An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 14, 2019
Music: current count 32212  rated (+29), 229  unrated (+0).
Cutoff was Sunday evening, after posting Weekend Roundup. Didn't have all of the unpacking done, so unrated count is a bit low. The two A- records came early in the week. Both are available on Bandcamp: Drumming Cellist, Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou. There's a good chance that The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Music might have hit A- on a second or third play, but not having the booklet, having to spend close to an hour checking dates, and the suspicion that I've heard everything there elsewhere didn't dispose me to be especially generous.
I saw a little bit (maybe 10%) of Ken Burns' Country Music PBS series. Not much there I didn't already know, but thought what I saw was pretty useful -- certainly didn't strike me as distorted and deceptive, like his Jazz series. As far as I can tell, the only product tie-ins are called The Soundtrack, available in both a 2-CD edition and a 5-CD box. I don't like streaming boxes -- actually, I don't have the patience, in large part because it's hard to break them up in to listenable chunks, and there's no booklet to help you keep score -- so I probably won't bother, but the tracklists look impeccable. Probably not as good as Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection (also 5-CD), but better than Columbia Country Classics (from 1990, also 5-CD). Virtually no overlap with Rough Guide, for reasons that hardly need explication.
I read about the Exbats in last week's Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. If the link doesn't seem to work, maybe you should subscribe? I was pleased to find my previous A- picks for Chance the Rapper and Tyler Childers as good or better. Also that he found more than I did in Black Midi, Chuck Cleaver, Rapsody, and Sleater-Kinney. Some folks have asked about XgauSez. It's on a new schedule, fourth Wednesday of each month, and subscribers will get it delivered to their mailboxes.
Continuing to plug things into my tracking and metacritic files, which is helping me keep up to date. For instance, I can tell you the best-reviewed new records of the week (10-11): Big Thief: Two Hands (15); Kim Gordon: No Home Record (12); Elbow: Giants of All Sizes (8). Best-reviewed new records of the previous week (10-04): Angel Olsen: All Mirrors (24) [*]; Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen (22); Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayin¿ (16) [***]; Wilco: Ode to Joy (10); DIIV: Deceiver (9). New records I most want to track down: Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia; Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise; Bill Frisell: Harmony; Abdullah Ibrahim: Dream Time; Chris Knight: Almost Daylight; L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: Complicate Your Life With Violence; Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines.
Rez Abbasi: A Throw of Dice by the Silent Ensemble (2017 , Whirlwind): Guitarist, from Pakistan, has recorded regularly since 1993. Based this one on an Indian-German silent film from 1929. Quintet with Pawan Benjamin (sax, flute, bansuri), plus bass, drums, and percussion (Rohan Krishnamurthy). B+(*) [cd] [10-19]
Mats Åleklint/Per-Åke Holmlander/Paal Nilssen-Love: Fish & Steel (2018 , PNL): Eponymous group album, but the names are on the cover so I figure they deserve the credit -- especially since the Swedes (trombone and tuba), prolific as they are, rarely get lead billing. B+(***) [bc]
Simone Baron & Arco Belo: The Space Between Disguises (2019, GenreFluid): Pianist, also plays accordion, seems to be her first album. Core trio helped with production, adding strings and percussion, which makes it sound way too chamberish for my taste. B- [cd] [11-08]
Katerina Brown: Mirror (2019, Mellowtone Music): Singer, based in Bay Area, songs include three in her native Russian (with English versions tacked on as "bonus tracks"). With pianist Adam Shulman, other scattered about, with a Kenny Washington duet. B [cd] [10-18]
Cashmere Cat: Princess Catgirl (2019, Mad Love/Interscope, EP): Norwegian DJ Magnus August Hølberg, second album (if 7 songs, 18:34 counts). No ID on the voice (other than a Christina Aguilera sample), which fits the cartoon cover. B+(*)
Drumming Cellist [Kristijan Krajncan]: Abraxas (2019, Sazas): Kristijan Krajncan, from Slovenia, plays cello and dubs in percussion tracks, second album, not quite solo in that he works in a couple guest spots (electronics, harpsichord). The upbeat pieces move smartly, and the occasional change of pace remains of interest. A- [cd]
David Finck: Bassically Jazz (2019, Burton Avenue Music): Bassist, looks like his third album, with many more side credits (website lists 122) since 1988. Centers on the leader's instrument, with weak horns (flute/trombone), piano (Jim Ridl) and vibes (Joe Locke), guitar, drums, vocals (Linda Eder or Alexis Cole) on three cuts. B+(*)
Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2 (2019, Mello Music Group): Rapper John Austin IV, recorded two albums for Priority 1996-98, third album here reprises his debut title. He remained active in his missing decades, appearing on other albums and releasing a pile of mixtapes. Sounds old school. B+(***)
Krokofant: Q (2019, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion trio -- Tom Hasslan (guitar), Jørgen Mathisen (sax), Axel Skalstad (drums) -- had three numbered albums before this one, which adds bass Ingebrigt Håker Flaten) and vibes (Axel Skalstad). Saxophonist has some avant chops, not much in evidence. B
Remy Le Boeuf: Assembly of Shadows (2019, SoundSpore): Saxophonist, from Santa Cruz, second solo album after several in his brother act. Big band, conducted by Gregory Robbins, no strings in the credits but I was faked out, maybe because the long suite sounds so classical, with no swing and a lot of Anne Webber's flute. I took an instant dislike to it, but on second play have to admit some intricate (and quite lovely) passages (and no strings). B [cdr] [11-01]
Little Brother: May the Lord Watch (2019, Imagine Nation Music/For Members Only/Empire): Hip-hop group from Durham, North Carolina, four albums 2003-10, regrouped as a duo (rappers Phonte [Coleman] and Big Pooh [Thomas Jones]) for this album. Nice flow, solid album. B+(**)
John McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief (2017 , PNL): Tenor/pocket trumpet and drums duo, something they've done before (e.g., the 7-CD Candy box set), something the drummer has done with lots of saxophonists. All pretty consistent, but this one was recorded just after Sunny Murray died, recalling his 1969 album Big Chief. B+(**) [bc]
Bernie Mora & Tangent: No Agenda (2019, Rhombus): Guitarist, has a couple previous albums with this group name -- only player I recognize is saxophonist Doug Webb. Fusion, comes out roiling, never really loses that, although attention is something else. C+ [cd]
Poncho Sanchez: Trane's Delight (2019, Concord Picante): Congolero, born in Texas, grew up in California, 1980 debut album Salsa Picante. Covers three Coltrane tunes here, the title one of two originals. Some vocals. B
Louis Sclavis: Characters on a Wall (2018 , ECM): French clarinetist, records since 1981, 13th for ECM since 2002. Quartet, opens with piano (Benjamin Moussay). Cover shows a concrete wall, looks like Israel's West Bank partition, although looks small because a human figure has been painted nearly the height of a panel. B+(*)
Mike Stern-Jeff Lorber Fusion: Eleven (2019, Concord): Fusion guitarist and smooth jazz keyboardist, both looking their age (66-67), with Jimmy Haslip co-producing. Not much to it. C+
Tinariwen: Amadjar (2019, Anti-): Touareg group from Mali, steady stream of albums since 2002. Recent albums appear to credit "+10:1," evidently the band's name in Tamasheq. Hard to differentiate among their many albums, but this one seems relatively laid back. B+(**)
Kiki Valera: Vivencias En Clave Cubana (2018 , Origin): Cuban cuatro master, a member of Familia Valera Miranda, "a century-old group and one of the most important purveyors of the Son Cubana." Indeed, sounds impeccably Cuban, with Coco Freeman's vocals, a dash of trumpet, and lots of percussion. B+(***) [10-16]
Rodney Whitaker: All Too Soon: The Music of Duke Ellington (2017 , Origin): Bassist, from Detroit, teaches at Michigan State, ten or so albums since 1996, mainstream affairs, this his first explicit nod to swing. Leads a sextet which covers the bases: trumpet (Brian Lynch), tenor sax (Diego Rivera), trombone (Michael Dease), piano (Richard Roe), and drums (Karriem Riggins), with Rockelle Whitaker vocals on most tracks. Delightful program. B+(***) [10-16]
Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs From the Sun Ra Cosmos (2019, Modern Harmonic): Retro blues-rocker, born in Florida (as Barry White), studied in Boston, long based there, band called Barrence Whitfield & the Savages. Sun Ra's songbook takes him to some strange places, but "Muck Muck" was made for him. B+(**)
Carrie Wicks: Reverie (2019, OA2): Singer-songwriter, based in Seattle, backed by a nice jazz combo, with Brent Jensen on sax (soprano/alto) and Bill Anschell's piano trio. Can't say much on the originals (all co-written, most with Ken Nottingham), but the covers are nice and poised. B+(*) [cd] [10-16]
Young M.A: Herstory in the Making (2019, M.A Music/3D): New York Rapper Katorah Marrero, first album after an EP (Herstory), a couple mixtapes, a hit single ("OOOUUU"). Gender not always clear, especially when she goes on a rant about her "bitches." B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Exbats: E Is 4 Exbats (2016-18 , Burger): Post-punk trio from Arizona, drummer-vocalist Inez McLain, her father Kenny on guitar, plus a bass player. Most songs appeared on previous albums with titles that make me curious. B+(***)
Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou: Anou Malane (1995 , Sahel Sounds): Tuareg guitarist-singer from Niger, recorded this in Benin. Regarded as a classic in the style, so steady you start to wonder if it isn't too easy, but that's only because the balance is so impeccable. A-
The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Music: Reborn and Remastered (1926-33 , World Music Network): A primer on the oldtime folk music of the white American south, the legacy country music claimed as its roots. Some familiar names, some more obscure. Not able to sort this out compared to similar comps, but this would fill the gap fairly well. Main caveat I have is that the label is notoriously shoddy in its documentation, but I haven't seen whatever accompanies this one. B+(***)
Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Indent: Antioch College/Yellow Springs, Ohio/March 11, 1973 (1973 , Black Sun): Mysteries seems to be a series of vault recordings by the late avant-pianist. Cover omits "Mysteries," but includes the rest, as above. However, title is usually given as Mysteries: Second Set of Indent. Indent appeared in 1977 on Arista/Freedom, as one of Taylor's first solo records. I didn't care for it at the time, but this second set is pretty spectacular. B+(***)
Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Untitled (1961-76 , Black Sun): That's the title, plain as day on the cover. One 49:14 solo set (previously unreleased) from the Bösendorfer Festival in November 1976, plus three well-known group tracks from Taylor's side of a 1961 two-artist LP shared with Roswell Rudd. B+(**)
The Exbats: A Guide to the Health Issues Affecting Rescue Hens (2016, Burger): First album, released on cassette tape. Playing these after the compilation (E Is 4 Exbats) gives me a combination of déjà vu and roughly comparable filler. B+(**)
The Exbats: I've Got the Hots for Charlie Watts (2018, Burger): Second album (cassette), as above, but hedged up for the title (and maybe for some of the filler). B+(***)
Rodney Whitaker: Ballads and Blues: The Brooklyn Sessions (1998, Criss Cross): Bassist, first album as leader after more than a decade of side-credits, especially with Roy Hargrove, also Terence Blanchard and Eric Reed. Three pieces by Paul Chambers (also one by George Duvivier) proclaim his roots. With Ron Blake (tenor/soprano sax), Reed (piano), Stefon Harris (vibes), and Carl Allen (drums), plus Wycliffe Gordon (trombone) on two tracks. B+(**)
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages: Soul Flowers of Titan (2018, Bloodshot): I've long thought of him as a blues-rocker, but he owes more to, and sounds more like, 1950s rockers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard than the 1960s bluesmen (or Englishmen) who defined the genre. Doesn't necessarily pick or write great songs, but when he does he can really burn it up. B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: