Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

Nefarious Industries

Christopher Nosnibor

Less than two years after the release of the ambient avant-jazz oddity that was CCXMD (that’s not some random Roman numeralisation, but Cinema Cinema X Matt Darriau (The Klezmatics), the New York duo return for round two of their collaboration with the astutely-titled CCXMDII.

Let’s get the spoiler out of the way up front and early: they couldn’t have shifted further from their noise roots, and there really isn’t an overloading guitar riff in the whole album. If CCXMD was avant-jazzy and ambient, CCXMDII is avant-jazzier and more ambient. Having laid the foundations previously, it’s not so much of a shock, but anyone hoping for a return to their riffier roots will be disappointed by this weirdy, spaced-out experimental work.

It contains but seven tracks, although three of them are over ten minutes in duration, including the eighteen-minute opener ‘A Life of its Own’, which was unveiled as the album’s lead single a couple of weeks ago. And here, Cinema Cinema push further still than on their previous album, with those seven tracks bleeding together to forge one, vast continuous piece.

It begins tentatively, with tremulous, trilling woodwind and some scratchy strumming. Sounds echo and reverberate and voices mumble in a blurred, slowed, hallucinated state that’s most unsettling, and slowly transitions from some shilled, chiming new-age desert vibe into an increasingly bad trip as unintelligible jabbering spits and slurs angrily against the warping backdrop and swelling percussion – and that’s before the crazed jazz horns begin to bray and parp.

There are definite ebbs and flows, but not necessarily correspondent with the transitions between the tracks, and ponderous guitar and trepidatious woodwind teeter precariously through ‘Continued’, which is less of a piece in its own right than a bridge toward the nine-minute ‘Bratislava’. Guitars scrape and the drums stutter and test the waters and levels, and it actually sounds like a band checking their levels between songs during a live show than anything. There are some exploratory post-rock moments, but they’re fleeting, and even when the rhythm section finds a groove, it’s but for a short time and ultimately frustrating and unsatisfying, chopping and changing in a mathy fashion – which is fine in itself, but for the lack of a resolution, a crescendo, a finish. Instead, it peters out and squeaks and toots into the next piece.

The trilling woodwind – pan-pipes or similar – are all over the meandering piece and while the percussion rolls, the guitar is pegged back to providing mere texture, and there is no question that the band have shunned pretty much all ‘rock’ trappings here. The raspy, chthonic vocal whispering and manic hollering returns, before it trickles down into ‘Crack of Dawn’ with its stop / start arrhythmic percussion, hovering drones and eerie formlessness.

It’s not until the penultimate track that we get power chords. There is silence, briefly, before ‘Trigger’, which is unexpectedly led by a stop/start drum and hesitant bass groove that eventually emerges as a core motif. Imagine Shellac with brass instead of vocals, and you probably get the idea. It locks into a motoric krautrock groove – but that freewheeling wild horn action is something else. It brings chaos, it brings discord, riding wild all over some wild improv.

CCXMDII isn’t an easy album, and it’s not the punk or guitar-led set some may have expected. But it is a bold, daring work, one that sees a band who don’t give a fuck about conventions or expectations demonstrating that lack of fucks musically. Every band says they’re making music for themselves, but hardly any mean it. These guys do. CCXMDII is also a wonderfully odd abstract soundscapes that drifts and meanders and entertains and perplexes. CCXMDII is the work of a band in continual evolution, and long may that evolution continue.

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Having announced details of their debut album Fragments and revealed the first single “Pavlov`s Dog Killed Schrodinger`s Cat”, Trifecta are premiere a new track and video for “Have You Seen What The Neighbors Are Doing”.

Nick Beggs explains how the track came about “The track, ‘Have You Seen What The Neighbors Are Doing’, was written after hearing a song by Ween titled ‘So Many People In The Neighbourhood.’  We liked the song so much we decided to construct a reply. “ the video he continues “was shot on location while on the planet of the prehistoric women. However the trip was fraught with problems after Craig and Adam both realised they had failed to pack a tooth brush. Luckily I was on hand to share mine with them.”

Watch the video here:

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Trifecta, features 3 of the contemporary music scene’s most lauded and revered musicians – bassist and songwriter Nick Beggs, keyboardist extraordinaire Adam Holzman and completing the line-up, Craig Blundell – one of the world’s most celebrated drummers. 

Having performed together as part of Steven Wilson’s band, the three would jam together after soundchecks, forming what they referred to as “jazz club” and from these sessions the fledgling ideas for Fragments were born.

The record primarily leans toward a fusion of jazz rock, imaginatively described by Beggs as “Fission! It’s like Fusion but less efficient and more dangerous ..with fall out.” and being mainly instrumental with the exception of one track, the wonderfully titled and first single “Pavlov’s Dog Killed Schrodinger’s Cat”. The lyrics of which, Beggs states “are written from the perspective of a layman trying to understand quantum mechanics…and failing”.  The track also features drum programming from Russell Holzman. 

Each band member completed the recording and engineering of their own contributions in their various home studios which helped in bringing their individual production ideas to each track. Adam Holzman mixed the record at his New York home studio and the mastering was handled by Andy VanDette (Rush, David Bowie, Deep Purple, Porcupine Tree, Beastie Boys) in New York.

Fragments will be released on 20th August via Kscope on CD, black vinyl LP, ltd edition neon orange vinyl LP (exclusive to www.kscopemusic.com/store ) and digitally.

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CD Unsounds 68U – 15th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

No-one plays guitar quite like Andy Moor. Renowned for his work with purveyors of expansive and exploratory avant-jazz The Ex, Moor’s solo work takes that guitar work from a collectivist, band setting, where it’s a part of a conglomeration of instruments, and places it directly under the spotlight.

As the liner notes explain, Safe Piece is an exploration of the question of parenting while maintaining an artistic practice. Choreographer Valentina Campora, who initiated the project, began testing the possibility of dancing onstage with her baby as an experiment. The project became a series of 8 performances where Campora performed with the baby for a small public. Andy Moor, father of the child and Campora’s partner, accompanied and gave a sonic context to this experiment. Each performance was filmed by visual artist Isabelle Vigier for the video Safe Piece (a film).

Tye tracks sequencing is segmented in a way that perhaps make more sense in context of the filmed pieces. There are three themed chapters, if you will, pieced together in chunks – but identifying any specific thematic unity that connects them is difficult. Moor moves between single-string pings and frenetic fretwork. But for the most part, this is sparse and lugubrious downturned fret buzzing notes slumping down like a machine winding down as the batteries run down or clockwork unwinds to a crawl. There’s some growling, gut-churning low-end that provides substantial contrast with the nagging of the picked top notes. There’s fret-buzz and warped, slashing chord chanking, stuttering stop/start shudders and jarring , jolting unmusic, that’s uncomfortable at times – not just a bit awkward, but fully squirm-inducing, setting the nerve-endings of the teeth on edge.

Across the album’s thirteen pieces, Moor’s minimal style that centres around scratching and scraping and all other kinds of angular guitar abrasions are front and centre. Discord and atonality are his signatures – but at the same time, he conjures myriad moments of fractured musicality. Hums and thrums and crunches crash through picked chord sequences and segments that sound like tuning up and down in frantic search of the note and not quite finding it.

Safety is paramount, but Music For Safe Piece brings a cognitive dissonance that’s difficult to process in places. But we know that comfort is overrated, and that art should proffer challenges, and Music For Safe Piece brings plenty.

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Joe Cardamone (formerly of The Icarus Line) returns with his second solo offering: the soundtrack to his film series Quarentina. The album will be released physically on July 2nd via Sonic Ritual, and it’s available on DSP’s now.

Joe has now shared the video for new track ‘Baby Blue’. He says: "Crying on the dancefloor just to impress the woman that has already left the building. She’s checking her phone while you spill your heart out. Fuck it might as well put on a suit and sing your face off into the mirror".

Watch the video here:

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2nd June 2021

James Wells

So often, less is more. Ben Denny Mo’s latest single is simply acoustic guitar and vocal. As such, it’s certainly less in terms of arrangement, and with so few elements in the mix, it’s hard to go particularly OTT on the production too. This is what really makes this: there’s no multitracking, no gimmicks or studio trickery, no deception or other kind of alchemical wizardly to enhance the performance. What we have here is just a staggering wealth of musical talent and ability on display.

The Fakenham-based singer-songwriter has already become a firm favourite with BBC Introducing at home in Norfolk, having drawn comparisons to a wide range of singers from Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, Michael Jackson, Sam Smith and John Martyn. It’s testament to his range and versatility, and there’s a lot going on, all packed into this concise little number. The guy’s got real soul, and she swoops, soars, leaps and bounds all over the song with unbridled energy, calling to mind Everything Everything’s Johnathan Higgs.

But with so much focus on ben’s voice, what about the musicianship, and what about the song? There’s a complexity of technique that belies the apparent simplicity of tapping a few chords, with some fast fretwork that blends classical and jazz with a dash of funk.

In cramming so much in and dazzling so brightly with it, it’s sometimes a little difficult to follow the song itself. The hooks are overshadowed by the performance itself, and I suppose ‘6am’ evokes the same kind of sensation as listening to Jamiroquai – which of course is subjective and divisive. The popular perspective is that it’s a groove, and there’s no question Ben’s got mass appeal, and ‘6am’ could yet prove to be the breakthrough.

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14th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’d take cheap red win over red, red wine any day: back in the early to mid-90s as a poor student (back when such a thing existed), Liquorsave – the off-license department of Kwik Save, who at the time were selling their No-Frills baked beans for 3p a tin – it was possible to purchase a bottle of Hungarian red wine at 12% ABV for £1.85. It was actually better – by which I mean not only stronger, but also fuller-bodied – than the £5-£6 bottles of French wine. Nowadays, cheap mis under a fiver, but I’ll still stand by budget wines from the right sources, and in the absence of pubs, people, and life in general over the course of a year of lockdown, cheap red wine has become a friend on a par with strong Polish lager.

Anyway: on ‘Cheap Red Wine’, Muca and the evasive, semi-illusory Marquise paint a laid-back, smoky picture from a minimal sonic palette, evoking the spirit of smoky basements bars of times gone by. It wasn’t so long ago you could find somewhere down some stairs that was open till 1 or 2am and sip a bottled beer or a whisky and feel like you were somewhere else while people smoked… but time is relative. Nevertheless, the easy-going, laid-back jazzy vibes of ‘Cheap Red Wine’ evoke a pretty deep nostalgia, and it hits harder than the song itself, which is simple, melodic, reflective, landing somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Portishead.

Based around a simple acoustic guitar and Muca’s magnificent vocal that drawls, but isn’t quite lazy per se, ‘Cheap Red Wine’ builds to incorporate layers of strings and a wandering electric guitar solo, and conveys a heavy ache of emotion, too. An understated instant classic.

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Red Hook Records – 16th April 2021

Red Hook Records is the new label set-up by former ECM producer, Sun Chung. Hanamichi is Red Hook’s debut release. And what a prestigious release it is.

This is no casual, passing release or minor effort, and it’s certainly not a stop-gap space-filler of a release in the body of Kikuchi’s work: Hanamichi represents the final studio recordings made by the Japanese pianist, laid down over two days in December 2013, before his death in 2015 aged 75. As the liner notes suggest, Hanamichi is ‘the culmination of [his] lifetime of musical exploration and discovery.

Having featured on no fewer than 62 album releases, and having worked with a host of artists including McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Gary Peacock, Paul Motion, Hanamichi provides a fascinating bookend to an outstanding careers, and demonstrates his unique ear for melody. The airy and spacious opener, ‘Ramona’ is exemplary: the notes, played at intervals that hint at a time signature, but one that’s varied and unconventional, flow in a fashion that’s on the surface an easy, vaguely jazzy tune, but then there’s something that doesn’t quite conform to expectation, with small and subtle but still definite jumps between key.

And so Kikuchi leads us airily through the soft easiness of ‘Summertime’, an extended composition of great delicacy. Fleetingly, a bar resembling Ella Fitzgerald’s song of the same name half-appears, but in an instant, it’s floated away on a zephyr. Yet there are some moments of uncomfortable discord, and clouds gather across the sun, before the piece slowly tapers down to nothing in the final minute.

‘My Favorite Things’, in two parts, echoes the lilting lightness of the first piece, and the atmosphere is almost that of the background soundtrack in a basement jazz bar. Back in the day, you’d hear stuff like this that was mellow and laid-back through a smog of smoke and a babble of chat late into the night and even into the morning in tiny spaces down winding stairs. But what renders these pieces interesting are the sudden flurries or notes in a different tempo, occasionally lurching unexpectedly here to there, breeding disorientation and discomfort.

The contrasts are the key: gentle, accessible melodies and soothing tunes veer sharply and unexpectedly into awkwardness – not so awkward as to be horribly jarring, but just awkward enough to be, well, awkward. As such, Hanamichi sounds like nothing else: easy, but not, existing in a unique space, a space apart.

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‘Love Poem’, the second video from Los Angeles-based instrumental outfit TEETHERS’ eponymous first EP; all the songs are from drummer Andrew Lessman’s book of compositions.​ Lessman is a drummer known in the L. A. underground for his chameleonic contributions to a roster of projects whose jazz, avant garde, and indie pop scenes don’t always intersect.

Watch the video here:

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Most of these pieces were written during Lessman’s days studying at the California Institute of the Arts under Wadada Leo Smith. This is also where Andrew met the irreverent psycho-talents who now 10 years later play on this first TEETHERS EP… sometimes it takes time to cultivate a group sound that does justice to the sound in one’s head. Joining Andrew in the studio on these recordings are: Graham Chapman on bass, guitarist Alexander Noise, Joe Sanata Maria and Ted Faforo on saxophones and Stefan Kac on tuba. Laced into this moody wordless music, like a delicious mushroom chocolate, is a humble nudge to look past the decaying fetters of our assumed boundaries and imagine new organizational forms.

Andrew grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Elgin with a single mom who worked as a dental hygienist. With no musicians in the immediate family, his musical awareness came from playing trombone in the middle school band and listening obsessively to Q101 (“Chicago’s Home for Alternative”).

At age eleven, after making fart noises on a rented trombone for a year, he received a $200 Hohner drum kit as a birthday reward, and promptly formed a Nirvana cover band with his buddy Jim. It was a good start, but at age thirteen everything changed. His mother had been fighting cancer for about six years and it spread out of control and took her life. It was decided that he and his sister would leave Illinois to go live with his jazz musician father in San Diego.

It was a painful loss, but dialectically embedded in this loss was opportunity for growth. On the first day of high school, he made fast friends with some punks on the quad who’d also just gotten some instruments, and they started a band called The Irrelevants. Through hardcore punk, they learned how to channel teen angst into volume and speed. They wore ugly homemade clothing, hated the government, smoked weed out of apples, and booked quite a bit of DIY shows.

At the same time, his dad was a professional gigging musician and his home was a constant hangout for many of the great players in the San Diego scene. His dad’s record collection confronted him with the confusing sounds of Miles’ “Kind of Blue”, Ornette’s “Shape of Jazz to Come”, Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, and Art Blakey’s “Freedom Rider”. These sounds were incredible, and his dad was there to help demystify it. Within a year of obsessively drumming along to those records on the same $200 Hohner kit, he started sitting in at his dad’s gigs, booking gigs of his own, and picking up lessons from local legends like Charles McPherson.

One of his dad’s friends, drummer and educator Duncan Moore, thought he would benefit from attending UCSD’s summer jazz camp, so he pulled a few strings to squeeze him in last minute. Since all lessons with the drum faculty were full, he was randomly given a lesson with Wadada Leo Smith, the iconoclast composer and trumpeter who in the 60s helped start the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). From this very first meeting, he permanently broke Andrew’s brain and got him thinking about composition. His advice on thinking beyond rhythm, melody and harmony to make creative use of musical form was like jumping from 3D to 4D. Andrew spent the next year shedding for college audition tapes and he ended up following Wadada to the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles.

26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

LA instrumentalists Teethers, centred around drummer and composer Andrew Lessman, brings together an unusual fusion for their debut release. With contributions straddling jazz, avant garde, and indie pop, for Teethers, Lessman has brought together an eclectic lineup, consisting of Graham Chapman on bass, guitarist Alexander Noise, Joe Sanata Maria and Ted Faforo on saxophones and Stefan Kac on tuba. The results are, as you might expect, unusual.

There’s a smooth, jazzy, swingy pop vibe that permeates the EP#s three tracks, and as ‘Goose Chasing’ indicates, they can locks down a tidy groove and create music you can bop to, nod along to, even dance to… and then they’re more than capable of – and willing to – drive that train straight off a cliff into a wild frenzy of horn-driven discord and madness. This is bit a brief introduction that sets the scene for what Teethers are really all about: the twelve-minute ‘Monopoly on Violence / Mushroom dance’ is a multi-faceted, shifting exploration of rippling shades and expansive soundscapes.

It’s rambling, at times immensely proggy in a vintage sense, and at times it just can’t seem to make up its mind as it ambles and weaves hither and thither, a mellow jazz meandering that hits some frenzies peaks and altogether more sedate intersections. It’s one of those pieces that transitions enticing and irritating in a mere blink – and that’s not even a criticism. Condensing so many elements into its space, it’s difficult to keep up.

The third track, ‘Love Poem’ is seven-and-a-half minutes of dappled sunlight painted in music, with a clean, picked guitar chiming in a simple, hypnotic sequence that’s a post-rock / contemporary prog crossover laced with soft, delicate strings. It’s perhaps the most focused and conventionally coherent of the three compositions, on what is a fairly wide-ranging set – so wide-ranging that it’s not easy to immediately assimilate, and even more difficult to pin down – not just stylistically, but in the most basic terms of formulating an opinion. Is it any good? Do I like it? Does it matter? There’s certainly no doubting the technical proficiency on display here, and having the confidence and audacity to make music that straddles so many boundaries and genuinely challenges the listener is an achievement worthy of recognition.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The description sets the scene and the expectation perfectly: ‘True Archweigian Improve-Free-Grind-Noise-Experimental-Avant-Jazzcore. John Coltrane quadruple booked on the same stage as Extreme Noise Terror, Swans and The Incapacitants.

It sounds horrible and utterly brain-frying, and it is. ‘Deep Pan Magna Carta’ launches the album – a whopping sixteen-track sprawl that reveals something of a fixation with wolves and goats – with a barrage of crashing, chaotic percussion, gut-churning bass, wild horns and tortured vocals that spew larva from the very bowels of hell. And they’re clearly intent on dragging you there with them, into the pit of pain, because there is absolutely no fucking let-up. This is everything all at once – and while it’s relentlessly and uncompromisingly nasty, it certainly doesn’t confide itself to any one style – and as for genre, it’s a crazed hybrid mash-up, seemingly intended to inflict maximum pain – and if this is indeed the objective, they succeed.

Most of the tracks are around the minute mark – but actually feel much longer, as they drag and dredge their way through the deepest sludge. Believe it or not, that’s not a complaint or criticism, so much as an observation on how it feels to be brutally battered from all sides at once. There is, undoubtedly, an element of endurance required here.

As the band’s name and whacky, irreverent and possibly irrelevant (it’s impossible to tell without being able to decipher the lyrics) song titles suggest, we should probably only take this so seriously. But then, as the best comedians will tell you, comedy is serious business, and so it would seem is slugging out the harshest, brutal mess of noise.

Before long, they’re in full-tilt frenzied grindcore territory: ‘Wolf Goat’ is nine seconds of snarking and blastb(l)eats, followed immediately by the thirty-six second ‘Goat Wolf’, another blast of carnage that thunders at a thousand miles an hour. There’s some black metal nastiness in the mix when the snarling vocals deliver a snarling acappella intro to ‘hash, Weed, Pills, Saurkraut’. ‘Red sausage’ is about the only phrase I can pull out of the frenetic thrash that follows.

‘Natural Born Testicle’ takes a different turn: a howling blizzard of shrieking electronics and clean shouting, it’s a wild swing into power electronics, and is more reminiscent of Whitehouse than anything else.

It’s the manic horn action that really makes Blood & Stomach Pills the experience that it is. It’s chaotic, discordant, and above all, incongruous – but then again, it calls to mind the jazz-coloured noise of GOD, as well as recent work by Sly and the Family Drone – but this is probably the grindiest permutation of such crazed free jazz I’ve encountered yet.

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