Posts Tagged ‘Peter Brotzmann’

Great reissues from 2007

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Happy New Year dear reader! Although I obviously won’t be doing a best of 2007 list just yet, I figure one thing I can do is talk about a few 2007 reissues I thought were great — since I don’t include reissues in my best-of-year lists. I don’t really follow reissues the same way I do new releases, so this list is even more personal than some of my other ones, but anyway, here are some highlights.

Kevin Drumm’s Sheer Hellish Miasma is a 2002 noise recording, reissued this year with an extra track. This was a revelation for me — an electronic apocalypse from a guy I only knew at the time from a similarly cacophonous collobration with Weasel Walter (Flying Luttenbachers) and Fred Lonberg-Holm. Drumm is also active in the eai world, but this stuff is about as far as it gets from the so-quiet-you-can-barely-hear-it end of that genre: though arguably minimalistic, the noise on this record is punishingly brutal. And oh so fucking awesome. Might review this one in the near future; the one thing stopping me is a total lack of reference points or vocabulary to talk about it.

Baby Grandmothersself-titled release — technically this is an archival release and not a reissue, since this stuff was never actually published as far as I know. As far as early Swedish psych-rock goes, this is some of the best I’ve heard. Read my review for more.

I got John Coltrane’s Live in ‘60, ‘61 and ‘65 DVD for Christmas, which was a few days after Oscar Peterson’s death. Peterson is featured on a song or two from the 1961 session here, and I thought it a fitting tribute to get to enjoy footage of one of his inimitable solos. Also it was neat to see Reggie Workman, a bassist whom I have seen perform a few times in the Baltimore/DC area in recent years, playing 45+ years ago yet looking strikingly similar to how he does now. Otherwise, the highlight of the set is a 1965 performance of “My Favorite Things” that stretches for nearly half an hour and reaches some dizzying heights.

Peter Brötzmann’s Complete Machine Gun Sessions is a very nice reissue package of a classic free-jazz blowout. The only problem is that the original “Machine Gun” is so intense and draining that I can barely stand to listen to anything more along the same lines after sitting through it once. I’ve taken to listening to the bonus tracks separately from the original, which seems to work okay. Sometimes I’m a bit of a wimp.

Finally, one that I have, but haven’t actually gotten around to, is Sun Ra’s Strange Strings, which is getting raves from many corners of the Internet, and not just the dark corners populated by crazies. This is an album where the whole Arkestra plays string instruments, which kind of sounds like a downright frightening prospect to me, but what do I know? I haven’t listened to it yet.

My favorite shows of 2007

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Well, so this was my year in shows.

If you count NEARfest as two concerts (which seems fair, since it was two days and I saw five shows), then I hit my goal of seeing 52 shows in 2007. There were tons more I wanted to see, but between playing a competitive sport, spending many spring and fall weekends backpacking, and maintaining a long-distance relationship, it was particularly difficult for me to make weekend shows this year. So all in all I think I did pretty well. Here are some of the highlights — I’m just putting these in chronological order, and not necessarily limiting myself to 10 or anything like that.

