Important Records sale--amazing deal

Important Records, one of my favorite labels who have released albums by all kinds of amazing bands and artists including Dominique Leone, King Missile, Acid Mothers Temple, Barbez, KK Null, and on and on, is having a truly amazing sale: 36 CDs for $50, or 72 CDs for $100.  Check out the list of albums available with this deal HERE.

They had a similar sale last year called the 44/66 sale, which I took advantage of.  At the time, they ran out of materials earmarked for the sale in a touch over 24 hours, so act fast if you want in on this stuff!


Saving money and rocking out with linear tracking!

Looking for something a little better than my old Panasonic turntable, I picked up an old Technics slj3 linear tracking turntable last fall on Craigslist for $20.


I've been really happy with it so far.  It sounds great, and it works with no trouble.  And I discovered an even greater thing about these tables--they can play records that might skip on other turntables!  I had an old Tom Waits record (Closing Time) that was a little warped, and it skipped on my old table.  But with the Technics, it works fine.  Then I noticed this at my local record store this week:


One of my favorite Zappa albums, Uncle Meat, on 2xLP.  "Slight warp causes jump."  I thought I'd give it a try.  And sure enough, it plays with no jumps or skips. Other than a slight warp, the records are very clean. For $1.99, I'm psyched!

For those of you who missed out on this Miami Vice-era technology the first time around (like me), linear tracking turntables use a rod with a stylus attached instead of a tone arm.  A motor controls the movement of the stylus back and forth on the rod. Seemingly, the contact with the record this way allows for a little more "play" in the stylus than a tone arm adjusted to have a light touch, so instead of sending a tone arm jumping, the stylus can move to follow the record up and down a bit without getting tossed around.  This picture is kind of dark, but you can make out the white and red cartridge, which is on a rod that extends horizontally across the lid of the turntable:


Too bad these things didn't catch on more!

Uncle Meat itself was a huge influence on the Canterbury Scene, including amazing bands like Henry Cow.  To my ears, this is the first record where Zappa was able to integrate his interests in jazz and classical music with rock and pop idioms of the time.  It's a difficult album in spots, but it's also very rewarding. I continue to get more out of this record with every listen--and on vinyl, before Zappa's somewhat disappointing 80s remaster was used for the CD version, I think I like it even more.  The bass drum in particular sounds much more "real" on the vinyl--the CD version is kind of squished.  You don't get the "penalty tracks" of mostly uninteresting dialogue to skip over on the vinyl, either--it hangs together as more of a unified statement this way.



New/Old Cerberus Shoal album released!

So I was looking at blog stats and noticed that I've picked up some traffic via folks googling Cerberus Shoal and "An Ongoing Ding," the long-delayed unreleased album of theirs.  I googled it myself, and much to my delight after years of waiting, it has been released in Japan in early October!  It's available from the is collage collective, and while it's not their best (I'm especially partial to "Chaiming the Knoblessone" and "Bastion of Itchy Preeves"), it's a wonderful record.  If you're not into ordering it from Japan, it's also available on iTunes domestically.

I was very bummed when Cerberus Shoal broke up, but it's great to get one more new taste of their work.  Many of their records on North East Indie seem to be dropping out of print, and the small number of their albums that were available on iTunes are all gone except for this new release, so grab them while you can--they're worth your attention.

Members of Cerberus Shoal continue to remain active in a variety of other acts, if you're interested:

Fire on Fire
Dilly Dilly
Big Blood
Chriss Sutherland
Asian Mae

All interesting, but to be honest, I don't think any of those projects approach the magic of Cerberus Shoal.

In the meantime, don't forget to pick up a copy of their recent 7'' on Eternal Otter, which features 2 tracks from An Ongoing Ding--probably the last chance ever for Cerberus Shoal vinyl.



Gigantic books, part 2.

I have been finishing with some other reading commitments before the "big book" campaign will begin.  However, a few more books have been added to the pile.  "Women and Men" and "Under the Volcano" arrived a little after the rest of the stack from the first big-book post:


While I was especially exited about "Women and Men" and "The Recognitions," I recently found out about a brand-new megabook by a younger fellow from Chicago who is getting compared to David Foster Wallace.  I haven't started to read it yet, but it'll be the next book I start.  Check out the beautiful design work on "The Instructions" by Adam Levin:


Kudos to McSweeney's for this amazing design.  But I suppose I'd expect nothing less from any company associated with another great writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Dave Eggers.

Now that I'm determined to read big novels called Instructions and Recognitions, perhaps I should make sure to read another book I've meant to attack but haven't read yet, Franzen's "The Corrections."


So much reading to do...

playlist from 10-24-10

1. Spinning by Lynn Baker.  From Azure Intention, 2010, OA2

Finally: a great, widely available recording from this seriously under-recorded composer and performer.  Lynn has been lighting up stages for decades as a killer tenor player, and has long been the jazz studies director at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music, my alma mater.  I saw Lynn perform with a wide variety of ensembles during my time in Denver, played in several school combos under his tutelage, and did a semester of my composition studies with him, too.  Though Lynn can play experimental music, and he's perfectly comfortable in free improv or guided improvisation situations, this record focuses on his mature compositional approach.  Since Other Music tends to explore and celebrate eclectic approaches, I chose one of the most "out" compositions on this disc, "Spinning."  Alternating between chromatic odd-time and swinging sections, this track offers a taste of Lynn's great tone, confident phrasing, and mastery of the wide vocabulary that falls generally into the "jazz" idiom.  I have a recording of a live Bluebird Theatre show from a '99 Lynn ensemble that I hope to digitize and play on Other Music soon to show what he can do with some even more left-field approaches...

2.  Seven Sigils by John Zorn.  From Ipissimus, 2010, Tzadik.

Pardon my alliteration, but "Spinning" segues sublimely into "Seven Sigils," the lead track on Zorn's latest Moonchild Ensemble release.  I've been a Zorn fanatic for a very long time, but I must admit I've not been as consistently excited about his '00 releases compared to the fireworks of his 80s and 90s work.  Fortunately, he pulled out a majorly interesting work for my ears in 2009's "Femina," a return to the "file card" or "index card" compositional technique employed in such classics as his "Godard," "Spillane," and "Forbidden Fruit" that we played a few weeks ago.  2010's "Ipissimus" strikes gold again, somehow evoking both the dangerous energy of his legendary Naked City ensemble along with the rich harmonic vocabulary of the original Masada quartet.  Some of the Moonchild ensemble recordings started to lose momentum for me, but Ipissimus strikes hard and never lets go.  It's exciting to hear how much aggression Zorn can still unleash after many gentler forays into almost lounge/exotica territory in recent years.

I haven't seen any live footage of material from Ipissimus yet, but here's a look at the early trio incarnation of Moonchild:

3.  Blinded by Blood of Heroes.  From Blood of Heroes, 2010 Ohm Resistance.

Another NYC stalwart whose voluminous series of recordings has lost a little consistency over time, Bill Laswell returns to form with Blood of Heroes, a sort of industrial spinoff of his other recent (and excellent) ensemble, Method of Defiance.  This album occupies a strange aural universe between industrial and dub camps, with the contribution of guitarist Justin Broadrick providing some very Godflesh-like atmospheres.  If Laswell and Zorn keep this up, the '10 decade looks to be another exciting series of creative innovations.

