January 5, 2006  



This week, our website's Charts page features Other Music's top 50 selling albums of 2005. You can view it by going to www.othermusic.com/charts.html. Look for our staff members' record picks of the past year, which will be published at the end of the week. Happy New Year!





Yeti (Book & CD)
Konono N°1
Electric Masada
Chantal Goya
The Strokes
Prima Materia
Nick Garrie
John Martyn (3 Reissues)
Prog is Not a Four Letter Word


Pierre Bastien
Ryoji Ikeda
Nino Rota


Fovea Hex











"Boris Character"

Pink is the newest album by high-concept/excellent results, stoner-rock masters BORIS. Touted as their ultimate, most realized album to date, Pink shows Boris kickin' out the jams in every way that they know how. Everything from massively floating drone-rock (the opening track is so Melvins Bloody Valentine) to driving, high-octane Blue Cheer riff-rock full of unexpected shifts and of course, monolithic, thundering, seething sloth-metal. As far as definitive Boris albums, we all know how great Absolutego and Akuma No Uta are, as well as their more 'experimental' releases with Keiji Haino and Merzbow. Boris have already proven themselves capable of sounding absolutely classic and new at the same time, while exploring all types of ground within reason. Wearing their influences on their sleeve while taking it altogether somewhere else, how many other bands can sound like a tank, racing up Mt. Everest on one album (Absolutego), then sound like a Japanese Blue Cheer meets Motorhead (Akuma No Uta), and then do a track with Merzbow of nothing but analog hiss and massively humming amps that still rules on another? The thing about Pink is its cohesive variety, unfaltering energy and overall generosity. This one will reward the faithful with heaping doses of rumbling, thick, bad-ass, balls-out ROCK with massive texture (drone/noise sections are embedded WITHIN the songs) while it wins over some newcomers with its absolutely pure, yet new rock spirit. Oh yeah, as usual, the dope packaging continues to expand the expectations of metalheads everywhere. Thanks Boris. [SM]





Book w/CD



Volume #3

"Oh Me Oh My the Way the Day" Devendra Banhart

At long last, the third installment of this epic art/music/writing journal has landed…with a resounding thump. The book comes in at well over 225 pages. Edited and designed by Mike McGonigal, Yeti is loaded up with deep, satisfying writing, drawings, comics, photos, critique, fiction, interviews and a great full-length CD of rarities by your favorite musicians past, present and future. Far too much to detail everything here, but the book includes interviews with William S. Burroughs, Naomi Yang, Timesbold, Neko Case, and more. Fascinating articles on, among other things: "Anonymous Crime Scene Reporting in African-American Los Angeles in the 1940s" by RJ Smith, an essay by Henry Flynt on Hennix's "Electric Harpsichord" reprinted from the program to a 1974 concert at NYC's The Kitchen, an article on Eileen Myles by Nate Lippens, an essay on Devendra Banhart's early years by William Bronson, and a piece about "The Alchemy Of Trash: West Coast Art and Spiritual Collage" by Erik Davis. Add to that, photo essays by Charles Peterson, comics by Jason Miles and the Apes, and a whole pile of other stuff.

The CD, packaged in a simple plastic sleeve in the back cover of the book, has 27 "exclusives", including three tracks by Devendra Banhart (demos made before the second Young God record), Henry Flynt, the Apes, Jolie Holland, live Postal Service, Broke Revue, an early home-recorded track from Iron and Wine, a lovely Fruit Bats side-project (I, Rowboat), and of course, much, much more. The only thing that excuses the interminable wait between issues of this fine journal is the lengthy time it takes to read the thing, as there is enough meat in here to last a long, cold winter. [JM]









"Ku Hollande"
"Ditshe Tshiekutala"

Konono N°1 is a 25-year-old ensemble founded by master likembe (thumb-piano) player Mingiedi Mawangu. Their music is based on the Bazombe tradition, originating around the border of Congo and Angola. With three likembe players, a few singers and a couple of drummer/percussionists, Konono create truly unique music that's amplified through this strangely distorted sound system formed out of old car parts and kitchen utensils. Their intensity is relentless and the ensemble's propulsive rhythms and call-and-response vocals are hypnotizing. It's a huge sound that surges with a heavy bottom (the drums) countered by the resonating highs of the electrified likembe, which gives this music a resonating ting to it that is hard to describe. This live album, recorded in Holland in 2003, captures the raw sound and energy in all its fullness. For those of you who picked up year's Congotronics, you know what I'm talking about, but for the uninitiated, I highly recommend experiencing this! [GA]








At the Mountains of Madness


Zorn fans take note; this is the release you've been waiting for! The most recent band of the reigning king of the downtown scene has reached a new plateau. Although the group's greatness was hinted at on the 2003 live release commemorating Zorn's 50th birthday celebration, it is fully realized here. How could it not be with this lineup (John Zorn - sax, Marc Ribot - guitar, Jamie Saft - keyboards, Ikue Mori - computer, Trevor Dunn - elec. bass, Joey Baron - drums, Kenny Wollesen - drums, and Cyro Baptista - percussion) and material (Zorn's Masada songbook)? This is the culmination of Zorn's life's work: brutal elements of Naked City, Masada's lyrical finesse, improvisational mayhem a la his game pieces, and, as always, top-notch interpretations from his colleagues are in full effect.

This live double-CD is packed with material (sometimes repeated, always fresh) performed in Moscow and Ljubljana in 2004. As always, the packaging and sound quality are impeccable, but there is a sense of urgency in this ensemble's playing--maybe gigging these tunes outside New York City for nights in a row (in Eastern Europe!) loosened everyone up. Whatever it was, it worked, resulting in perhaps the most rewarding John Zorn listening experience (and there are like several thousand CDs so far) to date.

While Saft and Ribot do some incredible soloing (seriously!), the full group contribution is staggering. Not unlike Miles' early-'70s electric bands, E.M. transcends the "jam" genre through the strength of their ability to play off, rather than all over, each other--an important distinction if one is attempting 10-plus-minute songs. The bottom line is, you are missing out on some of the most soulful and rocking contemporary music being made if you pass on this one. [KC]








(Acid Symposium)

"Tema De Bwana"
"La Jurumba"

Although this classic Latin funk-rock record from the early-'70s has been quite well-known on the rare groove circuit for some time, I'm glad to see that this sensational album is finally available on CD. This Colombian band created a unique style that touched upon the West Coast-derived heavy percussive Latin rock sound epitomized by groups such as Santana, Tower of Power and War. The playing is first-rate and a lot more consistently relentless than your average Santana album--think Soul Sacrifice x 5. This album has a little bit of everything for the rare groove connoisseur: Heavy Latin drum breaks for the beatheads, plenty of fuzz guitar for the psych lovers, and lovely Latin-tinged organ melodies for the boogaloo set. Original copies of this record usually go for about $150 or more, so this is a real bargain and I'm not sure how long it will stay in print. If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned artists or picked up the Love's a Real Thing compilation, wondering where you can find more psychedelic world funk, than you'll find this release quite satisfying. [DH]








Masculin Feminin
(Magic Import)

Film Forum had a pretty successful revival of Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin Feminin here in New York recently, so we thought it might be a good idea to get some copies of its wonderful soundtrack for the store. Filmed in 1966, Godard cast then rising yé-yé star Chantal Goya as an, um, then rising ye' ye' star who spends her days and evenings hanging out with the "children of Marx and Coca-Cola" and who just had one of her songs make it to "number six on the Japanese charts." It's one of his best loved films of the '60s, due in no small part to the wonderful charisma of Goya and the tension she elicits from her politicized, yet highly ineffectual, co-stars. This disc has complete versions of all six of the songs she performs in the film. [MK]







$17.99 CD-Deluxe Version


$14.99 LP



First Impressions of Earth

"You Only Live Once"
"On the Other Side"

Despite what the metallic bombast of the lead single "Juicebox" may suggest, the third album by NYC's jaded prep-school punks the Strokes may be their most personal and dynamic album to date. After a sophomore release (2003's Room On Fire) that came off sounding a bit like a tired retread of their excellent debut, the band had something to prove, and they've stepped it up on First Impressions of Earth. Their trademarked (if not wholly original) sound is still intact--tense, intertwined dual guitar leads against thin robot-rhythms and Julian Casablancas' lazy yet impassioned whine. But David Kahne's production kicks everything up a notch, from the hypnotic tick-tick of the hi-hat to the dense swirl of guitars and Casablancas' vocals, which are looser and far more impassioned than on previous recordings. The band seem to be egging each other on throughout, butting heads until tracks explode into cacophony or slip into sly melody, and at every turn these 14 tracks are packed with hooks: snaky guitar lines, muscular rhythmic flourishes and Casablancas' cool emoting. Still jaded, still bratty, still drunk and horny, and pissed, the Strokes have taken '06 by the balls and delivered what might be the best album of their career. It's anyone's guess, however, why they always insist on such crappy cover art. (For a limited time: Deluxe version comes in a die-cut digi-pack.) [JM]








Under an Hour
(Film Guerrero)


This may be Menomena's second full-length, but Under an Hour is by no means a follow-up to their much-hyped I Am the Fun Blame Monster. For this one, the Portland, Oregon trio continues to confound listeners, completely abandoning any of their clever pop sensibilities, and instead bring us a couple of instrumental pieces that total a little over 54-minutes. (You can ignore that parental advisory sticker on the cover; there aren't any offending lyrics.) Written to accompany a performance by Portland dance troupe Monster Squad, Menomena's musicianship really shines through on these three sprawling tracks, titled "Water," "Flour" and "Light." Like their previous record, the piano is a key instrument, but here the tinkling ivory passages are often classically based, with layers of droning electronics and organic sounds from saxophone, slide-guitar and drums, creating a similar kind of push-pull tension that can be felt on a Godspeed You! Black Emperor record. [GH]








The Tail of the Tiger
(die Schachtel)

"LP Version"
"Berlin, Oct. 19th, 1974 Metamusik Festival"

"...it is a mystic dialogue that brings us closer and closer to the source of light..." (Giancinto Scelsi, from the liner notes)

Here's another extraordinary sound document from the Italian label die Schachtel, the folks who brought us the genius Luciano Cilio album the year before last. This one features the work of Roberto Laneri and his extended vocal drone ensemble Prima Materia. Born in Italy, Laneri graduated from the University of California in San Diego with a thesis on "sound as the vehicle of altered states of consciousness" in the early-'70s, and for the remainder of the decade his ensemble Prima Materia would be the primary means of transportation.

Using a wide variety of vocal techniques inspired by the musics of Tibet, Mongolia, and India, the members of Prima Materia created dense polyphonic drone music of intense concentration with clear affinities to the concurrent work of folks like La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros, Tony Conrad, etc. The first 30-minute-long piece was originally issued by the Italian label Ananda, a short-lived artist run consortium headed by Laneri, the American composer Alvin Curran, and the elusive Giacinto Scelsi. Nearly impossible to find upon its initial release, and ever after for that matter, The Tail of the Tiger has been coupled with a further 35-minutes worth of material recorded while Prima Materia were at the height of their power.

Die Schachtel again wins the award for most gratuitously beautiful packaging, as this reissue comes with a lovely white-on-white and silver embossed cover, metallic tinted liner-notes and photos, and a free-standing 16-page booklet of exquisitely printed multi-colored mandalas. These guys are setting the bar for what a proper reissue ought to look, and sound, like. [MK]








The Ape of Naples
(Threshold House)

"The Last Amethyst Deceiver"
"It's in My Blood"

Coil's final album, The Ape of Naples, is here to mark the unfortunate passing of Coil co-founder, Jhonn Balance. Mainly recorded and produced in Trent Reznor's New Orleans studio, containing material written between 1982 and 2005, and finally woven together by Peter Christopherson in Spring 2005, the full-length serves as a fitting eulogy in the way it explores somber reflection through beautifully macabre songwriting and transcendent-searching rhythm-scapes. Track two, "The Last Amethyst Deceiver," touches on the inevitable nature of death; the lines "pay respects to the vultures/for they are your future" are carried along a walking upright bass-line and bare atmospheric vibraphone. "Triple Sun" sounds like a Steve Reich piece designed to transport souls; Balance's lyrics "Then I swallowed the one yew bury…" arrive in the final moments of the song, low in the mix as if radioed in from the netherworld. The throbbing, howling creep-funk of "It's in My Blood" is Coil at its effectively most basic. (See also "Heavens Blade.") The Ape of Naples is an album of melancholic beauty worthy of its place among classic Coil albums. [SM]








The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas

"The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas"
"Can I Stay With You?"

Nick Garrie's 1969 debut The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas is one of the finest psychedelic pop reissues to appear in quite some time. The album was recorded for the French label DiscAZ, and they pulled out all the stops for the sessions. They hired Eddie Vartan, who had been a big producer and arranger for RCA France in the early- '60s and was the older brother of yé-yé girl Sylvie Vartan. They also brought in a 56-piece orchestra to fill out Garrie's acoustic pop ditties. Garrie was apparently overwhelmed by the experience, lamenting that he "could hardly recognize any of the songs underneath all the strings." As if that's a problem! He must not have had the best taste, Donovan would most likely have been thrilled to have had his face on the cover of an album that sounded this good. Garrie basically disowned the record because he found it incredibly over-produced, and he claims that he didn't even keep any of the few copies that were released before it instantly went out of print (the label's owner died just days after the release of the LP). One has to assume that Garrie must not have been a big fan of similarly baroque recordings from the same time period such as two of Andrew Loog Oldham's most extravagant projects for Immediate Records, Duncan Browne's Give Me Take You and Billy Nicholls' Would You Believe. The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas is nearly as good as those incredible records. [RH]





London Conversation


Bless the Weather


Inside Out


London Conversation
(Island UK)
"Sandy Grey"

Bless the Weather
(Island UK)
"Let the Good Things Come"

Inside Out
(Island UK)
"Make No Mistake"

Influenced by the American blues of Skip James, the folk of Davey Graham, and the traditional sounds of his native Scotland, John Martyn began to carve out his own niche in the British folk scene at the tender age of 17. He left Scotland for the brighter lights of London, where he quickly made a name for himself and played alongside folk luminaries Bert Jansch and Al Stewart. Island Records acted fast and inked Martyn to a deal, making him the label's first white solo artist.

The 1967 debut, London Conversation, is a fairly straightforward folk affair by Martyn's standards but no less enchanting. Mostly stripped down to guitar and vocals, the album includes a beautiful and chilling take on "Cocain," a cover of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," and 11 originals (one exclusive to this remaster), including "Rolling Home," the album's real tour de force. "Rolling Home" is the only song that strays from the guitar/vocals concept, a hypnotic dulcimer raga that hints at the increased versatility of later Martyn recordings.

By 1971's Bless the Weather, the prolific Martyn had already released another solo album, The Tumbler, and two great collaborations with his wife Beverley (to be featured in an upcoming OM Update). Still only 23, Bless the Weather (recorded in three days!) showcases a more mature talent, his voice an octave lower and the guitar playing more versatile, sometimes jazzier, sometimes more aggressive. Adding an extra layer of fullness to the sound, Martyn brought in Danny Thompson of Pentangle on double bass and it was around this time he became more adventurous and prone to experimenting with effects (the Echoplex, in particular), incorporating delay and loops. All in all, an essential and uplifting album and a perfect companion to the denser and more well-known Solid Air. Island has included a generous helping of bonus tracks on Bless the Weather, including five alternate takes and a glorious full band version of "Head and Heart."

The experimentation is in full effect on 1973's Inside Out, one of Martyn's most daring recordings and whose supporting cast includes the aforementioned Danny Thompson and Traffic's Stevie Winwood and Chris Wood. His voice, constantly evolving, takes on a variety of forms, including a bluesy growl and a laidback slur and the Echoplex helps create a trance-inducing effect on some of the tracks. In the liner-notes, Martyn admits to an obsession with Pharoah Sanders' Karma, and the approach on Inside Out is definitely more free, evidenced in particular on the sprawling, eight-minute work out of "Outside In." A challenging album for some, rewarding for most. [AK]








Prog Is Not a Four Letter Word
(Delay 68)

"Breakout" - Powiedzielismy Juz Wszystko
"Toledo" - Martin Kratochvil & Jazz Q

Perhaps no individual worked harder or did more in 2005 to advance the cause of crate-digging--or to share the musical knowledge he unearthed--than Manchester's Andy Votel. Through a blue streak of incomparable mix CDs, compilations and reissues, Votel has cast new light on once-maligned genres, disseminated lost and price-prohibitive editions to audiences wider, more informed and more eager to discover, and created danceable and engaging mix compositions of wildly varied material never thought to fit together. His common touch with uncommon music extends to this latest collection, selecting a decade's worth of disparate rock-based experiments from around the globe, in an attempt to liberate these findings from mainstream groups lumped in the same genre: prog.

There's no Yes or ELP in Votel's definition, nothing overblown or pretentious. Instead, you'll find frantic, evocative hyper-composition akin to Goblin's flawless film soundtracks; hairy and fuzzed out Turkish psych-hash droplets; Bach as heard through a Farfisa and deft rhythm section; cosmopolitan symphonies of grandeur and strange; extended and lyrical solos of flute, acid guitar and analog synthesizer. Those looking to unearth breaks will no doubt find dozens for use here, but moreover, those looking to learn and be excited about music they may not have discovered before will find a wealth of information, between this impeccably sequenced compilation and Votel's exhaustive and eminently readable liner notes, supplanting musical snobbery and superiority with an impassioned history lesson on these sounds and their soon-to-be permanent place in your head. Featuring selections by Visitors, Egg, Embryo, Jean-Claude Vannier, Breakout, Baris Manco, and many more. [DMo]










Our favorite batch of robots returns! You no doubt remember the love we had for Pierre Bastien's truly odd, idiosyncratic debut on Rephlex a few years back, and it's nice to see that since his homemade bots weren't broke, they aren't in need of being scrapped. Creating machines to play his music, Bastien's robots and Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions make beguiling, wheezing, herky-jerky ensemble performances that evoke Harry Partch and Jo Jones as much as they do a drunken Dixieland band, or better yet, a particularly gone set from the fuzzy machines at a Chuck E. Cheese pizzeria. [AB]










For the first nine minutes or so, dataplex delivers on the Raster-Noton promise, with meticulously arranged and detailed raw data; glitches, odd bursts of bass, and tones only your pets will pick up. What commences thereafter is something entirely different. Ikeda shakes the foundation with the heaviest bass rumble and for the next 25 minutes delivers 2005's most hypnotic digital voodoo. Extremely musical for being Ikeda, the middle part of dataplex plays like a dance record, with equal parts minimal glitch, breakneck ragga, and sub-bass funk. dataplex then slows down and morphs into an oncoming avalanche of sound, and eventually settles back into its initial data patterns for the last five minutes. With Ikeda on the 0's and 1's, mathematics never sounded so intriguing. [AK]








LSD Roma
(Él / Cherry Red)

"Main Titles - Toby Dammit Theme"
"Ninna Nanna"

A distinguished collection of psyche-delicate original soundtrack recordings by composer Nino Rota for Federico Fellini's Toby Dammit (1968) and Roma (1972). Enduring, captivating, and nostalgic, the composer-director team of Rota and Fellini (as inseparable as Morricone and Leone) has defined the cinematic, visual, and cultural landscape of Italy. Nino Rota's résumé has also come forth to include the memorable scores of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet. A brill collection of maddeningly romantic and surreal scores reflecting Fellini's "LSD-damaged filmmaking stage"--some of his best cinematic works next to Juliet of the Spirits and 8 1/2. [MT]








In Fields We Will Lie
(Box Theory)

"Hung Herself in a Birdcage"

Washington DC's Nethers combine elements of folk music and light, swirling psychedelia to create quite a mesmerizing collection of songs. Nikki West's vocals have the same haunting quality as that of Broadcast's Trish Keenan and United States of America's Dorothy Moskowitz. Not your mom's average neo-folk record.








(Die Stadt)

"Don't These Windows Open?"

Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie teams up with songstress Clodagh Simonds (of British folkies Mellow Candle) to bridge the gap between droney dreamscapes and traditional folk music. The end result is spellbinding ambience and eerie pagan beauty. I can't stop listening to this. Oh yeah, some guys named Brian and Roger Eno contribute, as well.








"Sand Dunes"

It's been almost two years since Tape's second album Milieu was released, and while this Swedish group doesn't seem to have changed a bit aesthetically, Rideau feels different and even more cohesive than their previous efforts. The most conspicuous change on this album is the presence of producer Marcus Schmickler (Pluramon), who manages to make Tape's music even more beautiful, crystal clear, and expansive than it's been in the past. "A Spire" sticks closest to the formula laid out on the band's last record but takes it to even greater heights, with a single repeating piano chord providing the rhythm for all 10 minutes of the song while the melody is played in unison on an acoustic guitar and glockenspiel. As the piece builds in volume and exuberance, a laptop counter melody gradually develops as feedback and drones ebb and flow across the speakers. Elsewhere, a ticking clock duets with an organ, a wall of multi-tracked shakers keeps time for a melodica and a harmonium, and a trio of trumpets explodes in jubilant harmony. It seems like a cliché to say that Tape have outdone themselves, but they really have. Rideau is their best album yet and is one of the year's finest releases in any genre. [RH]




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[GA] Geoff Albores
[AB] Adrian Burkholder
[KC] Kevin Coultas
[GH] Gerald Hammill
[DH] Duane Harriott
[RH] Rob Hatch-Miller
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[AK] Andreas Knutsen
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