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Music Reviews

Bowles, Nathan – “Whole & Cloven” – [Paradise of Bachelors]

mickeyslim   10/17/2018   CD, Country

This is the third release from Durham, North Dakota native Nathan Bowles. He is one of the performers at 2018’s The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose festival as presented and broadcast remotely by KFJC. Nathan does it all, playing banjo, piano, percussion, and providing vocals. Most of the tracks are instrumental, which I include track 3, Blank Range/Hog Jank II, among since the “vocals” are more of an ambient hum.

It’s ambient Appalachian folk meanderings. It’s cool and fresh, jumpy yet sedative. Some tracks are somber, others hopeful. This is folk for folks who don’t think they like folk.

Vehikel & Gefass (& Ventilator) – “Make ’em Pay! Homemade Napalm… etc.” [Schimpfluch]

Max Level   10/16/2018   7-inch, A Library

Two five minute chunks of sound performance recorded live in 1990, I think, in Zurich Switzerland. We’ve all been to this type of event–a ratty warehouse with people sitting on the dirty concrete floor and a couple of guys making random sounds using toys and junk. No way to know what we’re hearing exactly, although there are voices here and there, and a violin shows up near the end of side A. Other than that, it’s all rumbles and scrapes and squeaks. Noise-wise, this is not particularly noisy; it’s more like lo-fidelity sound recordings of who knows what. Kind of rad for nearly 30 years ago.

Cruel Diagonals – “Disambiguation” – [Drawing Room]

lexi glass   10/15/2018   A Library, Cassette

Disambiguation is the debut release from Cruel Diagonals, the experimental electronic project of Oakland/LA-based sound artist Megan Mitchell. Each track fuses the sounds of the ancient and the modern into dark, dreamlike ambient works, all held together by Mitchell’s stunning voice. Her vocals, treated with reverb and layered into hauntingly beautiful harmonies, are woven with minimal rhythms (T2, T4, T5, T8), dark drones (T6, T7, T9), or slowly building storms of noise (T7). Also worked into the tracks are field recordings from the ethnomusicology archives from the University of Washington, where Mitchell was a student. In these nine tracks she expresses the search for sense in the senseless, arriving at some conclusion in her final incantation.

Boxcutter Brothers 5 [coll] – [77Rise Recordings]

lexi glass   10/15/2018   Cassette, Hip Hop

2018 beat tape, the fifth in a series from the Boxcutter Brothers, a collaboration between California beatmaker Drasar Monumental and Ayatollah, a prolific producer from Queens. On Side A, Drasar represents the West Coast with five tracks of dense and adventurous sampling, (including some Bollywood dance tunes on A3, dark piano loops and electro beats on A4 and A5). But despite the beautiful backing tracks, the feel on this side is aggressive, violent, and razor sharp. Side B cuts the other way – Ayatollah delivers the more laid-back of the two sides, but it still crushes. Killer soul samples, heavy beats, and a couple of cameos from Sun Ra (B5- amazing) and Barry White (B6). From local SF label 77 Rise. FCCs on A1, A4, A5

Allien, Ellen – “Berlinette” – [BPitch Control]

Naysayer   10/14/2018   A Library, CD

From 2003, this is Ellen Allien’s second release on her own BPitch Control label. Berlin techno parties must have been a blast with sounds like this playing into the early morning. Here we have Allien’s charismatic voice singing over an eclectic mix of techno beats mixed in with glitch, tweak and odd computer modulated vocals and sounds. Each track is pretty unique, standing on it’s own as well as fitting together in the whole work. I’m finding this early work almost more experimental, more quirky than her later work. These pieces are not afraid of challenging the listener and of taking a chance. With beats. Always. One of my favorite finds over the last year.

ESG – “Step Off” – [Fire Records]

Naysayer   10/14/2018   A Library, CD

This 2002 release marked a return, of sorts. of the wonderful Scroggins family and their infectious stripped down funk sound. This time around, daughters have joined in and the beat is still pumping. Remember, ESG is all about the bass, and man is there bass. Simple bass lines repeated over and over almost take on the power of a vocalist. Without the bass, there is no ESG. Minimalism is the word for this funk post punk project. Some songs just have Renee Scroggins simmering vocals accompanied by bass. Others have that oh so familiar drum beat, a little guitar, some tambourine or other percussion thrown in. That’s it, but what an “IT”. A real joy to continue to hear them. Some of these tracks are even more stripped down then songs of the past, and a bit slower, but the sound, the beat, the thump thump thump is so infectious. Your head will bop and booty will shake.

Warwick, Dionne – “Odds & Ends” – [Rhino Entertainment Co.]

Naysayer   10/13/2018   CD, Jazz

Dionne Warwick is truly one of the greats. Unclassifiable for some: jazz, blues, gospel, soul, r&b, pop? Where does she fit in when actually she fits in everywhere. These 25 songs plus some promo material are from one of her golden eras when she was on Scepter Records and was working with the brilliant team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Recorded between 1962 and 1971, these recordings capture an era that in some instances, remains timeless. The quality and catchiness of Bacharach’s instrumentation, the depth yet simplicity of David’s lyrics, found their interpreter in the unique voice of Warwick. They were a trio made for each other and the continued hits demonstrated their quality. This collection comes from rarities and lost bits of the time. Many of the selections are recordings of her classics sung in other languages: French, German and Italian. When Warwick stole Paris in her concert tour, she was asked by many to record in their language and the results are here. Superb renderings of her choice work. Also there are alternate takes and some obscurities of equal quality. With each song, Warwick sings in her unique way, nailing the lyric with superb style and interpretation, rising above but not dominating the glorious orchestrations of Bacharach. Also, this was 1962 when the trio’s first hit came about. One can not disregard the barriers and walls of prejudice they overcame with this artistic relationship. A profound collection. And she is Whitney Houston’s aunt.

Levin, Daniel / Maneri, Mat – “Transcendent Function, The” – [Clean Feed]

Naysayer   10/10/2018   CD, Jazz

Daniel Levin (cello) and Mat Maneri (viola) have composed six pieces of improvisation using instruments not usually noted for duets let alone jazz duets. Using Jung’s comments about consciousness vs unconsciousness, they explore the freedom of improv with an organization of sorts that flows from melody to full on busrts of string sound. Classical, free form microtonal interplay between the two guide, float and battle throughout the selections. Whether bowed or plucked, the listener can never predict what will happen next yet each new phrase is a pleasure to the ear. Skronk and melody all in one.