Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The night before this program I fell into a hallucinatory slumber only to learn that my sleepy night terrors weren't hallucinatory. I felt an eerie tickle shoot up my leg. With a slap to the thigh I grabbed hold of a crimson cockroach antenna, but the juicy armored bugger slipped through my fingers and quickly scurried out of sight. The rest of the night I woke up panting at a 90 degree angle, bug eyed and defeated. Thus, I have to agree with Michael Ghira, "God Damn the Sun", bring on the "Dead Moon Night"!

Sleep deprived and blurred by the heat, here are another two hours of bleached-out jams from the heavens to the depths of the darkest ocean caves.

Vitamin Fuzz Playlist 5.20.09:

Diana Rogerson & Andrew Liles – Can I Tempt You With All This – No Birds Do Sing [United Dirter 2009]
Thrones – Django – Sperm Whale [Kill Rock Stars 2000]
The Deviants – I’m Coming Home – Ptooff!! [Edsel 1967]
The Deviants – Garbage – Ptooff!! [Edsel 1967]
The Pink Fairies – When’s The Fun Begin? – Kings of Oblivion [Polydor 1973]
Dead Moon – Dead Moon Night – Dead Moon Night [Music Maniac 1990]
Debris – Witness – Static Disaster [Anopheles 2008, orig. 1976]
Nurse With Wound – Tune Time Machine – Who Can I Turn To Stereo [United Diaries 1996]
Nurse With Wound – Landed at Granma’s – Who Can I Turn To Stereo [United Diaries 1996]
Legendary Pink Dots – Disturbance – The Maria Dimension [Play It Again Sam 1991]
Death In June – Break the Black Ice – The World That Summer [New Europeans 1986]
Swans – Trust Me – Children of God [Caroline 1987]
Michael Ghira – God Damn the Sun – Songs For A Dog [Lumberton Trading Company 2006]
My Bloody Valentine – Slow – You Made Me Realize [Creation 1988]
The American Analog Set – White House – From Our Living Room to Yours [Emperor Jones 1997]
Jessamine – Cellophane – Jessamine [Kranky 1995]
CAN – Pinch – Ege Bamyasi [Mute 1972]
Black Sabbath – Sweet Leaf – Masters of Reality ¬[Warner Bros. 1971]
Het – Alleen Op Het Kerkhof – Kejje Nagaan Ik Geen Om Op Te Staan [Op Art, orig. 1966]
Blossom Toes – Look At Me I’m You – We Are Ever So Clean [Marmalade 1967]
The Outsiders – Strange Things Are Happening – Strange Things Are Happening: The Complete Singles 1965-1969 [RPM 2002]
White Noise – Firebird – An Electric Storm [Island 1969]
Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence – Cripple Creek – OAR [Sundazed 1969]
Nagisa Ni Te – Same as a Flower – The Same as a Flower [Jagjaguwar 2004]
Nico – These Days – Chelsea Girl [Polygram 1967]

Tune in on June 3rd when the sun skips across the lake (6-8am) for the next installment of Vitamin Fuzz on WHPK 88.9 fm.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Three episodes in and still brain-dead and rusty. I guess it's how it goes, Rust Never Sleeps when you're rockin' to sounds of the "Six Six Sixties". Vitamin Fuzz greeted May with schizo echoes of sunshine sprinkles and wet shiny drizzles and insomnia clicks and sunrise clanks. Though the first hour highlighted the softer side of the vitamin with freaky-folk-hippie-jams... yes flutes, bongos and all; you can only sniff a hi-lighter so long before the scroking noise and endless delay kicks in!

Playlist 5.6.09:

Smegma – Id-O-Matic – Pigs for Lepers [Pigface 1982]
Throbbing Gristle – Six Six Sixties – 20 Jazz Funk Greats [Industrial 1972]
Feathers – Silverleaves in the Air of Starseedlings – Feathers LP [Gnomonsons 2006]
Scott Tuma – Nobody (Rive of Tin) – Not for Nobody [Digitalis 2008]
Pelt – Deep Sunny South – Ayahuasca [VHF 2001]
Incredible String Band – A Very Cellular Song – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter [1968 Hannibal]
Pearls Before Swine – Morning Song - One Nation Underground [ESP-Disc 1967]
Espers – Black is the Color – The Weed Tree EP [Locust 2006]
MV & EE with The Golden Road – Drone Trailer – Drone Trailer [Dicristina Stair 2009]
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Thrasher – Rust Never Sleeps [Reprise 1979]
Tim Buckley – Once I Was – Goodbye and Hello [Asylum 1967]
*Amok Pe Current 93 – 26 April 2007 – Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain [Durtro 2009]
Movietone – The Blossom Filled Streets – The Blossom Filled Streets [Drag City 2000]
Movietone – Mono Valley – Mono Valley/Under the 3000-Foot Red Ceiling 7” [Planet Records 1995]
*Bardo Pond – Karwan – Peri [Three Lobed Recordings 2009]
Brainticket – Black Sand – Cottonwoodhill [Bellaphon 1971]
La Düsseldorf – Rheinita – Rheinita/Viva 7” [bureau b 2008 reissue/originally from 1979]
Cave – The Ride – The Ride/Bobby’s Hash 7” [Static Caravan 2008]
Circle – Andexelt – Andexelt [Metamorphos 1999]
High Rise – Outside Gentiles – Live [Squealer Revisited 1994]
Ghost – Live With Me (The Rolling Stones) – Snuff Box Immanence [Drag City 1999]
The Warlocks – Cocaine Blues – The Warlocks EP [Bomp 2000]

*so new the paints wet

To hear Vitamin Fuzz live, tune into Chicago's WHPK 88.9 FM every other Wednesday from 6-8am. The next episode is on May 20th of this very year. See you then?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Amok Pe Current 93 - Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain [Dutro 2009]

After a three-year hiatus David Tibet and his malevolent regiment have returned to sustain the kingdom of Current 93 with the potent, poetic and poignant Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain. Under the guise of Anok Pe Current 93, Tibet’s acute collaborative drive has reached its zenith—Nurse With Wound producers Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles are back and joined by 12-string virtuoso James Blackshaw, out-percussionist Alex Neilson, guitarist Matt Sweeney, Baby Dee and strangely enough Andrew W.K., which is just the tip of the iceberg.

With Aleph, Tibet’s unmistakable lyricism is another labyrinth of obscure and phantasmagoric Aleister Crowley inspired prose, akin to the delirious monologues of Dostoevsky’s morally wounded Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment and Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov. Enigmatic references of Adam, Aleph, murder and Docetic Mountains reiterate with fervor to the point of obsession.

James Blackshaw’s finger-picking is the perfect backdrop for Tibet’s antediluvian folk songs. However, some of the heavier guitar work fueled by repetitive stoner riffs and 70’s hard rock solos fail to uphold the austere atmosphere. Where electric instruments fail, the piano, viola and cello, along with the onslaught of cryptic Nurse With Wound effects and samples retains the feverish pulse.

The descent into the depths of darkness begins with the sludgy epic “Invocation of Almost”, where Tibet’s fixation with murder twirls around an unhurried tempo similar to Chris Haikus’ hypnotic rhythms in Sleep and Om. The drones of “Poppyskins” unlock a third-eye pried open by the obvious abuse of drugs till dawn. Drug reverberations continue as Tibet recalls his acid trip of “26 April 2007” by reciting, “my back was attacked by hallucinatory mountains, where teeth were possessed by demons and devils and I was by myself and of myself, just me and bones and thoughts”.

Many of Aleph’s pieces are expanded and reshaped works from Amok Pe’s first EP, 2008’s stunning Birth Canal Blues. Like the preceding EP, Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain might not be as sinister or out-there as I Have a Special Plan for This World or the repetitive and operatic perfection of “Where the Long Shadows Fall”, yet it does drip colorfully from Tibet’s constantly expanding palette.

Bardos Freedoom

Some LP Saved My Life Tonight... Seems Like A Freeze Out - Uncle Jeff's Most Prized LP

We were talking about our most prized piece of vinyl and I had to go into the stacks and pull out an old Dylan bootleg I picked up in Boston as a kid. It was one of those rubber stamped LP's with no track listing, but it had the TMOQ (Trade Mark of Quality) sticker on it and that meant you were in for something good. Now back then, around 1971, there was no stinkin' Internet, no bittorent, and believe me, we didn't like it. The only way to hear unreleased gems was to buy sketchy bootleg recordings from underground record shops, places Uncle Jeff was known to inhabit as a toddler. I had to take the train downtown and sure enough near Cambridge I found this mysterious Dylan LP, pink cover and all. The hairy dude at the counter said it was on colored vinyl and this might have been the LP that caused my lifelong fetish for sexy vinyl—it was splattered white, brown and black like a spin-art painting done at the amusement park. And the recordings have an excellent studio sound, all unreleased Bob takes of which only some are available on the Bootleg Series Dylan has so mercifully unleashed for the masses.

Track listing:

Side 1:
1. California
2. Lay Down Your Weary Tune (a Whitmark Demo)
3. Dusty Old Fairgrounds
4. If I Could Do It All Over, I'd Do It All Over You (one I'd heard Artie Traum do)
5. Whatcha Gonna Do
6. Farewell

Side 2:
1. I Wanna Be Your Lover (with the Band in 1965)
2. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window (fast version)
3. From A Buick 6 (outtake)
4. Visions of Johanna (piano version)
5. She's Your Lover Now (amazing!)

Now before you start thinking, "Aw I've heard all these before…", you gotta realize at the time none of these tracks were even remotely in circulation. Thanks to the good late night DJ’s at WBCN, I'd heard one or two of these songs and the double Great White Wonder LP that I picked up before was a good primer (3-sides of Basement Tapes), but this LP is the ONE that started the lifelong love of collecting BOOTLEGS, say it again, BOOTLEGS, the wondrous source of insights and magic that later became somewhat of a thorn in artists' sides. TMOQ, the amazing Kornyphone Label, Rubber Dubber, you betcha! And if it was on colored vinyl, all the better!

Well, the LP is wrapping up side-two right now, and it's still all in the grooves, the magic of illicit adventure, the revelatory insight into the recording process, the mystery of why some songs don't make it and the desire for more. The second side ends with the most famous cut-off fade-out lyrics in all bootlegdom, "Now your mouth cries wolf...", the song was never finished.

We'll save the story of Neil Young's Live on Sugar Mountain LP for another day.

Uncle Jeff

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Here it is folks, the second episode of Vitamin Fuzz, featuring two sugarcoated hours of 60's garage-psych. from the British Invasion and of course the good ol' U.S.S.A., Swedish LSD-punk, Rocky Mountain Highs and Great Lake Lows, repetitive sun-drenched desert jams, kraut freak-outs and a slew of extraordinary hallucinatory echoes. Those cryptic voices yelling demonic chants may be in your head, but most likely they're Vitamin Fuzz radio signals beaming into your cochlea. Relax, they'll subside in a bit. In the meantime have some chocolate or a nice ciggy wiggy dilly and let the fumes waft with the horrors!

Vitamin Fuzz can be heard live every first and third Wednesday of the month on WHPK 88.5 FM. from 6-8am CST. The next show will be on May 6th when the darkness meets the pink clouds on the horizon. Tune in or 2012 won't take kindly to you.

Thanks to Webmaster J, a.k.a. Professor Doom for his guidance through the foggy abyss.

Playlist 4.22.09:

Clara Rockmore – Tchaikovsky: Valse Sentimentale – The Art of the Theremin [1977 Delos International]
The Byrds – Mr. Spaceman – Fifth Dimension [Colombia 1966]
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset – BBC Sessions 1964-1977 [Essential! 2001]
The Monks – Pretty Suzanne – This LP Crashes Hard Drives [Various Labels 2009 Record Store Day Release]
Lollipop Shoppe – Mr. Madison Avenue – Just Colour [UNI 1967]
Icewater – Feeling High – Thank You Friends: The Ardent Record Story [Big Beat 2008]
Brainbombs – After Acid – Burning Hell [Blackjack 1992]
Royal Trux – Back to School – Back to School between Cleveland 7” [Drag City 1993]
The Druids of Stone Hedge – Bald Headed Woman – Self-Titled Double Mono 45rpm [Sundazed 1996]
Donovan – Legend of a Girl Child Linda – Sunshine Superman [Epic 1966]
Pisces featuring Linda Bruner – Sam - This LP Crashes Hard Drives [Various Labels 2009 Record Store Day Release]
Current 93 – Where the Long Shadows Fall – The Inmost Light [Dutro 2007]
Yoko Ono – Midsummer New York – Fly [Rykodisc 1971]
The Red Crayola – Hurricane Fighter Pilot – The Parable of Arable Land [Collectables 1967]
Amon Düul II – Eye Shaking King – Yeti [Repertoire 1970]
Religious Knives – Downstairs – The Door [Ecstatic Peace! 2008]
Spacemen 3 – Come Down Easy – The Perfect Prescription [Taang 1987]
Blue Cheer – Summertime Blues – Vincebus Eruptum [Polyvinyl 1968]
Dead Meadow – Rocky Mountain High – Dead Meadow [Tolotta 2001]
Comets on Fire – The Antlers of the Midnight Sun – Blue Cathedral [Sub Pop 2004]
Wooden Shjips – Shrinking Moon For You – Volume I [Holy Mountain 2008]
Kraftwerk – Radioactivity – Radio-Activity [Capital 1975]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sleepy Sun - Embrace [ATP 2009]

Luck found me in the dark, locked down dungeon of my favorite radio station. I was searching out the new sounds and got sidetracked by a copy of Embrace, the debut project of San Francisco's Sleepy Sun. Music Director Matherine assured me this compact disk would take me where I wanted to be, so I grabbed it up and moved out the exit. Of course anyone at last month's SxSW would know Sleepy Sun, but I am not much of a wanderer. Me f'ing bad.

This release is a gambit of sludgy, tribal, whispering melded to heavily syncopated jams. Modal illusions of evilness morphing towards gospel-esque purity. These songs span where we are and the world we want to be in. Reality exists only in the silent gaps between the tracks. Listen on headphones in a face painted hypnosis and the mind alteration takes over.

If you're into the Black Mountain Army, Dead Meadow, Blue Cheer or lonely fogs of happiness you found the next CD for your collection.

Sleepy Sun claims, "Pizza, horticulture and Neil Percival Young," to be their shared interests and their inspiration, "bats, coming directly out of hell." Duh!


1 New Age 7:25 > tribal breaths
2 Lord 5:39 > spaced-out religion
3 Red/Black 2:11 > heavy trance
4 Sleepy Son 7:24 > haunting, drawn-out jam
5 Golden Artifact 3:42 > modal medicine
6 White Dove 9:23 > batty bells, wall-o-sounds
7 Snow Goddess 5:38 > calm & a storm
8 Duet With Northern Sky 2:58 > folksy Ryan Adams

You will love every fuzzy ghost and whisper on this CD. Embrace is due for release May 11th.

Professor Doom, Esq.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Viatmin Fuzz Radio 4.8.09

Vitamin Fuzz is a cryptic and medicative sunrise dose of freak-out reverberations; a black hole of kraut, space, psych., doom, drone, stoner-metal and a plethera of obscuro hisses and hums. You can tune into Vitamin Fuzz on Chicago's WHPK 88.5 FM every other Wednesday from 6-8am CST.

Vitamin Fuzz Playlist 4/8/09:

Nurse With Wound/Stereolab – Simple Headphone Mind – Simple Headphone Mind [Duophonic 1997]
Black Mountain – Druganaut (Extended) – Druganaut 12" [Jagjaguwar 2004]
Quickspace – Song for Someone – Quickspace [Slash 1997]
Hawkwind – D-Rider – Hall of the Mountain Grill [1974 One Way]
Bardo Pond – Lord of Light – Sonic Attack (Lords of Light) 7” [Trensmat Records 2008]
Bardo Pond – Tommy Gun Angel – Lapsed [Matador 1997]
Les Rallizes Denudes – Strong Out Deeper Than the Night – Heavier Than a Death in the Family 1973-1977 [Ain’t Group Sounds]
Scott Walker – Farmer in the City – Tilt [Drag City 1995]
Sonny Sharrock with Linda Sharrock – Portrait of Linda in Three Colors, All Black – Black Woman [4 Men With Beards 2001]
Harvey Milk – Death Comes to Winter – Life… The Best Game in Town [Hydra Head 2008]
Pontiak – Dome Under the Sky – Kale (Arbouretum/Pontiak Split 12”) [Thrill Jockey 2008]
Faust – Picnic on a Frozen River, Deuxieme Tableax – Faust IV [Virgin 1973]
The Velvet Underground – Ocean – Peel Slowly and See [Polydor 1993]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Alela Diane - To Be Still [Rough Trade 2009]

In a dive urbanized java-stop I'm giving a first listen to Alela Diane's latest Rough Trade release, To Be Still. This CD is so deck it's killing me, the grayed out bohemian goofing my mind through ear-buds and window reflections, typing on a single-finger keyboard and getting off to the effortless melodies and seemingly overcast lyrics. All the while tapping my foot and abusing the free Wi-Fi, searching out exactly who is Alela Diane Menig?

Running up and around the west coast between Northern California, S.F., and Portland brewed up the smooth loathing Psych Folk style Alela is becoming known for. Her lyrics float and sink on cloudy mountains and snow-covered paths. Windy relationships pull at this child like a sedated kite over a rocky beach. The range of her voice spans the clarity of Arctic ice and the mellowness of a 56 year old whiskey I just dug out of my dead father's liquor stash.

Sniffing through the world-wideness does not give up much dirt on Alela's backing band, except it consists of her father Tom Menig (Deadbeats), hipster Michael Hurley (hepcat fiddler with Son Volt, Calexico and Lucinda Williams) and a host of musically adept friends she keeps in her kitchen by feeding them grilled cheese sandwiches and smoky lyrics.

This 11 track CD is a complete joy and I predict it to be my top pick for 2009... now I am committed. The vocals are right out front and the accompaniment includes a diversity of stringed instruments (cello, fiddle, mandolin, banjo), plenty of tribal beats and interesting effects. It all fits so perfectly with Alela Diane's vocals.

The eerie stillness of "Every Path" makes it my favorite track. Other joys of solace include the walking beat with steel guitar in "To Be Still" and the somewhat traditional folk sound of "The Alder Trees".

Alela Diane Menig is playing SXSW this week, then directly off to the UK for a European tour through April. She returns to the states in early May to play Seattle's Triple Door with Iron & Wine. I can only imagine the harmonic possibilities of a Sam Beam/Alela Diane duet.

Previous releases by Menig include The Pirate's Gospel [Holocene Music, 2006] and two self-released EP's, Forest Parade [2003] and The Pirate's Gospel, [2004].

Jay Niemoth March 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grandmaster Flash Interview

Grandmaster Flash, a.k.a. ‘The Wheels of Steel” is one of the originators of hip-hop, making up the triad of forefathers along with Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa. Leading the MC crew, The Furious Five, Flash unleashed some of the most renowned hip-hop of the 70’s and 80’s, including the 1982 classic “The Message”, which transformed hip-hop from party music to a conscious culture with a socio-political message. Now more than 30-years after the music’s inception Grandmaster Flash is back with The Bridge, his second release on Strut following the innovative The Official Adventures of Grandmaster Flash, which tells Flash’s story through a mixtape-like format, weaving together interviews with old and new material.

When I spoke to Grandmaster Flash he was at his home in New York City, packing his suitcase for an eight day Australian tour. Excited to leave New York’s winter for the Australian sun, he was eagerly packing shorts and sandals and excited to venture ‘Down Under,’ mentioning that they are “deep into hip-hop, both old school and new.”

Bardos Freedoom: Where did you get your nickname, “The Wheels of Steel”?

Grandmaster Flash: People call me that? Well the wheels of steel are the turntable platters, so I guess people think of me as a turntable.

BF: Your new album is called The Bridge; can you talk about some of the bridges you’ve crossed throughout hip-hop’s history?

GMF: I created the album like a DJ set. It’s got a 70’s template with a 2009 feel. The bridges refer to going from one genre to another. Like in a DJ set you might move from “Apache” to Jay Z. But the album is also a mirror of international talent that I have been lucky enough to experience while traveling the world. On the track “We Speak Hip-Hop”, there is a mix of international MC’s rapping in English, Swedish, Spanish and Spanglish. I wanted to create an album with a diversity of tracks to reflect the diversity of hip-hop; pairing famous MC’s with unknown MC’s and American MC’s with international rappers.

BF: Do you think hip-hop is now a global music?

GMF: Hip-hop is the most popular music in the world. It used to be country, but now it’s hip-hop. Journalists say that hip-hop is global. But I think for hip-hop to truly be global you have to be able to turn on the radio and hear a track with American and overseas influences. And that hasn’t happened yet. But music is a universal language so it will happen.

BF: Do you think hip-hop has stayed true to your “Message”?

GMF: The last thing I am thinking about is politics. I am a DJ, I jam. I play funky breaks for dope audiences. I love KRS-One and Public Enemy and that facet of hip-hop, but if I only thought about one facet of hip-hop, we wouldn’t have the diversity that we do.

BF: Hip-hop began as a DJ centered culture, where rapping served the purpose of prepping the audience for the next record, but today MC’ing has become the primary focus. Because of this change some people mistake you as an MC even though you’re a DJ and producer. What are your feelings about this?

GMF: There was a time when people thought I was an MC, but thank God that doesn’t happen anymore. That confusion was mostly because someone in my crew decided to steal my name. So people were like, are you the hairy or the bald Grandmaster Flash. But that’s over now.

BF: The Bridge features guest appearances by Q-Tip, Big Daddy Kane, Snoop Dog, KRS-One and many others. What is it like to make an album with such a large and rotating cast of artists?

GMF: It’s interesting. When I made these tracks I would burn a CD, put it into my car stereo and drive around for hours listening to them. With “Swagger” I was like that is a Snoop track, and so I found him. With “Bounce Back” I thought, man I miss the old school Busta Rhymes, so I contacted Busta and told him that I missed his old flow style. After we did the track he thanked me for getting him to go back to his roots.

BF: On The Bridge you feature mainstream and underground MC’s and DJ’s, what differences and similarities do you notice between these two cultures?

GMF: From my point of view I am just pro hip-hop. I don’t see a difference, I just see one being more accessible than the other. A lot of the underground shit is dope and a lot of the mainstream stuff is dope. But I did think the album would be incomplete without unknown talent.

BF: Why do you think mainstream hip-hop is more accessible than the underground?

GMF: It’s you journalists, TV announcers and the media from the Internet. Journalists are the new boombox’s, the new hand fliers. And I think it is a shame more underground artists aren’t covered. There are so many people in hip-hop from the 70’s that never get interviewed and are being forgotten. Everyone always asks me about the 80’s, which is when the music became commercial. But that is just the way it is. As for the Internet, I don’t want people to find out about Grandmaster Flash on the Internet. You know I could be in your town and we could jam in your car. I don’t want to be a folklore just yet. In order to leave an impact you have to connect with people.

BF: I think women’s impact on hip-hop is very underappreciated. On “Those Chix” you feature all-female MC’ing with Byata, Princess Superstar, Hedonis de Amazon and Syndee. What are your opinions about women’s impact on hip-hop and whether or not they have been misrepresented?

GMF: I agree, they have been misrepresented. I had to do that song. I wanted to put women MC’s who come from a different walk of life to an up-tempo beat.

BF: Where do you want to see hip-hop in another 30 years?

Growing. That’s all I can say. I want it to keep growing.

Bardos Freedoom

Marissa Nadler - Little Hells [Kemando 2009]

The unsuitably named genre free-folk has gained enough praise and attention in the past couple of years to raise its leading artists to rock star status; specifically Devendra Banhart, Coco Rosie and Joanna Newsome. In doing so the music has practically wilted away, becoming stale and formulaic. The name ‘free-folk’ implies a devotion to free-improvisation and unconventional structures; yet few artists have followed these obvious implications. Apart from Sunburned Hand of Man, Jeweled Antler Collective, No-Neck Blues Band and a few other intrepid souls, most artists choose the formula to success rather than the more uncharted path of exploration. Marissa Nadler on the other hand is a bit of an enigma. She too doesn’t employ free-improvisation and although she is stylistically connected to some of the more famed names of the so-called free-folk scene, her traditional style is somehow distinct, a mirror of the past with a haunting ghost-like presence. Perhaps her uniqueness is because she’s managed to stay under the radar, which has enabled her from selling-out. However, I don’t think her distance from mediocrity is as dogmatic as fame equals unauthentic art, but rather because the honesty of her songwriting is unwavering.

In the same desolate vein of Songs III: Bird on the Water, Nadler’s latest offering winds through a decaying forest of isolation, heartbreak and longing. But it would be foolish to expect an album called Little Hells to be a strict joie de vivre. But unlike her sorrow filled contemporaries, namely Jason Molina and Mark Kozelek, Nadler’s delivery offers an unspoken sense of hope, like on “Ghosts & Lovers” as she gorgeously utters, “I’m more than blue, I’m violet.”

Little Hells utilizes the dramatic change of seasons as an allegory for the unpredictably of love. Change shapes more then the lyricism of Little Hells; Nadler leaves behind the barren instrumentation of her usual guitar and voice for a beautiful warmth of organs, strings, percussion and steel-guitar, which together with lyrics like, “I know we had a beautiful life, but things change like the leaves on the vine” and “the flowers died a long time ago”, craft a poignant impression. When Nadler sings, “cob webs and rose pedals define her,” on the albums title track, although she is speaking of “a dark cloud of little hells”, it is also a fitting line for Nadler herself: an emblem of her dusty sound, sincere soul and austere charm.

Bardos Freedoom

Ian Anderson's Country Blues Band - Stereo Death Breakdown [Fledg'ling 2009 reissue]

Influenced by the post-WWII blues of the American South, Ian Anderson (not to be confused with the leader/flutist of Jethro Tull) founded the Bristol blues scene of the 1960’s. Stereo Death Breakdown from 1969 is Anderson’s only full-band LP with the Country Blues Band. The Fledgling reissue has remastered the misplaced masters of Stereo Death Breakdown and added two of Anderson’s contemporary tracks. Though John Peel consistently spun the album, it is no astonishing document lost in the vaults of time.

Like other African American styles that flooded British ports during the 60’s, namely R&B and its creation of the British Invasion, Ian Anderson’s distance from the original source harbors a misunderstanding, a disconnected notion of working within a other-worldly and foreign medium. Weston-super-Mare, where Anderson is from is more culturally dissimilar to the Mississippi Delta than almost anywhere on the planet; I know because my father is from Weston-super-Mare. This cultural disparity is obvious in Anderson’s music and comes off as an asinine reproduction. In the liner notes, Anderson himself even notes, “to me now, it seems that in trying and failing to become something else, we accidentally created something local, of its time.”

Cultural appropriation is a common trend in popular British music, but with acts such as The Beatles, The Pretty Things, and The Rolling Stones, the imitation of American R&B was channeled through a uniquely British sound: whereas the country blues scene of 1960’s Britain was nothing more than a feeble facsimile. Quite frankly, why listen to an imitation when you can listen to Sleepy John Estes, Robert Pete Williams, Charley Patton and Mississippi John Hurt play the original sound more inventively, passionately and with a genuine connection to the issues and struggles being excavated. When compared to the African American sound of the post-Civil Rights Era, white British country blues is utterly pathetic and unauthentic.

Bardos Freedoom

Various Artists - Fly Girls! B-Boys Beware: Revenge of the Super Female Rappers [Soul Jazz 2009]

Perhaps the most underappreciated element in popular music is women’s immense contribution to hip-hop. An impact that has been suppressed by prearranged mainstream strategies to enforce hip-hop through ridiculous notions of hypermasculinty and chauvinism. Telling the true tale of hip-hop is long overdue and fortunately Soul Jazz Records has once again stepped up the task with the celebratory compilation: Fly Girls! B-Boys Beware: Revenge of the Super Female Rappers. A fitting title, for revenge is best served cold on two turntables and a microphone.

Fly Girls commemorates thirty years of women MC’s on record. Sugar Hill Records entrepreneur Sylvia Robinson produced the first commercial hip-hop album in 1979 with “Rappers Delight”. Nevertheless, women in hip hop follow a lineation further back than Sugar Hill Records and can be traced to the funky-sassy-attitude of Millie Jackson “The Grandmother of Rap” and depending on how flexible your definition is, to Nina Simon’s “Funkier than a Mosquitoes Tweeter”. But Soul Jazz’s timetable on Fly Girls is appropriate for the sound we’ve come to identify as hip-hop today.

Soul Jazz has done a bang-up job blending legendary names from the Golden Age, with the likes of Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Roxanne Shante, with forgotten artists like JJ Fad and Cookie Crew, while also mixing in contemporary names such as Missy Elliott. From the old school to the new, from boom-boom-bap, club bangers and G-funk to dope jazzy beats, with so much diversity, Fly Girls is sewn together with the flow of empowerment.

Bardos Freedoom

Emeralds - What Happened [No Fun 2009]

What Happened is an extension of pioneering kraut rock a la Cluster and Neu! and the early electronic experimentation of Marcus Belgrave, Tod Dockstader, and Edgard Varèse. Regardless of the treaded path Emeralds follows, their latest force is an excursion into the unknown. Either as a glimpse of a soothing end of existence where time fades away or as an aural physics lesson, in which molecules buzz by, ripple on the horizon, collide and ring out, expand and diminish into the soft hiss of the surroundings. Either way, What Happened is much more enlightening than merely rehashing the past or the implicit confusion that the title harks upon.

Like previous Emeralds releases, a bed of glacial drones harnesses the foundation—creeping gradually but with vigor; however, on What Happened the atmospheric serenity of the group’s previous undertakings are magnified by swirling synthesizers and plentiful electronics. The supplementary instrumentation does busy-up Emeralds' resonance, yet they pull it off with majestic ease, without sounding cluttered or out-of-control. There is no need to single out any of What Happened’s five tracks because the whole album dissolves together with such elegance and delicacy. What Happened is Emeralds' magnum opus: they have finally become the shimmering hexagonal crystals embedded in their name.

Bardos Freedoom

Faust - C’est… Com… Com… Compliqué [Bureau B 2009]

Faust’s unpredictability is exactly what is necessary to fuel a collective through four decades of innovation. Faust has pushed rock music through many envelopes since their 1971 debut. Where even the aesthetics of 1971’s packaging was a breakthrough, with its clear vinyl, transparent jacket and black screen-printed insert. Although Faust’s post-Millennium content may not be as groundbreaking as their prior accomplishments, their longevity extends their colossal impact to absurd proportions.
C’est… Com… Com… Compliqué is superb: a monument that could only have been sculpted by the group’s original hands. The hour-long force finds founding members Jean Hervé Peron and Werner "Zappi" Diermaier reunited and at the helm alongside Ulan Bator’s Amaury Cambuzat. C’est… Com… Com… Compliqué opens with “Kundalini Tremolos,” where a pulsating organic beat meets repetitive tremolo swells and breathy vocals. The piece is highly ocular, resembling the brutal efficiency of a factory. With sheets of metal flexed and scraped into a white noise like that of the deep sea, followed by slow steady paced organs and hypnotic vocals, “Accroché à Tes Lèvres” illuminates the diversity of Faust's ability to shift from piece to piece. As the remaining pieces take command a reverie expounds that captivates the detainee through a breadth of acute minimalism, throat singing, paranormal atmospheres and avant-pop. “Bonjour Gioacchino” sounds like a postmodern interpretation of a nationalist dedication to a space race for the 21st Century. With C’est… Com… Com… Compliqué’s 14 minute self-titled closer, the history of Kraut-rock is divulged: this breathtaking preservation of likeminded contemporaries including the likes of Kraftwerk, Neu!, Cluster and Can effortlessly displays the past, present and future of this timeless music.

Bardos Freedoom

Various Artists - Boogaloo Pow Pow: Dancefloor Rendez-vous in Young Nu Yorica [Honest Jon's 2009]

Honest Jon’s latest compilation, Boogaloo Pow Pow: Dancefloor Rendez-vous in Young Nu Yorica is a fascinating glimpse into the ignition of a culture on the peripheral and a magnificent display of a peoples expressive breakthrough at balancing their culture of origin with the culture they discovered in modern America. The challenges of deciphering this cultural amalgamation plays a large role in the boogaloo sound, which begins immediately with Willie Rosario’s “Calypso Blues”, where perplexed lyrics question his new life as an immigrant in New York: “Don’t got the money to take me back to Trinidad, me throat she sick from necktie, me feet she hurt from shoes, me pocket full of empty, I got calypso blues.”

Boogaloo Pow Pow illuminates the diversity of Latino dance music in 1960’s New York better than previous collections and even ranks superior to Soul Jazz’s excellent New York Hustle. To say that the substantial array of styles featured on Boogaloo Pow Pow is a hybrid is an understatement. The constant but fluid shifting of Latin jazz and bolero to Cubop and earlier Afro-Cuban styles and from cha cha chá, típico, guaguancó, pachanga and salsa to the unique style of 1960’s Nu Yorica where the compilation derived its title from is all encompassing. Boogaloo Pow Pow is an empowering rhythm of scorching dance grooves, horns of fire and a proudly conscious blend of Spanish, English and Spanglish lyricism, giving the music and people a distinctive identity that rejects and leaves behind both the whitewashing of the ‘American melting pot’ and the atrocities of Latin American colonialism.

Bardos Freedoom

Richard Pinhas/Merzbow - Keio Line [Cuneiform Records 2009]

Merzbow is the king of dense Japanese noise-scapes, and Richard Pinhas is one of the most innovative French electronic pioneers, founding Heldon in the mid-seventies and continuing to explore his layered guitar and sequencer based walls of sound. This disc is surprisingly good, showing why both of these artists have longevity and interest today. The melding of each individual style is seamless. The only beats are the propellant hum of the machines. The trick that many current experimental-noise projects miss is that density of sound is not the only criteria! This release exhibits swells and levels of drones and melodies panning across the frequency spectrum. The clarity of the recording results in a shimmering mesmerizing dose of sound.
Merzbow now has hundreds of releases, driving noise collectors nuts. Richard Pinhas was heavily influenced by Robert Fripp & Eno's experimentation with Revox tape-loops in the early '70s (No Pussyfooting and Evening Star), and even titled an early Heldon track "In the Wake of King Fripp". Building on the sound developed across Electronique Guerilla and the Chronolyse LP's released on obscure French labels, Pinhas's looped methodology has advanced with technology. Merzbow's anchoring pulses in the mix are reminiscent of Germany's Klaus Schulze, making this release both a referential and contemporary polyglot of global electronic experimentation.

Uncle Jeff

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Group Bombino - Guitars From Agadez [Sublime Frequencies 2009]

The desert is often romanticized in modern music. From Josh Homes’ Desert Sessions and Six Organs of Admittance’s “The Desert Is a Circle” to Magic Lantern’s “Cactus Raga,” the desert's vast desolate landscape and its encompassing mystery is revered for its ability to inspire. As a Southwesterner, I've often fallen pray to this admiration, and I generally flock to music associated with the desert in any way. The Sublime Frequencies label hails from Seattle (a lush location for the home of so many arid sounds), but it has found a more authentic desert sound than most of the American underground. Group Bombino's Guitars From Agadez Vol. 2 is a further exploration into the Saharan guitar culture, and the music doesn’t merely rely on desert themes or use the desert as a muse; it is entirely a product of the desert.

Sublime Frequencies has proven that Saharan guitar culture is flourishing. The label introduced the scene to Western audiences through the auditory documentary Folk Music of the Sahara: Among the Tuareg of Libya and the group Tinariwen, which translates to "many deserts" (after the Tuereg belief that the Sahara is a region of numerous deserts). Since its initial Tuereg guitar release, the label has put out Group Doueh’s Guitar Music from the Western Sahara and Group Inerane’s Guitars from Agadez.

It's the second in the Guitars from Agadez series, but it's a perfect introduction to the Tuereg guitar sound because it features the two fundamental styles. The first side displays what Sublime Frequencies calls “dry guitar,” a stripped-down acoustic style, whereas the second side boosts the vigor with the Tuereg electric sound. Propelled by the innovative guitarist Omara Mochtar, Group Bombino offers a vivid glimpse into one of the most hidden regions and ethnic groups on the planet.

The Tuereg, a suppressed minority group in the Western Sahara (primarily in Mali and Niger), have struggled for autonomy for nearly a century: Group Bombino’s revolutionary sound parallels this struggle. The area of Agadez, where Group Bombino resides, has been shut off from the rest of the region. Although the political turmoil in Agadez is as dismal as the harsh environment that encompasses the region, Bombino’s reverberations are hopeful, optimistic and fertile.

Bardos Freedoom

Friday, February 20, 2009

Grouper/City Center - Split 7" [Self-Released 2009]

Grouper, the moniker of Portland’s experimental song crafter Liz Harris, showed up on numerous best-of lists last year with her debut for Type Records, Dragging a Dead Dear up a Hill. The moody landscapes and darkly delicate vocals parallel the title in its resemblance of a wistful forest, at times howling only to be followed by faint whispers. For Harris’s first release of 2009, she’s self-released a split 7-inch with City Center, the latest lo-fi project of Fred Thomas, of Saturday Looks Good to Me and His Name Is Alive.

The A-side, “False Horizon,” harbors the familiar sound of Grouper’s previous release, yet the vinyl gives her murky strums and croons added warmth. City Center’s “This Is How We See in the Dark” utilizes backward masking and vocals hidden behind the haze of the instrumentation to create a lovely odd-pop number to finish the split. All that on limited-edition clear vinyl.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

MV & EE with The Golden Road - Drone Trailer [Dicristina Star 2009]

Experimentation often leads to failure before success. Such is the case with MV & EE, which has used multiple monikers (Tower Recordings, Medicine Show, the Bummer Road and now the Golden Road) to traverse acid and free-folk, psychedelia and drone. If MV & EE have experienced much failure to this point, the group's interstellar opus, Drone Machine, is the reward that follows the disarray.

Drone Trailer
opens like a Bardo Pond record rather than a free-folk recording, with a blizzard of fuzz and incomprehension called “Anyway.” The storm clears with “The Hungry Stones,” as acoustic strums, harmonic hums and Matt Valentine’s stoned impression of Neil Young whist about in harmony.

The resemblance to Neil Young is unswerving throughout the record, but Valentine’s strange interpretation is like Young in a capsule beaming radio signals down to Earth. Lines like “I reckon I’ll go toward the drone and head out for the slow tapes” exemplifies how detached Valentine has taken his drugged-out Young impersonation: The line is like a mirror of “Ambulance Blues,” where Young desperatly croons, “I’m deep inside myself, but I’ll get out somehow.”

The title and music that encompass Drone Trailer seem to sum up what MV & EE have attempted all along -- a peculiar, acid-drenched and improvised take on American traditional music. Even while working inside a style that has changed very little throughout its multiple-century lifespan, with Drone Trailer MV & EE have learned that looking outside tradition and beyond the past is a precious means of progression.

Bardos Freedoom

Nels Cline - Coward [Cryptogramaphone, 2009]

Coward, the first solo album from Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Guitar God” Nels Cline, is the culmination of three decades of guitar virtuosity spanning Cline’s work with Wilco, to his more adventurous original compositions and free improvisations with the Nels Cline Singers. Here Cline demonstrates his proficiencies in the fields of finger picking (ala John Fahey), improvisation, and composition.

The moods exhibited on this recording run the gamut from melancholia to exuberant joie de vivre, from meditative to “rootsy” to other worldly. Where some solo albums give the impression of eaves dropping, Nels Cline grants the listener exclusive access to the inner depths of his creativity via his guitar and various electronics. Coward opens with the horticultural themed drone piece entitled “Epiphyllum”. The mysterious soundscape of the opener segues beautifully into the arpeggiated acoustic guitar of “Prayer Wheel”, perhaps named with respect to its repetitious qualities, as in the Tibetan Buddhist practice of spinning prayer wheels adorned with Tantric mantras. “Prayer Wheel” as is the rest of Coward is crafted to perfection with profound devotional undertones.

Cowardice has no place in this recording.

Charles Ballas

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Matthew Shipp - Harmonic Disorder [Thristy Ear 2009]

Harmonic Disorder is the latest release from pianist/composer Matthew Shipp on the Thirsty Ear recording label’s Blue Series, a subsidiary dedicated to adventurous and creative modern music. Matthew Shipp’s music is highly idiosyncratic and simultaneously derivative of the forbearers of modern Be-Bop and out-jazz piano. Throughout his career Mr. Shipp has forged a totally unique improvisational syntax as the modern extension in the continuum of history’s most influential jazz pianists such as Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Paul Bley, and Cecil Taylor. Certain elements from the aforesaid appear in Matthew Shipp’s playing, such as dense tonal clusters, use of tri-tones, substitutions, and twelve-tone scales. However, Mr. Shipp’s skills in composition and improvisation are uniquely his own and do not in the least rely on the mere ‘mimicry’ of past players. Joining Mr. Shipp for this session is bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Whit Dickey, completing the same lineup from the acclaimed 2005 recording Piano Vortex.

