New York Music Daily

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Month: November, 2021

Hauntingly Immersive, Dystopic Swirl From Resina and Avant Garde Choir 441Hz

Polish cellist and composer Karolina Rec a.k.a. Resina wrote her new album Speechless – streaming at Bandcamp – during the Women’s Strike protests there last year. Plans for the album were nearly derailed by lockdown insanity, but Rec and conductor Anna Wilczewska’s Gdańsk-based choir 441Hz worked fast during brief moments of freedom. The result is a whirling, dystopic, electroacoustic salute to nature before she gets sick of us and kicks us off the planet for good (if we don’t beat nature to the punch with lethal injections and mass sterilization).

Rec likes diptychs, ending in a sonic place completely different from where she begins. Her opening piece here is Mercury Immersion, a ghostly chorale amid a constantly shifting series of increasingly anguished, rising and falling waves. Drummer Mateusz Rychlicki takes the eerie grandeur to a boomy peak at the end.

There’s a sharp, singing quality to Rec’s cello in Horse Tail, her one-woman multitracked string section joined by the choir as they hypnotically pulse along at a quasi-gallop. The creepy electronic effect toward the end is too good to give away, and spot-on for the plandemic era.

Looping, cocooning phrases from the choir contrast with the starkness of the cello and what could be whalesong in Failed Myth Simulation, a diptych; the second half is a motorik theme. The dissociative soundscape Darwin’s Finches features birdsong field recordings by Michał Fojcik, which turn out to be more icily techy than bucolic.

Underneath the gritty textures and sepulchral washes of voices, Unveiling could be a circling Philip Glass etude. Slashes from the cello penetrate calm loopiness as track six, Manic gets underway, Rec building a somberly minimalist theme that she eventually takes in a grim industrial direction. After that, the brief tableau Hajstra makes a good segue.

Rec develops variations on a heroic marching theme in A Crooked God, again veering into industrial roar and clank. The album’s final cut is Recall, a surreal, staggered canon at quarterspeed which eventually collapses in an electronic ice storm. This is a sonic treat for those brave enough to confront it.


A Haunting, Starry Night with Guitarist Andre Matos

One of the most rapturous, magical albums of 2021 is guitarist André Matos‘ solo acoustic record Estelar, streaming at Bandcamp. He recorded the collection of “comprovisational” nocturnes alone this past May in Harlem, using a cheap practice model from the 1960s.

Among jazz guitarists, Matos is one of the kings of melody (Bill Frisell and Tom Csatari are good reference points if not necessarily comparisons). But where Csatari comes to jazz via Americana, Matos cut his teeth on the blues, and remains a brilliant blues player. There’s a lot of that here, even if if it’s often allusive, adrift in the stars.

Matos’ phrasing here is very spare, so much that fret noise becomes an essential part of the picture. There are no wasted notes and no big chords, just little chordlets intermingled amid gently floating slide licks. While there are dreamy interludes, overall this is a pretty dark record, no surprise considering the circumstances under which it was made.

Most of these tracks appear to be single takes; a few feature overdubs. The first is Ao Relento (Outside), Matos’ desolate, spare slide phrases congealing into a spare, mournful minor-key blues anchored by a persistent low E.

After the rustic Aguda (Acute), a crepuscular atmosphere lingers throughout Miradouro (Perspective), as Matos reaches toward a bittersweet downward resolution. The suspense in Pensomentos builds as Matos hints at where he might take the hypnotically atmospheric central vamp. Luz Subita, true to its title, is one of the warmest numbers here.

Track six, So (The Only One), is absolutely forlorn and the most album’s most Lynchian interlude. With its throaty, keening slide riffs, Fadiga Do Concreto (literally: Concrete Fatigue) makes a good segue, Matos building to a punchy intensity over a drone.

There are wry hints at a ba-BUMP roadhouse theme in Plantas Medicinas…hmmm, you be the judge.

After that, the unease rises amid lustrous resonance in Chuva Miuda (Drizzle). Matos winds up this quietly edgy suite of sorts with the allusively sinister mood piece Consciencia do Mundo. Assuming that world events don’t derail the best albums of 2021 page here at the end of the year, you’ll see this one on it.

Jeremiah Lockwood’s Gorgeous New All-Instrumental Album Takes Hanukah Music to the Next Level

Guitarist Jeremiah Lockwood‘s new solo acoustic instrumental album The Great Miracle – streaming at Bandcamp – is one of the most fascinatingly individualistic Hanukah records ever made. The leader of Malian and cantorially-inspired psychedelic rockers the Sway Machinery draws equally on his immersion in country blues as well as traditional Jewish music, for an often breathtakingly beautiful series of new versions of themes associated with the Festival of Lights.

He opens with the introspective Ritual, rising from a spacious intro to steady, spiky, rustic chords. It’s part cantorial melody, part Piedmont blues, part stately baroque theme.

Al Hanisim is an absolutely gorgeous, chromatically-spiced theme with shadowy echoes of Greek rembetiko music. Lockwood reinvents Mi Yamalel as a similarly celestial tableau with a cheery, strolling blues undercurrent. There’s more than a hint of flamenco, and Morricone, in the striking changes and tumbling Middle Eastern-tinged runs in Izhar Cohen’s Al Hanisim: it would make a great surf song.

Lockwood also follows a plaintive Spanish-tinged trajectory in Maoz Tzur, with some of the album’s most incisive fingerpicking. Little Dreydl is a change of pace, a ragtime attempt to rescue one of the season’s most cloying melodies from its usual home in the dairy fridge.

Drey Dreydl is the most bucolic, blues-infused track here, but it’s also a showcase for Lockwood’s skills as a picker. He closes the record with Chanuka Oy Chanuka – since it’s Hebrew, you can transliterate it any number of ways in English. It’s the most enigmatic, jazz-oriented number here, many times removed from its humble origins.

Could a Hanukah record ever make it to the best albums of the year list here? Stay tuned for when that page goes live next month!

Fire Up the Menorah, It’s Party Time With Sarah Aroeste

When it comes to year-end holiday music, there are no Chosen People. Everybody suffers. A cynic could say that at this time of year, we’re all Jews.

There isn’t quite the glut of cheesy Hanukah music that there is for Christmas, but beyond the joke songs and the reggae records, it’s usually pretty awful. That’s why it’s cool that singer Sarah Aroeste, one of the world’s great advocates for Ladino music, has released what she calls the first-ever all-Ladino Hanukah record, streaming at Bandcamp.

This is refreshingly edgy music, with flamenco, and Andalucian, and Middle Eastern influences, as you would expect from the Sephardic tradition. Aroeste has really gone deep into the repertoire and unearthed a playlist of material from past decades as well as past centuries. Aroeste’s vocals are also remarkably easy to sing along to: if you know Spanish, Ladino is a lot less challenging than, say, Yiddish or Hebrew.

And the band are killer. Who would have expected a biting, brass-fueled shamstep Hanukah song? Or for a Hanukah album to open with a sizzling oud taqsim? That’s Yaniv Taichman spiraling around before Aroeste raises her voice in celebration, with a melody that seems to owe more to the Holy Land than to anywhere in Europe.

Israeli crooner Shuky Shveiky sings and plays fierce flamenco guitar on a Gipsy Kings-style take of Ocho Kandelikas, one of the best-known Ladino Hanukah songs. The first of two Aroeste originals is the acoustic guitar-driven minor-key singalong Fiesta de Hanuka. The second, Vayehi Mikets is a bouncy number based on an ancient parody: in this version, Joseph is contemplating pastries rather than the raw materials that Pharaoh put him in charge of.

Aroeste duets with songwriter Gloria Joyce Ascher on a sly reggae version of her joyous Ya Viene Hanuká! The family-friendly take of Flory Jagoda’s Hanuka, Hanuka is closer to dhaanto than reggae – but, hey, Ethiopia and Eritrea are the original Jewish stomping ground.

There’s also a cheery classical guitar-and-vocal tune by contemporary Israeli Ladino poet Medi Koen-Malki; a soaring Ladino version of Ma’oz Tzur set to a stately melody by eighteenth century Venetian composer Benedetto Giacomo Marcello; and a version of Dak il Tas with some spiky santoor from Eitan Refua. You get some history and culture with this album too.

A Vigorous, Colorful, Purist Bach Album From Harpsichordist Aya Hamada

Harpsichordist Aya Hamada’s new recording of Bach works, primarily from the Klavierubung – streaming at Spotify – is for passionate fans who expect performers to embrace all the color, and humor, and kaleidoscopic wizardry in the composer’s work. It satisfies on all counts. Hamada recorded it on a magnificently responsive seventeenth century Ruckers harpsichord at the Neuchatel Museum in Switzerland about a year ago.

The first piece is the Toccata in D Major, BWV 912, which is not the iconic one heard in innumerable horror movie scores. This piece is more expansive – it’s actually a triptych – and in its darkest moments, it’s plaintive rather than outright macabre. Hamada’s pouncing attack in the lefthand in the early going is balanced later by the poignancy of her single-note lines – as the liner notes allude, the middle segment would fit seamlessly into the Cello Suites. Hamada’s ornamentation is colorful but judicious, her tempo resolutely steady. This is not an album for people who want to hear Bach played with arioso bombast or pregnant pauses.

It sets the stage for the rest of the record. Next, Hamada tackles the Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971. Spring-loaded trills and a tightly wound internal swing are central to Hamada’s approach in the faster passages. She loosens her vise grip a little in the rainy-day midsection.

There’s a spiky feast of flourishes intermingled with triumphantly icepick precision and balletesque litheness in the Overture in the French Style in B Minor, BWV 831. Hamada closes with Skip Sempe’s transcription of the Chaconne in D Minor from the Violin Partita No. 2, BWV 1004, and it’s here where the drama reaches toward the High Romantic. Composers of Bach’s era and before were keenly aware of the value of flexible scores, and this validates that, not only in context but as a showcase for solo keyboard poignancy and majesty.

Edgy, Tuneful, Spanish-Inspired New Violin Jazz From Don Macdonald

Jazz violinist Don Macdonald‘s new album Shifting Sands – streaming at Bandcamp – is aptly titled. He and his band don’t stay in one place very long. His compositions are straight-ahead but draw on a multitude of influences, and have a striking translucence that often veers toward the dark side, especially in the Spanish-influenced numbers.

The group open with the title track, moving between brooding Indian-tinged modalities and brighter trip-hop. Pianist Dave Restivo breaks away from from enigmatically circling riffs to more somberly acerbic tones, then guitarist Mike Rud’s Pat Metheny-ish guitar solo brightens the mood. The cycle repeats with lively solos from the bandleader and mandolinist Dylan Ferris.

Dali’s Hourglass is even more darkly bracing, Macdonald sailing uneasily over Restivo’s steady, eerily circling phrases. Again, Rud pushes the clouds away, only for another return and a latin-tinged Restivo solo.

Drummer Steven Parish kicks off Bayou with a jovial New Orleans second-line groove, then Macdonald, Rud and guest violinist Jason Anick have fun teaming up for Cajun, blues, and Wes Montgomery-flavored riffs. Restivo and Macdonald lead the group back to pensive mode with the allusively Middle Eastern-tinged Dreams of Ozymandias, its downwardly stairstepping piano, biting, lingering Macdonald solo over lingering guitar chords and enigmatic ending.

La Tormenta is a quasi-flamenco shuffle, Restivo bringing to mind Chano Dominguez beneath the bandleader’s lively, kinetic lines. Derecho begins with warm solo glimmer from Restivo; that’s either Rob Fahie or Jill McKenna supplying the catchy, funky bassline while Macdonald builds an anthemic attack overhead. The bluesy mando solo, and the stomp up to a false ending are deliciously counterintuitive.

Bembe has lively hints of soukous and Bahian melody, plus shadowy moments to balance the cheeriness. There are imaginative Indian rhythmic tropes, brooding blues and austere resonance in Atacama, arguably the album’s most concise, catchy track. Macdonald winds up the album with his funkiest number here, Homecoming: as he bounces through the blues, you keep waiting for a Hammond organ that never arrives.

Tracing Magic and Mysticism Through Decades of French Piano Music

Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico‘s latest album Sound Visionaries – streaming at Spotify – traces the most harmonically acerbic side of French piano music, starting with Debussy’s fix-Asian, then exploring Messiaen’s otherworldly universes, up to Pierre Boulez. It’s a frequently wild, entertaining, haunting and counterintuitive performance.

Quilico brings Debussy’s Brouillards – the opening segment of his Preludes, Book 2 – full circle, through tinkling Javanese mist, to a chillier rainstorm and back. Feuilles Mortes turns out to be a steadier, more increasingly phantasmagorical tableau: her restraint, where others go straight for the macabre, is a revelation. Then she flips the script, bringing the flamenco flourishes of La Puerta Del Vino front and center.

Les Fees Sont d’Exquises Danseuses is less an unbridled spritely dance-off than a prelude to one, with dazzlingly articulated hints of future fireworks. Likewise, La Terrasse des Audiences du Clair de Lune focuses on emphatic, expectant, darkly carnivalesque phrasing. And she finds unexpected unease within the rapidfire rivulets of Ondine, particularly via lefthand grit.

Quilico’s blend of legato and wry ragtime flourishes in Les Tierces Alternes is insightful, and a lot of fun. The fireworks finally coalesce and flourish in the suite’s coda.

Debussy’s gamelanesque, chiming harmonies give way to Messiaen’s icily reverent resonance in eight selections from Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus. Messiaen is not known for his sense of humor, but Quilico finds it, in the music-box bounce of #4 and the jaunty ragtimish allusions in #11, dauntingly vast clocktower resonance and austere close harmonies notwithstanding.

The procession of prophets, shepherds and wise men march regally through #16, even as the rhythms grow more dissociative. Following with the Star of Bethlehem tableau of #2 is a neat bit of programming, turning the composer’s foreshadowing inside out. Angels are just short of frantic to get the show on the road in #14.

There’s a return to coyly playful gremlinish fun in #11’s view from above. Quilico’s final selection from the suite is very evocative of Jehan Alain’s iconic organ work Litanies.

Quilico concludes the program with Boulez’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 and 3. Both are rather doctrinaire if quirky and improvisationally-inspired twelve-tone works.

Thanksgiving Wishes to Some Wonderful People

Thanks to Dr. Faulty for torturing those beagles, a useful diversion to enable him to sleaze into a final slippery exit. Two hundred thousand Americans murdered by the kill shots, two million people worldwide – and it turns out that it’s not the slaughter of our fellow humans, but our furry friends (fast forward to 33:40), that gets everybody all teared up.

Thanks for the Bat Lady for being such an easy target. If this was Hollywood, her character wouldn’t make it past Standards and Practices because it’s such an obviously biased racial stereotype.

Thanks to Klaus Schwab for being such an over-the-top Dr. Evil cartoon. Again, if this was Hollywood, his Glate Leeset wouldn’t make it out of the pitch meeting, forget about a focus group.

Thanks to New York Governor Kathy Hochul for declaring herself God, on camera. Who knew that Moshiach would be a woman – and she’s not even Jewish! You should see Del Bigtree (who, although he doesn’t talk about it much, was a preacher’s kid) ripping her Messiah ambitions to shreds. And he knows his Scripture!

Thanks to Dave Grohl for finally being the one to vault Keith Richards out of his perennial top spot in the aging rockers deadpool. Karmically speaking, it’s not hard to imagine that sooner than later there will be only one surviving member of Nirvana. Assuming, of course, that Grohl didn’t get a placebo.

Thanks to Gavin Newsom for blinking on demanding one. Steve Kirsch offered him a million dollars if he was willing to fess up to having Guillain-Barre or whatever the hell the shot gave him – and he didn’t bite. Maybe those spike proteins bypassed the gonads and went straight to his brain – or maybe Schwab has video that Newsom doesn’t want you to see.

Thanks to Rachel Maddow for taking forty minutes on live tv to enlighten us about how veterinary Ivermectin was sending all those Oklahoma hicks to the emergency room – except that the story was fake, the dude who faked it hadn’t worked at the hospital in question in months, and then the hospital put up an announcement that neither their emergency room nor their ICU were anywhere near capacity.

And finally, thanks to Bill Gates for grinningly telling the world on live tv that all this is the “final solution.” He really said that (fast forward to 3:12). You can’t make this shit up. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

A Ridiculously Entertaining Debut for Riding Easy Records’ Rare 80s Metal Compilations

The unstoppable crate diggers at Riding Easy Records – who’ve put out thirteen crazed editions of their Brown Acid compilations of ultra-rare proto-metal and heavy soul vinyl – have moved on to rescuing lost metal singles and deep cuts from the 80s. The debut release in their new Scrap Metal compilation series – streaming at the label’s album page – is hilarious, and underscores how closely related punk and metal were in the early 80s. No doom here, only thrash, and the jokes fly fast and furious.

The best one comes right before the end of 69 in a 55, an innuendo-laden 1983 single by short-lived Bay Area band Air Raid. The punchline is musical, not lyrical. Play this for somebody who’s extremely stoned and expect a laughing fit.

Rapid Tears’ long-forgotten 1981 single Headbang, which opens the album, is Spinal Tap gone thrash. You can’t make this stuff up. Maybe the band being Canadian might have something to do with it: catch the spirit, catch the spit.

Paramus, New Jersey gave us Hades, who released Girls Will Be Girls on cassette in 1982. They open with an outro. Then they overdub wildly clustering leads over a drum track that doesn’t quite sync with the rest of the band: there was a lot of that stuff going around back then. Pittsburgh band Don Cappa’s 1987 shout-out to their hometown, Steel City Metal has similar issues – and yet it’s one of the catchiest tracks here.

A second Jersey band, Resless reaffirm how ridiculous the supposedly unbridgeable divide between punk and metal was. Their 1984 rarity The Power is the missing link between the Dead Boys and Van Halen. Is the lyric “I got it in my hand,” or “I got it in my pants?” Is there any difference either way?.

The Beast’s obscure 1983 track Enemy Ace is more punk than metal, although the band also take a well-known Blue Oyster Cult theme to ridiculous extremes. In researching this compilation, the Riding Easy brain trust discovered that in the mid 80s, there were two Denver acts who called themselves Dead Silence. Neither the punk band nor the 70s-style acid rock crew knew the other existed. The latter are represented here by Can’t Stop, a band-on-the-road saga distinguished by a couple of tantalizing guitar solos and the assertion that “My guitar is my best friend.”

Boston band Hazardous Waste had fun ripping off Eddie Van Halen at max velocity in their 1986 obscurity The Danger Zone. Iron Curtain, the A-side of Czar’s lone 1982 single, is the best and most ambitious track here: they’re tight, they play much of it in 9/4 time, it’s more than just verse, chorus and solo, and it has a historically aware anti-authoritarian political message.

The last song on the compilation is Viking Queen, a primitive 1987 Led Zep ripoff by Flint, Michigan’s Real Steel. Original vinyl copies now fetch more than a grand apiece on the collector market. But you can get it that song on vinyl on this compilation for a tiny fraction of the price. Let’s hope there are least a dozen more of these playlists in the Riding Easy pipeline.

Drifting, Uneasy Atmospheric Vistas From Shida Shahabi

The central instrument in Shida Shahabi’s new score to Maria Eriksson-Hecht’s new short film Alvaret – streaming at Bandcamp – is Linnea Olsson’s cello. Minutely nuanced overtones flickering from her strings, it’s a well chosen vehicle for Shahabi’s slowly unfolding, minimalist vistas. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s work comes strongly to mind.

This latest ep is consistent with Shahabi’s penchant for short, concise albums. It’s best appreciated as a single, drifting whole. The composer adds subtle synth washes and bowed bass in places. You have to wait til the fourth segment for the adrenaline from her slow, ominous glissandos to kick in. There are children in this cornfield, and they do not seem friendly!