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November 7, 2014

in this week's update

FEATURED NEW RELEASES

Bessie Jones
Deerhoof
Dean Blunt
Transllusion
Hieroglyphic Being
Deutsche Wertarbeit
Of Factory New York (Various)
In Aeternam Vale 12" + Kerri LeBon Mix CD
Bunny "Striker" Lee
Michael Pisaro
Robbie Basho
Mark Kozelek
Local Customs: Cavern Sound (Various)
 

ALSO AVAILABLE

Dan Bodan
Bulbous Creation
Woorden
 

BACK IN STOCK

Stelvio Cipriani
 

announcements

WIN BROOKLYN ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL PASSES

 NOVEMBER 7 & 8

Various Venues Throughout Williamsburg

This weekend, the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival is taking place throughout venues across Williamsburg on Friday and Saturday, with a stellar line-up that includes Aeroplane, Booka Shade, Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow, Fort Romeau, Gaslamp Killer, Lee Bannon, Martyn, Move D, Omar S, Pangaea, Prefuse 73, Reagenz, and so many, many more! Other Music has a pair of passes to give away good for the whole event, so email tickets@othermusic.com right now and make sure to include a phone number where you can be reached. We'll notify the winner on Friday afternoon.

 


ANTI-THESIS TICKET GIVE AWAY

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10

Brooklyn Masonic Temple: 317 Clermont Ave. #4, Brooklyn

This Monday, Anti- Records is excited to present Anti-thesis at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Daniel Lanois has curated the night and will be performing as well, along with the Antlers, Tinariwen, and special guest Lonnie Holley. It's a great, diverse bill, one that is indeed a celebration of music from vastly different origins, which exists outside of traditional genres, structures and rules. Other Music is giving away three pairs of tickets to this night and you can enter for your chance to win a pair by emailing giveaway@othermusic.com.
 


WIN TICKETS TO SOUND IMAGE LIGHT

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19

Santos Party House: 96 Lafayette St. NYC

Other Music is giving away a pair of tickets to this year's Benefit for the Film-Makers' Cooperative, featuring a host of outstanding and renowned filmmakers, artists, performers and musicians which include Phillip Glass, Jonas Mekas, MV Carbon, Lary Seven, JG Thirlwell, Bruce McClure, Zero Times Everything, Victoria Keddie/Rose Kallal, and many more. It all takes place on Wednesday, November 19 at Santos Party House and to enter for your chance to win tickets to this special night, email tickets@othermusic.com.
 

this week's update

BESSIE JONES WITH THE GEORGIA SEA ISLAND SINGERS
Get in Union
(Tompkins Square)

Adam and Eve, do-do
Adam and Eve, don't tell it to me
Just meet me at the do' don't tell it to me
Sa-sa-la-do on sa-la-sa-ree

("Turkle Dove")

Of all the rich scenes famed folklorist and field recordist Alan Lomax had the great fortune to document across his illustrious career, the community of singers from the Georgia Sea Islands of St. Simon located off the coast of Georgia may have been the most fertile. He surely knew it too, as he first visited and made recordings in 1935, and then again in 1959, '60, '61 and '62 as well as at Northern folk festivals in '65 & '66. This selection begins with the 1959 recordings, when the singers of St. Simons had coalesced around the near supernatural force that was Bessie Jones, truly one of the greatest voices Lomax ever recorded -- and really no less than one of the finest American singers of all time. Though originally from mainland Georgia, she married into the small coastal community and the vast repertoire of tunes she'd inherited from her mother and step-grandfather (born in Africa in 1836, and sold into slavery as a child) were ultimately adopted by the group.

This two-disc set consists of some of the deepest rooted, most absolutely exhilarating and soul crushing African-American group and solo singing you're likely to ever hear, with a good grip of the songs here being previously unreleased. I swear to god I'm not being hyperbolic, pretty much any emotion a human possesses will be summoned by this collection of 51 songs. Just listen to Jones' brief story and song on "Bob Young's Song and Whoop" and prepare to be confronted with a bewildering array of conflicted thoughts about the American Experience, and at the very least give a moment of your time to "Turkle Dove," which is one of this reviewer's favorite songs ever. Highest possible recommendation. [MK]

$26.99 2CD


DEERHOOF
La Isla Bonita
(Polyvinyl)

Deerhoof arrives at the 20-year anniversary of its own inception with La Isla Bonita, and the arty punk-pop quartet has never looked or sounded so goddamn cool. This is their 13th studio album, as well as their most accessible. Whereas one once had to feed through their fuzzy riffs to decode a pop record, it's now much more of instantaneous gratification. "Paradise Girls" features all of Deerhoof's quintessential components: a cowbell, a distorted guitar, a disjointed, off-kilter rhythm, and Satomi Matsuzaki's lilting voice. The album maintains this level of simple attraction throughout its entirety -- a feat within itself -- but also manages to add sporadic dark spins. "Mirror Monster" and "Black Pitch" take on Deerhoof's shimmery, sullen alter ego that keeps intrigue in the same skeletal way that the xx might. The band lets us know that while pop music might flourish with grandeur, it certainly doesn't decease in subtlety. With that said, the standouts are the blown-out feasts of guitar shreds, the kind of tracks that would find three-quarters of the group spazzing on the stage floor with their respective instruments. "Exit Only" and "Last Fad" do this best. They are short, erratic anthems to which huge crowds will sing along throughout all of 2015's summer festivals.

Now that many of Deerhoof's spawn (notably St. Vincent, Dirty Projectors, and TV on the Radio) have come into fruition as leaders of the indie rock world, it's even more obvious that this quartet is the source of their power. Deerhoof continue to surge with electric waves, constantly emitting albums full of convulsing glory and light. All hail this well-rounded piece from one of the most interesting bands of today. [MM]

$13.99 CD
$16.99 LP


DEAN BLUNT
Black Metal
(Rough Trade)

If you are interested in the wide-ranging new black avant-garde presenting some post-millennium tension, from Actress to Hieroglyphic Being, Willis Earl Beal to Lonnie Holley, Dean Blunt's Black Metal fits somewhere within that continuum, creating original material from the edges of various scenes, daring the listener to commit. But is it good or bad? I really can't call this one, and I'm a longtime fan of this talented and challenging artist.

Since he parted ways with his Hype Williams partner Inga Copeland, Blunt has offered several noteworthy self-released mixtapes, and a pair of intriguing albums through Hippos in Tanks. These records worked within a blue light, white smoke, green herb world where hip-hop, blues, country, indie rock, classical, new age, trip-hop, musique concrète, R&B, and post-punk all hovered in a deconstructed, claustrophobic atmosphere, with Blunt doing a kind of 3 a.m. karaoke within the shadows, with occasional vocals from Joanna Robertson. Often Blunt's voice and style of singing reminds me of Bill Callahan or Felt, yet with a hazy British b-boy swagger. That DIY tradition continues on Black Metal, yet -- somewhat surprisingly, as this is his high-profile debut for Rough Trade -- it is presented in a more challenging and unrefined way. Though Blunt really isn't doing anything differently than he's done in the past, on Black Metal the overall flow, material, and vibe feels more agitated, cerebral, and angsty that before.

Split into halves, the beginning is Blunt in lonesome wounded-man mode, singing mournful lyrics atop a mix of psychedelic guitar loops (including samples of Big Star and the Pastels) and sparse rhythm-box beats, further diving into dreamlike avant-pop. Then, like the albums made under Hype Williams, things slowly go off the deep end, as the mood shifts drastically to his experimental side, using piano, drum machine, string samples, wordless atonal vocals, horns, and synths, to create an extended jam of fractured jazz. That 20-minute detour is then followed by a sample-heavy dub reggae track called "Punk," a synth freak-out noise cut called "Country," some rapping/toasting on "Hush," the previously released and arguably best track "Mersh," and it all ends with "Grade," filled with dramatic synths, live-played rhythm box, and duo vocals.

Unlike last year's The Redeemer, which also had a wounded motif, this one feels like it's constantly coming apart. Blunt has always challenged and confronted his listener, yet where once there seemed to be an underlying sense of sincerity, even hope in his off-kilter music, that aspect seems to have darkened and hardened over time, becoming more impenetrable. Maybe the title explains it all; this is what happens when the heart turns to black metal. This definitely gets my vote for head scratcher of the year. Like an imaginative Halloween costume of nothing in particular, this is an exercise in creativity and intent to celebrate all things dark, haunting, and devoid of life. [DG]

$13.99 CD
$21.99 2LP


TRANSLLUSION
The Opening of the Cerebral Gate
(Tresor)

Over the last year and change, we've seen a resurgence of interest toward one of Detroit techno's most influential yet widely unsung heroes, Drexciya. There have been a series of compilations and reissues of their vast catalogue, yet all the while some of their most vital and (in my opinion) superlative records have remained unavailable, released under pseudonyms and oft unrecognized, or seen as less important than the aquatic sci-fi of the Drexciyan realm proper.

My personal favorite works in the Drexciyan orbit are three solo albums by the duo's James Stinson, which were important parts of the "Storm Series" that showcased a more melodic sensibility which was at times more obscured in the standard Drexciya releases. After languishing out of print for over ten years, one of these solo ventures, Transllusion's The Opening of the Cerebral Gate, has just been reissued by Tresor in a lovely deluxe edition that includes all of the material that was spread across its multiple formats together in one package for the first time. The Transllusion album was a surprising step forward for Stinson, who somehow manages to embrace and emphasize both the aggressive rhythmic force of the Drexciya material with a more slinky, cosmic funk groove that was at times obscured in Drexciya's more complex and dense arrangements.

The tracks here are stripped down to essential elements, buzzing, whirring, chiming, and thumping in cyclical patterns that dance around one another while also moving forward with a propulsion that led the album to become one of the most dancefloor friendly Drexciyan "Storms." Stinson seems to reference the sci-fi histories of Detroit techno while pushing the structures into new shapes; what's most remarkable about these tunes are the extreme dichotomies of MASSIVE bass weight used and the sparkling, twinkling melodies he throws down like lightning bolts crackling throughout the album's runtime. He was a master at crafting simple yet effective earworm hooks that kept you hypnotized and drawn into the construction of each track, and the focus demonstrated here is impressive. Stinson would sadly pass away within a year of the album's release, cutting short an already impressive career that was taking turns toward vividly intriguing new chapters.

Stinson's solo albums are, without hyperbole, among my personal all-time favorite electronic records, and the first Transllusion album is arguably the finest, most concentrated and pure Detroit techno record in that it nods to its roots and influences while synthesizing them into new forms which inspired hoards of followers fortunate enough to have heard them. His works took the timeless techno-pop melodicism of Kraftwerk and toughened it up for the darkest of urban streets, the depths of the sea, and the outer realms of space. Every aggressive flex is balanced with a tenderness that was key to Stinson's work, and it's that emotional core that leads these albums to remain so powerful and touching. This is essential listening for anyone with an interest in electronic music, honestly. James Stinson's translucent illusions remain as vivid, vibrant, and vital as ever. [IQ]

$15.99 CD


HIEROGLYPHIC BEING
The Seer of Cosmic Visions
(Planet Mu)

With this brand new compilation of tracks recorded between 1999 and 2014, Chicago house maverick Jamal Moss makes his debut on Planet Mu, the esteemed UK record label for leftfield electronic music. This is somewhat of a notable event, as Moss initially released the majority of his output on his own, well-respected Mathematics imprint. Does this new move signify the world finally catching up with Moss' singular DIY vision in which Chicago house collides with noise, electronics, avant-jazz, as well as all things cosmic and experimental? Certainly, it appears that a number of musical actors have started focusing on the aural areas he's been exploring throughout the past 15 years. But despite certain thematic approximations, the Hieroglyphic One will always be headed towards new, unexplored territories, releasing a multitude of materials on a wide variety of formats. All this can be quite challenging to keep up with, both with regards to volume and explored musical ideas, but it assures he's always steps ahead.

Of course, The Seer of Cosmic Visions isn't merely a straightforward compilation. That it very much feels like a novel, fresh statement, has to do with the way in which Moss has enhanced some of the sonically confrontational aspects of his music (for one, the at times unpleasantly high-pitched frequencies) without sacrificing anything of its raw power. Revisiting and reediting some of his more out-there and rare, chopped-up 4/4 beat-oriented materials, the experimentalism is at an all-time high and wholly idiosyncratic throughout, but gets well cemented in loose and undeniably funky house structures. Highlights are plenty and include a somewhat shorter but entirely captivating version of his intergalactic anthem "Space Is the Place" (from which he omits the sardonic subtitle "But We Stuck Here on Earth") and the deliciously pumping house classic-to-be "Letters from the Edge." As always, anything can happen over the course of a Hieroglyphic Being track, his work testament to a never-ending quest for the chaotic symbiosis between man and machine, music and cosmos.

One of the most charming aspects of Jamall Moss' oeuvre lies in the ways in which this peculiar battle with machines often wholeheartedly fails, as in the exploitative weirdness of "A Genre Sonique," in which he seems to lose full control over his equipment. But even during such perplexing moments, this struggle becomes an integral part of a larger, perpetually forward-looking musical philosophy. In this era of increasingly insular musical escapades that safely revisit commonplaces from the past, this ever-present ingenious attitude is what makes Hieroglyphic Being the ultimate futurist of our times. Despite his ongoing battle with the audio technology he's involved with, he emerges as a triumphant, single-minded sonic daredevil, a much-needed figure in today's saturated house and techno landscape.

Conclusively, The Seer of Cosmic Visions presents a wonderfully sequenced look at one of electronic music's most progressive humanists. Since its grooves are totally enjoyable and mesmerizing throughout, you should run to the store as fast as you can. [NVT]

$15.99 CD


DEUTSCHE WERTARBEIT
Deutsche Wertarbeit
(Bureau B)

Mentioned briefly in a criminally tepid blurb in Krautrock encyclopedia Crack in the Cosmic Egg, Deutsche Wertarbeit is the solo project of classically trained pianist Dorothea Raukes, one of the few women in the Kraut boys club, as a key member of prog/psych band Streetmark. Released in 1981 on Sky Records soon after the demise of that band, the name fittingly translates to "German Craftmanship," and the record is comprised of six instrumental tracks that blend classic influences like Cluster and Tangerine Dream with moments most akin to soundtrack creations a la Vangelis. Opening with spaced-out synths layered under fuzzy vocoder vocals, "Guten Abend, Leute" merges into the lush and warm standout, "Deutsche Walder," a track full of beautiful analogue arpeggios topped with a unique harpsichord-like synth melody. Full of movement and successfully captivating sound experiments, side B skillfully maneuvers into Chariots of Fire territory before ending with one final wayfaring synth odyssey. Fantastic record. [PG]

$17.99 CD
$22.99 LP


VARIOUS ARTISTS
Of Factory New York
(Factory Benelux)

We were deeply saddened when we learned of the loss of Michael H. Shamberg, who passed away Saturday night after a lengthy battle with a highly debilitating mitochondrial disease. A longtime friend of Other Music, Michael was a filmmaker and a close associate of New Order, producing their most acclaimed music videos and running Factory Records' New York office (Of Factory New York) during the '80s, along with countless other creative pursuits including his work with artist Lawrence Weiner, directing independent films like 1998's Souvenir and more recently P.S. Beirut, Chapters 1 & 2, and curating Turtle Salon.

Factory Benelux and New Order recently assembled this benefit compilation for Michael, featuring a great selection of classics by artists associated with OFNY. The 13 tracks on this CD include Quando Quango's "Love Tempo," A Certain Ratio's "Du the Du," John Robie's remix of "Yashar" by Cabaret Voltaire, an exclusive version of New Order's "Your Silent Face" recorded live during their 1989 American tour, the Megamix version of "Looking from a Hilltop" by Section 25, Thick Pigeon's "Subway," 52nd Street's "Cool As Ice," "Kino" from Ike Yard, Arthur Baker's "Come On" and more. All of the musicians have graciously donated their work free of charge as a tribute and help to a good friend who will be dearly missed.

$17.99 CD


IN AETERNAM VALE
Jealous God 05
(Jealous God)

The appeal of the Jealous God series has always been the pairing of a solid 12" with a forward-thinking mix CD, and JG 05 is one of the strongest yet. French electronic music veteran Laurent Prot delivers a three-track 12" of analogue technoid mastery as In Aeternam Vale. Though he has been operating since the 1980s, Prot has only recently become better known, thanks to Minimal Wave's reissue program of his work. The similarities between tracks such as "La Piscine," which he produced in the late '80s, and techno music today are uncanny. On the A-side of JG 05 he delivers two new cuts that are of a piece with this propulsive style. In contrast, the flipside's track features a persistent, hissing, almost electro rhythm with murky electronics gradually coming to the fore over its nine-minute duration. Prot is a master of pacing, and makes minimal elements go a long way. His warm analogue approach gives his music a more personal feel than most techno. In a time where modular synth gear is fetishized, it's refreshing to hear the work of a master who developed his craft decades before this approach became a trend.

Just as successful as the 12" is the mix CD by California producer Kerri LeBon, who is the kind of DJ that thinks on a whole other level. Rather than stringing together a bunch of recent bangers in an obvious fashion, she is more inclined to join the dots between genres that may seem disparate on the surface, but reveal their common aesthetic ground through her thoughtful and informed selection. In the first five minutes, she moves from a Whitehouse intro to Felt, and the inherent "differences" between those two things are rendered irrelevant. The inclusion of both Silent Servant and Cabaret Voltaire recognizes that what makes the former an exceptional techno artist lies in how he takes influence from other places than techno. Placing his track after Lush makes us think about the parallels between atmospheric pop and the moody elements of his own work. Though I wouldn't have assumed them to be similar, I was pleasantly surprised that the feel of "Wishful Thinking," from Pulp's 1983 debut, reminded me of the Church of Raism track heard earlier in the set. It's these unexpected congruities that make LeBon's approach far more appealing than that of someone who simply presents songs we can all agree "work well together." Plus, any mix that segues from a Creation rarity featuring Rose McDowall on vocals, into a classic Lush track on 4AD, into a recent Hospital Productions triumph is going to grab my attention. Truly inspiring and masterful work on both 12" and CD here. [NN]

$18.99 12"+CD


BUNNY "STRIKER" LEE
Full Up
(Pressure Sounds)

Pressure Sounds' latest compilation gathers early productions from Bunny "Striker" Lee dating from 1968 to '72, and it's a great showcase of an era in Jamaican music history in which producers of ska's jazz- and calypso-influenced sound, and rocksteady's slower syncopated rhythms, gradually built the foundation for a genre that is now known as reggae. Like most early reggae producers, Lee's in-house band, the Bunny Lee All Stars, was a tight-knit crew of untutored musicians; Aston and Carlton Barrett led Lee's group, with Glen Adams and Alva Lewis among them. This band also moonlighted for other producers -- the Bunny Lee All Stars would also be known as the Hippy Boys which in turn became Lee Perry's Upsetters, as well as Bob Marley's Wailers, and even the Aggrovators. Across the 21 tracks collected here -- most of them instrumental but with occasional vocal appearances from legends like U-Roy, Stranger Cole, Pat Kelly, Delroy Wilson, and Winston Williams -- Lee and his crew create a vibrant and bouncy backdrop of proto-dub with lots of psychedelic organs and effects. Next to Lee Perry, Bunny Lee has always been a lot of fun to listen to, and thankfully he is still around keeping his tradition alive. So even though the temperature may be slowly dropping and the daylight hours are growing shorter, you can just crank up the thermostat, grab a Guinness and let the rhythms roll over you while the sweat starts to pour. This is definitely one of the liveliest and most enjoyable collections I've heard in a while. [DG]

$16.99 CD


MICHAEL PISARO
Continuum Unbound
(Gravity Wave)

American composer Michael Pisaro is perhaps best known to enthusiasts of contemporary composition as a member of the Wandelweiser collective, an international group of composers who share the common bond of exploring and integrating the sounds of silence into their works. Their music is of a different sort of minimalism than the more rhythmic styles more commonly associated with that term, and Pisaro's newest work -- a three-CD box set entitled Continuum Unbound -- is a breathtaking document attempting to capture, dissect, and then organize and score minute moments of sound in its most "natural" state. Each disc in the set is comprised of a single, 72-minute piece of sound architecture, with each successive work a simultaneous deconstruction and evolution on the elements of the previous. The combined elements of Continuum Unbound, made in collaboration with instrumentalists Greg Stuart, Patrick Farmer, Joe Panzner, and Toshiya Tsunoda, serve as a beautiful ensemble reinterpretation and deconstruction of the sort of subtle compositional acousmatic works pioneered by composer Luc Ferrari, in which a naturally occurring environmental event is theatrically recreated in the sound world via a combination of documentary recordings, instrumental performances, and studio processing.

Disc One, entitled Kingsnake Grey, is a field recording of the sounds of Congaree National Park in South Carolina begun 12 minutes before sundown on New Year's Eve 2012. It is left (to the best of the listener's knowledge) untreated and entirely "natural," with no additional electronic or acoustic instrumental tones or percussive points and counterpoints added to the recording, with the listener encouraged to focus their emphasis upon the transition and shift from clouds of birdsong toward a fog of insect chatter. It is that very natural sonic "fog" which Pisaro then emphasizes and attempts to somehow recreate acousmatically over the course of the next two discs.

Disc Two, titled Congaree Nomads, draws upon not treated excerpts of CD-1's 72-minute obelisk, but rather from 24 unused three-minute segments of recordings from the same sonic document, strung together and arranged in sequence "geographically" from north to south, aurally touring Pisaro and percussionist Greg Stuart's journey through Congaree Park. As the piece progresses, Stuart adds and responds to the natural "fog" of the field recordings with a stunning array of bowed percussion treatments on marimba, glockenspiel, vibraphone, and crotales (small, tuned 4-inch bronze and brass discs). The density of Stuart's multi-tracked instrumental counterpoint gradually overtakes the natural fog of the Congaree recording, as his contributions increase from one track at the piece's start to a subtle-yet-massive 48 tracks by the end. The results sound eerily like an otherworldly organ being sustained in the middle of the swampy forest, which quickly fades at the close, leaving the birds and insects having final say.

Disc Three, Anabasis, is the most "complex" part of the trilogy, comprised of a near-wholly in-studio instrumental dramatic reenactment/reinterpretation of the Congaree environment, if you will. Pisaro assembles an ensemble of Greg Stuart ("gravity percussion with sand"), Patrick Farmer (field recordings, hydrophone), Pisaro (electric guitar, piano, sine tones, studio and field recordings), Joe Panzner (electronics) and Toshiya Tsunoda (sand, copper foil, polyethylene sheet, fan, sine tones, hydrophone), who via a score by Pisaro, collectively recreate a stunning instrumental interpretation of the same levels of "busy calm" that the two previous discs exhibit in more "naturally ambient" settings. Anabasis is like a radio play of sorts, its drama both entirely natural and completely staged, its participants in full control of the seemingly natural chaos created. What is most shocking about its genesis, however, is that each member of the ensemble (save for Pisaro, of course) has no knowledge of the others' contributions, as each contributed their parts remotely, adding to the chaotic and elemental nature of these sounds combining to coalesce into a force that transcends their respective parts. I say without hyperbole that Pisaro has managed to craft one of the most truly moving and beautiful pieces of modern sonics that I've heard in ages, paying tribute to past craftsmen of acousmatic composition while simultaneously pushing his own vision forward.

Fans of the INA-GRM composers school, the works of the Lovely Music/Robert Ashley realm of intricate ambient music, and the likes of contemporary craftsmen like Jason Lescalleet, Greg Kelley, Kevin Drumm, etc. are most highly recommended to grip this stunning work post-haste, as it is one of 2014's most ambitious, satisfying, and noteworthy experimental releases. I am simply blown away. [IQ]

$54.99 3CD


ROBBIE BASHO
Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12
(Grass-Tops)

To borrow a little bit from Albert Ayler, if you were to propose a holy trinity of American primitive guitarists, John Fahey would be the Father, Leo Kottke would be the Son, and Robbie Basho would be the Holy Ghost. And "Holy" is the right word to use; Basho's compositions carry a spiritual heft that no other guitar soli practitioner has matched. Of course, one could argue that Basho doesn't even really belong with Fahey and Kottke, except that they once all called the Takoma label home. Unlike most American primitivists, Basho's work isn't heavily indebted to the folk/blues idiom (though it's certainly in there). He's more in the classical vein -- he sometimes referred to himself as a frustrated composer of symphonies. But Basho didn't need an orchestra to reach celestial heights. His Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12, originally released on Windham Hill in 1979, is a fingerpicking master class, showing off Basho's unbelievable technique over 11 dazzling tracks. Beautifully recorded by William Ackerman, and freshly reissued on CD by Grass-Tops Recordings, it's a stunner from start to finish. [TW]

$14.99 CD


ROBBIE BASHO
Visions of the Country
(Grass-Tops)

Basho's other Windham Hill release, Visions of the Country, reissued last year on Grass-Tops, is also not to be missed. If anything, Visions is even stronger than Art of the Acoustic Steel String. It sees Basho playing on both 6- and 12-string, but also stretching out on piano for a few tunes. He also sings quite a bit, a divisive factor for some listeners who find his operatic brand of vocalizing a bit off-putting. But come to it with an open mind and heart, and you'll start to love every last note. [TW]

$14.99 CD


MARK KOZELEK
Sings Christmas Carols
(Caldo Verde)

With Mark Kozelek getting as much attention of late with his belligerent, confrontational and truly ridiculous behavior as he is with his always beautiful music, it's hard to know how to read his entry into the Christmas music game -- it's not at all clear that Kozelek holds a lot of love in his heart for anyone but himself. But perhaps that's exactly what makes this new record compelling, and truly appropriate for a season that is frequently as full of melancholy as it is joy. Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols is a spare and lovely album of (mostly) classics, with intricate acoustic guitar and Kozelek's rich vocals creating a truly serene and beautiful mood that captures the complicated emotions of this all-powerful holiday. Most of these readings are pretty straight, though the opening take on "Christmas Time Is Here" pretty much says it all, when after a minute of lush, rolling guitar and near-angelic vocals, there is a spoken interlude that begins "I think there's something wrong with me, Christmas is coming but I'm not happy, I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel." Really, who among us does? [JM]

$16.99 CD


VARIOUS ARTISTS
Local Customs: Cavern Sound
(Numero Group)

Let's hear it for Independence, Missouri! Who knew this Kansas City suburb had a fairly hip rock scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s? Ah, but the Numero Group lives for this stuff. The great Chicago label has given us some of the finest compilations of the last decade, usually focusing on a particular small city's forgotten musical world. Soul, funk and R&B have been their bread and butter, but these crate diggers have delved into folk, psych, reggae, even electronica (they've also recently gotten into vinyl pressings of '90s indie bands). For their latest offering, the Numero Group has uncovered some wonderful music recorded in the Kansas City studio known as Cavern Sound, an active limestone mine whose owners and engineers allowed anybody willing to pony up $300 to use it.

You won't recognize a band here -- Jaded, Pretty, the Classmen, Sheriff, and my personal favorite, Baxter's Chat -- but they all have talent, delivering a fine smorgasbord of pop sounds affiliated with the period: psych, soft rock, soul, folk, southern-fried boogie, baroque pop. The tunes are derivative, but that's half the fun. The opener, "Mustache in Your Face," has a Grand Funk Railroad stomp to it, with guitar fuzz and scratchy vocals. "One Girl" might be the album's catchiest track: melodic soft rock with a rousing chorus. "Aunt Marie" has some pounding horns that immediately bring to mind the band Chicago. The Dantes' "She's a Part of Me" features terrific harmonies clearly inspired by Simon & Garfunkel, while the closer, "Smoke My Pipe (The Sign Ain't Right)," is a fun Dylan-esque rocker. I keep wondering when the Numero Group is going to run out of material, but they keep surprising me with the quality of their releases. Long may it continue. [JBr]

$16.99 CD
$21.99 2LP

also available

DAN BODAN
Soft
(DFA)

Dan Bodan's debut LP on DFA is a spare and beautiful exploration of "softness": mellow, soulful, emotionally rich and thoughtful. The young Canadian-born Berliner has a truly lovely singing voice, powerful, mannered, and always retrained here; Bodan seems to draw inspiration from classic jazz, soulful pop (Sade comes to mind), as well as modern electronic production, and the record washes over you like rain on the beach. Perennially laid-back but never lazy or slack, these tracks are backed by meticulous songwriting, thoughtful production, and an emotional delivery that is fully engaging -- soft indeed, but in all the right places.

$11.99 CD ON SALE
$14.99 LP


BULBOUS CREATION
You Won't Remember Dying
(Numero Group)

"A truly underground document of the national obsession with heavy, mind-bent psychedelia. Originating in the unassuming suburb of Prairie Springs, KS, Bulbous Creation seem to have warped directly from the wrong side of the looking glass with a jabberwocky full of surreal lyrics and gratuitous guitar solos. Recorded and abandoned in the catacombs of Independence, MO's Cavern Sound studio in 1969, Bulbous Creation's eight-song screed invokes images of sinners, wage slaves, drugs, out-of-touch parents, jail, and the devil, naturally. Like an extra evil version of Blue Cheer. "

$16.99 LP


WOORDEN
Woorden
(Omega)

"Exact repro reissue of this insane underground LP, still the most amazing slice of OTT freak to come out of the Netherlands in the late 1960s. A project masterminded by four far-out poets, Woorden's closest companion might be Walter Wegmuller and the Cosmic Courier's majestic Tarot set, with diversions into concrète tape work, solo harmonica jams, heavy psych, freak jazz and acid folk. Profoundly out, massively damaged, classic '60s-utopian art/theatre/noise from a buncha heads with an umbilical to another galaxy altogether."

$22.99 LP

back in stock

STELVIO CIPRIANI
Concorde Affaire '79
(Vombis)

With a seemingly endless supply of soundtrack reissues hitting bins recently, it's a real treat to hear something as fresh and varied as this obscure Italian masterpiece. Stelvio Cipriani was not only a forerunner in the exploitation film score game, but also collaborated with the likes of Grace Jones and Goblin, which speaks towards his endlessly diverse sound palette. Cipriani's soundtrack for Ruggero Deodato's Concorde Affaire '79 is a hard hitting record, with a ton of analog synth, horns, keys, acoustic flutters, and a funky rhythmic pulse throughout.

Album opener "Adventure Flight" has a Kraut vibe with a laid-back sensibility not unlike Harald Grosskopf, while the intense dark disco feel of "Night Escape" falls somewhere between the hyper-stylized moves of Chromatics or a more accessible Chris & Cosey track. Later in the record, a Fender Rhodes graces the beautiful lounge refrain of "Concorde Theme," and "Happy Beat" employs a heady disco thump with motorik, plunky harpsichord jamming?! It all makes for a really insane album, with tons of goodies for beat diggers and soundtrack lovers alike. The first release from Vombis Records, this limited edition replicates the original Japanese Polydor version and adds a second LP with 15 bonus tracks. Also includes new liner notes by Cipriani himself! [RN]

$28.99 2LP

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