Tuesday, April 30, 2013

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The National don't do anything radically different on Boxer, but then again, they don't really need to: their literate, quietly anthemic take on indie rock seemed to have arrived fully formed on their 2001 self-titled debut. Boxer just hones in even more precisely and intimately on the heartfelt territory the band covers, with punchy-yet-polished production and orchestration by the ClogsPadma Newsome giving these songs an intimacy and widescreen expansiveness that rivals the Arcade Fire. The album's first four songs are among The National's finest work yet: "Fake Empire" begins as a dead-of-night ballad that echoes Leonard Cohen, then peppy brass and guitars turn it into something joyous. The brooding "Mistaken for Strangers" touches on the side of the band that could be mistaken for a more hopeful Joy Division, if lyrics like "You wouldn't want an angel watching over you?/Surprise surprise, they wouldn't want to watch" can be counted as hopeful. "Brainy," a borderline obsessive love song, shows off the remarkable, dark chocolate richness of Matt Berninger's vocals and how well they complement the band's occasionally bookish lyrics, while "Squalor Victoria" makes the most of Newsome's lavish string arrangements. The rest of Boxer is subtler, but no less accomplished, with each song supporting the other as a classic album should. "Apartment Story"'s hypnotic chug and "Slow Show"'s witty, knowing affection make them standouts, while the graceful, regretful "Ada" plays more like a short story than a song. As focused as it is ambitious, Boxer is riveting.


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The emphasis on a more haunting and moody take on folk music in recent years, whether derived from the continuing influence of bands like Current 93 or the overall revival of interest in the style thanks to folks like Ben Chasny and Devendra Banhart, continues to turn up in trumps on many fronts. On her follow-up to Ballads of Living and DyingThe Saga of Mayflower MayMarissa Nadler sounds beautifully mysterious, a reflective voice that sinks gently into the mix while delivering sometimes unsettling and sometimes warm lyrical portraits of everything from long-standing friends to Celtic tale-tinged romances. Her singing is often the key emphasis for her songs, with the music mostly being a quick-paced, delicate bed; Brian McTear and Amy Morrissey's production adds a spare tinge of reverb to establish even more depth. Favoring a higher register that inevitably calls to mind legendary figures likeSandy DennyNadler turns in some lovely performances that at their best bring out the drama of her lyrics very well -- "Mr. John Lee (Velveteen Rose)" is one highlight, her portrayal of an emotional triangle delivered beautifully. The flow of the album is such that the songs can almost blend into each other, but that makes the changes all the more noticeable -- when she performs in a slower tempo on "Yellow Nights," the song exactly at the middle of the album, the effect is of a reflective pause for breath, carried out very well at that. Nick Castro contributes a couple of memorable guest appearances -- the tin whistle on "The Little Famous Song" is a treat -- while McTear adds Hammond organ at points to flesh out the dreamy feel of some songs, but otherwise it's all Nadler's show, and a fine job she does.


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Songwriter Marissa Nadler's first two albums of home recordings, 2004's Ballads of Living and Dyingand 2006's Saga of Mayflower May, were both issued by Eclipse and got plenty of traction from reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic. Homemade, sparsely produced, with mysterious, engaging covers, she took the critics' and punter's ears by storm, though in her homeland of America, she remained almost unheard of. Her extensive European touring attracted the notice of the U.K.'s fine Peacefrog imprint that issued Song III: Bird on the Water earlier in 2007. The album has been licensed by the Kemado label in the U.S. and is being given the proper release treatment it deserves. Nadler, who is continually associated with the freak folk underground, is actually far from it. She may be a fiercely independent artist, and her songs may be rooted in times past -- from 18th and 19th century Celtic root sources to the psychedelic folk scene -- before it got polished up in Laurel Canyon in the late '60s, yetNadler is a very sophisticated songwriter. Her lyrics never complicate her songs, even when drenched in symbolism and obscure references that are never labored. She is also a fine guitar player who possesses a strange and wonderfully pleasant singing voice. Her earlier recordings have emerged from their humble homemade origins to gain a small but faithful audience because they're solid, and full of dark and lithe songs about people, places and situations past and present -- even if the past is distant history. The small, even skeletal production values on her previous discs only served to underscore the strength in the material itself.
On Song IIINadler ups the ante. These songs may have been written in her bedsit, but they are executed on this disc with the kind tiny grandeur they deserve. In some ways, listening to Nadler is akin to listening to Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine (she covered a track of theirs on a compilation disc a while back). There is a directness to her delivery and she never flinches from her material, yet she sounds out of this time and space at the same moment. Recorded by Greg Weeks in Philadelphia, Nadlersurrounds herself with a small group of very attentive and sympathetic musicians. Weeks plays synth and distorted lead guitar parts; Helena Espvall sits at the cello; Orion Rigel Dommisse appears on mandolin and harp; and Otto Hauser lends a hand on percussion. At the center of every song is Nadler's guitar playing: fingerpicked, rhythmic, and full of a kind of forward movement that sometimes stands at delightful odds with the timelessness of her lyrics and singing voice.
On this 11-song set, ten are originals, and the lone cover is daunting: Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat," which adds new meaning to the songwriter's words and even Jennifer Warnes' excellent interpretation. The standout tracks -- though all are excellent, deeply moving and emotionally taut -- are "Feathers," "Diamond Heart," "Silvia," and "Mexican Summer." They talk of loss, death, grief, the brokenness in love, transgression, and the appearance of being able to move freely among these very strong emotions while becoming so informed by them: her world view and her heart's view are not only informed by them, but inseparable from them. Nadler has written a song suite here that fully articulates her strongest gifts: she never has to reach for notes, only to open her mouth and they pour like honey, slowly, purposefully, and look at the smaller entrances where her imaginative narratives enter the human being and root themselves there for lifetimes. There are no seams in this album, and to quote her lyric poetry out of the context from the music would be an injustice.
Song III is not to be compared with any of the recordings of her contemporaries. She falls for none of the traps, she communicates with a kind of gentle candor that is unsettling, elegant, and utterly graceful. This is music that is violent in its ability to shift the listener's attention toward it, but it is delivered gently, slowly, and purposefully. For those who have been seduced by the works of Buffy Sainte-Marie'sIlluminations album, Tom Rapp's later solo work, the recordings of Bill Fay, late Current 93, Antony,Michael Cashmore, Leonard Cohen's early material, or the middle period records of Pearls Before Swine, this is certainly for you. For anyone looking for early Joni Mitchell or Joanna Newsom, search elsewhere. Disturbing, beautiful and unforgettable, Song III: Bird on the Water is among the most arresting recordings of 2007 thus far and sets a new high-water mark for this seemingly limitless songwriter.

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Led Zeppelin London Arena December 2007 BOOTLEG


Monday, April 29, 2013

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Arguably the revolutionary flamenco artist's most ambitious work, Omega features adaptations of poems and songs by Federico García Lorca and Leonard Cohen, with the help of Granada rock band Lagartija Nick. Also featuring guitarists Vicente AmigoTomatitoPaquete, and Cañizares, this seminal album is widely considered one of the most important recordings of the last 20 years in Spain.


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Seventeen songs from 1967 BBC broadcasts, when the Jimi Hendrix Experience had yet to burn out from the wheel of constant touring, management hassles, and internal strife. They're in good, enthusiastic form as they run through early gems like "Hey Joe," "Foxy Lady," "Fire," and "Stone Free," the lack of studio polish giving these versions a loose feel. The Experience studio albums are still considerably superior to this set, but it's certainly worth acquiring by any serious Hendrix fan, not least because it has several covers that didn't make it on to the three proper Experience LPs. Several of these ("Hoochie Koochie Man," "Killing Floor," "Catfish Blues") reveal his sometimes overlooked affinity for Chicago-style electric blues; there are also a couple of surprises ("Hound Dog" and "Day Tripper"). With good sound, it's a solid addition to the Hendrix library, demonstrating his versatility in various rock, soul, and blues styles.


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- train singer song – world stand still – the hangin’ judge
- all done in again – return to san pedro – four door maverick
- explore you – notoriety – the wild frontier
- lonely man you are – seldom matters – down on town

hello. i have put off putting out a tour only type cd because i didn’t want to stock it with out-takes or scrapheap supplement. after ‘sno angel, it seemed like a bar was raised, or i just finally got too old for wasting any time, mine or yours. jim blackwood kept coaxing me to come record some acoustic stuff on his new digital device. he is a good man and has worked hard at saving many old recordings through the years that would have just remained in a backyard box, melting there and crusted with a thick desert coating of dust and adobe muck. so i tend to give his requests more then a little merit. he first set up his gear in my home studio, which is just an adobe walled room with a 4 track cassette machine from 1988 i bought a few years ago at a yard sale for 35 bucks. the original price tag was 2000 dollars apparently. but i digress. we didn’t use it at all on this recording. i love the sound of that cassette recorder, but jim was eager to try his new piece of digital yippity.

ok then. thoger lund sat in on upright bass and joe novelli stopped by the house to slip and occasional slide. i used an old 1959 martin 00 E that my wife got me for my 50th birthday. she knew i always wanted a martin, but never gotten around to affording one. this one came with a factory installed d’armond pick up innit. it feels like i always have had it, which might have to do with the notion that we were both made in pennsylvania in the 50s and ended up here in the desert.

for the second session, jim suggested we try going back to where rainer recorded a record 15 years ago; the san pedro chapel. it is also the place we held his memorial 10 years ago just after his death. i had not been back since. being in there again made me dizzy. i could not really think in terms of this world. the walls are also made of adobe, which is a substance i have grown to favor for making any kind of sounds. when i was young, it had always been my plan to eventually settle into an old adobe house one day because of the lack of true right angles, since there are no right angles in nature anyway, and because of the way those rooms sound. but i digress again.

here we were back at san pedro. the air was thick was rainerism. first i picked up my old national duolian and let my heart slide out for him. on that one, thøger just played a sound he came up with on his new old cheap tiny casio sampler thing from a thrift shop. it reminded me how rainer used to loop himself while playing way before there were real loop pedals. that song was the burning of the sonic sage i suppose, then it was back to the martin. we continued with some other songs that were still arriving. i, myself, arrived late as usual, well stuck in tucson time. so in between that moment and having to drive across town to fetch the kids from school, jim captured a few more songs done up by me and thoger. now, thoger is my favorite bass player ever. that boy breathes music. he can’t help it. we locked into some grooves that were impossible to conjure without percussion or drums. but they happened anyway.

some songs were old and desperately wanted a dusting off.

other songs happened to just be there waiting for a bus. and some others wanted “in” even though they had not been written yet. i tried to pick the ones with the most ‘event’ in them. i suppose at this age it’s good to hear something just acoustic and drumless. i dunno. it did that day anyway. so. some days it gets very hard to play music. there is a tragedy that gets attached to it all that tends to weigh down the process. other times we bust on through that gravity and thrive on its buoyancy. busting a hole though gravity is always a good idea for as long as it lasts. after those two sessions, jim and i sat down to clean up the tracks and send em over to roger at sae to master up proper.
upside down home 2007.

it’s just a hole in the donut of gravity. a desert dessert.

thanks to jim, thoger, joe, roger and celia blackwood for putting this thing together. otherwise it would still be not.

the end.


