Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Local Band Showcase-Tu Fawning

For those of you who don't know, I am located in Portland Oregon. Portland is one of the best places for a musician to get their feet off the ground. You could practically throw a rock anywhere within the confines of Portland and you'd most likely hit a musician. Of course, I'm not literally suggesting that you should throw a rock at a musician, but you get the picture.

Every night there are at least 20-30 venues featuring all kinds of music from avant garde, electronic, folk, bluegrass, pop, indie-rock, blues, experimental. I have really been interested in finding out more about what's going on in the local scene, so this series will continue until I run out of bands to rave about. This is the first installment of the series, so I hope you enjoy it.

Tu Fawning

Tu Fawning are a duo from Portland Oregon who have both been fixtures in the local music scene for many years. Corinna Repp has two albums available on Hush Records that are in the confessional singer/songwriter vein with Corrina's sweet voice layered over the top of electronic drumbeats. Joe Haege is the lead singer/guitar slasher from Portland's prolific math rock/prog trio who have recorded 5 full-lengths and 3 ep's since 2000.

Joe Haege and Corrina Repp decided to put their respective bands on temporary hiatus to record the yet to be released debut ep for Tu Fawning. From the two songs I've heard on their Myspace page, I would say that this album has the potential to be one of the best of 2008. "I'm Gone" sounds like a contemporary film noir soundtrack mixed with trip-hop. "Out Like Bats" is an exquisite song with soaring vocal melodies and chiming guitars that recall Zach Condon's Beirut without the marching band sound. Keep an eye out for their debut EP!

Here is a link to their Myspace page with the two songs they have available to preview.
Here is a link to 31 Knots homepage.
Here is a link to Hush Records Website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rediscovery of Lost Gems- The Pop Group

The Pop Group- Y

The Pop Group ranks up there with the Ten Thousand Maniacs as one of the most ironic band names in the history of rock music. This gang of left-wing political radicals from Bristol, England sound more like the antithesis of pop music. "Y" was released on the Radar label in 1979 to little fanfare, but Rough Trade liked the record enough to sign them.

"Y" is a cathartic and uncompromising avant garde record that mixed free jazz, art rock, funk, reggae and industrial music. There are very few hooks or decipherable vocals, but the impassioned delivery of lead singer Mark Stewart is undeniable. Highlights include the wildly eclectic "Snow Girl" where agit-funk shares sonic space with stinging guitars and intense piano hammering, "Savage Sea" with distorted vocals layered on top of a propulsive rhythm section with reverb and echo that sounds like lost sessions of Lee Scratch Perry and the caterwauling, free jazz funk of "Don't Call Me Pain" that is reminiscent of an unholy alliance between James Chance and the Birthday Party.

Give this out-of-print rarity a spin and let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New Revelation of Chubby Checker

Chubby Checker- Chequered/New Revelation
Chequered/New Revelation [Ariola, 1971]

This is one of the many out-of print rarities that I've grabbed from the fabulous Mystery Poster blog. Sadly, the person who runs Mystery Poster has decided to call it quits. However, he has generously granted everyone permission to use his posts on their own blog. So, I am posting Chubby Checker's fabulous psychedelic relic from 1971- Chequered/New Revelation, that I grabbed from Mystery Poster months ago. His link for this is no longer up, so I have taken the time to upload it via DivShare

Back in March, I posted a couple tracks and review for this album and Howlin Wolf's "This Is Howlin' Wolf's New Album" on Ear Fuzz. The complete Howlin' Wolf record was posted on Eclectic Grooves last July. Here is a link to that post, for those that have missed it, and the download link is still active.

Here is the review posted on Ear Fuzz on March 9th, 2007:

Chubby Checker became popular when his 60' s dance hit called "The Twist" caused a teenage dance craze that took the nation by storm. He went on to record several other dance-themed hits and had as many as 5 albums in the top 12 at once. Unfortunately, Chubby's hit-making career came to a grinding halt in 1965 when the public's taste veered into the more exciting music of the times such as psychedelic rock and folk.

However, Chubby decided to experiment with psychedelic rock and bluesy-soul with this rare gem released in 1971 entitled Chequered/New Revelation. These sessions were helmed by record company scam-artist Ed Chalpin(the same guy behind the bootleg Jimi Hendrix w/ Curtis Knight releases ) who first released them in Europe in 1971 and in a cutout-version in America. He was notorious for recording no-name studio bands playing the current hits and then he would quickly sell them to record companies in Europe and South America to stay ahead of the copyrighting laws.

Goodbye Victoria opens up with a slow lurking piano groove that is begging to be lifted by The Weathermen for their next hip-hop masterpiece. Then, Chubby's soulful vocals lift the song to greater heights and the piano and hammond organ chime in with the glorious gospel-inflected chorus of "Time Won't Forget You Victoria/Time Just Won'LetYouVictoria/Goodbye Victoria/Everybody's Going to the Moon." After the chorus, the hammond organs sound off for a brief interlude and then segueway into the second verse of the song. There is an incredibly funky hammond organ breakdown after the second chorus that sounds like it's highly influenced by Jimmy Smith. What makes this track so unforgettable is that it has soul dripping from it's pores. You can feel the pain that Chubby was feeling in each and every heart-wrenching verse. My Mind Comes From a High Place features blistering guitar solos, funky drum breakdowns and soulful psychedelic vocals that remind you of the Band of Gypsys.

On If the Sun Stops Shinin', Chubby comes out shining with a beautiful vocal that could be compared to Bill Withers on "Lean on Me". Stoned in the Bathroom starts out with a playful carnival organ and martial drums intro that leads into Chubby's hazy verse about being "Stoned in the bathroom/on a Sunday afternoon/Stoned in the bathroom/just sitting on the moon." Then, the bridge/chorus ignites the track with a fiery guitar/organ combo that goes for broke. Towards the end of the track, Chubby screams at the top of his lungs which seems to push the band into overdrive for the last thirty seconds of the song. Overall, this is an amazing record that is definitely worth looking for.

Please give me a shout about what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Songs about the Mysteries of Housework and Nature

Usually, the type of stuff that floods my inbox is not even remotely related to the type of music I post on Eclectic Grooves. So, I was happily surprised when Yvette Perez of NYC's electro-jazz trio H.E.R. asked me to write a review for her band's stunning debut album on Persian Cardinal Recordings, "Songs About the Mysteries of Housework and Nature".

H.E.R- Songs About the Mysteries of Housework and Nature

You might be able to guess from the title, that this is a concept album about, well... housework and nature. But this album takes you on a mesmerizing trip into the psyche of a bored and disgruntled housewife who is tired of her mundane existence cleaning the house and tirelessly pushing paper at the office. She yearns to be close to nature again, but fears that going outside will destroy her perfect little existence in her head.

H.E.R. is a trio from NYC consisting of Yvette Perez on vocals and synthesizer, Peter Zummo on trombone, trumpet and samba whistle and Danny Tunick on vibraphone and percussion. Yvette and Peter were formerly in the avant jazz quintet Birdbrain whose first album "I Fly" sounded like a carnival jazz troupe tiptoeing on a high wire of complex harmonies juxtaposed with fearless no-wave style vocalising. Yvette has also studied with the pioneering avant garde flute player Yusef Lateef and Peter has worked with many avant garde musicians, but most notably with avant disco virtuoso Arthur Russell.

From the opening bars of "Songs About the Mysteries of Housework and Nature", you can tell that this album is a completely different beast than Birdbrain's "I Fly." The mood created on opening track Owings Mills is transcendent and dreamlike with woozy trumpets and funereal organs providing a subtle backdrop to Yvette's hypnotic and breathy vocals. In the last few words of this track, Yvette's lyrics cut to the bone:

I thought I saw someone outside last night
I thought I heard someone park outside
Close the drapes
Dredge the marsh.

The protagonist of the song seems to be afraid of facing the world, and instead searches for solace by performing mind-numbing household tasks in an empty home. "The Office" continues in the same vein, but adds layers of jazzy ambience with subtle trumpet phrasing that evokes swimming through the haze of rain-soaked city streets.

The shortest track on the album,"Busy Day in the Driveway", is also the most experimental one with remnants of Birdbrain's creative improvisation. In under two minutes, the listener's senses are assaulted with an assortment of studio tricks including extended reverb, delay, muted trumpets and droning synthesizers.

"Unruly Place" features Peter pulling off a convincing Miles Davis circa "A Kind of Blue" muted trumpet style. This is the longest song and it is the best showcase for Peter's perfectly spaced trumpet phrasing, evoking a contemporary smoky film noir soundtrack. The aforementioned samba whistle serves as the only accompaniment to Yvette's strikingly beautiful accapella vocal on the old-time folk ballad "Nottamun Town". She successfully paints a vivid picture of the eccentric characters that inhabit this creepy old town with the poignant lyrics in the last verse:

So the king and queen and a company of men
Are walking behind and riding before
A Stark naked drummer goes marching along
With his hand in his bosom a-beating his drum, his drum

The end of "Nottamun Town" segueways perfectly into the hypnotic swirling synthesizers and upbeat vocal melodies of "Dusty Beach". Again, the lyrics about the housewife's obsession with cleaning appear here:

But, I'm indoors with my
Vacuum cleaner in my hand
Obsessed with a clean
Spotless floor

"Split Level" is an instrumental (except for Yvette's wordless sighs) accompanied by an array of layered and reverbed trumpets, vibes and synth. The final song, "This Migration Is Over", ends the disc on a mystical note with it's poetic lyrics about the inevitable change of season taking shape. Take this verse for example:

Butterfly covered grounds
With wings broken and dew
Goodbye to this year's migration

Throughout the last two minutes of the track, Yvette seductively whispers lines from a poem while trance-inducing harmelodics dance across your sunbconscience. "Songs About the Mysteries of Housework and Nature" is a truly mellow late-night album that is reminiscent of the sound of Miles Davis "Ascensuer pour L’Echafaud", Amon Tobin and Stereolab. Think of this as like an electro-jazz version of Radiohead's stunningly crafted masterpiece "OK Computer". An astonishing debut effort that is continually rewarding after repeated listens.
From: Songs About the Mysteries of Housework and Nature

Please support the band and purchase the album here!

Also, for those of you who live in Portland, Oregon, H.E.R. will be performing live this Sunday at Valentines-9 p.m and will also be performaing on KBOO 90.7 FM on Friday, Jan 18th at midnight. Please show Yvette and company all your support.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Rest of the Best of 2007

Phew! Besides typical flight delays and stomach-turning turbulence, I had a wonderful time visting my family during the holidays in Peoria IL. Temperatures were frigid and there was snow on the ground for most of the trip. Before my girlfriend and I left for the airport, we attempted to have a good-hearted snowball fight but the snow turned to powder before we could throw it. If we had more time, we probably would have indulged ourselves in a little sledding or cross-country skiing in Bradley Park. But, there's always next year.

It's great to be back in the temperate landscape of Portland, OR. Wow, I never thought I would say those words in my human existence.

Hope everyone has enjoyed the Best of 2007 list so far. I don't know if people are too shy to respond, or if they just don't like posting comments, but there have been no comments for the first two parts of the list. I try to respond to any requests, comments, and criticisms that any of you might have. I would love to hear what you think about my list, whether you agree with it or not. I am interested to see your lists as well, so please indulge me here and don't be shy.

Without further ado, here's the rest of my Best of 2007 in a mammoth post. Enjoy!

11) Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake- From the River to the Ocean-

Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake collaborate with members of Town and Country and Tortoise(Josh Abrams and Jef Parker) to create a seamless blend of East Meets West with less emphasis on free jazz, and more on the melding of middle eastern styles with Meditations-era Coltrane. Simply astounding!

Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake- For Brother Thompson and From the River to the Ocean
From: From the River to the Ocean

Click here to buy this album

12)Nels Cline Singers- Draw Breath

Nels Cline Singers are actually an instrumental free jazz juggernaut (there's nary a singer to be found here). The slow burn dynamics of the opener "Caved-In Heart Blues" is absolutlely mesmerizing and "Attempted's" furious onslaught of distorted guitars features Cline attacking the strings like a madman with a machete. On the other end of the spectrum are the mellow ambient tracks "The Angel of Angels", "Recognize I" and "Recognize II" featuring lightly plucked acoustic guitars that feel like a warm embrace. Uncategorizable eclectic stylings from the master of free jazz guitar!

Nels Cline Singers-
Attempted and The Angel of Angels
From: Draw Breath

Click here to buy this album!

13) His Name is Alive- Sweet Earth Flower- Tribute to Marion Brown

Warn Defever of indie chameleons His Name is Alive has always been a eclectic cat, and he keeps pushing the boundaries of the His Name is Alive sound. This time he has enlisted the help of Afro-beat heavyweights Antibalas and NOMO to help him craft a stunning tribute to Marion Brown, one of the most innovative composers and saxophonists to traverse the world of free jazz in the late 60's. A graceful and uplifting record that juxtaposes dissonant soundscapes with mellow passages of transcendental beauty.

His Name is Alive- Juba Lee Brown and Capricorn Moon
From: Sweet Earth Flower- A Tribute to Marion Brown

Click here to buy this album!

14) Heliocentrics- Out There

Mind-blowing record that juxtaposes head-nodding beats, driving basslines and spacey electronics to create a stellar masterpiece of instrumental jazzy hip-hop electronica that is reminiscent of Amon Tobin and DJ Shadow jamming with a live jazz band.

Heliocentrics- Distant Star and Sirius B
From: Out There

Click here to buy this album

15)Antibalas- Security

Security is the fourth Antibalas album, and it has been skillfully co-produced by John McEntire of the highly influential 90's post-rock band Tortoise. The funky Fela-inspired workouts are here in spades, but McEntire adds more texture to their afro-beat sound by incorporating electronics and hip-hop rhythms into the mix. Another fantastic slice of afro-beat from the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.

Antibalas- Filibuster XXX and I.C.E.
From: Security

Click here to buy this album!

16) Magik Markers- Boss

Magik Marker's second full length on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label contains a mind- melting stew of experimental noise and sexy blues swagger that demands repeated listens.

Magik Markers- Axis Mundi and Taste
From: Boss

Click here to buy this album

17) Tiny Vipers- Hands Across the Void

Seattle singer/songwriter Jesy Fortino's debut EP on Sub Pop is a hauntingly poetic freak-folk record that conjures up wasted days and empty lonely nights. This is the sound of isolation and restraint channeled through the voice of a wise-beyond-her-years 20 year old who has been haunted by this cruel world one too many times. Absolutely stunning debut!

Tiny Vipers- On This Side and Swastika
From: Hands Across the Void

Click here to buy this album!

18) Six Organs of Admittance- Shelter From the Ash

Ben Chasny conjures up feelings of loneliness and despair like no one else while channeling the spirit of Robbie Basho as he travels on the lonesome desert highway. Electrifying guitar solos that make the hair on your neck stand up, complement Chasny's plaintive acoustic guitar and yearning vocals. Put this one on late at night and disappear into the ether.

Six Organs of Admittance- Alone With the Alone and Strangled Road
From: Shelter From the Ash

Click here to buy this album!

19) Deerhoof- Friend Opportunity-

This record has more creative ideas jam-packed into 29 minutes than most bands have in their entire careeers. It is a stunningly creative tour de force of catchy vocal melodies, weird time signatures and spasmodic drumming. My head is still spinning!

Deerhoof- Perfect Me and +81
From: Friend Opportunity

Click here to buy this album

20) Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs- You Can't Buy a Gun When You're Crying

Holly Golightly has been a late discovery for me, but I guess it's better late than never. The latest album from Holly and Lawyer Dave on stand-up bass features an intoxicating blend of back-porch country, murder ballads and haunting blues that cuts straight to the bone.

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs- You Can't Buy a Gun When You're Crying and Clean In Two
From: You Can't Buy a Gun If You're Crying

Click here to buy this album

21) Adrian Orange and Her Band-S/T

Adrian Orange's (AKA Thanksgiving) latest opus has a jazzy Ethiopiques sound with an explosive seventeen piece band igniting each track.

Adrian Orange- Then We Play and You're My Home
From: S/T

Click here to buy this album!

22) Old Time Relijun- Catharsis in Crisis

All the staples of old Time Relijun's previous albums such as squalling saxophones, propulsive drumming and wild banshee on crack vocals are in full effect here. Pere Ubu mixed with James Chance and the Contortions and an entire case of 100 proof whiskey.

Old Time Relijun- Indestructible Life and Liberation
From: Catharsis in Crisis

Click here to buy this album!

23) Evolutionary Jass Band- What's Lost

This is an incredibly cohesive concept album of Eastern european folk dirges recorded by avant garde ethno-jazz collective Evolutionary Jass Band. Incendiary fiddle, piano, brass and drums color the tracks like an old european movie in sepia tone.

Evolutionary Jass Band- Requiem for Andrew and This Is Not the End
From: What's Lost

Click here to buy this album!

24) Blitzen Trapper- Wild Mountain Nation

Blitzen Trapper's latest record is a wildly eclectic amalgamation of country, noise rock, mellow folk, southern classic rock and electronic. All caution is thrown to the wind as the band rocks out with reckless abandon on "Murder Babe" and then segues into the mellow campfire singalong "Country Caravan". Highly recommended!

Blitzen Trapper- Murder Babe and Country Caravan
From: Wild Mountain Nation

Click here to buy this album!

25)Ethan Rose- Spinning Pieces

Ethan Rose's makeshift experimental electronic music was commisioned by Portland filmmaker Gus Van Sant for his latest film Paranoid Park. Rose's homespun soundscapes are created by using different mechanical devices such as music boxes, carillions and player pianos to create an exceptional sound world for the flickering images in your head.

Ethan Rose- The Singing Tower
From: Spinning Pieces

Click here to buy this album!