Saturday, February 28, 2009

Black Keys – Attack & Release (2008)

Looks like Danger Mouse has become the go-to producer for the indie-rock darlings. Anyway, this is a pretty good album. It’s nice to see these guys messing around with some new sounds.

Miles Davis – Dark Magus (1974)

Figured I’d post this one too since it’s a lot harder to find than Live-Evil.

Miles Davis – Live-Evil (1970)

Holy Shit

Disc 1:
Disc 2:

The Wind-Up Bird – S/T (2002)

Great album to fall asleep to.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley could have been a big pop star. He possessed a powerful and versatile voice and could put together catchy, well-written psych-folk tunes, as attested by his first two albums. Yet his brief recording career was more than anything driven by restlessness. While his early albums did well with the critics and the public, he never allowed himself to settle in a comfort zone, and continuously strove to push boundaries and test both the limits of his own capabilities and the patience of his fans.
Dream Letter, a two-hour live recording from 1968, is a thorough encapsulation of his early "folkie" style, while also amply displaying the nascent experiments in vocal improvisation that he would develop on subsequent albums. Stand out tracks include the “Pleasant Street / You Keep Me Hanging On” medley at the end of the first disc, and a ferocious take on “Wayfaring Stranger” near the end of the second.
Blue Afternoon, one of the three albums he put out in 1970, sees him fully embracing modal jazz in the vein of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. As on that album, the songs here are grounded in simple chord progressions and vamps, over which the melodies are able to run free. Buckley’s singing is warm and inviting, and a calm, languid feel pervades, thanks to the straightforward production and choice of backing musicians (understated electric guitar, vibes, stand-up bass and congas).
Starsailor, recorded the same year, couldn’t be more different. The reference points this time around are free jazz and modern classical music. This is pretty dark stuff. It’s also one of the most amazing, unique, forward-thinking records I’ve ever had the pleasure of stumbling upon. By now Buckley’s voice is more an instrument than a vehicle for words, and he uses it to full extent over a bed of discordant guitar tapestries and frenetic tribal rhythms. His wailing, caterwauling and grunting will haunt your dreams.This was a sort of point-of-no-return album, where he in essence gave his audience the choice to get with what he was doing or fuck off. And fuck off they did. The harsh, esoteric sounds of this record alienated the majority of his already dwindling fan-base, and financial realities finally caught up with him, putting an end to his carefree experimental streak. After several unsuccessful comeback attempts in the early 70s, he died of an overdose at the age of 28 – bitter, broke and looking twice his age. But his recorded legacy is substantial, and definitely worth exploring if you dig any of these three albums.

Dream Letter: Live in London 1968

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Various Artists – I Belong To This Band: Eighty-Five Years of Sacred Harp Recordings (2006)


Raccoo-oo-oon – Is Night People (2006)

Download this.
I’ve been getting a kick out of listening to a bunch of older minimalist and ambient albums, so I figured I might as well post some:

La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela – The Black Record (1969)

Ariel Kalma – Osmose (1978)
This album veers dangerous close to cheesy New Age territory. But give it a shot, it’s pretty good.

Steve Reich – Octet; Music for a Large Ensemble; Violin Phase (1980)

Brian Eno – Discreet Music (1975)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lee Perry & The Upsetters – Ape-ology (2007)

Three of Lee Perry’s best albums in one nifty little package. Crank up the bass and enjoy.

Disc 1:
Disc 2:

A Couple of Jazz Albums

The Bill Evans Trio – At the Village Vanguard (1961)
Seminal live performance by the granddaddy of all piano trios. I read a quote somewhere about Bill Evans’ playing eliciting the kind of abstract awe that one feels when standing inside a cathedral. That’s not to say that his playing is in any way distant or detached. Rather the music is hazy and lyrical, much like the work of impressionist composers Ravel and Debussy. Evans plays calm and understated all throughout, emphasizing atmosphere. This laid-back approach allows the bassist and drummer plenty of room to do their thing. The interplay between the three musicians is amazing. The bassist in particular completely breaks free from his expected role of rhythm-keeper and acts as a second lead instrument, weaving dense countermelodies around the piano and playing mind-bogglingly complex solos.

Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch (1964)
One of the most wonderfully out-there jazz records I’ve ever encountered. I guess you can call it free jazz to the extent that it’s free from the harmonic and rhythmic conventions associated with this type of music. But this isn’t just a group of guys freaking out on a bunch of instruments. The tunes are carefully composed, and every band member, despite being accorded plenty of room to go nuts, knows what he’s doing.The melodies are harsh and angular; the rhythms can get pretty wild, and the unusual instrumentation (flute; bass clarinet; vibraphone instead of piano) gives these tracks an eerie, atmospheric quality. But this album grooves pretty hard, and has plenty of soul.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sun Ra

This is for Adam, who I think I remember said he wanted more Sun Ra in his life:

Space Is The Place (1972)

Outer Spaceways Incorporated (1968)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some folk records

Leadbelly – Alabama Bound (1990)

This is my favourite set of Leadbelly songs, if only because he’s backed by a kick-ass gospel quartet on half the tracks.

Roscoe Holcomb – The High Lonesome Sound (1998)
Roscoe Holcomb played a mean banjo and sang in a strained, freakishly high voice. Drawing from a vast and varied repertoire of traditional tunes, he sang and played with wild abandon – like a man possessed.

John Jacob Niles – The Tradition Years: I Wonder As I Wander (1958)
I’m going to let this awesome Henry Miller quote do the talking for me here:
"Over coffee and liqueurs we would sometimes listen to John Jacob Niles' recordings. Our favorite was 'I Wonder As I Wander,' sung in a clear, high-pitched voice with a quaver and a modality all his own. The metallic clang of his dulcimer never failed to produce ecstasy. He had a voice which summoned memories of Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere. There was something of the Druid in him. Like a psalmodist, he intoned his verses in an ethereal chant which the angels carried aloft to the Glory seat. When he sang of Jesus, Mary and Joseph they became living presences. A sweep of the hand and the dulcimer gave forth magical sounds which caused the stars to gleam more brightly, which peopled the hills and meadows with silvery figures and made the brooks to babble like infants. We would sit there long after his voice had faded out, talking of Kentucky where he was born, talking of the Blue Ridge mountains and the folk from Arkansas... " -- Henry Miller, Plexus, pp. 366-367.

Anne Briggs – A Collection (1999)
A compilation of tracks recorded between 1963 and 1971. Traditional British songs, sung unaccompanied. It can get a little samey after a while, but the melodies are beautiful. (pt1) (pt2)
Jacques Dutronc – 36 Grands Succes (1995)

Nice 2-CD compilation culled from the flamboyant French pop star’s late-60s albums. Most of this stuff is reminiscent of Dylan/Kinks garage rock, but some of the tunes (like the popular “Il est cinq heure, Paris s’eveille”) are done in the French Chanson style.

Disc 1:
Disc 2:

Kaito – Hundred Million Light Years (2006)

Beautiful ambient/techno album. Minimal kick-drum percussion and wave upon wave of cascading synths and guitars. Very relaxing. (pt1)

Edan – Beauty and the Beat (2005)

One of my favourite recent hip hop albums. Hazy but intricate beats and tripped-out, surreal lyrics.

Cocteau Twins – The Pink Opaque (1985)

A compliation of early singles, rarities and some remixes. The second track (Millimillenary) is particularly good, and as far as I know doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

And More

Das EFX – Dead Serious (1992)
Nostalgia time. I think this is the first hip-hop tape I ever bought. I rediscovered it recently and it still sounds fresh. Just a simple, fun record. The song “Dum Dums” has a sweet Otis Redding sample.

Dirty Projectors – The Getty Address (2005)

I’m not even sure what to call this. A creepy prog/r&b opera, I guess.

More Fun Stuff

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)

Beautiful collection of atmospheric acoustic songs, recorded in a cabin in Wisconsin by a burly bearded man with a very pretty voice.

DJ Shadow – Preemptive Strike (1998)

A singles collection of sorts. Yes, it’s good. (pt 1) (pt 2)

Black Devil – Disco Club (1978)

An electronic disco album that went completely unnoticed at the time of its release and was destined to be lost in the annals of time. That is until Richard D. James supposedly heard it in a club while tripping on acid. He promptly declared it to be the best thing he’d ever heard, and re-released it on his Rephlex label. It’s hard to believe this came out in 1978. I don’t think anything really sounded like this back then. Maybe Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, but even that’s stretching it. This album is sweaty and sinister – dangerous even. What you get here are raw relentless grooves, layers upon layers of ominous synths, and hazy, heavily effected vocals. The first track in particular reminds me of Joy Division – had Joy Division gotten their hands on a time machine and taken the time to carefully study 80s and 90s electronic dance music.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gilberto Gil / Jorge Ben – Gil e Jorge (1975)

This album is the recorded evidence of an impromptu evening jam session between Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil, two of the biggest names in Brazilian pop music. There was apparently no rehearsal – just the two of them accompanied by a rhythm section jamming out to extended versions of each others tunes. According to the liner notes Gil was a lot more open to the idea of improvisation than Ben, and this is something that you really notice in the music. Ben acts as the anchor of the group, keeping it simple and laying down deep grooves; Gil meanwhile hovers around him humming and yelping like a deranged circus clown. There is definitely a tension between the two – a very fragile balance between control and chaos. This is partly what makes the end result so thrilling. The album is as soulful as it is spaced out – it’s something that you can dance to, but there is enough looseness and spontaneity to keep the longer tracks interesting all the way through. The album’s centerpiece is the epic, near-15-minute version of Ben’s "Taj Mahal" – a song that Rod Stewart stole and turned into this aberration:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Inaugural Post (Part Two)

Flying Lotus – Los Angeles (2008)
Dense, sludgy hip-hop beats. My favourite album of 2008.

The Pentangle – Basket of Light (1969)
British band from the 60s that played folk songs on acoustic instruments, but with intricate jazzy arrangements. The singer has a pretty voice.

Baaba Maal – Missing You (Mi Yeewnii) (2001)
This album was recorded outdoors in the Senegalese singer’s native village. Lots of little ambient sounds creep in - leaves rustling, insects buzzing, the occasional farm animal. Oh, and the music is good too. Acoustic guitars, traditional West African instruments and some really strong singing.

Animal Collective – Water Curses EP (2008)
Only four tracks here, and they’re all solid. The first song has a really nice bouncy rhythm. The others are eerie ambient excursions. Headphone music.

Don Cherry – Brown Rice (1975):
Don Cherry’s take on world music. Freaky, spastic, sexy and disorienting are all appropriate adjectives.

Inaugural Post (Part One)

Just a few things I've been digging recently:

Tropicalia: ou Panis et Circenses (1968)
This compilation is considered the musical manifesto of the influential Tropicalia movement in Brazil. Some really nice tunes with plenty of wonky orchestration

The Congos – Heart of the Congos (1977)
Amazing roots reggae album produced by Lee Perry. Long, hypnotic tracks with lots of layered rhythms and clattering sounds fading in and out. Good singing too, though the falsetto guy might get annoying after a while. (pt 1) (pt 2)

Prince – Dirty Mind (1980)
A lovely little collection of skeletal disco-funk tracks. Songs about oral sex, incest and race relations. The production is stark and minimal – as devoid of colour as the album cover.

David Crosby – If Only I Could Remember My Name (1971)
A journey into the fractured mind of David Crosby. A messy, murky beast of an album. But quite good. Crosby’s singing is incredible, and he manages to create a mood that is at once soothing and unsettling.

Shugo Tokumaru – Exit (2007)
A collection of happy, mildly trippy pop songs from Japan. Very nice.