Friday, April 27, 2012


Natural Snow Buildings (Pt 1)

The culprits behind Natural Snow Buildings are French duo Solange Gularte (who records solo as Isengrind) and Mehdi Ameziane (better known as TwinSisterMoon), and using only a handful of instruments - mostly guitar, cello and vocals they seem to open up a whole universe of possibilities, taking in Neil Young-inspired songwriting, Stars Of The Lid / Windy & Carl styled slowcore ambience and blissful instrumentals in the tradition of Rachel's, albeit filtered through a gauzy lo-fi lens.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Dance of the Moon and the Sun

6xCD , Students Of Decay, 2008 

Bonus Material:

On the Students Of Decay website, this double-disc opus is referred to as a "monumental masterpiece", "the history of all things", "an epic poem" and perhaps most ostentatiously of all: "perfection defined". Can this record really live up to that sort of hysteria?  Close Enough.  The secret behind holding your attention for its full two-and-a-half hour span, you never know where this album is going to take you next: after a minute or so of faultless melancholy folk in the shape of opener 'Carved Heart', along comes the trance-inducing drone ritual 'Cut joint Sinews & Divided Reincarnation', only for the sublime, wintry eeriness of 'Wisconsin' to arrive a few minutes later. 

The first disc in itself would be enough to conquer the most skeptical of listeners, but of course we're only halfway through, and there's so much more to love here: 'Gary Webb' is a thing of stunning loveliness and emotional gravitas, combining guitar and strings in a cleanly delivered epic of mournful harmonies. Elsewhere, choral drones and kosmische synthesizer sonorities erupt gently from 'All Animals In The Form Of Water' only for 'John Carpenter' to embark on a wonderfully serene tribute to the eponymous filmmaker/soundtrack composer, giving rise to glacial bowed chords and shimmering, frosty atmospherics.  The 25 minute stunner, "Felt Presence, Ghostly Humming"  takes flight and never returns to earth, losing you in the darkness. 

It's desolation will rip your heart out, while putting much drone-based music to shame.

I don't think of this album as an album. In fact, I barely think of this album as music. It's not something that I just throw on and listen to for enjoyment. When I listen to The Dance of the Moon and the Sun, I simply get lost in it. Natural Snow Buildings has created a completely different medium that could barely qualify as music. Everything about this "album", from the artwork and packaging to the content itself looks and sounds and feels like it was created on a planet from a completely different solar system. Listening to it gives you the kind of shocked chills you'd get while listening to a strange recording of some sort of paranormal entity speaking. each new listen is like exploring the universe or circumnavigating the earth. With every new listen there's something new to find and get lost in.

What is so amazing about what Natural Snow Buildings does with their music is they make a fifteen minute ambient track of nothing but guitar drones and a section of percussion evolve so well that it manages to keep your interest throughout. But really, it feels almost pointless to talk about the music itself. Afterall, this isn't music. This is not an album. This is not something that you listen to, it's something that you live with and experience and ponder and get lost in. I barely know half of the song titles. What I have come to accept is that I don't need to know half of the things that I may want to know about this album, or even half of the things that I already know about it. All I need to know about Solange Gularte and Mehdi Ameziane are their names and that they both make music. All I need to know about The Dance and the Moon and the Sun is that it just simply is, and is one of the most beautiful and wonderous and mysterious things that has ever existed.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Snow Bringers Cult

Disc One showcases Gularte’s solo project, Isengrind, then Ameziane’s,TwinSisterMoon. Gularte works with brackish, delicate ambient drones, reminiscent of Popol Vuh, fuzzy ‘90s outriders Flying Saucer Attack and Matt Valentine’s forerunners of the US free folk scene, Tower Recordings. Ameziane, meanwhile, favours brittle folk songs, which he sings in an uncanny whisper that’s close in tone and spirit to that of Vashti Bunyan. On Disc Two, the pair hook up, balancing the two strains of noise and singer-songwriter craft with an elegance that reminds me of PG Six’s early work (an alumnus of Tower Recordings, as it happens).
"The album is composed of two jam-packed discs of brand new material recorded in the final months of 2007, the first being a split between the duo's solo projects: Isengrind (Gularte) and Twinsistermoon (Ameziane). Here, the pair's tendency to occupy the full 80 minute capacity of the CD medium proves ideal, as both solo projects effectively have a full 40 minutes in which to sketch their respective sonic visions. Disc one begins with the exotic ethnodrones of Isengrind, with Gularte transporting us to some blasted bazaar where Eastern strings, haunted vocals and a marvelous universe of shaken and beaten percussion emanates from every dark corner of the windswept streets. "To Ride With Holle" could be a merging of the resonant clatter of "Empty Bell"-era Pelt with the enchanted peaks of the Taj Mahal Travellers' bleary eyed beachside reveries. Elsewhere, Gularte presents us with tribal landscapes that wouldn't be out of place on the most captivating of Sublime Frequencies releases, as is the case on "Wooden False Face." Ever the chameleon, throughout her half of the split Gularte takes us to deep, dark places, such as the barren netherworld of "SunDusk Wand," as well as the bright, blue summits found in her magnificent closing piece "Anima Sola."
Emerging from the ashes of Isengrind's lush soundworlds are Mehdi Ameziane's own solo flights as Twinsistermoon, which begin with the keening, sprawling "Amantsokan," a truly mesmerizing dirge. It is with "The Spears of the Wolf" however, that the course of this split album is wonderfully altered. Here, Ameziane channels the most affecting qualities of 70's British folk music with wondrous, transportive results. Ameziane's take on the folk song is reminiscent of the pastoral diddies of Vashti Bunyan or perhaps some long lost Linda Perhacs or Anne Briggs recording, all plaintive nylon strings and warm, whispered voices. It is thus that the Twinsistermoon half of the split oscillates effortlessly between two seemingly disparate styles: that of the nostalgic, crestfallen folk song ("Spells," Water Barrier," "Kingdom of the Sea") and that of the slow burning drone epic ("Order of the Dreamt," "Bones Memories," "Understars") - no small feat indeed.
For the album's colossal third installment, Ameziane and Gularte join forces under the Natural Snow Buildings moniker for the entirety of disc two. It is here that all of thediversity and compositional prowess evidenced by the pair's solo recordings coheres into the remarkably refined and singular NSB sound. "Resurrect Dead on Planet Six" kicks things off, a horde of screaming, lost specters howling across one thousand endless starry nights. On "Ongon's Rattle," a doomed mass gathers for a ritual processional, with Ameziane and Gularte's moss-laden forest chants floating atop a wistful, rhythmic undertow that is evocative of the best qualities of early Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the rest of the Constellation Records roster. After the sunlit drift of "Inuk's Song," Ameziane and Gularte unleash in the title track what is undoubtedly one of their most compelling compositions to date. A deluge of frenzied woodwind tones gives rise to a blasted sea shanty lament driven forward by collapsing synth lines, booming percussion and increasingly urgent, searing blasts of pure bliss drone guitar. The enigmatic forest dwellers raise their voices again on the shambling, reverent "Gone," and, later, "Salt Signs" continues the beautiful trajectory established by the title track with its impossibly towering summits of synth and string drones that are gradually tempered by kraut-inflected percussion and drifting, rhythmic guitar work. Later still, "The Desert Has Eyes" finds a tribal raga positively eviscerated by blistering sheets of pure whiteout feedback and cascading sine waves. The album ostensibly closes with an ocean of elegiac organ tones woven into a tight coda. However, an emphatic exclamation point to the monster that is "The Snowbringer Cult" occurs with the album's hidden track, wherein an utterly levitating torrent of pounding percussion, hummed vocals and post-Flying Saucer Attack fuzzbox guitar attack scream out into the void."

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Jandek (!!!)

Ethereal, Shambling, Half-Decomposed Blues 

"Some have described Jandek as the sort of musician who was destined to be a cult phenomenon, though it's quite remarkable that he's managed to attract any following at all. Jandek isn't an artist who has covered his tracks so much as he's struggled to avoid leaving any -- he releases his own albums, he only sells them by mail order, he doesn't talk to the press, he doesn't sit for photographs, and the rare few who've communicated with him can't even get him to admit he is Jandek (he prefers to identity himself as "a representative of Corwood Industries," the name of his self-run record label). This tends to fit the nature of his body of work, which is curious at best, frequently off-putting, and obsessively personal -- Jandek's recordings are dominated by spare, atonal guitar figures, mumbled vocals sometimes punctuated by fevered howls, self-abasing lyrics, minimal chord structures, and chaotic accompaniment (when there is any). However, while Jandek isn't interested in developing a warm relationship with his audience, his commitment to his muse is impressive -- Jandek released more than 45 albums between 1978 and 2006, with no signs that he intends to stop any time in the immediate future."
-Mark Deming (AllMusic) [Emphasis Added]

This is only a portion of his entire catalogue, picked based on a rating system found here. My personal favorites tend towards his early works, but by no means exclusively.

this is getting a bit time & space consuming so here are the albums I have not listened to yet, sans the album art.

For! Further! Reading! 

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Anthony Braxton Plays Music

"It's like, everybody wanted to use freedom as a context to freak out, and that was not what I was talking about. One of the problems with collective improvisation, as far as I'm concerned, is that people who use anarchy or collective improvisation will interpret that to mean 'Now I can kill you'; and I'm saying, wait a minute! OK, it's true that in a free-thought zone, you can think of anything you want to think, but that was not the optimum state of what I had in mind when I said, let's have freedom. I thought any transformational understanding of so-called freedom would imply that you would be free to find those disciplines that suited you, free to understand your own value systems; but not that you would just freak out because 'the teacher's not there.' The teacher is still there! 
It's one thing to talk about the post-Ayler cycle with respect to the events which took place in the first year, the second year. . . but if you look back at the last twenty years, what has freedom meant? For a great many people, so-called freedomis more limiting than bebop, because in bebop you can play a ballad or change the tempo or the key. So-called freedom has not helped us as a family, as a collective, to understand responsibility better. Only the master musicians, the ones who really understand what they were doing and who did their homework, have been able to generate forward motion. So the notion of freedom that was being perpetrated in the sixties might not have been the healthiest notion. I say 'healthiest notion' because I'm not opposed to the state of freedom; I believe that with correct information and an understanding of respect for humanity, human beings can rise to their potential. But fixed and open variables, with the fixed variables functioning from fundamental value systems--that's what freedom means to me."
-Anthony Braxton (From Graham Lock, Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the Meta-Reality of Creative Music (London: Quartet, 1988), p240

Three Box-Sets (22 Discs) Of Anthony Braxton
A Gluttonous Serving Of Freer Than FreeAsFuck Free-Jazz
Representing Exactly A Diddle Of Braxton's Career 

Box-Sets Included In Post (DL Links & External Reviews):

  • The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton (Mosaic, 2008) 8xCD Box Set; FLAC
  • Anthony Braxton - 9 Compositions (Iridium, 2006) 9xCD Box-Set, VBR (V0)
  • Anthony Braxton - 23 Standards (Quartet) (Leo, 2003) 4xCD Box-Set, VBR (~215)

When most think of Braxton, the first associations are often things like difficult… brilliant but academic… cerebral… unemotional… and so on. “The Einstein of theoretical jazz physics,” in Howard Hampton’s phrase. His catalog is so dense and mystifying that when you get going in the investigation, small holes reveal such an exciting world. It's a riddle that keeps on expanding in complexity and wonder. Braxton's music is tough music because there's really not much like it. It is to be reckoned with alone. The brain is initially overtimulated, a feeling which intensifies until a brief maniacal plateau of crossed wires and shorted circuts -- then just as the body does in extremity, cognitive shock sets in taking form through a state of radical acceptance. This is pure music, pure experience, pure phenomena.

(IF A LINK DOESN'T WORK, PLEASE DIRECT A HOLLER MY WAY. I have been experimenting with new file-hosting services of late, hoping to find one that can support the large files I so much desire to share, with a price of zero, and no inconvenience for those who chose to sample this music.)

The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton
(Mosaic, 2008) 8xCD Box Set; FLAC

Absorb Every Molecule Of It!
Direct Downloads! No Annoying Ad Filled Site!
CD 1 ~~ CD 2 ~~ CD 3 ~~ CD 4 ~~ CD 5 ~~ CD 6 ~~ CD 7 ~~ CD 8

Albums included in this box-set:
Arista AL-4032 New York, Fall 1974 – 1 LP
Arista AL-4064 Five Pieces, 1975 – 1 LP
Arista AL-4080 Creative Orchestra Music 1976 - 1 LP
Arista AL-4101 Duets 1976 – 1 LP
Arista AB-4181 For Trio – 1 LP
Arista AL-5002 The Montreux/Berlin Concerts – 2 LPs
Arista A2L-8602 Alto Saxophone Improvisation 1979 – 2 LPs
Arista A3L-8900 For Four Orchestras – 3 LPs
Arista AL-9559 For Two Pianos – 1 LP

"The statement in the music, beyond the music, is that the Arista years and its fruits on record amply embodied a satisfying American flowering of Braxton’s work, in the “jazz” plot of its garden...but in doing so, and moving through flower to airborne pollen, it also showed that moment to be as evanescently improvised, as idiosyncratically composed, as the music itself."
-Mike Heffley, liner notes

"Eight CDs represents a big undertaking both for listeners and Mosaic, the label that wrote the book on boxed sets and started releasing them when they were vinyl-only. For Anthony Braxton, though, eight CDs is a mere drop in the bucket. But what a drop it is, compiling six fruitful years that yielded nine groundbreaking albums, none of which have been available in any form since their initial release.
Complete Arista Recordings also inadvertently pays tribute to a period of the music industry that will never be seen again. In 1974, Braxton was courted by two American record labels. The composer chose Clive Davis’ nascent Arista over Atlantic since he would be working with Steve Backer, the former head of Impulse, who understood the music, and Michael Cuscuna, now of Mosaic and other reissue projects. It was a wise choice, as they gave him carte blanche to record everything from his quartet to double-albums of solo saxophone and, in a move that must’ve sent the bean counters through the roof, a three-record composition involving four 39-piece orchestras. That kind of investment in an artist’s vision is long gone, at least as far as major labels are concerned.
The set retains the running order of the original albums, sequencing them by their original release dates. It frequently contrasts with the order of recording dates but it makes sense in terms of material.
While he may deserve a description like avant-garde, Braxton repeatedly opened his early albums with interpretations of jazz classics or spins on them, offering a bridge from tradition into his musical brain. Disc one opens with “Opus 23B,” an atonal reworking of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee.” The lack of a tonal center doesn’t make it any less accessible, and the Parker reference is easily overlooked in favor of the bullet-spray of notes delivered at a jaw dropping tempo that even causes both Braxton and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler to stumble a little as they play. It’s the perfect leadoff track, creating excitement for what will follow.
The quartet sessions with Wheeler (replaced later by trombonist George Lewis), bassist Dave Holland and drummers Jerome Cooper or Barry Altschul have a free-bop feel to them. But Braxton was just as likely to have bass and drums walk as he would have them play rigid, one-to-the-bar notes during a piece. Likewise, “Opus 37,” with three-quarters of what would become the World Saxophone Quartet, is built around an abrasive repetition of dissonant quarter notes.
Later sessions also cast gazes backward, such as when Braxton and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams cover Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann” and Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” between contemporary art music pieces and contrabass sax/piano romps. On his own, Braxton attempts “Giant Steps,” Lionel Hampton’s “Red Top,” and Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” in between sound explorations on his alto.
The Creative Orhestra Music 1976 album transfers Braxton’s approach successfully to a larger group, which at times sounds like a hybrid of Count Basie and Sun Ra (“Opus 51”) and, in one of the box’s most bizarre moments, starts like a John Philip Sousa march that quickly shifts into atonal frenzy. For Trio marks the beginning of the extended pieces. This album features Braxton in two 20-minute tracks with Douglas Ewart and Henry Threadgill on one; Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell on the other. The multi-instrumentalists blow reeds, bang percussion and vocalize in a way that makes sparseness as much a part of the music as the sound.
That openness in the music continues in the final large pieces of the box, although this element sometimes worked against it. For Two Pianos has Frederic Rzweski and Ursula Oppens performing Braxton’s work on the keyboard, with occasional melodica and zither sounds keeping the texture moving. For Four Orchestras is impressive in its size and length (nearly two hours), but it relies on quick bursts of music or aimless long notes that never develop beyond their exposition.While this set might be an investment, anyone looking for a basic profile of Braxton’s music would be more than satiated with this set. Hearing it all together goes a long way toward profiling the various elements that factor into his compositions and provides a great appreciation for one of the country’s boldest composers."
-Milke Shanley (

Anthony Braxton - 9 Compositions
(Iridium, 2006) 9xCD Bos-Set, VBR (V0)
Commit To Summering With Its Parents
CD 1~~ CD 2 ~~ CD 3 ~~ CD 4 ~~ CD 5 ~~ CD 6~~ CD 7~~ CD 8 ~~ CD 9

Track Listing:
Disc 1 - Composition No. 350 (70:10)
Disc 2 - Composition No. 351 (69:26)
Disc 3 - Composition No. 352 (67:36)
Disc 4 - Composition No. 353 (63:58)
Disc 5 - Composition No. 354 (62:49)
Disc 6 - Composition No. 355 (63:51)
Disc 7 - Composition No. 356 (59:51)
Disc 8 - Composition No. 357 (63:16)
Disc 9 - Composition No. 358 (61:46)

From: "Anthony Braxton: True Mathematics"  -David R. Adler
"In sum, first-species GTM is based on an unvarying—indeed, trance-inducing—quarter-note pulse. The later species inject “imbalances,” or rhythmic interruptions, into the pulse. Rhythmic subgroups—triplets, quintuplets and so forth—begin to ornament the foundational line, ultimately obscuring it altogether. “The move from third species to accelerator class was intense,” says Taylor Ho Bynum. “All of a sudden the most complex rhythmic manifestations of the line had completely taken over.” And Braxton wasn’t finished. Open an “accelerator whip” score and you’ll see strings of 16th and 32nd notes grouped in patterns of 9 over 1, 13 over 2, 17 over 2, 20 over 2, stretching for page after page without bar lines. “Accelerator whip is more extreme in terms of material mass,” Braxton explains. “There are much larger groupings—as extreme as it was possible to notate and have some fun with.”
All nine Iridium compositions begin with the full band playing a forceful thematic statement; a ragged dissonance of bottomless complexity. What begins as a teetering mass of information soon moves into improvisational flux. Over the ensuing hour, the players interface with the written score, and each other, in any number of ways. This, in a sense, has always been Braxton’s approach: blurring the notation/improvisation boundary, using notation not simply as a “recall” device but also a “generating” device. There are antecedents, to be sure, in 20th-century classical music. But Braxton’s marriage of what he calls “trans-African” and “trans-European” aesthetics, or “mutable” and “stable” logics, is unique.
In these final GTM works, Braxton pursues a “multi-hierarchic” model in which the players can break into subgroups to play any of several “secondary” compositions appended at the rear of a given score, or even bring in “tertiary material”—segments of older Braxton compositions to be interpolated at will. The note heads in the polyrhythmic rows appear in pink, green, orange, blue and other colors—code for various timbres, inflections and other information. At times the players will land on “freeze frames”: spaces boxed off in black marker where the ledger lines suddenly disappear and the notation becomes more ethereal. As Bynum puts it, GTM “turns the traditional hierarchical orchestra model on its head. You improvise in a compositional manner; you apply composed materials in an improvisational manner; at all times one’s creativity is fully engaged.” Braxton refers to the music as “trans-temporal”: He turns over an hourglass to start the set; the music ends when the last grains have filtered through. The entire process is something like a game.
A game, it should be noted, that requires no small amount of endurance—Jessica Pavone had her elbow in a brace after the Iridium gig and jokingly dubbed her ailment “Braxtonitis.” Trans-temporal music can also be demanding for the listener, or to use Braxton’s preferred term, “the friendly experiencer.” Best to give oneself over to “a sense of meditative timelessness,” to borrow Jonathan Piper’s phrase. Dave Douglas, in his booklet entry, describes a “feeling of permanence” that came over him during the Iridium sets. There certainly are moments of great luminosity and power, but also times when the methodology seems to eclipse the music. If the Iridium collection lacks anything, it is the sheer variety heard on other recent Braxton boxes, particularly Six Compositions (GTM) 2001 (Rastascan) or 4 Compositions (Ulrichsberg) 2005 Phonomanie VII (Leo). The latter includes the first documented performance of Braxton’s Diamond Curtain Wall music, a new prototype involving the SuperCollider computer language.
“The Ghost Trance Musics are totally finished,” Braxton declares, although he will continue to draw on the GTM archive in its entirety for live performances. In 2007 he returned to Iridium with a smaller, seven-piece group, a decision driven in part by logistics—he needed room onstage this time for his contrabass and bass saxophones.

Anthony Braxton - 23 Standards (Quartet) 
(Leo, 2003) 4xCD Box-Set, VBR ~215

Get It!!
CD 1 ~~ CD 2 ~~ CD 3 ~~ CD 4

From Leo Records:
The 4-CD set (4.5 hours of music) was recorded during a series of concerts in 2003 by the new Braxton's quartet with Kevin O'Neil on guitar, Kevin Norton on percussion, Andy Eulau on bass and Anthony Braxton on saxophone. The set is destined to make jazz history not only for Braxton's discovery of the most remarkable guitarist to emerge in a decade, but for its special quality of performing standards in an entirely new way and reinventing the tradition. Braxton's work becomes even more valuable and necessary in view of the forces of reaction in jazz. As Stuart Broomer writes in his remarkable liner notes, while a conservative performer merely echoes and diminishes the tradition, Braxton makes known the social, moral, and historical imperatives that drive this music and are embedded in the tradition. He makes known the spirit of spontaneiety, community, change, freedom, life and creation. He makes it as new and vital as the original forms. "Our thanks, then, to Anthony Braxton. In an era when the jazz past is regularly Bowdlerized, trivialized and travestied — reduced to little more than a marketing plan — Braxton presents it in much of its true potentiality as the authentic discourse of its time, making both the past and the present (even the future) that much richer than it was before". Limited edition of 1000 copies."

Included in this box-set
Disc 1: Crazy Rhythm; Off Minor; Desafinado; 26-1; Why Shouldn't I; Giant Steps.
Disc 2:Tangerine; Black Orpheus; Round Midnight; Ju Ju; After You've Gone.
Disc 3: Everything I Love; I Can't get Started; It's a Raggy Waltz; Countdown; Blue in Green; Beatrice.
Disc 4: Only the Lonely; Recorda Me; Ill Wind; I'll be Easy to Find; Three to Get Ready; Dolphin Dance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost

9 CDs of Rare & Unissued Recordings
Re-Post (fixed links)

Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1960-1972)
10xCD Box Set, Revenent Records, 2004

Get It!!
CD 1 ~~ CD 2 ~~ CD 3 ~~ CD 4 ~~ CD 5
CD 6 ~~ CD 7 ~~ CD 8 ~~ CD 9 ~~ CD 10 (Bonus) 

Review by Thom Jurek

After listening to Revenant's massive Albert Ayler box set, Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962-70), a pair of questions assert themselves in the uneasily settling silence that follows: who was Albert Ayler, and how did he come to be? At the time of this box set's release 26 years after the Cleveland native's mysterious death -- his lifeless body was found floating in New York's East River, without a suicide note -- those questions loom larger than ever. Revenant's amazing package certainly adds weight and heft to the argument for Ayler's true place in the jazz pantheon, not only as a practitioner of free jazz but as one of the music's true innovators. Ayler may have been deeply affected by the music of Ornette Coleman, but in turn he also profoundly influenced John Coltrane's late period.

The item itself is a deeply detailed 10" by 10" black faux-onyx "spirit box," cast from a hand-carved original. Inside are ten CDs in beautifully designed, individually colored rice paper sleeves. Seven are full-length music CDs, two contain interviews, and one is packaged as a replica of a recording tape box, containing two tracks from an Army band session Ayler participated in. Loose items include a Slug's Saloon handbill, an abridged facsimile of Amiri Baraka's journal Cricket from the mid-'60s containing a piece by Ayler, a replica of the booklet Paul Haines wrote for Ayler's Spiritual Unity album, a note Ayler scrawled on hotel stationery in Europe, a rumpled photograph of the saxophonist as a boy, and a dogwood flower. Finally, there is a hardbound 209-page book. It contains a truncated version of Val Wilmer's historic chapter on Ayler from As Serious As Your Life, a new essay by Baraka, and biographical and musicological essays by Ben Young, Marc Chaloin, and Daniel Caux. In addition, there are testimonies by many collaborators, full biographical essays of all sidemen, detailed track information on the contents, and dozens of photographs.

Almost all this material has been, until now, commercially unavailable. Qualitatively, the music here varies, both artistically and mechanically. Some was taken from broadcast and tape sources that have deteriorated or were dubious to begin with, but their massive historical significance far outweighs minor fidelity problems. Chronologically organized, the adventure begins with Ayler's earliest performances in Europe fronting a thoroughly confounded rhythm section that was tied to conventional time signatures and chord changes. Ayler, seemingly oblivious, was trying out his new thing in earnest -- to the consternation of audiences and bandmates alike. How did a guy who played like this even get a gig in such a conservative jazz environment? Fumbling as this music is, it proves beyond any doubt Ayler's knowledge and mastery of the saxophone tradition from Lester Young to Sonny Rollins. Ayler's huge tone and his amazing, masterfully controlled use of both vibrato and the tenor's high register are already in evidence here. Following these, there is finally recorded evidence to support Ayler playing with Cecil Taylor in Copenhagen in 1962. This is where he met drummer Sunny Murray who, along with bassist Gary Peacock, formed the original Ayler trio. Their 1964 performances at New York's Cellar Café are documented here to stunning effect. Following these are phenomenal broadcast performances from later that year that include Don Cherry on trumpet in France.

Other discs here document Ayler's sideman duties: with pianist Burton Greene's quintet in 1966 (with Rashied Ali), a Pharoah Sanders band with Sirone and Dave Burrell, a Town Hall concert with his brother Donald's sextet that also included Sam Rivers, and a quartet with Donald, drummer Milford Graves, and bassist Richard Davis playing at John Coltrane's funeral. These live sessions have much value historically as well as musically, but are, after all, blowing sessions -- though they still display Ayler as a willing and fiery collaborator who upped the ante with his presence. Though he arrived fully formed as a soloist, his manner of trying to adapt to other players and bring them into his sphere is fascinating, frustrating, and revealing.

Ayler's own music is showcased best when leading his own quartets and quintets, and there are almost four discs' worth of performances here. Much of this music is with the classical violinist Michel Sampson and trumpeter Donald Ayler with alternating rhythm sections. Indeed, the quintet gigs here with Sampson and Donald in the front line that used marching rhythms and traditional hymns as their root may not be as compelling sonically as the Village Vanguard stuff issued by Impulse!, but they are as satisfying musically. The various rhythm sections included drummers Ronald Shannon Jackson, Allen Blairman, Muhammad Ali, Beaver Harris, and Bernard Purdie, and bassists Bill Folwell, Steve Tintweiss, Clyde Shy (Mutawef Shaheed), pianist Call Cobbs, and tenor saxophonist Frank Wright. What is clearly evident is that the only drummer with whom Ayler truly connected with, the only one who could match his manner of playing out of time and stretching it immeasurably, was Murray, who literally played around the beat while moving the music through its dislocated center.

The late music remains controversial. Recorded live in 1968 and 1970 in New York and France, it illuminates the troublesome period on Ayler's Impulse! recordings, New Grass and Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe. In performance, struggling and ill-conceived rhythm sections try to comprehend and articulate the complex patchwork of colors, motivations, and adventurous attempts at musical integration with the blues, rock, poetry, and soul Ayler was engaging instrumentally and -- with companion Mary Parks -- vocally. Ayler's own playing remains unshakable and revelatory, stunning for its ability to bring to the surface hidden melodies, timbres, and overtones and, to a degree, make them accessible. His solos, full of passion, pathos, and the otherworldly, pull everything from his musical sound world into his being and send it out again, transformed, through the horn.

Ayler is credited with the set's title, in that he once said in an interview: "Trane was the father. Pharoah was the son. I was the Holy Ghost." While it can be dismissed as hyperbole, it should also be evaluated to underscore the aforementioned questions. Unlike Coltrane and Sanders whose musical developments followed a recorded trajectory, Ayler, who apparently had very conventional beginnings as a musician, somehow arrived on the New York and European scenes already on the outside, pushing ever harder at boundaries that other people hadn't yet even perceived let alone transgressed. Who he was in relation to all those who came after him is only answered partially, and how he came to find his margin and live there remains a complete cipher. What Revenant has accomplished is to shine light into the darkened corners of myth and apocrypha; the label has added flesh-and-bone documented history to the ghost of a giant. Ayler struggled musically and personally to find and hold onto the elusive musical/spiritual balance that grace kissed him with only a few times during his lifetime -- on tape anyway. But the quest for that prize, presented here, adds immeasurably to both the legend and the achievement. 

Monday, August 22, 2011


Barn Owl

Western tinged, slow motion psychedelia, dark, dolorous, warm and haunting, heavily reverbed, a sort of dark skeletal doom, rife with warm chordal clusters, gauzy clouds of muted feedback, and epic expanses of effected guitars that sound almost choral. Their sound is both warm and inviting, haunting and tense, emotional and intense. Hazy desert sky meditations – ominous, barren expanses of music for desert walks at dusk, and dark, pastoral passages embellished with psychedelic and atmospheric wash. A mixture between devotional ragas and dusty stomp with atmosphere and production that references shoegaze and black metal influences. The various bits of steel string guitar are draped over dense swells of roiling downtuned drone, everything wreathed in streaks of high end shimmer, all blurred into a burnished black guitar blur, washed out and hazy, yet surprisingly lush and heavy. .

Suishou No Fune (水晶の舟)

Formed in 1999 as a duo of female guitarist Pirako Kurenai and male guitarist Kageo, Suishou no Fune have been making some of the most charmingly chaotic dream music coming out of Japan. Their sound is not consistently melodic but focuses much more on the atmosphere of the songs, building upon oddly beautiful twinned vocals and distorted guitars drenched in echoing reverb.  Awash in waves of fuzz, Suishou No Fune's control of detail amidst chaos and heavy emotions is their deepest asset.
It's probably fair to place Suishou no Fune in context along with contemporaries like Aural Fit, Up-Tight, Miminokoto and LSD-March as a member of Japan's latest wave of psychedelic rock bands, but their heritage reaches some 35+ years back with the Stooges-on-acid sound of the legendary Rallizes Denudes.
Their sound contains subcutaneous elements of no-wave energy mixed with psychedelic rock á la early Fushitsusha, Kousokuya or Shizuka. The pure emotional power of Fushitsusha isn't quite there, but then again that's too much to expect from anyone. The prettiness and density are most reminiscent of Shizuka, perhaps even Bardo Pond and Ash Ra Tempel. But there's a uniquely Japanese style being explored here that doesn't seem to emanate from anywhere else.

Suishou No Fune - Suishou No Fune (Self Titled, 2005)
After an initial CD-R release and some compilation appearances, this is the band's first "real" album.  Most of the songs begin with beds of pretty guitar strumming, shimmering chords that float while brittle, picked notes slowly reverberate. The vocals are heavily soaked in reverb, plaintive cries that are often wordless calls into the distance. Moments of clear, quiet guitar picking intersperse with dense fuzz and dissonance on "Into the Light," while "Cherry" remains slower and more gracious, filled with beautiful moments of floating chords. Get It!!

This four-track cd-r, with a running time of just under an hour, lives up to its title. Flush with hypnotic, repetitive bell-tones and muted swirls of abstract sound very much like fog creeping across the ground at dawn; the pace is as glacial as it is inexorable, muted and reverential, eventually spiraling upward into piercing guitar wails and explosive bursts of interstellar, shrieking near-white noise, like sunspots emitting bursts of radiation. Get It!!

When Suishou no Fune lose the drums, their songs slowly slip free of any moorings, with Kageo and Kurenai’s guitars blurring into a reverb-drenched, delay-soaked abstraction. These more abstruse songs are indefinite, their internal workings shrouded and ghostly. Kurenai’s voice bobs and slides, her soprano wail cleaving through the calamitous scaffold constructed by Kageo on guitar and Tail on drums becoming a manifestation of an encroaching dread/unease. By the final track, “A rose bloomed”, the trio are reduced to a wilting, expired duo, the gorgeous, coal-black threnody slowly compelling itself to close. Get It!!

The Light Of Dark Night consists of one 42 minute long track, featuring renditions of three songs flowing together: "Till We Meet Again (You Returned Home To The Heavens)", "A Rose Bloomed", and "You Look At The Night Sea". It begins with  Kageo and Kurenai’s guitars gently droning out of an ambient gloom, bleak yet beckoning... as their music meanders moodily forth, there's stretches of quiet, crystalline beauty, graced with soothing melody and yearning vocals... at other moments the proceedings are also graced with heavy duty distorto crunch, guitars amped up into sheer sheets of flashback fuzz. Get It!!

Writhing Underground Flowers is their first release since Where The Spirits Are on the seminal label, Holy Mountain. Three very spacious, elegiac cosmic blues comedowns that combine the subtle guitar alchemy of early Fushitsusha with a ton of deep space. The guitar playing here is more minimal than usual, nudging single note runs into ominous shapes that suggest massive, subliminal forms while Pirako's intermittent vocals blend into the overall reverb-drenched atmosphere

Suishou No Fune - Prayer For Chibi (Holy Mountain 2008)
Starkly-serious; a mind-altering, psych-blues album dealing with the themes of death and sorrow. A contemplative soundtrack to grief that is far more reserved in terms of pure sonic power than their previous releases. Created as a memorial to their dearly departed cat, Prayer is tonally split across its two discs; the first focuses on gauzy, almost transparent guitar tones and textures, while the second digs much deeper to unearth more harrowing performances. The guitars are diffuse, stretching out into gauzy streams of consciousness that mesh with the lofting, intertwined vocals of Kurenai and Kageo. Prayer for Chibi opts for a sparser, more subtle path, allowing each string and bent-note to ring out as though gravity had lost its hold setting the music free to float in slow-motion amongst the haunting voices.  Get It!!  Disc One ~~~ Disc Two

Here the core duo of Pirako and Kageo benefit from an expanded roster of musicians making up a proper drum and bass rhythm section. While the augmented roster of personnel permits some pretty fierce psych forays (especially 'Entrance To The Labyrinth' and its bookending counterpart 'Exit From Labyrinth) there's still plenty of room for those cosmological blues jams these guys excel at: 'Fragments Of A Broken Glass' is a thing of remarkable and strange beauty, covered in dissolving guitar effects and complex harmonic interplay.  Get It!!

Suishou No Fune - Mystic Atmosphere (Cut Hands 2008)Mystic Atmosphere welcomes back the unpolished, raw around the edges side of these interstellar psychonauts. Slightly reminiscent of their first Holy Mountain album, Where the Spirits Are. Tail’s drums splashing like mossy boulders into the Pacific, primitive pounding Moe Tucker style. Mystic Atmosphere contains four tracks blessed with psych guitar panorama’s soaked in holy reverb, a slowed down monster jam sounding like a drone version of a Mainliner or High Rise track and their ever mournful, lost in life wailing." -Volcanic Tongue  Get It!!

Suishou No Fune - Phantom Of The Eternal Night (There 2009)
The one constant in the sound of Suishou no Fune is that they consistently make beautiful, deeply emotional albums, and their latest is no exception, although it may be their best yet, and certainly one of their most focused. This one is the work of a full band, not just the core duo of Pirako and Kageo -- they're joined this time around by Nishamura Takuya on bass and Kikukawa Takahisa on drums, making their eternally spacy sound a bit more grounded, especially on the opener "Let the Flowers Bloom," where the constantly churning bass and minimalist drumming (buried so far in the background as to be nearly subliminal at times) lend a persistent rhythmic pulse to the song's lovely psychedelic vapor. The group's dedication to minimalism really shines through in "Spring Night Butterfly," where a handful of repeated notes (and lots of reverb) over a rhythm section that sounds more like dust motes moving in the air than actual rock music form the cosmic backdrop over which Pirako's mournful voice and endlessly bent guitar notes rise and fall like piercing spears of pure radiant emotion. One of the band's most remarkable assets is their ability to call up deep levels of emotion and pathos through the most minimal playing, a profound and mysterious talent made obvious by this song more so than anything else on the album. "Endless Descent" is a moderately heavier (or perhaps a bit less ethereal) song that reminds me a lot of Kadura, with a sound that grows denser and more complex as the song evolves, while "Everlasting Journey" returns to the strummed guitar and spaced-out sound of the opening track. As with everything else the band has done, these are slow-moving tracks that take their time getting to their eventual destinations (this is cosmic rock, after all, and one should hardly expect a spaceship's journey to be short) and this is a good thing, because it gives you plenty of time to absorb the hypnotic rhythms and spiritual vibes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Jackie-O Motherfucker

All-Music Overview:
"Portland, OR-based improvisational weirdos Jackie-O Motherfucker filtered numerous musical genres (avant-garde, electronic music, folk, country, world music, spirituals, etc.) through their noisy, psychedelic scrape and grind. Formed by core members Tom Greenwood and Jef Brown, who both contribute to the band on a variety of instruments, Jackie-O Motherfucker also rely on the contributions of sax players John Flaming and Nester Bucket, drummer Jessie Carrot, guitarist Honey Owens, and multi-instrumentalist Andy Cvar. The band's output in the beginning was largely executed by the tiny Portland-based Imp Records, which issued three vinyl-only releases: S/T, Cross Pollinate, and Flat Fixed (which was a double LP). However, the turn of the century saw them gather some attention from well-respected corners of the indie world. Their first album, Fig. 5, was issued by Road Cone in the first months of 2000, with plans for a double LP being cooked up at the same time by Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label. Moore's guitar playing in Sonic Youth proved to be a major influence for the band and the noise-heavy Magick Fire Music and Wow! followed. From 2000 to 2005, Jackie-O Motherfucker and related band Nudge released several albums that took full advantage of studio overdubbing, including Liberation, Trick Doubt, Elaborate Devices for Filtering Crisis, and Change. Reverting from post-punk soundscapes to a rustic sound, the folky Flags of the Sacred Harp followed in 2005. The sprawling America Mystica came next in 2006, along with a few EPs; meanwhile, Honey Owens participated in Fontanelle and released solo albums Blood Is Clean and Naked Acid under the Valet moniker. After a move to the U.K. label Fire Records, the group's fifth live album, Blood of Life, was released in 2008. Two studio albums followed, 2009's Ballads of the Revolutionand 2011's Earth Sound System."
-Stacia Proefrock