Welcome to A&A. There are 25 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #272 reviews
The Spiral Eyes
One of those one-man recordings that sounds a whole lot more than that. Peter Adams knows how to record an album, and even if he is filling in some of the holes with synthesizers and keyboards, his brand of laconic, bright pop is the perfect match for that technique.
Laconic in terms of how busy the music is, of course. Adams has plenty to say. His restrained touch on the arrangements (full, but just) lends a slightly off-kilter feel to the songs. Kinda like early Magnetic Fields, but with more feeling.
Not overly earnest, however. Adams is jaded enough to know that life isn't about to deal him a full house, and his songs reflect that outlook. But far from being maudlin, these tunes tend to provoke a smile at the finish.
Still, I wouldn't call this stuff wry. Amazing, isn't it, how many times I can turn a review into a semantic war. Screw all that. Peter Adams has made some fine music. That's the bottom line here, and that's all that needs to be said.
Anti-Social Music + The Gena Rowlands Band
The Nitrate Hymnal
This is one of those projects that simply couldn't have happened without kind people giving money to artists and walking away. Not to get on a soapbox or anything, but anyone who thinks there shouldn't be public funding of the arts (including the "weird arts") just isn't getting out enough.
On to the story. Bob Massey (of the Gena Rowlands Band) received a cache of 8mm movies documenting the life of his grandparents. He wrote an opera to accompany an edit of those films, and then he got his band and the Anti-Social Music collective to flesh out his ideas and then record the completed project.
If this sounds pretentious and somewhat twisted, that's because it is. And even though opera was the popular music of the times 200 years ago, these days the form is considered by many folks to be the most unapproachable in the music pantheon. Not always true, but this is a difficult work. These people have an unusual approach to melody and song structure in general. There's more than a bit of the ol' Kurt Weill in here, and there's plenty more that really ranges far afield.
For me, this is an exhilarating experience. The swoops and whorls of the melodies fit the melancholy (and occasionally melodramatic) lyrics perfectly. At its base, this is simply aggressively interesting music. The story takes it to another level. Ambitious as hell, and immensely successful as well.
David Borgo, like most musicians, has certain passions. Beyond merely composing and performing, Borgo also likes to study the roots of music everywhere. And so comes this album comprised mostly of pieces written by South African jazz master Abdullah Ibrahim. The non-Ibrahim pieces on this set also hail from the same part of the world.
Borgo's playing and arranging reminds me a lot of Branford Marsalis in the late 80s and early 90s--lots going on, and the space within the music to capture a complete picture. He rarely rushes an idea, preferring instead to take the time to fully parse the thought.
The sound is warm and inviting, and this, too, reminds me of those Marsalis Trio and Quartet recordings. It might be unfair to call this jazz for the non-jazz listener (we're not talking "smooth" or "happy" jazz here, after all), but when I say something like that I mean to say that I can't imagine anyone failing to immediately warm up to these recordings. Borgo takes plenty of chances and does a stellar job of combing through Ibrahim's pieces, but he presents all this in such an accomplished and complete form that it's hard to imagine the songs being played any other way.
Like I said, I can't think of anyone I know who wouldn't like this album. It's not perfect, but in its ability to connect a wide range of listeners to really great jazz, it's pretty damned good. Hard to sing louder praises.
And now, the album. My review of Caroline's "Where's My Love" single last year is one of the most accessed files on my site. Apparently lots of people were taken by her deceptively fragile voice and unusual way with words and went to extreme lengths (such as reading A&A) to learn more about her.
The album opens incredibly slowly. Caroline (Lufkin) has put together some really great electronic backing tracks, but those first three songs are languid to the point of somnambulism. The voice is still there, but man, it's easy to drift off. And then I get it: That's what I'm supposed to do.
Not fall asleep, of course, but simply fall into a trance. So by the time we get to "Where's My Love" it's almost like the sun rising. And, indeed, after that Caroline really starts to come on. If you've managed to fall under her spell, the songs that follow slide down the throat like Galliano Jello shots. Ewww, maybe that's not the best simile. Sorry.
Still, as the album kicks into overdrive (as such), it's easy to understand why the album starts so slowly. Without that early introspection, there would be no counterpoint to the "kickin'" side of things. The single was great. This album is even greater. Better than I thought possible.
Fabulous cut-and-paste (electronic style, of course) combined with stellar beatwork. I know, I've said as much about Caural in the past, but this album puts a fine shine on past glories.
Yes, digging an album like this does require some ability in the area of abstract thought. Goes without saying. But come on. There are so many interesting ideas meandering in and out of focus here, how can anyone get bored?
Stupid question, I know. Philistines rule the world. Whatever. Those who jam to the likes of PreFuse 73 probably already know Caural well. Perhaps the rest of the world ought to get better acquainted.
Just so damned...pretty, I guess. In an occasionally dissonant, sometimes in-your-face kinda way. I suppose this isn't the easiest album to like, but it's real easy to love.