Monday, January 24, 2011

Plain Brown Wrappers #10- The Epiphany

First things first. During the month of January, The I Hear a New World podcast has exceeded the monthly quota of 15 Gigs alotted by Podomatic for the basic subscription. While this a fantastic thing, it also means that readers won't be able to partake in listening to the podcast until the quota is reset on January 31st. I wish I could upgrade to the "Pro" subscription, but I just don't have the financial resources to do this right now. One thing that puzzles me is that, while my show has exceeded the monthly bandwidth quota for the first time, it has not exactly been one of the highest rated podcasts on Podomatic this month.  I have noticed that you can still listen to the most recent podcasts uploaded on Eclectic Grooves, but the entire archive of I Hear a New World will be inaccessible until January 31st. I am told that those who try to listen to the podcast until this date receive the following message basically asking listeners to donate money so that they can listen to the podcast. If you would like to donate, far be it from me to stand in your way, but I don't expect any of you to do this.
It has been quite some time since the last edition of Plain Brown Wrappers, so it is with great pleasure that I bring this one to you today. Please let me know in the comments as to whether you feel that this series is like a ship that has sailed it's last voyage, or if you think there is something that can put the wind back in its sails. I would love to keep bringing these to you as long as I am inspired to do so, but I need more visitors to get excited about these posts by posting more comments and getting more involved.  

Today's epsiode of Plain Brown Wrappers is brought to you from that warped and twisted part of my brain that turns cartwheels through the gray matter of a deranged malfeasant who has spent way too many hours devouring Alejandro Jodorowsky movies in the black of night.  Blessed be those who can sit through this album without overtaxing your brain to make some palpable sense of it all. Music like this is best when it is not overanalyzed, as the complex rhythms and interweaving brass section are like characters in a novel telling their own fascinating stories. It is a wild amalgamation of avant garde cacophony, carnivalesque melodies, incendiary free jazz and mellow atmospherics that will make you forget everything that you were supposed to do during this exact moment. Let yourself be taken into this magical universe of sound.

Until next time...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Best Albums of 2010 Part 2

Hopefully, I've whet your appetite for adventurous music with the first installment of my picks for the Best Albums of 2010. Judging by the comments, at least some of the artists featured in the first part of the list were new to the readers.  My only hope in doing these lists is that I am able to turn some of you on to music that you haven't heard of yet. With that being said, let's get on to the second installment of the Best Albums of 2010. Please drop a comment to let me know what albums and artists made your list in 2010.

21) Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Rush to Relax

You wouldn't expect that a gang of office workers who met at a Christmas office party would be capable of producing the ecstatic, adrenaline-fueled garage punk of Rush to Relax. But the off-the-rails vocal delivery of Eddy Current combined with the blistering guitar solos of Brendan Suppression help make this an album worth revisiting again and again.

22) David S. Ware- Onecept

It is incredibly impressive that considering the challenges that David S. Ware has been up against lately with kidney failure and recovering from a kidney transplant, that he would have the wherewithal and stamina to produce a new record filled with so much kinetic energy that the sound practically jumps out of the speaker. It goes without saying that longtime friend and musical parter-in-crime William Parker adds an indelible dose of seasoning to the sonic stew with his phenomenal, inventive bass playing techniques. This is a powerful, spiritual musical statement from one of the elder statesmen of the free jazz movement.  

23) Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba- I Speak Fula

Finding really solid contemporary international music can be a challenge sometimes. So, when I came across this truly rewarding record by onetime Ali Farka Toure collaborator, Bassekou Kouyate, I knew that it had to make the cut for this year's list. An utterly spellbinding concoction of electrified desert blues juxtaposed with dazzling ngoni finger picking that recalls the transcendent banjo playing of bluegrass masters like Earl Scruggs or Hobart Smith.

Listen: I Speak Fula and Ladon

24) Ebo Taylor- Love and Death

Those of you who are familiar with afro-beat music know that the songs can sometimes go on for up to twenty minutes, especially songs from the King of Afrobeat Fela Kuti. So, it is a great feat that Ebo Taylor has managed to condense his message into bite-size fragments that are more easily digestible in a single sitting. Also, I would like to note that this is Ebo's first internationally distributed record, so make sure to take advantage of this opportunity to own your own copy of this record.

Listen: Nga Nga and Victory

25) The Liminanas- S/T

Since most of the garage rock I have been exposed to has been created within the confines of the United States, it is absolutely refreshing to find this gem recorded by French duo The Liminanas. This is a fantastic mix of garage rock, kraut rock and kitschy instrumentals all powered by propulsive rhythms and a sense of cool that is intoxicating.

26) The Swans- My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope Into the Sky

With the Swan's first musical output in over twenty years, you would think that it would be lackluster or half-formed. This couldn't be further from the truth, as they conjure up an album filled with songs that are so intense it practically makes your skin crawl. There are more musical dynamics on here than previous efforts, as the closing track, "Little Mouth", features an unaccompanied vocal from M.Gira that will absolutely chill your bones.

27) Paul Carey- Ghost of a Man

I was first introduced to the music of Paul Carey when I purchased a Thee Oh See's 7" split on Stankhouse records. While the songs on this 7" didn't exactly blow me away, they held promise that he would deliver something worth hearing in the forseeable future. After hearing Ghost of a Man for the first time, I knew that Carey had delivered on this earlier promise, as this record features an intoxicating brew of smoky, nicotine-tinged melancholy balanced with an upbeat rockabilly garage fury that really gets the blood pumping.

28) Little Women- Throat

Add this to the ongoing barrage of misleading monikers, as there are no women in this band, and they certainly are anything but little. What we have here is one of the most intense displays of caterwauling free jazz since Peter Brotzmann's relentless classic Machine Gun. This is definitely not for the faint of heart, though there are moments where the listener is given a breather, only to sense that there is catharsis just around the corner.

Listen: Throat I and Throat IV

29) Women- Public Strain

From the visceral free jazz of Little Women, I move on to the haunting lo-fi melancholy of Women.  This Canadian collective garnered the attention of the independent press with their self-titled debut last year, and this year's follow-up is definitely not subscribing to the sophomore slump theory. Hazy songs that seem to be filtered through a murky film, while irresistible melodies lurk just below the surface. Not nearly as experimental as their last offering, but as beguiling as ever.

30) Yu- Before Taxes

The solo project from Diamond District's Yu is the breath of fresh air necessary to elevate true hip-hop to the top of the heap. In light of media darlings like 50 Cent and Lil Jon, it is refreshing to hear a rapper spit styles that are reminiscent of Rakim with samples of old-school soul peppering the tracks.

31) Group Doueh- Beatte Harab

The latest offering from Group Doueh proves that Sublime Frequencies can barely do any wrong. I have to admit that I felt that the recording quality of the last Group Doueh record was a little below par, but this one has really captured the beauty and complexity of the band. Featuring a simple arrangement of a three-stringed lute called a tinidit, clay drums and the passionate vocals of Doueh's wife Halima Jakani, this couldn't be further from the blown-out lo-fi sound of previous efforts by Group Doueh. Another essential release from the Sublime Frequencies stable.

32) Magic Lantern- Platoon

The latest mind-bending psychedelic voyage into the gray matter of Sun Araw's Cameron Stallones does not disappoint. Epic, wah-wah inflected solos combine with a dub-heavy sound to make one of the most intoxicating listens of the year.  Whether you like drugs or not is irrelevent, this album will transport you to other sonic worlds that you would have throught unimaginable before.

33) Matmos and So Percussion- Treasure State

Not much electronic music grabbed my attention this year, but Matmos is always worth a listen.  This is a collaboration with So Percussion, who I'm guessing lend a more jazzy sound to the usual experimental electronic sound of Matmos. Certain tracks like "Treasure" start out sounding fairly normal, only to explode into a frenzied assault of fuzz guitars.  One of the best surprises of the year!
Listen: Water and Cross

34) The Black Angels- Phosphene Dream

If someone were to tell me that The Black Angels was going to make an album as good as this one, I would never have believed them until I was able to listen to Phosphene Dream with headphones. They have tightened their sound and eschewed the epic sounding guitars in exchange for a psychedelic head-trip of an album that isn't far from the majestic sound of the 13th Floor Elevators. Aftter repeated listens, I am utterly incapable of shaking the melodies of "Yellow Elevator #2" from my subconscious.

35) Tera Melos- Patagonian Rats

New discovery for me that still leaves me scratching my head in disbelief. I simply can't fathom a band with this many inventive ideas put in a context that somehow maintains an accessible sound. Wildly eclectic, experiemental prog-math rock channeled through the soul of an indie-rock band. Give this a listen if you are up for a truly interesting musical adventure.

36) Josephine Foster and the Victor Herrera Band- Anda Jaleo

As far as I know, this album didn't make any of the musical lists that were scattered throughout the internet. This is a total shame, as Jospehine Foster has made an enduring musical statement with a south-of-the border sound that reminds me of the moody mariachi instrumentals of Calexico coupled with a powerful female singer who carries these songs to the next level.

37) Fight the Big Bull- All Is Gladness in the Kingdom

A fantastic hybrid of jazz and rock that never runs out of energy or ideas, keeping the listener glued to the speaker. Tempos start off really slow on some tracks, only to build into a cacophonous frenzy. Others start off with screaming solos straight out the gate, only to dissolve into ambient washes of sound. Whether you like your rock with a jazz tinge or vice versa, you will undoubtedly have plenty to sink your teeth into with this record.

38) Royal Baths- Litanies

While this is largely a rock-n-roll record owing a heavy debt to The Velvet Underground, Royal Baths manage to maintain their own sound. Disaffected vocals hover over dark instrumental passages while torrential, screaming guitar solos melt the inside of your eardrums.

39) Mostly Other People Do the Killing- Forty Fort

Exuberant free jazz with an infectious, free-loving big band spirit and a sense of humor to boot. Highly listenable collection of songs that manage to challenge your ears while pleasing them at the same time.  
Listen: Pen Argyl and Forty Fort

40) Sun City Girls- Funeral Mariachi

Aside from the slightly off-kilter opening track, "Ben's Radio", this proves to be the most mellow Sun City Girls album in their entire discography. With several tracks rarely getting past a funereal pace, it is fitting that the title of this record is Funeral Mariachi, but it is undoubtedly a Sun City Girls record.  A perfect swan song for a band who wore many different musical masks throughout its career, but managed to always stay ahead of the curve. 

This concludes part 2 of my picks for the Best Albums of 2010. I hope that you have enjoyed reading through my list, and I would love to hear what albums made your list in 2010.