Saturday, December 27, 2008

C-Rayz Waltz - Ravipops (2003)

While he touches upon the same socially conscious topics labelmate Mr. Lif
[1] does, C-Rayz Walz comes from a refreshingly more personal and humble
angle. Family, home life, and the day-to-day struggle are topics that show up
on /Ravipops/, an album title that represents Walz's status as father to the
newborn Ravi and a new alias for the rapper. A corrupt and oppressive world
has often been a topic for underground rap; seeing it through the less
self-centered eyes of a father is what gives the album its allure and makes
Walz seem all the more genuine. Don't think Walz has bought his Cosby [2]
sweater and clamped down. He boasts, sings the praises of weed, and cusses
all over the album, and his distaste for the status quo is obvious.


The Cool Kids - Bake Sale (2008)

Despite reams of online hype and commercial anticipation, the release of the
Cool Kids' debut EP still radiated sonic excitement, a blast at once sharp,
funny, and intimate. Here, after all, is a triumph of absolute aestheticism.
The name fulfills itself, not just in that these kids do seem pretty cool
(all 16-bit name-drops and shoe talk), but because musically each moment
— each immaculately chosen drum hit, each spare sci-fi sonic
embellishment, each depth-charge punch line — is precision-placed for
maximum efficacy. Which is to say, though the point may be a bit moot,
maximum coolness.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

James White & The Blacks - Off White (1979)

For /Off White/, *James Chance*, a veteran of New York's avant-garde no wave
scene, recast his seminal band *the Contortions* as a parody of a soul band,
albeit one incorporating the rhythms of disco and funk rather than R&B. Thus,
Chance became James White (as a nod to James Brown), the Contortions became
the Blacks, and his music, previously a twisted, experimental brand of
avant-jazz, became a disco/funk/free jazz hybrid. As bizarre as the fusion of
*Albert Ayler* and *Giorgio Moroder* might sound, /Off White/ works primarily
because Chance commits to both sides of the music. The disco rhythms,
especially on /"Almost Black, Pt./

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

VA - Buenos Aires Late (2008)

In lieu of a post card, here's a little musical greeting from my current
place of residence, Buenos Aires. This compilation by Random Records
features the usual suspects of the vibrant electronic tango scene, Gotan
Project, Tanghetto, and Otros Aires, as well as some more unusual remixes.
While electronic tango as a genre has become more accesible over the years
and moved from the clubs to background music in restaurants and clothing
boutiques (similar to the Nouvelle Vague phenomenon), this heavily remixed
compilation has some bite to it and is thoroughly grounded in dub.
Recommended not just for newcomers to the genre, but also those who enjoyed
the early Gotan Project remixes and have been left disappointed by the
watered down releases since.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mecca Normal - Dovetail (1992)

One of the lesser known albums of the Canadian duo *David Lester* and *Jean
Smith*, but probably my favorite. Lester is at his best here, with artfully
improvised distorted guitar work, accompanied by Smith's trademark voice that
somehow manages to be both harsh and sweet at the same time. There are quite
a few Mecca Normal albums that become boring after a few minutes for the lack
of variety, but this album is short and entertaining. If you have a single
guitar and vocals it's hard to find the sweet spot between too avantgarde and
too folky, but Mecca Normal hit it perfectly.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crispy Ambulance - The Plateau Phase (1982)

Originally released by /Factory Records/ in 1982, this 1999 re-issue adds the
1981 two track EP, "Live On A Hot August Night", which incidentally is not
live at all, and the decidedly improvised single "Sexus". This ambitious and
sometimes hypnotic collection of music is one of the finer early 80's
post-punk albums, though it is certainly more difficult to get into than many
of its peers, partially due to the long songs (many of which are
instrumental) and experimentation.  It really takes a couple listens and the
proper mood for the whole album to unfold and start making sense.  It has
been fairly common to compare the music itself to some early *Public Image
Limited*, but Crispy Ambulance was really doing their own thing.  I would
however, classify this along with PiL as "experimental" post-punk, not for
those with a short attention span or narrow-mind.

Buzzcocks - Spiral Scratch EP (1977)

One of the very first UK punk albums, the Buzzcocks' /Spiral Scratch/ is
also one of the best. Four songs in ten minutes, played at full speed and
releasing the full venom of Devoto's sneery vocals onto an unsuspecting
public, their debut EP instantly changed the landscape, influencing countless
other bands in the process. Yes, the Sex Pistols came slightly before them,
but the difference between the two bands is obvious; where the Sex Pistols
were out to shock to draw attention to their political message, the Buzzcocks
channeled that energy into accessible pop songs, arguably inventing the
pop-punk genre which wasn't picked up again until much later, and in a rather
watered down, overproduced fashion.

This EP includes the two Buzzcocks classics, /Breakdown /and /Boredom/, and
is a must for fans of 1977 UK punk. It's a mere 10mb, so unless you already
own this piece of history there's really no excuse not to download this.

Black Randy & The Metrosquad - Pass the Dust, I Think I'm Bowie (1980)

Black Randy and his Metrosquad were a supergroup of the Hollywood punk era:
the line up included members of the *Randoms*, *Eyes *and *the Dils* as well
as one of the other founding partners of *Dangerhouse*, *David Browne*.
Musically, they were nothing like the hard-fast-loud sound of punk- if
anything they were a '60's Soul/*James Brown* style funk/soul band that
played rather fast. They also had echoes of early *Blondie *and *the Who*,
with there tough and tight rock and roll. They were a funny band, a joke band
in the sense that humor was key to understanding what they were about. The
bands' music, with its circus-like Woolsworth *Doors *organ vibe, played the
collective straight man to Black Randy's drunken, buffoonish, drawling,
sneering voice.

Friday, November 21, 2008

John Frusciante - Smile from the Streets You Hold (1997)

Those who felt that Niandra Lades [1] demonstrated most of all that John
Frusciante seemed to be going over the edge likely thought their suspicions
confirmed when /Smile From the Streets You Hold/ quietly appeared on the
Birdman label in 1997. However, it's not so much an album as it is a
collection of tracks from all over the place, though absolutely nothing about
the packaging or liner notes indicates that. At least one cut, the odd
semi-goth "A Fall Through the Ground," was recorded in 1988, while others
were finished the year of the record's release. Frusciante later confirmed
that in 1997 he was still in the grips of a nasty heroin addiction that he
has since kicked, and backhandedly dismissed the release as being done pretty
much for drug money.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Golden Palominos - Visions of Excess (1985)

The first in a long series of about-faces and left turns, /Visions of Excess/
forgoes the noise-funk of the Golden Palominos' debut in favor of more
pop-oriented material and staggering lineup of underground luminaries.