Posts Tagged ‘Bar Kokhba’

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…

My best of 2005 list is here!

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Early December means best-of-last-year list time! Here’s what my Best of 2005 list looks like right now. (For those of you interested in ancient history, my best-of lists for 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001 are also available in this space, along with explanations of why I delay these lists by a full year.)

  1. Bar Kokhba Sextet - 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 11
    Even now, as I begin to tire of John Zorn and his millions of side projects, this outfit gets me excited every time. The sextet — guitar, violin, cello, bass, drums, percussion — lends a rich orchestration to Zorn’s tuneful Masada compositions. This bargain 3-disc set captures the group at the height of their powers, and boasts a sound that skillfully combines beauty and skronk.
  2. Charming Hostess - Punch
    I guess technically this is an archival release, recorded in the late 1990s. However one categorizes it, it’s a worthy follow-up to the Charming Hostess big band’s Eat, and might even be better than that rather astonishing debut. Impossible to easily describe and also impossible to dislike.
  3. Orthrelm - OV
    “Impossible to dislike” sure as hell doesn’t describe this one, though: it’s about as grating as can possibly imagined. I actually heard this in an independent record store — they put it on without knowing anything about it, and only lasted about three minutes before they had to change it. Imagine a metal record skipping continuously (for 45 minutes) in the middle of a particularly speedy riff, and you get the idea. The thing is, though, it’s genius — a kind of metal minimalism that’s hypnotic and affecting once you get over the initial shock of it all.
  4. Iron & Wine - Woman King
    Sam Beam is a fantastic songwriter, but on previous Iron & Wine albums I’ve felt that the minimal arragements made his songs less exciting than they could be. This six-track EP ups the ante a bit with bigger production and more instrumentation, and to amazing effect. Combined with the (also very good) EP he did with Calexico, also in 2005, this was easily the best year yet for this excellent indie songwriter.
  5. Maneige - Live à L’Évêché
    This archival release was my first exposure to this French Canadian symph group, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains a lasting favorite. I’ve yet to hear anything from these guys that I like as much as this album (though I haven’t disliked anything I’ve heard). Really beautiful melodies and a keen sense of orchestration, all done in a pretty tasteful way — if only Maneige had been the poster children of 70s symphonic rock and not, say, ELP!
  6. Tim Berne - Feign
    I get the sneaking suspicion that any year this prolific avant-jazz saxophonist releases something new, he’ll make my top 10 list. Feign features Berne’s “Hard Cell” trio (piano/sax/drums) and is as energetic and driving as one might expect, without sacrificing Berne’s trademark compositional complexity. Now if only he would do more live performances outside of New York City and Europe…
  7. Pelican - March Into the Sea
    This post-metal band, second only to Isis in my estimation, has a weird habit of releasing absolutely brilliant EPs followed by somewhat disappointing full-length albums. Such was the case in 2005; March Into the Sea consists of a brilliant 20-minute title epic that is my favorite song the band has yet recorded. Unfortunately, the full-length album that followed a few months later seems mostly uninspired in comparison.
  8. Painkiller - 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 12
    While the Bar Kokhba set listed above is charming and lyrical, this entry in the Tzadik 50th Birthday series is mean and ugly. Painkiller was always Zorn at his skronkiest, but here the noise factor is actually toned down quite a bit thanks to Hamid Drake’s drumming that actually, dare I say it, swings at times. And as it turns out, a kinder, gentler Painkiller is a better, more listenable Painkiller. Still seriously aggro, but no longer annoyingly so.
  9. Frank Zappa - Imaginary Diseases
    I don’t count myself as a huge Zappa fan, but I’ve always loved Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo as much as any diehard FZ fanboy. This album, a live performance from that same period, is a treasure for folks like me who like Zappa’s big-band material and wish there were more than just a couple official releases of the stuff. Long-expected and well worth the wait!
  10. Present - A Great Inhumane Adventure
    This one makes it onto my list almost entirely thanks to the rendition of “Promenade au Fond d’un Canal,” which attacks the listener with all the ferocity and subtlety of a tyrannosaurus rex. Present can get pretty dark and eeevil, but this is just might be the most deliciously violent they’ve ever been on record. I wonder if there are any survivors from the live show where this was recorded. Are they all brain-dead by now?

This one was tough, because while I love all these albums, none of them really stands out and the order seems almost interchangeable. I also had a hard time with OV — it’s an incredible work, but hard to figure out where it goes on a list of favorites because it’s simply not something I’d want to listen to every day (or week, or month for that matter).

And a bunch of honorable mentions in alphabetical order: Scott Amendola Band’s Believe, Banco’s Seguendo le Tracce, John Coltrane’s One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note, The DecemberistsPicaresque, Earth’s Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method, Electric Masada’s At the Mountains of Madness, Ephel Duath’s Pain Necessary to Know, Satoko Fujii’s Angelona, Guapo’s Black Oni, Indukti’s S.U.S.A.R., Koenjihyakkei’s Angherr Shisspa, Konono No. 1’s Congotronics, Jérôme LangloisMolignak, Miasma & the Carousel of Headless HorsesPerils, Nil’s Nil Novo Sub Sole, Opeth’s Ghost Reveries, Rova::Orkestrova’s Electric Ascension, The Vandermark 5’s The Color of Memory, and Wilco’s Kicking Television: Live in Chicago.

Obviously, it was a pretty good year for me. Nothing completely jaw-dropping like the top four or five albums from 2004, but a really, really large group of very good releases (and admittedly, comparing any year to 2004 is a little unfair, given how amazing that year was). Any one of those albums on my honorable mention list would probably crack my top 10 at some point in time, given my mood, emotions, time of day, whatever. It’s odd, and surprising, that three of my top ten albums are archival releases, but regardless, there was plenty of excellent music to go around in 2005.

Bar Kokhba Sextet kicks ass

Sunday, August 21st, 2005

It’s a bit too early to tell, but I think the new Bar Kokhba Sextet release on Tzadik’s 50th Birthday Celebration series might just edge Electric Masada’s entry in that series (Volume 4) as my favorite. That’s saying a lot, since the latter was one of my favorite albums from a very, very strong year of music in 2004. But the Bar Kokhba title — in addition to being an amazingly great deal, with three CDs covering three full live sets for under $23 — has all the fire and energy of the Electric Masada, with a wider range of moods and a looser feel. I’ll probably be writing a proper review of it eventually, but for now it’s settling in as another favorite drawing from the Masada songbook. I’m going through a bit of Masada overload, what with the recently-released Sanhedrin and all that, but this 3CD set is just killer.

And, for your entertainment, here’s an incomprehensible but still funny review from an amazon.com user (because really, what’s more entertaining than an idiotic review?):

what`s the problem with john zorn? first of all: he never have sex with his instrument. he dont live at all. so he can play it all. but he plays his demoniac paranoid alto saxphone psico concept. o.k. but…we are not all a jewish audience. so? you only have to buy this record or box sert or whatever but its enoguth for your big loft apartment in NYC. o.k.?
we are all ill inners childs but this guy is too much.

Another new one I got recently is Arch Enemy’s latest, Doomsday Machine, which leans a bit too straightforwardly power-metal for my tastes but is still pretty good. I mention it because there’s also a really funny review on amazon.com of this one, from a reader who was apparently expecting the band’s deceptively angelic-looking lead singer, Angela Gossow, to sound like the chick from Evanescence. I would have paid money to see his face when Gossow’s straight-up death-metal roars hit his ears for the first time.