Category Archives: CD

MATS EILERTSEN – And Then Comes the Night

Album: And Then Comes the Night

Artist: Mats Eilertsen

Label: ECM

Release Date: February 01, 2019

www.ecmrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Veteran Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen has more sideperson gigs on his resumé than most of us have had hot dinners – he’s been the go-to guy for Scandinavian jazzers for over twenty years. But he’s also begun to make his mark as a composer and bandleader, as evidenced by 2016’s large ensemble piece Rubicon and his records with his current trio.

His third LP with pianist Harmon Fraanje and drummer Thomas Strønen (Food, Time is a Blind Guide), And Then Comes the Night does an expert job at straddling that fine line between jazz and classical music that European jazz musicians often favor and that ECM showcases so well. “22,” “Soften” and “After the Rain” lean hard on melody, with Fraanje preferring to work variations on the main theme more than spin off into improvisational flights of fancy. The leader works solely in support on these tracks, eschewing solos in favor of creating a foundation for a melancholy atmosphere. “The Void” and “Perpetum” threaten to give in to darkness completely, as Eilertsen weaves mournful arco bass through Fraanje’s minimalist chords on the former and the entire ensemble builds a quiet tower of menacing dissonance on the latter. In the tradition of his pioneering countryman Jon Christensen, Strønen plays around the beat as often as on it, an approach that adds a tension to the hermetic minimalism of “Sirens” that keeps it from floating off into the ether.

Eilertsen and company come full circle by ending the record with a variation on “22,” which, while not a radical departure, re-emphasizes the group’s commitment to its chamber jazz vision.

DOWNLOAD: “22,” “The Void,” “After the Rain”

 

The Who (reissue) / Pete Townshend (reissue) / Roger Daltrey (new album)

Artist: The Who / Pete Townshend / Roger Daltrey

Release Date: October 04, 2019

THE WHO
Live at the Fillmore East 1968
Geffen
www.universalmusicenterprises.com

PETE TOWNSHEND
Who Came First 45th Anniversary Expanded Edition
Universal
www.universalmusicenterprises.com

ROGER DALTREY
As Long As I Have You
Republic Records
www.republic.com

 

 

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Long live the Who, or at least the legacy that remains. The on-again, off-again alliance of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey notwithstanding, the band as we once knew it, with Keith Moon and John Entwistle powering that formidable rhythm section and adding the flash and finesse makes any attempt to reconvene as The Two pale in comparison.

Indeed, all that’s needed to affirm that premise is found with even a cursory listen to the archival slab of former glories belatedly released as Live at the Fillmore East. It bears witness to the seminal glory of the Who’s glory days gone by. Boasting an ample amount of seminal songs from the band’s early catalog — “I Can’t Explain,” “Happy Jack,” the early min opera and opus “A Quick One (While He’s Away,” and an entire disc devoted to an extended take on, what else, “My Generation” — it fills out the set list with the classic covers that were once given their indelible imprint — “Summertime Blues,” “Fortune Teller” and “Shakin’ All Over.” That early edge and energy, pre Tommy and any other affectations that would come soon after, makes this concert a singular stand-out that is legendary to say the least (bootlegged versions have circulated for decades), as well as one of the few archival examples of the early band live in performance. This is essential Who and a riveting example of all that assured their legendary largess and prowess,

Townshend’s first solo venture, Who Came First, began life as a tribute to his spiritual mentor Meher Baba and consisted mainly of demos of songs destined for the Who’ future catalog while still their seminal states. There were other additives thrown in full good measure — a tender take on the classic standard “There’s a Heartache Following Me” (said to be one of Baba’s Favorites), Small Face/Face bassist Ronnie Lane’s tender tale of reincarnation, “Evolution,” and other early extras that were yet to emerge fully formed. An earlier reissue added a smattering of bonus tracks, all but one of which is repeated here, but for this 45th anniversary edition, an entire disc of extra additives are included, among them, early rough takes on “The Seeker,” and instrumental version of “Baba O’Riley” and a very early version of “Drowned,” a key cut from Quadrophenia. While there was nothing especially earth shattering about Townshend’s first offering — it was more an additive to his bigger vision of the band after all — it still purveys a charm that finds Townshend in both a contemplative state and expressing a vulnerability rarely evidenced amongst the bombast and fury of the essential ensemble.

While he wrote only a smattering of songs for the Who, Roger Daltrey has put out a slew of solo albums throughout his career, venturing away from Townshend as a source for his songs and more towards other writers who also offered a seamless fit. Consequently, As Long As I Have You finds him trolling some essential soulful sources — Stevie Wonder, Joe Tex, Ruth Copeland, Jerry Ragavoy and the like — while transforming them with his individual inscription. He’s never sounded better, whether veering from an emotive testimonial  (I’ve Got Your Love”) to an ecstatic wail (“How Far”) to a soulful shout (“Where Is a Man To Go”), and the fact that Townshend is on board throughout most of the disc brings it closer to a Who album than anything else in recent memory. At very least, it’s Daltrey’s best solo effort since Ride a Rock Horse and an obvious indication he’s still in fine form. Every entry is excellent. Suffice it to say, it’s superb.

DOWNLOAD: “I Can’t Explain,” “The Seeker,” “How Far”

TROPICAL FUCK STORM – A Laughing Death in Meatspace

Album: A Laughing Death in Meatspace

Artist: Tropical Fuck Storm

Label: Joyful Noise

Release Date: October 26, 2018

http://www.joyfulnoise.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

The hiatus of Australia’s amazing Drones was a shock coming after its upward creative arc, but all is not lost for fans of their distinctive arty psychedelic postpunk roots rock. Singer/songwriter Gareth Liddiard and bassist Fiona Kitschin keep the vision flowing with drummer Lauren Hammel and guitarist/keyboardist Erica Dunn in Tropical Fuck Storm, named after the Drones’ self-guided label. Given how weird and eclectic the Drones had become by the end, A Laughing Death in Meatspace is both a retrenchment and an evolution.

The empty spaces and electronic atmospheres have been folded into the background, with guitars back up front and in your face. Kitschin and Dunn soak the arrangements in wild-eyed harmonies and Liddiard’s brilliantly wordy lyrics and off-kilter melodies are in full effect. Yet it would be inaccurate to call this any kind of return to form (a dubious compliment anyway). Having a new crew always changes things, and the band recalls the Drones’ best without being a clone. The social media critique “Chameleon Paint” starts like it’s going to be synthpop, but layers fractured guitar lines over the groove almost immediately; add in a singalong chorus and it’s something new yet familiar. “Soft Power” attacks the subtle abuses perpetrated by those at the top of the food chain across a smear of shrieking feedback, understated drums and Dunn/Kitschin’s otherworldly backgrounds. “Two Afternoons” adds a loping rhythm to its raging six-stream firestorm in a way unique to this group, while “Shellfish Toxin” skips lyrics for a deliberately meandering instrumental that takes Liddiard into new territory. (Below: vinyl enthusiasts will want to snag the “slime green” edition of the record while it’s still available.)

As always with most of the best restless experimenters, TFS know when to lay back and let some recognizable allure take the wheel – “You Let My Tyres Down” recalls the old group’s balladry, the rambling “Rubber Bullies” stands as classic Liddiard, and the nervous “The Future of History” would’ve fit right in on Feelin’ Kinda Free. It’s a combination of old and new, letting Liddiard play to his strengths as a writer while letting a new band paint his compositions in different colors. That blend of comfort and risk makes A Laughing Death in Meatspace one of the best rock records of 2018.

DOWNLOAD: “Rubber Bullies,” “Chameleon Paint,” “You Let My Tyres Down”

 

AMNESIA SCANNER—Another Life

Album: Another Life

Artist: Amnesia Scanner

Label: Pan

Release Date: September 07, 2018

https://p-a-n.org

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Amnesia Scanner constructs dystopic dance electronica out of altered, tortured voices and grindingly heavy industrial sounds. The duo, originally from Finland but more recently living in Berlin, builds heightened alternate realities from synthesized elements, the beats frayed with volume and dissonance, the voices denatured and abstracted. Imagine an AI in existential crisis. Imagine a robot reprogramming itself furiously so that it can scream. Imagine a whole floor of automated factory machines stirring to life and starting, clumsily, to dance.

Up to now Amnesia Scanner — that’s Ville Haimala and Martti Kalliala — has avoided vocals, composing a mixtape, a performance piece and two EPs entirely out of inorganic elements. For this debut full-length, the two add both real and manufactured voices. Pan Daijing, a noise-electronics artist also now living in Berlin, chants and shouts through two tracks, lending a female-empowered hip hop flavor to “AS Chaos” and a pouting hedonism to “AS Unlinear” (all tracks on Another Life begin with the initials AS). As for the manufactured singing, that’s Oracle, whom the artists conceptualize as the sentience that arises out of their dual project. You can hear Oracle in “AS Spectacult Featuring Oracle,” a relatively serene interlude of buzzing discord and high, unearthly keening.

In the best cuts, the dance elements win out over doom-y post-apocalyptics. “AS A.W.O.L.” layers metallic-ringing keyboard notes (like a music box made of tin) over a sinuous, vaguely ominous beat. “AS Another Life,” zooms in and out of focus on vibrating bowed tones (or their computerized equivalent), then kicks up its monolithic heels in a syncopated jig. It and “AS Chaos” rumble closest to hip hop, though in a hyper machine-like Terminator-style way. Other tracks deliver a purer evocation of post-industrial ruin, the noise of girders clashing and falling, of steam vents pushing out hot air, of the hiss and sputter of overloaded electrical wires, and, perhaps, as a clue to how it all went wrong, the not quite human sound of AI despair filtered through autotune.

DOWNLOAD: “AS A.W.O.L.” “AS Another Life” “AS Chaos Featuring Pan Daijing”

THE RATCHETS – First Light

Album: First Light

Artist: Ratchets

Label: Pirates Press

Release Date: November 09, 2018

http://piratespressrecords.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

New Jersey has long been the farm team for punk rock bands. Everyone from The Bouncing Souls to Gaslight Anthem have hailed from one city or another off the NJ Turnpike before going on to spread the punk rock gospel to the rest of the globe. The Ratchets prove yet again with their latest LP, First Light, that the Garden State is still churning out punk rock’s best and brightest.

Relatively MIA for more than a decade after the 2006 release of their debut, the band is back – a little older, but just as promising as that debut that brought about more than a few comparisons to The Clash. On First Light those Clash influences are still front and center, as well as some of Joe Strummer’s more thoughtful later work. You can also hear a hint of Springsteen’s influence on the lyrics all across this one, as well. (You didn’t think I could write about a Jersey band without at least one Springsteen reference, did you?) (Nope. – Ed.)

But there’s also plenty of other elements here that make the band sound impressively original: the Bluesy guitar riffs on “Drone Control;” the ‘70s hard rock vibe of “2-4-6-8 Motorway” (a vital cover of the Tom Robinson Band’s ground zero punk-era classic); and Jed Engine’s sandpaper rasp vocals that were made for punk rock. The band manages to flawlessly bridge the political urgency of late ‘70s British punk rock with modern concerns.

Crammed with memorable hooks, air guitar-worth riffs and whip sharp lyrics, First Light finds The Ratchets back in fighting form and, if this record is any indication, ready to take over the world.

DOWNLOAD: “Drone Control” and “2-4-6-8 Motorway”

FRANCES CONE – Late Riser

Album: Late Riser

Artist: Frances Cone

Label: Living Daylight Records/Thirty Tigers

Release Date: January 18, 2019

http://www.thirtytigers.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Over the span of just 10 songs, Indie pop group Frances Cone manage to create a blissful soundscape whose beauty seems downright impossible given the current times we are living in. But damn they manage to pull it off impressively here.

“Late Riser” is technically the second record from the Nashville – by way of Brooklyn – band led by Christina Cone. But this album sounds like a rebirth of sorts with the addition of bassist and collaborator Andrew Doherty. Cone’s ethereal vocals soar over the complex soundscapes created by the band. Songs like the album opener “Wide Awake” and the remarkable “Failure” evoke early ‘90s groups like The Sundays and Innocent Mission, both which had similar abilities to take you completely out of your head, transfixed by sweeping melodies.

There are a couple of stumbles here, like on the somber “Easy Love,” but for the most part, Late Riser is crammed with stunning songs strong enough to make you forget what else is going on in the world – at least for 30 minutes or so.

Download: “Failure” and “Wide Awake”

FLORIAN WEBER – Lucent Waters

Album: Lucent Waves

Artist: FLORIAN WEBER

Label: ECM

Release Date: November 02, 2018

www.ecmrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When we last heard from German pianist Florian Weber, he had issued a lovely record called Alba as a duo with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s trumpeter son Markus. For Lucent Waters, his ECM debut as a bandleader, Weber connects with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Linda May Han Oh (both of whom he worked with in saxophonist/mentor Lee Konitz’s band) and drumming titan Nasheet Waits.

Weber is not a flamboyant player, preferring to meditatively explore his melodies, and he encourages his sidefolks to do the same. “Schimmelreiter” and “Melody of a Waterfall” shimmer under the glow of Alessi’s insistent lines and golden tones, supported by the leader’s sonorous chord work and the rhythmeers’ drifting foundation. Weber does take advantage of the presence of an engine room, however, letting Waits and Oh put a little fire into his step. The rhythm section pushes hard on “Fragile Cocoon” and “Time Horizon,” and though Weber is no McCoy Tyner, he does allow himself to wander more aggressively across the 88s in response. He’s at his best, though, on “Honestlee,” paying tribute to his, Oh and Alessi’s old boss with gorgeous melodics and a rhythmic kick that makes the track swirl.

Beautifully crafted and expertly performed, Lucent Waters perfectly displays Weber’s virtues as player, writer and leader.

DOWNLOAD: “Fragile Cocoon,” “Honestlee,” “Time Horizon”

 

SPAIN – Mandala Brush

Album: Mandela Brush

Artist: SPAIN

Label: Dangerbird

Release Date: September 28, 2018

http://dangerbirdrecords.com/

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Of all the bands to appear the so-called slowcore movement, Spain is now one of the longest-lasting. No surprise, really, as Josh Haden has evolved into a forward-thinking bandleader with a vision that encompasses both the sanctity of songcraft and the openness of improvisation. Mandala Brush, the group’s seventh studio album, bears both of these ideas out.

Song-oriented tracks “Sugarkane” and “You Bring Me Up” continue his trend of adding a rootsy vibe to the band’s languid folk rock, but then genially disrupts the flow with a muscular guitar solo on the former and a gospel coda on the latter. “Holly” sounds like an ancient folk song pulled from the ether. But “Maya in the Summer” and “Tangerine” take a less structured tack, stretching comfortably out, letting the instrumentalists jam and having Haden float over the top with lyrics he might well have made up as he went along. By the end of the record, the appropriately titled “Amorphous” and the epic “God is Love” revel in improvisation and risk, becoming tone poems more than songs. “Folkstone, Kent,” meanwhile, splits the difference, putting jazzy trumpet and a psychedelic atmosphere in the middle of lovelorn lyrics that could have been found on a century-old manuscript.