  • Atomic at Twins Jazz, February 8 (blog entry) — What a great surprise! This quintet plays a very accessible brand of free jazz; it’s really fun to hear Paal Nilssen-Love in particular playing a more straight-ahead style. Twins Jazz was packed with about 80 people who gave Atomic an ecstatic reception. Fantastic, high-energy jazz, a great way to kick off the year.
  • The Vandermark 5 at Jammin’ Java, February 16, $12 (blog entry) — Actually this was along the same lines as Atomic: great, explosive energy jazz, also very accessible (I even took three friends to this show). They were a hundred times better than when I saw them in 2006; Fred Lonberg-Holm went from being an interesting addition to a core part of the group’s sound, pushing them further and further “out.” The crowd was kind of lame but the band nevertheless played two very hot sets.
  • Zs at The Hosiery, February 26, $5 (blog entry) — This show cemented Zs as one of my favorite current avant-rock groups; before, I liked them a lot, but seeing them live really made their brilliance unmistakably clear. The image of four musicians staring intently at each other and their sheet music, while cranking out some of the loudest and most intricate (yet still aggressively rocking) sound imaginable, is permanently burned into my brain.
  • Dälek at Rock and Roll Hotel, March 2, $10 (blog entry) — Speaking of loud… Dälek on record is an intense experience, but Dälek live is something else altogether. This was my second time seeing them, and if anything they were better than the first, if a little less overtly in-your-face.
  • Do Make Say Think at The Black Cat, April 1, $10 (blog entry) — The best rock show I saw all year. DMST played a transcendently beautiful set, and I don’t use those words lightly. I love their take on post-rock, which involves a cacophony of instruments making coherent noise, often with one single instrument (an acoustic guitar, or most often electric violin) rising to the surface with a gorgeous, straightforward melody. One of the most purely joyous concerts I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.
  • Brötzmann/Pliakas/Wertmüller at The Red Room (Baltimore), April 13, $12 (blog entry) — A legendary free-jazz skronker teamed up with an extreme metal rhythm section? Yeah, this was probably the most unrelentingly intense show I’ve ever seen. Once I managed to figure out how to parse it, though, I found it enthralling, especially Wertmüller’s drumming, which alone could have given me nightmares if I’d been having a bad day.
  • The Dismemberment Plan at The Black Cat, April 28, $15 (blog entry) — DC’s biggest phenomenon since Fugazi reuniting for two shows, four years after their breakup, guaranteed a crazy event, something bigger than just a mere concert. Sure enough, this was something to behold, especially since the band was, bizarrely, at their peak, better than they ever were when they were actually together. I saw better concerts in 2007, I think, but maybe none as memorable.
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at The Black Cat, June 5, $12 (blog entry) — The third time was the charm: the first two times I saw SGM I was actually kind of underwhelmed for some reason, but this time they really brought their A game. Maybe it was just my newfound familiarity with the In Glorious Times material, but it just seemed like the band had really mastered their peculiar meshing of theatricality, creepy beauty, and crushing heaviness.
  • Alarm Will Sound at the Library of Congress, October 30, free (blog entry) — A very intellectual concert that I also found quite viscerally effective, which is a good combination indeed. This 20-piece ensemble played a series of pieces chosen specifically for their rhythmic complexity, and they pulled it off with gusto. There were some avant-rock type moments here, but the real fun was seeing them play live renditions of a couple IDM songs, music that was never meant to be played by humans.
  • Om at Rock and Roll Hotel, November 13, $10 (blog entry) — I guess I must just like really, really intense concerts. This one had it all: incredible feats of tension-building, wonderfully effective individual performances, high-wire drama, and above all, a sense of spiritual searching of the sort that I like to think listeners must have experienced at late-60s Coltrane shows.

Honorable mentions go to Magma, Richard Pinhas, Wilco, Aussie Floyd, Nelly Furtado, Epica, Cowboy Junkies, and Dhafer Youssef, all really great shows but perhaps a tiny step down from the above. The most disappointing show I saw was probably John McLaughlin, but then again I think I just don’t like fusion very much, so maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised. Isis and Mastodon were also pretty terrible, the former being particularly disappointing as I saw them put on a great show in 2006.

I’m not sure I’m going to try quite as hard to see every concert I possibly can in 2008, for financial reasons if nothing else — but 2006 and 2007 definitely have awakened a certain passion for live music in me that I don’t think is just going to go away. I’ve already started making a list of interesting 2008 shows

What’s spinning, August 7 edition

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Long time no post (although it’s nice that I start feeling like I’ve been neglecting this after a couple weeks of not posting instead of, say, three months, as has happened in the past). This summer has kind of revealed to me how important live music has become towards keeping my interest peaked in music in general. In short, no concerts = less enthusiasm about listening to records. Which is kind of interesting considering that it was only in the past few years that I really started going to see a lot of live music.

In any case, here are a few things (in no particular order) that have been getting me excited lately despite the lack of live shows:

  • Joanna Newsom - live at the First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, PA — a 90-minute audience-shot film of her performance last November in Philly. This is the most sublime thing I’ve downloaded from Dimeadozen in the past couple years. I wrote about it way back in January and I’m still enamored with it. Mike McLatchey thinks it’s pretty swell too. This is wonderful stuff; Newsom’s voice is toned down a bit and getting to watch her play her harp is a treat.
  • Pulsar - Memory Ashes — yes, it’s the same Pulsar that released Strands of the Future and Halloween, a full three decades ago. As I posted on ProgressiveEars, this reunion album is nothing groundbreaking, and it borders on new-agey at times, but it also has some very nice Floydian moments. This is how some folks have described Gorlitz, which I have not heard.
  • Dälek - Deadverse Massive Vol. 1 — only a couple listens so far, but for an outtakes album this is pretty damn good. There are some killer beats and soundscapes here, and the 17-minute shoegazer epic in the middle of the album is pleasantly engaging. Dälek is fast becoming one of my favorite currently active artists.
  • Amarok - Sol de Medianoche — with a few exceptions, I haven’t found this as consistently engaging as Quentadharkën, but there are still some really beautiful pieces, especially early in the playlist. As far as symphonic progressive rock goes, these guys are still a favorite of mine.
  • Vedres Csaba - Fohász — as a huge fan of early After Crying, it’s a little weird that I’ve never explored Vedres’ solo output, but I had been scared off by the “solo piano” stuff, thinking it would be boring. Well, it’s not. It’s gorgeous. And Vedres sings on some of these songs, too, and I love his voice. This is a compilation drawing from 4-5 of his solo albums, basically all of which I now want.
  • Grayceon - Grayceon — they’re marketed as some kind of proggy metal, but to me they sound like indie-chamber-post-rock or something like that. The recording and vocals have a slightly amateurish feel but the compositions are great, taking full advantage of the band’s rather interesting cello/guitar/drums configuration. This is for sure a band to keep an eye on.
  • Marc Ribot - Asmodeus — John Zorn’s Masada Book of Angels series can’t be accused of staying too tightly within the confines of jazz, what with every other album in the series falling completely in another genre. Asmodeus is pretty much straight-up power trio instrumental rock, and good rock at that. This series has been a bit hit-or-miss for me, but this one’s a definite hit. (Also, the news that Secret Chiefs 3 are doing the next Book of Angels record: hit!)
  • From a Second Story Window - Delenda — one of Dave Kerman’s extreme metal recommendations, these guys are like a more extreme version of Opeth, combining rapid-fire grindcore riffs with the occasional clean vocals that are all the more effective for their rarity. The few tracks that feature brief clean vocals are definitely my favorites.
  • Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet - Stone/Water — this is my first Brötzmann Chicago Tentet album, and the one that came with the highest recommendations from I Hate Music. And I can see why, because damn it’s awesome! I was expecting a near-unlistenable blowfest, but there are tons of nuanced moments. Fred Lonberg-Holm’s cello work is wonderful throughout, and Jeb Bishop on trombone also stands out for me.

Sorry for neglecting the site a bit in the past month, after the next couple weeks are over with I will have a lot more time to commit to adding reviews and blogging more regularly.

I saw Peter Brötzmann live and now I can’t hear a goddamn thing

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

As noted in the previous post, on Friday night I trekked up to Baltimore to the Red Room, which is a really neat concert space that’s basically a side room of a great little used bookstore. The room had probably 35-40 chairs and that was it — a very intimate setting for the very experimental music they tend to book.

Brötzmann/Pliakas/Wertmüller did not disappoint. The lineup was Brötzmann on sax, Marino Pliakas on electric bass, and Michael Wertmüller on drums. Brötzmann’s music is heavy and intense enough when he’s playing in an acoustic band — add in an electric instrument and all bets are off. I kind of knew what to expect here, both from the Outer Space Gamelan review I linked to below and because I got, from Dimeadozen of course, a recording of their show in New York a few days back. If you didn’t read the fantastic OSG review, here is an excerpt that describes well what I was in for:

Right from the git-go the chips are on the table with Brotzmann immediately laying down sloping mountains of the post-Ayler blowisms you’d never mistake for anything else, while Wertmuller adds the kind of frantic/restrained combo drumming one might expect to hear in a band like Ruins. Pliakas is the blue blood coursing through the veins of the unit, steering the band in every direction from speed-reading through and on to molasses lullabyes (but usually only for a brief instant)… I find this whole disc to have a very “metal”-like atmosphere throughout…then again Brotzmann’s always been more metal than half the jokers in the genre anyway.

So, uh, this was intense stuff. Brötzmann was at his most brutal, blowing hard almost throughout the concert’s duration; Pliakas was playing an unusual bass guitar with no head, and he had an unusual playing style to match, sometimes with his hands flashing all over the place, other times playing repetitive ostinatos, constantly playing punishing rhythms that went hand in hand with Wertmüller’s drumming. Wertmüller was a revelation for me — this guy was amazing, playing so hard and so fast I often couldn’t tell what he was doing at all, even though I was sitting in the front row like five feet from his kit. It was his drumming that made the trio sound like a free-jazz take on grindcore and extreme metal: lots of double bass drumming, fills and rolls everywhere, only the occasional attempt to actually hammer out a mid-tempo, comprehensible beat.

The result was a wall of sound that was immediately overwhelming but, over time, became totally exhilirating. They only played four or five pieces over the course of two sets — it was the kind of thing where fifteen minutes into a piece, I would think, “holy crap, they’ve been playing this hard for how long now?” and then they would keep doing it for another ten minutes. The endurance of these guys, especially Brötzmann (who is 66 years old!) was astonishing.

This was “free jazz” that would appeal more to noise-rock and extreme metal fans than your average jazz fan. Sadly, the band lost some of their gear and most of their merchandise on the plane to the U.S., so I was not able to pick up their album, Full Blast (an apt title if there ever was one). I’ll be hunting for it now, because this was a pretty mind-expanding show, even if at times it was incomprehensibly overwhelming.

UPDATE: Here’s another review of this same show.