1. Lt. Columbo's Wife by I Am Above on the Left. From s/t, 2004, self-release.
I don't know much about I Am Above on the Left except that they're from Russia, and they put their debut album on their last.fm page for free download. And that it's amazing, taking the usual kinds of tropes that bore me with "postrock" instrumental bands and turning them into something really special that includes the energy of the Chicago Touch and Go scene, and the sort of monastic attention to detail of Zs. So go check out the record for yourself and enjoy!
2. Combat by Miniature. From I Can't Put My Finger On It, JMT, 1991.
Miniature is a trio formed between drummer Joey Baron, saxophone maniac Tim Berne, and bassist Hank Roberts. They cut two albums in late 80s/early 90s and went back to their (many) other projects. And they're great somewhat forgotten albums of that era in the NYC downtown scene. Tracks such as Combat meander through many sections, anchored by really heavy "head" sections that spiral off into some really dense, agressive playing. This is my favorite era of downtown scene stuff, which is mostly known for Zorn's Naked City band of the time (also featuring Joey Baron) and projects like Zorn's Spy Vs Spy recordings (also featuring Berne). But this album, and Berne's solo efforts around this time, Bill Frisell's duet with Vernon Reid, and slightly later albums like the Polytown record are all definitive statements, too, not to mention the many releases Zorn put out through Avant Records around this era. If you can find any of these records, you'll be doing yourself a big favor by picking them up. And in the meantime, here's an incredibly rare case of a Downtown Scene ensemble on TV:
3. Good Day Today by David Lynch. From Good Day Today/I Know single, 2010.
Filmmaker and artist David Lynch has participated in some musical projects before: we played a track from his BlueBob album a few weeks ago, and he's also collaborated rather directly with composer Angelo Badalamenti to get the kinds of 50s music colliding with contemporary weirdness he enjoys. He's produced and done sound soundscaping for Lux Vivens, a record made mostly of Medival era Hildegard Von Bingen compositions. And recently he released Fox Bat Strategy, a batch of recordings made by and for the Twin Peaks era. There's certainly some variety in these musical efforts, but none of them would have prepared me for the modern electronica of his newest single. Hear it for yourself:
4. Free-Non-Jazz Powerviolence Sonata by Psychofagist. From Il Secondo Tragico, Subordinate Records, 2010.
Psychofagist might fit in with noise/grind acts like the Locust for most folks, but their free jazz influence and their frequent use of horns make me think of them as somewhat closer to an updated version of what Zorn tried to accomplish with Naked City. This band isn't nearly the technical equal of Naked City, but they have the attitude and the updated hardcore influences to make up the difference. If you miss Naked City, and the Prelapse album just isn't enough to keep you satisfied, I would highly recommend Psychofagist.
5. Omnium by Brown vs Brown. From Intrusion of the Alleged Brown Sound, Reapandsow, 2006.
This is another band I've only recently started following, but I thought they'd sound great in a set with I
Am Above on the Left and Miniature. They also have more than a little in common with the kind of jazz/rock/punk/prog flavors found in the Andrew D'Angelo bands we've explored in the last few months like Morthana, Skirl, and Tyft. You get great jazz playing and head-writing blended with some angular guitar riffing, and dynamics hover between intense jazz sessions and outright punk/metal, occasionally diving fully into both camps. Beautifully played, and beautifully written--another worth addition to modern developments integrating jazz and rock idioms. And here's a rare video on the internet of these folks in action:
6. Death That Sleeps in Them by Jonas Hellboug & Buckethead. From Octave of the Holy Innocents, Day 8, 1993.
This is a weird album when you consider Buckethead's participation: it's acoustic guitar with strong Arabic oud-playing influences and energetic drums, pulling Buckethead far outside of his usual electric-only catalog of Slonimsky licks played at lightning speed. It sounds more like the kind of music you might expect to hear from any number of other Laswell-related collaborations, where B-head usually is invited to add a few moments of his "usual" routine. Instead he takes the role of players like Nicky Skopelitis, becoming a supportive player and keeping the music moving forward with relatively conservative approaches.
7. God is on the Red Phone by The Dagger Brothers. From Space Trumpet, Seed, 2010.
The Dagger Brothers are a relatively straight-ahead "pop" project by the same folks who brought us the avant-prog act Eftus Spectun. This record somehow reminds me of XTC filtered through Renaldo and the Loaf. And that's a compliment. And they have a video they'd like you to see, and a single they'd like you to download, before Dec 18th, so here it is:
8. Today by Robby Moncreiff. From Who Do You Think You Aren't, Porter, 2010.
Though Robby Moncrieff's name is on the album, it seems like most records featuring drummer Zach Hill tend to be discussed in terms of his involvement. Like Buckethead mentioned above, Hill is a fantastic musician and has some really interesting techniques...which get used repeatedly on every project he touches. On this album, though, he at least has to stop and match lots of fascinating phrases created by Moncrieff, who creates a mostly synth-based music for this album that features melodic elements that remind me alternately of Zappa's Uncle Meat era and Brutal Prog like the Flying Luttenbachers. It's good stuff, and Hill's playing is kept restrained enough that it gains more interest again.
9. Bela Lugosi's Dead by the Dead Brothers. From 5th Sin-Phonie, Voodoo Rhythm, 2010.
This is the best cover of this famous Bauhaus track I've heard. It manages to stay quite faithful to the original while replacing almost all of the instrumentation with folksy instruments: cello, washtub bass, violin, etc. Very cool. See for yourself: