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Quimper Sound's Top 10 Staff picks for 2004

Steve
Michael T.
Chris
Immanuel

Mike O.

Corey

Steve’s Top 10 of 2004

1) 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". Hah! Whatever.

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 too…



Michael T’s Top 10 of 2004

USA - OKAY!

1) 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.

AFRICA - ASHE!

4) 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 collaboration.

5) Fela Kuti: Underground Spiritual Game Typically catchy grooves from the father of afrobeat, with understated remixing by Chief Xcel of Blackalicious.

LATIN - OYE!

6) 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.

ROOTS REGGAE - JAH!

8) 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.

GOSPEL - HALLELUJAH!

10) 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



Chris Gunn's Top Ten of 2004
(in no particular order but numbered anyway)

1.) 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 the end.

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



Immanuel Green's Top Eleven Favorites of 2004

1) Eyedea & Abilities: E&A (Rhymesayers)
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 (VICE)
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 Dj session.

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 material.

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 Projects)
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 today

 



Mike O's Top Ten Favorites of 2004

1) Capitalist Casualties: Years In Ruin

2) The Clash: London Calling: Deluxe Edition

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 + CD)

10) Tear It Up: Tear It Down

 



Corey's Top 10 List for 2004


1) 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 is delicious.

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!

 

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