Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Reading my mind.

It's as if that feature that calls up other items one might like went one step further and actually recorded an album designed to appeal: as noted in the latest DMG obligation, a newish (early 2005) album from Euro-freakout-trio The Thing (Mats Gustafsson /Ingebrigt Haker Flaten / Paal Nilssen-Love),
called Garage, from the Norwegian Smalltown Supersound label. The BBC --- no flies on them --- reviewed this thing back in January, and also offer the only sound snippets I could find (had trouble with the previews seemingly available at the Smalltown store). Out-Bad-Plussing the Bad Plus, The Thing take on the Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Artstar," the White Stripes' "Aluminum," and the Sonics' "Have Love Will Travel," which, as The Sunday Times (UK) pointed out, "has gone from obscurity, via car-advert ignominy, to experimental reinterpretation," for which I offer hearty thanks. The outfit also shows its non-garage roots with a Brotzmann cover. Bassist Flaten's site has pretty much everything you're going to need on the group. Based on the two thirty-second bits I've heard, I'm gonna have to get this soon. As a bonus, Smalltown Supersound also released a 7" single: "Artstar" b/w "Have Love Will Travel." Ebay hounds with solid actuarial tables take note. Pitchfork, too, eh?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Behind the semipopular song.

KCRW/Morning Becomes Eclectic DJ Nic Harcourt got the New York Times Magazine treatment over the weekend, a long profile that mostly reflects on how well-connected Harcourt is. No doubt he has an ear for talent --- he has my ear most days from 9 to noon PST --- which is not to say I have talent --- but six pages on the guy? And while we're talking makers/machers of semipopular music, where's the Matthew Perpetua shout-out?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Every show like it's the last one.

Sleater-Kinney at Roseland, NYC
Thursday, June 23

A simply stunning show. One of the very best I've seen them perform. Even being familiar with the new album, it was surprising just how much heavier the band sounds now. Even the old songs bennefitted from the new approach. While Corin was the star of my last S-K gig at Irving Plaza in 2004, this time it was all about Janet. Fuck the "good female drummer" bullshit and let's say it plain: she's the best drummer in rock right now, period. Yeah, Dave Grohl can sit back down. My pal Dave rightly compared her to some unholy blend of John Bonham and Keith Moon. She's kicked up her game several notches even since the last tour. Never heard her playing louder, harder, more inventively, or with such a firm grasp of dynamics. So powerful without ever showboating. Not to say that the rest of the band wasn't in fine form. Corin shredded many of the songs and even though she seemed to lose her voice a bit towards the end of the regular set, she was in full force for the last five songs of the show. I've never seen Carrie more animated - pogoing around the stage for half the show, crouching down, doing windmills and a slinky duckwalk. Her guitar playing drove the literally epic jam out of "Let's Call It Love" which was longer but much more structured, coherent, and exicting than on the album. She was feeling it - nice to see after the Irving Plaza gig where she seemed a little lost at times.

In interviews the band has been flirting with talk of breaking up the band. Corin openly wonders about retirement and Carrie's said "I play every show like its my last, because as far as I'm concerned it is." They certainly left it all on the stage last night. The good news is that they seemed to be having a good time, Corin jumping about during the jam and throwing in uncharacteristic hand gestures during "The Fox" and "Step Aside." Even if she did look a little nonplussed during Carrie's long solo during "What's Mine Is Yours." Still, it's hard to imagine why they'd want to walk away at the very top of their game.

The highlights: a never better "Light Rail Coyote" so unhingled and explosive that it made the album version sound tame; "Sympathy" which detonated like a sledgehammer and got scary in the middle shouty section; the roiling groove of "Rollercoaster"; "Faraway" also kicked up several notches from the recorded version with Janet adding new beats; a careening "Jumpers"; the taut "Everything" - still don't know why this is only a B side; the long but mind-bending jam of "Let's Call It Love" into "Entertain." The Richard & Linda Thompson cover was loud and grungy but still sweet, each of the ladies singing a chorus with Corin proving that she could be a straight torch singer if she ever chose. The encore really came alive during the last two songs - Corin belting out "Words and Guitar" with serious bravado. The crowd was amazing throughout, really into it, and refused to go away until they got a second encore. Carrie came out and dedicated the next song "to Glenn." It was Danzig's "Mother" - so metal, so perfect. You could see each of the ladies smiling at this point. The tune ended with a huge rave-up, Janet bashing the drums at light speed and then holding up her sticks in the shape of a cross, the signal for Carrie to launch into the riff for "Dig Me Out." What more could you ask for?

The setlist - pretty close to proper order:

The Fox
One More Hour
Light Rail Coyote
Modern Girl
What's Mine Is Yours
Steep Air
Let's Call It Love

1st encore:
I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
Step Aside
Words and Guitar

2nd encore:
Dig Me Out

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Savage Instrumental Stylings.

Is too much garage rock never enough? Like your music without those pesky words or vocals? Wish every guitarist played as violently as Link Wray? Always think that Dick Dale didn't use enough distortion? Do you enjoy listening to Henry Mancini at ear-splitting volumes? If you're discerning enough to answer affirmatively, then be sure not to miss the upcoming shows from The Howlin' Thurstons.

Savage instrumental rock for people who like their cocktails shaken and stirred, The Thurstons play a mix of high-octane originals and choice covers. For the last several months, they've been a fixture on Bill Kelly's legendary "Teenage Wasteland" show on WFMU. If you make the gigs, be sure to request their jaw-dropping version of the MC5's "Looking At You" and surf-inflected demolition of "Motorhead."

Friday, June 24
Pussycat Lounge
96 Greenwich Street
Show starts 8:00 PM
$10 cover, which includes free admission to the T&A downstairs
With: Repercussions, Baby Shakes, Electric Shadows, and Stalkers.

Thursday, July 28
Lakeside Lounge
162 Avenue B (btwn. 10th and 11th St.)
9:00 PM

Thursday, August 25
Lakeside Lounge
9:00 PM

If you can't make the shows, then visit the web site to hear the latest single and pick up the EP. Righteous. And we're not just shilling because we know the singer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Born to boot.

One Louder reports on the ATP Festival's "Don't Look Back" series, coming this fall. Various bands have been invited to perform a classic album live, in it's entirety:

8.30 The Stooges - Fun House - Carling Apollo Hammersmith
8.31 Dinosuar Jr. - You're Living... - Koko
9.15 The Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray - Shepherd's Bush Empire
9.16 Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff Plus Early Singles - Koko
9.17 Múm/Cat Power - Yesterday Was Dramatic.../The Covers Album - Barbican Hall
9.21 Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange - Koko
9.24 Gang of Four - Entertainment! - Barbican Hall
9.25 Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister - Barbican Hall
10.04 Melvins - Houdini - Koko
10.05 Dirty Three/Sophia - Ocean Songs/The Infinite Circle - Barbican Hall

That's some odd line-up. If you mapped out the highs and lows graphically it'd look like an EKG of a cardiac arrest.

Hard-headed woman.

Napoleon Dynamite wants to see Wanda Jackson inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because otherwise it's, you know, not an institution we can take seriously.

Your Avant Music News syndication service.

Noted at AMN:

--A long interview with Vijay Iyer at All About Jazz.

--Professor Braxton is turning sixty this year. People at Wesleyan are celebrating. This is our favorite bit: "Throughout the duration of the festival, at locations and times to be specified on this website, aspects of Braxton's music system will be performed in public spaces throughout the Wesleyan University campus, bringing his work into direct contact with the community." The community is forewarned.

--The Rova Sax Quartet has of late been inspired by Stan Brakhage's work.

--Missed the Vision Fest? Chilly's recap not enough? A program on BBC's Radio 3, Jazz on 3 with Jez Nelson, will be airing selected moments on Friday night; the feed will be available here. (Hit the radio player, and follow through to Jazz on 3.) "Featured performers include Mat Maneri, bass legend Henry Grimes and Fred Anderson."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Trapped on stage.

Carnegie Hall, Part 2. Although Wayne Shorter was clearly the headline act, he went first for some unknown reason. BIG MISTAKE. I have much respect for Dave Holland - his album Conference of the Birds is one of my all-time faves - but I wasn't optimistic that his quintet could match the transcendent performance by Shorter. Even given my diminished expectations, I was surprised by how shoddy and uncreative they were. Holland acted as if he were in a dinner club, introducing the band on three separate occasions and pointing out the soloists after every tune. "And this next selection we're pleased to perform for you good people..."

The hackneyed presentation was mirrored by the cliched approach to the music. Every tune unfolded the same way: The entire band plays the head, two people play extended solos, and then the band returns to play the head again. Start all over with different people taking the solos this time. You know, for variety. It was completely predictably, robbing the songs of all excitement and drama. No wonder kids think jazz is a moribund artform.

The players themselves were talented and had a few decent moments, but they were clearly bored with the material and each other. When one person soloed, the others in the front line (sax, trombone, vibes) would walk all the way over to the wings until that solo was finished. They mostly seemed to be checking out the audience and staring at the ceiling. The most memorable moment of the set occurred when the trombonist walked over to the stage door, eager to leave during the saxophonist's long solo. He kept tugging at the door but it was locked - trapped on stage! It was as if the audience had stumbled into a scene from an existentialist drama. Unable to leave this gaffe alone, the trombonist then walked across the entire stage - behind the band - and went to talk to the person operating the sound board on the other side. They talked in hushed tones and the sound man picked up a phone. Then the trombonist walked all the way across the stage AGAIN and stood waiting by the stage door, tappig his foot impatiently for almost two minutes until the door opened and he vanished inside. Did he forget something? Maybe his plunger or mute? But no, the trombonist reappeared about five minutes later with no new equipment and casually strode up to the front of the stage to play the final unison section with the rest of the band. He was marginally less bored during his own solo in the next tune, hamming it up at the end to juice the applause. Even my Dad was rolling his eyes at this point. We left early.


Wayne Shorter Quartet and Dave Holland Quintet - Carnegie Hall, June 17. Easily the highlight of this year's NYC JVC Jazz Festival - and I don't feel the need to attend all the shows to make that pronouncement. Wayne Shorter's quartet of Danilo Perez, Brian Blades and John Pattitucci are easily the best working band in jazz today (apologies to David S. Ware Quartet) and they've only gotten better since the blistering set I saw at Columbia three years ago. They take the complex abstractions of the Miles band circa Nefretitti and push them even further out. They erase the boundary between heads, solos, riffs, melodies, and grooves. Everyone solos and accompanies simultaneously, fluidly working between adding textures, deepening the groove, pushing the dynamics, puncturing a riff, unfurling a melodic passage. Given the absurdly high quality of the musicanship, the group is surprisingly ego-free. Their playing was all in the service of the music, reacting to the others, finding nuances within each tune, skirting cliched responses. You could feel the band pushing each other. Nobody worried about looking good. The audience didn't applaud individual solos because they were impossible to extricate from the overall musical web. But the tunes still brimmed with drama, building to unexpected climaxes, partially because you never knew where they were going next. Delicate and diffuse one moment, explosive and jagged the next. Wayne's playing was particularly striking - filled with piercing runs, eliptical pauses and odd phrasings that made your short hairs stand on end. And I had forgotten that he's simply one of the best soprano sax players ever. At 72, his playing is more fiery than ever without losing any of his abstract intellect. The spirit of both Miles and Coltrane hangs over this band, but they are blazing their own deeply challenging and quietly radical path. Catch them while you can.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dylan to play neighbor's backyard clambake.

It's all happening at the Zooid.

Avant Music News reports on the first release on the hardedge label, a live recording of Threadgill's Zooid group from September 2003. They're not going for the mass market: it's a limited run of 3,000 LPs. I guess Threadgill's back catalog isn't hard enough to get a hold of. Other artists associatied with Hard Edge productions are Sam Rivers, Roscoe Mitchell (see below), John Lurie, Muhal Richard Abrams, Leroy Jenkins, James Chance, Kip Hanrahan, and Wadada Leo Smith, so here's hoping more releases in more user-friendly formats are to come. Per the Hard Edge site, it looks like NYC residents will be able to catch the Zooid crew amid the sleek new confines of MoMA come August 21.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Warm to Hot to Not

Last night marked the start of a stunning ten days of jazz in NYC as the Vision Festival and JVC Festival overlap, offering an embarrassment of riches for the wealthy and plenty of frustration for the cash and/or time strapped. Check back for reviews and recaps of various gigs over the coming days.

June 14: the official kick off of Vision Festival X. Missed the opening invocation but made it in time to see the Henry Grimes Quartet in action. The group performed a take-no-prisoner blowing session highlighted by Andrew Lamb's muscular sax squalls, Hamid Drake's rolling percussion, and Grimes' throbbing bass lines. BTW, reports of Grimes technical diminishment may have been accurate when he first hit the scene after a 35 year absence, but they're completely untrue now. Haters beware. The entire band was in top form, but the real star was Sun Ra alum Marshall Allen on alto sax, clarinet, and some sort of electronic woodwind contraption (a black plastic thing that resembled an old telephone and squat didgeridoo) that seemed to process and tweak sounds in real time. His playing was both senstive and shredding, conjuring harmonics that many musicians don't even seem to know exist.

I only caught some of the Ellen Christi ensemble, enough to confirm my belief that free jazz vocalese is a bad idea unless your name is Jeanne Lee. In this case, the attempt was simply misguided, but nothing compared to what was to come. Before I go any further, let me stress that Chemistry Class applauds the efforts of Patricia Nicholson and the Vision Festival for their bravery and tenacity in putting together this important event. However, we can't help but mention the absolute insanity of booking acts like Bejeweled in the PRIME SLOT OF THE EVENING! This act was an artistic abomination and their placement as the de-facto headlining artist was truly unfortunate for fans forced to wait until almost midnight to see the Roscoe Mitchell-Sam Rivers band. It's hard to capture the sheer painful awfulness of Bejeweled, a trio of womyn who combine vocals, violin, flute, interpretative dance, and poetry. It was an unconscious parody of bad feminist performance art made by people who believe there is no such thing as bad feminist performance art. One woman pompously declaimed hackneyed verses about the female's plight in the kitchen while another trilled on the flute and a dancer flopped about the stage and lashed the air with red, white, and blue shawls. The execution was skilled, lacking for nothing except taste, vision, and a single unreceived idea. The audience was respectful of this strained and self-important performance -- perhaps too respectful. But afterwards, there were plenty of rolled eyeballs and heavy sighs in the aisles. When Patricia Nicholson announced "That last performance made me glad to be a woman!", my friend Bud quipped "That last performance made me want to run screaming out of here."

Fortunately, the evening was more than salvaged by WARM, a mind-boggling all-star quartet of bassist Reggie Workman, drummer Pheeroan akLaff, reedist Sam Rivers, and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell that lived up to their potential. Rivers and Mitchell wrote new material specifically for this band, highlighting both the dexterous rhythm section and their intertwining sax lines. They opened with a stop-start funky number that culminated with a winding solo by Mitchell. The second tune was a ballad that began as a duet between Mitchell and Workman, featuring a suprising amount of delicacy, space, and tart lyricism. You could hear the audience breathe as they played. This led to a Rivers solo, showing off his rich and vigorous tone. The song eventually built into an intense trance workout with Mitchell and Rivers on soprano sax and flute respectively, blowing clenched and thorny cascades of notes over a jerky groove. Then Rivers switched to soprano and Mitchell to alto and their unrelenting unison blitz raised the roof - a transcendent section that concluded with another quiet passage. AtLaff's explosive drumming occasionally overwhelmed the others, but that's a minor quibble. Overall, it was a brilliant performance, covering a vast musicial terrain in mere 45 minutes. The evening was taped by Pi Records for later release but let's hope this group continues to work together and gets into the studio. They were a potent reminder that the old vanguard of jazz - Mitchell is 65 and Rivers is 82 (!!!) - still decimates the younger generation(s) in terms of intellectual rigor, passionate playing, artistic exploration, composiotional prowess, and technical chops. All hail the old masters.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Vision Festival X needs $.

From latest DMG opus/newsletter:

Here's an important announcement from Patricia Parker-Nicholson, organizer of this astounding festival. Please read this and help out if you can.

Dear Friends of the Vision Festival

An exciting new development -- The Vision festival will take place at the historic Angel Orensanz Center for the Arts at 172 Norfolk Street, near Houston. The Orensanz is an important home for the festival, housing those early Vision Festivals in 1997, 1998 and 2001. It is the most beautiful setting, architecturally embodying the sense of community that is such an important part of the Vision Festival. It is ideal both visually and acoustically.

The festival was originally scheduled to take place at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, but this city-owned building had thought they would have a sprinkler system installed, but because of red tape was not able to do this in time for the festival.

The venue change would have not been bad. But the difference in the rental for a city owned community arts building and the rental for a chic privately owned space is just over $16,000.

So I am forced to ask you for help for this year. We are a not for profit organization and your contribution will be tax deductible.

Please let me know if you can help. This is our Tenth Year. If you would like to send us a check, please make it out to ARTS FOR ART.

Thank you,

This is the mailing address:
Patricia Nicholson Parker
Arts For Art, Inc.
508 East 6 Street #3
New York, New York 10009


172 Norfolk Street (just south of Houston)
New York City
June 14 - 19, 2005
Tickets $25 per night or $125 for festival pass (at the door)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

In walks Bruce.

The Springsteen site is nothing if not user-friendly, listing as it does the many, many tracks a concert-goer might hear on arriving at the stadium. The list ranges from several Dylan songs to, er, Woody Guthrie, but there are some mild surprises on the list (Social Distortion, Nas, Sleater-Kinney ["Promised Land," natch]), not least of which is the one track you'll hear on exiting the stadium: Four Tet's "Slow Burn." Four Tet's latest is reviewed in this week's Village Voice, btw. [orig. noted at more in the monitor]

ALSO: Four Tet review at Borrowed Tunes.
AND AGAIN: One Louder is all over Four Tet, too. He's doing an in-store next week at NYC's Other Music. So that's an Oct Tet for you.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Byrne's broadcast.

Not sure why I've taken on the job of alerting our ten readers when David Byrne's site updates its playlist, but here is June's:

Falling In Love With Jill Kotowski / Bob Schneider
Barabajagal / Donovan
Hot smoke & Sasafrass / Bubble Puppy
Talking Bout My Baby / Fatboy Slim
Shipbuilding / Robert Wyatt
At last I am free / Robert Wyatt
Otto E Mezzo / Nino Rota
Secret Heart / Feist
Layin' Stones / The Barbers
Terrible Angels / CocoRosie
To cry about / Mary Margaret o'Hara
Galang (Radio Edit) / M.I.A.
It Takes More (Bloodshy Main Mix) / Ms. Dynamite
Follow me follow me / Tejo, Black alien & Speed
Senhorinha / Guinga
Mona Lisa / Nat King Cole
It Never Entered My Mind / Julie London
Concrete Pie / Bob Schneider
Go It Alone / Beck
Missing / Beck
Inho, Inho / Lucas Santtana
Pitada De Tabaco / Riachão
Call Mr. Lee / Television
Misterioso / Thelonious Monk
A Eme O / Andrea Echeverri
Guia de cego / Guinga
Slash Dot Dash / Fatboy Slim
Things Change / Elymental
Bonito Y Sabroso / Beny More
Wrecking Ball / Emmylou Harris
Good Friday / CocoRosie
Not For Sale / CocoRosie
Kitchen / ACO
The Modern Things / Björk
Para Viver Um Grande Amor / Toquinho & Vinicius
Essa Menina / Toquinho & Vinicius
Wonderful / The Beach Boys
Peach Trees / Rufus Wainwright
People Power in the Disco Hour / Cornershop
Trio Mocoto / Various Artists
Ara-Kêtu / Paulinho Arakêto
Zumbi / Jorge Ben
A Namorada / Carlinhos Brown
Furious Angel / Rob Dougan

There's a lot of great folk and folkish stuff on the program now; I especially enjoy the three CocoRosie tracks, about whom I know next-to-nothing. For some reason, Fatboy Slim sounds really over on this mix. Anyway, enjoy this mostly SFW assembly.

Less cowbell.

Films with Vision (Fest).

In association with next week's Vision Fest [final schedule], NYC's Anthology Film Archives is this weekend screening several free jazz-related movies. Scroll down this schedule and look for "VISION FESTIVAL FILM SERIES" under Saturday and Sunday's listings.

Note, if you haven't already, the change in venue: all music will be performed at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts, 172 Norfolk Street, NYC.

Things you can do when you start your own record label.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Lost Rock Classics

Check out author Dennis Cooper's list of great forgotten rock classics. I haven't heard any of these albums and only know that a few of them were highlighted in The Wire's "Albums That Set the World On Fire (When Nobody Was Looking)" issue a number of years back. Anyone have any feedback or recommendations about them?

Shoulda Been There

Listing your favorite live shows is a bit obnoxious, but I figure everyone loves a good Top 10 list. Besides I already posted a less thoughtful version of this elsewhere. Not that anyone asked, but here are the rock n roll concerts that flipped my wig most totally. (Limit one per act)

1. Mongrel Bitch w/The Hat Brothers and Sheep Shit (Gargoyle, NYC 1993)
2. Iggy Pop w/Mano Negro (The Rialto, Raleigh, NC 1990)
3. The Raincoats (Maxwells, Hoboken, NJ 1994)
4. The Dog-Faced Hermans (Maxwells 1994)
5. Sleater-Kinney w/Modest Mouse and Unwound (The Cooler, NYC 1996)
6. PJ Harvey w/Tricky (The Academy, NYC 1995)
7. Sonic Youth w/Social Distortion and Neil Young (Dean Dome, Chapel Hill, NC 1991)
8. The Mekons (Maxwells 1997)
9. Yo La Tengo (Cat's Cradle, Carborro, NC 1995)
10. The Swinging Neckbreakers (Maxwells 1994)

HONORABLE MENTONS: The Archers of Loaf w/Picasso Trigger and Motorolla (Cat's Cradle 1992); The Ex (Knitting Factory, NYC 2004); David Thomas and 2 Pale Boys w/Linda Thompson (Knitting Factory 1999); Fugazi (Roseland, NYC 1993); Nirvana w/The Breeders and Half Japanese (Stabler Arena, Allentown, PA, 1993); Pavement (Irving Plaza, NYC 1994); Rocket From the Tombs (Village Underground, NYC 2002); Bob Dylan (Trocadero, Philadelphia, 1998); Wire (Irving Plaza 2001); Wilco (Randall's Island, NY 1997); Richard Thompson (Maxwells 1999); Television (Cat's Cradle 1991). And lastly, the show that did the most permanent damage to my hearing: Ice-T and Body Count (Cat's Cradle 1992). My heartfelt thanks to all.

Eno Sings!

It's not exactly Garbo Smiles, but hey it's been 25 years since the man's last proper song album. Of course that's not counting his collaboration with John Cale in the early '90s or the wisely shelved-before-release My Squelchy Life in the late '80s. Still, there are some heavy expectations resting on Another Day On Earth, which may or may not be met, depending on whether you believe this British review of the album. Seems wise to expect Before And After Science, not Here Come the Warm Jets. And wondering why Eno decided to return to his songwriting roots and start using, y'know, words? This interview explains all - including his upcoming gig producing - no, really - Paul Simon!

Although Eno has steered clear of the Roxy Music reunion, he has been taking it to the stage recently, playing a series of gigs with Algerian punk rai musician Rachid Taha. Click here for a review of one show where Eno and Taha rocked the Casbah in St. Petersburg. And if you want to know more about Taha, I can highly recommend checking out Made in Medina.