Friday, 28 April 2017

Kraftwerk - Electric Café (1986)

Staying in the German-electronic-80s zone for the time being, here's a not-so-classic album that I've been trying to give an honest re-evaluation.  And to be honest, it still sounds great.  Once the rhythms of Boing Boom Tschak really kick in I always wish it could be twice as long; the rest of that Techno Pop/Musique Non Stop suite is great too, probably their last great extended/conceptual work; and the last three tracks are at least entertaining.  In fact, Der Telefon Anruf/The Telephone Call always strikes me as another quite touching portrait of loneliness and isolation, from the same narrator as on Computer Love five years earlier.  No such redeeming features on Sex Object, unfortunately; especially not those truly hideous bass sounds.

zippy / mega

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Tangerine Dream - Logos: Live At The Dominion, London (1982)

As promised last week, some more live TD - this time taken from a concert in London on 6 November 1982.  By this point, Peter Baumann was gone, and his replacement, Johannes Schmoelling, well integrated into the group.  The TD sound had updated from the long-form improvisations of the 70s into something much sleeker and polished, but Logos is still a cracking live set to listen to. 

For release, the material from the concert that already appeared on studio albums was snipped out, leaving just the great little encore-finale (which always makes me think more of Jean-Michel Jarre than TD) and the new 'Logos' suite, with its sections named by colours - respectively, Cyan, Velvet (not quite a colour, but whatever), Red, Blue, Black, Green and Yellow, bookended by an intro & coda. 

These contrasting sections offer plenty of variety across the suite's 45 minute duration: highlights for me include the dark ambience of Intro, Cyan and Black; the longest stretch (Red), from about 12-20 minutes into the piece, which looks forward to Hyperborea, and the uptempo section towards the end (Yellow), its rhythms more suited to the dancefloor than the stoner futon.

zippy / mega

Monday, 24 April 2017

Charles Lloyd - Forest Flower: At Monterey, 1966 (rel. 1967)

Speaking of Keith Jarrett... nearly thirty years prior to that trio date in Tokyo, he appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival in his early sideman role to the great Charles Lloyd.  Showing great promise even then, Jarrett fills out the clipped, Latin rhythm (Jack DeJohnette's here too) of the 'Forest Flower' suite as the perfect foil to Lloyd's warm, mellifluous tenor sax.

Jarrett ups the groove whenever Lloyd takes a more free flight and takes an assured solo early in the 'Sunset' section, and even plucking the piano strings towards the end.  The fact that I've mostly made this writeup all about Jarrett clearly shows I need to listen more widely to Charles Lloyd (his flute playing on the Jarrett composition Sorcery is also superb), so consider that my homework.

zippy / mega

Friday, 21 April 2017

Keith Jarrett Trio - Tokyo '96 (rel. 1998)

From the intermittent SGTG tradition known as Jazz Piano Friday, some more Jarrett, Peacock & DeJohnette on rollicking form at the Orchard Hall, Tokyo on 30 March 1996.  By the time ECM released it two years later, Jarrett was laid low with ME/CFS, but would fortunately recover in time to take the Standards Trio into the 21st century for more transformed songbook classics and extended improvs.  Highlights on this particular release include the turbo-charged It Could Happen To You and Billie's Bounce in the first half, and the two Jarrett originals - Caribbean Sky and Song - that are effortlessly segued from standards at the end.

zippy / mega

Previously posted at SGTG: Changeless / Blue Note June 4, 1994

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Nurse With Wound & others - Angry Eelectric Finger (Spitch'cock One) (2004)

Sampler for a series of collaborative albums, spawned by Steven Stapleton giving chunks of NWW raw material to a select group of acquaintances.  Review, written by me for Head Heritage shortly after the release of this CD, can be found here (published 13 years ago today!).  Needs a bit of editing if I'm honest, being about five times as long as the average SGTG writeup... and despite saying I couldn't wait to hear the rest of the project, I've still to get around to it, for shame.  Anyone heard the other installments? Worth picking up?

zippy / mega

Monday, 17 April 2017

Tangerine Dream - Encore (1977)

Been rediscovering Tangerine Dream lately, so here's the first of a couple of live albums that number among my favourites (Logos coming up next week).  Forty years ago this month, Froese, Franke and Baumann were touring the US recording the material that would be used for Encore, with their great washes of mellotron and rhythmic sequencer work at its height on these four side-long tracks.

Coldwater Canyon is possibly the best of the best for me here, especially with Froese letting rip on lead guitar, and the mellow, meditative finale of Desert Dream is a classic too for highlighting the more atmospheric side of TD, with only a short sequencer section at the very end.

alt. link (zippy)

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Friday, 14 April 2017

Vyacheslav Artyomov - Requiem (rec. 1989)

Quite fancied posting more Artyomov after mentioning him the other day, so this'll do as an Easter-weekend post.  Artyomov's Requiem was written between 1985 and 1988, and recorded in 1989.  Opening with a dramatic organ blast, like a more rough-around-the-edges version of Fauré's Requiem, the various sections of the work show Artyomov's orchestral forces and use of organ and bells at their most fully realized.

The choral parts are at times stately, unsettling and mournful, as centuries of Russian Orthodoxy and other liturgical traditions are woven into something timeless.  As Artyomov himself preferred, this is "eternal music" rather than just contempoary classical.  This CD was a bit hard to digest when I first got it - all one track! - so I split it up using timings that I found, which made it more accessible.  Definitely one worth sticking with.

alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dimitri Yanov-Yanovski (1998 compilation of works '91-'97)

Uzbek composer Dimitri Yanov-Yanovski was born in Tashkent in 1963.  These 1997 recordings of his works from that decade were recorded by the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, and make for a really interesting and worthwhile listen.  The definite highlight for me was Pressentiment (premonition), for chamber ensemble and the voice of a muezzin on tape; the eerie buildup of the droning strings and distant gongs gives the perfect backdrop to eventually introduce the voice.

Elsewhere, there's two different works for soprano and string quartet, which really caught my attention just from being a combination I haven't heard much at all.  One of these, the album opener Lacrymosa, gave Yanov-Yanovsky wider exposure in 1993 when it appeared on a Kronos Quartet album with Dawn Upshaw taking the vocal part.  The ensemble work Lux Aeterna is another highlight here, with its ominous piano and gongs and a mournful violin solo; it reminded me a bit of Vyacheslav Artyomov.

Dimitri Yanov-Yanovski
alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 10 April 2017

AMM - The Crypt, 12th June 1968 - The Complete Session (rel. 1992)

There's nothing like blowing the cobwebs away at the start of a new week with nearly two hours' worth of fearsome, ear-blasting free improvisation, so enjoy.  A decade before Throbbing Gristle were terrifying London audiences (including at The Crypt), and three years before Kluster recorded Eruption, there was AMM at their most unhinged.

Wishing to stake out territory far beyond free jazz, Eddie Prévost, Keith Rowe and Lou Gare hooked up with pianist/composer Cornelius Cardew and percussionist Christopher Hobbs to make this glorious racket.  Prévost continues with versions of the group to this day.  First released as a an extract on one side of a shared LP, more of the Crypt performance was given a double-LP release in 1981 before the complete recording came out in 1992 on this 2-CD edition.

Fades where they occur are when tapes ran out; other than that, all 109 minutes of the show are here for your, erm, enjoyment, and actually it's not all quite as extreme as it starts out.  Long passages of meditative, near-ambient formlessness crop up at intervals; often I just pick a random 20 minute section of The Crypt to listen to, and always find something new to focus on.

Disc 1
Disc 2
alt. link (zippy) CD1
alt. link (zippy) CD2 

Friday, 7 April 2017

Luigi Nono - La Lontananza..... / Hay que caminar (rel. 1992)

Luigi Nono's final works before his death in 1990, these two epic violin workouts certainly aren't easy listening, but they're a uniquely rewarding experience to get lost in - ideally on headphones in a dark room.  Roughly translating as 'Nostalgia for a future utopia, viewed at a distance' (one of many renderings out there!), the 40-minute main work here was constructed by Nono, Gidon Kremer and Sofia Gubaidulina onto eight tapes in 1988 with the live solo part written the following year.  In performance, the soloist is instructed to walk between several different music stands in the performance space, playing against the tapes.

On an album, we obviously lose that theatrical element, but Lontananza is still a striking listening experience.  Waves of howling violin overdubs drift around like ghost trains passing in some vast abandoned station. Periodically a mournful or shrieking solo part will tell it's story centre stage, like a passenger emerging from the train.  Ambient sounds from the recording process were added to the tapes, enhancing the otherwordly atmosphere with occasional creaks, clicks and fragments of conversation.

Straight afterwards on this disc, there's a 20-minute epilogue-dialogue for the final two ghosts left on the platform - may as well extend the metaphor as "Hay que caminar" Soñando inhabits a similar sonic space.  Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko frequently play extremely high frequenices as if the two voices are crying out to each other, and at other times having a spirited, bruising conversation as they navigate their way through the piece.  The title of this work came from a motto that Nono had seen on the walls of a Spanish monastery: "there is no way to travel, there is only the journey" - ideal words to have in mind when digesting a great, unique album like this.

La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura

alt. link (zippy)
Previously posted at SGTG: Tape works

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Moebius - Tonspuren (1983)

In a career full of interesting collaborative records, which seems to have been his preferred modus operandi, Moebius still found the time to fit in some solo albums proper.  This one, his first, sits between two great collaborations already posted here, Zero Set and Double Cut (all links below).

In the post-Curiosum break, Roedelius and Moebius both seemed to retain a little of each other's influence - if Offene Türen sounds a bit like 'Roedelius does Moebius', Tonspuren definitely has its moments of 'Moebius does Roedelius'.  This is most notable in the melodic/harmonic content of the first three tracks, not to mention the waltz-time of Hasenheide, but the chugging drum machine tracks and slightly ill-sounding synths are pure Moebius.

The second half of Tonspuren shows the clearest links to the aforementioned albums that came before and after it.  Furbo, and especially Nervos, look back to Zero Set with their use of garbled voice; what's missing of course is the loose Neumeier funkiness.  B36 and Sinister are indications of what was to come with Double Cut and its static, narcotic pulse, but nowhere near as minimalist.  All in all, it's hard to pick a favourite on Tonspuren amongst such a consistently great little set of tracks.  Compare it against Curiosum and Offene Türen; somewhere between those three records lies the perfect early 80s Cluster album.

alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 3 April 2017

Gary Burton Quintet - Dreams So Real: Music of Carla Bley (1976)

A definite Spring favourite this one, with a clean, fresh sound like a homemade lemonade.  The great four-malletted vibesman was accompanied for one of his most legendary recordings by drums, electric bass, and two guitarists, a lineup that really lets the strength of the composer's writing shine through.

Recorded in the same month as Pat Metheny's ageless debut album, Dreams So Real is from the dead-centre of ECM's purple patch when classic after classic were being seemingly effortlessly turned out, and needless to say is a gorgeous listen.  Burton is highlighted solo on the beautifully tender Jesus Maria, and the larger part of the rest of the album is in a mellow vein too.

One notable exception is the three-song medley of the second track, in which Metheny and Goodrick (the latter too often underrated, in the shadow of the former who'd become a superstar) bop along with a funky, rock-solid underpinning from Steve Swallow, who himself had the most direct connection to Carla Bley.  Bley herself of course would remain just ECM-adjacent until much more recently, so this flawless record would be key to highlighting her music on the main label.

Wrong Key Donkey
alt. link (zippy)