Friday, May 31, 2013

Jussi Reijonen, un

Forget about Gump's chocolates. Because with that you know you are getting chocolates. Life and in turn music is much more open. So getting the debut album by Jussi Reijonen in the mail some time ago, I had no idea what to expect. Un (UNCD 01) is the unexpected in the best sense. Jussi plays oud for half the album. He plays well and the music is a Mideast-Jazz fusion excursion with ensemble of both sorts of instruments that combines musical elements of both and really moves along.

The other part of the album is Jussi on electric guitar with small ensemble, meditative, thoughtful, doing an ECM space sort of version of "Naima" and original numbers, showing that Jussi is a guitarist of stature and creative-generative talent.

I wont try and describe the music fully. It is vital, engaging. Unexpected. In the best way. And not a box of chocolates either! Excellent.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Art Ensemble Syd with Michael Gregory Jackson, Liberty

It's great to have Michael Gregory Jackson (aka Michael Gregory) on the scene. Great because he is a true poetic artist--a fine and uniquely original guitarist, composer, songwriter, vocalist and lyricist. We've had an important reissue lately, dug him with his own units and with Wadada Leo Smith, and now there's a new one with Art Ensemble Syd, called Liberty (Gateway Embla Music & Experience EME 1302).

He joins up with an out-of-the-ordinary group of musicians and it's a combination both original and enjoyable to hear. Michael of course is on electric (and acoustic) guitar and also sings a bit (more on that later). Then there is the acoustic bass of Niels Praestholm, the alto, soprano and flute of Simon Spang-Hanssen, the violin of Heine Steensen, the flutes of Thorstein Quebec Hemmet and Matias Wolf Andreasen on drums and percussion.

This is the music of Michael in its current incarnation--there is a rock component in spirit and matter, but it is both lyrical and uniquely outside in its expressive strength. And it is that in a way that is what Micheal Gregory Jackson is all about. This is a creative, sympathetic band with the kind of instrumentation that gives air and light to the music. It's multi-layered more than thickly heavy.

Michael gets some guitar-gem soloing here, some of his very best. His song "Down" is particularly haunting, with lyrics that reach out to your inner angst. It's a song for the miasma many of us feel at times, during the hard times of the last decade, and it transcends by its sheer beauty.

There's a new version of "Clarity 4" that sounds as beautiful today as when he first recorded it years ago. There are some pristine acoustic guitar imaginat-ings and there are some smart rock-funk adventures.

It's a mind-blowing disk, one of his best in years. Michael is in top form and Art Ensemble Syd is an excellent vehicle for the new sounds happening here! Many stars, many stars!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Allan Holdsworth, FLATTire, Music for a Non-Existent Movie

Everyone knows by now that Allan Holdsworth is one of the prime electric guitar innovators of our era. He is a sound innovator, with a beautiful violin-like tone. He plays solos that have harmonic and melodic implications that too put him in his own league of crafty one-man stylists, a line-and-chord innovator.

Allan recorded his 11th album in 2001: FLATTire, Music for a Non-Existent Movie. It's been unavailable for a while but now resurfaces, slightly remastered, sonically enhanced and available for all to hear on MoonJune (053). Here we get a chance to listen to Allan not so much as guitarist--he appears only very briefly with a conventional instrument--but as musical thinker, as harmonist, melodist, as both spontaneous and methodical composer.

That is because everything else on this disk is generated by Allan with his synthaxe (except two cuts that bring in Dave Carpenter on acoustic bass). The instrument enables Allan to play on a guitar fretboard with strings and such, but then have that signal act as a MIDI-controller. So you can activate keyboard-sounding synth notes and chords (as you play the guitar setup), but you can also do whatever else a MIDI-controller does, including generate and control electronic drum beats.

So this is an album of Allan as self-orchestra if you like. It is Allan as he thinks melodically, as he thinks harmonically, minus the guitar attack and tone.

That takes a little getting used to. But in the end, this is first-rate cosmic electro-music as only Allan could and might piece it together. It's very much Allan and so it's going to get you smiling and digging it if you appreciate who Allan is underneath those amazing guitar runs. They are still there anyway, but as synth runs.

It's not for everybody maybe. And who is everybody? But if you clear your head and just listen without expectations, it's a damned fine album! I am glad to have it and glad it is back.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores, Sister Death

When you join bluesiness, avant psychedelic rock, folk rock and some kind of Goth in the spooki-est morbid-macabre way, you have something like what Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores give you on their album Sister Death (Cuneiform). This is a band that is so much of a piece it doesn't help much to say "it's a little like this" and "it's a little like that" because they aren't.

Alec sings and there's a female singer, too. And that works well because they both can sing. There is a kind of universal folk strain going on here, from all over the place, often taking on a minor key. But I hear everything there from Ireland to the Balkins by way of Transylvania and beyond. There's accordion in good measure, often electrified and altered. And keys in general make for distinctive ambiance throughout.

What else? The arrangements are worth the visit alone. They are very quirky and original. The songs come together as songs, dark and foreboding at times, rocking oddly at others.

This is one-of-a-kind music. You will do well with this if you are suited toward the corners of the musical universe, which most of my readers tend to pre-select themselves for. And if you like that spooky thing like I do.


Monday, May 20, 2013

dUg Pinnick, Naked

Someone who sings "all you got is you, what you gonna do?", who has come on hard blue times, scuffling, in a tough-chew of a world where things are not quite right...that person has my sympathy and gets my ear if there's music worth hearing that goes with it. This totally applies to dUg Pinnick and his latest, Naked (Rock Army MVD 5819A).

Who is dUg? He's leader of hard-rock trio King's X, but mostly on this he's playing everything--lots of guitars with thick drop-down growl, basses, drums, and of course vocals.

What I like about this is the edgy hardness of the group sound, good riffs and structure, songs with punch, and the in-your-face honesty of it all.

His singing reminds me of Smithereens vocals by Pat D. is it (?), but harder and no trace of power pop here, except, yeah there are definite SONGS that hit you full force after a while.

It's a slammer and it's well done!! Whoo!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Farthest South, Omens and Talismans

Something outside and captivating perhaps? What about the latest from the group Farthest South, Omens & Talismans (FSW 001)? It's an Israeli band.

I didn't know about these folks previously. This one stands out, though, so I surely know them now. Apparently it's their first, though they have individually worked in other situations. Barry Berko (35) and Yair Etziony (37) play some combination of guitars and electronics, but I am not sure who is doing what. Yair Yona (32) is the bassist. Albert Beger guests on sax for this set.

The album opens up a cavernous maelstrom of droning machine-like electronics and reverb drenched guitar, bass and sax.

There are some rather wonderfully spaced soundscapes and avant grooves to be had on this one. Recommended.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thurston Moore & Loren Connors, The Only Way to Go Is Straight Through

Before I go into describing the music on the album at hand I should first say that this was/is an extremely limited edition release--a vinyl LP available only in physical record stores. From what I understand this was made available to select stores on Record Store Day last month. You may have difficulty finding a copy, in other words. . .

That having been said, what we are talking about is an electric guitar duet between Thurston Moore and Loren Connors. The album is entitled The Only Way to Go Is Straight Through (Northern Spy LP). Moore, most readers will know, was a key founder of Sonic Youth who has since gone on to new projects. Loren Connors is an avant blues and otherwise musician who has been involved in a number of associations and has assumed a kind of legendary status out there.

The two crank it up for two sides of feedback, droning bends, scratchings, etchings, melodic and anti-melodic expression, and general psychedelic mayhem. The two segments were recorded live, side one at The Stone in Manhattan, side two at Public Assembly in Brooklyn.

There is good pacing and variety to be had here, for those accustomed to the more noisy a-temporal sort of avant rock out there. It is a very good set of jams. Good luck finding it. Your favorite cool record store might have a copy left?

Ladyfinger (NE), Errant Forms

Today's post in a way is of a piece with yesterday's. We turn to another rather vital modern rock outfit, Ladyfinger (NE) and their third album to date, Errant Forms (Saddle Creek LBJ-177 LP/Digital). It is to be had as download or as a clear vinyl limited edition LP, the latter including a pair of 3-D glasses to view the cover with!

This is a band realizing a sublime sort of punk-classic rock maturity. The band drives hard with guitars and rhythm dominant, yet the songs, with notable vocals and lyrics both, have a subtlety that puts them in contemporary currency as not the typical rock group.

Like UUVVWWZ's second (reviewed yesterday), this Ladyfinger effort shows a musically drawn series of pictures that have been subject to some care. This grouping of new songs shows a bit more polish than the UUVVWWZ set, but both have power to spare. Both groups have given us some very first-rate songs to like. In both cases also the guitar-bass work has something much stronger and less cliche than some of what we hear these days and it has to do in part with the interesting structures the songs call up. There's a good deal to hear, ponder, grok on Errant Forms. Plenty to like!

And "like" I am doing with this one. Certainly one of the better "real" rock outfits playing today!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

UUVVWWZ, The Trusted Language

OK, then. Here I am at 3:29 AM on a Tuesday morning. So why am I awake? I would like to say it's because The Trusted Language, (Saddle Creek LP/CD LBJ-179) the second album by UUVVWWZ, is so goddog interesting that I couldn't sleep. The reality is somewhat more mundane. It wasn't the band, though I feel strongly about this album. I am just awake, is all.

Since I am though, I could think of nothing that would keep my lids pried open more aptly than this four-tet. They hail from Lincoln, Nebraska, where perhaps the daily round there was such to allow them to devote two years to the songs on the album. In any event the time spent has paid off. The lyrics are off in an involved way and the songs themselves have a punky-skronky asymmetry that makes for provocative listening.

Lead singer Teal Gardner has a way about her, perhaps slightly out-of-control in a deliberate fashion, just a hair, though. I mean a little off of the pitch in a purposeful way, do you get me? There's an in-your-face matter-of-factness going on with her also, along with a cool sort of yodel for a second now and again. It's rough and ready and appealing what she does here. The band--guitar, bass, drums--has worked out some garage-y thrash that has twists and turns far beyond the norm--avant surf, zombie riffing, just off-of-center weirdness in general...

I find myself not tired of this record and I am working on listen number five as I write. Now that says something about the music. It's unexpected and non-cliche, so that I am still getting much out of my earful at this point. If you are going to listen to indie-windy-whatever-wave we-are-on music, then respect yourself and glomm onto this, for one. And whatever else of course. But I do recommend the thrust of UUVVWWZ to rocket you out of boredom and into someplace else better.

The album is pressed in limited quantities and includes a CD copy in the jacket, which is a very good idea. But it wont be available forever so unless you want to go with a download you should grab one soon.

There is no guilty pleasure here. It's a very good go! I hope they keep it up, too. Now would I post this one on my classical or my jazz blog? Duh, no. That doesn't take away from the real and original thing happening with these folks. So hoist one and be of good cheer. Or just listen.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The All Purpose Blues Band, Cornbread and Cadillacs

Direct from New Orleans we have today the contemporary urban blues stylings of the All Purpose Blues Band and their album Cornbread and Cadillacs (Catbone MVD5430A).

It's a band that no doubt gets people going live, and they manage to translate that effectively in the studio. They have a soul-blues sound, the main lead singer with a kind of Dr. John/Tom Waits growl to his voice that is attractive.

Billy Gregory plays a pretty wailin' lead guitar that has a touch of Michael Bloomfield, Buddy Guy and BB King, and he puts it all together well.

They play originals that have heft, spiced with a few classics like the Wolf's "Killing Floor" and Sam Cook's "A Change is Gonna Come."

This is one to hear. It deserves your attention if you are looking for some new blues. Vocally and instrumentally they are on it. So go ahead and go for it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

H3, Heinz-Hirshfield-Holtzman

The unexpected, when you are not quite sure what you are getting, is a nice treat when it all turns out well. I felt that way as I got into the album H3 (Composers Concordance COMCON 0012). It's a prog-fuse-electric avant outing by Roland Heinz (electric and acoustic guitar), Adam Holzman (keys, synth) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums). Heinz put together five compositions for the album; another four are collective improvisations by the three.

