Native Soul: Teenage Dreams (Awesome Tapes From Africa, 2021)

September 23, 2021 at 8:42 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Native Soul: Teenage Dreams

ATFA follows first albums by Teno Afrika and DJ Black Low with another debut from a young act making amapiano, this time the Pretoria-based duo Native Soul. Far from the more hopeful, sweet, pop-oriented amapiano of artists like Sun-El Musician, this is darker, eerier stuff that pushes in more of a gqom direction, although it’s not quite as tense. Still, there’s gun clicks and “Thriller”-type MJ howls on “Way to Cairo”, and suspenseful synth-strings and snare rolls during tracks like “The Journey”. It’s summery music, but it sounds like you’re traveling at night and not sure where you’re going to end up. “Rejoice” is the only vocal track, and even though the title and the touch of gospel organ suggest fervent celebration, it sounds more like it’s clinging to hope out of necessity. “United as One” is an anthem for resistance, although it’s still of a piece with the rest of the tracks and doesn’t cry out too much louder. Energetic, inventive, homegrown dance music that reflects the times instead of merely providing escapism.

v/a: Cold Wave #2 (Soul Jazz Records, 2021)

September 22, 2021 at 8:52 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Cold Wave #2

I missed out on the first one, but this is a second volume of current D.I.Y. electronic artists which range from minimal/darkwave acts to L.I.E.S.-affiliated outsider/industrial techno producers. There’s also some holdovers from the neo-electro scene circa 2 decades ago — longtime Cybernetic Broadcasting System favorite Beta Evers appears with the sly, sneaking “Hiding”, and the chameleonic Krikor Kouchian, a onetime French Touch producer, ends the set with “Deserver Dub”. L.F.T.’s “Stay Away From The Light” is definitely a shadowy minimal synth tune, and Job Sifre’s slow-burning “At Least We Try” sounds like a more high-tech update of something that could’ve been on one of the late Richard H. Kirk’s early solo releases. Tolouse Low Trax’s occult-themed “Rushing Into Water” is actually even more Kirk-ian. De Ambassade (aka Dollkraut) appears with the delectable minimal wave tune “Niet Van Mij”. “Hum” by V.C.V.S. has a slow EBM-ish beat and glitchy samples of faint reflections of a no wave group. Dave I.D.’s “Help Starts” is much more in the dark and gloomy but slow glide realm, and then it just roars at you at the end. Broken English Club’s “Vacant Cars” is another slow, gritty one that makes you want to take a shower, although it’s not as scummy as the most grimy industrial. There’s so much more ground that this series could cover, so hopefully the label is planning on digging deeper with future volumes.

Brogan Bentley: Diapason Rex (Leaving Records, 2021)

September 21, 2021 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Brogan Bentley: Diapason Rex

Brogan Bentley’s second album uses sharply diced Amen breaks and draws heavily from drum’n’bass production techniques, but can’t really be defined as a d’n’b album, or house or garage, or any of the other genres he channels. There’s something just out of reach to the way he combines floating vocals with expansive breakbeats and synths. This is fitting, since some of it was recorded around the time that people close to Bentley died, so there’s a certain supernatural quality to it as he’s creating music with the spirit world on his mind. Bentley’s own vocals aren’t my cup of tea, tbh, but there’s still much to adore here, with the glimmering, footwork-y “Trust Yourself” being a particular highlight.

Erroll Garner: Symphony Hall Concert (Mack Avenue, 2021)

September 20, 2021 at 7:46 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Erroll Garner: Symphony Hall Concert

This previously unreleased 1959 concert is an intimate gig with the pianist leading his trio through several standards (mostly Gershwin or Rodgers/Hart) and originals. Very spirited, rollicking musicianship, with lots of eerie moaning in the background, presumably coming from Garner himself. The constant moaning might actually be audible enough to draw strange looks from your dinner party guests, but it lends a rawness to the recording, and at least to me, it doesn’t distract from the good vibes. “Dreamy” and “Moments Delight” are gorgeous slower pieces, but most of the rest are uptempo, celebratory, and enormous amounts of fun.

Mukqs: In Human Form (Husky Pants, 2021)

September 19, 2021 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Mukqs: In Human Form

Max Allison’s latest album collects two one-take sessions performed strictly on a Roland SP-404 sampler, with samples taken from synths and drum machines. The set is a heady collision of fractured rhythms, plastic bass, ’80s orchestra hits, warped processing, and just sheer mania. After a synapse-frying opening sequence, it gets considerably calmer after a while, with 8-minute centerpiece “Casca” starting out as a reflective forest-level RPG soundtrack and then flowing into a more shoegaze-ish glide. After that, it sounds like a gaggle of factory presets trying to break free of their constrained form and ascend to something higher. The second set continues threading between uneasy bliss and damaged glitch-noise, with less drums but more scorched distortion. It seems less freewheeling than the first, it’s still unbound and flashes a lot detailed data that you won’t catch on first listen.

Mark PM: Inversions (Stereo Ferment, 2021)

September 17, 2021 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Mark PM: Inversions

Toronto resident and former Crush Collision guest Mark Mullkoff makes his debut as a producer with this brisk EP of collage funk. Pulling together several strands of beatmaking, there’s ’70s drum breaks and horn licks, as well as junglist samples and bugged-out sampler choppage of the Ras G or Madlib variety. It’s almost lounge, nearly chillwave, but then it’s beat scene. “Crowd Work” gives some love back to the audience and shouts out to Ann Arbor, Mark’s original hometown. Later tracks stretch out a bit (past 3 minutes) and are closer to beachside Balearic shuffles; they practically seem incomplete if you’re not holding at least one cocktail.

Jandek: Ann Arbor Saturday (Corwood Industries, 2021)

September 16, 2021 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Jandek: Ann Arbor Saturday

In 2008, WCBN’s staff invited Jandek to play a free concert at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Sadly, I moved to Ann Arbor the year after, so I missed out on this event, but I saw him at SXSW a few years earlier (and that show has recently been released), and later saw him in Detroit, doing a surprisingly fun set at El Club (and I narrowly avoided a car accident driving home). From what I’ve heard, most of the audience walked out almost immediately once this set began, and it’s easy to hear why, regardless of whether the audience members knew anything about Jandek or not. This is decidedly a bleak set, with The Rep coming in after about five minutes of fretless bass meandering, trumpet wailing, and harpsichord, then declaring himself to be a piece of trash and saying that if everyone died, it would all be the same. He also references his own Telegraph Melts album, and talks about a creepy crawly nightmare man, asking “why doesn’t he go away?” The set was recorded in May but it would’ve made a perfect Halloween event. Even creepier, later on in the first track, he says “I must’ve gotten eaten away, it must’ve been some nasty virus”, then later moans about being put out of his misery. Sincerely hope this guy’s been vaccinated. “Why” is a bit more surreal, mentioning a yogi and then finding the narrator in London, only he’s drowning himself in sorrow and lamenting “this stupid life”. On “Loud Silence”, he wails “It’s not about anything, youuuu just got bambooooozled into thinking there was something”, basically answering his own critics once and for all. Biba Bell, the interpretive dancer during the concert, contributes some wordless caterwauling during a few intervals. “Being a Body” has a brief Jason Molina-esque moment, which actually seems like the most optimistic point of the funereal dirge. “The Conflagration” has some brash harpsichord thwacking and somewhat more hopeful lyrics: “Okay, okay, it can’t be that bad, there’s still eating and drinking and sleeping and waking”. The only reason for living is doing everyday things, basically. Food tastes good right? Just do the things you like doing, there’s no need to worry about anything else.

Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios: Songs From My Father (Whaling City Sound, 2021)

September 15, 2021 at 8:26 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios: Songs From My Father

Drummer and bandleader Gerry Gibbs’ latest project is a tribute to his father, 96-year-old living legend and vibraphone master Terry Gibbs. Following in the footsteps of his father’s Dream Band, Gerry assembled four Dream Trios, whose lineups live up to the group name, with Chick Corea, Patrice Rushen, Ron Carter, and Christian McBride among the astounding personnel. The compositions draw from Terry’s catalog dating back to the 1940s, but everything sounds fresh, contemporary, and full of joie de vivre. It’s also notable that none of the Dream Trio members play vibraphone — the album focuses on the timelessness and flexibility of the compositions rather than trying to ape the composer’s sound or style. The cartoonish yet virtuosic “Nutty Notes” and “Gibberish” are both fun highlights, and a few songs like “Sweet Young Song of Love” and “Townhouse 3” have a refreshing Latin influence to them, with Gerry ripping on the percussion. Chick Corea’s piano playing seems particularly vibraphone-like, and his MiniMoog parts shine as well. Corea was one of the driving forces behind the album; he contributed an original, “Tango for Terry”, and there’s a track called “Hey Chick” dedicated to him, taking part of a 1961 vibraphone recording by Terry and featuring solos from all of the Dream Trio lineups. Sadly, Corea died earlier this year, while the album was being finished, making this his last recorded work, and a tribute to his legacy as well as Terry Gibbs’.

Maximum Ernst: Perfect Mixer/Matchless Pair tape (ever/never records, 2021)

September 14, 2021 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Maximum Ernst: Perfect Mixer/Matchless Pair tape

Following a ghastly yet meditative 12″ last year, Maximum Ernst returns to the tape format with this half-hour collection of shortform shapeshifting odysseys. Subliminal voices and overcalibrated motors collide with primitive, burbling drum machines, taking you on a fun yet dangerous cruise. A short track near the beginning serves as an ominous warning as well as a sneak preview (“don’t forget, it’s coming soon”). “Richard Motor Hits The Wall” is 7 minutes of revved-up industrial/no wave/motorik clanging which crashes into a wall of prickly guitar noise at the end. “Reverend Island” starts with a wavering ambient loop and crackling sounds before also becoming engulfed in a thick blanket of noise. “Vanity Mirror Universe” and “Suspended Sentence” have tripped-out drum machines which topple over each other, and in between them, the shorter “Komovar Chant” has more voltage running through it, making it feel far more tense, without the combustion of some of the tracks on the first side.

Mind Maintenance: s/t LP (Drag City, 2021)

September 13, 2021 at 7:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Mind Maintenance: s/t LP

Two longtime Chicago music scene figures who have occasionally made records together (for example, both were in Sticks and Stones, along with Matana Roberts), Chad Taylor and Joshua Abrams made their first album as the duo Mind Maintenance with a limited setup of traditional African instruments. Abrams plays the guimbri, a three-stringed skin-covered bass lute, and Taylor plays an mbira (thumb piano). Recorded and mixed by Cooper Crain, the instruments are upfront and unadorned, letting their natural vibrations ring out. Some of the tracks kind of bleed into each other, but there’s some exciting moments when the rhythms become complex and especially hypnotic, as on centerpiece “Valence”. Somehow the first time I listened to this, I felt like the first side went on forever, but listening to it again, each side goes by really quickly, and when they switch to a new piece, the shifts in rhythm make an audible impact, lifting the experience to a new level.

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