Monthly Archives: August 2010

Greg Ashley – Requiem Mass and Other Experiments

January 01, 1970



Ashley’s day job finds him playing guitar with a group called Gris Gris, but
whatever individual fame he’s acquired up until now probably has more to do
with the title bestowed on his last solo opus, 2007’s Medicine Fuck Dream. Unfortunately, that’s somewhat deceiving. With
the more studiously dubbed Requiem Mass
and Other Experiments
, Ashley shows he’s more academic than insurgent, as
evidenced by nine selections conceived from both classical and avant-garde
motifs. Despite only subtle shifts to distinguish these dirge-like
instrumentals, Ashley studiously melds his ample guitar skills to the
accompaniment afforded by cello, violin and a small brass ensemble, creating an
imaginary experimental soundtrack in the process.


it’s the four-part “Requiem Mass” suite that dominates the proceedings, but
given its somber tones, it’s likely only a one-time listen. “Symmetric
Jugging,” with its ponderous rhythms and fluid, freeform core, is more
intriguing, as is the appropriately oriental/abstract symmetry of “Chinese New
Year.”  Unfortunately, however, as a
whole, Requiem Mass and Other Experiments yields only mixed results. An album that suggests serious intentions, it never
quite attains the artistic transcendence it aspires to.


DOWNLOAD: “Symmetric Jugging,” “Chinese




Jesu – Pale Sketches: Demixed

January 01, 1970

(Ghostly International)


In the past, Justin K. Broadrick tore our faces off,
delightfully, with his electronic-industrial bands Godflesh and Jesu, among
many others. Being pummeled by layers of distorted guitars and machine-gun
snare hits never felt so good. Now, Broadrick is revisiting his 2007 Jesu
release, Pale Sketches, with a remix album of songs that would sound
right at home on an M83 release.


If recent Jesu releases can be considered indicators, the slow,
ambient, shoe-gazer sounds of these remixes should come as no surprise to
Broadrick’s fans. The melodic ambience of “Can I Go Now (Gone Version)” is just
a step away from the mood and tone of his recent work, which happens to sound
just as good at 80 bpm as it does at 120 bpm. “Wash It All Away (Cleansed Dub)”
would fit in well in a Kruder and Dorfmeister set, as bass rolls in under
lightly struck synth chords and a skittering drum beat.


At times the music becomes repetitive and perhaps overly
languid, leaving one wishing for an injection of verve, a burst of distorted
squalor. But make no mistake, this isn’t exactly VW commercial music. There’s
still an edge here, an underlying sinister, creeping dread that Broadrick seems
to revel in. And that’s what makes this remix album worth repeated listens.


It All Away (Cleansed Dub),” “Supple Hope (2009 Mix)” JONAH FLICKER



Soft Machine – NDR Jazz Workshop: Hamburg, Germany, May 17, 1973 (CD+DVD)

January 01, 1970



When one speaks of the Soft Machine, it’s understandable to associate the name
of this venerated avant-rock band of England’s psychedelic Canterbury movement
with that of its prolific former members of its first lineup: Kevin Ayers,
Robert Wyatt and Gong guru Daevid Allen.
However, the one original member
from the group who deserves the most kudos is keyboardist Mike Ratledge, who
served in its ranks the longest and saw the band evolve from its whimsical acid-pop
beginnings up through its strong presence as a jazz-fusion outfit before
eventually leaving the ranks on the band’s ten-year anniversary in 1976.


However, by 1973, Ratledge was the sole survivor of not only
the initial 1966 squad, but the classic quartet who created the Soft Machine’s
1970 instrumental masterpiece Third rounded
out by Wyatt, saxophonist Elton Dean and bassist Hugh Hopper as well. Yet
Ratledge kept calm and carried on with an able-bodied ensemble of expats from
the celebrated British prog-jazz group Nucleus (led by legendary UK reedist Ian
Carr): drummer John Marshall, saxophonist Karl Jenkins and bassist Roy
Babbington. Together, this lineup recorded Seven,
perhaps the most underrated of all the Soft Machine albums and one that found
the group veering into Weather Report/Return to Forever territory with seamless
aplomb. But prior to that LP’s release in 1974, this Nucleus-heavy version of
Soft Machine would perform a four-set concert in the spring of ’73 for an NDR
Jazz Workshop presentation that aired on German television, a show that would include
such guests sitting in as renowned English jazz saxophonist Art Themen, guitarist
Gary Boyle of the British fusion group Isotope and a returning Hugh Hopper, who
joined the band to perform “1983”, the last composition he wrote for Soft


For years, the audio and video of this performance have been
amongst the most sought-after artifacts in the group’s elite circle of fans and
appreciators. And now, thanks to Cuneiform Records (the Maryland-based indie
label who has been delivering us all things live and rare from the Soft Machine
archives since 1996), this NDR Jazz Workshop broadcast has been made officially
available as a CD/DVD package and stands tall as the most high-quality video
footage available of the group in all of its phases and stages. And, as a live
album, the audio on this beautiful two-disc set, complete with informative
liner notes and cool images of the performance, is definitely the loudest,
clearest and most pristine listening experience of this band in concert on the
market as well (though, unfortunately, “1983” does not appear on the compact
disc half).


Regardless of where you stand in the evolution of this
extraordinary alumnus from the UFO Club, if you are to be considered any kind
of Soft Machine fan worth his or her salt, do yourself a favor and add NDR Jazz Workshop: Hamburg, Germany, May 17,
to your library today.


DOWNLOAD: “Fanfare”,
“All White”, “Chloe and the Pirates”, “Riff II”, “1983” (DVD only) RON HART




Pearl – Little Immaculate White Fox

January 01, 1970

(White Fox


It should
come as no surprise that Ms. Pearl Aday, the stepdaughter of larger-than-life
rocker Meat Loaf (a/k/a Marvin Lee Aday), should approach the performances on her
debut album with the same sort of bombastic, almost operatic fervor as the bulk
of her stepfather’s songs. While Pearl has lent her big voice to a handful of
Meat Loaf albums since the mid-1990s, and moonlighted with folks like Motley
Crue and Ace Frehley, nothing could prepare the listener for the charm,
charisma, and, well…chutzpah that you’ll find on Little Immaculate White Fox.


album’s cover shows a partially-clad Ms. Pearl, wearing naught but a vest and
some beads and looking every bit her part as, indeed, a “little immaculate
white fox,” channeling her inner Janis in both attitude and appearance.
Much like the great Ms. Joplin, however, down in the grooves where it counts,
Pearl is less fox than wildcat, strangling every bit of energy from the lyrics
of each song while the guitar screams and soars behind her, and the rhythm
section delivers trainwreck chaos behind her.


Little Immaculate White Fox jumps the gate with
“Rock Child,” a rampaging semi-autobiographical scorched-earth hard
rocker with a twin guitar assault from husband Scott Ian (of Anthrax), and
Mother Superior/Rollins Band veteran Jim Wilson. With Devil Doll’s Matt Tecu
delivering hand-grenade drumbursts, “Rock Child” hits like an
earthquake followed by a tornado followed by a thunderstorm…and your ears are
the lonely lightning rod. Ditto for “Check Out Charlie,” which
features a guest appearance by Ted Nugent, the fretboard mangler brought in to
lively things up just in case Ian and Wilson don’t deliver enough six-string
pyrotechnics. Ol’ Ted may be a right-wing jackass and an outright blowhard, but
few guitarists can deliver the rumbling malevolence that he provides
“Check Out Charlie.”


tends to overreach at times…her voice doesn’t yet possess the pathos capable of
wrestling a ballad like “Mama” into submission…and the hard/soft
alternating tracklist sounds less contrived than that of an artist in search of
a sound. Pearl’s
only real stumble, however, is with the album’s cover of the Ike & Tina
Turner classic “Nutbush City Limits.” Scott Ian and Carl
“Nalle” Colt’s guitars sound more mechanical than organic, and lack
the slippery funk of Ike’s original fat groove. Pearl, too, overreaches badly
in trying to duel with Tina’s original vocals, which came at a time with the
Queen of Soul was at her creative peak; by comparison, Aday’s vox come across
as pale albeit powerful, more loud that proud, tho’ you have to give her credit
for trying to hurdle such a height in the first place.


The rest
of Little Immaculate White Fox sits
comfortably in semi-metallic hard rock turf, mixing up power-ballads like the
unusually subdued “My Heart Isn’t In It” with strutting,
guitar-driven slobberknockers like “Lovepyre” and the breakneck
“Whore,” which could easily pass for a 1970s-era classic rock tune,
save for the fuse-overloading fretwork. The album-closing, slow-paced
“Anything” features Alice In Chain’s Jerry Cantrell providing some
intricate and downright elegant guitar that rides beneath Pearl’s subtle vocals.


altogether, Little Immaculate White Fox is an encouraging debut that, while misfiring once or twice, nevertheless
introduces an exciting new talent to the rock ‘n’ roll world. A decent lyricist
and a powerhouse vocalist, once Pearl Aday finds sure footing in a creative
identity, she’s going to be a rock ‘n’ roll predator worth keeping an eye one….


DOWNLOAD: “Rock Child,” “Check Out
Charlie,” “Whore” REV. KEITH A. GORDON






ASC – Nothing Is Certain

January 01, 1970

(NonPlus+ Records)


While the man behind Nothing Is Certain is known for his drum ‘n’ bass production, those who
are familiar with James “ASC” Clements’ work likely consume it for
its broad-spanning, heavily atmospheric appeal – this is not the d’n’b your
friends have told you about. Nothing Is Certain combines various rhythmic patterns and divergent
textures for mysterious, dense results. Clements weaves in dubstep influences,
deep and reverberating drum sounds, and midtempo techno to get the distinct
compositions that characterize his debut full-length for NonPlus+, the
London-based label run by likeminded techno/d’n’b producers Instra:mental.


“Opus” is aptly identified toward the close
of Nothing
Is Certain
. It features
experimental dubstep producer/Clements’ wife Vaccine, and its crisp snare shots
and glassy synths pair nicely with powerful countermelodies and airy swirls
padding the track’s busy percussive end. “Opus” is layered and
rhythmically propulsive, with a sporadic vocal materializing to haunting
effect. This is how vocals are used on Nothing throughout-they’re little more than fragments,
augmented with delay, and then gradually disintegrating like cigarette smoke.
“Losing You” doesn’t move in the frustrating, angry manner that one
might suspect; Clements employs the same sampled vocal approach and a delicate
d’n’b framework on the percussion end. Synth chords rush to the fore at each
turn as they do for “The Depths,” with the producer adding minor bits
here and there for murkier effect, driving any sense of certainty far out of




Charlie Musselwhite – The Well

January 01, 1970



Unlike with rock, it’s practically a truism for the blues
that the players get better – more intuitive; nuanced; intense, even – with age.
Here to drive that notion home is veteran harp blower Charlie Musselwhite,
Mississippi-born/Southside Chicago-spawned, making a prodigal return to the
venerable Alligator label with a platter so silky-stanky and steamin’ that it oughta be classified as
an enemy of the state – the state of musical complacency, that is.


Backed by players from the Blasters, Hacienda Brothers and
Mavis Staples’ band, Musselwhite dips deep to come up with down ‘n’ dirty
choogle (“Rambler’s Blues”), slow and sinewy 12-bar blues (“Where Hwy 61 Runs,”
in which his confessional vocal is as weatherbeaten as his harmonica is
mournful), and nocturnal swamp-rock (“Hoodoo Queen,” an edgy cross between Dr.
John and Tony Joe White). There’s also a delightful duet with Staples herself,
the cautionary “Sad and Beautiful World.” At 66, Musselwhite’s seen and done a
lot; this opens up a whole new chapter. He may technically qualify as “senior
citizen,” but elder statesman is far
more apt a title.


Queen,” “Where Hwy 61 Runs” FRED MILLS


Matthew Dear – Black City

January 01, 1970

(Ghostly International)


So many Matthew Dears to choose from since in his time in
the (mostly instrumental) sunshine of edgy electronic music. Big techno, teensy
microhouse, muddled ambient(t) soundscapes, chipper vocal tech-pop a la
Cale/Eno’s Wrong Way Up – under his
name or some nom de plume – all fell under Dear’s jaggedly forward thinking domain
since his start.


Black City marks a change in that it backs away from the sun and sounds a bleak call for
industrial (albeit occasionally danceable) morass. Mostly dark and steely,
corrosively crusty tracks like “You Put a Smell on Me” move with a fist-fucked
seedy (yet sultry) vibe that an unholy combining of NIN and Depeche Mode
might’ve had if both outfits weren’t truly twee pussies. Dear doesn’t quite
round the corner toward Foetus country – the simmering sex soul of “Honey” and
some of Dear’s odd lyrical triple entendres – but he’s that close.


By the time Dear drives through his bleak mechanistic City with its gear-grinding grooves and
dirt-ball noise, he hits an intersection and finds himself back at the lush
even beautiful Eno-pop of “Gem” – a near-epic that’s as sad and yearning as the
rest of the album is salacious.



People (Black City),” “Honey”     “You
Put a Smell on Me” A.D. AMOROSI


Dead Confederate – Sugar

January 01, 1970

(TAO/Old Flame


2008s debut Wrecking Ball introduced the masses to Dead
Confederate’s addictive single “The Rat” and their sonic throwback to grunge
laced with country influence. With follow-up album Sugar, the quintet continues to bask in their usual dark glow; and,
after the initial listen the drone of the fuzzed out guitars melds into one
homogeneous sound. However, after several reviews of the tracks, a few stand
out from the pool thanks to Hardy Morris’ entrancing, falsetto voice.


For instance, single
“Giving It All Away.” The track swims above the habitual muddy sound with
plucky electric guitars, and hypnotic drumming while numbers like “Quiet Kid,” and
“By Design” draw you in with their hooks. Dead Confederate’s Sugar proves to have a revolving door
effect, though some tracks exhibit the usage of the same equation, you return
for yet another listen…then another. It’s mesmerizing.


DOWNLOAD: “Quiet Kid,” “By Design” APRIL S. ENGRAM




Philip Selway – Familial

January 01, 1970



Having spent the last 20 years playing drums in Radiohead, you’d
think the solo debut of Philip Selway would be a Squarepushing orgy of rhythm
that would make The Eraser sound like
Coldplay. But in a surprising twist, Familial is a largely acoustic collection of tender, fragile pop songs written by Selway
in the wake of his mum’s passing. These ten tracks find the drummer-with spare
accompaniment from friends Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone of Wilco, former Soul
Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg and Lisa Germano-possessing a fine singing
voice as delicate as Ron Sexsmith’s, exemplified on such gorgeous ballads as “A
Simple Life” and “Falling.”


However, save for a few mild digital flourishes on a handful
of tunes, fans of Radiohead might be disappointed by the coffeehouse nature of Familial, not unlike the way longtime Genesis
fans balked at the R&B stylings flexed by drummer Phil Collins on Face Value. Let’s just hope Mr. Selway’s
next solo venture isn’t the 21st century equivalent to Dance into the Light.


Miracle,” “Beyond Reason” RON HART


Arab Strap – The Week Never Starts Round Here; Philophobia

January 01, 1970

(Chemikal Underground)


There’s a proud tradition of confessional miserablism in
British music but, as these reissues of Arab Strap’s first two albums make
abundantly clear, no one did it quite like the now-defunct Scottish duo. Aidan
Moffat’s mumbled warts-and-all chronicles of a birds- and booze-centered life
are forensically observed, rich in wry, embarrassing psychological realism. That
unflinching realism and dark humor are the keys to Arab Strap’s uniqueness.
Artists with an especially strong, idiosyncratic lyrical component sometimes
pay less attention to their music, but Malcolm Middleton’s contributions are
crucial to the equation, fleshing out and amplifying the emotional register of
Moffat’s words and adding to the narrative dynamic.


These are generously endowed reissues, containing
contemporaneous John Peel sessions and live recordings from the time of each
original release: most bands would sooner forget their first public performance
but, typically, Arab Strap isn’t coy, actually including its 1996 debut on the
bonus disc accompanying Week.


Meanwhile, Philophobia comes with a 1998 festival set that finds the duo at the peak of its
powers, convincingly translating its often intimate, introspective sound to a
larger context. Moffat and Middleton were always far more than comedy
miserablists, their downbeat anthems for doomed youth offering an enduring and
refreshingly unsavory antidote to the more glossy, celebratory side of Britpop:
these albums are a testament to that.


First Big Weekend,” “New Birds” WILSON NEATE