Monthly Archives: July 2012

Mike Patton – Luciano Berio: Laborintus II

January 01, 1970

(Ipecac Recordings)


Mike Patton showed he cared a lot about Italian music with
2010’s glorious Mondo Cane, in which
he boldly and expressively sang with molto
contemporary Italian pop songs with support from the Filarmonica
Arturo Toscanini, back-up singers and band. It was a tour de force, or however they say that in Italy. His love for
Italian music, as well as the language, came about as a result of his marriage
to an Italian woman – and settling down in Bologna – during the 1990s, according
to Wikipedia. That love has outlasted the marriage.


And so has his dedication to experimentalism, evident on Luciano Berio: Laborintus II (Ipecac
Recordings), a venture into the work of the provocative classical composer
Luciana Berio, who died in 2003 at age 77. Patton is the narrator – a turn that
requires dramatic, oratorical swings in expression and intonation – on a
recording of a concert performance of “Laborintus II,” a composition that Berio
and Edoardo Sanguineti wrote in 1963-1965 to honor Dante’s 700th birthday. (Berio had been commissioned by French and Italian radio; Sanguineti
was a Dante scholar and poet.)


This slightly-more-than-half-hour work was recorded at the
2010 Holland Festival, with the Belgian Ictus ensemble, Nederlands Kamerkoor Chorus under Klaas Stok, plus three
female soloists (Annet Lans, Margriet Stok and Karin van der Poel.) Berio,
himself had conducted a performance of “Laborintus II” at the same festival in
1973; this recreated that to honor him.


was Italian, yes, but he was also part of the international avant-garde that
included John Cage – especially in the 1960s, when he composed “Laborintus II”
and also turned folk songs into classical music. He was reportedly an influence
on the Beatles and his close collaborator and former wife, operatic singer
Cathy Berbarian, recorded an album of Beatles arias, Revolution.)


was like a more academic version of the filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, whose
artistic progressivism at the time got him invited to Britain (for Blow-Up) and the U.S.
(Zabriskie Point) to make cinematic
sense of his times. Berio was teaching at Oakland’s
Mills College – an outpost for experimental
New Music – while composing “Laborintus II,” and his students there included
Steve Reich, Louis Andreissen and Phil Lesh.


viewed this project as a kind of abstract-expressionist opera – Sanguineti’s
libretto featured his own poetry as well passages from other 20th Century poets, Dante’s writings and the Bible. (There is a snatch or two of
English in the spoken-word parts.) It has a true operatic feel in the first
movement, as the male and female voices shout, wail and confide – separately
and in unison – while the music grows eerily cacophonous and dynamically
exciting. You can also hear how it grows out of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,”
as does so much of mid-20th Century classical music.


the second movement, Berio’s interest in free jazz moves to the fore as the
trumpets, trombones and clarinets of Ictus start to rise and fall and the drums
kick up a storm. Patton and choir members shout as if they are falling ever
deeper into the frightening Afterlife, and it’s gripping. It raises the kind of
ruckus Art Ensemble of Chicago would admire; it’s modern classical music
responding to other music of its time. And there appears to be use of echoing,
vibrating electronics here that’s chilling.


short third part serves as a mournful elegiac coda, a reflective ending to what
has been – like its source material – a profound journey.





Mike Uva & The Bad Eyes – Lady, Tell Me Straight

January 01, 1970

(Collectible Escalators Music)


Mike Uva makes smart, understated pop, couching wry
observations in offhandedly catchy melodies. His songs stick around like old
friends, their warmth, accessibility and unshowy intelligence always welcome,
never overbearing. He’s in the same general family as songwriters like Salim
Nourallah, Brendan Benson (solo) and Rhett Miller, clever but not glib,
pop-skilled but never slick. The fact that he is far less well known than these
characters (who are, to a man, under-rated themselves) can be attributed to
geography (he’s from Cleveland),
personal style (low-key), family responsibilities (he has small children) and a
commitment to the DIY ethos. When he’s not recording, Uva runs the small-scale
but admirable Collectible Escalators Music.


Lady, Tell Me
is Uva’s third record, the first in
five years and the first built around his new band, the Bad Eyes. In it, he
takes a turn away from lo-fi indie pop a la Guided by Voices and towards a
warmer, acoustic, country-tinged sound. Just for starters, his bass player used
to be sometime Cobra Verde player Ed Sotelo, now it is stand-up jazz and Americana ace Matt
Charboneau. He has added piano (that’s Mike Lyford) to his guitar-dominated
sound and switched from punk-pop scramble to country twang. Pedal steel
wreathes the melancholy shuffle of the title track, while “Bank Job” rambles
through a Band-like daydream of American country rock. Lovely “California,” masses the
band’s voices in ghostly folk harmonies, and equally gorgeous “Boat Behind the
Trees” finds a transcendence in simplicity and natural imagery. “Work Blues,”
follows a spectral blues lick through shimmering mirages of piano.  


There’s a wrinkled denim real-ness to these songs, as Uva
recalls “working three jobs and not having any money,” and wanting to escape to
but not having the cash for a ticket. In “Drank Too Much Last Night,” the
album’s rough-riding, minor-key highlight, Uva starts the night with $5 and
manages to make it last through a night that touches on love, friendship, and a
love of music.  (There’s a fantastic
little electric piano solo from Lyford, too, at about the mid-point.)  Uva scrounges borrowed bills and cadged
drinks, as his guitar drives on and on, the song just about perfect in the way
it celebrates small triumphs of creation and connection in a flawed world.  


Write about music long enough and you’ll develop
a short lists of artists that should be better known, that, for whatever
reason, have never made the impact that their skill, by rights, should entitle
them to. Mike Uva is somewhere very close to the top of my list, and Lady, Tell Me Straight only confirms his
position as one of the best songwriters you never heard of.


DOWNLOAD: “Drank Too Much Last Night” “Work Blues” JENNIFER

Green Pajamas – Death By Misadventure

January 01, 1970

(Green Monkey)


After nearly three decades of consistently high quality psychedelicfolkgothpowerpoprock,
the Green Pajamas enter the world of the longform narrative. The first half of
the band’s new record Death By
consists of “The Fall of the Queen Bee,” a song cycle the
one-sheet insists has no resemblance to anyone living or dead, which means,
like a Law & Order episode, it’s
clearly based on real events. Regardless of whether the tale is true (or is
even a tale at all), the piece finds Jeff Kelly, Eric Lichter and company
exploring some new avenues. The grisly details of “The Queen Bee is Dead” float
over a gyspy waltz with prominent accordion; the same instrument drives the
appropriately-titled “The Queen’s Last Tango.” The grinding feedback of “The
Universe is Full of Noise” (quite) adds a new wrinkle to the PJs’ saga as well.
The quintet inhabits a more familiar universe in the lush “Sky Blue Balloon,”
the ringing “You Can’t Look” and the sadly beautiful “Wrong Home,” which brings
the experiment to a close on a perfectly crafted, quietly emotional note.


But “The Fall of the Queen Bee” is only half of the story
here. (Shades of 2112.) The other
half, entitled “Cruel Dreams, Cruel Things,” doesn’t rely on narrative drive,
being simply a collection of songs. The harpsichord-laced “In the Moonlight
Dim” weaves dark fantasy lyrics and a jaunty tune into a track that beats anything
on the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. The rocking “Supervirgin” and “Beat Me Sally” and the more lilting
“Carrie” revisit the sense of whimsy that has mostly taken a back seat to
serious concerns in the past several albums. “The Spell” (from which the
subtitle is taken) is a brooding slice of Latin jazzy balladry, while “A Piece
of a Dream” is simply a classic piece of PJs acid pop.


Given the high quality of Kelly and Lichter’s songwriting,
it would have been easy for the PJs to simply ride their previously established
groove. But Death By Misadventure, by
virtue of ambition and a few new wrinkles, puts the band on the next step
forward in its marvelous 30 year career.  



Piece of the Dream,” “Wrong Home,” “The Queen’s Last Tango” MICHAEL TOLAND


Spectrum Road – Spectrum Road

January 01, 1970



As anyone who’s followed his career for any length of time can attest,
Jack Bruce has always been a serious jazzer at heart. Although he achieved
musical immortality as part of the superstar triumvirate that was Cream, his
solo recordings and, more specifically, his work with musical greats John
McLaughlin, Tony Williams and Carla Bley affirmed his ongoing dexterity and
virtuosity. With Spectrum Road,
he ventures into one of his most adventurous initiatives to date, one which
unites him with three like-minded masters – Living Colour guitarist Vernon
Reid, keyboardist John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood, and longtime
Lenny Kravitz drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. 


It’s a formidable
combination, a band bound to win favor with serious jazz aficionados, what with
their emphasis on improvisation and a sound so frenzied it seems to be going in
all directions at once. Retracing material previously recorded by Williams,
McLaughlin, Bley, Larry Young and Jan Hammer, Spectrum Road maintains momentum with an emphatic delivery, and even
in a rare respite – ala the shadowy ballads “One Word” and “Blues for Tillmon”
(the album’s sole original composition) — the articulate arrangements grow
organically. Bruce’s vocals offer another alluring element, both on those
mellower musings and in the exquisite “There Comes A Time,” but little here is
hum-worthy. Ultimately, where Spectrum
Road will lead is up for speculation, but the
journey is already pretty spectacular.


DOWNLOAD: “There Comes A Time,” “One Word,”
“Blues For Tillmon” LEE ZIMMERMAN

Langhorne Slim & The Law – The Way We Move

January 01, 1970



With The Way We Move,
troubadour-turned-trio member Langhorne Slim dusts off his back porch sensibilities
and makes it cause for exhortation and exhilaration. Langhorne’s penchant for
hewing to classic templates and then turning them into honest and emotional
narratives is fully vetted and focused, but with a backing band in tow, he’s free
to let loose with a sound both celebratory and straight-forward. Consequently,
these songs find an instant connection, and as the set progresses, they
practically challenge their listeners not to sing right along.


That cheerleading quality is evident from the outset, in
songs like “The Way We Move” and “Bad Luck,” a pair of unabashed barnburners that
opt for some rousing revelry.
Likewise, the earnest strum of “Great Divide” and the perky plunk of “Someday”
keep the energy intact. Not that there aren’t moments of repose; “On the
Attack, the palpable ache of “Coffee Cups” and the easy saunter of “Fire” seem
aimed at introspection, but the emotions are equally unhinged. “I’ve been
looking for salvation/”I’ve been searching low and high/I’m tired of being
patient/All this waiting’s been a waste of time,” Mr. Slim opines on
“Salvation.” Thankfully he’s not complacent, because it’s that unbridled energy
which sets these songs apart.


Way We Move,” “Salvation,” “Great Divide” LEE ZIMMERMAN

Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – California Star

January 01, 1970



Despite 20 years of peddling his wares and releasing albums
in abundance both on his own and in the company of his backing band the
Daintees, journeyman troubadour Martin Stephenson remains all but unknown
outside their native U.K.
Whether California Star will be able accumulate the sunny vibes beckoned by the title
track remains to be seen, but Stephenson and company are clearly intent on
providing something special for everyone.


The first four tracks alone shift seamlessly between several
different genres, from the soulful shuffle and cinematic ambiance of “The Ship”
to the rugged Marty Robbins-like narrative “Streets of San Sebastian” to the
dusty country ballad “Power That Is Greater” and the breezy “California Star.” The
rest of the album follows suit and indeed, any attempt
to pin Stephenson and crew down to any one size fits all categorization is
bound to end in failure. Of course that won’t boost his recognition factor, just
as it fails to confine him to any obvious niche. Nevertheless, in committing to
this organic, off-the-cuff approach, Stephenson ensures he’ll not only keep
things intriguing, but he’ll keep his fans guessing as well.


