Tag Archive for '“thrill jockey”'

It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2013

Here we are again at the end of a year when everyone trots out their “Top” lists. This is my third year of assembling one of these, and for me it is a good exercise in remembering what the hell I listened to! 2013 seemed to blow by very quickly and frankly, it took some reflection to even remember what I listened to this year. 2013 was the seventh year for It’s Time to Play B-Sides and the 2nd year at the job I got after my 2011 layoff. My wife and I moved homes again this year– five doors down from our last place in which we had spent one very unsettled year. This place is wonderful and a much better fit for us, and we have actually moved into this place– hung pictures, hung guitars and decorated for Christmas (in itself this tells you a lot). We’re looking forward to 2014 as a year of focusing on something other than where we are living.

Getting to the music of 2013, when I look at the Top lists for other websites and magazines, I missed or ignored some pretty big releases this year. More-and-more we are becoming a singles-based culture when it comes to music and discussions of whole albums from artists is falling from the mainstream. There are some big releases from 2013 that merit some mention here, I think.

Kanye West’s Yeezus was Spin Magazine’s top release. Aside from his appearance at the Hurricane Sandy benefit and hearing “Black Skinhead” a lot (admittedly a great track), I didn’t get a chance to sit down with it. Helpfully, Google Play made it a free download yesterday and I have it. The cursory listen I gave it shows West at the top of his game and the production of the album is top-notch. It was a big year for Daft Punk who lent production on four tracks on Yeezus (including the aforementioned “Black Skinhead”) and then released their own hugely-successful Random Access Memories with the internet-meme-generating “Get Lucky.”

My friend John Book mentions Justin Timberlake’s much-anticipated 20/20 Experience in his Top Albums list and he echoes pretty much what everyone else thinks– JT blew his load on Part One, and probably should have left well enough alone and not released Part Two (which hardly anyone mentions except to say he shouldn’t have released it). The week of JT on Fallon was amazing and enough for me to download the album, though I’d have to admit that I didn’t stay listening to it for very long. John Book’s review of Part One is worth a read.

Lady Gaga dropped her ARTPOP album this year and though I couldn’t believe it, she managed to release something less interesting than her last album Born This Way. I loved both Fame and the follow up Fame Monster EP— delicious slices of electronic pop with a keen sense of “now.” She has– in my opinion– devolved from being a musician and has become more focused on the spectacle.

All of that said, here is my list of the Top Albums of 2013 (In No Particular Order):

Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – Haw really delivers on the promise of the albums that came before it. Largely a vehicle for the songwriting of MC Taylor and Scott Hirsh HGM enlists an amazing cast (William Tyler, the guys from Megafaun) to help deliver their sound which is a compelling mix of 70’s folk rock, American Primitive and a side of jam-based instrumentals. I’ve been following HGM from the first releases and find the spiritual searching of Taylor to be really compelling. In 2014, Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2011 release Bad Debt will get a remaster and reissue by Paradise of Bachelors with a bonus track from the original kitchen table cassette recordings made in 2010.

Golden Gunn – self-titled – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – Hirsh and Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger make my list again with this brilliant collaboration with Steve Gunn. A super-rare vinyl release on Record Store Day, but you can get the CD and digital download from Paradise of Bachelors. Apparently Gunn and Taylor shared a long car ride to a wedding and determined that they should work together. What we have is a very hazy and wandering JJ Cale-influenced jam. Taylor and Gunn share vocal duties and Hirsh brings a compliment of keyboards and analog electronics to the mix. Excellent go-to release for some mellow jams– Gunn’s vocals remind me of Beck on his more listenable days.

Brokeback – Brokeback and the Black Rock – (on my releases I’m Looking Forward to for 2013) – Who knew that Doug McCombs (of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day) had another album of his Bass VI-driven instrumentals in him? A complete re-envisioning of Brokeback with new members provides one of my favorite instrumental releases in a while, frankly and the most consistent Brokeback release since the debut album Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table. I had a chance to talk to McCombs when he came to Iowa City with David Daniell for their tour in support of Sycamore. McCombs is a huge fan of the Tom Verlaine album Warm and Cool (and was instrumental in getting that re-issued on Thrill Jockey). This album’s reverbby clean guitar and bass recalls Warm and Cool whether that was the intention or not.

The Horses Ha – Waterdrawn – (on my releases I’m Looking Forward to for 2013) – This album had been in the works for a couple of years. Since I help them with their Facebook page I got a chance to preview a couple of these tracks last year, so I was anticipating the release. Janet Bean (of Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day) and James Elkington (of The Zincs and lends a hand with Freakwater, Brokeback and Daughan Gibson) return with their 70’s British folk-influenced music. Janet and James bring some really gorgeous melodies and harmonies to the stripped down acoustic music. As crazy as the music industry seems and all of the “end is nigh” sentiments surrounding the ability for musicians to put music out, it is heartening to see an admittedly-niche release like this seeing the light of day– let alone in such a beautiful packaging by label Fluff and Gravy.

Jack Logan and Scott Baxendale – Bones in the Desert – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – A bit of a disclaimer– I help Jack and Scott with their Facebook page and wrote their press release. That said, I did it because it is such a great record! I’ve been a fan of Jack Logan since Bulk and have had the pleasure of being able to maintain a relationship over the internet with him. He’s one-of-a-kind– a serial song writer and recorder. The mountain of work suggested by sorting through his vast catalog of releases and unreleased songs is 2nd only to Neil Young (one would suppose). He admits to needing more of a filter sometimes and when he does– like working with a great songwriter and guitarist like Scott Baxendale, the results are even more trademark Logan it seems. Guitar-rock with 70’s influences like the Stones or The Faces bolted to a uniquely Logan sense of humor and storytelling. Logan and Baxendale are pretty-well known members of the Athens music scene, so they were able to draw other talented musicians to help out with the release– which only exists physically on vinyl BTW– so we have a couple of Drive-By Truckers in the mix. Super limited release of 500 on vinyl so don’t sleep on this one if you’re a fan like I am! Jack and Scott are already working on new songs and plan to release something in 2014, but it won’t be on vinyl (at least not until they sell out of the Bones vinyl!)

Mountains – Centralia (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) – For a band who is two guys with guitars and an endless set of loopers and effects, they have a fairly wide palate of sonic landscapes from which to draw. When their Thrill Jockey debut Choral came out I was immediately a fan. I have all of their releases to date, but I feel like Centralia really was a return to some of the song structures that drew me to Mountains to begin with.

Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me Soundtrack – It might not be fair to include this release here since it isn’t an album of new songs, but as a compilation (and distillation, I suppose) of Big Star’s notable songs it totally works. The documentary film from which it is drawn is a must-see as a primer of one of pop rock’s most obscure but no less influential bands. I picked up one of the really rare orange translucent vinyl pressings done for Record Store Day in April by Omnivore Records. You can get a black vinyl version from them now.

Arbouretum – Coming Out of the Fog – (on my releases I’m Looking forward to for 2013) Right now, my three favorite guitar bands on Thrill Jockey are Wooden Shjips, Pontiak and Arbouretum. All three have a distorted psychedelic sound that I really dig and I listen to them in rotation quite a bit. Arbouretum tends to lean towards a prog-rock/prog-folk sound and Dave Heumann has really polished that sound on Coming Out of the Fog.

Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell & Angels – This was a somewhat contraversial release as far as diehard Hendrix fans are concerned. They consider this to be a kind of cash-in by the Experience Hendrix organization. EH says that this is a release of unreleased Jimi Hendrix songs post-Electric Ladyland and is presented as kind of a picture of where Hendrix was going with his sound rather than something that might have been released as an album. If you want to know what Hendrix was likely considering for the next album, you should look at the 1997 compilation of tracks titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. The tracks on People, Hell & Angels are also tracks recorded around the same time as the First Rays material. As far as the “unreleased” statement is concerned, it would appear that most of this material has surfaced in some form or another dating back to the some would say pillaging of the Hendrix tape vaults by Reprise Records from 1971 to 1975 as well as the Sony compilations in the 1990’s Blues and Voodoo Soup. In addition there are two songs which aren’t really Hendrix songs as such, he played on them around the same time as these other songs. So, effectively this is the last of the studio songs not released by Experience Hendrix (assuming no other Dagger Records releases, which are “official bootlegs” done by EH).

Aside from all of that political mess, the release is surprisingly pleasant to listen to. A lot of effort was spent making the songs sound consistent and as if they were intended for one album. Quite a bit of work was done by Eddie Kramer to assemble these tracks from different takes to make them since most of this release was not finished at the time of Hendrix’s death. It is really great to hear a kind of stripped down to the essentials version of Hendrix– no psychedelic effects on these songs. In fact, this release really shows the guitarist that Hendrix was maybe more so than the previous albums and puts a finer point on his electric blues love.

Califone – Stitches – Califone came back in 2013 with their first non-soundtrack album since their fantastic 2006 album on Thrill Jockey Roots & Crowns. Their last album was the soundtrack to the film “All My Friends are Funeral Singers” which I really wasn’t a fan of. Stitches brings the band back to songs that aren’t burdened with some kind of vague overarching concept or having to support a film for that matter. In other words, the songs stand on their own and make for a great listen from side to side and stands up as a great companion to Roomsound, which is my favorite release out of their catalog (big ups to Thrill Jockey for reissuing Roomsound on vinyl as part of their 20th Anniversary celebration!)

William Tyler – Impossible Truth – William Tyler is a noted sideman from Nashville. He’s probably best known as one of the sidemen in Lambchop and The Silver Jews, he also lends the occasional hand in Hiss Golden Messenger. In addition to bringing his Telecaster-based atmospherics for other bands, he has his own solo career and has put out a couple of really amazing guitar instrumental albums on Merge Records– one of them 2013’s Impossible Truth. Recommended if you’re a fan of the American Primitive style guitar work of Leo Koettke or John Fahey.

Arcade Fire – Reflektor – Arcade Fire continues to be the band that knows how to use social media and mystery to hype a release. Their 9/9/9 campaign coupled with some strategic radio and TV appearances including a Saturday Night Live stint and the following “TV Special “Here Comes the Night Time” certainly drew some attention from me. I loved The Suburbs and it’s attendent theme of, well whatever they didn’t like, and Reflektor still exhibits some of those themes, although this time they are pulling from Haitian music for influence. Overall the record is really well done, and even in its weaker moments (and it has some to be certain) the album is still really engaging. Arcade Fire is typically accused of having really huge egos and really it is that kind of audacity that can produce an album like this. I compare this album to Talking Heads’ final album Blind which also pulls some similar rhythms in its Carribbean and South American influences.

Lissie – Back to Forever – Lissie has had an impressive streak of releases so far starting with her debut album Catching a Tiger in 2010, followed by some great covers (“Bad Romance” upstages Gaga’s in my opinion) which were collected in 2012’s Covered Up With Flowers. Lissie provided very distinctive backing vocals on the Snow Patrol album Fallen Empires which was a favorite of mine and was produced by Jacknife Lee (who also produced the two Tired Pony albums). When I heard that Jacknife was producing Back to Forever, my expectations were pretty high and I wasn’t disappointed! The album has Lissie pretty much pissed off all the way through it and the results harken back to a time when strong women wrote powerful anthemic songs– Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks come easily to mind. Every song on this record is a winner and I can play this album pretty much every day and not get tired of it. I got Sherry a copy on CD for her car and she plays it as much as she plays Lyrics Born (that’s a lot, folks!)

Cheynne Mize – Among the Grey – Speaking of strong anthemic songwriting– Cheyenne Mize (no “Marie” apparently) signed to Yep Roc and released a brilliant follow up to her 2010 album Fall to Rise and 2011’s We Don’t Need EP. Where those two releases showed her versatility in instruments and style, Among the Grey shows Mize is an out-and-out rocker sounding sonically grungy like this year’s answer to PJ Harvey. Beautiful record.

Love Over Gold – Fall to Rise – Continuing our “Girl Power” section is Pieta Brown’s first side project Love Over Gold. Named after a Dire Straits album and song, Pieta partnered up with Aussie musician Lucie Thorne for a barebones duo. Pieta met Lucie during a tour of Australia a few years back and thought that collaborating would work. It does. Lucie’s style is a perfect fit for Pieta and this album is filled with beautful vocal harmonies and emotion. I wrote a review of Fall to Rise for Little Village (here).

Caroline Smith – Half About Being a Woman – Minnesota artist Caroline Smith released three albums from 2008 to 2011. For her latest album Half About Being a Woman, she changed things up by making an album influenced by 70’s and 80’s R&B– a departure from her more indie folk-sounding previous albums. The whole process and struggle (she was worried she’d alienate her fanbase) is documented in the half-hour documentary “My Way Back Home.”  Personally, I really love the direction she is going– it’s great to her her sing out and belt some of these songs!

The Shouting Matches – Grownass Man – I was torn about whether to put this album on the list or Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) other 2013 release as part of Volcano Choir – Repave. Both are almost opposite ends of the spectrum. The Shouting Matches is a stripped-down blues-influenced affair– similar to Black Keys. Repave is Volcano Choir’s 2nd release and it owes more of a debt to Bon Iver than the previous album did, in my opinion. When it gets down to it, I listened to both quite a bit, but I find Grownass Man to be more satisfying (and more entertaining) in its straightforward direction. Even though the Bon Iver moniker is on hiatus indefiniately, I’m happy to see Vernon is still creating music and producing.

Dawes – Stories Don’t End – Album #3 from Dawes finds the band setting off on their own having stepped away from their label ATO. Lots of quotes from Taylor Goldsmith about trying to change the widespread idea that they are somehow indelibly a 70’s throwback band (my words) and lifting off the mantle of “Laurel Canyon Sound” that they acquired when PR people didn’t know what to say about their first album and its obvious influences. That said, Stories Don’t End is not really a departure from the first two albums. If anything, it is a continuation and maturity of the band who is coming to grips with their identity and sound. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the external reviewers and PR people portray about Dawes because what really matters is strong songwriting, amazing vocal harmonies and live shows. It’s probably a good thing that three albums in, Dawes isn’t trying to shake things up dramatically– they aren’t even 30 yet!

The 4onthefloor – Spirit of Minneapolis – Album #2 from the Twin Cities storming blues rock band and their signature crazy-eyed spirit is still in tact. In a similar fashion to their first album 4×4, the songs on Spirit of Minneapolis have been percolating in their live sets dating back to the 4×4 days and I’d say that the songs are pretty much interchangable between the two albums. It’s not a criticism as much as an observation. If you love 4onthefloor, you’ll love this album, too. Gabe Douglas has been working on an album from his side-project Silverback Colony which should come out in 2014, I suspect.

Wooden Shjips – Back to Land – A band I kind of slept on until this album came out. Like I said above, Wooden Shjips is one of my favorite new guitar-based bands on Thrill Jockey along with Pontiak and Arbouretum. All three bands lean towards layered distortion and psychedelic rock. If you’re a fan of the “stoner rock” or “desert rock” genre with bands like Queens of the Stone Age or Fu Manchu this band fits right in, though they’ve never been tagged as such that I’m aware. The vinyl packaging for this record is fantastic– die-cut outer slip jacket exposes the art on the inner sleeve similar to Led Zeppelin covers from the 70’s. My copy is one of the limited pink vinyl pressings which is pretty cool.

The Horse’s Ha Return After A Five Year Hiatus With Sophomore Release – Waterdrawn – Out 8/20/13

HorsesHa_Outerjacket

I’ll admit that the first album from Janet Beveridge Bean and James Elkington as The Horse’s Ha– titled Of The Cathmawr Yards seemed to me a bit too self-contained to support a second.  It seemed like a one-off concept to me — both the band name and the album title came from the same Dylan Thomas short story about the occupants of a cematery rising from their graves. The album carried with it a specific central dark or macabre theme. I wrote a fairly in-depth analysis of the album in my review of it HERE.

So, it was unexpected news when Janet told me over a year ago that they had new songs in the works. I had just started helping her with the band Facebook page and she shared with me a few rough mixes, which were as beautiful as the first album songs.

The new album, titled Waterdrawn continues with the 60’s and 70’s English Folk Revival-influenced music of the first album. The press material mentions the album being influenced by the seminal Shirley Collins and Davy Graham 1964 album Folk Roots, New Routes and indeed the barebones acoustic guitar and lovey soprano vocal arrangement seems to be a clear template for Waterdrawn.

That said, there seems to be a more sinister influence at work, here.

“We kind of like to think of it as horror folk akin to soundtrack stuff from films like the Wiccan-themed (1973 British Horror film) “The Wicker Man” Bean told me. So, the dark themes from Of The Cathmawr Yards continues on Waterdrawn.

