Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33729 [33697] rated (+32), 223 [220] unrated (+3).

After a month-plus of regularly hitting 40+ records per week, my energy and/or patience flagged last week. I started most days with something from the travel cases, or Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music (long out of sight, found it on a top shelf up stairs, along with Fats Waller's If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It box. Didn't unpack until Monday, and spent the rest of the day muddling through metacritic lists. After that, didn't feel like writing anything, so put that off a day. Still don't, but will try to touch a few bases.

As I noted in the intro to Weekend Roundup, my cousin Duan Stiner caught Covid-19 and died last week, three days shy of 93. He had been living in a VA facility northeast of Tulsa for two years. Although "locked down" in March, the disease got in and decimated the population. Last time I visited was shortly after he moved there. I can't say as I was particularly pleased with the place, but his daughters were upbeat, and visited him virtually every day (until March). It was a sad end to a long life of hard work and good humor. I've been missing him for a while already.

Duan was just one of several older relatives who have faced a lot of hardship this year. Another cousin, Chloe McCandlis, died in February. Others are ill or struggling, and even those who are getting by are finding 2020 to be an especially difficult year to be old in. I haven't traveled since my trip to see Duan in Oklahoma, and I'm not likely to for the foreseeable future, so I'm feeling especially helpless and useless these days.

A friend here in Wichita, Don Bass, also died, and we just heard that another is in the hospital.


In music, I should mention that Sean Tyla (73) died. He was the leader of the seminal pub rock band Ducks Deluxe, which recorded two albums 1974-75. Both records were personal favorites, with the second (Taxi to the Terminal Zone) the namesake for the short-lived magazine Don Malcolm and I published in 1977. Worth noting that I much preferred the UK version of their eponymous debut: there were two jazzy pieces that made much more sense in context than moved to weaken the second side of RCA's US release. They exemplified everything I loved in rock & roll. For the moment, I harbored the idea that the past of rock & roll might be its future. Of course, a couple years later the future did arrive, and it was something else.

When Ducks Deluxe broke up, Tyla carried on as the Tyla Gang, while other band members joined the Motors and the Rumour (Graham Parker's backup band, but they also recorded without Parker). I enjoyed his first title (Yachtless), but nothing else he did made much of an impression.

Best source for new records this week has been Bandcamp Daily, but I also tried picking off some of the higher ranking metacritic titles (link above). Also scanned Phil Overeem's July list, slimmed down and slightly annotated. The grade change came after receiving a CD, which certainly helped.

One question in the queue. Feel free to ask more.


New records reviewed this week:

The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (2020, Dirty Hit): British group, fourth album since 2013, eponymous debut opened at number one on UK charts, other three albums also cracked top five in US. Starts with soft electronics framing a Greta Thunberg message ("Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we don't/ Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, or we don't/ Either we choose to go on as a civilization, or we don't"), then the band breaks out like the Clash ("Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!"). Of course, they aren't the Clash, so the remaining 73 minutes is filled with their usual postmodern pop, though not without occasional interest. B+(***)

Arca: @@@@@ (2020, XL): I ignored this when it came, out, seeing it flagged as a "single." Indeed, a single track, but 62 minutes, as jumbled at a typical album. B+(*)

Armand Hammer: Shrines (2020, Backwoodz Studioz): New York hip-hop duo, rapper Billy Woods and producer Elucid, fourth album. Pretty sharp. B+(***) [bc]

The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (2020, Carpark): Alt/indie band from New Zealand, second album, harmony voices led by Elizabeth Stokes, guitar-bass-drums. B+(*)

Boldy James & the Alchemist: The Price of Tea in China (2020, ALC/Boldy James): Rapper James Jones III, born in Atlanta, grew up in Detroit, second album, both with Daniel Maman co-writing and producing. B+(***)

Lisa Cameron/Tom Carter/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Tau Ceti (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Last names only on cover, no instrument credits, but figure drums-guitar-bass, split between an "acoustic side," which feels like treading water, and an "electric side," which raises the ante. B+(*) [bc]

Crazy Doberman: Illusory Expansion (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Collective improv group, has recorded extensively since 2017 (or, as Doberman, 2014). This, which lists 16 musicians, is the first on a label I've heard of. Mix of industrial ambient and free jazz. B+(*) [bc]

