Saturday, January 24, 2015

What's New?: 1.24.2015

Terry Callier!
Terry Callier — The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier (1964)

Terry Callier's first album is in such stark contrast to the rest of his catalogue, it's almost hard to judge as part of his cannon. Where the majority of Callier's following output was masterminded in Chicago by Charles Stepney and Richard Evans, this is mostly just acoustic guitar and vocals and the numbers are almost all traditionals.  It's a million miles away from the orchestrated jazz soul that was to come, but still showcases a unique talent that takes some new and fresh takes on these tunes.  There's a haunting, melancholy quality to the whole affair that really merits the title.  That said, to most ears, this is just a standard acoustic folk album, with some dark overtones.  Key tracks: the opening epic '900 Miles' the proper album closer 'I'm A Drifter' and the redemptive closing outtake 'The Golden Apples of the Sun.'

Terry Callier — What Color is Love (1973)

Almost a decade later, Terry's second album for the Chess/Cadet label find him at the height of his powers.  His first album for the label was the previous year's Occasional Rain (which featured fan favorite 'Ordinary Joe') and was done in a similar vein as this one: a sort of folk/pop/soul/jazz hybrid that sounds too good to be true.  But one listen to the multi-movement epic opener 'Dancing Girl' makes good on that promise quite easily.  Terry's acoustic strumming comes in handy to accompany his scat vocals in the penultimate section of the tune and, whoo, is it a winner.  The folky undercurrent that perhaps got a bit glossed over on Occasional Rain is on full display here, but the bigger arrangements and tasteful production make for an entirely unique sound.  It's an album that has a sound and vibe all its own; one of those rare albums that is able to create its own wonderful atmosphere while it's playing.  I'd say its closest musical cousins were the equally as visionary albums Gil Scott-Heron was cutting around the same time.  Exceptional.  Key tracks: the aforementioned opener 'Dancing Girl', the mildly Stevie Wonder-ish 'I'd Rather Be With You' and the viscous funk of 'You Goin' Miss Your Candy Man.'

Terry Callier — I Just Can't Help Myself (1974)

A little more produced and lightweight than his previous album, this one doesn't get real heavy until side two, but even sometimes there the string arrangements become a little obtrusive.  Still, a tune like the nine minute political rant 'Alley Wind Song' is about as righteous as it gets and the album's only better for its inclusion.   The last two tracks —'Can't Catch the Trane' and the especially wrenching 'Bowlin' Green'— go back to Callier's folk roots heavily and definitely make this one just a step better than anything that would follow.  Key tracks: 'Alley Wind Song' and 'Bowlin' Green.'

Terry Callier — Fire on Ice (1978)

Still working with a lot of same Chicago cast that made his previous three albums so wonderful, the material on this one is decidedly more lightweight and nowhere near as compelling. Stuff like 'Street Fever' and 'Disco In the Sky' just seem like borderline jokes when compared to past victories.  There are some good tunes here, but they are mostly overproduced, with too many string and horn charts cluttering up things.  'Butterfly' is just fine, but still feels a little saccharine.  Dah well, the good ones here are good enough to overcome.  Key tracks: the obvious centerpiece 'African Violet' and the Gregorian chant turned gigantic soul tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. 'Martin St. Martin.'

Terry Callier — Turn You to Love (1979)

Kind of an odd album, as it tries to cast Terry as a soul pop crooner.  There's a bit more of a focus here on synthesizers, but it doesn't really hinder or enhance the affair, which is nice.  There's some re-recordings of old favorites here and even a horn-charted cover of Steely Dan's 'Do It Again' (not bad, actually), along with a decidedly Vegas-y rendition of 'Ordinary Joe' and one more look at a masterpiece with a gorgeous 'Occasional Rain.'  Sometimes haunting, sometimes carefree, it would be his last album for nearly two decades and a somewhat mixed bag to go out on, but definitely one that's at least quality all the way through.  Key tracks: the haunting title track, 'Ordinary Joe' and the brilliant revisit of 'Occasional Rain.'


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What's New?: 1.20.2015

Grab bag!
Lokai — Transition (2009)

Apparently, the two guys that made up this project are pretty big in the world of avant garde minimalism.  It's kind of boom-crash-quiet noise-pretty sound as far as how it goes.  Some tracks border on straight ambient noise, while others have a decidedly jazz fusiony bent.  A lot of it has the seeming philosophy of "found sounds" behind it.  Nothing else here is as pretty and melodic as 'Volver' and, at times, it just seems like eccentric noodling for the sake of doing such a thing.  Not a total wash because it always has me like, "Who is this?" when it pops up on my iPod, but it definitely could have benefited from a more melodic approach.  Key tracks: 'Volver'

Cian Nugent — Doubles (2010)

Pronounced Kee-yan, this Irish guy is definitely in the post-Fahey vein of the steel guitar world. It's just two long tracks; the first is a solo twenty minute meditation, while the second is a twenty five minute full-on band excursion. Deep, seemingly bottomless, chords are the order of the day, while seemingly simple motifs are repeated atop. This is music that takes patience, but it's also music to get lost in. Potentially, no two listens could be the same. The concluding moments of the solo track are as intense and dissonant as any music might get, where the next track picks up with a calm and leisurely pace, augmented by percussion. It builds into a haunting, woodwind-laden with one of the most rewarding chord changes I've come across recently. Definitely in the more "serious guy" end of the spectrum of this sort of thing, but with a burgeoning scene of William Tylers, Steve Gunns and Chris Forsyths getting more recognition all the time, there seems to be a scene of sorts budding around this sort of thing. I dig it. Key tracks: either/or. Nothin' on YouTube, 'cept some excerpts and live clips of 'Sixes and Sevens.'

loscil — Sketches from New Brighton (2012)

The moniker of one Scott Morgan, this is straight electronic ambient stuff and the guy apparently only has about thirty eight more albums along this vein (kidding; but only slightly). Truly haunting music, but soothing at the same time. A hard trick to pull off, and with this style of thing, the larger piece does become more than the sum of its parts, as nothing really sticks out. Still, how easy is it to put this one on at work and kill an hour with? Exceedingly. I'm not that well versed in this sort of thing anyway, so I have no idea where Mr. Morgan —or even this album— falls in the greater trajectory of the whole thing. All I know is that it creates a wonderfully spacey, easygoing atmosphere that I can get into. Key tracks: the decidedly Eno-esque 'Cascadia Terminal', opener 'Khanamoot' and the centerpiece 'Second Narrows.'

Hidden Orchestra — Night Walks (2010)

Hidden Orchestra plays a sweeping, jazz-informed instrumental style of music that the kids used to refer to as "downtempo."  I don't know — is that still a thing?  There's plenty of live instruments here creating what seem to be sampled —or perhaps sampleable— instrumentals based in a sort of UK hip hop aesthetic.  The type of place where big buildups and heavy drums don't automatically mean loud guitars to match, but simply sweeping string and woodwind arrangements.  There's not much room for solos here, so it's not really jazz, but instead proposes a sort of post-David Axelrod funky classical music. There's certainly a sense of beauty on display here, with a very deep bottom end on most of the tracks, below major seventh and minor shifts — really does the job in getting the emotional aspect of the music across.  The last three tracks venture off into six and seven minute territory and they all have a haunting, floating quality to them that really wins.  Key tracks: the fender rhodes-driven 'Strange' and the downright gorgeous 'The Windfall.'

Hidden Orchestra — Archipelago (2012)

This one is perhaps a bit more sad in tone overall than the first album.  Song lengths generally run a bit longer and there's a bit more stretching out for solos and whathaveyou.  It's not much of a change in sound for these guys moving to their second album, so pretty much if you like one, you'll like the other. Wonderful music to daydream to.  Key tracks: the perfectly titled 'Flight' or the nine minute centerpiece 'Seven Hunters.'


Monday, January 19, 2015

What's New?: 1.19.2015

Sandy Denny!
Sandy Denny — The North Star Grass Man and the Ravens (1971)

This was Sandy's first proper solo after affiliations with the Strawbs, Fairport Convention and Fotheringay, so she was a well-seasoned songwriter and performer by this point, making this a fairly accomplished-sounding debut.  There is a certain sound, a certain identifiable tempo and type of chord progression that is undeniably Sandy Denny's.  So, a song like the opener here 'Late November' seems vintage Denny.  There is just nothing else that can come close.  It's a slow, loping thing with impeccable vocal melodies and that's about about as far as I can get to really explaining what makes her so wonderful.  There was something about her that was just preoccupied with sheer beauty in song.  And, despite the occasional odd man out like the goofy bar blues 'Down In The Flood', she pursued this muse almost obsessively.  I think, in retrospect, this album has been underrated because of Sandy's previous work, but just imagine if this album came out of nowhere.  It would easily be hailed as a landmark. Key tracks: the achingly gorgeous 'Next Time Around' and the sea shanty-esque title track.

Fairport Convention — Rising for the Moon (1975)

Sandy returned to the fold of the Convention to dominate one album before returning to a solo career. It has a nice, roots rock sheen to the production, but Sandy completely steals the show with her compositions and you could make a darn fine EP with just her contributions. Side two is generally the stronger one here, mostly on the back of Sandy's spooky 'Dawn' and the closing epic 'One More Chance.'  As a moment of a band trying to recapture past brilliance again, it's a failure.  But, as a sideshow to more Sandy Denny music at a time when she was not really that prolific, it's indispensable.  It's a mixed bag, but there's certainly far worse Fairport albums from around the time.  Key tracks: Sandy's lovely country rock title track and the aforementioned 'Dawn.'

Sandy Denny — Sandy (1972)

Remember what I said about how she just seemed obsessed with making gorgeous music? The opening tune here is perhaps the definitive Sandy Denny tune and you can bet it'll make you weep when it hits you just right.  Not even the over the top synths can ruin this one.  Minors to major sevenths and back again, it's just about as win as you can get.  This one does get a bit of heavy handed production at times, but for the most part, it's scaled back and the songs are let to breathe.  The completely acapella overdub of 'The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood' is chill-inducing.  Any arguments as to why she's one of my favorite singers stops there.  A lot of dedicated fans call this her finest work and it's easy to see why.  I have my own favorites which I prefer over this one, but there's not many I'd rank above it.  Key tracks: 'It'll Take A Long Time', 'The Quite Joys of Brotherhood', the country rocker 'Tomorrow is a Long Time', and the haunting 'It Suits Me Well', amongst others.

Sandy Denny — Like An Old Fashioned Waltz (1974)

And how does she do it?  This is probably the slowest of Sandy's major works, but jeez do I love it.  It's just so achingly beautiful.  Just have a listen to the symphony-laden title track.  There's a willingness on the album to just go over the top, bring in the horn and string charts and just let it fly.  But it's all done tastefully, perhaps carefully so, so it plays like a soft rock album full of ballads, sure.  But some of the danged prettiest and resonating of the type you'll ever hear.  There's a bit of an old-timey music slant on a few of the tracks here and that just adds to the resonance of the whole thing.  It feels like Sandy was going for a big home run of an album, and while it doesn't quite reach some of the heights it's reaching for, what's here is more than good enough to make this one of her very best works.  Key tracks: 'Friends', 'At the End of the Day', and the closing beauty 'No End.'

Sandy Denny — Rendezvous (1977)

As a final statement from one of the most important artists of the 70's, yeah, it's a disappointment.  But when you just take it at face value for a roots rock record that she didn't intend to be her last, it's actually quite good.  If you want a big grand statement for a farewell, stop at Old Fashioned Waltz and just pretend this one doesn't exist.  But you're missing out, if you do.  Generally, if you're pressed for time, skip to side two.  Those are the songs with the least production, if that's what upsets you so (which being as the overproduction of side one seems to be most everyone's problem with this album; that is probably the case).  However, I cannot just simply overlook Sandy Denny originals, pedestrian as they may seem.  So, do I like the cover of 'Candle in the Wind'?  The answer is a resounding no, but I can honestly say that's the only thing I truly dislike about this album.  The overproduction is fine; no worse than any other roots rock albums of the time.  And the fact that she just refused to go full on disco pleases me as well.  Otherwise, yeah, it's all about side two: that's four top gear tunes no matter how you slice it.  Key tracks: the heartbreaking closer 'No More Sad Refrains.'  What a way to end a career.

