Monday, August 14, 2023

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40696 [40662] rated (+34), 22 [12] unrated (+10).

I published another substantial Speaking of Which last night (8500 words, 115 links), probably the longest this year (or for that matter, since I started the title on June 18, 2021. I used the old "I can't figure out how to write about this, but here's sort of what I was thinking" trick for the long intro on why the longer you stretch out the Russo-Ukraine War, the worse it is for everyone.

I got off to a very slow start this week, partly because I made a fairly fancy Chinese dinner on Tuesday. I had gone to Thai Binh for some pantry items (hoisin sauce, ground bean sauce, dark soy sauce) and wound up picking up some eggplant, baby bok choy, and two packages of pork: a fresh ham, and a chunk of pork side. I made red-cooked ham with the former, twice-cooked pork with the latter: two of my favorite dishes, and they both turned out splendid. I sliced and broiled the eggplant, and topped it with spicy peanut sauce. The bok choy were parboiled and stir-fried. I substituted velveted shrimp for ham in my usual fried rice. And made pineapple upside down cake for dessert. Pretty painful, but very delicious.

I did some tests, then sent my Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1300 scanner back to Amazon. Some nice features -- I especially like feeding photo prints in from the front, which is very fast -- but the scans were of mixed quality, and most importantly I never got it working with my Linux computer (despite it being on the SANE compatibility list), so the workflow sucked. Probably the best scan I got out of it was my parents' wedding picture. I have a HP OfficeJet which can do flat-bed scans, but doesn't work well either. I wish I had sent it back in time, as it's probably the worst purchase I've ever made. Still on my list of things to do is to call HP and try to get some answers, why like the printer is recognized but refuses to print anything. Also why I can do test scans using Xsane, but not final scans. Also haven't fully resolved my email problem, but I did get one question. Could use some more.

Right now, the top technical task is to get my wife's Linux computer running again, after a boot error. Could be that the hard drive is toast. I ordered some parts for any eventuality, and will get to that tomorrow. One pleasant surprise was being able to pick up a 1TB SSD for $60. Last one I bought was a quarter that size for a bit more. Also ordered a KVM switch, as all my old ones are PS2/VGA medusae.

I did finally get the belts for my CD changer (from Greece, it turns out), so now if only I can remember how to reassemble it. That'll clear up some major clutter, as I had to take literally everything out of the box to get to the bottom belt.

One technical win is that dug into the C++ program that converts my music database input files to produce the web pages in my index. I wanted to make it possible to pass HTML entities through, so I could embed them in my source files. (I'm still stuck using the Latin-1 codeset, where the program converts all of the non-ASCII characters to HTML entities, as well as "&" to "&" -- which was my problem.)

I had a bit less trouble finding music to listen to this week. Robert Christgau's August Consumer Guide came out. The new records (see reviews below) mostly landed at B+(**), as did many of the ones I had already gotten to (my grades in brackets):

  • Amaarae: The Angel You Don't Know (Golden Child '20) [A-]
  • Amaarae: Fountain Baby (Interscope) [A-]
  • Miles Davis: Bitches Brew Live (Columbia '11) [B+(***)]
  • Fokn Bois: Coz of Moni 2 (Fokn Revenge) (Pidgen Music '14) [B+(**)]
  • Lori McKenna: 1988 (CN/Thirty Tigers) [A-]
  • Nia Archives: Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against the Wall (Hijinx/Island) [B+(*)]
  • Palehound: Eye on the Bat (Polyvinyl) [B+(**)]
  • SZA: SOS (Top Dawg Entertainment) [B+(**)]

That leaves a new Wreckless Eric album I haven't found yet. I'll also note that Greg Morton offered a stinging rebuke to the Lori McKenna album on Facebook (link hard to find, but somewhere in here). As someone with no children of my own, I took "Happy Children" to be a nice sentiment, but as an unhappy child myself, Greg's review hit a personal chord.

Beyond that I mostly checked out albums from Pitchfork's The Best Music of 2023 So Far, and their recent Out This Week columns. Neither were great sources for A-list albums -- Bambii is my favorite of the high B+ albums. I'll also note that Anohni topped Phil Overeem's latest list, explaining "Even if I wasn't a Missourian, where cruelty is our state adjective, it would have knocked me out." I gave it two plays to make sure I wasn't knocked out, but it's not unusual for me to register the melodrama but not the context. I'll also note that back when I lived in St. Louis, I started pronouncing the state name "mis'-ery" (sometimes preceded by "state of"). That was no more far-fetched than the locals' butchering of the city's many old French placenames (e.g., Grav-oise, Carondo-lette, De-boliver, the River Despair).

I got a lot of incoming mail this week, most of which doesn't actually drop until September (or sometimes October). I tracked down a Henry Hey download after noticing him on the Pete McCann album, but couldn't find anything on the album -- turns out it's not released until October -- so I held off on it. Pretty good piano trio. I have a lot of download links saved away. I should go through them and check out a few, but it often seems like more hassle than it's worth.

New records reviewed this week:

Rauw Alejandro: Playa Saturno (2023, Duars Entertainment/Sony Music Latin): Puerto Rican reggaeton star, fourth album, following 2022's Saturno. B+(**) [sp]

Anohni and the Johnsons: My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross (2023, Secretly Canadian): English singer-songwriter, originally Antony Hegarty, debut 2000 as Antony and the Johnsons, trans from an early age but didn't change name to Anohni until a 2016 solo album. A very emotional singer, this waxes and wanes, impressively at times. B+(**) [sp]

Bambii: Infinity Club (2023, Innovative Leisure, EP): Toronto-based DJ, Kirsten Azan, first EP, eight tracks (counting a short intro), 19:08, beats and vocals, some rapped. B+(***) [sp]

The Baseball Project: Grand Salami Time (2023, Omnivore): Alt-rock side project formed in 2008 with two guys who had fronted minor bands (Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn), another who could have but was in a major band instead (Peter Buck), Wynn's wife Linda Pitmon (drums), and more recently Mike Mills (bass). Fourth album, nine years after 3rd, seems less focused on trivia and, with Mitch Easter producing, more on song flow, but I'm not sure that's a plus. B+(**) [sp]

Blue Lake: Sun Arcs (2023, Tonal Union): Texas-born, Denmark-based Jason Dungan, plays "self-built zithers, drones, clarinets, slide guitars and drum machines." Third album, all instrumental, not billed as jazz, not electronic, may draw on folk but not obvious from where, so I wound up filing it in my little-used new age file, where it settled in nicely. B+(**) [sp]

Christian Dillingham: Cascades (2021 [2023], Greenleaf Music): Bassist, first album, but has a Grammy (played on a Kirk Franklin gospel album), wrote ten original pieces here, with Lenard Simpson (alto/soprano sax), Dave Miller (guitar), and Greg Artry (drums). B+(***) [cd] [09-01]

Dream Wife: Social Lubrication (2023, Lucky Number): London-based pop/punk band, Rakel Mj÷ll the singer (from Iceland via California), third album. B+(***) [sp]

Jad Fair and Samuel Lock Ward: Happy Hearts (2023, Kill Rock Stars): Half of Half Japanese plus a singer-songwriter I never heard of, but Ward has several dozen DIY albums, including at least nine volumes of The Lame Years, as well as close to a dozen group efforts like the Eggnogs, Kickass Tarantulas, and Admiral Cadaver & the New Pricks. This is as offhanded and minor as ever, needing more concentration that I care to muster, but I hear it's worth the trouble. B+(**) [sp]

Girl Ray: Prestige (2023, Moshi Moshi): British indie rock trio, third album, fond of disco riffs. B [sp]

Home Is Where: The Whaler (2023, Wax Bodega): Emo band from Palm Coast, Florida; second album, each preceded by an EP. Reminds Pitchfork of Modest Mouse, which is close but rougher and more volatile here. B+(**) [sp]

John La Barbera Big Band: Grooveyard (2023, Origin): Conductor and arranger, b. 1945, originally played trumpet, worked with Buddy Rich and others, brother of Pat (tenor/soprano sax) and Joe (drums), both present here. Conventional big band with a few extras. B+(*) [cd] [08-26]

Lil Tjay: 222 (2023, Columbia): New York rapper Tione Jayden Merritt, third album, first two peaked at 5. B+(**) [sp]

Lindstr°m: Everyone Else Is a Stranger (2023, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian electronica producer, first name Hans-Peter, first couple albums were duos with Prins Thomas (2007-09). Four tracks (36:59). B+(**) [sp]

Damon Locks/Rob Mazurek: New Future City Radio (2023, International Anthem): From Chicago, Locks is a visual and sound artist with a couple Black Monument Ensemble albums, offering a verbal pastiche here that Mazurek fleshes out with trumpet and electronics. B+(*) [sp]

Pete McCann: Without Question (2022 [2023], McCannic Music): Guitarist, debut 1998, nice mainstream sound but I note that he also played in the Mahavishnu Project. Varied quintet, with Steve Wilson especially strong (alto/soprano sax), a standout solo by pianist Henry Hey, plus Matt Pavolka (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Haviah Mighty: Crying Crystals (2023, Mighty Gang): Canadian rapper, debut mixtape 2010 (at 18), second studio album. B+(**) [sp]

Blake Mills: Jelly Road (2023, New Deal/Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter based in California, plays guitar, has a long list of side and production credits. B [sp]

Matt Otto: Umbra (2022-23 [2023], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, has a couple albums, one as far back as 1998. Nice, steady mainstream tone, default trio, adds guitar and Rhodes on five (of nine) tracks, plus trumpet (Hermon Mehari) on three of those. B+(**) [cd] [08-26]

Ted Piltzecker: Vibes on a Breath (2022 [2023], OA2): Vibraphonist, from Denver, fifth album since 1985, leads a septet with two brass and two saxes, so his own instrument tends to get buried. B+(*) [cd] [08-26]

YunŔ Pinku: Babylon IX (2023, Platoon, EP): Electropop singer-songwriter, Malaysian-Irish, based in London, second EP (six songs, 23:25). B+(**) [sp]

Knoel Scott/Marshall Allen: Celestial (2022 [2023], Night Dreamer): Two alto saxophonists, the former also sings and plays flute, joined Sun Ra in 1979, only has a couple albums on his own. Allen boarded the Arkestra 25 years earlier, and at 98 is still at the helm of the ghost band. The pair are backed by piano (Charlie Stacey), bass (Mikele Montolli), and drums (Chris Henderson), on five cosmic tracks (36:59). B+(***) [sp]

Travis Scott: Utopia (2023, Cactus Jack/Epic): Houston rapper Jacques Webster II, fourth album, all bestsellers. Impeccable flow, rarely rising to the level where it demands my attention. No idea whether it would rise or sink if I did manage to focus on it. B+(**) [sp]

Snooper: Super Sn§§per (2023, Third Man): Punk trio from Nashville, three previous EPs, started as a duo of guitarist Connor Cummins and visual artist/singer Blair Tramel, beefed up for this first album. B+(***) [sp]

Techno Cats: The Music of Gregg Hill (2023, Cold Plunge): One of many recent tributes to the Michigan composer, this a postbop quintet: Chris Glassman (bass trombone), Nathan Borton (guitar), Xavier Davis (piano), Javier Enrique (bass), and Michael J. Reed (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Kris Tiner/Tatsuya Nakatini: The Magic Room (2023, Epigraph): Trumpet player, based in Bakersfield, in a duo with percussion. B+(**) [cd]

TisaKorean: Let Me Update My Status (2023, Jazzzy): Houston rapper Domonic Patten, Wikipedia credits him with a bunch of singles and four mixtapes since 2017, but Discogs barely noticed him. The jerky rhythms and muffled words (rhymes?) are tough going, and not clearly worth the trouble. B [sp]

Tujiko Noriko: CrÚpuscule I & II (2023, Editions Mego, 2CD): Japanese ambient electronica producer, sings, Tujiko her surname. Long and uneventful. B [sp]

Veeze: Ganger (2023, Navy Wavy): Detroit rapper, second album/mixtape. Sludgy, surreal, long (21 tracks). B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Nastyfacts: Drive My Car + 2 (1981 [2022], Left for Dead, EP): Per Robert Christgau: "three white male NYC teens with their 18-year-old senior partner, black female composer-vocalist-bassist Kali Boyce. All three kick ass and then some." That shortchanges some details, like the skids and crashes on the title romp, or the male interjections on the closer. I might cavil about the length (7:38), but this is pretty tightly packed, with each song building on the previous. A- [bc]

Taylor Swift: Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (2023, Republic): I'm pretty indifferent to this series, which may be why I'm filing this under "reissues" even though I take them at their word that they're all new recordings. Both sides of the dispute are rich, and Taylor's only getting richer. I've heard the originals, but don't remember them enough to nitpick, and I'm not interested enough to go back. As a first approximation, I'd say they're pretty even, with a bit more excess baggage on the new ones, but they've tracked my original grades. This, her third album, was the first I graded A-, and I'm hearing it all again. Except this time I have a better picture of how big she promised to become in "Mean." A- [sp]

Old music:

Džambo Aguševi Orchestra: Brasses for the Masses (2020, Asphalt Tango): Macedonian brass band, the leader plays trumpet. B+(**) [sp]

Mighty Sam McClain: Give It Up to Love (1993, Audioquest): Soul-blues singer from Louisiana (1943-2015), sang in church, recorded some singles in the 1960s but no albums until 1986, and this seems to have been his breakthrough. A slow grind with organ and guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Kris Tiner: In the Ground and Overhead: 14 Miniatures for Muted Trumpet (2020, Epigraph, EP): Trumpet player, recorded these short solo pieces (14:29) "while in residence at Montalvo Arts Center in the forested foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains." B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (Aerophonic) [10-10]
  • Anthony Branker & Ascent: Spirit Songs (Origin) [08-26]
  • Michael Echaniz: Seven Shades of Violet (Rebiralost) (Ridgeway) [09-08]
  • Kent Engelhardt & Stephen Enos: Madd for Tadd: "Central Avenue Swing" & "Our Delight" (Tighten Up) [08-25]
  • Bobby Kapp: Synergy: Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (Tweed Boulevard) [09-01]
  • John La Barbera Big Band: Grooveyard (Origin) [08-26]
  • Pete McCann: Without Question (McCannic Music) [08-04]
  • Matt Otto: Umbra (Origin) [08-26]
  • Ted Piltzecker: Vibes on a Breath (OA2) [08-26]
  • Darden Purcell: Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood (Origin) [09-15]
  • Bobby Rozario: Spellbound (Origin) [08-26]
  • Brandon Sanders: Compton's Finest (Savant) [08-25]
  • Techno Cats: The Music of Gregg Hill (Cold Plunge) [08-14]
  • Kris Tiner/Tatsuya Nakatini: The Magic Room (Epigraph) [08-04]
  • Vin Venezia: The Venetian (Innervision) [10-20]
  • Maddie Vogler: While We Have Time (Origin) [09-15]
  • Bobby Zankel/Wonderful Sound 8: A Change of Destiny (Mahakala Music) [09-22]

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