October 27, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-10-26

* Messian: Quartet For The End Of Time (Shaham et al.) (DG CD)
* Stockhausen: Mantra (Mikashoff/Bevan/Orsted) (New Albion CD)
* John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live At The Half Note  (Impulse! 2CD)
* Herbie Hancock: V.S.O.P. (Columbia 2LP)
* Eddie Henderson: Realization (Capricorn LP)
* Sam Rivers’ Rivbea All-Star Orchestra: Inspiration (RCA-Victor CD)
* Larry Coryell: Basics (Vanguard LP)
* Joachim Kühn: Springfever (Atlantic LP)
* Bill Connors: Theme To The Guardian (ECM LP)
* Bill Connors: Of Mist And Melting (ECM LP)
* Joe Morris & Augusti Fernandez: Ambrosia (Riti CD)
* Guillermo E. Brown: Soul At The Hands Of The Machine (Thirsty Ear CD)
* DJ Wally: Nothing Stays The Same (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Island/Def Jam CD)†/‡
* Frank Zappa: Wazoo (Zappa Family Trust 2CD)
* Chicago: Chicago VII (Columbia 2LP)
* Dreams: Dreams (Columbia LP)
* Automatic Man: Automatic Man (Island LP)
* Automatic Man: Visitors (Island LP)
* Fleetwood Mac: Mirage (Warner Bros. LP)
* Fleetwood Mac: Tango In The Night (Warner Bros. LP)
* Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (Island/Back On Black LP)
* Van Der Graaf Generator: The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other (Virgin/4MWB LP)
* Van Der Graaf Generator: H To He Who Am The Only One (Virgin/4MWB LP)
* Van Der Graaf Generator: Pawn Hearts (Virgin/4MWB LP)
* AC/DC: For Those About To Rock (Atlantic LP)
* Thurston Moore & Loren Connors: The Only Way To Go Is Straight Through (Northern Spy LP)
* Circus Devils: When Machines Attack (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Circus Devils: My Mind Has Seen The White Trick (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Giant Robot: Giant Robot (NTT CD)
* Boards Of Canada: Music Has A Right To Children (Warp 2LP)
* Boards Of Canada: Geogaddi (Warp 3LP)
* Boards Of Canada: The Campfire Headphase (Warp 2LP)
* Boards Of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp 2LP)
* Astra: The Weirding (Metal Blade CD)
* Pelican: Forever Becoming (Southern Lord 2LP)
* Chris Forsyth: Solar Motel (Paradise of Bachelors MP3)†(‡)
* Wild Nothing: Nocturne (Captured Tracks CD)†/‡
* Beach House: Teen Dream (Sub Pop 2LP)



When I reviewed guitarist Chris Forsyth’s Kenzo Deluxe (Northern Spy), for Spectrum Culture last year, I called him as a “post-modern master of the instrument” and described the album as “four thoughtful, highly personal meditations on the electric guitar’s limitless possibilities.” Utilizing an array of stomp boxes, including digital delays and a looping pedal, Forysth crafted a beautiful set of intimately evocative pieces; but, as much as I enjoyed this quiet and contemplative solo album, I really wanted to hear him with a full band, rocking it out. Now, over a year later, we finally get the opportunity.

On Solar Motel, Forsyth’s new album for Paradise of Bachelors, he is joined by Mike Pride on drums, Peter Kerlin on bass and Shawn Edward Hansen on keyboards, and together they fulfill the latent promise of Kenzo Deluxe. Forsyth calls what he does “Cosmic Americana,” synthesizing jazz, rock, blues and avant-garde styles into a singular, guitar-driven instrumental music that rewards the ear, mind and body. With a muscular rhythm section in tow, including minimalist yet atmospheric keyboards, Forsyth clearly references the dual-guitar line-ups of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd of Television and Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth while sounding nothing like any of those individuals. Although he studied with Lloyd for a while, Forsyth’s angular, slashing attack sounds more like Robert Quine than anyone else—and the accumulative instrumentation and epic crescendos bring to mind the ecstatic grandeur of Popul Vuh. In the end, however, these references are merely touchstones in a singularly conceived aesthetic.

Divided into four parts (and further subdivided into two side-long pieces which flow seamlessly together), Solar Motel is presented as a suite and painted with broad strokes. Beginning with a looped, one-note figure, "Part I" builds slowly over the course of twelve blissful minutes, slipping in and out of time with uncanny precision. The transmogrified pulse then segues into "Part II," featuring a majestic theme and a spacious, two-chord jam, rich with plummy guitar and synthesizer tones. Side two slows things down and adds a bluesy arpeggiated feel while further increasing the complexity, with interleaving section work punctuated by pregnant pauses. Finally, a spacey loop introduces "Part IV," ending with the loosest and most uncompromisingly psychedelic track on the album. Solar Hotel is a subtly cohesive, 45-minute-long piece and, once it ends, you immediately want to hear it again, in order to better understand how the pieces fit together—and to experience it as one, never-ending loop. That, to me, is the sign of a great record.

Solar Hotel hits the streets on Tuesday, digitally and on limited edition, gatefold LP. Although Paradise of Bachelors kindly sent me an advance MP3, you know I’ll be getting this one on wax—and you should too! Most highly recommended.

October 20, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-10-19

Mark Dresser Quintet - Nourishments

* Scelsi: Natura Renovatur (Uitti/Münchener Kammerorchester/Poppen) (ECM CD)
* McCoy Tyner: Focal Point (Milestone LP)
* McCoy Tyner: Inner Voices (Milestone LP)
* McCoy Tyner: The Greeting (Milestone LP)
* McCoy Tyner: Horizon (Milestone LP)
* Henry Threadgill Zooid: TOMORROW SUNNY / THE REVELRY, Spp (Pi CD)
* David S. Ware Quartet: Go See The World (Columbia CD)
* David S. Ware Quartet: Surrendered (Columbia CD)
* Barre Phillips: Three Day Moon (ECM LP)
* Myra Melford Be Bread: The Image Of Your Body (Cryptogramophone CD)
* Myra Melford Be Bread: The Whole Tree Gone (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments (Clean Feed CD)
* Taylor Ho Bynum 7-tette: Navigation (Possibility Abstracts XII & XIII) (Firehouse 12 2CD)
* Mary Halvorson Septet: Illusionary Sea (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Dreams: Dreams (Columbia LP)
* Milton Nascimento: Milton (A&M LP)
* Bill Laswell: Broken Vessels (OST) (Velevel/KOCH CD)
* Tabla Beat Science: Tala Matrix (Axiom/Palm CD)
* Tabla Beat Science: Live In San Francisco At Stern Grove (Axiom/Palm 2CD)
* Jerry Garcia: Garcia Live Vol.3: Legion Of Mary: Northwest Tour ’74 (Round/ATO 3HDCD)
* McDonald & Giles: McDonald & Giles (Cotillion LP)
* Quiet Sun: Mainstream (Antilles LP)
* Vangelis: Opera Sauvage (Polydor LP)
* Automatic Man: Automatic Man (Island LP)
* Automatic Man: Visitors (Island LP)
* X: See How We Are (Elektra LP)
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador 2-45RPM LP)
* Lee Ranaldo & The Dust: Last Night On Earth (Matador 2LP)
* Yo La Tengo: Fade (Matador LP)
* Yo La Tengo: “Ohm” (Matador 4-EP)
* Seefeel: Polyfusia (Astralwerks/Caroline CD)
* Seefeel: Starethrough EP (Warp CDEP)
* Seefeel: Quique (Astralwerks/Caroline CD)
* Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (Columbia CD)†/‡
* Pelican: Forever Becoming (Southern Lord 2-45RPM LP)
* Pelican: Arktika (Live From Russia) (Southern Lord CD)
* Red Fang: Whales And Leeches (Relapse LP+12”)
* Uncle Acid: Mind Control (Metal Blade 2LP)



It never ceases to amaze me how the language of jazz continually reinvents itself, remaining constantly recognizable yet endlessly new. For example, on the new CD by the Mark Dresser Quintet, Nourishments (Clean Feed), the bassist/composer takes inspiration from that most avant-garde of traditionalists, Charles Mingus, writing challenging yet often times swinging compositions for a group of musicians with whom he has been closely associated for many years. The result is at once accessible but also cerebral and abstractly beautiful. It is good old-fashioned jazz music, thoroughly reinvigorated.

