January 13, 2005  




Marissa Nadler
Nick Castro
Bembeya Jazz National (reissue)
Penny Arkade (reissue)
William Basinski
Greg Weeks


George Gurdjieff
King Sunny Ade (reissue)
Terry Earl Taylor

Bright Eyes (Christmas album)
Arthur Russell (World of Echo)

JAN Sun 9 Mon 10 Tues 11 Wed 12 Thurs 13 Fri 14 Sat 15


KCRW.com Presents THE DEARS
w/Benzos, Saints & Lovers and the Headset

Other Music is giving away a pair of tickets to this sold out show! Enter right away by e-mailing tickets@othermusic.com. Please leave a daytime phone number where you can be reached. Winner will be notified by 4:00 p.m. Friday, January 14.

Mercury Lounge: 217 E. Houston Street NY, NY

JAN Sun 16 Mon 17 Tues 18 Wed 19 Thurs 20 Fri 21 Sat 22


Other Music Presents ISOLEE
w/special guests: Other Music DJs Duane, Casio & Philip Alexander, plus Kevin McHugh (Micromini)

Don't miss this special Live Laptop performance from Frankfurt tech-house extraordinaire and Playhouse recording artist, Isolee.

Open Boru Vodka Bar from 9 to 10 p.m.
$5 Rum Punch Drink Special all night
$6 adv tickets available at Other Music / $8 at door

APT: 419 West 13th Street New York, NY
Tuesday, January 18 - 9:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.







Ballads of Living and Dying

"Days of Rum"

Fade into this dreamy, celestial soundscape -- and let this languid chanteuse be your guide. Marissa Nadler crafts delicate, haunting atmospherics that echo from a timeless musical catacomb. With a fertile, velvety voice conjuring the plush likes of Opal/Mazzy Star she drifts and hovers within her emotionally dewed songs like a drizzling rain cloud. Breathtaking and melodramatic song-texts weave through narratives of forlorn love, ill-fated suicides and gorgeous adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe and Pablo Neruda's works. Young yet eminently perceptive, Nadler is a sublimely alluring old soul, infusing vivacity into the ballads of the living and dying. Her songs are subtly accompanied by hints of autoharp, accordion, banjo, and delectable fingerpicking that resonate in near perfection with her balmy and sensual vocals. Perhaps even hints of Neko Case and Bert Jansch-inspired folk quiver through. Seductive, incredible. [MT]





$14.99 CD


$14.99 LP


Wir Sind Hier
(Karaoke Kalk)

"Blaue Faden"
"Forever Never"

Love Streams, the first album from the duo of Ekkehard Ehlers and Albrecht Kunze, was a fantastic surprise in 2002 and was picked by yours truly as one of my 10 favorites albums of that year. How could the OM staff not fall in love with a record that combined German minimal techno with Nico samples? Many of us did not expect Ehlers, known up to that point for his austere laptop compositions, to put out an album of great and catchy minimal electronic pop completely unlike anything groups like the Notwist and Dntel were doing at that time within the same general genre.

I first heard a promotional copy of the second Marz album, Wir Sind Hier, early in 2004 and my initial response to it was lukewarm. But I have a tendency to underestimate follow-ups to albums that I really love, so it isn't surprising that my feelings about Wir Sind Hier evolved significantly as I heard it more and more often. By the time we finally got the album for sale in the store near the end of 2004 it had grown on me quite a bit. The duo's new release is just as playful, melodic, and sophisticated as its first. Thankfully there's still plenty of xylophone in the mix. Many of these new songs prominently feature acoustic guitar and vocals in English or German, and there aren't quite as many beat-driven instrumentals as there were on Love Streams.

The production is a little more ambitious this time, and it works. Where Marz used pop as the building material for the electronic structure of Love Streams, their approach to the new album is precisely the opposite. This time Ehlers and Kunze have set out to make a true pop album rooted in electronica, and the product of their efforts is an extremely engaging and accessible record. If you'd be interested in hearing music that lies at the halfway point between Morr Music and Kompakt, Wir Sind Hier might be perfect for you. [RH]








Spy in the House of God
(Records of Guad)

"Dear Stranger"
"Winter's Chill"

Some of you will recognize the name Nick Castro from his track on the compilation CD that was released on Arthur Magazine's Bastet imprint last year. (This comp came out in conjunction with the Million Tongues festival in Chicago where Castro performed alongside many old and new psychedelic greats including Michael Yonkers, Simon Finn, LSD-March and Josephine Foster.) The Hollywood multi-instrumentalist spent a better part of 2004 holed up in his home recording the songs that make up this great debut album. Like many of today's folk-oriented singer-songwriters, Castro's music is rooted in the tradition set by psych-folkers like the Incredible String Band, Pentangle and Simon Finn. But these are merely touchstones and as a whole A Spy in the House of God is an originally diverse and heady outing.

Castro himself is an accomplished guitarist; his finger picking fluid and at times recalling John Renbourn -- check out "Dear Stranger." However, he also utilizes sitar, flute, glockenspiel and harmonium -- to name a few -- to weave a rich, psychedelic-hued tapestry of sound around his songs. At face value album opener "Pick of All Seasons" and closer "Ordinary Life" are fairly straightforward, but it's what's in between these two bookend tracks that gives A Spy in the House its soul. Adventurous (but not over the top) production, Eastern influenced instrumental interludes and mysterious drones flow between and often connect the vocal songs; though only 32 minutes or so long, there's a lot to take in. Fans of Six Organs of Admittance, Espers, as well as the aforementioned artists will want to make Nick Castro their first music purchase of 2005. [GH]








The Syliphone Years


An essential two-disc compilation by one of Africa's leading dance bands of the '60s and '70s, The Syliphone Years documents the incredibly versatile and innovative Bembeya Jazz National. Bembeya Jazz were a state sponsored orchestra whose existence was a direct result of Guinea's emancipation from French colonial rule of nearly half a century. After winning independence, Guinea's president instituted a broad reaching cultural program that intended to do away with any lingering Gallic influence on the arts. Emphasis was instead placed on local heritage, and musicologists were hired to document the country's contributions to music. Thanks to government largess, countless bands were funded and allowed to contribute to a kind of revolutionary artistic emancipation. The greatest and most influential of these orchestras ended up being Bembeya Jazz National, formed in 1961, and whose success was in no small part due to the extraordinary guitar work of Sekou Diabate, a man whose technique surely ranks as some of the finest ever recorded.

During their heyday Bembeya Jazz never rested on their laurels, indeed the fairly conservative sounding "jazz" in their title is a little misleading. In truth they were highly accomplished at synthesizing numerous influences as they came on to the musical landscape. The first disc in this collection exhibits a strong Cuban influence, and is not that dissimilar to the popular Congolese rumba that was so prevalent in Africa at the time. As the decade progressed so did their arrangements. American funk via Fela Kuti's Afrobeat ended up in the mix, albeit to my ears in a much more radical reworking. While the songs still frequently gallop, by the second disc a sense of melancholy becomes present. The haunting vocals of Demba Camara serve as a spectral counterpoint to Bembeya's complex rhythms and Diabate's hypnotically fluid guitar work. One striking aspect of this collection is that it seems their musicality knew no bounds; included are such breathtaking passages of skill and emotion that they really need to be heard to be believed. [MK]







(Music Cartel)

"Please Don't Forget Me"

2004 marked the year of the Swedish invasion with two psychedelic masterpieces: Dungen's Ta Det Lugnt and the other being Witchcraft's gorgeous self-titled debut. This latter album is new to us and we're stoked to share it with you. Don't be misled by the name, as some sort of image of white faces smeared with pig blood is probably being conjured. On the contrary, this is one of the best vintage inspired psych-doom-rock bands I've heard in a long while. If you didn't know it was a recent release, on an initial hearing one would assume this record was from the early-'70s hard rock heyday, along with artists like Captain Beyond, Black Sabbath, Toad and Pentagram. Witchcraft effortlessly weaves the macabre of classic Pentagram, the doom-riffage of Sabbath, obscuro/intricate svensk-psych, with the boogie of Roky Erickson. Haunting hints of Comus-inspired mood shifts creep through some of the songs, also. Deliciously heavy, fuzzed out, lo-fi haze. Also essential for fans of contemporaries Dead Meadow and Sleep -- highly recommended! Artwork by the prolifically eerie Stephen O'Malley. [MT]







Not the Freeze

"Color Fantasy"
"Country Girl"

Chris Ducey and Craig Smith met in 1965 on an audition for an ABC television pilot about a Greenwich Village folk-rock trio, and the rest should have been history. The show was cancelled before it ever got started because executives were afraid it wouldn't be able to compete with NBC's The Monkees, but Chris and Craig stayed together. They performed and recorded as a duo and later, with the help of the Monkees' own Mike Nesmith, put together a band called the Penny Arkade. The group was together from 1967 to 1968 and recorded a complete album with Nesmith acting as their producer. Elektra wanted to release their record, but Nesmith refused to allow the company to make any changes to the tapes so the deal fell through and no other offers ever came their way.

The Penny Arkade disbanded after that. Chris Ducey went on to a successful songwriting career and Craig Smith disappeared in Asia for a couple of years and returned calling himself Maitreya Kali. He released a pair of private-press LPs called Apache and Inca, which included seven of the songs from the Penny Arkade sessions as well as lots of other stuff he'd recorded in the years before and after. Those records have been available on CD for a while now, but none of the Penny Arkade's recordings have ever been released under their own name before now.

This new disc from Sundazed is a complete and remastered collection of their work, including all 19 songs Nesmith produced for them (five of them are alternate takes) and four tracks they recorded on their own. If you're into the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield you will probably adore this band. Ducey wrote jangly and upbeat pop songs that perfectly contrasted with Smith's hazy and meandering Southern California psychedelia, and their vocal harmonies were incredible. Among the album's many highlights are the epic 12-minute long "Not the Freeze" and the previously unissued "Year Of The Monkey," which sounds remarkably like some of the new material that Animal Collective have been playing at their recent shows. Not The Freeze is truly fantastic psych reissue, don't miss this one. [RH]







Silent Night


Variations / A Movement in Chrome Primitive
(Durtro/Die Stadt)
"2 Variations"

Silent Night
"Silent Night"

As if completing the massive four disc cycle of The Disintegration Loops in 2004 wasn't enough for ex-Brooklyn composer (now residing in LA) William Basinski, he also realized another long-dormant project this year, Variations in a Chrome Primitive. Like the Loops -- as well as Raster-Noton's 2CD set, The River -- it too was first laid to tape in the early-'80s, but remained dormant until the 21st century. Here Basinski's approach most mirrors the music-as-cellular-process that Eno extrapolated on with his Ambient series. Clusters of piano keys ring out, or rather, bubble up as if from some primordial state, permutating into more diaphanous tones that are hard to get a bearing on over the course of its two discs and eight variations. Drawing on Basinski's melodic and harmonic training to convey a great depth, it's stark and emotionally moving in a way few ambient discs are. Due to the nature of the recording process, the fidelity really is 'primitive,' but it accentuates the mood of the piece, in much the same way that the crumbling dioxide of Disintegration Loops highlighted the elegiac music. Hiss, dropout, distortion all play a part here, acting like ghosts in the machine.

Basinski has been keeping busy though, not merely resting on laurels as the rest of the world catches up to his music from 20 years ago. His latest disc came out just in time for Christmas, but don't let the title of Silent Night fool you. It works for any night of the year, and is apropos for long winter nights, when darkness seems endless, the wind constantly rattling windows as snow flutters by in stark, glorious patterns against the blackness. Created on his Voyetra 8 synthesizer, it's almost as if Basinski misses those bone-chilling New York winters, trying to replicate it out in LA. High frequencies blow about, but drifts of warm tones slowly accumulate, wrapping the listener in the type of beatific bed that follows of the composer will instantly recognize for its radiance and gentle heat in the cold void of aural space. [RB]







Blood Is Trouble
(Ba Da Bing)

"Violence Lake"

Greg Weeks has been making hushed chamber-folk for several years now, releasing quiet and slightly psychedelic pop as a solo artist, and recently (and more famously) as a member of the group Espers. Weeks is a talented and understated performer, using a bevy of instruments both acoustic and electric to create layered melancholy pop sounds. If you are looking for earthy folk or brain melting psychedelia, perhaps this record is not for you. Despite the package's trippy lettering and collaged skulls and hippies in the forest imagery, Weeks' music comes off as closer to low-key pop bands like American Music Club or Low than your mama's folk music. But with Blood Is Trouble, Weeks has delivered a soft and satisfying album of sad dreamy songs that are warm and beautiful and they tend to seep into your consciousness in a sweet and druggy haze. [JM]





Book + 3 CDs


Harmonic Development

"37c) No. 49, First Series - May 22, 1949"

An extraordinary collection of harmonium recordings by Russian-born mystic G.I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff was a controversial figure in esoteric circles in the earlier part of the 20th century. He counted Rene Daumal and Frank Lloyd Wright amongst his disciples, but was alternately disparaged in the press as a cult leader and even caricatured as a phony baloney in Leanora Carrington's surrealist masterpiece The Hearing Trumpet. Noted British director Peter Brooks made a great dramatic film about the earlier part of his life called Meetings with Remarkable Men, and I most recently saw his name pop up in Daniel Pinchbeck's Breaking Open the Head, a study of modern shamanism and psychedelic drugs. His philosophies continue to have adherents around the world and there is even a Gurdjieff foundation located right here in New York.

The earliest part of Gurdjieff's story seems to be shrouded in mystery. What is known is that at some point in his late-teens or early-twenties he went off on an extended quest throughout Persia and the Far East looking for religious mystics, ascetics, and holy men. Through these individuals he believed he discerned certain truths about the condition of man. He discovered that the vast majority of mankind is sleepwalking through life, unable to reconcile the various splits in their psyche. Through dance, music, and literature he formulated specific practices that would condition a person to awaken to their surrounding reality. His "novel", Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson was purposefully very densely written to require the utmost concentration, for it is only through hard work and concentration that mankind can awaken from its slumber.

Gurdjieff wrote a good deal of piano music that has widely been available for some time. The harmonium improvisations compiled here have been much more difficult to find. I'd been lucky to have discovered several battered privately issued LPs a while back and was immediately struck by what is surely one of the most enigmatic accomplishments of Gurdjieff's life. Comprised of sessions recorded between 1948 and 1949 (the year he died), these pieces seem instantly familiar, yet quite unlike anything I've ever heard before. There is a certain "old world" quality to them, with melodies deliberately exuding airs of mystery. The pieces are languorous and haunting; they never drone on for too long nor get shrill as the harmonium is wont to do. One gets the feeling in these performances that Gurdjieff is very consciously attempting to distill his soul through music. I'm also sure that there is a case to be made that these pieces constitute a little discussed forerunner to ambient music. The package that Basta has put together here is really quite extraordinary. Included is an expertly designed and well researched book with tons of intriguing photographs, two CDs of the music discussed above, as well as an mp3 disc with 19 (yes, 19) hours of additional material including a short film made with Gurdjieff in the summer of 1949. [MK]








Syncro System
(African Songs UK)

"Synchro System"
"Gbogbo Lope"

Born in 1946, a member of the Nigerian royal family, Sunny Ade would become the leading light and foremost innovator in African Highlife music and earn the title "the King of Juju." Against his parent's wishes, in 1964 Ade moved to Lagos to pursue a music career and by '67 he had released his first record with his Juju band, the Green Spots. Over the next few years he refined his own signature direction using simple vocal themes and exploration of melodies versus straightforward arrangements. By the early-'70s, Ade began adapting a slightly more rhythmic direction with his singing and worked in more influences from highlife music and of course the new Afrobeat sounds that Fela had unleashed.

In 1974, Ade launched his own label cementing his superstar status in West Africa. Yet in spite of recording scads of records and being one of Nigeria's most influential music makers, a majority of Ade's albums that have made it to the U.S. market suffer from too much studio sheen. Thankfully the new British imprint African Songs is rectifying this situation. Syncro System features Sunny Ade and his band at their finest -- totally raw, invigorating and spirited fun. Easily as addictive as the best of Fela, just check that mind-boggling talking drum. [GH/MK]









Pleasant. Nice. Gentle. Polite. Sweet. These are the words that come to mind while listening to the new Shuttle358 album. No over exertion is perceivable for any one single moment. Each track just floats by like a creek in autumn. Minimal (with nods to SND, Dettinger, Oval, Pete Namlook and other 'ambient classics') but devoid of any "experimentation", Chessa seems to be about indulging in the mood of the moment. [SM]








Another Time
(Dark Holler)

"Where the Cock Don't Crow"
"She Came Down to Town"

It isn't often that you hear brand new music that could just as easily have been recorded in 1927. Another Time is a really special album by contemporary London singer-songwriter Terry Earl Taylor, who sings traditional folk tunes and original songs with banjo and harmonica accompaniment. Dock Boggs is clearly a major influence for him (there's even a song on here called "Dock Boggs Is Dead"), and the liner notes cite Bascom Lunsford as a big inspiration as well. Even though he's playing this style of music several thousand miles away from its place of inception and 70 years after the fact, it sounds completely authentic. If it wasn't for the quality of the recordings, Taylor's own songs would fit nicely with anything on Harry Smith's Anthology Of American Folk Music. Take my word, this CD is totally amazing and is easily one of the best additions to the store's Americana section in many a month. [RH]









A Christmas Album
(Saddle Creek)

"The First Noel"

The Bright Eyes Christmas album may not have made it here in time for the holiday just passed, but fans will definitely want to pick up this extremely limited CD to save for the next holiday season. Conor Oberst, with help from a large cast of friends and the Saddle Creek family, performs traditional Christmas Carols. Proceeds benefit the Nebraska AIDS project.









World of Echo

"Place I Know"

Arthur Russell's long out-of-print masterpiece is back in stock. His whispered confessions and cello are enshrouded in spacey echo; the songs become downright transcendental and chilling. An essential release!

This is the CD only version, Audika's limited edition CD/DVD are gone.




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[RB] Randy Breaux
[GH] Gerald Hammill
[RH] Rob Hatch-Miller
[MK] Michael Klausman
[JM] Josh Madell
[SM] Scott Mou
[MT] Mahssa Taghinia

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