The album opens with an original composition entitled “gng”, with a head whose intervals sound as if they could belong to a Thelonious Monk composition/solo, but retain such an exclusive execution on behalf of Mr. Shipp that they sound wholly original and modern. The band plays a solid swing from beginning to end maintaining a high degree of intensity and momentum while the next four minutes are opened up for an inspiring piano solo complete with tastefully executed comps, and minimal tension enhancing drum fills, and a walking bass line that appears to intuitively “interact” with the piano solo instead of merely following chord progressions. The trio then seamlessly returns to the head of the song thus creating a refreshing compositional symmetry.

Following “gng’ is the trio’s interpretation of the standard “There Will Never Be Another You”, deconstructed almost beyond recognition but still retaining some semblance of the original melody and played with an intense swing pulse. The group’s rendition of “Someday My Prince will Come,” a standard that has been played by a multitude of jazz pianists including Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Art Lande, and Oscar Peterson, is both hauntingly beautiful and inspiring.

Harmonic Disorder is the most enjoyable recording I’ve had the privilege of hearing in the last year (that is the last 365 days, not the three-week-old 2009). In its entirety the record contains everything from straight-ahead 2 & 4 swing, lush ballades, beautiful minor chord dirges, and the most expressive use of twelve notes I’ve experienced since Cecil Taylor.

Charles Ballas

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Best of 2008: Alex Shaw's Top 10 Out Jazz Records of 2008 (All LPs, no reissues)

  1. Slither- Self-Titled [QBICO]

Another one-sided LP from this Italian LP only label. Where would the Top 10 of the Year be without these guys? Nowhere, that’s where. From what I have heard from this duo, they stick to a fairly predictable, but singular, formula: ping-pongy low-end electronics, molasses-slow tempos, and interweaving layers of horns. Clarinets, Mizmars, both? Slither is the musical equivalent to that Nick Cave book And the Ass Saw the Angel.

  1. Andrew Barker/ Jaime Fennelly /Charles Waters- Acid Birds [QBICO]

Barker (saxes) and Waters (drums, jaw harp) made the countdown last year as part of a trio with Sabir Mateen. This year I put them up here again, but in a much different context. Now, they are joined by Jaime Fennelly on electronics. This trio broods and rages over three pieces. The vinyl is colored beyond comprehension, and is the only evidence that you will ever have to present to someone that vinyl records are the supreme musical document of human existence.

  1. Box – Studio 1 [Rune Grammofon]

I have no idea why I am always game for a free jazz horn record, no matter how shitty, yet I hold guitar players within the same genre up to a much higher standard. Guitar/ Viola da Gamba player Raoul Bjorkenheim literally sounds like a horn all across this record without the aid of dorky effects; Stale Storlokken makes telephone noises sound like music and not a sample. Both of these things are hard things to do.

  1. Ara - Pick Up and Run 2007 [What the …? Records]

A duo playing beautiful drift. One part saxophone, one part electronics, and a heaping teaspoon of ESP. Two side long tracks comprise the release, with the first being far superior to the second. Both pieces are noticeably live, and the ambience of the recording is another attractive element to the whole endeavor.

  1. Mohel - Babylon Bypass [Tyyfus]

Due to how late it arrived in 2008, this one almost did not make the countdown. A pile-up of Finnish free jazz musicians is Mohel. Their playing is frenzied and overlapping. I mostly enjoyed this record because all of the horns remind me of metal-on-metal rubbing with no lubrication. Musician of note: baritone sax player Janne Martinkauppi.

  1. Jeffrey Leighton Brown - Dreams [Jaffe]

Brown is a former member of Jackie-O Motherfucker, and currently directs The Evolutionary Jass Band. Dreams is the first record to be released on Brown’s Jaffe records. After listening to this LP, I learned a lot about Jeff Brown (the musician) that I did not already know. Namely, his interests span a wide range of musical styles, and he is a talent not just on the saxophone, but also the guitar. Maybe the guitar playing here is inappropriate for inclusion on the Top 10. However, the sax playing is woven in everywhere, and that aspect of the release qualifies it.

  1. Arthur Doyle Trio – Live at the Alterknit [QBICO]

Whoa, momma! Doyle busts back on the scene with a white vinyl. I like this trio record for several reasons:

1) Doyle sings his ass off on both tracks.

2) The group plays well together, rather than just letting Doyle steal the show.

3) The album sounds like it was recorded in an enormous bathroom.

  1. Scorch Trio - Brolt [Rune Grammofon]

Another guitar record on my out jazz chart! What the hell is happening to me? This trio left very little room for improvement after their last outing entitled Luggumt. I have the same reaction to this group as I do to Lightning Bolt. That is, just when I am sure that there is no way to intensify what is happening, that is just what happens.

  1. Spider Trio - Self-Titled [Assophon]

Assophon is a label that started this year in Seattle. Spider Trio was one of three LP only recordings that came out simultaneously on Assophon. Also, this release is the only jazz-oriented recording of the bunch, unless you count a loose cover of an Albert Ayler song by The Sea Donkeys. This Spider Trio show was recorded by someone else at a performance that I attended in 2007, and it was the first time that I saw Wally Shoup (alto sax), Dave Abramson (Drums) and Jeffery Taylor (guitar) play together live. Anyway, the whole thing has a visual connection for me, and I vividly remember how satisfied I was after the show as I walked out to my car. I am not sure that this LP will snare anyone that was not there. Listening back to the music, there was a lot that I did not remember. In particular, Abramson’s drumming now seems a lot more nuanced and responsive, versus the juggernaut that remains planted in my mind.

  1. Talibam!/Wastland Jazz - Ecstatic Jazz Duos [Thor’s Rubber Hammer]

The idea that this type of playing is being identified as jazz is a fact that makes me proud to be alive in my particular time and place. It tells me that people are taking the energy from previous jazz forms, but none of the structure. Talibam!, while sometimes a trio with a sax player, are streamlined here to a drum and synth duo. The drumming is an exhausting and pleasurable listen; the synth work is totally remedial. As for the Wasteland Jazz side, horns are heard trilling throughout the piece, but most of the reed work is processed into pure noise. You can sign up on the label’s website as a subscriber to the entire Ecstatic Jazz Duo series. I can’t wait for the second installment.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best of 2008: Uncle Jeff's Top 15

1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever [Jagjagwar]
2. Hank Williams - The Unreleased Recordings [Time Life]
3. Ilyas Ahmed - Vertigo of Dawn [Time Lag]
4. Neil Young - Live At Canterbury House 1968 [Reprise]
5. Willy Vlautin & Paul Brainard - Northline [Soundtrack CD with Novel-Harper Perennial]
6. Stephen Malmus and the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash [Matador]
7. Josephine Foster - This Coming Gladness [Bo' Weevil]
8. Paul Westerberg - 49 [mp3 release]
9. Suarasama - Fajar Di Atas Awan [Drag City]
10. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes [Sub Pop]
11. Hank III - Damn Right Rebel Proud [Sidewalk]
12. Whiskeytown - Strangers Almanac Reissue [Lost Highway]
13. Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark [New West]
14. Blue Mountain - Midnight in Mississippi [Broadmoor]
15. Bootleg Soundboard of the Year: Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at the Fox Theatre

Best Show of 2008:

Boris, at the Marquis Theater , Denver, CO [7.25.08] Mind melting!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best of 2008: Bardos Freedoom's Top 20

1. Current 93 as Amok Pe – Birth Control Blues EP [Dutro]

David Tibet knows how to summon inspiration and genius better than anyone. This teaser EP (with the full-length coming in 2009) is no different. Here Tibet recruits Nurse With Wound collaborator Andrew Liles. The result is as beautiful and terrifying as anything Tibet has ever done. Liles’ sample of horses storming the countryside on “Suddenly the Living Are Dying” is utterly jaw dropping. And before you go to sleep, Tibet et al. want you to know that “We Will Murder You”.

2. Lindstrøm – Where You Go I Go Too [Feedelity]

Six months after its release, I still don’t know why I like this album so much: my only explanation is that I’ve become that which I despise—hipster trash. I never imagined disco could ever be listenable, that is until Lindstrøm combined it with space-swirls, extended tracks (not club-style, but sit in your bedroom stoned and listen to a single-sided track) and minimalism.

3. Scott Tuma – Not For Nobody [Digitalis]

Not For Nobody is exceptionally slow in the most gorgeous of fashion, like the work of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. The otherworldly opener, “Nobody (River of Tin)”, features the albums only vocals. As “No one at all, no one to, so cold and so alone…” is warbled, the chill that surmounts is breathtaking. The residue left after the desolation of “Nobody” hallows out beautiful landscapes of soft drones and acoustic finger-picking akin to John Fahey, yet too foreign to resemble the usual folk and blues traditions. I hope that death is as mysteriously serene as Not For Nobody.

