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Tag: Lina Allemano

Lingering, Grey-Sky Turkish Psychedelia and Spacerock From Minor Empire

Minor Empire play a spare, psychedelic, electric rock take on Turkish music with occasional echoes of jazz. Their slowly unwinding songs tend to be on the overcast side. Their album Uprooted is streaming at Spotify – and there’s a very useful English ltranslation at the group’s lyric page.

The album’s first track, Istanbul dan Uskudar a Yol Gid, begins with a hypnotically pinwheeling baglama riff. From there the band ease their way into a slow, moody, chromatic sway behind Ozan Boz’s lingering electric guitar, frontwoman Ozgu Ozman’s voice wafting gently over a tricky, insistent rhythm from Chris Gartner on bass and Ben Riley on ominous, boomy drums.

Mendilimin Yesil is a spacious mashup of psychedelic rock and jazz, with Lina Allemano’s lingering trumpet, staccato wah-wah guitar and Ozman’s delicately ornamented, melismatic vocals. Gunes Turkusu builds from simmering layers of guitar, through drifting spacerock to a snarling coda, and then comes full circle. If U2 were Turkish (and had a good singer), Yutsuz, with its elegant bass descending to downtuned murk, could be an atmospheric tune from Tıkırtı ve Vızıltı (that’s Rattle and Hum in Turkish).

Awash in rising and falling pings, pulses, resonant guitars and chiming baglama, Ag Elime Mor Kinalar Yaktiar brings to mind Australian spacerock legends the Church. Ozman’s voice rises more insistently in Iki Kekik, one of the album’s more minimal numbers. At the end of Dunya, a hypnotically crescendoing instrumental, the guitar finally hits a mighty, surfy clang: it was worth the wait!

They follow that with Tohum, a brief, allusively anthemic tableau, and stay in moody, atmospheric mode with Bahar. The mini-suite concludes with the echoey wave motion of Babam.

With its web of kaleidoscopic textures, Selanik Turkusu is arguably the album’s trippiest and most enigmatic number. The starry, atmospheric Uyuttum Atlari has tinges of Asian folk music. The group wind up the record with Tutari Yar Elindem, the guitars taking over after Ozman’s finished with a circling, pensive theme. Turkish psychedelia has a long and rich history and this album is a welcome addition.

Big Band Jazz Has Never Been So Much Fun As It Is on Satoko Fujii’s Ninety-Nine Years Album

Satoko Fujii did a second album with her Orchestra Berlin because, she says, “These guys are total goofballs. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much ridiculous fun in the studio as I had with these clowns.”

That’s not really what she said. The official quote from the press release for the album, Ninety-Nine Years (streaming at Bandcamp) is “I think they bring out some part of me that the other bands don’t.” Like crazed, insane fun. Over the epic course of about ninety albums with umpteen ensembles since the mid-90s, Fujii’s own sense of humor tends to be much more subtle, and her music is almost always on the serious side. This is her cartoon soundtrack, an album for jazz fans with long attention spans who need a good laugh. And yet, there’s plenty of signature Fujii gravitas here as well.

Everything here but the closing number – which begins like Lunar New Year on East Broadway in Chinatown – clocks in at well over ten minutes, sometimes closer to fifteen. The first number, which seems extremely satirical, is Unexpected Incident, as the Japanese government euphemistically termed the Fukushima nuclear disaster (Fujii did a whole Fukushima-inspired album with her Orchestra New York, which this blog chose as best album of 2017).

Fujii’s main axe is the piano, which she plays here; she’s also an excellent accordionist.Tenor saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann shrieks and squalls over the group early on, bassist Jan Roder tirelessly running a loop. There’s a din of a trombone/tenor duel between Matthias Schubert and Matthias Müller, the orchestra picking up a loop of their own. Roder returns more syncopatedly behind an increasingly agitated Natsuki Tamura trumpet solo; the way Fujii sneaks a secondary theme in before Ullmann’s shrill solo coda is artful, and typical of her.

Roder opens the title track, a dedication to Fujii’s late mother-in-law, with an increasingly scrambling solo, eventually joined in wisps and flickers by drummers Peter Orins and Michael Griener and baritone saxophonist Paulina Owczarek, who works her way to a fond, lyrical upper-register solo. They bring it down to just the drums and Ullmann, who chews the scenery until Fujii signals a steady, bittersweet, chordally brassy theme while Ullmann keeps doing his bad cop in contrast with Owczarek. They end together, warmly.

The funniest number here is On the Way, from its suspenseful, shamanistic twin-drum intro, to brassy hints of reggae, a bit of the rudiments from the drummers, and a grumpily cartoonish solo from Tamura which somebody in the band tries to lure away – the joke is too good to spoil. The faux New Orleans outro will also make you smile.

Oops is a showcase for both vaudevillian absurdity and some very sobering interludes. A triickily rhythmic, circular massed theme gives way to Schubert’s unbridled exuberance, but that’s when Fujii signals for a dirge behind his revelry: there’s no escaping this dark undercurrent. Tamura goes to the Middle East, the bass bubbles tensely, until finally the band erupt in a Keystone Kops charge. A dirge and another charge return along with spacious, bright pulses in between.

They close with Follow the Idea, from crazed New Years festivities, to goofy conversational blips, droll low spitballs and all-stops-out squalling over a thump and a LMAO false ending, Fujii has never made another album like this before – it was one of a dozen she put out in 2018 to celebrate her sixtieth birthday year – and she probably never will again. Enjoy. Big up to the rest of the cast, which includes trumpeters Richard Koch and Lina Allemano; trombonist Matthias Müller; and guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi.