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* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2011 *

31st Dec 11 (Sat) Leave a comment

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes.  I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals (i.e.- the Goddamn Electric Bill & Mike Patton CDs).  For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness.  My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules.  With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

As said before… I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my fourth year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, Facebox pages, yadda yadda yadda. Some of these also made it on to my 2011 Mix CD (free streaming/download).

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Product Details Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of Spirits plays John Zorn’s Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 17 (Caym) :: The Masada Book two series is some of my favorite music coming out of Tzadik.  Banquet of the Spirits is the touring band of Latin percussionist Cyro Baptista, a long time Zorn collaborator.  Each track touches upon a different world tradition, steeped in Zorn’s klez-jazz score.  Lyrical and moving and fun!

Artichaut OrkestraT For Teresa :: Featuring four young musicians  from Toulouse, Artichaut Orkestra mix jazz, klezmer and classical music, blending rock energy with improv.  This is their debut record, and I’m definitely looking forward to more coming from them in the near future.
Curtis MacdonaldCommunity Immunity :: To be honest, this was an impulse purchase.  One of my favorite record labels is Greenleaf Music – founded by my favorite living trumpet-player Dave Douglas.  I was picking up some new music from DD and figured, “eh, what the hell!”  I was impressed with Curtis’ melodic compositions and emotive alto sax playing.
MogwaiHardcore Will Never Die, But You Will :: Stunning double-disc set from post-rock’s Scottish kings.  I’ll still probably forgo seeing them live again (too loud, beyond their needs), but they put out some amazingly beautiful music.

(3 CDs)
John ZornNova Express / At the Gates of Paradise / A Dreamer Christmas :: Three discs made the cut of the six Zorn releases in 2011.  Nova Express combines quirky atonal classical lyricism with a touch of the cut up techniques of Naked City and virtuosity of the Masada songbook. Zorn scored this for Joey Baron (drums), Trevor Dunn (bass), John Medeski (piano), and Kenny Wollesen (vibes).  Paradise features the same band as Nova Express, brings some Medeski organ into the mix and adds more of Zorn’s “mystical” ambiance.  The Dreamer Christmas album was an oddity for me.  Why would a Jewish jazz musician put out a Christmas album?  Because he can!  The Dreamers is one of my favorite Zorn-assembled ensembles: Joey Baron (drums), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Trevor Dunn (bass), Marc Ribot (guitars), Jamie Saft (keys), and Kenny Wollesen (vibes).  Very accessible, but not smooth jazz!  Adventurous!  Mike Patton joins them on the final track for a croon-y “chestnut roasting.”  The holiday album was also put out as a 12″ vinyl and a 7″ single – both with gorgeous artwork and design by Chippy.
yMusicBeautiful Mechanical :: The yMusic Ensemble had a kickstarter earlier this year for their debut album – with songs composed by Son Lux, Annie Clark, Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond), Saraha Kirkland snider (who penned a favorite album Penelope last year), and Gabriel Kahane.  Their string-heavy, indie chamber rock approach excites me.  Being the musical backdrop for My Brightest Diamond’s All Things Will Unwind album (my #2 vocal album in 2011) doesn’t hurt.
Peter Mulvey & David GoodrichNine Days Wonder :: Peter Mulvey has toured all over the US and the world for about 2 decades.  Some of the first times I saw him in concert, he had “Goody” with him on backing guitar.  They don’t get a chance to tour together much lately, but they did find some time to hole-up inside a studio to write and record some instrumental guitar duets.  While I love Peter’s vocal storytelling, it’s nice to hear his and Goody’s instrumental interplay tell a different story.
Goddamn Electric BillJazz :: GdEB is the one-man brainchild of Jason Torbert.  He hits the spot for organic electronic meets post-rock for me.  Ambient at times, melodic other times.  His latest work has featured some vocals, but he’s primarily a groove-induced soundscape kind of guy.  Chirps and glitches, too.  Excellent stuff!
The Dead Kenny G’sOperation Long Leash :: The Dead Kenny Gs is a duo started by saxophonist Skerik and drummer/vibes Mike Dillon in 2004.  shortly thereafter, they started adding Brian Haas, keyboard genius, when he is able, as well as Brad Houser, bassist from another Skerik band – Critters Buggin.  They push through the jazz/rock minefield to fight “injustice, cheese, and dishonesty in music, and society.”
TalkdemonicRuins :: Portland-based chamber-indie-post-rock… goodness.  So much sound from two people.  If you’re in Portland, they’re playing a big NYE show tonight… if in Eugene, they’ll be through our way (at Sam Bond’s) on Feb 24th.  Not to be missed!
Mike PattonThe Solitude of Prime Numbers :: I had to put this album as #13.  This chiefly instrumental album is a tribute to the book (by Paolo Giordano) and film of the same name.  The score is 16 tunes spread out over a 53 tracks, with the only tracks with content being 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, and 53. *slow clap* Clever, Mr. Patton!  For people who bought the CD, you can thank me for entering in the info to CDDB (t’was a pain).  The score/album fits more with his prior score for A Perfect Place – more accessible when compared to Patton’s usual schizophrenic output.  The packaging design is also brilliant – a gorgeous die-cut leaf that fold outwards.  I’d always recommend getting physical releases from Ipecac versus the digital download version.

Garage A TroisAlways Be Happy, But Stay Evil :: Skerik, Stanton Moore, Marco Benevento (who replaced Charlie Hunter) and Mike Dillon make their way through Oregon quite a bit.  They are a sight to see – you don’t know exactly what kind of show you’ll get, but it’s definitely a fun time.  Fun, groove-oriented “new jazz.”
Explosions in the SkyTake Care, Take Care, Take Care :: If not jazz, this list is also overtaken by post-rock.  it’s a love of mine, and Explosions in the Sky are one of the best in that game.  Epic, sweeping guitars crashing over a hearty drum & bass end.  This is another album where I’d recommend the physical edition – the  case can be unfolded to form a model of a house, where if viewed from the inside, the view from the door of the house is overlooking a tornado across a plain.

Erik FriedlanderBonebridge :: I started 2011 seeing Erik perform his John Zorn-penned Volac album in its entirety… brilliant and moving.  Later in the year, he came out with Bonebridge – a new band/concept that takes his Broken Arm Trio (with Trevor Dunn & Mike Sarin) and adds slide guitar player Doug Wamble to the mix.  What you get is a perfect chamber-Americana-jazz album.  I hope there are more where this came from…
Kevin Moore – Shine (Küçük Kıyamet Soundtrack) :: Kevin Moore’s main projects are the trippy/sample-heavy Chroma Key & heavier prog collaboration band O.S.I. (with Jim Matheos). Shine is the soundtrack to the 2006 Turkish film Küçük Kiyamet (“Little Apocalypse“).  It came out in early 2011 after a successful Kickstarter in 2010.  The next album from O.S.I. comes out in February 2012 on Metal Blade.  I can almost guarantee it will be my Top album of 2012, and I haven’t heard a shred of it yet.
ReptetAt the Cabin :: This Seattle-based jazz sextet is fuuuuuuuuuun – both on record and in the live setting.  I wish the distance on I-5 between me and them wasn’t 5-6 hours, as I’d see them far more often if I could.

Matt Chamberlain, Viktor Krauss, Dan PhelpsModular: Sonic Explorations :: Gorgeous soundscapes from Matt Chamberlain, Viktor Krauss, and Dan Phelps.  The Modular Project is the collaboration of the aforementioned musicians working together to “discover what the spontaneous and organic manipulation of sound can yield. Inspired by the world around them, they set out to discover what it might sound like when continents shift, clouds form, and roots push through soil.”  The track, “Everest,” features one of my favorite cellists – Eyvind Kang (who has worked with Secret Chiefs 3, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Mike Patton).  It’s a great mix of cello, vibes and soaring atmosphere.  The album is only available digitally or on vinyl (it’s a luscious triple-gatefold!)…

(3 CDs)
Dave Douglas – Three Views: GPS Series – Rare Metals, Orange Afternoons & Bad Mango :: Originally released as the “Greenleaf Portable Series” (download only), these three different releases in 2011 finally got a proper physical (boxset) release.  Dave’s prolific writing comes out with different bands on each record: Rare Metals features Dave’s most recent band Brass Ecstasy; Orange Afternoons features a specially put together quintet with Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh, and Marcus Gilmore; and Bad Mango paired Dave’s trumpet with So Percussion’s marimba, drumset, glockenspiel, musical saw, toy bells, shruti box, crotales, and more.  Three very different records tied together with Dave’s fantastic playing.

Tides From NebulaEarthshine :: This Polish post-rock group won my heart in 2009 with their debut, Aura (in 2009).  They continue to tease me with emails or news that says “tour” until I open and can’t pronounce the names of the cities that they’re hitting.  Drat!  At least their music will keep me company!  Earthshine is perfect for those fans of Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and the like… and seeing as it beat out both those groups on my 2011 list, well, that should tell you something as well.

Michael KelseySubmerged :: Michael Kelsey is a HUGE amount of what I miss from the Midwest music scene.  He’s a musical genius – rarely paralleled on the frets.  Seeing him live (which I did any chance I could) was a site to behold.  His records do their best to capture his virtuosity, but they usually fail to capture his energy, too.  Catching fire in a bottle is tough.  Regardless, this one is a gem and also marks his first all instrumental affair.  Check him out, and if you live within a state or two from central Indiana, I count you a lucky one.  Go see him if he stops by your town.

Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 :: More riff-oriented and melodic compared to the prior drone doom albums, Earth bring a cello into the mix for the first time and create an ominous soundscape that is both elegant and dreadful.  The follow-up, Angels & Demons 2, comes out in Feb 2012… and you can almost guarantee it’ll rise to the top of my list next year as well.

Note: Ric Hordinski’s Arthur’s Garden (which made it on my 2011 Mix) is technically a 2012 release, hence its absence above.

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases?  My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York.  Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them.  I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG.  I just love and support what they do.

Enjoy the New Years’ weekend!! Be safe! See you in 2012.

My Other Favorites of 2011 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Trent Reznor & Atticus RossThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

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* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2010 *

30th Dec 10 (Thu) 3 comments

Disclaimer: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 120 of them, which makes me at least 98.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2010. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2010. And you might be right. And, I while I generally agree with John Roderick about Year-End Lists, I still find it quite fun to compile my own.

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes.  I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals (i.e.- the Beats Antique & Tin Hat CDs).  For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness.  My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules.  With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

As said before… I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my third year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, SpaceBook & MyFace pages, yadda yadda yadda. A lot of these also made it on to my 2010 Mix CD.

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: The Album Leaf‘s A Chorus of Storytellers, For a Minor Reflection‘s Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu, Yuka Honda‘s Heart Chamber Phantoms, Medeski Martin & Wood‘s The Stone Issue Four (great NFP/charity live release), and Jamie Saft‘s A Bag of Shells

Boy Eats Drum Machine20 Beats (self) :: OK, due to its title, 20 Beats had to come in at #20, right?  Regardless of wherever it hit, it’s a great album.  I first saw Boy Eats Drum Machine (aka Jon Ragel) open for That1Guy in Eugene.  I loved his turntablism, his sax playing, and his trippy sounds.  He’s a Portlander, too; so I’ve had a chance to see him twice this year.  Hopefully more in the near future…


John ZornFilmworks XXIV: The Nobel Peace Prize / In Search of the Miraculous / Interzone (Tzadik) :: John Zorn put out a ton of stuff in 2010.  Some of it didn’t make this list.  Some of it was great (these 3), and some of it was stupendous (some others higher up on the list). Filmworks XXIV is a more genteel offering. It is performed by the Rob Burger trio (and it’s a film score… duh). In Search of the Miraculous is in Zorn’s spiritual / “magick” subcategory (which has been hit or miss to me).  This album seems like a souped-up Rob Burger/Alhambra piano combo.  Quite delightful. Interzone is a return to Zorn’s “filecard” system and a tribute to William Burroughs. Some people on the Zornlist have raved about it… I find it good, but not amazing. Too much filler in the long-tracks… moments of brilliance, but also moments of meh-ness.  I’d rank it definitely better than “for the completist,” but lower than “legendary.”  All in all… solid experimental record.  The players are the usual fantastic Tzadik studio players: Medeski, Baptista, Dunn, Mori, Ribot, Wollesen and Zorn.
Mostly Other People Do the KillingForty Fort (Hot Cup) :: So, I’m a fan of composer Moppa Elliott and trumpet player Peter Evans. Peter’s solo show in Eugene a couple of years ago was an avant-garde delight. MOPDTK is a little more straight forward than Peter’s solo stuff. It’s a fun jazz group… very similar in feel and youthful, party jazz energy as Reptet (up in Seattle). This is their second album that I’ve heard but their fourth released. My favorite tracks are “Nanticoke Coke” and the title track “Forty Fort.” I’m looking forward to more from this killer band ensemble.
Masada String Trio plays John Zorn’s Masada Book Two, Volume 16: Haborym (Tzadik) :: Greg Cohen, Mark Feldman, and Erik Friedlander are fantastic players, and their contribution to the Masada Book Two series is an essential release.  One of the best of the series, and the Trio’s first studio recording in five years (last one was 2005’s Azazel #5).  Masada Book Two Sidenote: Cohen was actually in the original Masada quartet, but all of the members of the String Trio have also shown up on other MBT releases – Cohen (Astaroth #1, Lucifer #10, Stolas #12 and Baal #15), Friedlander (Volac #8, #10 and the upcoming Caym #17), and Feldman (Malphas #3 & #10).
John ZornThe Goddess (Tzadik) :: The Goddess is a continuation of In Search of the Miraculous, but I fancy it far more.  It is also a souped-up Rob Burger/Alhambra piano combo, quite lyrical and melodic.  As the title suggests, it is dedicated to the feminine.  It also features some harp work from Carol Emanuel – who unbeknownst to me until now has been on quite a bit of Zorn’s releases.
Derek WebbFeedback (INO) :: From my original writeup: Feedback is a self-proclaimed “worship album.” I also love the general aesthetics of it. It’s definitely got some electronic elements, but it has a more sweeping feel as well. Some of it feels like a mix of a happier ambiance of Amiina/Sigur Rós meets an acoustic-electronic bridge in a Sufjan Stevens song meets a gentle Ric Hordinski lyrical guitar solo (I am in a Monk mood). It’s a great quality instrumental album from a man who I loved via his witty voice from the get go. It’s nice to see him expand outside his comfort zone. As an atheist, I take it as a conduit into introspection and the worship of the divine as I see it – music.
Secret Chiefs 3Satellite Supersonic Vol 1 (Web of Mimicry) :: A new format release of the 7″ vinyl singles that SC3 put out in the Spring of 2007.  Nothing majorly new, but still nice to have in this format.  Secret Chiefs 3 fans are still waiting on Book of Souls, the follow-up to 2004’s Book of Horizons.  Who knows if we’ll ever get it… but this compilation is a great “tweener” – especially if you weren’t able to get the limited 7″ vinyls or didn’t have a record player.
John Zorn’s Moonchild Trio (with Marc Ribot) – Ipsissimus (Tzadik) :: The Moonchild Trio is one of the more experimental / scary groups.  It’s a highly composed, but seemingly improvisational group made up of Mike Patton on voice (not lyrical), Trevor Dunn on bass, and Joey Baron on drums. Ipsissimus is the fifth in the series, and includes Marc Ribot’s guitar and John Zorn’s sax for more than just one tune (like on The Crucible).  This release is not for the faint of heart.  Purely energetic, glossolaliac noise metal.
AutorYnoPastrami Bagel Social Club (Tzadik) :: I am fans of some of the other Jewish rock acts on John Zorn’s Tzadik label: like Eyal Maoz’s Edom, Jon Madof’s Rashanim, and Yoshie Fruchter’s Pitom. The description for this AutorYno debut from Tzadik was “a wild klezmer/rock fusion by this crazed band of Paris-born punk rockers… AutorYno hits with a hardedged sound and an exciting musical imagination. Full of youthful energy, massive guitar and centered by a powerful beat, they present eleven instrumentals that combine the power of rock with a taste of Jewish tradition.” Regardless of Tzadik’s usual/expected hyperbole, I couldn’t not get it. I’m glad I did.  Utterly fantastic klez-jazz-rock blend.
Tin HatForeign Legion (BAG) :: The Bay Area acoustic group is no longer a trio.  They are currently made up of Carla Kihlstedt on violin & voice, Mark Orton on guitar & dobro, Ben Goldberg on clarinets, Rob Reich on accordion & piano, and Zeena Parkins on harp.  It also features Willie Nelson on guest vocals on a track.  The album is part European explorer, part cinematic, part chamber group, part tango.  I generally by anything Carla Kihlstedt is involved in.  So far, I haven’t been steered wrong…
Beats AntiqueBlind Threshold (self) :: I got to see Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique twice this year… once with Beats Antique during Eugene Celebration, and once with the Indigo Bellydance troupe as part of their Le Serpent Rouge tour. She had a knee in a brace during Eugene Celebration; so she lended her stage presence to additional percussion instead of dance – which was unfortunate. Beats Antique is a bellydance-friendly, electronic and live instrument band from the Bay Area. Elements of Balkan music and tribal-fusion dance music. “Egyptic” is indicative of their infectuous sound.
Anakronic Electro OrkestraSpeak With Ghosts (Balagan Box) :: One of my favorite EPs of 2009 was Anakronic Electro Orkestra’s The Yiddish Part. My only complaint with the EP? It was too short. Well, in mid-November 2010, unbeknown to me at the time, they came out with their debut full-length Speak With Ghosts. AEO hail from Toulouse, France, and crank out a mighty fine mixture of drum & bass mixed with Eastern European-fused klezmer. This album is a 40+ minute shuffle through a modern klezmer forest – including one song featuring David Krakaeur (another favorite musician of mine). I think AEO is also great for fans of Beats Antique and Balkan Beat Box.
Loose GripLooking Glass (Fabrikant) :: Loose Grip is a fantastic Edinburgh-based jazz quartet led by drummer Chris Wallace. This guitar and tenor sax infused contemporary jazz band is great for fans of Chris Potter and Joe Lovano on the sax angle, great for fans of the guitar jazz like John Scofield, etc. It’s a well made record, and clearly stands out amongst the many jazz records that came out this year.
John Zorn’s The Dreamers play Masada Book Two, Volume 14: Ipos (Tzadik) :: Let’s just put this out there now… with thirteen albums and a DVD out in 2010, John Zorn might seem to have more misses than hits. Well, I don’t think there’s been a more consistent set of songs than his Masada songs, and there hasn’t been a more consistently great series than the Masada Book Two series (Zorn’s Masada songs covered by others). The Dreamers is a supergroup, too: Marc Ribot, Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista, Kenny Wollesen, Trevor Dunn and Jamie Saft – pillars in the adventurous, downtown NYC scene.
Charlie HunterGentlemen, I Neglect to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid (Spire Artist) :: One of the most amazing things from this past year was watching Charlie play live (twice). His seeming ease at which he plays bass and guitar on one instrument is stunning (and curse-worthy for the guitar aficionado in the crowd). If you weren’t watching the stage, you’d easily be fooled that it was a quartet and not a trio. It’s quite an amazing thing to see and hear. He’s so unassuming about it, too… a showman without the show-off attitude. Gentlemen came out in early 2010, and is a great melodic romp.  For prior fans of Charlie, you won’t be disappointed.  For people who aren’t yet fans… you will be.
Dave Douglas & KeystoneSpark of Being (boxset) (Greenleaf) :: Dave and his fusion group Keystone were busy with this 3-CD boxset. All three releases were inspired by Douglas’ recent collaboration with experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison on the new multi-media project Spark of Being. The first release is the soundtrack to the film.  Two additional releases, Expand and Burst, feature Douglas and Keystone exploring and interpreting the themes of the film. Expand was also available on vinyl (a first for Dave’s Greenleaf label).
Dave HollandPathways (Dare2) :: I got into Dave Holland around the same time as a lot of other jazz. I got into jazz through the backdoor (John Zorn) and then slowly moved into the more straight ahead jazz. I think I can officially blame Ken Laster and his In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond podcast for playing a lot of Dave Holland. Anyway, shortly after hearing Holland, I picked up Extended Play: Live at Birdland and Critical Mass. Both are great, but the latter is quite fetching. Pathways is a superb combo and features some amazing playing by some other favorites of mine: saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Nate Smith.  Outside of Joey Baron (Masada, etc), I think Nate Smith is one of the most entertaining drummers to see play.  I love how Dave Holland surrounds himiself with amazing players.  Great band, great record!
Holy FuckLatin (Young Turks) :: Despite what you think of their choice of band name, these Toronto band continue to put out great, groove-infused live electronic music that is both experimental and a poppy-force in the indie rock movement. Latin, their third full length album, grabbed me immediately when it came out this past May… and it’s #1 with a bullet as far as instrumental albums go in 2010. To top it off, they swung through Oregon twice this year (both excellent shows), and they put out quite possibly the cutest video for the raddest song (“Red Lights” – click the kitty to the right). The video now has over 1,000,000 views on the YouTubes. Only 900,000 views are from me.

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases?  My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York.  Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them.  I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG.  I just love and support what they do.

Enjoy the New Years weekend!! Be safe! See you in 2011.

My Other Favorites of 2010 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Kevin MooreShine

Derek Webb’s worship album – FEEDBACK (an atheist’s perspective)

2nd Nov 10 (Tue) 11 comments

So, overnight (midnight CST), Derek Webb put out his new album Feedback.  I’ve been a fan of Derek Webb since I first got into his band Caedmon’s Call back in 1996.  They’re a christian band… and I’ve since “left the church,” as it were.  I mentioned this in my review of his show in Portland this past spring… even as an atheist, I find his music to be well conceived and well executed.  He’s not a discriminatingly judgmental person.  If he writes a judging lyric, it’s usually full of fingers a-blazin’ at himself first.

He also tackles many issues that I think are relevant and important to everyone (not just christians).  “What Matters More” from 2009’s Stockholm Syndrome is one of my most favorite songs he’s put out (that album was stellar all around)…

Anyway… back to his new album FeedbackFeedback is a self-proclaimed “worship album.”  I first heard about that moniker and was worried.  I mean, what does an atheist desire to hear in a “worship” album?  Not much, that’s what. I’ve heard many since leaving the church (Jars of Clay, Leigh Nash from Sixpence, other miscellaneous compilations with Derek and/or Caedmon’s Call), and… no offense is meant when I say this, but they really make me cringe.  It’s the “subject matter,” and I know it’s not intended for me… so I move on.  No harm, no foul.


Well,when I found out it was an instrumental worship album, well, again… no offense is meant, but it made me really happy.  I’ve listened to the album in full by now (10pm PST on Nov 1st is midnight CST on Nov 2nd), and I dig it.  It’s an “instrumental album based on the Lord’s Prayer.”

Worship is a complicated idea. Arguably, it’s what we all do, 24 hours a day (regardless of what we’re worshipping). And I’m aware of a lot of “worship product” in the marketplace I sometimes occupy. So I was cautious when I first started receiving the coordinates that would lead me to make ‘Feedback’. It was immediately conceptual and ambitious, so much so that I genuinely wasn’t sure I could do it. But this seemed to be the perfect posture in which to create something worthy of being called a “worshipful” piece of art. So I studied, meditated, struggled and prayed my way through this creative process, and it’s easily the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career. But I believe it’s been worth it, even just for the ways it’s stretched both my creative process and my faith as a follower of the Way. –Derek Webb

I could definitely see this being created (and used by listeners) in a worshipful manner.  I also love the general aesthetics of it.  It’s definitely got some electronic elements, but it has a more sweeping feel as well.  Some of it feels like a mix of a happier ambiance of Amiina/Sigur Rós meets an acoustic-electronic bridge in a Sufjan Stevens song meets a gentle Ric Hordinski lyrical guitar solo (I am in a Monk mood).  It’s a great quality instrumental album from a man who I loved via his witty voice from the get go.  It’s nice to see him expand outside his comfort zone.

While I don’t want to make a big deal about the christian and atheist thing… the slant of the record’s purpose (worship) makes me look at it from that angle.  I don’t think it needs to be that way.  But in the way the album is framed from a songwriting, production, and marketing point of view… yes, I definitely see this album as a conduit for worship.  As an atheist, I take it as a conduit into introspection and the worship of the divine as I see it – music.

Here’s a trailer for the short films that accompany the album:

Find out more at:
http://www.derekwebb.com/

Oh, today is also November 2nd – aka Election Day.  Regardless of who you vote for… don’t forget to do just that… VOTE.  It’s important.

~Dan – np: Monk (Ric Hordinski) – Quiver

* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2009 *

31st Dec 09 (Thu) 10 comments

Disclaimer (with a nod to Andy Whitman of Paste): No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2009. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2009. And you might be right. So go ahead and vent. Enjoy!

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes. I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals. For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness. My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules. With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out their webpages, SpaceBook pages, yadda yadda yadda. OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year on the mainly instrumental front…

Honorable mentions: Uri Gurvich‘s The Storyteller, John Zorn‘s Filmworks XXIII: El General, AhleuchatistasOf the Body Prone, Secret Chiefs 3‘s Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini (The Severed Right Hands of the Last Men), and Skerik & The Dead Kenny G’s Bewildered Herd.

Osso String QuartetRun Rabbit Run: A Tribute to Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit (Asthmatic Kitty) :: I feel lucky that I got to witness the world premiere of Osso playing Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit at MusicNOW Fest 2007 in Cincinnati. I think almost immediately after that show, I emailed Asthmatic Kitty to see if they were going to release audio or video of that performance. Little did I know that they’d do me one better by putting Osso into a studio to record the full length stringed tribute. Huzzah! While the novelty of the initial project has worn off for me, the musical arrangements stand firm. I really dig Osso and I’m looking forward to their further collaboration with Sufjan, My Brightest Diamond, or their own pieces.
Mike PattonCrank High Voltage Score (Lions Gate) :: Well, Mike Patton pretty much took a year off of Ipecac stuff due to Faith No More reuniting. I supposed this score satiated me, but I would have loved for Mondo Cane to make its way out the door in 2009 (as was initially promised by Patton himself). Anyway, this album has a couple of vocal tracks, but overall, it features Mike’s voicebox gymnastics and razor-edged composition schizophrenia that I’ve loved since I first got into Mr. Bungle… Fantômas… and the rest of his vast body of work…
Feldman / Caine / Cohen / BaronSecrets (Tzadik) :: This album snuck on me as I was re-listening to my 2009 CDs. It has that klezmer jazz feel as is common in the Tzadik Radical Jewish Culture series, but it also has a much more accessible feel as well. With Uri Caine’s piano in the mix, he almost adds a Vince Guaraldi aspect to the klez-jazz that permeates.
Jónsi & AlexRiceboy Sleeps (indie) :: Sigur Rós is one of my favorite groups, and a few years ago frontman Jónsi started an arty project with his partner Alex. At first it was a hand-printed notebook and a few musical things on MySpace, but it transformed into a full album as time went along. It’s much more ambient when compared to Sigur Rós – but definitely appeals to fans of Jónsi’s main band. In other news… they have a raw, vegan cookbook PDF on their website (for free)… holy cow… I’m totally gonna make some raw strawberry pie when the season comes around. That and many other recipes look flippin’ delicious… much like the music. Yeah, this is a music blog, right? Sorry for my drooling over “Icelandic rockstar” recipe books.
Wadada Leo Smith with Jack DeJohnetteAmerica (Tzadik) :: I love trumpet… I have some of Wadada’s other work, and I usually find it to be hit or miss. I wasn’t coming in with a lot of preconceptions or whetted appetite about this album, and after the first spin, I loved it. It’s fairly sparse sonically, with only Wadada on trumpet & flugelhorn and Jack on drums. The sound from his horns is so brilliant and melodic, yet searching. I hope they can get together for a 2nd duo outing sometime soon. This wins my “best surprise” award for instrumental albums in 2009.
The Fantastic Terrific MunkleMusic To Dance To (Jazz Groove Australia) :: I got into the Fantastic Terrific Munkle via band member Julian Curwin, who put out his fantastic Tango Saloon out on Ipecac a few years ago. Munkle and Tango Saloon have similar jazz meets groove meets world music meets danceable rhythms. This one was harder to get, as I had to directly order it from Australia (but at least they accept PayPal in US dollars). I wish I could find similar luck with Tango Saloon’s second album, Transylvania (still no stateside release, and the AUD to USD conversion is killin’ me these days).
900XMusic for Lubbock, 1980 (Asthmatic Kitty) :: I got this download for free from Asthmatic Kitty along with the other Library Catalog Music Series (they’re great in supplying review subjects to music bloggers), and the 900X album simply surpassed the others in the collection, if you ask me. I ended up buying it on vinyl… a great addition to the collection. I don’t know if 900x (or James McAlister dba 900x) have any future plans for further releases of this nature. I hope so.
McTuff (Skerik & Joe Doria)McTuff, Volume 1 (indie) :: Joe Doria’s tribute to Jack McDuff has turned into a great Northwest jazz quartet (and trio when Skerik isn’t available). I’m lucky to have seen them a couple times thus far. Skerik’s sax is fantastic, Doria’s hammond keeps the groove, Lewis’s drums are killer, and Coe’s guitars really know how to burn (which I didn’t really pick up on until the 2nd time seeing them live).
Roberto RodriguezThe First Basket (Tzadik) :: Roberto Rodriguez’s Cuban-meets-Judaic music have been some of my favorites out of Tzadik the last few years… this one was a bit different. It’s a score to a film (of the same name) that follows the history of Jewish basketball… its scope covers klezmer, classical, rock, dixieland, and more. Its variety is what helped this album beat out his other 2009 album from the list this year (Timba Talmud is also really good).

Medeski Martin & WoodRadiolarians II & III (Indirecto) :: Starting in 2008, MMW set out to record three albums back to back to back, heading out on a short tour before each album and going directly into the studio and then out on the road again. They swung through Eugene in late 2008 as part of the Radiolarians III Tour. By that time, only R1 had come out; so the crowd didn’t really know the material being played. They played two sets, one set of experimental meets groove and one set of the eventual R3 material. Near the end of 2009, they released the Evolutionary Boxset (all Radiolarians albums with tons of extras: vinyl/live/remixes/DVDs)… great material from a fantastic groove-oriented jazz band. I’m stoked, as they’re coming through Eugene again in Feb 2010. Yay!
Wynton MarsalisHe and She (EMI Blue Note) :: Wynton is a great trumpet player, puts on a great live show, writes and releases great music, and he’s also a jazz bigot. Sigh.
Eyal Maoz’s EdomHope and Destruction (Tzadik) :: Great Jewish instrumental rock. I dug Eyal’s first album, Edom. It appears he’s made an official band out of it… yay. I don’t have much else to add; so I’ll leave it with Tzadik’s P.R. niblit… “Hope and Destruction presents powerful Jewish rock instrumentals from a cutting edge guitarist who combines the harmonic lyricism of Bill Frisell with the angst and skronk of Marc Ribot.” Ribot and Frisell influences… me likey.
Jon Madof’s RashanimThe Gathering (Tzadik) :: Similar but a bit rockier compared to Eyal Maoz’s Edom, Jon Madof has been on my radar since his first instrumental Jewish rock album, Rashanim (which subsequently turned into the band name similar to Edom’s recent evolution). Anyway, this is Madof’s third album under this band moniker. Guitars, bass, drums… banjo… banjo bass… jaw harp… glockenspiel… melodica… tiple… chonguri… it all sounds great!! Jon also has another band called CircuitBreaker that I’m waiting on with baited breath.
Stabat AkishStabat Akish (Tzadik) :: From Toulouse, France, this is one of those rare Tzadik releases that fits into the “Composer Series” that doesn’t bore me to tears. Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems in the CS catalogue, but most of them are violin noodlers. This is more of the rock band variety of composers. It has elements of French street music (which I witnessed first hand in Toulouse, coincidentally), elements of Zorn’s schizophrenia, and elements of the ever excellent Frank Zappa… thanks to the vibraphone and bass marimba acrobatics.
ZuCarboniferous (Ipecac) :: I got this due to Mike Patton’s involvement… he actually sings on one track (and vocal instrumentation on another). Despite that Patton vocal song, this is definitely an instrumental band and a chiefly instrumental album. Zu is powerful rock from Rome, sometimes lumped in with the math rock scene, sometimes with metal. They have had their hand in the jazz scene in the past, too (their album placed in The Village Voice‘s 2004 jazz poll). This album is my only experience with them, but I hope to get into their diverse and vast back catalogue soon.
SF Jazz CollectiveLive 2009 (SF Jazz) :: SFJC 2010 will not quite be the same… they lost Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, and Miguel Zenon – all key players in the 2007 through 2009 seasons. This 2009 season was dedicated to the music of McCoy Tyner and also features great compositions by the eight members of the band. It is truly a collective of many great musicians, not just a band fronted by a few.
Tim SparksLittle Princess: Tim Sparks plays Naftule Brandwein (Tzadik) :: A fingerstyle guitar virtuoso, I’d heard Tim on some other Tzadik releases, but I think this one is my favorite of his. This album is a trio of Tim, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and Greg Cohen on bass. I think the added players helped fill out Tim’s sound – which was awesomely virtuosic, but a touch too sparse on prior releases.
Dave DouglasA Single Sky (Greenleaf) :: This was the third of three Dave Douglas releases this year. It features three new Dave Douglas tunes and four rearranged Douglas tunes by Jim McNeely and his Frankfurt Radio Bigband. The entire album has a great big band feel, something I’m a sucker for – obviously. I love Dave Douglas’s prolific nature – 2009 was good to his fans.
John ZornAlhambra Love Songs (Tzadik) :: One of the more accessible albums in Zorn’s catalogue, this is his ode to his favorite San Francisco Bay Area artists and musicians: Vince Guaraldi, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Mike Patton, Harry Smith, and more. The music is played by the Rob Burger Trio (Rob + Greg Cohen & Ben Perowsky). The albums leads off with the very Guaraldian tribute to Vince himself – “Mountain View.”
Dave Douglas & Brass EcstasySpirit Moves (Greenleaf) :: Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy is coming to Portland / PDX Jazz Fest this coming February! I’m so stoked. This band features Dave on trumpet, Vincent Chancey (French horn), Luis Bonilla (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba) and Nasheet Waits (drums). The tuba really adds that bouncy backbone that I love (I’m also a fan of the rockier band Drums & Tuba). Check out DD&BE’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert (video).
Sufjan StevensThe BQE (Asthmatic Kitty) :: It is atrociously difficult to read the lettering on the front cover… maybe as easy as navigating the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in rush hour. This was Sufjan’s first foray into studio album land since the Avalanche (but that was more of a b-side collection of 2005’s Illinoise). Anyway… it’s a moving, 40 minute piece dedicated to NYC’s traffic clusterbomb. It comes with a film to accompany it, and if you get the double-gatefold vinyl, you get a spiffy comic book written by Sufjan and a fantastic full-color booklet. I like it how Sufjan “keeps it weird” when he’s “keeping it real.”
John ZornO’o (Tzadik) :: While the music is stunning, I think longtime Tzadik artwork designer Chippy deserves a ton of credit as well. This album is the band from The Dreamers: Baptista, Baron, Dunn, Ribot, Saft, and Wollesen. It carries on that world music / surf / exotica sound, but adds the element of nature: being a tribute to rare birds (the album is named after an extinct Hawaiian bird).
Tides from NebulaAura (indie from Poland) :: Tides of Nebula is powerful, evocative progressive post-rock goodness from Poland. They have links on their MySpace page on how to get their CD. It’s really, really, really, good. It combines the huge sound from post-rock giants like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai, but adds a tight edge as well – similar to if Brit progressive rockers Porcupine Tree tweaked some Explosions or Mogwai songs. This is one of those bands and albums that I had no idea about even this summer, and then out of nowhere – BAM! Way up to the top of the pile. I’m looking forward to more from this great group.
Masada Quintet & Joe Lovano play Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 12: Stolas (Tzadik) :: The original Masada quartet’s last studio album was in 1999. They continued as a quartet (John Zorn / Dave Douglas / Joey Baron / Greg Cohen) throughout most of the 2000s (I got to see one of their last shows in March 2007). Zorn moved on in the 2000s with writing a 2nd book of Masada tunes, not to be played by Masada, but rather interpreted by other bands. The past 11 albums in this series have been fantastic (Secret Chiefs 3, Medeski Martin & Wood, and the Bar Kokhba Sextet (related-to-but-not-Masada) albums have been my faves). I would never have imagined that Zorn would “allow” Masada to record an album for this Masada Book Two series. Well, he didn’t (sort of). He added pianist Uri Caine and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano to the mix. A great “supergroup” album!!

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases? My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York. Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them. I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG. I just love and support what they do.

My Other Favorites of 2009 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Brian BorcherdtTorches

* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2008 *

29th Dec 08 (Mon) 9 comments

Disclaimer section is again shamelessly plagiarized from Andy Whitman at Paste

Disclaimer #1: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000 albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. But hey, this isn’t math class, and I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2008. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2008. And you might be right.


Disclaimer #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get it out of your system now and be done with it. I am deliberately trying to be obscure. Who the hell has even heard of these people? So go ahead and vent, then read Disclaimer #1 again.

My Other Favorites of 2008 Recaps:

  • Fave Concerts of ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave EPs/Vinyl/Live/more of ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave Vocal Albums ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Old Years: 2007V, 2007I, 2007C, 2006, 2005

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes.  I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals.  For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness.  My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules.  With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else.  But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out their webpages, MySpaces, my fave song recommendations on iTunes (in 30 second bursts), yadda yadda yadda.  OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year on the mainly instrumental front…

Honorable mentions (aka my list is too jam packed, and I still really love these records, too): Bill Frisell‘s History, Mystery (with Eyvind Kang, Jenny Scheinman, Kenny Wollesen, etc); Charlie Hunter‘s Baboon Strength; John Zorn‘s Filmworks XX & XXI: Sholem Aleichem & Belle de Nature / The New Rijksmuseum; Medeski Martin & Wood‘s Radiolarians I; and Dub Trio‘s Another Sound is Dying.

ReptetChicken or Beef? (Monktail Creative Music Concern) :: I feel like I’ve written too much (especially on my Top 20 Vocal albums blog); so these descriptions / raves might be shorter… we shall see.  Reptet is a great 6-piece jazz band from Seattle.  I heard about them via Jim Wilke’s Jazz Nothwest podcast back in late 2007, when a collaboration of Seattle jazz & avant bands called the Monktail Creative Music Concern played a gig that got aired in its entirety.  Anyway, Reptet is one of my fave bands in the MCMC.  They’re a quirky jazz band with an odd sense of humor.  I dig it… a great, modern brass-forward jazz sextet.  Favorite tracks are “Reptet Score!” and “Eve of Thrieve.” http://www.reptet.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/reptet
Daniel ZamirI Believe (Tzadik) :: I have some of Daniel’s Satlah project, of which I dig a plenty.  This one was outside of the Satlah camp, enlisting NYC scene heavyweights Uri Caine, Greg Cohen, and Joey Baron.  I waffled on including it until I heard it again recently.  It’s really gorgeous.  More on the mellower, nee spiritual, side of the the music coming out of the Radical Jewish Culture series, Zamir really offers up his soprano sax melodies as prayers.  The title of the album and the music really match up perfectly. Favorite tracks are “Poem 10” and “Poem 51/52.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/danielzamir
John ZornFilmworks XIX: Dimitri Geller’s The Rain Horse (Tzadik) :: John Zorn put out a handful of Filmworks this year, and all of them are good.  FW XXI would have made it on the list as well, had it not been for the too often used harpsichord in The New Rijksmuseum scoring (the parts for the Belle de Nature score are really gorgeous, though).  Anyway, the Filmworks series are usually some of John Zorn’s most accessible. The Rain Horse is a subtle trio of Erik Friedlander on cello, Greg Cohen on upright bass, and Rob Burger on piano.  Favorite tracks are “Parable of Job” and “Tears of Morning.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
TalkdemonicEyes at Half Mast (Arena Rock) :: No, their album cover doesn’t really do the animation thing (a la Tool’s Ænima).  I just couldn’t help using that animated GIF from their MySpace page.  This Portland post-rock duo swung through Eugene at least twice this year.  I caught their brilliant February show.  Their album didn’t come out until later in the year, and it continues in the sound from their prior two albums.  Great electro-acoustic post-rock… drums, viola and electronics. Favorite tracks are “Duality of Deathening” and “Tides in Their Grave.” http://talkdemonic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/talkdemonicmusicmaking
NIИ Ghosts I-IV (halo) :: Sparse and haunting, Ghosts I-IV reminds me of a soundtrack meets demos for Trent’s next album.  Perhaps that’s where they came from, ideas kicking around in his head.  For a fan of instrumental music, it’s a highly enjoyable 110 minute journey into many different soundscapes.  For the download version, each track has it’s own artwork attached in the file which is a nice addition even though I hate the shift towards the potential eventual demise of the “album.” Favorite tracks are “14” and “31.” http://www.nin.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/nin
Bobby Previte & New BumpSet the Alarm for Monday (Palmetto) :: A new version of Previte’s Bump the Renaissance, this group includes two of my favorite players – – Ellery Eskelin on sax & Steven Bernstein on trumpet.  Drummer Bobby Previte does many projects, some more in the avant-garde scene… but New Bump definitely fits into an accessible range (similar to Coalition of the Willing with Jamie Saft & Skerik).  This album is really “jazz-cinematic” a la a private investigator drama soundtrack perhaps. Favorite tracks are “I’d Advise You Not to Miss Your Train” and “There Was Something In My Drink.” http://www.bobbyprevite.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/previte
Steven BernsteinDiaspora Suite (Tzadik) :: This is Bernstein’s fourth in his Diaspora series for Tzadik’s Radical Jewish Culture, and it very well be my favorite.  It seems much more adventurous than the past efforts, which is what I like about Steven’s trumpet playing and compositions.  I think Suite fits better in with his larger Sex Mob and Millennial Territory Orchestra catalog (but from a decidedly Jewish musical culture standpoint, obviously).  I hope I get a chance to see him sometime… he played in Ohio just after I moved away, and he played in Seattle in November (as part of Earshot Jazz Fest), but being on a Wednesday… well, I didn’t make it up for the show. Favorite tracks are “Zebulon” and “Judah.” http://stevenbernstein.net/ -and- http://myspace.com/stevenbernsteinmusic
AuragamiEsoteric (indie) :: Auragami is a former Dayton, OH, now San Diego-based bass guitarist named Michael Miller.  This album isn’t commercially available, as far as I know.  I know Michael Miller from going to shows around Dayton (and surrounding).  We’ve got a lot of the same leanings with the rock stuff (Galactic Cowboys, King’s X, et cetera), and I’m happy that I made it on his Christmas card list… because the Christmas card list has been a new CD of his for the past few years. Esoteric is a 40-minute record with the melodies, crunch and remix-friendly bass that I’ve come to love about his music.  He also collaborates with others on this album (a personal fave, Mike Georgin, being one of them).  As far as the sound, it’s very much a bass with drum loop affair… some subtle melodies, some heavier/grittiness (a la NIN), and some organic-electronics that fit well with another San Diego artists, The Album Leaf and Goddamn Electric Bill.  Not being commercially available officially, you can check out his music on MySpace and maybe see if he’ll sell you a copy.  It seems to be a crime to not be out there.  Anyway, thanks for the Christmas gift, Michael! Favorite tracks are “Colab” and “Clover.” http://www.myspace.com/auragami
Goddamn Electric BillTopics for Gossip (99X) :: GdEB is a one-man electronic band from San Diego (Jason Torbert is his name), similar in that sense to The Album Leaf, but I’d say GdEB is less ambient and definitely more in the electronic / remix realm when compared to TAL.  GdEB might compare similarly to Frog Pocket, but maybe less… um… buzzy & bleepy.  I don’t know.  I suppose me comparing a little known San Diego electronic artist to another lesser known Scottish electronic artist doesn’t help much.  Check GdEB out for yourself… Favorite tracks are “The Morning Commute” and “The Shallows.” http://www.goddamnelectricbill.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/goddamnelectricbill
Hiromi’s SonicbloomBeyond Standard (Telarc) :: Hiromi Uehara is a freakin’ whiz on the piano.  I got into her with her 2007 CD Time Control after a few clips on BMG’s website (I was trying to round out an order).  Her style is very much a jazz-rock fusion, which I’d almost say the rock element comes from her piano skills rather than the rest of the band.  You wouldn’t expect this sound just based by the cover alone… the 29 year-old Hiromi amidst bright colors.  You’d think it were some Japanese bubblegum pop or something.  Anyway, this is her 2nd Sonicbloom album in as many years.  She played a several date run at the Triple Door in Seattle this past summer.  If she does it again soon, I’m totally making the drive up. Favorite tracks are “Led Boots” and “XYG.” http://www.hiromimusic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/hiromimusic
Medeski Martin & Wood play John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 11: Zaebos (Tzadik) :: Medeski Martin & Wood have been in the Tzadik family for a while.  They contributed a track to the Unknown Masada album, which was sort of the initial idea that eventually brought out the Masada Book Two series (i.e.- new, previously unrecorded Masada book tunes not recorded by the Masada quartet).  John Medeski has also appeared on many other Tzadik releases in a studio musician sense.  With that being said, MMW’s inclusion into the Masada Book Two series came as a total shock, though.  I think it was announced in early June ’08 for a July release.  Whereas Secret Chiefs 3’s Masada Book Two release was announced in winter ’07 for a May ’08 release (almost a year and a half).  Anyway, MMW’s Zaebos is a great record.  I’d say it doesn’t rank as high as Xaphan and Lucifer for this year’s releases in that for some reason I don’t think the MMW Masada tunes work as well with their style as the tunes work with Secret Chiefs 3 or Bar Kokhba Sextet’s style.  All said and done, it’s still a brilliant record for 2008 and for both the Masada and MMW catalogs. Favorite tracks are “Chafriel” and “Tutrusa’i.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://mmw.net/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/medeskimartinandwood
Tiptons Sax QuartetLaws of Motion (Zipa! Spoot) :: Similar to Reptet, I got into the Tiptons via Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest podcast.  I found out about them literally a day after they had been in Eugene in Dec ’07.  D’oh!  Anyway, I believe that this is their 3rd full length CD, though they had some former releases with different members under the name the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet.  They’re an all-woman sax quartet (plus drums) from Seattle.  They’ve got ties to some great jazz musicians & composers (Eyvind Kang & Wayne Horvitz for example).  This album has some vocals, but all in all, it’s a jazz record with a touch of eastern European music (balkan-klezmer per my untrained ears) thrown in. Favorite tracks are “Fallout” and “Number Six.” http://www.tiptonssaxquartet.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/tiptons
Mostly Other People Do the KillingThis is Our Moosic (Hot Cup) :: I saw trumpeter Peter Evans in Eugene in February, and it was a mind-blowing avant-garde set.  This band on the other hand, led by Moppa Elliott, is more of a Sex Mob-influenced jazz funk romp.  Great music from these NY gents.  You can get their albums on CD Baby (please, support indie moosic). Favorite tracks are “The Bats in Belfry” and “Drainlick.” http://www.moppaelliott.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/mostlyotherpeopledothekilling
StebmoStebmo (indie) :: Multi-instrumentalist Steve Moore has played with Earth, Sunn 0))), and enlisted some friends (Eyvind Kang, Matt Chamberlain, Todd Sickafoose, Tucker Martine and more) to help out on his first solo album.  I saw him open for Skerik’s Maelstrom Trio this past spring as well as play with Earth in June.  As mentioned in the live review, his album is a bit like the organic/melodic elements of the Album Leaf mixed with the building nature of an Explosions in the Sky set mixed with a heaping handful of electronic jots & tittles like those that may have hit the Kid A cutting room floor. Favorite tracks are “Dark Circles” and “Waiting Game.” http://stebmo.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/stebmo
John Zorn’s Moonchild Trio (Mike Patton/Joey Baron/Trevor Dunn) – The Crucible (Tzadik) :: This album is a rare December release on Tzadik (since 2000, they’ve taken the month off).  Continuing in the Moonchild Trio’s glossolaliac noise metal theme, this album also adds John Zorn’s wonderful sax trade-off with Mike Patton’s screaming utterances.  Guitarist Marc Ribot also adds very Led Zeppelin riffage on one track (“9×9”).  When the original Moonchild album was released (2006), I thought it was going to be a one off… well, four albums in, I’m definitely hoping it continues a bit more… Favorite tracks are “Almadel” and “Maleficia.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
Swami Late Plate (Bobby Previte & Jamie Saft) – Doom Jazz (Veal) :: The album’s title, Doom Jazz, says it all.  This album fits well for fans of Sunn 0))), Earth, Bohren & Der Club of Gore and others in the slow rock, doom, sludge movement.  I find it completely compelling… Favorite tracks are “Malignant Cloud” and “The Bearded Man Cannot Help You.” http://myspace.com/swamilateplate -and- http://myspace.com/doomjazz
God of ShamisenDragon String Attack! (Reptile) :: God of Shamisen is Kevin Kmetz, an I first heard of him when he was playing with world metal band Estradasphere.  He’s also played (briefly) with Secret Chiefs 3.  He’s had a few solo albums, but this year saw GoS release two band efforts: the 7″ vinyl for “The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack!” and then their full-length debut this past fall.  I picked up this debut at their show in Eugene (go here for my review with pictures).  While it has some minor vocals on a song or two, it’s still primarily a instrumental attack.  Japanese metal fusion… excellent stuff. Favorite tracks are “The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack!” and the spread across the album in several waves “Dragon String Attack!” http://godofshamisen.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/gos
MogwaiThe Hawk is Howling (Matador) :: Much more enjoyable to me than their recent tour (review link). I can control the volume… yay! I dig this record A LOT. This Scottish band has put out some consistently great records. This one bounces back from their mellower Zidane with more gusto, more power, yet still retaining the melody. You know… the melody that gets drowned out in their live show. Favorite tracks are “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” and “The Precipice.” http://mogwai.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/mogwai
Yoshie FruchterPitom (Tzadik) :: Wow… I’m definitely looking to more from Yoshie Fruchter in the future.  Like Jon Madof’s Rashanim and Yves Weyh’s Zakarya, Yoshie Fruchter brings in a great rock vibe to the Radical Jewish Culture series. Favorite tracks are “Go Go Golem” and “Lungs and Spleen.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://www.yoshiefruchter.com/
SF Jazz Collective 2008 (Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Miguel Zenon, and more) – SF Jazz Collective 2008  (Wayne Shorter feature) (SFJAZZ) :: I became a fan of this band because of one man: trumpeter since their 2007 band, Dave Douglas.  I also got to see them this past February at the PDX Jazz Fest (see my combo SF Jazz & Ornette Coleman review here).  This jam-packed 3-CD set is full of Wayne Shorter arrangements and originals by the band members.  It’s a little step on the price by today’s standards, but it helps support the not-for-profit SFJazz organization. Favorite tracks are “Aurora Borealis,” “Secrets of the Code,” and “Aung San Suu Kyi.”
http://sfjazz.org/
John ZornThe Dreamers (Tzadik) :: Played by the Electric Masada band, The Dreamers continues with the motif and accessibility of 2001’s The Gift… mixing world, jazz, exotica, surf and more into a very pleasing John Zorn package.  Combined with the fantastic cute animal art by Chippy, this one will most definitely rank in the top Zorn releases.  I hear it may find its way onto vinyl, or perhaps that’s just me stoking the embers of the rumor house’s fireplace. Favorite tracks are “A Ride On Cottonfair” and “Nekashim.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
Jason Schimmel’s Orange Tulip ConspiracyOrange Tulip Conspiracy (Web of Mimicry) :: Jason Schimmel has played with two bands that I love: Estradasphere & Secret Chiefs 3.  This album continues on with Estradasphere’s Palace of Mirrors’ eclectic world music sound, but also brings in a bit of exotica, cinematic sound.  I saw them in Eugene in November, and John Whooley’s sax blew me away as much as Jason’s guitar work. Favorite tracks are “Fall Creek” and “Rendezvous.” http://orangetulipconspiracy.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/orangetulipconspiracy
EarthThe Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord) :: I went to their show at WOW Hall in Eugene in June after getting into Stebmo (see #12 above).  They pretty much played stuff from their latest album.  After the show, I quickly nabbed their prior work from Amazon used (and whatnot).  Great band in the slowcore genre.  They have deep ties to the Seattle scene, co-mingling with Kurt Cobain, the Melvins, Sunn 0))), and others.  In fact, Kurt Cobain even guested on Earth’s 2nd EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction.  With that being said, they’re definitely not grunge, they’re not rock, they’re not metal… they’re what you might call drone rock.  Slow but powerful. Favorite tracks are “Engine of Ruin” and “Rise to Glory.” http://www.thronesanddominions.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/earthofficial
The Bar Kokhba Sextet plays John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 10: Lucifer (Tzadik) :: The Bar Kokhba Sextet showed up in 1996 as an almost direct spin-off of the Masada book; so them doing a Book Two album was almost a given.  Holy cow, it’s a brilliant record… but I always loved what the Sextet had done previously.  The Sextet is the tour de force of Cyro Baptista, Joey Baron, Greg Cohen, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, and Marc Ribot.  This is one band in my list that I wish I’d seen… I’m crossing my fingers that Earshot Jazz can bring ’em over to the PacNW sometime. Favorite tracks are “Sother” and “Abdiel.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://www.last.fm/music/Bar+Kokhba+Sextet
The Secret Chiefs 3 play John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 9: Xaphan (Tzadik) :: I shant write too much about Xaphan, as I wrote a fairly in-depth review of it back when it came out.  I will say that it aged well and still held the Top spot all year.  It’s a GREAT record.  My main disappointment is that I wish they’d have played some from it at their tour this past fall.  Favorite tracks are “Shoel,” “Bezriel,” and “Balberith.” http://webofmimicry.com/ -and- http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/secretchiefs3

Well, I bought ten (10) John Zorn CDs this year (unless I’m misscounting), and 2 of them didn’t make it anywhere on the list (the Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson improv benefit CD for The Stone NYC & the score for The Last Supper, aka Film Works XXII)… so, you can’t say that I’m totally biased towards John Zorn. :)  Though, I do buy just about everything in his label Tzadik’s Archival series, Key series, and Radical Jewish Culture series (and a handful of the rest of the other series).

What I’m looking forward to in 2009? More great music…

~Dan – np: Miles DavisMiles in the Sky

You down with OTC?

26th Aug 08 (Tue) 2 comments

Jason Schimmel, from Estradasphere (and the recent Secret Chiefs 3 live incarnation), has a lovely new album out now… Orange Tulip Conspiracy. It’s available directly from Web of Mimicry (SC3’s label), but oddly not yet from Lobefood (Estradasphere’s distro) or Amazon (a large women & rainforest wholesaler). I picked it up at the Portland SC3 gig, and I absolutely LOVE IT. Behind SC3’s Xaphan, it’s probably my #2 album of 2008 so far.

Well, apparently the OTC is going to tour. YAY! The tour is going to feature Jason Schimmel (guitar/ keys), John Whooley (sax, an original Estradasphere member), Dan Robbins (bass), Zach Cline (guitar/ keys) and Lee Smith (drums).

Here are the dates and cities (subject to change):

Saturday Nov 15- Seattle, WA @ Rendezvous
Sunday Nov 16- Portland, OR @ Dante’s
Monday Nov 17- Eugene, OR @ Samurai Duck :)
Tuesday Nov 18- Sacramento, CA @ On the Y
Wednesday Nov 19- Santa Cruz, CA @ Moe’s Alley
Friday Nov 21- Los Angeles, CA @ The Knitting Factory

http://www.myspace.com/orangetulipconspiracy
http://www.myspace.com/estradasphere

Jason needs help with opening band slots and additional venues in or around the cities above. If you are in a band or know of any good venues, contact him through either the OTC or Estradasphere MySpace pages (above).

~Dan – np: Frank ZappaTrance-Fusion

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