Blog Roddus

Blog Roddus
My Favorite Place A Note on my equipment: 1 Tetrabyte hard drive connected by USB to an Acer laptop, connected via USB to FUBAR II Digital Audio Converter, connected via RCA leads to Cyrus system with Tannoy Speakers, Choice!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Yarland FV-34C Tube Amp

Our New Baby.

Mrs Roddus still has a small collection of vinyl records that she listens to on occasion when I am at work. Over the years I have brought her a couple of cheap record players to keep her happy but the quality wasn't all that great, not that she minded much, as long as she could listen to her records. Some time ago I said I would one day get her something a bit better that would last a lot longer and sound much much better, I had priced up a basic turntable, amp, speakers set up from my favourite HI-fi emporium some time ago and knew I could get her something above average for under two grand. Recently I knew I was about to have the spare funds to indulge in this luxury but I had lost the names and prices of the system I had investigated some time ago. While looking on the web site of the aforementioned hi-fi emporium I came across the above model and it stuck in my mind that a small valve amp might be a sweet choice to use for vinyl records. On a day when we were on a mission in the city, we popped into the aforementioned hi-fi emporium and I told the salesman what we were after and what turntable and speakers he could recommend to go with the above amp that would fit my budget. After parting with only $1800, we came away with the above Yarland amp, a pair of Castle, Knight series book shelf speakers and a Musichall USB1 turntable.
 We had to wait a couple of weeks for the amp to arrive but we finally got the system home and within about a hour, I had the thing set up and ready to roll. This little amp is only about 12W per channel, peaking at 15W, so it is only a baby and I knew I wasn't really going to bother the neighbours with it but for the ridiculous low price it was, it is actually a Class A Push/Pull amp.
 Fortunately Mrs Roddus does have several records in her collection that I have on CD and like alot, so after listening to some Police, Pink Floyd and Grace Jones I was starting to get a feeling of just how good this amp really is. I noticed how easy it is to listen to and the warmth and depth of the music, as well as the separation and detail were really making am impression on me. I was beginning to realise what a quality piece of equipment this really was and surpassed my expectations.
 A few days later, Mrs Roddus was doing a late shift at work and after bi-wiring the Castle speakers, I decided it was time to try out the Yarland with My Cyrus 7 CD player. The first obvious thing I noticed of course was the big step up in volume from vinyl to CD as expected and although the reproduction from the modest Musichall turntable was very good, the big step up in source to the Cyrus was quite breathtaking and although I didn't get a whole lot of time to explore this setup, I now knew for sure that I had a very good amp on my hands.
 I was quite excited about this and rang another small time hi-fi buff mate, who lives locally and told him about my score, he was enthusiastic and said he would be keen to come round for a session. He was running a solid state system not all that much advanced than my Cyrus system.
The next time Mrs Roddus was working a night shift I duly called Mr.Ed, and he hot footed it round for a coffee and a blast.
 He was right off impressed with the look of the amp and the lovely finish of the Castle speakers as we put on my new 180g vinyl copy of Buddy Miller's Cruel Moon LP while we chatted and made the coffee. Next I impressed him some with another new piece of vinyl I purchased, a compilation of T-Bone Walker, which is great Valve music and T-Bone's awesome finger pickin blues sounded just superb. He was mightily impressed the way it handled Grace Jone's "Use Me" as we cranked the volume and noticed how clean it sounded. Moving on to CDs, as the vinyl collection is quite small, we threw at the Yarland, a plethora of different types of music and were both so mightily impressed with the detail and clarity of what we were hearing and also how well the little Castle speakers were reproducing every thing we through at it. The highlights of the nights listening were when I would select an exceptionally well recorded piece that would just stop us dead in out tracks and blow our minds with the sounds the Yarland was presenting us, Koko Taylor's Chess recording of "Wang Dang Doodle" being one stand out and the final track of the evening leaving us speechless, Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
  The Yarland FV-34C had impressed my so much that I am now rethinking my whole approach to my next upgrade of my main hi-fi system, and Mr Ed was coming to the same conclusion when he left. A stunning little amp at a stunning price, you cant go wrong.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Eyvind Kang - Alastor - Book Of Angels Vol.21 (Tzadik 2014)

Masada Book Two.

With Masada Book Three unleashed on the World(Well NYC at least) in March, I thought that the Book of Angels must be complete after 20 volumes. Alas, here it is, Vol.21, with Vol 22 also done and dusted and hopeful released in the near future, it's gotta be a good thing.
  Having already heard Eyvind Kang via his last Tzadik release from 2012, I wasn't overly excited about this new volume. The new CD duly arrived in the Mailbox and on first casual listen while doing some chores it sounded OK but nothing to rave about. Later on some tracks started to really get my attention and in the early evening I had the opportunity to sit down and really have a listen.
  With a large list of musicians playing a collection of strangely named instruments we get presented with a quite an exotic collection of interpretations covering a wide range of styles in the most impressive manner. I am very very impressed with the width and breadth of the music presented here and have been enjoying this set far more than I anticipated. This release had shot to very near the top of the list for quality for this series and the quality of the Book of Angels just keeps on impressing.Rating 4.5/5.

Throbbing Gristle - First Annual Report (UK 1975?)

Hot out of the mailbox.

Apparently, according to the liner notes above, this is the great lost TG album, supposedly recorded in studio sometime in 1975 but never released by the band. This could possibly be a bootleg although Thirsty Ear is a legitimate  label as far as I know. It was most disappointing for me though, when this arrived, after spending a not to small sum buying it second hand(its out of print), I discovered that I already have all the music included herein on a budget Cd I picked up locally some time back called Final Muzak.
 Overall, this is not a greatly arresting set, but has plenty of sonic peculiarities amongst the drones to keep it interesting. It kicks of with the epic 18 minute "Very Friendly", A quite graphic monologue from Genesis P Orridge describing the Murder of Edward Evans by Ian Brady and Mira Hindley in October 1965. The Monologue is set to a very distorted bass line that starts off impressively enough but gets a bit tedious after 15 minutes, but the piece finishes a prolonged epitaph of quite superb and impressive sound effects in the last three minute giving us a taste of some of the brilliance yet to come from TG.
"Dead Bait" is a very minimal Synth type of thing that is interesting for a start but really goes nowhere but is a piece of quiet relief before the next slab of industrial noise. The rest of the album kinda follows along like the opening track, several not all that inspiring dirges, but interspersed with some pretty good sound effects that keep one interested. The sound id mistakenly TG, but a group still finding their feet. Rating 2.5/5.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

John Zorn - The Alchemist (USA 2014)

More Zorn.

The ever prolific Mr. Zorn with yet another CD in 2014. Another of his Mystic series with two compositional works, one for string Quartet and the other For Voices. I'm not a big fan of his vocal works in this idiom, but it is impressive none-the-less. The title track, being the string quartet, is more enjoyable for my palate and  although I am not a big fan of this sort of thing, I do like to listen to this sort of stuff occasionally. Of course it is sort of avant garde, so not an easy listen. Rating 3/5. 

Xtatika - Tongue Bath (Tzadik 2001)

Tzadik again.

This was the first release in Tzadiks Oracles series, which brings us music from women in the contemporary experimental music scene. This album has a real early 80s post punk vibe and vague comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees wouldn't be too far out. The album is quite minimal with a strong tribal vibe and plenty of weirdness. Interesting and challenging but mostly quite enjoyable and grows better with familiarisation. Rating 3/5.

Alvin Curran - Animal Behaviour (Tzadik 1995)

More From Tzadik.

I decided to have a look at the releases from Tzadik at the other end of the time line from the recent issues that have been arriving in my mail box. I have purchased the first release in each of the series issued by Tzadik and this one by Alvin Curran was the very first in the composer series back when the label first started in 1995.
Consisting of just two extended pieces, the title track is an 18 minute sound collage not unlike The Beatles "Revolution No.9" from The White Album. An interesting piece with some interesting sound effects. Not easy listening and it seemed to drive the dog from the room at moderate volume. Still, I think he pulled it of pretty well and it is not at all unpleasant for something like that. The second piece has a more classical feel and some actual musicians playing actual instruments. A slow atmospheric piece with lots of avant garde tinkering throughout, again not at all unpleasant but difficult to stay focused on throughout its 30 odd minutes.
Overall I'd rate this release 3/5.

Various Artists - Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978

The Other Analog Africa Release.

Yep, more of the same from Analog Africa, non stop toe tapping funky afro grooves. Wall to wall quality like the last one. This stuff from Angola is a little more intimate and laid back than the previous Ghana compilation but no less impressive. Seems to be more instrumental tracks on this one. Rating 4/5.

Various Artists - Afrobeat Airways 2 - Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983 (Analog Africa 2013)

More funky African Music.

Even more exciting than the previous Soundway compilation, was the knowledge that two more compilations from Analog Africa had slipped out late last year. The Analog Africa compilations had always been the best of an impressive crop. Initially I was slightly disappointed with this, compared with the Soundway Comp. After more attention I still am preferring the Soundway compilation over both Analog comps but that being said, this is still a fabulous set of great Afro funk. Just close you eyes and let the always wonderful African vocal melodies and sublime brass solos wash over you and just see if you can not tap your feet. Rating 4.5/5.

Various Artists - Kenya Special (Selected East African Recordings From The 1970s & '80s)

More African funk.

Was excited to come across this latest afrofunk compilation from the marvelous Soundway Records and it duly arrived in my mail box soon after. Not much to say but this is the usual high quality funky compilation we have come to expect from Soundway with wall to wall toe tapping grooves across two very full discs. Several tracks I was already familiar with perhaps from the Voodoo Funk Blog but plenty else was new.
Awesome, as usual, highly recommended and gets 5/5.

Pet Bottle Ningen - Pet Bottle Ningen (Tzadik 2011)

The next Tzadik arrival.

A quick word on this last Spotlight release, again all instrumental tracks, pretty chaotic freeform jazz rock from this 3 piece with guitar, sax and drums. Needs focused attention for deeper appreciation, but enjoyable enough all the same.Rating 2.5/5.

Les Rhinocéros - Les Rhinocéros (Tzadik 2011)

Some More Tzadik arrivals.

Like most of the releases in this series, this is an instrumental album of rock based tracks. The Tzadik blurb above just about always makes these albums sound far more fantastic than they actually are, but that being said this is another fine release from the label, a bit more laid back than some of the others in this series but non the less enjoyable with its well executed blend of genres. A very cool name though. Rating 3.5/5.

Many Arms - Many Arms (Tzadik 2012)

Tzadik Again.

Three piece rock bands Tzadik album consists of 3 extended instrumentals that are a sort of Avant Rock minimalism with some free jazz thrown in for good measure. Quite challenging and highly technical but interesting all the same and keeps up the high quality of the Spotlight series. Initially I struggled with these tracks but have come to appreciate them more with additional exposure. Rating 3/5.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Zorch - Ouroboros (UK 1975)

Something different.

I should be in bed by now, but got some late night grooves happening with this little rarity found on a blog some time back. Apparently the UK's first synthesizer band, although they sound more German than English. Think Jarre crossed with Kraftwork and you get some idea of this quirky electronica. An interesting listen in small doses and a bit too quirky to be taken too seriously. Rating 3/5.

Ambergris - ST (US 1970)

More Obscure 70's stuff.

I am pretty sure I use to have a vinyl copy of this some while back, which is why I wanted to check it out when I found it on some blog some time back. A quality set of funky pop/rock not all that far removed from Rare Earth and several steps above the previous album I just reviewed. Wall to wall catchy tunes keeps the foot tapping with plenty of good guitar and brassy bits and quality melodies. Highly recommended. Rating 4/5.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Euphonious Wail - S/T (USA 1972)

Something not from Tzadik.

This obscure release from the early 70's I found on some blog some time back and thought it looked interesting. Kicks off with a couple of pretty good uptempo psych rockers with a bluesy tinge. Got some schmaltzy ballads that are ok but a bit underwhelming. Although there is nothing really outstanding here, this set is an average outing by a second or third tier group and I don't mind it too much, but the sound quality of this rip isn't too great. Still worth a listen if your into obscure 70's psych. Shades of Blood, Sweat and Tears and even early ZZ Top in places. Rating 3/5. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Aram Bajakian's Kef - Aram Bajakian's Kef (Tzadik 2011)

Tzadik Rules.

With no drums it doesn't really qualify as rock music but this three piece can certainly rock out with this kinda high octane world folk music crossed with the ghost of Hendrix, very good stuff and yet another great release from Zornie and the crew at Tzadik. most impressive, rating 4/5.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Guillaume Perret And The Electric Epic - Guillaume Perret And The Electric Epic (Tzadik 2012)

Yep, Tzadik.

The Spotlight series is the newest series on Tzadik Records of which there are only 9 releases so far from 6 bands. I recently aquired the rest of the ones I didn't already have, except the very latest one that just came out last month. The mix of music on these releases is very eclectic as you'd expect from Tzadik nowadays, but the Spotlight releases tend to be more in the "Rock" oriented field. This release is no exception. I have been absorbing the music via a mixed playlist along with several of the other Spotlight releases and I have been very very impresses with what I have been hearing. This set, like so many Tzadik albums, is difficult to pigeonhole but we are presented with a great mix of progressive rock, Jazz and a tinge of world music, the mix sometimes gets quite heavy but there are some more gentle moments that quite impress. This is mostly instrumental music, again like most of the series and I do personally find that I enjoy the songs more on an individual basis in a mixed playlist than I do listening to them in the context of the whole album. Overall though, this is a very good set and gets a rating of 4/5.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Evolution Vs Creatism.

The great debate.

So an ongoing sort of conversation on facebook has prompted me to put down my thoughts about this so called controversial debate. From what I have seen and heard so far there appears to be very black and white sides to this argument. Either completely on one side or completely on the other. No in between or compromise from either side. Fair enough, as both sides are poles apart.
    At present I am unsure as to the exact status of Evolution. When I was at school, we were taught about "The THEORY Of Evolution" Now today I know that a theory is a hypothesis that has not yet been scientifically proven beyond doubt via the scientific method.  When doing a google search on "The Theory of Evolution, the first site listed is, of course, the Wikipeadia entry, which is just titled Evolution, NOT The theory of evolution. So without me spending years in study and getting a PhD I am not certain as to weather evolution is still a Theory of if it has indeed moved into the realm of scientific fact. Still, Evolution is the pre-eminent explanation of how life and species got to their present state.
    Although I don't know too much about the full details of the process of evolution, I was taught the basic principle at school and I have no problem accepting this as the process of the advancement of life, so unless someone can present me with undeniable evidence(although nowadays, even the most blatant undeniable evidence of things can be denied by those who so choose too) of an alternative theory of the how life came to be what is is now, then Evolution is for me. 
    Now our current knowledge of the process of evolution may not be perfect or complete(I did come across some rumbling about how Evolution couldn't explain things like The Eye for instance or some stuff about DNA) as humanity does not yet have all the answers about Life, The Universe and everything(unless it really is 42) but it is the best explanation we have right now and it is well supported by current knowledge and the fossil records of our planet. In future it may be refined and built upon as our knowledge advances and like Newtonian Physics and Quantum theory, another layer of science may yet be discovered that expands greatly our knowledge of the process of life but with Evolution still at its root.
    On the other side of the fence(or Ocean in this case) we have the Creationists. From what I have seen most of these people seem to believe that the world and all life on it was created in almost an instant by some sort of supernatural being, Deity or God and their evidence for this is the simple creation myths that were put down mellenia ago in the religious texts that they blindly worship.There isn't a shred of physical evidence that I know of to support these sudden instant appearances of species. Now over the centuries the church has had to do some pretty quick thinking to counteract the new scientific discoveries that kept contradicting their take on reality and over time they have had to come to accept the incontrovertible evidence science had shown them and rethink their doctrines to accommodate the new revelations. Much progress has been made in dissolving this ignorance, so one wonders why the creation myth is still so prevalent? The Bible is NOT the be all and end all authoritative answer to Life, The Universe and everything, it is just a book and it was written by men, men from a far distant time who knew far less about the nature of their world than we do now.
     Ok! So now I have got the Evolutionists on my side and the Creationists against me, let me throw a spanner in the works.
    I believe in an intelligent, self consciousness that is the SOURCE of all life and the physical reality we inhabit.(Notice I didn't Call it GOD). I absolutely believe that there is intelligence behind the the process of life and its Evolution. I do not believe that life is a random and accidental process. On the other hand, I certainly do not believe that there is some interminably ancient bloke upstairs interfering in everyday life, judging us for our behaviours and dishing out punishments and rewards like some psychotic headmaster. My idea of what is "GOD" is a long explanation and may be the thread of another post, but let me finish this post with this; If God is infinite, especially in age, then for "him" to create something via a process that takes billions and billions of our years is but an instant for God.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tzadik Records.

Anyone who even bothers to read this blog will by now know that I have a slightly obsessive admiration of the music of John Zorn. Fortunately Zorn is one of those rare artists who has control of most of his own copyrighted recordings and due to lack of much information out in Webland, I assume he started Tzadik Records as an outlet for his releases. As I have grown my collection of Zorn's recordings I was attracted to the label that he was releasing them on and I discovered that Tzadik is quite a prolific little operation and I decided it was time to start checking some of it out after being put onto the excellent Zion 80 release last year. With well over 600 releases to choose from it was mind boggling where to start sampling this music, especially as I was completely unfamiliar with almost all of it, so I decided to start with the latest releases and start working my way back if I liked what I was hearing. The image above was lifted from the Tzadik web site and gives a very limited insight as to the music available. After acquiring over 50 CDs from the label so far, I have been so very very impressed with the music presented with only one release I really didn't like.
Wikipedia states that "Tzadik is a not-for-profit, cooperative record label". So I assume that after costs, all profits from the sale of the CDs goes direct to the artists. The CDs are all released under certain "Series" like the "Composers Series" or the "Radical Jewish Culture Series" these two being the biggest series. Within each series, although there is a sort of theme or some sort of loose connection, the music within each series is quite diverse and sometimes the music released on a CD in one series could more than likely fit in to a different series but thematic attributes put it where it is. 
So several things I have noticed about the music from Tzadik releases are the overall sound and production quality is first rate, the musicians are all without exception, exceptional and the artwork is also great. Each series has a consistent cover art theme to Identify the series it inhabits, which interestingly makes for a quite uniform output for such an eclectic catalogue of music. The music on Tzadik, I find to be very advanced and quite often very challenging but so far almost uniformly exciting and enjoyable. I especially like to have my Tzadik playlist in Itunes set to random and am constantly surprised ant the new sounds that keep coming out.
John Zorn is listed as executive producer on every tzadik release, so I assume he has the final say as to who gets their music released on his label. From what I have heard so far, that is a good thing. I look forward to exploring many more of the back catalogue and future releases and I suspect I never listen to popular music the same way again.
The label may not be well represented on the internet but it does have it's own Web Site which lists and sells all of the catalogue of releases right back to the initial releases in 1995 and if you can read French, there is a great Blog reviewing many of the Tzadik releases, links below.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

John Zorn - Filmworks XVII (USA 2005)

More Zorn Filmworks.

The collecting of Zorn's filmworks series is turning into a very rewarding endeavor. This volume is the latest to arrive in my mail box and practically hasn't left the CD player since the day it arrived. There are two film scores here mixed throughout the CD. The five Skull pieces from one film are little percussive pieces and although aren't overly impressive on their own, they make nice little interludes between the masterpieces that make up the soundtrack to "Notes On Marie Menken" .The first of these opens the set with a lovely mellow guitar intro from the very talented and all round groovy guy, Jon Madof, before the piece morphs into a very pleasant sort of Eurojazz number. After the first Skull piece we get another cool sounding Euro jazz style track in which the second half of the song we get an extremely awesome extended guitar solo from the aforementioned Madof. Not a bombastic type of "Rock" solo but more reminiscent of Zappa's more involved extended solo's but more laid back. Track 6 "GoGoGo" is an 8 minute free jazz blowout with our man Zorn honking most impressively on his Sax. Very Sun Ra and one of the best I have heard, I really connected with it. The other stand out track, amongst some pretty good company, is track 12 "Arabsque", another with Zorn on sax and has a real cool "Psychedelic" delay effect on the sax and is just a knockout tune. The best filmworks volume I have heard so far and now in my Zorn Top Ten.. Rating 5/5