August 29, 2012

Six Organs of Admittance @ Spectrum Culture

My review of the new Six Organs of Admittance record, Ascent, is up at Spectrum Culture. You can check it out here. It's another great record I probably would never have heard if not for this "gig" -- I liked it so much, I bought the LP. Woot!

August 25, 2012

Playlist Week of 8-25-12

Grateful Dead - Spring '90
* Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba (Verve CD)
* Ike Quebec: Heavy Soul (Blue Note LP)
* Miles Davis: Pangaea (CBS/Sony 2CD)
* Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley: Moers Festival, Germany 5-12-08 (FM CDR)
* Stefan Prins: Fremdkörper (selections)(Sub Rosa 2CD)
* Steve Tibbetts: Safe Journey (ECM LP)
* LTJ Bukem: Drawn Inward (Good Looking/Kinetic 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: Formerly The Warlocks: Hampton 1989 (d.5) (GDP/Rhino 6HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Spring ’90 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 18HDCD)
* Deep Purple: Concerto For Group And Orchestra (Warner Bros. LP)
* King Crimson: Live In Argentina 1994 (d.1) (DGM/Inner Knot 2DVD)
* Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (Reprise/Warner Bros. 2-45RPM LP)
* Supertramp: Breakfast In America (A&M LP)
* This Mortal Coil: It’ll End In Tears (4AD HDCD)
* Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (R&S CD)
* Wilco: Summerteeth (Nonesuch 2LP)
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (selections) (Roadrunner 3CD/2DVD)
* Storm Corrosion: Storm Corrosion (Roadrunner CD/BD/2LP)(†)
* Anathema: Falling Deeper (KScope 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)
* Agalloch: Pale Folklore (The End CD)†
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End CD)†(‡)
* Agalloch: The Grey EP (Agalloch/Bandcamp FLAC)†/‡
* Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain (The End CD)†
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)
* Six Organs Of Admittance: Ascent (Drag City LP)(†)
* Pelican: The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (Hydra Head CD)†
* Pelican: “March Into The Sea” (Hydra Head EP)
* Pelican: What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord CD)†
* Pelican: Ataraxia/Taraxis (Southern Lord EP)
* White Hills: White Hills (Thrill Jockey LP)
* White Hills: H-p1 (Thrill Jockey 2LP)
* White Hills: Frying On This Rock (Thrill Jockey LP)
* Russian Circles: Empros (Sargent House CD)†/‡
* Holograms: Holograms (Captured Tracks MP4)†



Well, look what arrived in the mailbox today: this year’s big Grateful Dead box set, Spring ’90!  Unlike last year’s mammoth Europe ’72 box, this one does not contain every show from the tour; instead, there are only six—one night from each venue—totaling just eighteen CDs.  Do I wish all sixteen concerts had been included? Of course I do! Nevertheless this is a gorgeous box set—and a welcome reminder of why I still cared about the Dead in the 1990s.

Spring 1990 is widely considered to be the Grateful Dead’s last truly great tour. The band was definitely on an upswing after Jerry Garcia’s miraculous recovery from a near-death coma in 1986 and, after abandoning the recording studio for nearly a decade, the Dead’s 1987 album, In The Dark, yielded an unlikely hit single with “Touch of Grey” and a solid follow-up album, Built To Last, was released in 1989. On stage, the band was as energetic and cohesive as ever—almost slick at times—mostly as a result of Garcia’s renewed health. But keyboardist, Brent Mydland, had finally come into his own, writing songs and taking the lead far more than he had in the past and his enthusiasm seemed to inspire everyone (particularly Garcia) to bring their A-game night after night. This upward trajectory continued through the summer, but ended with Mydland’s tragic death in July 1990. The Dead soldiered on, quickly hiring Bruce Hornsby and ex-Tubes keyboardist, Vince Welnick, to fill his shoes for the imminent fall tour and this version of the band managed to keep the momentum going into the summer and fall of 1991. Hornsby left in 1992 and while Welnick never quite totally fit in, the spring tour of ‘93 was excellent, in my opinion. But, in retrospect, it seems clear that Spring ‘90 was the pinnacle of the Dead’s long, strange career.

All of the fall ‘89/spring ’90 shows were all recorded for a live album, Without A Net, which came out in September 1990 and the rest of this material has been mined for several other archival releases over the years, including Dozin’ At The Knick (1996), Terrapin Limited (1997), Nightfall of Diamonds (2001), and Formerly The Warlocks: Hampton 1989 (2010). With the exception of Terrapin Limited, the original multitrack tapes were remixed (with variable results) but for Spring ’90, recordist John Cultler’s original two-track reference tapes, mixed “on the fly” in the recording truck are used instead of remixing from scratch. This could be a cost-cutting measure on the part of GDP and Rhino, but Cutler’s “rough” mixes actually sound quite good:  well-balanced and dynamic, with a spacious soundstage and pleasing (if artificial) ambience—far preferable the flat and over-compressed sound of the Formerly The Warlocks box. I’ve only listened to a handful of discs but they sound great cranked up to “realistic” volume levels.

Once again, the packaging is over-the-top: a thick, twelve-by-twelve inch box containing the “25th Anniversary” program booklet, a hardcover book of liner notes and essays, a black-and-white promo-photo of the band circa. 1990, mail-order flyers, facsimiles of tickets, backstage passes and other tchotchkes, along with triple-disc digipacks containing the six shows (Capital Centre, Landover, MD 3/16/90; Hartford Civic Center 3/19/90; Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario 3/22/90; Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY 3/26/90; Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY 3/30/90; and The Omni, Atlanta, GA 4/2/90). I would have rather had more music and less “swag,” but it is exquisitely well executed, a genuine limited edition object d’art. The only problem is: where am I going to put it?

Close readers of my Playlist may have noticed a steep decline in Grateful Dead listening since the arrival of last year’s Europe ’72 box. Well, I have to admit: that 73-disc behemoth kind of burned me out (I never want to hear “Mr. Charlie” ever again!) and the first three volumes of the new Dave’s Picks series have left me nonplussed so far—not to mention I’ve been on this prog/metal kick lately. But Spring ’90 reminds me of why I loved the Dead so much and why I used to go see them as often as possible: they were a hot-shit band with a vast, wildly diverse repertoire, which made every show different—at the time, the possibilities seemed endless. And Garcia will always be one of my favorite guitar players, so fluidly melodic and endlessly inventive and with such gorgeous tone, I could listen to him all day—which is just what I did today. Spring ’90 is limited to 9000 copies, most of which are already sold, so if you want it, you better hurry! Only available from

August 19, 2012

Playlist Week of 8-19-12


* Dowland: Complete Lute Works, Vol.1 (O’Dette) (Harmonia Mundi CD)
* Hesperion XXI (Savall): Istanbul: Dimitrie Cantemir 1673-1723 (Alia Vox SACD)
* J.S. Bach: The Works For Lute (Kirchhof) (Sony Classical 2CD)
* Handel: Concerti Grossi, Op.3 (Academy of Ancient Music/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Stefan Prins: Fremdkörper (d.1) (Sub Rosa 2CD)
* Anthony Braxton: GTM (Iridium) 2007 Volume 2 - Set 2 (New Braxton House FLAC)
* Henry Threadgill Zooid: Parco della Music, Rome, Italy 5-04-10 (FM FLAC)
* Paul Bley: Solo In Mondsee (ECM CD)
* Royal Band de Thiès: Kadior Demb (Terranga Beat CD)
* Paul McCartney & Wings: Wingspan: Hits & History (selections) (Capitol 2CD)†/‡
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.3: Chicago 10-22-71+ (selections) (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Broken Arrow (Reprise 2LP)
* Joni Mitchell: Hejira (Asylum HDCD)
* Caravan: In The Land Of Grey And Pink (Deluxe Edition) (Deram/Decca 2CD/DVD)
* Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Warner Bros. 2-45RPM LP)†
* Elvis Costello & The Attractions: Imperial Bedroom (Columbia/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* New Order: Brotherhood (Deluxe Editions) (d.1) (Factory/Rhino 2CD)†
* Los Lobos: Colossal Head (Slash/Warner Bros. CD)
* Los Lobos: This Time (Warner Bros./Mobile Fidelity SACD)
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/Mobile Fidelity CD)†
* OM: God Is Good (Drag City LP)
* OM: Advaitic Songs (Drag City 2-45RPM LP)(†)
* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Lava/Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Nil Recurring (KScope CDEP)†
* Porcupine Tree: The Incident (Roadrunner CD/CDEP)
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* Katatonia: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (Peaceville CD/CDEP)†
* Katatonia: Viva Emptiness (Peaceville CD)†/‡
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)†/‡
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)†
* Anathema: We’re Here Because We’re Here (KScope CD/DVD)†
* Anathema: Weather Systems (The End CD)†
* Tool: Lateralus (Volcano/Tool Dissectional HDCD)†
* Tool: 10,000 Days (Volcano/Tool Dissectional CD)†
* A Perfect Circle: Mer De Noms (Virgin CD)†/‡
* A Perfect Circle: Thirteenth Step (Virgin CD)†
* Baroness: Yellow & Green (Relapse 2CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Tremulant EP (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CDEP)†
* The Mars Vola: De-Loused In The Comatorium (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* Six Organs of Admittance: Ascent (Drag City MP3)†
* Pelican: What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord CD)
* Xibalbal: Hasta La Muerte (Southern Lord MP3)†
* Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop CD)†
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop CD)†
* Holograms: Holograms (Captured Tracks MP4)†



Busy weekend!

August 17, 2012

Xibalba @ Spectrum Culture

You can read my review of the new Xibalba album, Hasta La Muerte, here.

I dunno, maybe I'm just too old for this stuff.

August 11, 2012

Playlist Week of 8-11-12

GBV - Class Clown Spots a UFO
* Buxtehude: Seven Sonatas (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (CPO/Naxos CD)
* Brahms: Sonaten für Viola und Klavier (Kashkashian/Levin) (ECM CD)
* Bartók, et al.: Concerto for Viola & Orchestra, etc. (NRCO/Eötvös/Kashkashian) (ECM CD)
* Boulez: Le Marteau sans maître/Dérive 1&2 (Ens. Intercontemporain/Boulez) (DG CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quintet (New York) 1975 (New Braxton House Bootleg MP3)†
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Karlsruhe) 1983 (New Braxton House Bootleg MP3)†
* Anthony Braxton: Duo (Belfort) 1985 (New Braxton House Bootleg MP3)†
* Henry Threadgill Zooid: The Revelry, Spp (Pi CD)
* Eraserhead (Original Soundtrack) (I.R.S./Sacred Bones LP/7”)
* Grateful Dead: Lyceum Theatre, London, England 5-25-72 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 4HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Lyceum Theatre, London, England 5-26-72 (selections) (GPD/Rhino 4HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Terrapin Lt’d. (Capital Center, Landover, MD 3-15-90 (selections) (GDP 3CD)
* The Red Krayola: Coconut Hotel (Drag City CD)
* Yes: Fragile (Atlantic/Analogue Productions LP)
* Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Warner Bros. 2-45RPM LP)
* Guided By Voices: Let’s Go Eat The Factory (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Guided By Voices: Class Clown Spots A UFO (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Guided By Voices: “Jon The Croc”/“Breathing” (GBV, Inc. 7”)
* Guided By Voices: “Keep It In Motion” / “White World,” etc. (GBV, Inc. 7”)
* Guided By Voices: “Class Clown Spots A UFO” / “Message From The Moon,” etc. (GBV, Inc. 7”)
* Robert Pollard: Moses On A Snail (GBV, Inc. CD)†/‡
* Robert Pollard: Mouseman Cloud (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Jim O’Rourke: Eureka (Drag City LP)
* Jim O’Rourke: Halfway To A Threeway (Drag City EP)
* Jim O’Rourke: Insignificance (Drag City LP)
* Porcupine Tree: The Sky Moves Sideways (KScope 2CD)
* Porcupine Tree: Signify/Insignificance (KScope 2CD)†/‡
* Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream (KScope CD/DVD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun (KScope CD/DVD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Recordings (KScope CD)†(‡)
* Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Lava/Atlantic CD)
* Buckethead: Colma (CyberOctave CD)†
* OM: God Is Good (Drag City LP)
* OM: Advaitic Songs (Drag City 2-45RPM LP)
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Legacy Edition) (Sony/The End CD/DVD)
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)
* Opeth: Lamentations (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner HDCD/DVD)†
* Opeth: The Roundhouse Tapes (Peaceville 2CD)†
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (Roadrunner 3CD/2DVD)†
* Katatonia: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (10th Anniversary Edition) (Peaceville CD/CDEP)
* Evoken: Atra Mors (Profound Lore MP3)†
* Agalloch: Fragments (singles, etc.) (Agalloch/Bandcamp FLAC)†
* Agalloch: The Grey EP (Agalloch/Bandcamp FLAC)†
* Agalloch: The White EP (Agalloch/Bandcamp FLAC)†
* Agalloch: Faustian Echoes (Agalloch/Bandcamp FLAC)
* Baroness: Yellow & Green (Relapse 2CD)†
* Xibalba: Hasta La Muerte (Southern Lord MP3)†
* Pelican: Australasia (Hydra Head 2-45RPM LP)
* Pelican: The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (Hydra Head CD)†
* Pelican: “March Into The Sea” (Hydra Head EP)
* Pelican: What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord CD)†
* Pelican: Ataraxia/Taraxis (Southern Lord EP)
* Russian Circles: Empros (Sargent House CD)(†/‡)
* Six Organs of Admittance: Ascent (Drag City MP3)†
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop 2LP)
* Dusted: Total Dust (Polyvinyl CD)



It’s tempting to say the new Guided By Voices album is their best since the hey-day of the so-called “classic lineup” in the 1990s. That might be overstating things, but Class Clown Spots A UFO is a huge step up from Let’s Go Eat The Factory, their first reunion album. The opening bass riff of “He Rises! Our Union Bellboy” even brings to mind “A Salty Salute,” the drink-along anthem that kicked off Alien Lanes back in 1995. Well, it actually turns out to be the sort of episodic rocker that characterizes Pollard’s late work, but executed with the charming sloppiness of good ol' GBV—this is a good thing! Where Let’s Go sounded tentative and pieced together, Class Clown sounds much more like a band working it out together in a room. The recordings are a little more elaborate, with hook-filled vocal harmonies and expanded instrumentation, including some cheesy keyboards, drum machines and sampled horns. The sound is still self-consciously rough-and-ready; a digital approximation of the old four-track cassette days where the lo-fi aesthetic helps to keep the creamy pop from curdling and adds gritty texture to the more experimental tracks.

Aside from the shambolic rhythm section of Greg Demos and Kevin Fennel (and the inebriated lead guitar of Mitch Mitchell) (no not that Mitch Mitchell!), the key player in the “classic lineup” was singer/songwriter/painter Tobin Sprout. He was the perfect foil for Robert Pollard’s profligacy, Sprout’s sweet melodicism countering Pollard’s rockist intensity, sort of like what Paul McCartney did for John Lennon in The Beatles. Sprout is given a lot of space here, almost stealing the show once again (as he did on Let’s Go). But Pollard brings his A-game this time and generously allows the rest of the band to flesh out the arrangements, turning songs like “Class Clown Spots A UFO,” “Keep It In Motion” and “Jon The Croc” into his catchiest songs in years. As with the last album, three (3!) seven-inch singles were released in the interim featuring those tracks and some choice B-sides, including two more gorgeous ballads from Sprout (“Breathing” and “Message From The Moon”) plus a one-minute power-pop masterpiece from Pollard (“White World”), a song so good it really should have been included on the album. And as usual, Pollard’s whimsical sleeve designs are worth the price alone.

According to this article in Rolling Stone, another album, The Bears For Lunch, is due out in November and the band has already started work on the next LP, to be titled, English Little League. Apparently, there are plans to "put out a new album every six months after that.” Well, alright! Let’s hope the rejuvenated GBV continues to evolve and grow—they give hope to us old guys.

You can download a free MP3 of “Keep It In Motion” here.


Pollard continues to release solo albums at a semi-furious clip, the most recent one being Mouseman Mars, another collaboration with producer/multi-instrumentalist, Todd Tobias. It’s a pleasant enough collection of sophisticated AOR rock but, aside from the dramatic final track (“Chief Meterologist”), nothing really stands out, even after several close listens. Oh well; no one bats a thousand, not even the amazing Robert Pollard. Never fear: another one, Jack Sells The Cow, is due out on September 18.

You can check out the opening track from Mouseman Mars, the aptly titled, “Obvious #1,” here.

August 10, 2012

"Fallen Idols" @ Spectrum Culture

This week's "List Inconsequential" over at Spectrum Culture is about "Fallen Idols." Frank Zappa was the first to come to mind. I had to restrain myself at only 223 words--I could have gone on and on (as you can see here).

August 8, 2012

Dusted & yet more Baroness @ Spectrum Culture

My four-star review of Dusted: Total Dust is up over at Spectrum Culture. It made the "Recommended" section and you can read it here.

Also, an email interview I conducted last month with Pete Adams from Baroness has also been posted. I was trying to elicit some more, um, expansive answers, but, as a friend said, "They don't call it 'stoner metal' for nothing!" Heh. I still think it's pretty cool. You can check it out here.

August 6, 2012

Evoken & Anathema @ Spectrum Culture

My review of Evoken's latest, Atra Mors, is up over at Spectrum Culture. You can read it here. Additionally, you can read my take on Anathema's "Untouchable" (Parts 1 & 2)" (and listen to the song) on July's Monthly Mix Tape.

I've been busy!

August 4, 2012

Playlist Week of 8-04-12

B&W 802D2

* Buxtehude: Seven Trio Sonatas, Op.2 (CPO/Naxos CD)
* Beethoven: Complete Music For Piano And Violoncello (Schiff/Perényi) (ECM 2CD)
* Carter: Chamber Music (Arditti Quartet/Oppens) (Montaigne/Naïve CD)
* Bill Laswell: Hear No Evil (d.1) (Virgin/Meta 2CD)
* Arcana (Derek Bailey/Bill Laswell/Tony Williams): Arcana (Avant CD)
* Arcana (Derek Bailey/Bill Laswell/DJ Disk/Jack DeJohnette: Frankfurt 7-07-97 (FM CDR)
* Arcana (Bill Laswell/Tony Williams, et al.): Arc Of The Testimony (Axiom/Island CD)
* Mark Nauseef/Ikue Mori/Evan Parker/Bill Laswell: Near Nadir (Tzadik CD)
* Frank Zappa: Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar (d.1) (Barking Pumpkin 3LP)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.2 (7-31-74) (d.3) (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* The Red Crayola: The Parable Of Arable Land (mono) (International Artists/Charly 2CD)
* The Red Krayola: God Bless The Red Krayola And All Who Sail With It (Int'l Artists/Charly CD)
* Pink Floyd: Obscured By Clouds (Pinkfloyd/EMI CD)
* Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (Pinkfloyd/EMI/Analogue Productions SACD)
* Tony Levin, David Torn & Alan White: Levin Torn White (Lazy Bones CD)
* Cat Stevens: Tea For The Tillerman (Island/Analogue Productions LP)
* Stevie Nicks: Bella Donna (Modern/Warner Bros. LP)
* Talk Talk: The Colour Of Spring (EMI LP/DVD)
* Talk Talk: Spirit Of Eden (Parlophone/EMI LP/DVD)
* This Mortal Coil: Filigree & Shadow (4AD HDCD)
* Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (KScope BD)
* Opeth: Morningrise (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner HDCD)†
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner CD/DVD)†/‡
* Storm Corrosion: Storm Corrosion (Roadrunner CD/BD)
* Anathema: We’re Here Because We’re Here (KScope CD/DVD)
* Anathema: Weather Systems (The End 2LP)
* Sleep: Dopesmoker (Southern Lord 2LP)
* High On Fire: Death Is This Communion (Relapse CD)†/‡
* High On Fire: Snakes For The Divine (E1 Music CD)†/‡
* High On Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis (E1 Music CD)†/‡
* OM: God Is Good (Drag City LP)
* OM: Aidvatic Songs (Drag City 2-45RPM LP)
* Earth: Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I (Southern Lord CD)
* Earth: Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II (Southern Lord CD)
* Baroness: First & Second (Relapse LP)
* Baroness: Red Album (Relapse 2-45RPM LP)
* Baroness: Blue Record (Relapse 2-45RPM LP)
* Baroness: Yellow & Green (Relapse 2LP)
* Wilco: The Whole Love (Nonesuch 2LP)
* Wilco: The Whole Love (Deluxe Edition) (d.2) (Nonesuch CD/CDEP)
* Pelican: The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Fall (Hydra Head CD)†
* Pelican: “March Into The Sea”/ “Angel Tears” (J.K. Broadrick remix) (Hydra Head EP)
* Pelican: What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord CD)†
* Xibalba: Hasta La Muerte (Southern Lord MP3)
* Dusted: Total Dust (Polyvinyl CD)



Listening, listening…