“Streets of San Sebastian,” “Power That Is
Greater,” “Streets of San Sebastian”

Codeine – When I See the Sun

January 01, 1970

(Numero Group)


Since forming in 1989, New York’s Codeine have been barnacled as
one of the founders of the head-scratching subgenre known as “slowcore.”
But the impact frontman/bassist Stephen Immerwahr, guitarist John Engle and
drummer Chris Brokaw (later of Come; replaced by Doug Scharin in 1993) levied
on the world of underground rock during their four short years together transcends
any snarky music crit slugline. The trio was armed with a sound that melded the
abrasiveness of such post-hardcore icons of the ‘80s as Squirrel Bait (whose
guitarist David Grubbs was a contributing member of Codeine), Moss Icon and
Bastro with the reverberating melodies of early Creation Records into a
hypnotic glide that moved like a deadly cottonmouth against the current of a
lazy river. Such seminal acts of the modern age as Mogwai, Pelican, Explosions
in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Rós all harbor a healthy dose
of Codeine in their bloodstreams


This is indelibly evidenced in the construct of Numero
Group’s masterfully crafted box set chronicling the group’s complete recorded
output. Designed by Chunklet publisher
Henry Owings and supplemented with extensive liner notes that include
testimonials from such pals as Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of The Flaming
Lips, Dean Wareham, Matador Records chief Gerard Cosloy, Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan
and Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman, When I
See The Sun
is the definitive word on Codeine. This 6LP/3CD monolith
gathers together the group’s Sub Pop output: 1991’s Frigid Stars, 1992’s Barely
Real EP
and their 1994 swan song The
White Birch
, all gorgeously remastered from the original tapes and teeming
with a treasure trove of B-sides, alternate takes, covers, demos, Peel Sessions
tracks, compilation obscurities and live cuts that expands each title by at least
double its initial length.


Only a thousand copies of this limited edition set were
pressed, but When I See The Sun is
well worth the hunt and the small fortune for the trio’s most ardent fanbase.


“Pickup Song” (Demo) RON HART


Moss Icon – Complete Discography

January 01, 1970

(Temporary Residence, Ltd.)


Whether they’ll admit it or
not, the influence of Joy Division has always been quite palpable on the
American hardcore community, attitudinally if not sonically. But back in the ‘80s,
only Annapolis, Maryland’s Moss Icon were brave enough to admit their love for
Ian Curtis was equal to that of Ian MacKaye, buoyed by guitarist Tonie Joy’s
envelope-ripping arrangements and frontman Jonathan Vance’s Henry
Rollins-cum-Lou Reed talking punk vocals.


The band only lasted from
1986 to 1991 before sporadically reforming throughout the ‘00s (including this
year), and has been saddled as one of the architects of emo (something they fervently
deny). But after nearly four presidential terms in OOP limbo, this groundbreaking
act’s entire output – a 1987 demo tape, three 7-inches, one half of a split LP,
a bunch of compilation tracks – has been cleaned up and lovingly anthologized.
And all 19 tracks, spread across two CDs or five sides of three LPs, have never
sounded more immediate and essential than they do here.


DOWNLOAD: “Locket,” “Moth” RON HART



Various Artists – This Ain’t Chicago: The Underground Sound of UK House & Acid 1987-1991

January 01, 1970



This Ain’t Chicago overviews the nascent UK
house music/rave scene – long overdue for a worthwhile archival treatment – as
it picked up speed and achieved lift off between 1987 and 1991. Featuring
twenty-three tracks by twenty-three acts over two discs, This Ain’t Chicago is a lot to get your head around, but well worth the effort. 


Compiled by UK producer and DJ
Richard Sen (Padded Cell, Bronx Dogs), This Ain’t Chicago inevitably
reflects the taste of its archivist; fortunately for us all, Sen has broad
taste and an appreciation for some of the more unheralded corners of late 80s
era dance music as well as the more well-known tracks of the time. If DJs are
the immediate, ground level arbiters of taste and flow, the compilers have to
take that mandate and expand it out to present it to the world at large, and
Sen does a savvy and satisfying job of tying it all together, both in his
selections and in the copious liner notes. 


