May 26, 2012

Playlist Week of 5-26-12

Storm Corrosion

* Hesperion XXI et al. (Savall): Le Royaume Oublié (d.1-2) (Alia Vox 3SACD)
* J.S. Bach: 7 Harpsichord Concertos (Academy of Ancient Music/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)†
* J.S. Bach: Suites For Violoncello (ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions (d.1) (Columbia/Legacy 6CD)
* John Coltrane: Coltrane Time (United Artists/Blue Note CD)
* Bobby Hutcherson: Conception: The Gift Of Love (Columbia LP)
* Lowell Davidson Trio: Lowell Davidson Trio (ESP-Disk’ CD)
* Elvis Presley: Elvis At Sun (RCA-Victor CD)
* Gram Parsons: GP (Reprise/Mobile Fidelity SACD)
* Grateful Dead: Cape Cod Coliseum, S. Yarmouth, MA 10-27-79 (d.1-2) (SBD 3CDR)
* The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? (Experience Hendrix/Sony LP)
* The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold As Love (Experience Hendrix/Sony LP)
* The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (Experience Hendrix/Sony 2LP)
* Jimi Hendrix: First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (Experience Hendrix/Sony 2LP)
* Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (Limited Edition SACD) (EMI/Analogue Productions SACD)
* Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Black Sabbath: Vol.4 (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Peter Gabriel: Plays Live (Charisma 2LP)
* Camel: Moonmadness (Gama/Janus LP)
* Camel: Rain Dances (Gama/Janus LP)
* Roxy Music: Avalon (Virgin HDCD)
* Tears For Fears: The Hurting (Mercury LP)
* Tears For Fears: Songs From The Big Chair (Mercury/Polygram LP)
* ABC: The Lexicon Of Love (Mercury/Polygram LP)
* Talk Talk: The Colour Of Spring (EMI LP/DVD)
* Talk Talk: Spirit Of Eden (Parlophone/EMI LP/DVD)
* Talk Talk: Laughing Stock (Polydor 2LP)
* Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman (Elektra LP)
* Buckethead: Colma (CyberOctave CD)
* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Lava/Atlantic CD)
* Steven Wilson: Insurgentes (KScope CD/DVD-A)
* Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (KScope 2CD)†
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)†/‡
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Still Life (Special Edition) (Peaceville CD/DVD)
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Special Edition) (Roadrunner HDCD/DVD)
* Opeth: Watershed (Special Edition) (Roadrunner CD/DVD)(†)
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* Meshuggah: Destroy Erase Improve (Reloaded) (Nuclear Blast CD)†/‡
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)
* The Mars Volta: Tremulant EP (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CDEP)†
* The Mars Volta: De-Loused At The Comatorium (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Frances The Mute (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Amputechture (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: The Bedlam In Goliath (Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Noctourniquet (Warner Bros. CD)†/‡
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop 2LP)



Storm Corrosion, the long-awaited collaboration between Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, et al.), has finally been released and it is not at all what you might expect, given its pedigree. Then again, if you had been paying attention to all the pre-release hype, you would have a rough idea of what they were up to: the deliberate antithesis of a “prog-metal supergroup”—the very thing everyone expected and, indeed, wanted from them. Obscure and incongruous bands like Comus, Popol Vuh, Univers Zero, David Crosby and Talk Talk were mooted as primary influences on the music, raising more than a few eyebrows. It was further revealed that the project grew out of a casual get-together at Wilson’s home in England back in 2010: several relaxing days spent record-shopping and nights spent drinking wine, watching movies and, sometimes, recording in the studio. Easy as pie. Wilson says Storm Corrosion is “the third part of a trilogy,” starting with his solo album, Grace For Drowning, and Opeth’s most recent record, Heritage. Accordingly, careful (or obsessed) listeners should have known exactly what to expect: some sort of psych-folk-prog monstrosity, overflowing with shimmering electric pianos, swooning Mellotrons—and a total absence of “death metal” vocals.

Yet Storm Corrosion manages to be more than the sum of their respective record collections, resulting in a remarkably fruitful collaboration between two distinctive musical personalities. Åkerfeldt’s intricate guitar work meshes easily with Wilson’s grand orchestrations—which is not that surprising given their history. But the overall mood is quiet and dark, grim and foreboding, only occasionally raising the emotional temperature with blasts of noise or almost (but not quite) rock-ish outbursts. Most of the singing is handled by Wilson, but Åkerfeldt’s unique and slightly skewed sensibility is pervasive throughout, tempering Wilson’s tendency towards grandiosity. Drums (played by PT’s Gavin Harrison) are nearly subliminal or wildly distorted,  just part of the richly atmospheric musical texture, which deploys strings, woodwinds and dense layers of vocal overdubs along with the guitars and keyboards. With nary a trace of post-modernist irony or naïve sentimentality, Storm Corrosion pursues its own take on old-fashioned progressive rock music with an earnestness and ambition that is frankly astonishing in this day and age. They could have taken the easy way out and given the fans exactly what they wanted but have instead delivered a difficult and eerily haunting record that many will likely find perplexing. But for the adventurous and open-eared, this is an album that will reward multiple start-to-finish listens.

As with most things Wilson-related, the limited edition vinyl and CD/Blu-Ray editions sold out well before the official release date on May 7 so I’m glad I did the pre-order thing. The two-LP set is gorgeously packaged, with a luxuriously textured gatefold jacket and giant-sized poster—and it came with an autographed lithograph of the cover. Cool! Unfortunately, my copy is a bit noisy (even after a couple of rounds on the Nitty Gritty record cleaning machine), which is particularly distracting given the quiet and contemplative nature of the music. Oh well; it is still a lovely object d’art. The Blu-Ray disc, on the other hand, more than makes up for the vinyl’s shortcomings: containing both surround-sound and stereo mixes in high-resolution digital, plus demos and instrumental versions, it sounds utterly fantastic. I wish more music was released on Blu-Ray as the sound quality can be stunningly good, right up there with the best analog—without all of its obvious faults. If you missed out on these special editions, rumor has it a repress is coming later this summer. Otherwise, the plain old CD sounds very good indeed.

See and hear for yourself with this evocative video for the opening track, “Drag Ropes,” which features Åkerfeldt on lead vocals. It will give you a pretty good idea of what these guys are up to. Enjoy—or not!

1 comment:

Sam said...

How you keep up with all this stuff, I don't know. More to add to the list! Still, I am seriously missing Sun Ra Sundays and hope you get a chance to return to that soon.

Here are my lists from last week:

Playlist 2012-05-28:

*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Tribute to Lester
*Daniel Barbiero and Jimmy Ghaphery: Hermes’ Labyrinth
*Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers: 1965-03-07 Cine-Tele SoundStudio, London (CDR)
*Anthony Braxton: Trio (Pisa) 1982 (BL019)
*Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Karlsruhe) 1983 (BL017)
*Anthony Braxton: Creative Orchestra (Portland) 1989 Part 2 (BL025)
*Anthony Braxton/Andrew Cyrille: Duo Palindromes 2002 vol. 2
*John Coltrane: My Favorite Things
*John Coltrane: 1965-03-28 Village Gate, NYC (CDR) selections
*Globe Unity Orchestra: Berlin + Donaueschingen 1966/67 (CDR)
*Globe Unity Orchestra & London Jazz Composers Orchestra: 1989-04-01 Koln (CDR)
*Ingrid Laubrock's Anti-House: 2010-01-18 London (CDR)
*Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory: Nine To Get Ready
*Roscoe Mitchell: Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3
*New Loft: 2012-04-30 “Making Me Drink” (wav)
*New What: 2012-05-12 Pyramid Atlantic, Silver Spring MD (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley: 2004-02-23 Florence, Italy (CDR)
*Henry Threadgill & Zooid: 2010-02-12 Jazz Gallery, NYC (CDR) disc 1
*The Trio (John Surman/Barre Phillips/Stu Martin): Conflagration
*Beach Boys: The SMiLE Sessions (2-CD version) disc 2
*James Brown: 1967-11-25 Paris (CDR)
*Caravan: In the Land of Grey and Pink
*Circulatory System: Signal Morning
*Mike Elder/Greg Jordan/Sam Byrd: 2012-04-20 (wav)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-09-16 Boston (CDR) “Dark Star”
*Grateful Dead: 1973-02-22 Champaign-Urbana IL (CDR) “Dark Star”
*Paul McCartney: Kisses on the Bottom
*Outkast: Stankonia
*Prince: Work It 2.0 (boot CDR) Vol. 7 (disc 30)
*Jack White: Blunderbuss
*White Stripes: Elephant
*Brian Wilson: That Lucky Old Sun
*Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks: Orange Crate Art

Reading List 2012-05-28:

*Beaumont and Fletcher. A King and No King (started/finished)
*King, Stephen. The Wind Through the Keyhole (started/finished)
*Rosenbaum, Ron. Explaining Hitler (finished)
*Dirda, Michael. Bound to Please (selections/in progress)
*Lee, Stan, and Jack Kirby. Fantastic Four Omnibus, Vol. 1 (in progress)
*Pushkin, Alexander. Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse, transl. James E. Falen (in progress)
*Pushkin, Alexander. Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse, transl. Vladimir Nabokov (in progress)