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This Week's Free Song Download
Love Is All
What's Your Rupture?
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Free Song Download of "Wishing Well," taken from Love Is All's new album, A Hundred Things to Keep Me Up at Night. The Swedish band's awaited follow-up to Nine Times That Same Song is another danceable, lo-fi barrage of chaotic guitars and saxophone, post-punk rhythms and singer Josephine Olausson's catchy mix of yelps and passionate melodies, perfectly connecting the dots between early Creation and Subway bands, Delta 5 and Huggy Bear.
This Week's Featured Downloads
Famous When Dead 6
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Playhouse has been pumping these compilations out for some time now, showing the world that their deep, playful brand of house music is still there, bubbling away while dance music drifts in and out of sub-genres. So as Kompakt goes the fancy-trance route, Playhouse is still finding gems from Losoul and Common Factor among others. Interestingly they have brought in Norwegian blog-houser Todd Terje who produces the compilation's most disarming track. A sort of mashup of Dick Dale and Playhouse's own Recloose, this is probably the furthest we stray from the deep house/electro vibe of the label but it makes for an unusual highlight. Other highlights come from Roman IV who throws down a funky number with "Neues Testament," a slow moving ass-shaker of a track replete with cheeky stabs and skittering percussion. My My take the most traditional Playhouse turn with the deep, rolling dancefloor bliss of "Day for Night," showing that there's still life in the old sound yet. They might be on their sixth installment but Playhouse still have a lot going for them; unfairly compared to Kompakt all too often, they have to me always done their own thing, and who can begrudge a label that? Comes in two parts -- one mixed and one unmixed for the DJs among us.
Live at the Royal Festival Hall
Light in the Attic
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Not to be confused with the chief strategist for Obama's airtight presidential campaign, this David Axelrod is a living music legend, whose influence seems to increase with each passing year. During the '60s, this top arranger, producer and composer sculpted sophisticated jazz and R&B for Lou Rawls, Letta Mbulu and Cannonball Adderley, but to many rare groove, hip-hop and psych enthusiasts, he's known as the father of cosmic orchestral jazz with psych-rock underpinnings. His solo LPs, coupled with orch-psych productions for Electric Prunes and David McCallum, are revered by hip-hop producers like Premier, Dangermouse, Shadow and Diamond D, while Brit pop bands like the Verve, Primal Scream and Blur have all loved the edgy majesty of his music. And Massive Attack, Portishead and David Holmes have all been influenced by the sweeping, dark funkiness of the arrangements.
This historic concert from 2006 was the first time many of his works had been presented live in a setting like this. Axelrod conducts a young, enthusiastic rock orchestra for this show and comes through sounding as current, vibrant and fresh as ever. From his "comeback" album to his work on the UNKLE record, to this concert at hand, what's most impressive about Axelrod is how timeless and edgy his compositions still sound. The dark underpinnings of classics like "Holy Thursday" and "The Human Abstract" are still intoxicating, even without the stereo panning and phased guitars of the recordings. In fact, this sounds as clear and pristine as any of his '60s productions and there really isn't anything to complain about...except that I wish I had been there. Recommended!
Pearls Before Swine
The Wizard of Is
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As an avowed Pearls Before Swine obsessive, it wouldn't surprise any of my friends if I said I treasured Tom Rapp's albums nearly as much as my Bob Dylan ones. And I don't just mean the hip quotient ESP-disc ones, I'm talking every single '70s album he recorded, including the ones even Rapp himself has disavowed. So maybe I'm not the most partial judge of the record at hand, The Wizard of Is, a 2-CD compilation of demos, home recordings, covers, lost tracks and live shows from Rapp's own collection of ancient tapes. But for fellow obsessive Pearls Before Swine fans (and there are a lot of 'em, this whole folk revival of the past few years owes much to the man), the Dylan analogy is an apt one; it's like having the Basement Tapes dropped in your lap for the first time. Honestly though, you need not be merely a completist to find tons to enjoy here. The songs span the peak of his career, from 1967 until 1976 when he quit music to become a public defender. In the past, Rapp has referred to the "starkly bleak world" of Pearls Before Swine, and although this is generally pretty downbeat music, it's not really any more so than that of one of Rapp's main influences, Leonard Cohen. If nothing else, this collection just confirms his reputation as one of the most humanely sympathetic singer songwriters and interpreters of the past forty-years. I only hope there's more where this came from.
Still Valentines Day, 1969: Live at the Matrix, San Francisco
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Now here's a record that legitimately deserves adjectives like "smoky," and "druggy," and "narcoleptic," and even though I've just started writing this blurb, I'm sure I'll use at least one of these words again in the ensuing paragraphs. Try not to roll your eyes if the phrase "kaleidoscope drones" pops up as well. It's that kind of record -- an album of two smoky and enigmatic, mindfucked live performances from Vanguard's thinking man, Sandy Bull. But is it folk music!? Guitar primitive? Instrumental jamming? Another J Spaceman joint!? What is this music?
Still Valentine's Day, 1969: Live at the Matix San Francisco is, as one stoner would say to another, some "next level shit." Along with the electric guitar, Sandy Bull plays the oud and I swear at some moments he's literally playing the amplifiers too -- which is probably true, considering Sandy tells his audience that he "recently lost all his equipment," and is playing on all new gear he'd gotten just that day. I'm also guessing Bull was bombed out of his mind for these performances -- he was known for being a notorious substance abuser, and I'll be damned if he doesn't sound a little...um...drowsy here. Plus, as is noted in the title, it all took place on Valentine's Day. Far out. I can't think of a more unsentimental place to take your lover -- let's go hear this notoriously erratic genius mutter to himself, while making the most gorgeously, genre-defying, twisted downer shit ever. We'll try not to kill ourselves. That said, thank god somebody taped this stuff, because it makes the best early morning "I shouldn't have had that last Mojito" music ever. A gloriously narcoleptic (told ya), lo-fi, and flat-out beautiful trip -- heaving, melodic drones, arhythmical netherworld raga virtuosity, and one unforgettable night of music haunting the liminal spaces of baby booming lovebirds in the San Francisco area. Now only if someone had taped the conversations in the car rides home.
Angst Is Not A Weltanschauung
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Avid followers of the Morr Music label will no doubt treat Bernard Fleischmann like an old friend by now. His debut, Poploops for Breakfast emerged from the then-fledgling label like a breath of fresh air, and since then Fleischmann has contributed regular additions to Morr's ever-growing catalog. Angst Is Not a Weltanschauung is his latest record and waves goodbye to his patented Groovebox sound, taking a more pop-centric route in the process. We've heard Fleischmann sing before, but not with quite the same confidence as this, and when he duets with Marilies Jagsch on "24.12" he sounds finally at ease with the sparring styles he has so long tried to combine. The electronic elements are still key to Fleischmann's overall sound, but rather than an electronica album, Angst sounds like a pop record which makes good use of its electronic elements, from the skittering beats of "Playtime" to the light synthesizer processes on "Still See You Smile." Most interesting is Fleischmann's odd pairing of Daniel Johnston's "King Kong" and "Phones and Machines" from his previous record, The Humbucking Coil -- something that shouldn't really work, but ends up being far more worthwhile than most "mashups" tend to be. Johnston's charming coos lend themselves rather well to Fleischmann's hiccupping electronics, and makes me wonder what a full-length collaboration between the two might sound like. Overall, Angst is an absorbing collection of tracks; warm, comforting and perfect for the winter months -- remember though that a Fleischmann is not just for Christmas.
The Last Poets
This Is Madness
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Formed in East Harlem less than a month after Martin Luther King Jr's assassination, this seminal collective of Latino/black poets and percussionists and their first two albums were a huge influence on what would become hip-hop. Classic groups, ranging from Tribe Called Quest, NWA and Public Enemy, took the Poet's Afro-centric, aggressive strand of black nationalist, ghetto street poetry imagery, and sampled heartily from these immensely popular albums of the day.
The Last Poet's debut from 1970 was a shocking, no-holds-barred spoken word record that managed to crack the top 10 album charts of the time. Their frank depictions of inner city drug addiction, police brutality, sexuality and revolutionary politics were a darker, more explicit strand of black poetry that actually spawned an underground FM radio "hit" in "Wake Up Niggers" that cracked the lower half of the Soul charts of the year.
This Is Madness is the follow-up and, for my money, the better introduction to the gritty beauty of the Poets. "Related to What Chant" boasts an infectious conga groove and funky background chants that wouldn't sound out of place on a Theo Parrish or Moodyman track. The "Mean Machine"'s "automatic push button/remote control" would be famously interpolated (rhythmic/systemic/world control) in M/A/R/R/S late-'80s hit, "Pump Up the Volume," and boasts some killer, flanged-out percussion. Lyrically speaking, the group's poignant stark depictions of urban decay, inner city apathy and Caucasian arrogance found a sympathetic ear in Jamaica where they were quite popular amongst the young followers of Rastafarian faith. Artists such as Bob Marley, Big Youth and U-Roy lifted a few phrases and lyrics for many of their hits directly from this album. Still moving, shocking and more relevant today than ever, this is modern protest music at its finest.
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Though alt-country need not come from the dusty west, these east coast young'uns have a sound that is pretty honest about their origins. The Brooklyn/Providence group's self-released debut (now reissued, with horrible new cover art) no doubt is chock-full of typically lonesome sounds and lyrical imagery. Young frontman John McCauley has a gruff, hard-times singing style, but the band takes a decidedly indie-rock approach to their laid-back missives, swinging and stomping through a set of loose but well-constructed songs that owe as much to Beirut and Elliott Smith as they do Uncle Tupelo. From the sweet fingerpicking of "Art Isn't Real (City of Sin)" to the two-chord fuzzy chug of "Baltimore Blues No.1," War Elephant is a haunting debut.
Secrets of the Sun
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Here we have something of a mystery, which is very much case with most of the output from Mr. Omniverse. Recorded shortly after Sun Ra and his Arkestra moved to New York in 1962, at the Choreographer's Workshop, Secrets of the Sun finds Ra and his band bridging the gap between the post-bop of their previous compositions and the psychedelic leaning of where they were soon to travel. It's more straightforward than you might expect -- no wild synths, no intergalactic chanting, just pure free form jazz, at its sweetest and, dare I say, Ra-est. Joined, of course, by Marshall Allen and John Gilmore, providing some magnetic horns riffs, along with Eddie Gale, Ronnie Boykin, Pat Patrick and one or two interchangeable members on percussion and space drums, Ra and crew seem to settle into a dark and blues filled arena; like jazz for a haunted house, the spaced-out bells and percussion at the end of "Solar Symbols" are particularly eerie. Throughout the record, producer/percussionist Tommy Hunter brings in an echo/reverb effect that warps the sound, like being sucked into a black hole. Originally released in 1965 on Ra's Saturn label, legend has it that this is one of the rarest recordings to be reissued yet.
Tut Tut Now Shake Ya Butt
Menlo Park Recordings
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Brooklyn's Japanther have at it again with more impish, raucous punk-minded Casio-fueled dance tracks. Expanding further on the spectacle of the duo's theatrical live performances has thrust their mutinous music into uncharted territory as well; Tut Tut Now Shake Ya Butt harnesses the wild, unrestrained energy of the basement show with a sense of purpose, setting them apart from the masses with a more artistically-minded breed of noise.
Au Revoir Simone
Our Secret Record Company
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The effervescent sweetness of Au Revoir Simone is nuanced dramatically in Reverse Migration, a remix album featuring among the notable talents, Hot Chipís Alexis Taylor, Jean-Benoit Dunckel (Air, Darkel) and the Teenagers. Already electro-based to begin with, here the Brooklyn trio's charming, girly pop is given a more serious treatment -- a refreshingly different addition to both the band's catalogue, as well as the barrage of recent remix records.