Posts Tagged ‘Loreena McKennitt’

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.

Loreena McKennitt @ DAR Constitution Hall

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Despite feeling rather under the weather, last night I went to see Loreena McKennitt play at DAR Constitution Hall here in DC, a very swanky 3700-seat theatre-style venue. Sadly, I was kind of in the wrong headspace for this show, as my attention kept wandering and I was generally a little spaced out. This was too bad because if I had been completely with it, this could have been one of my favorite shows so far this year. McKennitt’s music is very evocative, rich in imagery, history and detail, and this all really comes through in concert. She has a nine-piece band playing all sorts of instruments — lutes, oud, bouzouki, lyra, hurdy-gurdy, violin, cello, various types of percussion — and she herself rotated between piano, harp and accordion, all while singing with that inimitable voice of hers.

The setlist drew almost equally from her last four studio albums, without too many big surprises (perhaps the biggest surprise for me was a rendition of “The Lady of Shalott” from The Visit, which is still probably my favorite of her long-form poems set to music). Seeing the music live gave it a whole new dimension, though; on record, much of McKennitt’s music has a nearly soporific effect on me, perfect for chilling out; but in concert, the rich arrangements and deep harmonies took on a life of their own and made every moment fascinating, even despite my state of mind. And when Brian Hughes cranked up the electric guitar, there were some positively Floydian moments, as in “The Bonny Swans,” in which all I could think of was David Gilmour in his prime. Many of the more upbeat songs had an almost fusionish intensity in the instrumental arrangements. This was no new-agey wallpaper music.

I took the opportunity to pick up an advance copy of her Nights at the Alhambra DVD/2CD set; I watched part of the DVD today and it seems very representative of the performance I saw. If anything, that’s my only complaint: despite some of the instrumental fireworks, most of these songs, including the older material, were played very much straight, without much in the way of rearragement or adornment. While the strength of the arrangements alone made seeing this music live worthwhile, I would have liked some more variation from what’s on the studio albums (or, for that matter, the 1999 double-live album Live in Paris and Toronto. Nevertheless, it was a pretty fabulous show that I appreciated even though I know I could have absolutely loved it had I been in the right state of mind.

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.