Archive for the ‘What's Spinning’ 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.

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.

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.

What’s spinning, December 23 edition

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Apparently all the stuff I’ve been listening to lately, with just a few exceptions, is by bands whose names begin with the letters A-E exclusively. Wonder what that means? Anyway, here are some quick impressions.

  • Anti-Pop Consortium - Shopping Carts Crashing — My favorite avant-hip-hop group aside from Dälek, this is their 2001 album that for some absolutely inexplicable reason was only released in Japan. I’ve been hunting for it for years and finally scored a copy for a reasonable price (around $20) on eBay. It’s great; I’d say a notch below their two U.S. released albums, Tragic Epilogue and Arrhythmia, but only a small notch.
  • Aranis - II — I’ll be reviewing this soon, but it’s one of my favorite albums of 2007 so far. Wonderfully composed chamber-rock, full of rich counterpoint, tricky time signatures and beautiful melodies. One of the best records I’ve heard in this little niche.
  • Meg Baird - Dear Companion — The female half of Espers‘ solo album is a very straightforward recording of mostly traditional songs; not the most exciting listen, but some of the songs are pretty memorable. Baird’s wispy voice isn’t particularly well-suited to some of the songs that have her singing more aggressively, but when she’s more laid back, the effect is often beautiful.
  • Baroness - Red Album — Nice but maybe overhyped metal album that’s like a slightly more metal Isis. Still digesting, I think this could grow on me in a big way.
  • Between the Buried and Me - Colors — I just bought this at a Borders in my hometown in North Carolina, and the cashier looked at it and said, “oh cool, bee-tee-bam!” Apparently they are pretty popular among the younger set here in their home state; she had seen them live a couple times. This is off-the-wall extreme metal, kind of reminds me of Unexpect except a little less crazy and a lot less schizoid.
  • Burial - Untrue — I never quite understood the hype around last year’s self-titled debut, not being a follower of the UK electronica scene, but this sophomore effort makes a lot more sense to me. Someone said this is what Massive Attack would sound like in the year 2020, but I think Burial’s sound is perfect for modern-day post-industrial cities. More accessible than last year’s effort, I’m really digging this one.
  • Demilich - Nespithe — This is strange death metal with vocals so low they sound like the singer is belching. No, seriously. When I was on my Gorguts kick a few weeks ago, I went looking for similarly bizarre metal, and this name came up a lot; turns out the album is free to download. I’m getting a kick of out this but I can’t say I’ve really processed it yet.
  • Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works — This one’s getting rave reviews at all the metal websites, and I can see why; it combines some of the brutality and complexity of classic DEP material with more of the melodicism seen on Miss Machine. There’s one track that’s a dead ringer for “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part II” if it had been written in 2007.
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - Alles Wieder Offen — I’m beginning to think that these guys will never top Silence is Sexy; I was a bit disappointed by Perpetuum Mobile and this one is another small step down. It’s very melodic and accessible, and I was expecting something much harder-hitting.
  • Carla Kihlstedt & Satoko Fujii - Minamo — Two of my favorite improv musicians teaming up: a dream duo for me, and this recording doesn’t disappoint. Naturally, its charms are revealed only after repeated listens, and I’m justing getting started with it, but I can already tell I’m really going to like this one.
  • Scorch Trio - Live in Finland — A limited edition CD-R (400 copies) with no distribution whatsoever, I picked this up from Paal Nilssen-Love at the Frode Gjerstad Trio show I wrote about below. For much of its duration it’s surprisingly spacious, but when the musicians kick it into high gear, wow! Exhilirating, and the recording quality is beyond reproach, surprising for a limited release like this.
  • David Sylvian & Holger Czukay - Flux + Mutability — This is an old one that I stumbled across at Paul’s CDs in Pittsburgh; it was $10 new so I picked it up on a whim. It’s not what I expected; Sylvian doesn’t sing, and the music is two very long tracks of relaxing, unintrusive ambient music. Nothing particularly innovative or even memorable, but certainly pleasant enough for this kind of thing.

What’s spinning, August 7 edition

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Long time no post (although it’s nice that I start feeling like I’ve been neglecting this after a couple weeks of not posting instead of, say, three months, as has happened in the past). This summer has kind of revealed to me how important live music has become towards keeping my interest peaked in music in general. In short, no concerts = less enthusiasm about listening to records. Which is kind of interesting considering that it was only in the past few years that I really started going to see a lot of live music.

In any case, here are a few things (in no particular order) that have been getting me excited lately despite the lack of live shows:

  • Joanna Newsom - live at the First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, PA — a 90-minute audience-shot film of her performance last November in Philly. This is the most sublime thing I’ve downloaded from Dimeadozen in the past couple years. I wrote about it way back in January and I’m still enamored with it. Mike McLatchey thinks it’s pretty swell too. This is wonderful stuff; Newsom’s voice is toned down a bit and getting to watch her play her harp is a treat.
  • Pulsar - Memory Ashes — yes, it’s the same Pulsar that released Strands of the Future and Halloween, a full three decades ago. As I posted on ProgressiveEars, this reunion album is nothing groundbreaking, and it borders on new-agey at times, but it also has some very nice Floydian moments. This is how some folks have described Gorlitz, which I have not heard.
  • Dälek - Deadverse Massive Vol. 1 — only a couple listens so far, but for an outtakes album this is pretty damn good. There are some killer beats and soundscapes here, and the 17-minute shoegazer epic in the middle of the album is pleasantly engaging. Dälek is fast becoming one of my favorite currently active artists.
  • Amarok - Sol de Medianoche — with a few exceptions, I haven’t found this as consistently engaging as Quentadharkën, but there are still some really beautiful pieces, especially early in the playlist. As far as symphonic progressive rock goes, these guys are still a favorite of mine.
  • Vedres Csaba - Fohász — as a huge fan of early After Crying, it’s a little weird that I’ve never explored Vedres’ solo output, but I had been scared off by the “solo piano” stuff, thinking it would be boring. Well, it’s not. It’s gorgeous. And Vedres sings on some of these songs, too, and I love his voice. This is a compilation drawing from 4-5 of his solo albums, basically all of which I now want.
  • Grayceon - Grayceon — they’re marketed as some kind of proggy metal, but to me they sound like indie-chamber-post-rock or something like that. The recording and vocals have a slightly amateurish feel but the compositions are great, taking full advantage of the band’s rather interesting cello/guitar/drums configuration. This is for sure a band to keep an eye on.
  • Marc Ribot - Asmodeus — John Zorn’s Masada Book of Angels series can’t be accused of staying too tightly within the confines of jazz, what with every other album in the series falling completely in another genre. Asmodeus is pretty much straight-up power trio instrumental rock, and good rock at that. This series has been a bit hit-or-miss for me, but this one’s a definite hit. (Also, the news that Secret Chiefs 3 are doing the next Book of Angels record: hit!)
  • From a Second Story Window - Delenda — one of Dave Kerman’s extreme metal recommendations, these guys are like a more extreme version of Opeth, combining rapid-fire grindcore riffs with the occasional clean vocals that are all the more effective for their rarity. The few tracks that feature brief clean vocals are definitely my favorites.
  • Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet - Stone/Water — this is my first Brötzmann Chicago Tentet album, and the one that came with the highest recommendations from I Hate Music. And I can see why, because damn it’s awesome! I was expecting a near-unlistenable blowfest, but there are tons of nuanced moments. Fred Lonberg-Holm’s cello work is wonderful throughout, and Jeb Bishop on trombone also stands out for me.

Sorry for neglecting the site a bit in the past month, after the next couple weeks are over with I will have a lot more time to commit to adding reviews and blogging more regularly.

What’s spinning, June 18 edition

Monday, June 18th, 2007

If you’ve actually been following the last.fm widget up there at the top of the blog, you might know some of this, but in any case here is what has been occupying my ears for the past couple weeks.

  • Anekdoten - A Time of Day — Well, it’s better than Gravity, but that’s not exactly high praise. Jury’s still out on this one for me; I could see it being a grower.
  • Cato Salsa Experience & The Thing with Joe McPhee - Two Bands and a Legend — This was on my previous list of this sort, from back in April, and it’s still in heavy rotation. I’ll be reviewing it soon.
  • Do Make Say Think - You, You’re a History in Rust — This one is also a long-lasting pleasure, and will likely end up being one of my favorites of the year. This is post-rock at its most beautiful, yet sacrificing nothing in depth (unlike, say, some of the material by Explosions in the Sky).
  • Dungen - Tio Bitar — My first impressions so far are just that; nothing has really stood out to me. For some reason I get less and less excited about this band as time passes, and I was hoping this album would change that. Hasn’t happened yet.
  • Grails - Burning Off Impurities — This is a really hard band to pigeonhole; they’re somewhere between post-rock and prog and metal and ambient and world music, or something. Previous albums have not really excited me, but this one has some really great moments.
  • Isis - Live.04 — Isis’ latest limited-edition live CD is a mixed bag of cuts mostly from Celestial and Oceanic. Oddly, I like the earlier stuff the best; the band’s raw power really comes through in the live context.
  • King Crimson - Live in Heidelburg 1974 — Highlight of this one is pretty clearly the funky “Heidelburg II” improv, in which Bruford comes through with some of the most agile playing I’ve heard him pull off in a KC improv, and Wetton just levels everything in his path.
  • Joanna Newsom - Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band EP — I’m not really that thrilled by the re-recorded versions of “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie” and “Cosmia,” but the new song “Colleen” is up there with anything else Newsom has yet recorded. I cannot wait for her next release, and I’m even more excited for her next tour.
  • Nightwish - End of an Era — There are so many things I don’t really like about this band — the silly bombast, the terrible male vocals, the lyrics — but somehow in the end I’m always won over by their sheer energy and the obvious joy they get from playing their music. This DVD is addictive, and although there are several throwaway pieces, it’s great fun.
  • Pelican - City of Echoes — Not sure what I think about this one yet; I think I like it better than The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, but I could be wrong. It definitely seems more dynamic, although the Pitchfork review is dead-on in picking out the drummer as a factor holding the band back from greater heights.
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - In Glorious Times — Well, duh. This has been dominating my speakers for weeks now. My review basically says all I need to say about it: it’s awesome.
  • The Thing - Live at Blå — Basically two half-hour pieces consisting of “covers” of barely recognizable songs strung together by free improv sections. Definitely not the most accessible place to start with this band, and I find myself thinking it definitely has some dead spots that could have used cutting, but it’s an accurate picture of what they do when they play live.
  • Wilco - Sky Blue Sky — Now this is a huge disappointment. Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche are two premier innovators on their respective instruments (and the rest of the band are hardly slouches), but instead of a worthy followup to the skewed indie-pop of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born, we get a middle-of-the-road, mostly boring, totally straightforward album of pop-rock that’s to the band’s earlier output as David Gilmour’s On An Island is to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Some reviewers have been saying “but it’s so well-crafted!” but I disagree with that, too — some of Tweedy’s vocal lines and melodies here are nothing short of cringeworthy.

What’s spinning, April 25 edition

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

The past two months have seen an unprecedented amount of new music cross my path. Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately…

  • Aethenor - Deep In Ocean Sunk the Lamp of Light — Dark ambient stuff by members of Sunn O))) and Guapo (now there’s an inspired combination!). Not surprisingly, this is very creepy stuff, utterly devoid of the structures of the two aforementioned bands.
  • Alamaailman Vasarat - Maahan — Their fourth album harkens back to their earlier material, namely the stuff before the collaboration with Tuomari Nurmio. For most fans, this is a good thing.
  • Michaël Attias - Credo — Very tuneful avant-jazz on Clean Feed. I am starting to really get in to this label, thanks to the prolific amount of material they have on eMusic.
  • Cato Salsa Experience and The Thing with Joe McPhee - Two Bands and a Legend — A free jazz group collaborates with a garage-rock band, and the result is nothing short of awesome. Seriously.
  • Cowboy Junkies - At the End of Paths Taken — Their umpteenth album is, well, kind of boring, despite a new emphasis on electric instruments and some aggressive instrumental passages.
  • Kevin Drumm - Sheer Hellish Miasma — I’m not a huge noise-rock fan, but this stuff is just brutal. Maybe the most balls-to-the-wall intense electronic music I’ve ever heard, this sure is one aptly titled album.
  • Earthless - Rhythms From a Cosmic Sky — Pretty great heavy space/psych-rock, the kind of thing that readers of the Aural Innovations site will go bananas for.
  • The Electrics - Live at Glenn Miller Café — A nice cross between structured avant-jazz and purely sound-based free improv.
  • Lane/Vandermark/Broo/Nilssen-Love - 4 Corners — I am getting seriously addicted to both Vandermark and Nilssen-Love these days, and this is one of the more immediately accessible collaborations of theirs that I’ve heard lately.
  • Loreena McKennitt - Nights at the Alhambra — Wonderful DVD/2CD set for fans of this Celtic/world musician. The CDs are probably redundant for those who own Live in Paris and Toronto, but the DVD is essential.
  • Nadja - Touched — Sludgy doom-metal that, in my opinion, puts Sunn O))) to shame. Maybe it’s just that this stuff is much more accessible and, dare I say it, almost tuneful.
  • (((Powerhouse Sound))) - Oslo/Chicago: Breaks — More Ken Vandermark; this band seems to be trying to go for the Spaceways Inc. avant-jazz/funk crown, but with more noise and more electronics. I dig it.
  • Runaway Totem - Esameron — Everyone’s favorite second-tier zeuhl band releases their new, well, second-tier zeuhl album. To be honest I find this stuff pretty damn annoying, although fans of their other material (or Amygdala’s album) might like it.
  • David Torn - Prezens — Tim Berne fans relax, this is definitely not the new Hard Cell album despite the lineup. More than anything else, this is like Cloud About Mercury, re-envisioned and updated for the 21st century.

What’s spinning, January 9 edition

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Seems like I’m working on a bunch of new music right now; my listening is spread thin and on all this stuff I just have some quick first impressions:

  • Aghora - Formless: I liked their self-titled debut, and this one seems like more of the same, maybe a little more polished. All the songs kind of fly by in a haze, but hopefully they’ll become more distinctive with closer listening.
  • Bassdrumbone - The Line Up: These guys are coming to Baltimore next month, so I downloaded their latest album from eMusic. I think I’m going to really like this one. Avant-jazz that really swings.
  • Blops - Blops (3CD box set): Folksy Chilean group from the early 70s; their folk stuff is solid but it’s the third album that really makes an impression, when they started doing a kind of jazzy psych-rock fusion.
  • Cardboard Amanda - Cardboard Amanda: I’m having a hard time getting around the vocals, which I currently find intensely annoying. Need to work on this one.
  • Elliott Brood - Ambassador: More “death country”; I like pretty much everything I’ve heard from this little subgenre and this is no exception.
  • Loreena McKennitt - An Ancient Muse: It’s been nearly a decade since her last studio album, but believe it or not, this one sounds almost exactly like the last three. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Steve Swell’s Nation of We - Live at the Bowery Poetry Club: I love Swell’s work as a sideman (with Tim Berne’s Caos Totale band, on El-P’s High Water, etc), but have never heard him as a leader. This big-band effort seems like a pretty good start; one of Ayler Records‘ download-only releases.
  • Uzva - Uoma: None of this band’s albums ever really grab me at first listen. I like this one well enough, especially “Arabian Ran-Ta,” but it’s yet to completely suck me in.
  • Jack Wright & Bob Marsh - Birds in the Hand: Got this free-improv album a while ago as a promo, but never actually noticed it til now. I saw Wright live last year in one of the most head-spinningly avant-garde shows I’ve ever seen. This CD is a little more accessible; mostly quiet, contemplative improvs involving sax, cello and voice.
  • Yügen - Labirinto d’Acqua: Twitchy avant-prog that lots of RIO types are really loving. It takes me a while to get my head around this kind of thing. I’m pretty sure that when all is said and done, I’ll like this one, but not love it.

What’s spinning, November 29 edition

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Listening to lately:

  • Damsel - Distressed: Nels Cline and drummer Zach Hill (Hella) team up for four long, spacy improvs. I think I actually like this better than the other Cline/drummer duo album I have - Interstellar Space Revisited with Gregg Bendian. Less intensely noisy than some of Cline’s more recent improv stuff, this is still pretty captivating material.
  • Joanna Newsom - Ys: After the debut album by this folksy singer/harpist, the last thing I expected was an uber-ambitious sophomore effort consisting of five epic-length songs. But it works, somehow: Newsom’s lyrics capture the imagination and her inimitable vocals never fail to surprise. Beautiful, dramatic, and perhaps my favorite album of 2006 so far.
  • NeBeLNeST - ZePTO: my recent review pretty much says what I want to say about this one. Great stuff from one of my favorite recent prog bands.
  • Henry Cow - Concerts: the remaster sounds great. The opening suite on disc 1, bookended by “Beautiful as the Moon,” is just jaw-dropping.
  • 16 Horsepower - Hoarse: “death country?” I suppose that means country music more along the lines of Johnny Cash than Nashville. Whatever it is, I like this stuff: indie-rockish country with a real rock-oriented drive, dark and heavy lyrics, and intriguing use of banjos and mandolins. This is a pretty raw, energetic live recording.

What’s spinning, individual songs edition

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I’ve recently been listening to some albums with clear standout tracks and as a result have been trying to compile a kind of greatest-hits CD with the music that’s been spinning in my room for the past month or two. There’s a mix of new and not particularly new, and it’s a generally genre-less affair. The songs I have chosen so far (in no particular order):

  • Yo La Tengo - “The Story of Yo La Tango” (I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass): Classic epic noisy stuff from these guys that I’m going to see live tonight. Great way to end a pretty great new album.
  • Mastodon - “Sleeping Giant” (Blood Mountain): The obvious highlight on this album that I’m otherwise still a bit lukewarm about. Some unforgettably majestic guitar melodies here.
  • Christina Aguilera - “Still Dirrty” (Back to Basics): Dumb lyrics (actually not the norm on this album, at least on the first disc — but let’s not talk about the atrocious second disc) mitigated by a seriously bumpin’ production job.
  • Espers - “Moon Occults the Sun” (II): Melancholy, dignified indie-folk that should appeal to a lot of prog fans with their adventurous arrangements and crystal-clear, seductive vocals (both male and female). Another great album closer of a song.
  • Final Fantasy - “This Lamb Sells Condos” (He Poos Clouds): The album title is awful and some of the songs are, too. This is a hugely (over-)hyped album, but on this song at least they get it right.
  • Amon Tobin - “Sordid” (Permutation): Not new at all, but a barn-burner of a breakbeat song thrown into Tobin’s otherwise pretty jazzy sophomore album. Funny, I first got into Tobin through, of all things, a Coke TV ad (that used “Deo” from the next album).
  • Black Bonzo - “Brave Young Soldier” (Lady of the Light): This stuff isn’t generally my thing — this album was a perfect eMusic download rather than CD purchase for me — but there’s some cool stuff going on in this song.
  • Ephel Duath - “The Unpoetic Circle” (The Painter’s Palette): Any band that reminds me by turns of Cynic, Opeth and Pan-Thy-Monium can’t be anything but stone-cold awesome. This is one of the more accessible tracks from what is IMHO their best album.
  • The Coup - “My Favorite Mutiny” (Pick a Bigger Weapon): Disappointing album overall; I think Boots Riley and co. are really losing it. But this would have been a great song even on their old classic records.
  • Tim Berne’s Hard Cell - “BG uh-oh” (Feign): One of the more hyper-kinetic tracks on this album, and one that I was lucky enough to see live (performed by a slightly different ensemble). Berne is still one of my absolute favorite currently active “jazz” artists.
  • Boris - “Pink” (Pink): The title track from this album is one of the more aggressive tracks on a very aggressive record. Sludgy metal at its finest, with a touch of Japanese noise-rock zaniness.