All of it is a kind of "thinking man's fusion" in that what is played can be driving but it also is quite well-thought out. Heinz is a guitarist that has something to say, the chops to say it with, and his own approach to line weaving.

Holzman and Hirshfield have good places to go on this set as well, and they go there. Both are excellent partners for Heinz in their far-from-cliche ideas and executions.

It's a very rewarding set!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kurt Vile, Wakin On A Pretty Daze

An artist who has some greatness in him (or her) manages to recreate his creative self over time, from project to project. At this point I feel comfortable saying that about Kurt Vile. His new one, Wakin On A Pretty Daze (Matador CD or special 2-LP version available at physical record stores only), has a re-creative quality. Kurt is back with a strong set of songs, well played, plenty of looseness when he wants it but hard hitting, one good thing after another.

The thing about Kurt Vile is he sounds like himself and his songs have definite twists that are all his. The vocals are deceptively laconic, guitar work excellent, and he writes songs that hang together as songs.

Wakin On A Pretty Daze takes it another step for the songs--they are strong. The lyrics have something to say and he can get some creative rock jamming going, which he does, especially on the 2-LP version.

He's become a real-deal rocker of this millennium, and this album clinches it for me. Should I say more? Listen to this one closely and it bears all the rewards such music was meant to convey!

9 Volt, Open Circuit, Parker/Maoz/Halevy & Berne

In today's shifting constellations of associations, groups, projects and albums in improvisational music, it's sometimes hard to keep track of who is with who. But when something is exceptional you forget all about the befores and afters and get into the moment.

That's what's happening to me as I listen to 9 Volt and their Open Circuit (OutNow 010) album. Rick Parker, his trombone and electronic enhancement, and Eyal Maoz, guitarist who does not eschew effects, form the core of the band, joined by Yonadav Halevy on drums and the everybody-knows-him Tim Berne on alto.

Parker and Maoz share the writing duties here and there is one collective composition-improvisation. The music is compositionally-conceptually strong to start with. It's an avant electric storm of well-conceived sound. Both Parker and Maoz make outstanding use of their electronic bag to create thoughtful storms and baroque-like walls of sound. Halevy drums with the perfect feel, gutsy and blown out or soundcoloratura as needed. Tim Berne sounds wonderful as always.

Eyal Maoz has blown me away for some time as a guitarist that has direction. Parker is right there too. Put them together here with the wonderful Maestro Berne and the suprising, inventive Maestro Halevy and you've got a tough-aced album. It's way out there in the very best electric fashion!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Movement Soul, Volume 2

Movement Soul, Volume 2 (ESP 4034) takes up where Volume One left off. That first documentary disk came out in the '60s. This one was compiled just now. Like the first volume it intersperses gospel, protest, soul, and other roots music of the time with aural documentary segments on the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Renaissance and the general coming alive of the era.

So there's something by Ralph Ellison on his work, and documentary appearances of key figures like Thurgood Marshall and other well or lesser-known figures in the struggle.

Not having heard the first volume I can only assume the conspicuous absences of certain iconic figures are explained by their previous coverage in the initial volume.

It is an absorbing listen.

Jerry Moore, Life is a Constant Journey Home

I missed this one by a mile when it first came out. So I am glad to be catching up with it now: Jerry Moore's Life is a Constant Journey Home (ESP 1061). It appeared in stores for a time in the late '60s, I am assuming, and it has a kind of folk-rock-commitment lyric ambiance that sounds nothing like the music of the late Richie Havens (RIP) but has a similar thrust.

It has a rock band loosely weaving in and out of the Moore vocals in the manner of a mid-period Tim Buckley or early Van Morrison. A young Eric Gale has some very good moments on guitar.

It has relevance to the era and is a very interesting listen. It may not be a masterpiece, but will certainly appeal to students of the era, as lived or discovered years later.

Monday, May 6, 2013

M'Lumbo, Popular Science

The past never disappears from the horizon. Sure, some aspects are cloaked, forgotten, still exercising indirect influence. Others are part of the present and future in the active sense....transformed in various ways, part of the discourse and common property of peoples in the course of their lives.

