Archive for March, 2007

New column by Dominique Leone @ Pitchfork

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Somehow I missed it when it first went up, but Dominique’s latest Out Music column at Pitchfork was posted a couple days ago. To my delight, he reviews Zs‘ new album and some other good stuff like the reissue of Soft Machine’s Third. I wish it were a longer article, but hey, how often do you see a link to NEARfest at Pitchfork?

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.

Isis @ the 9:30 Club: unlistenable

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Last Sunday night, Isis appeared at the 9:30 Club to play for a mostly sedate crowd of post-rock and nerd-metal types. I was among them, and suffice it to say I was disappointed at best and angry at worst. Here’s what I posted to Bob’s ProgAndOther list:

I saw them last Sunday in DC and was really, really disappointed. Glad the show in Philly had good (if loud) sound - the DC show was ridiculous. I think there was a monkey behind the soundboard; the bass was so boomy it overwhelmed everything else, and the kick drum was equally bad - if not worse because it was so loud it took all the subtlety out of the “quiet” parts. I could barely hear the guitars at all, and even though Isis is one of my favorite bands and I know all their material, there were a couple songs I couldn’t recognize because I literally couldn’t tell what they were playing. I was pretty seriously annoyed at the sound guys and left after 45 minutes or so.

I saw them put on a great show last year, so I pretty much blame this fiasco entirely on the club’s crappy sound. Oh well - at least I did manage to snag that Live 4 CD :)

I hate it when idiot soundmen ruin otherwise great performances. And this is the second time this has happened to me lately at the 9:30; Mastodon a little while back was similarly unlistenable. Thankfully, most of the rock bands that pique my interest these days are playing at smaller venues with slightly saner volume levels.

Dälek @ Rock & Roll Hotel

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

I saw Dälek last night at Rock & Roll Hotel, a nice venue in an old DC neighborhood that one guy is singlehandedly trying to revitalize (he has acquired no less than eight liquor licenses — including Rock & Roll Hotel — in a three-block radius!). As I found out when I saw them last year with Isis and Zombi, this noisy hip-hop duo has an angry stage presence and a punishingly loud live sound. I came prepared with my trusty Etymotic earplugs, and boy am I glad I didn’t leave them at home. I can’t imagine how the folks without earplugs survived without their brains being completely pulped. Even though Dälek’s new album Abandoned Language is far less aggressively noisy than their last masterpiece, Absence, in a live setting the dynamics are so much wider and the group really exploits maximum volume to the fullest. They’ve added a guitarist of all things since I last saw them, although mostly he was just strumming his strings as hard as he could in order to generate a lot of white noise.

This was a pretty good show, all in all. Dälek the MC’s vocals are still a little recessed in the mix, which is intentional but means he’s a bit hard to understand underneath all the howling noise. But witnessing the way that the group played with dynamics, going from contemplative soundscapes to teeth-rattling beats and back again, was a pretty powerful experience. The only thing that disappointed me was that they played a short set, I think just playing Abandoned Language straight through (the closer “Subversive Script” was a serious highlight) and nothing else. I really wanted to hear some stuff from Absence, but no such luck.

D-Plan reunion: I GOT TICKETS!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

What happens when the DC band with the most rabid fan base (both local and national) since Fugazi reunites, four years after its breakup, for a single benefit concert at a club with a capacity of maybe 500-600 people? Why, it sells out in 30 seconds, of course. Such was the case for The Dismemberment Plan, who are playing a one-off reunion in late April for which tickets went on sale yesterday at 5pm. I was one of those rabid fans sitting at work hitting the refresh button on two computers every 30 seconds so that I could have a shot at getting tickets. As it happened, I lucked out and managed to get four. I saw these guys four times between 2001 and 2003 (in four different cities no less), but this is going to be a uniquely awesome experience. In celebration I’ll be reviewing their two most acclaimed albums, Emergency & I and Change, on this site. They may actually be of interest to some of the more open-minded prog fans. Josh Kortbein is the one who turned me on to them, sometime in 1999 or so, sending me a random e-mail that basically just said, “Check these guys out — I don’t know why, but I think you’ll like them.” He was right. Thanks, Josh.

I saw their final farewell show in 2003, and while it wasn’t their best, it was one hell of an experience.

Gibberish rearticulated as gibberish

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

You gotta love the Internet sometimes, for providing a medium for people to write bloated, rambling, aimless 2000-word “review” essays that include sentences like this:

The pig Latin-ish morphemes “-sa,” “-si,” and “-sa” encode Jung’s technical term to child-code foolery; Norwegian geek-squad the Shining use the reference (I think) not because of the psychoanalytic implications of men unable to access their feminine sides, but because the structural modification of this theoretically loaded term into meaningless, magical words encapsulates the way the band views music: importance disguised with inanity, erudition breathed through giggling lips, lucidity rearticulated as gibberish.

And that’s just in the first paragraph (and yes, I read the whole damn thing). If you couldn’t tell (what’s wrong with you?), this review is about Shining’s new one, Grindstone, which is pretty cool if just as disjointed as its predecessor. I might be reviewing it at some point in the near future, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough to inspire me to write 2000 words.