Posts Tagged ‘Massive Attack’

Favorite shows of 2006

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Well, there’s one last end-of-year list that I want to do: best shows I saw this year. I made a sort of new year’s resolution at the beginning of the year to see more live music — in the past I have generally been pretty lazy and not bothered leaving the house to make it out to shows other than obvious must-sees (like Los Jaivas, or Present, etc). This year, I made a conscious effort to overcome my inertia and make the effort to get out and see/hear more. I was moderately successful; I think I saw 25 shows over the course of the year, although I might be forgetting one or two. In any case, here are some highlights, in chronological order.

  • The Vandermark 5 at Iota, February 3 (blog entry) — I never got to see this band with Jeb Bishop, which I regret, but Fred Lonberg-Holm was a revelation, a total wildcard. Super high-energy, awesomely tight, these guys played a wide-ranging set that was the first great show I saw this year.
  • The Claudia Quintet at Twins Jazz, March 14 (blog entry) — I’m not a huge fan of their studio albums, but live, they were a joy to watch; John Hollenbeck’s busy drumming style was a treat and Matt Moran on vibes was a whirling dervish. But the star of the show for me was Chris Speed, who blew up with one absolutely thrilling tenor sax solo and a lot of other highlights.
  • Stórsveit Nix Noltes at The Black Cat, March 21 (blog entry) — This one was a total surprise; I went to this show for the headliners, Animal Collective, but these guys stole the show. A nine-piece band from Iceland playing rocked-up Eastern European folk music? Sounds right up my alley, and it was. High energy and big fun.
  • Isis, Dälek & Zombi at The Black Cat, April 30 (blog entry) — The rare bill where I know and like all three of the bands, and none of them disappointed. I was too tired and it was too loud for me to enjoy this show to its fullest, but all three of the bands put on a great show. It may have been Dälek who left the biggest impression on me, with his militant stage presence and aggressive wall-of-sound production.
  • Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura at George Washington University, May 23 (blog entry) — Transparent Productions brought these Japanese avant-jazz masters to DC to play in front of an audience of maybe 15, and they did not disappoint. Probably my favorite show all year. Very challenging; the two of them played for an hour straight with no breaks, and it was hard to tell what was improvised and what was composed. As much classical influence as jazz, and Fujii had a way of keeping me mesmerized that I won’t soon forget.
  • Berne/Carroll/Formanek/Rainey at An Die Musik Live, July 29 — For some reason I never wrote about this show, which is weird because Berne is probably my #1 favorite current jazz artist, and Rainey just might be my alltime favorite drummer. For the first of the two sets I was seated front row right in front of Rainey, and I barely noticed anything but his playing, he was so good. He used a very basic drum kit but eked a huge variety of sounds from it, using all kinds of techniques. The second set I actually enjoyed even more; they played more stuff I recognized, like a couple tunes from Feign, and seemed a little tighter. Great stuff, hope I get to see Berne again sometime in 2007.
  • Nels Cline/Glenn Kotche at The Black Cat, September 20 (blog entry) — Another nice surprise; I came for Cline but I might have actually liked Kotche more. Cline was in full-bore noise mode, wringing loud squalls of feedback from his effects-laden guitar; he was fun to watch but a little hard to listen to. Kotche was equally inventive but more accessible; the idea of a solo percussion set had me a little apprehensive, but his stuff was melodic and fun. The two of them played together to close out their set, and that was my favorite part of the show. A memorable performance from two great improvisors.
  • Yo La Tengo at the 9:30 Club, September 26 (blog entry) — Man, another pleasant surprise. I guess I kind of knew what to expect here, but I didn’t think they were going to completely blow my head off. Ira Kaplan’s guitar freakouts were delicious, noisy and cacophonous but somehow still melodious, if barely. I’m indifferent towards a lot of this band’s poppier moments (though a lot of them are still very good), but when they “shut up and play their guitars” it’s a wondrous experience.
  • Massive Attack at the 9:30 Club, September 28 (blog entry) — Completely different from any other show I saw this year, these guys brought their full complement of guest vocalists and instrumentalists. I lost count of how many sharply-dressed British folks (pretty much equal proportion of males and females) were sauntering about on stage, backed by the most involved lightshow I’ve ever seen at the 9:30 Club. Their trademark trippy beats and sultry vocals made for quite a sensual concert experience, but that didn’t stop them from also rocking out when they wanted to.
  • Wilco at the 9:30 Club, October 19 (blog entry) — This couldn’t possibly live up to the amazing show I saw them put on last year at the same place, but taken on its own, it was still damn good. Some of the new pieces were a nice surprise; hearing Cline and Tweedy do a melodic classic-rock dual-guitar jam was a surreal highlight. Last year’s show was for the ages; this one was merely great.
  • Maja Ratkje & POING at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, December 17 (blog entry) — Like the Fujii/Tamura show, this one was demanding, required all my attention, and left me tired at the end. It was also a fabulous performance. I saw some pretty out-there avant shows this year (a noisy improv set from Denman Maroney, Jack Wright and Reuben Radding tops the list), but this one was easily the best of them. There was a real method to this madness, and I found it quite compelling. A great way to end the year.