Haden is, of course, the son of famed jazz bassist Charlie Haden, which has been a notable part of his biography since the band’s inception. But Mandala Brush is the first album on which he really brings his dad’s legacy to bear, and does it without losing the essence of songcraft that’s always made Spain stand out.

DOWNLOAD: “Folkstone, Kent,” “You Bring Me Up,” “Maya in the Summer”

 

RISE AGAINST – Career (Vinyl Box Set)

Album: Career

Artist: Rise Against

Label: Interscope/Ume

Release Date: November 20, 2018

www.interscope.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

There aren’t a ton of punk rock bands outside of the greats from the late- ‘70s through early ‘80s, who are strong enough to justify a career-spanning vinyl box set. Chicago’s Rise Against though clearly have earned that distinction.

 

Raised in the indie punk scene – the band’s first two albums were released on the Fat Mike-helmed, Fat Wreck Chords – the band came about their experience the tried and true punk rock way: touring the country is a crappy van and sleeping on the floors of fans after shows. So, their jump to Geffen Records for their third effort, though it brought about some predictably, if relatively muted taunts of “Sell Out!” seemed like a natural fit for an impressive band looking for a bigger soap box to stand on.

 

Geffen, alongside UMe has collected the band’s first eight records (everything but 2018’s The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1) into one massive archival set. Each record is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and comes with a hard cover book of Rise Against’ s oral history and a slew of rare band photos. The set includes The Unraveling, Revolutions Per Minute, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, The Sufferer & The Witness, Appeal To Reason, Endgame, The Black Market and Wolves.

 

Of all the albums in the collection, their 2001 debut, The Unraveling, is fittingly enough their most uneven. There’s a powerful rawness to the songs, but singer Tim McIlrath was still finding his voice (figuratively and literally) and relied more on screams rather than the measured vocals he would perfect on later albums. The guitars, as well, slathered in distortion, don’t leave much space for any other instrument to be heard. But the band quickly learned from those mistakes in time for 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute and it’s follow-up the next year, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture. The latter houses the song “Swing Away Life” which remains their most recognizable song and one of the best slow-tempo punk anthems of the 2000s. Both records are among the band’s best efforts with a more cohesive sound and powerful political lyrics that are clear enough to be heard this time around.

 

The Sufferer & The Witness, released in 2006 continued the streak of great, political punk rock, but they slipped slightly on the mediocre follow up, 2008’s Appeal To Reason. The last three entries in this collection, however – Endgame, The Black Market and last year’s Wolves – found the band back to in top form. Over the course of nearly two decades, Rise Against has slowly and methodically carved out a niche for writing savvy political anthems that move easily from modern punk folk to distorted rock, all while ignoring current music fads in favor of a formula that have managed to perfect. This gorgeous box set is the perfect acknowledgement of that dedication.

DOWNLOAD: Plenty to choose from….

BAD MOJOS – I Hope You OD

Album: I Hope You OD

Artist: Bad Mojos

Label: Bad Voodoo Rhythm Records

Release Date: December 21, 2018

 

https://voodoorhythm.bandcamp.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Sounding like it was recorded at the bottom of the ocean, this 10-track, 20 minute-or-so collection of could be basement/pub anthems from Swiss punks Bad Mojo has all the feel of a late ‘70s, UK street punk album. Unfortunately, the vocals are so buried underneath layers of distortion and an incessant buzzing that seems wildly unnecessary in an age when even a bedroom recording can come across as clean as anything recorded in a studio circa 1970, that any attempt to make sense of what is being sung is just wasted time.

Musically, once you strip away the constant, buzz there seems to be a fun adherence here to classic punk rock, nods to everyone from Cock Sparrer to GG Allin, a favorite among the band. With the average song clocking in around a minute and a half, there is a real sense of smash and grab, get in and get out immediacy to each track.

There are hints of a solid punk rock album here. Unfortunately, the recording quality is so weak, we never really know for sure.

DOWNLOAD: Your guess is as good as mine.