October 4, 2015

Playlist Week of 2015-10-03

* Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper X & XI Centuries (Sequentia/Bagby) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Boulez: Le Marteau sans maître/Derive 1 & 2 (Ens. Intercontemporain/Boulez) (DG CD)
* Craig Leon: Nommos/Visiting: Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.1 (RVNG 2LP)
* Sun Ra: Continuation (Saturn/Universal LP)
* Andrew Hill: Dance With Death (Blue Note CD)
* Don Cherry: Hear & Now (Atlantic LP)
* Chick Corea/David Holland/Barry Altschul: ARC (ECM LP)
* Carla Bley: Heavy Heart (Watt/ECM LP)
* Carla Bley: Night-Glo (Watt/ECM LP)
* The Leaders: Unforeseen Blessings (Black Saint LP)
* Eric Kloss: Doors (Cobblestone LP)
* Kamasi Washington: The Epic (Brainfeeder 3LP)
* Rabih Abou-Khalil: il sospiro (Enja CD)
* John Martyn: Glorious Fool (Duke/Atlantic LP)
* John Martyn: Piece By Piece (Island LP)
* Mothers of Invention: Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (Verve LP)
* Henry Cow: Unrest (Virgin LP)
* Van Morrison: Common One (Warner Bros. LP)
* Hawkwind: Space Ritual (EMI 2CD)
* Cluster: Zuckerzeit (Brain CD)
* Pete Bardens: Seen One Earth (Cinema/Capitol LP)
* Pete Bardens: Speed of Light (Cinema/Capitol LP)
* Steven Halpern: Gifts of the Angels (Inner Peace CD)
* Patti Smith: Horses (Arista CD)
* Patti Smith: Radio Ethiopia (Arista CD)
* Patti Smith: Easter (Arista CD)
* Japan: Quiet Life (Hansa/Carrere LP)
* Gastr Del Sol: Upgrade & Afterlife (Drag City 12”+LP)
* Wilco: Random Name Generator (dBPM/Anti- 7”)
* Buckethead: Colma (CyberOctave CD)
* OM: God Is Good (Drag City LP)
* Grails: Deep Politics (Temporary Residence 2LP)
* Boris with Merzbow: Sun Baked Snow Cave (Double D Noise Industries 2LP)
* Kylesa: Exhausting Fire (Season of Mist LP)
* Pallbearer: Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore 2LP)
* Kadavar: Berlin (Nuclear Blast 2LP)
* Goat: It’s Time For Fun/Relax (Sub Pop 7”)
* Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree (Mute CD)



I got a new phone.

Actually, I put it off as long as I could. But my old iPhone 5 was getting long in the tooth: most of the buttons no longer worked and it seemed to increasingly struggle with connectivity issues. I managed to keep it going, but it was frustrating. So I pre-ordered an iPhone 6S, which was delivered to my door on release day.

As an old guy, I was pretty proud of myself for managing to backup my old phone, activate the new one and restore all my data -- all by my lonesome! Thank you, Verizon, for making it so easy.

I was not sure how much I would like the larger dimensions of the 6S, having gotten used to the 5's diminutive form factor. But it's actually a big improvement, with much better readability -- while also still fitting  comfortably into my pants pocket (unlike the 6+). And, as usual with Apple products, the ergonomics and overall aesthetic is superb and a pleasure to use.

While there are a number of new features and technology in the 6S, it's the revamped camera that really excites me. At 12-megapixels, it doubles the resolution of the iPhone 5 while adding an upgraded sensor with optical image stabilization -- a real life-saver in low-light situations. The "selfie" camera also gets an overhaul, with 5-megapixel images and a new retina display flash for more natural-looking snapshots. While I don't care much about video, it can also shoot up to 4K with on-board editing possible with the iMovie app. Pretty slick!

I had seriously considered getting a new, small camera to take with me on trips rather than the bulky and heavy DSLR. But none of the options I considered had everything I wanted -- and those that came close were quite expensive. In the end, I decided to just get a new phone, which I needed anyway. I always have my phone with me -- so, why carry another gadget?

After playing around with it a little bit this week, it's obvious how much more capable a camera it is than the old iPhone 5. No, it can't do what my big DSLR can do -- nor what a pricey compact camera could do. But as a general, all-purpose camera, it is more than adequate. I'm looking forward to our next hike!

As for the other new features, the A9 chip does seem noticeably faster and the battery lasts quite a bit longer than the 5, which is nice. The "Touch ID" feature is super-convenient (if a little bit creepy) but the new "3D Touch" technology has yet to catch up with available apps, from what I can tell. I suppose it will also be a useful feature, but I have yet to experience it. Then again, maybe I don't have it set up properly. Whatever.

In all, I would say the 6S is a big step forward from the iPhone 5 and worth the upgrade. The camera companies, however, lost another sale.


Next time: a rant about my desire to upgrade my DSLR and my frustration with Nikon for not making just exactly the camera I want!

September 27, 2015

Playlist Week of 2015-09-26

* Rameau: Pièces de Clavecin en concerts (Leonhardt, et al.) (Telefunken LP)
* Reger: Clarinet Quintet, Op.146 (Leister/Drolc Quartet) (DG LP)
* Charles Mingus: Passions of A Man: Complete Atlantic Recordings (d.4-5) (Atlantic/Rhino 6CD)
* Wayne Shorter: High Life (Verve CD)
* Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner (Blue Note CD)
* Keith Jarrett: Bop-Be (Impulse! LP)
* Muhal Richard Abrams: Vision Towards Essence (Pi CD)
* Terje Rypdal: Waves (ECM LP)
* Dorothy Ashby: Afro-Harping (Cadet/Verve CD)
* Rabih Abou-Khalil: Blue Camel (Enja CD)
* Rabih Abou-Khalil: Tarab (Enja CD)
* Rabih Abou-Khalil: The Sultan’s Picnic (Enja CD)
* Ariel Kalma: An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings 1972-1979) (RVNG 2LP)
* The Pentangle: Cruel Sister (Reprise LP)
* Strawbs: Grave New World (A&M LP)
* Strawbs: Bursting At The Seams (A&M LP)
* Amazing Blondel: Fantasia Lindum (Island LP)
* Richard Thompson: Daring Adventures Polydor (LP)
* Van Morrison: Into The Music (Warner Bros. LP)
* Van Morrison: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (Warner Bros. CD)
* Van Morrison: Poetic Champions Compose (Polydor CD)
* Van Morrison: No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (Polydor CD)
* Brian Eno: Here Come The Warm Jets (Island LP)
* Can: Live 1971-1977 (Spoon/Mute 2CD)
* Swell Maps: Collision Time Revisited (Restless/Mute 2LP)
* Mekons: Fear And Whiskey (Sin LP)
* Sunn O))): White 2 (Southern Lord CD)
* Ensemble Pearl: [ensemble pearl] (Thrill Jockey LP)
* Locrian: Infinite Dissolution (Relapse LP)
* The Sword: High Country (Razor & Tie 2LP) †/‡
* Usnea: Usnea (Orca Wolf 2LP)
* Pallbearer: Sorrow And Extinction (20-Buck Spin 2LP)
* Lower Dens: Escape From Evil (Ribbon Music LP)
* London Grammar: If We Wait (Columbia 2LP)



Autumn is one of those times of year when unusual birds show up at the bird feeders, some of them migrating south for the winter -- but other local species seem to come out of hiding as well.

One which I had never seen before was this male Summer Tanager, who was chowing down on suet cake the other day. Thankfully, he let me take a few snaps before flying into the woods. 

I did some research and I think I have seen the female around from time to time -- but she's a rather drab mustard color and I had mistaken her for some kind of oriole.

We do love bird-watching out our kitchen windows!

September 20, 2015

Playlist Week of 2015-09-19

* Geminiani: Concerti Grossi (after Corelli Op.5) (AAM/Manze) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Sun Ra Quartet: The Mystery of Being (Horo/Klimt 3LP)
* Charles Mingus: Passions of A Man: Complete Atlantic Recordings (d.1-3) (Atlantic/Rhino 6CD)
* Wayne Shorter: Footprints Live! (Verve CD)
* Wayne Shorter: Alegria (Verve CD)
* Billy Cobham: Crosswinds (Atlantic LP)
* Larry Coryell: Coryell (Vanguard LP)
* John McLaughlin: Music Spoken Here (Warner Bros. LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: Offramp (ECM LP)
* David Torn: Best Laid Plans (ECM CD)
* David Torn: Clouds About Mercury (ECM CD)
* Masabumi Kikuchi: Susto (Columbia LP)
* Marcin Wasilewski: Trio (ECM CD)
* Mike Greene: Pale, Pale Moon (GRC LP)
* Mike Greene: Midnight Mirage (Mercury LP)
* Elephant9 with Reine Fiske: Silver Mountain (Rune Grammophon 2LP/CD)
* Flying Lotus: Until The Quiet Comes (Warp 2LP)
* Flying Lotus: You’re Dead! (Warp 2LP)
* Deuter: Silence Is The Answer (Kuckuck 2LP)
* Grateful Dead: Boston Garden, Boston, MA 1991-09-24 (SBD 2CDR)
* The Incredible String Band: The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Elektra LP)
* The Incredible String Band: Wee Tam (Elektra LP)
* The Incredible String Band: The Big Huge (Elektra LP)
* The Incredible String Band: Hard Rope & Silken Twine (Reprise LP)
* Roy Harper: HQ (Harvest LP)
* Goblin: Profundo Rosso (Cinevox LP)
* Goblin: Roller (Cinevox LP)
* Ricked Wicky: Swimmer To A Liquid Armchair (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Ricked Wicky: A Number I Can Trust/Small Town Underground (GBV, Inc. 7”)
* Ricked Wicky: Poor Substitute/What’s For Dinner Uncle Aunty? (GBV, Inc. 7”)
* Anathema: We’re Here Because We’re Here (KScope CD/DVD)
* Enslaved: Ruun (Candlelight CD)
* Earth: Hibernaculum (Southern Lord LP)
* Sunn O))): Oracle (Southern Lord LP)
* Sunn O))) & Ulver: Terrestrials (Southern Lord LP)
* Expo 70: Where Does Your Mind Go? (Immune LP)
* Windhand: Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse 2LP)
* Ryley Walker: Primrose Green (Dead Oceans LP)



As part of the Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary Sale-abration, there a number of books hitting the shelves, a couple of which are definitely worth an old Deadhead’s attention.

First is Billy Kreutzmann’s memoir, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, And Drugs (St. Martin’s), and, as the title would indicate, it’s packed with juicy stories told with remarkable candor. Written with Benjy Eisen, the text has a chatty, “as-told-to” quality making for breezy reading—but his revelations of the bleaker moments backstage are also deeply saddening. It becomes abundantly clear that, by the 1980s, the band members really couldn’t stand each other:

We started off as a band of brothers—by music and by experience if not by blood. But toward the end of it, a lot of the time we didn’t want to see each other, much less have to interact on any real level…The “group mind” was no longer something we even thought about. I didn’t want to be in any of their heads any more than they wanted to be in mine (p.321).

Of course, everyone loved Jerry—even as his addictions (and otherwise chaotic personal life) were killing him right before their very eyes. And, to their credit, the band attempted several interventions over the years (if only to keep the gravy train going), but Garcia was unmoved. “There was nothing I could do” becomes a constant, pathetic refrain throughout the last half of Kreutzmann’s otherwise hugely entertaining tome.

That Garcia was the glue that reluctantly held the band together is further documented in David Browne’s So Many Roads: The Life And Times of The Grateful Dead (Da Capo). Drawing on fresh interviews and extensive research in the Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California Santa Cruz, Browne presents a respectful but clear-eyed account of the Dead’s ups and downs over the course of their career. The happy hippy days of psychedelics and pot quickly give way to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin as this band of misfits evolve into the most unlikely rock stars. Even in his darkest days, Garcia was able to pull off a brilliant performance from time to time—enough to keep the fans the coming and the machine rolling along.

Until, that is, he would collapse: from a near-fatal diabetic coma in 1986; a cancelled tour in 1992. And, every time, Garcia miraculously recovered. Then, on August 9, 1995, he finally expired, a month to the day from the final Grateful Dead concert at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Browne details the dysfunction and denial within the Dead scene, including fruitless studio sessions and a painful confrontation between Garcia and (temporary) keyboardist Bruce Hornsby between sets at the Boston Garden in 1991. “You’re just phoning it in,” he said to Garcia, “You’re not there. You’re not really delivering.”

With that Garcia’s friendly façade faded, and he muttered the phrase that would haunt Hornsby for decades afterward: “You don’t understand twenty-five years of burnout, man” (p.390)

Hornsby’s little talk did seem to have some effect. I was at that show in Boston, and it was a re-energized Jerry who walked onstage for the second set—and the rest of that run of shows. From my perspective in the audience, blissfully unaware of the backstage drama, the band seemed to be on a roll. Sure, Garcia looked older than his years, but he still sang and played with soul and spirit. And when Garcia was engaged, the rest of the band could still catch fire. I managed to see more than a few good-to-great concerts during those final years, but the machine ultimately ground Jerry Garcia to dust. I should not have been surprised when he died, but I was.

And with Garcia’s death, whatever was left of the Grateful Dead was in ashes. The final chapters of both Deal and So Many Roads attempt to put a positive spin on subsequent reunions and tours, but the proof lies in the music itself, which I think everyone involved would admit is a pale imitation in the absence of Garcia’s living presence. I don’t really blame them for trying to carry on—what else are musicians supposed to do? But I will emphatically not be seeing the latest iteration of “Dead & Co.” when they come to Nashville next month.

Both of these books are worth reading for Deadheads and the merely curious alike—but it’s not a pretty picture. Bottom line? Heroin is bad news, kids.