An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, July 19, 2021
Music: Current count 35855  rated (+52), 212  unrated (+0).
Lots of records below. Single biggest source of inspiration (by a large margin) was Phil Overeem's latest mid-year list. I think when the list came out there were 33 albums on it I hadn't heard. Down to 10 now, although at Phil's acquisition rate I may still be down 30. Played what I hadn't heard from Robert Christgau's July Consumer Guide, and revisited Sa-Roc (well, also Aesop Rock, but no change there). For what little it's worth, I still consider Sons of Kemet's Black to the Future to be a full-A album, and if that isn't all the Shabaka Hutchings you can handle, he plays his ass off on Anthony Joseph's The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives -- this year's other full-A album. (Well, there's also the Mingus at Carnegie Hall deluxe reissue, which is exactly what I was reminded of when the other saxophonists on Joseph's album weigh in.)
The two Femenine recordings wound up with the same grade, but I think I slightly prefer the more ambient Sub Rosa version. I had them grouped together for a while, but alphabetical-by-artist order insisted. The Sub Rosa looks to be attributed directly to Eastman, but some time ago I decided to attribute classical music to the performer, not the (usually headline) composer (unless the composer is directly involved (as is often the case with recent works). I didn't manage to find Eastman's 1974 original, which would have been filed under his name.
The extra image at the bottom is a down payment on next week's haul, and presented as a puzzle/teaser. I often find an A- record between when I cut off the old week and manage to get a post up, and it's tempting to move them up rather than hold them back. Last week I could have done the same with this week's Arlo Parks record.
We finished streaming Line of Duty (Series 6) and Bosch (Season 7). I was a bit disappointed in the way both wrapped up, but they held our interest until then. Still have a fair number of Murdoch Mysteries and Midsomer Murders to go.
Only thing I've cooked in the last week was a shrimp improv, designed mostly to use up aging ingredients. Started with a shallot, garlic, red bell pepper, preserved lemon peel, shrimp, green olives, capers, parsley, and gluten-free rotini, with various spices (paprika, cumin, thyme, salt & pepper) and butter and lemon juice. I was thinking of Shrimp Bittman, but not actually looking at the recipe.
I need to go to the grocery store today or tomorrow, so I may get more ambitious. Hopes to entertain have been dashed the last several weeks, as various close friends have broken limbs, and we've had personal crises as well.
I have made some progress on making the house safer for cripples: a new bathtub rail (anchored on tile), two new front porch rails, carpet strips on the stairs to the second floor, more grab bars and handles. Should be getting one last railing unit this week. As always, Max Stewart's help was invaluable.
Locked out of the Wichita Eagle website today, and no way to get service on Sunday. It costs a fortune to read their crappy paper, and I'm about done with it.
I'm nearly done with Tom Segev's big biography A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion. After 816 pages, on top of 608 for Jack E Davis' The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, I'm hoping for something a bit easier next. Michael Lewis' The Premonition: A Pandemic Story seems likely to fit that bill. Lewis' previous The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy remains one of the best exposés of the Trump years (even if it was written relatively early in Trump's term, and makes little direct reference to him). Patiently waiting on the shelf are more obviously political books I probably understand well enough already, like Adam Serwer's The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America, and Steve Benen's The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics -- and shook it to death, or maybe we should invoke the line about drowning it in the bathtub? Make no mistake: when Grover Norquist talked about government, he meant democracy.
Here's another link for the trailer to Mike Hull's documentary Betrayal at Attica, which will be streaming at HBO Max starting August 1.
Very disappointed in the near total lack of feedback or even interest shown in last week's Speaking of Which. Probably the last one, at least for a while. Did make a bit of progress writing on memoir this weekend.
Thanks to Joe Yanosik for sending me a copy of his book, A Consumer Guide to the Plastic People of the Universe. Thin but large format, lots of pictures, lots of records I had never heard of. Glad to see that Pulnoc's legendary Live at P.S. 122 is finally going to be available. I've long had a bootleg cassette of it, but without a cassette player I never got it into my database. (I also had a prejudice against bootlegs for not being genuine products, but the mixtape era messed that up.)
New records reviewed this week:
Snoh Aalegra: Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies (2021, ARTium/Roc Nation): R&B singer Shahrzad Fooladi, born in Sweden, parents Persian, third album. B+(*)
Arooj Aftab: Vulture Prince (2021, New Amsterdam): Pakistani vocalist, studied at Berklee, based in New York since 2009, third album, rather atmospheric. B+(*)
Alder Ego: III (2021, We Jazz): Title of Finnish drummer Joonas Leppänen's debut album (2017), adopted as quartet name for II and III. With trumpet (Tomi Nikku), tenor sax (Jamo Tikka), and bass (Nathan Francis). B+(**) [bc]
The Armed: Ultrapop (2021, Sargent House): Detroit "anonymous hardcore punk collective," formed 2009, fourth album. Has all the murk of metal, but I've managed to keep the volume in check, which makes for tolerable anti-ambient chaos. Utility for that (if any) remains unclear. B
Body Meπa: The Work Is Slow (2020 , Hausu Mountain): Band name may finally force me to convert to UTF-8. After it happens, I may feel thankful, but right now the irritation factor is through the roof. How do you pronounce it? Or is part of the point that you shouldn't even try? I've seen it transliterated as "Mena" or "Metta" or "Meta" (which is what Bandcamp uses for their ASCII-limited domain name), but not (yet) the obvious "Mepa." No vocals, two guitars (Grey McMurray and Sasha Frere-Jones), bass (Melvin Gibbs), drums (Greg Fox) -- note famous rock critic in the mix (although SFJ has voted, very idiosyncratically, in the Jazz Critics Poll). Bandcamp tags suggest they think of this as rock-not-jazz, but after shopping around I filed it under jazz anyway (tagged "ambient fusion"): instrumental, some improv, suggests free even if not committed, I can think of a dozen-plus similar jazz guitar vibes -- mostly more adventurous and/or harsher/noisier, but that doesn't necessarily mean more coherent or listenable, even if the jazz-phobic don't make the connection. A-
Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying (2021, Single Lock): Memphis blues singer/guitarist, son of R.L. Burnside, ninth album since 2006. B+(**)
Matt Caflisch: Runaway (2020, Fat Oak): Minneapolis singer-songwriter, grew up in Eau Claire, first album after playing around 32 years. B+(*)
Jonas Cambien Trio: Nature Hath Painted the Body (2021, Clean Feed): Belgian pianist (also organ on 2 tracks and soprano sax on 1), based in Oslo, with saxophonist André Roligheten (soprano, tenor, bass clarinet) and Andreas Wildhagen (drums). Title is from an Izaak Walton quote, the line ending with "of the fish with whitish, blackish, brownish spots." B+(**)
Pedro Carneiro & Pedro Melo Alves: Bad Company (2021, Clean Feed): Portueguese duo, marimba ("with quarter tone extension") and drums ("prepared"). B+(*) [bc]
Contour: Love Suite (2021, Good Question, EP): Vocalist, electronica producer, from South Carolina, sketches out a trip-hoppy alt-r&b, in eight brief tracks (19:01). B+(*) [bc]
Simão Costa: Beat With Out Byte (2021, Cipsela): Portuguese pianist, has at least one previous album, solo here, subtitle "(Un)Learning Machine." Starts too soft for me to hear, ends loud and percussive, making a strong impression. B+(**) [cd]
Desertion Trio: Numbers Maker (2019 , Cuneiform): Guitarist Nick Millevoi, albums since 2011, recorded Desertion with a sextet in 2016, cuts the dead weight here, keeping Johnny DeBlase on electric bass and switching to Jason Nazary on drums. B+(***) [dl]
Ensemble O/Aum Grand Ensemble: Julius Eastman: Femenine (2020 , Sub Rosa): Most sources credit the composer (1940-90) for this version of his 1974 minimalism-and-more piece (71:13), with the group names relegated to the back cover. Together, they add up to 12 pieces plus voice, recorded in Brussels. B+(***)
Danilo Gallo Dark Dry Tears: A View Through a Slot (2021, Clean Feed): Italian bassist, third group album, allegedly recorded in Nuuk, Grønland on February 30, 2077. Two saxophonists (Francesco Bigoni and Masimiliano Milesi), Jim Black on drums. B+(**) [bc]
Garbage: No Gods No Masters (2021, Infectious Music, 2CD): Seventh album since 1995, one every 4-7 years since 2001. Home base for drummer/producer Butch Vig, fronted by Shirley Manson. Starts strong and true: "The men who rule the world/ have made a fucking mess." "Deluxe Edition" adds a second disc, starting with their impressive 2017 "No Horses" single, ending with the best song here ("Time Will Destroy Everything"), with some pleasing covers for filler. A-
Justin Gerstin: Music for the Exploration of Elusive Phenomena (2020 , Zabap Music): Percussionist, studied around the world, based in Vermont, fourth album, 12 songs, "recorded in a time of Covid by each musician at home," no one appearing on more than 6, but unified by the drums. Wanda Houston's initial array of sound bite quotes on "American History" is a highlight. B+(***) [cd]
Rocio Giménez López/Luciana Bass/Fermin Suarez/Rosina Scampino: Reunion En La Granja (2019 , Discos ICM): Argentinian quartet: piano, guitar, bass, drums. Mostly Ornette Coleman pieces, with one by Paul Motian, and a bit of Ayler paired with "Lonely Woman." B+(***) [bc]
The Goon Sax: Mirror II (2021, Matador): Australian group, third album, nominally a trio (Louis Forster, James Harrison, Riley Jones), all sing and play multiple instruments, with Ross Walker producing and sometimes programming. The Go-Betweens are in their heritage (genetically for Forster), and I invariably like their most derivative/evocative work, but some of their fancier tics throw me. B+(**)
Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever (2021, 300 Entertainment/Atlantic): Detroit rapper Terry Wallace, third album. A bit gangsta for my taste, but beats and raps plenty sharp. B+(***)
Grofo: Grofo (2020 , Clean Feed): Portuguese quartet, led by Bernardo Tinoco (tenor sax), with João Almeida (trupet), João Fragoso (bass), and João Sousa (drums), 2-3 songs each. B+(**)
Rocco John Iacovone/Tom Cabrera: Out of the Maelstrom (2020 , Unseen Rain): Sax-and-drums duo, socially distanced, like many lockdown recordings, built up through the Internet. Rocco plays alto, tenor, soprano, and bass clarinet, and isn't in a hurry, what with the drums coming later. B+(**)
Iceage: Seek Shelter (2021, Mexican Summer): Danish post-punk band, first EP 2009, fifth album. All original tracks, but feels like some kind of throwback, at least as long as it felt like anything at all. B
Instant Composers Pool & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: De Hondemepper (2018 , ICP): Dutch groups: the former better known as ICP Orchestra, carrying on after the death (2017) of long-time leader Misha Mengelberg (Guus Janssen, a remarkable pianist in his own right, fills in); the latter a sextet with violin, cello, mandolin/panflute, bassoon, piano, and percussion. Mostly Mengelberg circus pieces, two conductions led by Tristan Honsinger, and old touchstones: pieces by Monk and Nichols. A- [bc]
John Kruth: Love Letters From the Lazaretto (2020 , self-released): Folk singer-songwriter, first album Banshee Mandolin in 1992, moved into world music (especially in TriBeCaStan), has written books on Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Roy Orbison, and Townes Van Zandt. Solo effort here, plays everything. B+(***)
Low Cut Connie: Tough Cookies: The Best of the Quarantine Broadcasts (2020 , Contender): Adam Weiner (piano/vocals) and Will Donnelly (guitar), from Philadelphia, streamed themselves playing covers twice weekly during the lockdown. They picked 23 from more than 500. I liked their first three albums a lot, then found my interest flagging. I'm sure glad I don't have to slog through the lot, but this sampler is short enough to be manageable, and weird enough to be interesting. B+(***)
Lukah: Whe the Black Hand Touches You (2020 , Raw Materials): Memphis rapper, second album, very little info on him, dispute over label and release date. B+(**)
Róisín Murphy: Crooked Machine (2021, Skint): Irish electropop singer-songwriter, started in 1990s in trip hop duo Moloko, five studio albums since 2005, this counts as a remix of 2020's Róisin Machine. B+(*)
Arlo Parks: Collapsed Into Sunbeams (2021, Transgressive): Semi-pop singer-songwriter from London, given name Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, ancestors from Nigeria, Chad, and France, first album after two EPs. I, for one, find "Hope" remarkably reassuring, and less for the lyrics than for the music, something few others have been able to do (Stevie Wonder, I guess). I wouldn't have held it for the sixth single, but it probablly wouldn't have been my first pick either. A-
Pom Pom Squad: Death of a Cheerleader (2021, City Slang): Brooklyn indie band, founded by singer-songwriter Mia Berrin, first album after a couple EPs. Curious covers: "Crimson & Clover," "This Couldn't Happen." B+(**)
J. Peter Schwalm: Aufbruch (2021, RareNoise): Keyboards/electronics, duo with Markus Reuter (electronics/guitar), latter's name below the title. Dark, gloomy ambiance. Sophie Tassignon credited with vocals on two tracks. B+(*) [cdr]
Skee Mask: Pool (2021, Ilian Tape): German DJ/producer Bryan Müller, singles since 2014, third album. Long, available digital and 3-LP but would fit comfortably on 2-CD (18 tracks, 103:14). Love the stutter rhyths with odd embellishments, the slower ones only a bit less. A-
Luís Vicente Trio: Chanting in the Name Of (2021, Clean Feed): Portuguese trumpet player, heard a lot from him since 2013. Trio with bass (Gonçalo Almeida) and drums (Pedro Melo Alves), keeps him front and center. B+(**) [bc]
Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom (2018 , Sahel Sounds): I guess you could call these field recordings, made by Swedish "music archeologist and leftfield musician" Karl Jonas Winqvist, then doctored in Sweden, with bits from 20 musicians here and there. B [bc]
Wild Up: Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine (2021, New Amsterdam): Led by cellist Seth Parker Woods, handful of albums since 2014, I count 17 musicians plus voice, with less electronics and more horns than the Ensemble O/Aum Grand Ensemble version. More dramatic, not necessarily better. B+(***)
Sarah Wilson: Kaleidoscope (2012 , Brass Tonic): Trumpet player, also sings on less than half of these songs, based in Oakland, third album, sextet with Charles Burnham (violin), Myra Melford (piano), Matt Wilson (drums), guitar, and bass. B+(**) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album (1965 , Omnivore): Pianist William Henry Langford Jr., from Philadelphia (1931-80), remembered (if at all) for an album released in 1965 under the drummer's name, The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan. Turns out that he recorded a second album for Atlantic, but it was shelved after Ibn Ali was imprisoned for drugs, and the master tapes were lost in a warehouse fire in 1978. A copy was discovered in 2017, so here it is: quartet with Odean Pope (his first session) on tenor sax, Art Davis (bass), and Kalil Madi (drums). Seven original pieces, plus three alternate takes. Pope is especially impressive, the bassist holds things together, and the pianist cuts against the grain, keeping it interesting. Feels like something that could have been released a decade later in Europe and taken as a sign that jazz still has the spark of life. A-
Don Cherry: The Summer House Sessions (1968 , Blank Forms Editions): Trumpet player, part of Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet, moved to Sweden, recorded this with two groups he had been working with, plus Turkish drummer Bulent Ates. Plays pocket trumpet here, with Tommy Koverhult and Bernt Rosengren on tenor sax, all three also playing flute. B+(*)
Don Cherry's New Researches: Organic Music Theatre: Festival De Jazz De Chateauvallon 1972 (1972 , Blank Forms Editions): Featuring Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos. Cherry plays piano, harmonium, tanpura, and sings, over exotic percussion with with Doudou Goulrand on soprano/alto sax. B+(*)
Alice Coltrane: Live at the Berkeley Community Theater 1972 (1972 , BCT): Detroit pianist Alice McLeod, played with Terry Pollard as a duo and in Terry Gibbs' quartet, met John Coltrane then and married him in 1965. Her spiritual focus sharpened after his death: "By 1972, she abandoned her secular life, and moved to California, where she established the Vedantic Center in 1975," and later the Shanti Anantam Ashram, and wound up only releasing cassettes to her followers. This is transitional, four long space jams. She plays harp, organ, and piano, wedged between the Charlie Haden-Ben Riley rhythm section and three South Asian musicians playing sarod, tabla, and tambura/percussion. The most recognizable pieces are "A Love Supreme" and "My Favorite Things." B+(**) [yt]
Alice Coltrane: Kirtan: Turiya Sings (1981 , Impulse!): "Functional music," meant as an aid to meditation, originally recorded to be distributed exclusively at her ashram during a period where she gave up commercial recording, but not music. The title change (the 1982 cassette was just Turiya Sings) reflects a reframing of the music, stripping it down to just voice and Wurlitzer organ. Not the sort of thing I'm inclined to like, but I take comfort in its becalming aura nonetheless. B+(***)
Eyedea: Thirty Nine Lines (2001 , Crushkill): Minneapolis rapper Micheal Larsen (1981-2020), with DJ Abilities (Eyedea & Abilities) released three 2001-09 albums on Rhymesayers. Thirteen freestyle raps, reminiscent of early Atmosphere. B+(**) [bc]
Indaba Is (, Brownswood): Eight tracks (64:39) by various South African musicians, none I recognize. Also don't quite recognize the township jazz this is supposedly an update on, although I'm familiar with most of the musicians name-checked in the notes. B+(*)
Alan Lomax's American Patchwork (1978-83 , Mississippi): Field recordings -- "miners, moonshiners, and Primitive Baptists in Kentucky; flat-footers, string bands, and Piedmont blues in North Carolina; Cajun cowboys, fiddlers, and zydeco stompers in French-speaking Louisiana; and fife-and-drum ensembles, gospel quartets, former railroad track-liners, levee-camp muleskinners, and players on the pre-war blues circuit in Mississippi -- from Lomax's last tour of the American South, selected from some 350 hours of tapes. B+(***)
Nermin Niazi and Feisal Mosleh: Disco Se Aagay (1984 , Discostan): Disco in Urdu, a "rediscovered synth-pop masterpiece," featuring the 14-year-old singer and her 19-year-old brother, recorded by a label in Birmingham [UK]. Pretty much what it's cracked up to be. B+(**) [bc]
Scott Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist (2005 , Origin): Trombonist, debut 1998, likes big bands, found this little gem on the shelf. Leader plays alto valve trombone, alto flugelhorn, and electronics, with guitar (Russ Spiegel), keyboards (Mike Holober), bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]
Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977 (1977 , Super Viaduct, EP): First-wave LA punk band, early demos, five songs (15:31). Never released an album, although there is a 2-CD compilation of demos and live shots (In a Better World, released in 2001), which includes a couple of these songs. Despite the name, much less rage, and more sonic range, than I associate with LA punk. B+(**)
Wallahi Le Zein! (, Mississippi): Compilation "drawing from the deep well of Mauritanian classical music," relased on 2-CD in 2010, and reissued in other formats here. No idea how old the original recordings are. The surface noise on Mohammed Guitar's opener suggests they go way back, but that goes away on later tracks. Long, and strong, on Saharan guitar riffs. B+(***)
Alice Coltrane: A Monastic Trio (1967-68 , Impulse!): First album, a year after her famous second husband's death. She plays piano and harp, with Jimmy Garrison on bass and Ben Riley or Rashied Ali on drums. CD opens with Pharoah Sanders on three tracks (only one on the original album), and they leave you wanting more. More impressed with her piano than her harp. B+(**)
Alice Coltrane: Ptah the El Daoud (1970, Impulse!): Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson, on tenor sax and alto flute, with Ron Carter (bass) and Ben Riley (drums). Needless to say, the saxophonists are most impressive. B+(***)
Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda (1970 , Impulse!): Harp and piano, with Pharoah Sanders on soprano sax, Cecil McBee on bass (Charlie Haden on one track), Rashied Ali on drums, some tambura and oud. B+(**)
Nirvana: Sliver: The Best From the Box (1985-94 , DGC): I thought they were terribly overrated when Nevermind took off, then with only one more album released Kurt Cobain killed himself, achieving an exalted sainthood that Hank Williams, Charlie Parker, and Jimi Hendrix at least put more work into (as did the more directly comparable Jim Morrison). I don't deny that they had some talent: I enjoyed the rumage through the trash they released as Incesticide, and the least intense of one of the posthumous live albums (MTV Unplugged in New York). The "box" here is 2004's With the Lights Out, its three 70+-minute CDs reduced here to one clocking in at 74:34. Credit them with hooks I still recognize on demos so crude demos they have a certain charm, not that I want to ever hear them again. And often a level of intensity I never want to feel again. B+(*)
Grade (or other) changes:
Sa-Roc: The Sharecropper's Daughter (2020, Rhymesayers): Rapper Assata Perkins, originally from DC, studied at Howard, based in Atlanta, father sharecropped tobacco in Virginia. Races through 15 songs, sharp and urgent. Features include Saul Williams and Black Thought. [was: B+(**)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: