Friday, 18 August 2017

Stars Of The Lid - The Tired Sounds Of (2001)

Two hours of modern-classical infused ambient drift at its most magnificent.  Brian McBride & Adam Wiltzie's mature masterwork came out 16 years ago, and had an almost-as-good followup 6 years later; whether they'll record another album together is anyone's guess, but at least they've both been keeping busy since.  Anyway, here's Tired Sounds, arguably the high watermark of both their' careers to date.

With the long, weightless guitar treatments that had become SOTL's stock in trade now fleshed out by judicious strings, Tired Sounds opened up a new and sophisticated landscape straight away with Requiem For Dying Mothers.  Movingly funereal in its first part, defiantly elegiac in its second, this opening piece sets the tone for the rest of the melancholy, sometimes unsettling first hour.  This reaches its darkest depths in the 12-minute middle section of Austin Texas Mental Hospital, with the strings remorselessly sawing away at the patient's psyche, although some respite does seem to come with the gentle organ-like swells of the final part.

The second disc of Tired Sounds is a slightly more relaxing, Eno-esque drift as a whole, but only once you've come through the colder-than-death Mulholland, sounding like its been recorded from within a body chiller in a morgue.  The mellower highlights of this second hour-long trip into inner space definitely include Piano Aquieu, with its Harold Budd-esque piano intro, but the melancholy still persists in huge, endless waves.  For an album that I've previously described to bemused acquaintances as "suffused with death", on digging it out today Tired Sounds does at least still live and breathe (audibly, in its final minutes) with some hopefulness towards its end.  Beyond essential.

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Luiz Bonfá - Introspection/The New Face Of Bonfa (1970/72)

Handy twofer of most of Bonfa's early 70s output for RCA - the album between these two, Sanctuary, is harder to come by but I'm keeping a lookout.  The New Face Of Bonfa, from 1970, was an attempt to cross over to a US audience with some success; the string arrangements are occasionally laid on a bit too thick, but Bonfa's phenomenal guitar talent is always front and centre (not least in Africana, my favourite track from this album).  In contrast to Braziliana, Maria Toledo only makes two appearances here as one of the backing vocalists on Macumba and Peixe Bom; all the other tracks are instrumental.
Original Introspection cover art. CD cover at top uses same pic as New Face LP.
And speaking of Bonfa's phenomenal guitar talent - that's the sole focus of the 1972 album Introspection, presented first on this CD reissue.  It's small but perfectly formed - eight tracks in under 27 minutes, and not a second wasted in showcasing Bonfa's sheer melodic and harmonic talent and staggering technique (check out the hovering-UFO evocations of Adventure In Space).  The sole concession here to production effects is the phasing on the opener, which kind of works, but other than that, Introspection is an utterly timeless masterpiece.

mega / zippy

Monday, 14 August 2017

Daniel Teruggi - Syrcus/Sphœra (1993)

Couple of ear-tingling sound voyages for you from Argentine-born Teruggi, who has been based in France since the 70s working and teaching at INA-GRM.  In other words, prepare for some top-flight French avant-garde, courtesy of the SYTER digital processor developed by Jean-François Allouis and heavily utilised by Teruggi.

We start off with 20 minutes of subtly-mutated percussion in the five-part Syrcus, before getting to the 42-minute main event.  Sphoera's four elemental movements, corresponding to air, water, fire then earth, also subdividing into smaller unnamed parts, were written throughout the 1980s and drawn together into this '1993 version' of the full suite.  Right from the hissing, shimmering atmospheres of the 'air' pieces (Eterea), you get what Teruggi's trying to do, and the rest of the work is similarly descriptive.  Interesting that there's some heavily manipulated voice sounds in the 'water' section Aquatica - not sure why, but it seems to work.

Imagine, to just use the first vaguely appropriate name that popped into my head, Jean-Michel Jarre embarking some sort of great 'primordial earth' concept epic - then stripping away virtually all the music, as it simply isn't necessary; the pure sound that remains is more than adequate to carry the narrative by itself.  Astonishing headphone-immersion stuff from start to finish.

mega / zippy

Friday, 11 August 2017

Keith Jarrett - Concerts: Bregenz/München (rec. '81, rel. '82; full CD reiss 2013)

Having concentrated on trio concerts up until now, it's high time I posted some solo Keith Jarrett - winging it by the seat of his pants, grunting and groaning aplenty (to a tolerable level in these '81 shows) on his way to absolute transcendence.  Two concerts, a few days apart - one from Bregenz where Jarrett hits his groove early on, then mellows out before an exploratory section, and a twice-as-long one from Munich that takes us on a more epic journey.

In both cases, Jarrett seems determined to extract every possible drop of sound from the piano, getting in some serious percussive thumps and string plucks towards the end, before restoring calm with the gorgeous encores.  Originally released as a 3LP box in 1982, ECM also provided the option to just buy the single-disc Bregenz concert on its own, which ended up being the only CD version until the whole set was finally reissued four years ago.
original box set cover, 1982 (2013 reissue at top)
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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Ry Cooder & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt - A Meeting By The River (1993)

And an inspired and fruitful meeting it was.  Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Rajasthani master of the Mohan Vina - a modified slide guitar of his own creation, with eight sympathetic drone strings added; and Ry Cooder, the eternal journeyman, on regular slide, recorded these four tracks in a Santa Barbara church - shame they didn't record more.  My only minus point for this record is always that I wish it was twice as long, but what was captured, backed up by Bhatt's regular tabla player Sukhvinder Singh, and Cooder's son Joachim, is superb.  A pair of lengthy, exploratory tracks are followed up by a catchy, upbeat jam and then a gorgeous closing ballad, the only non-original, a Fijian folk song.  One for al fresco listening with a long cool drink.

mega / zippy

Monday, 7 August 2017

Yoko Ono - Fly (1971; new reissue 2017)

Ideal time to do a post of this classic double-album - there's a new reissue doing the rounds, and label Secretly Canadian seem to have done a great job.  Sounds good, has a couple of bonus tracks I hadn't heard before so have kept them in the download (the eerie electronics of The Path are definitely worth hearing) and the CDs come in a hard-card vinyl gatefold replica.  Worth buying, for sure, along with the others that have been reissued.

If this is your first encounter with (arguably) Yoko Ono's greatest album, though, you're in for a real treat.  One album's worth of raw, propulsive avant-rock which at its greatest (the 17 minutes of Mind Train) sounds like a feminine version of Can's Halleluwah, then a side's worth of clattering, echoing collaborations with another Fluxus artist Joe Jones and his 'percussion machines', then rounding off with the 22-minute title track.  The latter might be the most spartan and difficult to love - it's mostly solo voice, until some reversed slide guitar towards the end makes things a bit more interesting, but it's still an utterly unique voice that I could listen to all day.

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Friday, 4 August 2017

Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971

Had I started this blog about twelve years ago, it would've been bursting at the seams with Neil Young albums (if I'd been able to have enough patience with the trickle of dialup available to me at the time to even run a blog!).  So what happened over the last decade, that I virtually stopped listening to an artist who'd been such an all-consuming obsession for me since the mid-90s?  A few things, I suppose - tastes change over the years; and perhaps mainly that Young hasn't produced an album that's excited me for over 20 years (with the honourable exception of Le Noise).

But that's quite enough of a preamble - found this in a pile of dust-gathering CDs last week, and decided it was still wonderful, and needed to be posted here.  Recorded at a homecoming gig in Toronto in January 1971, just as Neil Young was becoming a solo superstar, and mooted for release soon after as a double-live album, Massey Hall in  the end wouldn't see an official release until 2007, but became a justifiably popular bootleg in between.

Just imagine how an official live album, hot on the heels of After The Goldrush, could've altered the dynamic of Young's discography - a handful of these songs would've become well-known favourites, rather than clandestine rarities, and Harvest might've suffered by comparison.  All of the latter album's songs sound great here, IMO better than the overblown orchestrated versions - but personal preferences aside, as a whole this is a phenomenal live set, performed solely by a hugely talented 26 year old with the audience in the palm of his hand.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Fausto Romitelli (played by Ictus ensemble) - Professor Bad Trip (2004)

Italian composer Fausto Romitelli managed to stake out a truly unique and disorienting soundworld in his unfortunately short life (he lost a battle with cancer in 2004 at the age of 41).  This has been my entry point to his ouevre, and it's a good overview.

Set into three movements (or 'Lessons', as introduced by a suitably professor-like narrator), Professor Bad Trip was Romitelli's breatkthrough opus in creating a surreal, constantly-shifting blend of modern classical music and psychedelia.  Performed here by the Belgian ensemble Ictus, it's a stunning 40-minute aural hall of mirrors that takes a few listens to get a proper hold on.  Shorter pieces flesh out this release - another ensemble one, Green Yellow & Blue, and two solo works - Seascape for contrabass recorder, and Trash TV Trance for electric guitar and guitar-jack interference.  Recommended.

mega / zippy

Monday, 31 July 2017

Gianluigi Trovesi & Gianni Coscia - In Cerca Di Cibo (2000)

An enduring ECM favourite of mine, In cerca di cibo (In search of sustenance) is a gorgeous, mostly mellow album of duets between two Italians - accordionist Gianni Coscia and clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi.  Half of the compositions on this gem of an album come from Fiorenzo Capri's soundtrack to a 1971 Italian TV movie about Pinocchio (see below), which provides the melancholy backbone around which jazzier material by the two musicians and others can be deftly sequenced.  Taken as a whole, it's like a street-cafe performance by two seasoned local musicians on a lazy Sunday afternoon somewhere in Italy, and always provides the sustenance that the listener has been searching for, and then some.
mega / zippy

Friday, 28 July 2017

Cybotron - Enter (1983)

Electro-rock classic from the first rays of techno's dawn.  Juan Atkins, one of the Detroit godfathers, recorded these tracks with collaborator Richard Davis; the latter favoured more of an arena-rock approach, which meant that this seminal duo wouldn't last, but here it just seems to work, widdly guitar solos and all.  For me the album tracks work best when at their most stripped back and minimal-electronic - Alleys Of Your Mind sounds like it could've been an early Mute single, not long after Warm Leatherette.  El Salvador is another favourite, as I'm a sucker for a good vocoder.

Contrary to my usual practice, bonus tracks (largely post-album singles, although Cosmic Cars appears to be virtually identical to the album version) have been kept in place here.  Quite simply, they're utterly essential, showing Atkins edging more and more toward his dream of a Parliament-Kraftwerk fission reaction that was about to explode into full-on Detroit techno.

mega / zippy