Music Reviews



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Artist: Yndi Halda
Title: A Sun-Coloured Shaker
Format: CD
Label: Sound In Silence
Though described as an EP, “A Sun-Coloured Shaker” is one long song, just under twelve minutes long, from the established post-rock band recently relocated to Cornwall. (Perhaps this has been done to balance out the fact that one of their previous “EP” releases was over an hour?!)

It’s one elaborate, quite prog rock ballad with more than a little of a Pink Floyd influence- lush atmospheric guitar plucking, steady drums and a vocal that manages to come across as both pained and dreamy in equal measure. As the song progresses it opens up a little into more instrumental and soundscapey tones but without any major shifts.

An interesting track well suited for people who’ve played their old Floyd records to death, but maybe not meaty enough to be justified as a release in its own right.
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Artist: Henry Kaiser / Alan Licht (@)
Title: Skip To The Solo
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
I have been familiar with Alan Licht's work for many years now and Henry Kaiser has worked with such luminaries as Nels Cline, Jim O’Rourke, and Fred Frith, so I was interested to see how this would go. First off, the idea behind this album is a lot of fun. As the label explains, The album’s title and concept harks back to the experience of playing vinyl records and lifting the stylus ahead to the guitar solo. . . . Alan recalls, “During a 2015 duo gig at The Stone in NYC Henry turned to me and said ‘Play a couple of chords that I can fuzz solo over.’ A couple of days later it hit me--let's do a whole album of that!” This disc is it, one where the artists provide a notable service to the listener: they skip to the solos so that you don't have to!” So if you like guitar solos, throw the horns into the air and let’s get into this. Each of these solos have their own personality, so I’ll hit each of them briefly. First off, we have “More Or Less Cowbell,” a funky number with more wah than a 1970’s porn soundtrack. You’ll grow a mustache just listening to this. “Where Are They Now” is fuzzed out guitar with a soulful feel. “Smolover's Dream” is coming to you live from the Ramada Inn and sounds like adult contemporary rock meets corporate training video soundtrack. Next up, a sample of someone saying “It was sounding like God” opens “The Pawn Of Null-A,” and it does. This is a full force classic rock solo. “File & Rank” has a 3/4 feel that makes it seem fast and frantic. “Variations On The Jerry Garcia Secret Chord Progression” slows it down a bit with a slight reggae feel. “Rendezvous In Space” is more stripped down and minimal by comparison, but gets more complex over time, with sparse drums to provide an interesting counterpoint. “Wong Dong Doodle” is slow and bluesy – someone done Mikko Biffle wrong and he’s going to tell you all about it. “What Is Arizona Really Like” is a pretty straightforward guitar piece. “Dancing The Paphian Jig” brings back the 70’s funk with squeals of feedback. “What's Your Line” features a smooth jazz beat with a full force guitar solo – it’s the incongruity here that makes this interesting. “Ask Me About The Dorian Mode” is another basic guitar solo. “Blast Of Silence” is equal parts 80’s hair band and 70’s prog rock. “Infernal Affairs” brings it all home by channeling Santana and Hendrix, by way of the Doors. It was fun to see how each solo often had its own kind of feel. If you like guitar solos, I really can’t think of a better album to recommend. Overall, this was a lot of fun. This album weighs in at around 66 minutes.
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Artist: Alan Sondheim / Azure Carter / Luke Damrosch (@)
Title: Limit
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with these artists, but I have enjoyed a lot of what Public Eyesore has put out lately, so I was interested to see how this one measured up. Plus, it’s always fun to hear something where you don’t recognize half of the instruments. I mean, here is a partial list of instruments credited to Sondheim – long-necked saz, dan moi, ghichak, holeless shakuhaci, hegelung, sanshin, and rebab. After listening to this album a few times, I would describe it as “pretty dissonance.” This is what you get when you get some mellow, ethereal music – say Durutti Column or Love Spirals Downward – and the tape gets eaten by the machine. Everything is infected with glitch and washed over with a heavy layer of reverb. For some examples, the album begins with “aacbb,” which sounds a lot like an orchestra warming up before they have hit the correct note – everything is shifted just off from the center, “afghaninvdynb” sounds like bagpipes that have been looped repeatedly and played through an AM radio, and “zymphonyb” is frantic and chaotic, while never quite becoming noise. There is a lot of variety to keep this interesting, but the ones that really stand out are the tracks featuring Azure Carter’s vocals. For example, “aborrowers” seems to depict the tale of a snail, with lyrics like “I will take my tiny house with me / Where will my tiny house go / I am a snail in a shell / My shell is memory / …. I’m living on borrowed time.” In another track, “harbinger,” Carter begins, “Everything I do is grotesque, misshapen / the sooner I get to space and time the better.” What makes these tracks so engaging is the contrast between her pleasant voice and the odd lyrics. Overall, this is interesting and engaging and would appeal to fans of bands like Coil and Oval. Well worth checking out.
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Artist: Meridian Arts Ensemble (@)
Title: Seven Kings
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
I enjoy jazz, so I was interested to see what we have here. This is five compositions spread out over 13 tracks, and weighs in at almost 76 minutes, so rather than listing each movement individually, I’ll discuss each one as a whole. Let’s get into it. First off, we have “Migration” by Daniel Grabois. This is the shortest piece on the disc, and it reminds me of some of the work of Dizzy Gillespie. This is pretty clean jazz (in the sense of structure) with a heavy emphasis on the trumpet. Well executed, but kind of missing the looseness I like in jazz. Moving into David Sanford’s “Seven Kings,” we get the more chaotic and frantic feel that I was looking for. It all holds together well, though – from the drum solo and rapid-fire horns that keep the rhythm going in the “Contrapunctus I” segment to the peaceful vibraphone of “Chimes,” this composition keeps everything moving along well. The standout portion though is “Contrapunctus II,” which sometimes sounds like everyone is playing a completely different piece, but it still manages to keep a sense of cohesion. Next up, we have “For Bass Quintet and Percussion” by Dave Ballou. This piece slowly builds in complexity and intensity over time, with a skillful use of silence. I am reminded of the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens, which states, "I do not know which to prefer, The beauty of inflections, Or the beauty of innuendoes, The blackbird whistling Or just after." Ballou gets that sometimes the space between the notes can be just as important as the notes. Next up, we have “Passed Time” by Edward Jacobs. I will admit that this one really didn’t do much for me, since it didn’t really have the energy of the previous compositions. This one was more orchestral and less jazzy; my wife remarked that it sounded like it belonged in a movie soundtrack. Finally, we have Robert Maggio’s “Revolver.” From the machine gun drums and horn blasts that open this up, you know that you are in for an interesting ride. The music, along with the evocative song titles set the mood well. For example, “With Nobody’s Help (Lost and Badly Wounded),” evokes a feeling of wandering; you can almost feel the buzzards circling overhead. It all comes together with the final segment, “Opened to the Fragility (Slipping Away),” which is a slow, improvised piece, with raucous drums that offer a stark contrast to the languid horns, ending almost peacefully. Overall this isn’t really as experimental as what I am used to reviewing for Chain D.L.K., but it is well done and quite enjoyable as a whole. If you like solid jazz, this is worth checking out.
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Artist: James Bradbury (@)
Title: Biomimicry
Format: CD
Label: Tone List (@)
Rated: *****
Years ago, Ios Smolders put out an album called Music for CD Players. The goal was to create a different experience every time by putting the player on random and having the player compose from the base tracks. Others have played with the idea of chaos in music, most notably John Cage and his use of the I-Ching as a means of composition. As such, James Bradbury finds himself in some good company here. As the label explains, “Biomimicry is an autonomous musical system that draws on perceptual features of an improviser to synthesise a response. By parsing the collaborators sound into Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients the system is imbued with an evaluative capability and can assess changes in amplitude and timbre in order to shape its interactive behaviour. At its heart, the system is designed to be cohesive and unified with its human counterpart but at times its digital memory fails and the system's sensibility emerges.” This was released in five different versions, and it seems that I have Biomimicry Version 2; the readme file states that to create the entire system you would need all five versions. For the moment, I will talk about my specific version. There are two tracks here, which weigh in for a total of around 10 minutes. The sounds on 2a are comprised mainly of body noises – the sound of voice, clearing one’s throat, gargling, gagging, and just making noises with the throat to sound like Donald Duck. All of this seems cut up and reassembled in an unsettling tableau as some noises are recognizable, and others have been reduced to drone and static. 2b, on the other hand, is much more abstract, with clicking noises, abused instruments, and what sounds like someone fumbling with a microphone. This version was interesting enough that I went into the files to find the other versions as well. These tracks are likewise a mix of cut up organic somatic sounds and those that have been beat into something else. They are similar, but distinct. In the disc, there are several other versions of the tracks that were not actually part of the final compositions as well as raw materials. This was released in a shockingly limited edition of 10 copies, with two copies of each version, all with different sound files, so if this sounds good to you, get this while you can.
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