Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I guess the winter slowdown is over…

There’s an ever-shorter break for music writers, starting a little after Halloween and stretching towards…well maybe now. That’s because no one but rappers, American Idol types and ex-Beatles want to release an album in December, after all the best of lists have been finalized and during the great distraction of the holidays. I’m thinking it was over yesterday when a big pile of those manila envelopes showed up again, with some interesting stuff in them, namely:

Dan Kalb, I’m Gonna Live the Life I Sing About”…founding member of the Blues Project (with Al Kooper) reinterprets blues classics like “Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” (Willie Dixon) and “I’m in the Mood” (John Lee Hooker), also slips a few originals in. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a one-sheet with quotes from Muddy Waters (“You really got to me.”) and Bob Dylan (“Always a powerful guitarist.”) Nice.

Loney Dear Dear John …the Swedish pop songwriter is at it again with songs that are both spare and lavish, melancholy and full of joy. On a first listen, I’m thinking maybe not as good as Loney Noir, but a first listen is never very definitive with this kind of thing. He’s switched from SubPop to Polyvinyl, wonder why?

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, ST…I have been a little savage about Slumberland Records’ string of 1980s replicants (Crystal Stilts, The Lodger, cause co-MOTION) lately, but either they have worn me down or this one is better. Listened to this three times in the car yesterday, sort of a dark J&MC pop, like the Raveonettes but less polished. The best song is about a furtive hookup in the library…hah, I knew I was missing something…all those hours in the stacks wasted.

And finally..
Where's Captain Kirk? The Very Best of Spizz…unlike Slumberland, Cherry Red traffics only in genuine 1980s material, this one a band that got its big break opening for Siouxshie…of note so far, two songs about Star Trek. (I’m reviewing Season 3 of the original series for PopMatters right now, so it’s serendipitous to say the least.) I’ll be writing about this one for Dusted, so hopefully I’ll get a handle on it at some point.

One more thing, I have a short review of a very interesting electronic improvised record from Berlin up at PopMatters today. Watch me flail around in a genre that fascinates me…but which I know next to nothing about.

Klangwart, Stadtlandfluss (Staubgold)
For nearly a decade, the Berlin duo of Markus Detmer and Timo euber have been developing an improvisatory piece, built on loops and electronically generated sounds, which they perform in concert. The piece, called “Stadtlandfluss”, is never exactly the same. Its permutations of tone, concept and rhythm vary according to the venue, the audience, and countless random factors that have impact on the two principals’ creative state of mind. As a result, this album is not really the Stadtlandfluss but a Stadtlandfluss, one iteration among many.

The piece is divided into seven tracks somewhat arbitrarily. You will not
know where one ends and the other begins, unless you are listening on a player that intersperses silence between cuts. There is, however, an arc of movement, a narrative almost, in a piece that progresses from near silence (I thought my speakers were broken the first time) to euphoric cacophony, from far-off machine sounds to distant transmissions of radio voices. It starts slowly, a patchwork of long hanging tones and the zing of metallic power tools. You will not hear any overtly human element until “Radio” about 13 minutes in, and even then, the voices are obscured by static and erratic swoops of strings. And yet, though, rare, human sounds make up an essential element of the story. The piece crests in its two central cuts, “Hamanamah” and especially “Telemann”, the first a shivering adrenaline rush of electronic anticipation, the second all clangorous bells and frictive, rhythmic bowed strings. These two cuts are exciting in some primal, limbic way, particularly when they crescendo in a wordless female voice. The energy ebbs, the calm returns in “Strom” and by closing “Mein Herz, Mein Haus”, the sound has died down to a subliminal duet between a woman’s whispers and synthetic tones. It is, overall, quite a journey, one that brings you back to equilibrium, but not quite the same as before.

Klangwart at work...

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