An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 7, 2019
Music: current count 32183  rated (+27), 229  unrated (+10).
Slow start on the week, partly because I flushed Monday's listening out in September Streamnotes, and ended this Sunday night. Partly because the Kevin Sun 2-CD album sat in the changer four days while I slowly made up my mind. Sun's album never quite matched his Trio debut, nor is the George Coleman album quite as terrific as his The Master Speaks, but in the end both came close enough. Among the also-rans, Laurie Anderson's spoken word over Tibetan ghost music came closest, and might deserve further attention. Turns out Phil Overeem likes the album a lot (number 9 on his latest list. Also found my two good vault albums there. More to follow next week.
I added those and a few others to my metacritic file. In turn I checked out several of the better-rated albums I hadn't bothered with, but didn't find I enjoyed it much. Most I'm pretty sure of, but artists like Angel Olsen, Bon Iver, and Jessica Pratt just make me wonder if I'm getting too old for this shit. Also in the "don't do it for me" category are fairly ordinary rockers like Cherry Glazerr, Sleater-Kinney, and Girl Band.
Got a lot of mail last week (today's take is listed below but not counted above). I'm noting future release dates as I get them, also when I do reviews. The queue is usually sorted FIFO, as I suspect keeping it sorted by release date would be a big hassle. Upcoming week may be less than usual, as I have some house projects, plus a bit of cooking coming up. Then some medical shit, before Trump takes that away, too.
New records reviewed this week:
Laurie Anderson/Tenzin Choegyal/Jesse Paris Smith: Songs From the Bardo (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): Spoken word and violin, an exploration of impending death, or maybe just The Tibetan Book of the Dead: "bardo" in Tibetan Buddhism is the state of existence between death and rebirth. Choegyal chants, plays various Tibetan instruments, Smith mostly piano, with extras adding cello and percussion. Proceeds too slowly for my taste, but makes me wonder. B+(***)
Ben Bennett/Zach Darrup/Jack Wright: Never (2018, Palliative): Percussion, guitar, and sax, unnamed improv pieces, inventive but pretty harsh. Wright, from Pittsburgh, has been around a while, first album in 1982, Discogs lists 52 albums, I've heard one. Darrup, from Philadelphia, has one previous, a duo with Wright, and Bennett, also from Philadelphia, has several, including at least three with Wright. [3/5 tracks, 37:44/63:25] B+(*) [bc]
Bon Iver: I, I (2019, Jagjaguwar): Justin Vernon, from Wisconsin, discography dates back to 1998 but his platinum breakthrough came with this group name in 2008. Fourth Bon Iver album, title stylized lc, as in math, but harder to figure. Rather quirky music, opaque to me, but possible to imagine there's more to it somewhere. B
Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayin¿ (2019, Warp): Detroit rapper, underground, fifth album, slung a load of sex rhymes on XXX, but no, I don't really follow what he's saying now. Do dig the beats, and the squeaky voice, and wonder whether a few more spins might make the difference. B+(***)
Cherry Glazerr: Stuffed & Ready (2019, Secretly Canadian): Alt/indie band from Los Angeles, pricipally singer-guitarist Clementine Creevy, with bass and drums. Third album. B
George Coleman: The Quartet (2019, Smoke Sessions): Tenor saxophonist, probably best known as the guy who kept the tenor sax slot warm for Miles Davis between Coltrane and Shorter, but he's recorded a dozen-plus albums under his own name, some really great -- like My Horns of Plenty (1991), and (after a long break) A Master Speaks (2016). Not sure exactly when this one was recorded: most likely shortly before or after his 84th birthday, well before pianist Harold Mabern (83) died in September. The octogenarians are delights, ably supported by John Webber and Joe Farnsworth. A-
The Comet Is Coming: Afterlife (2019, Impulse!): British fusion trio, sax/keybs/drums credited to aliases (King Shabaka, Danalogue, Betamax). Short album (6 tracks, 32:19). B+(*)
Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons (2018 , Pyroclastic): Avant-pianist, from Canada, debuted in 2003 and quickly established herself as a major figure, especially in groups with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. Here she makes some kind of breakout bid, doubling down at tenor sax (Malaby + JD Allen), spotting two top guitarists (Nels Cline and Marc Ribot), mixing in turntables, electronics, and vocal bits, without making it too easy. B+(***)
Girl Band: The Talkies (2019, Rough Trade): Irish alt/indie post-punk band, no evident females, Dara Kiely the singer, backed with guitar-bass-drums. Second album, four years after their first, bleak and claustrophobic, what passes for their comfort zone. B+(*)
Robert Glasper: Fuck Yo Feelings (2019, Loma Vista): Once and future jazz pianist, promised to bring a shot of hip-hop into the jazz milieu, never impressed me much, but this jam session qua mixtape proves his knack for networking. Long guest list, long album (19 tracks, 71+ minutes), moments come and go. B+(*)
Mika: My Name Is Michael Holbrook (2019, Republic/Virgin EMI): Parents American (Israeli and Lebanese roots), born in Beirut, moved to Paris at 1, then to London at 9, so counts as a British pop star. Title is true, but omits last name Penniman. Fifth album. B+(**)
Simon Nabatov: Readings: Red Cavalry (2018 , Leo): Russian avant-pianist, long based in Germany, based this on Isaac Babel texts, read dramatically by Phil Minton. The music -- with Frank Gratkowski (reeds), Marcus Schmickler (electronics), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- is most interesting when it breaks free. B+(*)
Simon Nabatov: Readings: Gileya Revisited (2018 , Leo): Gileya is the Russian Futurist group from the 1920s, better known today for their art (e.g., El Lissitzy) than for their writings, which provide the texts here. Same group as on Red Cavalry, except that Jaap Blonk is the voice here. Tough going, with occasional flashes of brilliance. B+(*)
Angel Olson: All Mirrors (2019, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from St. Louis, based in Asheville, NC; fourth album since 2012, the previous one (My Woman) finishing high in critics polls. Music here built up from strings, some songs strong enough to suggest what all the fuss is about. B+(*)
Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs (2019, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter, from San Francisco, plays guitar (although this opens with a piano solo), sometimes slotted as folk, probably for its bare DIY-ness. Short (9 tracks, 27:48), and yes, quiet. B-
Carmen Sandim: Play Doh (2019, Ropeadope): Pianist, from Brazil, based in Colorado, second album, all originals, septet gives her lots of options with three horns, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd] [10-25]
Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold (2019, Mom + Pop): Second album after their 2005-15 hiatus, with two singer-guitarists I've never cared much for, and a terrific drummer (Janet Weiss) who's on this album but has since quit the band. Good news here is by midway I lost track of whatever it was used to irritate me so much (Carrie Brownstein's screech?). Not so good news is by the end I was scarcely paying attention at all. B
Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time (2018 , Pi): Drums and piano, more of the former, a single 64:57 piece recorded live. Seems more cut up than that, with a complete stop in the middle making you wonder whether the record is over, and a lot of stretches where nothing much happens, but does close strong. B+(**) [cd]
Kevin Sun: The Sustain of Memory (2019, Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1991, based in New York, has degrees from Harvard and New England Conservatory, a blog which serious jazz students will find worth perusing, and a previous Trio album which was by far the most impressive debut of 2018. Expands every which way here, except in song count, where the limit is three long ones (36:27, 29:23, 48:22). Adds Adam O'Farrill on trumpet, pianist Dana Saul -- whose Ceiling in in the running for this year's finest debut -- on tracks one and three, and swaps his Trio bassist and drummer for others on the long finale. I'm slightly less impressed by the sprawl, but he's still on track as a major talent. A- [cd] [11-15]
Tegan and Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You (2019, Warner Brothers): Twin sisters, last name Quin, from Canada, ninth album since 1999. I thought they found their calling when they went electropop last time, so I'm a bit disappointed they're leading with the guitars this time. Not real disappointed, mind you. B+(**)
Andrés Vial/Dezron Douglas/Eric McPherson: Gang of Three (2019, Chromatic Audio): Piano-bass-drums trio, the pianist from Montreal, did a find Monk album last year, this one even more impressive with all original pieces. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Fania Goes Psychedelic (1967-71 , Fania): Not clear what (if anything) distinguishes this from boogaloo, but then "psychedelic" never had a substantive definition -- close enough for Ray Barretto to call the lead song "Acid." B+(***)
World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now (1970s , Luaka Bop): Cover explains: "These undeniably soulful, passionate, and urgent songs from obscure 45's, dug up from a long dormancy in attics, sheds and crates across the American south, are a subset of seventies-era gospel, focusing not on Jesus or God, but instead on ourselves, and how we exist with each other." B+(***)
Bertrand Denzler Cluster: Y? (1998 , Leo Lab): French tenor saxophonist, couple dozen albums since 1992. Quartet, with Benoît Delbecq on prepared piano, Hélène Labarrière on bass, Norbert Pfammatter on drums. B+(***)
Bertrand Denzler/Norbert Pfammatter: NanoCluster 02/2000 (2000, Leo Lab): Half of the saxophonist's Cluster group, retaining just tenor sax and drums. Ten numbered free improvs, impressive rigor, but sometimes less is less. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: