Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

What’s spinning, February 12 edition

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Washington, DC got something close to 40 inches of snow over the past week. The whole city was shut down until today, and arguably should still be shut down. When I wasn’t out taking pictures, I was hanging out inside listening to music and doing some miscellaneous work. Here’s a sampling of what’s been playing:

  • Art Zoyd - Generation Sans Futur — Probably my favorite Art Zoyd album, although they released so many great albums that are all somewhat similar that this is kind of a tough call. The title track, augmented by Daniel Denis’ drumming, is an easy pick for an all-time favorite AZ composition.
  • Basta! - Cycles — Yeah, I’m pretty obsessed with this one, I’ve talked about it here before. Joris Vanvinckenroye + loop pedals = awesomeness. Definitely going to be somewhere high up on my best of 2009 list.
  • Birds of Prey - The Hellpreacher — Here’s another one I discussed earlier. Super simple, catchy death metal - not normally my thing but for some reason this one keeps finding its way back to the playlist.
  • Flower-Corsano Duo - The Chocolate Cities — A live tour EP from this free-improv duo of drums and shahi baaja. If anything, parts of this are even more intense than their excellent studio recording, but there are some really nice quieter bits as well. Thanks to Andrew McCarry for the heads-up on this one.
  • Gaza - He Is Never Coming Back — Some people are saying this one’s a disappointment after the groundbreaking I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die. It might be a little less overtly experimental, but make no mistake: this band is still kicking ass and taking names, mixing the manic feel of grindcore with the heavy, dirty sludge of doom metal to awesome effect. I am SUPER pissed that their tour with Converge is not coming anywhere near DC - the closest date is in North Carolina, and that one’s during Maryland Deathfest.
  • Margot MacDonald - Live at the Kennedy Center — This is actually a video available online. Margot is an 18-year-old rock musician whom I first heard a couple years ago and was impressed by her powerful voice. She’s only gotten better and there are some real highlights in this live performance, most notably an acoustic cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immgrant Song,” a loop-pedal extravaganza at the end, and several new compositions that she has featured on her YouTube page.
  • Pree - A Chopping Block — Saw these folks at the Kennedy Center a few weeks ago (video here) and liked them enough to pick this up; after several listens, I really like them. It’s low-key indie-rock with wonderfully subtle orchestrations and May Tabol’s offbeat, caterwauling vocals that will probably turn a lot of people off but that I seem to be a bit of a sucker for.
  • Those Darlins - Those Darlins — High-energy country music? This wouldn’t normally be my thing but after seeing this trio of women (plus a male drummer who gets completely neglected in all their press) tear it up live with true punk-rock zeitgeist, I’m hooked. I don’t think there’s anything on this list that’s quite as much pure fun as this stuff.
  • The Tiptons Sax Quartet - Laws of Motion — Beautiful, beautiful sax quartet plus drums material - runs the gamut from straight-ahead jazz to world music of many kinds. There’s not much in the way of out-three free improv or pure avant-garde a la Rova, but Amy Denio’s bizarre vocals definitely up the weird quotient to pretty delightful levels.
  • Wildbirds & Peacedrums - The Snake — Speaking of unique, powerful female vox (MacDonald, Denio, Tabol), this band basically exists to show off some sick tribal drumming and Mariam Wallentin’s amazing voice. Wallentin ably carries this record, the duo’s second, and she’s even better live. She often seems to be right on the edge of oversinging, but always seems to rein it in at the last second for some truly memorable tension-and-release type moments.

MDF VIII research, part one

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that this year’s Maryland Deathfest lineup is largely Greek to me, consisting of tons of bands I’ve never heard (and many I’ve never heard of). Last year, I knew a much higher percentage of the MDF lineup, and even so got totally overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar music. So this year I’ve decided to go through the entire lineup and at least listen to a little bit from each band, to get a sense for what bands I’m going to want to pay attention to this year. Here are my listening notes for the first few.

Note: regarding the bands that are new to me, these are all very much snap reactions and I’m sure I’ll change my mind on a lot of these with more familiarity and/or after MDF VIII. So, take it all with a grain of salt.

  • Gorguts: The main band I’m excited to see at MDF this year. No research needed. Obscura is one of my favorite metal albums of all time.
  • Possessed: Released one classic album in 1985, Seven Churches, considered one of the founding pillars of the entire death metal genre. Just listened to a few tracks and I’m not a huge fan; it all sounds very “proto” to me, an album that was undoubtedly groundbreaking at the time but has since been surpassed a thousand times over. I’ll probably dig their set but I’m not feeling like it’s mandatory for me.
  • D.R.I.: Now this is an interesting choice. D.R.I. is far more hardcore than metal, though they’re generally considered crossover thrash. I don’t really like the vocal style, but there are tons of juicy, head-nodding riffs throughout their music and this is definitely crowd-pleasing stuff. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s crowd-pleasing when the crowd is a bunch of death metal fans instead of punk kids.
  • Watain: No research needed. I like these guys’ take on black metal well enough, although the show I saw them play in 2008 left me with much more of an olfactory impression than an aural one.
  • Coffins: BOOM. Nasty, doomy Japanese death metal that feels like a solid punch to the gut. They’ve got an unnaturally guttural vocalist and one hell of a thick, sludgy guitar tone. It’s like if Devourment actually wrote interesting compositions instead of nonstop slams. I’m going to love these guys, I think.
  • Nazxul: Hey, look! Epic, symphonic black metal. For whatever reason, I always need a lot of time to properly digest black metal, moreso than any other kind of metal. At first listen though, this stuff sounds pretty damn good to me. This is another band that released one highly-acclaimed album in the mid-90s, and then a recent reunion album. The new one seems to be getting tons of acclaim too, so it looks like these guys will be in fine form. The keyboards should offer a nice break from all the guitar-centric bands at the fest.
  • Trap Them: Saw and heard them at last year’s MDF. They seemed like largely unremarkable deathgrind. Listening to their recordings now, they’re definitely better than I gave them credit for, but there’s not a whole lot to set them apart in a festival with 50+ similar bands. Not going to be a priority for me.
  • Gride: Not much death metal here, this is pure chaotic grindcore. I dig it. Not as hyper-aggressive as some of the current grind leaders, but it’s speedy, unpredictable and intense as fuck, just the way grindcore should be.
  • Birds of Prey: At first, upon hearing this band’s straightforward, sludgy hard-rock take on death metal, I fully expected to totally hate it. But something happened: I started unconsciously nodding my head, and got swept up by a ridiculous abundance of catchy riffing. To make an obscure reference, this sounds to me like a hookier yet heavier version of DC locals King Giant. There is absolutely nothing complicated or innovative about this stuff, but it’s for exactly that reason that their live show will probably be awesome.

Almost a year late: best of 2007

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Hey, ok, this was supposed to be done last December, but instead I was busy pulling together a best of 2008 list for the Washington City Paper. But that just means more perspective, right? So no worries. Anyway, as of now, here is my top 10 list of 2007. Next month, I promise, I’ll have my real best of 2008 list posted, on time (a year late as normal, instead of two).

