led
10. Dark Ages
11. Skula, Skorpa, Skalk
12. Dreams and Pyres
13. Vi Sålde Våra Hemman

PAUL WILLIAMS

PAUL WILLIAMS
PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE:
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK RECORDING (1974)

320 KBPS

Beneath the flash, campiness, glam, humor, etc. is some very dark and intense emotion. Some of these songs contain deep despair, sadness, and frustration. Williams conveys these feelings with such haunting, delicate beauty though that I, like so many other reviewers here, find myself drawn back to the movie and soundtrack again and again.
I don't really know anything about the rest of his work, other than his big hits, but I can't imagine any of it delves into the same places. The only thing lacking in this soundtrack is more songs. I read somewhere that the "Never thought I'd get to meet the devil" interlude isn't any longer than the couple verses in the movie, but it'd be great to have anyway, along with any stuff that might have been recorded but left out of the movie.

1. Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye
2. Faust
3. Upholstery
4. Special to Me (Phoenix Audition Song)
5. Phantom's Theme
6. Somebody Super Like You (Beef Construction Song)
7. Life at Last
8. Old Souls
9. Faust
10. Hell of It

FIRESIDE

FIRESIDE
GET SHOT (2003)
320 KBPS

This is a good record. Not my favorite Fireside ("Elite" is my favorite) but good none the less. It gets a little boring at points, but other than that, well worth it. Don't pay any attention to the silly sticker some marketing genius decided to put on it, stating: "Creators of the Swedish Invasion". What about ABBA? I think A-HA was from there too. Maybe Fireside is the Best band to come out of Sweden and were ahead of their time with their first records, but they're hardly the creators of popular Swedish music.

1. All You Had
2. Follow Follow
3. Betrayer
4. Backwards Over Germany
5. Throw It Away
6. I'm Coming Home
7. Problem (To You)
8. All Criminals Are Us
9. Swinging Sid's Chain Around
10. Player

Thursday, March 25, 2010

ARNOLD SCHONBERG

ARNOLD SCHÖNBERG
ENSEMBLE MUSIQUE OBLIQUE
PIERROT LUNAIRE (2003)

320 KBPS

After the wrenching revolution Schönberg brought to his music during the final years of the twentieth century's first decade (crystallized in such works as the Three Pieces for piano, Op. 11 and the Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16) the composer quickly drew back from the anguished Expressionism of these years to produce the much lighter Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds Pierrot Lunaire (Three-times-seven Songs from Albert Giraud's Pierrot Lunaire, or, as it is known the world 'round, simply Pierrot Lunaire), Op. 21, of 1912 — a cycle of 21 songs for voice and chamber group that, in the composer's own words, voices sentiments that are "Light, ironic, [and] satirical."
Pierrot Lunaire takes the shape of a single large melodrama in which the female voice gives the text a treatment that is midway between speech and song (the technique, called Sprechstimme, goes all the way back to Humperdinck, though it found its best use at the pens of the Second Viennese School composers). Three sections, comprised of seven songs each, showcase the five instrumentalists in all sorts of wonderfully colorful combinations as the narrator tells of the wandering Pierrot's experiences — indeed, the contrasts offered by just the piano, violin, cello, flute, and clarinet are not enough for Schönberg, who makes the violinist, flutist, and clarinetist double on viola, piccolo, and bass clarinet, respectively. Each of the 13-line poems is a rondel, the opening lines being repeated during the middle of the poem as a kind of refrain.
Structural and motivic connections abound throughout the work, and we find such devices as the recurrence of the queasy solo flute melody of No. 7, "The Sick Moon," in the 13th song, "Decapitation" (part of Pierrot Lunaire's admittedly darker second section, in which the demons of Expressionism come out to play once more), and the use of a passacaglia form in "Night," the first song of Part 2. By the time of "The Moonspot" in Part 3, Schönberg has worked up to the level of a full double-canon (for the pair of woodwinds and the pair of strings). No. 19, "Serenade," is almost a virtuoso piece for cello and piano, while the final song of the melodrama, "O Ancient Charm of Fairy Days," is of the tender, epilogue variety.

Pierrot Lunaire
Part I
1. Mondestrunken
2. Colombine
3. Per Dandy
4. Eine blasse Wascherin
5. Valse de Chopin
6. Madonna
7. Der kranke Mond
Part II
8. Die nacht
9. Gebet an Pierrot
10. Raub
11. Rote Messe
12. Galgenlied
13. Enthauptung
14. Die kreuze

Part III
15. Heimweh
16. Gemeinheit
17. Parodie
18. Der Mondfleck
19. Serenade
20. Heimfahrt
21. O alter Duft

22. Kammersymphonie Opus 9

ORBITAL

ORBITAL
THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (1999)
320 KBPS

Electronica routinely covers more ground, more quickly, than any style of music on the planet; the hottest new sound in January is old hat by March and downright foolish to even mention in June. Orbital, however, is the great constant in the world of techno. Every few years, the brothers Hartnoll manage to turn in excellent albums that occasionally reference the latest sound but rarely vary from the chord-heavy melodics of their debut single, "Chime." Though it took a bit longer to release, Middle of Nowhere is another typically excellent Orbital album. Experiments with breakbeats and other styles of music made interesting mixers of their previous two albums, Snivilisation and In Sides, and this fifth album includes nods to big beat-techno ("I Don't Know You People") and soundtrack composers. The latter is hardly a surprise, considering the Hartnolls' sideline gig as score composers (Event Horizon, The Saint). The opener, "Way Out," adds trumpet solos and a symphonic grandeur — reminiscent of John Barry's scores for the James Bond films — to the quintessential Orbital sound. Even considering the lack of real progression in sound, Middle of Nowhere reflects the pair once again making all the right moves and not slowing down a bit.

1. Way Out -->
2. Spare Parts Express
3. Know Where To Run
4. I Don't Know You People
5. Otoño
6. Nothing Left 1
7. Nothing Left 2
8. Style

VIVE LA FETE

VIVE LA FETE
JOUR DE CHANCE (2007)
320 KBPS

Vive la Fête was founded in 1997 when Mommens (then still playing in his former band dEUS) recorded a few demos with Pynoo on his 8-track recorder. These demos were released on the EP Je ne veux pas (sometimes also referred to as Paris) which gathered some attention because of it is reminiscent of eighties music. Their first success came with their debut Attaque Surprise (2000). Later records such as Republique Populaire (2001) and Nuit Blanche (2003) made them popular, especially in the fashion world, where Karl Lagerfeld is one of their fans. In 2005 they released Grand Prix and toured all over Europe and played some shows in Brazil and Mexico.
With their 2007 release, Jour de Chance (day of luck), the duet explores more of the same mix of indie electronica and 80s revival. It's not a bad album though some might find the formula a little repetitive, I personally like it for what it is, a fun, upbeat little album that'll fit both your dance parties and lounge restings and will never try to be more than what it is. So, if you know the other Vive La Fête albums and enjoyed it, this is for you and, if you haven't heard of them yet, this is as good a place to start as any.

1. Aventures Fictives
2. Mais
3. La Route
4. Tout Va Continuer
5. Betises
6. Tout Fou
7. Une Par Une
8. Je Suis Fachee Avec Toi
9. Quatsch
10. Stupid Femme
11. Il Pleut
12. Tele
13. Love Me, Please Love Me

TESLA

TESLA
FOREVER MORE (2008)
320 KBPS

There was never much separating Tesla from the rest of the melodic metallists that ruled MTV and radio during the late '80s — from a musical standpoint. Although to their credit, Tesla never dolled themselves up in make-up and mile-high hair, as these gentlemen always favored shirts and jeans over spandex. But musically, they certainly fit in with the aforementioned genre. By the time of their eighth studio effort overall, 2008's Forever More, the group is still following the same formula they've been favoring since the beginning — slightly heavier than a mainstream rock band, but not as heavy as a true metal band. Case in point, such rockers as the album opening title track, "One Day at a Time," and "The Game," which could have easily fit on earlier Tesla albums, as well as more mellow ditties as "So What!," and tracks that fall somewhere between the rock and the mellow ("Pvt. Ledbetter," "In a Hole Again," etc.). Tesla play it safe on Forever More, and as a result, come up with an album that stands up well against their popular earlier efforts.

1. Forever More
2. I Wanna Live
3. One Day At A Time
4. So What
5. Just In Case
6. Fallin' Apart
7. Breakin' Free
8. All Of Me
9. The First Time
10. Pvt. Ledbetter
11. In The Hole Again
12. The Game
Bonus Tracks
13. My Way
14. What A Shame (Live)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NILS PETTER MOLVAER

NILS PETTER MOLVAER
RE-VISION (2008)
320 KBPS

The music of Norwegian trumpeter/Nu Jazz progenitor, Nils Petter Molvaer, has always been cinematic. Call it music for a non-existent movie or a film of the mind, Molvaer's albums, beginning with the groundbreaking Khmer (ECM, 1997), have always been about aural landscapes evocative of highly personal imagery and plenty of club-ready grooves. Even in performance, the lighting provided by Tord "Prince of Darkness" Knudsen is intended to provoke the imagination rather than focus attention on the musicians.
It's no surprise, then, that Molvaer has been recruited to provide music for film. His score for the 2005 French film Edy already saw limited release on Molvaer's Sula imprint the same year. Re-Vision culls four pieces from Edy and, by combining them with music from two other films—the 2007 German film Hoppet and 1999 Norwegian documentary Frozen Heart—and one non-soundtrack piece, fashions a continuous 46-minute suite that stands independently as yet another highly visual piece, incorporating Molvaer's ever-expanding frames of reference.
Re-Vision is also Molvaer's first release in years to not primarily feature members of his touring band, but guitarist Eivind Aarset remains a fundamental part of its overall soundscape. Aarset's Sonic Codex (Jazzland, 2007) possesses some of his most overtly recognizable guitar tones in years, but here he's in full-out textural mode; an essential if rarely recognizable sonic contributor to half of Re-Vision's sometimes dense, other times spacious twelve tracks. Punkt Festival artistic co-director/Molvaer touring group member Jan Bang also shows up on the non-score "Perimeters," providing ambient textures and beats which are ethnic rather than dance floor in nature.
Anders Engen and Italian expat Paolo Vinaccia provide live percussion on a handful of tracks, but it's Molvaer—perfecter of the "recording studio as laboratory" concept—who contributes most of Re-Vision's instrumentation. Still, amidst a broad personal palette Molvaer's trumpet remains distinctive, ranging from unaffected and spare on the solo "Trumpet Player in the Backyard" to heavily processed and utilizing a variety of extended techniques on the propulsive "The Beginning" and darker-hued "Alone in the Bathtub."
Molvaer's lyricism continues to be a defining characteristic and, despite the preconception that programming might imply, he clearly remains an improvising musician. There's little in the way of delineated soloing here; instead, his trumpet moves in and out of the mix, a distinctive focal point that helps the music flow seamlessly from one terrain to the next.
Molvaer's sonic bag of tricks isn't restricted solely to his horn and an array of electronic manipulation. On "Visitation," he plays the double-reeded duduk which, in its plaintive, haunting melancholy, recalls Armenian duduk master Djivan Gasparyan's cult classic, I Will Not Be Sad In This World (Opal, 1989).
While many of Molvaer's markers can be found on Re-Vision—techno beats, processed soundscapes, world music references and improvisation—with a purer cinematic purpose it both fits in and stands out amongst Molvaer's growing discography, an album of exceptional beauty, emotional depth and visual resonance.

1. Torn [From Hoppet]
2. Beginning [From Edy]
3. Alone in the Bathtub [From Edy]
4. Visitation [From Hoppet]
5. Arctic Dub [From Frozen Heart]
6. Perimeters
7. Trumpet Player in the Backyard [From Edy]
8. End [From Edy]
9. Visitor [From Hoppet]
10. Azad's Theme [From Hoppet]
11. Decisions [From Hoppet]
12. Leaps and Bounds [From Hoppet]
13. Violent Trip [From Edy]

DEBOUT SUR LE ZINC

DEBOUT SUR LE ZINC
DE CHARYBDE EN SCYLLA (2008)
320 KBPS

One of the many bands to appear in France in the late 90s, early 00s with La Rue Kétanou, Les Têtes Raides, Rue de la Muette, Les Hurlements de Léo or Les Ogres de Barback (to name a few) but not the least of them, Debout sur le Zinc was born when two bands (a folk and a rock one) merged. "De Charybde en Scylla" is their 6th full-length where the band displays more of its folkish take on French chanson. As with their previous albums, you've got a clever and entertaining mix of folk, rock, chanson and world music (gypsy and celtic) that both conveys melancholia and happiness perfectly.Those who love this new French scene and want more of it or those curious to hear what it's all about will be well advised to give this one a spin or two, they'll probably not regret it.

1. J'ai
2. Sport 2000
3. Fin septembre
4. Scylla
5. Aller simple
6. Coup de foudre
7. En attendant...
8. S'ils savaient
9. L'arbre
10. L'invisible
11. Je cherche encore
12. En attendant le pire

PRIMAL SCREAM

PRIMAL SCREAM
BEAUTIFUL FUTURE (2008)
320 KBPS

Beautiful Future--a hopelessly optimistic moniker for their ninth album, no matter which way you approach it, since Primal Scream are almost universally accepted to have strutted past their zenith around the same time they helpfully mislaid their vowels (on 2000’s unrelentingly anarchic Xtrmntr). To claim any future, especially after the all-too-brief successes of 2006’s turgid Riot City Blues, let alone a handsome one is foolhardy to say the least. But, you see, they’re actually being cuttingly sarcastic, or so we ascertain from Bobby Gillespie’s ham-fisted sloganeering on the title track’s tirade against modern ills ("you live by the sword, you die by the sword, you’re only free to buy things you can’t afford", etc.). If anything in particular is exposed as a spent force here it is he and his pen, sense disregarded to the point of parody, words drifting like flotsam and the band’s systematic attempts to reinvent themselves. The small miracle is that they just about manage. "Beautiful Future" leads into the album with a curious and eventually overwhelming infectiousness, gleaming like CSS delivering a Shirelles pastiche complete with cheesy bell-ringing and an effeminate vocal delivery that almost clouds over the lyrical content. "I Love to Hurt (You Love to Be Hurt)" actually features CSS’s Lovefoxx as this album’s Kate Moss and holds its own with some minimalist malevolence. As an album it jerks and it stumbles, lacking a definitive identity, but it at least ensures they’ll live to see another day. A future of some sort is assured.

1. Beautiful Future
2. Can't Go Back
3. Uptown
4. The Glory Of Love
5. Suicide Bomb
6. Zombie Man
7. Beautiful Summer
8. I Love To Hurt [You Love To Be Hurt]
9. Over & Over
10. Necro Hex Blues
11. The Glory Of Love [Single Version]

SUZANNE VEGA

SUZANNE VEGA
NINE OBJECTS OF DESIRE (1996)
320 KBPS

Under the guidance of producer Mitchell Froom, who produced 99.9 F° and married her shortly after that album was completed, Suzanne Vega continues to explore more textured and vaguely experimental musical territory on Nine Objects of Desire. While it is less bold on the surface than its predecessor — most notably, there are no pseudo-industrial rhythms — Nine Objects of Desire still bears all the trademarks of a Mitchell Froom production. There is cheap, garage-yard percussion scattered throughout the record, layered keyboards, and overly mannered, arty arrangements. It's not as extreme as Froom's work for Los Lobos, for instance, but it is still more self-consciously pretentious than any of Vega's albums, besides 99.9 F°. Vega's songs manage to cut through the murky production more often than not, and while the album doesn't boast her most consistent set of songs, they are on the whole stronger than the ones on her previous record. The songs on Nine Objects of Desire are more classically structured and inviting than the ones on its predecessor — it is only the production that keeps the listener at a distance. And that's ironic, since half of these songs rank among Vega's most personal work.

1. Birth-Day (Love Made Real)
2. Headshots
3. Caramel
4. Stockings
5. Casual Match
6. Thin Man
7. No Cheap Thrill
8. World Before Columbus
9. Lolita
10. Honeymoon Suite
11. Tombstone
12. My Favorite Plum

JETS TO BRAZIL

JETS TO BRAZIL
ORANGE RHYMING DICTIONARY (1998)
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Being one of the more anticipated independent releases of 1998, Orange Rhyming Dictionary combines emo-inflected pop sensibilities with the occasional keyboards. Despite the occasional use of wah-wah pedal guitars in "I Typed for Miles," which sounds almost identical to Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box," Jets to Brazil live up to their hype. Most of the songs clock in at an epic length while containing storytelling lyrics with Blake Schwarzenbach's (formerly of Jawbreaker) trademark raspy vocals. Mood swings also accompany the sound of Orange Rhyming Dictionary, which can move from laid-back and gloomy too upbeat and not as gloomy, all in a good sort of way though. Definitely recommended.

1. Crown Of The Valley
2. Morning New Disease
3. Resistance Is Futile
4. Starry Configurations
5. Chinatown
6. Sea Anemone
7. Lemon Yellow Black
8. Conrad
9. King Medicine
10. I Typed For Miles
11. Sweet Avenue

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

JOHN ZORN

JOHN ZORN
IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS (2010)
320 KBPS

Inspired by esoteric spiritual practices, white magic, ritual, traditional myths and ancient legends, Zorn brings together a life long interest in mysticism with powerful lyricism to fashion this dynamic and evocative series of Odes for the New Millennium. Featuring the landmark extended composition The Magus, one of Zorn's most exciting new works, the music takes on a scintillating new edge-dramatic, hypnotic and mysterious. Performed by the remarkable Alhambra Trio enhanced by special guests Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone, Carol Emanuel on harp and Shanir Blumenkranz on Fender bass, In Search of the Miraculous is a deeply moving listening experience-ecstatic music for young and old that touches on the sublime.

1. Prelude : From A Great Temple
2. Sacred Dance (Invocation)
3. The Book Of Shadows
4. Affirmation
5. The Magus
6. Hymn For A New Millenium
7. Journey Of The Magicians
8. Mythic Etude
9. Postlude : Prayers And Enchantment

NIYAZ

NIYAZ
NINE HEAVENS (2008)
320 KBPS

On their second outing, Niyaz are even more specific about what they're doing in both acoustic and electronic music. Their sound draws on traditional Turkish music, as exemplified by "Beni Beni," and music inspired by Iranian folk songs. By using two discs, one consisting of acoustic and the other of electronic versions of the same material, they really illustrate their approach. But what's most interesting is how subtle their electronic process is. It's still powered by percussion, like the acoustic versions, and voice and instruments still take center stage, but the careful programming and mixing provide for a changed atmosphere. In many cases the electronic tracks are not any more contemporary than their acoustic counterparts, but just different, offering a new perspective on the sound. There's a lot of rootedness in the music, and they use drones effectively, as well as lots of percussion around the simple melodies, with the basic trio filled out by guest musicians who are used judiciously. Singer Azam Ali is stunning throughout, a gentle powerhouse who acts as the glue to hold it all together. In fact, this is more than just an interesting release; it's an important way forward for Middle Eastern music.

Disc 1
1. Beni Beni
2. Tamana
3. Feraghi - Song of Exile
4. Ishq - Love and the Veil
5. Allah Mazare
6. Iman
7. Molk-E-Divan
8. Hejran
9. Sadrang

Disc 2
Acoustic Versions
1. Allah Mazare
2. Beni Beni
3. Sadrang
4. Tamana
5. Feraghi - Song of Exile
6. Hejran
7. Ishq - Love and the Veil
8. Molk-E-Divan

I'M FROM BARCELONA

I'M FROM BARCELONA
WHO KILLED HARRY HOUDINI? (2008)
320 KBPS

I'm from Barcelona's first album was called Let Me Introduce My Friends; the follow-up could be titled Let Me Introduce My Melancholy Friends. If the debut was giddy, innocent, and lighter than air, Who Killed Harry Houdini? is glum, confused, and troubled. Instead of songs about stamp collecting and the joys of making music, you get "Music Almost Killed Me" and "Ophelia," which has the telling lyric "He didn't believe in anything/He didn't believe in joy." Instead of cheerful songs about oversleeping and chicken pox, heavy stuff like death and ghosts and tears dominate the lyrics. The band's leader, Emanuel Lundgren, has either had some rough times since the first album or is a very good actor, as the songs reflect a tortured soul. All throughout the record there's an overcast and moody feel that even the poppiest, peppiest song, "Paper Planes," can't break through (and it doesn't help that the song is about the dehumanizing effects of city living). Just knowing that the album isn't the pure blast of sunshine that the debut was might be enough to turn off the group's fans in dispirited droves. Hopefully that won't happen, because it turns out that the band does melancholy quite well, using dynamics and pacing to keep things from getting too gloomy and giving the most depressed songs the liveliest backing — the rocked-out "Houdini" or the hooky-as-anything-on-the-first-album "Mingus," for example. And there is some hope among the teardrops and sighs, like "Mingus"' rallying cry "In my heart still a kid" or a song about the power of music to free you from your troubles for a while ("Headphones"). It helps too that Lundgren's producing and arranging skills have grown; the production is clearer and the arrangements show a lighter touch. He doesn't call in the vocal choruses on every song, and instead picks their spots carefully. The instrumentation is also more restrained; there are large stretches of sparseness within the songs, fitting the somber mood of the lyrics perfectly. It's still a unique sound when the whole band gets together and makes a lovely racket (as on "Rufus" or the very Phil Spector-ish "Andy"), but the gimmick of the huge band can't hide the fact that there is some real stuff going on behind the scenes. All the emotion and soulful melancholy on display is a shock, and it may take a few spins to get past the feeling that the band is just too different from the happy-go-lucky souls who made Let Me Introduce My Friends, that they are now too gloomy to be enjoyed any longer. But if you give Who Killed Harry Houdini? a serious listen and can get past the initial surprise and mild disappointment, the quiet beauty of the songs, the tender performances, and the beaten down but not broken soul of Emanuel Lundgren are enough to break your heart.

1. Andy
2. Paper Planes
3. Headphones
4. Music Killed Me
5. Gunhild (Featuring SoKo)
6. Mingus
7. Ophelia
8. Houdini
9. Little Ghost
10. Rufus

ANI DIFRANCO

ANI DIFRANCO
RED LETTER YEAR (2008)
320 KBPS

Ani DiFranco's Red Letter Year is, upon first listen, a shock to the ears. It's easily the most lush and elegantly recorded album of the 18 studio offerings she's created thus far. There are precedents in her catalog for music that resembles this: songs with full arrangements and more complex textures and melodies to be sure, but as an album, Red Letter Year stands out clearly in the same way Dilate and Little Plastic Castles did when they were released. Part of the reason for these new musical directions is perhaps her relocation to New Orleans from Buffalo and the building of her own studio there with producer and life partner Mike Napolitano. Another undeniable dimension here is motherhood. DiFranco is not given to giddy sentiment, but the presence of new life is obvious here. Her guests are wildly varied: a string quartet that boasts violinist Jenny Scheinman, guitarist C.C. Adcock, and the Rebirth Brass Band. DiFranco's now trademark style of rhythmic acoustic fingerpicking is largely absent, but it's not missed. It appears selectively on "Present/Infant," "Star Matter," and "The Atom." The album-opening title track is a beautiful hint of what's to come, its slippery horns, Todd Sickafoose's sparse but percussive bassline, and Mike Dillon's marimba pointing the various directions the tune takes from angular pop song to elegiac requiem. The song, in typical DiFranco fashion, wraps up personal reminiscences with political thought, from New Year's Eve dropping mushrooms to a man with a monkey for a face representing the white race while flying over in a helicopter. "Alla This" is a melodically complex anthemic statement of resistance and purpose; the strings are particularly effective playing repetitive phrases, heightening tension and dynamics until Ani defuses them with her electric guitar. The tune is a squall but a deeply musical one, with a hint of a metal riff in the vamp at the beginning.
"Present/Infant" reclaims familiar ground with her acoustic, her plaintive-voiced narrative, and some gorgeous percussion work from Dillon's vibraphone and Allison Miller's killer breaks on the drum kit. The hand percussion on "Smiling Underneath" is a beautifully unsentimental way to execute a love song. In essence, the set feels more like a very sophisticated song cycle, and very much an album. The sophisticated arrangements treat DiFranco's voice as another instrument in the mix, but her lyrics come through with perhaps even more force and power as a result. Other notable cuts are the electronic New Orleans funk clash in "Emancipated Minor," the angular "Good Luck," and the jazzy trio on "Round a Pole," featuring DiFranco on Wurlitzer and a skeletal synth, Sickafoose on upright bass, and Miller's painterly brushwork. Ultimately, Red Letter Year is simply more proof that this prolific artist is no less creative and innovative for being so. On the one hand, she is a long way from the folkie in punk's clothing who recorded her self-titled debut and Not So Soft armed with only her acoustic guitar. On the other, this album contains the sum total of the persona that she has consistently and stubbornly given expression to all the while. Red Letter Year will immediately resonate with fans, but it's time for those who either got off the boat or never got it to take another listen. It is among DiFranco's best records, and along with Sam Phillips' Don't Do Anything, one of the only singer/songwriter albums to really push the envelope in new directions in 2008.

1. Red Letter Year
2. All This
3. Present Infant
4. Smiling Underneath
5. Way Tight
6. Emancipated Minor
7. Good Luck
8. Atom
9. Round a Pole
10. Landing Gear
11. Star Matter
12. Red Letter Year Reprise

BECK

BECK
ODELAY (1996)
320 KBPS

Unlike Stereopathetic Soul Manure and One Foot in the Grave, the indie albums that followed his debut Mellow Gold by a mere matter of months, Odelay was a full-fledged, full-bodied album, released on a major label in the summer of 1996 and bearing an intricate, meticulous production by the Dust Brothers in their first gig since the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. Odelay shared a similar collage structure to that 1989 masterpiece, relying on a blend of found sounds and samples, but instead of lending the album its primary colors, the Dust Brothers provided the accents, highlighting Beck's ever-changing sounds, tying together his stylistic shifts, making the leaps from the dirge-blues of "Jack-Ass" to the hazy party rock of "Where's It's At" seem not so great. Like Mellow Gold, Odelay winds up touching on a number of disparate strands — folk and country, grungy garage rock, stiff-boned electro, louche exotica, old-school rap, touches of noise rock — but there's no break-neck snap between sensibilities, everything flows smoothly, the dense sounds suggesting that the songs are a bit more complicated than they actually are. Most of the songs here betray Beck's roots as an anti-folk singer — he reworks blues structures ("Devil's Haircut"), country ("Lord Only Knows," "Sissyneck"), soul ("Hotwax"), folk ("Ramshackle") and rap ("High 5 [Rock the Catskills]," "Where It's At") — but each track twists conventions, either in their construction or presentation, giving this a vibrant, electric pulse, surprising in its form and attack. Like a mosaic, all the details add up to a picture greater than its parts, so while some of Beck's best songs are here, Odelay is best appreciated as a recorded whole, with each layered sample enhancing the allusion that came before.

1. Devils Haircut
2. Hotwax
3. Lord Only Knows
4. New Pollution
5. Derelict
6. Novacane
7. Jack-Ass
8. Where It's At
9. Minus
10. Sissyneck
11. Readymade
12. High 5 (Rock the Catskills)
13. Ramshackle
14. Diskobox

Monday, March 22, 2010

STEVE CROPPER & FELIX CAVALIERE

STEVE CROPPER & FELIX CAVALIERE
NUDGE IT UP A NOTCH (2008)
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Nudge It Up a Notch is a collaborative effort by Booker T. & the MG's/ Blues Brothers guitarist and songwriter Steve Cropper and former Rascals organist, songwriter, and frontman Felix Cavaliere. It was recorded at Jon Tiven's Hormone Studio in Nashville, and released on Stax. This trio co-wrote most all of the tunes together, then hired the great drummer Chester Thompson (who else do you know who could play drums with Frank Zappa, Genesis, and Frank Black?) and his pal, former Impressions bassist and musical director Sammy Louis "Shake" Anderson. Backing vocalists Mark Williams and N'nandi Bryant round out the band. David Z. mixed the sessions, which were co-produced by Cropper, Cavaliere, and Tiven.
So what's it sound like? It sounds like Felix Cavaliere fronting a completely killer Southern soul band! Their musical structures come from timeless sources of blues, R&B, gospel, and modern funky reggae. The opening cut, a steamy, gritty broken love song, simply choogles its way along a simple breakbeat-driven vamp in a minor key. Cavaliere's voice hasn't lost one iota of its range or its expressiveness since the Rascals disbanded 35 years ago. Here he offers a sultry, emotionally wrought call and response with his chorus. Cropper offers stunning blues fills and a solo above the B-3 and rhythm section. The tune is a signature in a sense, because the tunes themselves are solid, beautifully written, and smartly arranged. But it's not only the cookers that come off this way — check the very next track, "If It Wasn't for Loving You," which nods to "My Girl" for its verse melody, but it's pure Cavaliere in the tag before the chorus. It's a ballad with near doo wop backing vocals and Cropper doing his slippery chord riffs to center the tune. The bassline is a tight stroll along the snare line, and Cavaliere's organ soars above the top. The instrumentals come off seamlessly as well. Check the nocturnal gritty soul-blues shuffle of "Full Moon Tonight" for proof. Cropper gets to let the high strings cut and slither. The reverbed backing chords are all played in shimmering tension as Cavaliere and the rhythm section bubble and pop underneath.
Despite each of these songs being a gem, some production elements in the sound — in a couple of places — are a tad strange: on "Impossible" the seemingly looped tablas pull the listener's attention a bit from Cavaliere's gorgeous vocal. The hard funky loops and rap in "Making the Time Go Faster" would have been better served without a synth and using organic hand percussion on top of Thompson's breaks. "Jamaica Delight," a Caribbean-flavored instrumental, has slightly cheesy keyboards, but the tune works anyway because of Cropper's razored guitar inventions. Yet these are minor quibbles — this album is so groove-laden and loaded with honest, uncontrived songs that minor flubs hardly matter. Just before the record's end, "Imperfect World" uses a dubby, modern reggae cum R&B confection that's so infectious, lean, and punchy that it could make the Police turn green with envy. Nudge It Up a Notch is a top-flight collaborative effort by a veritable soul supergroup that is vital and astonishingly creative, and offers plenty of proof that soul music is very much alive as a force of 21st century musical expression. This set is one of the great surprises of 2008, and further evidence of Concord's genuine commitment to the revamped Stax imprint.

1. One of Those Days
2. If It Wasn't for Loving You
3. Without You
4. Full Moon Tonight
5. To Make It Right
6. Impossible
7. Still Be Loving You
8. Cuttin' It Close
9. Make the Time Go Faster
10. Jamaica Delight
11. Imperfect World
12. Love Appetite