Portland, OR indie label Fluff and Gravy will be releasing Waterdrawn on August 20th on CD and Vinyl (bless them!) Until then, you can listen to “The Dying Tree”

Please visit and “Like” the Facebook page for The Horses Ha HERE

Visit the Horses Ha page on the Fluff and Gravy Website HERE.

The Horses Ha will be performing at The Hideout in Chicago for their Record Release show on Thursday, August 22nd.

It Feels Like the Third Time Again as Freakwater Reunites for a 20th Anniversary Tour

Freakwater

2012 was a year marked with vinyl re-releases from the seminal Thrill Jockey catalog in celebration of 20 years– Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Fiery Furnaces, Califone. In among the releases was a a reissue of a record that many consider to be the beginnings of what we know to be the Americana movement today– Feels Like the Third Time by Freakwater. Thrill Jockey reissued Freakwater’s 1993 third album (and first for the label) on Record Store Day and in 2013 it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

In celebration of this landmark occasion, Janet Beveridge Bean, Catherine Irwin and Dave Gay will be doing a whirlwind tour of shows. Joining them will be James Elkington of The Zincs and Horses Ha (that he is in with Bean). Regarding this tour in support of a 20 year old album Bean said, “We have found a lot of our fans were having babies round the time the record came out and those babies were forced to listen to Freakwater more than any baby should. It turns out those babies, now the record buying public, have some sort of DNA thing going where they gotta hear the Freakwater. So really we’re doing this for the kids.”

It seems that everyone is talking about this upcoming “reunion” tour of Fleetwood Mac (why is it a reunion tour?? Didn’t they just tour?), but the real reunion tour to catch in 2013 is Freakwater. Oh, and bring your kids.

FREAKWATER TOUR DATES 2013
FEELS LIKE THE THIRD TIME 20th ANNIVERSARY TOUR
January 11 The Ninth Ward, Buffalo NY
January 12 The Haunt, Ithaca NY
January 13 Johnny D’s, Somerville MA
January 14 Narrows Center for the Arts, Falls River MA
January 15 The Bell House, Brooklyn NY
January 16 DC9 Washington DC
January 17 Club Cafe, Pittsburgh PA
January 18 Beachland Tavern, Cleveland OH
January 19 Stuart’s Opera House, Nelsonville OH
January 21 The Hideout, Chicago IL
January 23 Private House Party
January 24 Headliners, Louisville KY
Freakwater Fan Page
Freakwater Facebook Page (the real one– you should really click “Like”)
Freakwater Thrill Jockey Page

 

(Upcoming Shows) Glenn Jones Brings His American Primitive Guitar to Iowa

Photo taken by Tim Bugbee

 I feel like I’ve arrived at the party late.

While I was familiar with the work of John Fahey and his proteges like Leo Kottke, until recently I didn’t really look into the phenomenon that is generally known as “American Primitive.” Musicians I follow closely like Joey Burns of Calexico, and MC Taylor from The Court & Spark and Hiss Golden Messenger, and the guys from Tortoise have all mentioned Fahey one time or another.

It actually took a conversation with MC Taylor regarding Tortoise and the similarity of the song titles “In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women and Men” from TNT, and “In Christ There Is No East and West” the Christian standard interpreted by Fahey and a chance PR e-mail from Thrill Jockey about their new signing of Glenn Jones to send me falling down the rabbit hole that is John Fahey’s career. In particular, it was this video of Glenn Jones that Thrill Jockey sent that really grabbed me:

Glenn Jones – Of Its Own Kind from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Beautiful, right? The fact that there is a whole genre of music that is based in this classically-inspired folk acoustic guitar playing is a bit overwhelming to me. In an e-mail exchange with Glenn Jones recently, he referred to Fahey as “the fountainhead” in that Fahey inspired so many guitarists with his work. In addition to his own career recording his own music, he also worked on a very extensive reissue of Fahey’s early works dating from 1958-1965. Titled John Fahey: Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You (The Fonotone Years 1958-1965) it is a project that Jones started working with Fahey on before his passing in 2001. Weighing in at 115 tracks spread over 5 CD’s and an 88-page accompanying book, it is clearly a labor of love for Jones.

Jones continues his Fahey influences in his own solo work. Spread over three albums on the label Strange Attractors Audio House Glenn Jones’ solo work are stringed instrumentals– guitar, slide, banjo– in spare arrangement. His fourth solo album and first on Thrill Jockey titled The Wanting continues largely in this vein, although it is really a culmination of the developments he has made.

The Wanting has been in very regular rotation for me since I got the promo and I’m still struck by the sheer beauty of the work and I’m looking forward to seeing him perform this week in Iowa City and Dubuque. Monday night he will be at The Mill in Iowa City and admission is $7 and doors are at 8:30PM. On Tuesday night he’ll be in Dubuque at Monk’s Kaffee Pub which will be NO COVER and is a super place to see Glenn who should benefit from such an intimate setting!

Click Here for Glenn Jones’ Facebook Page (that I’m helping him with) – please consider clicking “Like”

Below is the full tour schedule.

Glenn Jones Tour Dates (from Thrill Jockey)
Sun Oct 16 Chicago, IL – The Hideout
Mon Oct 17 Iowa City, IA – The Mill
Tue Oct 18 Dubuque, IA – Monk’s
Wed Oct 19 Bloomington, IN – Russian Recording
Thu Oct 20 Lexington, KY – Collexion
Fri Oct 21 Louisville, KY – Clifton Cultural Center
Sat Oct 22 Knoxville, TN – The Pilot Light
Sun Oct 23 Asheville, NC – Harvest Records
Mon Oct 24 West Columbia, SC – Conundrum Music Hall
Tue Oct 25 Greenville, SC – Horizon Records
Wed Oct 26 Decatur, GA – Decatur CD
Thu Oct 27 Chapel Hill, NC – The Nightlight
Fri Oct 28 Takoma Park, MD – Potts-Dupre Schoolhouse
Fri Oct 28 Takoma Park, MD – House of Musical Traditions
Tue Nov 1 Brooklyn, NY – Zebulon
Thu Nov 3 Easthampton, MA – Flywheel
Fri Nov 4 New Haven, CT – Never Ending Books
Sat Nov 5 State College, PA – Schlow Centre Region Library
Sun Nov 6 Harrisburg, PA – Moviate

 

(Review) Chicago Odense Ensemble

Chicago Odense Ensemble Vinyl Jacket and Sleeves
In the last year or so it seems that a few groups that I follow have chosen as a template for their recent albums the genre-defining and game-changing 1969 Miles Davis album In A Silent Way. In the Davis oeuvre, In A Silent Way represents his first full-step into electric fusion jazz and the precursor to Bitches Brew. The album itself is two compositions– on the LP, one per side– which are made up of edits of a much longer recording session by legendary recording engineer Teo Macero.

In 2008  musicians gathered in Chicago to collaborate on a new work. The group consisted of Rob Mazurek of Isotope 217 and Chicago Underground, Jeff Parker of Tortoise and Isotope 217, Dan Bitney of Tortoise and Isotope 217, Matt Lux of Isotope 217, Brian Keigher, Jonas Munk of Causa Sui and Manual and Jakob Skott of Causa Sui. A joining of bands from Chicago and Odense, Denmark named Chicago Odense Ensemble.

In Spring of 2010, I started hearing about this album from the folks at the boutique French record label AdLuna. AdLuna makes very-small-run releases with gorgeous packaging– all labors of love. The label had releases by Thrill Jockey alumni, including Rob Mazurek’s solo work Abstractions on Robert d’Abrissel, and Jeff Parker (on Doug Scharin’s Activities of Dust project) and now Chicago Odense Ensemble. The ambitions of the label for the release matched the promise of the recording. This album was going to represent AdLuna’s first venture into vinyl– a media befitting the importance of the album, and would give them the ability to stretch their packaging chops with the larger canvas.

Chicago Odense Ensemble on the Turntable

An undertaking of a project this size was going to be a stress on the small label, so they reached out to the fans with a pre-order campaign in June. By November, the packaging and other details of the release were ready and they were only going to press 250 180g LPs and 500 CD’s making this a very limited release and very desirable for collectors. Today, out-of-print Thrill Jockey titles can fetch around $40, and those are usually limited to 1000 LPs per pressing. I can only imagine the future value of this release!

In April 2011, the album was finally completed and ready to ship the pre-orders. The folks at AdLuna felt especially generous and decided to give away six sets of the test pressings to some lucky fans who pre-ordered the release. These six sets required some special packaging and shipping materials, so the winners had their releases shipped a bit later. As it turned out, I was one of the lucky six! The package included the LPs as expected and also included the test pressings which were wrapped in very special paper and were personalized with a letter of ownership as well as each of the records having the owner’s name written on them. As I write this, I’m still astonished by the effort and personal touch put forth for this!

Chicago Odense Ensemble Test Pressing Wrapped

The test-pressings were wrapped in a special Himalayan paper called lokta paper made from the bark of the lokta bush or Daphne bush. The included letter says this:

The lokta paper has been made in the Himalayan region for over 1200 years. Handcrafted, the paper is made from the inner bark of the bush which grows at a high altitude of 6500 to 9500 feet. It is very strong and is an incredible eco-friendly choice. The Nepalese claim that the lokta paper lasts for 1,000 years if protected from sunlight.

 

Chicago Odense Ensemble Test Pressing Unwrapped

The Chicago Odense Ensemble album is the result of a coming-together of two camps of musicians from seemingly different genres. The album is more about the exploration of groove and improvisation than it is about strict composition. In fact, this album is partially inspired by the aforementioned work done by Miles Davis, if not the resulting proto jazz fusion that followed. In a similar way to the Davis albums Chicago Odense Ensemble was created by marathon recording sessions followed by Monk taking the recordings back to his studio and editing and massaging the recordings into the resulting tracks.

Taken in whole, Chicago Odense Ensemble is an impressively cohesive work, no doubt supported by the very fruitful original sessions recorded in 2008. Considering the improvisational nature of the original tracks, the editing brings these tracks into individual compositions with unique moods and movement.

Here are my listening notes for each of the songs:

1. Parallel Motions (9:50) – dual improv of cornet and guitar  over repeating and building bass, guitar and percussion.

2. Emanuelle (9:23) – almost a dub track with the rolling echo. In the last two minutes of the song it switches to a more organized finish with brushes on the eights and chiming clean guitar chords underneath a trumpet melody.

3. Spirals (1:36) – Melancholy little interlude. Arpeggio clean guitar and coronet with a bell mute.

4. Glide Path (4:30) Bongos and atmospheric guitars. Lots of Isotope 217 and Tortoise influence on this track. Pretty, if a bit incidental

5. Soup (6:19) First song previewed from album. Starts with a marching snare and circular guitars builds in a circular fashion adding in frenetic cornet runs and guitar to the end.

6. Spine Dots (3:20)  Ominous and unstructured, atmospheric and swelling fragments of instruments a lead-in to “Delivery.”

7. Delivery (11:59)  African rhythms – shakers and guitar and bass playing same notes. halfway though the rhythm becomes more loose/more jammy. Becomes more frenzied in last two minutes and cacophonous

8. Pretty Nice (6:35) Appropriately described by the song title which is in-turn inspired by the studio chatter included at the end. Nice bright track. mellow percussion. nice way to wrap up the album.

At the time of this writing there are less than 100 of the LPs remaining. Visit the Chicago Odense Ensemble website for ordering information. You can order the CD here as well. For any order, they have immediate digital download, too.

 

Chicago Odense Ensemble “Soup” by Adluna Records

Upcoming Release: Mazurek’s Starlicker Trio Brings “Double Demon” on 5/17/11 and Tour

On a snowy night in January I had an opportunity to see Rob Mazurek’s newest band in an incredibly intimate setting at Monk’s Kaffee Pub in Dubuque, IA of all places. Starlicker is a trio made up of cornet player Mazurek, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes and John Herndon on drums. The trio played a dynamic set of improvised jazz punctuated by frenetic and muscular solos by each. I had my appetite whetted for their eventual release titled Double Demon, which is due out on 5/17 on seminal jazz and blues label Delmark.

Starlicker Live at Monk's Koffee Pub

Double Demon represents another title in Delmark’s recent re-entry into the world of vinyl– Mazurek’s last release with his band Exploding Star Orchestra (of which Adasiewicz and Herndon are also members) Stars Have Shapes was part of Delmark’s first two releases, so it’s clear that they want to take advantage of Mazurek’s following, who may know of him from his Thrill Jockey releases as Chicago Underground and Isotope 217.

In conjunction with the release, the trio is heading out for a few dates in the Midwest and East Coast in May, with another stop in Dubuque on May 20th for Dubuquefest– a free arts festival.

Double Demon Tracklisting:
1. Double Demon (6:13)
2. Vodou Cinque (6:22)
3. Orange Blossom (4:07)
4. Andromeda (5:40)
5. Triple Hex (9:22)
6. Skull Cave (6:33)

Here is some video I shot at Monk’s of an unreleased (or possibly renamed?) track called “Horseshoes”

I also recorded the full show with my handheld recorder and Rob gave me permission to post a track. This is an mp3 of “Triple Hex” live at Monk’s Kaffee Pub, January 18, 2011.

Triple Hex Live at Monk’s Kaffee Pub 1-18-11


Upcoming Show: Rob Mazurek’s Starlicker Coming to Monk’s in Dubuque- New Album Plans

Starlicker photo by Alessandro Carpentieri

It is said that for most people, the music that defines them tends to be based on the music that they listened to in their teens and twenties. I’m not immune to this either– when I talk about about bands I really like, it is framed with a reference of 80’s New Wave, Punk, and College Rock (U2, R.E.M., The Cure…). This is possible, in my opinion, because most bands in the Indie or Alternative space are really building on or working from the same language of melody and structure that was in place in that time.

For most pop and rock music anyway, nothing is ever really new under the sun– to paraphrase Ecclesiastes 1:9.

When I was first introduced to Chicago instrumental band Tortoise in 1998 I heard something that– for me– was wholly new. Tortoise’s influences were clearly the great film soundtrack music of the past, but also a mix of jazz and krautrock and electronic music. It was exciting to hear what I felt to be new music and in typical fashion I dove headlong into Tortoise and bands related to Tortoise.

The jumping-off points for related Tortoise projects are many. Every member of Tortoise has other solo and band projects and quite a few of them in common. But, it is through guitarist Jeff Parker that I started exploring the very rich history of Chicago’s improvisational and free jazz scene. I’m still very much a novice in this space, and I come to it with almost no frame of reference which is both frightening and exciting. I did not listen to jazz in my teens and twenties and it is not music that was played around the house, so it is music that I have had to explore on my own, building a path one stone at a time.

From the stone of Jeff Parker, my next steps were Isotope 217 and Chicago Underground— both bands with cornetist Rob Mazurek. Rob is a very prolific artist whose catalog seems to grow by three or four releases every year. In 2009 Rob released sound is for seminal Chicago Jazz and Blues label Delmark. For sound is, Mazurek pulled together a quintet that was made up of his core collaborators: John Herndon of Tortoise, Matt Lux of Isotope 217, Josh Abrams of Town and Country, and Jason Adasiewicz of Loose Assembly. For me the album recalls a bit of the structured approach of Isotope 217 and some of the looser wanderings of Chicago Underground to great results as this is still an album I listen to with some frequency.

Starlicker is a new trio assembled by Mazurek which includes a subset of the Quintet– John Herndon on drums and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes. In November they did a quick run of dates in Spain, and are now in the middle of a quick tour of Midwestern shows that will wrap up on 1/26 at The Hideout in Chicago. They will take the band fresh from the tour to the studio where they will record sessions for an album that will likely come out on Delmark. This will be followed by a show on Friday, February 4th at Transistor.

Starlicker will be performing at Monk’s Kaffee Pub in Dubuque, IA (373 Bluff St., 563-585-0919)  tomorrow night (Tuesday, January 18th). There is no cover and starts at 9PM, and it is suggested that you get there early to be guaranteed a spot.

Here is some video shot of Starlicker from their November 11, 2010 appearance at Teatro Caja Blanca, Malaga Spain.

Starlicker Tourdates (from robmazurek.com)

Saturday January 15th at 8:00pm -1:00am
Al’s Loft Society, 119 Calhoun St. Cincinnati Ohio

Sunday January 16th at 10pm-1am
The Hungry Brain, Chicago

Tuesday January 18th, 9p.m.
Monk’s Kaffee Pub, Dubuque

Thursday January 20th, 8:30pm
Sugar Maple
441 East Lincoln Avenue
53207
Milwaukee, WI, US

Friday and Saturday January 21 and 22, 9pm – 1pm
Cliff Bell’s
2030 Park Ave.
Detroit Michigan

Wednesday January 26th, 10 pm – 1pm
Hideout Chicago

Friday February 4
Transistor
5045 N. Clark St. Chicago 8pm – 11pm

10 Releases I’m Looking Forward to in 2011

Since I just finished my Top 20 of 2010, it has me looking towards 2011 and the releases that are rumored, speculated or actually announced. Here are some releases I’m looking forward to (in no particular order).

The Second Dawes Album (May 2011) – I wrote an article about this release and speculation about what tracks are going to be on it. The first Dawes album- North Hills was released in 2009 and has had pretty strong legs as far as carrying the band to national recognition. The songs that Dawes is playing on the road are as good as the ones on their debut, in my opinion. The album is already recorded and ready for release, but won’t see release until May of 2011, as it is waiting on…

The Middle Brother Album (3/1/2011) I wrote about this “supergroup” made up of members of Deer Tick, Delta Spirit and Dawes here. For Christmas, the band made the track “Me Me Me” available as a free download if you signed up for their mailing list. Middle Brother are planning a tour with all three bands in the spring which should be one of the big indie tours of the year. I have already pre-ordered the vinyl, which will come with a bonus 10″ record with four songs from the sessions that didn’t make the final LP.

Chicago Odense Ensemble – (Spring 2011)Chicago Odense Ensemble is another “supergroup” with members of Tortoise, Chicago Underground Collective and Causa Sui. The basis of this record was recorded when the members of Causa Sui were in Chicago in 2008.  The sessions, which were largely improvisational in nature, were recorded and brought back to Odense by Causa Sui member Jonas Munk and edited into the resulting tracks on the album. I’ve had a chance to listen to a pre-release of this, and agree with the early reviews and press about the album in the references to late-60’s Miles Davis In A Silent Way era work.

Arbouretum – The Gathering – (2/15/2011)Arbouretum is one of the many projects that David Heumann performs and records under. I’ve mentioned the Thrill Jockey 15th Anniversary Shows from 2007 where I was first exposed to Arbouretum and made me an instant fan. The Gathering is the fifth studio release for Arbouretum (which includes a split LP with labelmates Pontiak). The first track from the album available as free download is “Destroying to Save” which showcases the signature sea of fuzzy distortion that Arbouretum is known for with Heumann’s epic poetry.

Eleventh Dream Day – Riot Now – (3/15/2011) – When Doug McCombs played The Blue Moose in March of 2010 with David Daniell, I got a chance to talk to Doug about what was coming up for him. At that time he mentioned that Eleventh Dream Day was going to do a residency at the Hideout in May where the band was going to work out new songs for an upcoming release. Well, they did the residency, and their first new album since 2006 titled Riot Now is coming out on 3/15!

Kelly Pardekooper – untitled as yet – Former Iowan, currently Californian, Kelly has announced that he is going to start working with Bo Ramsey on his next album, which would be his first since 2007’s Brand New Bag, which is still one of my all-time favorite Iowa-related releases.

Ryan Adams – Blackhole – Another album in the extensive archives for Ryan Adams. Blackhole was started before he left Lost Highway (over Christmas 2005) and except for “Tomorrowland” and “Disco Queen” which came out as the third release of his aborted Digital Singles series in 2009, these are all songs that have not been leaked elsewhere. Based on posts on Facebook, Blackhole is actually completed–  he did some recording with Jamie Candiloro earlier this year, and if we are to believe a picture he posted of him holding a record, also mastered for vinyl. Those posts were done before the May release of his metal album Orion. December brought another vault release Cardinals III/IV, which was distributed by Orchard/TVT which gave the release much more widespread availability than his own PaxAm website would. He posted to Facebook that Blackhole is “basically Love is Hell Part 3” with “lots of shimmery guitar love.” Certainly the two tracks already available sound a lot like his Smiths-leanings than his Grateful Dead-leanings and I welcome more rock from Ryan. Posts from this week on the archive have people freaking out that PaxAm’s online store is down and there was a now-deleted comment on Facebook that he was sick of dealing with customer service issues with the online store. I’d say there is a very good chance that we see Blackhole released this year since it seems to be mastered already, and it will probably get the same distribution as III/IV.

DJ Shadow – untitled as yet (Spring 2011?) The long-awaited follow up to DJ Shadow’s 2006 Hyphy-influenced release The Outsider is likely to be completed before Shadow ventures out for another tour in May, per comments made on a video about the “Live from the Shadowsphere” tour. Based on the live performances of “I Gotta Rock” and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vinyl single release of “Def Surrounds Us” and “I’ve Been Trying” we see a sort of return to form for Shadow. He stated in an interview that this release would not be as focused on collaborations as The Outsider was.

Lady Gaga – Born This Way – (5/23/2011) – I make it no secret that I’m a fan of Gaga, The Fame and The Fame Monster were both really strong releases. I’m not going to debate that it wasn’t territory that had been covered before in pop music. The leadoff single of “Born This Way” will be released on 2/13. Based on what I’ve seen so far of new songs on her current tour, we’re seeing some of her rock leaning material. The song “You and I” is constantly compared to Elton John and it is clear he is an influence. Notably, the new tour will have The Scissor Sisters as supporting act– they worked with John on a track on their last album.

Bermuda Report – untitled as yet (date TBA)Bermuda Report is a new band from Abbie Sawyer formerly of The Diplomats of Solid Sound. She and her band jreleased a freely-downloadable EP of songs worth checking out in December– jazzy and bluesy. You can read my review with The Little Village. Abbie says that they will be heading back into the studio soon for a full album release this year.

Upcoming Release : “Old Punch Card” by Sam Prekop; Sea & Cake Tour Dates

If you’re interested in early information about Thrill Jockey releases you need to look no further than the Thrill Jockey website itself! Last week I was doing some research on a couple of upcoming releases on the label and stumbled upon the upcoming solo release from Sea & Cake frontman Sam Prekop! Titled Old Punch Card it will be an experimental instrumental electronic release. I have confirmed with Thrill Jockey that this will be released on Septemer 7th on vinyl as well as CD and download. Each of the covers for the CD and LP will be individually painted by Sam. The cover art you see above is effectively the canvas. Here are some examples of what the covers will look like:

Sam’s last release in the Fall of 2007 was also a disc of electronic instrumentals. It was bundled with his book of photographs.

Tracklisting for Old Punch Card (from thrilljockey.com)

01 Old Punch Card
02 Array Wicket
03 Knitting Needles
04 Brambles
05 Tell Work
06 November September
07 A Places
08 Lazy House
09 The Silhouettes

Sam’s band The Sea & Cake will also be going on tour around the time of this release in support of Broken Social Scene. I wonder if the Sea & Cake is gearing up for an eventual new record? John McEntire–  who is the drummer for The Sea & Cake– produced Broken Social Scene’s new album Forgiveness Rock Record.

The Sea & Cake Fall Tour Dates in Support of Broken Social Scene (from Thrill Jockey):
Mon Sep 13 Washington, DC – Warner Theatre w/ Broken Social Scene
Tue Sep 14 Philadelphia, PA – Theater of Living Arts w/ Broken Social Scene
Fri Sep 17 Boston, MA – House of Blues w/ Broken Social Scene
Sat Sep 18 New York, NY – Rumsey Playfield w/ Broken Social Scene
Mon Sep 20 New Haven, CT – Toads Place w/ Broken Social Scene
Tue Sep 21 Northampton, MA – Calvin Theatre w/ Broken Social Scene
Wed Sep 22 South Burlington, VT – Higher Ground w/ Broken Social Scene
Fri Sep 24 Ithaca, NY – Historic Ithaca State Theatre w/ Broken Social Scene
Sat Sep 25 Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom w/ Broken Social Scene
Sun Oct 3 Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theatre w/ Broken Social Scene
Mon Oct 4 Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue w/ Broken Social Scene
Wed Oct 6 Winnipeg, MB – Burton Cummings Theatre w/ Broken Social Scene
Thu Oct 7 Saskatoon, SK – The Odeon Events Centre w/ Broken Social Scene
Fri Oct 8 Calgary, AB – Macewan Hall w/ Broken Social Scene
Sat Oct 9 Edmonton, AB – Winspear Centre w/ Broken Social Scene
Sun Oct 10 Kelowna, BC – Kelowna Community Theatre w/ Broken Social Scene
Tue Oct 12 Victoria, BC – Element Nightclub w/ Broken Social Scene
Wed Oct 13 Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom w/ Broken Social Scene
Thu Oct 14 Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom w/ Broken Social Scene
Fri Oct 15 Seattle, WA – Paramount Ballroom w/ Broken Social Scene
Sat Oct 16 Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom w/ Broken Social Scene
Tue Oct 19 Los Angeles, CA – Wiltern Theatre w/ Broken Social Scene

Click Here to visit the Thrill Jockey page on Old Punch Card which will be updated with streaming tracks and pre-order information closer to the release date.

Tortoise Beacons Bonus Track “Ice Ice Gravy” – Why Waste Time? Import Information

Yesterday Thrill Jockey announced that they are making the Tortoise track “Ice Ice Gravy” available for download for $1.00 from Fina– their online download service. To date, “Ice Ice Gravy” was only available in the U.S. as part of the iTunes version of Beacons of Ancestorship. Outside the U.S. it is available as a bonus track on the Japanese pressing of Beacons of Ancestorship as well as what appears to be a Japanese tour EP release in May titled Why Waste Time?

According to Dan Bitney in this interview with popmatters.com he track “Ice Ice Gravy” is a 13-minute pastiche of some improvisational work Tortoise did to get  inspiration while starting the recordings for what would become Beacons. From the interview at popmatters:

“It was more like experimenting,” he explains, “And we really didn’t get anything out of it. We were doing a lot of improv, just kind of set up a roomful of stuff. It wasn’t focused at all. We weren’t necessarily bringing in song ideas, we were just doing what I would describe as improv experiments. So we started out doing something like that and then we’d say, ‘Oh gee, what the hell are we doing? Is this going to work?’”

According to the article, some of these sessions are in “Ice Ice Gravy.” Ultimately, these sessions were scrapped in favor of the songs that would become Beacons. But, don’t dismiss “Ice Ice Gravy” as a mere toss-away track. It is an interesting view into the creative process that Tortoise works to make their albums.

While I was looking for the interview with Bitney where he talked about “Ice Ice Gravy” I stumbled upon a new Tortoise release titled Why Waste Time?! This is a Japan-only EP released on Commmons Records, which is a label started by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Judging by the little bit of English on the website it appears that Commmons has a relationship with Thrill Jockey to do the Japanese releases of their catalog.

Why Waste Time? contributes the cover art to the download of “Ice Ice Gravy” shown above and is a pretty cool release as it has three tracks not on the U.S. Beacons release (including “Ice Ice Gravy”), one of the Remixes from the recent Beacons Remixes 12″ and has some video content as well! Here is the tracklist:

1. Ruba’iyat
2. Passerine
3. Gigantes Version – Mark Ernestus
4. Ice Ice Gravy

CD Extra Video Content:

1. Charteroak Foundation (Live in Japan, 2009)
2. Seneca (Live in Japan, 2009)
3. Prepare Your Coffin (Music Video)

Updated! Thrill Jockey is carrying the CD for Why Waste Time? for $17! Click Here to order.

Click Here to listen to and purchase “Ice Ice Gravy” for $1.00.
Click Here to see the Why Waste Time? page at Commmons

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