Monday, October 2, 2023

Music Week

October archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40961 [40918] rated (+43), 31 [30] unrated (+1).

Pretty major Speaking of Which last night (8867 words, 114 links). My wife was more critical than I was of Fredrik deBoer, and recommended the Becca Rothfeld review that I had linked to, only to note that deBoer didn't like it. It now seems to me like she does a pretty fair job of summarizing deBoer's points and their limits. Final paragraph, which doesn't sound like an elite trying to usurp a mass movement and turn it into a vanity project:

It is hardly a shock that BLM and #MeToo attracted some unsavory allies. Mass movements are, by definition, massive, and every large group includes some lunatics on the margins. To point to the existence of a few fanatic hangers-on is hardly to indict a movement or its methods. Indeed, a motley coalition is -- for better or worse -- a necessary result of any truly democratic foray. Who, then, is DeBoer's intended audience? Movements are not agents amenable to persuasion. There is no secretary to whom DeBoer could hand a petition, demanding more stringent "message discipline." There is only the flash and the fury, the sudden surge of belief in a better life. If the wayward beast of a mass action cannot always be coaxed into behaving rationally, so much the better: That is the source of its chaos, but also the source of its force.

I've been focusing a lot on books lately because that's the forum -- not blogs and podcasts, and certainly not X -- where serious thinkers have the time and space to try to put their thoughts into coherent form. My latest Book Roundup has many of these, and this post adds several more: ones I missed like DeBoer's How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement, Nelson Lichtenstein and Judith Stein's A Fabulous Failure, Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's Tyranny of the Minority, and Kevin Slack's ridiculous War on the American Republic; one I knew was coming soon: Heather Cox Richardson's Democracy Awakening, so held off on; and a couple future books I only just heard about: Zack Beauchamp's The Reactionary Spirit, and Hunter Walker and Luppe B. Luppen's The Truce. (There are also mentions of several other books I had previously written about.)

One thing I've been thinking about a lot is how changes happen, and why they move in some directions and not others. This isn't the place to attempt a disquisition on what I think, but I will note that my recent reading in Hobsbawm and Clark on 1789-1848 is giving me a lot of case studies (oddly enough, even drawing on Turchin's "elite overproduction" thesis).

One final note is that after I slogged through Hobsbawm's first volume over 5-6 weeks, my wife got an audible of his second volume, and finished it within 3-4 days. Makes me wonder what I could get done if I wasn't listening to music all the time.

I lost less time thrashing this week, trying to find something to play next, mostly thanks to Phil Overeem's latest list. Two records I didn't get around to because they're just too damn long are DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ's Destiny (six LPs) and the big box (4-CD) of the Replacements' Tim. Given that Tim has long been my favorite of their albums, and that everyone is raving about the new mix, the latter seems like a lock. I did manage to make it through two more sets that ran too long, but were remarkable before I lost track: Kashmere Stage Band and Les Rallizes Dénudés. Phil also initiated the Money for Guns dive. I love that he comes up with records like these.

Still only had one A-list album when I cut off the week, but it took long enough to do the Streamnotes indexing today that I got to the Allison Russell album, and decided to move it up. I also knocked off three jazz CDs from the queue, but they can (and should) wait. Until lately, the queue was almost all scheduled well into the future, but release dates have started to come fast -- ten (of 31) albums are already out. I need to work on that.

I'm starting to think about the Jazz Critics Poll this year. It would be nice to get a jump on it for the first time ever, rather than getting blindsided a few days before the ballots need to be sent out. If you have suggestions, drop me a line.

New records reviewed this week:

Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: Afro Futuristic Dreams (2023, Strut): Saxophonist, originally Bruce Baker from Chicago, studied at Antioch under Cecil Taylor, discovered Africa and the cosmos, formed his original Pyramids there, reviving them around 2016 for four albums so far. A mix of cosmic Sun Ra and down home social music, a bit long on strings and vocals. B+(***) [sp]

Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (2022 [2023], Aerophonic): Chicago saxophonist Rempis recorded in the Netherlands, with the two Belgian musicians on bass and piano, both with electronics. (Cambien is currently based in Oslo.) The background is enticing, something Rempis shows great sensitivity to, not that he never breaks loose for a power solo. A- [cd] [10-10]

Zoh Amba: O Life, O Light Vol. 2 (2021 [2023], 577): Tenor saxophonist from Tennessee, plays some flute, burst onto the scene in 2022 with a half dozen albums of explosive free jazz, as if Albert Ayler had descended from the heavens and taken up improbable earthly form. The one I missed was the first part of this set, with William Parker on bass (and gralla) and Francisco Mela on drums. Two tracks, 39:25. I was reminded of this when I read a review bemoaning the drop from Vol. 1. I can't imagine how the previous album could have caused that remark. B+(***) [bc]

Emil Amos: Zone Black (2023, Drag City): Drummer, and then some, has produced 16 albums since 2000 as Holy Sons, plus two under his name, describes this as "mood music for drug trips spent dreaming up new soundtracks to take drugs to!" B+(*) [sp]

Florian Arbenz: Conversation #10: Inland (2023, Hammer): Swiss drummer, albums back to 2001, most of his work in the group VEIN until 2020, when he started his Conversation series, collaborating via email, initially in duos and trios, but with one of his largest groups here: Martial In-Albon (trumpet), Nils Wogram (trombone), Christy Doran (guitar), and Rafael Jerjen (bass), with Matthias Würsch (glass harmonica) on one track. B+(**) [sp]

Kyle Bruckmann/Tim Daisy/Phillip Greenlief/Lisa Mezzacappa: Semaphore (2022 [2023], Relay): Listing is alphabetical, but Bruckmann (oboe, english horn, electronics) composed three pieces to four by Daisy (drums), with the others -- members of San Francisco's Creative Music Continuum -- on tenor sax and bass. B+(**) [bc]

Chai: Chai (2023, Sub Pop): Japanese pop/rock band, fourth album since 2017, all four-letter words. Could be fun. B+(**) [sp]

Margo Cilker: Valley of Heart's Delight (2023, Fluff and Gravy): Country singer-songwriter from Oregon, second album after 2021's impressive debut, Pohorylle. B+(***) [sp]

Brent Cobb: Southern Star (2023, Ol' Buddy/Thirty Tigers): Country singer-songwriter, sixth studio album since 2006. Easy-going songs, comfort food. B+(**) [sp]

Jeff Coffin/Jordan Perlson/Viktor Krauss: Coffin/Perlson/Krauss (2023, Ear Up): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, clarinet, bass flute), drums, and bass (brother of Alison Krauss), all three writing songs. Coffin, based in Nashville, has a dozen albums since 1997, and has had long-running gigs with Béla Fleck and Dave Matthews. I've been filing his records under pop jazz, but this one is solidly postbop, impressive even. B+(***) [cd]

Hollie Cook: Happy Hour in Dub (2023, Merge): British reggae singer, daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, four studio albums, including Happy Hour in 2022, this her second dub remix. B+(*) [sp]

Charles Wesley Godwin: Family Ties (2023, self-released): Country singer-songwriter from West Virginia, third album, a long one (19 songs). B+(*) [sp]

Laurel Halo: Atlas (2023, Awe): Electronic musician, from Ann Arbor, moved to Los Angeles, more lately spending time in Berlin, London, and Paris -- where this fifth album was recorded, with guest sax, violin, cello, and vocals, but nothing to break with the ambiance. PopMatters called this "her most glacial music yet." B [sp]

Heather Lynne Horton: Get Me to a Nunnery (2023, Pauper Sky): Singer-songwriter, third album, married to Michael McDermott (plays here, Americana singer-songwriter from Chicago, 23 albums since 1991 per Discogs, none that I've heard). Opens with a wall-of-sound piece I can't stand, before falling back into pained troubadour mode with weeping strings. B- [sp]

Loraine James: Gentle Confrontation (2023, Hyperdub): British electronics producer and vocalist, fifth album. Goes downtempo for "vignettes of memory and emotion," trip hop without the trip, or the hop. B+(*) [sp]

Jlin: Perspective (2023, Planet Mu, EP): Electronica producer Jerrilyn Patton. She's taught a course called "Rhythm, Variation, & Vulnerability." This doesn't feel like a text, but its six tracks (27:21) are exemplary. B+(***) [sp]

Nils Kugelmann: Stormy Beauty (2022 [2023], ACT): German bassist, first album, with piano (Luca Zambito) and drums (Sebastian Wolfgruber). B+(**) [sp]

Lewsberg: Out and About (2023, self-released): Dutch VU-influenced alt-rock group, from Rotterdam, fourth album since 2017, songs in English, bassist Shalita Dietrich the main (but not only) singer. B+(**) [sp]

Fred Lonberg-Holm/Tim Daisy: Current 23 (2022 [2023], Relay): Duo, cello/electronics and drums/percussion, both from the final edition of Vandermark 5, which takes them back 20 years. B+(**) [bc]

Lydia Loveless: Nothing's Gonna Stand in My Way Again (2023, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter from Ohio, last name Ankrom, started in a family band called Carson Drew, her 2011 debut on alt-country label Bloodshot impressed me, nothing quite so much since then. B+(*) [sp]

Francisco Mela and Zoh Amba: Causa Y Efecto Vol. 1 (2021 [2023], 577): Cuban drummer, moved to Boston in 2000 to study at Berklee, has a distinguished career in Afro-Cuban jazz, but lately has been appearing in small free jazz sets, like this one with the young tenor saxophonist (she also plays a bit of flute). B+(***) [dl]

MIKE/Wiki/The Alchemist: Faith Is a Rock (2023, ALC): New York rappers Michael Bonema and Patrick Morales, backed by producer Alan Maman. B+(*) [sp]

Billy Mohler: Ultraviolet (2023, Contagious Music): Bassist, known to play guitar elsewhere, has a fairly wide range of pop and rock side credits, but this is his third quartet album with Shane Endsley (trumpet), Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), and Nate Wood (drums). Nine tracks, 32:24. B+(***) [cdr] [10-13]

Money for Guns: All the Darkness That's in Your Head (2023, Money for Guns): Google search for group name yields one plausible link, and lots of: "cash for arms," "sell your guns," "how to sell a gun online," "guns into cash," "money quick guns." Drop the title in and you don't get much more, even from the band's own website. Didn't sound like much at first, then I detected a pub rock vibe, then jotted down a line ("all the Catholic girls love Paul Simon"), and it got more interesting from there out. [PS: While Discogs has nothing, Spotify has ten albums, going back to 2011, one credited to Frustrated Bachelors 2003-06. Discogs identifies them as a band from Columbia, MO, and names three members, two in Money for Guns -- Dave Birk, Will Saulsbery. I've since heard they are now based in St. Louis.] B+(**) [sp]

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Dance of the Elders (2022 [2023], ECM): Austrian guitarist, younger brother of trombonist Christian Muthspiel, has a couple dozen albums since 1989, early records mapped out a fusion groove comparable to John Scofield (Black & Blue, from 1992, is a favorite), but has slowed down, especially since landing on ECM in 2014. This one is a nice trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Brian Blade (drums), playing five originals plus covers of Brecht/Weil and Joni Mitchell. B+(**) [sp]

Jessica Pavone: Clamor (2023, Out of Your Head): Violinist, closely associated with Mary Halvorson and more broadly with the Braxton crowd, twenty-some albums since 2001, some I can't stand while others improbably impress. She plays viola here in a string sextet (two each violins and viola, Matana Roberts on cello, Shayna Dulberger on double bass, with Karen Young for bassoon solos on the middle two tracks. B+(***) [cd] [10-06]

Chappell Roan: The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess (2023, Amusement/Island): Pop singer, songwriter (I guess), Kayleigh Amstutz, from a suburb of Springfield, MO, via Los Angeles. First album after a 2017 EP, produced by Dan Nigro (cf. Olivia Rodrigo). B+(**) [sp]

Bobby Rush: All My Love for You (2023, Deep Rush/Thirty Tigers): Blues singer-songwriter Emmett Ellis Jr., born in Louisiana, made his way to Chicago in the 1950s, recorded some singles, but only released his first album in 1978 -- a one-shot with Philadelphia International. Went back south to "put the funk into the blues," and has been grinding out records ever since, still sounding vital as 89. B+(***) [sp]

Allison Russell: The Returner (2023, Fantasy): Singer-songwriter from Montreal, absent father from Grenada, had a harrowing childhood, ran away to Vancouver at 15, joined a Celtic folk band, navigated through several other groups, including roots supergroup Our Native Daughters. Second solo album, no reason to file this under folk -- well, bits of banjo and French, but the hooks are pop, and the barbs pointed. Hits its stride with "Eve Was Black." A- [sp]

Slayyyter: Starfucker (2023, Fader): Electropop singer-songwriter Catherine Garner, from Kirkwood (MO), based in Los Angeles, her debut a 2019 "mixtape," second album since. Some songs remind me of Madonna. Some videos remind me of that Sex book. B+(***) [sp]

Veronica Swift: Veronica Swift (2023, Mack Avenue): Jazz singer, parents were pianist Hod O'Brien and singer Stephanie Nakasian, which gave her a leg up in recording her debut album at age nine. Third album since turning 21, an elaborate showcase for her talents and technique, starting with dazzling scat, swinging with some kind of big band, touching base with Brazil, sopping up strings and exotic guitar, throwing in an aria for all I can tell -- the label isn't very forthcoming on details -- then some rocked-out show tunes. I should be awed, but I'm not even dumbfounded. Just dumb. B- [sp]

That Mexican OT: Lonestar Luchador (2023, Manifest/Good Talk/Good Money Global): Texas rapper Virgil René Gazca, from Bay City (down the coast southwest of Houston), "OT" for "Outta Texas," first album after an EP and some singles. B+(**) [sp]

Tinashe: BB/ANG3L (2023, Nice Life, EP): R&B singer from Kentucky, last name Kachingwe, 2014 debut on RCA was a minor hit, left the label after declining sales of two more albums, third independent album (but at 7 songs, 20:45, we're calling it an EP). [sp]

Brad Turner Quintet: The Magnificent (2023, Cellar): Canadian pianist/trumpet player, at least one previous album plus several featured credits, with Cory Weeds (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), bass, and drums, playing the leader's compositions. B+(*) [cd]

Fay Victor: Blackcity Black Black Is Beautiful (2023, Northern Spy): Jazz singer-songwriter, from Brooklyn but she's been around, with childhood years in Zambia and Trinidad, started singing with a three-month gig in Japan with Bertha Hope, then several years in Amsterdam before returning to New York, earning a reputation as a successor to Betty Carter, both as a singer and as a bandleader. This one, however, is solo, an ambitious work built out of processed tracks with keyboards, and multi-layered voices. B+(**) [sp]

Hĺvard Wiik/Tim Daisy: Slight Return (2023, Relay): Norwegian pianist, plays in Atomic, played in Ken Vandermark's Free Fall trio, their association bringing him into contact with the Chicago (ex-Vandermark 5) drummer. B+(***) [bc]

Simón Willson: Good Company (2022 [2023], Fresh Sound New Talent): Bassist, from Chile, based in New York, first album, mostly quartet with piano (Isaac Wilson), drums (Jonas Esser), plus tenor sax (Jacob Schulman), adding a little extra oomph on 8 (of 10) tracks. B+(**) [cd] [10-13]

John Wojciechowski: Swing of the Pendulum (2022 [2023], Afar Music): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Detroit but long based in Chicago, has several albums since 2015. Strong tone, solid quartet, with Clark Sommers (bass) contributing three songs, plus Xavier Davis (piano) and Dana Hall (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo: El Arte Del Bolero, Vol. 2 (2023, Miel Music): Alto sax and piano duo, from Puerto Rico and Venezuela, have played in Zenón's Quartet since 2002, with a previous volume of bolero duets in 2021. This is very pretty, only picking up the pace toward the end. B+(***) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

The Frustrated Bachelors: In the End It Wasn't Enough: All the Good Ones 2003-2006 (2003-06 [2023], Money for Guns): Discogs identifies this as a Columbia, MO band that registered a song on an anthology somewhere. At least two of the members (Dave Birk and Will Saulsbery) went on to form the equally obscure group Money for Guns. Looking for product to dump on Spotify, they dug these fifteen songs out of their archives. "You'll Never Raise the Dead" sounds like a Nirvana outtake, which I don't mean as top tier praise, but is something. Not all like that, of course. B+(**) [sp]

Les Rallizes Dénudés: Citta' '93 (1993 [2023], Temporal Drift): Japanese experimental rock group, formed in 1967 but didn't anything until 1991, when they dropped three albums, including early studio tapes and a '77 Live. Wikipedia suggests their early works were psychedelic rock. Here they hint at Velvet Underground, before eventually plunging into an all-out noise assault: the last two pieces run 24:12 and 39:13, bringing the eight track total to 118:29. It's pretty remarkable, but a lot to sit through. B+(***) [bc]

Money for Guns: Dead Tracks (2007-20 [2022], Money for Guns): Vault dive, collected when they decided to put their works out on Spotify. Mostly acoustic, could have stayed there. B [sp]

Old music:

Farida Amadou/Pavel Tchikov: Mal De Terre (2020 [2021], Trouble in Mind): Bass and guitar duo, with electronics and effects, two improvised sessions. Leans toward a slightly unsettled ambiance. B+(*) [sp]

Kashmere Stage Band: Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974 (1968-74 [2011], Now-Again, 2CD): Big band, from Kashmere High School in Houston, directed by Conrad O. Johnson, inspired by bands like the Bar-Kays and the J.B.'s. Johnson released several albums by the bands. The band was featured in the documentary, Thunder Soul, in 2011, which occasioned this reissue. B+(***) [sp]

Wolfgang Muthspiel/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Angular Blues (2018 [2020], ECM): Guitar, bass, drums. The collaboration with drummer goes back at least to a very good 2006 duo album, while the bassist replaced Larry Grenadier from two previous ECM albums. B+(**) [sp]

Ernst-Ludwig Luten Petrowsky/Uschi Brüning/Michael Griener: Ein Résumé (2013, Jazzwerkstatt): "Luten" is the alto saxophonist's nickname. It shows up in various titles, but rarely on the slug line. He's also credited with piano, clarinet, and voice here, but the real vocalist is Brüning. Their duet on "You Don't Know What Love Is" reminds me of Sheila Jordan. That's the high point, among various scattered treats, etc. Griener plays drums. B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Constantine Alexander: Firetet (self-released) [10-18]
  • Geof Bradfield/Richard D Johnson/John Tate/Samuel Jewell: Our Heroes (Afar Music) [09-08]
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Borrowed Flowers (Top Stop Music) [09-15]
  • The Angelica Sanchez Nonet: Nighttime Creatures (Pyroclastic) [10-27]
  • Joe Wittman: Trio Works (self-released) [11-01]
  • John Wojciechowski: Swing of the Pendulum (Afar Music) [08-18]

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