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Prem's Faves for 2001
{no particular order}
KUSF San Francisco, 90.3FM
Band/Artist Release Record Label Prem's Spew
Adult Rodeo Long-Range, Rapid-Fire Four States Fair aloof kookiness returns on this third full-length release from Adult Rodeo, the band's first after leaving Kramer's Shimmydisc label; Kramer's influence still pervades this album, since he mixed it, and it weaves its way into Adult Rodeo's signature blend of Americana, rock, reserved electronics, and twisted wit
Perry Botkin Combines 3|Memories, Dreams, & Other Abstractions [self-released] impishly spasmodic electronic works which interpose rhythmically jagged and harmonically sophisticated pastiches with irreverently-delivered and purposefully convoluted lyrics pertaining to Botkin's own personal observations and conundra; each piece employs a flotilla of carefully interwoven sequences generated with both analog and digital synthesizers, elucidating and punctuating abstract ideas expressed by the many voices in Botkin's head which manifest themselves on these recordings [2000 release]
Junior Brown Mixed Bag Curb Records a spunky offering from this deep-throated country crooner which bridges country and rock with a heavy dose of rural wit and strangitude; Brown dips into elements of Dixieland jazz to accompany his lightning pickin', dabbles in rockabilly and often visits the idle neuroses of lonely rural existence as a source of inspiration
Califone Roomsound Perishable soft-spoken, spooky folk-laden rock for Califone's first full-length release; beneath the surface of these tunes often lie carefully embedded experimental electronics and unexpected sounds, and the result sounds like no other folk rock outfit
Chicago Underground Quartet Chicago Underground Quartet Thrill Jockey pensive and unimposing, yet intricate and captivating compositions for vibraphone, electric guitar, cornet, bass, and percussion with electronic accentuation to blur the lines; these pieces flow smoothly and ethereally, at times with subtle dissonance to provide balance
Ornette Coleman The Complete Science Fiction Sessions Columbia re-issue of the 1971 sessions of this free-jazz pioneer, which were initially split between two releases--the 1972 Science Fiction and 1982 Broken Shadows albums; tight, aggressive improv. for sax/trumpet/bass/drums with sultry vocals or spoken word on a few tracks suspended above the fray
Tom Cora|various artists Hallelujah, Anyway|Remembering Tom Cora Tzadik a tribute to the late cellist who redefined the role of his instrument in modern music; Cora himself appears on half of the tracks of this double-CD compilation accompanied by his peers from the avant-garde scene, while the remainder of the tracks feature his former cohorts imitating his compelling style and adapting it to their own domains [1999 release]
Dan DeChellis Chamber Music Sachimay subtle but gripping avant garde chamber music focused upon the piano and involving theremin, voice, violin, and percussion; vocalist Anita DeChellis's fluidly haunting operatic improvisation (with spooky violin and theremin highlights) contrasts with Dan DeChellis's choppy, angular, often dissonant structures [2000 release]
Degenerate Art Ensemble Rinko Unit Circle Rekkids music composed based upon a butoh dance choreography which could just as well serve as the soundtrack for a creepshow; a plethora of instruments (violin, flute, clarinets, toy piano, bass, electric guitar, saxophones, more) accompanied at times by a whacko Japanese female vocalist (and led by a conductor!) produce dissonant, fricative music which alternates between pensive and frenetic, succinct and exaggerated, amusing and disturbing
King Jammy Meets Dry & Heavy In the Jaws of the Tiger BSI Records a meeting of the minds between Jamaican dub master King Jammy and Japanese reggae group Dry & Heavy on which they remix the best tracks from previous Dry & Heavy albums One Punch and Full Contact; features a male vocalist (can you detect the Japanese accent?) and a female vocalist who sounds oddly similar to Horace Andy, as well as plenty of dub instrumentals (with organs, electric guitar, saxophone, harmonica, varied percussion, more) all infused with a heavy dose of sinister electronics
Fantômas The Director's Cut Ipecac deliciously absurd hybrids of death metal with just about everything that would seem to be inherently contradictory, from Gregorian chants to kisses & whistles to children's choruses to falsetto verse to scat jazz to computery blips and bleeps to tribal rhythms and beyond; the secret to why this all works so well is that each track on this album is a cover of a classic soundtrack theme song from composers such as Nino Rota and Henry Mancini, et al--allowing Fantômas to mould death metal angst into graceful sculptures of beauty underscored by twisted wit
Faun Fables Mother Twilight Chaosophy a mystical interweaving of melancholy Appalachian folk vocals and spectral choruses with gamelan-inspired percussion and magical flutes, autoharp, recorder, and other acoustic embellishments as well as electric guitar; as the title implies, the songs elicit visions of a twilit saunter into the realm of the unknown
Faxed Head Chiropractic Web of Mimicry absurdist metal from the bowels of the earth (or maybe just the bowels of Faxed Head--hmmm...hard to tell...) riddled with bizarro lyrics and gnome-like enigmatic death vocals that may just have been sung through a handkerchief; never afraid of self-mockery, Faxed Head fills its demento metal with aberrant blips and bleeps--and even anomalous record scratches here and there--as each track shifts in and out of phases that for any other band would be self-contradictory, but for Faxed Head just add to the mystery
Scott Fields Ensemble Mamet Delmark eerie improvisation for guitar, bass, and drums; Fields maintains a tranquil though jittery pace on his guitar, never pushing the envelope too far beyond set parameters, while Michael Formanek (bass) and Michael Zerang (drums) provide an ever-shifting background of clangs, plucks, groans, and rattles to offset the otherwise pensive guitar
Mark Growden's Electric Piñata Inside Beneath Behind Wiggle Biscuit bizarre and at times decidedly goofy though malevolently mischievous rock oriented around an unconventional accordionist and his co-conspirators; delusional psychosis intermingles with elements of folk and avant garde for a continually unpredictable listening experience
Hamster Theatre Carnival Detournement Cuneiform a European folk-centered hybrid of a variety of forms and instruments, from accordions to electronics, dub reggae to tango; at the heart of this outfit are two multi-instrumentalists, Dave Wiley and Jon Stubbs, who push the envelope of every genre with which they dabble, inserting doses of Eurofolk into all they touch with panache--yet always sounding natural, never artificial or contrived
Anna Homler House of Hands nd Records bizarre tweaking of the (female) human voice, produced both naturally and artificially; Homler applies many strange breathing/aspiration techniques when singing and/or speaking--sometimes brisk monosyllabic textures, sometimes echoey overlapping harmonies, sometimes creepy whispers, sometimes cutesy girlish annunciation; often, weird electronic tones and odd percussion provide the backdrop for the vocals--which involve several languages from English to German to pure gibberish [2000 release]
John Hughes III Scarlet Diva|Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Hefty quietly powerful rock merges with very low-key electronics/beats and an occasional lugubrious vocal for the soundtrack to this Italian flick; for those of you sad to see the dissolution of John Hughes' earlier band, Bill Ding, this album will bring back fond memories, as Hughes is joined by his former Bill Ding bandmates Dan Snazelle and Rick Embach for a return to form sounding very similar to his previous band, but with more instrumentals here than on any Bill Ding offering
Keuhkot Minun Käy Sääliksi Bilharzialoista Bad Vugum dorky electro-zaniness from this one-man project by Kake Puhuu of Finland; Puhuu comingles the concrete with the abstract for an outcome bordering on the absurd as he plays numerous instruments (organ, flute, drums, etc.) and overlaps them with zaps, blips, bleeps of all kinds as well as a myriad of demented sounds [2000 release]
Mat Maneri Quartet Blue Decco Thirsty Ear disquieting compositions and improvisation for violin, piano, bass, and drums--William Parker and Gerald Cleaver of the Matthew Shipp Trio join Maneri here on bass and drums, as does pianist Craig Taborn, and Shipp plays the behind-the-scenes role of producer; murky intervals and ominous basslines often contrast with the nippy briskness of Maneri's violin bows and plucks, tiptoeing at the brink of mutually assured destruction [2000 release]
Old Time Relijun Witchcraft Rebellion K yet another romp in the Swamp of the Uncivilized from this heathen trio, featuring the crazed vocals of Arrington de Dionyso backed by a lo-fi anti-hedonistic pastiche of gut-bucket bass, bass clarinet skronk, thudding percussion, twangy electric guitar, and heavy breathing; from deviant Tuvan throat-singing to demented Jew's harp, aberrant sounds, or improvisational insanity, Old Time Relijun fuses multiple influences into a delectibly depraved concoction
Iggy Pop Beat em Up Virgin just crankin' rock, more in the vein of AC/DC than the Stooges, actually, but with Iggy providing close-to-Goth vocals and general creepiness to afford this release distinction from the rest of the pack; no, it's not the most original album to be heard, but what it does it does in top form, kicking up a mixture of dust, sweat, and libido
Psyco on Da Bus Psyco on Da Bus Platform Recordings a powerful synthesis of elements of funk, ethnic African music, reggae, and jazz incorporating eerie vocal harmonies (often in native African languages) complemented by spectral Rhodes organ & flutes, funky electric guitar, and jazzy piano; African hand percussion, balafon, and sanza reinforce the foundation provided elsewhere, while other elements such as subtly spooky electonics and middle-eastern flavor from the oud allow for creative contrasts of perspective {produced by Femi Kuti}
Remember Shakti Saturday Night in Bombay Verve spirited live performances from Mumbai, India recalling John McGlaughlin's earlier project, Shakti, which fused jazz with classical Indian music; the line-up of Remember Shakti differs, however, featuring santoor master Shivkumar Sharma and mandolin prodigy U. Srinivas in addition to tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, and the music adheres far more to Indian form than in earlier fusiony exploits as McGlaughlin explores the intriciacies of Indian music more deeply than ever before
Dean Santomieri Crude Rotation {Archipelago #3, Disc 5 of 6} Archipelago this release would seem to be the musical realization of the mysterious voices and elaborate delusions that occupy the mind of a schizophrenic; Santomieri's creepy electronically-modified live sound recordings intermingle with subtle dark atmospheres and hauntingly altered voices to produce a disturbing though gripping exploration of cyber-psychosis [2000 release, 3" CD EP]
Schematic Schematic 4.1 self-released mp3/CD-R apocalyptic, mind-numbing noizart brimming with abrasiveness, shrapnel, and electric shock therapy; this is as raw as electronic music gets, so don't expect pleasant beats or cliché soundscapes--expect to cringe in fear as churning, strategic chaos envelops you [2000 release]
Matthew Shipp Matthew Shipp's New Orbit Thirsty Ear dark, lurking improvisation for piano, bass, drums, and trumpet; Shipp is joined by William Parker, Gerald Cleaver, and Wadada Leo Smith for a session of understated volatility that amalgamates the cerebral with the visceral
Matthew Shipp String Trio Expansion, Power, Release Hat Hut startlingly staccato, nippy conversations between piano, violin and acoustic bass interspersed with menacingly dissonant bowing and/or diabolically convulsive piano sequences; William Parker once again accompanies Shipp on bass, and Mat Maneri completes the trio on violin for a turbulent session of exploration
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Grand Opening and Closing Seeland/Chaosophy meticulously ballistic, poetically cataclysmic rock with an extremely heavy percussion focus (a la Moe! Staiano and Frank Grau) and the requisite haywire time signatures and syncopation more commonly associated with Idiot Flesh--this band's predecessor (from whom Sleepytime inherits two members: Nils Frykdahl and Dan Rathbun)--with the gracefully dissonant harmonies and adventurous counterpoint of Carla Kihlstedt's electric violin and wraith-like vocals backed by the ominous emanations from Dan's home-made contraptions; methodical madness or lunatic logic?
Steven R. Smith Tableland Emperor Jones very ominous, bass-heavy instrumental compositions that creep along slowly; these pieces involve quiet thunder, dark bell tolls, tremulous organs, vibrato guitar and the like as well as plenty of background reverb to darken the sunniest of days--the suicidal should be warned not to listen to this
Spezza Rotto Cinque Canzoni [self-released CD-R] absurdism prevails...this release immediately calls to mind the choppy rhythm-heavy genius of Ruins (for whom Spezza Rotto opened when they were in town, incidentally), except that in this case the lyrics scream forth in obstreperous Italian rather than Japanonsense; warped time-signature drumming converges with haywire vocals, basslines, and guitar riffs to rattle your skull on this brief offering
Terminal 4 Terminal 4 Truckstop quirky avant jazz from this grouping of Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jeb Bishop, and others; none of these pieces are particularly complicated, as most feature regular rhythms and melodies, but all feature unexpected departures to continually roil the cauldron and capture your attention
Volapük Polyglöt Cuneiform peppy, playful tunes one might imagine as the soundtrack to a brief study of the interplay between kittens; on this release, the clarinet/percussion/cello trio of Michel Mandel, Guigou Chenevier, and Guillaume Saurel adds a few new sounds, including the sanza, flute, and marimba--but the most notable addition on this release is guest violinist/vocalist Takumi Fukushima, whose voice enriches the mixture with distinct Japanese influences on several tracks and whose perky violin brings a fuller sound to the ensemble [2000 release]
David S. Ware Quartet Corridors & Parallels Aum Fidelity an engagingly bizarre free-jazz experiment incorporating music styles more commonly associated with Close Encounters of the Third Kind than David S. Ware; along with Ware's crisp tenor sax improv. and the accompanying free rhythm section of bassist William Parker and percussionist Guillermo E. Brown, we hear Matthew Shipp on the synthesizers for the first time on any release, churning out eerie outer-space textures and even adding a rhythm machine element at one point to further distance this recording from anything anyone has ever experienced from either Ware or Shipp
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