Friday, December 29, 2006

Best Records of 2006

I hope you all had a great holiday this year. Since I haven't really been hearing a lot of new music this year, my list will be a combination of new discoveries along with reissues and new releases from 2006. Here's my "Best of 2006" list just in time for the new year. Have a safe and happy new year, and I'll see you next year!

1) Comets on Fire- Avatar- This time around the boys from Santa Cruz tone down the cacophonous swirl of saxophones, psych garage guitars and echo-drenched vocals for a more laid back classic rock sound. Don't get me wrong though, the opening track Dogwood Rust still pummels you with a mind-melting hard rockin' listening experience. Think Jefferson Airplane mixed with MC5.

Comets on Fire- Dogwood Rust and Lucifer's Memory

2)Fred Lane- From the One That Cut You- I discovered this album on the fantastically diverse blog Palestinian Light Orchestra. The record is a mix of skronking big-band free-jazz with loopy sound effects, goofy absurdist vocals and noisy no-wave experimentation. It was originally released in 1975 and as far as I know can still be found for some serious cash. If you like things like Zappa, Beefheart and the Bonzo Dog Band, then this is right up your alley

Fred Lane- Fun In the Fundus and Danger Is My Beer

3)Harmika Yab Yum- Folk Sounds of Nepal- This album was released on Sublime Frequencies in 2005 and contains a distinctive awe-inspiring mix of field recordings of snake charming music, drum circles, radio signals from another world and acoustic folk music. If you are interested in authentic creative world music, then this is for you.

Harmika Yab Yum- VA- Radio Nepal vii and All Night Festival

4)Yo La Tengo- I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass- Besides having what is probably the best album title in quite some time, this album is all over the map stylistically. If you are a fan of Yo La Tengo, you will love this album because it is a brilliant mix tape representing every facet of the band's prolific twenty year career. The two tracks that bookend the album showcase the intense guitar dynamics of early favorites like I Heard You Looking or the hard-rocking version of Big Day Coming on Painful. While the light and bouncy pop of Beanbag Chair would have fit nicely alongside most of the tracks on I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, the spooky and elegiac eight-and-a-half minute instrumental Daphnia is undoubtedly inspired by their Sounds of the Sounds of Science sessions. Dig in and I'm sure you'll find something to treasure here.

Yo La Tengo- Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind and Daphnia

5)Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band- Egyptian Jazz- I discovered this on the Orgy in Rhythm blog while scouring the internet for new music. Egypt Strut features snake charming flutes, big band horns and a North Arabian rhythm section for a sound that is reminiscent of the Ethiopiques instrumental collections. Buy a copy here for a truly interesting listening experience.

Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band- Egypt Strut and Ramadan in Space Time

6)Bardo Pond- Ticket Crystals- On Ticket Crystals, the band's second release for ATP Recordings, Isobel Sollenberger and company tone down the sludgy, droning guitars and feature the vocals and flute more prominently. Lost Word features a psychedelic swirl of guitars, flute and drums which conjures up the feeling of smoking peyote in the middle of an indian reservation while hallucinatory visions dance across your subconscience. They even tackle a straightforward cover of John Lennon's Cry Baby Cry until the bottom falls out and it turns into a psychedelic firestorm at the end. Highly recommended!

Bardo Pond- Lost Word and Cry Baby Cry

7) Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood- I've had the privilege of witnessing Neko perform these songs in a live setting and it was nothing short of amazing. She has toned down the country-noir vibe of Blacklisted for a more diverse record with elements of rock, pop, country and gospel. Her voice is the star as usual, but highlights include Star Witness with it's haunting lyrics and vivid imagery of a fatal car crash. The minute and-a-half long, A Widow's Toast, displays Neko's dynamic vocal range over a humming electric guitar loop. Then, on the country-gospel song called John Saw That Number, she belts out an awe-inspiring vocal that would make Aretha and Mahalia proud.

Neko Case- Star Witness, A Widow's Toast and John Saw That Number

8) Old Time Relijun- Lost Light- Old Time Relijun put on such an incendiary show at the Halleluwah festival this past summer, that I had to put them on my best of 2006 list. Since Old Time Relijun relocated to Portland, OR this past summer, they have tightened up their sound to create an absolutely euphoric live experience. Arrington and company can best be described as a demented cross between Pere Ubu, Captain Beefheart and James Chance. Erratic, de-tuned guitars fight for space with dissonant saxophones over a bed of tight funk rhythms, while Arrington screams like a fire and brimstone preacher walking on burning coals. The highlight on this record and the live performance is a song called Cold Water, which features lead singer Arrington De Dionyso maniacally screaming over a tight and frantic disco rhythm from hell. You can't help but chant along with them by the end of the song, because your mind and body are possessed by the rhythm of old time religion. Don't pass up the chance to see these guys in your neck of the woods. They are electrifying!

Old Time Relijun- Cold Water and Vampire Victim

9)Beirut- Gulag Orkestar- If you are familiar with Neutral Milk Hotel, you will definitely relate the opening instrumental intro on The Gulag Orkestar to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. This is with good reason because Jeremy Barnes from Neutral Milk Hotel and Hawk and a Hacksaw adds additional percussion and accordion to this album. However, Zach Condon essentially created this masterpiece of beauty on his own by playing nearly all of the instruments on the record. It creates the illusion that you are listening to a 20 piece marching band from Slovakia who have had one too many at the local pub, when really it's just Zach and a few assorted friends. Fans of Fanfare Ciocarlia and Gogol Bordello will absolutely love this record.

Beirut- The Gulag Orkestar and Bratislava

10) Jolie Holland- Springtime Can Kill You- This time around the music has a more jazzy and breezy sunny afternoon vibe, but the lyrics still conjure up memories of hanging out with drunken friends and spending sleepless summer nights alone. Jolie has a way with phrasing words with a backwoods southern warble that reminds you of Karen Dalton or a folksy Billie Holiday. Springtime Can Kill You features shuffling drums, jazz-inflected vocals and an affecting whistle on the bridge. Ghostly Girl showcases Jolie's dynamic range with a truly haunting soprano vocal during the first minute of the song. The subtle nuances of lapsteel guitar on Stubborn Beast give the tune a down-home country feel with seductive vocals. Overall, this record sounds more mellow than Escondida, but it's songs explore themes of darkness and desparation which conjure up images of lost souls sipping moonshine on the back porch or just reflecting about the day.

Jolie Holland- Springtime Can Kill You, Stubborn Beast and Ghostly Girl

11) Built to Spill- You In Reverse- Boise Idaho's Built To Spill has finally graced the world with it's latest barnstormer of an album. Going Against Your Mind comes right out the gate with a propulsive drum beat that segues into a series of infectious guitar riffs that are layered meticulously by Brett Netson, Doug Martsch and Jim Roth. This song is epic and grand in every stretch of the imagination. It ebbs and flows like ocean waves crashing onto the shore, calming to a hush and then rebuilding its intensity in the climax. Just a Habit starts out calmly with a plaintive vocal and a mellow backdrop of acoustic guitar and percussion, but halfway through the song Doug Martsch explodes into a guitar shredding solo that is beyond words. Then, the song builds intensity for another mind-melting guitar solo while a bouncy bassline carries the song along to its ending. These two songs alone are worth the price of admission.

Built to Spill- Goin' Against Your Mind and Just a Habit

12) Alela Diane- The Pirate's Gospel- Alela Diane is a recent Portland, OR transplant from Nevada City, CA whose brand of backwoods campfire folk is highly influenced by Jolie Holland, Karen Dalton and Josephine Foster. She has complete control over her sensual and powerful voice and unleashes some of the best melodies these ears have ever heard. Tatted Lace is actually not on this album, but I love the yodeling chorus on this one so much that it brings tears to my eyes. Therefore, I have to include it here along with Foreign Tongue from The Pirate's Gospel. Foreign Tongue features majestically soaring vocals as well as the use of a whistling melody for the bridge that is hauntingly effective. Keep an eye out for this girl because she is bound to take the world by storm with her impassioned vocals and thoughtful lyrics.

Alela Diane- Tatted Lace and Foreign Tongue

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

On the 8th Day of Christmas...

Blue Yule

This is the second installment of Christmas goodies for your stocking. I hope you enjoyed the Where Will You Be Christmas Day album that was posted yesterday. I decided to give you a double dose of Christmas goodness today. Blue Yule, which was released by Rhino Records in 1991, is an essential compilation of Blues greats such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker and Big Jack Johnson belting out their Christmas favorites. Blue Yule is one of my favorite Cd's to spin during the Christmas season. It is the Christmas sound spiked with raw, soulful performances from some of the greatest artists in Blues. If you like a little bit more whiskey in your eggnog, then you'll love Blue Yule. Please go here or to your local record store and pick up a copy of this CD.

Christmas Cookin'

The second part of this post is dedicated to "The Incredible Jimmy Smith" and his astonishing Hammond B3 organ playing. Jimmy Smith first released Christmas Cookin' on Verve Records in 1964 on LP. It wasn't until 1992 that this record was reissued by Verve on CD, so those who missed out the first time around could witness the stunning artistry of Jimmy Smith.

Christmas Cookin' is an appropriate title for this record, because once Jimmy gets cookin' there's no stopping him. His amazing Hammond B3 organ solos take each song into another dimension that will delight your ears and captivate your senses. If you like what you hear, please go here to purchase this CD. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

This Time It's Really Christmas

Where Will You Be Christmas Day?

After working at a record store for four years, you can imagine that I was inundated with non-stop Christmas music during the Christmas season. I really began to despise Christmas for becoming such an over-commercialized event, a "Hallmark Holiday" if you will. That was, until my ears came across this fantastic overview of old-timey blues, jazz, bluegrass and cajun recordings called "Where Will You Be Christmas Day?". This recording was released by the good folks over at Dust to Digital, who are also well known for releasing the definitive gospel box set called "Goodbye Babylon".

"Where Will You Be Christmas Day" is comprised of rare recordings from 1917-1959 that have been digitally remastered from the original 78's. I have been cracking this one out every Christmas since it was released in 2004, and I hear something new and exciting every time. It includes accapella gospel singing, old-timey bluegrass picking, spicy cajun fiddling and incendiary blues.

I'm sure that I am running the risk of having this removed, but I am posting the whole album for your listening enjoyment. However, please consider buying the album from Dust to Digital or from your local independent record store. Spread the gospel if you like what you hear, by leaving a comment and letting me know what you think.

I'll be back with some more Christmas albums in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Comes Early

I know I said that the Evan Parker show would be up in a couple days, but the Christmas season has been kickin' my arse so far. In the meantime, I have been listening to loads of Free Jazz gems that I discovered on Pharaohs Dance, Reality Unit Concepts and Church Number Nine . They have live shows and out-of print records from artists such as Sun Ra, Pharaoh Sanders, Frank Foster and Milford Graves that are free to download for your listening enjoyment. Be sure to check them out as well as Destination Out, which featured a link to an article from the New York Times on the state of Jazz music in the blogosphere.

This article was inspired by a posting made by the pioneering composer and trumpeter Dave Douglas on his label's website, Greenleafmusic. Douglas was essentially challenging writers or lovers of jazz music to create an unbiased overview of jazz music from 1973-1990. Eventually, Ethan Iverson, the pianist from the Bad Plus, responded to this challenge by making a post on his blog containing a subjective five-thousand word overview of his favorite jazz records from this period. While this wasn't exactly what Douglas had in mind, it spawned a resurgence in the interest of Jazz, as several more lists appeared within the week. Message boards were flooded with Jazz aficionados quoting favorites from their lists, and so it seems that Dave Douglas and Ethan Iverson have single-handedly spearheaded a new Jazz movement. You are bound to find something on these lists that you have never discovered before in the world of jazz.

Evan Parker- Live at the 411 Club

Ladies and gentlemen can I please have your undivided attention. It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I present to you the only known copy of this live performance from Evan Parker at the 411 Club in Portland, OR. I know it's very rare, because I recorded it with my mini-disc player on May 13, 2003. I have been searching extensively on the web for any useful information on this performance, such as a review or set list. However, I have found not one shred of info that is pertinent to this specific performance. So, unfortunately, I don't know the names of these songs. What I do know is that the group consisted of Evan Parker on saxophones, Alexander Von Schlippenbach on piano and Paul Lytton on percussion, and that the crowd was so quiet while the group was playing that you could hear a pin drop. I believe they played a couple of Thelonious Monk covers, but other than that, it's a mystery to me. If there are any Evan Parker aficionados that know the names of these songs, please let me know.

The 411 Club was the perfect venue to experience the power and majesty of the truly awe-inspiring free jazz improvisation of the Evan Parker Trio. The venue was basically a small warehouse with worn out floors and holes in the wall, but the acoustics in there were simply astounding. The reason I say was, is because the club is no longer putting on shows. This is a sad thing since it was one of the only venues to see live jazz improvisation performances in Portland.

I'm not going to say much about the actual performance, because it is beyond words or descriptions. You just need to download the show and experience the mastery of Evan Parker's circular breathing technique which allows him to perform lengthy, spiraling saxophone solos without seemingly taking a breath. During Evan's circular breathing saxophone solo, I felt like I had never heard anything like it in my entire life. It sounded like a flurry of birds singing at different pitches, producing an unholy combination of dissonance and beauty.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about circular breathing:

Circular breathing is a special technique utilized by players of some wind instruments used to produce a continuous tone without break, accomplished by the use of the cheeks as a reservoir of air while breathing through the nose rather than the mouth. The technique is used extensively in the playing of the Australian didgeridoo, the Sardinian launeddas and Egyptian arghul, as well as many traditional oboes and flutes of Asia and the Middle East. A few jazz and classical wind players also utilize some form of circular breathing.
Here is the show in 2 zip files with a scan of the booklet and a concert poster that I swiped off the door of the venue. You will need to download WinRar to unzip the downloaded files.

I am really interested in what you think about this one. Please leave a comment on the site!

Live at 411 Club- Portland Oregon
If you are interested in downloading this concert please follow these links:

Part 1
Part 2

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

One of my loyal visitors asked me if I could post some Chico Magnetic Band sometime. Your time has come my friend. If I had to throw in my two cents on this one, I would say that it is a wild excursion through a drug-hazed psychedelic nightmare that features unintelligible multilingual lyrics, acid-rock guitar freakouts, metronomic space-rock and a dead-on cover of "Crosstown Traffic". I first heard of Chico Magnetic Band about a month ago when I visited the incredibly informative Lost in Tyme blog. This blog features an endless selection of psych-rock, blues, folk and garage rock albums that are all available to download via Rapidshare. It seems like the link is still working for the Chico Magnetic Band, so go check it out!


This link for Chico Magnetic Band was no longer active on Lost In Tyme, so I have re-upped it here.

Here is an excerpt from the Lost In Tyme description of the Chico Magnetic Band.

EVEN THOUGH THIS ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT and overwhelming album is but a half an hour in length, it is so chock full o’ balls and amazing riffs that consistently making all the right moves at the right times it’s downright scary and seems twice the length due to its raging density of vision. Given that (and that fact it seems almost entirely culled from moments from only the top tier fab waxings in my collection) it also seems far longer than THAT because everything on it counts SO BAD it lights a fire in my head, creates a fevered dickswell and comes close to bursting my heart every time I spin it.Why? Put it simply, this freakin’ album has EVERYTHING. And by that I mean it draws from elements of approaches set down by “Phallus Dei”-era Amon Düül Zwei, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Silberbart, Straight-era Alice Cooper, Can, Guru Guru, Groundhogs, Speed Glue & Shinki, Led Zeppelin, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Tiger B. Smith and “Free Your Mind”-period Funkadelic (so help me Eddie) and are seamlessly wedged into one album.

But don't take our word for it, give it a listen yourself!
I'll be back soon with the Evan Parker Live at the 411 Club for your listening pleasure.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sonic Bootleg Continued

Well as promised here is the second part of the Sonic Youth show at the Crystal Ballroom. Crystal Ballroom is a hit-or-miss venue for sound, but I recorded this one pretty close to the front at the left side of the stage. Hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.
On to other things:
In my endless search for new music, I have encountered some of the most amazing blogs that deserve some mention here. Some of them are on my Blogroll and others will be on there when I get a chance to add them. I will give you a brief description of what they feature, so you have a pretty decent idea whether or not you'll be into them.
Palestinian Light Orchestra- This eclectic blog features full album downloads of mainly rare or out-of-print records such as 60's Psych Rock, Free Jazz, offbeat novelty records and whatever else they deem as interesting. They have recently featured Sun City Girls, Fred Lane, Patty Waters, The Godz and Wild Man Fischer. Check it out for a true mind-bending experience!
Magic of Juju- Tons of great stuff on this one. Mainly private-press limited editions and lots of underappreciated gems of Arabian, Indian, African and Moroccan origin . I downloaded a bunch of music from an Arabian wedding on here that is one of the most amazing things I've ever heard. They even have some bluegrass, country and rock stuff on here too. Highly recommended site!
Ear Fuzz- I have been regularly visiting this site as they have several contributors who update often. Its bread and butter is soul, hip-hop and jazz, but they also throw in a little library music, psych rock and international. Their posts are concise and to the point, so that you can get right to the goods with a good idea of what you're downloading. Usually they feature a couple songs on each post. Great way to start off your day, with a few pumping tracks to get you moving and grooving. Recommended especially to funk and soul enthusiasts!
Grown So Ugly- Mainly obscure out-of-print folk, psych and prog on this one. Great breadth of downloads featuring gentle folk, prog-folk, psych, rare bluegrass, etc. Most of the stuff on here was completely new to me. Absolutely Recommended!
Nothing Is- Free Jazz junkies will definitely get their fix on this one. I found some rare Milford Graves, Marion Brown and Sunny Murray on here that will blow your mind. Most of these are ripped from vinyl, so that means you will get some popping and cracking. However, most of these albums haven't been reissued yet, and they are extremely hard to find if they have been reissued. I couldn't recommend this site enough. Full album downloads of Free Jazz in all its glory.
Well that's all for now. Please visit these sites for some true gems. I will be back soon with an Evan Parker 2003 live show in Portland that many of my friends think to be one of the best live recordings out there.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sonic Bootleg

First, I have been retooling the blog to be easier on the eyes, so let me know what you think. Yesterday I couldn't publish this post due to Blogger having issues again. This service has really been pissing me off lately, but I guess you get what you pay for.

Second, I really would appreciate it if you guys would leave a comment, instead of doing the download-and-run routine. I spend a lot of time making this a blog that everyone will hopefully enjoy and appreciate, and all I ask for in return is a little bit of feedback. Tell me what you like, what you don't like, what you think would make it better, etc.

Well enough of that, let's get onto the music.

About 4 years ago, I waited in line for an hour-and-a-half to see one of my favorite indie-rock bands play an in-store at Music Millennium. They were touring in support of their new album called Murray Street for approximately 350 ecastatic hardcore fans frothing at the mouth. The band did not disappoint at all, despite playing strictly from Murray Street. I won't give you a play-by-play on this one, because my memory is a little fuzzy and I'm tired as hell. However, I had the luxury of recording the show on minidisc, and I have to say it's one of my better sounding shows.

The first five songs in the zip file are from the Music Millennium show on 8-29-02 and the rest are from the first half of the Crystal Ballroom show on 8-30-02. I have included the setlists from both shows and the cd cover in the Zip file. I will be uploading part 2 of this show within the next couple days. So give it a listen, and let me know what you think.