Friday, January 31, 2014

add 0745 the bamboos

Inspired by the philosophy espoused by Gabriel Roth of the Dap-Kings, which they discovered when it was summarized in an article he wrote for Big Daddy magazine, Shitty Is Pretty: Anatomy of a Heavy Funk 45the Bamboos play old-fashioned funk and soul with a strong emphasis on repeated grooves, simplicity, and old-fashioned low-tech recording techniques.
Bamboos founding member and guitarist Lance Ferguson, who schizophrenically also releases electronic side projects under his DJ name Lanu, began the group as a four-piece in 2000 to play a string of concerts in Melbourne club The Night Cat. Joining him for this initial version of the band were Ben Grayson on Hammond organ, Stuart Speed on bass, andScott Lambie on drums, playing straightforward New Orleans funk in a style heavily influenced by the Meters. After this string of concerts, the Bamboos expanded to add a horn section consisting of Ross Irwin on trumpet, Phil Noy on baritone saxophone, and Anton Delecca on tenor saxophone and flute. New drummer Danny Farrugia and new bass player Yuri Pavlinov completed the shaken-up lineup.

Following the Roth model, their first independent releases were vinyl 45s, which attracted the attention of the Tru Thoughts label. In 2005 they worked on their debut full-length for Tru Thoughts, Step It Up, which was followed by Rawvillein 2007. Experimenting with occasional vocal additions, they discovered talented singer Kylie Auldist and devoted their next album, 2008's Just Say: The Bamboos Present Kylie Auldist, entirely to songs co-written with her. That year they also released Side-Stepper, which featured vocal contributions fromAuldist as well as Melbourne singer Megan Washington and British rapperTY, as well as a live album, Listen! Hear! Live!!! Ironically for the low-tech band, it was their work on the soundtrack to Nintendo game De Blob that would expose their music to the greatest number of listeners when the game went multi-platinum, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. They also placed songs in TV shows like Grey’s AnatomyOne Tree HillUgly Betty, and Underbelly, as well as the film Crazy Stupid Love. In 2010, their fourth album, 4, was released, followed in 2012 by Medicine Man.



add 0744 Bloomfield

When Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites were recorded by Columbia at the Fillmore West in early 1969, most of the tracks the label released appeared on Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West 1969. However, not a little additional material from the same source appeared on one side of GravenitesMy Labors LP. This set doesn't contain the most notable ofBloomfield's recordings; it's not the best band he played with, nor is it the best material with which he had to work. It's best appreciated as one of numerous releases on which to hear his reliably accomplished blues-rock guitar work, although it's not as flashy or inventive as his best performances, the arrangements sometimes recalling Electric Flag due to the presence of a horn section. No less than four vocalists (GravenitesBloomfieldBob Jones, and Taj Mahal, who guests on "One More Mile to Go") were featured on the original Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West 1969 LP; this expanded version does give more weight to Gravenites' singing, as he takes lead on all four of the tracks added from My Labors. As a final bonus, the CD also includes a Bloomfield-sung cover of Ray Charles' "Mary Ann" from another Bloomfield live album of the era (The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper), as well as historical liner notes


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Add 0743 Dr. Dog D

Always looking to tinker and experiment with their sound, Dr. Dog push their melodic, psych rock sound in a rawer direction on their seventh album, Be the Void. The album finds the band stepping away from the intricately crafted sound of their earlier albums in favor of a more vibrant, spontaneous vibe, resulting in an album that feels looser without ever feeling lazy. The languid thump of "Lonesome," the album opener, immediately paints a picture of a group who are making an effort to just feel their way through a song rather than over-thinking it. While a lot of bands tend to get a bit aimless when taking this approach, Dr. Dog have such a refined sense of songcraft that their "loose" is another band's "finely crafted." Even at their rawest and most instinctive, Dr. Dog can't help but write songs with layers upon layers of pop harmonies, allowing the instruments to deftly dance around one another on songs like "Heavy Light." To add to the more primal vibe of the album, Be the Void is swaddled in a warm fuzz that kind of rounds off the edges and gives the whole album a stripped-down, elemental feeling. Though this puts the album miles away from the meticulously assembled pop of Easy Beat sonically, its sense of exploration makes it a kindred spirit. After all of these albums, Dr. Dog still haven't lost their love of pop music, and the more organic nature of Be the Void proves that melody isn't just in the band's heart, it's in their DNA.


add 0742 Dr Dog S

On the surface it might seem like Shame, Shame is more of the same from Dr. Dog, and in many ways it is. They still sound basically the same and still write great rock tunes straight out of the early '70s. But there are some key differences from their past albums as well. They've brought in an outside co-producer for the first time (Rob Schnapf) and scaled back the production excesses of Fate. Don't worry; Shame, Shame still has all the sweet backing vocals you'd expect and plenty of interesting/oddball production details, but it's the songs that are at the forefront, not the production. And while they don't seem autobiographical or even specific, the lyrics sound more like they're drawn from real life, giving an added depth that hadn't really been there before. There's also a bit more of a world-weary undercurrent, but it's never sad or depressing (probably just a symptom of too much touring). But that said, this is still a Dr. Dog album and it's bound to put a smile on your face. These guys have a real knack for making classic-sounding rock & roll and Shame, Shame is the sound of a fine band really hitting its stride.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

add 0741 Ofra Haza

Ofra Haza's death on February 23, 2000, at the age of 41 deprived the world of a lovely woman, a great vocalist, and a fearless cultural advocate. Fifty Gates of Wisdom, her 1985 album of boldly reimagined traditional Yemenite songs, brought her international fame, and decades later, it retains its ability to delight and inspire. The set list consists of secular tunes plus examples of a festive devotional style called diwan, which is common to all Oriental Jewish communities and can be sung in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic. Each group has specific traditions, but the Yemeni variant is especially remarkable for its poetry, much of which was written by rabbis as far back as the 17th century. Most diwan consist of three separate sections: the a cappella nashid (prelude), the shira (singing), during which celebrants bang on copper trays, empty gasoline cans, or whatever else is handy, and a postlude called the hallel, or song of praise. The unusual percussion accompaniment came into use following the destruction of the Temple, when Jews were forbidden to play conventional musical instruments, and also as a result of periodic oppression by Muslim fundamentalists. In Haza's hands, these sinuous tunes are further spiced up by drum machines and synthesizers, pumping out the hypnotic dance beats that catapulted the album onto dancefloors throughout the world. It important to remember that this recording long predated the flood of world/techno fusions that have since overwhelmed the marketplace. Transglobal Underground, Afro-Celt Sound System, and Scandinavian groups like Garmarna all owe Haza a debt of gratitude. But despite the historic electronic flourishes, it is the siren-like charm of the singer's voice that creates the most indelible impression.

add 0740 Tibor Szemszö

Leo Feigin, owner of Leo Records, has to be commended for many things. He recorded the work of so many great Russian free jazzers for those of us in the West (before the Iron Curtain was torn asunder), beginning with the Ganelin Trio; he recorded the Anthony Braxton Quartet's complete series of concerts in Coventry, London, and Birmingham (no matter what Braxton thinks of those gigs, they are valuable and should be available); and he was the first to bring us the work of Hungarian composer and soundscapist Tibor Szemzö. Szemzö is perhaps Feigin's greatest discovery after the Ganelins. As a composer, he works with texts and music equally; he presents the spoken human voice -- in many languages -- in contexts so unusual yet so familiar sounding, listeners are engaged to take them in even if not understanding what is being said. This collection is a beautiful introduction to Szemzö's work. Most of these works were created for film scores and have a cinematic, incidental quality to them. They use silence very well, and their sparse, minimal melodies nonetheless cut to the heart of the emotion in each track. The first three tracks, "Blow #2," "8 Nico," and "Parijs," were composed for Péter Forgác's 1997 film Maalstroom. Four other soundtracks are represented by these sound sculptures. No two are the same, even though all make use of the same basic structures (repetition being the most prominent) and a lack of tension. Szemzö's pieces, even when they involve the darkest texts, float in the ether though they are most definitely "there." Szemzö has a keen sense of modulation, interval, and harmonic invention. His working with so few instruments -- from accordions to bass clarinets to tape and percussion -- leaves integrational space for microtonal possibilities that can be incorporated into the work either sectionally or in totality. There is nothing simple or elementary about Szemzö's approach to either composing soundscapes or chamber pieces, nor in his approach to the transformative and illustrative power of sound itself. And perhaps these 12 short pieces illustrate this in a more accessible way than his longer works, which can be hypnotic and overwhelming, though they are just as deceptively simple to "hear." Thank you, Leo Feigin.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

add 0739 lloyd cole

Songwriter Lloyd Cole has had his share of ups and downs. After releasing the bona fide classic Rattlesnakes and the truly fine Easy Pieces in the 1980s with his band the Commotions, Cole jumped from Universal to Capitol, where he cut his self-titled solo album and the critically acclaimed Don't Get Weird on Me Babe. Neither sold. He moved to Rykodisc for two albums before slipping out of sight in 1995 for the decade's remainder. He returned in the new century and released independent albums every couple of years, but they went mostly unnoticed. Cole quietly disappeared again after 2006's Anti-Depressant. In 2009, he emerged again and appealed to his small but dedicated fan base for help in financing a new album. Broken Record, released in Europe in late 2010 and in the U.S. in the middle of 2011 is the result. The gamble paid off in spades creatively. Recorded in Manhattan with Commotions' keyboardist Blair Cowan, session drummer Fred Maher, guitarists Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen, among others, Broken Record is small in scope, but full of crafty hooks, wry, self deprecating humor, and genuine irony. Cole's lyric panache is enhanced by this solid meld of classic singer/songwriter-ish pop, country-tinged rock, and crystalline production. The album's first single, "Writer's Retreat!," is a jangling rocker with mandolins, harmonica, 12-string guitars, popping snares, the biting, opening line: "When you get back from the writer's retreat/I won't be there waiting", and the killer refrain: "You can get a beat from a broken heart/You can write the book fallin’ apart/You can have it all but the one you want/Just going for a song.” "That's Alright" is another scintillating pop/rock number that deals with the end of a relationship in a more biting manner, but the wordsmithing is so top-notch it doesn't sound like sour grapes. "Westchester County Jail" could have come right out of the Commotions' catalog. Banjo, piano, and pedal steel and drums adorn the title track, a Brit country-ish (à la Brinsley Schwarz) waltz with the opening confession: "Not that I had much dignity anyway..." Despite its sometimes straight-razored lyrics, musically Broken Record is the most consistent upbeat record Cole's released in a dog's age. Whether he's dishing it out or taking it on the chin here, he never takes himself too seriously. Cole's writing and recording confidence on Broken Record is abundant; this album sounds like what it is: a fresh start.


0740 Vampire weekend

At the time of its release, Modern Vampires of the City was touted as a "deeper" offering from Vampire Weekend. While that's true to an extent, it downplays the equally heartfelt and clever songs on their first two albums. What is undeniable is that Modern Vampires is a lot less obviously showy than the band's previous work. They trade in Contra's bright eclecticism for a less audacious production style and smaller instrumental palette: guitar, organ, harpsichord, and the occasional sample combine into a rarefied sound that suggests a more introspective version of their debut, and the band bookends the album with some of its most literal and insular chamber pop on "Obvious Bicycle" and "Young Lion." Modern Vampires' quieter approach also showcases what might be most enduring about Vampire Weekend's music -- endearing melodies and carefully crafted lyrics. It also fits Ezra Koenig's preoccupations on this set of songs, chief among them the fact that we're all going to die. The band sums up all of this brilliantly on "Step," where the music's hip-hop beats and harpsichords reflect the allusions to Souls of Mischief and growing pains in Koenig's lyrics. Elsewhere, Vampire Weekend tones down the quirks that may have polarized listeners before; songs like "Everlasting Arms" and "Unbelievers" walk the fine line between cheery and grating so well that they could win over those who previously found them too peppy and preppy. Similarly, Modern Vampires of the City's political allusions are also subtler than they were on Contra, where the band brandished them like college students all too willing to display their awareness of current events: Koenig sounds offhanded when he sings "though we live on the US dollar/We got our own sense of time" on "Hannah Hunt," and even the album's most overtly political song, the darkly verbose "Hudson," adopts a more historical stance as it incorporates everything from 17th century explorers, pre-war apartments, and exclusive New York neighborhoods into its meditations on fate versus free will. Of course, Vampire Weekend can't completely stifle their exuberance, and the album's louder moments stand out even more vibrantly against the subdued ones. "Diane Young"'s brash, buzzy mix of doo wop, surf, and punk feels like a nod to Contra as well as Billy Joel's "You May Be Right," and Koenig sings "I don't wanna live like this, but I don't wanna die" with so much joy on "Finger Back" that it celebrates life as much as it contemplates mortality. Ultimately, Modern Vampires of the City is more thoughtful than it is dark, balancing its more serious moments with a lighter touch and more confidence than they've shown before. Even if Koenig and company fear getting old, maturity suits them well.


Monday, January 27, 2014

add 0738 Tedeschi trucks

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is an 11-piece ensemble made up of guitarist-vocalist Susan Tedeschi's and guitarist Derek Trucks' individual bands. They made their debut with 2011's Grammy-winning Revelator, a sprawling collection that showcased funky R&B, gospel, blues, and scorching large band rock. Everybody's Talkin', a double disc, is a live offering from that supporting tour. Produced by Trucks, it includes live versions of some album tracks and six beautifully chosen covers; all its tunes are given extended, imaginatively arranged treatments. It's an unusual live record because its balance of sonic precision and stage-born kinetics is perfect -- this band transitions seamlessly between R&B, blues, rock, gospel, and jazz. These performances never succumb to mere jam band clichés. On disc one, "Midnight in Harlem" is introduced by a mini raga played as a slide solo by Trucks. The band enters gradually, and Tedeschi's soulful vocal carries them all the way in. (Tedeschi is revealed, song after song -- far beyond her solo records or even Revelator -- to be among the truly great singers in modern blues and rock; by turns graceful and grainy, her expression reaches the spiritual in execution.) At over 11 minutes, the interplay between guitarists, Mike Mattison's backing vocals, keyboards, and rhythm section are impeccable. Things get rowdier on "Learn How to Love," with nasty guitar work by Tedeschi, and a burning tenor sax solo by Kebbi Williams. The horn section really pops in "Bound for Glory"; the exchange between the Burbridge brothers on bass and keys, with drummers Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, adds a knotty improv bridge where deep funk and blues grind together. The disc closes with an astonishing reading of John Sebastian's "Darlin" Be Home Soon." With horns tastefully accenting and underscoring lead vocals, Trucks' slide solo stays melodically true, yet moves through the band's shimmering groove into the stratosphere (and he does this throughout this album, over and over again, helping to elevate not only the tune, but the sense of groove, space, and texture). Disc two contains only four cuts but they're all gems: Pearl Woods' "That Did It" (a Bobby "Blue" Bland vehicle) is a down and gritty strut, with excellent, in-the-grain guitar work by Tedeschi. Stevie Wonder's "Uptight" is a 15-minute soul rave-up with a beautiful jazz interlude and scat singing from Oteil Burbridge in its middle, followed by a wonderfully imagined slide solo by Trucks. It's followed by the deep, horn-driven, wah-wah funk of "Love Has Something Else to Say" before closing with a stirring read of "Wade in the Water." It's a spooky gospel-blues with gorgeous alternate lead vocals by Mark Rivers and Tedeschi. Everybody's Talkin' is what every live album should be: an accurate, exciting reflection of a band at its peak, playing full-throttle and providing plenty of surprises.

add 0737 Tedeschi Trucks

Revelator is the debut studio album from the 11-piece Tedeschi-Trucks Band, who already have a reputation as a wildly exciting live jam group. That said, the record that Susan Tedeschi and husband Derek Trucks have recorded proves something beyond their well-founded reputation as a live unit: that they can write, perform, and produce great songs that capture the authentic, emotional fire and original arrangements that so many modern blues and roots recordings lack. The duo forged their two individual solo bands (Trucks remains with the Allman Brothers Band) and added some other players. Oteil and Kofi Burbridge and Mike Mattison, as well as drummers Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson are on board, as well as backing vocalists and a horn section. Produced by Trucks and Jim Scott, these 12 songs seamlessly meld blues, rock, Southern soul, gospel, and funk traditions into a heady, seductive, spine-slipping stew. The record also showcases Tedeschi as one of the finest vocal stylists in roots music, and Trucks, has become the only true heir of Duane Allman's bell-like slide guitar tone, his taste and restraint. More than this, Revelator offers proof that this pair and their bandmates are serious songwriters as well as players--anyone remember the original Little Feat? It's like that, but with a woman up front. While the single, "Midnight in Harlem," highlights the softer,side of the band with Tedeschi's soulful croon and Trucks' swooning slide, it's the harder numbers that fill out the story. The sexy opener "Come See About Me," the bluesy, gospelized "Don't Let Me Slide" (one of two cuts written by Trucks and Tedeschi with Jayhawk Gary Louris), the second-line funk-blues of "Bound for Glory" with its punchy horns; all of these offer evidence of the real depth that this band abundantly possesses. There's the skittering, slow-tempo guitar and B-3 soul-blues of "Simple Things," and the New Orleans-style horns introducing "Until You Remember," which can distract the listener for a moment from experiencing these songs for what they are-- until Tedeschi opens her mouth and lets the lyrics come up from her belly and drip from her lips and Trucks matches her emotion in his solo-- love songs; the likes of which we haven't heard since Delaney & Bonnie. The Eastern modal tinge in Trucks' playing and tablas dustinguishes "These Walls," tempered by the quiet conviction in the grain of Tedeschi's vocal would have made for a better single. The nasty, funky, Hendrixian droning blues of "Learn How to Love" is textured by Kofi's funky clavinet and Wurlitzer. Speaking of funk, Tedeschi takes her own smoking guitar break in "Love Has Something Else to Say," a slamming, break-ridden funk tune that quakes. It combines hard Southern Stax-styled rhythm, soul, blues, and nasty-ass rock. Revelator is a roots record that sets a modern standard even as it draws its inspiration from the past. It's got everything a listener could want: grit, groove, raw, spiritual emotion, and expert-level musical truth.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

add 0377 chuck e weiss. extremely

After an 18-year hiatus from recording, Chuck E. Weiss returned to the studio with Extremely Cool, his first album since 1981's The Other Side of Town on Select. Extremely Cool made one wish that Weiss hadn't stayed away from the studio for so long, for it's an enjoyable and unpretentious collection of roots music and Americana. A variety of earthy material finds its way to this release, which ranges from the bluesy rock of "Pigmy Fund" and "Devil with Blue Suede Shoes" and the roots-rock of "Jimmy Would" and "It Rains on Me" to the zydeco-influenced "Oh, Marcy" and the jazz-minded "Sonny Could Lick All Them Cats." The thing that ties all of these songs together is Weiss' earthy, down-home nature -- instead of trying to seduce listeners with slickness or technique, Weiss wins you over with his honesty and lack of pretense. This CD employs such noteworthy guests as Tom Waits (one of the executive producers) and guitarist Tony Gilkyson (brother of folk-pop singer Eliza Gilkyson and a former member of Lone Justice and X) -- and it made a person hope that Weiss wouldn't wait another 18 years to record his next album.


add 0736 chuck e weiss old

Weiss, a crony of Tom Waits since the early '70s, has probably heard more than enough comparisons between his and Waits' music. It's nonetheless hard to avoid when describing Old Souls & Wolf Tickets, which has much in common with Waits' own fusions of hipster growl, blues, smoky after-hours jazz, and weird Americana. Just because it sound at times like a poor man's Waits, however, doesn't mean it isn't likable enough on its own terms. Weiss is considerably more steeped in Louisiana-styled R&B, backwoods blues, and Cajun music than Waits is, so what you get here sometimes sounds like an unholy cross between Waits and Dr. John. The New Orleans influence is no secret from the mere title of the opening track, "Congo Square at Midnight." Weiss' wizened, sly vocals are a good match for the off-kilter material, which stews together goofy, onomatopoeic wordplay with the kind of bemused boho world-weariness you would expect from his persona. Sometimes the goofiness crosses over to silliness, as in his deliberately high, squeaky minstrel vocals on "Piggly Wiggly." When he gets close to straight blues, the results get more pedestrian. A duet that he recorded with Willie Dixon in 1970, "Down the Road Apiece," might excite extreme completist blues collectors, but sounds out of place on a CD where everything else was recorded 30 years later. But if you're looking for more modern equivalents to the kinds of idiosyncratic music Dr. John made in his voodoo rock days, this isn't a bad disc to check out.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

add 0735 metheny mehldau

Guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Brad Mehldau created a stir in 2006 with their wonderful duet recording. On that set, two of the album's ten cuts featured Mehldau's rhythm section of bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. Quartet is a mirror image: seven of these 11 cuts are full quartet sides. The musical magic established by that collaboration sets the stage for the pair to dig deeper here. It's true that melodic and harmonic invention is the root of each of the tunes here, though that doesn't mean there isn't room to move. Metheny's Way Up recording offered ample of evidence of how compositional sophistication could accomplish virtually anything. There, the players had written parts, but also had room for improvisation within that framework. The same happens here, though the pieces are shorter. Partial evidence of this is the disc's second selection, "The Sound of Water," which has a nearly pastoral theme. But Metheny uses counterpoint on a 12-string guitar to meet Mehldau's chordal investigation. One need only go one cut further in on "Fear and Trembling," by Mehldau, to see how quickly the two can step outside their bonds while retaining their commitment. The knotty playing with distortion by Metheny moves toward the rhythm section, which establishes the kind of fluidity his sense of time requires. Mehldau's own post-bop modal solo works through the lyric frames in the tune's structure and cuts through them, finding their densities and spaces. Grenadier's elasticity as a bassist allows the time to float and shift -- seemingly -- without ever losing the harmonic thread even when Metheny moves outside toward the end of the cut.
The duet ballad "Don't Wait," with Metheny on acoustic guitar, comes together with all the warmth and textured lyric sensibility that their debut displayed. These two men are not at all self-conscious here; they seem to hear each other in both solo and chorus with equally gentle ears. The shimmering piano on "Towards the Light" finds Mehldau exploring those gorgeous multi-note phrases he loves so much, with Metheny reacting sparely and creating a virtual shimmering in the cut. Ballard is very impressive here as he shades his beats with cymbals and rim shots, and gives the entire cut something earthy to hang onto. There are two Latin-tinged (barely) tunes, "En la Terra Que No Olvida" (Metheny) and "Santa Cruz Slacker" (Mehldau). The former is knottier and less obvious, but the meter is one Brubeck employed a lot in the early '60s and perhaps it serves as a model here. The latter cut is more languid on the surface, but Ballard's drumming is simply out of this world as he skitters and scampers all over and in front of the band throughout. There is perhaps no surprise at how well these two communicate -- especially with a rhythm section as wonderful as this one is. If there is a feeling that some tunes run together, they don't; this is not a suite, but a solid amalgam of brilliant musicianship, with a humble approach that is elegant and dignified. These guys have come up with a gorgeous and sexy creation, and listeners should be delighted to spend some time with it.


add 0734 Particle

The long-awaited studio debut from these jam-happy road veterans does what it should for the band. It captures the quartet's indescribable all-instrumental concert vibe -- "space-porn" as they call it -- in a more controlled environment. Co-producer Tom Rothrock (Beck, Foo Fighters) slims down the band's tendencies for extended improvisation -- somewhat -- but keeps the juices flowing on an album that works apart from the trippy visuals and audience participation that enhance the band's notoriously long five-hour performances. Led by Steve Molitz's bubbling, psychedelic electronic keyboards and Darren Pujalet's surging drums, the group finds a groove and rides it. The "porn" aspect of the music results from a loose '70s feel that mixes elements of Pink Floyd's prog rock and Return to Forever-styled jazz fusion with insistent dance beats that shift from funk to near disco ("Metropolis" features disco drumming and knowingly schlocky '70s-styled synths). There are certainly no ballads, which creates a swirling tornado of sound that, like the live show, shape-shifts throughout the songs. The approach is at once contemporary and dated, recalling the experimental art rock of the '70s in "7 Minutes to Radio Darkness, Pt. 1" and then moving to a funkier driving rock for the following "Pt. 2." And although the pieces are condensed from their extended live lengths, the majority of the tunes still run over seven minutes, with one maxing out at ten. Certainly any fan of the foursome's mammoth live shows will appreciate how well their sound has been harnessed in the studio, and for those new to the Particle experience, Launchpad is an excellent primer for the group's strengths and distinctive sound.


Friday, January 24, 2014

add 0733 little axe c

Skip McDonald's Little Axe returns for Champagne and Grits, and it could well be the band's finest, most expansive set yet. Little Axe's brand of blues-gospel-dub is probably the most interesting and adventurous of all the projects that attempt to infuse new life into the blues, and Champagne and Grits rivals their debut not only for an outstanding set of tunes, but for sheer sonic experimentation as well. Skip runs the show with plenty of help from producer Adrian Sherwood, and of course Doug Wimbish and Keith LeBlanc are on hand as well. The set starts with a pure acoustic blues, but then enters territory charted only by this band. It's still the blues, but there are gospel-flavored vocals, eerie harmonica, and fantastic dub elements all combined into a singular style. Disembodied vocals and sermons waft in and out of the ether, along with washes of electronica, soulful blues guitar, and wicked basslines. A couple of the tracks venture a bit further into reggae territory (with some help from Junior Delgado), but it still all feels bluesy despite the additional trappings. McDonald knows and respects the past, but he knows how to build on it, not enshrine it. Little Axe is the only band that does what it does, and does it brilliantly. Ancient to the future. Highly recommended.


add 0731 Regina Spektor


add 0732 little axe s

Little Axe is guitarist and singer Skip McDonald, but it's also much more than that. It is, in practice, a virtual reunion ofthe Sugarhill Gang -- the rhythm section responsible for the grooves underlying such paleo-hip-hop classics as "Rapper's Delight" and "White Lines" -- and therefore also a virtual reunion of Tackhead, the pioneering avant funk outfit that brought the Sugarhill Gang together with British producer Adrian Sherwood and vocalists Gary Clail andBernard Fowler. In the Little Axe context, though, the focus is squarely on McDonald and on his overriding passion: vintage blues. Imagine a Delta blues aesthetic (spare, rural, and stark), and then imagine it thickened with additional instrumental layers and twisted with dubwise atmospherics, and you'll have some idea what to expect -- sort of like a posthumous collaboration between Howlin' Wolf and African Head Charge. The second Little Axe album features mostly McDonald originals, along with some well-chosen covers from the likes of Allen ToussaintSkip James, and former Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun. But even his originals owe a deep debt to the work of his forefathers -- "If I Had My Way," for example, takes its whole chorus from the gospel classic "Samson and Delilah." Stone Cold Ohio is a real rarity: an album that can't be mistaken for anything other than blues, but that sounds nothing like any blues album you've ever heard.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

add 0730 nick cave

It's got all the look of "deluxe" written on it, the thick, book-like black cover with an inset photo of frontman Nick Cave doing his flip to wig city dance -- Bad Seeds fans don't need much encouragement to rush out and pick up something by St. Nick and his motley crew of bent ministers of melody, and there's good reason. This double-DVD/double-CD package assembled from the Abattoir Blues Tour in 2003 and 2004 is quite a thing. The 17 tracks that cover the CDs are taken from dates throughout the tour. Sound is wonderful -- particularly with the new ambient, noisier aspect of the Bad Seeds put into place by Warren Ellis' violin. Opening with "O Children" in Dusseldorf backed by a quartet of female backing singers and the sheer drama the Bad Seeds put into backing their boss' baritone harangue, the Seeds are in prime form. The proof of this is underscored in the freaky-deaky Aussie funk blues of "Hiding All Away," where Mick Harvey's guitars sting and spark. And so it goes. The lion's share of the material comes from the Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus double, but there are some choice moments from the back catalog as well as nuggets such as "Red Right Hand," "The Ship Song," "The Weeping Song," and "Stagger Lee" rounding out disc one, and "God Is in the House" (which could have been left off and made this a single disc!), "Deanna," and "Lay Me Low."
The DVDs contain a pair of shows. The first is live at the Brixton Academy in November of 2004, and the material is simply woven together so tightly that it's hard to believe not every gesture is rehearsed. Cave engages his audience in front of a band so utterly in sync with one another they've become the complete evil twin version of the E Street Band. The material is obviously similar to the material on the CDs, but being one show, it flows better and there are some different track selections (on the second DVD anyway). There is, after all, a large palette of backlog for the Bad Seeds to draw from at this point and the Brixton show is full of chaotic energy and humor as well as drama. The second DVD contains seven performances taken from the Hammersmith gig in June of 2003, nearly a year-and-a-half before Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus was released. The material comes from various earlier Cave recordings and includes a deeply moving reading of "Sad Waters." Also here are "Wonderful Life," "Bring It On" (with Chris Bailey of the Saints guesting on vocals), "Nobody's Baby Now," "Watching Alice," "Christina the Astonishing," and "Wild World." All of these tunes are performed with variation and real inspiration. In addition to the live performance on the second DVD, there are some extras including a short film on Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus and promotional videos for all the tunes from the album and Nocturama which includes "Breathless," "Nature Boy," "Get Ready for Love," "Babe I'm on Fire," and "Bring It On." Finally, there is an intimate film shot by Mick Harvey about the "Bring It On" shoot.
In other words, it's a rather exhaustive document of perhaps the most significant album and tour in Cave & the Bad Seeds' tenure together. It may be too much for some, but for those who get that Cave is an ever changing, always evolving entity and his band has become a supergroup, this is more than a snapshot's worth of documentation, and it's worth every dime.

add 0729 The Glove

This one-off collaboration between the Cure's Robert Smith and Siouxsie & the Banshees' Steven Severin resulted in an eccentric, and at times incompatible, mix of psychedelic sounds wrapped around alternative '80s pop. Writers Smith and Severin's more eccentric tendencies are as likely to evoke pictures of a carnival as a funereal march, but the backbone rests largely on tightly constructed tunes with occasional forays into the experimental. Jeanette Landray sings the majority of the tracks, while Smith takes the lead twice amongst a smattering of instrumentals. Standout tracks include the Middle Eastern-twinged "Orgy" and the more conventional "Mouth to Mouth." Smith's distinctive warbling on the first-class "Perfect Murder" takes the album directly into Cure territory, as do the instrumentals which could equally find a home on Seventeen Seconds. While musically diverse, the album's lyrics rarely stray from the dual themes of death and sex, furthering the gothic undertones so often heard in Smith and Severin's previous work. Blue Sunshine's eclecticism makes this an interesting side note for long-time fans of the Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees, but a somewhat more inaccessible listen for others