The Mingus influence comes through in the instrumentation (with Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Micheal Dessen on trombone, Denman Maroney on piano and either Tom Rainey or Michael Sarin on drums) as well as in its compositional approach, reveling in the time-shifting metrical modulation and layered, asymmetrical ostinatos that characterized Mingus’s most memorable work. But there’s more going on here than just a nostalgic tribute. Dresser’s extensive experience with Anthony Braxton and as a leader in his right adds further levels of complexity, with what he calls in the liner notes “timbre sculpting” and “gradience (i.e. the blurring of boundaries between pitch and noise, meter and texture, form and feeling.” On several tracks, Maroney adds microtonal preparations to the piano, scraping and rubbing the strings while Dresser evokes otherworldly sounds with his bow. But, no matter how “out-there” the music might get at times, most of the compositions are built upon semi-conventional forms, ballads and blues, which allow for both collective and group improvisation that is unified, cohesive and utterly compelling. No doubt this is challenging, complex music—but played with such sensuous aplomb that it is delightfully easy to listen to.

In true Mingus-like fashion, several of the pieces are re-workings and rearrangements of prior compositions. For instance, the opening track, “Not Withstanding” began life as “Mauger Time” for the Mauger trio, a slippery, tempo-shifting bass line over which the rest of the group would collectively improvise. Here, Mahanthappa has added a twisty melody, which is fleshed out by Dessen’s trombone. Other tracks (“Canales Rose,” “Rasaman”) were originally conceived “telematically,” using the Internet to rehearse and perform across vast physical distances, with the title track originating in collaboration with filmmaker Sarah Jane Lapp. “Apertivo” was previously recorded on Time Changes (Cryptogramophone) (2005) with Maroney, Sarin and singer Alexandra Montano but is here given a rousing instrumental performance. A boisterous C-jam blues that would make Mingus proud, music that is both deeply rooted in tradition while being ever always up to the minute.

Nourishments is one of those albums that lives up to its title—as well as its delicious cover art. It is certainly good enough to eat. And, like a fine meal, this album is good for you, too, both body and soul. Most highly recommended to even the most cautiously adventurous jazz aficionado!

October 15, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-10-12

* Leclair: Sonatas (Holloway/ter Linden/Mortensen) (ECM CD)
* John Coltrane: Ascension (Impulse! CD)
* Alice Coltrane:  A Monastic Trio (Impulse! CD)
* Alice Coltrane: Lord Of Lords (Impulse! LP)
* Chick Corea: My Spanish Heart (Polydor 2LP)
* Oregon: In Concert (Vanguard LP)
* Mike Nock: Succubus (Sutra LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: Still Life (Talking) (Geffen LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: We Live Here (Geffen CD)
* Pat Metheny Group: Imaginary Day (Geffen DVD-A)
* L. Subramaniam: Garland (Storyville LP)
* L. Subramaniam: Electric Modes: Winter Sessions (Water Lily Acoustics LP)
* Iasos: Inter-Dimensional Music Through Iasos (Unity LP)
* Dreams: Dreams (Columbia LP)
* George Duke: Liberated Fantasies (MPS LP)
* The Red Crayola: The Parable Of Arable Land (International Artists/Universal LP)
* The Red Krayola: Introduction (Drag City LP)
* McDonald & Giles: McDonald & Giles (Cotillion LP)
* Black Sabbath: Live At Last (NEMS LP)
* Uriah Heep: Uriah Heep (Mercury LP)
* Lee Ranaldo & The Dust: Last Night On Earth (Matador 2LP)
* Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Mirror Traffic (Matador CD)
* Robert Pollard: Crickets: The Best Of The Fading Captain Series (Fading Captain 2CD)
* Robert Pollard: "Tonight's The Rodeo"/"Astral City Slicker" (GBV, Inc. 7")
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner 2LP)
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)†/‡
* Schpongle: Museum Of Consciousness (Twisted 2LP)
* Earthless: From The Ages (Tee Pee 2LP)
* Mastodon: The Hunter (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)†
* Grails: Black Tar Prophecies, Vols. 4,5 & 6 (Temporary Residence 2LP)
* Uncle Acid: Mind Control (Metal Blade 2LP)



Sorry folks, not even a photograph this week. It was a very interesting, if not to say, profound, weekend. The upshot is: I haven’t had a cigarette for three days. Thank you for your support and understanding!