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:
1. My Bones Colossal by Rob Kleiner and the Satanics. From s/t, 2010, self-released.
Keeping things fresh on 11-28: Kleiner just made this album available on his website earlier in the week. Let me make this clear: Kleiner's record RIPS. Perhaps best known for his work with Tub Ring, or as touring guitarist with MSI on occasion, this is a truly great weirdo pop record. Great writing, great arrangements, and I'm especially impressed with the many flavors of trip-hop influenced percussion treatments found throughout. This album has very little stylistic overlap with Tub Ring, highlighting Kleiner's broad compositional range. I think most listeners of Other Music will find a lot to like in this album. Go download it for free and see for yourself, and kick RK some cash via Paypal to keep the magic coming.
2. Solo for Vibes and Piano by Mark Clifford and Conrad Kehn. From Eris Mask, self-released, 2010.
This is the lead track from a series of collaborations between Conrad Kehn, Denver-based composer, educator, and founder of the Playground Ensemble, and vibraphonist Mark Clifford. While these recordings are the result of live improvisations including live electronic manipulation, they often sound very composed and/or manipulated in postproduction. There is a great synergy evident in the interplay between Mark and Conrad, where musical phrases evolve in a compositionally thoughtful manner and textures build with an inevitability that reminds me of some of the best "granular buildups" found in Ligeti and Stockhausen's electroacoustic compositions. Occasional pointillistic rhythmic moments (the piano jabs at the beginning of this track are among my favorite) and a musical interaction consistently sensitive to dynamics also help to make these improvisations into "instant compositions" worth repeated listening. Recommended!
3. Smiles Warm Red Light by White Moth. From s/t, Angel Oven Records, 2010.
This album is combining two styles I never thought I'd hear together: the psychedelic metal stylings of bands like Pyramids (whose R. Loren is behind White Moth), and the digital hardcore style of band like Atari Teenage Riot. In many ways, the two approaches are almost opposite in terms of tempo, articulation, phrasing, etc, but White Moth makes it work: the percussion approach draws more directly from digital hardcore, while the sustained synths and drones draw from psych-metal, to describe the basic approach to combination. If you're looking for an album that manages to be high-energy and haunting at the same time, check out White Moth.
4. Tall Story by Cosa Brava. From Ragged Atlas, Intakt Records, 2010.
With Cosa Brava, the legendary Fred Frith returns to form as leader/member of a full band project, something he hasn't done so formally since the days of Art Bears and Henry Cow. This music has a strong folk influence, which makes the choice of violinist Carla Kihlstedt a perfect choice for this band. If you can imagine the folk/Americana of Carla's Tin Hat Trio blended with some of the RIO tendencies of Frith's career, you're getting close to the approach of this album.
5. The Believers by Fol Chen. From Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made, Asthmatic Kitty, 2009.
Fol Chen's debut album was easily my favorite record of 2009. On this opening track, Fol Chen's demonstrates their ability to juggle and combine all kinds of contrasts: sparse, electronic percussion and synth sounds are blended with rich overdubs of trombone. Male and female voices are blended throughout, turning into rich harmonies in pre-choruses. The overall song does a wonderful job of dynamic buildups, becoming more and more intense into the first chorus, and eventually descending into a great acoustic guitar/bass outro. And there's a really great video for this song, too:
6. The Straw by Idiot Flesh. From Fancy, Vaccination Records, 1997.
Idiot Flesh was one of the bands I discovered in college when I was digging around for "bands that sound like Mr. Bungle," a notion that has bitten me in my own posterior many times over the years when my own efforts get quickly dismissed in that direction. And I imagine the Idiot Flesh folks grew weary of those comparisons, too. In retrospect, they were a decidedly different kind of band, who took their theatrical influences deeper than Bungle in performance, who took their conceptual/philosophical notions far further by inventing John Kane and Rock Against Rock to articulate their thoughts (a process that continues in the mythology behind Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), and who were devoted to a different sort of organic composition and recording process that resulted in some spectacular recordings. In the case of The Straw, Idiot Flesh created a sort of "tone poem" if they'd survived into the days of avant-rock, setting selections from T.S. Elliot's The Hollow Men to a sophisticated musical ride.
7 and 8. Popfest and Death March Skull by Need New Body. From UFO and s/t, File 13, 2003/2002.
A couple of Need New Body tracks back-to back that show off a little of this band's range. Need New Body was the first band I became aware of in the Philly avant-rock scene of the 00s, and they were one of the best, combining folk, dance, Krautrock, jazz, video game synths, and a zillion other influences into a nonstop party. Death March Skull gives you a little Krautrock-meets-freejazz routine, and Popfest is a great dance groove, still with a touch of the Kraut, a great repeated lyric line, and a lot of fun. Need New Body is the perfect antidote for any moment of boredom. And you can't go wrong with any band whose members are in one way or another associated: Man Man, Icy Demons, Bent Leg Fatima, Whales and Cops, Buffalo Stance, and on and on. Philly must have had the most friendly avant-rock parties of all time in the 00s! Here's a video for their "Brite Tha Day from 2005," to give you some idea of the fun:
9. Strange Birds by Coil. From Musick to Play in the Dark, Volume 1, Chalice, 2000.
I pulled this one out in homage to Peter Christopherson, aka Sleazy, of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV fame, not to mention his own incredible work in Coil and as Threshold HouseBoys, among other projects. Coil might be a "difficult" radio band even for a show format like Other Music, simply because the music generally evolves slowly and quietly, demanding your full attention to follow. But it's worth the effort to meet this music more than halfway. Like most TG-related acts, there are so many potential layers of meaning and experience in every track, you're simply never finished listening.
10. Interzone - 3 by John Zorn. From Interzone, Tzadik, 2010.
I was beyond psyched for this album: another "file card composition" from Zorn, which has long been my favorite of his musical approaches, and a piece for and about the work of William Burroughs, probably my favorite writer overall. And this features a great lineup of musicians including Trevor Dunn, Ikue Mori, Mark Ribot, and many more. Regrettably, though, I've spun this recording a few times and found it pretty boring and predictable compared to most of the other file card compositions. The playing seems uninspired and repetitive, the styles covered don't get nearly so far into Moroccan music as I would have hoped, and the technique of using a square wave in between other sections of music to simulate the "cut up" method seemed really forced and cliche. If this were anything other than a Zorn record, I would probably have mostly positive feelings about it, but coming from the same person who composed Spillane and even recent works like Ipissimus and Femina, it's pretty weak.
1. A Song for Krom by Conifer. From Crown Fire, Important, 2008.
While doom/sludge bands aren't a primary listening area of mine, I do like the genre and try to keep up with new developments. And Conifer's "Crown Fire" is a great example of evolution within the genre. We get the long, epic arrangements, massive riffs, walls of distortion, layers of feedback, and long dynamic buildups one comes to expect from the style, but there are a lot of different touches, too: there are post-rock style melodies hovering a little bit from the top of the mix, made by tremolo-picked guitars, for example. We get stacks of sophisticated polychords in breakdown sections, which have a huge pitch range courtesy of the guitar/baritone guitar lineup. There are interesting rhythmic variations that remind me of classical theme and variations. And in tracks such as "A Song for Krom," we get fascinating, almost Krautrock-sounding passages around the 7:30 mark, where flute melodies and samples take over the music, while the bass and drums hold down a subtle groove. The guitars jump back in around 9:40 with subtle colorations before the next doom-ish section is introduced at 10:10. The recording quality is excellent, too, with less reverb than many doom acts, and a sort of crisp "air" open in high frequencies that makes the whole project very listenable.
2. Gankino Horo by Farmers Market. From Musikk Fra Hybridene, Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 1997.
Farmers Market is a Norwegian act formed among music students at the Trondheim Conservatory in the early 90s. I first heard of them in music school in the late 90s, when a Norwegian trumpet player arrived in our midst (thanks, Oyvind!). I was especially in love with the fast-changing montage and collage approaches of this band back then--they sounded like a more exotic and instrumental version of Mr. Bungle to me. This album is still a lot of fun, but it didn't age as well for me as their other efforts. They intended it to be a fun/funny album, though, and that's often what happens with those. Nonetheless, short tracks like Gankino Horo can be a ton of fun, the whole record is one of the best-recorded experimental albums of all time, and they've matured stylistically on two subsequent albums. I especially admire how they're able to incorporate the wild melodic ornamentation of Bulgarian/Balkan folk music styles into their music, like this:
3. Tropical Fish: Selene by Gong. From Camembert Electrique, BYG Actuel, 1971.
I wanted to play a few classic "other music" acts tonight, and here's one of them from Gong's second release. This band went through a staggering number of permutations over time, but my favorite period remains the first albums through the Radio Gnome Trilogy which concluded in 1974, when bandleader Daevid Allen left the band. During this period, the band combined a high-energy psychedelic rock style with some of the melodic jazz/rock instrumental tangents of Zappa's earlier Mothers albums. It worked incredibly well--some of this music sounds as fresh today as the day it was written. I could do without the "Gong Mythology" conceptually, mostly related to "Pot Head Pixies" visiting the Planet Gong, but the music is awesome.
4. California Uber Alles by Duckmandu. From Fresh Duck for Rotting Accordionists, Duckmandu, 2005.
Another short track to break up our evening, Duckmandu takes on an album of Dead Kennedys covers with nothing but an accordion and his voice--and it sounds fantastic. It's eerie how close Duckmandu (real name Aaron Seeman) gets to sounding just like Jello Biafra. He has the range, timbre, and weird warbly vibrato totally nailed. And his accordion arrangements manage to capture the spirit of each song, something I wouldn't have guessed was possible. Check out this live version, which also includes a little shamisen in the background:
5. K. A. I by Magma. From K. A., Seventh Records, 2004.
The other "classic act" for the night is Magma, whom I've made reference to as an influence for several acts played on the show so far. Most of their classic work was released in the 70s, and this 2004 release has an interesting story: the first two of its three movements were composed in the 70s, but for some reason they weren't recorded until 20+ years later. Though this is a new album, it retains the sound and style of classic magma: lots of plodding basslines propelling the music, Vander's kinetic drums locking in with the bass while adding lots of conversational accents to the music, bits of piano to color the sound, and LOTS of harmonized vocals sung in Kobaian, Vander's made up "celestial language" found on Magma and even some other bands "Zeuhl" styled albums. Since the release of K.A., another Magma album of old and new music combined has been released, last year's "Emehntehtt-Re." Both come highly recommended. Here's a glimpse at a the classic Magma lineup ripping through one of their most significant compositions, "De Futura":
6. Bach is Dead, by Idiot Flesh. From Fancy, Vaccination Records, 1997.
This short track from Idiot Flesh, the Bay-Area act that eventually spawned Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, is a cover of a Residents track from "Duck Stab." I love how organic they were able to make this rigid-sounding original, and how they turned the beat around for most of the track. Here's the original for comparison:
1. String Quartet No. 2 Op. 64 "Quasi una Fantasia" by Henryk Gorecki. From Kronos Quartet: Gorecki: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2, Nonesuch, 1993.
I'm glad to have been able to share this recording with people via KZUM, but I wish the circumstances were happier: Gorecki passed away last week.
I discussed this quartet on Words on Sounds a few years ago in some detail--if you're interested, click here. For today, I would just like to add that this recording/composition made a huge impression on me, causing me to change my major to classical composition in college, and I'm grateful for hearing it. Rest in peace, dear Henryk.
2. Romance by Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man. From Out of Season, Go Beat, 2002.
Beth Gibbons is well-known for her work as vocalist for Portishead, a favorite of mine. Portishead has truly created their own musical universe, and it's interesting to hear Gibbons outside of that context. In contrast to Portishead, this music is more based in folk and Motown styles, and it doesn't feature the characteristic trip-hop percussion stylings so particular to the Portishead approach. While most of these songs feature relatively sparse arrangements, a few songs such as "Romance" have slow-build Billie Holiday-meets-Motown style arrangements that work wonderfully. Check it out for yourself:
3. Taut by John Parish & Polly Jean Harvey. From Dance Hall At Louse Point, Island, 1996.
This is my favorite track from the first of two collaborative albums from PJ Harvey and John Parish. PJ uses almost every vocal approach she has in this song, from whispers and gentle, faux-child moments to belt-it-out, plaintive wailing. I especially like the drum approach, both in terms of the playful performance itself and for the mixing style that places them in a different sonic space from the rest of the music, and then drops them back into the same environment at particularly emphatic moments.
4. Absolute Zero by Faith No More. From Digging the Grave CDEP, Slash, 1995.
This is my favorite song from Faith No More, which tragically only saw release through B-sides and Greatest Hits/Rarities compilations. Dating from the "King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime" recording sessions, "Absolute Zero" represents the perfect combination of Faith No More-esque elements: we get the chugging heavy guitars. A great tribal drum beat holds everything together. Roddy's keyboards enrich the incredibly memorable choruses. And we get a great vocal performance from Patton, along with a great set of lyrics in the grand absurdist tradition of "The Real Thing." There's even a great false ending. I'll never understand why this wasn't placed on KFAD proper, or pushed as a single. I think it could've been their second "Epic," popularity-wise.
5. Kitchen by Sex Mob. From Dime Grind Palace, Ropeadope, 2003.
This is the opening track from the first Sex Mob album to feature all original compositions. Bandleader Steven Bernstein uses Sex Mob in as a kind of workshop for "fun" jazz ideas--the sound and sentiment sometimes remind me of Joey Baron's trio that we listened to last week. Bernstein always features his slide trumpet playing on Sex Mob albums, which I really love. The whole band perfects that same kind of tight-but-loose style that makes the downtown scene so fun.
I think of groups like Sex Mob and Joey Baron's Barondown, and bands like the Lounge Lizards who came before them, as a more nutritious version of the retro-swing acts that had some commercial success in the 90s like the Squirrel Nut Zippers. If you were/are into that style and want to go deeper, the Sex Mob is a great place to start:
6. O Canto da Ema by Cyro Baptista. From Beat the Donkey, Tzadik, 2002.
Another downtown scene regular, percussionist Baptista's ensemble works brings various Latin American styles to NYC through lots and lots of percussion. I find this album and it's successor, "Love the Donkey," to be a great compliment to the Sex Mob records when I'm in the mood for some fun-yet-out jazz.
7. Birthday (Justin Robertson 12'' Mix) by the Sugarcubes. From It's It, Elektra, 1992.
This one was played for Eric, former DJ with Other Music, who celebrated his 40th B-day with an awesome party at the Zoo Bar the same night. Generally, I'm a bigger fan of Bjork's later work than the Sugarcubes material. That said, this remixed version of "Birthday" is marvelous! I like it way more than the original. This is a great example of a remix that actually becomes its own composition, adding so many new layers of sounds, textures, dynamics, and rhythmic pulses that it becomes a whole new song. If you like Bjork's solo stuff or the Sugarcubes, the "It's It" album is a double-disc of remixes that split the conceptual difference between those camps. There are a few duds here, or tracks that didn't age well, at least, but most of it sounds better to me than the proper Sugarcubes albums.
8. Pontificate by The Matthew Herbert Big Band. From There's Me and There's You, K7, 2008.
The Matthew Herbert Big Band is a project that deserves more attention. Herbert has described his personal approach to music in a manifesto you can read here, and it's worth reading. For a fellow who mostly produces music sold as "electronic music" of various varieties, it's a compelling list: no drum machines, real instruments wherever possible, only personally-made samples (not of others' music), etc. For the big band project, have some sampled sounds added to the live-band mix, and they're mixed in really creative ways that can create those "hyperrealism" soundscapes we discussed before. Some of the samples apparently originate from field recordings done at Parliament! Highly recommended. Check 'em out live:
1. 2 by Basilica. From theforevervictoriousunfathomablegreatightyone, self-released, 2007
Basilica is a fascinating project from Bloomington, Indiana featuring twin violin attack for melodies over a brutal prog-style ensemble. The violins really add a lot of variety to the style, with quarter tone slopes and wild glissandos. Other than this short EP, they have yet to release many recordings. But check out this great live work:
I used to work with drummer Steve Weems during my 23 month residence in Bloomington. I'm so glad they chose him for this project: his sophisticated style and ability to play really crazy parts make him the perfect match for this band.
2. Pray by Book of Knots. From Traineater, Anti, 2008.
I admire this track for how well-suited its composition and arrangement is for guest singer Tom Waits. Roughly contemporary with his "Real Gone" album, this track perfects the guitar-based vibe of that album maybe even better than Waits' own efforts. And Carla Kihlstedt's backing vocals are the perfect foil for Waits' rusty voice.
3. Le Bon Matin by the Japonize Elephants. From 40 Years of Our Family, TZME, 2002.
I guess I'm in a Bloomington mood tonight: though I missed them by a few years, the Japonize Elephants started in Bloomington before heading to the West Coast, where they've subsequently hung with the Bay Area weirdo scene including the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum folks. Starting life as a kind of avant-garde bluegrass project, this track highlights many elements of their mature style, which has evolved to incorporate more prog-ish and French chanson passages. They also sing with much more confidence and variety over time. The JE family, headed by multi-instrumentalist Sylvain Carton, has also grown to incude a variety of potent side projects including Mega Mousse, Spaceblaster, Aphrodesia, and the Sweet Snacks From China who we featured a few months ago.
4. Welcome to the House of Food by Spookey Ruben. From Modes of Transportation Vol 1, TVT, 1995.
I was fairly obsessed with this record in college. The whole thing is a beautiful specimen of eccentric pop, with a wide range of influences and approaches. Strong songwriting and memorable melodies, though, remain a high priority throughout. Ruben has an incredible vocal range, and he does a strange thing on occasion where he intentionally glisses across a break in the high ranges of his voice, which creates a strangely enjoyable little "squiggle." You can hear a touch of it via a sweep across an octave from falsetto to his full voice in this song, around the lyrics "Open up a box" in the chorus.
Here's a video produced for "Wendy McDonald" from the same album, where you can hear that trippy "break think" on "what you get" in the chorus, too:
5. Sad Song by David Byrne. From s/t, Luaka Bop, 1994.
This is my favorite song from one of Byrne's most understated--and underrated--solo albums. What this album lacks in over-the-top arrangements is made up in great songs and great lyrics. I like to think this record represents what the Talking Heads might have sounded like if they had stuck it out a little longer. Byrne's quirky voice was probably at its best around this time, too.
6. Hey Hockaloogie by Joey Baron. From Raised Pleasure Dot, New World Records, 1994.
Joey Baron is a truly gifted and versatile drummer, whom I've particularly enjoyed in John Zorn's bands over the years (Naked City, Masada quartet, Moonchild, etc). For a while in the 90s, he had a drums/tenor sax/trombone trio that played some really fun, minimalist jazz. They play intentionally sloppy in many places, have "bad note contests" where each musician tries to play a phrase more dissonant than the last, and generally make joy out of chaos. This track switches from marching music to latin music, and has a particularly long, funny, and enjoyable "bad note contest" in the latin section. I wish Baron had done some more recordings with this band, as they're a great way to get people into somewhat "out" jazz while still having some fun. At least we have three excellent albums...
Check out the amazing chemistry of this trio:
7. 3 by Colin Marston. From 200220032004-computer music. Self released, 2007.
Colin Marston can make excellent brutal prog from any music-making device placed before him. Well known for his work in Behold the Arctopus and Dysrhythmia and more, as well as his work as a producer and owner of Menegroth recording studio, these tracks remind me of a combination of Colin Nancarrow's player piano compositions with Weasel Walter's sense of rhythmic suffocation.
8. Glisten by Skin Chamber. From Trial, Roadrunner, 1993.
I don't know a lot about Skin Chamber, but if a combination of the Chicago Albini scene with the sludgy onslaught of Godflesh sounds intriguing to you, check these guys out.
9. Pay it Away by Super Collider. From Head On, Epic, 1999.
Jamie Lidell and Christian Vogel, known more for avant-electronics, try their hand at "pop" on this record. While not the kind of material one would ever find in the top-40 or on a dance floor, the music does manage to bridge the gap between melodic pop and pointillistic electronica like Aphex Twin.
1. A Hymn to the Morning Star by Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. From Of Natural History, 2004, Mimicry.
Props to Bad Robot Brain for reminding me of this track! Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, the incredible aggro-prog band formed in the ashes of Idiot Flesh, starts us off with this devilish delight:
2. Pusher by Bloody Panda. From Summon, 2009, Profound Lore.
My neighborhood goes crazy for Halloween--we really make the kids work for their candy. At my house, I drag my rehearsal PA system onto my porch, and blast scary music along with playing a theremin. NYC's doom band Bloody Panda makes frequent appearances in my playlists for this, as their terrifying female vocals and guitar/organ doom attack keep many trick-or-treaters heading right on down the street...where the guy on stilts steps out from behind his tree and sends them running!
3. Vox Auris III by Tertium Auris. From Vox Stridens, 2008, Dharma Sound.
This electroacoustic record is built entirely of human voice samples, with the exception of dolphin and whale sounds on one track. The result is a dark, brooding atmosphere that can be pretty intimidating when you spin it disc on All Hallows Eve. On a friendlier note, it's a free release that you can check out for yourself from Dharma Sounds website.
4. The Dead Rise...Andrun Rampant by Raz Mesinai. From The Unspeakable, 2001, BSI Records.
Here's another electroacoustic composer, who sometimes works with Dub music as well. Apparently, this album was inspired by his work as a film composer for Hellraiser 6--in which his music was mostly not used in the final cut because it was too scary! After hearing this track, maybe you'll see why...
5. Halloween by Secret Chiefs 3. From The Left Hand of Nothingness/Halloween 7'', 2007, Mimicry.
Former Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance's ongoing SC3 ensemble take on the John Carpenter soundtrack classic here. I think I like the clarity and precise attitude of this rendition even more than the original. Here's a live video of their version, too:
6. F__cked by God. From Possession, 1992, Caroline.
I first heard this record in high school, where I bought it because of John Zorn's participation in the band. It's much more closely associated with the industrial/metal scene of the time musically, though. The brainchild of Kevin Martin, more recently of Ice (whom we'll explore later in this playlist), Techno Animal, Curse of the Golden Vampire, and The Bug, God's first album featured three saxophones on most tracks (and a fourth on the couple of tracks featuring Zorn). In many compositions, the saxes are used collectively to play heavy chords, somewhat taking over the role of the electric guitar. Justin Broaderick of Godflesh fame does add guitar as well, but the saxes dominate the mix. I had been aware of the notion that distorted electric guitar and saxophone produce very similar waveforms (though their articulations are very different), but this was the first time I heard someone consciously exploiting that fact to create "power-chord stacks" with saxes. There are also three bass players, creating a sludgy bottom line. The overall effect is like a jazz combo assuming the role of an industrial act. Intimidating stuff, but very well-conceived.
7. The Voice of the Devil, Plate 4 by Ulver. From Themes from William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," 2006, Jester Norway.
We looked into a bit of Ulver's career several years ago at Words on Sounds. Like many black metal-related acts, they've gone through a metamorphosis from a raw, lo-fi black metal project to an atmospheric, musically inclusive ensemble. This album was recorded well into their transition into a stylistically diverse ensemble, featuring acoustic instruments and drum programming. A very accomplished interpretation of "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," most of this album could be described as "beautiful," even in the occasional moments featuring metal textures.
8. The Omen (Ave Satani) by Fantomas. From The Director's Cut, 2001, Ipecac.
Another ex-Bungle ensemble, Mike Patton and Fantomas offer their take on Jerry Goldsmith's theme for The Omen. I love how Patton overdubs himself to create his own chorus--and I love how the track turns into a very Slayer-ized version courtesy of Dave Lombardo's drumming!
Here's somebody's YouTube video for the track using footage from the film. Creepy!
9. God of Emptiness by Morbid Angel. From Covenant, 1993, Giant.
This was the first death metal album released on a major label, and in interviews around the time of this release, the band was ultra enthusiastic about becoming a higher-profile act. And it remains the best-selling death metal album of all time. At the time, I was especially excited about this track, as it was a really interesting use of the 7-string guitar for a low, intimidating riff (this is over a year before Korn's debut album was released, and several years before the Korn-fueled conversion of the guitar market into 7-strings). And, as a major label release, it features one of the few professional videos created for a DM track:
10. Devils by Ice. From Bad Blood, 1998, Reprise.
Ice shows Kevin Martin's dance and hip-hop side--interestingly, many of Martin's projects have existed and matured simultaneously, so it's not a situation of evolving from one style of music to another. Instead, his work with any of his projects seems to impart a sense of growth and exploration to all of them. The Bad Blood album remains one of my favorites in the Martin catalog, in part because of Blixa Bargeld's vocal contributions to the record.
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!
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.
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:
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."
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.
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!
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:
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: