Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

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2010 Rocks

May 26, 2010

So, folks, it’s been just about a month since I last gave a big summary of my favorite albums of Q1 of 2010, and I’ve already heard a slew of new, awesome music. 2010 has been an incredible year for music so far, and here’s some more great albums.

I’ve provided youtube samples, but do know that their sound quality is going to be a lot lower than the actual recordings. I’d really recommend getting the albums if you like what you hear.

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Clubroot - II:MMX

I admit to not being an ardent follower of dubstep in general, though I do dip into the genre on occasion. Anyone who knows me knows that I pretty much listen to Burial every day of my life, and I got pretty excited about the Luvstep mix earlier this year, and hell, I would just about never turn the stuff off if I ever heard it on the radio (never have). So I’m not beyond getting excited about a good dubstep release, and this new album by Dan Richmond, known as Clubroot, might be the prime example of the second most intelligent dubstep producer that I’ve heard (all due respect to those I haven’t). Clubroot’s sound is slow, deliberate and contemplative, and creates one hell of an aural environment of atmospheric dubstep; echoing synths and string samples hover in the air over visceral and subtly groovy dubstep beats. The result are melancholy mood pieces, and though they take a while to develop, once your ears are attuned to them it is easy to get addicted. The first Clubroot album last year was tasty, but II:MMX takes the style to the next level with cleaner production and more memorable melodies. No one is going to pretend that Dan Richmond is trying to push things forward half as much as William Bevan, but we’re still all the better for his excursions.

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LM1 - Blue Mountain EP

I’ll preface my next recommendation with yet another claim of ignorance; I may not know drum ‘n bass in and out, but I know good drum ‘n bass when I hear it. The Blue Mountain EP by LM1 is such music, energizing and completely smart. LM1 is the work of Allan Cowie, and it’s apparent that he is the master of the breakbeat. The beats themselves are propulsive but in no way intrusive, and the atmospheric touches he brings to his songs do a lot with a little. Ambient flourishes give the tracks on this EP a lot of volume. Particularly, the title track matches its title and creates a vast, expansive sound world with ambient textures. The other tracks are just as strong, slowly developing but fast moving ear candy for electronic fans. The big question: where did this come from? Well, it turns out LM1 is the founder and owner of Offworld Recordings, which he created after releasing a string of recordings on other record labels. Offworld already has four releases from a multitude of artists, and it turns out they rule too. The Blue Mountain EP has blown the top off of this exciting new project, and you can be sure that we’ll have coverage on all of it soon. In the meantime, go here for more information as well as an Offworld showcase, which indicates that this is truly the new revival of drum ‘n bass.

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Sleigh Bells - Treats

How old am I again? Well I feel like I’m about fifty five, scowling at legions of young music aficionados about how despite the fact that there is a lot of cool stuff going on in music at the dawn of this new decade, the fact stands that rock music just isn’t cool anymore and these kids don’t know what they’re missing. Sleigh Bells’ music may still be pop at its heart, but it rejuvenates the lost concept that it’s really cool to be really fucking loud. And loud Treats is. Blisteringly loud. The guitars cut like razors and their drums sound like running giants. The volume is going to be the first thing most anyone notices about the vast majority of these songs, but like Psychocandy before it, the noise encases a really down to earth pop album. The heart of this concept is heard most apparently on the sublimely jangly “Rill Rill,” which is Treats‘ most obvious accomplishment because it lacks the sheer volume that the rest of the tracks have. It’s slightly distorted and rough around the edges, but above all else it’s delicious pop music. The keystone of the album, it makes the other tracks seem less violent and more good-natured. You can tell “Crown on the Ground” wants to be on Kid’s Bop, but it got rejected because it had tourettes. “Tell ‘Em” was to be a high school fight song, but it got mangleded in a car accident. They’re fractured pop songs that you can more than relate to and side with, because despite the fact that they will destroy your cochleae, they just sound right.

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Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Steven Ellison, known as Flying Lotus, made one of the best records of 2008, Los Angeles. It is just a fact, and one that I have taken a few years to come to grips with and fully appreciate. In electronic music, it’s easy to see Flying Lotus becoming an important figure, and so it’s easy to see a new FlyLo album as an important occurrence. Cosmogramma pulls together an environment as rich in style as Los Angeles, with many notable aspects: Lots of live instrumentation, strong jazz elements, strings and harps, and a sense of mysticism. Also notable: while many of Los Angeles’ beats trailed behind bars by fractions of seconds, on Cosmogramma those beats lead the measures at a similarly minute speed, which makes for an album that is fully excited and running at a high speed but never trips over itself, because it is in the hands of a master. And as usual, there is a slew of sounds here that you would never find anywhere else. Describing those moments are almost impossible, but they stand for themselves; the super high frequency “Nose Art,” the free jazz experimental “Arkestry,” the awesome collaboration with Thom York on “…And the World Laughs With You,” and the heavy “Recoiled” are just a few such highlights, but they by no means stop there. This is yet another truly important electronic record from an artist with incredible talent. The future of music clearly lies with this man, and with that said, the future always seems to be bright.

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Autechre - Oversteps

Electronic producers Rob Brown and Sean Booth have been making music as Autechre for about twenty years now, and their new album Oversteps is their tenth. Throughout their flabbergasting career arc, they have invented, reinvented and refined not only their sound but contemporary progressive electronic music as a whole. Anyone who knows albums like Tri Repetae and LP5 know that a new Autechre album means a whole new world of sound, and Oversteps is no exception. The album is filled with jittery, mysterious productions, and it shows the group at their most melodic state since 1998’s LP5 (with the exception of several moments on 2008’s great Quaristice). A lot of times, and as is certainly the case for Oversteps, Autechre songs have sleeper qualities, puzzling at first and then later sinking in for heavy thinking. It stands that being an Autechre fan is incredibly awarding. In their ten album and twelve EP (give or take) career, they have crafted just about every song into its own sonic world, and with each album have built unshakable statements. Oversteps initially feels like a strong, logical progression. It’s possible that if it is given time, the yeast will rise and it will stand even taller. But what’s even more exciting and puzzling than these tracks is that Autechre are set to release another album this year. Move of Ten is due out on July 12, and a quick examination of the cover art certainly makes me surmise that the new album may be a companion piece to Oversteps. What that means is that we may still only have part of the full picture here, and thus Oversteps as well as Move of Ten may have new developments to explore.

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The National - High Violet

I have missed The National’s live show twice. I traded their show at Lollapalooza 2008 for a good spot at Nine Inch Nails, and their show at Pitchfork last year for a set from The Black Lips. At the time I wasn’t sad about having to make those choices at all. The National were always a band that were pleasant enough, had a specific style that I’m sometimes in the mood for, and made a handful of really cool songs that I liked a lot. But the fact stood that The National, in general, just bored me. It’s only now that High Violet has come out that I’m finally kicking myself for missing them and really getting excited about seeing them at Lollapalooza this year. Don’t get me wrong – the National have always been a good band, but High Violet really brings them above and beyond. A lot of these tracks are immediate National classics. The excellent first single “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” with its dramatic lyrics and melancholy atmosphere that the band are known for, only scrapes the surface of this album’s highlights. “Sorrow,” “Anyone’s Ghost” and “England” in particular show the band locking in and delivering some of their most savory, melodic moments on any of their five albums. High Violet is the work of a band that has had years to build, refine and experiment with their sound. Admittedly, High Violet and it’s overall sound are very similar stylistically to what The National has done before with such successful albums as Alligator and Boxer, but if you’re into this band, this may be their best album yet.

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Off This Century – My Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

December 25, 2009
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Stanley Clarke – School Days

August 31, 2006


I have decided that I will no longer rate albums. I find the process disrespectful and overly difficult for how little a number really means. I’m thinking I will probably just take down the ratings for all the other albums too. I could tell you that I want to give Joe Schmoe a 7.6/10 and that would be it. You’d skip the rest. If you really want to know what I think of an album, just read the damn review and be on with it. Besides, how respectful is it to give an artist a rating for something anyway? Yeah, you got a 7.6/10. Coulda done better. If I was Joe Schmo, I would give me a big beautiful FUCK YOU to keep in my pocket for a few days.

Anyway, Stanley Clarke is a very skilled jazz bassist from the ’70s who has apparently made a shitload of albums. The way I see it, the skill of a bassist is a little more apparent than that of a guitar player. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a ton more talent to play the guitar well than to play the bass well. But guitar players are out in front. Their job is to do wheelies and elaborate solos and other cool stuff. But then again, there are a lot of guitar riffs and licks that sound harder to do than they really are. With a bass player, when you hear something cool, that’s it. It IS cool. You can differentiate much better with bass players. So when I was listening to this thinking, “hmm, I wonder if this guy is actually very technically skilled with a bass…”, my question was answered pretty quickly.

Stanley Clarke achieves the goals that all bass players pursue. Technical skill and soloing ability are two of these such goals, and Mr. Clarke nails them very well. It should be noted that the man plays some mean slap all over the place. And he is very technically skilled in general, but really, what is amazing about this album is the mans all around proficiency in music theory and soloing. He mostly plays different kinds of bass guitars drifting into the piano and rhythm categories every once and a while, but his band is clearly also awesome. The Dancer is the track that really sticks out. The bass riff is constant and almost never changing. And yet a beautiful swirl of solos and rhythm is built flawlessly around it. To be honest, it reminds me of Santana in some ways, especially the solo bits that are on the very high octaves. But the wealth here is clearly spread out more. You will have solos on piccolo basses, guitars, synthesizers, and more.

What struck me first though, is Stanley Clarkes knack for expanding on simple tunes. The song School Days is a pretty specific riff that almost doesn’t seem to leave much room for expansion, but although it lasts through the entire song, it develops so much that you forget how simply the song started out. And it develops too, into a much more funky slap line with some crazy keyboards. And then he goes on with some pretty cool but admirably controlled soloing. The mood of all this music, by the way, is very laid back. You can tell it was written in the seventies. It has an immediate seventies groove to it, but a lot of that is actually due to the bass itself, which is very inately slappy and funky.
The album, even though it really only has six songs, still has some more moody pieces. Quiet Afternoon is exactly what the name implies, a mellow tune with a great hook that fits the environment for a lazy Saturday morning (which for many people probably is in the afternoon), and the tempo is pretty reserved too. It’s just right for this type of song, which heavily relies on lots of soloing, once again. And I know I said it before, but I really think I have to emphasize this. Soloing isn’t all about doing crazy wheelies and shit. This is flat out amazing soloing, and while the sound is really great, it doesn’t have to be fast. The synthesizer and bass solos here work out great while keeping slower and lazier. Desert Song is also not to be forgotten either. It is a completely accoustic and relatively eastern sounding ballad. Here he uses an accoustic bass, which works much better with the eastern style. It’s the most relaxing song on the album, and an admirable soloing venture on it’s own. The mood is not only relaxed, but contemplative and satisfied.

The album ends with a few party tunes, the first of which is a three minute quick funky tune. But the albums nearly ten minute adventure is truly the highlight of the album. Truly pulling in some orchestral sounding keyboards and some other horns maybe, this song is really the most interesting, and the perfect conclusion to the typical day in the life of a youth who just wants to have fun. And the soloing, oh holy shit the soloing… If the other songs made a point to make a little go a long way, this makes a lot go ten times farther. The man really shows his skill here, and not just in making a great progressive jazz masterwork, but also in sheer bass playing ability.

If you ever wanted cool “groovy” music from the seventies, please to god go with this. And if you want to hear some truly impressive bass playing too, or just like jazz in general, you will really want to pick this up.