Monday, January 31, 2011
If there has ever been a musician that I would consider to be a boneified personal musical idol, it would probably be Bill Laswell. He's done it all, seen it all, and as a bass player is easily on par with the best that the funk, jazz and any musical world you can think of have to offer.
Before he would work with such established legends like Buckethead and Iggy Pop though, Laswell was part of many an interesting project as a young man growing up in the 70's and 80's, polishing his talents and eventually hooking up in New York city with a bunch of people who would go on to form a great little No-Wave band called Material, with 1981's Memory Serves being their debut shot at the big leagues that be.
But man, what a strange record this is, even considering the scene it was birthed from. It's nothing like the punk-jazz or distorted classically influenced noise rock of their Brian Eno-collected peers. Rather, Memory Serves is comparable to a freakish nightmare where Talking Heads and Magma have a little troll together after a night in the sack without birth control, an embittered progeny which subsequently grows up on a steady diet of Henry Cow and Parliament and decides to write sonatas for a living instead of going to medical school to to get his P.h.d in Psychiatry.
Amusingly enough, the funk influence is a force to be reckoned with: even such exercises in dissonance like 'Square Dance' and sludge kickin' 'Silent Land' can't fully suppress the primal groove which blazes through these songs like a leyline.
However, Memory Serves is at it's most enchanting when the rhythm of the heat manages to work in complete balance with whatever off-kilter arrangement is at play, such as the playfully agressive sax boppin' title track and New Order bounciness that seems to bleed through 'Conform To The Rhythm' from its opening contortions to a fine, percussive fadeout that hints at something beyond its runtime. Where might it have gone if given another minute? Or ten even?
For those will to take a leap into Bill Laswell's bone-crunchingly colossal discography, this might be a great place to begin one's voyage. For everyone else though, it's just a messy fun early 80's slice of experimentation to get lost in for an evening or two.
Regardless of what camp of listener you fall under, though, you'll most certainly find it quality.
Listen Here - "Memory Serves"
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Eons ago, I used to hear endless praise for this group all throughout my high school years, but it wasn't until I picked up this Helloween offshoot's debut that I realized that, for once, a whole lot of people can't be wrong. Grease up Stratovarius with a bit of old school thrash crunch (Metallica, Celtic Frost, etc.) and you end up with skittering little hellraisers like 'Bleeding Eyes' and 'Crawling From Hell', but thankfully the band isn't a one trick jackass -- suckers for the melodic sensibilities of early Whitesnake and their contemporaries have plenty to cut their teeth on with the balladic 'Into The Light' while a song like 'When Love Comes Close' is comparable to any of Blind Guardian's best acoustic moments. Roland Grapow's shredding is something to behold at times -- he never gives into the temptation to wank over vocals of veteran Jorn Lande, whose performance throughout the album is truly an inspired one and the main reason you'd want to hear these songs in the first place.
In my opinion, Masterplan is everything their name promises -- a focal point of melodic sensibilities from power metal past and present, while still retaining enough individual identity and charisma to cast it's own shadow against those very same influences. But even if you don't care about any of that shit, I can promise that this is an excellent balls-to-the-wall metal record which the band has (unfortunately) been unable to surpass on subsequent releases. Highly recommended.
Listen Here - "Sail On"
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Toby Driver is a total fuckin' beast. Along with Kayo Dot and his past work with Maudlin of the Well, his side project Tartar Lamb is drone-jazz el perfecto...with this record being both extremely recent and particularly classy in its approach to the style.
Buckle in bitches: you are in for a helluva ride. It's a four part suite with your names written all over it's decrepit abdomen.
Listen Here - "Pt. 1"
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Experimental jazz's coolest cat has never exactly been known for being accessible, but he comes mighty damn close on 1978's Lanquidity (reissued a few years back after decades of scarcity), which features a host of excellent Arkestra regulars as well as trumpeter king Eddie Gale....and anything Gale has worked with is top class, period. The sun god himself also casts his hand at keyboarding, and the results are definitely worth paying attention to!
Basically, this is Sun Ra's typically insane yet gorgeous interpretation of the whole jazz-fusion scene that had been made famous over the decade by the efforts of Miles Davis, Soft Machine, Return To Forever, etc. It's also the finest jazz record to come out in the latter half of the 70's by a country mile. It doesn't blaze quite as fervently as something like, say The Inner Mounting Flame...but boy does it carry far.
Have a long night ahead of you? Don't be afraid to jazz it up with this!
Listen Here - "That's How I Feel"
Friday, January 21, 2011
My favorite side project of bassist/producer prodigy Bill Laswell, Sacred System is an experiment in dub, Miles Davisonian jazz fusion and a fair amount of le tribal electronique to give this delicious muffin that extra frosted kick, with results that aren't anything less than stellar when you give the seven tracks here the time they deserve.
In summation, this is ideal zoning/meditative tuneage that may even stimulate your mind, and you could do a helluva lot worse than getting lost in something as snazzy as this.
Listen Here - "Derive"
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I've heard many a psychedelic/ambient epic in my day, but none of them come close to this seminal 40-some minute release, blending Pink Floyd circa Meddle and fusion-era Miles Davis into a real crackin' slice of drift...and all before Brian Eno's Another Green World would hit shelves!
Jade Warrior are one of progressive rock's unsung heroes, but in this record they became the forefathers to a lot of ambient and post-rock material that would emerge in later decades too. It's a personal favorite, so treat it well!
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Scary-as-fuck ambient/cinematic black metal that will blow any preconceptions you have about this kind of music to amputated smithereens. Side I 'Hin' is a glorious hour that will drown you in death, noise and darkness while Side 2 is made up of seven shorter pieces that will tear at your nerves and weaken your teeth...even if there's sunshine in your skull.
Hearken close dear children - its hard to keep smiling when the lights go out...because then you cannot see what might be smiling back.
Listen Here - "Fort"
Try It (Side I)
Try It (Side II)
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Criminally underrated throughout the 70's, Leon Ware has worked with everyone from Michael Jackson to Minnie Riperton as a producer, but on numerous occasions has established himself as one helluva vocalist and solo artist too, such as this 1981 space-age soul masterpiece Rockin' You Eternally.
There are only eight tracks across slightly over half an hour, but its a ride with some gorgeous replay value every step of the way. The vocoder funk of 'A Little Boogie (Never Hurt No One)' is a pretty nice start to this, but the record only gets better as time goes on - swirling orchestras mark songs that would do Smokey Robinson proud in his prime, such as 'Sure Do Want You Know' and the soaring title track, while my personal favorite 'Don't Stay Away' is one of the smoothest keyboard-led cuts of soul you'll ever have the pleasure of knowing. Leon's voice echoes out into the void and does a little jig on a big black dancefloor of infinity beyond. 'Tis a wonder it hasn't been sampled yet!
Looking for that long-lost soul classic you haven't heard...? Wah-lah!
Listen Here - "Don't Stay Away"
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Everyone's favorite British female pop eccentric did some mighty fine work a few years ago on this final (so far) studio release: a whopping 16 songs divided between two sides: seven interesting pop songs and a suite of vaguely orchestral deeps brought into recorded resonance. Lyrically things are quite wry as well - washing machines are likened to a romantic coupling in one instance ['Mrs. Bartolozzi'] and in another we see a jazzy, synth-laden Peter Gabriel-esque delving into the mathematical meaning..or perhaps merely love ['Pi']. Impressive...and that's only two great songs in a whole damn set of them.
In my opinion, this may not be another Hounds Of Love, but this shit will move your soul like the rest of Bush's catalog. Lets hope this isn't her last musical outing!
Listen Here - "Joanni"
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I don't know what it is about Norway, but a lot of quality releases seem to consistently and constantly emerge from their woodwork from every angle you can imagine. In regards to that, 2010 has brought us a damn fine acid blues-rock album from Lonely Kamel, who dwell in Oslo and hammer down some fine blistering guitar brawls on Blues For The Dead, which came out earlier this year.
Sure, there's nothing groundbreaking here in terms of musical palette - everyone from Led Zeppelin to Leaf Hound have done the early 70's blues-rock thing to death before the former had ever played a single stadium. Still, when the rhythms are compelling and the vocalist has the drawl to go with the swagger, who really gives a shit what's new and past due? If tracks like 'Lady Mushroom' and 'A Tale Of A Madman' don't give you even the slightest bit of nostalgia for that good ol' psychedelia, then you should get your ears dewaxed.
Hang loose, rock out, and take Lonely Kamel for what they are - a kickass 70's stoner ensemble who have warped to the modern era in order to crack a few skulls...and stir your blood to life.
Listen Here - "Lady Mushroom"
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Undoubtedly the coolest instrumental group on the planet, the Ozric Tentacles are among the founding fathers of neo-psychedelia, Psytrance, and numerous other electronic-related subgenres that people take for granted today. Or perhaps they're merely the missing link between the strange, experimental 70's and the rave culture of the 90's (and beyond). To think of it another way, who else has been blending psychedelic rock, prog., acid house, reggae and New Age since the mid 80's? Nobody, that's who!
Although technically not a debut recording, 1990's Erpland is where the Ozrics transitioned from a primarily cassette-selling, live-based underground entity into a full fledged band that could produce some mighty fine studio recordings as well. It's also nearly a decade ahead of it's time in terms of what you'll hear here - Ed Wynne's psychedelic soundwalling guitar and flute shpangling is dressed up by percussion and sprightly synthesizer refrains that recalls everything from Enigma to Burning Spear. In particular, 'Eternal Wheel' lays down hell of a groove from its opening twinkle and only gets sharper as the minutes parade forward, while the deep space Jamaican feel of 'Iscence' is a real wonder in and of itself, as well as being a personal favorite.
Albums like this are the reason people listen to music in the first place. Along with pretty much everything else they have done since their formation nearly three decades ago, the records these guys cut never seem to lose their luster in the face of changing tastes and demographics.
As the great Robert Ripley was known to say - "Believe it...or not!"
Listen Here - "Iscence"
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Jazzy 90's alt-rock from the land of ice, snow and people who fart a lot (starts with a Can and ends with a DUH). Although this respectably cool debut resulted in a rather nifty single alongside whatever was popular at the time ['Charms'], it's bass drillin' toe tappers like 'Turn My Head Around' that make this something special for any day of the week. It also helps that nobody quite sounds like these blighters, which is a really great thing in retrospect.
I can't sell an album's finer points any better than I can throw one, but these Kings definitely deserve a spin from you and everyone else.
Listen Here - "Turn My Head Around"