His new album has not been officially been released yet, and yet people are doing covers from it. I speak of Justin Bieber‘s new album Believe, and Ella Rust has done a new version of “Thought Of You”. Does it work? You tell me.
A new John Zorn album brings a lot of excitement, anxiety, anticipation, and curiosity, because he has done so much, writes so often, and can cover everything from country and folk to holiday music and twisted jazz. For diehard fans, it’s not a surprise that an album with Zorn’s name may have little to no actual Zorn musical contributions, other than the songs being performed, and that’s the case here. For Templars: In Sacred Blood (Tzadik), Zorn has brought together Joey Baron (drums), Trevor Dunn (bass), John Medeski (organ), and Mike Patton (vocals) for an adventure that is described on Tzadik’s website as being a “testament-tribute to the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, the legendary crusading Warrior-Monks whose 200-year rise to power ended abruptly in 1307 under accusations of heresy.” It’s religious, it’s spiritual, it’s a folk tale, it’s history, but it becomes a twisted adventure when you put this material in the hands of Zorn, Patton, Medeski, Dunn, and Baron. All of this would make for a fairly wicked gothic film about the history of their crusades, as the music has all of the drama and power of the words being described, although in a way where you imagine Patton becoming each person/character, in his own unique way. The sacred is something Zorn has always used in his music, and what Medeski does by creating sounds perfect for churches and castles will give a few chills up the spine. Some of it, like the groove in “Murder Of The Magicians”, could be adapted for a police crime TV show or film, but knowing how these musicians work individually and with one another, you don’t know when the sacred will mix with hatred will mix with metal will mix with jazz will mix with classical.
While one doesn’t have to follow the script of the album in a processing fashion, it should be listened to the way it was created/intended for full impact. This album proves to me once again why Patton is one of the greatest vocalists of the last 25 years, and why Medeski can do no wrong with any of the projects he has done in the last two decades. Dunn and Baron work great together and to add this to their already exhaustive discography will make their fans quite happy. It may seem like Zorn works without limits, but within the limitations he may create for each project comes the knowledge that he has created a piece of work that will be examined and explored for years to come.
In terms of private press albums, one of the more trippy and arguably bizarre records to surface to a wider audience in the last decade is the work of Father Yod. James Edward Baker was looking for spiritual enlightenment throughout his life, and in time he would create his own spiritual commune, where he would change his name to Father Yod. Some called it a hippie cult, others felt it was just a gathering place for people to think openly, but people panicked because they felt he might be the next Charles Manson and kill everyone who chose to believe in him. He had no urge to kill, he simply wanted people to celebrate life through spirituality and love each other as freely as possible.
Like Manson, Father Yod (or YaHoWha) had a love for music. In Yod’s face, he had a love for different styles of rock, including garage and psychedelic, and he would record countless albums at his commune and was able to sell them at his center and various spots throughout Los Angeles, including a vegetarian/vegan restaurant he created. These albums are pretty adventurous in their own right, and some of it resulted in a massive 13 CD box set that showed what Yod was about.
The Thought Adjusters (Drag City) features Father Yod and The Source Family performing the songs as Yod sang about his beliefs and outloook on life. As he sings in “The Goddess Earth (All My Sons Are Jesus)”, “hook up with me and everything;s gonna be alright/hook up with me, you’ll see that… it’s out of sight!”, and as simple (and perhaps foolish) as that might sound to some, it was his way of saying “you have the privilege of seeing, now don’t be afraid to look elsewhere.” He did tell his followers about the possible end times, or at least the end of a level of control that perhaps will turn into a new train of thought, a reawakening/renewal of sorts. On the surface, these were a bunch of hippies who loved to rock out, and in these live recordings (all of which sound like they were recorded onto cassette or a home reel-to-reel recorder) you can sometimes hear what sounds like kids or young women just giggling at random spots. Are they listening to Father Yod’s words and music, or just minding their own business?
The music here sounds no different than a lot of the psychedelic tinged rock of the late 60′s and early 70′s, and The Thought Adjusters are just as trippy as groups, songs, and albums that sold a lot more copies than this did. But Father Yod & The Source Family had a mission they felt strongly about, so the songs here are no different than other devotional music. In this case, this is a lot more joyous and fun than other religious records that tend to fill up countless thrift store record bins over time.
Sam Chown is one half of the duo Zorch, but with him making music as Shmu, fans are going to discover additional aspects of his already developed sound. Perhaps fans will say “I already knew this was in him, I was just waiting for the rest of the world to get it.”
Chown’s debut album as Shmu is called Discipline/Communication (Grand Theft Zamboni), and as a musician/singer/songwriter who is self-contained, he has no one to blame but himself, but I also have to blame him for making a damn good set of songs. As I’m listening to this, it reminds me of the kind of music one might hear in a surf movie or video, or in that sub-genre known as “stoner surf”. Some songs like “Happiness” is acoustic with a drum machine going on, so it’s lo-fi electro funk that may or may not have been recorded over a Dan Fogelberg 8-track over. Then you have stuff that is very indie rock-friendly, and a few minutes later, there’s a bit of electronica/IDM. I’m thinking how cool this is to come from one person, and that he can easily create something that has a California vibe while other songs have the feel of a California basement with the stench of discarded burritos and ass. Then in a track like “&hearts” (free download), he samples himself and chops if off, as if he agreed for Jan Jelinek or BVDUB to remix his work.
In a twisted way, this is not too far from the first Foo Fighters album, which was Dave Grohl playing everything because he could. Here, Shmu puts together these sounds that can fit any and all moods, so if you want something abstract like a BBC library album from Delia Derbyshire (listen to “Floatin’ Oculus” for the reference), you can have that. If you want some alterna- rock madness, you have “Dangerous Passion“. If you like your music varied, going anywhere and everywhere (sometimes all at once), Discipline/Communication is your album.
There’s a portion of modern hip-hop that reflects on the music made 20 years ago, but sometimes it captures only an element of what was originally felt. Back then, it was about being forward thinking while honoring the music of the past, along with family and friends. The Other Guys seem to get all of these elements and deliver an exceptional album called Joe & Insanante’s Excellent LP (Fearless Music).
What I find exceptional about this album is that lyrically, they bring their confidence and experience to the table but also a bit of uncertaintly and nerves, which I feel brings their music closer to the listener who also feels the same way. Sure, everyone wants to live the good life and be able to make millions from selling cocaine and bacon, but the real world for most is what they see outside of their front door and when they look in the mirror. They speak about going to college but also about meeting up with failure without fear, so yes, being The Other Guys is very much about talking of “other” things that aren’t part of today’s hip-hop norm but should be. It’s stories both positive and sometimes tragic, but we take the good and the bad and we thus have the fact of life.
On the production side, this could easily measure up alongside Pete Rock, King Shameek, and DJ Pooh where the soul and funk is there but the sample use is done tastefully. Some of the tracks sound like raw demos, as if they went into a basement, borrowed someone’s recording gear and said “hey, this is what we have, let’s just do this.” There are certain spoken word samples that come off too loud into the mix and while I might frown upon that in normal circumstances, here I don’t. It could be a demo or at least has that demo feel, as if I lived in a neighborhood with great MC’s and producers on my block, or I went to the good part of down that everyone hates, but I know I can find some awesome music there. That’s The Other Guys. This album works for me because while it has that classic feel I enjoy, it sounds like now and isn’t solely stuck in another era just to be retro. Music is timeless, and so will be these songs.
Fun hip-hop has not gone the way of the edible walrus, and Animal Nation knows that fun hip-hop can still be good with their brand new EP, The Basement Tapes Vol. 1 (URBNET), but by no means is this music meant to be tossed off as unimportant. If you want tracks about hanging out in the club and smelling stagnant air filled with the stench of farts, go elsewhere. If you want hip-hop that is about the experience of living and hearing it done in a spirited way, Animal Nation know the deal. They are a mixture of real instrumentation and samples, so they could be a reflection of the acid jazz movement but that term may make people think they’re dated, but they’re not. I could easily imagine these guys doing well as music festivals and touring with groups like Katchafire and Malanguats, and it is that organic vibe that shows that what makes a difference in music is when you not only give it a heartbeat, but when the artist put their hearts into it too.
greencarpetstairs (Fake Four, Inc.) is a brand new album by greencarpetstairs, the nom de plume for artist Neil Ewing, whose brand of electronic music is pop friendly yet very intense in sound and feel. The album sounds like someone who understands how to create and very much into himself and the sounds, but there is also a willingness to share what’s inside in order to bring that to anyone with an open ear. Imagine elements of nine inch nails, Timbaland, Tyler, The Creator, N*E*R*D and Justin Timberlake joining together at a kegger, but staying away from everyone else and keeping themselves stuck in a room for the sake of making damn good music. All of their best elements can be heard on greencarpetstairs. I would call it eccentric pop, because each of these songs could be massive hits if he were to go down that route, but how he makes them sound would probably not get him on The Real Housewives Of Denver. It is that eclectic side, that “something different” that makes him interesting listen. There’s a bit of abstract clicks, bleeps and bloops that make you feel comfortable, the reverb of his vocals, and then his own harmonies come in. It’s a world of loons gathering in one place, and they end up in the corner of a room jamming on the one. This is a representation of that “one”.
When your band name is Coffins, your album is called Sewage Sludgecore Treatment and your album cover is an illustration of someone screaming as their body decays, you’re not going to give metal fans Katy Perry covers. However, considering that this EP is indeed differnet covers, I could probably imagine these guys treating Perry’s music with disgusting justice.
Coffins cover songs by some of their favorite bands, and it’s nice to hear new interpretations of celebrated underground classics. The EP begins with their take on Buzzov•en‘s “Broken”, and I’m sure Kirk Fisher would be proud of this one. Their version of Eyehategod‘s “Sister Fucker Part I” is explored two ways: studio and live versions, and I love the bluesy Black Sabbath vibe in their rendition, and its groove is probably due to Eyehategod’s own roots of New Orleans. The EP also features covers of Iron Monkey‘s “Black Aspirin”, Grief‘s “I Hate You”, and a very short attack of Noothgrush‘s “Evazan”, but the brutal grind of “I Hate You”, stretched out to over seven minutes, justifies things.
In the mail I received what I assumed was a promo for a new Lou Ragland box set on Numero Group and I was excited to hear it. Unfortunately, it was an 11-song sampler for a 34-song box, so I can only do my review based on those 11 songs. Ragland was a representative of Cleveland’s music scene and produced an incredible amount of music in what is a short amount of time. I Travel Alone represents the path he set with a some incredible music, reanging from the narrow stereo mixes of Hot Chocolate to the solid funk of Wildfire and “Tend To Your Business”.
The rest, I can’t tell you about because I don’t know what the other songs sound like, so you have to buy this box based on my paragraph above.
Restorations is the kind of band that makes music that sounds like life is worth living. This is notable in a brand new single they’ve done for the Tiny Engines label, with songs that are simply called “A” (representing the A-side) and “B” (its flip). “A” sounds like something you might find easily on the kind of radio with the just right amount of hooks to make people sing but with the perfect amount of distorted angst that will make people go “oh, what is this?” But the more adventurous song is on the flip, thus the B-side wins again. “B” goes on for a little over six minutes, and they’re not afraid of trying to limit themselves for a hit format. In fact, that idea is thrown out by the half way point where the band turn up the amps and out comes a wicked guitar solo that sounds almost influenced by Indian classical music, or at least its reverb helps to add a distant-yet-near vibe that makes me wish it lasted for another minute or so, I loved it that much. It sounds like freedom, and it feels good.
Once again, these songs feel like it could save someone’s life.