On the opposite end of things, probably the most disappointing show I saw this year was in late January, when Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores were supposed to play at the Warehouse Nextdoor, but never showed up. I contented myself with Make a Rising, a Philly band who had gotten good reviews on the avant-progressive list and elsewhere, but they just seemed like a really, really amateurish chamber-rock band to me. Oh well.

The show I am most bummed I missed? By a long shot, Joanna Newsom, who played at the Black Cat in November. I had fallen in love with her new album Ys, but did not think the show would sell out. I mean, she has an immediately hatable voice and she’s pretty obscure. I didn’t expect her to blow up in popularity with Ys (the damn thing is five epic-length songs fergodsakes), but she did. She sold out pretty much all her shows, including the one in DC. Dammit.

Here’s hoping 2007 is as good a year as 2006 was for live music in DC. As Steve Feigenbaum said over at ProgressiveEars, I am endlessly thankful that I live in a place that offers so much great music. Now if only some of those damned New York avant-jazz musicians would journey down here every once in a while…

Three fantastic 9:30 Club shows

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of a friend (many thanks, Chris), I was, in the end, able to go to Wilco last Thursday despite striking out resoundingly in my earlier efforts to secure a ticket. The show sold out in minutes, so naturally the house was packed with plenty of enthusiastic and apparently experienced fans. Chris and I caught a decent chunk of Melomane, the opening band, whose set ranged from ordinary to awful. Their last song in particular sported some of the worst, most heavy-handed “political” lyrics ever penned — “you’re a pacifist/but sometimes you get pissed,” and something about assassinating the president and killing the people on the Hill. Right.

All was forgiven once Nels Cline and company, I mean Jeff Tweedy and company, took the stage. They chose a peculiar song to open with, “Radio Cure,” but overall played a great set with a good amount of energy. They didn’t come close to matching the show of theirs I saw last year, but that was also a show on a long tour and the second of two nights they played in DC. Then, they played for two and a half hour with a ton of interaction between Tweedy and the crowd; this time around, Tweedy was relatively quiet and the band played for a still-considerable two hours. Also, then was the first time I ever heard Cline with the band, and I was just blown away by his stuff; this time around I knew what to expect.

Oddly enough, the highlight of the show for me was a new song (probably called “Impossible Germany”) about which Chris said, “sounds like The Allman Brothers” with a somewhat incredulous look on his face. This song featured a three-guitar jam that was just beautiful, and was so unexpected that I was grinning through the whole thing. It was also at this point that I really realized, as if I hadn’t known before, that I am a total Nels Cline fanboy. He played beautifully on this song and pretty much every other one as well, for the most part adopting a smooth, high tone over which he had complete control. Of course, he was also quite adept at making a shitload of noise, but that should be no surprise to anyone.

Good show then, although I just ran across this great live review at PopMatters that makes this one pale in comparison.

Also, I failed to report on the two shows I saw a few weeks ago at the same place (the 9:30 Club, which has most remarkably clean and clear sound quality of any dingy club I’ve ever been to): Yo La Tengo and Massive Attack. They were both excellent, and the former was close to transcendent. Ira Kaplan has to be one of the absolute best in the business at making, as Robert Fripp would say, “a lot of noise with one guitar,” sounding like he’s always almost about to completely lose control, but always bringing it back down to earth and making his noise sound melodic and beautiful (I’ll stop short of “accessible,” but it’s close). His guitar work really made the Yo La Tengo show a visceral experience — their rhythm section is rather staid and static, but that’s always been their style.

Massive Attack was a completely different experience, a sensual concert with an elaborate light show that at times made me feel like I was at a dance club rather than a rock club. The band had their full complement of guest vocalists on tour with them, which was awesome, and their slow beats, gradual buildups, repetitive themes, and oppressive sexual tension translated really well into the live environment. It didn’t hurt that the inevitable rock-outs at strategic points in each song were invariably headbang-worthy. In particular, they really make “Safe From Harm” — my favorite Massive Attack song already — into a tour de force, stretching it out into the ten-minute territory with a long, loud, cleansing jam.

Extreme metal is good shit

Wednesday, February 26th, 2003

Strangely, I’ve been listening almost exclusively to extreme metal (mostly Dillinger Escape Plan and Cephalic Carnage) and the Cowboy Junkies (mostly Pale Sun, Crescent Moon, Lay It Down, and Black Eyed Man) lately. I found five (count ‘em) Cowboy Junkies albums and a Cephalic Carnage album in the used bin at the local CD store, which was really great. I also saw a copy of Krakatoa’s Togetherness there today, which absolutely shocked me. That’s a pretty rare find anywhere, and I certainly wouldn’t expect to randomly see it in a used bin somewhere. So anyone near New Haven, take note and get thy ass over to Cutler’s!

I’m finding that listening to extreme metal, for me, is almost like listening to ambient music. That is, I can either let it play in the background, and because it’s so consistently loud and fast and aggressive, it’s pretty easy to tune out and it turns into white noise (good for studying, for example); or I can listen to it actively, and there’s so much going on that there’s plenty to keep me occupied. This is a pretty cool trait of the music, I think; and maybe it’s not as weird as it first sounds, given the occasional affinity between the ambient and noise genres and some genres of metal.

So Massive Attack is doing some of the soundtrack for the new Matrix film, eh. It better be something a bit more aggressive than 100th Window. I don’t remember anything about the music for the first film, except for “Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine at the end, which I thought was an entirely appropriate and bad-ass placement of that song.

I hate ELP because ELP sucks

Wednesday, February 12th, 2003

The new Massive Attack is a little disappointing, at least on first listen. I’m still itching to hear their collaboration with Mos Def.

There’s a pretty fascinating discussion over at ProgressiveEars about how younger prog fans tend to dislike ELP even if they dig the other big-name “classic” prog bands. Obviously, I’m included in this category (although I also have reservations about Genesis and I’m not so big a fan of Jethro Tull, more by lack of experience than anything else). There are some interesting theories about why this is. Sean says the ELP has just aged far less gracefully than the other “classic” prog bands, and presumably aren’t helped on by the subpar lyrics and vocals and Emerson’s “self-important” adaptions of classical themes. The ever-predictable L.Perez thinks it’s just a conspiracy of young, stupid prog fans combined with avant-snobs, and that ELP-bashing is trendy.

In the end, I dislike ELP for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is the fact that while other prog bands tempered their pomposity and, urgh, pretentiousness (I fucking hate using that word in this context), ELP didn’t bother. And so now it just sounds kind of silly. Besides, I really hate keyboards when they’re used Emerson-style, probably because that kind of sound just comes off as absurdly dated.

I’m not entirely happy with this explanation. More power to those listeners that can transcend the datedness of this music. Regardless, I really can’t stand ELP, period end of story.

Massive Attack and Tom Waits collab?!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2002

Merry Christmas to everyone as I finish up my last paper of the semester :)

Massive Attack, after releasing their fourth album in February next year, is reportedly going to be doing a couple of collaborations, one with Mos Def and one with Tom Waits. The former will be awesome - they’ve worked together before and the result was “I Against I” on the Blade 2 soundtrack, a great song. Without the lyrical limitations of that song (since it was, after all, written for a soundtrack) holding them back, I expect really great things from this collaboration. The latter is just… kind of weird. I’m really looking forward to hearing it and seeing what the hell happens.

Oh yeah, and Opeth is touring the US and Canada, that’s pretty exciting. Just bought my ticket for the show at the Irving Plaza in NYC. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of crowd is there.

My radio show is live!

Tuesday, January 16th, 2001

The first instance of In Praise of Listening, my weekly radio show at WYBC 1340 AM, happened last night. Response from some of my unwitting friends ranged from grudging approval to “Nice music, buddy! What the hell is wrong with you?” Heh.

I am, once again, sick as all hell, so rather than do homework and force my head to hurt even more than it already does, I’m wasting away my time writing in various journals and listening to soothing music. Rachel’s came up recently in rec.music.progressive, so I’m now listening to Selenography, quite an excellent album. Unfortunately, since I’m preventing myself from deep thought, I don’t have much to say about it at this point.

Massive Attack’s “Daydreaming” (from Blue Lines) reminds me, oddly enough, of something by David Sylvian.

This last bit made me so curious that I looked at the Sylvian albums I have. The answer: I think the repetitive beat reminds me of “Darshan”, and the lyrics probably remind me of “20th Century Dreaming”… both tracks, actually, being from the album Sylvian did with Robert Fripp, The First Day. Good album, incidentally.

What’s spinning, January 11 edition

Thursday, January 11th, 2001

Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry about that. I got a bunch of non-prog Christmas loot and am only now getting back to the genre that this site covers, which is a partial explanation for that little hiatus. The other reason is simply that I like to be lazy over Christmas break.

For anyone interested, I re-designed my personal home page in my spare time. Probably isn’t much there of interest, but I figured I’d mention it.

So anyway, what non-prog stuff have I been listening to the most? Let’s see:

  • Grant Green - Idle Moments - nice, melodic, accessible jazz
  • Massive Attack - Mezzanine - sleepy yet engaging
  • Mogwai - Young Team - the first track is absolutely stunning
  • Mogwai - EP+2 - truly a work of genius
  • Squarepusher - Music is Rotted One Note - eh. Quite interesting, but I prefer the MP3s I have from Hard Normal Daddy.
  • STSI, Musicians of - Music of the Gamelan Gong Kebyar - not the best introduction to Balinese gamelan, but not bad overall
  • Sun Ra - When Angels Speak of Love - “sounds like a train wreck”, one of my friends said. I like it.

Why do I like Mogwai so much? I think it’s their potential energy, as I’d put it: that is, most of the time their music is simmering quietly, seeming very relaxed yet also seeming on the verge of exploding into a powerful wall of noise. What should be sleep-inducing actually keeps me on my toes more than lots of other music, just because it seems like things are about to blow up. Also, it seems Mogwai are one of the few bands that realize that loud-fast and soft-slow aren’t the only ways to make music: there are a lot of loud-slow parts that seem novel to me. Some of the feedback manipulation on EP+2 - the last track has a particularly touching bit - almost makes tears come to my eyes, it’s so effective. I really can’t explain it… it’s just that some of their pieces (”Yes! I am a long way from home” from Young Team, or “Rage:Man” and “Small Children in the Background” from EP+2) are some of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a long, long time. Funny, I don’t find the same joys in Come On Die Young. I’ll have to give it an extra spin to figure out why.