Archive for the ‘New Releases’ Category

HOLY SHIT

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

HENRY COW
40th ANNIVERSARY BOX SET Volumes 1 & 2
9 CDs and 1 DVD with 2 substantial books - in two solid Boxes. LIMITED EDITION.

Assembled over 15 years, this collection gives for the first time some idea of the breadth and depth of Henry Cow’s work. Always very much a live band, performance was their metier, and a concert might range far - always driven by an intense dialogue between tightly knit compositions and radically open improvisation. The officially released LPs tell at best only half this story, and one purpose of this definitive collection is to set the work back into its broader context. These are all previously unreleased recordings, that include many compositions and improvisations new to anyone who only knows the official releases, documentation of a number of one-off projects and events and - where different or remarkable enough to justify inclusion - live versions of parts of the LP repertoire. Many of these recordings are high quality radio transcriptions taken directly from the original masters, others are less hi-fi, but justified we think by their historic and musical quality. And everything has been carefully transferred and re-mastered by Bob Drake to the best audio quality that current technology allows without interference or tampering. It’s all a million times better than the terrible bootlegs that are swimming around. Altogether, these 9 CDs embody some extraordinary, and occasionally prescient music. Taking this box together with the officially released albums, it is possible at last to get some impression of the extensive ground Henry Cow covered in it’s 10 short years. Finally, there is the DVD: 80 minutes of the 1976 Cow (with Georgina Born and Dagmar Krause) performing many unreleased pieces as well as Living in the Heart of The Beast, Beautiful as the Moon &c. This is the only known video recording in existence - professionally made, multi camera - and has not been recovered since its original broadcast (just scour U-Tube, HC is conspicuous by its total absence). And last but not least, there is a great deal of written, photographic and textual documentation. Since this will probably be the last and definitive collection, it has to be thorough. For reasons of fairness and cost we have decided to split the set into two boxes - which can be bought separately or together. VOL 1 covers the period 1971 to the 1976 Hamburg radio show which documents John Greaves’ last concert with the band, as well as the extraordinary Trondheim concert from the quartet tour that immediately followed. VOL 2 takes the story through to 1978 and includes more previously undocumented compositions as well as the Bremen radio recording. The Stockholm CD belongs to this second box, which also contains the DVD.

This came from ReR via ProgressiveEars. Supposedly out in September for 99 GBP. (I haven’t been able to find the original, so this is unverified, but I believe it.) To recap: nine CDs and one DVD of live Henry Cow — none of this stuff has been released before, so you’re not paying for 5 CDs of stuff you already have in order to get to the goodies.

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…?

New Sigur Rós?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Somehow I missed this until now, but there’s a new Sigur Rós album looming on the horizon. The title is not quite as succinct or easy to pronounce (for us poor English-speaking monolingual schmucks) as Von or Takk: apparently this new record, due out June 24, is to be called Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. There’s already a track that can be previewed/downloaded here. I haven’t had a chance to listen yet.

Takk, the band’s last album, was really nice, but didn’t strike the same emotional chord with me as their earlier albums, perhaps because I’ve simply become a little inoculated to their style. But watching the Heima DVD — which is absolutely gorgeous — rekindled my interest in these guys a little bit, so I’m tentatively excited about this new release. In the meantime, this is a total gem: an NPR blogger’s video of his interview with Sigur Rós, which goes painfully, hilariously badly.

In other news, I saw the Progressive Nation tour last night in DC. Writeup is coming soon — I’m behind on processing photos and I shot over 1,000 last night — but the short review is that it was good. Yes, even Dream Theater, who, as readers of this site well know, has not really been a band I’m keen on for some years now. More to come…

What’s interesting this year?

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

A brief break in the show reports for a quick list of upcoming 2008 releases I’m interested in. This is as much as reference for me as anything else, as there’s enough good stuff coming up that I’m having trouble keeping track in my head. So here we go (I’ll continue updating this for the next little while):

  • March 3 — Autechre - Quaristice
  • March 5 — Pelican - After the Ceiling Cracked (DVD)
  • March 11 — Meshuggah - obZen
  • March 18 — Bar Kokhba Sextet - Lucifer: Book of Angels Volume 10
  • March 18 — John Zorn - The Dreamers
  • March 25 — A Silver Mt. Zion - 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
  • March 25 — Spring Heel Jack - Songs and Themes
  • April 1 — Nadja - Skin Turns to Glass
  • April 8 — Boredoms - Super Roots 9
  • April 8 — Nadja - Desire in Uneasiness
  • April 14 — Scorch Trio - Brolt
  • April 15 — Maja Ratkje - River Mouth Echoes
  • April 21 — Magenta - Metamorphosis (yes, I’m curious)
  • April 22 — Æthenor - Betimes Black Cloudmasses
  • April 22 — The Cinematic Orchestra - Live at the Royal Albert Hall
  • April 29 — Boris - Smile
  • May 6 — Russian Circles - Station
  • June 2 — Opeth - Watershed
  • Spring — Secret Chiefs 3 - Xaphan: Book of Angels Volume 9
  • Summer — Cryptopsy - The Unspoken King
  • Summer — Massive Attack - Weather Underground
  • Summer — Zu - Intermediate Spirit Receiver
  • Fall — Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
  • 2008 — Bohren und der Club of Gore - Mitleid Lady (EP)
  • 2008 — Ephel Duath - Through My Dog’s Eyes
  • 2008 — The Thing - box set (including The Thing, She Says, a new CD and a DVD!)

Also, recently released are new albums from Guapo and Genghis Tron, both of which are on my want list. I just recently got the new Earth, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, featuring Bill Frisell, and it’s fabulous. Maybe my favorite one of theirs since Earth 2, even.

The new Zs fucking rocks.

Friday, November 16th, 2007

I got the new Zs album, Arms, recently, and my only thought so far is: fuck yeah, this stuff is great.

I think this is one of the most vital bands in the avant-rock scene these days. I’m kind of tiring of avant-rock a bit, at least in the RIO/avant-prog form, but Zs push all the right buttons for me, even if it’s really hard to explain why they appeal to me so much. “Uh, well, see, they play these repetitive semi-melodies, like, really fast, in unison, sometimes in crazy time signatures, yeah. And it’s all really UGLY and would annoy the shit out of 99% of the world’s population. And it rocks!” Good thing I’m not the one writing their promotional copy.

The new Radiohead

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

A couple days ago I finally downloaded the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows. I still haven’t quite figured out what I think about their distribution method (if you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, they are offering the album as a download and allowing fans to pay whatever they want for it; a CD release isn’t coming until next year). I decided to pay… nothing. I feel okay about that for a couple reasons: point one, these are 160kbps MP3s we’re talking about here, not lossless files or even VBR MP3s; and that ties into point two, that if I like this I’ll probably go ahead and pay for the CD when it comes out. Also, these guys make a shitload of money anyway and since I have the option, I’d rather invest my music budget into bands that lose money with every record and play in shitty holes in the wall for 5 fans at a time.

Kick over any given virtual rock on the Internet and you’ll find a debate about this innovation in music distribution, so I won’t get into that here. Regarding the music itself, well, it’s okay. I probably like it more than anything they’ve done since Kid A, so that’s great, but I’m not exactly blown away. As a tangent, I find it really amusing the way that Pitchfork likes to verbally fellate this band to a ridiculous extent, giving the album a 9.3 (I honestly thought they were going to give it a 10.0 even before they ever heard it) and running like five or six news articles and full-length features about the album, in addition to the review. Sometimes that website is just absurd. In any case, In Rainbows is definitely a solid effort, if a surprisingly chilled-out one, and I’m looking forward to listening to it some more. I don’t think it’ll ever rate the equivalent of a 9.3 on my scale, though. That’s what, a Gnosis 14? No, I expect this one’s more like a strong 10.

Maybe the most fun thing about this sucker is that there’s no cover art provided, so fans have taken it upon themselves to make their own. Here’s a place with a ton of covers, some of which are really, really great. But my choice for easily the best of the bunch is this one:

New Tim Berne album is not a Tim Berne album

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Over at the Screwgun Records website, Tim Berne has been talking about a collaborative release with David Torn for a while now, but this is a surprise: the resulting album, Prezens, will be released on April 17 under Torn’s name and on ECM, despite the fact that Berne’s entire Hard Cell ensemble plays on the record (Berne, Craig Taborn and Tom Rainey)! I was definitely expecting it to be a Berne album on Screwgun — I wonder if this is going to be closer to Cloud About Mercury than, say, Feign.

There’s a very extensive press release/preview writeup at the group’s Myspace page. Sounds like there may also be a separate live album released by this lineup, which might sound considerably different. Well, I’m interested in both, given that anytime Berne, Taborn and Rainey are on the same record, I pretty much consider it required listening. I’ve already got the studio album on preorder at Amazon.

Last December’s pseudo-Henry Cow reunion: recorded!

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

I’ve already exceeded my budget for CDs this month, but man, this looks delicious: the next best thing to a brand new Henry Cow live recording:

Fred Frith/Tim Hodgkinson/Chris Cutler
The Lost Weekend: Live NYC December 2006 [3 CDs + DVD]
Three members of Henry Cow re-united for the first time in nearly 30 years! Four amazing tour-de-force sets [early and late shows from both Sat 12/16 and Sun 12/17] from 3 master improvisors who resumed an intense dialogue as they though they had only left off the day before! The DVD is of the early show Sunday!

To be clear, that’s two sets of the three of them together, one Hodgkinson/Frith duo set (that’s the one documented on the DVD apparently; I wish the DVD was of the trio, but I can’t really complain!), and one Hodgkinson/Cutler duo set. The Frith/Cutler duo set that was performed the Friday before these shows is being documented on a separate release, The Stone: Issue 2, a benefit CD for the venue. This release is described as follows by Bruce at Downtown Music Gallery, where these sets are being sold for $40 and $21, respectively (though the 3CD/DVD set is not yet on sale):

This was the first of three nights of the much anticipated reunion of three former members of Henry Cow. The first set that night was a trio featuring Fred Frith & Chris Cutler with special guest Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper. It seemed too restrained in part and was a bit disappointing for some in attendance. The second set was just the Frith and Cutler duo and it was phenomenal! Although Fred & Chris’ musical relationship goes back the beginning of Henry Cow in the late sixties/early seventies, they have been doing duo gigs periodically since 1979. They have three previous live duo discs out, the last one is from 1999. The duo seemed primed for this particular set and it was an indeed an incredible occasion. Although Fred played an electric guitar with a variety of pedals and a small table of objects and Chris played a drum kit with even more assorted percussive objects, electronics and a small mixing board, when one is listening and even watching the duo play, it was and is difficult to tell who was doing what. The disc itself captures their entire nearly 51-minute set and immensely fascinating throughout and even throttling at times. It begins with a splash that sounds like magic and lets you know that something wonderful is about to take place. It sounds like a soundtrack to a movie that has you at the edge of your seat. Each sound, each gesture is filled a most compelling vibration. There is a great deal of discussion about “noise” nowadays… what we have here is some of the most well-sculptured and musical noise that I’ve heard in a long while. I am truly proud of the way the entire month of performances turned out and especially elated that way this disc has captured the magic of this set. Now it is your turn to dig in and enjoy the great journey within. Thanks to our friends Robert O’Haire for the recording, Scott Friedlander for the cover photo and to Fred & Chris for the music.

It’s going to be difficult to restrain myself from buying both of these things ASAP.

The Mars Volta, soaked in piss

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Surprise, surprise: Pitchfork’s favorite punching bag, The Mars Volta, get an over-the-top bad review for their new album, Amputechture! The first sentence alone contains the phrases “piss-soaked indulgence” (piss-soaked? really) and “bombastic, mouth-foaming performances.” Pitchfork’s attitude towards this band borders on the comical, and I’m happy to see that the tradition continues in fine form.

I’m pretty excited to hear Amputechture myself, having heard that it’s a long way from the, uh, piss-soaked indulgence of last year’s crappy live album.

On a more positive note, this Sunday’s New York Times had a long article about Mastodon, another exciting modern band with a new album coming out. There’s lots of name-dropping of 70s prog bands and early metal groups.

And finally (links galore today), Dusted just published a feature-length article about the This Heat box, Out of Cold Storage, that I still need to get my hands on.

Very exciting news from ReR

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

I usually try to avoid posting straight-up news items on my blog, leaving that task to sites like Avant Music News (or for the more neo/symph prog-inclined, the excellent DPRP news pages). But Chris Cutler’s recent post to the ReRmegacorp Yahoo group has me too excited to not mention it. Cutler outlines ReR’s plans for 2006, which include some things that had me practically jumping out of my seat this morning:

  • The This Heat box set announced last year should be ready May 10th.
  • Remastered, repackaged versions of both News From Babel albums.
  • New CDs from Chris Cutler/Fred Frith (duo), Biota, and The Necks.
  • Possibly some unreleased Henry Cow material… maybe a set of two or three cds.”

Unreleased Henry Cow material? What’s this? Live stuff, or actual unreleased compositions? Either way, if this came to fruition I’d be one hell of a happy camper. Keeping my fingers crossed!

You can read Cutler’s full post here.