Anthony Braxton’s 12+1tet


A couple of weeks ago I found myself in the massive Amoeba Records in San Fransisco and picked up lots of good stuff. So far the highlight has been Anthony Braxton’s latest release: 12+1tet. A review from The Squid’s Ear just about says it all:

On his second live disc with this group of musicians, composer and reeds master Anthony Braxton, one of the pillars of the art of free jazz, performs his ebullient epic composition No. 361, a 70 minute tour de force that packs so much of a punch that the time just seems to fly by.

Braxton fans are treated to a mature work that is a summation, in a way, of most of Braxton’s musical concerns: the play between form and free improv, the mixing of timbres, the exploration of pulse fluctuations, the variations of density and the personality that each instrument and each instrumentalist brings to the aforementioned. For new listeners, this is as good a place to start as any, perhaps better, since this is the work of a musical mind at the height of his powers, who arrives with decades of musical exploration behind him, but who has still lots of creative juice. A doyen of the jazz tradition (even though some of his critics have placed him outside of jazz and Braxton himself avoids the label) the composer is joined by 12 people who understand and share his musical vision and who are, for the most part, long-time collaborators, resulting in, as the liner notes put it, “an amalgamation of musicians fully stepped in his oeuvre.”

Read the full review at The Squid’s Ear.

The Passion of Karlheinz Stockhausen


“I view my entire life, my entire work, in such a way as to ask myself: “How, as you become older do you set about integrating everything that has previously happened?”  –Karlheniz Stockhausen

This month’s Art Forum has a nice feature remembering the work of Stockhausen:

When Stockhausen died on December 5, 2007, at his home in Kürten, Germany, his fame as a composer of startlingly original and uncompromising music—whether groundbreaking experiments in electronic sound, innovative manipulations of traditional instrumentation, or unorthodox approaches to the human voice—had long since peaked, and his work was perhaps spoken of more eagerly than it was performed. Moreover, his reputation had been irremediably if unfairly sullied by an oft-repeated comment he made at a press conference only days after September 11, 2001, calling the terrorist attacks “the greatest work of art” ever. Concerned that Stockhausen’s death was, as a consequence, largely remarked as a cultural curiosity, and seeking to offer a corrective, we turned to a diverse group with deep ties to his work: composers Robin Maconie, La Monte Young, Morton Subotnick, and Maryanne Amacher (all but one of whom attended Stockhausen’s famous seminar in Darmstadt); violinist Irvine Arditti and pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard (two important champions of the work of contemporary composers); and alternative singer-songwriter Björk. Together they reflect on the musical legacy of a man who must, by any accounting, figure among the most influential composers of the postwar era. Maconie, Subotnick, and Björk’s pieces appear below. For the rest, pick up the March issue of Artforum. Continue reading

1960’s Cambodian Pop, Now: Dengue Fever

dengue300.jpgNPR’s All Things Considered had a nice review yesterday of Dengue Fever’s latest album, Venus on Earth. I’ve pasted the review below and you can listen to the original broadcast as well as sample tracks from the new album here.

Some of today’s best world music acts spring from the discovery of an obscure passion. For brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman, it was 1960s Cambodian pop music — Khmer tunes at once delicate and brash, with a carefree innocence haunted by a sense of lingering menace.

Living in Los Angeles with its large Cambodian community, the Holtzmans and their American cohorts were able to recruit an exceptionally talented lead singer, Chhom Nimol. And in 2001, Dengue Fever was born.

The group started out by covering songs that had inspired them, but the tracks on Venus on Earth are all original compositions. They veer between Khmer pop, film noir soundtrack, surf rock and folky, teenybopper hit parade fare, right out of the late ’60s.

Venus on Earth finds Chhom Nimol singing more songs in English, in duo with Zac Holtzman. But for my money, Dengue Fever really hit their stride when they rock out and let Nimol lay into quirky, melodramatic Khmer melodies.

Venus on Earth is more spare, and maybe a little less wild, than Dengue Fever’s breakout album, Escape from Dragon House. This time around there’s room for teenage angst, and even introspective balladry.

There is a thread that runs through the ’60s pop that inspired those old Khmer rockers, and it continues right on in Dengue Fever’s eclectic work. The songs are simple, the hooks strong, the arrangements clever and fun. And that’s the stuff that make us fall in love with pop songs, regardless of genre, era or language.

Man-Child Reality Television: A Perverse Form of Entertainment

loser-brett.jpgThose of you that came across our humble blog hoping for (1) a creepy pro-NAMBLA tirade and/or (2) a review of Herbie Hancock’s excellent album Man-Child will be very disappointed. Readers, over the weekend I found myself hung over and in desperate need of mindless drivel on TV. Of course, anyone in search of mindless drivel should turn on cable television, so naturally I found myself watching several reality shows on VH1, all of which had, as a common denominator, two things: (1) fourth tier “celebrity” men acting like (2) man-children.

First, I witnessed Rock of Love with late 1980s tight leather pants, possible drag queen, hair themed band Poison, featuring Brett Michaels. Poor Brett, he just wants to find a woman who can “dig” him for who he is. Come on, he wants nothing but a good time. So, in order to find such a “score” he gets a bunch of women to live in a house together with him and humiliate themselves in a variety of ways, whether working as a team to put together a motorcycle for Brett or posing in various positions for Brett while he takes snapshots in an effort to satisfy his adolescent fantasies. To what ends, you may ask? Well, competing for different prizes, such as “one on one” time with Brett, either on a date, or on alone in his room for a conjugal visit it would seem. At the end of the show, Brett pathetically hands out “back stage passes” via his hulking bodyguard and asks, “Will you accept this backstage pass and continue to rock my world?” Ack. Continue reading

From God’s colon…



A friend of mine, Bay Area artists Lucas Murgida, sent this little story in an email to me and I just had to share:

Imagine this. There is a man that is quite profound. Often he is told how moving his actions are and that people find great comfort in his words. To this he responds, “Its not me. It’s god moving thru me.” This makes most people flush and coo with praises of his gentle modesty. Tragically no one ever truly listens to what he is exactly saying. One day he meets someone that might just understand him. She says, “Your words resonate in me with deep truth.” To this he replies, “Its not me, its God moving thru me.” She says, “You are so modest, and that is why your life is so important.” To this he replies, “No, you are not hearing me. God is moving thru me…kind of like a bowel movement.” He sighs deeply and confesses, “I am in fact gods asshole.” “What??!!” She exclaims. “Through some inter-dimensional rip in space time gods colon has become directly linked to my body. For the past 10 years when he shits the world listens and my body is the conduit,” he says. She replies, “That’s fucking gross.” He says, “I know, but take comfort in the fact that though God’s shit is profound, it still stinks like mine or yours. Don’t come to close as my breath is horrific, like I have been deep throating a homeless mans foot.” He walks away into the sunset leaving the shocked women behind. Relieved of his secret burden he feels renewed and begins his quest to spread gods shit throughout the entire world.

Monday Mid-Afternoon Malkmus Links with Tune


Look for a new album from ex-Pavement member Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks due March 4 titled Real Emotional Trash. It will feature for the first time, a new drummer-Sleater-Kinney/Quasi drummer Janet Weiss, who replaced John Moen in the group earlier this year. They also plan to tour behind the ten track release, sometime in the Spring. Pre-order from here and get free stuff! Read more about it, see the track list and sample tunes here.

In the meantime, here’s Anthony Braxton doing his thing at the Iridium in NYC last Spring with a contra bass sax: Continue reading

Charles Gayle: Touchin’ on Trane


Charles Gayle has a newly available now more affordable (re)release on the Jazzwerkstatt label–Touchin’ On Trane–with the always fine William Parker (double bass) and the great Rashied Ali (drums). Here’s the description from the label:

This is Charles Gayle’s most accessible work. Gayle’s mastery of free jazz is blended with a more traditional compositional style of jazz on this disc. Touchin’ on Trane is composed of five original songs, and even includes ex-Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali. As the title insists, Coltrane is the influence for the music on this disc. The influence ranges from the upbeat tempo of “Giant Steps” in “Part A,” while “Part D” is reminiscent of Coltrane’s “Live in Japan” performances. Gayle, bassist William Parker, and Ali don’t copy Coltrane, but rather expand on his accomplishments. Without covering any songs, Touchin’ on Trane is the greatest John Coltrane tribute album.

Jazzwerkstatt has a number of free downloads and some excellent podcasts here. In other exciting news, Anthony Braxton’s latest release 12+1tet looks good, for info and samples, see here. Finally, if you were like me and couldn’t make it to a local screening of the limited release documentary My Name is Albert Ayler, it will be available to purchase soon here.  For more Charles Gayle, here’s a clip from a performance last year featuring Gayle with Hilliard Green and Klaus Kugel: Continue reading