Monthly Archives: October 2012

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Fac. Dance 02

January 01, 1970

(Strut)

 

www.strut-records.com

 

The second in Strut’s survey of Factory Records’
dance-electronic side goes deeper into the well of early 1980s
dub-funk-world-punk, revisiting Fac.
Dance  01
favorites like A Certain
Ratio, Durutti Column, ESG and 52nd Street and branching out into
the wilder, southern-hemisphere-sampling hybrids like Fadela and X-O-Dus.

 

The material comes from the first half of the
1980s, the same period during which most of 
Joy Division reformed as New Order and established it dark, dance-oriented
new sound. Yet at the same time, lots of other loosely aligned bands were attempting the same alchemy, splicing the knotty, twitchy
dissonance of post-punk to sinuous, body-moving grooves. Consider the Wake’s
1983 “The Host,” a knife-edge blend of shudder and sigh, dark blasts of
synthesizer flaring up from a sensualist’s bedrock of bass and drums (that’s
Bobby Gillespie, pre-Jesus & Mary Chain, on drums), and Caesar McInulty
murmuring alienated phrases over.  It is
nearly eight minutes long, an endless, hypnotic, hip-centric groove that has
just enough punk disaffection to give it bite.

 

Fac. Dance
02
rummages through the catalogue, pulling Factory mainstay, A Certain Ratio’s
very first single, “The Fox” out of the pile, its skeletal polyrhythms (kit,
bells, timbales, bass) slashed and sketched, its vocals hollow, untouchable,
remote. “The Fox,” like a good many of other cuts from this compilation was
produced by  Martin Hannett (i.e., the
guy  who shaped Joy Division’s eerie,
drum-heavy sounds and produced New Order’s Movement in 1981).  In fact, most of the cuts on
this album can be connected, six-degrees -style (or in most cases, one- or
two-degrees style). Bernard Sumner co-produced and played guitar on Shark
Vegas’ “You Hurt Me.” A Certain Ratio toured with New Order and spawned Quando Quango. Indeed, you get the sense of a big,
loosely connected family, all lurching and spasming towards a globally
expansive, funk-permeated, socially-conscious dance sound.

 

The most interesting cuts are the ones that push
the farthest away from post punk, the bubbling dub of Sir Horatio’s “Sommadub,”
the bone-chilling keening of Fadela’s rai-centered “N’sel Fik,” the
machine-tooled precision of Minny Pops’ Krautish “Blue Roses.”

 

While the innate physicality of dance music
makes it harder to get political, there are a few nods to the Situationist
fervor that tangled politics with art in other parts of the Factory family.
Royal and the Poor’s “Vaneigam  Mix”
takes its name from the Belgian theoretician Raoul Vaneigam, author of
Situationist source text The Revolution in Everyday Life.  Durutti Column, here represented by the
slinky, jazz-touched “Self-Portrait”, also got its name from a Situationist
figure. Even the most hedonistic tracks here have a certain amount of
intellectual rigor, a post-modern wariness of mass media and consumerism  . These songs came out only a couple of years
before Madonna’s “Material Girl,” but from an entirely different, entirely more
serious and idealistic place.

 

And in fact, the songs on Fac. Dance 02 are probably a little too complicated, too twistily
syncopated, too multi-culturally omnivorous and cerebral to be especially good
for parties.  This is no backdrop for
mindless bliss, more a soundtrack for mindful engagement.  But you can still dance to it.

 

DOWNLOAD: “N’sel Fik” “The Fox”
“The Host” JENNIFER KELLY

 

 

CRIME & THE CITY SOLUTION – A History of Crime: Berlin 1987-1991

January 01, 1970

(Mute)

 

www.mute.com

 

Let’s face it: you can’t talk about Crime & the City
Solution without referencing Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds.
Not because the band contained Birthday Party guitarists Rowland S. Howard (in
the group’s early years) and Mick Harvey, but because bandleader Simon Bonney
is so obviously enamored with his fellow Australians’ signature rootsy art rock
style.

 

That said, the world ain’t exactly overrun with
Cave-influenced bands, so we can forgive Bonney, violinist/lyricist Bronwyn
Adams and crew their stylistic homages. Indeed, A History of Crime: Berlin
1987-1991
makes a strong case for Crime as a continuance of the distinctive
sound the Bad Seeds pioneered, rather than a copy. Covering the years when the
band was based in the titular city and had traded Howard for Einstürzende
Neubauten guitarist Alexander Hacke, History draws its tracks from Crime’s final three LPs: 1998’s Shine, 1989’s The Bride Ship and 1990’s Paradise Discotheque,
adding “The Adversary,” from the soundtrack to Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World.

 

Bonney’s tastes in Americana run more toward folk and
country, rather than blues and gospel, which gives tunes like “The Dolphin and
the Sharks,” “On Every Train (Grain Will Bear Grain)” and the exceptionally accessible “I Have the Gun” a lighter,
less claustrophobically intense feel than the usual Cave opus. The haunting
“The Adversary” starts out with ominous BP/BS menace, but adds a soaring chorus
that introduces a modicum of hope, while “Keepsake” proves the band’s ability
to deliver a disturbing anthem. And on the four-part epic “The Last Dictator,”
the Solution stakes out its own colorful, dramatic territory.

 

Not every track here works to Crime’s advantage – “The Bride
Ship” indulges in too much droning melodrama, while “Hunter” pushes Bonney so
far over the top he surely got dizzy from lack of air. But overall A History of Crime: Berlin 1987-1991 is a strong overview of
a career often unfairly dismissed as a Bad Seeds pastiche. Given that the group
has reunited (with Bonney, Adams and Hacke joined by 16 Horsepower’s David
Eugene Edwards, the Dirty Three’s Jim White and Outrageous Cherry’s Matthew
Smith), it makes an excellent introduction as well.

 

DOWNLOAD: “I Have
the Gun,” “Keepsake,” “The Last Dictator I-IV” MICHAEL TOLAND

 

KARREIM RIGGINS – Alone Together

January 01, 1970

(Stones Throw)

 

www.stonesthrow.com

 

The jazz drummer has been a staple of hip-hop since its
birth. And Karriem Riggins is the living embodiment of its importance to the
heartbeat of the game. Never before has a jazz artist so fluidly moved between
the worlds of rap and bop like this Detroit student of bass legend Ray Brown,
who recently threw down on Paul McCartney’s standards LP Kisses on the Bottom and dropped beats on some of the best hip-hop
albums ever, including Common’s Someday
It Will All Make Sense
and Phrenology by The Roots.

 

With Alone Together,
Riggins’ proper solo debut, he takes the rhythmic chops he’s honed behind the
likes of Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson and Donald Byrd and flips them in the
grand tradition of Stones Throw brethren Madlib and the late J. Dilla across 34
too-brief instrumentals that hit your skull with the heart of a DJ and the chops
of an improviser. If Art Blakey was alive and down with the MPC, his beat tape
would sound just like this.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Alto
Flute”, “Harpsichord Session”, “Live at Bert’s” –RON HART 

CULT OF YOUTH – Love Will Prevail

January 01, 1970

(Sacred Bones)

 

www.sacredbonesrecords.com

 

 

If you are ever on the part of
Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn where Greenpoint and Williamsburg intersect, head
into a great vintage shop called Fox and Fawn, where you can buy, sell or trade
the cooler and more gently worn pieces of your discarded wardrobe in exchange
for, say, an old Crazy Eddie T-shirt or what have you.

 

But if you head into the back
corner of the store, you will find a little nook where Sean Ragon runs his mini
music emporium Heaven Street Records. Its a tiny space but it is jam packed
with an amazing array of CDs, LPs, cassettes and 7-inches of the new, used and
rare varieties. And whether you are looking for a Richard Pryor picture disc,
Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel on wax or the latest titles from the
Editions MEGO catalog, this little shop is well worth venturing out to that
particular neighborhood if you are in the area.

 

As the leader of Sacred
Bones-signed post-punk outfit Cult of Youth, the former Love as Laughter
bassist infuses the knowledge he harbors for every item he sells out of Heaven Street into
his songs. And on the group’s third full-length Love Will Prevail, Ragon
earns his rightful place alongside the works of the underground icons he flips
for profit.

 

Recorded in the studio he built
adjacent to Heaven Street inside Fox and Fawn, Ragon plays every instrument on
here save for the drums, handled by Glenn Maryansky of the local death-wave
outfit Blacklist, and the violin, which is fondled here by Christina Key of
Zola Jesus’ touring band. The inclusion of additional musicians is a first for
a CoY album, and definitely provides a fuller sound to Ragon’s intriguing blend
of CAN and Crime & The City Solution on key tracks like “Man and Man’s
Ruin” and “Garden
of Delights”.
Meanwhile, songs like “Prince of Peace” and “Path of Total
Freedom” have as much in common with Shane MacGowan as they do Ian
McCulloch, albeit finding a meeting point in the darkest corners of their
respective songbooks, mind you.

 

If you are a musician who wants
to run a record shop, you have to know your shit on such a multitude of levels
it would make a lesser man’s head spin. But lucky for Sean Ragon, the handle
he’s got on his hustle isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Man and Man’s Ruin”, “Path of Total
Freedom” -RON HART

 

 

 

 

GET THE BLESSING – OC DC

January 01, 1970

(Naim
Jazz Records)

 

www.naimlabel.com

 

Drummer
Clive Deamer and bassist Jim Barr may primarily be renowned for their primary
roles in Portishead, but the otherworldly post-jazz of Bristol’s finest rhythm
section is also well worth a listen if you have yet to check out their
extracurricular quartet Get The Blessing.

 

And
four years after the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore effort Bugs in Amber, GTB returns with an album
saxophonist Jake McMurchie considers “more esoteric, more physical and more
carefully crafted” from a band trumpet player Pete Judge admits is “less afraid
to be itself than it used to be.”

 

Which
means, at least in terms of the excellent OC
DC
, the group can fully relish in their love for early-to-mid-‘70s Lalo
Schifrin soundtracks and the Soft Machine a la Third and Fourth with
full confidence and reckless abandon, to which they achieve on such heady,
circular jams as “Torque” and “Pentopia”. They even manage to wrangle a cameo
from Robert Wyatt, who lends his fragile timbre to the album’s standout track
“Americano Meccano.” P-Head guitarist Adrian Utley also appears as a recurring
character on this eight-track set as well, almost making you wish Geoff Barrow
and Beth Gibbons would’ve turned up for the party as well to combine their
collective forces in a whole new light.

 

Portishead
fans who are currently in the depths of their jazz education definitely “Get
the Blessing” to check out this excellent outfit.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Americano Meccano”,
“Pentopia” -RON HART

MALDIVES – Muscle for the Wing

January 01, 1970

(Spark & Shine)

 

www.sparkandshine.com

 

With
only their second album to date, this highly lauded Seattle sextet show their
mettle, not to mention their knack for wide-eyed cinematic spectacle, all
engaging melodies and earnest intent. It wouldn’t be doing them justice to
label them merely as a rootsy aggregate; the fact is, their melodic overreach
puts them into more spectral realms. Several of the songs are simply
breathtaking; “I’m Gonna Try,” “Muscle for the Wing” and “Its Like, You Know”
soar into the stratosphere and leave the listener practically breathless in
their wake.

 

Even
so, it’s tunes like “Sallie May,” “Go Back to Virginia” and “My Way” that
provide the immediate connection, a trio of sturdy, agreeable loping ballads
that bring to mind the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Poco and the Band due to the
massed harmonies, the campfire melodies and the sheer charm and exuberance of
it all. Note to the competition — here’s one you can bet on as a contender
likely to compete for album of the year.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Sallie May,” “My
Way,” “It’s Like, You Know” –LEE
ZIMMERMAN

 

 

DRIVIN’ N’ CRYIN’ – Songs About Cars, Space and The Ramones EP

January 01, 1970

(Self-released)

 

www.drivinncryin.com

 

Dormant for way too long, Atlanta’s Drivin’ N’ Cryin’
is making up for lost time with a set of four EPs spaced out over a year, each
focusing on various musical touchstones throughout their criminally overlooked
career. (Seriously, the world can make the dudes in Collective Soul
millionaires, but pass over their far more talented neighbors in DNC?)

 

Long before the term alternative country was coined
and before stashing your Hank Williams and Clash vinyls on the same shelf was
common practice, Kevn Kinney and the boys were blending their love for country
and punk rock, turning in three of the best successive albums to come out of
the southeast in the 80’s rivaled only by R.E.M. (Scarred But Smarter, Whisper
Tames the Lion
and Mystery Road).

 

Several of the songs off of this, the second of four
EPs in this musical experiment (the previous Songs From the Laundromat is reviewed here), is the closest DNC
have come to recapturing the
ambition of those first three records. 
“Hot Wheels,” “Acceleration” and, to a slightly lesser extent, “Moonshot”
are some of the band’s best songs in over two decades. “Out Here in the Middle
of Nowhere,” featuring punk legend Cheetah Chrome on guitar and backing vocals
is oddly enough the low point of the EP. The powerful closing instrumental
track “Space Eyes” makes up for the gaff though.

 

Songs
From the Garage
is next up, so it’ll be interesting
to see if the band peaked too early by releasing Songs About Cars, Space and The Ramones in the middle of their
collection, setting the bar too high.

 

DOWNLOAD:  “Hot Wheels,” “Acceleration” and “Moonshot”  -JOHN  B. MOORE

YUSIF – Yusif!

January 01, 1970

(Self-Released)

 

www.cdbaby.com/cd/yusif

 

And yea, it was written that it would be
harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to
enter God’s kingdom.  It’s equally as
difficult to persuade a person to listen to a recording made by an artist they’ve
never heard of.  That’s easy to
understand as there are now more bands out there than ever before, and it’s
tough for many people to listen to new music, especially when there’s all that
older, beloved music that’s as comfortable as those old worn-in pair of jeans
we favor. It helps to have what I call ‘instant ear,’ where you quickly suss
whether of not you like something you hear right away, a very useful talent for
a person barraged by new music all of the time. Intrigued by the dramatic
back-story of this artist, I decided to give it a spin and was quickly
impressed by what I heard, an instantly engaging and ecstatic debut album with
compelling songs.

 

Yusif is a Kuwaiti-American, born in Seattle,
but spent his early years in Kuwait during the Gulf War, from where he and his
mother were evacuated. He spent his formative years split between two cultures,
feeling something of an outcast in both. 
Raised in a strict household, his father broke Kuwaiti laws by making
wine in the closet, which Yusif would poach, then sneak off into the desert to
do what teens do, hang out with girls, play music, get drunk and smoke weed.
This was the beginning of a heavily self-destructive period in his life. As he
felt more and more ostracized by his schoolmates, he fell more heavily into
drug abuse, finally begging his family to let him return to Seattle to live
with his grandparents. This was finally allowed, but, failing to be eligible
for high school there, things went from bad to worse. Drug abuse became more of
a problem and he found himself still the outsider with his peers, isolated and
depressed. Happily, he finally was admitted to a community college and
eventually graduated from John Hopkins University. His black days in Seattle
had lead him into the burgeoning Grunge music scene, where he felt kinship with
music from bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and the rest. With school behind
him, he hit the road with his guitar, playing small venues from coast to coast,
getting his chops down and doing lots of writing. His inspiration came from
growing up in a war-torn society, being an outsider in two cultures and his
often-painful struggle to find an identity in the world.

 

Of hard lessons learned, he observes,
“Sometimes our most destructive moments and greatest tragedies end up becoming
our triumphs.”  He draws upon these
gritty life experiences for his music, revealing his hope for a better, more
peaceful, loving world to live in, and mostly accomplished without maudlin
sentiments for the most part. One exception to that would be “My Heart Is Yours
Forever”.  Considering his early
tribulations, there is easy forgiveness in his songs, and I imagine, catharsis.
With clear, breathy vocals that lie in the realm of singers like Conor Oberst,
Gordon Gano and Howard DeVoto, or other songsters with a lot of ‘O’s’ in their
name, he narrates his musical stories.

 

The opening tune, “Third World Soldier” is
based on the horror he and his family endured during the Gulf War, he and his
mother were separated from his father, who was trapped in Kuwait during
Saddam’s invasion. It’s anti-war theme rings true, as only someone who has
lived in a war-torn region can emotionalize, solemnly rendered as a folkish,
pop-rock number. “Come On Down” grabbed me immediately, with it’s dramatic tale
of living with a drunken dad, parental pressure at home and sneaking down to
the basement for sex with Sally, the girl with purple hair. This is where the
grunge influence comes in with a heavy, buzz saw guitar. Another outstanding
song is an arrow-through-the-heart story of falling in love with a friend and
ending up the burned underdog. The melody really captures your attention and it
has elements of a Buzzcocks song, along with exquisite piano accompaniment. The
ballad “My Heart Is Yours Forever” was held up to Tom Petty as a comparison and
it features the honeyed-tones of a B3 organ coursing through. Things get pumped
up for the album stomper that features that B3, “Reach Out,” where Yusif really
lets loose on the high-end of his vocal range, to raging and emotional effect.
I got a real jolt of the Deadstring Brothers from “Sorry I Can’t,” a perfect
match for their sound back on the early albums.

 

I was prepared to not accept “Cosmic Symphony”
due to its comparison to Cat Stevens, but it really pulled me in and became a
favorite, as it also could as easily been an Anton Barbeau song with its
“Na-na-na’s.” The album ends with “Fools Know Better,” a sweet number that has
a melody that really implants itself deep in your brain. I found myself humming
the tune a lot for a few days.

 

The album is evenly balanced between rocking
pop numbers and heartfelt love songs that you recognize as based on experienced
pain, deep loneliness and always being the outsider wherever you go. Despite
all the setbacks in his early life, Yusif has emerged from the other side,
wiser, free-spirited and triumphant with this album, which richly deserves a
wide audience to take it all in and appreciate his challenging journey and how
he soldiered on through to a personal victory.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Come On Down,” “Reach Out,” and “Underdog.”  –BARRY
ST. VITUS

 

 

GARY CLARK JR. – Blak and Blu

January 01, 1970

(Warner Bros.)

 

www.warnerbrothersrecords.com

 

Over a decade
into a career that started when he played Austin’s
clubs as a teenager, blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. finds himself facing
impossible expectations. Feted by Eric Clapton at his Crossroads events,
performing at major music festivals and given slow-burning hype by his new
corporate partners at Warner Bros. Records that included the acclaimed teaser
EP Bright Lights, Clark
has practically been anointed the next rock star. As such, his major label
debut (he’s self-released three previous disks) has to live up to a hype
mountain of a size no one should have to climb.

 

Eager to be
known as a songwriter and singer as much as a hot-shit guitarist, the young
auteur takes on more styles than he really should on Blak and Blu. It’s easy enough to link the psychedelic blues of
“When My Train Pulls In,” the horn-driven R&B of “Ain’t Messin’ Around,” the country blues of “Next Door Neighbor Blues,” the
amped-up Chuck Berry stylings of “Travis County” and the droning blues of
“Bright Lights” – these tracks all sound like iterations of the same tradition.

 

But when Clark
segues from “Travis
County” to the guitarless
modern R&B of “The Life” and then into the Lenny Kravitz hard rock of
“Glitter Ain’t Gold,” he sounds like he’s trying way too hard to impress.
“Look!” he’s practically yelling. “I can do this! And this! I’m not just
another guitarslinger with overly long solos!” That’s a claim belied, by the
way, by the 10-minute blend of Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun” with Johnnie Taylor’s “If You Love Me Like You Say.”

 

Clark’s talent is undeniable, but only when
he’s not flogging it half to death. The falsetto soul ballad “Please Come Home”
thoroughly charms in part because it sounds so effortless. The acid-tinged
blues metal of “Numb” comes off like a natural evolution, instead of a sudden
diversion. The psych soul of “Things Are Changin’” rides its groove with a
level of relaxed comfort of which “The Life” can’t come within hailing
distance.  Blak and Blu would better serve as a calling card had he saved
some of his more abrupt directional shifts for another EP and played to his
most developed strengths. There’s no doubt that Clark
will go far in his career, but he doesn’t have to go all that distance on one
LP.

 

DOWNLOAD: “When My Train Pulls In,” “Bright Lights,”
“Next Door Neighbor Blues” —MICHAEL
TOLAND

 

 

KASEY CHAMBERS; KASEY CHAMBERS AND SHANE NICHOLSON – Storybook; Wreck & Ruin

January 01, 1970

(Sugar Hill)

 

www.sugarhill.com

 

Ever since she started her solo career, Kasey Chambers has made
no distinction between the rural roots of her native Australia
and her affinity for authentic Americana.
In affirming her affection, Chambers has opted to release two albums
practically simultaneously, one that embraces a series of definitive covers,
the other that emulates their origins and nets the same archival results.

 

Of the two, Songbook is the one that will likely garner the most immediate response, at least on
initial inspection. For one thing, there’s a sense of familiarity right off the
bat, given the fact that the songwriters who are represented – Gram Parsons,
Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Hank Williams and John Prine
among them – are inarguably iconic. For another, several of the songs – “Return
of the Grievous Angle,” “Luka,” “True Colours” and “If I Needed You” included –
clearly qualify as standards of the Americana
variety. Wisely, Chambers doesn’t tamper with the template to any great extent,
but the combination of her emotive vocals and these heartfelt melodies creates an
ideal combination regardless. In many ways Songbook simply reinforces the fact that Chambers has a stake in these songs. Given her credibility
within those rootsy realms, the song selection alone makes this an exceptional
acquisition.

 

Wreck
and Ruin
takes that tack even further, and though its songs don’t
claim the same venerable birthright, the treatment Chambers and her longtime
partner Shane Nicholson accord them provides a similarly archival sensibility.
Recorded in the far reaches of the Australian Outback, it reflects those dusty
environs in its stripped-down arrangements and traditional tomes. Banjo, Dobro,
fiddle and mandolin take precedence here and the bare-boned feel of “Dustbowl,”
“Rusted Shoes” and “Familiar Strangers” is matched only by the knee-slapping
revelry of the title track and “Sick as a Dog.” That unassuming approach all
but assures its charms, and it only takes the gospel-like lament of “Have Mercy
on Me” or the sepia strains emitted by “Up or Down” to demonstrate the duo’s
homage to the heartland, whether its Aussie, American or otherwise. Suffice it
to say Wreck and Ruin boosts their
bid for country couple of the year.

 

DOWNLOAD: “If I
Needed You,” “Return of the Grievous Angle,” “Wreck and Ruin” -LEE ZIMMERMAN