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Consisting of members of bands such as Espers, Grass, Fern Knight, and Fursaxa, the Valerie Project is a freak-folk supergroup put together by Espers mastermind Greg Weeks to rescore Jaromil Jires's 1970 film, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS. With a lush soundscape of cellos, harps, analog synths, and various percussion instruments punctuated by fiery electric guitar bursts, THE VALERIE PROJECT is a headspinning masterpiece perfect for fans of freak-folk, psych rock, and oddball cinema scores.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

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Much like Iron & Wine and similar indie outfits, Sea Wolf is the project name of a sole singer/songwriter who drafts in other musicians as the occasion warrants. That singer/songwriter is Alex Church, a California native who looks to local authors like John Steinbeck and Jack London(whose 1904 novel The Sea Wolf provided the band name) for inspiration. Born in the small former gold rush town of Columbia and raised by a musically inclined, peripatetic mother, Church attended the prestigious NYU film school, then settled in Los Angeles and formed the indie rock band Irving in 1998. As one of three songwriters in Irving, he soon found himself with a clutch of songs that didn't fit the band's dreamy '60s-inspired psychedelic pop sound. Accordingly, Church and various friends played a handful of Los Angeles gigs as Sea Wolf between 2003 and 2005, when Church made a batch of home recordings that he completed in Seattle with Irving's producer, Phil Ek. Signing with the indie label Dangerbird Records, Sea Wolf released its debut EP, Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low, in the spring of 2007, with a full-length album (Leaves in the River) following shortly thereafter. To tour behind the record,Church assembled a lineup with himself on vocals and guitar, Aaron Robinson on guitar, Lisa Fendelander on keyboards, Theodore Liscinski on bass, Aniela Perry on cello, and Byron Reynolds on drums. When it came time to record a second album, Church cherry-picked three members of his band -- FendelanderLiscinski, and newcomer Joey Ficken -- and headed to the Omaha studio of Mike Mogis, where a number of additional musicians joined in the creation of 2009's White Water, White Bloom. For 2012's solitary album Old World Romance, Church opted to write, record and produce the record primarily by himself. The resulting record blended understated drum programming with synth-pop leaning folk and acoustic instruments.


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Sigmatropic: Dark Outside
Reviewed By: John Clarkson
Label: Tongue Master Records
Format: CD

Sigmatropic is the project of Greek musician and folk electro-artist, Akis Boyatzis.

While Boyatzis is also a singer, adding vocals to five of the thirteen songs on Sigmatropic's just released album 'Dark Outside', it is as a musical director and cohort that he has especially made his mark. The project's 2003 debut album, 'Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories', which set to music the haiku poems of Greek Nobel Prize-winning laureate George Seferis, found Boyatzis collaborating with such heavyweights as Robert Wyatt, Mark Eitzel, Alejandro Escovedo, Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and Cat Power.

'Dark Outside' builds on this, like its predecessor featuring an arsenal of guest singers and pushing them in directions that they have never gone before. There are appearances from the Walkabouts' Carla Torgerson, Howe Gelb and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman drummer Jim Sclavunos, all of whom were on the last album, and also Boyatzis' latest musical accomplice, Willard Grant Conspiracy singer Robert Fisher.

Contrary to its name, but as befits an album with song titles such as 'White', 'Red Across the Sand' and 'The Blue Side of the Sun', 'Dark Outside' is a gorgeous, kaleidoscopic riot of sound.

Fisher has been sometimes unfairly labelled as a miserablist, but that myth is firmly dispelled with on both of his contributions here, 'A Song in My Wallet' and 'The Blue Side of the Sun'. 'A Song in My Wallet' is as upbeat as its gets and-a rapidly clambering swirling mass of thumping drum machine beats, sweeping electronic strings and orchestral sounds-has a gospel-dance flavour and tells of an across-the world love affair. 'The Blue Side of the Sun' is similarly aloft, and, a tale of adulterous love, is an 80's-style electro pop number with jangling beats.

On the swarthy-sounding 'White', brooding stabs of electronica are merged with sharp peals of trumpet as Howe Gelb, his vocals reminiscent those of Robbie Robertson on 'Somewhere Down the Crazy River', provides a growling, spoken word monologue in which he plays the part of a soon-to-be-rejected would-be suitor. Carla Torgerson draws her listener in with the whispered enthusiasm of her vocal on the piano-led folk of 'Red Across the Sun', another story of heartbreak, while Sclavunos, on a rare turn on vocals, shows that he has picked up a trick or two from working for 11 years for his day job boss with the tortured theatricalism of 'Ours at Least.'

As strong as these contributions are, the highlight of 'Dark Outside', however, comes from the vocal contributions of Anna Karakalou. The second full-time member of Sigmatropic who has joined the group since 'Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories', she is one of those rare gymnastical singers, who seems able to match her voice to any genre, giving 'A Song in My Wallet' its gospel tinge, playing the role of sexual siren on 'White', and investing soaring power ballad, 'Crack in the Back', upon which she takes the lead vocal, despite it being about the emotional meltdown of a relationship, with a boisterous wit and humour.

In contrast Boyatzis' own rather reedy vocals against such a list of talents come across sadly sometimes sounding flat and forced, especially on the hazy opening number, 'Position One', and the melancholic 'Monologue', both upon which he takes the lead. He appears though on more solid ground on the trip-hop space rock of the title track which he co-sings with Karakalou.

A mish-mash of electro sounds and excellence, 'Dark Outside' nevertheless pays great testimony to both of its principal members and also its guest musicians, taking them into new and often unexpected areas. It is an album of enormous versatility and visionary quality.

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The shadowy blue-black cover artwork (complete with sultry model) is an obvious homage to vintage cool jazz albums, but Spain's compositions are much more concerned with the dark and restless interiors of the psyche than those you'll find on any 1950s jazz record. It's no secret that Spain are trying to evoke a brooding, late-night atmosphere, and the quartet succeeds at doing this with its seductive drones (with lots of languorous guitar/basslines and shuffle drums) and melancholy, pensive songs. It's a bit monotonous all at once, though, and Josh Haden's raspy, thin vocals don't bring out the potential expressive range of the material as well as another singer might. They might get tired of hearing this, butSpain should consider shopping for a lead vocalist if they want to realize their full potential; Haden ain't no Margo TimminsLou Reed, or even Mimi Goese (from the obscure, somewhat similar late-'80s bandHugo Largo).


Saturday, April 27, 2013

artillería pesada

As the fourth (fifth, if you count the Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel) entry in Columbia's celebrated series of Miles Davis box sets, The Complete Columbia Recordings: Miles Davis & John Coltrane was perhaps the most anticipated set, and it's easy to see why. The push and pull between Miles and Coltraneresulted in dynamic recordings that set the standard for modern jazz -- and this was for their Prestige recordings, before they even moved to Columbia. Once Miles relocated to Columbia, he began to push the boundaries of his music. The progression from the sublime, after-hours 'Round About Midnight to the modal Milestones is remarkable -- all the more so when Kind of Blue, the culmination of Davis' modal direction, is taken into the equation. Over the course of six discs, The Complete Columbia Recordings traces this progression, including the entirety of 'Round About Midnight, Milestones, andKind of Blue, plus selections from Someday My Prince Will Come, live album cuts, and 18 unreleased tracks, all alternate takes. Even if you're familiar with this music -- and any jazz fan will be -- the chronological, session-order sequencing keeps it fresh, and it's possible to marvel at how quickly their talents deepened. For neophytes, this isn't really an ideal way to dive into these remarkable recordings, since there's not only too much, but it's arranged in a way that doesn't ease the listener into the music. It's designed to be a library piece for collectors, fans, and historians that have already absorbed the music fully. After all, the original album covers are not reproduced anywhere in the notes, and the discs themselves are cryptically identified with dots that parallel the numbers on a clock. For anyone who knows and loves this music though, this is an essential addition to a comprehensive jazz library.

tracks: disc 1

tracks: disc 2

tracks: disc 3

tracks: disc 4

tracks: disc 5

tracks: disc 6