Sandy Denny and the Strawbs — All Our Own Work (late 1960's)

Rewind back to before she was one of the best to ever do it and you get some nice late-60's, harmony-laden folk pop. Not much of Sandy's trademark sound is yet in place, but it's nice to hear her all the same. As this is billed and Sandy and the Strawbs, she doesn't sing lead on or even compose all of the material. But still, this music is of a time and place that is generally high calibre, so no complaints here (and it's top loaded with all of the Sandy material, so extra no complaints). There's a few flashes of where Sandy the godlike genius shines through, especially on the initial 'Who Knows Where the Time Goes.'  Generally, lots of acoustic strummin' and pedestrian lyrics.  But, listenable as heck, y'know.  Key tracks: all the ones where Sandy sings leads or composes.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

What's New?: 1.18.2015

Space rock and jazz-leaning stuffs!
Chris Forsyth — Solar Motel (2013)

Guitarist and composer Forsyth has been kicking around bands and records for years before finally finding a sympathetic home at Paradise of Bachelors. Honestly, besides a few themes here and there and some chord changes, this thing sounds mostly improvised, as it's just the title track broken up into four parts. The sticker on the album cover describes it as "Cosmic Americana" and that fits. It's easy to hear the influence of Wilco's Jim O'Rourke-helmed albums in the sprawl of the project, though it gets fairly noisy in spots.  Add in some Farfisa organ and some tasty post-rock leanings in the buildups and it's a winner.  Key tracks: 'Part III' gets just plain old majestic at one point.

Eternal Tapestry and Sun Araw — Night Gallery (2011)

Not really familiar with either of these bands outside of this release, but it's done in a very similar style to Solar Motel up there.  Just one long title track, divided into four pieces.  This one is a bit less noisy overall and has some wonderful moments that suggest a sort of punk-informed Grateful Dead.  Kind of droney, in spots.  Squalling, blasted up to 11 drone, but drone nonetheless.  It gets really spacey, I guess, is what I'm trying to say.  Key tracks: the fourteen minute cast off 'Part IV' certainly has its moments.

Soft Machine — Original Album Classics (1970's)

Albums three through seven in a handy slipcase.  The cliche about Soft Machine is that they were proggers who went jazz, but that's not entirely true, as they were doing very long, very heavily jazz influenced pieces as early as the Third album (which would be disc one in this set).  The other cliche about them is they stopped being a good, listenable band after Robert Wyatt left the group (or was sacked, depending on who you believe).  Third has the reputation of being the last essential Soft Machine release (Wyatt's 'Moon In June' is the highlight however) and after slogging through this set, I must disagree, as Fourth is just as strong musically, if not quite as sprawling.  There are no vocals, but Soft Machine was never squarely about vocals in the first place.  The second half of the album is taken up by the four part 'Virtually' suite and that's the reason to stick around for that one.  Fifth is hit and miss as the band has become more of a jazz unit than ever, but its got some killer moments still: 'As If' is one of the classic hip hop sample moments, while still being a stunner of a tune.  Six (1973) is half live, half studio.  The live half is okay if you're really into the jazzier side of the band, while the studio half is back to the longform jazz rock inventions that the band was becoming known for.  There are more electronics here, recalling Miles' calmer material of the time.  Fantastic stuff; just a bummer you have to sit through the less than great live stuff first.  Check out the stunning 'Soft Weed Factor' for a stone cold jam.  Seven is the last disc here, and many would say, the last you really need to bother with Soft Machine.  It's either just okay or really good.  I prefer the calmer material.  There's a focus on those dated 70's synths and it just kind of ruins it for me. The side one trilogy of 'Carol Ann', 'Day's Eye' and 'Bone Fire' points the way towards High Hopper's solo material and is generally nice Sunday morning music.  Overall, the whole thing's an endeavor, to say the least, but one with many rewards.  Key tracks: any of the above mentioned.

Matching Mole — self-titled (1972)

After Robert Wyatt's departure from Soft Machine, he formed the cleverly titled Matching Mole (roughly translates to "Machine Soft" in phonetic French) and got straight to work.  From the wry, self-announced 'Signed Curtain' to the floating scat vocals of 'Instant Pussy' to the non-stop prog odyssey that takes up side two of the proper album, this is Wyatt's affair, all the way through.  There are some undeniably poppy moments and I have to chuckle at how all over the place this thing is, really.  This is the expanded two disc version of the album, which goes a long way to illustrate that the band was good for more than the two relatively short years they were active.  Some early John Peel sessions appear at the end of disc two and they highlight a band at what seems to be the top of their game.  I need to get that second full length and get the full picture before deciding such things, but whoo, do they smoke through those numbers.  Key tracks: the scorching twenty minute Peel Session medley of 'Marchides', 'Instant Pussy' and 'Smoke Signal' (part of which can be heard here), previewing two tracks which would show up on the band's second album.

Herbie Hancock — Sextant (1973)

The last record Herbie would record with his Mwandishi group.  I don't know how this one slipped past me for so long because I've had Warner's excellent two disc set capturing the bulk of the band's output for most of my mature life.  I thought that that was the extent of the group's output and Herbie went straight to Headhunter land.  It's a wash of semi-funky backbeats, acoustic and electric instruments straight up fighting with each other, and some seriously heady attempts at making completely alien sounding music.  It's like what Miles was doing at the time, but less dissonant.  As a final sendoff to stellar group, it's a funky racket that, just like everything else they did, is entirely unique.  Completely free at times, funky as hell at others, there's not much else like it outside of the like-minded school of the time.  Key tracks: the shortest track and opener 'Rain Dance' is the most easily digestible.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

What's New?: 1.8.2015

Grab bag of electronic-y stuff!

Various artists — Box of Dub (early 2000's)

Billed as "dubstep and future dub", this Soul Jazz collection goes a long way to stretch that definition.  As Americans, most of us are unfamiliar with UK dubstep as it was initially created, so something like the opening track, Digital Mystikz' 'I Wait', sounds more like an atmospheric reggae dub plate than something like the brostep that has become synonymous with the dubstep tag over here.  There's a lot of spaced out sounds here and heavy basslines — that's kind of the point, I'd assume.  There's an exclusive Burial track here —the shuffling two step of 'Unite'— that totally steals the show.  But the whole thing is decidedly more dubby than I had anticipated.  I can dig it. Key tracks: Burial's 'Unite', Skream's 'Sub Island' and Kode9's 'Magnetic City.'

Various artists — Box of Dub 2 (early 2000's)

Volume two presents more of the same with a cross section of UK dubstep.  These Soul Jazz compilations obviously go a long way in trying to legitimize the sound and, as far as that goes, I'm sold.  A few of the same names pop up from volume one, but overall, it does its best job to bring in some diversity by bringing up different folks.  It's a very safe bet that if you dig one volume of these, you'll dig the other.  Key tracks: Pinch's eerie 'Chamber Dub' and Skream's incredibly original house/dubstep hybrid 'Sublemonal.'

Aphex Twin — Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)

Two discs almost maxed out to 80 minutes a piece full of wonderfully pretty, weird and sometimes downright scary sounds. I'm no Aphex Twin scholar —I just spotted this in the Amoeba clearance bin for $2 and couldn't pass it up— but I do dig this quite a bit. It seems to start off very accessible and just get more and more challenging as it goes, with a few piecemeal accessible ditties thrown in for good measure. A lot of it has a sci-fi sort of melancholy to it; like you could put this on and play Metroid to it or something. Good stuff.  Key tracks: I prefer the downright pretty stuff like 'Rhubarb', 'Hexagon' and 'Lichen' but those are hardly representative of the bigger picture.

Various artists — Riddim Box (early 2000's)

More Soul Jazz compilation action.  This one was in the dubstep section at Amoeba, but it's more funky house than dubstep, I'd reckon.  It's two discs and nineteen tracks, clocking in at almost two hours worth of dance grooves.  It begins on a very high note with Altered Natives' odd time signature Hammond B-3 bouncer 'Rass Out.'  Whoo, it gets me movin'!  There are some vocal cuts here and I could take them or leave them — though, musically, I dig 'em just fine.  Best among that lot would probably be Sunship featuring Warrior Queen's 'Almighty Father (Solid Groove's Underground Souljah Mix).'  Overall, across the Box of Dub discs and this set, I have to say my mind is much more open to UK dubstep and funky house than I would initially have thought.  Key tracks: Altered Natives' 'Rass Out', Kode9's 'Black Sun' and DVA's 'Natty.'

Seefeel — Quique (1993)

Almost ambient at times, almost minimal house at others, this two disc expanded edition of Seefeel's first album is a tasty blend of British musical trends of the early 90's.  The one constant is a sense of creating dreamy atmospheres.  It's like a whole album of My Bloody Valentine's 'Soon', but with less distortion (certainly no less swirling, however, as, if there's one word to describe this music, it is, without question, "swirling").  I guess it's seen as somewhat of pillar in the whole of the British dream pop scene.  And with good reason, as there's little else that sounds quite like it.  The second disc adds b-sides, outtakes and remixes, all worthwhile and definitely of interest.  Key tracks: opener and near-perfect manifesto 'Climactic Phase 3' and the super trippy 'Charlotte's Mouth.'


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What's New?: 1.7.2015

Peter Gabriel!

Peter Gabriel — self-titled (Car) (1977)

Ditching Genesis and going completely Berlin-era Bowie-inspired proto-new wave, Peter Gabriel's initial run of albums is a dizzying array of busy sounds.  This first album is the most guitar-centric of the lot and, as such, sounds the most conventional.  But still, it's like the sprawling Genesis epics compacted into three and four minute pop songs, so it just has a unique quality to it.  The second half finds Pete really branching out and running in many directions at once, from smokey late night bar blues to orchestrated, fist pumping epics.  'Solsbury Hill' was the big one here and it still receives classic rock radio airplay.  A folky, acoustic based account of his exit from Genesis, it's a winner.  Key tracks: 'Solsbury Hill', the rocker 'Modern Love' and the weirdly cinematic opener 'Moribund the Burgermeister.'

Peter Gabriel — self-titled (Scratch) (1979)

Slightly more focused this time out, and the results are wonderfully poppy and surprisingly catchy.  There's shades of Pink Floyd in equal parts with the new wave here, which makes for a darned interesting musical stew.  The rockers rock and the ballads resonate; can't ask for much more.  It's just the presentation that's perhaps most striking.  Streamlined and refined, it masks otherwise odd moments with a catchy sheen masterfully.  Key tracks: 'White Shadow', the rockin' opener 'On the Air' and the surprisingly soulful closer 'Home Sweet Home.'

Peter Gabriel — self-titled (Melt) (1980)

This is where Pete truly embraced the new wave ethos full bore and that shows right off the bat, with the eerie art punk of 'Intruder' acting as the album's manifesto.  Plinky, dissonant guitar chords, highly gated snare drums and a brooding sense of isolation in the lyrics.  It's a strange way to introduce an album that can get extremely strange at times.  But there is a sense here of stumbling onto something new and exciting.  Keyboards are the order of the day, with guitars used sparingly, but effectively.  It seems like there is at least one moment in every song where a chorus or a middle eight will enter and just obliterate whatever else came before it.  The songcraft here is just masterful and of the highest order.  Key tracks: the odd funk rock of 'Games Without Frontiers', the melodramatic (in a good way) 'Lead a Normal Life' and the early worldbeat of 'Biko.'

Peter Gabriel — self-titled (Security) (1982)

By this point, the evolution was complete: Gabriel was full on new wave. The pure synth pop of 'Shock the Monkey' makes sense in his trajectory up until this point, but remove all that and it stands on its own as revolutionary single.  The worldbeat aspect is played up considerably here, to some success, but not entirely.  Where Melt felt like it was setting the standards, Security is simply adhering to them.  The song lengths are a bit more dragged out, with less interesting ideas unfortunately.  I know it seems like I'm trashing it, but the album hangs together considerably well.  So, hooray for sequencing.  Key tracks: the genre-defining 'Shock the Monkey' and the beautifully tense 'San Jacinto.'


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's New?: 1.6.2015

Happy new year! I have had to skip a large amount of stuff that I accumulated during my off time, but rest assured, I've still got plenty to keep me busy, so here's a grab bag if ever there was one. . .