The group M'Lumbo makes excellent creative use of the past in their mid-sized outfit. Their latest, Popular Science (Pursuance 05) is a double CD, one disk made in the studio, one live at Joe's Pub in NYC. The studio disk presents Space Age remakes of popular culture masterpieces like "Beat It," "Theme from Hawaii Five-O," "The Peter Gunn Theme," "Rock Around the Clock," and so forth. M'Lumbo combine a small big-band-ish jazz-rock unit that is tight and driving with a wall of psychedelia--crazily mixed samples of pop-culture past--cartoon dialog, training films, commercials, radio broadcasts, anything and everything to put in the mix with an eye to incongruity and the sense of the unfamiliar-familiar as past, the transformation of the deadpan and the comic to one great oriental rug of meaningless meaning.

And the total matrix ends up being a comment on how the past invades the present, seemingly alien yet also familiar. It's in the end a noir psychedelia contrasting with hard hitting jazz rock. The title Popular Science is apt, referencing a magazine of the '50s-'60s that disseminated a street-level fascination with the technical aspects of modernity. And this is all about how modernity as lived inside in the '50s through today has taken on impossibly archaic qualities, of nostalgia, yes, but as a promised future that has passed, that has left us with a future-in-the-past.

So you get wall-of-sound collages, as in previous albums, and you get some serious music too. Saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and guitarist Gary Lucas are the special guests for both the studio and live sets, and Page Hamilton of Helmet on guitar for the studio set, and they all emerge from the mix from time-to-time with brilliance.

The live set, hard as it no doubt was, manages to replicate in person the complex sample and band tapestry. Robert Jordan Ray Flateau, a driving force behind the band's approach, keyboardist and sample master, divides his duties in the live setting, giving some of the sample manipulation to another auxiliary member. And it works. Understandably the live set returns to some of the music from the previous two albums with a new matrix or immediacy and some new material as well.

This is sometimes hilarious in its juxtapositions, always evocative in the end totality, and a very new take on how a band can blend freedom with tight arrangements, anarchy of means, and some excellent soloing. Page Hamilton, Gary Lucas and Jane Ira Bloom get to shine with brilliance, but the total gestalt is entirely M'Lumbo's and they are one-of-a-kind.

M'Lumbo have done it again. You may hate it, you may love it, but it is not recommended that you ignore it--or them. They are sound arteests of the impossible combinations, avant behinds that jump ahead by making past pastiche a new futurism. And they are funny-serious, good god are they funny-serious!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Eric Revis' II:II, Parallax

Bassist Eric Revis and his II:II group sure stepped in something good when they got into the studio and recorded the album Parallax (Clean Feed 266). Maybe there's almost no going wrong with a band that includes Revis, Nasheet Waits, Jason Moran and Ken Vandermark! But they do more than just get a session together here; they make a statement! There are a bunch of Revis originals that have historical depth yet are staunchly avant; there are some collective numbers; there are numbers by Vandermark and Attias; and a couple of classics: by Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton.

It all has real clout--the masters are in the house and they are playing like they mean it. Revis writes things you don't forget. Everybody plays their butts off. The couple of classics get a new wardrobe. Everything goes right!

Get this one. Don't hesitate.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Michael Schenker Temple of Rock, Live in Europe, DVD

If you dig the Flying V metal pyrotechnics of guitarist Michael Schenker and his heavily claden band, Michael Schenker Temple of Rock Live in Europe (inakustic 6187 DVD) will give you plenty of it. There's one long concert live in Tilburg and a shorter segment live at the High Voltage Festival, in the Netherlands and London, respectively, 2012.

The sound is mostly great, the music full-out, the visuals make you want to go out and buy a Flying V or at least prance around your living room. Schenker has some hammering-on chops and a great sound; he and the band get some good riffs going too, as you'd expect. It was a tour supporting the Temple of Rock album, and they get heavily into the rocking-out presupposed for such a venture.

There's a 2-CD set of the music available as well, so it's your choice. Metal guitarists may well find this a must, if only to watch Schenker's fingers at work. Any metal head with aspirations to collect will cherish the disk(s) too. Nuff said!