An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, July 12, 2021
Music: Current count 35803  rated (+43), 212  unrated (-0).
I listened to a lot of new non-jazz this past week. I checked off all the unheard records from last week's Dan Weiss list (12/24), and most of the unheard albums on Expert Witness lists by Christian Iszchak and Sidney Carpenter-Wilson. Also picked up a couple records from Phil Overeem's list, although I'm still about 30 down.
All but two records in my (jazz) demo queue are future releases (4 coming out on 7/16, 3 in August, 3 in September). The one I've been remiss on is a 2-LP by Liudas Mockunas and Arfvydad Kaziauskas -- the only vinyl in the queue. I play so little vinyl these days it just seems like too much bother (but I'll try to get to it this week). One of the demos I did play last week was Mario Pavone's last session. I thought I should also include his new Clean Feed album, recorded about a month before, and that got me into belatedly looking at their 2021 releases. Also took a look at my Downloads directory, which is where I found C81.
Quite a few B+(***) albums this week (14). There must be a couple in there that could rate higher, but most did get two plays. The ones I'm most tempted to revisit are by Erez Noga and Sylvie Courvoisier, although Rempis and Tyler are also possibles. (Marina and Navy Blue started out in that group, then got bumped with an extra play.) I wouldn't rule out the 10 B+(**) records either.
A few more mid-year lists:
I haven't looked very hard this week. The Quietus list is not only exceptionally long, but includes a lot of electronica, and even a bit of jazz (thanks to Peter Margasak).
One last music-crit note is that I set up a page for Joe Yanosik's book, A Consumer Guide to THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE. I'm not selling it, but the page has several links to get you there. I haven't seen the book yet, but understand they're on the way. I've had a guests section for some time, originally set up to host some of Michael Tatum's writings when he didn't have other outlets, so I was pleased to make space for Yanosik when he started writing his own deep-dive consumer guides. (Unfortunately, he didn't offer me any content this time.)
My nephew Mike Hull's documentary on the 1971 Attica Prison revolt, Nelson Rockefeller's murderous response, and the decades-long legal battles to expose what happened and why, will be released on HBO Max in August. Here's the trailer (scraped from Mike's Facebook post):
Expect more publicity in the coming weeks. Mike has been working on this film for eight years now, starting with his efforts to digitize Elizabeth Fink's archives on the various legal cases, a major part of her life for 30+ years. Mike has made the archive available here. (Much of this is also available in the Elizabeth Fink papers, 1971-2015 via Duke University.) An earlier film trailer is here.
For personal background, I wrote a bit about Liz Fink after she died in 2015.
I also want to link to the Buffalo News obituary on Frederic J. Fleron Jr., 83, UB professor emeritus, expert on Russia, especially the line "he took part in Vietnam War protests and the Attica Brothers legal defense." Our connection was not through the latter, but because he married my cousin, Lou Jean, who was every bit as involved -- and who is still active in political causes in Buffalo. Several of the pivotal decisions of my life turned on experiences with "Fritz" (and Lou Jean): I dropped out of high school right after they visited; they talked me into going to my draft physical, reassuring me that I could still refuse induction if I passed (I didn't); when I decided to try going to college, my reward was a trip to visit them in Buffalo -- my first college experience was sitting in on Fritz's poli-sci class, although my much deeper lesson from that week was greatly expanding my taste in food and music. Another line in the obit: "He enjoyed cooking, recipe planning and finding new restaurants." I don't recall him cooking, but he may well have taken it up (at least after divorcing Lou Jean, who was and is an outstanding cook, my greatest inspiration), but few people enjoyed fine food more than he did. Among my acquaintances Liz Fink was one of those few. And I might note that Mike Hull is pretty accomplished in that regard, as well.
New records reviewed this week:
Backxwash: I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and My Dresses (2021, Ugly Hag): Born and raised in Zambia, based in Montreal, Ashanti Mutinta, raps, sings some, third album, has some metal moves. B+(*)
Bfb Da Packman: Fat Niggas Need Love Too (2021, The Lunch Crew): Heavyweight rapper, raised in Flint, based in Houston. Cracks some jokes, slings some raunch. B+(**)
Brockhampton: Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine (2021, Question Everything/RCA): Wikipedia calls them a "hip hop boy band." Kevin Abstract also has a solo presence, and probably the rest will follow: Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Joba, Bearface, Jabari Manwa. Several mixtapes before their major label debut in 2018. Second album since. Rap and sing, expertly both, but I pay more attention to the rap lyrics. B+(**)
Burial: Chemz/Dolphin (2021, Hyperdub, EP): British dubstep producer William Bevan, has a couple albums but mostly works on shorter releases, with these two tunes on the long side, at 21:33. First is upbeat, fun. Second is down, ambient, not so much fun. B+(*) [bc]
Cloud Nothings: The Shadow I Remember (2021, Carpark): Indie rock band from Cleveland, Dylan Baldi the singer-songwriter, seventh album (skipping a couple self-released pandemic projects). Above-average for the genre, not that I feel like listening anymore. B+(**)
Alex Collins/Ryan Berg/Karl Latham: Together (2020-21 , Dropzonejazz): Piano-bass-drums trio, seems to be the pianist's first (with a couple side-credits back to 2015). Six standards, counting one by Wayne Shorter. Drummer produced. B+(**) [cd]
Sylvie Courvoisier/Ned Rothenberg/Julian Sartorius: Lockdown (2020 , Clean Feed): Swiss pianist, with reeds (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, shakuhachi) and drums. Nice mix of sharp edges and gentle tones. B+(***) [bc]
McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her (2021, Spacebomb): Rapper, based in Virginia, third album. B+(***)
East Axis [Matthew Shipp/Allen Lowe/Gerald Cleaver/Kevin Ray]: Cool With That (2020 , ESP-Disk): Piano, alto sax, drums, bass. Joint improv, artist order some approximation of fame, though Lowe is the commanding presence here. Cleaver defines "free jazz" as "many contexts and frames of reference held at once." You feel them in the space these artist so deftly maneuver through. A-
Noga Erez: Kids (2021, City Slang): Israeli electropop singer-producer, second album, plays keyboards and percussion. Dry voice, subtle beats, grows on you. B+(***)
The Flatlanders: Treasure of Love (2021, Rack 'Em): Lubbock, Texas band back in 1972, recorded an album that didn't get much notice until 1990, after their solo careers took off: Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock. Regrouped in 2002 when those solo careers were flagging, and they've gone back to the well a couple times since (2004, 2009). Not a great sign that the covers connect first. Ely sounds especially great, Gilmore less so. B+(***)
The Front Bottoms: In Sickness & in Flames (2020, Fueled by Ramen): New Jersey indie group/duo, Brian Sella (guitar/vocals) and Mat Uychich (drums), seventh album since 2008. Hooked for pop. B+(**)
Danny L Harle: Harlecore (2021, Mad Decent): London-based electronica producer, first album after singles going back to 2013, most on PC Music. Lavishly, extravagantly upbeat, almost comically so -- the sort of thing I sometimes relish, yet I'm not quite convinced I should, here anyway. B+(**)
Hearth: Melt (2020 , Clean Feed): Quartet: Mette Rasmussen (alto sax), Ada Rave (tenor sax/clarinet), Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), Kaja Draksler (piano). The pianist isn't notable for keeping time of pushing things along, so this tends to scatter (and splat). B+(*) [bc]
Hiatus Kaiyote: Mood Valiant (2021, Brainfeeder): Australian group, third album, edges into neo soul with singer Nai Palm (Naomi Saalfield). B+(*)
Mikko Innanen/Stefan Pasborg/Cedric Piromalli: This Is It (2020 , Clean Feed): Finnish saxophonist (sopranino, alto, baritone), backed by drums and Hammond organ. The organ isn't close to soul jazz models, but provides enough lift to let the saxophonist strut his stuff.. A- [bc]
Anthony Joseph: The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives (2021, Heavenly Sweetness): Poet, novelist (The African Origins of UFOs, Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon), singer-songwriter, born in Trinidad in 1966, moved to UK in 1989, eighth album since 2007. Six pieces stretch out, the pointed poems have much to say ("how long do you have to live in a place before you can call it home?"), and the band, which starts jazzy but swings and powers up like Mingus, needs room to breathe. Credits list four saxophonists. Together they're formidable, but the monster solos I'd guess to be the work of Shabaka Hutchings. A
Jupiter & Okwess: Na Kozonga (2020 , Everloving): Congolese band, led by Jupiter Bokondji (vocals/percussion), sextet with two guitars, bass, lots of percussion. B+(***)
Kiwi Jr.: Cooler Returns (2021, Sub Pop): Indie rock group from Toronto, g-b-d plus Jeremy Gaudet vocals, second album, has a new wave pop humor appeal (reminds me of the Rezillos, or maybe the Adverts, but they'd probably prefer the Ramones). B+(***)
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio: I Told You So (2021, Colemine): Organ player, third album, with Jimmy James (guitar) and Grant Schroff (drums). Soul jazz, rather retro when it was invented 60 years ago, so neatly buttoned down you'd almost think that's their concept. B+(*)
Luís Lopes/Lisbon Berlin Quartet: Sinister Hypnotization (2018 , Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, electric, impressive discography since 2007, with Rodrigo Pinheiro (fender rhodes), Berlin represented by Robert Landfermann (bass) and Christian Lillinger (drums). Rough wired, ruggedly free. B+(***) [bc]
Marina: Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land (2021, Atlantic): Singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis, from Wales (Welsh mother, Greek father), four previous albums as Marina and the Diamonds, first with her name shortened. Her consciousness is more deeply personal, and more militantly feminist. A-
MIKE: Disco! (2021, 10k): Rapper Mike Bonema, born in New Jersey, lived in London from 10-15, back to Philadelphia then New York, ninth album/mixtape since 2015. B+(**)
Bob Mintzer & WDR Big Band Cologne: Soundscapes (2019 , MCG Jazz): Saxophonist-led big band, a long term interest, dating back to his 1975-77 stretch with Buddy Rich. B+(**) [cd]
Navy Blue: Song of Sage: Post Panic! (2020, Freedom Sounds): Brooklyn rapper Sage Elsesser, professional skateboarder, fashion model, visual artist, second album. Speaks over nondescript synths, conscious, at one point explains, "this is therapeutic." A-
Navy Blue: Ádà Irin (2020, Freedom Sounds): Earlier album, short (11 songs, 31:13). Music and lyrics more cryptic, but he's onto something. B+(*)
Nervous Dater: Call in the Mess (2021, Counter Intuitive): Brooklyn "punk trio" (although I count six credits; first-listed Rachel Lightner: guitar, vocals, saxohphone), second album. B+(**)
Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (2020, Invada, EP): Quickie follow-up to last year's eponymous album, record of the year in some quarters, came out in December to little notice. Four songs, 16:51. Good but not brilliant ones. B+(***)
Mario Pavone/Dialect Trio + 1: Blue Vertical (2021, Out of Your Head): Bassist, died on May 15 this year, recorded this last album on March 25-26, with his Dialect Trio (pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Tyshawn Sorey) plus trumpet player Dave Ballou. B+(***) [cd]
Mario Pavone/The Tampa Quartet: Isabella (2021, Clean Feed): Recorded less than a month earlier, also dedicated to the bassist's late granddaughter Isabella Pavone, a quartet with his son Michael Pavone (guitar), Mike DiRubbo (alto sax), and Michael Sarin (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Liz Phair: Soberish (2021, Chrysalis): Released her masterpiece in 1993, slacked off, last album Funstyle, 11 years ago, marginal but underappreciated. Little change here: "I don't live in a world that appreciates me." None of us do. B+(***)
The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Sud Des Alpes (2019 , Aerophonic): Eighth group album since 2007, Chicago saxophonist Dave Rempis (alto/tenor), with bass (Ingebrigt Håker Flaten) and two drummers (Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly). B+(***) [dl]
Dawn Richard: Second Line (2021, Merge): From Louisiana, left for Baltimore after Katrina, went through all sorts of gimmicks to get her career started, including a reality TV show that landed her a spot in Diddy's girl group Danity Kane. On her own for a decade now, aims for electrofunk here and hits the mark more often than not, as artificial satisfies as often as authentic. B+(***)
Sleater-Kinney: Path of Wellness (2021, Mom + Pop): Riot grrrl band from the Olympia, Washington scene, based in Portland, tenth album since 1995, first since 1996 without drummer Janet Weiss. I've dutifully listened to all of their albums, bought some, never really liked them (mostly due to the shrieking voices), never quite dismissed them, always thought Weiss was a great drummer. None of that really applies here: the voices have mellowed, the drums too, and while most of this is anodyne, there's nothing to rail against. In fact, I rather like "Bring Mercy." B+(*)
Slide Attack: Road Trip (2020 , SACD): Two trombonists, Howard Levy and Alan Goidel, backed by piano-bass-drums. Inspired, of course, by J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding. B+(*) [cd]
Space Quartet: Directions (2019 , Clean Feed): Rafael Toral (electronics), Hugo Antunes (bass), Nuno Morão (drums), Nuno Torres (sax/electronics). First two were on a previous Space Quartet album, with Toral the leader (although everything here is jointly credited). B+(**) [bc]
Tele Novella: Merlynn Belle (2021, Kill Rock Stars): Lockhart, Texas-based "indie-psych band," principally singer-guitarist Natalie Ribbons and bassist Jason Chronis, second album. B+(***)
TØRSÖ: Home Wrecked (2021, self-released, EP): Bay Area hardcore group, three songs, 5:05. Short, intense. B [bc]
Tyler, the Creator: Call Me if You Get Lost (2021, Columbia): Los Angeles rapper Tyler Okonma, started in the Odd Future collective, sixth studio album since 2011. I didn't care for his early work, but he keeps growing. B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Diane Delin: Chicago Standard Time (1991 , BluJazz): Violinist, from Chicago, five albums 1997-2006, this short one (5 songs, 28:13) dates back earlier. Quartet, "featuring" Jodie Christian (piano), with bass and drums. One original, nice covers including "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." B+(*) [cd]
Bill Evans: Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings (1969 , Elemental Music, 2CD): This adds to a substantial number of recent releases, mostly on Resonance, of the pianist from this period, mostly live but also some studio recordings made in Europe, like this one. The trio with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell is one of his most striking, with the bass solos almost as interesting as the piano. This ends with a couple cuts with Metropole Orkest strings that I'd probably have cut, but they, too, are lovely. A- [cd]
He's Bad! 11 Bands Decimate the Beats of Bo Diddley (, Slovenly): "Ten years in the making," which suggested this project started around 2010. Eleven bands I've never heard of (ok, except for Rocket 808), True Sons of Thunder claiming two tracks with "Bad Trip pt. 1" and "Bad Trip pt. 2." Probably metal bands, didn't even recognize this as Diddley until I cranked the volume down and heard "Mona." B
The Trojan Story (1961-71 , Trojan, 3CD): British record label, founded in 1968, became a major player in reggae music although they were eclipsed by Island in the 1970s. The first of several releases of this title came out in 1971, and it's not clear that anything here was recorded later. Opens with Lord Tanamo calypso "Invitation to Jamaica," which sounds earlier than 1961, but that seems to be when he started. Sanctuary acquired the catalog in 2001, and I've listened to a lot of their reissues, so I know that it wouldn't be hard to assemble a 3-CD box that rivals Island's canon-defining Tougher Than Tough, but this only rises to that level on the shared songs. Nonethless, much of the rest is interesting. B+(**)
C81 (1981, NME/Rough Trade): Sampler, promoted by NME and released on cassette tape, the original running 24 tracks (79:39), mostly post-punk/new wave bands. Some groups on the way up, some down, some just hanging around. B+(*) [dl]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: