Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Peter Brötzmann / William Parker / Hamid Drake - Never Too Late But Always Too Early [LIVE]

I'm not much of a writer when it comes to describing jazz (and you could probably argue that I'm not much better with  other music).  But, I know what I like.  As a former sax player, I envy Peter Brötzmann's intensity and stamina. I love Hamid Drake's sense of rhythmic imagination. I love almost everything I've heard with Drake and William Parker playing together.  So, naturally, I love this massive two-disc live set.

If you already enjoy modern jazz styles, I think you will enjoy this too.  If you are a newcomer, there's no time like the present.  These three musicians are among the most (dare I say) important innovators on their respective instruments in the last 40 years.

The Wedding Present - Watusi

You can't swing a dead cat in a room full of aging hipsters without lashing someone who owns a copy of Seamonsters.  With good reason.  What I don't get is why more people don't also adore the follow up, Watusi.  

Lyrically, it continues the usual themes of unrequited love and narcissistic heartbreak.  Musically, however, the band built on the shredding guitar template and adopted a somewhat more diverse sonic palette.  Recording with Steve Fisk may have helped.  Listen to Fisk's contemporary project Pell Mell (posted yesterday, here) and you may hear what I mean.  

It's difficult to find this album in any format right now.  It is not for sale at any of the major mp3 stores. I could not even find it posted on another blog.  Hopefully, Island Records will not hammer me as hard as they did Negativeland.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Killing Capitalism With Kindness - An Xpressway Records Compilation

The early 90s were apparently a very prolific time for musicians from the land of the long white cloud.  College radio dorks like me dropped the needle on anything from the Flying Nun and Xpressway labels that crossed our path.  Ultimately, Flying Nun got most of the attention, but Xpressway was clearly the more adventurous label.  

Killing Capitalism With Kindness was an Xpressway compilation of artists - some of whom were familiar to international college radio dorks like myself, but many of whom were not - leaning towards the lo-fi, experimental side of kiwi indie rock.  

Every song on this comp was intentionally recorded in "substandard" conditions.  Songs range from hauntingly beautiful to smartly melodic, with fuzz, hum, and tape hiss serving as just another instrument.  The collection was assembled by Peter Jefferies of This Kind of Punishment, who close out the set with the dark and stirring "Reaching an End." 

Pell Mell - Flow & Interstate


[I have been very busy lately with work and family.  Free time has been at a premium.    To those who have commented and written, thanks for the encouragement!]

For whatever reason, there is a disproportionate amount of music released in 1992 that has always dominated my turntable/CD player/computer/iPod playlists.  Among my very favorites from that year, and from all time, is Pell Mell's third LP Flow.  This is gorgeous instrumental guitar rock music with just the right combination of noise and melody and quite a distinctive style.  It certainly borrows elements from surf music and krautrock, but from my perspective this mostly sounds like... well, it sounds like Pell Mell.

All you middle-aged heads like me remember the major label feeding frenzy of the early 90s.  For Pell Mell, it was kismet.  Microsoft used a snippet of one of their songs (I think it was "Flood" but I am not sure, and the interwebs fail me on this search).  Pell Mell's former manager was working as an A&R rep for DGC.  I suppose that was as much "buzz" as one could have ever foreseen about for an anonymous, scattered,nomadic instrumental band which rarely played live and almost never toured.  The result was Interstate, another gorgeous record which picked up where Flow left off.

Interstate was not gorgeous enough in the sales column, apparently.  Pell Mell recorded another record for DGC but they got downsized instead.  The resultant album - Star City - wound up on Matador.  

A few years later I had a pleasant surprise watching the second episode of HBO's excellent Six Feet Under.  Fans of that program should instantly recognize the first song on Interstate.