You say you're beat? You don't know Jack
..."the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..." Jack Kerouac, On the Road (Viking Press, 1957)
Method Of Deliverance
The very essence of music, and music as communication, has to be folkthe people's music. The original roots music, folk can be defined as sound without pretensions and artificiality. Such is the acoustic bass recording by Bill Laswell. These nine solo pieces, plus one duet with singer/producer Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw (Laswell's wife), bridge the folk musics of Laswell's birthplace in Kentucky with his wife's continent of Africa. Known for his various collaborations with an almost endless list of musicians that include the likes of Herbie Hancock, John Zorn, Zakir Hussain, and Raoul Bjorkenheim and explorations into the genres of dub, ambient, avant-dance, hip-hop, punk, and his more recent African music, Laswell distills varying sounds into revealing their fundamental essence.
Laswell plays a 4-stringed Warwick Alien fretless acoustic bass throughout. It gives his sound a warmth and makes each piece attractive. He draws attention to the simple nature of each piece with repetitive lines and minimal use of overdubs and drones. He can set off a buzzing tone that acts as a set table for his lyrical meal on "A Dangerous Road" or overdub a western (almost Ennio Morricone) theme with "Ouroboros." Laswell draws a bluesy feel throughout. He connects American folk and blues with African music on "Epiphaneia," and "Bagana/Sub Figura X" where Gigi chants from an ethereal mountain top.
Christian Marclay, Toshio Kajiwara, DJ Olive: djTRIO
21 September 2002
After apprenticing as a turntable artist in the 1980s with the likes of John Zorn, Lawrence Butch Morris, and Elliott Sharp, Christian Marclay assembled, in 1996, a rotating trio of DJs to extend the concept of turntablism beyond the simple dance-party maestro and hip-hop mixer. His contribution allowed DJs to become soloists in their own right. This new concept, djTRIO, extended turntablism beyond beats into the realm of experimental sound generators.
Marclay's trio(s) performed live with a rotating cast of Toshio Kajiwara, DJ Olive, Marina Rosenfield, and Erik M as documented on the release djTrio (Asphodel, 2004). This LP only (plus download) documents one night's performance at the Hirshhorn Gallery in Washington DC with DJ Olive and Toshio Kajiwara. While beats were not foreign to djTRIO, they are not necessary to the collage the improvising musicians create here. The layers built bits and pieces of found sound, excerpts from records, and sound generated from the physical placing of a needle upon vinyl. The scratch is incorporated as is the skipping tonearm. Robert De Niro is sampled from Taxi Driver as is Ella Fitzgerald. Just as trumpeter Axel Dorner might make sounds the unprepared listener may never associate with a trumpet, these DJs create soundscapes and dreams that travel beyond the turntable.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
"Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend!
Welcome to the cult of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Actually, that might be a bit too strong a moniker. Like Sun Ra's Arkestra or Burnt Sugar, the band, a Canadian post-rock ensemble, maintains a solid following for its multi-media performances. With the release of "Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend!, they break a 10 year span of no recordings since Yanqui U.X.O. (Constellation).
Released as both a CD or a gorgeous LP (with a bonus 7"), the album comprises two lengthy tracks "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire." At 20 minutes per track, the band can stretch out with its signature guitar fed crescendos. The music laced with guitar feedback, samples, strings, and ever heightened energy feeds a frenzied album-rock sensation. "Mladic" has a distinct Eastern tinge and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" a ghostly ballad theme. Both pieces pile sound-upon-sound, with climax as only partial relief. They include 2 shorter pieces, "Their Helicopters' Sing" and "Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable" as six-and-a-half minute drone sequences. A sort of respite between their merciless attacks of post-rock opera.
Recorded in 2010, this tribute to Swedish saxophonist Bengt Nordström by the current saxophone champion Mats Gustafsson is a radical departure from his sound. Or, is it? Gustafsson, who plays that machine gun blasting baritone in the rocked-out jazz band The Thing, the muscle behind the punk band The Ex, or the improvising spark in so many other ensembles with players such as Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark and Barry Guy, recorded these two lengthy improvisations utilizing a Grafton plastic alto saxophone. The type favored by Bengt, his mentor.
Certainly the plastic saxophone presented limitation (and possibilities) to Gustafsson. He opens "Side ABengt A" of this white vinyl LP (with accompanying CD) prodding and testing the horn. He blows shortish notes, casually extending his sound with vocalizations, his flutter tongue, and key manipulations. Gustafsson eschews his signature strongman sound for a breathy improvisation. By the second track, he settles into a minimalist pop-and-tongue approach that unrolls into soft melodies and multi-phonic overblowing. The frailty of the plastic horn favored by Bengt, but also used for a while by both Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman, is exploited to some very ingenious ends here.
Centering And Displacement
When is a solo drummer's recording not a drum recording? That question is not a zen koan but a hint as to what you can expect from Frank Rosaly's unchaperoned 45rpm LP (with accompanying CD), >Centering And Displacement. Rosaly is a band leader and member of Fast Citizens, Scorch Trio, and multiple new Chicago bands bands that include musicians Jason Adasiewicz, Jason Stein, and Keefe Jackson. Unlike his previous solo drum LP Millwork (Molk Records, 2009), that utilized limited electronics, this baby takes sliced and diced improvised source material collected by Rosaly, organized and arranged into a strict compositional manner before getting processed and divided into six channels and transferred to one master. Phew. Yes, the concept is dense, but the results are actually quite elegant. The LP begins with heavily distorted sounds that give way to scattered drums and electronic belches. This sensation of being inside of a whale, leads to a quite section of exploration before finishing out with multiple bells and a percussion dance. Side 2 is a brooding cauldron of metallic scrapes and electric fuzz that drops out for some introspective percussion and flute played over thrumming electronics. Rosaly who can swing as hard as any modern Chicago drummer gives us a peek into his darker more experimental side here.
Zs Score The Complete Sextet Works: 2002-2007
Norhtern Spy Records
If you are not familiar with the band known as Zs, then picture Anthony Braxton as a member of Black Flag, or perhaps better yet the punk band Black Flag if they had been schooled as musicians. The Zs has created a sort of cult following, playing opposite ends of the attention deficit disorder spectrum. The music can agitate with precise mathematics and speed or turn wispy as minimalist improvisation. This 4-CD box collects the bands output from their six early releases (various LPs, EPs, 7"s and CDs) until 2007, plus an hour of unreleased music, live recordings, and remixes.
Songs like "Fall And Climb" and "I Can't Concentrate" are modern takes on the Carl Stalling Warner Brothers cartoon chase scenes where manic climbs are followed with descents and surrealist landscapes. Like Stalling or Raymond Scott for that matter the group is concerned with precision playing, yet it maintains the DIY punk attitude throughout. The music can recall Philip Glass' repetitive scores, such as on the vocals on "Nobody Wants To be Had" or the minimalist improvisation of John Butcher. The relentless and seemingly merciless attack is the magnet and marquee here, but get past the signature "in your face" sound, and the genius of the compositions, improvisations and interactions stands out. Sometimes bad kids write great poetry.
Ben Holmes Quartet
Anvil Of The Lord
Sometimes discovering a new voice in jazz involves word of mouth. Other times a new release falls into your lap. Both instances are true for trumpeter Ben Holmes. He co-leads the Yiddish-influenced Tarras band, the Ben Holmes/Patrick Farrell Duo, Trio Blastphemy, and is a sideman in half a dozen other projects. His first national release as a leader Anvil Of The Lord follows the very well received self-produced Ben Holmes Trio (2009). In any case: Hello Ben, nice to meet you.
Anvil is a quartet record with the familiar bandmates trombonist Curtis Hasselbring (New Mellow Edwards), bassist Matt Pavolka, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza (40twenty). The band plays all Holmes' original music, which is a sly combination of classical Romantic harmonies, film music, free improvisation and chamber rock. The title track bounces between bass and drums before the insistent dialogue between Holmes and Hasselbring force the resolution of conflict. Holmes has buttery chops and the knack for writing compelling music. There's a shy waltz "Magic Mondays," a haunting ballad "Move Like a Ghost" with the trumpeter patiently executing his tale. The interplay between trumpet and trombone here is a symbiotic one. The two dot each other's "I"s and cross "T"s.
An impressive debut for someone that has been here all along.
Tracks and Personnel
Means Of Deliverance
Tracks: Against the Upper House; A Dangerous Road; Ouroboros; Buhala;; 4In Falling Light; Aeon; Epiphaneia; Lightning In the South; Low Country.
Personnel: Bill Laswell: Warwick Alien fretless four-string acoustic bass; Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw: vocals (track 5).
21 September 2002
Tracks: Side A (1); Side A (2); Side B (1); Side B (2); Bonus Track;
Personnel: Christian Marclay: turntables; Toshio Kajiwara: turntables; DJ Olive: turntables.
"Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend!
Tracks: Mladic; Their Helicopters' Sing; We Drift Like Worried Fire; Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable.
Personnel: Thierry Amar: electric bass, contrabasse, cello; David Bryant: electric guitar, dulcimer, portasound, kemence; Bruce Cawdron: drums, vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, aidan girt, drums; Efrim manuel Menuck: electric guitar, hurdy gurdy; Michael Moya: electric guitar; Mauro Pezzenta: bass guitar; Sophie Trudeau: violin, sk5; Karl Lemieux: 16-mm film projections.
Tracks: Bengt A; Bengt B.
Personnel: Mats Gustafsson: plastic alto saxophone.
Centering And Displacement
Tracks: Centering and Displacemen A; Centering and Displacemen B.
Personnel: Frank Rosaly: drums, percussion, electronics.
ScoreThe Complete Sextet Works: 2002-2007
Tracks: CD1: Retrace A Walk, Slalom, Olympics, Mimesis, Zs, Bump, Karate, (Untitled), Glyphs, Play. CD2: In My Dream I Shot A Monk, Magnet, Four Systems (Tzadik Edit), Four Systems (Complete Version), Arms, Retrace A Walk (Live), Pendulum, Bump (Live), Slalom (Live), Mimesis (Live), Zs (Live), In My Dream I Shot A Monk (Remix). CD3: B Is For Burning, Woodworking, Nobody Wants To Be Had, Balk, I Can't Concentrate, Except When You Don't Because Sometimes You Won't, Z Is For Zone, Except When You Don't Because Sometimes You Won't (Zebrablood Remix), Bump (Zebrablood Remix). CD4: I Can't Concentrate (Prototype), Tenor Duet, Balk (Prototype), Woodworking Drums (version), Woodworking Drums, For Zs [excerpt] (Live at Paula Cooper Gallery), Fall and Climb, Mimesis (Alternate), Z Is For Zone (Remix)
Personnel: Alex Hoskins: drums; Brad Wentworth: drums; Ian Antonio: drums, Charlie Looker: electric guitar, vocals; Matthew Hough: electric guitar, vocals; Alex Mincek: tenor saxophone; Sam Hillmer: tenor saxophone
Anvil Of The Lord
Tracks: Doodle For Rhapsody; Magic Mondays; Moving Like A Ghost; Kingston; Otessianek: Anvil of the Lord; Malach Hamovi; Song For Creel Thompson; Nada Vs Armitage.
Personnel: Ben Holmes: trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Matt Pavolka: bass; Vinnie Sperrazza: drums.