Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's New?: 7.6.2011

More assortments of musical smorgasbord. . .

Kenny Wheeler — Gnu High (1975)

I've never been aware of Kenny Wheeler before, but as this is a quartet album, I was immediately interested upon seeing it because the rest of the band consists of Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. It's only three tracks and all compositions belong to Kenny, but my main interest in this set is the backing band, as I believe it was the first pairing of Keith Jarrett's now-famous trio (the only other meeting I'm aware of in the 70's was 1977's Tales of Another led by Gary Peacock — though erroneously credited to Jack DeJohnette in that link). The music on this session is definitely more relaxed and casually enjoyable. Not without its headier stock-ECM moments (especially on the long tracks 'Heyoke' and 'Gnu Suite' which feature unaccompanied solos by all members of the band), it's still wonderful stuff. And quite beautiful most of the time.

Radiohead — Supercollider/The Butcher 12" single (2011)

'Supercollider' is good. And weird, coming immediately after the King of Limbs. I mean, anything by the band following immediately after that confused and confrontationally short album would have been a take off, but to lead this single off with a seven minute long, pseudo-Brian Eno on Another Green World, all electronic meditation is a little bit awesome and a lot unforeseen. It's a really mellow track and I can't say I'm crazy about it, but I do like it. The b-side wins again, in this case, with the uber-tense, excellently paced 'The Butcher.' A swarm of samples, low-register keyboards and syncopated drum machines switching time signatures constantly, it's the sort of song that you hear and wonder what the world would be like without a band so unconcerned with developing a familiar sound. Right on for the darkness.

Radiohead — The Bends (1995)

Hard to believe the same band is still together sixteen years later and creating such different music. I "collected" this one back in my Napster days, but I hadn't heard it a mighty long time. And yes, it's still a sure thing: I don't like 'Fake Plastic Trees.' Never have. Never will. It's kind of funny listening to this album now, how guitar-centric the band was. But how gosh-danged tuneful they were. It's so easy to listen to the band from Ok Computer onwards and just take them at that. But a listen to this album and things like 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)' are still chill-inducing — and, not to mention, that one fits right in with their current repertoire. Overall, yeah. Totally good album. It certainly has its group of dedicated fans.

Arthur Verocai — Arthur Verocai (1972)

I seem to remember when this reissue came out and I was intimidated by the obscurity of the material, so I didn't check it out. Years later, I'm a casual fan of Brazilian music (and specifically, the era that this album came from) and looking for something to really dig into 'the next level' and I remembered this album. I'm glad I did, because it's really fantastic. It does have quite a similarity to Jorge Ben albums of the same time; maybe just not quite as all out FONK-AY and a bit more focused on arrangements than on pure grooves (though there's plenty of that, too). The actual tunes and melodies are excellent. Very catchy stuff. Overall, it definitely has a sense of uniqueness about it, as within the first five seconds of 'Caboclo', you hear a slow acoustic arpeggio and some bubbling electronics. There's slow, dreamy, superbly arranged moments like 'Dedicade A Ela' and a straight jazz instrumental called 'Karini (Domingo No Grajau').' So, a really solid album that covers a lot of ground in just thirty minutes. It certainly didn't deserve to exist in such obscurity for so long.

Neil Finn — One All (2002)

It sounds like Try Whistling This but without the rough edges. Still, like everything with his name on it, there's catchy songs for days and a very likable, mature, acoustic strummy base to everything. It's easy to see why, after going back to his solo albums and the albums with his brother, the more recent Crowded House material is much more straightforward and stripped back. Just pure, honest and earnest pop from one of the modern masters of the style. Good stuff.

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman — John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (1963)

Seriously, I didn't already have this!?!! I have so much Coltrane, I guess it was easy to miss this one, as I have the quartet box set that documents the year that this album was recorded, but since it's not just the quartet, it doesn't have this material. So, I guess that makes sense. In any case, it's very reminiscent of the Ballads album, except that Johnny Hartman sings and McCoy Tyner gets next to no solo time. Really mellow stuff and I've always loved to hear Trane play ballads, so this is a no-brainer for me. Their rendition of 'Autumn Serenade' is just absolutely sublime; definitely the highlight for me. Not completely familiar with Johnny Hartman before hearing this album, but definitely interested in hearing more.

Felt — Stains on a Decade (1980's)

I've known about this band for a while, but I was always way too intimidated by the size of its catalogue. Additionally, the rarity of those albums on this side of the world only compounded my apprehension. I came upon this best of collection by chance, for cheap, so I figured I should go for it because I may never come across it again (even though I normally don't like compilations as my first taste of a band). Upon a few initial listens, they sort of strike me as Orange Juice meets the Field Mice. There's fifteen jangly tunes collected here that are full of catchy hooks and whimsical, esoteric vocals. Overall, it's a compilation, so it's of course all over the place, but I can't say there's a song in the bunch that I don't like. It's all pretty good, and I was especially pleasantly surprised to hear Elizabeth Fraser duet on a song ('Primitive Painters' — and a peak at the liner notes reveals that Robin Guthrie produced about a third of the tracks on the collection). Overall, really good stuff, but I now face being in the frustrating situation of liking the band, but knowing that the only thing I have by them is a fragmentary representation. Dah well. The search continues.



paul said...

It's funny, I've sometimes wondered while reading your blog if you knew about Felt. If I had to recommend only one album to you it would be The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories. Guitarist Maurice Deebank was still in the band at this point and great songs notwithstanding, it's an excellent showcase for his truly sublime guitar playing.

Austin said...

You commented! Awesome! And thanks for stopping by!

Also, thanks for the recommendation. I see Cherry Red has done the rest of the Felt catalogue in their reissue campaign and they do extremely good work, so I will definitely keep that album on my radar.