Monday, June 16, 2008

What a firedrill!

On Friday, I threw caution to the wind and pitched three album reviews for Philadelphia Weekly, all for albums that I didn’t at that exactly moment possess in my hot little hands. Come 5 p.m. when assignments were made, I found that I needed to obtain both Alejandro Escovedo’s Real Animal and Bardo Pond’s Batholith immediately. The reviews were due Monday at noon.

So I asked everybody I knew, and my friend Michael came across with the Bardo and my editor at PopMatters with the Escovedo. Both have been an absolute joy to listen to…and I think Alejandro has just knocked Big Dipper off its #1 slot. I haven’t actually reviewed the Bardo yet, but I’ve been listening to it all morning and just about ready…

Meanwhile, a couple of new reviews up today.

Wonderful, totally over-my-head avant-classical/jazz piano from a lady who has worked with Anthony Braxton and a whole bunch of other high profile jazz guys.

Marilyn Crispell, Vignettes (ECM)
Pianist Marilyn Crispell, according to her bio, trained at the New England Conservatory and played nothing but classical music until she was 28. Then, transfixed by Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, she turned towards jazz, playing over the next several decades with Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Barry Guy and the Reggie Workman trio, and, most recently Paul Motian and Gary Peacock. Here, in the solo album Vignettes, Crispell brings together both sides of her experience, in a series of 17 mostly improvised pieces that tread the line between contemporary classical and jazz, compositional structure and improvisation.

Seven abstract “Vignettes” frame the album, brief distillations of moods and ideas that are, perhaps, the most challenging elements of the CD. The longer, named pieces are, in general, more lyrical, “Valse Triste” moody and full of searching pauses, “Time Past” awash in romantic longing, the extended “Sweden” jazz-like in its thoughtful exploration of themes. Crispell improvised most of the tracks, but a few were based on existing pieces. “Stilleweg” follows a composition by Arve Henrikson, the trumpet player from Norway’s Supersilent, while the melody of “Cuida Tu Espirito” comes from a piece written by flutist Janya Nelson. The whole disc is surpassingly beautiful, full of clarity and shimmering with melancholy introspection. It would be a shame if only the jazz cognescenti or the classical avant-garde took notice of Vignettes, because has a elegiac loveliness that any music fan can appreciate. [Amazon ]

And a not-so-overwhelmed review of the Lodger…a Leeds-based pop band that sounds a bit like Orange Juice.

The Lodger, Life is Sweet (Slumberland)
The next gig that Leeds-based the Lodger has listed on its MySpace page is something called "Rip It Up: Edwyn Collins Night," so it's probably fair to infer that any similarities between this band and the late, lamented Orange Juice are not exactly accidental. And indeed, there are lots of similarities––the scrambled, jangling guitar flourishes, the almost disco-funk of the bass, the wistful smiling-through-discouragement pop lyrics. The problem is that the Lodger gets many of the elements of Orange Juice's sound exactly right, but ignores its angsty melodic soul.

As an experiment, try listening to OJ's "Blue Boy," then the Lodger's "My Finest Hour." The Orange Juice song starts in a flurry of martial drums, a tangle of hasty, manic guitars. Collins' voice, when it comes, pushes hard against the pop contours of the song, as if effort could (and perhaps did) transform easy melody into something weightier. Now, take "My Finest Hour" with its cracked-dry drums, repetitive keyboards and Ben Siddall's off-toned, wistful voice. It drifts rather than grips, glides rather than catches you short. It's like Orange Juice, but in the way a line drawing is like a sculpture of the same person, flattened, simplified, an allusion rather than a full-body experience.

More here:

You can do your own comparison test with these two videos:
The Lodger

….and Orange Juice

Also saw the movie Son of Rambow, which was wonderful, sweet and very funny…reminded me a little of My Life as a Dog, which is one of my all-time favorites.

Oh, and I can highly recommend MOJO’s current giveaway CD, a Class of 1977 punk compilation which ends with my friend Robert Lloyd’s old band, the Prefects, playing “things in general.”

Now for that Bardo….

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