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Archive for November, 2006

PopMatters on Isis

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

PopMatters redeems itself with this, the best one-sentence summary of what’s going on with Isis that I’ve yet read: “Even though Isis’s musical progression is cautious at best, the band is still miles ahead of its peers.”

That about sums it up, I think. I found In the Absence of Truth a bit disappointing and “more of the same,” but it’s still a pretty excellent work in its own right, and this is a band that has never really let me down.

PopMatters gets all confused and shit

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

There’s a very strange review posted today at PopMatters, of The Jeff Gauthier Goatette’s One and the Same, in which the reviewer basically pans the album because he doesn’t know how to categorize it. At least, that’s the way it comes off. I suppose his message is kind of that his review, in its utter incoherency, is analogous to how he perceives the album — which on the one hand is a neat trick but on the other hand is a total cop-out and a convenient way to avoid having to actually think and write a real review that’s useful to anyone.

I suspect Cryptogramophone recordings often get this treatment from listeners — their stuff is generally not easily pigeonholed as jazz, nor is it rock, nor is it classical; so it seems likely that people will be befuddled by it and, if forced to write about it, will find it easiest to disparage the music instead of anything else. I don’t want to make the infamous “if you don’t like it you must not understand it” argument (because that pisses me off as much as it does the next guy), but really, this seems like journalistic laziness to me. Shame on PopMatters, which usually avoids this kind of thing.

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.

Three great shows I failed to see

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

This has been a week of missed shows: The Decemberists, Kayo Dot, and Vialka all played in DC between Monday and yesterday, and I missed them all. I was especially disappointed to miss Vialka, a French avant-folk duo that recently did a split CD with Kruzenshtern & Parohod that I hope to review in the near future. The Decemberists show was broadcast, in typically excellent quality, by NPR’s All Songs Considered, and is worth a listen just for the live performance of “I Was Meant For the Stage” that ends with an instrumental freakout that is oh-so-rare from these guys. Oh, and the new songs from The Crane Wife sound great. One of my friends went to the Sunday show (the NPR broadcast is from their Monday show) and said that the fans there were going crazy for “The Island,” the uber-proggy cut from the new album. “How many of these fans have ever even heard of King Crimson?” he wondered.