New discussion post at Killed In Cars

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Mike Pride overview and Other Music interview links

Picking out Mike Pride tracks for Other Music proves to be a difficult task!

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we've had awesome interviews on the last two editions of Other Music. On 6/24/12, we had an interview with Kevin Burkett of the Electrical Guitar Company, who told us lots of interesting facts about building aluminum guitars, as well as an historical overview of aluminum instruments. Dan Jenkins of Ideal Cleaners also joined us in the studio for a live "aluminum jam," over which I did some spoken word chatting about all things aluminum.

You can download an mp3 of the Kevin Burkett interview here.

And you can download the aluminum jam here.

Last night, we had an interview with drummer and composer Mike Pride, who discussed his many bands and projects, including a Kickstarter campaign he's currently running to produce a recording of his Drummer's Corpse piece. As of this writing, there are 21 days left to reach the funding goal for the Kickstarter--check out the link above for more information, and you can sign on to help make a recording of this crazy cool piece happen.

You can listen to Mike's interview on Other Music here.

While I'm thinking about Mr. Pride's work, I wanted to suggest a few albums from his back catalog that I think readers of Words on Sounds would really dig. While I haven't reviewed an MP-related album since I ramped up the reviews on this blog last year, I've been following his work for years, and I consider many of his recordings to be an essential part of any contemporary jazz/experimental collection. Pride has an enormous back catalog of recordings that might be daunting to approach at first, but here are five of my favorites to get you started:

Dynamite Club - Fusion Era
The newest recording by Mike's avant-rock/punk/math trio, "Fusion Era" pummels you with 12 tracks in 20 minutes, but it has more notes, humor, and attitude than most albums can hold in an hour. Mike and guitarist Kentaro Saito share vocal duties, while the low end is alternately covered by Evan Lipson (Normal Love) and Jesse Krakow (Time of Orchids). The physical pressing features awesome packaging and album art, including lyrics and liner notes printed on four insert cards. This band put on some of the best shows of the mid-oughts, and this recording ably captures the intensity of their live show.

Bunda Love - Beards & Calves
This double CD is a collaboration between Pride and Portland, ME improvisor id m theft able, manipulating four years' worth of recordings into an indescribable onslaught of EAI and noise. The perfect makeout disc for your next Furry party!

Whoopie Pie - Sweet
Whoopie Pie is a trio featuring Bill McHenry on tenor and Jamie Saft on electric bass, along with Pride behind the drumkit. Saft and Pride really take this project from jazz trio territory into passages evocative of drone and thrash music, with distorted bass tones and relentless percussion. And McHenry is no slouch either, adding great melodies and Ayler-esque wails over it all. If the idea of Sunno))) covering "Spiritual Unity" gets you excited, hit yourself with some Whoopie Pie. By the way, pop the CD in your computer for some bizarre videos of Maine folks hitting one another with the venerable desserts...

Period - Period
This is a devastating 1-track improvisation between Pride and Extra Life/ex-Zs guitarist Charlie Looker. Balancing impulses of brutality and austerity, Period is a must-listen for fans of both Pride and Looker, its weighty improvisation giving insight into the compositional impulses of both musicians. A Funhole Records and FuckingA co-release, the physical edition of this album is out of print, but you can buy the digital version for just under four bucks on Pride's BandCamp site. By the way, the other records in this list of recommendations can be bought directly from Mike--just click here. Period has finished more recordings, too, which I hope to hear soon. In the meantime, you can visit the Free Music Archive for a few live sets that will give you an idea of their direction after the s/t release--Chuck Bettis and Darius Jones are also featured on these live sessions.

Andrew d'Angelo Trio - Morthana With Pride
This album isn't a "proper" Mike Pride recording--he's sitting in with d'Angelo's brutal Morthana unit--but it features some of Pride's most intense scream vocals, power electronics, and drumming on record. Listeners of the Other Music show will probably recognize the opening track, "My Prostate," which I've spun several times. I love the harsh free-jazzcore of this unit, and though Morthana has been dormant for a while, at least we have a couple of recordings to remember them by.

Enjoy your explorations into the diverse Mike Pride catalog, and let's hope the Drummer's Corpse Kickstarter campaign adds another killer recording to the list!


Normal Love - Survival Tricks

I'm not ordinarily the kind of listener to participate in "best record of year X" rhetoric, but Normal Love has left me no choice in 2012. Avant rock fans: this is your album of the year. A co-release between Public Eyesore and Weasel Walter's ugEXPLODE label, Survival Tricks is available on CD and LP. Normally, PE promos show up on my doorstep in CD format, but I love this record so much that I'm going to order the vinyl, too.

I first heard Normal Love back around 2008, shortly after their self-titled debut dropped on High Two records. At the time, I was obsessed with the "brutal prog" attack of the last few Flying Luttenbachers albums (especially "Systems Emerge from Complete Disorder" and "Cataclysm") and Zs "Arms" LP of 2007, and I was actively looking for other bands working toward similar integrations of the compositional rigor of contemporary classical music, the swagger of free jazz, and the boundless energy of hardcore and metal. The closest thing I found was the Normal Love debut, which I found incredibly interesting musically, though it lacked a little of the bravado of Zs and the Luttenbachers. 2009 brought the "Peel" EP, whose two songs hinted at new facets in the group's development with the addition of vocals by Merissa Martigoni and a new emphasis on jagged rhythmic work.

As good as those releases are--and they're very much worth hearing--nothing can prepare you for the shock of "Survival Tricks." Listening to this album for the first time was one of those all-too-rare experiences (and the reason I get excited about listening to records) where I found myself shouting out loud in response to the music: "holy shit," "fuck yes," omigod, ARRRRRRR. Normal Love is a whole new band, every bit as technically gifted but alive with a magical, feral intensity. The raw power of this album can't be ignored. This recording couldn't turn into background music if you played it in a war zone.

Have a taste for yourself: there is a new video for the opening track, "Lend Some Treats." While I could regale you with tales of the brilliance one can make of insane rhythms that multiply in Fibonacci-esque explosions, the contrary whole-step pulling between voice and violin on the word "try," the various regroupings on unison notes that pedal off in wild directions, and the impossible hocketing of sounds around the whole ensemble, experiencing it yourself is simply too primal and pre-language to adequately put into words:

Normal Love - Lend Some Treats (Official Music Video) from Haoyan of America on Vimeo.

As you might imagine from that track, describing the stylistic tendencies of "Survival Tricks" is a challenge maybe better left to listening than description. The music focuses intensely on rhythm, both elemental macrorhythms and quickly-articulated nanorhythms: brainwaves soaring over the heart and the lungs. Though the songs mostly gravitate toward tonal centers, and melodic invention has its place (especially in the affecting melodies of "I Heard You Could See Baltimore from There"), rhythm and timbre demand the most attention. The closest RIYL notion that I can come up is somewhat abstract, but maybe it'll give you a good starting impression: I always felt like the Zs album "Arms" opened up a set of new sonic possibilities that nobody explored any further, including Zs. "Survival Tricks" goes many fathoms deeper into that territory than anyone has before, unearthing musical discoveries that will startle both your head and your heart. Most of these pieces are incredibly complex, fully satisfying for deep cerebral listening, but there is a raw power behind the whole record that demands more fundamental emotional reactions. You've got to feel this one.

Now that most of Normal Love's tracks feature vocals, and they've taken such a turn toward the visceral from the cerebral, I found it interesting to note that the lyrical content of these pieces tends to focus on undomesticated fundamentals, too: moss, clay, earth, brine, water, solitude, young sex, "Life: quality or quantity?" I was also moved by the transcendent vibes of this record in terms of gender identity--so many albums that get this "brutal," for lack of a better word, feel overwhelmingly masculine, but this music is equal parts masculine and feminine. I'm sure the participation of women in the recording (Merissa Martigoni on vocals and keys, and Jessica Pavone on amplified violin on many tracks) has an obvious contribution toward that balance, but some of the best lyrical moments toward female empowerment were penned by men in the group, such as the lyrics to the "Baltimore" track mentioned above that came from bassist Evan Lipson.

Hearing this record has changed the way I feel about music in a way that few records have done. This one is going on a very short personal list of heavy albums I return to frequently, including Kayo Dot's "Choirs of the Eye," Time Of Orchids' "Sarcast While," Extra Life's "Secular Works," and the Flying Luttenbachers and Zs records mentioned above. If you're into those bands, you simply have to give this a try. And Normal Love is planning a tour for later this year, which will feature new member Rachael Bell on voice/sampler, around late August/September--check for tour dates at their website.

--also published at Killed in Cars

Three from the Many Arms crew

I've been listening to a few amazing albums that have recently been released by members of Many Arms, whose "Missing Time" was included in my recent power trio review. Since then, the new s/t Many Arms record was released on Tzadik, which extends their muscular sound into even longer and more intense workouts than their previous efforts--it's an essential 2012 album for sure.

But I want to focus on a few of the recent side project recordings coming out of this Philly trio's wide range of creative interests. It seems there is a Many Arms-related record waiting to satisfy almost any mood. And there are even more projects than these three you can look forward to hearing, as I'll detail at the end of these reviews.

Johnny DeBlase Quartet - Composites

Composites captures 2 long-form compositions by Johnny DeBlase, bassist for Many Arms and Zevious. These are surprising and complex compositions, rooted in jazz but constantly shifting in textures, dynamics, and harmonic vocabularies. The opening section of "First Form" made me think of a blend of 70s NYC loft jazz and Mahavishnu-esque fusion approaches, coming on strong and aggressive with an explosive head, followed by melodic interplay between guitarist Nick Millevoi and Joe Moffett. Millevoi briefly takes over the stage with some chromatically descending trill action, and then the surprises really begin: bassist DeBlase and drummer Dave Flaherty bring the dynamics down a few notches to set up the next scored passage, some beautifully evolving semi-chromatic melodies gently unfolding over a sizzling rhythm section. Then we get some sectional work within the group: trumpet and bass together, with a more direct and pointilistic drum approach instead of the hard bop textures that have come before, followed by very gentle guitar and austere bowed bass picking up some sul ponticello harmonic overtones. And then...

I don't mean to get into a long play-by-play of these compositions--and the paragraph above only takes us about halfway into "First Form" anyway--but it's difficult to illustrate just how wide these pieces reach, from meditative passages that embrace silence and a classical attention to detail that would be right at home on an early ECM release, to the loft scene and the later evolution of NYC downtown. And at moments of high intensity, I can't help but think of how younger musicians, raised through the evolution of hardcore and metal genres, have been able to integrate the power of those styles without always having to make literal references like Naked City or something. In "Second Form" around the 7 minute mark, for example, there is a section with brutal drums and tremolo bass that could almost turn into a grindcore riff, but it acts instead as a more natural distillation of brutality that beautifully sets up some long-tone guitar passages.

Speaking of metal, the album cover, a photo of some twisting striations of light that remind me vaguely of the cover for bassist Bill Laswell's solo debut "Baselines," comes from Dysrhythmia/Gorguts guitarist Kevin Hufnagel. And the record also sounds very good, carefully captured with a dry, present sound that's very listenable by Eric Carbonara at Nada Sound Studio in Philly. With impressive musicianship, a great balance of composition and improvisation, and compositions that take listeners on a consistently surprising and adventurous journey, "Composites" is highly recommended. There is a limited edition of 100 CDrs available now for the same price as the download edition on Bandcamp, so act soon if you want to snag a physical copy. 

Bailly/Millevoi/Moffett - Strange Falls

Millevoi and Moffett, half of the DeBlase Quartet, join guitarist Alban Bailly (leader of another favorite avant-jazz band of mine, Inzinzac) on this recent release by Public Eyesore imprint Eh? records for a decidedly more free-improv setting than I've heard from the Many Arms camp yet. "Strange Falls" captures 8 improvisations by this trio, incorporating many extended techniques and effects. And unlike a lot of the free improv records I've been hearing lately, there are passages using recognizable clusters of notes, too: the overall emphasis is on soundscaping, with lots of breathing and scraping sounds from the subtle to the violent, but I must admit that I really like when projects like this incorporate pitched sounds.

Take the second track, "Panspermia," for example. Almost 8 minutes in length, making it one of the longest tracks on this record, it leans heavily on taps, scrapes, glissando sounds, and electronic sounding pops running into an envelope filter, but the long trumpet tones in the introduction act as a nice anchor for the sounds evolving around them, and the scalar/chromatic guitar runs flowing near the center of the piece give shape and direction to the undulating, increasingly frenetic sounds building up alongside. When the dynamic level drops and the focus turns to relatively delicate sounds later, it feels like a useful context has been established for digging into the deeper nature of the abstract sounds. While I think this album will appeal primarily to those who are already into free improv and EAI, these fragmentary but frequent moments of pitched content give the album extra potential as a sort of "gateway drug" into free improvisation for folks coming from relatively more conventional jazz backgrounds, too. So jazzers beware: spend some time with "Strange Falls," and you just might find yourself revisiting those Nate Wooley and Jack Wright records you bought but never quite "got" with a new ear.

I think my favorite track here is the pointillistic "Tungska," with a great blend of out-jazz trumpet lines and short, fast punctuation from both guitars. The manipulations of unison notes in the following track "Star Rot" are super compelling, too. But the whole album hangs together very well, and it's more of an album-length experience with track breaks for convenience to my ears. I should also mention that this is a great headphone record--most of the tracks feature generous stereo separation between the 2 guitars, with the trumpet mostly down the center of the stereo field, and it's a lot of fun to feel the sounds darting and slithering back and forth between your ears. 

Nick Millevoi - Black Figure of a Bird

I know I've mentioned before how much I like solo guitar, voice, and sax recordings in general--you can learn so much about a musician's musical approach by what they're highlighting in solo work. And among a category of recordings I'm already inclined to appreciate, Nick Millevoi's "Black Figure of a Bird," recently released by the promising young label New Atlantis, is a real treat.

"Black Figure of a Bird" documents six compositions for solo 12-string electric guitar, employing several alternate tunings that make many of these compositions sound much bigger than solo efforts. I was solidly digging this album from the first track, "Warm Green Discs," which quickly introduces listeners to the best traits of Millevoi's playing: a massive, slightly overdriven tone, smart phrasing with great accents to melodic lines through selective octaves and harmonization, a mature sensitivity to the full dynamic range of the instrument, and that pick technique! Melody notes absolutely jump off the pick even in the midst of "stirring" techniques that keep the harmonic cauldron bubbling beneath.

Compositionally, these are ambitious pieces, too. "Life in Ice," for example, takes listeners into delicately cycling melodic patterns, rhythmically repeating dirges, and occasional Zorn or Chadbourne-like flourishes of noise. "Bruxer" is a short and wicked fast composition with an awesome tuning that allows Millevoi to sound like an overdubbed metric-harmonized Ocrilim track by himself.

But the two relatively gentler tracks deserve a special mention: album closer "Nothing Forms a Liquid" is a beautiful exploration of harmonics built on usually-impossible chords facilitated by alternate tuning. Here too the guitar tone becomes part of the composition, set with an overdrive that lets softer parts resonate with crystalline brilliance, while passages played with a harder attack take on a sharp, almost brittle tone. And I'm especially partial to "What Sunlight Does Make it Through," the longest track on the album at 9 minutes, for mooring itself to a Lydian mode-based wash of beautiful chordal explorations, particularly in its introduction. I wish more people considered the emotional power that can be teased out of Lydian and its inherent juxtapositions between the "evil" tritone and the potential for a sort of "ultra-major" sound with both its leading tone and the upward resolution of that tritone. The piece evolves into a progressively complex harmonic territory, showcasing another aspect of Millevoi's talents. Before hearing this record, I mostly thought of inventive melodic playing when I heard his playing, but these pieces show an even wider sphere of compositional and technical abilities.

The album art and packaging is beautiful, too, with mysteriously manipulated indoor/outdoor photo juxtapositions (and fittingly enough, a black bird) by Katie Rey. My only criticism of this record? At 25 minutes, it could be longer. I'd be delighted to sit through a double LP of music like this. Hopefully there is more on the way:

More Many Arms-related projects

Another Millevoi solo record (I think) is coming soon. Called "In White Sky," keep an eye on his blog for more news on that, as well as a record that will include Ches Smith, Travis Laplante, and Ed Ricart entitled "Haitian Rail." Millevoi also plays with Archer Spade and Electric Simcha.

Johnny DeBlase also plays bass in Zevious, an excellent band on Cuneiform that would surely appeal to anyone who digs Many Arms. Zevious is writing a new album right now, and hopefully we'll hear a new record from their camp early next year...

I didn't get a chance to cover any side projects by Many Arms drummer Ricardo Lagomasino in this review, but he's a busy fellow as well: in addition to drumming for Joe Lally (Fugazi) in recent years, he's also part of a great out-jazz duo Lagomasino/Fishkin, and he's working in an interesting pop project called The Sea Around Us. And I'll always remember seeing him play with Capillary Action, whose first "official" album, "So Embarrassing," features him behind the kit.

--also published at Killed in Cars