e a r p e a c e : audio reviews
beowulf scantron test
john cale/tony conrad/angus maclise/la monte young/marian zazeela
captain beefheart and the magic band
crosby, stills, nash & young
egypt is the magick #
olivia tremor control
the red krayola
hound dog taylor and the houserockers
vas deferens organization
- autechre ep7 (nothing)
this duo of rob brown and sean booth, from manchester, u.k., have been making some of what i find to be the most interesting techno sounds for several years now. there is rhythm, but it is atypical of dance music. the sounds clatter, chime, creak, ring, buzz…changing in a steady movement towards musical evolution. i found this one used, and liked it so much that i have subsequently been tracking down previous releases, dating back to 1993's incunabula. there is nothing i could call conventional here. i find the forms revealed to be interesting to listen to and contemplate. And i have yet to even delve into the plethora of remixes and alternate identities (such as gescom) used by this pair. fascinating stuff.
- beowulf scantron test beowulf scantron test (soviet records)
thanx to richard bowser for recommending this local kalamazoo band. found this one cheap at flipside records, also in kalamazoo, along with a 4 song 7". there is an obvious debt to pavement in the songs and somewhat in the vocals, at least in the first tracks. . they do have a nice initial latter-day pop-punk feel to them, tho, they get more complex than that as the cd goes along. i often pause by this one as i peruse my cd shelves and consider the pleasant guitar textures. the production touches are well implemented. very low-key, in a robert wyatt kinda way. they do have a mysterious, savage republic-y air of menace and mystery happening. according to the aforementioned mr. bowser, the lineup consists of 3 guitars and the drummer. there is a lot more on this cd than the credits indicate, lots of interesting juxtapositions in the combinations of instruments and murmured vocals. i would certainly like to hear more. good to know that one of my former adoptive hometowns is still producing worthwhile young bands.
(late note- i hear they have broken up this past summer…rip)
- john cale/tony conrad/angus maclise/la monte young/marian zazeela inside the dream syndicate volume 1: day of niagara (1965) (table of the elements)
there has been a very long-running dispute over ownership of the dream syndicate tapes, for a small sampling of the debate check the details section of the www.tableoftheelements.com site. this is the original minimal primordial drone, from here sprang the velvet underground, tony conrad's work as well as that of la monte young's theater of eternal music. it is apparent that the source recordings do not capture what must have been a heavenly din of hellish proportions. the instruments are violin, viola, percussion and male and female vox. definitely a coup for one of the most interesting labels in america, table of the elements. and to hell with la monte young's intellectual property rights.
- captain beefheart and the magic band 'merseytrout' live in liverpool 1980 (ozit-morpheus)
document from the tour to support the magnificent doc at the radar station record. with don van vliet debilitated and unwilling to return to music in any case, this is a dream come true. i just hope some of the scratch made from sales of this gem are making it to don and adding to the quality of his life. for the intense reward afforded to the listener to the captain beefheart recordings, he deserves that, at least. for those who are not familiar with the work of this man and his various magic bands, i would say that this is the blues gone dada modern, not replicating some faux-mississippean myth-song, but instead digging down into the marrow of the protean inspiration, the miscreant reservoirs of spiritual dismay. and the use of guitars is among the most interesting ever heard. this is a soundboard recording, it doesn't sound like the descriptions i have heard of the old bootleg "god's golf ball" double ellpee. the band is hot, the captain is in rare form. a slam-dunk no-brainer recommendation without reservation.
- eugene chadbourne i talked to death in stereo (leo)
the deluge of releases from the ultra-prolific dr. chadbourne continues…this one is a jazz-oriented hodge-podge of sessions, without any obvious unifying connective thread. which sounds like a pretty-apt description of his guitar playing and song stylings. i am incessantly drawn to pick up the odds and ends of his recorded output which come into my grasp. the man is utterly original, seeing him live is inspiring, and sometimes when the magnetic fields line up just right…i get it…
(see previous eugene chadbourne reviews.)
- nels cline the inkling (cryptogramophone)
another jazz-inclined set. lots of variance and acoustic dynamics. one of my acquaintances was raving about the skills of carlos santana (who sux, by the way)…nels cline sprang to my mind as "the shit". listen close and the sensitivity and soul here will suck you in, and then the electric rush will kick you in the face and leave you on your ass, confounded. too bad so many people are willing to be spoon-fed the same chord progressions over and over…meanwhile they miss the amazing and transcendent magnificence of this work. this stuff has a freshness to the vitality and soulfulness it communicates.
(see review of nels cline trio sad from last issue.)
- crosby, stills, nash & young looking forward (reprise)
first off, i am a huge neil young mark, otherwise, i would have absolutely no interest in this platter. seems like neil succumbs to his urge to see if there is anything to this "american beatles" shinola some frozen-nosed geek foisted on the public long ago. so the beards go in the studio, rarely ever together, i will betcha...since they seem to hate each other so much that they destroyed an obvious cash cow for each of them. neil trots out a couple of middling songs that keep this disc in the majors...can stills or any of the rest even hold onto a recording contract? talk about a pisser, look at what happened to the guy (steve stills) who dominated the buffalo springfield, then sprung a couple of worthwhile songs thru his first solo records and the beginnings of the csn conglomerate. from there on the whole career thing went from bad to really bad to even worse. anyways, i guess my review would be a shout out to my main man neil young in my best sam kinison impression: "where are those damn neil young archives you keep promising...i'll even take a fuggin' buffalo springfield reunion over this shit...how about this instead...another bruce palmer solo record?"
- kevin drumm comedy (moikai)
his third solo release. some interesting details about the journey from recording to issuance can be found at the forced exposure site. i am still in awe of the sounds generated in his improvisations/compositions and the growth evidenced along the way. he also has a great track on the or some computer music cd "magazine", as well as some wonderful collaborations, including the werner defaldecker/christof kurzmann/christian fennesz improvised document on the charhizma label. this one begins and ends with some immense organ drones which sound like huge metallic barriers…must be heard loud. inbetween are more of his patented scraping, manually manipulated electro-acoustic works. miss it at your own chagrin.
(see previous reviews of kevin drumm and second.)
- egypt is the magick # how many pieces of the puzzle can the mind go without? (sound @ one)
allegedly a collaboration of adam mortimer, dave shuford and other no neck blues band peoples, (see the no neck blues band review from last issue) this cd has been a happening buzz all summer. perhaps a little less abstract than nnck, this crew does weigh in with some serious damage. i am a bit at a loss how to describe this music...rock based, with elements of free jazz, psychedelia, folk, definitely using some bent art-justification...i guess you will just have to listen and make a determination yourself. i find it to be of a kindred nature to some of the other "out" and experimental song-form destroying musiks out there...like vas deferens organization (also see review from second issue), for instance. there is a kind of southern rock feel, tho twisted and distorted, that i perceived...obviously it confuses me...but i like that...
- einstürzende neubauten silence is sexy (mute)
i remember seeing them play at the greystone in 1986...then their logo tattooed on the shoulders of the black-dressed youth in the art-damaged eighties. a reputation earned while defining the industrial-noise genre (along with test department). they break up, without realizing my prognostications of elvis beatle-hood. then recombine, to forge a career of greater sublety since tabula rasa, well described in the title to this one. silence is sexy and the art is good, while the damage brings feeling and appreciation for the skills and luck that wends on its way to survival, somewhat intact.
- john fahey hitomi (livhouse)
fifth long-player (not counting the tremendous double 7-inch the mill pond) of the turn-of-the century resumption stage "career" of the american primitive, fahey. his book, how bluegrass music destroyed my life, is in its third printing. his label, revenant rivals and works with table of the elements to bring quality innovative musics new and old to the fore. i have noticed how the johnfahey.com web site touts this one as a non-commercial setting for his work. but hell, i don't see where tim/kerr, thirsty ear or table of the elements could sway fahey out of doing what he wants...perhaps there are stories yet to be heard. from the liner notes to the epiphany of glenn jones, it sounded like he has no problem unsnarling his muse as he sees fit, when he feels like it...and if...this cd contains some fine solo guitar and a couple of tracks from a trio lineup. elongated, informed by over 40 years of living research and a cutting intellect. you don't question the vision, you just follow it where you can.
(link to review of georgia stomps, atlanta struts and other contemporary dance favorites.)
- fenno'berg the magic sound of fenno'berg (mego)
the long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated collaboration of the ubiquitous jim o'rourke, christian fennesz and peter rehberg, performing music improvised using powerbooks. that is right, played on computers. there have been tours of this ensemble, playing clubs with the culprits sitting in the back of the room, filling the space with billowing sheets of sound...wish i had the good fortune to catch one of those shows. but we do have this cd by this group, who originally went by the sobriquet horst und snail mit markus. there are parts of this that i have slow-danced with young ladies to...parts that will surely antagonize those near and dear to you as well. this is modern music. sampled bits and phrases waft and flow by like clouds of debris. there is an utter embracing of the digital tek. there is nothing so predictable as beat. but there is rhythm. it is sharp, beautiful, evocative...and original. bonus for the wonderful packaging as well. may i never see another jewel case again...
(follow this link to read a review of "eureka" cd by jim o'rourke.)
- olivia tremor control presents singles and beyond (emperor norton)
veterans of the elephant 6 collective, alter-egos of the ultra-experimental black swan network, otc presents a dizzying contrast of pop songs filtered thru a ream of augmented production tactics and trickery. i can't help but think of the beatles, not the love-'em-or-hate-'em moptops, but the perversely exploratory and optimistically challenging world's greatest band they became at the height of their powers. most otc releases are mired in difficulty due to the scope and length of the undertaking, which overwhelms the pop instincts and the audiences attention span. here, by collecting various tracks from eps, compilations, split singles and cassettes, the tracks are harnessed into shorter forms. this one keeps finding its way back into my player for more turns.
- the red krayola blues, hollers and hellos (drag city)
thanx to rian from drag city for sending this...i am still dealing with this 41 minute, 6 song cd-ep, trying to absorb and assimilate it at some level. it is certainly referent to blues forms, sometimes by melodic phrases, more so in the space around the guitar and drums core. no personnel are listed, tho the accompanying promo sheet credits christopher williams for the cover art. my best educated guess would be that joining mayo thompson are george hurley on drums (could be john mcintyre, but sounds like the former minutemen drummer to me), david grubbs as musical director-guitar (a safe bet, since grubbs is co-billed on the tour dates announced thus far), tom watson guitar-ringer (hasn't missed a krayola recording in a few years) and longtime co-conspirator albert oehlen on synthesizer/electronic percussion/noises (see van oehlen review). the record starts out with the southern-referencing, languid guitars and drum exercises. extremely self-conscious, seems as tho the songwriting/recording process itself is being examined. this seems to continue the changes incorporated in fingerpainting, principally in the turning away from the collaborative voices and smoothly arranged songs of 1998's hazel. this one is cleaner-sounding than fingerpainting, which incorporated recordings done over the previous 30+ years. by the 3rd song, "is there?", the synth and electronic percussion begin to interpose themselves. some of the sounds recall 1989's malefactor, ade (recently reissued on drag city), while others bring to mind a techno record playing in the next room, with only tenuous connections to the guitars and vox. the work here is evocative of notes on the making of a new red krayola record. i am enjoying contemplating the riddle of the pieces of this puzzle.
(see previous the red krayola reviews, mobius/plank/thompson ludwig's law review and discography.)
- patti smith gung ho (arista)
with its pictures of ho chi minh paraphenalia and repeated references to viet nam, patti smith pulls no punches as to where her sympathies lie. i feel we are fortunate to have access to the series of mature works that continue to make available her voice and vision. there has been an absence of stridency, after all, what would she have to prove to anyone? we have a chance to pull up a seat and share an intimate recitation and ceremonial invocation of the forces which pass thru her scope. with the revisionist histories which have been in vogue since the eighties, it is so comforting to see that a radical can tour the forbidden exhibits of dusty ideals, and remind us of the art left behind.
- sonic youth goodbye 20th century (syr)
sonic youth nyc ghosts & flowers (geffen)
goodbye 20th century is an awesome collection of late 20th century works by composers outside the band, such as john cage, christian wolff, steve reich and cornelius cardew. thurston moore and kim gordon's daughter performs a 1961 yoko ono fluxus-era piece. there is enhanced cd video of the george manciunas piece where nails are pounded into the keyboard of a piano. very conceptually-oriented, providing a backdrop to the foundations of the work of sonic youth. a host of outsiders participate, including jim o'rourke, christian marclay and takehisa kosugi. an essential document.
nyc ghosts & flowers is the latest major-label product by the band. it has strengths, in the vein of a thousand leaves, but its inspirations somehow do not run as deep or sound so committed as the syr 2cd. jim o'rourke continues his auxilliary involvement, which has continued with him playing with the band on their recent tour. i guess this is not bad, as long as enough thousands of people buy this so that they can continue to do their fascinating exploratory and experimental off-label works. guess which of these i am listening to?
- hound dog taylor and the houserockers deluxe edition (alligator)
excellent reissue/collection with unreleased material from the alligator vaults. here is the instrumental approach co-opted by george thorogood and popularized without owning up to the source. the hound dog and friends use cheap guitars, menacing slide and real-life gutty blues to create the sound, which the cognoscenti know, but the masses only hear in the weaker second-hand reflection. get it. the end.
- rafael toral aeriola frequency (perdition plastics)
rafael toral sound mind sound body (moikai)
aeriola frequency is one of two newer releases (the other, cyclorama lift 3, is on the german tom label) dealing with feedback loops using 2 delays and a parametric equalizer. remarkably similar to his extended minimalist drone guitar music. also recalls vintage eno, in that the sounds do not lend themselves to direct focus. they hang around on the periphery of your awareness, rising and falling miniature currents of tonality. an intriguing exercise, and one that makes me wonder what will come next.
sound mind sound body is a reissue of toral's 1994 solo release on the portuguese ananana label. it consists of very ear-friendly guitar drones which fit together in a soothing and relaxing style. not the meisterwerk that wave field was, but an exploratory interlude, a foreshadowing of the creative mind beginning to play. now if only they will reissue some of the no noise reduction (toral's duo project with paulo feliciano).
- van oehlen we are eggsperienced (blue chopsticks)
my interest in this one was due to the red krayola connections; albert oehlen has long been considered a synth wiz extraordinaire, as well as visual artist, wordsmith and remixer (as...shhhh...don't tell anyone...wendy gondeln) and markus oehlen is known as the drummer for "legendary german punk band" (according to forced exposure) mittagspause. mayo thompson and tom watson drop by for three songs (see the red krayola review), as well as rüdiger carl and schorsch kamerun (frontman for goldenen zitronen). name-dropping aside, this is a playful askew effort that references "new stream" jazz (tony williams' emergency is covered). only for the hardcore krayolai and krautrock afficianados.
- vas deferens organization queas and art (eerie materials)
i have found vdo to be the most interesting and prolific of the 90s texas psyche crop. on this one, they revisit their tapes 1-5 series from 1992-95. as mentioned above in the egypt is the magic # review, i see a continuum with the nnck axis "out" music projects, in that sounds are explored in a panoramic manner, rather than organized as songs. there are overtly psychedelic graphic and sound references, but there is nothing even remotely retro herein. these are sounds to be immersed in, and when you emerge, you do not want to shower off. tho something does smell strange, and everything is very sticky. recommended only if you dare to flirt with madness.
(also see review of sweat your cheeses, but not in my salad from second issue.)
b . w i l d e r e d
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