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Friday, January 12, 2018

A Dead Forest Index - All That Drifts From Summit Down - Sargent House SH51 - 2016 - New Zealand (vinyl)

Probably not really a review but more of a rave in regards to this record. Two brothers, Adam and Sam Sherry are the core of this band with a few friends helping out. Their first full album after some hard to find EP's we are presented here with a bunch of shoegazy dreamy pop songs of ethereal ambience and outstanding quality. The music is great, the poetic lyrics somewhat impenetrable but of quality, but the vocal harmonies are just phenomenal. I think Adam handles most of the singing with Sam occasionally backing, but it also sounds like Adam harmonizes with himself a lot of the time. I just can't express just how astonishing this record is, one of the best New Zealand albums I have ever heard and definitely a desert island disc. Rating 5+/5

Steve Abel - Luck/Hope - Arcade Recordings AMR 006 - New Zealand - 2016 (Vinyl)

I had heard Steve's song "Sidewalk Doves" several times from a podcast I listen to regularly, which I enjoy, but although I had seen his record about, I had not got around to securing myself a copy, until I actually saw him play live last year, a gig I thoroughly enjoyed. I picked up this record there.
 A singer/songwriter with a pleasant and laid back almost lazy voice, which I like a lot, this album has quite a lineup of musicians that play on it from across the 6 year odd gestation period of this record. Steve just played solo with his acoustic guitar when I saw him play and he was great, but I always enjoy the music more when filled out with a full band and this music is no exception. This is a pretty sparse record, very laid back and understated but really well presented with plenty of strong tunes and nice subtle playing, especially from the talented Jolie Holland who has a strong presence on this set. A very nice record which get a rating of 4/5.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Milt Jackson & John Coltrane - Bags & Trane - Atlantic USA 1961 - CD Reissue 1988

I was pretty slow coming to jazz, it was a music I really struggled to connect with until probably well into my 30's, but before that I did slowly add some jazz titles to my collection. John Coltrane and Miles Davis mainly. With the discovery of John Zorn and Sun Ra in the early 90's I started to take more of a notice, although both stayed on the outer periphery of my music listening until much later.
 But the first jazz record I actually bought back in the late 80's while I still was in my early 20's was a vinyl copy of this album. I obtained it well before I started buying CDs and I have no idea which vinyl version I had at the time but I do remember really liking what I heard, especially the fast tempo tracks with their fast bass lines holding the tunes together. It was always the faster paced tunes that really captured my attention back in the day and this album certainly had some of that uptempo stuff for me to relish. As much as I liked this record at the time it still remained my only foray into jazz for quite a while. This CD reissue was released in 1988 according to the back cover and has 3 additional bonus tracks. I didn't actually buy this again till recently after I saw it really cheap in some shop and remembered my fondness for it. My enjoyment of this record has not diminished over the last 30 years since I first heard it and indeed I can appreciate the sheer quality of this great session from two jazz greats even more now. A wonderful record and the additional tracks all stand up well with the original record. Rating 4/5.

Triumphs - Computer Man - Self Released TRI001 - New Zealand 2017 - (Limited Edition Vinyl)

So I have had 8 new slabs of vinyl arrive so far for the first week of 2018, four I have already reviewed below, but this one is the pick of the new arrivals so far.
 Triumphs are a two piece with just guitar and drums, hailing from the southern metropolis of Dunedin, New Zealand. They play what is usually termed "Post Rock" and they stick to the formula of quiet/loud which seems to be quite common for this style of music. The scene seems to be pretty busy here in NZ and with this album Triumphs have pushed them selves to the top of the heap here up with the likes of Jacob, Karretta and Into Orbit.
 Four Sides of awesome riffing backed with excellent drumming, over all four sides it never gets dull, even though they never stray from the usual formula. Their first album, "Beekeeper/Bastardknocker" was a great record but suffered from low volume and was quite Lofi sounding on vinyl. This record supersedes that record in every aspic, the sound is incredible, the volume is excellent, the music is fantastic and the vinyl is quiet as a mouse. Perfect. What a great record to start off the year. Rating 5/5.

Roy Irwin - Some Other Dumb Asshole - 1:12 Records - LP 004 - 2016 - New Zealand (Vinyl)

The last of the 1:12 Records new arrivals and I believe this is Roy's first album. A little harder to pigeonhole, this record with a couple of instrumental tracks,  a solo guitar song, some slightly weird stuff in some track and some  nice non commercial pop tracks like the familiar and very good"Metal Breath", which I already knew and the excellent bass led "Deth Trip"that opens side two. Maybe a little patchy in places but plenty interesting stuff happening and I feel most of it will grow on me. Rating 3.5/5.

The Echo Ohs - Hot Pocket - 1:12 Records - LP 006 - 2017 - New Zealand (Vinyl)

Next new arrival is another of the three I got from 1:12 Records, a small independent record company(like so many here) in the North Island of new Zealand. This is The Echo Ohs first album, after a split EP and a 7 inch single both on vinyl. The band has four members with  female vocalist/bassist and drummer and guitar with trumpet and trombone, and sax on one track.
 Lifo garage/surf/riot girrl is the order of the day, plenty of distortion but not enough to obscure what is going on in the songs. plenty of cool bass and screeching guitar fleshed out with the brass, this is a really sound record and most enjoyable. A great effort. Rating 4/5

Full Moon Fiasco - Summer Eyes - Fantasy Fiction Records - FF 001 - 2017 - New Zealand (Vinyl)

So, this is the second review of the four first arrivals of 2018 and is the second album from this expat Kiwi band now resident in Germany. The brainchild of one Will Rattray, who recorded, mixed and produced this album as well as sharing writing credits with the rest of the band. Been a long wait between albums with their debut being possibly digital only release from 2010.
 Electronic tinged, off kilter psychedelic indie pop make up the contents of this record, pretty catchy in places and somewhat dreamy and shoegazy. Overall, a pleasant enough bunch of songs that I have enjoyed listening to but probably not a record that will end up on my best of lists. Still a worthwhile addition to my New Zealand Collection, with some quite interesting moments. Sounds better on the floor stand speakers than the headphones though, sounded a bit murky on the headphones. Rating 3/5.

Magic Factory - Working With Gold - 1:12 Records - LP 007 - 2017 - New Zealand (vinyl)

Apparently, sometime perhaps back in the early 70's, The Rolling Stones somehow discovered or got access to a time machine and came forward 45 odd years in time and ended up in New Zealand where they recorded an album for a small independent record label called 1:12 Records under the pseudonym The Magic Factory.
  All joking aside, yes this record certainly does have a very strong early 70's Rolling Stones sound perhaps with a hint of those other Rolling Stones copyists, The New York Dolls. This is not at all a bad thing, with some great songs and plenty of classic guitar sounds on what is a very accomplished and pretty cool record. I am enjoying it to the max, nothing wrong with old school rock. Rating 4.5/5.

Tom Cunliffe - Lyttelton Records - Christchurch - 6 January 2018

Tom Cunliffe is an Auckland resident of Irish descent who plays a lovely blend of folksy Americana, has a really good debut album out on Lyttelton Records out of Christchurch and another album due out in April. This short tour is in promotion of that new record.
  This was my first gig at the new Lyttelton Records Cafe/Bar/record shop/music venue. It is a pretty small venue with a capacity of only about 80 people and it was not full for this date. I found the setup a bit of a let down with the stage in the center of the long narrow venue and seating limited but also taking up a lot of the standing room in front  of the stage. The bar was off to the side of the sage with a brick wall separating but there was a window looking from the end of the bar into the stage area and a speaker to project the music into this area. It was at the far end of the bar I found a perch with my drink as I waited for the first act of the night. This was another Tom, although I did not get to hear his last name. This Tom played just solo guitar and some piano and did some really good tunes although lyrically a little on the dark side and the guitar playing was cool and slightly heavy in places. Who ever he was I enjoyed his set.
 After he finished. I snuck into a gap in the seating up against a wall where I got a much better view of the stage and waited for Tom Cunliffe to mount the stage.
  This Tom also played solo, mostly electric and later some acoustic guitar. I had a re listen to his first album earlier to reacquaint myself with his songs, but actually most of the show was at first all the new stuff, I believe, from his up coming album and so I didn't know any of it, but it sounded promising and sometimes whimsical, as apposed to the more melancholy stuff on the first record. Towards the end of his set a lady at the front asked if he would play Old Moon, a great song off the first album(which I just now discovered was not his first album, as he has an earlier one on Bandcamp), He duly obliged as she enthusiastically sung along to every word. He played two more songs off that record to which he got more reaction from the audience as they all knew the songs and all are great songs. It was a most enjoyable evening and Tom is a bloody great singer, an impressive lyricist and a strong entertainer. Great night, really glad I went.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Godsmack - Awake - Republic/Universal Records 159 688-2- USA 2000 (CD)

Really heavy alt rock with gruff but good vocals, this album really kicks arse, has great riffs is as heavy as fuck with out becoming outright metal and sells in truckloads( God Smack have world wide album sales in excess if 10 000 000 units) I really like this one, good sounds. Rating 4/5.

Various Artists - Hallelujah, Anyway- Remembering Tom Cora - Tzadik TZ7602 - USA 1999 (CD)

I knew Nothing of Tom Cora when i bought this album. I bought it as part of my collecting of the catalog of John Zorn's Tzadik Label.
 Released in 1999, soon after Tom's passing from cancer at the age of 44, this tribute to Tom consists of two 70 minute CDs of music from Tom and many of the bands Tom played in over his career as well as other musicians that Tom had played with and influenced, doing pieces that Tom wrote or that they recorded especially for this compilation.
 I could be here a month of Sundays trying to describe the music on this release and at over 140 minutes there is a hell of a lot to take in and this sort of stuff does not get pulled off the shelf very often.
 Tom played in many bands over the years as well as releasing solo stuff, like some of his solo cello improvisations, an impressive example of which graces this album, along with recordings he did with some familiar names, such as, John Zorn, Fred Frith, Leo Smith and Chris Cutler. There are also tracks from bands that Tom graced such as, Curlew, Oriental Fusion, Third Person, The Ex, Pidgen Combo, Nimal and I believe his most well known outfit, Skeleton Crew with Fred Frith and Zeena Parkins.
Oh what a roller coaster of a musical journey is this project but it is very well worth the ride. Some really mind bending and creative music resides on these two discs, from free improvisations, plenty of NYC Downtown madness, Brass Bands, electronic noise, off kilter pop and plenty of other almost indescribable weirdness, there is nothing I don't like and plenty that I really am enjoying very much. It would be worth tracking down some of the recordings Tom did with the various bands he played in that I mentioned above. A wonderful tribute to Tom and musically get a massive thumbs up from me.
 I highly recommend this album for those who like challenging music, go on, dive in I dare you. Rating 5/5.

Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I May See - Capitol Records 0777 7 98253 2 5 - USA 1993 (CD)

Mazzy Star are another of those bands where I just have the one album, not because I didn't get into them at the time but usually because there are always so many other albums always begging for my attention and some times because an album is just so fucking good that one feels nothing else they could do would ever touch it and this is one of those. Not that Mazzy Star actually put out many albums anyhow.
 I know I didn't actually buy this album upon initial release, but much later on. I did finally buy a copy, of course, on the strength of "Fade Into You", the opening track and I sure most who know it will agree, a masterful classic of  slow dreamy atmospheric pop, A beautiful song.
 Although this album is not pure commercial pop, this music is much deeper than that, stunning alternative pop, with slow organ melodies, acoustic guitar and sometimes screeching electric guitar, nicely mixed in the background so not to overpower the rest of the music. This is such a well balanced mix, awesomely recorded but not super Hifi.
  Not only are the songs brilliant but some of the titles are really cool as well, "Mary of Silence", "Unreflected", "Into Dust", just all magnificent songs.
 I really can't gush enough about just how good this record is, it might be nigh on perfect. so I'll just conclude that this album is a very strong contender for a desert Island disc. Rating 5+/5.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sun Ra - Cosmo Earth Fantasy(Sub Underground Vol 1&2) (USA 1974/5) ( CD) Reissue 2012

This Art Yard release combines two ultra rare Ra Saturn LPs from 74'and 75', "Cosmo Earth Fantasy" and "What's New", although the recordings themselves are dated somewhat earlier, from 1962 Choreographers Workshop reheasrsal recordings to a live recording from 1975. Quite a mix of styles on offer here with the set kicking off with the mammoth 22 minute improvised title track which will challenge but reveals some quite interesting passages. It does get pretty noodly at times though. The rest is a bit more conventional sounding in a fashion(if you could ever call any of Sun Ra's muisc conventional) with some nice piano from Ra in places and reasonable remastering to give a fairly listenable release. A very worthwhile Sun Ra set and gets my rating of 4/5.

The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers - Rolling Stones Records - UK 1971 (CD) Reissue 1994

What more can I say about an album like this, bugger all really. I am not a really big Stones fan but I do have some of their best albums in my collection. Of course this kicks off with one of those unavoidable classics which you would have to be living in a cave in Mongolia for the last 40 years, not to be familiar with. This album also has an real Americana vibe through it with it's shades of country as well as the excellent delta blues of " We Gotta Move" Consistently brilliant across its whole 46 minutes, but it's the center piece of the album that really blows my mind. The seven minute "Can You Hear Me Knocking" could possibly be the best things the Stones ever recorded with the great riff and the awesome extended atmospheric sax and guitar breaks. Although "Sister Morphine" slightly disappoints after being so familiar with Marianne Faithful's sublime version for so long, it still won't stop me giving this album 5/5.

The Cure - Disintergration - Fiction Records 839353-2 - UK 1989 (CD)

So this is apparently The Cure's biggest selling album, with over three million units sold worldwide. I never knew they got quite so big. I guess I still think of them as a sort of cult band from their early 80's output. This reissue on CD of this album ended up in my collection god knows when and really has received almost no attention since. This CD version has some additional tracks and clocks in over 72 minutes. As you would expect from The Cure, the music is dark and drony and a bit long winded and I do find these very long records difficult to stay with for their full length. I was slightly familiar with one or two songs on this, and good songs they are. There is a lot happening throughout the record, with some interesting string arrangements fleshing out the tracks I do actually find this to be a pretty strong set, although still way too long. Another of those albums that I couldn't really sit down with and listen to intently but I am really appreciating it as it plays loudly while doing other not too distracting jobs around the house. Rating 3/5.

The Nudge - Big Nudge Pie - Self Released KEEN001 - New Zealand 2011 (CD)

Since my almost total immersion into New Zealand music over the last two and a half years and re immersion into the cult of vinyl, I made the decision that most of the NZ music I buy was going to be vinyl only, but that is not an absolute. I had picked up The Nudge - Dark Arts album earlier in the year and was most impressed with the result and didn't hesitate to catch them live back in September when they played here. The gig was excellent and they played a lot of songs from their more unfamiliar first album sand witched between a full live rendition of the Dark Arts album. I was totally blown away by their playing and their music and so had to get my hands on this CD, seeing as it didn't have a vinyl release.
 This whole album, all 60 odd minutes, is just wall to wall Blues/Psych rock with all killer and no filler. Stunning arrangements and brilliant guitar pyrotechnics, this record is an absolute New Zealand Classic, pure raw unadulterated bliss. Rating 5/5.

McCoy Tyner - Time for Tyner - Blue Note BST84307 - USA 1969 (LP) 75th Anniversary Reissue

The second Blue Note of the evening was this quartet session from 1968, lead by Tyner on the piano, it opens three of his own compositions and concludes with three musical pieces from Rogers and Hammerstein and A.J Learner. It was difficult for me not to make too many comparisons with the previous fantastic Grant Green album I had just listened to before this. The Idle Moments record was a wonderful sparce, clear and excellent all round record which just impressed me incredibly. On the headphones straight after, this album struck me as more dense and frenetic and maybe not quite as clear as a recording as the other record, I wasn't feeling it anywhere near as much. On next listen I didn't use the headphones, played through the Focals, and it definitely fitted much better like this. I found it to be one of those records I can appreciate more if I am not solely focused on intent listening and indeed this morning I am appreciating the excellent piano work of Tyner on this fast paced record. One that was highly rated in the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, it was included as one of their Core Recordings, but I don't find it quite as satisfying but am appreciating the playing much more than I did last night. It is a grower, rating 3.5/5

Grant Green - Idle Moments - Blue Note ST-84154 - USA 1964 (LP) 75th Anniversary Reissue.