4. Josephine Foster – The Coming Gladness (Bo’ Weavil)

Dabbling in improv. and moving to Bo’ Weavil, one of Britain’s most consistent esoteric labels was a brilliant decision. But then again everything this Colorado native/Spanish ex-patriot puts out is the result of brilliant decision-making. Foster is far ahead of her time and probably wont gain the respect she deserves for decades to come.

5. Arbouretum/Pontiak – Kale (Thrill Jockey)

What could be better than a split between Baltimore Oldham-style psych-rockers and three brothers improving with each release, while becoming more wide-ranging? Not much, besides the fact that Kale mixes originals with John Cale covers. I’ll rant about the Pontiak side, because it’s the superior of both fine sides. It opens with “Dome Under the Sky”, one of the premiere stoner-rock anthems of the year. The two Cale covers come out of nowhere as perfectly crafted resurrections of the White Album.

6. Harvey Milk – Life… The Best Game In Town [Hydra Head]

Brutally heavy, more diverse than any other metal act (utilizing stoner, doom, cock-rock, art and noise) and dynamic like the terrors of hell: at last Harvey Milk drop the bullshit and return to their original sound while also moving forward. Though hinted at with previous releases, Life… proves that the Melvins have a lot of catching up to do.

7. Fennesz – Black Sea [Touch]

The title fits like a blanket of fog over a harbor. Black Sea is both dark and oceanic. The ambient landscapes flow with austere beauty and the pieces ability to be still and in-motion is astounding.

8. Bardo Pond – Batholith [Three Lobed]

Culled from the group’s favorite unreleased tracks, Batholith is surprisingly cohesive and stands up against their greatest material; Lapsed, Amanita and Dilate. Not as hazy and muddled as their work with Roy Montgomery under Hash Bar Tempo, but just as stoned-out and as dark as anything Psychadelphia's 'Death Pond' has revealed.

9. Neil Young – Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury 1968 [Reprise]

Live at Canterbury bridges Mr. Soul’s spell with Buffalo Springfield and his development as a solo-artist better than any document to date. Throughout the performance, Young’s gorgeously ominous songwriting is channeled through his warm and mirthful personality, which unravels as a series of uproarious banters. Live at Canterbury, the third part in Young’s Archive Series, is yet another reason why Dylan should step aside and bow down.

10. Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra – Self-Titled [Thrill Jockey]

Bill Dixon is ancient, yet in his old age his creations are becoming more and more vigorous, expressive and uninhibited. A massive triumph, considering he’s released some of the most forward-thinking compositions of the past half-century. The self-titled powerhouse with fellow out-jazz Chicagoan’s, the Exploding Star Orchestra is one of those LP’s that Milkman Dan dearly wished he didn’t let fall through the cracks.

11. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours [Goner]

I never thought punk could sound as good as the Buzzcocks or the Undertones again. That is until these Melbourne lads shattered all my expectations and prejudices of the contemporary scene. Eddy Current refueled my lust for quick angst anthems and got me into another grandiose first-wave revival act—Nodzzz; whose 2008 7” single, “I don’t Wanna (Smoke Marijuana)” and self-titled debut are also noteworthy.

12. Sun Kil Moon – April [4AD]

April is another graceful collection of songs from Mark Kozelek. Finally he abandons the whiny corridors of his past and grows up.

13. Nudge – Infinity Padlock EP [Audraglint]

Infinity Padlock is a beautiful four-song outing where pop, white noise and experimental electronics are filtered into bliss.

14. Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lions Skull [Southern Lord]

Earth is simply unstoppable and one of the greatest heavy groups of all time. On The Bees Made Honey in the Lions Skull they continue the doom-country laid forth by Hex and perfect it. Moreover, the vinyl is absurd and as heavy as an artifact from the Stone Age.

15. Gas – Nah and Fern [Kompakt]

I am slowly coming around to ambient techno and Gas is more than helping me through this hesitant process. So what better of a time (at least for my own selfishness) for Kompakt’s guru to release a box set of his four previous albums, which all in their own right stand up against anyone else in the field, Aphex Twin included.

16. Magic Lantern – High Beams [Not Not Fun]

These repetitive stoner-pysch freak-outs made me scrape resin throughout my initial weeks experiencing Chicago’s vicious winter. Their name is warm and their sound melts the ice with thoughts of fizzing suns and milk and cookies.

17. Magnetic Fields – Distortion [Nonesuch]

Combining Beach Boys songwriting with Jesus & Mary Chain fuzz marks the best Magnetic Fields record to date. Distortion was released during my last semester of college and “California Girls” became the anthem of four years of fraternity/sorority hatred and disgust: “They come on like squares, then get off like squirrels. I hate California girls”.

18. Boscoe – Self-Titled [Light in the Attic]

A recovered and restored treasure, Boscoe’s only album is purely revolutionary: Revolutionary in its politics and its combination of soul, funk, poetry and experimental jazz. I can’t believe this artifact of the Black Arts Movement hasn’t gained the reverence it deserves. Boscoe should be placed in the ranks with Gil Scott Heron, another true American hero.

19. David Grubbs – An Optimist Notes the Dusk [Drag City]

Nothing new from Mr. Grubbs, but at least his relocation from Chicago to Brooklyn didn’t spawn a side project with Coco Rosie. In actuality, An Optimist Notes the Dusk is Grubbs' best work since Gastr Del Sol.

20. Sic Alps – U.S. EZ [Slitbreeze]

I came around to the Sic Alps late. But sometimes a good delay comes at the perfect time. Thus, U.S. EZ has become a lush blossom in the depth of winter. Sic Alps are a smorgasbord of arty garage, folk-rock, lo-fi noise and sunshine pop. Their warm catchy sound keeps me pining for an early Spring.

Honorable Mentions:

Various Artists – Give Me Love: Songs of the Brokenhearted – Baghdad [Honest Jon]
James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes [Tomkins Square]
Wooden Shjips – Volume 1 [Holy Mountain]
Pete Rock – NY’s Finest [Pinoneer]
Sao Paulo Underground – The Principle of Intrusive Relationships [Aesthetics]
GZA – Pro Tools [Babygrande]
Yo La Tengo – They Shoot We Score [Self-Released]
Boduf Songs – How Shadows Chase the Balance [Kranky]
Valet – Blood Is Clean [Kranky]

Best song released before 2008 that I heard for the first time in 2008:

Jason Molina – “No Moon On The Water” No Moon On The Water 7” [2004 promo accompanying Chunklet Magazine]

“No Moon On The Water” is as desolate as anything Molina has written, which is astonishing considering Songs: Ohia is my crutch through the darkest depressions. The bleakness of the recording is profound and is only matched by the strength of Molina’s prose: “Tie my wings behind my back. Cut out my eyes and fill them with lead. Cut off my head and put the black mules there. Trade my heart for a fire”. The raw beauty of the B-side, “In the Human World” is nearly as tremendous as “No Moon On The Water” and better than the more polished version that ended up on Magnolia Electric Co. prolific Sojourner box set.

Favorite Sonic Outings of 2008:

Kraftwerk at the Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, CO [5.11.08]

With hash joints, old friends who have worshiped Düsseldorf’s finest since before calculators and the best video production sequenced with live music I have witnessed, following a five-decade output, Kraftwerk are still profound, acute and prolific. The black and white footage of the Tour de France closely resembles the work of Leni Riefenstahl, except that Kraftwerk craft their art into an extraordinary mockery of fascism and modernism.

Nick Cave at the Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO [9.30.08]

Firstly, I’d like to mention that Warren Ellis (Dirty Three) is a complete maniac. His appearance is that of a neglected wizard, where mad science, mysticism and overgrown hair meet. On top of his outer shell is his virtuosic playing of forceful violin bows that guide the Bad Seeds through epic symphonies of horror, cacophony, and enlightenment. Nick Cave on the other hand is petite, sexy and absolutely terrifying. Cave is a true seductress; carefully dragging his victims into the darkest corners of his twisted gothic-induced mind. The evening was like an absinthe nightmare of synesthesiac proportions.

Glass Candy at Pasaje América, Cuidad de Mexico, [9.05.08]

Pasaje América is an absurd marble palace in D.F.’s (México City) Zocolo. Maroon velvet ropes keep the riffraff out and if you want to sit on one of their classy couches you must purchase an overpriced bottle of liquor. Poutie because of the posh, plush and pricey environment, I sleazed my way to Glass Candy’s sparkling booze castle where glass upon glass of Jack Daniels was poured by Johnny Jewel. It was my first American whiskey in months. In return for Jewel’s services, I had to flash a titty while they banged out their Italo-disco sexcapades; a beautifully flabby display meshed in the backdrop of fashionistas posing for cameras decked head to toe in neon tight-fitted wear with Nintendo controllers dangling from their necks like bling!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Best of 2008: Charles Ballas Top 10's

Top Ten Jazz Releases of 2008:

1. Matthew Shipp Quintet - Cosmic Suite [Not Two]
2. Orange - In The Midst of Chaos [De Stijl]
3. Guiseppi Logan Quartet - Self-Titled [ESP-Disk]
4. Conveniens - Clear [Self]
5. Paul Bley Quintet - Barrage [ESP-Disk]
6. Milford Graves Percussion Ensemble - Self-Titled [ESP-Disk]
7. Charlie Parker - Bird in Time [ESP-Disk]
8. Totem - Solar Forge [ESP-Disk]
9. Steve Reid Ensemble - Daxaar [Domino]
10. Scott Dubois - Banshees [Sunnyside Communications]

Top Ten Albums of 2008:

1. Boris - Smile [Southern Lord]
2. Yximalloo - Unpop [ESP-Disk]
3. Matthew Shipp Quartet - Cosmic Suite [Not Two]
4. Various Artists - Como Now: The Voices of Panola, Co., Mississippi [Daptone]
5. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything that Happens, Will Happen Today [Todomundo]
6. The Black Angels - Directions to See a Ghost [Light in the Attic]
7. Larkin Grimm - Poplar [Young God]
8. Steve Reid & Kieren Hebdan - NYC [Domino]
9. Various - Algerian Proto Rai Underground [Sublime Frequencies]
10. Pete M. Wyer - Stories from the City at Night [Thirsty Ear, Blue Series]

Top Ten Reissues of 2008:

1. Debris - Static Disposal [1974, Static Disposal]
2. Boscoe - Self-Titled [1971, Numero Group]
3. Giuseppe Logan Quartet - Self-Titled [1964, ESP-Disk]
4. MIJ - The Yodeling Astrologer [1965, ESP-Disk]
5. Hank Williams - The Rare and Unreleased [1954, Time Life]
6. Charlie Parker - Bird in Time [1936-46, ESP-Disk]
7. Matthew Shipp Trio - Cosmology [1998, Hatology]
8. Various Artists - ReR 25th Anniversary Compilation [1983, ReR]
9. George Coleman - Bongo Joe [1965, Arhoolie]
10. Orange - In the Midst of Chaos [1974, De Stijl]

Top Five Concerts of 2008:

Boris with Torshe at the Marquee Theater, Denver, CO [7.25.08]
Kraftwerk at the Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, CO [5.11.08]
Spiritualized at the Ogden Theater, Denver, CO [9.23.08]
Low at the Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO [7.16.08]
Radio 1190 10th Anniversary: Moonspeed at the Hi-Dive, Denver, CO [11.24.08]

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Best of 2008: Tyler Broeren's Top 12 (In no particular order)

1. Heaviness - Self-Titled [Self-Released]
2. LSD Pond - Self-Titled [Archive]
3. Boris - Smile [Southern Lord]
4. Patti Smith and Kevin Shields - The Coral Sea [Pask]
5. Current 93 - Birth Canal Blues EP [Durtro]
6. Earth - Bees Made Honey in the Lions Skull [Southern Lord]
7. Black Angels - Directions to sea a Ghost [Light in the Attic]
8. Oneida - Preteen Weaponry [Jagjaguwar]
9. Darker My Love - 2 [Dangerbird]
10. Wooden ships - Volume 1 [Holy Mountain]
11. Bardo Pond - Batholith [Three Lobed]
12. Stereolab - Chemical Chords [4AD]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Best of 2008: J Nemo's Top 10

1. Suarasama - Fajar di Atas Awan [Drag City | August 11]

The wandering vocals, simplistic melodies, drones and offset percussion mend my withering soul. Originally broadcast in 1997 by Radio France International, this collection of music is a must for students of music, vocals or the droning beat. Track 5, "Silang Bertaut Bunyi," is a mystifying puff of smokey incense, free-form vocals and repetitious droning strings. This is the music playing on Sandy Bull's transistor radio.

2. Human Bell - Human Bell [Thrill Jockey | January 29]

An atmospheric instrumental cocktail conjured up by Arboretum's Dave Heumann and Lungfish's Nathan Bell. The guitar work, drones and "quartz singing bowl" veil over you like incense at the Great Stupa. Each track is an altering experience.

3. Black Mountain - In The Future [Jagjaguwar | January 22]

Psychedelia amplitude as defined by a fraction of the Vancouver based Black Mountain Army collective. Heavy texture laden anatomy, wafting vocals and just the right mix of mood. Play it loud on the summer patio to draw in the locals for a drink or wait out a deep winter blizzard inside your headphones. If you're craving escape without the hassle of chemicals this one's the ticket. Favorite tracks: "Wucan" and "Bright Lights"

4. Neil Young - Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House [Reprise | December 2]

Old is new. Folk rocks and ROCK unplugs. Recorded at Canterbury House, November 9th, 1968. The wonderment of Neil giggles and sparkles, "I don't even know what to play," as if he's sitting crossed-legged at your kitchen table talking to YOU. I'm not sorry to say that Neil is one of my heroes. Is he a Folkie or a Hippie? A Punker? Maybe Country? He's a legend. This live acoustic release proves he's got the voice, lyrics, and skill. To top it all he's got Hank Williams' guitar. My favorite track is "I've Been Waiting For You."

5. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP [Sub Pop | April 8]

Simpatico harmonies draped seamlessly over instrumental laminations. Digital decoupage to play as you pour the wine on a first date. Keep in mind the run time is only 19 minutes, so don't daddle around. "Mykonos" stands strong, but all the tracks make the listen complete.

6. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash [Matador | March 4]

The dialogue of distorted strumming. Kibitzing, ruminating whines from a Portland alley riding a lapping wave as it thumps an effects pedal. Malkmus plays it just like you want it on his fourth release with the Jicks. Each track is a keeper.

7. Boris - Smile [Southern Lord | April 29]

Driving metal bound wah wah fuzz-fed guitars. Sound samples and Japanese lyrics. Boris is real. Anything on their albums can be done live and that is exactly what you should strive for. If you're unable to make the show Smile will do. Beware, some riffs and feedback chaos could possibly blow the cones off your speakers.

8. Paul Westerberg - 49:00 [Dry Wood | July 21]

49 cents can't get me much satisfaction these days, but a Westerberg long-run album with a single track can. My suggestion, play this 49 minute track to warm up the crowd at your daughter's wedding rehearsal dinner and croon on the vibe both youngsters and Xer's can agree. The tunes breed feel good, care-freedom while provoking lyrical wonder. Westerberg wrote all the snippets and played all the musical devices. Even so he caught legal hell from publishers wanting their CUT!!! Released as a digital download only. Pulled from the worldwide inter-web, but you may find it tucked away in some dark corner.

9. Blitzen Trapper - Furr [Sub Pop | September 23]

The production is immaculate. Quirky sounds and beats fill every corner of each track. The vocals blend smoothly with fitful guitar jams, melodic organ and biotic soundscapes of bells, whistles, steel guitar and bohemianite accents. If you're keen to exploring without travel and see vivid colorized shapes from your personalized porthole you will enjoy this release. Note worthy tracks; "Furr", "War on Machines", "Black River Killer".

10. Hank III - Damn Right Rebel Proud! [Sidewalk Records | October 21]

Hank III's 6th release rasps through lyrics like 60 grit paper, twangs at the right time, then bleeds out in a puddle of raunchy back woods punk. Throwing the finger at is his namesake's Country genre, Hank Williams III has stuck it to the man in just the right way, by proving the business chart wrong. Favorite tune: "Stoned & Alone". Watch out for F bombs.

Runner Ups:

The Black Angels - Directions To See A Ghost [Light In The Attic | May 13]

I Should of Listened to but never did:

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago [Jagjaguwar | February 19]


Boris with Michio Kurihara - [Marquis Theater | Denver, Colorado, July 25]