Sunday, March 28, 2010

A To Z: Lemon of Pink - The Books

2003 was a bit of a revelatory year in music for me. It was the year in which I discovered indie music blogs, review sites, and discussion forums. I tracked Pitchfork reviews tirelessly, even going through their archives at the time. I followed Fluxblog updates everyday, downloading whatever new song that was uploaded. Like many teenagers of the time, I grew into adulthood at a time when information availability was expanding and knowledge of new and relevant music seemed entirely too vast to ever attempt to conquer.

Sometime during that year, I read a review about "The Lemon Of Pink" by The Books. Earlier, I had already lost much time during an obsession over the divisive "Ether Teeth" by Fog, a record that I found mentioned through Anticon message boards. A description of The Books sound seemed that it would fall in line with the abstract samples and acoustic instrumentation found on "Ether Teeth"...but you know, this record was actually critically acclaimed and deemed "good" by just about everyone. Therefore it should have been my favorite record ever.

"The Lemon of Pink" isn't my favorite ever, but it is very good. As the spring months have been approaching and the spring weather seems here to stay, I can think of few experimental records from this decade that fit the time so perfectly. The acoustic strings present throughout, the ethereal original vocals that float above the shimmering tones, the random vocal samples that seem to appear out of nowhere, sneaking up on your like a person yelling from across the street. This is a folk album that breaks all folk tradition.

There are few albums that that float by as quickly as "The Lemon Of Pink." From the first female voice stating the title of the record out through "That Right Ain't Shit" and even "PS", this album comes together best as a whole piece. It is rare indeed that one would put a song from this record on a mixtape, other than with the intention of breaking apart whatever the general theme of your mix was. As individual songs, this music is pretty - but doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As a 37-minute album, everything comes together, bleeding into one another, creating memories of past picnics, spring sports, setting suns over the beach.

Perhaps I romanticize this record too much. I don't adore or obsess over this record and rarely listen to it 7 years after it's initial release. However, when I do take the time to listen to it, to remember why I enjoyed it so much all those years ago and the positive impact it had on broadening my listening tastes in the years that came after, I am overjoyed with what The Books have accomplished with this album. It's not a perfect recording and in 2010 there are records that are similar that might do part of this sound better, but it is one of those records that can be conditionally perfect. Sometimes you just have to wait to find that condition.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A To Z: King Biscuit Flower Hour (Live 1976) - The Band

If THE BAND were any other band, their name would be audacious, obnoxious and forgettable. As it turned out, The Band aka The Hawks deserve the title of THE quintessential group of musicians and calling themselves THE BAND is as fitting a title as any.

I've loved The Band since high school. I'd seen The Last Waltz, more for the other musicians involved than The Band themselves. I found an old copy of their self-titled second album at a garage sale among the first week or two that I started collecting records. I knew "Up on Cripple Creek" and "The Weight" and a couple of other songs before I knew who sang them. I didn't know their story and I was hardly even into Bob Dylan at the time, but The Band was something special to me in those formative years.

Or rather, I claimed them to be.

After my initial exposure to The Band, I loved a handful of songs and appreciated what they were doing but I didn't really get it. I knew liking them was cooler than liking CSNY or CCR or other similarly styled bands that blurred the lines of rock, country, blues and folk. These scraggly dudes were accomplished musicians, that is what the internet told me. Robbie Robertson was one of the best songwriters of his generation, or so I heard. It took me years to finally succumb and agree.

This radio broadcast recorded live in 1976 isn't the best live document in The Band's catalogue, but for my money nothing they ever performed live was bad. It's good for a bootleg, but not the best audio quality ever. There is some major riffs and solos, but few instances that show what these musicians are actually capable of. The organ on this recording seems louder than actual studio albums which gives the songs a bit of a unique sound. They perform the songs you know, maybe some you don't. Good overview but no Last Waltz.

If you are a fan of The Band though, you should probably have this.

This is from The Last Waltz, but it still gives me chills, so I included it.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

A To Z: Journey In Satchidananda - Alice Coltrane

When you listen to a lot of different avant-garde jazz releases, you have to mentally prepare yourself. You don't listen to Cecil Taylor or Albert Ayler as background music. You don't put "Interstellar Space" on and just go ahead and do the dishes. Free jazz, spiritual jazz, vanguard jazz, this is is music literally created to combat the passive and often dismissive nature of people wanting to "listen" to jazz. With a notion of jazz being for the beatniks and the coffee shops, the idea was struck down quickly by these very masters - finding new ground in the same way that many psychedelic rock bands were allowing hippies to reach higher astral planes.

Alice Coltrane fits in with these masters perfectly. She created difficult music with her husband before his untimely death, and made a career of perpetuating different experiments that crossed various genre lines. However, with "Journey In Satchidanda", you don't have to mentally prepare yourself for the listening experience. It's not grating, it's beautiful. And regardless of where you are, it will pull you in. It works as both background music and as one of the most engaging listens in your library. It's a crossover record in the most personal way. And it gets better every time. Of all the spiritual jazz pioneers, perhaps none were quite as spiritual as Alice.

Oh and she plays the harp.

Alice also employs the piano in her repetoire, and on this album is joined by two of my favorite musicians: Pharoah Sanders on soprano sax and Charlie Haden on bass. These three create a dynamic nucleus that is engulfed by the constant drone provided by middle-eastern instruments the oud and tamboura. There have been many attempts at bridging traditional middle-eastern or indian instruments with western jazz music and I will say right here: "Journey In Satchidanda" is likely the best.

This is the rare album that expands the loose definition of jazz yet remains an accessible album. For those who like traditional jazz numbers or the lighter side, they are unlikely to feel too alienated with this release. For those who only like jazz that transports them places, that takes a while to understand - they will feel right at home here too.

The beauty this record can stop you in your tracks. It can cause obsession. It truly is a "journey".

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Planetary by Warren Ellis is quite possible the best comic book series I've had the pleasure of reading. The series weave through many different tales, creating an overarching story that still has room to breathe. It's not a point A to point B narrative, but rather one told through various flashbacks, outside characters and constantly revealing (and solving) new mysteries in the strange world we live in. By uncovering the absurd as fact, employing characters that are equal part pulp and hard sci-fi and making references to many different more famous comic book heroes throughout, the team of Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer become a team that you want to root for. You won't make a solid connection with any one character in the story, but at the pace that the story moves and the tales it unfolds, it won't matter. A thoroughly engaging read and just one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had with comics. And don't forget it's drawn by John Cassady, who won an Eisner Award one year for his art in this book. There's a reason for that, the art is fantastic.

The zip collects all 27 issues of the main series as well as the 3 crossover comics (that I don't particularly care for).


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Sunday, March 7, 2010


Ps. I realize that my reviews never really say anything about the music and just seem to be snapshots into the last 23 years of my life. It's probably pretty boring, I'm working on it.

Pps. "Working on it" is why I seem to only be posting one thing a week. I could just post AMG reviews or other things I find on the net and post a couple albums a day, but I restarted this site to try my hand at writing reviews again, and while I am far from happy with the way they are turning out, I still think it's more exciting to visit a blog you like and get that person's thoughts or why they posted it then ANOTHER review by Thom Jurek.

A To Z: Incunabula - Autechre

I first decided I wanted to delve into the world of electronic music somewhere around the year 2000. This was the beginning of my teenage years, the time in our lives where we are finding out our likes and dislikes, why we like the things we do and more importantly - we are getting bored of things we have always assumed to be "good."

High school became the place for me to become the music snob of my friends. Not so much in a formal setting, but within my own mind I was discovering new things daily. Electronic music was one of these things. Like many people my age, I was inspired by Radiohead's "Kid A" album and the bleeps and bloops that were found consistently through that record. I fell in love with "Idioteque", learning the words and wanting to devour more music like it. I didn't know where to start, so I asked around the internet.

The first album someone told me to get was "Music Has The Right To Children". I loved it instantly and still consider it one of my very favorite albums of all time. Through my own narrow investigation I was discovering that my preferences heavily leaned on the side of abstract, experimental dance music. Somewhere I ran into the term "IDM" which I hung above my peers as a beacon of how I was better than them, because I listened to INTELLIGENT dance music, none of this trance shit. I soon found my way to "Tri Repetae++" a collection that is about as out there as IDM got and perhaps the genre's finest offering. I liked the album a lot, but never fell in love with it. The years have carried on and while I've recognized that Autechre fans are some of the most dedicated that I talk with, I've never quite understood the hype. Until very recently.

Over the past few months, I've begun to delve into the early days of Warp Records. I mainly credit people like Flying Lotus and the other Brainfeeder artists for this, but the Warp20 compilation is an amazing collection of music and I wanted to go back and revisit all the things I wasn't around for during the "Artificial Intelligence" days.

"Incunabula" didn't do a whole lot for me the first time I heard it. But I listened to it while commuting around for work the following day and it made sense. You've heard it before: you're driving in the rain, the traffic is start and stop, you get a few stretches of open road and the music that is playing through your car stereo is just the most perfect thing you could be listening to at that point. I've been hooked on this record a bit for the last few weeks, pulling it out about every other day during work or at night to listen to.

It may be the most "accessible" of Autechre's work, it may also be the best. It can sound a bit dated compared to today's standards and it's hard to recognize the duo that created this record in 1993 is still putting out cutting edge electronic music in 2010 that is completely different.

I'm going to fill the gaps in my Autechre collection in, but for now - "Incunabula" will strike me as the high point in what many consider to be the most forward thinking act in electronic music.

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RIP Mark Linkous

Though he seemed to live a life of pain, it's sad to see such a talent choose to leave us. Rest in Peace.