John Fahey — Red Cross (2003)

John's last record before his death and a goodie, at that. Seems to feature a little more in the effects and pedals department than what was normal for him, which is just fine with me. There is a quiet, restrained air to the proceedings here. John plays a Tele at a couple points, which is just fun.  The looming melancholy that hangs over this stuff is just ace and, after a few plays, one gets the impression that John maybe knew it would be his final statement.  The longer pieces, especially, play off of a happy/sad vibe.  It sounds wholly unique, even within his catalogue.  There's just these huge, dissonantly beautiful chords all over it that don't quite fit in with your average Fahey album.  Perhaps the most Fahey-esque song is the bouncy 'Charley Bradley's Ten sixty-six Blues', but even that one takes a left turn at one point.  There's nothing else quite like it in the Fahey discography; not that I've heard it all anyway (I'm not going to sit here and pretend I know his entire output, because it's just too big).  Key tracks: the opening number 'Remember' and the long and building suspenseful number 'Ananaias.'

Dieter Moebius and Gerb Beerbohm (1983)

A dark and intense journey into an early style of what can only be dubbed downtempo at this point. Dieter Moebius is of course famous from his work with Brian Eno, but more importantly with Cluster. The sequenced beats and dissonant synth riffs and archaic drum machines sound very of their time, but music of this sort can now clearly be seen as the proper grandfather to acts like Aphex Twin or Boards of Canada.  Awesome, groundbreaking Kraut rock sidebar, basically.  Not much here for tunes, but if you can ignore that and focus on the sheer groundbreaking quality of the music, it's an easily enjoyable record. Otherwise, I'd say, it's a very experimental work. Any album with a twenty minute plus dark disco groove like 'Doppelschnitt' has to be somewhere in that vein.  Key tracks: the previously mentioned closer 'Doppelschnitt' and the opener (and perfectly dark sci-fi soundtrack) 'Minimotion.'

Tears for Fears — The Seeds of Love (1989)

It took these guys four years to come up with something that they thought could complete commercially with the Big Chair, but the core group of Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal basically fell apart under the pressure.  It's not a wash, by any means.  It's simply overproduced and pompous as hell, but boy does it sound nice.  The production, while definitely super dated and heavy handed by this point, is the album's gift and its curse.  Because while it can dress up otherwise b and c-list material to sound like top tier output, it does get in the way on the actually great songs.  I think the Big Chair was overproduced in just the right way, where it brought out everything good that the songs had and put it on display without teetering off into unnecessary layers for the sake of having them.  This album does that a lot.  With the forced sounding jazz flourishes, unnecessary lead guitar riffs and downright cheesy background vocals, it does make it a bit offputting at first.  The title track gets it right.  Like, really really right.  That's the one tune where it doesn't matter: they could have put a farting synth sound in one of the middle eight breaks and it would still be a triumph (oh wait! They actually DID do that!).  There's some other good 'choons and I have a hard time wondering why I waited to get this album for so long.  It's definitely the bigger, more grandiose follow up to Big Chair.  Not nearly as good, but darn worth sitting through.  Key tracks: the epic title track, 'Advice for the Young at Heart' and the perfectly melodramatic 'Swords and Knives.'

Fontanelle — Vitamin F (2012)

There's a strong case to be made here for plagiarism, but no direct riffs were copped and no one else plays as tight as this, so I'll happily let it slide.  This Portland sextet plays electric Miles-inspired funk of the type that will either win you over immediately or piss you off endlessly.  I, for one, see a lot of people namecheck electric Miles as an influence and then go on to play whatever it is that they play (which sounds, of course, nothing like Bitches Brew or Big Fun).  The sound is so well emulated that you can probably pinpoint exactly which Miles tune they were trying to riff on for each tune here.  I don't hear anyone else doing this type of music this well these days, so as an electric Miles lover, I have absolutely no objections.  There is perhaps a bit more structure overall than proper electric Miles, allowing for less solo time, but that vibe is just undeniable.  Key tracks: opener 'Watermelon Hands', the On the Corner-aping title track and the thoughtful closer 'Reassimilated' (perhaps the one time on the record where influence blossoms into something new).

Loka — Fire Shepherds (2006)

In a similar sort of vein, these blokes get funky and spacey, but they're able to throw a lot more of their own personality into the mix.  There's use of a full woodwind and string section, making this a decidedly more European slant on the whole thing.  This one's on the Ninja Tune label to give you a better idea of what's happening.  Still, funky funky riffs and backbeats that would have made Miles proud.  A lot of heart and thought in the playing, and again, it's not strictly jazz, as there is room for very few solos.  So, yeah, cool stuff.  Key tracks: the ballad 'Beginningless' and the opener 'Safe Self Tester.'

Much more to come.