Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012: LISTS AND FAREWELLS



I only had to put together a few year-end lists this year, and where I didn't just give the same Top Ten to multiple outlets, titles still reappeared. There just weren't that many really great records released in 2012. I heard a lot of fantastic music, but much of it was recorded and originally issued between four and seven decades ago.

Anyway, here's the Top Ten I submitted to both The Wire and to the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll:


1. ZZ Top, La Futura
2. Emmure, Slave to the Game
3. JD Allen Trio, The Matador & The Bull
4. Manowar, The Lord of Steel
5. Cannibal Corpse, Torture
6. Aluk Todolo, Occult Rock
7. Bill McHenry, La Peur du Vide
8. Fushitsusha, Mabushii Itazura na Inori
9. Charles Gayle Trio, Streets
10. Black Music Disaster, Black Music Disaster

Top Ten lists were also published at my job, and here's the list I gave them:

1. ZZ Top, La Futura
2. Baroness, Yellow & Green
3. Gojira, L'Enfant Sauvage
4. Napalm Death, Utilitarian
5. Emmure, Slave to the Game
6. Dwight Yoakam, 3 Pears
7. Rush, Clockwork Angels
8. Kreator, Phantom Antichrist
9. Manowar, The Lord of Steel
10. Aluk Todolo, Occult Rock

The Wire also requested a list of reissues; here's that one:

1. Dr. Feelgood, All Through the City (With Wilko 1974-1977)
2. David Murray Octets, The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note
3. Underworld, Anthology 1992-2012
4. Various Artists, The Original Sound Of Cumbia - The History Of Colombian Cumbia & Porro 1948-79
5. Fania All-Stars, Live in Africa
6. William Parker, Centering: Unreleased Music 1976-1987
7. Various Artists, ¡Saoco!:The Bomba And Plena Explosion In Puerto Rico 1954-1966
8. Henry Threadgill, The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note
9. Ismael Miranda, El Niño Bonito
10. Cecil Taylor, Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!

There were a few other records that impressed me this year, but didn't make it onto any of my lists: The Alabama Shakes' Boys & Girls, Ralph Bowen's Total Eclipse, Ravi Coltrane's Spirit Fiction, Orrin Evans' Flip the Script, Grass Roots' self-titled debut, Conrad Herwig's A Voice Through the Door, Clarence Penn's Dali in Cobble Hill, Dayna Stephens' Today is Tomorrow, Yosvany Terry's Today's Opinion, and a bunch of others, most of which I reviewed for Burning Ambulance.

This was the first year since 1997 that I was viewing music journalism more as an outsider than as a participant. I still write for a few places, but only a few; some of the outlets that used to print/post my work have been rendered unrecognizable due to editorial shake-ups, while others have ceased to employ freelancers. My primary outlet for straight-up music criticism is BA, which may re-emerge as a print journal in 2013.

I've been fortunate enough to transition to a new phase of my career, one that excites me greatly and challenges me in entirely different ways than anything I've done before. My plan is to keep writing about records that—and interviewing musicians who—interest me. For paying outlets when I can; for BA the rest of the time, with no guide but my own taste. I hope you'll read some of it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

RESISTANT CULTURE

In past years, I've posted William Burroughs' "Thanksgiving Prayer" at this time. But this year, I've decided to switch things up and instead share with you the work of the Los Angeles-based Native American crust-grind band Resistant Culture. They're on tour right now, so go support them if they come through your town, and buy their albums Welcome to Reality and All One Struggle, both of which are terrific.

Here are some of their videos, starting with the latest, "Natural Law":


Here's "Sentient Predator":

Here's "It's Not Too Late":

Sunday, October 14, 2012

YOU KNOW, EXCEPT FOR THE SLAVES

The New York Times printed the following paragraph today (in an op-ed by Chrystia Freeland), apparently without irony:


IN the early 19th century, the United States was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet. “We have no paupers,” Thomas Jefferson boasted in an 1814 letter. “The great mass of our population is of laborers; our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few, and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

FOUR DECADES ON THE CORNER



Miles Davis's On the Corner, which is my favorite album by anyone, ever, was released 40 years ago today—October 11, 1972. In my book Running the Voodoo Down, I devote an entire chapter to it; in that chapter, I wrote the following:

It's hard for me not to get hyperbolic about the importance of On the Corner in the development of Miles's music, and music as a whole, throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Sure, it's a dead end, artistically. Davis never attempted a record of On the Corner's complexity again. His sound became more guitar-heavy, and rhythmically simpler, in the three years that followed. The studio recordings on Get Up With It, while still employing overdubs and careful, dramatic post-production editing, were for the most part more organic-sounding than On the Corner's electronic sound-storm.

But on the other hand, the album was so forward-looking that it's not really surprising that its impact took years to register and is in fact still being felt. Many of its rhythms sound more like the disco-punk of the late 1970s and early 1980s (the music of bands like Konk, Material and the Contortions) than like anything else in fusion. Further, its overdubbing, thick and repetitive basslines, and looped percussion link it to hip-hop and dub reggae. Far from ceding any ground to pop trends, On the Corner directly challenged funk, rock, and jazz players alike: Everyone working at the time had to deal with what they were hearing.

Every time I listen to On the Corner, I seem to hear a new sound, whether it's a percussive rattle or a mewling or growling trumpet, guitar, saxophone, organ, or unidentifiable instrument. It hypnotizes me, focuses my attention, makes my nerves twitch, makes me walk funny...like I said, it's not just my favorite Miles Davis album, it's my favorite album by anyone, ever. To my ear, it's a perfect piece of music, an endlessly swirling, chaotic puzzle I don't really want to ever "solve."

Here; listen for yourself.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

WRITE A SONG

I'm posting this here, rather than on Burning Ambulance, because I haven't posted here since May, and because it's more of a rant than a considered essay, or a review of a specific album.

Indeed, it's the opposite of an album review—it's an explanation of exactly why I will not be listening to an album I just received in the mail.

Yesterday, I got a copy of Live at the Blue Note, a disc featuring alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Joey Baron. All talented players, all featured on albums I've enjoyed in the past. So I flipped it over to look at the track listing. Here's what I found: "What Is This Thing Called Love." "Body & Soul." "Stella by Starlight." "I'll Remember April." "I Remember You." "I Can't Get Started."

Are you fucking kidding me? Do you know how many versions of each of these songs exist already? Does any human being alive need to hear one more version of "What Is This Thing Called Love"? Or "Stella by Starlight"? Or "I'll Remember April"? Who can fucking forget April, at this point?

The very first sentence of the brief liner notes told me everything I needed to know. It reads, "When the leaderless group of Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Gary Peacock and Joey Baron came together for a week-long engagement at the Blue Note, they brought little more than their instruments with them—no set lists, no prior discussions about the music they wanted to play." The third paragraph elaborates on this idea, saying, "Though these standards serve as jazz's lingua franca, having been performed and recorded countless times, they exist as reborn songs by dint of those interpreting them. Konitz, in particular, has been partial to this repertoire for years. Yet, at the Blue Note, he played this material with these guys for the first time. Presto, new music!"

Speaking as a consumer and a jazz fan, I gotta say, with all due respect...fuck you guys. You wanna know why jazz albums don't sell for shit? Because labels release recordings of lazy, entitled old-timers coasting on name recognition, sleepwalking through tunes everyone who's into jazz has already heard 500 times before. This is Konitz's regular MO, as the quote above pointed out. Last year, he put out an album on ECM, Live at Birdland, recorded in 2009, on which he was backed by pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian. That album featured versions of "Lover Man," "Lullaby of Birdland," "Solar," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "You Stepped Out of a Dream," and "Oleo," and it was duller than listening to paint dry. Now, granted, even back in the '50s, Konitz's albums tended to feature only one or two of his own compositions, buried in a pile of standards and interpretations of other jazz players' tunes, but the fact that he doesn't even play his own older pieces, choosing instead the most uninspired possible set list, is almost criminal.

This is not a diatribe directed solely at Lee Konitz, by the way—I want to make sure that's crystal clear. This is a problem afflicting the music across the board, and I think it may be time to lay down the law: Jazz musicians need to stop recording standards. (I'd like to see musicians play only songs they or their bandmates wrote, but I've still got to leave room for stuff like bassist William Parker's new Duke Ellington project, which is awesome.) Play the old standards live if you want, if you've got so little respect for your audience that you think they still want to hear "Body & Soul" in 2012 (if you do still want to hear "Body & Soul" in 2012, seek professional help). But if you're headed into a recording studio, or even putting out a live album, you better have some brand-new music prepared, or you're not getting my money.

Friday, May 18, 2012

95 DVDS 95

I have seen 95 movies from the Criterion Collection. The titles are below. The ones I actually liked, or would watch again, are in all caps.


The 400 Blows
Armageddon
The Bank Dick
The Battle of Algiers
Being John Malkovich
Belle de Jour
BLAST OF SILENCE
The Blob
Blow Out
Border Radio
Bottle Rocket
BRAZIL
Breathless
CARLOS
Chasing Amy
Chungking Express
Crumb
Dazed and Confused
DEAD RINGERS
LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE
Do the Right Thing
DOWN BY LAW
Easy Rider
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
FISH TANK
THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE
Gimme Shelter
Gomorrah
La Haine
Hard Boiled
High and Low
Homicide
HOUSE OF GAMES
The Ice Storm
In the Mood for Love
IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES
KAGEMUSHA
The Killer
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
KISS ME DEADLY
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
The Last Emperor
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Long Good Friday
M
The Man Who Fell to Earth
METROPOLITAN
MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS
Mona Lisa
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
My Own Private Idaho
Mystery Train
Naked
NAKED LUNCH
Night on Earth
THE NIGHT PORTER
Paris, Texas
PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET
RAN
Rashomon
Repulsion
Ride With the Devil
RIFIFI
Robocop
THE ROCK
THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
Rushmore
Salo, Or the 120 Days of Sodom
Schizopolis
SHALLOW GRAVE
Short Cuts
Sid & Nancy
The Silence of the Lambs
Slacker
Something Wild
STRANGER THAN PARADISE
STRAW DOGS
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
This is Spinal Tap
Three Colors: Blue
Three Colors: Red
THREE COLORS: WHITE
Time Bandits
Traffic
TWO-LANE BLACKTOP
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Vanishing
VIDEODROME
W.C. FIELDS – SIX SHORT FILMS
Walkabout
WALKER
WHITE DOG
Wise Blood
Yojimbo

Monday, May 07, 2012

MUSIC DIARY 2012

I didn't find out about this "Music Diary" project until I saw entries about it on my Twitter feed. But whatever. This post will be updated throughout the week.


MONDAY, MAY 7
Deep Purple, Made in Japan (all tracks)
Cactus, Ultra Sonic Boogie 1971 (tracks 1-5)
Defiance, Void Terra Firma (tracks 1-3)
Anthony Braxton, The Montreux/Berlin Concerts (tracks 1-3)
Walter Smith III, Live in Paris (tracks 1-3)

TUESDAY, MAY 8
Robin Trower, For Earth Below (all tracks)
Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land (all tracks)
Rhapsody of Fire, From Chaos to Eternity (tracks 1-3)
Rhapsody of Fire, The Frozen Tears of Angels (all tracks)
Peter Brötzmann, Nothung (all tracks)
Trivium, "Kirisute Gomen"
The Black Dahlia Murder, Ritual (tracks 1-3)
Coroner, No More Color (tracks 1-3)

WEDNESDAY, MAY 9
Miles Davis, Sorcerer (tracks 1-6)
Vader, Necropolis (tracks 1-9)
Perfume, JPN (tracks 1-10)
Ornette Coleman, Of Human Feelings (tracks 1-6)

THURSDAY, MAY 10
Sleep, "Dopesmoker"
Earthless, Live at Roadburn (all tracks)
Fishbone, Truth and Soul (all tracks)
JD Allen Trio, I Am I Am (tracks 1-3)

FRIDAY, MAY 11
JD Allen Trio, I Am I Am (tracks 4-10)
Jerome Sabbagh, Pogo (tracks 1-6)
Joshua Redman, Compass (tracks 1-7)
The Cult, Choice of Weapon (tracks 1-8)

SATURDAY, MAY 12
Elvis Presley, Good Times (tracks 3-6)
Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers, Disc 1 (all tracks)
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Green River (all tracks) & "Born On the Bayou"
A shuffling mix of tracks from the following albums: Jones Very, Words and Days; No For An Answer, A Thought Crusade; Pagan Babies, Next; Token Entry, Jaybird; Wrecking Crew, Balance of Terror; Various Artists, Free for All
Belanova, Fantasía Pop (all tracks)
Wire, Read & Burn 01 (all tracks)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz (all tracks)
Peter Brötzmann Trio, For Adolphe Sax (all tracks)

SUNDAY, MAY 13
Interpol, s/t (tracks 1-3)
Darius Jones Quartet, Book of Mae'bul (Another Kind of Sunrise) (tracks 1-7)
Diego Schissi Quinteto, Tongos (all tracks)
Juilliard String Quartet, Shostakovich Quartets, Disc 1 (all tracks)
Steve Noble & Stephen O'Malley, St. Francis Duo (all tracks)
Sam & Dave, The Definitive Soul Collection (all tracks)

Monday, March 26, 2012

L'ARC-EN-CIEL LIVE IN NEW YORK

Last night, I saw the Japanese rock band L'Arc-en-Ciel (who I profiled for the current issue of Relix) at Madison Square Garden. I was there for the Village Voice; you can read my review of the show here. They only used one of the photos I sent them, though, so I'm posting the rest below. Enjoy!


















Sunday, March 18, 2012

ALIEN TRAILER

I'd never seen this before - don't even know if it's a bonus feature on the Alien DVD I own. Pretty great, though. Wait till the third time they show the cat - that's when shit starts to really go nuts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

BERLIN 2012


So I went to Berlin for a few days, to give a talk about German thrash (Destruction, Kreator, Sodom and a bunch of lesser-known acts) at Centrum, a small independent art space, and walk around and see some museums, the zoo, and whatnot. I took a whole bunch of crappy photos, too, and you can see them below, now that my wife has made them halfway tolerable to look at.

This was my hotel, which looked from the outside like a spaceship from The Fifth Element or something:

This is the Berliner Dom, a cathedral:

This is an art museum, which I didn't go inside (I did go inside the Neue Nationalgalerie, where they show modern art, but I didn't take any pictures in there or in the Museum of Musical Instruments, which was creepy and fantastic):

This is, of course, the Brandenburg Gate, which I walked through:

That's it for historical-touristy stuff. On my second day in the city, I went to the zoo. Here are some pictures of animals.

A penguin, who didn't seem all that happy about having his picture taken:

A seal, who was only too happy to hang out posing for photos and scratching himself with his tail:

A wolf (I looked around for Liam Neeson, in case he came through the Plexiglas):

Something called a dune cat, which was about the size of a regular house cat and which spent most of its time running frantically back and forth—I grabbed this shot in a rare moment of stillness:

And here's a panda:

Also, the Berlin Zoo apparently had quite a famous gorilla once, named Bobby. He's dead now, but there's a statue of him, and a plaque that tells his story (if you can read German):


Frankly, I wish I'd had more time to spend in Berlin. The people were really nice, the food was good, and there was a lot of stuff I didn't have time to see (like the giant Gerhard Richter exhibit opening at the Neue Nationalgalerie today). I hope to return one day, and bring my wife this time.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

USED CD TALLY

Bought a few used CDs today at the Princeton Record Exchange:

Nat Adderley, Work Song ($4.99)
Patsy Cline, The Definitive Collection $4.99)
Cesaria Evora, Voz d'Amor ($3.99)
Kenny Garrett, Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane ($1.99)
Kenny Garrett, Songbook ($1.99)
Dizzy Gillespie, Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac ($4.99)
Ben Monder, Excavation ($1.99)
Charlie Rouse Quintet, Takin' Care of Business ($5.99)
Various Artists, The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records ($7.99)

Also got one new CD:

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Soul Time ($14.99)