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Showing posts from 2016

2016 - A Year In Review

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2016 - what a great big Fuck Off of a year that was! Someone once said that sometimes when a door slams closed it is best to nail it shut, and that boys'n'girls is exactly the fate that 2016 deserves. If in the middle of June 2015 had you assembled Armando Iannucci, Charlie Booker, Jonathan Pie, and Ian Hislop (...insert non-UK satirists here) in a room to script the political year then yet to come, the results would have been but a tame impersonation of what actually went down. Added to the frightening sight of the great unwashed of the Western world lurching ever rightwards knowing damned well what they were voting against but with little clue or care as to what they were voting for was the unedifying sight of an over-employed Grim Reaper taking far too much pride in his work, stealing away from us many fine musicians, and a few bone fide icons to boot, the bastard. Oh...and terrible wars fought second hand by the real powers in hot and dusty places, ultimately about oil...…

Martin Archer - Story Tellers

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First off - cards on the table. Where jazz is concerned I am no more than a dilettante. I am familiar with the obvious jazz musicians who crossed over into rock in the mid to late 60s and kick started fusion, and the more well known names like Mingus and Coltrane, and of course with Miles Davis, whose musical genius extends far beyond the jazz base camp, a genre that underwent seismic shifts as a direct result of Miles' innovations on more than one occasion.

That said it has been a pleasure partaking of a crash course into Martin Archer's long held improvisational inspiration, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a collective of Chicago based jazz musicians formed in 1965 to explore new ways and means of composition to counter the rise of pop and rock that back then was threatening the very existence of their musical raison d'etre. My whirlwind tour of the Windy City's finest concentrated specifically on the three musicians Martin lists in…

Autumn Roundup - Part Two

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Part Two of my rummaging about in the "to do" box...

Virus – Memento Collider

As any collector knows, back in those most fertile of times in the early 70s, buried deep within the German culture bunker that I prefer to term Deutschrock was a freaky acid rock-jazz collective by the name of Virus, who had the benefit of one Konrad Plank at the controls. This modern identically named band bear little musical comparison, but for all that I can detect a definite link to the loose limbed rhythms of classic Deutschrock.

Virus have been extant since 2003 and Memento Collider is the group's fourth album. The songs within are a combination of guitarist Carl-Michael "Czral" Eide’s dissonant chord riffing, Petter "Plenum" Berntsen’s surprisingly melodic bass parts, and Einar "Einz" Sjurs√ł's propulsive elektolurch on the drum kit. Czral is aided in the guitar department by Voivod’s Dan Mongrain making a guest appearance.

Czral also sings in a similar p…

Autumn Roundup - Part One

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In this wunnerful whorl of reviewing, one struggles to come up for air as wave upon wave of new music is delivered to your inbox, or in rarer cases now, your physical mailbox. Inevitably due to the constraints of available time some releases become sidelined. Whether this happens intentionally or not, a sense of duty brings me to this, the first time I have attempted a roundup of those poor waifs and strays that have fallen by the wayside. Herein may be that lost gem you are searching for, or it could just all be entirely forgettable. That is for you to judge, but to assist these be my thunks on the matter...

The task in front of me will start with actual physical releases as the labels or bands concerned have gone to the expense of having a shiny disc made and posted to me, so first up is:

Meson - 5c4l3

A release on Martin Archer's Discus Music of itself indicates experimentalism and no truck with conventionality, and this one is most decidedly an oddity.

Bo Meson gives his name, …

Dennis Rea Tanabata Ensemble - Black River Transect

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Dennis Rea is a guitarist and musical free spirit who resides on the north western edge of the USA up there in Seattle where he is a well known presence in that far-flung city's left field music scene.
In the past I have ventured deep into the densely populated hinterland of Dennis' musical legacy, a never less than interesting journey that has spotlighted some real musical gems, the common thread being a quest for new and innovative ways of expression.
The latest chapter isBlack RiverTransect, an intriguing album of stark contrasts, recorded live in Seattle's Chapel Performance Space on two different dates in 2013, by Dennis' Tanabata Ensemble.
The opening four tracks where recorded on 25th February of that year, and the album opens with the lovely and romantic piece ASJ (septet), named for Dennis' life partner Anne Smith Joiner. The gentle and cosseting opening tune is in full contrast to the guided improvisation of the title track that follows, which opens with …

The Courage Of Others

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You know me, I don't particularly like Prog, a style of rock music that rather than move on from its roots regularly exhumes the corpse to take it on yet another Bryden Two Step into the dance hall of nostalgia...or summat.

Apart from its musical museum curating, another problem with Prog are its lyrics, which for the most part delight in telling us in oft repeated ways how shit everything is...really? I had no idea..., mixed with a generous helping of "woe is me". There are exceptions to this rule of course, which would seem to apply to prog metal more than anything else. Modern prog lyrics also shy away from anything directly political, preferring to remain in the field of personal politics, or occasionally making vague ironic generalisations along the lines of "We don't need no educashun". Not that Floyd were a Prog band anyway, but that's another discussion.

For a long time now, one of the bands that seem to me to epitomise this ginnel for bac…

Pulling Fish Through Grandma's Eyes

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Lunch, day two of Inglund's Test Match at the crickball against Paraguay, and Inglund were holding up rather well against the long feared world beaters at the intricate game, as fortunately Paraguay's propensity for conjuring reverse swing in 19/8 time on any surface you care to imagine had yet to rear its maniacally grinning head.

Jonners Agnew is in the talkbox, once more regaling us all with his lifelong post-Gabriel Genesis and Phil Collins obsession, flummoxing his listeners with reams of useless information pertaining to the once all-conquering purveyors of pop-prog for Sunday golfers and upmarket car salesmen. Joining him is Archjook Geff'ry Boycs, ex-crickballist and pugilistic student of cutting edge avant garde progressive music. Back in the 14th century Duke Geff'ry legendarily held onto his wicket throughout the entire course of the Six Week War, scoring a mere 57 rounders in the time, until Sire Iron Broth lost his by then tenuous grip on patience, and ha…

BBC Proms 2016 - David Bowie

Opening with Warszawa was a smart move, as it is probably Bowie's most symphonic piece, and segueing into the atonal chug of Station To Station seemed only natural. The vocals were led by Neil Hannon who was giving it his best Thin White Duke impression, ably abetted by Amanda Palmer. Bowie was one for never doing the obvious,  and looking down on the increasingly surreal world he has left behind, can only have approved of the scope and daring of this secular celebration of his musical legacy.

A percussive arrangement of Life On Mars was fronted by a typically full on Marc Almond, the drama of song and singer being a perfect fit. Anna Calvi put Lady Grinning Soul firmly in the Berlin cabaret with a portentous arrangement from the orchestra that was my favourite interpretation of the concert. She ended it with some cacophonous slide work on her Telecaster. Marvellous stuff!

Other successes were Conor O'Brien giving a heartfelt and soulful performance of The Man Who Sold The Wo…

Markus Reuter - Fool In Music

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Markus Reuter is a name you may have heard of, but likely as not, you haven't. Those of you to whom the name is unfamiliar are in for a treat, as Markus Reuter is one of the most innovative musicians of our time, and has played with many, many people, and composed hundreds of pieces of music. His favoured instrument is nominally the touch guitar, but that is only the start of it. Markus has extracted noises out of his various stringed instruments via all kinds of manipulations and in tandem with varied exotic electronica, that those of us musically challenged twangers who barely got beyond 12-bar blooze have nary the capacity to even dream of.

Those of you who are familiar with the name will, like me initially, probably know him as a member of Stick Men, where he plays the studious foil to founder members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto's more animated presence, and on this compilation his trusty touch guitar never seems too far from the picture.

What really grabbed my attenti…

The Bevis Frond - New River Head

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At the end of the 1980s I discovered this strange psychedelic rock band called The Bevis Frond. I cannot now remember how or exactly when I came across this fabulous noise, it was the 80s you see. That decade was my version of the old mantra about the 60s "if you can remember them, you weren't there". The Bevis Frond was actually one bloke and a portable studio, at least for the first couple of albums, not that I knew that then. They/he made a noise out of time, transposing 1967 psychedelia with a heavy Hendrix fixation into the modern age with the help of Nick Saloman's world weary lyrics and careworn nasal London intonation. The second album proper Inner Marshlands released in 1987 remains a classic of the psych genre.

By 1991, and by now a proper touring band, the Frond were up to their fifth album, and when you include two additional collections of early and unreleased recordings, this prolific songsmith had released seven albums in four years! With New River Hea…