Other Music New Release Update
November 21, 2001

In This Week's Update:

Stina Nordenstam
John Cale Dream Syndicate archives (2)
Jim O'Rourke
Escalator Records mini-LPs:
     Yukari Fresh
     Cubismo Grafico
"Alright! Black American Dance Music from the Disco Era"
The Wake reissue
No Neck Blues Band
Volcano the Bear
Augustus Clarke at King Tubby
"For Friends" comp.
Tower Recordings
Badaboom Gramphone (mag+cd)

Just In:

"Ethiopiques" Volumes 10 and 11
"Haitian Voodoo Drumming"
Silver Jews

Featured New Releases:

STINA NORDENSTAM "This Is..." (Independiente, UK) CD $24.99
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Swedish singer Stina Nordenstam has been battling skewed
comparisons for five albums now -- the intimate, ethereal voice
that sprinkled the her first couple of albums has been unfairly
likened to Ricky Lee Jones. When looking at Nordenstam's work as
a whole, it proves a bit closer to the range and quirkiness of
Brigitte Fontaine. "This Is..." melds the minimal, eerie
arrangements of the second album, "And She Closed Her Eyes," with
the slightly trip-hop leanings of the following album, "Dynamite." Add
to that the fact that Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake produced the
album -- the guys responsible for giving a particularly delicious
murky alien quality to groups from Tom Waits to Cibo
Matto. 'Trainsurfing', with the help of vocalist Brett Anderson,
merges a soft lounginess with both an '80s ephemerality and new
wave airy funk. 'Keen Yellow Planet' begins with soft, fuzzy
guitar tones, tinkling piano and a syncopated trip-hop beat, then
morphs into a Bowie-esque (Anderson's vocals again) journey past
the world of Marc Bolan. "This Is..." never becomes too upbeat,
though -- the album has its share of acoustic guitar and keyboard,
folky lullabies, floating harmonies, milky melodies, and warm
sounds, reminding us of charmed British label 4AD. I'd buy two if
it weren't an import! [LG]

JOHN CALE "Dream Interpretation: Inside the Dream Syndicate Vol. II" (Table of the Elements) CD $14.99
JOHN CALE "Stainless Gamelan: Inside the Dream Syndicate Vol. III" (Table of the Elements) CD $14.99

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Do people associate minimalism with midwinter? I think about
Salvation Army bell-ringers on street corners and the constant
crunch of snow underfoot (one of these days someone will make an
album using footsteps and footsteps alone): these have a lot in
common with the Terry Riley model, at least. Cale's is a little
tricker, more delicate and less easy to hear in the world around.
But it is there--his rumbling piano strings sound like elevator
cables hitting against each other, drones can mimic the electric
whine of any number of appliances, blown up huge. The second
volume in the Cale series (the first came out in May of this
year), "Dream Interpretation," has six tracks: two of jagged,
almost strident, violent drones from Cale on viola and Tony Conrad
on violin; a weirdly sparkly piece for organ; another for piano
(prepared--nearly vivisected); a particularly anguished electronic
piece; and the daintily scribbled duet with Angus Macliese on
cimbalom and Cale on guitar. The third volume, "Stainless Gamelan"
shines up the work on Vol. II. Maybe it's just that the recording
quality is cleaner, the instruments more unusual, but where Vol.
II is muscle, Vol. III is thin, stretched skin. Rundown: a piece
by Cale and Morrison for 'cembalet' and fretless guitar, another,
very buzzing and burning, with the same combo only Cale dubs in
some alterations using a Wollensak tape machine--only it's unclear
whether the manipulations happen to the original recording or the
Wollensak is just being played along. Three more: one made lilting
and psychedelic with a sinuous soprano sax (Terry Jennings) and
Macliese's light percussion; another funereal on electric piano
and thunder machine (!) (Conrad); and the last of Cale alone in
his apartment above a firehouse, yet sounding like he's standing
at the crux of all of the subway and train tunnels of Grand
Central, until his downstairs neighbors give him the perfect
ending (I'm not giving it away). In all three of these you hear
that it's Cale's work that the pounding punk of the Velvet
Underground stood upon, and a minimalist composer and
improviser to rival the very best of the entire 20th century. [RE]
Vol. II
Vol. III

JIM O'ROURKE "Insignificance" (Drag City) CD/LP $13.99/$13.99
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Jim O'Rourke has become something of a Zelig in contemporary music
over the last few years, playing bass in Sonic Youth, performing
laptop concerts with Pita and Fennesz, collaborating with Tony
Conrad, and mixing Wilco's new record, all within the space of a
couple of weeks. Somehow O'Rourke was able to carve out the time
to record "Insignificance." (The title reveals O'Rourke's
continual public obsession with all things Nic Roeg.) Where "Bad
Timing" and "Eureka", his last two, were characterized by large
casts of musicians, months spent in the studio, and lots of
overdubbing, the most recent album was recorded mostly live over
three weeks with a tight group of musicians O'Rourke has often
worked with in the past. Its also worth noting that Glenn Kotche
and Jeff Tweedy, who make up one half of Wilco, are all over this
record.  No string sections, no choirs, no laptops. Its O'Rourke's
most consistent and listenable solo album. It's also his least
self-conscious.  Even though the sound is somewhat stripped down,
O'Rourke still works wonders with the arrangements, and even
manages to rock a little. His arrangements are impressive as
usual, calling to mind the highest pop glories of the 1970's --
the simplest elements in the service of something grand. Sinister
undertones, lovely over all. [DHi/RE]
CD //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=78148402022&refer_url=email
LP //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=09999167981&refer_url=email

LOSFELD "Gospel" (Escalator/Punka, Japan) CD $17.99
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"Gospel" is the second CD release from Escalator Records chief Naka
Masashi, known better to fans of this type of Japanese dance-pop as
Losfeld. This six-song mini-album bests even last year's promising
debut by moving closer to the soulful, sample-heavy sound popularized
by acts like the Avalanches. "Kiss" and "Study" have an almost Jackson
5-esque bounce to them -- "Kiss" notable for it's massive piano hook
punctuated by looped vocals and a trilled flute. Then, out of the blue,
Gary Olsen of NYC's Ladybug Transistor pops up to sing vocals on
"Clear Cut" -- a super-catchy pop number driven by acoustic guitars,
weird electronics,  trumpet flourishes, and more flute. This is no doubt
Masashi's best work to date. A short album, but it's completely solid
and totally satisfying. [TC]

YUKARI FRESH "Erik" (Escalator, Japan) CD $15.99
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"Erik" is cause for celebration for Yukari Fresh fans as it's the
first new music from the duo (which also includes Yukari's husband
Yugo) since early 1999. Following in the tradition they set with the
terrific "Cook Some Dishes" EP, "Erik" is an ultra-catchy, cohesive,
seven song mini-album focusing on the intricate arrangements of
Yugo and the unique vocal style of Ms. Fresh. The songs are
patched together with more samples than ever before, with less
emphasis on live instrumentation than in the past. For instance,
a flurry of odd samples populate "Napoli" (a sloppily-played
trumpet, soda-pop fizz, the voices of Davy Jones and Stephen
Pastel) while Yukari deliciously mouths nonsense verse in broken
English. The other songs are just as bouncy, just as charming as
ever, with Yukari's vocals just as child-like and wonderful. Another
winning release. [TC]

CUBISMO GRAFICO "Buonissimo Remixes" (Escalator, Japan) CD $15.99
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Yet another Escalator mini-album release. On "Buonissimo"
Gakuji Matsuda's Cubismo Grafico project gets reworked and
radically remixed by artists Yukihiro Fukutomi, Boris Gudunov,
DJ Ben & MC Noah, Halfby, MC Paul Barman, Swingset, and
Only Paradise. Overall the remixers take liberties with the
source material making it more their own than Cubismo's.
Barman raps over "Man From Lafonda" while Swingset
transforms "Bate O Coracao" into a dreamy and soulful
trip-hop number. "Buonissimo" is much better than the previous
"St. Nicholas" remix project and may be just enough to get us
through the wait to the next album of all new songs. [TC]

[V/A] "Alright! Black American Dance Music from the Disco Era" (BGP, UK) CD $15.99
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The venerable jazz and funk re-issue label, BGP has issued classic
records by Weldon Irvine, Blue Note flautist Bobbi Humphrey and
others. Recently, they've turned their attention to that forgotten
era when funk artists like Mandrill, Oliver Sain, and The Ohio
Players were making music that began to be called disco, the same
period when the 12-inch single started appearing in the U.S. One
of the first disco labels was Mike Theodore's and Dennis Coffey's
Westbound in Detroit. The label owners' progressive vision started
early -- they were the first to release Funkadelic. This superbly-
curated compilation (by Dean Rudland) contains music that would
only retroactively be termed disco. The final track, 'I Need
Somebody To Love Tonight', by the queen of Hi-NRG, Sylvester, is
worth the price of this comp alone. 'Latin Disco' by The Counts
and the bumping 'Sadie' by Joe Bataan are indicative of the strong
Latin percussion dimension in early disco, a lot of which had not
moved into electronics. CJ & Co.'s 'Sure Can't Go The Moon' is a
very close second to their towering, operatic disco
monster 'Devil's Gun', well worth your hunting down. Bahamian
drummer King Errisson released one of the weirder tracks to come
from disco, the percussion-heavy 'The Magic Man'. The Fantastic
Four were at one time a soul quartet, but their transition to hard
disco was effortless thus 'Alvin Stone (Death of a Gangster)' is a
blaxploitation-esque jam that won't cut the boogie loose. Each of
these tracks are highly sought-after on 12-inch, so if you don't
want to spend night after night waiting for online auctions to
end, pick up this comp immediately. [TH]

THE WAKE "Harmony & Singles" (LTM, UK) CD $14.99
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I'm still scratching my head over why LTM saw fit to give the
world full-length retrospectives by Tunnelvision or the Names, or
even the Crispy Ambulance reunion album before they let this slip
through their tight-fisted control over the Factory Records
archives. The fact that The Wake mastertapes were just lying
around in some cluttered box next to some Streetlife tapes and a
never-cared-about Nyam Nyam release while precious time and energy
was spent reissuing Tunnelvision has me nearly ready to abandon my
pacifist tendencies and leave a bloody path of retribution through
LTM/Factory offices from Manchester to Belgium. To say that The
Wake were one of the greatest bands of the Factory label is an
understatement. These recordings depict The Wake as one of the
greatest (lost or otherwise) bands of the '80s. Admittedly, they
did have one tiny problem: they were never a great album band. Not
that the songs on the albums were bad, but they were always better
taken song by song than listened to as a whole. "Harmony", from
1983, is still their most solid full-length (with their second
being ok, and the two for Sarah Records being mostly abysmal).
Whatever problems they had on albums, their 12"s, 7"s and Peel
Sessions more than made up for, flawless examples of New
Order/Cure/pre-Field Mice slightly gothy jangle synthpop. Luckily,
LTM has placed not only the aforementioned Peel Sessions (their
last recordings with original bass player Bobby Gillespie--pre-
Jesus & Mary Chain, and of course that Primal Scream band...) and
their incredibly difficult to find pre-Factory debut single 'On
Our Honeymoon,' which it turns out may be the best thing they've
ever recorded (it being an early 80's bass heavy/synthesized horns
classic) on this collection, among other fantastic early singles.
One listen & you'll want to join me on my murder spree. [MG]

NO NECK BLUES BAND "Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones But Names Will Never Hurt Me" (Revenant) CD $16.99
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In an effort to at least vaguely belie their presumed NYC loft
clamor origins, the mucho-venerable No Neck Blues Band
recorded "Sticks..." in Arkansas in the middle of their summer
1999 world tour, with a former member of Lovin' Spoonful and his
all-digital setup. Their flickering, wholly textural meta-
perpetrations have only benefited from challenges greater than
psychic ones -- this is a band, after all, who often only play
shows in the building many of them reside in, or in parks nearby.
While their music is obviously of a different character, NNCK's
capacity to resonate resembles that of many of their deceased
labelmates on Revenant. I'm speaking more of Charley Patton (etc.)
than I am of John Fahey, not least because the divide between
Fahey and NNCK is not so vast. One thing they both share is a
fascination with the almost Eastern textures that can be wrought
from acoustic guitars (in No Neck this might concern two or three
of the players at most...out of nine or something). One of the
players, vocalist (etc.) Jeff Ryan (no longer with the band) takes
the opportunity on the opening and closing tracks to break out of
the cautious, group-oriented exhortations and deliver something
like lead vox: aiding the Sun City Girls-ish  'purple mountain
majesty' reveille of the first and, hilariously (again, given the
presumed context), speak the data-entry blues on the last. This is
very occasionally galloping commune-psych on the order of Ya Ho
Wha or a redistribution of the power of something like
Slayer's "Angel of Death." There was a great outdoor show this
last Easter which should hopefully come out as well. As with many
things pertaining to this band, who knows what will happen? (Note:
all packaging hand-burnt wood and plexi). [DHo]

VOLCANO THE BEAR "Five Hundred Boy Piano" (United Dairies, UK) CD  $16.99
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Volcano the Bears previous recordings borrowed from a spectrum of
influences that included Faust, Nurse With Wound, This Heat, Can,
and Robert Wyatt. Putting together such an array of oddness was no
easy task, and VtB managed to do it with an earnestness that was
more than impressive. On "Five Hundred Boy Piano", VtB move
forward, pushing beyond their great influences. With completely
skewed English choirboy vocal chants and primitive folk
meanderings, "500 Boy Piano" explores a terrain with landmarks of
surrealism and folk traditions. VtB also venture into areas of
free improvisation, hinting at the most expressive moments of the
Art Ensemble of Chicagos repertoire. Distinctly further "out"
than previous recordings, the album is still blissfully strange,
but has a cohesive energy. This album elevates VtB to the level of
their influences. This is, without a doubt, one of the most
challenging musical adventures heard by these ears in a long,
long time. [PW]

AUGUSTUS CLARKE "Black Foundation Dub" (Motion) CD  $16.99
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We still underestimate the profound influence of reggae: its
brilliant, skewed methodology, its confusing stellar panoply of
engineers, DJs, producers, musicians, and stars. One such singer &
player is Augustus Clarke, the patron saint of all those who labor
at the edge of exhaustion. During the fertile period of the mid-
'70s, Clarke spent a great deal of time in the boiling hot
Hometown Hi-Fi Studios at 18 Drumille Avenue, home to King Tubby.
By now, we are all familiar with the magic performed by Osbourne
Ruddock, Jr. For him, the studio was a living thing, and he used
the "implements of sound" (to use Prince Buster's immortal phrase)
to create towering sound sculptures. Clarke was a vocalist with an
astonishing range. He could move from the trembling, heartbreaking
falsetto of the opening track, 'Black Foundation', to the baritone
of the ribcage rattling 'Creation Dub'. One might understandably
be overwhelmed by the unprecedented run of roots reggae reissues
over the past three to four years. But this renewed interest in
the art form is no more than a 'return of the repressed' insofar
as '70s reggae was the sometimes-silent presence hiding behind so
many musical genres. If one listens closely, the voice of Augustus
Clarke and the  production of King Tubby are the whispering ghosts
just out of hearing range on so much contemporary dance music. [TH]

[V/A] "For Friends" (Tomlab/Audio Dregs) CD $5.99
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Last year's "For Friends" was releases as sort of an
internal 'audio x-mas present' by the Tomlab label in Germany;
this year they team up with Audio Dregs in the U.S. to expand the
scope and players. Intimate and playful, it's a Christmas record
by implication only -- lots of toy noises, and the tracks are ones
that the artists wanted to share with each other rather than make
a grand statement (NO CHRISTMAS SONGS!). Informal, cheerful,
sweet, and very cheap, too. If you haven't heard anything on
either label, it would make an excellent introduction to the
melodic, irreverent electronics that most groups on the labels
produce, from the known quantities (Zammuto, Dim Dim, F.S. Blumm,
E*Vax) to those with imminent albums: Grace Period, Carpet Musics,
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Jon Sheffield and Ekiti Son
turn in especially nice tracks, too. [RE]

THE TOWER RECORDINGS "Folkscene" (Communion) CD $12.99
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Recently, a number of musicians have made attempts to graft the
seemingly disparate sounds of acoustic folk music and post-digital
studio production, trying to exploit the tension between the two.
Results have been mixed, often heavy-handed. The Tower
Recordings strike just the right balance here, on their fifth
album, "Folkscene." Originally issued in an edition of 300 on LP
only, the CD adds 14 new tracks. Old hands from past albums Matt
Valentine, Tim Barnes, and P.G. Six are joined by many more (12
total). The album starts off in a mode reminiscent of Sun City
Girls, with a muezzin-like call over a bed of harmonium drone and
proceeds to unfold like a chrysanthamum. Whispered vocals,
wandering horns, casually strummed guitar and pots'n'pans
percussion are all refracted through the computer's digital prism.
The resulting landscape is simultaneously alien and familiar;
beautiful. Those who enjoy the Incredible String Band, Ghost, and
Olivia Tremor Control will want to sit down with this record.
"Folkscene" comes off less like a collection of songs
than a series of field recordings documenting some mysterious,
nomadic tribe. [DHi]

BADAWI "Soldier of Midian" (Roir) CD $13.99
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Badawi, aka Raz Mesinai, releases his fifth-ish solo album -- the
fourth under the Badawi name, he's got another, a horror movie
soundtrack, and a brand new one on Tzadik, too. Mesinai is a very
busy musician, and works in a range of fields, from composing
avant-garde chamber music to his electronic projects alone and
with numerous collaborators. His foundation is the drum, and this
album eschews an earlier dub sound for one that's killingly
relentless. But also strangely relaxing, because that kind of
percussion beating can be the aural equivalent of a good massage,
and Badawi works this aspect to its utmost. The drums are tuned,
sharp sounds, wound in tight circles around snaky wind
instruments, distant fragmented chanting. His middle-eastern
sounds have a kinship with Muslimgauze, but where the former stays
in the clouds, Badawi's music, from Yemeni, Israeli, Moroccan
origins, is solid and grounded. [RE]

TIMEBLIND "Rugged Redemption"  (Orthlorng Musork) CD $13.99
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Timeblind's newest album turns on the sharpest of edges. There are
so many different boundaries on this record: lots of lines that
don't straddle, but seem to separate genres even as both are
included in the same picture (hiphop, minimalist techno, for
starters), between legibility and what's unrecognizable, between
the human voice/touch and that which occurs only with the
artificial limb of a laptop. What Chris Sattinger executes, he
doesn't blend: for instance, on his first track, a dry techno beat
backs up a murmuring dub/Jamaican voice, yet the music never
meshes with the voice and you can never tell what the murmuring
man is saying. Sattinger's edges are frustating, but challenging,
too. On the last track of the album, a Monk-like jazz number is
taken apart, first gently, then the slicing quickens, like
rotating blades spinning faster and faster. I know I'm making this
sound, well, fragmented, and it is. But Sattinger's vision spans
far, and, for the most part, uncomprehendingly. And I'd rather be
exposed to a vision I don't understand than one that's all too
obvious. [RE]

CHESSIE "Overnight" (Plug Research) CD $15.99
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Electronic version of Michael Nyman's massed shimmer, an attempt
to loose you from your earthly bounds using sound alone. Chessie
wants to move your psyche onto another plane using a parallel
method to the way vibration moves a washing machine across a
floor. Guitars rip metallic, almost unrecognizably though -- (the
tendrilly progeny of Spacemen 3 or something -- while beastly
beats keep thunky time. This, Stephen Gardner's third album,
comes across like the abstract sonic equivalent to one of those
children's books like "Goodnight Moon" -- a catalog of relaxation
through imagined images on the way to dreamland. [RE]

[V/A] "Badaboom Gramophone Issue 5" Mag/CD $7.95
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Issue 5 of this thick, perfect-bound 'zine from our local area.
The usual rock articles (Mazarin interview, Twisted Village
history, Raymond Scott) and some other randomnesses: new Superhero
movies proposed, the second act of Sartre's "No Exit", a
bibliography on underground film, perpetual grad students Franklin
Bruno and Drew Daniel (Matmos) interview each other, the mini-
songs in our heads. Accompanying CD is a treat -- 14 groups doing
their takes on the "Soothing Sounds for Baby" concept (not
covers): many 'soothing' by being quiet, 'for baby' by adding
children's voices, most take the idea and rock out with it--more
for the modern upbeat baby. Includes Marumari, Cex, Bogdan
Raczinski, Arovane, Solex, more. [RE]

Just In:

[V/A] "Ethiopiques Vol. 10" (Buda Musique, France) CD $14.99
[V/A] "Ethiopiques Vol. 11" (Buda Musique, France) CD $14.99

Volume 10 is "Ethiopian Blues and Ballads", the more somber,
wrenching side of the Ethiopian popular music axis. All of these
recordings date to between 1970-74, so it's prime material. Volume
11 is "The Harp of King David", all recordings of the beguena
player Alemu Aga, performing older repetoire on the 10-string lyre-
like harp. These recordings are abstract and hypnotic, have odd
dissonances and accompanying drones and overtones. Made in 1994,
this album remains the only recording to date devoted entirely to
the beguena. More next week, including sound samples. [RE]
"Ethiopiques Vol. 10"
"Ethiopiques Vol. 11"

[V/A] "Voodoo Drums" (Universal Sound, UK) CD/LP $18.99/$18.99
19 tracks recorded in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Massively influential
rhythmic patterns, captured at their source.
CD //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=502632820162&refer_url=email
LP //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=502632820161&refer_url=email

SILVER JEWS "Bright Flight" (Drag City) CD/LP $13.99/$13.99
It's been three years since David "DC" Berman's last musical work.
And this one, like the EP that came out last week, observes lonely
America (or, rather, Americana) described from both a distant eye
and one immersed, close and emotive.
CD  //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=03617292152&refer_url=email
LP  //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=09999167991&refer_url=email

BELLE & SEBASTIAN "I'm Waking Up To Us" (Matador) CD single/12"/7"
In both stores on Friday.

This week's contributors: Tom Capodanno [TC], Robin Edgerton [RE],
Lisa Garrett [LG], Michael Goodstein [MG], Tim Haslett [TH], Dan
Hirsch [DHi], Dan Hougland [DHo], Phil Waldorf [PW].

The Big Picture:

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