4. Eruption by Dennis Caplinger.  From Strummin With the Devil, 2006, CmH Records.

To follow last week's DLR tune in Spanish, here's another Van Halen-related oddity: a rendition of Eddie's famous guitar solo "Eruption" on banjo!  I think Dennis Caplinger does a great job interpreting this piece for banjo. but the severe staccato attack associated with the instrument doesn't generally represent the smooth legato of a distorted electric guitar.  And, of course, there is no whammy bar.  Stll, an interesting track from an album that also features a bluegrass take on "Jump" with Diamond Dave himself on vocals.  That's a guy who will enthusiastically try anything!  In fact, here it is:

5.  Cosmetics by Foetus.  From Hide, 2010, Ectopic Ents.

Yet another NYC scene veteran with yet another stellar new release, the new Foetus album includes some operatic vocal passages that bring an industrial version of Magma to mind.  The compositions are dense and dark as always, and Thirwell shows no signs of losing his edge, having continued to bring his Foetus, Steroid Maximus, and Manorexia projects to new heights. His recent album of music he composed for the Venture Brothers is phenomenal, too.  It's going to take a lot of spins to get this album all the way into my head--and it's going to be a painful pleasure.

6.  Froth by Tyft.  From Smell the Difference, 2009, Skirl Records

I don't know a lot about this ensemble, other than it's sort of a compliment to Andrew D'Angelo's Morthana ensemble.  D'Angelo plays for Skirl, and guitarist Hilmar Jensson returns the favor in Morthana.  This music retains the aggropunkjazz approach favored by so many NYC downtown scene musicians, but the compositions also feature a lot of nicely-composed sections--more sophisticated than the usual "head and improv on the form" routine by far.  If you like a little metal with your prog-jazz, this album is essential.

Here's a live version of this track featuring the core trio.  Damn fine:

7.  Pagode-Enredo Dos Tempos Do Medo by Tom Ze.  From Estudando O Pagode, vinyl reissue, 2010 Luaka Bop.

I've played a Tom Ze track on the show recently, but here's another from my favorite album of his in celebration of the release of a new Tom Ze vinyl box set by Luaka Bop: Studies of Tom Ze: Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You.

The three "study" records included in this box have never been released domestically on vinyl, and "Estudando a Bossa" hadn't been released domestically at all.  They sound truly beautiful on a nice turntable--I've barely been able to listen to anything else since this box arrived.  The box also includes a 7'' with two live tracks when Tortoise was his backing band on tour, and a classic interview with Ze, David Byrne, and Arto Lindsay, a great essay (though the must-read essay on Tom Ze remains JG Rollefson's "Tom Ze's Fabrication Defect and the 'Esthetics of Plagiarism': A Postmodern/Postcolonial 'Cannibalist Manifesto").  This will almost certainly be my vote for the best release of 2010, reissue or otherwise--not bad for a year that's rounding out nicely for great releases!



Playlist from 10-17-10

1. fireflower by Astroid Power-up!  From Googleplex, self-released, 2003.

All kinds of unorthodox elements come together beautifully on Googleplex: compositions are built with sine waves using just intonation instead of the equal temperament we're used to with most "modern" music.  There's a bit of a Bach-ian fugal approach compositionally, but drummer Deantoni Parks goes absolutely crazy with the music, pulling it toward a sort of post-bop meets free-jazz direction.  A few tracks, such as the track featured here, offer composer/project leader Scott Bruzenak on saxophone as well, but many tracks create their mesmerizing territories with nothing but sine waves and drums.  I find myself returning to this record year after year and always hearing new elements, or listening from a different perspective.  It's impossible to catagorize and even harder to forget.

2. The Weird Revolution by The Butthole Surfers.  From Weird Revolution, Hollywood Records, 2001.

As I understand it, most Butthole Surfers fans dislike this album.  Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the rest of their work, but I love this record.  To the extent that this music is an experiment with electronica by a fairly straightforward guitar-punk band, I found it to be an incredibly successful experiment.  Almost every track is danceable, well-written, and funny.  There's quite a story behind the record, too: an entirely different version of the record was finished with most of the same songs (After the Astronaut), but after an ugly dispute between the band and their label at the time, Touch and Go Records, they re-recorded the album for release by Hollywood.  Having heard the earlier unreleased version, I'm glad they took the opportunity, as they considerably improved the punch of the whole project.

Hollywood didn't push the album as much as I would've hoped at the time, but there is a great video for "The Shame of Life:"

3. Prospero's Curse by Michael Nyman.  From the Prospero's Books soundtrack, 1991, London/Decca.

Nyman is a hugely underrated composer who works in a sort of modular/cellular format related to the minimalist movement.  In fact, he's often credited with coining the term "minimalist music" in the early 70s.  The graduallly-changing modular nature of his music has made him a natural choice for film music, and he had a long history of composing for Peter Greenaway films as well as having his music featured in commercials and television shows.  This recording is from the score to Greenaway's Prosperos Books, which was a bizarre interpretation of Shakespeare's Tempest.  This film was the last collaboration between Nyman and Greenaway.  For your viewing pleasure, here's the opening of the film via YouTube, which includes a famously complex panning shot that starts around the 7:10 mark:

4. Rollin' Down (To My House) by BlueBob.  From BlueBob, 2003, DavidLynch.com.

BlueBob is a collaboration between filmmaker David Lynch and John Neff, a guitarist and studio engineer who Lynch hired to build and operate his home studio.  Lynch described the project as "industrial" for the year or two leading up to its release.  The record does feature some drum programming, but I think it's closer in spirit and sound to a mix of 50s and 60s rock music filtered through the surreal atmosphere often composed for Lynch films by Angelo Badalamenti.  Guitar sounds are more overdriven than would have been expected in classic rock, but not the almost metal tones favored by pop-industrial bands of the late 90s/early 00s like Ministry, Skinny Puppy, or Nine Inch Nails.  As one might expect, it's a very cinematic record, often featuring strange spoken vocals that are very dry in the mix compared to guitars in washes of reverb.

5. Timido by David Lee Roth.  From Sonrisa Salvaje, 1986, Warner.

This track was released as "Shy Boy" on DLR's US release "Eat 'Em and Smile."  Apparently a decision was made to translate and re-record the entire album in Spanish, hoping to capitalize on Mexican record sales.  The idea was a commercial failure, but it's very interesting to hear how well Roth adapts his vocals to the language--and how enthusiastic he sounds.  Rumors still exist about a Portugese-language version of the album, too (go Brazil!), but no recordings have ever surfaced.

6. More Noise Please by Steven Jesse Bernstein.  From Prison, 1994, Sub Pop.

We'll definitely be discussing the work of Steven Jesse Bernstein more in the future--he's one of my favorite writers by a large margin.  And, as his album Prison attests, he was a gifted oral interpreter of his own work.  His raspy, snarling voice is balanced with a great sense of phrasing and lyrical delivery.  Tragically, Bernstein took his own life shortly after his performances were recorded for this album, and he only heard one track, "No No Man," before his death.  The project was completed by composer Steve Fisk, and released by Sub Pop.

7. All Mine by Tom Jones.  From Reload (UK version), 2003, Universal.

As covers go, it doesn't get much more bizarre than this.  Tom Jones, arguable one of the most extroverted performers of all time, takes on a Portishead track, one of the most introverted, even reclusive, acts of all time.  But it's not bad--his huge voice may stomp all over the intimacy of Portishead, but "All Mine" does have the kind of dramatic potential to survive its transition into a big-band volcano.  You just have to be in the right mood.

There's no performance clips of TJ doing this song, but Portishead's original video is a good example of their minimalist-noir approach:


playlist from 10-10-10

For 10-10-10, I'm doing my first "topical" set.  This music highlights creative uses of the human voice.  Most of this music is entirely vocal-based, though a few tracks feature really wild singing in a larger ensemble context.  Though there are other musicians innovating in the area of vocal music, these musicians and groups are a great introduction to various kinds of approaches to the voice that often end up influencing those working in more "normal" forms of music as time goes on.

1. Segmenti due by Demetrio Stratos. From Metrodora, 1976, Cramps Records.

Stratos was the vocalist for Italian band Area from 1972 until his untimely death in 1979 at the age of 34. In addition to being a simply great singer with an enormous range, Stratos studied various disciplines related to music, the voice, and language. He was able to produce some truly unusual sounds with his voice, many of which were documented and are now available for the public to glimpse through the 2009 documentary, La voce Stratos.  Here's a youtube clip showing him in action in a variety of settings:

2. Si Veriash La Rana by Charming Hostess. From Sarajevo Blues, 2004, Tzadik.

Charming Hostess has been part of the West Coast avantgarde scene for a long time.  I remember first hearing of them in the late 90s, when Idiot Flesh was essentially their backing band for the album Eat.

Primary composer and bandleader Jewlia Eisenberg has continued to take the Charming Hostess project in a number of interesting directions.  The recent Bowls Project release, part of a multimedia installation, is a great album that touches on a variety of musical approaches.  This track, though, comes from 2004's Sarajevo Blues release, and really highlights the Hostess' ability to incorporate Bulgarian vocal harmonies and unique ornamentation...or as Eisenberg puts it in her liner notes, "Forced gender compliance for Bulgarian Jewish girls."

3. The Jump by Bobby McFerrin. From The Voice, 1984, Elektra Musician.

Almost everyone is familiar with Bobby McFerrin for his surprise 80s hit with "Don't Worry, Be Happy."  The reality is that he was a vastly accomplished vocal performer and musical mind before that, and he has continued to write music that is uplifiting and technically stunning.  I chose this track because I particularly admire his ability to make the kinds of giant intervalic leaps that he makes constantly in this song, but I can't really think of anything McFerrin has recording that I don't find both musically interesting and emotionally nourishing.

4. Where Is The Line by Björk. From Medúlla, 2004, Polydor.

As a "pop" artist with a long career of her own, and the Sugarcubes before that, Bjork has managed to continue making music that challenges her audience.  2004's Medulla album, a recording made entirely of voice-generated sounds, is probably the most extreme example of that.  However, the record isn't compositionally or orchestrationally thin for the decision--instead, Bjork works with a variety of choral groups and individuals with unusual voice talents to make the music as varied and rich as most records with additional instrumentation.  On this track, the percussion track is provided by Rahzel, lead melody vocals come from Bjork and Mike Patton (whose experiemental vocal work we'll cover below), and additional harmonic pads and accents are covered by the 22-voice Icelandic Choir.  A stunning recording, and there's a freaky video for the song, too:

5. Pulse by Zubi Zuva. From Jehovah, 1996, Tzadik.

Zubi Zuva is a vocal trio featuring Tatsuya Yoshida of Ruins and Koenjihyakkei fame.  It's a playful project, and it's obviously intended to be mostly a fun/funny experience, but they do take some interesting musical chances in that space between singing and speaking that are worth a listen.

6. Voice by Maja Ratkje. From Voice, 2002, Rune Grammofon.

Ratkje is a really interesting composer and singer from Norway.  I've heard and enjoyed some of her work with the improv group Spunk, but I especially like her "Voice" album.  It's a great listening experience that manages to balance the beautiful and the bizarre.  You get a sense of her compositional skills making careful and deliberate use of her vocal technique to make this album work.

7. Song Of Schopsko by The Bulgarian State Radio And Television Female Vocal Choir. From Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares, 1986, 4AD.

The Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares CD series is probably responsible for most of Americans' familiarity with the Bulgarian vocal style, which includes odd, close-stacked harmonies with the occasional dissonance for emphasis, and very unusual ornamentation to melodies, which I've heard extended into other instrumental performances from the region, too (the Norweigan band Farmers Market is a great place to hear these ornaments on horns, accordions, and guitars).

8. Inconsolable Widows In Search Of Distraction by Mike Patton. From Adult Themes For Voice, 1996, Tzadik.

Mike Patton is probably best known for his work as vocalist in Faith No More and Mr. Bungle in the 90s, but he's a very busy man who co-founded Ipecac Records, composes for and plays in a variety of other bands and projects, and continues to surprise with every new recording.  This track, and another short track later in this playlist, are part of a small series of voice-based recordings that were made to 4-track cassettes in various hotel rooms on tour.  The limitation of the medium, however, didn't hold Patton back on tracks such as this one, where he's obviously bounced tracks of ululation sounds back and forth to create a massive throng of "inconsolable widows."  Perhaps even more fun listening to this album is thinking about what the folks in adjoining hotel rooms might have been feeling while these recordings were made!

In addition to his other prodigious talents as a conventional vocalist and composer, he might be the best screamer in the business.  Check out this performance as part of Zorn's Moonchild ensemble:

9. Burst by Tagaq. From Auk/Blood, 2008, Jericho Beach Music.

To tie into Patton above, his Ipecac label has also issued this recording.  I first heard of Tagaq when she performed on Bjork's Medulla album, also mentioned above.  There is a brief glimpse of Tagaq in the recording studio featured in Bjork's DVD about the making of Medulla, and I was really impressed with how much of herself she gets into while performing/recording.  Her whole album is a very original take on combining "art music" avant-garde techniques with traditional Inuit throat singing.  And yet the whole of the work remains appealing to people outside of both of those traditions, with a sort of primal appeal.  Great stuff.

10. Stimmung: Model 11 by Paul Hillier & Theatre of Voices. From Stockhausen: Stimmung, 2007, Harmonia Mundi.

This is taken from the middle of a Stockhausen vocal piece I really enjoy.  It's hard to give a quick summary of what's happening in long-form pieces like this, but basically drones are intoned, repeated, and modified over time, and names of deities are also intoned.  The piece functions through gradual change/synthesis.  For the purposes of this set of music, I liked the sounds of the gradually-shifting phonetic segments, which start to sound really bizarre when they're repeated and shifted within the ensemble.

11. Mahoko by Adachi Tomomi Royal Chorus. From Yo, 2003, Tzadik.

Yet another weird vocal release from Tzadik, Tomomi's "Royal Chorus" is a project of his intended to combine the work of professional and non-professional musicians.  Generally, the pieces are scored for 6-8 vocalists and can have a variety of notational approaches (rhythm defined but no pitch definition, for example).  These pieces tend toward musical humor in spots, but in others they remind me of that same transcendent approach to combining singing and speaking sounds heard in the Zubi Zuva record.

12. La Molina by Yma Sumac. From The Ultimate Yma Sumac Collection, 2003, The Right Stuff.

This is by far the most "normal" recording of this bunch, but Yma Sumac's voice absolutely puts her at the level of the other folks in this playlist.  Sumac had an enormous range, incredible control, and at times incorporated native vocal techniques and emulation of animals, etc into her performances, making her an interesting fit--and proving that even exotica and the avant-garde can exist in perfect harmony.

13. Wuxiapian Fantastique by Mike Patton. From Adult Themes For Voice, 1996, Tzadik.

We covered Patton a bit above...this track is a 17 second onslaught of voice overdubs placed close to and over each other.  This like this are really fun for me when I think about how much work can go into such a short recording, but the audio result is really fun.

14. Karolinka by Urszula Dudziak. From Malowany Ptak, 1997, Polonio.

In a way, Dudziak can be compared to Bobby McFerrin: both are very accomplished musicians with jazz/improv leanings, and both are better known as one hit wonders (hers was "Papaya" in the 70s) than for their long, complex, and rich careers.  Other than some jazz-meets-disco experiments, most of Dudziak's music tends to be fairly loose improv jazz stuff using all kinds of vocal approaches.  On that music, I hear a bit of a Phil Minton influence.  On her 1997 Malowany Park album, though, voice takes center stage in overdubbed pieces that often have grooves I'd associate with Bobby McFerrin.  She uses some effects on the record, notably octaver effects to drop her voice into an appropriate range for making vocal "basslines," but overall the music is well-arranged voice-songs that deserve a wider audience.

15. Prelude To Biocosmo Pt. Two by Boris Savoldelli & Elliott Sharp. From Protoplasmic, 2009, Moonjune Records.

I've been looking for Savoldelli's solo voice album for a while, but so far I haven't found it (no US distro, argh).  In the meantime, here's a track from his duet album with NYC stalwart Elliot Sharp playing guitar.  This music is possibly the most abstract and abrasive of this playlist, but still well-considered and made of sensitive interplay between the musicians.  Much of Savoldelli's live approach is based on a kind of "live overdub" concept using loop pedals and singing over them layer after layer.  While technically interesting, I've heard a lot of guitarists play loop-based music in a similar fashion, and I must admit I'm more entertained by the moments when he's interacting with Sharp moment to moment, with no loop-building in the background.  That said, Sharp is a layer-building live improvisor himself, so you never get away from that kind of technique for long on this record.

16. What white horse by André Goudbeek Quartet& Phil Minton. From As it happened, 1999, WIMpro.

I'm most fond of Phil Minton's work with Bob Ostertag's ensembles (by the way, you can learn about Ostertag's music and listen to any of it you'd like for free at his website), but I thought it might be fun to include this relatively "normal" track that features the Minton brand of singing with his arsenal of odd sounds (grunts, mouth sounds, etc) over a fairly conservative Goudbeek Quartet arrangement.  While I can't say that I'm a fan of a lot of Minton's work directly, he has influenced a large number of other vocalists and composers over his long career.  Minton's work shows many kinds of unorthodox sounds can be used to great effect if you're committed and sing like you mean it.

Here's a bit of Phil's take on the English folksong idiom to take us out:


Playlist from 10-3-10

1. Bengal Spice Mix  by End.  From Percussions, Tigerbeat6, 2004.

This playlist starts off with a danceable bang.  Not to be confused with Canada's metal band The End, or the British band, or the US record label, this End (sometimes capitalized or used with a period behind the word) is the work of NYC's Charles Peirce.  I haven't kept up with his newest music, but I've long been a fan of his 2004 release, The Sounds of Disaster, which mixes dance and breakbeat music with rock, rockabilly, and cinematic-sounding music to great effect.  I was listening to that record a lot during a period of immersing myself in some of JG Thirwell's instrumental music as Steroid Maximus, as the two share a similar approach and sound.  In the case of this track from the Percussions album, the source music used is from jazz and exotica sources, so it's  a more mellow experience than the Sounds of Disaster, but still very good.

Here's a recent video for an update on what he's been up to since these records:

2. Sagaie by 1980. From Self Titled, Trendkill Recordings, 2009.

1980 is a French band currently working in that ever-interesting field between metal and jazz influences.  So far, they only have one self-titled album, and it's a great first record.  1980 isn't afraid to use longer passages of mellow/introspective music when the need arises, which I appreciate.  On the other hand, they can throw and and thrash with the best of them, too.  And the jazz influence is legit: this gets far beyond the fake walking bass and swinging ride cymbal routine that some bands consider the "Jazz Odyssey."  Another good recommendation for those into Naked City, Silencio, and some other bands we'll continue to explore in coming weeks.

3.  Erase Yourself by Ron Miles.  From My Cruel Heart, Ryko/Gramavision, 1996.

In my opinion, My Cruel Heart might be the most under-rated, tragically under-appreciated albums of all time.  The follow-up album, Woman's Day, is no slouch, either.  Ron is a wonderfully sensitive trumpet player and composer, and on this album I understand that he was interested in exploring some sound ideas that occurred to him one day in a practice room at the University of Denver (my alma mater).  The old Lamont rooms were less than perfectly soundproof, and legend has it that Ron stopped practicing for a moment and became aware of a cool sound combination coming from the combination of a trumpet player in one adjoining room and an electric guitar player in the room on the other side.  Those kinds of juxtapositions, usually done in groups of two instruments playing "opposite" other pairs, happen in several awesome spots on this album.
That's not to say it's a harshly experimental record, however.  If you like your jazz more straight-forward, there are plenty of moments you'll love on this record.  And Ron has a knack for making the weirdest experiments and juxtapositions sound truly beautiful.  He's a great communicator with his music and his playing, and I wish more people got to hear his work.  For the moment, though, the records of this period are somewhat difficult to find, as Gramavision (Rykodisc) has let both of 'em slip out of print.  Fortunately for all of us, Ron's newer work, such as the amazing Stone/Blossom double disc, is available from Sterling Sound.
4.  Right Away by Pattern Is Movement.  From All Together, Hometapes, 2009.

This band started life as a five piece?--four piece?--I don't remember.  They've been living as a duo for their last couple of albums, though (drums and keys w/vocals), and it's remarkable how rich and full they sound.  From math-y beginnings among other Philly and NYC avant-rock acts, their mature sound focuses on gorgeous melodies and rich, sonorous arrangements.  All Together is a short but incredibly potent album, and one of those rare records that manages to be "serious" while leaving you in a happier mood for having heard it.  These songs/melodies are incredibly memorable, too, so don't be surprised if you're humming half of the album as you walk down a street days later.

5. Le Silo by Le Silo.  From 8.8, Tutinoko, 2004.

This intense prog trio from Japan is lead by pianist Miyako Kanizawa, who also plays piano and sings for one of my favorite Japanese bands, Koenjahyakkei.  And like Koenjahyakkei, this music has an obvious French prog influence.  But the trio arrangements allow for maybe more intimacy than many of the chamber orchestra-sized bands the music references.  I think this album might be an appealing jazz/prog "crossover" album for folks who are generally into jazz but have an interest in rock/prog musical directions.
6.  Silence Is Sexy by Einstürzende Neubauten.  From Silence is Sexy, Mute, 2000.
Neubauten is one of my all-time favorites, and they've covered a wide range of stylistic and conceptual ground throughout their career, which just reached the 30-year milestone!.  This album immediately follows their Tabula Rasa, the record which most clearly delineated a shift toward more songform-oriented compositions, and more gentle passages in the music compared to earlier periods in their work.  This song is a favorite of mine for the many long pauses in the music, and the beautiful recordings of quiet moments like lighting a cigarette that arrive just before the music kicks in many times.  And there's a great (unofficial) video worth seeing, too:

7.  Stampede by Godley & Creme.  From Consequences, Mercury, 1977.

Godley & Creme are probably an acquired taste for most people, but I seem to have finally added them fully to my palette. Though there are certainly many moments of bad and/or cheesy throwaway material mixed into almost all of their albums (and how could there not be with a TRIPLE album such as Consequences?), they do succeed in writing some truly epic stuff at times. This track, which aspires to combine some orchestral thoughts with both psychedelic and arena rock moments, is one of those successes for me. I love the Queen-esque harmonies that dissolve into musique concrete halfway through! Silence is Sexy, indeed...

8.  Lixiviate by La Part maudite.  From Our Balls are like Dead Suns, &Records, 2010.

I only recently heard about this band, but any group who names themselves after one of my favorite books by Georges Bataille (published as "The Accursed Share" in English) can't be all bad. Indeed, I find this project very appealing: trumpet/bass/drums trio. Bass and trumpet: heavy on the distortion. Drums: hard and heavy and mostly dry-sounding. It's a very free record at times, but there are some great riff/melody sections, too, bathed in some wild distortion. Looking forward to more!

The album title, by the way, comes from this Bataille poem:


For sake the dung among the head
I detonate I execrate the sky
the clouds expectorate
it’s bitter to immensity
my eyes are pigs
my heart is ink
my balls become 
dead suns 

the fallen stars gone fathomless grown grave
I weep my language leaks
it imports no immensity’s a round
and rolled and bound in sound
I passion death petition it
in Holy Father’s butchery. 

Georges Bataille (trans: Mark Daniel Cohen)

Sorry, unrelated to the band, but I simply must link to this rare video of Bataille speaking on the notion of literature and evil: