Monthly Archives: October 2011

Evangelista – In Animal Tongue

January 01, 1970



Carla Bozulich has never been an easy listen. Over two
decades, the most accessible LP the former front-woman for 90s’ cult favorites
Ethyl Meatplow and The Geraldine Fibbers has made is a marvelously skewed
rendition of Willie Nelson’s The Red-Headed Stranger. Even the Fibbers’
most accessible work, Lost Somewhere
Between the Earth and My Home
, ravaged listeners with brutal aural assaults
after lulling them in with twang-rock sections.


Her career in Evangelista – now the trio of Bozulich,
bassist Tara Barnes and keyboardist/sound manipulator Dominic Cramp –has been even
more challenging, as the singer/songwriter drags the blues-forms at the core of
her music further and further into the avant-garde. On Evangelista (2006) and Hello,
(2008), Bozulich blended quiet moments with explosions of rock-based
noise, pushing the contrasts forward like a deranged preacher. Here, the nine
tracks smolder without combusting, creating a tension-filled atmosphere of sinister
textures over which Bozulich creaks and moans tales of sexual obsession and
madness. It’s certainly creepy, but not always effective.


Guitars are mostly an afterthought here, though guests Nels
Cline, Sam Mickens and Shahzad Ismaily all play them at one point or another –
almost always in a support role, though. Instead, the songs are mostly built on
strange and skeletal contrabass melodies, with hazy synth textures or muffled
percussion adding to the tension. With little resembling traditional song
structures, the formats quickly unsettle.


But it’s Bozulich’s voice – a blend of Thalia Zedek’s
smoke-ravaged growl and PJ Harvey’s desperate whisper — that really controls
the tenor of the songs. On opener “Artificial Limb,” over Mickens’ insistent guitar
strums and some synth-bass rumbles, her cracked and quivering vocals seem on
the verge of breaking into moon-baying howls throughout. Her vocals are so
sexual on “Black Jesus” that genuflection becomes an erotic act (“get down on
your knees, baby,” she snarls), and over beautifully bowed bass lines on “Bells
Rings Fire,” Bozulich’s smoldering choruses – “I can hear the bells ring fire/I
can hear the bells ringing in my head” – read like the last semi-coherent
thoughts of a madwoman.


There’s something elemental going on here, as though
Bozulich were trying to conjure up something ancient and primal – and then kill
it. With its lumbering pace, muffled gourds-percussion and wheezing organ, the
title track finds Bozulich chanting more than singing as though in ancient ritual;
on “Die Alone,” over jazz-flavored bass and vibes whose queer melody undercut
the instrument’s charm, processed Native American-like chants contrast with
verses that equate lost-love with death, closing the record’s thematic circle.


This isn’t always a pleasant path to navigate, and there are
several moments when you wish musical fire – a grand crescendo, an explosion of
feedback, even a full-blown chorus — would ignite for catharsis of some kind.
But the only moment really resembling one is the final track, “Hatching.”
Unfortunately, its noise and chaos is built around the first appearance of any
drums; by putting them at the center of the song the contrast with what’s come
before is more jarring than cathartic. In the end, though there are sublime
moments on In Animal Tongue, the
language of these insular and dark songs does not always translate well.


Ring Fire, Hands of Leather – JOHN SCHACHT

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

January 01, 1970



Ever since Tom Waits dropped
the jazz-bo Small
piano man routine, his work has become a cheap carnival of souls
haunted by chain-rattling characters as brashly disturbing as his claustrophobic
arrangements and melancholy melodies.


Stones-y blues, Brechtian cabaret and Beefheart-ish
avant-workouts are so much a part of Waits’ tangle
that after this review we need not mention them again. They’re in Waits’ dog
house and wag their collective tail every time the master speaks brusquely.
Co-written and produced by his missus Kathleen Brennan, Waits’ songs – Bad as Me included – find their center
immediately and stick like a record’s skip. The insistent mess of percussive
banjo, oinking guitars and huffy harmonicas that is
“Chicago;” the wheezing organs, steel wool drums of “Raise Right Man; the
tinkling ghost piano and whammy bar’s bend on the softly spun “Talking at the
Same Time;” onto these Waits coughs and wheedles while espousing his delirious
gospel’s daily absolutions.


On “Raised Right”, he’s proud
to plead to extol the virtues of a good woman who can make a diamond from a
lump of coal while on “Same Time,” his freakish falsetto can be heard
politicizing about the rich getting richer and the poor getting bloodier. “Get
Lost” finds a vocally trembling Waits and company (which includes Keith
Richards and Les Claypool amongst other Waits stalwarts) re-imaging “96 Tears”
as a Suicide song.


Like every great Waits album,
there’s a softly Irish seasick shanty as heartbreaking as a Montgomery Clift glance and as melodic as any Sammy Kahn ballad – this
time it’s the perfect album closer “New Year’s Eve” which quotes “Auld Lang’s Syne” so seamlessly, it’s as if Waits penned it himself.



DOWNLOAD: “Back in the Crowd” “Bad as Me” “Kiss Me” A.D. AMOROSI

Various Artists – Johnny Boy Would Love This… A Tribute to John Martyn

January 01, 1970

(Hole in the Rain/Liaison Music)


John Martyn, the British singer-songwriter who died in 2009 after a
long career, continued the romantic, introspective folk/jazz hybrid that Tim
Buckley, Van Morrison and Pentangle had developed at the end of the 1960s. An
excellent guitarist, he also could write in the British folk tradition or rock
it up with echoplex, a tape-delay effect in his guitar’s amplifier.


He was revered in Britain – he (along with wife
Beverly) was part of the late-1960s/1970s Island Records
progressive-folk/folk-rock family that included Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and
Fairport Convention, Traffic, Jethro Tull, the Incredible String Band and more.
His musical sensibilities made him a hero to the trip-hop movement of the
1990s, as well as more recent freak-folkers. But he never was much more than an
acquired taste here in the States, maybe because his work was hard to
pigeonhole and because, sometimes, his folk-jazz could slip like mood music. (Read
more about Martyn at our
2010 profile
of the musician.)


Johnny Boy Would Love
This… A Tribute to John Martyn
(Hole in the Rain/Liaison Music), a deluxe
two-disc package featuring Martyn interpretations by 30 artists, attempts to
both honor him and introduce him to those unfamiliar. However, it’s primarily
for fans – the official release comes with a DVD and 40-page booklet. Many of
the artists are unfamiliar to a wide audience either because they’re new
(Sabrina Dinan) or are British folkies (Syd Kitchen, who himself died shortly
after recording “Fine Lines” for this project). There are enough big or
alt-rock names here to show the breadth of Martyn’s influence. But when you get
so many relatively unfamiliar artists on a tribute, you do begin to wonder
whether you’d be better off just listening to Martyn, himself, if you want an


On the plus side, the dreamy fluidity, undercut by
introspective melancholy, of Martyn’s best songs is especially well-suited for
David Gray, whose “Let the Good Things Come” has a fine vocal with a sensitive
arrangement that will have you noting Martyn’s influence on Elton John’s early
(and best) ballads. And the ethereal solemnity of Phil Collins’ album-closing
“Tearing and Breaking,” which has an overall feel similar to “In the Air Tonight,”
reminds us that Collins once did know how to get inside, way inside, a song
with substance, and still can if it means a lot to him. Maybe he should do his
own tribute album to Martyn. The a cappella ending is especially haunting.


It’s notable that the title tracks to four of Martyn’s
best-known albums all get strong readings. Beck displays a movingly sincere,
maturely informed voice for the gorgeously ominous “Stormbringer,” which
benefits from a spare arrangement that opens up for strings at key, dramatic
movements. This is chamber-folk, or folk-jazz, at its finest – and Beck really
rises to the occasion. Another American alt-rock icon, producer Butch Vig, has
put together the Emperors of Wyoming – featuring Fire Town’s Phil Davis on
vocals – to turn “Bless the Weather” as a, well, weathered, almost-Gothic
Americana-rock song that makes it sound like something from Dylan’s Rolling
Thunder Revue. Skye Edwards of Morcheeba sings an eerily slow, trip-hop version
of “Solid Air” that could stand proudly with the best of Portishead. And Jim
Tulio’s voice on the “Road to Ruin” is gritty yet tenderly direct – Tulio was
Martyn’s friend and producer.


Unfortunately, not all of their contributions are inspired.
Particularly unfortunate is Snow Patrol’s take on “May You Never,” which starts
off with a sweet slowness but falls into a meandering instrumental passage and
awkwardly lugubrious vocals toward the end. This is Martyn’s best-known song,
thanks to Eric Clapton’s version, and it needs a strong version here. It
doesn’t get it. Similarly, another big name for the project, the Cure’s Robert
Smith, just can’t move “Small Hours” past the atmospherics of his guitar
reverberations. And one hopes Paolo Nutini’s slurry overly emphasized
Marleyisms on “One World” weren’t inspired by Martyn.


This record certain proves Martyn is deserving of a tribute,
and that he has inspired other performers. But it would have been better to be
more sharply focused, and more limited in scope, so a wider audience could
discover it and maybe love it as much as Johnny Boy.


DOWNLOAD: “Stormbringer,” “Road to Ruin” STEVEN ROSEN

Van Dyke Parks – 7” singles: Wall Street b/w Money is King; Dreaming of Paris b/w Wedding in Madagascar; Amazing Graces b/w Hold Back Time

January 01, 1970



only thing more unusual than Van Dyke Parks’ unique songwriting and
arrangements is hearing the maestro’s first works in 15 years on the seven-inch
format. But the Bananastan has launched a veritable singles clubs around him,
with each seven inch slab coming in a heavy cardboard sleeve, elaborately designed
by a prominent artist.


Street”/”Money is King” features the recognizable style of Maus creator Art Spiegelman,
with an homage to Edward Munch thrown in for good measure. The music finds
Parks at his most elaborate. With tempos and melodies shifting every few bars,
the A-side sounds closer to a musical than anything he did with Brian Wilson.
Even when the setting gets a little too dramatic, Parks’ lyrical imaginary
offers plenty to chew on. The subject matter serves as a tribute to those lost
on September 11, but it could be compared to the current crisis on the title
street. “Money is King” comes from the Growling Tiger, the moniker used by
calypso singer Neville Marcano. It’s good to keep that in mind while listening
to simplicity of the lyrics (which boil down to “rich man= bad” and “poor man =
good”) which are sung over what sounds like an American wedding band in Trinidad.


Ed Ruscha designed the more
minimal “Dreaming of Paris” sleeve, which features “Paris” in bold letters on
the front and a mock-up of the design on the back, the latter being the only
place where Parks’ name appears, in small print. While the previous single
sounds a little heavy, this one is immediately more accessible and catchy.
“Dreaming of Paris”
has a calypso feel to which Parks adds accordion, ukulele, group vocals and
some violins that adds some dissonance to an otherwise bouncy little number.
The instrumental “Wedding in Madagascar”
is another cover of sorts, this time an a cappella folk song from that country,
arranged for mandolin, strings and rhythm section featuring bass guitar.


three’s cover features two life size sculptures of Parks, as rendered by artist
Charles Ray. “Amazing Graces” takes
liberties with the traditional hymn. An orchestra begins playing it in 5/4,
with an accordion taking over. Like some parts of the Parks catalog, it sounds
like a film soundtrack and begs for imagery to accompany the pensive mood it
creates. “Hold Back Time” brings back his somewhat nasally voice, reminiscing
about small town life, complete with astute imagery and internal rhyme (“Tell
that old clock on the wall/ you’ll just have to call it/ a day.”).  Even if the musical approach doesn’t
completely hook you, it’s admirable to hear a song like this, so exquisitely
arranged with strings, electric guitar and a chorus of voices. It’s hard to
believe that singles with regularly made with these ingredients.


singles, scheduled for release early next year include: wonderful tracks such
as “Aquarium,” a rendering of Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals” played on
steel drums; and a remake of “The All Golden,” from Parks infamous Song Cycle album. Artwork for these
respective singles will be done by Smile artist Frank Holmes and Revolver designer Klaus Voorman.


DOWNLOAD: “Dreaming of Paris,” “Wedding in Madagascar.” MIKE SHANLEY

CSC Funk Band – Things Are Getting Too Casual

January 01, 1970

(Fat Beats)



Upon the disbanding of prog-noise junkies theusaisamonster,
hulking guitar godhead Colin Langenus – half of that legendary duo – not only
shed his trademark white boy dreadlocks but also his former band’s spastic rock
for CSC Funk Band, a straight-up funk beast. Akin to Glenn Branca’s assembling
of a guitar army for one of his dissonant symphonies, Langenus gathered up a
whopping ten members (including keyboard maestro Matt Mottel of NYC avant-garde
misfit twosome, Talibam! and SST Records veteran Jimmy Thompson on percussion)
and emerges with the most conventional of bands in an underground rock full of
oddities: a killer funk juggernaut.


After a handful of funkalicious 7-inchers released by the
Electric Cowbell label, CSC Funk Band debuts with the quintessential loft party
record, Things Are Getting Too Casual,
a set that shows this Fela Kuti, Meters and Minutemen-influenced unit – whose
throngs of horns include sax, trombone and oboe – has the chops not just for
the occasional single but for a seamless LP, to boot.


Dance floor scorchers like “We Don’t Care,” “Bad Banana
Bread” and “Funk Shoppe” steadily build on Langenus’ repetitious funk
shredding, Mottel’s psych-synth streaks and Blaxploitation-esque horn and
percussive grooves, the songs addictive and melodically concise while never
veering into cacophonous, experimental terrain. CSC Funk Band cuts the fat and
stays true to their calling: the funk.


DOWNLOAD: “Caneca,”
“We Don’t Care” BRAD COHAN

Deer Tick – Divine Providence

January 01, 1970



any attempt at actually narrowing down their sound ultimately comes up short,
to their credit, Deer Tick often seem to defy definition. The fact that they
frequently fall back on an alt-country approach may enter the equation, but so
do elements of punk, grunge and, on occasion, pure unapologetic verbosity. It’s
been noted in the past that singer/songwriter/erstwhile leader John McCauley can come across like an unholy blend of Kurt
Cobain and Conor Oberst, but with their new album, the intimidation factor is
revved up several notches.


brash defiance is evident from the first notes of opening track “The Bump” and
its initial stanza: “I got a lust for life/and a dangerous mind.” Likewise,
“Let’s All Go to the Bar” boasts a hearty singalong refrain that sounds like
Ramones attempting a drinking tune, and though it begins by rallying the
troops, it ends with the sound of someone apparently regurgitating the spoils.
And that’s just for starters. “You fucking douche bag,” someone mutters before
the players fuel up their frenzied attack on “Funny Word.” And when McCauley
sings on “Walkin’ Out the Door,”  “We
ain’t taking that shit anymore/Hold your bullshit, I’m showing you the door,”
the intent is all too obvious.


later songs such as “Now It’s Your Turn” and “Electric” maintain that sullen
sensibility practically until the end, the sparkle and strum of “Miss K.” and
its badass chorus (“Come on, Miss K/ Wrap your loving arms around me, talk
dirty, turn me on, let’s get going…”) also indicate that for all their bravado,
Deer Tick crave companionship. Divine
apparently isn’t a realm for the faint of heart, but those with
the verve to vent their all may find it a welcome retreat.


DOWNLOAD: “Clowning Around,”
“Let’s All Go to the Bar,” Miss K”  LEE

Roots Manuva – 4everevolution

January 01, 1970

(Big Dada)


Roots Manuva’s style has never fit into the UK grime hip-hop
scene, but he’s never intended it to. Manuva’s playbook draws much more from
American rap music, as well as dub, reggae, ska, funk, and punk, than
contemporaries like Dizzee Rascal and Kano. All of these influences are on
display on his new album,  4everevolution,
a sprawling affair that at an hour long could stand for some fat trimming.


Still, there are moments of flash and steady talent, such as
“Who Goes There,” a track built upon a reggae beat and a warbling synth line.
Manuva’s deep voice always lends his words authority, whether he’s speaking to
social ills or simply crafting a party jam. He tends to lean towards the
former, with better results. “Watch Me Dance” rides a synth-laden dance beat
over and over while Manuva tries his hand at singing. The man doesn’t need or
use Auto Tune, a commendable feat in pop music, but he raps better than he
croons. And you can find his singing all over the album, most prominently on a
song like “The Throes Of It.” Over what sounds like live instrumentation,
Manuva eschews hip-hop almost entirely to produce an experimental electronic
rock song, complete with upper register harmonies and soulful, wailing vocals.


The problem with 4everevolution is that it takes too
long to get to the good moments. Much of the album seems packed with solid but
unmemorable hip-hop tracks, with a uniform sound and production style.
Especially for an American audience, Manuva’s British-meets-Caribbean
sensibility sounds new and refreshing at first. But when played over the course
of the entire record, it begins to lose some of its luster. Roots Manuva has
put out much better albums than this one, and let’s hope this is just a
stumble, not the beginning of a downhill descent.


Throes Of It,” “Go Champ” JONAH FLICKER

Gauntlet Hair – Gauntlet Hair

January 01, 1970

(Dead Oceans)


Perhaps the most startling
symptom of this generation’s crop of new musical acts rising up from the
American rock underground is the poor decision making skills when it comes to
choosing a name for themselves.


And right up there with The War
On Drugs and Gang Gang Dance is the Denver-by-way-of-Chicago duo Gauntlet Hair,
a handle that is more implicative of some God-awful Renaissance Faire metal
group from the mid-‘80s rather than the abstract nature of the damaged art pop
intrigue created by singer/guitarist Andy R and drum programmer Craig Nice.
This case proves to be a most unfortunate one as well, because these guys make
some pretty stellar sounds together, an assessment based upon repeated
revolutions of their eponymous full-length debut on the Dead Oceans imprint.


Conspired in their Windy City
origins at Andy’s grandmother’s house, Gauntlet Hair the LP is otherwise
a fantastical recording, a complete artistic metamorphosis from the pair’s
raw-dog early 7-inches for Forest Family and Mexican Summer that finds Andy and
Craig refining their edge to reveal the silver lining behind their inherit
sonic clutter. Where scrappy squalls of fuzz once took up residency in their
songs, a wholly unique compound of Diplo-esque 808 club thump, Vini
Reilly-educated guitar chylification and a songwriting style reminiscent of a Person
era Panda Bear fronting Shudder To Think is presented in its place to
maximal effect on songs like “Showing” and “Overkill” and
fits right into the Mile High City’s Rhinoceropolis scene alongside the likes
of Pictureplane and Woodsman (two much better-sounding monikers, mind you). 


It’s hard to imagine
multi-layered instances of reverberating melody like “Top Bunk”,
“My Christ” and “Mop It Up” as being the work of just two
guys inside of an old family abode. However, if you can move beyond their goofy
nomenclature, you will discover one of the most exciting acts Young Weird
America has introduced to us yet. Just remember, it’s not too late to
rechristen yourselves, fellas.


DOWNLOAD: “Mop It Up”, “Overkill”,
“Showing” RON HART


John Scofield – A Moment’s Peace

January 01, 1970

(Emarcy Records)


Though he doesn’t have the marquee value of a Pat Metheny,
or the hipster cache of a Bill Frisell, John Scofield is easily one of the most
consistently engaging guitar players in the world of jazz. Whether playing
straight-ahead or fusion, whether working with a small group or a bigger band,
whether paying tribute to other genres or writing finely detailed compositions
of his own, Scofield has spent the last three decades honing his skills and
creating terrific music.


Scofield first came to most people’s attention during the
early ‘80s, when he spent a few years as a member of Miles Davis’ group. He
hasn’t changed his sound much since then; Scofield has always been much more
about using his fingers on the strings more than his feet on effects pedals.
Armed with a darkly rumbling tone which sounds warmer on the high strings and
downright nasty on the low, Scofield has been able to find his space in dozens
of recordings both as a leader and a sideman.


For A Moment’s Peace,
Scofield assembled a beautifully sympathetic quartet. Larry Goldings, whose
terrific albums as a leader haven’t attracted nearly enough attention, and who
has worked as a sideman with the likes of James Taylor, Solomon Burke, and De
La Soul, contributes cordially inviting organ and impressionistic piano. One of
the most solid and under-rated bassists, Scott Colley, holds down the bottom
end and contributes a couple of gorgeously melodic solos. The drums are manned
by one of the most inventive stylists of the last twenty years, Brian Blade.


In recent years, Scofield has been prone to thematic album
releases, with a Ray Charles tribute, and a New Orleans Gospel record among his
best career records. A Moment’s Peace continues
this trend, but with a less obvious spin. The 64 minutes of this album are
relatively peaceful moments, though none are soporific. Scofield finds ways to
explore ballads without sticking to the obvious, tried and true methods of jazz
artists before him.


Five Scofield originals are mixed with seven well chosen
covers from divergent sources. The Beatles “I Will,” which has received plenty
of bluegrass attention over the years, fits snugly into an exquisite jazz
arrangement. Carla Bley’s “Lawns” is equally beautiful, but with slightly more
power built into its deceptively simple core. “Throw It Away,” written by Abbey
Lincoln, and “I Want To Talk About You,” from the Billy Eckstine songbook, are
two songs most often heard as vocal jazz pieces; Scofield and Goldings in
particular have their ways with the delicious chord changes and inviting
melodies of these two. Both hint at the richness of life experiences which
makes the peace of these ballads more earned than simply handed out.


Scofield’s own “Johan” is among the strongest compositions
he’s ever written, a tune with heart, complexity, and melodic richness which is
extraordinarily memorable. “Simply Put” and “Already September” are nearly as
good, too. The album ends with Gerswhin’s “I Loves You Porgy,” given a
decidedly modern and wrenching treatment, with Golding’s organ and Scofield’s
guitar blurring together at times.


From beginning to end, A
Moment’s Peace
is simply exquisite. John Scofield and the rest of the
quartet consistently combine power, dexterity, beauty, and melody to create a
jazz record close to perfection.


“Johan,” “Throw It Away,” “Lawns.” STEVE PICK

Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune

January 01, 1970

(Arts & Crafts)


It takes more than a casual spin to appreciate a fine
lyricist, and one of the joys in Dan Mangan’s music has been discovering just
how pithy his writing is when you really lock in on the words. Thankfully, his
songwriting and sneaky-good arrangements haven’t lagged far behind, so it’s
been a treat letting the music exist on its own as well. But with his ambitious
third full-length the question has become whether more ambitious songwriting
and arrangements have eclipsed what was Mangan’s strong suit: his storytelling.


Mangan’s last record — 2009’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice – was indeed very nice, its narratives and
memorable turns of phrase earning him critical kudos and a spot on Canada’s  Polaris Music Prize shortlist.  The music was a simple hybrid of folk,
country, indie rock and pop elements, with arrangements that made judicious use
of horns and strings, some in full orchestral bloom, others as Andrew Bird-like
adornments. It was just the right subdued setting for the lyricist, who tossed
off vivid lines like “Paint your pickets white and beat your wife/just don’t
forget to shut the blinds” (from the anti-hypocrisy lament “Some People”) with
nearly every stanza.


But on his latest, Mangan wanted to expand his sonic textures
and avoid pigeon-holing as the clever folky troubadour. The result is a more
extravagant recording, built with free-jazz experimentalists Gord Grdina
(guitar), Kenton Loewen (drums) and John Walsh (bass), as well as a near
orchestra that helped shape the production. Seattle’s Eyvind Kang (Beck, Mike
Patton, Marc Ribot) was called in to write lush arrangements, too, and they’re
a stand-out, announcing Mangan’s intention right off the bat with a full-band
waltz on opener “About As Helpful As You Can Without Being Any Help at All.”


The music shifts between quiet verses and raucous choruses,
Mangan sounding like Adem fronting Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene at times.
Many of the songs drift into each other on hazy synth sections that fade out as
the next song is unveiled. But on tracks like the marching-snare-and-guitar-squiggles
“How Darwinian,” the stadium-size rocker “Rows of Houses” and BSS-like “Post
War Blues, Mangan turns to themes of societal manipulation, post-traumatic
stress syndrome and urban sprawl. The lyrics eschew the fine detail that
highlighted his previous records for broader, more didactic brushstrokes. That
fits Mangan’s new music personality, but also highlights what’s now missing as
well. Maybe it’s just a question of getting used to this new Mangan, but you
can’t help but lament the old one’s demise.


DOWNLOAD:  “Post-War Blues” “Starts With Them, Ends With
Us” “Jeopardy”    JOHN SCHACHT