Anyone under the impression
that most contemporary dance music was codified and formulaic from the get-go
should take a listen to This Ain’t Chicago. Catching the scene before it
entered it seemingly endless phase of  mass produced, generic,
paint-by-numbers “dance music” (essentially from sometime in the ‘90s until
now), This Ain’t Chicago reminds us how nascent music scenes – whether
it’s punk rock, hip hop, house music or whatever – always start off fueled by
originality and diversity and inevitably degrade into predictably. You can hear
the DJs and producers here feeling their way into new hybrids, inventing it as
they go, as-yet formula free. It was an exciting time, when dance culture was
in the ascendant and before mass popularity and the tsunami of global techno
swelled the lowest common denominator into cottage cheese with a steady


Disc one highlights includes
the almost poppish “Bang Bang You’re Mine” by Bang The Party, the percussion
heavy (all digital, natch) Latin workout “Cuba Jakkin'” by Rio Rhythm Band, the
deliciously jumping groove by “Safety Zone” by Exocet and the dubby/glitchy
“Return of the Living Acid” by Twin Tub. Only a handful of tracks here – “From
Within the Mind of My 909″ by Man With No Name,” “Inflight” by Rohan Delano,
“Where’s The Love Gone” by Julie Stapleton and “The Comfort of Strangers” by
CXX – use the metronomic, heart-beat drum machine beat that would become
positively oppressive in years to come.


Disc two features the
crazy-cool proto-diva number “The World According to Sly & Lovechild” by
Sly & Lovechild and the super rocking “Technological” by Bizzare Inc. and
“Dream 17″ by Annette.” Both the dark and sorta doomy “Iron Orbit” by Static
and “1666” by M.D.EMM work the industrial side of the groove, while “Show Me
What You Got” by S.L.F. and “Get Real” by Paul Rutherford sound like prototypes
for much of acid house that was to soon follow them down the rabbit hole.
Everything else is worth grappling with as well, and there are no full-on duds
in the mix, a rarity for the compilation-minded.


Sen backs this all up with
extensive liner notes putting the birth of the whole scene in perspective and
elaborating on each individual act and track. Catching modern dance music at
the moment of conception through
birth and into childhood, This Ain’t Chicago does exactly what it’s
supposed to do: make you wish you were there.  


DOWNLOAD: “Cuba Jakkin,”
“Bang Bang You’re Mine,” “Safety Zone,”  “Technological,” “Dream


Toulouse Engelhardt – Toulousology

January 01, 1970

Grove Arts)


might not hear Toulouse Engelhardt spoken amongst such great names of  finger style folk guitar as John Fahey, Leo
Kottke, Robbie Basho, Max Ochs and Bukka White. But that should all change with
the release of Toulousology, a 17-track collection that offers a
definitive look at the Wisconsin-born musician’s key role as the last member of
the Takoma Seven, the aforementioned posse of string masters who recorded for
Fahey’s influential record label during the years 1959 to 1976.


penchant for incorporating elements of The Sentinels and The Ventures into his
style of American Primitivism, which took root during his first guitar lesson
from jazz legend Larry Carlton who taught him how to replicate “Walk Don’t
Run”, earned him the handle “The Segovia of Surf” in reference
to famed Spanish classical guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia. It was a direction
that gave him a unique sense of individuality which set him apart from his
peers in the Seven, and can be clearly heard across this great compilation that
covers the years 1976 to 2009 and cherry picks from such acclaimed titles as
his debut album Toulousions (“Fire in O’Doodlee’s Popcorn
Factory” and the brilliant riff on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story
“Young Goodman Brown Joined the Confederacy Today”) and his
outstanding reinvention of Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun”
from A Child’s Guide to Einstein, his 2004 collaboration with Nigerian
percussionist Remi Kabaka. And as you listen to Toulousology, all you
can do is wonder why this man isn’t more revered in realms beyond the elite
ranks of Martin and PIedmont geeks who try to
emulate his style at the local Sam Ash.


you are in the market of furthering your education on the Takoma school of
acoustic alchemy, you have nothing to lose in checking out Toulouse Engelhardt.


DOWNLOAD: “Fire in O’Doodlee’s Popcorn Factory”,
“Third Stone from the Sun” RON HART