Cerebral Decanting

Music Reviews every Wednesday .....

Art/Lit (& Politics) other days......

by Jason Gubbels

LIstening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 138)

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via Odyshape: http://www.odyshape.com/blog/2014/7/14/listening-notes-ultra-brief-pt-138

PICKS

Søren Kjærgaard / Ben Street / Andrew Cyrille, Syvmileskridt (ILK Music)          [Bandcamp link]

The Danish pianist deserves his top billing - Kjærgaard has assembled this American rhythm section four times for methodical explorations of silence and open-ended patterns. But empty spaces seem less important this time out, even if “Ballad No. 4” and “Beryllic Bell” conjure the austerity of nocturnes. More plentiful are cuts like the title track, surging freebop swing that finds the pianist splashing chords across forceful bass/drums before dropping jittery melodic lines, or the rubato clatter of Taylor-esque “Intersection No. 7”. Those titles suggest utilitarian workouts, and I’m not claiming every number will keep you perched on seat’s edge. But how about “Tripple Skip,” which may or may not deliberately echo “Skippy” but certainly pops Monkian, right down to Kjærgaard’s octave-spanning keyboard march. And then consider the circular motif that both opens and closes the album, master Cyrille dropping a bone-dry beat nearly old-school hip-hop in its serenity before the piano crawls along. Suggesting the drummer may well be this project’s engine and soul, a distinction Søren himself would no doubt be the first to note.

Brian Groder Trio, Reflexology (Latham Records)

New York-based trumpeter/flugelhornist comfortable in free ensembles yet committed to song form convenes trio for a tribute to Sam Rivers and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen’s 1981 Looking At Bird duet outing. But give Groder credit for acknowledging that no mere flugelhorn could fill the mighty roar left by Rivers - the vital addition of percussionist Jay Rosen allows both leader and bassist Michael Bisio to relax a little. It helps that all three collaborators are melodists (Joe McPhee-associate Rosen coaxes trills from his cymbals), which means even decidedly abstract lines dart out with the quick fragmentary logic of Anthony Braxton at his most direct. And for those who find the spartan interplay too, well, spartan, Groder’s old composition teacher Joanne Brackeen offers some relief in the guise of lone non-original “Haiti-B”: first a Strata-East bass vamp, than the drummer giving what for.

NEAR PICK

Bobby Hutcherson, Enjoy The View (Blue Note)

The vibraphonist’s heralded return to Blue Note after nearly forty years astray doesn’t exactly pick up where his mid-60s avant-inside run left off. Nor is this the itchy modernism of Hutcherson the Eric Dolphy sideman (Out To Lunch!) or the cool modality of Hutcherson the Grant Green sideman (Idle Moments). It’s closer to the bluesy soul jazz of Hutcherson the Grassella Oliphant sideman (um, The Grass Roots), vibes-driven neo-bop employing Joey DeFrancesco’s generous Hammond organ chords and Billy Hart’s good-humored syncopation to surround both the leader and pickup alto saxist David Sanborn, who sounds pretty happy to be here and also sounds pretty ok. Blue Note’s tasteful production continually douses every fire the participants set. But proto-fusion drum funk will have its say (“Hey Harold”), as will straight ahead-swing (“Teddy”) and pure melodic engagement (Sanborn’s opener “Delia”).

Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 137)

PICKS

Dub Thompson, 9 Songs     (Dead Oceans)

Anybody dismissing Parquet Courts as little more than the sum of their influences should steer clear of this teenaged Agoura Hills duo, who kick off their full-length with a shout-out to the drummer for This Heat. Smart alecks who name songs after distal end protrusions, they set aside antediluvian principles enough to allow for overdubbing, meaning they don’t sound much like a guitar/drums duo - ah, sweet bass lines (single-minded rocker “Mono” could be primo Delta 5). Their love song steals the organ setting from Max Romeo’s “Wet Dream” and goes “Baby, you’ve got no time for love”. Their funk song rhymes “dog races” with “sick faces”. Their song about Ash Wednesday has them feeling “like Jesus’s son” (where’d they get that one?). Acid-surf demo tapes left inside the dryer: the punk rock aesthetic strikes again.

Craig Leon, Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos/Visiting     (Rvng Intl)

After producing Suicide and introducing The Ramones to Sire under Richard Gottehrer’s watchful eye, producer/composer Craig Leon eventually left Max’s Kansas City for starchier venues - the last fifteen years have found him arranging microphones for Sony Classical and Deutsche Grammophon. But wedged between those gigs was this auspicious programming tour de force, in which John Fahey’s Takoma label tentatively opened its doors to punk-informed electronic minimalism. With used copies now fetching small Ebay fortunes and having long ago lost the rights to his original master tapes, Leon did what any self-respecting hardware specialist might do, which is re-record both 1981’s Nommos and 1983’s Visiting note-for-note using original studio transcriptions, meaning his arsenal of Rolands, Oberheims, ARPs and a Linn-drum prototype sound fuller than before. Sure, Leon’s Dogon fantasies are even less based in reality than Julius Hemphill’s. But those machine-like ostinatos and kosmiche washes remain iconoclastic. You may hear harbingers of industrial’s tin and din, or the cold Downtown pulse of Suicide itself (“Donkeys Bearing Cups”). And while “Visiting” proper wobbles along the thin line separating Cluster & Eno from Steven Halpern, “Region Of Fleeing Civilians” suggests Mercer Arts Center kids eating to the kraftwerk beat.   

 NEAR PICK

Sia, 1000 Forms Of Fear     (Monkey Puzzle / RCA)

Having effectively ironed out her weirder flourishes, this poppy first-in-four-years return won’t endear itself to the alt kids who once pinned their hopes on “Breathe Me” or the club kids who banged to “The Girl You Lost To Cocaine”. But as Sia herself once opined, some people have real problems - if she still claims an ability to swing from any light fixture within reach, “Chandelier” itself mines adult gravity if not outright misfortune while detailing an around the way girl slogging headlong into alcoholism. Shutting out The Weeknd’s guest appearance on glitch-hop “Elastic Heart,” informing Frankie Valli that “big girls cry / when their heart is breaking,” and taunting “hit me like a baseball” like Lana Del Rey’s urbane auntie, she’s still the downtempo queen, although not exactly chilled out.

Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 136)

PICKS

Miranda Lambert, Platinum (RCA Nashville)

Just because 2/3 of the Pistol Annies have been responsible for the best country albums of both 2013 and (right, ‘so far’) 2014 doesn’t mean we enthusiasts have narrowed our scope. On the contrary, Ashley Monroe’s Like A Rose and Miranda Lambert’s Platinum present markedly distinct pleasures. If Monroe’s precise nine-song offering barely broke thirty minutes, Lambert’s sixteen song whirlwind elbows aside an entire hour. And while the former applied formalist delicacy whether her narrators were robbing banks or getting kinky, the latter bursts forth with glorious intemperance, outgunning the competition via belly laughs and boasts - “by calculation, I’m way too much”. So she prances like David Lee Roth through the backyard swagger of “Little Red Wagon,” runs Tom T. Hall through Bob Wills on “All That’s Left,” brags like Kanye about her box office on the title cut, and gets downright “Strawberry Fields Forever”-trippy on “Two Rings Shy”. Yet lest you think this mere Nashville flash, our stealth progressive also delivers sisterhood blows against the empire, whether skipping Sunday services for a cold one or sticking tongues out at the patriarchy: only those recycling dumb blonde jokes will mistake “just go one shade lighter / you’ll acquire everything you need” for career advice. And in between tales of the perfidy of men, Lambert fairly aces a Music Row Bechdel Test, women talking to women about drink, kitchen sinks, and education taking the hit when your health insurance won’t cover The Pill. This is how you have it all - by fulfilling the schmaltzy code quota for one part of your audience (sepia-toned “Automatic”) before immediately addressing those same luddite fantasies with greater sass for another part of your audience (Opry-unfriendly “Old Shit”).

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, What Have We Become? (Virgin EMI)

Turns out The Beautiful South’s fortunes were more tied to Jacqui Abbott’s presence than anyone suspected, no doubt including Paul Heaton and even Jacqui herself. But while it’s lovely to once again hear those voices intertwine, a proudly non-imbibing Heaton at times trades in barbed observance for mere crankiness. The question posed by the title tune comes courtesy of an English mother addressing her “half-ton son,” some Soft New Britain where “pizza boxes block out the sun” and “chicken wings have replaced all the fun” - rather pat protests from the Christian Marxist who once identified the loss of a nation’s soul within postmodern architecture. But Heaton’s vision of one man’s England still registers the pain of fading ‘go home’ graffiti scrawled outside tenement flats, racism blues he effectively chases away with soul-inflected doo-doo doo-doo’s. Soul of a sort remains the key musical touchstone, from opening Martha & the Vandellas rattle to closing doo-wop shuffle “When I Get Back To Blighty”. And despite all the grousing about fatty foodstuffs, Heaton and Abbott still find plenty of appropriate targets, from the Queen herself to those identified as prisoners of their own tax returns. Of course, Heaton/Abbott are funnier about it: “Everyone around us agrees that / Phil Collins must die / Phil Collins must die”.

Jinx Lennon, Know Your Station Gouger Nation!!! (self-released) bandcamp

The most obvious points of comparison for this Dundalk anti-folk songpoet are such inspired Northern gobbers as Mark E. Smith and John Cooper Clarke, yet don’t let that fool you - where both Smith and Clarke at times bask in logorrhea, Lennon worries insistently and rhythmically over repetitive phrases, occasionally lapsing into gobbledegook because sometimes the sentiments call for a little barbaric yawp. Although he’s dropped numerous albums since this recently re-released 2006 outing, here’s where he shows off what he can do. Whether collapsing pub singalongs into “7 and 7 Is” (“Fireplace-Itis”) or spewing “the city of styrofoam cups” like punctuation, his twenty fragments sidle along unkemptly and with great musical variety, always suggesting something worth considering. Horn-bolstered “Stand Up For Your Hospitals” is his idea of a punk rallying cry. “What’s wrong with some colour in the street?” is how he confronts some anti-Nigerian bollocks. And while Lennon’s well aware that the circle of shit awaits us all, he can’t help but preach the gospel of working class magnanimity. He calls that one “Forgive The Cunts”.

Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 135)

PICKS

Popcaan, Where We Come From (Mixpak)

One of the finer full-lengths to come out of Jamaica in recent memory arrives just in time for crisis point dancehall, still reeling from the life sentence handed down to Vybz Kartel and sagging under the bullying swagger of Aidonia and eyeball-tattooed Alkaline. Not that Andre Jay Sutherland didn’t come up through the Saint Thomas / Portmore ghetto or doesn’t boast an “Unruly Boss” chest tattoo himself - he’s no doubt seen more than you or me. But he channels social unease into party anthems rather than sufferation slogs, and his love for stateside hip-hop carries over into every Dre Skull-aided Auto-Tune hook and dubstep inflection (the latter surfacing on a Pusha-T-starring “Hustle”). So while his patois may prove too thick for Jamaican non-adepts, that fresh-faced melodiousness goes down smooth. When’s the last time a dancehall star talked about “Waiting So Long” to put a ring on their beloved’s finger? Or sold a sentiment like “Everything [Is] Nice” as if they really believed it, in between cautioning the U-Tech kids not to stress too much during finals week? In the pre-dancehall days, they used to have a name for this kind of thing: Lovers Rock.

Kasai Allstars, Beware The Fetish (Crammed Discs)

Congotronics fellas do like to stretch out, and 12 tracks / 100 minutes worth of, say, Konono Nº1’s DIY rattle doesn’t sound especially appealing. But while label mates and fellow Kinshasans Kasai Allstars may assemble performances upon familiar Konono foundations - xylophones, slit drums, thumb pianos fed through buzzing amplifiers - it’s the everloving electric guitar that establishes welcome melodic content while also anchoring the beat(s). Still pretty sparse stuff, vocal polyphony and all. Yet it proudly showcases the Kasai region in all its multiethnic Tetela/Luba/Lulua/Luntu 21st century glory, lissome guitars gently warning of “Yangye, The Evil Leopard” (lilting afropop) while also chiming “In Praise of Homeboys” (marimba fuzz-punk) and cheerily contextualizing “Down And Out” (murky Congolese dub crawl). And sometimes the guitars aren’t lissome at all, ie, concluding Congotronics vs. Rockers cut “The Ploughman,” which churns along in fuzzy indifference to questions of key.

NEAR PICK

Gilles Peterson Presents Sonzeira, Brasil Bam Bam Bam (Talkin’ Loud / Virgin EMI)

There are plenty of warning signs: French-born/South London-dwelling Radio 1 DJ assembles Brazilian notables, which in his mind includes the Wes Anderson-approved Seu Jorge, for a traipse across a continent-encompassing nation in quest of “Buena Vista meets club culture”. But don’t let that scare you off. True, one could do without the hushed wood flutes of the Mart’nália-aided “The Mystery Of Man,” while disco hounds won’t be the only ones disappointed by Marcos Valle’s update to ’83 smash “Estrelar”. Even the frosty “Southern Freeez” glogs along like a too-heavy-on-the-ice-cubes caipirinha. But Sonzeira the afro-Brazilian assemblage mostly honors the complexity of their nation’s musical and ethnic heritage by venturing far from familiar Rio into the realm of batucada, baile funk, and Bahian samba de roda, where the bossa nova is speedy, the accordions cook, and Elza Soares growls with old-world elegance. Best hook, delivered by Seu Jorge himself: “bam bam bam / bam bam bam / bam bam bam / bam-bam bam bam”.

All Right We Are Two Nations: Bad Reviews For Click Clack Moo

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— Socialist tripe. This book was written under union influence and aimed at our children to foster the idea of collectivism. The liberals and progressives all had a hand in this socialist propaganda piece. Fits in well with C Scope and Common Core. Liberals and Progressives are now aiming at your children, much the same that German Governments did in the 1930’s. Wow does history repeat itself or what? Do yourselves a favor and educate yourselves to what the collective socialist progressives are trying to do to you and your children BEFORE it is too late.

— This story definitely has an agenda. It is very cute, I must admit, but I would never read this to my child because it promotes values that I do not want to instill in my children. The cows (and chickens) in the story become discontent with living like every other cow lives. It is not enough that the cows are fed, live in a barn, and are well provided for…they want more! So they appeal to the farmer, refusing to do their part to contribute, until the farmer meets their “demands.” In my opinion, this story teaches children that making unrealistic demands is okay and, even worse, that you can act like a spoiled brat and get your way! Too bad the cows aren’t being grateful for what they have and trying to help less fortunate cows by welcoming them into their barn at night instead…then I might read this story to my children.

— Perhaps the book is amusing and filled with laughter but teaching our children how to strike and how to organize and create a Union is WRONG! We are a capitalist society. (You are buying this book from a company that is making $$$ right???
Let’s teach children how to be responsible, do the best they can and how to succeed such as the Little Engine that Could!! I DO NOT Recommend this Book!

— The book focuses on promoting strikes, fair labor practices and is really not appropriate for kids. I hope the author stops writing about leftist ideals and focuses on letting the children think for themselves.

— Yes, the book is funny. However, when one considers the messaging, the book has problems. First, it teaches kids that going on strike is ok, acceptable; let’s promote being pro-union, anti-management (anti-captialist?). Second, it teaches them a negative way to deal with conflict - just withhold something and you’ll get what you want. Third, nowhere in the book is the responsibility of the farmer mentioned - the farmer houses these animals, feeds them, and cares for them. The messages in this book are inappropriate for young children. Let’s wait until they’re old enough to have a class in labor relations.

— OK, the book is cute, but the reason that it has received such acclaim and honor is because it celebrates and encourages Union activity. Certainly the media would not have fallen in love with this book if farmer brown turned the ungrateful, inefficient and pampered cows into hamburger and drumsticks and replaced them with more appreciative, hard working, and efficient cows and chickens. Or would it have received the same media and literary praise if it showed that farmer brown had to move his farm to Mexico or lay off farm hands because the increased electrical costs caused by the cows and chickens made his farm uncompetitive?

— Cute book but there is a definite ‘labor’ slant to it. The book presents the cows as having a reasonable request and the farmer as being unreasonable. The graphics depicts the cows as being calm and rational while the farmer appears mean, angry and irrational. It neglects to show things from what may be the farmer’s perspective: The cows live where? The farmer’s barn. The cows eat and drink what? That which the farmer provides. These things are in fair exchange for the cow’s milk. What costs will the farmer need to incur in order to provide the electric blankets and the electricity to run them? What hardship will the farmer need to endure in order to meet the cows’ demands? How will this affect the farmers ability to house and feed the animals?
When the cows did not get their way, the chickens were brought to bear. (Farm animals of the world, unite). How does the issue get resolved? The farmer gets extorted and bullied into providing blankets and in return he gets his own typewriter back (didn’t the cows know that they should not touch things that don’t belong to them?)… And after all that, the farmer gets a demand from the ducks as well.(<quack> Where is our entitlement! <quack>).

— This book teaches collectivism….and the faster you hook up to that notion the faster you’ll be able to find it yourself, unless what you are is a “collective” socialist…then, you’ll have no problem whatsoever with this book…and what it “playfully” teaches…I’m sure Hitler used funny little animal stories too…..idiot!..I want what you have and if I don’t get it, I’m going to give you problems….redistribution and envy…that’s what it’s all about……and written by SEIU…..Service Employees International Union….get it? Idiot! just like all the 400 posts how great it is…until the cows come to your front door and pocket book demanding moo..re, moo..re, moo..re! Idiot! You’re probably a teacher too, right? Under the liberal studies umbrella! YouTube Click Clack Moo and read the posts by the teachers (also union employees)!

— from Amazon.com reviews of Doreen Cronin’s Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type.

http://www.amazon.com/Click-Clack-Moo-Cows-That/dp/1442433701/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

The Rudeness, The Lies: James Wood On Sergei Dovlatov

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1. 

Political work ought to be concrete”: this is one of the rousing Soviet mottos recalled in Sergei Dovlatov’s novel, The Zone. Ironically, it is also what is said about good writing, and can one think of a more concrete contemporary writer than Dovlatov? Sentences compacted to aphoristic ingots: “One is born either poor or rich. Money has almost nothing to do with it.” Paradox, sharp wit, and swift one-liners: “Boris sober and Boris drunk are such different people, they’ve never even met.” Or: “What could I say to him? What do you say to a guard who uses after-shave only internally?” Fierce, precise snapshots, illuminated by absurdist flashes: “Cars streamed past us like submarines holding each other’s tails.” Dialogue almost Waugh-like in its tart comedy:

You’ve just forgotten. The rudeness, the lies.”
If people are rude in Moscow, at least it’s in Russian.”
That’s the horrible part.”

2.

Reading Dovlatov is a joyous, thrilling, usually hilarious experience, in large part because he has such a talent for making stories so concrete: he collects vignettes, loud portraits, bitter jokes, comic tales, absurd episodes, black anecdotes, and then delights in bringing them out of the ether of hearsay or memory and giving them new life in print. He captures, and he frees: his work bursts with this captured, freed life. 

Dovlatov was not published in Russia during his lifetime. During the 1970s, he circulated his writing in samizdat and began to be published in European journals, an activity which brought about his expulsion from the Union of Soviet Journalists in 1976. He left the Soviet Union in 1978 and arrived in New York in 1979 to join his wife and daughter, part of the so-called “third wave” of Russian immigration. In New York, Dovlatov quickly became one of the most prominent and popular members of the Russian emigre community. He co-edited The New American, a liberal emigre newspaper, and worked for Radio Liberty. But mainly he wrote: twelve books in the last twelve years of his life. The Compromise appeared in 1981, The Zone a year later, Ours in 1983, A Foreign Woman in 1986, the same year that The Suitcase was published. These books were written in Russian and published by small presses, such as the Hermitage Press in Tenafly, New Jersey, or Russica, in New York. 

3.

Like everything Dovlatov wrote, Pushkin Hills is funny on every page, sparkling with jokes, repartee, and this writer’s special savage levity. But Dovlatov is also expert at what Gogol called “laughter through tears.” In Pushkin Hills, the almost Wodehouse-like escapades in the countryside are constantly menaced by the obligations and difficulties Boris has fled—how to be a writer in the Soviet Union, how to live amicably with his wife and daughter. “Officially, I was a full-fledged creative personality. In reality, I was on the edge of a mental breakdown.” 

In its sly, sidelong, defiantly non-aligned way, Dovlatov’s work is always probing questions of freedom. It’s not simply that freedom might be frightening, novel, unreal; it’s that it might turn out to be not as free as advertised—or not free in exactly the way promised. And if you refuse to risk the potential “disappointment” of freedom by exercising it, you will, at least, avoid that disappointment. It’s why Boris fearfully defends, even to the point of absurdity, his non-existent status as Russian writer: when Tanya reminds him that he hasn’t been (and, seemingly, can’t be) published in the Soviet Union, he replies, “But my readers are here. While over there…Who needs my stories in Chicago?” Better, perhaps, to have always-unrealized potential than lapsed actuality.

4.

Freedom is both actual and ideal, both concrete and metaphysical. There are enacted realities, like the rule of law, free speech, economic possibility and limitation, material circumstance—it should go without saying that these actualities are of enormous consequence in immigrants’ lives. But the emigre has also a strange, pure, almost metaphysical liberty: this, as Nabokov knew, is the portable, remembered world he or she brings with him from the old country. Nabokov’s emigre professor, Timofey Pnin, knows this portable, internal, untouchable, undisappointable world to be the cosmos you carry inside you—the stories, the people, the memories, the anecdotes and jokes, even the very dates of one’s national history; in short, the emigre’s entire cultural formation: “a brilliant cosmos that seemed all the fresher for having been abolished by one blow of history,” as Pnin thinks of it.

It is why Dovlatov is able to look at the single suitcase he brought with him from the Soviet Union and disdain the things inside it (the hat, the jacket, the shirt, the gloves). The things are not important. What are important are the stories these things drag with them, the very stories Dovlatov made into his book, The Suitcase, the stories that enliven every page of his writing. In this sense, things are not concrete; the impalpable stories are, made so by the great writer when set down brilliantly, vividly in print for generations of future readers. I don’t know if Boris quite understands this, at the end of Pushkin Hills; but we are very fortunate that Sergei Dovlatov did.

-- James Wood, “Sergei Dovlatov and the Hearsay of Memory,” from the afterword to Pushkin Hills, published by Counterpoint Press.

http://counterpointpress.com/products/pushkin-hills/

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/04/sergei-dovlatov-and-the-hearsay-of-memory.html

Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 133)

PICKS 

Riverside, Riverside     (Greenleaf)

One can admire how the Jimmy Giuffre 3 expanded jazz discourse (post-cool chamber music on a freedom tip) without quite swooning for the actual realization thereof: no matter how brilliant and sparse their clarinet/bass/piano interplay, Giuffre’s insistence on an implicit rather than explicit beat (“acknowledged but unsounded,” in his famous words) leaves drum kit fans out in the cold. So it’s nice to stumble across a Giuffre tribute project where the backbeat assumes prominence. Although bassist Steve Swallow offers a direct lineage to Giuffre’s famed 1961 trio, trumpeter Dave Douglas and tenor saxist Chet Doxas seem more immediately smitten with the bluesy folk-jazz dry run of the master’s late-50’s Jim Hall/Ralph Pena assemblage - spirituals, I-IV-V vamps, woodsy counterpoint. All but two cuts are group originals, and only one bears Giuffre’s name, so approach this as you might any document of loose inspiration, paying special attention to Doxas, who I hesitate to call a revelation because that would slight his considerable (Canadian) career. Dave Douglas I assume you already know.

Brahja Waldman’s Quintet, Sir Real Live At Resonance     (self-released)    Bandcamp

Montreal/New York altoist with a heavy Bandcamp presence wrestles with a series of elemental phrases and somber tones via this live quintet session cut in Quebec last summer. Composition’s the thing, mostly - “Happy Water” and “Boundless” utilize most of their running time cautiously exploring exquisite melody. But Waldman and tenor sax teammate Adam Kinner also exude thoughtful wiseguy charm, whether tripping over the fractured slow-bop of “Pleistocene Pt. II” or riding the KC red hot hambone riffs of “Doula Doula” for a mere 3 minutes 18 seconds. And there’s always a premium placed on straightforward swing, starting with the opening strut of (say it aloud fast) “Sir Real” itself, cut from the same rhythmic pattern as Eric Dolphy’s “Hat And Beard,” with Damon Shadrach Hankoff’s slinky piano guiding the ensemble forward.

NEAR PICK

Stephen Christopher Stamper, Echoic     (Runningonair Music)

The creator describes these six slices of ambient hum as exercises in extreme short-term memory morphing out of old cassettes. The record label talks up microtonal possibilities and music aligned with the promise of mathematics. Neither gloss makes much immediate sense to me, so here goes: drone-fuzz, magnetic pulsation, vocal snippets, waking dreams, the surf’s steady pound and the hum of utility poles, all mainlining into the concluding and somewhat terrifying cosmic resonance that is “Out”. The wisest words ever uttered by Julian Cope came in Krautrocksampler, when he described Tangerine Dream’s Zeit thusly: “unchanging unfolding near-static barely-shifting vegetable organic-ness takes over the room and permeates the whole house”. This isn’t Zeit. But it travels the same space ways.

On The Short Buzzbomb Formalism Of Parquet Courts

"Parquet Courts are tough lads to nail down. There are geographical inconsistencies at play: Denton, Texas-based band makes good in Brooklyn. There’s lyrical obscurantism masking greater truths: "Death to all false prophets/ Around here we praise a dollar." There’s a slacker ethos that at times seems little more than a feint, washed-out production values relegating the bass player to dusty stage corners, eight-minute drum machine stoner fables ("He’s Seeing Paths") closing out five-song EPs (last year’s Tally All The Things That You Broke). And then there’s the band’s sound, so alt-rock self-referential it sends music critics into reverie, a supposed apotheosis of indie rock’s past and future, beholden to more post-punk scofflaws than any self-respecting record collector might ever hope to catalog, which is ok so long as noise-tune royalty Pavement gets top billing. Pavement, man. Even Stephen Malkmus spun some yarn about hearing a Courts number drift over the airwaves and thinking it was one of his own.

So let the record show that Parquet Courts no longer sounds anything like Pavement, if indeed they ever did [….]”

- from my SPIN review of Parquet Courts’ new album “Sunbathing Animal,” both out today. Read the full review at the SPIN website.

http://www.spin.com/reviews/parquet-courts-sunbathing-animal/

Become A Monk Or Fall Flat On Your Face: Odyshape Interviews Withered Hand

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"Hard rock and metal gave me a lifeline around the same time I stopped going to church and questioning lots of things. I’m more poking fun at myself. I find it interesting that even quite benign metal gets loaded up with bad associations. And it’s an interesting genre for me, because it’s not really represented in the mainstream, it’s perpetually on the outside, but massive. It’s fascinating. I’m not part of it—maybe I was at one time—but I like that kind of brotherhood of people who are into that kind of music."

Dan Willson, aka Withered Hand, interviewed for Odyshape by Dan Weiss.

http://www.odyshape.com/blog/2014/5/29/the-odyshape-interview-withered-hand

Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 132)

PICKS 

Röyksopp & Robyn, Do It Again     (Cherrytree / Interscope)

Having successfully dominated collaborative efforts with both anarcho-synth Swedes The Knife and pimp everyman Snoop Dogg, our electro-pop ambassador settles for synergy with fellow Scandinavians Röyksopp, following up previous successes (“The Girl And The Robot,” “None Of Dem”) with a self-described mini-album that’s both proggy and club-ready. A Nordic chill permeates the swirl of opener “Monument” and shimmer of closer “Inside The Idle Hour Club,” in which Robyn the cynosure barely takes the stage. Wedged between those minimalist documents is the hard beat inanity of Speak & Spell banger “Sayit” and the catch-in-throat bravado of “Every Little Thing”. And for the chewy center, “accidental pop song” “Do It Again,” which outlines sexual delirium (“it hurts so good / I don’t wanna stop”) over big dumb EDM hooks. Epic, in its own way.

Toumani & Sidiki, Toumani & Sidiki     (Nonesuch)

Toumani is Toumani Diabaté, the Malian kora ambassador who seems to lack either the will or the means to repeat the full-band electroacoustic glory that was 2006’s Boulevard de l’Indépendance. Sidiki is Sidiki Diabaté, the Malian hip-hop star, 24-year-old kora-playing son of Toumani, and (as the notes stress) proud member of the 78th generation of jali masters. Unsurprisingly for kora duets, this is airy, lilting, reflective. It’s also a headphone enthusiast’s dream, each virtuoso flight and hammered ostinato expertly delegated into right/left crystalline corners. Yet these performances aren’t just sentimental journeys down acoustic trad. lane. They’re transformations of old chestnuts into documents addressing post-Sahel Malian society, a conceit realized through a simple renaming ceremony honoring recent political notables (Dr. Hamadoun Touré; Toguna Agro Industries), spiritual orders (West Africa’s Tijaniya), and sociocultural victims (migrant shipwreck disaster Lampedusa). Solemn stuff, to be sure. But also tribute paid to besieged homeland, all while preserving the beauty of the melody. 

NEAR PICK

Cher Lloyd, Sorry I’m Late     (Sony)

In a world of Iggy Azaleas, we need a few more Cher Lloyds, which is to say UK pop coquettes comfy enough with Nicki Minaj to drop some rhymes without breaking the bank on dialect coaches. Lloyd sounds nothing like Minaj, nor the Dolly Parton she bravely pledges fealty to, but weepy c&w ballad “Tonight” suggests she’s not delusional when outlining her influences. Still, no matter how elegiac a mood this 20 year old tries to set (“used to be a superwoman / now that’s over”), even the melancholic rock of “Sirens” can’t wash away disco settings as frothy as the bubblebath she’s soaking in on the cover. “I Wish” remains the standout single, T.I.’s featherweight guest verse only underscoring her admission that “clearly, I like ‘em dumb”. But kudos for following weepy ballads with fuck-flecked brat anthems like “M.F.P.O.T.Y”: “Keep it all in your pants, boy”.