Falkner Evans: Marbles (2019 [2020], CAP): Pianist, based in New York, handful of albums since 2001, aims big here with a sextet -- Michael Blake and Ted Nash (saxes), Ron Horton (trumpet), bass, and drums -- plus vibes (Steve Nelson) on three cuts. All originals, elegant postbop. B+(**) [cd]

John Fedchock NY Sextet: Into the Shadows (2019 [2020], Summit): Trombonist, probably best known for his big bands, scales down nicely, with Scott Wendholt (trumpet) and Walt Weiskopf (tenor sax), plus piano-bass-drums. B+(**) [cd]

Sue Anne Gershenzon: You Must Believe in Spring (2020, self-released): Standards singer, seems to be her first album, support includes Joel Frahm (tenor sax) and Ryan Keberle (trombone), a pianist-arranger hard on my eyes (Glafkos Kontemeniotis?), and occasional strings. Nice take on title track. B [cd]

Kate NV: Room for the Moon (2020, RVNG Intl): Russian singer-songwriter, Ekaterina Shilonosova, from Kazan, singer in the postpunk band Glintshake, third solo album. Electronics and voice, "conjured from unlived memories of 70s and 80s Russian and Japanese pop music and film." Pretty delightful combination. A-

Keys & Screws [Thomas Borgmann/Jan Roder/Willi Kellers]: Some More Jazz (2017 [2020], NoBusiness): Sax-bass-drums trio, leader playing tenor and soprano, also "toy-melodica." Nice, edgy free jazz, backing smartly away from the abyss. A- [cdr]

David Krakauer & Kathleeen Tagg: Breath & Hammer (2020, Table Pounding): Clarinet player (also bass clarinet), klezmer specialist (1995 debut was Klezmer Madness), duets with piano, although pieces are built up in layers to form a "piano orchestra." B+(**) [bc]

Lianne La Havas: Lianne La Havas (2020, Nonesuch): British singer-songwriter, third album, Matthew Hales shares most writing credits, the only cover song from Radiohead. B+(*)

Jessy Lanza: All the Time (2020, Hyperdub): Canadian electropop singer-songwriter, third album. B+(*)

Mako Sica/Hamid Drake: Balancing Tear (2020, Astral Spirits): Chicago group, dates from 2008 with Przemyslaw Krys Drazek (trumpet, guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (voice, electric bass, classical guitar, harmonica, percussion), and Chaetan Newell (keyboards, cello, viola, drums, ukulele, upright bass), plus the guest drummer. Group has rock roots, but vocals are atrophied, and they more properly belong in some kind of post-rock orbit. B+(*) [bc]

Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (2020, Domino): Detroit band, Joe Casey the singer, backed with guitar-bass-drums, plus the occasional guest -- two names that jump out at me are Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), avant-jazz guys. Fifth album, always solid. B+(**)

Jason Robinson & Eric Hofbauer: Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late: Duo Music of Ken Aldcroft (2018 [2020], Accretions): Aldcroft was a Toronto guitarist, died at 46 in 2016, left a pretty scattered legacy, ranging from AIMToronto to his Hat & Beard duo. I don't see a direct connection to the two Americans playing these duets -- tenor sax and guitar -- but they have a disjointed, somewhat Monkian aspect. B+(**) [cd]

Christian Rønn/Aram Shelton: Multiring (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Danish keyboard player, doesn't really seem to be a jazz guy -- 6 years studying church organ, with sides in electronic music, ambient drone, microtonal composition, and soundtracks -- provides an engaging counterpoint for the latter's alto sax. B+(**) [bc]

Benny Rubin Jr. Quartet: Know Say or See (2019 [2020], Benny Jr. Music): Saxophonist (tenor/alto), from Flint, MI; second album, quartet with piano-bass-drums, hard bop with harder leads. B+(***) [cdr]

Andy Shauf: The Neon Skyline (2020, Anti-): Canadian singer-songwriter, sixth album since 2006. B+(**)

Sparks: A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (2020, BMG): Brothers Ron and Russell Mael, new wave pop band from Los Angeles, released their debut as Halfnelson in 1971, their best title in 1973 (A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing), then got picked up by Island for three albums. I was briefly infatuated with them, but quickly grew annoyed and held a long-term grudge as they've cranked out new albums every few years. This is their highest US chart since 1974's Propaganda. Still annoying. C+

Paul Weller: On Sunset (2020, Polydor): Singer-songwriter from England, led the Jam (1976-82) and the Style Council (1983-89), went solo with an eponymous album in 1992, 14 more studio albums since then -- all 15 charted in UK (debut peaked at 8, one 5, one 4, rest either 1 or 2), only one cracked the US charts (Sonik Kicks at 166 in 2012). B

Kamaal Williams: Wu Hen (2020, Black Focus): British keyboardist, second studio album under his own name, also has a DJ-Kicks mixtape, and several records as Henry Wu, something this title plays on. Saxophonist Quinn Mason lifts this out of its pop jazz groove, but without him it keeps sliding back. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Doug Hammond/David Durrah/Charles Burnham: Reflections in the Sea of Nurnen (1975 [2020], Tribe): Drummer, sings some, first album, original cover listed eight musicians, Hammond and Durrah (keyboards) first, Burnham (violin) well down the list. B

Nkem Njoku & Ozzobia Brothers: Ozobia Special (1980s [2020], BBE): Igbo highlife, presumably from Nigeria, seems to be only album, leader sings, no one named Ozzobia (or Ozobia) in the credits. Draws on Ghanian highlife, touted as a classic album, not as slick as Lagos juju, but catchy as can be. A- [bc]

Shirley Scott: One for Me (1974 [2020], Arc): Organ player (1934-2002), known as "Queen of the Organ," 45 LPs starting with Great Scott! in 1958, slowed down after leaving Impulse! in 1967 and divorced Stanley Turrentine in 1971, recording this for Strata East. With Harold Vick (tenor sax, in fine form) and Billy Higgins (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Sleaford Mods: All That Glue (2013-20 [2020], Rough Trade): British duo, James Williamson and Andrew Fearn, spoken word over punkish strum and drums, got noticed for their working class rage, their biggest hit last year's Eton Alive. They cash in here with a compilation of odds and sods ("a collection of songs spanning the last seven years of the bands career"). Unsure of dates, but most that I can pin down were 2013-15 singles. Good to hear them angry again. B+(***)

Luiz Carlos Vinhas: O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. (1968 [2020], Mad About): Brazilian pianist, made his mark in bossa nova from 1963, takes a stab at psychedelica here. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Kate NV: Binasu (2017, Orange Milk): First album, shows considerable pop sense. B+(***)

Kate NV: For (2018, RVNG Intl): Half of album title, which like all ten songs is two 3-letter words, the second all caps in English, the first presumably Russian. Symmetry is the concept. The pieces are all instrumental, pretty minimal, and work as such. B+(*)

Annie Ross: Sings a Handful of Songs (1963, Everest): Singer was British, had joined Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks for their vocalese trio 1956-62, was back in London when she recorded this splashy set of standards with Johnny Spence & His Orchestra. B

Annie Ross & Pony Poindexter: Recorded at the Tenth German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt (1966, SABA): Credit (or title) continues: "With the Berlin All Stars Feat. Carmell Jones and Leo Wright." Poindexter plays alto/soprano sax and sings, Jones trumpet, Wright alto sax and flute, and the others (piano-guitar-bass-drums) are less stellar. Opens with Poindexter leading a Louis Jordan song, closes with Ross doing "Twisted." B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

Luís Lopes Humanization 4tet: Believe, Believe (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, group name from the title of a 2008 album, although the group is unchanged, and everyone writes: Rodrigo Amado (tenor sax), Aaron Gonzalez (bass), and Stefan Gonzalez (drums). Gets a little rough in spots, but the guitar is remarkable, and I always like Amado. [was: B+(***)] A- [cd]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rez Abbasi: Django-shift (Whirlwind) [08-28]
  • Tom Guarna: Spirit Science (Destiny) [09-18]
  • Bob James: Once Upon a Time: The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions (1965, Resonance) [08-29]
  • Eva Kess: Sternschnuppen: Falling Stars (Neuklang) [08-28]
  • Roberto Magris: Suite! (JMood) [08-17]
  • Raphaël Pannier Quartet: Faune (French Paradox) [08-21]
  • Maria Schneider: Data Lords (ArtistShare, 2CD)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (Dark Tree)
  • Matt Wilson Quartet: Hug! (Palmetto) [08-28]