My cousin Carolyn asked me recently what I've been listening to lately, and that made me think that writing a list with some thoughts might be just the thing.
Kristin Hersh-Crooked. KH took advantage of the internet and its possibilities to bring a community of supporters (Strange Angels) together with the hopes that they might pay her, in advance, to make a record rather than asking a record company for an advance. Crooked is the result. Beautiful packaging houses a beautiful and somewhat sad yet hopeful work of beauty. This could not be mistaken for any other artist. I love the opener, Mississippi Kite. It's a corker that draws you into Hersh's world. It lets you know that whatever sadness or seeming fragility you hear through the course of listening will be survived. Indeed, she will survive and thrive.
Evangelista- Prince of Truth. This is Carla Bozulich and her current cadre of musicians. Carla's albums are always a journey. Joy and pain are woven together like threads in a shirt. It is the beauty and ugliness that is our existence. Difficult and stunning.
The Corin Tucker Band-1,000 Years. OK, I love Sleater-Kinney. So this album is a no brainer. It's also a surprise and a revelation. If you love S-K just listen. If you don't love S-K because of Corin's voice, give this a listen anyway. I think you may be surprised.
Tinariwen-Imidiwan: Companions. Sahara Desert Blues is the moniker. The moniker does not really do them justice. The desert is in the music as is their uprising and their joy. Their lives are hard and beautiful. You can practically feel the sand in your eyes and between your teeth after hearing this recording, but you may also feel a lightness of heart and buoancy of spirit.
ANBB-Mimikry. Blixa's shreik. Oh my. What a way to start. Then electronic tomfoolery, and a song appears. And a cover of Harry Nilsson's One? It sounds absurd on the surface of it, but then one remembers Blixa's cover of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', and one thinks OK this may be possible. And it is. It's noisy and weird and lovely, and I'm glad I have it.
White. White is shenggy and Shou Wang. They are a duo from China who recently released this album produced by the aforementioned Blixa Bargeld and recorded in the former Bunker (now Andere Baustelle) studio in Berlin. It is by turns fascinating and monotonous and fascinating again. Really, the devil is in the details. It may sound monotonous if one only listens tangentially, but if the listener listens he/she is rewarded with myriad little developments. They are like rings inside a tree. The tree is the tree, but the rings tell a story. Fascinating.
Sun City Girls-Funeral Mariachi. These are very different albums that have the common link of Sir Richard Bishop, guitarist extraordinaire. Sun City Girls ceased to exist after the demise of drummer Charles Gocher, but there were some final recordings that Richard's brother, Alan finished. It's not as strange as much of their back catalog. In many ways it's the perfect gateway drug into the world of Sun City Girls. By turns strange and wonderful and the strange is wonderful too. You never know where they will take you next.
Rangda is Richard Bishop with Ben Chasny on guitar and Chris Corsano on drums. It begins with the hilariously titled Waldorf Hysteria. It lives up to its title. It is insane surf guitar antics played at thrash metal proportions. There are surprises galore in this record too. Calm soothing guitar at one point is then joined, out of nowhere, by furious, bashing drums and the guitars never join in the fray. They stay the course while the drums scream and bruise. And so it goes. Both are intriguing and some of my favorites of the year.
Gil Scott Heron-I'm New Here. Gil Scott Heron has never really left, but this is new territory I suppose. There is a fair amount of trip hop, and the words are maybe a bit more wistful for what might have been, but the poetry is still there in force. And things are still supremely fucked in our world. I love his admonition in the liner notes that you, the listener, should listen without outside distractions (like one used to listen). Turn off the phone, the computer. Turn on the brain. Just listen. This record, like any I think, deserves your full attention.
Derek Bailey and Agusti Fernanadez-A Silent Distant. Derek Bailey loved a challenge. He pushed against the acceptable boundaries of music, and more often than not, he leaped with abandon over those edges tearing them to shreds along the way. He approached his Motor Neurone Disease the same way. He had to learn a whole new approach to playing guitar, and his sound changed as a result, but his creativity and his desire never faltered. He wanted to face every challenge head on and document it as he did on an album that charts his progress from what was initially thought to be tendonitis. Anyway, this CD documents his last live public performance, and it is beautiful. It is the rather classical mixture of guitar and piano, but not really like anything you've heard before. It is exploratory and expansive and refreshing and pretty much different than anything else in Bailey's catalog which is astounding in and of itself considering how extensive his catalog really is.
Nels Cline-Dirty Baby. OK. Really. I have not quite wrapped my head around this yet. There is poetry and artwork. The music was meant to be a soundtrack to these, but, according to the liner notes, the music kind of took on a life of its own that still somehow lends itself to the words and visuals. It makes its own kind of sense. It's thorny and knotty and intriguing. I think I like it. One thing I can always say about the work of Nels Cline, as a guitarist, is that it is always fascinating. Sometimes it is stomach churning, sometimes beautiful, usually thoughttful. Mostly challenging. He can dazzle you with the most lyrical phrases and then shatter you with the most pernicious noises. I don't always know what to make of it, but I am always drawn to it: perhaps like a moth to a flame. Maybe I just like to feel the burn.
OK, most of that is new (more or less), but there were also some rereleases that caught my attention this year. First.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds-Henry's Dream. you can feel the rumble of the strings rattling against the guitar neck in the opening. The sound is huge. Papa Won't Leave You Henry is an amazing opener, and it still grabs you by the throat when they decide to play it live. The band, apparently, were never quite pleased with this (Mick Harvey, I love you), and they leaped at the chance to right a few wrongs. The sound is, indeed, amazing in this disc. I don't have 5.1, but I am curious to hear how it sounds when I finally get it. Nevertheless, it is greatly improved. It sounds like the Bad Seeds are in the room playing for you alone. There are a slew of extras: live tracks, bonus tracks. The documentary video is sort of interesting once, but sort of not necessary. The music says it all.
Einstürzende Neubauten-Strategies Against Architecture IV. EN were one of the first groups to try to exploit the possibilities of the internet. There were forums and personal connections. Maybe one could be made here. This is an over view of that process and time. They made several albums (and missteps) along the way. They tried to get closer to the listeners while keeping a significant distance from them as well. There is an interesting paradox here that many of the members of EN are extremely private, but they put themselves into this public forum anyway. The music is often fascinating and beautiful. It is more gentle than in the earliest days, but it is still too thorny and difficult for the average listener that just wants marmalade and honey in their treats. For the collector, or dare I say it, former supporter, there is little that is unavailabe, but the Musterhaus collage is wonderful as is Waiting for the Call. Some of the formerly exclusive tracks are significantly different so that they are still sort of exclusive to us such as Palast der Republik (edited down or different) and Party at Meck-Pomm (cut down substantially). Still, fascinating glimpses into the world of EN.
I say, comb the internet for Grundstück, Halber Mensch and Unglaublicher Lärm, and be amazed.