  1. Do Make Say Think - You, You’re a History in Rust
    In which the venerable post-rock band explores glorious noise, rough vocals, and moments of pure beauty amidst chaos. DMST have never stopped evolving and this is easily their best album yet. It’s also to their lasting credit that they are pretty much the only post-rock band that might actually be considered somewhat unpredictable.
  2. Aranis - II
    Largely acoustic, upbeat, highly melodic, sometimes insanely intricate chamber-rock. No drums or percussion, yet this is some of the most head-noddingly rhythmic stuff imaginable. Composer/bassist Joris Vanvinckenroye is a pretty phenomenal talent, and this one is his finest hour so far.
  3. Zs - Arms
    As far as room-clearing records go, parts of this one rank just below Orthrelm’s OV. This may well be the last of Zs’ overtly progged-out records, given their recent lineup change and a shift towards more minimal, less accessible material. So, Arms is likely to remain my favorite studio album by this band, ever.
  4. Dälek - Abandoned Language
    After the brutal, no-holds-barred noise of Absence, this seemed like a letdown at first. In this case, first impressions are deceptive: the relative calm of this album masks a seething anger and hidden intensity that makes Abandoned Language my favorite album by this cutting-edge hip-hop ensemble.
  5. Om - Pilgrimage
    Not too much metal left in this stoner-metal outfit; instead, it’s a spiritual journey with Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun” as a guide. Powerful, intense, and moving, this one is short and sweet and leaves me wanting more every time I listen to it.
  6. Despised Icon - The Ills of Modern Man
    Perhaps the pinnacle of the entire deathcore genre, this album is really just awesome death metal with some breakdowns (and pig squeals) thrown in for the moshers. Catchy hooks and killer rhythmic breaks abound, and the dual growling vocalists grab your attention and never let go. Even if you hate deathcore, you might like this record.
  7. St. Vincent - Marry Me
    Understated and weird, this album from a former guitarist for Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree took me completely by surprise with a unique, offbeat charm. Annie Clark’s guitar work is wonderful when she lets it rip, but it’s her voice and her bizarre compositional sense that carry this album. It’s indie-rock with a hint of the avant-garde, and it’s one of the more memorable debuts in recent memory.
  8. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - In Glorious Times
    So, this is a pretty solidly great album from this uniquely theatrical avant-rock band. Somehow, though, it hasn’t been nearly as memorable for me as either of the albums that preceded it. All of SGM’s albums are basically essential for any fan of heavy experimental rock, this one’s just a tiny step lower than the other two.
  9. Nadja - Touched
    I cannot describe this better than a frequent poster on the 5/8 forums: “Listening to Nadja is like swimming in a sea of declawed kittens.” Yes. So much fuzzed out bliss. Especially on this album, which is far and away my favorite of this prolific drone/doom-metal band’s many releases.
  10. Thing with Ken Vandermark, The - Immediate Sound
    This one falls perfectly into that niche of avant-jazz that I like: it’s “out,” with plenty of wild collective improv and unpredictable solos, but it’s also recognizably jazz, anchored in rock-solid grooves and accessible melodies. Also, it rocks. You wouldn’t really expect anything less from this lineup.

As always, this was hard, and lots of great things missed the cut. One of particular note is Epica’s The Divine Conspiracy. I listened to this a ton but couldn’t quite bring myself to put it on the above list. I’m sure I’ll catch some heat for liking this stuff - it’s like warmed-over prog-metal with a combination of death-metal vocals and beautiful female clean vocals. But damn can these guys write a catchy song. I don’t understand why they don’t get more love in the prog world; there’s tons of bombastic keyboards, epic lyrical themes, and general cheesiness, plus a fantastic lead vocalist and really long songs. What’s not to love, prog fans?

More things I liked from 2007:

  • Æthenor - Deep In Ocean Sunk the Lamp of Light
  • Alamaailman Vasarat - Maahan
  • Alcest - Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde
  • Baroness - The Red Album
  • Between the Buried and Me - Colors
  • Car Bomb - Centralia
  • Caspian - The Four Trees
  • Cato Salsa Experience & The Thing with Joe McPhee - Two Bands and a Legend
  • Cephalic Carnage - Xenosapien
  • Cline/Parkins/Rainey - Downpour
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works
  • Feist - The Reminder
  • Grayceon - Grayceon
  • Carla Kihlstedt & Satoko Fujii - Minamo
  • Eric Malmberg - Verklighet & Beat
  • Miasma & the Carousel of Headless Horses - Manfauna
  • The National - Boxer
  • Neurosis - Given to the Rising
  • Original Silence - The First Original Silence
  • Pig Destroyer - Phantom Limb
  • Scorch Trio - Live in Finland
  • Soft Mountain - Soft Mountain
  • Tin Hat - The Sad Machinery of Spring
  • Yakuza - Transmutations

If I think to do it, perhaps a couple “favorite shows” posts will be forthcoming as well (one for 2008, since I forgot to do one last year, and one for 2009). But the top 10 albums of 2008 post is definitely coming soon.

Still buying CDs

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I’ve admittedly moved largely to digital music purchases, in an attempt to stop cluttering up my house with more and more CDs (I’m also selling a bunch of CDs, of course, and will be adding hundreds more to the list soon). But I also like to support the vendors that have served so well over the years, so today for the first time in quite a while I placed a big order at Wayside Music.

  • Jim Black/Alas No Axis - Houseplant
  • Magma - Emehntehtt-Re
  • Minamo - Kuroi Kawa~Black River
  • Opus Avantra - Introspezione
  • Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores - The Blind Spot
  • Vidna Obmana - Legacy
  • Wadada Leo Smith - Spiritual Dimensions
  • Zevious - After the Air Raid

Yes, there’s even an Italian prog album on the list! Can’t remember the last time I bought one of those, ha.

What’s spinning, October 14 edition

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Been a while. What have I been listening to?

The answer is, “not much.” My appetite for new music has taken a pretty steep nose-dive this year as I’ve immersed myself in photography. My appetite for live music has remained unchanged, though, or even increased a bit. But I haven’t bought all that much new music this year. That said, here’s what I’ve been enjoying recently…

  • Anti-Pop Consortium - Fluorescent Black — Anything new from these guys is welcome; I was never all that taken by any of the side projects since their 2002 breakup (not counting the sublime Antipop Vs. Matthew Shipp). On initial listens, this sounds pretty great although perhaps not quite up to the lofty standards of Tragic Epilogue and Arrhythmia.
  • Baroness - Blue Record — Just massive, massive praise for this one from metal critics. I’ve listened to it streaming on Myspace a couple times and don’t see it yet. Good stuff but hardly amazing. Red Album - which I loved - seemed more coherent and compelling to me, but perhaps this just needs more listens.
  • Do Make Say Think - Other Truths — This on the other hand is fantastic. I’ve had one listen to a pre-release copy and it sounds like an absolute must-buy. Four long tracks in the classic DMST mold: laid-back, melodic, slightly repetitive post-rock that is somehow beautiful, sublime, and never boring.
  • Echoes of Eternity - As Shadows Burn — Female-fronted melodic metal whom I first heard on tour with Unexpect; their first album was absolutely laughable, but this is actually pretty decent. Lots more substance here and Francine Boucher’s voice is integrated into the music instead of floating weirdly on top of it all. Still not anything I would call great, but a quantum leap forward from Forgotten Goddess, which is better left forgotten.
  • The Faceless - Planetary Duality — Since this young tech-death band has attached itself to seemingly every major U.S. death metal tour of 2009, I’ve already seen them live three times this year. So I figured I’d pick up their record; it’s solid technical metal with a few standout tracks like the amazing “Xenochrist.” Soon enough they’ll be headlining their own tour.
  • General Surgery - Corpus In Extremis: Analysing Necrocriticism — One of my new discoveries from Maryland Deathfest this year; this is a solid, if unspectacular, record full of slightly grindy gore/death metal. “Solid, if unspectacular” is more than enough to make General Surgery stand out from a sea of utterly mediocre goregrind bands.
  • The National - Boxer — My main discovery from this year’s Virgin FreeFest. I love their laid-back, tastefully orchestrated take on indie-rock, and vocalist Matt Berninger’s deep croon suits them perfectly and sets them apart a bit.
  • Om - God Is Good — As it turns out, Om without drummer Chris Hakius is still Om. Pretty solid album spiced up by the appearance of new instruments like tamboura, flute and, in an absolutely genius moment, Mellotron. Check out my review at the City Paper.
  • Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line — Melodic, slightly sappy indie-pop, helped by some excellent contributions from a cellist and violinist. Like Cloud Cult but with fewer awkward melodies and vocal lines; this is a really promising debut.
  • Shpongle - Are You Shpongled? — This is hardly new, but I found myself spinning it on a long drive recently. Upbeat electronic music, kind of like if Ozric Tentacles just took the techno-ish parts of The Hidden Step or Waterfall Cities, and made a whole album out of them.
  • Spunk - Kantarell — I’ve always found Spunk to be one of Maja Ratkje’s more accessible projects. This one is soundscapey, almost relaxing at times, with acoustic instruments peeking in through the electronics at refreshing intervals. I like to imagine that astronauts landing on an alien planet and turning on their radios might hear something like this.

New stuff that will probably rock

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I’m excited about all of these upcoming releases for the remainder of 2009:

  • Anti-Pop Consortium - Fluorescent Black (heard it last night and I already know it rocks)
  • Baroness - Blue Record
  • Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis (probably early 2010)
  • Do Make Say Think - Other Truths
  • Epica - Design Your Universe (I am a total sucker for this band)
  • Espers - III
  • Evangelista - Prince of Truth
  • Gaza - He Is Never Coming Back
  • Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough
  • Magma - Emehntet-Re (is this really coming out in November??)
  • Present - Barbaro (isn’t this supposed to be out already? can’t find it anywhere)
  • Sajjanu - Pechiku!!
  • Univers Zero - Clivages (technically January 2010)
  • Wrnlrd - Myrmidon

Obviously, I have very little idea about what’s going on in the prog world these days. Any other avant-prog releases I should be paying attention to? (Please don’t tell me about the new Transatlantic album, I care even less than I did five years ago.)

Yoshi’s and Amoeba Music, Oh My!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Aquarius Records

A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco, in part to visit an old friend, in part to see a few shows of John Zorn’s 6-night residency at Yoshi’s. I wrote all about the concerts I saw over at the City Paper, but the brief summary is: Bar Kokhba: wow!; The Dreamers: meh; Electric Masada: holy shit my life is complete. Also: Yoshi’s is a pretty sweet place to see jazz. A little swanky for my tastes, but the one-item minimum is quite reasonable (much better than, say, the $10 minimum at fucking Blues Alley here in DC) and the sushi is totally amazing. Also, for the last Electric Masada set I had fantastic seats up in the balcony, dead center, perfect view of everything.

I also stumbled into Aquarius Records - I am on their mailing list but kind of forgot they’re in SF, and was wandering around my friend’s neighborhood when we came across it. What a great store. As in the pic above, they have these hand-printed reviews taped onto every single CD they sell in the store. Really, every single one. Very obvious that the people who work here love their music. Props!

And, of course, I went to Amoeba Music, which is a very very dangerous place for me, and I walked out with…

  • Æthenor - Faking Gold and Murder
  • Bozulich, Carla - Red Headed Stranger
  • Claudia Quintet, The - Semi-Formal
  • Coleman, Ornette - Free Jazz
  • Coltrane, John - Sun Ship
  • Coltrane, John - Live in Japan (4 CDs)
  • Coup, The - Kill My Landlord
  • Crow, Sheryl - Detours
  • Dresden Dolls, The - The Dresden Dolls
  • Earth - Live Europe 2006
  • Faun Fables - The Transit Rider
  • Flying Luttenbachers, The - Cataclysm
  • Full Blast - Black Hole/Live at Tampere (2 CDs)
  • Geraldine Fibbers, The - Butch
  • Healing Force - The Songs of Albert Ayler
  • Leng Tch’e - ManMadePredator
  • Leng Tch’e - The Process of Elimination
  • Leng Tch’e - Marasmus
  • Ligeti, György - The Ligeti Project II
  • Jarrett, Keith - Radiance (2 CDs)
  • Jewel - Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
  • Schoenberg/Sibelius - Violin Concertos (Hilary Hahn)
  • Tarentel - Live Edits: Italy/Switzerland
  • Xenakis, Iannis - Ensemble Music 2

Seriously, what a fantastic store. I got almost all of those used and cheap. I don’t even know what that Earth album is - it’s an official live album on Southern Lord, but it’s apparently out of print and a Google search turns up very little information. I’ve listened to it once so far and it seems pretty solid. Nothing transcendent but a pretty accurate representation of Earth live. I still want to track down a copy of Live Hex though…

What’s spinning, March 30 edition

Monday, March 30th, 2009
  • Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Agorapocalypse Now — The new ANb record is going to piss off a lot of old fans: for starters, there are only 13 songs, and two-thirds of them clock in at over 2 minutes. What’s more, the music actually grooves in places, and there’s a female vocalist (growling and screaming; don’t worry, this is no goth-metal band). I think it rocks and it’s already my favorite ANb that I’ve heard… we’ll see how the diehards react.
  • Arnold Schoenberg/Hilary Hahn - Violin Concerto — I wasn’t familiar with Schoenberg’s violin concerto, and this is my first listen to Baltimore’s favorite violinist. My first impressions on both counts: very favorable.
  • Decoder Ring - Fractions — Really pleasant record from this Australian post-rock/electronic band. Lenka Kripac’s ethereal vocals add a ton, and the end result is a moody slab of chilled-out music that has a couple nice surprises up its sleeve.
  • Flower-Corsano Duo - The Four Aims — 50 minutes of free improvisation, a duo of drums/percussion and shahi baaja, a kind of Indian electric mandolin. I wrote a few paragraphs about this one over at the City Paper.
  • Kylesa - Static Tensions — Savannah, Georgia might seem an odd place for a fucking awesome metal band to emerge, but Kylesa are just that, and their latest album is their best yet. On some of these songs (like the absolutely awesome “Running Red”), they sound a bit like Mastodon does now, only heavier and… better.
  • Mastodon - Crack the Skye — Speaking of Mastodon, I just don’t like their new direction. Crack the Skye is a definitely step up from Blood Mountain, but that just means I find most of it boring instead of tasteless.
  • Napalm Death - Time Waits For No Slave — You know, I never really got that much into Napalm Death’s classic stuff. But this new album totally grabbed me. It’s weirdly hooky and groovy, as far as grindcore goes. In that sense it’s kind of like the new ANb: a pretty great, quite accessible surprise.
  • The BBC - WFMU Studios 9/14/2008Tim Berne, Nels Cline and Jim Black as a trio! Berne and Black play with the chemistry you’d expect, but Cline integrates himself quite nicely indeed. This recording, from a live radio session, is incendiary and entertaining, and the interview segment is amusing as hell. This trio is doing a couple shows in Australia soon; here’s hoping they do some shows in the U.S. soon.
  • The Coup - Kill My Landlord — I’ve been looking for this sucker for years, and it’s finally back in print. This is from the early period of the group, along the same lines as Genocide & Juice, which is far and away my favorite album by The Coup. It doesn’t disappoint. This stuff is way better than the more recent releases like Pick a Bigger Weapon and the hugely disappointing Party Music.
  • The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love — Jury’s still out on this one. Definitely a concept album that has to be listened to from start to finish. Only a couple songs really reached out and grabbed me after a couple listens, but I’m willing to put some effort into this one so we’ll see how it pans out for me.

New DFA, other good stuff so far this year

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

So we’re almost halfway through 2008 and the message boards are abuzz over what could be the first great prog-related release of 2008, DFA’s creatively titled 4th. I haven’t heard it yet but I’m definitely excited to do so, especially after reading Mike McLatchey’s review. I thought I’d quickly comment on some 2008 releases I’ve heard so far — noting that I’ve taken a step back this year in terms of purchasing and digesting new music, so I’m not hearing all that much brand-new stuff as compared to the past couple years. Also, these are not necessarily my favorite albums of 2008, just things that I have things to say about:

  • Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull — I’ve got a review in the works; in the meantime, my review of their live show suffices. This is a great album.
  • Magenta - Metamorphosis — I like it! I will face up to the usual Ground & Sky readership who will laugh at me for enjoying such proggarific nonsense, but I can’t help it. Somehow these folks just push the right buttons for me.
  • Meshuggah - Obzen — I have a hard time with this group; the music and vocals are always bone-crushingly heavy and complex, but somehow they come off as a little to sterile for me most of the time. That said, Obzen is probably my favorite of any of theirs that I’ve heard.
  • Scorch Trio - Brolt! — Got a review coming up of this one. It’s good.
  • John Zorn - The Dreamers — Major disappointment. With that lineup (very similar to Electric Masada) I was hoping for something much more than this middle-of-the-road snoozer.
  • Bar Kokhba - Lucifer — Another mild disappointment. Their 3CD live album in the 50th Birthday series is one of my favorite recordings ever, but they seem to have lost a lot of their edge on this album. Sigh.
  • Los Dorados & Cuong Vu - Incendio — Energetic, melodic jazz with a pretty significant rock edge, a pretty inspired collaboration.
  • Portishead - Third — So far I don’t like it as much as Dummy despite lots of people saying they think this one is their best so far. Beth Gibbons’ voice seems just a little too wispy to me this time around.

Things I’m excited about that just came out or are coming out in 2008 or early 2009 (in addition to the aforementioned new DFA record):

  • Asva - What You Don’t Know is Frontier
  • Deus Ex Machina - Imparis (CD/DVD)
  • One Shot - Dark Shot (CD/DVD)
  • Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
  • Original Silence - The Second Original Silence
  • The Thing - Now & Forever (box set)
  • Richard Pinhas & Merzbow - Keio Line
  • Univers Zero - Archives 1984/85/86 (working title)
  • Within Temptation - Black Symphony (DVD)
  • Despised Icon - Live in Montreal (DVD; not the real title)
  • Fred Frith - To Sail, To Sail

What am I missing…?

Great reissues from 2007

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Happy New Year dear reader! Although I obviously won’t be doing a best of 2007 list just yet, I figure one thing I can do is talk about a few 2007 reissues I thought were great — since I don’t include reissues in my best-of-year lists. I don’t really follow reissues the same way I do new releases, so this list is even more personal than some of my other ones, but anyway, here are some highlights.

Kevin Drumm’s Sheer Hellish Miasma is a 2002 noise recording, reissued this year with an extra track. This was a revelation for me — an electronic apocalypse from a guy I only knew at the time from a similarly cacophonous collobration with Weasel Walter (Flying Luttenbachers) and Fred Lonberg-Holm. Drumm is also active in the eai world, but this stuff is about as far as it gets from the so-quiet-you-can-barely-hear-it end of that genre: though arguably minimalistic, the noise on this record is punishingly brutal. And oh so fucking awesome. Might review this one in the near future; the one thing stopping me is a total lack of reference points or vocabulary to talk about it.

Baby Grandmothersself-titled release — technically this is an archival release and not a reissue, since this stuff was never actually published as far as I know. As far as early Swedish psych-rock goes, this is some of the best I’ve heard. Read my review for more.

I got John Coltrane’s Live in ‘60, ‘61 and ‘65 DVD for Christmas, which was a few days after Oscar Peterson’s death. Peterson is featured on a song or two from the 1961 session here, and I thought it a fitting tribute to get to enjoy footage of one of his inimitable solos. Also it was neat to see Reggie Workman, a bassist whom I have seen perform a few times in the Baltimore/DC area in recent years, playing 45+ years ago yet looking strikingly similar to how he does now. Otherwise, the highlight of the set is a 1965 performance of “My Favorite Things” that stretches for nearly half an hour and reaches some dizzying heights.

Peter Brötzmann’s Complete Machine Gun Sessions is a very nice reissue package of a classic free-jazz blowout. The only problem is that the original “Machine Gun” is so intense and draining that I can barely stand to listen to anything more along the same lines after sitting through it once. I’ve taken to listening to the bonus tracks separately from the original, which seems to work okay. Sometimes I’m a bit of a wimp.

Finally, one that I have, but haven’t actually gotten around to, is Sun Ra’s Strange Strings, which is getting raves from many corners of the Internet, and not just the dark corners populated by crazies. This is an album where the whole Arkestra plays string instruments, which kind of sounds like a downright frightening prospect to me, but what do I know? I haven’t listened to it yet.