Rhapsody Streamnotes: May 15, 2012

As I recall, just before May 1, when I looked to see how many records I had piled up in my draft file, I counted sixteen. Looks like 58 now, so the vast majority have come in the two week overhang from the month start. My practice is to wait until A Downloader's Diary runs: for one thing he feeds me valuable hints along the way, Rusko being a prime example.

What follows is mostly stuff that at least seemed to have some potential. I haven't much felt like listening to things just because they excite the rock crit mainstream -- Jack White is one example, Rufus Wainwright is another, and then there are things like Chairlift and Tindersticks and Father John Misty that can wait. Also waiting are some hip-hop downloads -- I'm still not much good at snagging them, and unpacking them is a nuissance, after which I have to use a different program to play them, whereas just streaming is so easy and clutter-free. The result is delay, implicit here by the lack of new ones, more explicitly by the fact that I finally got around to the Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj joints I grabbed more or less two years ago. (And I still have some even earlier Weezy CDRs.)

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on April 10. Past reviews and more information are available here.

Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls (2012, ATO): From Athens, AL, not in the same league as Athens, GA, but closer to Muscle Shoals. Assumed the band was white, but mistook the singer for male given how extreme the Otis Redding affectation was (switching occasionally to Mick Jagger when the latter could be made to sound more black), but the name is Brittany Howard, and judging from pics if she isn't female she's good at impersonating that too (could pass for black, too). Maybe half the songs hold all the concepts together, including the one about not expecting to live to 22. Athens, AL must really suck. B+(**)

Amadou & Mariam: Folila (2012, Nonesuch): Since Mali's "blind couple" have become such international celebrities, their music has thickened up with guests and production help, and seamlessly flows French and English into their native Bambara. I haven't begun to sort this out -- the booklet looks informative if only one could read it, a task well beyond my eyes -- so I just go with the flow, which is well nigh inexorable. A- [cd]

Ballister: Bastard String (2010 [2011], self-released): Free sax trio, with two-fifths of the Vandermark 5 -- saxophonist Dave Rempis squalling and squawking, Fred Lonberg-Holm filling the cracks with cello and electronics and taking the album's most impressive solo slot -- plus fellow traveller Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Live improv, three long cuts, last one rocks out. B+(***) [dl]

Gary Bartz: Coltrane Rules: Tao of a Musical Warrior (2012, Oyo): Don't have the song credits but whatever Coltane didn't write didn't fall far from the tree. Quartet -- aside from Rene McLean's guest shot -- with Barney McAll in the Tyner hot seat, the leader's alto sax picks up Coltrane's nuances and as often as not pushes them even harder and faster. The other guest is Andy Bey, singing "Dear Lord" -- remarkably, of course. B+(***)

Rick Berlin: Paper Airplane (2010, Hi-N-Dry): Boston-based singer-songwriter, b. 1945 as Richard Gustave Kinscherf III in Sioux City, IA, went to Yale, had a band in the 1970s called Orchestra Luna, others since then (like Berlin Airlift and The Shelley Winters Project), trying out Rick Berlin: The Movie in 1985, finally normalizing it c. 2000. "If I Wasn't Such a Bum" hits home for me; maybe "I Wish I could Talk with My Dad" too, or maybe that's too close. Waxes profane, but runs out of juice in the end. Guess we all do. B+(**)

Eric Bibb: Deeper in the Well (2011 [2012], Stony Plain): Bluesman, started out on New York's folk scene and wound up in Helsinki, quietly compiling a catalogue of thirty-some albums. Similar approach to Taj Mahal but without the gravel in his voice, do he often seems slight, but nearly all of the songs here connect, and he takes to heart the one that insists that if you're not movin' up you're sinking down. A-

Jim Black Trio: Somatic (2011 [2012], Winter & Winter): One of my favorite drummers, with a small stack of records under his name (often as AlasNoAxis), plus he's worked regularly with Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Dave Douglas (Tiny Bell Trio), Ellery Eskelin, Satoko Fujii, Assif Tsahar, and many others. This one is a trio with Thomas Morgan on bass and a young (b. 1990) Austrian named Elias Stemeseder making his debut on piano. He makes a strong impression, especially with a lot of left-hand rumble which makes this more percussive than most piano trios, but also on some tricky free sparring. B+(***)

Paul Burch: Words of Love: Songs of Buddy Holly (2011, Perfect Sounds): Country-ish singer, eight albums since 1998, was trying to find his new album with the Waco Brothers and noticed this wasn't too old. Figured at first he should have no trouble doing Buddy Holly better than last year's two big tribute albums, but this turns out to be as superfluous and redundant. Not sure if I've heard anyone add an interesting spin to Holly since Bryan Ferry (These Foolish Things, 1973). Never heard anyone sing Holly better than he did himself, although I suppose the Beatles came close, and I heard the Rolling Stones do "Not Fade Away" before I knew any better. B

Clark: Iradelphic (2012, Warp): Chris Clark, since 2006 just Clark, sixth album since 2012. He's got an interesting arsenal of sounds, but makes a sort of pastiche music that is about equally likely to annoy and delight -- not a good ratio. B

Elise Davis: Cheap Date (2011, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, from Little Rock, moved to Nashville in 2011 after a couple self-released albums, and came out with another. Nice girl trying to find her way, not really able to invoke the anger of "Make the Kill," nor get down and out enough for "I Get Awful Lonesome," but does offer good advice on "Let Those Bad Thoughts Die" -- twice, the "on the porch" version preferred for its stripped down directness. B+(*)

De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present . . . First Serve (2012, Duck Down): Concept album, stitched together by skits, something about making it in the rap life. My first impression is that the music runs so far ahead of the story the latter doesn't matter, with the beat so pervasive not even the skits can break the flow (well, except for the drug-taking cough bit). A-

Death Grips: The Money Store (2012, Epic): Hardcore rap group, got some notice for last year's mixtape and cashed in with this major label joint; "hard and heartless" I said last time, let's add humorless here too, which keeps this from being confused with a Beastie Boys move. (Inadvertent humor is another matter; cf. "I've Seen Footage.") Key lyric: "fuck that"; alternatively, "we got all the coconuts, bitch!" B+(*)

Amadou Diagne: Introducing Amadou Diagne (2012, World Music Network): From Senegal, born into "a large Griot family of Sabar drummers," plays kora-like guitar and percussion and sings, for a fairly minimal sound, stretched out over 60 minutes so you get your money's worth. B+(*)

Disappears: Pre Language (2012, Kranky): Chicago group, punk formalists on their first two short albums (29:03 and 30:57), added Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley this time and stretched out to 35:38 on 9 songs. The guitar crunch reminds me of a 1980s band called the Perfect Disaster, the singer a little more basso like Joy Division. Don't know about lyrics, but 80%, maybe more, of this sounds awesome. A-

Justin Townes Earle: Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (2012, Bloodshot): Steve Earle's son, fifth album, you expect something country-ish and rockier, but he's more of a traveling minstrel, wandering to New York and wondering why he left. Short enough (30:22) a more substantial artist would have called this an EP, but for now economy is a virtue. B+(*)

Ruthie Foster: Let It Burn (2012, Blue Corn Music): Blues? Folk? Mostly gospel, with church organ and choirs, which makes an awful mess out of "Ring of Fire" but turns out the steeliest "If I Had a Hammer" in eons. Then there's "Titanic," which prooves the Lord moves in mysterious ways, but also suggests he's one mischievous Supreme Being -- or am I reading too much into the chill of the depths? B+(*)

François and the Atlas Mountains: E Volo Love (2012, Domino): French chansonnier, based since 2003 in Bristol, slips some English in with the French, using both effectively. Music has a light, airy feel, a bit of strings, some synth. The reference to the range that separates coastal Algeria and Morocco from the Sahara shows some effort to look beyond Europe, but has scant chance of them going native. B+(***)

Bill Frisell: The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved (2012, 429): Actually, the name on the cover is Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote the text for Scanlan's in 1970, but Frisell composed the music, and the other main contenders are producer Hal Willner and Tim Robbins, who reads Thompson's narration, with other voices for other characters, especially illustrator Ralph Steadman. Frisell's "Entr'acte" is a charming piece of music, but most of the rest is buried under the words, with a protective layer of too many horns and strings -- maybe we should credit the thing to Willner? Not as funny as it once was, let alone should be, for in the end the decadent and depraved turn out to have been the authors, although the "swinish Neo-Nazi hack" of a governor was no doubt real. B

Kenny Garrett: Seeds From the Underground (2012, Mack Avenue): First cut ("Boogety Boogety") is superfast, powered with bata drums; second ("J. Mac") even faster, threatening to blow a gasket, although Benito Gonzalez does a terrific job of keeping up on piano. As long as the band can keep up the pace, the leader blows some hellacious alto sax, but slow it down and this loses interest, especially when they're aiming for more torque (although the straightforward "Ballad Jarrett" is quite lovely). The voices (on a couple cuts) are annoying, and the soprano sax is superfluous. I got to this on a day I previously graded three other mainstream sax albums A-; without such lapses, this could have been a fourth. B+(**)

Gift of Gab: The Next Logical Progression (2012, Quannum Projects): The wordsmith from Blackalicious, beats have a rather simplistic wavelike form, plenty of up and down, which is all he really needs to appeal to "the dreamer in you." B+(**)

Gotye: Making Mirrors (2011 [2012], Universal Republic): Wally de Backer, b. 1980 in Belgium, raised in Australia, has a couple previous records. Lush electropop, didn't get much out of it. B

Ray Wylie Hubbard: The Grifter's Hymnal (2012, Bordello): Country singer from Oklahoma, never got close to Nashville, back in the 1970s styling his band as the Cowboy Twinkies, his discography showing a 16-year lapse between Off the Wall and Loco Gringos Lament, and has only gotten older and more grizzled since then. His 2010 album denied any middle ground between enlightenment and its opposite, which he called endarkenment. Here he reaches for his Bible, not because he believes in it so much as to scare the bejesus out of you, finding the Devil working for God, counting our sinful selves luckier than Lazarus. Counts his blessings, trims his expectations, sticks with blues licks, likes straightahead rock and roll. A-

Norah Jones: Little Broken Hearts (2012, Blue Note): A breakup album, possibly why she's never looked sexier on the cover, but without latching onto the lyrics -- and I do have trouble doing that -- the mood strikes me as more balmy desert isle, something she sings exquisitely. B

Kool A.D.: 51 (2012, Greedhead/Mishka): Victor Vazquez, also in Das Racist, his solo joint falls farther from the tree than Himanshu's Nehru Jackets did, and scatters more to the wind. Samples range from Bob Dylan to Huey Newton, the latter from a different era but a strangely familiar place. B+(**)

Lil Wayne: No Ceilings (2010, self-released): Of the dozens of Weezy mixtapes, the only reason I glommed onto this one was that Christgau singled it out, and even then it's been sitting unexamined on the computer for a couple years now. (I have a couple more on CDR that are even older, so some day I need to dig them out.) This is long, the word flow pretty amazing all the way through, the beats fine too, unidentified guests are assets, none indispensible. If this is a loss leader, why does it feel so much more satisfying than his product (Tha Carter III included)? A- [dl]

Lower Dens: Nootropics (2012, Ribbon Music): Baltimore group, second album, first one had a pronounced Velvets feel, this one less so -- as if they've tried to move on to New Order but couldn't make the leap and fell into the doldrums. B+(*)

Spoek Mathambo: Nombolo One (2011, Motel 11 Roadtrip Tapes): Gave Father Creeper a single spin before Christgau and others praised it in print, and I recall it as a stylistic jumble -- I had actually started writing about the indie guitars but then the album turned all keyboardy, and while I hadn't heard much of interest a late cut should at least have prodded a replay. Sooner or later I will have to revisit it, but the one later time I replayed it wasn't conclusive. Main problem seems to be that I can't relate what he does to anything I know about South African music, and that remains true even here: a mixtape described as "tribute to classic south african tunes by such great artists as Phuzekhemisi, Brenda Fassie, Letta Mbuli, Caiphus Semenya, BOP, Jack Knife, Chiskop, Sankomota, Mahlathini, Ladysmith Black Mambazo" -- don't know most of those names, and don't recognize the ones I do, but some sort of groove does creep in. B+(**)

Miguel: Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1 (2012, self-released, EP): Soul voice, soft and whiney, like Weeknd at his alleged worst. Only three cuts, the first of three like-titled EPs. In pre-download days they would probably have packed them together into one mediocre LP, but this way I can cut my losses. (Too bad the streaming site automatically looped, so I didn't even get the benefit of brevity.) B- [dl]

Nicki Minaj: Beam Me Up Scotty (2009, Trapaholics): Her third mix tape, arguably the one that put her on her star track, but much more narrowly a rap record than even the first of her two studio efforts. Hard beats, quick flow, lots of guests (none eclipse her), runs on for 75 minutes (but so tight editing it down to 45 minutes is unlikely to markedly improve it -- although it might make the prospect of future play less daunting). Two studio albums later, I'm not sure whether this is the road not taken, or just her bona fides before branching out. B+(***) [dl]

Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012, Universal Republic): The hardest working girl in hip-hop business, made it to the Super Bowl this year as an extra but will be fronting the show before the Black Eyed Peas get invited back. Second studio joint, 19 cuts on the budget edition, 22 on the deluxe, but would have been more impressive dialed back to 14 -- good chance there's an A album in here somewhere, but it's too doped and delirious to sort itself out, and who knows what sort of entanglements the hot shot guests add? A-

Miniature Tigers: Mia Pharoah (2012, Modern Art): Cheesy pop band from Brooklyn, fun as long as they keep it upbeat. B+(*)

Marisa Monte: O Que Você Quer Saber de Verdade (2010-11 [2012], Blue Note): Brazilian pop star, has at least nine albums since 1989 (including the one-shot supergroup Tribalistas), selling a million copies per (although not lately). This takes a while to find its groove, in part by hacking through the jungle undergrowth of strings, but when it does little else matters. B+(**)

Kip Moore: Up All Night (2012, Mercury Nashville): Nashville singer-songwriter, first album, has a piece of eleven songs but got help with all of them. Tries to get by on beer and sex, which he figures are pretty interchangeable: "you got the kiss that tastes like honey/and I got a little beer money." At one point thinks about joining the Peace Corps, but is distracted by a girl in the airport. Theme for that song: "just don't give up on me yet/I'm still growin' up." B+(*)

Ted Nash: The Creep (2012, Plastic Sax): Can't find song credits here, so I'm confused why reviewers like to refer this back to Ornette Coleman -- I guess the two-horn (Nash on alto sax, Ron Horton on trumpet) pianoless lineup is something, but a postbop exemplar like Nash would necessarily subsume Coleman as well as Parker and McLean and everyone in between. Still, a tour de force, and Horton rises to the challenge. A-

Willie Nelson: Heroes (2012, Legacy): After several recent bounces, newly signed to a reissues label, his first album there a hodge-podge that looks like it started out intending to be a superstar duets album but wound up settling for Lukas Nelson on 8 of 14 cuts, and Jamey Johnson on two. Aside from Snoop Dogg on "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" the high points are deep in the tradition: two Bob Wills songs, Merle Haggard as Waylon Jennings, and most of all Ray Price on "Cold War With You." B+(**) [cd]

NZCA/Lines: NZCA/Lines (2012, Loaf): Don't know anything about this anonymous-sounding soft soul group, just an easy self-satisfied groove. B+(*)

OFF!: OFF! (2012, Vice, EP): Wikipedia sez: "OFF! is a well-known insect repellant brand from S.C. Johnson and Son and produced in Finland." They spell the "American hardcore punk supergroup" "Off!" -- guess that teaches me for following the non-canonical upper case. By the time I finished writing the above I was already half way (eight cuts) into their 16-cut debut album, but it only runs for 15:44 -- an EP by my books, but their real first album ran 18:08 (also 16 cuts) and was presented as The First Four EPs. Still, shouldn't complain about the brevity: the most super of the group, shouter Keith Morris, started out in the Circle Jerks, and they always went on too long. Adding some capable musicians makes the shtick work, and you really wouldn't want to listen to them for 60 minutes straight. B+(***)

One Direction: Up All Night (2012, Syco/Columbia): Brit boy band (OK, British-Irish), tied to Simon Cowell's contest show and label -- seems like a scam (err, conflict of interest) if anyone cares. Enjoyably upbeat album, no smashes but engagingly programable filler. B+(*)

William Parker/Gianni Lenoci/Vittorino Curci/Marcello Magliocchi: Serving Evolving Humanity (2010, Silta): Free jazz "suite" in three parts, a little over 50 minutes. Parker's bass is a factory of sound, and pianist Lenoci starts with a Tayloresque explosion of notes, although when the slow it down he's equally dazzling -- his is a name you should take note of. The sax and drums are less notable, nor does it help when Curci opts to make his noise by grunting through a megaphone. B+(**)

Pepe Deluxé: Queen of the Wave (2012, Catskills): Finnish group, dates back to 1999 with records every 4-5 years since. This is billed as an "esoteric pop opera in three parts" -- probably means they're full of shit, but they throw so many different looks at you that much of it is dazzling. One advantage of trying to judge on one play is that I haven't begun to sort it out, so everything still seems possible. B+(**)

Gregory Porter: Be Good (2011 [2012], Motema): Jazz singer, at least by positioning -- in front of Chip Crawford's flashy piano, flanked by horn players like Keyon Harrold and Tivon Pennicott. (If you don't recognize those name, especially the latter, you should.) He can scat, but rarely genuflects as has been the style from early vocalese through Kurt Elling. He also writes most of his material, and can come across as a slightly squarish soul singer. Thus far I'm more impressed than pleased. B

Quakers: Quakers (2012, Stones Throw): Synthetic hip-hop group, scads of mostly obscure guest rappers on 41 short rhythm tracks by producers Fuzzface (Portishead DJ Geoff Barrow), Katalyst (Ashley Anderson), and 7-Stu-7 (Stuart Matthews). Mostly has an old school vibe, strictly business. Sticklers on consistency could gripe, but the bits that are less than great are short too. B+(***)

Quantic & Alice Russell: Look Around the Corner With the Combo Bárbaro (2012, Tru Thoughts): Quantic is Will Holland, I guess you'd call him a producer, has at least eleven albums since 2001 (including four with a live group he calls the Quantic Soul Orchestra). Russell is a UK diva with four records (plus some remixes) since 2004. Together they go for a Latin vibe too subtle to grab me, but seductive enough to amuse. B+(*)

Bonnie Raitt: Slipstream (2012, Redwing): Six or seven years since her last record. She's pretty much given up on writing -- only one co-credit on twelve songs, none staples or classics, not even the two Dylan, others from Joe Henry, various Bramletts and Brambletts. Makes up ground on performance: sharp band, fine voice, nice little details like a couple Bill Frisell spots. B+(**)

Arrica Rose & the . . .'s: Let Alone Sea (2011, Poprock): Pronounce that "the dot dot dots." Singer-songwriter with a band to help out, soft-toned songs that don't sound like much of anything, nice enough it's hard to be harsh. B [cd]

Rusko: Songs (2012, Mad Decent/Downtown): British DJ, Christopher Mercer, second album, puts the dub back in dubstep -- at least in the early going, eventually branching out and finding other interesting twists and turns. A-

John K. Samson: Provincial (2012, Epitaph): Canadian singer-songwriter, has fronted a couple bands (Propagandhi, The Weakerthans) before this debut. Has a bit of the deadpan songcraft of Magnetic Fields and Mountain Goats, but really comes alive on "When I Write My Master Thesis" and sustains interest most of the way out, even when he's writing about hockey. B+(***)

Santigold: Master of Make-Believe (2012, Atlantic): Santi White, previously d/b/a Santogold, adjusting her name after her eponymous 2008 debut. I never connected with that album, and had the same instinct here, but there are at least a half dozen songs here that bounce harder than her cold voice would allow -- the sort of thing that could grow on you if given time. B+(***)

Darrell Scott: Long Ride Home (2012, Full Light): Country singer-songwriter, son of Wayne Scott (who had an album I recommend in 2005, This Weary Way), has had more success writing than singing but is up to seven albums now. Some songs do a nice job of detailing ordinary life, but some are overly slick or listless or just plain uninteresting. Could be cut down to a pretty decent album. B

Spiritualized: Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (2012, Fat Possum): Guitarist John Coxon occasionally shows up on Thirsty Ear records as J. Spaceman, a nod to the group's pre-history, and a hint of interest in jazz and/or electronica that doesn't get much play in the arena. Still, more feedback than usual on, except on the hymn they call "Freedom" -- the only time they get something out of the organ, but not the only hymn. Title didn't make it to the cover, which just says "Huh?" B-

S/S/S: Beak & Claw (2012, Anticon, EP): One-shot download only EP, 4 songs, 18 minutes. The S's stand for popmeister Sufjan Stevens, alt-rapper Serengeti, and drum 'n' bassmaker Son Lux. I initially took the lush opener as a clue to file this under Stevens, but Serengeti's dinosaur museum rap won out. Even more winning is the closer, "Octomom," which claims last night to have been "the time of my life." B+(***) [bc]

Standard Fare: Out of Sight, Out of Town (2011 [2012], Melodic): English group, rocks harder than their debut, which makes it all the harder to sort out the two voices, their stories, where they're coming from, where they're going. And that seems to matter; just not to me. B+(**)

Steep Canyon Rangers: Nobody Knows You (2012, Rounder): Bluegrass group, seventh album since 2001, an obscurity broken when Steve Martin tapped them for his backup band on last year's Rare Bird Alert. Their music could hardly be more conventional, and their love songs explore every flavor of trite from "I may never be this easy to love again" to "love is a natural disaster." On the other hand, the bitter childhood Graham Sharp details in "Ungrateful One" is little short of shocking. If autobiographical, it sounds like he failed to escape. B-

The Ting Tings: Sounds From Nowheresville (2012, Columbia): British duo, Katie White and Jules de Marco where singer White owns all the writing credits. Second album, one of the worst reviewed this year, which makes me wonder why mainstream rock crit has become so dour and mopey -- we're talking, after all, about a consensus that currently has Andrew Bird, Grimes, Spirtualized, and Sharon Van Etten in its top ten. Too punk for dance pop -- 30 years ago this would have been slotted as new wave, "Guggenheim" a punk throwback to the Shangri-Las, but just one possible vector for a group that doesn't have a fixed direction -- probably why they confuse critics so. [I actually listened to the Deluxe Edition, which extends the 10-cut, 33:59 album to 19-cuts and 72:28 with remixes and a dull outtake, "Ain't Got Shit"; too much of the same thing, although the dorky Shook Remix of "Hang It Up" is fun.] B+(***)

Caetano Veloso and David Byrne: Live at Carnegie Hall (2004 [2012], Nonesuch): A legend in Brazil and his most conspicuous fan in the US, on the latter's home turf, which tilts the playing field severely. Veloso opens solo, adding musicians one by one up through cut six, after which Byrne enters, taking over for a stretch of seven songs, half old warhorses ("And She Was," "Life During Wartime," "Road to Nowhere"). Last five cuts they trade songs and lines. Not oil and water, but they don't combine in ways that advance either case. B

Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now (2012, 2nd Story Sound): Opening lines: "The strangest story ever told/ Was how I got to be this old." The song expands on that story, and the rest of the album keeps returning to it, haunted by the ghosts (er, memories) of his father, who died before reaching 65, the old age Loudon moans about. But age is one subject Loudon can sink his teeth into, not that he didn't have to get there to do that. After all: "But here's another song in C/ With my favorite protagonist - me." A

Joe Louis Walker: Hellfire (2012, Alligator): Blues veteran, 20+ albums since he emerged as a fiery guitar slinger back in 1986. Hasn't let the grind wear him down, but overcompensates by cranking up the volume and shouting over that, and overcompensating for his mortality with God songs -- "Soldier for Jesus" is the worst, but burns with the same intensity of everything else. The best is "Movin' On," but Hank Snow wrote that, and it can stand the heat. B+(*)

M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion (2012, Merge): A singer-songwriter with good song sense makes a nice, easily listenable album; gets a lot of help from his friends, not that he needs any of them. B+(*)


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Allo Darlin': Europe (Slumberland)
  • Don't Talk to the Cops: Let's Quit (Greedhead)
  • Keiji Haino/Jim O'Rourke/Oren Ambarchi: Imikuzushi (Black Truffle)
  • Julia Holter: Ekstasis (RVNG)
  • Georgia Anne Muldrow/Madlib: Seeds (SomeOthaShip)
  • Sidi Touré: Koïma (Thrill Jockey)

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:

Gerry Beaudoin: The Return (2011 [2012], Francesca): Journeyman swing guitarist with a handful-plus of albums since 1992, teams up here with tenor saxophonist Harry Allen -- a bit more subdued than usual, but he advances the rhythm with style and grace. [was: B] B+(**) [cd]

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Remi Álvarez/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: First Duet Live (2010 [2012], JaZt Tapes): Avant saxophonist from Mexico, not sure how much he has produced but I am fond of his duo with bassist Mark Dresser. Recorded in Austin, where Flaten has established a base, three improv duos tend to ride rough but are most satisfying at their most moderate. B+(*) [bc]

Albert Ammons & Meade Lux Lewis: The First Day (1939 [1992], Blue Note): The label became synonymous with hard bop in the mid-1950s, but started here, on Jan. 6, 1939, with Alfred Lion recording two boogie woogie piano giants; mostly solos -- nine by Ammons, eight by Lewis -- and some are tentative, but they give a good accounting of the pianists' power and twinkle, and they team up for two blitzkrieg duets. B+(***)

Albert Ammons: Boogie Woogie Stomp (1938-39 [1998], Delmark): Ammons gets the big print on the cover -- presumably the Chicago man on the Chicago label -- but the fine print credits Meade Lux Lewis (6 cuts) and Pete Johnson (2); mostly live, with the attendant patter a distraction, but the piano sparkles. B+(***)

Atomic: Feet Music (2001, Jazzland): First album by the long-running Norwegian group: Magnus Broo (trumpet), Fredrik Ljungkvist (tenor/soprano sax), Håvard Wiik (piano), Flaten, and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums); ranges from a piano-led ballad ("Longing for Martin") to funk with horn breaks ("Do It") to free-flying chaos ("Den Flyktiga Magneten"), and back again, as if everything were possible. B+(***) [bc]

Atomic: Boom Boom (2002 [2003], Jazzland): Second album, an especially strong outing for trumpeter Magnus Broo, with more of Håvard Wiik's eloquent piano; nothing very far out, just a group with a lot of ideas and talent. B+(***) [bc]

Atomic: Happy New Ears! (2005 [2006], Jazzland): The Magnus Broo-Fredrik Ljungkvist quintet, going through a phase where mostly they slowly paint tones and admire the colors, which does draw the bass up in the mix; not all they do, of course -- Wiik gets out ahead and runs with it, but the barnburners fizzle. B+(*) [bc]

Atomic: Retrograde (2007-08 [2008], Jazzland, 2CD): Originally released in a 3-CD box along with Live in Seattle, but broken apart for digital purposes, leaving 2 studio discs, 96:49 of backard-looking new music, the sort of thing they've been doing all along, but so much it starts to cancel itself out. B+(**) [bc]

Atomic: Live in Seattle (2008, Jazzland): Live set, originally released as part of the Retrograde box, now broken out. Four (of six) cuts repeat from Retrograde, a bit rougher, of course. B+(*) [bc]

Atomic: Theater Tilters Vol. 1 (2009 [2010], Jazzland): Starts rousing, but settles into a norm which nicely showcases the individual talents without toppling things over; "Bop Apart" is a gas, but they shut it down at 3:26, whereas everything else drags out to 9-11 minutes. B+(**) [bc]

Atomic: Theater Tilters Vol. 2 (2009 [2010], Jazzland): Having encounted this group initially on their mash-ups with Ken Vandermark's School Days -- joined at bass and drums by Flaten and Nilssen-Love -- I figured them to be noisier than their remarkably balanced albums proved to be, but here at least they bring the volume (and the pace) up a level, and that works for them, especially in front of a crowd. B+(***) [bc]

Atomic: Here Comes Everybody (2011, Jazzland): After a decade, every player can hold his own in other bands, which makes their occasional reunions less essential, more haphazard, kicking the noise up a notch while losing detail -- just everybody coming at you, which they have the talent to do. B+(**) [bc]

Raoul Björkenheim/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: Scorch Trio (2002, Rune Grammofon): Guitar-bass-drums trio, aptly named as the guitar builds up feedback, but sometimes the bass generates as much noise, and the drummer can always make himself heard. A- [bc] [Later: B+(***)]

Black Truth Rhythm Band: Ifetayo (1976 [2011], Soundway): One-shot album from Trinidad, not fluid enough for callypso -- perhaps one could say it compares to soca as nyahbinghi to reggae, but it's possible that I'm confusing primitivism with lack of skills; still, singer Oluko Imo moved on to the employ of Fela Kuti, and as a piece of pan-Africanism this finds its truths. B+(**)

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: Reknes (2008 [2009], Circulasione Totale): A set from the Molde Jazz Festival where cornet player Bradford finds a very compatible Norwegian pick-up band, paired off against Gjerstad's sax and clarinet; free improv, the four sections simply numbered, Bradford impressive from the start, Gjerstad closes in. B+(***) [bc]

Circulasione Totale Orchestra: Open Port (2008 [2009], Circulsasione Totale): Large improv group dating back to 1984, the main constant and presumed leader Frode Gjerstad (sax, clarinets), 13 strong here -- some name players here: Bobby Bradford, Sabir Mateen, Kevin Norton, Louis Moholo-Moholo -- including guitar, tuba, vibes. An improv in four parts, a lot of percussive thrash, Lasse Marhaug's electronics, always something new happening. B+(**) [bc]

Close Erase: Close Erase (1995 [1996], Nor CD): Piano trio, with Per Oddvar Johansen on drums and future ECM regular Christian Wallumrød on piano. Flaten jumps right in and keeps the bass in the center of the flow, the piano responding as sharper and more oblique. B+(***) [bc]

Close Erase: No. 2 (1998 [1999], Nor CD): Flaten wrote two songs, and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen three, but this piano trio set is more characteristic of Christian Wallumrød than the group's debut. Piano out front, featuring tight melodic lines, with the bass and drums falling neatly into the new order. B+(**) [bc]

Close Erase: Dance This (2001, BP): On this piano trio's second album, Christian Wallumrød seemed to be heading toward where he would wind up on ECM, but this is a radical detour unlike anything else in his discography: electric keyboards, Fender bass, drum machines. The two-part title cut is a dare, far wilder than any jazztronica I can recall. The four-part "Zoo Zolitude" eases up on the pace but doesn't go easy. A- [bc]

The Electrics: Chain of Accidents (2000 [2001], Ayler): Free jazz quartet, two horns -- Sture Ericson (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Axel Dørner (trumpet, slide trumpet) -- in front of Flaten on bass and Raymond Strid on drums. The horns rarely fly apart or play in synch; more often they grate against each other, a rat-a-tat the rhythm plays off of. B+(*) [bc]

Element: Element (1996, Turn Left Production): Sax-piano-bass-drums quartet, with Gisle Johansen on soprano and tenor, backed by the Wiik/Flaten/Nilssen-Love rhythm section; Wiik makes a strong impression here, with solid comping and some flash in his solos, and Johansen is always pushing and prodding -- wonder why he hasn't had more of a career? B+(***) [bc]

Element: Shaman (1998 [1999], BP): Sextet, adds two more front-line horns -- Petter Wettere (saxes) and Vidar Johansen (bass clarinet) -- to Gisle Johansen's sax quartet, adding harmonics and depth without thrashing or dimming the free jazz feistiness; pianist Wiik helps steady the group, but his solos are more conventionally melodic. B+(***) [bc]

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Double Bass (2002-03 [2003], Sofa): Solo bass record, a rite of passage for all avant-garde bassists, even though the instrument limits the prospects. Some arco, but doesn't dwell on it, and doesn't knock the box about for a bit of percussion. Rather, he sticks with the fat notes that give the bull fiddle its inate musicality. B+(**) [bc]

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Quintet: Quintet (2005 [2006], Jazzland): On Flaten's first shot at a group record, he adds compatible string instruments -- Ola Kvernberg's violin and mandolin, Anders Hana's guitar -- which shoots the trajectory of his bass riffs right into the stratosphere, a very effective approach. Klaus Ellerhausen Holm plays clarinet, alto and bari sax, sometimes for compatible color, sometimes for the shriek, while drummer Fredrik Rundqvist pushes the beat. B+(***) [bc]

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Quintet: The Year of the Boar (2007 [2008], Jazzland): Ever since Mingus, most bassists lead off their own albums, but the first sound you hear here is Ola Kvernberg's violin, the continuity from Flaten's previous Quintet; the rest of the band this time are subs from Chicago -- Frank Rosaly on drums, Jeff Parker on guitar, and Dave Rempis on various saxes; Kvernberg, Parker, and especially Rempis have strong solo spots, but the high point is the rising tide in "Prayer," dedicated to Flaten's father, and a free metal power ballad for George Russell. A- [bc]

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Birds: Solo Electric (2007-08 [2012], Tektite): Solo electric bass guitar, two sessions, six cuts, totals 30:57 barely topping EP range. Second cut introduces some strum, but mostly Flaten is interested in the knobs, experimenting with feedback more successfully than Metal Machine Music. B+(*) [bc]

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Håkon Kornstad: Elise (2008, Compunctio): Bass-tenor sax duo, everything taken at a ballad pace, quiet enough that Kornstad's fingering comes through as percussion; an equally slight vocal starts off, attributed to Elise Flaten. B+(**) [bc]

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Håkon Kornstad/Jon Christensen: Mitt Hjerte Altid Vanker - I: Live at Oslo Jazzfestival (2009 [2011], Compunctio): The sax-bass duo augmented by the veteran drummer, who has a light touch which doesn't undercut the solemnity of the set, keyed as it is to a traditional hymn; the sax could easily overrun the bass but doesn't, preferring an even dialogue. B+(**) [bc]

Dennis González/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: The Hymn Project (2010 [2011], Daagnim): Not a duo but pitched like one -- the González sons on second bass and drums, Henna Chou on cello -- running through five trad hymns, three American and two Norwegian, plus an original; the trumpet plaintive, the bass deep and soulful, the closing vocal a psalm. B+(**) [bc]

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Steel: Live in Bucharest (2010 [2012], Tektite, EP): Solo bass, one piece in four parts, runs 22:50 so I'm calling it an EP, but longer rarely does more than test your patience with solo bass. This goes as deep as you'd like into the piece, remarkable in its musicality as well as the usual catalogue of effects. B+(***) [bc]

IPA: Lorena (2008 [2009], Bolage): Quartet, with Atle Nymo (tenor sax, bass clarinet) and Magnus Broo (trumpet) up front, backed by bass (Flaten) and drums (Håkon Mjåset Johansen); nice spots from all concerned, especially the bassist, but maybe too nice -- it's almost like the horns are serenading each other. B+(*) [bc]

IPA: It's a Delicate Thing (2010 [2011], Bolage): Starts with an indelicate thrash, then they make nice, then the two horns -- Atle Nymo's tenor sax and Magnus Broo's trumpet -- finally start to build on each other, at least when driven by the drummer. B+(**) [bc]

Janis Joplin: The Pearl Sessions (1970 [2012], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Her second, and last, solo album, Pearl was never very satisfactory, torn between her big crossover single (Kris Kristofferson's pop-perfect "Me and Bobbie McGee" b/w her singularly brilliant a cappella "Mercedes Benz") and her typical blues wail, both backed by the well-named but merely professional Full-Tilt Boogie. But mostly she was dead and unsettled: her hit never got her a TV show or a career in Vegas, but her legend has become so secure that her two Big Brother albums are now fully hers -- much like Billie Holiday's name now appears on all those old Teddy Wilson records. All you really need is Columbia's 3-CD Janis box (released in 1993, and now out-of-print), which expanded the two Big Brothers and the two solo albums with demos and outtakes and lots of live scraps to make a coherent whole. The individual albums are always iffier -- which is why Box of Pearls (from 1999, and still in-print) always struck me as a dubious proposition -- but this is Legacy's second attempt to put new lipstick on Pearl. In 2005 they released a 2-CD Legacy Edition which tacked on live shots. This time they've delved into the outtakes -- five takes of "Move Over," four each "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Get It While You Can," still just the one and only "Mercedes Benz" -- plus some studio chatter. It's massively redundant, but one standout on the second disc is "A Woman Left Lonely" (alternate vocal 9.9.70), and the instrumental take of "Pearl" makes for a nice coda. A-

Ola Kvernberg: Liarbird (2011, Jazzland): Violinist, from Flaten's Quintet, and before that Hot Club de Norvege; group includes viola, two saxes (Eirik Hegdal and Håkon Kornstad), trumpet (Mathias Eick), and doubled up bass and drums; richly textured, can get symphonic in spots, and sweep you away. B+(**) [bc]

Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Blue Chicago Blues (2007 [2010], Not Two): Tenor sax-bass duets, dedicated to the late Fred Anderson on its release but cut a few years earlier, in Chicago, but in some other bar; still, two (of six) titles check the blues; McPhee's tenor sax is reminiscent of Anderson's fierce early phase (but a bit more practiced), and Flaten can rise to his volume -- although it's just as interesting when they chill down. A- [bc]

Joe McPhee/Jeb Bishop/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Michael Zerang: Ibsen's Ghosts (2009 [2011], Not Two): Title will likely be the group name next time they get together; McPhee only plays tenor sax here, and the trombone tends to slow him down and flatten everything out, not that the slower tempos are unwelcome; cf. the superior McPhee/Zerang duo from the same year, Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Suite) (NoBusiness). B+(*) [bc]

Motorpsycho, the Source & Deathprod: Roadwork Vol. 2: The Motor Source Massacre: Live at Konigsberg Jazz Festival 1995 (1995 [2000], Stickman): Motorpsycho is a Norwegian metal band (named for the Russ Meyer movie), prolific since 1990 including four Roadwork volumes; The Source was saxophonist Trygve Seim's group, including Flaten at the time; Deathprod is Helge Sten, credited with theremin and "audio virus" here, later a regular with the band. Playing for a jazz crowd, the rock group plays long vamps the jazzers can improv on; the 22:06 "The Wheel" sounds something like Ornette Coleman over Neil Young if neither star shorted out (or maybe the young John Surman over Flipper with a side of Krautrock). B+(***) [bc]

Zim Ngqawana: Ingoma (1999 [2000], Sheer Sound): Band here includes two Norwegians -- Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love -- plus poet Lefifi Tladi and South Africans on trumpet and piano; some jazz, some jive, some chant, some verse, a pretty good drum solo. B+(*) [bc]

No Spaghetti Edition: Listen . . . and Tell Me What It Was (2001, Sofa): A large group, or maybe two given that bass-drums-guitar-reeds are doubled up, identified by channel; the others, aside from Frode Haltli on accordion, are credited with electronics in addition to voice (Maja Ratkje), piano (Pat Thomas), and trumpet (Axel Dørner); group improvs, some have trouble getting going, but "If Mountains Could Sing" could make you a believer. B+(*) [bc]

Atle Nymo/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Håkon Mjåset Johansen: Play Complete Communion (2006 [2008], Bolage): Nymo (tenor sax) and Johansen (drums) play in a band called Motif, but otherwise don't have a lot of records. Complete Communion is a 1965 album by Don Cherry, who's much revered in Scandinavia, a script that keeps this neatly on track while letting everyone play, which is the point. B+(***) [bc]

Cato Salsa Experience and The Thing with Joe McPhee: Sounds Like a Sandwich (2004 [2005], Smalltown Superjazz, EP): Norwegian rock group led by vocalist-guitarist Cato Thomassen (aka Cato Salsa); adding The Thing doubles up on bass and drums, plus Mats Gustafsson and fellow traveler Joe McPhee on sax; five cuts, Led Zeppelin ("Whole Lotta Love") and Yeah Yeah Yeahs ("Art Star") played for noisy raunch, Donald Ayler ("Our Prayer") an oblique hymn, also noisy, and two originals that remind me of the Angry Samoans as much as anyone else; 5 cuts, 19:47. B+(**) [bc]

Atomic: The Bikini Tapes (2004 [2005], Jazzland, 3CD): Live shots from a tour around Norway, deep enough into their book they can log 153:37 with only three dupes ("Boom Boom," "Kerosene," and "Alla Dansar Samba Till Tyst Musik"); the horns can twist, turn, and cut, while pianist Håvard Wiik comps free or waxes melodic -- a marvelous band even if they never quite put it all together; too much to sort out in one pass, so just let it flow. B+(***) [bc]

SAN Featuring Zim Ngqawana: San Song (1995 [1997], Nor CD): South African saxophonist, won a scholarship to the US, studied under Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef, somehow got routed back through Norway on his return, where he died in 2011. Paired here with saxophonist Bjørn Ole Solberg, backed by Andile Yenana on piano, Flaten on bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, they bury any hint of sax jive in a mainstream turn that grows to smoldering intensity. B+(***) [bc]

The Source: Olemanns Kornett (1994, Curling Legs): Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim's group, both its/his first outing and Flaten's. Øyvind Broekke's trombone provides contrast, and the two in sync are a fun combo, both joyous and comic, while their dicing fractures the free jazz space. B+(**) [bc]

The Thing with Otomo Yoshihide: Shinjuku Crawl (2007 [2009], Smalltown Superjazz): Yoshihide is a guitarist from Japan, has a huge discography since 1981 -- AMG lists 62 albums -- of which I know next to nothing, but when guitarists join Mats Gustafsson's monster trio they usually want to gnash and bash, and there's a lot of that here, most impressively when the bari comes out; in between there's some interesting intricate guitar that merits further research. B+(**) [bc]

The Thing with Jim O'Rourke: Shinjuku Growl (2008 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz): Recorded live one day after the set with Otomo Yoshihide, the Sonic Youth guitarist adds to the noise but offers not much else; in a couple spots Gustafsson manages to break out of the rut, but mostly he roots in it. B [bc]

The Thing: Mono (2011, Smalltown Superjazz): Short (34:17), slightly understated with more growl than bite, neither of which are necessarily demerits for a band committed to overkill; still, I wonder if the final piece title is self-criticism: "There Is Shitloads of Red Meat Missing." B+(*) [bc]

Trinity: Sparkling (2004, Jazzaway): Sax trio, with Kjetil Møster leading, Thomas Strønen on drums; Møster is another free jazz saxophonist who can hold center stage and push the envelope, although he's equally touching in a slow (and relatively quiet) duo with the bassist. B+(**) [bc]

Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz: Moving (2001, Jazzland): Pianist, mostly Fender Rhodes and synths, introduced his "new conception" in 1997 and recycled the title four more times through 2004, this the middle entry; don't know if the earlier albums are this grooveful, and the last piece does tail off into simple figures, but the early ones were reminding me of Bohannon minus the fake strings, cleaner and a bit more abstract -- with jazz the dancefloor is in your mind. B+(***)

Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz: Live (2003, Jazzland): Hard to sort out the scant available data on this, probably picked out from multiple live dates, the occasional hints of guitar most likely the work of John Scofield, but Wesseltoft's jazztronica is too spartan to overly indulge him, built from programmed percussion, keybs, and two bassists -- Marius Reksjø on electric, Flaten on both. B+(**) [Later: A-]

Michiyo Yagi/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live! At Super Deluxe (2005 [2006], Bomba): Yagi plays electroacoustic 21- and 17-string koto, a string instrument with a banjo-like twang but much more refined -- a natural pairing for Flaten's bass. B+(**) [bc]


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd (but made most sense to review here)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, or may be a promo deal