Quimper Sound's Top 10 Staff picks for 2004
Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost -It's usually hyperbole to
say something like "I've been waiting most of my adult
life for this collection" - but for me that statement
is true. Believe it. Albert Ayler's story is (like Daniel
Johnston's below) too complex to be told here. As an impressionable
jazz saxophone wanna-be I had a constellation of heros
that I worshiped - but ultimately it was Coltrane and
Ayler that had the most profound impact. While Coltrane's
music had a spiritual quality that instantly hooked me
- and a complexity that often perplexed me - it was Albert
Ayler's music that pushed me over the edge. It truly terrified
me. His playing was all the proof I needed that I'd never
make it as a musician. People argue about whether his
playing is even musical at all. This argument used to
really piss me off. Now I know the answer (for me) is
that it doesn't matter - his "playing" is some of the
purest spiritual communication I've ever heard. Music
is many things to many people - but no one can convince
me that this "noise" isn't proof that music can be transcendent.
I've priced this 9-CD, gloriously packaged box set at
my approximate cost ($80) so that more people might be
able to experience it.
2) Morton Feldman: Patterns In A Chromatic Field
- Written relatively late in Feldman's career (1981),
this piece is a bit of an anomaly. While the word "busy"
isn't something that is typically used to describe a piece
of Feldman's work, this piece comes closest to needing
it. True to the title, this work has an almost visual
quality - sounds shine in both their attack and decay.
The musicians - Marianne Schroeder on piano and Rohan
de Saram on Cello - understand that the most important
elements of any Feldman piece are tempo and articulation,
and they give a fantastically focused and subsequently
quite beautiful reading of this most impressive piece.
3) Revolutionary Ensemble: And Now… - One of the
most formidable groups in the 70's "free jazz" scene,
the trio of Leroy Jenkins on violin, Sirone on bass, and
Jerome Cooper on percussion proved that collective improvisation
didn't have to be a free-for-all group squall. Using their
collective backround in classical and world musics they
created a group sound that was as unique as it was musical.
Their reunion in 2004 is a welcome return to form. As
original as their earlier work and yet with an unmistakable
group sound, this album is a delight that shouldn't be
missed by anyone with a taste for modern creative music.
4) Califone: Heron King Blues - Hmmm. I like Califone.
I really like this album. But how to describe it? Layers.
Lots of layers. Folk-ish… stuff. Sometimes the melody
wins - when it pokes through, that is. "Experimental Rock"
is such a miserable category - let's not describe it that
way. If you've been in the store much when I've been working,
chances are good you've heard it. Loops? A (negative)
reviewer on Amazon called it a "musical slow boat to china".
5) Vandermark 5: Elements of Style, Exercises in Surprise
- Ken Vandermark's writing just keeps getting better and
better, in my opinion. As prolific as he is, and considering
how many different musical configurations he puts himself
into, it's remarkable that his writing for his flagship
group has gotten progressively more focused rather than
diffused. This is the natural evolution of the great unheralded
70's "free jazz" group experiments like (the aforementioned)
'Revolutionary Ensemble', Anthony Braxton's 'Creative
Music Ensemble' and just about anything Sam Rivers had
anything to do with. Truly cohesive as a unit but still
able to produce unhinged (yet cogent) improvisational
turns, this group is state of the art 'Creative Music'.
6) Frank Black: Frank Black Francis - Two discs.
The first disc is Black Francis and his guitar doing mid-'80's
pre-Pixies demo versions of songs which would go on to
be hits for the band. Should end all arguments over whose
band the Pixies were. In fact, why did he even need a
band? The second disc contains remixes of new acoustic
recordings by Frank of many Pixies hits (with a lot of
title overlap with the first disc, naturally). The producers
responsible for the studio work, the Two Pale Boys, turn
the sparse source material into a lounge-y heroin dirge.
I mean that in a good way. You'd never expect to hear
this kind of sonic treatment (and lethargic tempos) applied
to these songs. And horns! It's so surprising that on
first listen you can be really confused - sort of like
the first time you heard the Clash's 'Rock The Casbah'
muzak-ed and playing in the supermarket. It works, though.
