An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, September 5, 2022
Music: Current count 38637  rated (+42), 56  unrated (+5: 23 new, 33 old).
I'm tired and sick and generally disgusted, so have next to nothing to say about this week's music. If you want to go to a happier place, try Phil Overeem's September list. That's where I found Witchcraft Books (or whatever the proper credit is). Before that, the only A- record on my list was Vol. 6 of the Sam Rivers archives, which is probably the 6th A- in that series so far.
I wrote a pretty long Speaking of Which over the weekend. I thought I could get up today and give is an extra edit pass, but wound up spending most of the day on the August Streamnotes index. Only thing I got out of that was the news that the Streamnotes index passed 20,000 last month.
I did a fairly extensive update of the Robert Christgau website last week. We've had several episodes where resource limits choked the website, and one of those occurred last week. I had been working on coding changes to check for attempted hacks using HTTP arguments (especially the GET variables set from the URL), so I pushed myself and puts checks on the last such cases. There's no proof that the resource limits were being caused by those hacks, but since I knew it was a security risk, it was the obvious fix to make. I've been monitoring the website more closely since then. We've had one fault, but it was short-lived, and I don't know what caused it. As the changes hit most of the database code, let me know if you run into anything amiss. It's also possible that the checks will catch some reasonable requests, so let me know about that, too.
Given today's fault, the changes don't appear to have fixed the problem. The entry process limit exists primarily as a defense against DOS (denial of service) attacks, but I don't see any evidence of that level of traffic. That means, most likely, that some page requests are causing processes to hang. I have no way of identifying hung processes, so I'm left to guessing, looking at code for suspicious loops. (Code injected through arguments can easily cause hangs like that, so my first guess wasn't necessarily a wrong one.) I put some logging code in to help, but after I didn't get any data back in three days, I discovered a bug, and had to start over. (Ah: caught 17 errors so far, some suspicious, but I forgot to log the script name, so should add that.)
New router seems to be working OK. It picked up all the old DHCP addresses, so I ran into less trouble than expected. In some ways the transition was a little too smooth.
The second album (Holy Souls) from my friend Cam Patterson's band Fox Green is available now. I've been slow getting around to it, but you can listen for yourself on Bandcamp, and order a CD or download there. The first one, The Longest April, was a high B+ both by Robert Christgau and yours truly.
New records reviewed this week:
Florian Arbenz: Conversation #6 & #7 (2021 , Hammer): Swiss drummer, has a trio (since 2006) called Vein, started his superb Conversation series during lockdown, entertaining various guests. Guest here is pianist Kirk Lightsey, in a duo for the first part, expanded to a quartet with Tibor Elekes (bass) and Domenic Landolf (tenor sax/bass clarinet). B+(***) [bc]
Karl Berger/Max Johnson/Billy Mintz: Sketches (2017 , Fresh Sound): Mostly piano-bass-drums trio, with Berger also on vibes. All three contribute songs, plus one from Charlie Haden and one trad. B+(***) [sp]
Camp Cope: Running With the Hurricane (2022, Run for Cover): Australian alt-rock trio, Georgia McDonald the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, two other women on bass and drums. Third album. B+(*) [sp]
The Chats: Get Fucked (2022, Bargain Bin): Australian post-punk group, second album, knock their songs off like bowling pins. B+(***) [sp]
Tashi Dorji/Susie Ibarra: Master of Time (2020 , Astral Spirits): Bhutanese guitarist based in Ashville, NC; numerous albums since 2009, mostly solo improvs and duos, like this one with the drummer/percussionist. She gets into the Buddhist thing. B+(**) [bc]
Drug Church: Hygiene (2022, Pure Noise): Rock band from Albany, NY; somewhere in the punk/hardcore/grunge constellation. Fourth album since 2013. I don't find the grind unlistenable, but don't get much more out of it. B [sp]
Silvana Estrada: Marchita (2022, Glassnote): Mexican singer-songwriter, from Veracruz, second album, title translates as "withered." B+(*) [sp]
The Fernweh: Torschlusspanik! (2022, Winterlude): Brit rock group, from Liverpool, name and title sounded German to me, so I called up Google translate and was amused to find that the English for "Fernweh" is "Wanderlust." The title translates as "last minute panic." Second album. Only non-English song title is French ("Pas devant les enfants"). B+(*) [sp]
Florist: Florist (2022, Double Double Whammy): Indie folk band quartet from Brooklyn, self-released debut EP in 2013, fourth album on the current label, the eponymous title suggesting that they've reached a level worthy of re-introducing themselves. Emily Sprague sings, and seems to be into modular synthesizers. Nice flow to the music. Does run a bit long. B+(***) [sp]
Al Foster: Reflections (2022, Smoke Sessions): Drummer, joined Miles Davis in 1972, had a couple albums as leader 1978-79, a scattered few since including one in 2019 on this label, huge number of side credits along the way. Leads a powerhouse quintet here, with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Chris Potter (tenor and soprano sax), Kevin Hays (piano and Fender Rhodes), Vicente Archer (bass). I don't care for the ensemble horn tone, but as soloists they're impressive as expected. B+(*) [sp]
Ezra Furman: All of Us Flames (2022, Anti-): Singer-songwriter from Chicago, debut 2007 as front for a band (Ezra Furman & the Harpoons), solo since 2012, has a fairly remarkable string of albums. I'm having trouble focusing on this one, but maybe I should just let it be. B+(***) [sp]
Michael Grossman/Jai Morris-Smith: Curious Music (2020-21 , Research/Astral Spirits): Australian guitar duo, both indulging liberally in "treatments," which fade into ambience. B [bc]
Ben Harper: Bloodline Maintenance (2022, Chrysalis): Singer-songwriter from California, 16th album since 1994, mixed race, mixed genre but blues seems to be his default setting, a reserve of strength when he gets topical, as in "We Need to Talk About It." B+(**) [sp]
Keefe Jackson/Oscar Jan Hoogland/Joshua Abrams/Mikel Patrick Avery: These Things Happen (2016 , Astral Spirits, EP): Sax quartet, leader plays tenor and sopranino, backed by piano, bass, and drums. Opens with a Monk riff, covers Dewey Redman and Herbie Nichols, includes two songs by the pianist, and returns to Monk again. Short enough we'll call it an EP (21:55). B+(**) [bc]
JID: The Forever Story (2022, Dreamville/Interscope): Atlanta rapper Destin Route, third album, debut was called The Never Story. Slippery, some stories. B+(**) [sp]
Lykke Li: Eyeye (2022, PIAS): Swedish singer/songwriter, last name Zachrisson, fifth album since 2008. Soft pop, doesn't grab me, but has some moments. B+(*) [sp]
Roberto Magris: Duo & Trio: Featuring Mark Colby (2012-19 , JMood): Italian pianist, from Trieste, started around 1982, has recorded a lot since 2005. Alternates cuts between a duo with saxophonist Mark Colby (the later session) and a trio with Elisa Pruett (bass) and Brian Steever (drums), adding congas to the latter on two tracks. Nice showing for Colby. B+(**) [cd] [09-01]
Rudi Mahall/Michael Griener: Jazzpreis (2020-21 , Astral Spirits): German duo, bass clarinet/clarinet/baritone sax with drums/vibraphone. Mahall has a lot of shared or side credits since 1992. Griener, two years younger, has about half as many credits, but was leader on a 2014 quartet with Mahall I like, and joined Mahall's group Die Enttäuschung for their 2017 Lavaman album. B+(***) [bc]
Roc Marciano & the Alchemist: The Elephant Man's Bones (2022, ALC/Marci/Empire): Rapper Rakheim Calief Meyer, has a dozen alums since 2010, this the first one with Dan Maman producing. Not much stands out from their inscrutable groove. B+(**)
Matmos: Regards/Uklony Dla Boguslaw Schaeffer (2022, Thrill Jockey): Electronica duo, M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, originally from San Francisco, now based in Baltimore, 13th album since 1997, a collection of works by Polish computer Schaefer (1929-2019). Opens with beats. Could use more. B+(*) [sp]
Tommy McLain: I Ran Down Every Dream (2022, Yep Roc): Swamp pop crooner, got on the "one hit wonders" list with his 1966 recording of "Sweet Dreams" -- the only one to chart as pop (15) but these days you know it from Patsy Cline (1963) and I also know it from writer Don Gibson (1956; Faron Young cover sold more, but I'm a bigger fan of Gibson's compilations). McLain recorded a number of albums in the 1970s, but this is only the second one since. Aside from a Fats Domino cover, originals, some sharing credits with Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Van Dyke Parks. Nothing immediately grabs me, but some of it sinks in agreeably. B+(*) [sp]
Mdou Moctar: Niger EP Vol. 1 (2022, Matador, EP): Saharan guitarist from Niger, has uniformly appealing albums since 2013, long on groove, not many vocals. This is long enough (42:58), but starting with two "drum machine version" takes and concluding with four live tracks (most of old songs), is nicely discounted, and about as functional as the other albums. B+(***) [sp]
Mush: Down Tools (2022, Memphis Industries): Post-punk band from Leeds [UK], third album, some jangle in the guitars, some static in the amps. Reminds me of Psychedelic Furs and/or Pavement. B+(**) [sp]
Jessica Pavone: . . . Of Late (2021 , Astral Spirits): Plays viola here, Abby Swidler violin or viola, Aimée Nieman violin on one track, which also has voice from all three. Mostly slow and methodical, thinking of minimalism. A bit more interesting toward the end, but I've never liked the shrillness. B [bc]
Harish Raghavan: In Tense (2021 , Whirlwind): Bassist, based in New York, second album, quintet with Morgan Guerin (reeds), Charles Altura (guitar), Joel Ross (vibes/marimba), and Eric Harland (drums). B [sp]
Joe Rainey: Niineta (2022, 37d03d): Pow wow singer from Minneapolis ("faithful to tradition"), first album, backed by "cinematic, bass-heavy production from Andrew Broder." Jarring at first, grows on you. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams: Allium (2022, Aerophonic): Alto/tenor sax, with cello and drums, in what's by far the most atmospheric album Rempis has ever recorded. Lovely stretch toward the end, but hard to get excited about all the down time. B+(***) [cd] [10-04]
Joan Shelley: The Spur (2022, No Quarter): Folk singer-songwriter from Kentucky, albums since 2010, some in the group Maiden Radio. Nice voice, very pretty album. B+(**) [sp]
Ben Sidran: Swing State (2021 , Nardis): Pianist, started in a rock band with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs, has three dozen solo albums since 1970 (of which I've only heard one before this), I have him down as a vocalist but not here: eight standards (including "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Stompin' at the Savoy," and "Tuxedo Junction"), backed by Billy Patterson (bass) and Leo Sidran (drums, his son). B+(**) [cd] [09-16]
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Let's Turn It Into Sound (2022, Ghostly International): Started with a fascination for synthesizers and sound design, debut 2012, sings some, tenth album, some interesting quirks in the electronics. B+(*) [sp]
Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute to John Anderson (2022, Easy Eye Sound): Country singer, has a big, goofy voice you can't mistake for anyone else, debut in 1980, 22 albums through 2020, most of them charted but only 3 went gold, starting with 1982's Wild & Blue. Not immediately clear how many of these were written by Anderson, or how recently they were recorded. (This starts with John Prine, who died in 2020, singing "1959," written by Gary Gentry, and ends with a Billy Joe Shaver song, and one by Bo Diddley in the middle.) B+(**) [bc]
Charm Taylor: She Is the Future (2021, Sinking City): Born in St. Louis, based in New Orleans, "liberationist & pollinator is generating new music and art as movement in the throes of social revolution, emergent motherhood, and a global yearning for a better world." First album. Sings some, raps more. B+(**) [bc]
Teddy & the Rough Riders: Teddy & the Rough Riders 2022, self-released, EP): Nashville band, guitar-bass-drums plus pedal steel, released an album in 2019, back here with six songs (19:56). B [bc]
Matt Ulery: Become Giant (2022, Woolgathering): Chicago bassist, albums since 2009, goes long on strings here, with three violins, viola, cello, and drums, on the multipart title piece plus one more (total: 36:25). B+(**) [cd]
UNKLE: Ronin II [Mixed] (2022, self-released): Founded in 1990s by British electronia producer James Lavelle, a group that included DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) for their 1998 debut, Psyence Fiction, but has reduced here to someone called Miink and occasional guests, revisiting old tunes and adding a couple new ones. The closer is by far the most impressive. B+(**) [bc]
Wiri Donna: Being Alone (2022, self-released, EP): New Zealand-based "rock project," Bianca Bailey singer-songwriter, six tracks (23:46) EP after a 2-track single. B [bc]
Witchcraft Books [Shorty Skilz/Kanif the Jhatmaster]: Vol I: The Sundisk (2022, Iapetus): Cover can be parsed several ways, with Bandcamp page using "Witchcraft Books" in title as well as artist credit, with the duo names way below. Both artists have separate albums on the label, so I was tempted to elevate their names, but for now will just note them. South Africans (I think), closer to U.S. underground hip-hop than to local grooves (kwaito or amapiano), but was mastered in Marseille and Catalonia, and covers a fair swath of cosmos. A- [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Daunik Lazro/Jouk Minor/Thierry Madiot/David Chiésa/Louis-Michel Marion: Sonoris Causa (2003 , NoBusiness): French saxophonist, albums since 1980, plays baritone here, with contrabass sarrusophone, bass trombone/telescopic tubes, and two 5-string basses, so you could say they "get down." B+(**) [cd]
Prince and the Revolution: Live (1985 , NPG/Legacy, 2CD): March 30 concert in Syracuse, "televised live and semi live around the world," released at the time on tape (VHS/Betamax, with a Laserdisc in 1988), source for numerous bootlegs, until the Estate finally came up with the definitive box set (3-LP, 2-CD, Blu-ray), or just the 2-CD and/or Blu-ray. I'm just streaming the audio. The set draws heavily on his most recent album, Purple Rain, along with familiar earlier material. The auditorium and the crowd don't do the sound any favors, so while the energy is high and the songs are great, I don't see this as terribly useful. B+(**) [sp]
Sam Rivers: Caldera [Sam Rivers Archive Project, Volume 6] (2002 , NoBusiness): Featuring Doug Matthews (acoustic & electric bass, bass clarinet) and Anthony Cole (drums, tenor sax, piano), a trio that had been playing together since 1994. Rivers himself plays tenor & soprano sax, flute, and piano, plus gets a vocals credit. Opens with piano, finds new and varied combinations, what improvisation is all about. A- [cd]
Tony Conrad: Early Minimalism: Volume One (1964-65 , Table of the Elements, 4CD): Experimental film/video producer, composed pieces on the drone end of the minimalist scene that developed in New York in the 1960s. The first disc here is "Four Violins," and right away you'll hear the electric viola tone that John Cale brought to the Velvet Underground. Unfortunately, for 32:30 (and it seems much longer) you'll hear nothing else. The later sessions are slightly more fetching, not that the drones vary much there, either. The box is flimsy with a promotional wraparound, but it does include a fairly substantial booklet. B+(**) [cd]
Nazareth: Back to the Trenches: Live 1972-1984 (1972-84 , Sanctuary/Castle, 2CD): Scottish hard rock band, debut 1971, moved into arenas with their 1975 album Hair of the Dog, solid but nondescript, from the era before metal became dead weight. B [cd]
Marianne Nowottny: Manmade Girl: SOngs and Instrumentals (2001, Abaton Book, 2CD): Singer-songwriter, second album after a 1999 debut, Discogs lists four more since. Songs fractured, backed with keyboard. Second disc of instruments, slips into background. B+(*) [cd]
Precocious Noise and Early Electronica Pt. 1: Incantations for Tape (1920s-60s , Sound Miracle): Odd electronic music, from days when anything you could coax out of a circuit seemed like a breakthrough. How valuable this is will depend on the documentation. [NB: Streaming issues may have confused me here: it's possible that some pieces were omitted, while others were added at end.] B+(*) [sp]
Precocious Noise and Early Electronica Pt. 2: Wire Recorded Pieces (1921-62 , Sound Miracle): Most of these date from the 1950s, with early ones from 1921, 1938, 1944. Later pieces include a few well-known names, like Ligeti, Ussachevsky, and Pierre Henry. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: