...Some interesting reviews, in easy-to-read paragraph format.
Shakti w. John McLaughlin, A Handful of Beauty
I’ve taken a real shine to John’s acoustic playing. Here he uses an acoustic with scalloped fingerboard and crossing drone strings to amazing effect. Rich bends up and down, amazing runs and fireworks matched by occasional slow exercises in sustain, like a sitar. Shakti area great band (violin, tabla, ghatam) and this is a harmonious (and rapid) meeting of musical worlds.Blue Brazil
I love the way Brazilian music lends itself to compilation. Almost every comp I’ve got is a winner (Brazilica
, the David Byrne selections etc) because I think strength of song quality is better appreciated in South America; the sheer amount of good songs is uniformly higher per recorded output. They have legitimate song contests with quality writers and a healthy respect for music as social force that’s lacking in our song/dance/Eurovision climate. I particularly love the Edu Lobo track Viola Fora de Moda
. As with most current compilations, all have quality surprises.
Sufjan Stevens, Greetings from Michigan The Great Lake State
Quite simply one the best albums I’ve heard in a while. Balanced, complex, melodic and instrumentally interesting. Sufjan has a gift for chorus and coda, and here Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)
(yes, dig the titles) is another supreme and gentle song of faith and hunger for heaven with a killer run-out line. Lots of songs about people and a state’s self-assessment slash identity (possibly masking its poverty, hard work and a love of nature). Worth every cent. I’ve also a suspicion that Sufjan, Wes Anderson and David Foster Wallace all inhabit the same universe.
Gilberto Gil, Acoustic
My man Gilberto is Brazil’s Minister for Culture. Recorded live in the studio, this is a great exposition of the songwriting panache and virtuoso musicality that seems to dominate Bossa music today. Happy souls, wise souls, true performers every one of them. This man has songwriting to spare. Also some great bass. More than just great middle-class snob’s dinner music.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Yanqui U.X.O.
What is the emotional sound of a cruel and barbaric war machine? In you, the listener? In a band?
Os Mutantes, Everything is Possible!
Weird, funny, funky Brazilian pop from the late 60s/early 70s with a hint of psychedelic. And tasty, impressionistic lyrics.
Orchestra Baobab, Specialist in All Styles
Proof (if ever that had to be any) of the direct African heritage of Cuban music. Left me slightly annoyed with myself 'cos this is the kinda music I wanna make. Guest spots from Youssou N’Dour and Ibrahim Ferrer.
Fela Kuti, Expensive Shit
Set up for a bust, Fela swallowed the joint. The cops waited for the evidence in his shit. A friendly, clean shit was presented by a fellow-inmate and Fela gets out and writes this amazing track about the steep turd. Big sass horns, the solid Afrobeat shuffle and a great bass presence. Call and response, wise-ass lyrics and a private community of wives for backing vocals. Probably his definitive track thus.
13th Floor Elevators, Easter Everywhere
Once you’ve heard that weird, chickeny gobbledygook, you never forget it (AllMusic assures me it’s electric jug). Prime early psychedelia from Texas and everything the Byrds ain’t.
So the Japanese offer some extra tracks; is that sufficient cause to re-release a perfect EP locally as something more akin to an album? Especially if one of the tracks (Stereodee
) turns into a bold (as in not many other signed bands would get away with it) and relentless scream of guitar noise for its last ten minutes? I’ve never heard such a demanding sheet of noise. The familiar major-sounding chords of the last four (original tracks) are almost a relieving closure from the b-side tracks before them. One for the fans.Cluster & Eno
Bean curd, bean thread, cellophane, chasoba, chow fun, dang myun, dumpling, e-fu, egg, farfel, glass, gooksu, harusame, hokkien, knodel, kreplach, lo mein, mei fun, mung bean, naeng myun, pirogi, quenelle, ramen, rice, sevian, shirataki, soba, somen, spaetzle, udon, wheat, won ton.
The Black Crowes, Amorica
Remember how good all that 70s guitar rock used to feel? Feel it again. It’s almost unnoticeable how limited Chris Robinson actually is as a singer, unless you’re a room away and get bugged by his whine-format.
Brian Eno, Nerve Net
This is Eno wih modern beats. That is, interesting collages that roll along nicely but also cry out for more cream, especially lyrical and vocal cream. Eno’s lyrics (when they are applied) are pretty throwaway here, surprise surprise. Some vaguely jazz progressions, mostly soundtracky-songs, some forgettabe stuff, but also some superb ambient works. One or two of the samples and riffs actually sound like modern hip hop samples. A great headphone or hi-fi listen, maybe a little bit keyboard-heavy, it's significant for being so unlike and dissimilar to Tiger Mountain
Fripp & Eno, Evening Star
Tranquil. Unruffled. Expansive. Equable. Composed. Quiet. Assured.
What I like about Beck, particularly after a hashed-up revisit with Mutations
, is that he can write great songs set to very defined and crafted musical settings. Here, there’s only one or two interesting songs, and though they’re all well-defined production pieces, it’s just not such an interesting album. It’s rather mill-running Beck, methinks. It sounds great, but it leaves you lingering for the precise punch of a hit, for the combination of sound and craft that define musical success.
Mogwai, Happy Songs for Happy People
Somehow, to my mind, irrespective of thought, mood or place, this stuff taps right into what it feels like to be alive (in cities, suburbs, or highways) and functioning (albeit aware, critical, questioning) and feeling (lonely, distant, obscure). Instrumental music completely of our time, just like Neu! was for the autobahn 70s. Sophisticated, progressive, sculpted and humane. These guys aren’t just making interesting soundtracks to imaginary films, they’re ready for films to meet and complete them.Remember Shakti
Calm. Flute. Tabla. Warm nights. The measure of a culture’s (musical/social) complexity lies in its attitude to improvisation. Friends. Continuity. Recognitions. Dharma.
Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean Blue
Coke, flake, snow, toot, blow, nose candy, her, she, lady flake, liquid lady, speedball, crack, rock, Charlie, bump, slim.
In my cynical heart of hearts I might concede that the only differential between Allison and that other electro-pop "singer" Kylie is that Ms Goldfrapp didn’t go through many rounds of Stock.Aitken.Waterman horseshit to get where she is today. Ms Goldfrapp could do it by singing talent alone. But on several occasions here she just sounds like another starlet vamping over DJ-craft; not like the sexy waif-voice of Tricky’s Pumpkin
, or the perfect chamber-torch-pop and deliciously palpable sexuality of Felt Mountain
and some of Black Cherry
(I mean, to sing about a lab rat wired for orgasms sublime). It just sounds like more of the same now; and though it does take a nearly interesting turn halfway through, I want more of the explicitly feminine sex and songcraft of her earlier designs. Allison, do you hear me? You know there’s better material to be had with your voice. I’m thinking a Bond-theme. I’m thinking a collaborative effort with cigar-smoking Frenchmen, something distinctly continental and slightly sus. I’m thinking tabloid scandal and cigarette superlatives.
Miles Davis, Nefertiti
The axel, camel spin, death spiral, flip, flying, free skate, ice dancing, lift, loop, Lutz, over-rotation, toe pick, quad, salchow, serpentine, sit spin, spin, spread-eagle, toe loop.
Miles Davis, ESP
What with Sorcerer
as a loose group of discs, ESP is certainly the superior. The band which felt cold and business like-before (in the sense of new recruits getting the hang of their new manager, trying to anticipate his expectations and adopting a deliberate informality to seem assured and confident, certain of eventual bonding (whilst said manager is already contemplating other recruits and new lines of business (his eyes calmly perceiving the effect of his reputation in action))) is here finally relaxing creatively and improvising warmly. Miles, consequently, is certainly in top form.
There’s more, but I’ve lost steam, oomph, vigour.