It really works.
7) Marilyn Crispell: Storyteller - This album has
an enormous gentleness. This is a quality I often overlook
when evaluating music, or at least undervalue. Usually
because gestures of gentleness are often accompanied by
a maudlin quality or a flair for sad drama. Not here.
More complex than mid-70's Keith Jarrett but with a similar
touch - the trio arrangement ensures real communication
and gently (there's that word again) pulls Crispell back
from the depths of self-absorption. Mark Helias on double-bass
is languid and understated and Paul Motion on drums is
at his most sublime - often tricking the ear into believing
the piano is doing all the work. Speaking of Motian, this
record is a perfect (and perfectly logical) next step
for folks who love the early 60's Bill Evans trio records.
8) Zony Mash: Farewell Shows - It was a bit of
a toss-up between this title and another Wayne Horvitz
project Mylab: Mylab. I finally chose the Zony Mash because
I have such fond memories of seeing them live at the OK
Hotel in the mid '90's. This is (obviously enough) a live
recording and it represents the energy and inventiveness
of the band as well as any recording can. Not remarkable
for stellar improvisations - though Horvitz is certainly
capable - but for their remarkable group "groove". They
have an uncanny ability to follow and prod one another
rhythmically to great effect. Comparable to Medeski, Martin
& Wood - but more focused and hard driving.
9) Daniel Johnston/Various: Discovered Covered
- First of all, Daniel Johnston is not dead. I just want
to get that out of the way. For the uninitiated, D.J.'s
back story is too complicated and long to recite here.
Let's just call him an "oustsider artist" and leave it
at that. This set has two discs - the first is various
artists covering their favorite Johnston songs, the second
disc is Johnston's original versions of these same songs.
The beauty of this package is, then, that it functions
both as a great covers album as well as a greatest hits
package (for half the price!). There is so much to be
said about Johnston and his music (and his art) that the
reader is best left to investigate on her own (the liner
notes are pretty weak). Or better yet - just listen. Guest
artists include 'Death Cab For Cutie', 'Eels', Tom Waits
and many other wanna-be hipsters. Daniel Johnston is,
for better or for worse, a bandwagon to be jumped on -
fortunately, though, most of these are artists approach
his music with respect and leave the "irony" that has
plagued previous covers of his songs at home.
10) Northern State: All City - This "Three College
Girl Hip-Hop Crew" is often likened to early Beastie Boys
- a comparison which does a disservice to both groups.
Feminist protagonists in rap are few and far between and
unlike some of their rock counterparts (the Donnas come
to mind) they don't gender-twist misogynist lyrics and
sentiments to demonstrate their "empowerment". Rather,
they are clever, confident and independent - threatening
the rap-averse with different tactics - but to the same
affect - as their male counterparts. OK, the beats are
often mediocre (though there are a couple of nice production
cameos like ?uestlove and Pete Rock) and the lyrics are
sometimes self-consciously, well, "college-girl". Still,
this album is great for its interesting flows and for
shaking up preconceptions - Oh, and you can dance to it
T’s Top 10 of 2004
USA - OKAY!
Melvins:Neither Here Nor There Weird and raunchy!
This colorful, eye-popping art book is worth the price
of admission and the grunge-a-delic best-of CD really
seals the deal.
2) Mylab Adventurous Seattle musicians throw
down an intriguing set of sampling/art-rock soundscapes.
Produced by renaissance dude Wayne Horvitz and mixology
maestro Tucker Martine, with contributions from Reggie
Watts, Orville Johnson, Danny Barnes and Bill Frisell.
3) Prince: Musicology A return to the glory of
his early funk stylings. Should Prince ever sound slightly
mainstream, it's only because pop music has continually
appropriated his every gesture.
Malicool: Roswell Rudd, elder statesman of jazz
trombone, drapes warm tones and soaring lines over the
inspired kora plunking of Mali's Diabate clan. With
some surprising tunes (Thelonious and Ludwig) and solid
soulful playing, this is a most successful east/west
5) Fela Kuti: Underground Spiritual Game Typically
catchy grooves from the father of afrobeat, with understated
remixing by Chief Xcel of Blackalicious.
Celia Cruz: Havana Days This is the queen of salsa
in her prime, like a young Aretha. These cuts with La
Sonaro Matancera, from the early 1950's, are her most
joyous and magic recordings. The punchy horn riffs and
swinging singing will shake your bon bons!
7) Orlando Cachaito Lopez The bass player from
Buena Vista Social Club delivers the best spin-off yet
- mostly instrumental tracks that will appeal to the
novice and rhumbero alike. Rootsy yet modern (with touches
of turntable), subtle but sophisticated (with an all-star
cast), this is the album Ry Cooder wishes he could make.
REGGAE - JAH!
Tree of Satta Over the years many Jamaican artists
have used reggae's most popular backing track, "Satta
Massa Gana", for their own personal expressions. That's
right, this is twenty different versions of the same
song, like the ultimate extended remix.
9) Cedric Im Brooks & The Light Of Saba Saxophonist
Brooks was the first to blend contemporary instrumentation
with the drumming of the Rastafari elders. His three
early records are gathered here on one exciting compact
disc. For more rasta jazz and sacred reggae, check out
the Trojan box set Nyahbinghi.
Ollabelle Produced by T. Bone Burnett, this NYC
group does heartfelt folk/blues renditions of some great
tunes. Gets better with every listen.
11) (the other 10) Johnny Cash: My Mother's
Hymn Book Saint John, his guitar, his mama's favorites.
What else do you need to know? Townsend 2003-2004
Gunn's Top Ten of 2004
(in no particular order but numbered anyway)
Mountain Goats: We Shall All Be Healed John
Darnielle (main mtn. goat) is an acoustic guitar
slinging song-writing dynamo!!!
2.) Album Leaf: In A Safe Place Jimmy Lavalle
and members of Sigur Ros create a mellow masterpiece.
At times I swear you can hear an icy river flowing
in the background as snow dusts the studio floor.
3.) Solex: Laughing Stock Of Indie Rock Elisabeth
Esselink is a highly original songstress with a
knack for incorporating creative samples from old
obscure records into her songs. . .The "coolest"
new cd in my collection.
4.) Mum: Please Smile My Nose Bleed 2 songs
+ 1 musical interlude + 6 re-mixes (?) = best non-album
of the year. A Multi-instrumentalist Analog Recording
Electronic Band. . .Check it out!!
5.) Six Parts Seven: Everywhere And Right Here
Instrumental rock with vibes. This band sets a mellow
mood with the first song and rides it through to
6.) Black Ship: Age Of Surrender A concept
album written recorded and performed by Ben Kennedy;
a 19 year old talented and wise beyond his years.
Hasn't left my car's cd player all year!
7.) Juana Molina: Tres Cosas A beautiful
voice, shimmering acoustic guitar, subtle electronic
flourishes and vocals delivered entirely in spanish.
8.) Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans A singer-songwriter
who plays every instrument known to modern man.
Gorgeous songs in the same folk-rockish vein as
Iron & Wine or Elliott Smith.
9.) Elliott Smith: From A Basement On The Hill
Evoking the ghosts of Nick Drake, George Harrison
and well, Elliott Smith himself. Some of Elliott's
greatest song-writing. . ."a fond farewell. . .
10.) DJ Spooky: Celestial Mechanix A creative
blend of Hip-Hop, Jazz and Turntabalism. An excellent
two cd set not to be missed
Green's Top Eleven Favorites of 2004
1) Eyedea & Abilities:
Fellow label-mates of Atmosphere from Minnesotta's
Rhymesayers label, this Emcee/ Dj duo release their
first major-label debut "E&A." Eyedea is on the vocals
with clever, witty lyrics and a very speedy flow.
As Abilities cuts all the beats, with unbelievable
scratching skills that'll make your speakers shatter.
"We making music trying to put the fun back in, turntablism,
lyricism ain't no gun packin'"
2) Beastie Boys: To the 5 Boroughs (Capitol)
From the punk rock-rap days of "License to Ill" to
the Trip-hop era of "Hello Nasty," this trio from
Brooklyn plus the turntable skills of Mix Master Mike
return with their first full length album since 1998,
returning to their old-skool hip-hop roots with another
excellent addition to the Beastie catalog.
3) The Streets: A Grand Don't Come For Free
Making an appearance on my top 10 in consecutive years,
England's Mike Skinner aka "the Streets" releases
his sophomore effort with even more conviction than
his debut "Original Pirate Material." Though not as
catchy as "OPM" but stands very strong with his metaphoric
similes and grungy 2-step beats.
4) T.V. On The Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty
Babes (Touch and Go)
A 9-trake collage of stuttering tape loops, macabre
synths, rumbling bursts of guitars and seductive layered
vocals. Also this album is one of 10 finalists up
for the "Shortlist Prize" this year.
5) Marquess Wyatt: Horizons (Om Records)
Once again the reverend of the decks returns to the
top-10 this year with another deep, groovy, and soulful
compilation, full of tribal rhythms and melodies,
with a very pleasing gospelly feel.
6) Thievery Corporation: The Outernational Sound
(Eighteenth St. Lounge)
The only artists that I know of that can mix and blend
music from all over the globe to have sustained such
a consistent sound. The duo from D.C., Ron Garza and
Eric Hilton use classic roots to make new sounds.
Dub/ reggae, bossa nova, rock, afro-beat, latin, soul,
and house music are all covered in this hour plus
7) U.N.K.L.E.: Never, Never Land 2 disc Limited
Edition (Mo Wax)
Mo Wax was founded in England in 1994 by James Lavelle,
finally releases its very long awaited second effort.
Unlike the first album "Psyence Fiction" which was
more on the hip-hop and down-tempo side. This time
around Lavelle concentrates more on the electronic/
dance groove. The Bonus cd contains remixes and unreleased
8) Dj Baby Anne: Mixstress (Zone/ System)
Taught by the "King of Breaks" himself Dj Icey, Orlando's
"Bass Queen" has been spinning filthy, speaker-tweaking
Miami bass, electro-breaks since only 1992, and this
is her sixth full length album since the. This time
around the breaks are heavier and darker, making a
perfect contrast from Miami Bass to Nu-Skool breaks.
9) Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)
This live electronic group from France has done it
again with another great album. One suitable enough
for any mood, diner, driving, rainy days, even those
moments when you're with your lady. Piece by piece
it is very subtle, melodic and ambient as songs blend
into one another remaining in a chill out mood.
10) Lateef and The Chief: Maroons: Ambush (Quannum
Dj/ Producer from Oakland's "Blackalicious" Chief
Xcel collaborates with half of "Latryx" duo Lateef
the Truth Speaker for another great Quannum Project.
The Chief lays down some heavy, funky & soulful bass
driven hip-hop beats, while Lateef speaks his mind,
sharing his political views through his Oakland drawl.
Quannum fans should expect nothing less than dopeness
from this album. And one to go on…..
11) Bebel Gilberto: Bebel Gilberto (Six Degrees)
Offspring of Legendary world/jazz musician Joao Gilberto,
Bebel released for second full-length album. Without
the help of the late great producer Suba, Bebel manages
to pull off some beautiful arrangements of bossa nova
and latin tracks, and incredible song writing¸ of
course I couldn't go without mentioning that this
is one of the most wonderful voices that you hear
O's Top Ten Favorites of 2004
Capitalist Casualties: Years In Ruin
The Clash: London Calling: Deluxe
3) Cold Sweat: Blinded
4) Crime: SF Still Doomed
5) Das Oath: Das Oath
6) Guided By Voices: Hardcore UFO's Box Set
7) Iron Lung: Life I.L. Death
8) Look Back And Laugh: Look Back And Laugh
9) Melvins: Neither Here Nor There (Book
10) Tear It Up: Tear It Down
Top 10 List for 2004
Bill Frisell: Unspeakable Collaborating with legendary
producer Hal Willner for much of the album, 'Unspeakable'
comes across fresh and quirky, a balance of taut playing,
perfectly cued loops, samples, and an unstoppable merging
of imaginations. Fun and beautiful.
2) Eyvind Kang: Virginal Co Ordinates Hypnotic, somber,
uplifting; 'Virginal Co Ordinates' further establishes Eyvind
Kang not just as a musician but also a composer to watch.
Recorded live, this excursion into minimalism combines written
material with subtle improvisation. Kang's violin hovers over
a 22-member orchestra, including Mike Patton on electronics
and surprisingly subtle vocals. At once haunting and grand.
3) Mark Lanegan: Here Comes That Weird Chill Initially
conceived of as a single promoting an upcoming album,
'Here Comes That Weird Chill' grew into an 8-track EP
of rare effect. While there is no denying the gritty,
sometimes ratcheting, industrial feel of this small collection,
it is not without its human side. Lanegan’s craggy voice
exudes a warmth and passion similar to what I felt upon
noting the EP's miniscule retail price. Grab it while
it's still in print.
4) Mylab Inspired in part by late 1900’s folk music,
Mylab stretches to include the realms of pop, urban, funk,
jazz, bluegrass, and others. Throughout there is evident a
pleasant layer of grit. Mylab is a new brown bean jumping
hot in the bottom of an old tin pan.
5) Talking Heads: The Name of This Band Is Talking
Heads This album, released in 1982 on record and tape,
remained unavailable on CD until 2004. Expanding upon the
original double-album with 16 new tracks, this belated release
is the ultimate greatest hits -a two-CD collection spanning
four years of performances. Undeniable proof that this band
really could burn down the house.
6) Tin Hat Trio: Book of Silk Continuing their
tradition of melding classical, tango, and international folk
with the avant garde, 'Book of Silk' provides a somber and
warm example of this band's talent in both composition and
execution. Swirling and captivating, 'Book of Silk' will ensnare
you and take you places less traveled.
7) Tortoise: It's All Around You Lush, orchestrated
tones, intricate melodies, and dense, elaborate rhythms build
and rebuild to produce a dreamy, thought provoking combination
of rock and jazz. Steady and even, 'It's All Around You' isn't
saying anything particularly new but the way it enunciates
8) Tom Waits: Real Gone Dressed in a kind of archaic,
industrial hair shirt, there is more distortion and noise
on this album than any other Tom Waits has released. While
it somewhat resembles his popular 1992 release, 'Bone Machine',
it is less forgiving than said pop-tinged album. It's not
just noise that sets this album apart, though. The feel of
songs like "Hoist That Rag", "Sins of the Father", and "Trampled
Rose" -due in part to the inimitable talents of Marc Ribot-
show an exciting, if not dramatic, new direction. Aptly titled,
'Real Gone' is out there in a way that few of his Tom's albums
have been; real adventure.
9) Yoshida/Fujii: Erans Fujii is a noted jazz
pianist, Yoshida a legendary drummer forming the core of such
underground, Japanese punk/noise groups as Ruins, Koenji Hyakkei,
Musica Transonic, YBO˛, and others. One might find the combination
unlooked for but this album proves their visions are not only
compatible but compelling. Despite the potential implied,
chaos is never allowed to run off with the music tucked under
one hoary elbow. Within each explosion of sound, each flurry
of motion, there lies a calm heart of direction. Though delicate
flurries of beautiful little notes are kept to a stark minimum,
the album isn’t all thump and skraang, either. The interplay
between these two amazing musicians is startling, scintillating.
10) John Zorn: Electric Masada Volume
Four of John Zorn's 50th Birthday Celebration series documents
this most recent and powerful incarnation of Masada at
the climax of a three night run at New York's Tonic. Full
of noise and invention, this is a stunning example of
why jazz is not dead (it just smells funny). Spifftacular!