February 15, 2006  


J DILLA: FEBRUARY 7, 1974 - FEBRUARY 10, 2006
All of us at Other Music are terribly saddened by the recent passing of J Dilla. The hugely talented hip-hop producer and performer, also known as Jay Dee, has left behind a large legacy, from his early work with Slum Village to his more recent productions and mixes for BBE and Stones Throw. His new album Donuts (released, with bitter irony, just days before his passing, on his 32nd birthday) has been a staff favorite for a while now. A fund has been set up in his mother's name; please visit the Stones Throw Web site for more information.





Magik Markers
Kan Mikami
The Battles
Pingipung Plays the Piano (Various)
Magical Power Mako
Bullwackies All Stars
Prince Jammy Vs Crucial Bunny


Steeleye Span
Sebastien Roux


Arctic Monkeys (Limited EP)


Ustad Hafizullah Khan
Pandit Pran Nath


FEB Sun 19 Mon 20 Tues 21 Wed 22 Thurs 23 Fri 24 Sat 25


We'll dim the lights for this special acoustic performance from Chicago's Town and Country, in support of their new album, Up Above.

Monday, February 20th @ 8:00 P.M.
15 East 4th Street NYC
(212) 477.8150
Free Admission/Limited Capacity










I have to say that I have always been a sucker for hip-hop influenced downtempo music. I love anything that Warp put out during the time of the Artificial Intelligence series, on to early Mo' Wax, then to NY's own "illbient" scene, and Morr Music's first releases. Hell, I am even nostalgic for some Kruder and Dorfmeister now and again. Well, it seems that downtempo music is a curse in the current state of independent music but, as we all know, it will come back around after everyone is fed up with avant-psych-folk and new metal. QPE hits us with his second album and it contains elements from all of the above-mentioned labels and artists. It is real good to see that there are some people keeping the electronic scene together here in the city, and the Agriculture label have been doing it for quite awhile. DJ Olive and his crew have been consistently putting out good music, though with not much recognition outside of New York. I'm hoping that QPE's Gentrified does the trick, with its distorted downtempo beats, haunting synth washes, and dub-influenced bass. This album deserves to be heard and, for myself, it has been the perfect soundtrack for these cold, snowy winter nights. A very nice chillout album, nothing new, but extremely pleasant nonetheless. [JS]







A Panegyric to the Things I Do Not Understand


While a lot of people have complained that the Magik Markers recordings have been too lo-fi and not fully realized, here's a studio document that captures the awesome power of their live-show-as-train-crash. A Panegyric to the Things I Do Not Understand is divided into two 20-minute tracks (two LP sides, perhaps?) full of the Markers' patented post-no wave skronk and Harry Pussy-styled artcore, but the ominous and primitive gutter-rumbling Stooges blues that lurks throughout is what makes this one special (Elisa Ambrogio croons "I'm Your Ramblin' Rose...I'm Your Sister Ann" on the superior second track). A Panegyric... sounds less haphazard, drummer Pete Nolan, especially, sounds completely locked in and in the zone, as he powers his way through, more than he skitters. Sweet, mandatory medicine that comes packaged in a slipcase with bunnies on the front. What else do you want? [AK]







Live in Kouch University 1972


Maybe a listener should approach this live document of a Kan Mikami performance from 1972 the way one would when listening to any of the numerous American Primitive or Lost Sound CDs. Because when future aural historians begin sifting through the sonic detritus of the late 20th century in search of that era's rawest and most viscerally recorded performances, this disc is surely to make the cut. Mikami was barely into his twenties when this show was recorded, he'd left behind a provincial lifestyle in the country to engage in the vibrant Tokyo cultural scene right at a turbulent moment in Japanese society. There was a vigorous student movement developing, complete with the requisite protest songs, riots, and burgeoning underground arts scenes. After a brief stint in the Police Academy, which he enrolled in more for access to guns than any affinity for the Establishment, Mikami became a regular and popular performer in the city's various avant-garde hot spots, theaters, and coffee shops. He wasn't really a folk singer or a blues singer per se; what he was doing and does to this day really stands apart from all popular music while still engaging in it at least peripherally.

He was signed by Columbia Records in an era when majors weren't afraid to take on difficult music; they issued his debut LP and it sold a brisk 30,000 copies (!) before secretly being pulled from the market due to Columbia's weak resolve in defending the scandalous nature of the album's subversive lyrical content. Nevertheless, subsequent records through the '70s made him a pretty huge star until the arrival of '80s when the infrastructure for folk performances totally collapsed; Mikami relates how after the arrival of Space Invader video games at clubs he couldn't perform anymore without hearing the incessant zapping of alien spacecraft.

The Japanese label PSF resurrected his career in the '90s, however, with a string of harrowing and enigmatic recordings that have cemented his position as one of the most singular performers in existence. Having mostly heard his work via live albums where his status as a demigod has accorded him reverentially silent audiences, this live gig at the Kouch University comes as a shock. The students are positively raucous and ecstatic as they egg Mikami on with hoops and hollers. And while the sound is truly abysmal, Mikami's emotionally driven command over his wholly own form of jagged and primal blues absolutely commands attention through the layers of tape hiss and ends up standing as one of the most powerful and engaging live performances these ears have ever heard. [MK]







Tomorrow's Eager Hands
(Soft Abuse)

"In Exelsis, Yeah"
"Omega Man"

Not to be confused with the Don Caballero/Helmet alums' ensemble simply known as Battles, this Vancouver band uses a "the" prefix and couldn't be further from math rock, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Fronted by former Destroyer guitarist Stephen Wood, a songwriter who has a knack for commingling jangly Feelies-esque garage pop with the synth-dotted glam of early-Roxy Music, the Battles' sophomore effort comes five years after the release of their debut Lycanthropy, an album which was released on the New Pornographers' first label, Blue Curtain. Tomorrow's Eager Hands finds Wood honing his pop chops, assisted by Loscil's Scott Morgan and some members of Destroyer (including backing vocals from Dan Bejar, who is also a New Pornographers associate). While the loose-limbed two-minute album opener "Changes" recalls a Robyn Hitchcock hum-along, it's not too long before the real charms of the record appear. Musically, tracks like "Omega Man" share a little bit of the same Bowie whimsy as Destroyer's Bejar, but the Battles are more spacious in production and arrangement, with airy keyboards and organ providing the helium lift, and songs snaking through some unexpected psychedelic twists. During "Northern Man," Wood's voice teeters between John Lennon and Syd Barrett, while "In Exelsis, Yeah" conjures an indie rock road trip across the Canadian Autobahn, with sparkling synthesizers and a feel-good chorus of vocals riding the forward-moving Teutonic bass line. [GH]







Pingipung Plays the Piano

"1979 VA" Barbara Morgenstern & Robert Lippok
"Red Pencil" Hauschka

Another German concept compilation that focuses on the piano from the new (to us) Pingipung label. Familiar artists like Lawrence, Barbara Morgenstern and Hauschka sit comfortably among new names such as Grabuk, Springintgut, Thaddi and Egobird..! The music is sweet and melodic with a touch of the seriousness that piano sometimes lends--veering between the post-Boards of Canada (sweet melodies and small clickbeats) sound to a somewhat acoustic style reminiscent of B. Fleischmann, to a Karaoke Kalk feel. Obviously, everyone involved was asked to submit a song using piano samples in the track, and to these ears, the best ones used the least "other" electronic sounds and focused on the piano's tones. Grabuk's shifting "Flechten" is a perfect example of this; the track builds and winds on and on with a personal take on Terry Riley's hypnotics and halts into a wonderfully surprising ending. Thaddi's "Three Difficult Words" ("I love you", maybe?) kills in a way similar to Marz's "Chelsea Boys." This is one of those records that pleasantly rides the line between "sweet" and "mature". As you'd expect, this compilation explores the theme by moving from silvery optimism to dreamy introspection. The pleasant surprise is the cohesive range of the whole thing. One for the kids and the IDM veterans, all fans of Karaoke Kalk and the less twee Morr Music stuff will love this! [SM]







(Thrill Jockey)

"Trout Silk"
"St. Augustine (A Belly Full of Swans)"

Chi-town's Califone never get the acclaim and adulation of folks like Wilco, and yet they are right on top of the compost heap that is American kosmische music. Even on their first full-length album, Roomsound, finally reissued by Thrill Jockey after its initial appearance on their own Perishable imprint, you can hear them rooted in and drawing on a fertile strata of sound. There's hints of Gene Clark, Tom Waits, Jeff Tweedy, and even Hank Williams in Tim Rutili's throat, and the band sounds like it could handle any terrain, either porch blues, Gram Parsons' Cali-country, Eno's Another Green World, and the eerie bogs of electric Miles. [AB]







Super Record


Long considered Mako's masterpiece, Super Record was recorded in 1975 for Japanese Polydor. Realized in his private studio on a quadraphonic tape machine, the eccentric multi-instrumentalist created the definitive document of mid-'70s far eastern rock exploration. Mako was a student of Japan's greatest modern composer, Toru Takemitsu, under whose tutelage he gained an understanding of tape collage techniques, as well as the ability to conjoin quiet simplicity with vigorous experimentation. Deep fuzz guitar is effortlessly wrought with traditional folk instrumentation, the occasional vocal refrain, and synthesized backdrops.

If you were fortunate enough to get lost in the 5-CD box set, Hapmoniym (released in 2000 on MIO), you may recognize some of the loose musical ideas that would be distilled into Super Record. Comparisons to Faust and Amon Düül are hard to avoid, but where these groups forged kosmische outer space, Magical Power Mako turned the focus inward to a deeply felt personal space. Much of the material leans pleasingly toward British folk and medieval music. A reoccurring strand emerges through Super Record, affording a topography of boundless musical energy. This release is a pillar of Japanese psychedelia, a certain must-have. [JR]










Clogs are a sister band to Brooklyn's the National, but while the groups share two key members (Bryce Dessner on guitars, and Padma Newsome on strings), and a similarly sophisticated and atmospheric sonic palette, their music is quite distinct. Where the National use their swirling sounds to bolster the songwriting and create an emotional backdrop for the vocalist, Clogs' (mostly) instrumental music is meant to stand on its own. And so it does, with subdued, intricate arrangements of strings, guitars, bassoon, piano, melodica, ukulele and gentle percussion creating moody and moving suites, with complex finger-picking intertwining with precise string melodies. As the Bell Orchestre (with whom Clogs have toured quite a bit) is the avant-instrumental Arcade Fire, or Rachel's were to Rodan, the Clogs are the alter ego to the National. An accomplished and lovely album. [JM]








Dub Unlimited

"Dub Unlimited"
"Uptown I"

And the hits just keep coming from the classic reggae imprint that New York can call its own. We're barely through the last batch of crucial Wackies reissues when this original "Senrab" (use a mirror) slab hits. A '76 set of cuts from a recently relocated Lloyd Barnes and crew out to White Plains Road, there are traces of the Love Joys and the Chosen Brothers here, but it's all about the trickling, tricky dubs throughout. "Hurricane Not I" is about dribbles of sound not downpours, while the guitar licks on "Dubbing Around" twine around the keyboard licks effortlessly. Subtle selections throughout. [AB]







Dub Contest

"Jammys a No Fool"
"How Bunny Feels"

While having mind-bubbling dub cuts on disc is nice and handy, it is far removed from its natural habitat, booming in the dancehalls and in the soundclashes. Not that this is a field recording or some such, but David Katz's Auralux label (quickly assuming a buy on sight level of quality like Blood & Fire) documents the soundsystem of UK's Ken Gordon, also known as the Fatman. He was down with Prince Jammy, getting uncut slices of exquisite dub plates for his system. The King-to-be is in playful form here, with lots of birds chirping among the booming recast of Johnny Clarke's "Play Fool Fe Catch Wise." The snare hits and organ stabs are set to dissolve in a fine mist throughout his side of the platter, but the previously unknown (to these ears) "Crucial Bunny" Graham matches Jammy drop for drop, punch for punch. Also known as "Bunny Tom Tom," his skills caught the ears of the Talking Heads rhythm section, and they henceforth named their Tom Tom Club in homage to the man. A killer clash. [AB]








Hark, the Village Wait

"The Blacksmith"
"One Night As I Lay on My Bed"

Toward the end of 1969, bassist Ashley Hutchings was the only member of Fairport Convention who wanted to follow up Liege & Lief with another album of traditional folk songs. Determined to continue making music in that style, he left the band and formed his own group. He recruited the already notable duo of Maddy Prior and Tim Hart to join him, along with Sweeney's Men guitarist Terry Woods and his wife Gay. The original line-up of the group only survived for one week-long recording session in 1970 before Terry and Gay split to record as the Woods Band, but Hark! The Village Wait--the product of that tumultuous session--is a better album than most bands make in far longer careers. Hutchings' passion for the folk music of the British Isles and the combined vocal and instrumental talents of this short-lived group made its lone release one of the classics of the genre. Later incarnations of Steeleye Span released more commercially successful albums, but if you ask me they never got any better than this. [RH]









"The Classical Guitar Song"
"The Guitar and Drums Song"

Tinkery electronics that peek-a-boo oh so daintily in and out of silence, sometimes tweaking out a bit while remaining gentle. Sounds as commonplace as hands searching through a desk of knick-knacks, a sudden bump and a distorted tone, then by track three, an acoustic guitar--of course! Then later, a cello gently, minimally skronks through a detached melody. Something besides the sounds seemed naggingly familiar, then it became clear: Roux's Songs is very much like a twee/folktronic version of Fennesz's two-song EP, Plays, from 1998! The difference is that Songs replaces the power of Plays with sentiment. [SM]








When the Sun Goes Down

"When the Sun Goes Down"

Britain's newest darlings, Arctic Monkeys give us this little teaser just a few days before the domestic release of their critically acclaimed debut album, Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not. Domino brings us a one-time-only limited CD-EP featuring the brilliant "When the Sun Goes Down" and two exclusive b-sides. 2006 is definitely looking to be Arctic Monkeys' year. The full-length will be available for purchase off the homepage this Friday afternoon, with a full review to come in next week's update.







Khalifa Kirana Gharana
(Just Dreams)

"Saughand (Promise) Drut Tintal (16 Beats)"

An archival performance from 2000 by North Indian classical master Ustad Hafizullah Khan is the latest release on La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's Just Dreams label. Those who purchased the recent Pandit Pran Nath set will find much to enjoy here. Hafizullah Khan, who passed away in 2002, was a virtuoso of the sarangi. The sarangi is India's premier fiddle instrument; to most western ears it probably most resembles the violin. It is comprised of a solid wood body, three main playing strings, and 35-40 sympathetic strings. There are no frets of fingerboards, the strings hover over the body of the instrument and the performer changes the pitch by sliding his or her fingernails along the strings. It has an absolutely uncanny ability to imitate the sound of the human voice -- indeed most sarangi masters are also vocalists, as was Hafizullah Khan.

The sarangi is extremely difficult to play and has been in decline as a popular instrument for some time, so we are very blessed to be offered this historic recording. Hafizullah Khan was the hereditary head of the Kirana Gharana school of North Indian classical music. He began learning his craft at a young age from his renowned father and uncle, and was a staff artist for many years at the prestigious All India Radio. In a recent online interview between La Monte Young and Frank J. Oteri, Young characterizes members of the Kirana school as priding themselves on the knowledge of Raga and Feeling. He goes on to state that there is a certain extremity found in performances from the Kirana Gharana school that he finds appealing and that relates to aspects of his own compositions.

This compact disc is comprised of three ragas, including a new one by Hafizullah Khan himself that combines 11 separate ragas into one piece. The alap sections are impossibly graceful, full of elaborate vocalese that pick up in speed as the raga progresses. These performances are deeply intricate and positively ecstatic, they offer a living testimony to the possibilities still to be found in this increasingly neglected instrument. [MK]







Midnight / Raga Malkauns
(Just Dreams)

"4 VIII 71 SF"
"21 VIII 76 NYC"

"When he would sing, the raga would manifest in the walls" -Terry Riley

A long-awaited release from La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's archives featuring two hour-long ragas by one of India's most important singers of the 20th century, Pandit Pran Nath. Born in 1918, Pandit Pran Nath began seriously studying the raga at the age of six. Possessed with a prodigious memory, he would literally spend hours a day singing and learning hundreds of raga compositions and poems, frequently outdoors in forests or in the middle of rivers. He spent several years living in the caves of Tapkeshwar as a holy ascetic, clothed only in ash, singing for hours at a time amidst the other devotees.

By the 1930s he was regularly appearing on All India Radio to great acclaim as the leading interpreter of the Kirana style. He made his first concert appearance in the United States in 1970 and his impact at this time on American musicians and artists is hard to overstate; Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Marian Zazeela would become formal disciples in a student/guru relationship for many, many years. Some of Pandit Pran Nath's other students included Charlemagne Palestine, Jon Hassell, Yoshi Wada, Henry Flynt, Don Cherry, Rhys Chatham, and Christer Hennix.

The recordings presented here feature Riley, Young, and Zazeela as accompanists, and were made in 1971 and 1977; they are the only available performances on CD at this time. Pandit Pran Nath tended to primarily focus on the alap portion of the raga (which is the more meditative beginning section), often stretching it out to forty or more minutes. That he did so is important in that the qualities that figure prominently in the alap -- the drone and the infinitely subtle pitch relationships between notes -- were what resonated so sharply with the American minimalist composers.

Pandit Pran Nath seems like a force of nature on these performances; you can actually feel his voice in your chest as the ragas unfold. His ability to sustain a note for what seems an eternity, and then continue to provide endless variations in pitch are time disorienting and mind melting. For Pandit Pran Nath, music was the force of god made manifest. That he believed so shows in these tour de force performances which I can't recommend highly enough. [MK]




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[AB] Adrian Burkholder
[GH] Gerald Hammill
[RH] Rob Hatch-Miller
[MK] Michael Klausman
[AK] Andreas Knutsen
[JM] Josh Madell
[SM] Scott Mou
[JR] Jeremy Rendina
[JS] Jeremy Sponder

- all of us at Other Music

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