Getting into my Blue Notes for a couple of records on a lazy New Years Day and first one I pulled off the rack is this fantastic record. A quintet session from late '62 lead by Green but with the two best compositions by the pianist, Duke Pearson. Pearson's Album title track is the center piece of the set, and extremely laid back slow number that sounds like it is going to stall at times but is chocked full of stunning solos from Henderson, Green and Pearsom. Jean De Fluer is a faster tempo with some wonderful playing from Green, who penned this number, it is a real toe tapper. Side two opens with the Modern Jazz Quartets Djando, a mid tempo affair to which the group does great justice, and lastly Pearson's second composition, Nomad signs off an excellent record. I usually prefer my jazz more up tempo and freer but this is such a Strong record wonderfully recorded and the 75th Anniversary vinyl reissue sounds great. A classic Blue Note. Rating 5/5.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Band of Horses - Everything All The Time - Sub Pop SPCD 690 - USA 2006 (CD)

I just dragged this CD off the rack and blew off the dust and give it a spin  or two. This was a record that I brought on  the strength of the excellent "The Funeral" which I heard on one of the UNCUT Magazine's  Sampler CDs. Another of those bands that I only ever picked up the one Album from but never followed the rest of their career, not that they don't deserve more of my attention, but time, you know. I am not usually a great fan of jangly indi-pop, but these guys are at the top of the heap with this, their first album, a laid back, slightly acoustic affair with some lovely quiet moments like  "Augustine" and the banjo led "Monsters" and some great alternative pop with "Our Swords, "The Great Salt Lake " and of course the "Funeral". Not overly commercial, which I like, but in an ideal world they would get a lot more radio play than they properly do(not that I listen to the radio much nowadays). A strong album from start to finish. and at 36 minutes of seventies sensibility,another one that doesn't overstay its welcome. My Rating 4.5/5

Into Orbit - Caverns - Self Released IOR001 - New Zealand 2014 (Vinyl)

The first album from this duo of guitar and drums, playing what is termed "Post Rock". Rock based instrumental songs with most of them having a quiet almost atmospheric intro before kicking into heavy riffs and solos. Into Orbit hail from Wellington and are just one of many "Post Rock" type bands from around the country. Good musicians writing pretty strong material, I actually prefer the album more than when I saw them play live last year(I bought the LP from them at that gig). This album is definitely a grower as I get more familiar with the tunes and is a pretty good effort for what is probably only a semi pro band. I think they may be one of the more higher profile bands of this type in New Zealand and deservedly so. Rating 3.5/5

3 Voices - 3 Voices - Unsung UN 1 - New Zealand 1983 (vinyl)

I thought it was time to start reviewing records again as I haven't done any for quite some time and I can't go tramping at the moment due to my disc prolapse in my back and also since I stopped reviewing on this blog I have jumped back on the vinyl bandwagon after 20 years of CDs and downloads. Also my main vinyl focus had been collecting New Zealand music both old and new after many years of only partially supporting the local music scene. My rediscovery of the local scene has unveiled to me a fantastic array of awesome New Zealand Music of which I had no idea of it's existence and also reminded me of how good a lot of the older stuff from my youth actually was. Also, of course I wish to continue supporting the live scene here as I have been, the scene is as healthy and as vibrant as ever, even though the audience is not big.
 Unsung Music was an apparently short lived record label out of Auckland from 1982 to 1983, according to what is listed on Discogs. 3 Voices was the first release on the label. This appears to be their only album and there are 10 members listed on the jacket, of which only one name is familiar to me. There is very little information on either 3 Voices or Unsung on the net and nothing at all on Audioculture, the preeminent NZ music web site.
 The record was a bit of a blind buy for me. I found it in the NZ music bins at my local second hand record shop, the price was pretty good and it looked interesting and I was buying up just about anything NZ that I could afford. As I will probably mention a lot in the future, these New Zealand vinyl pressings from when we still had a local pressing plant are very good and this 35 year old record sounds very impressive both vinyl wise and sonically for the music it's self. It was well looked after by it's previous owner(s).
 Musically, this record is a great addition to my NZ music collection and I am most impressed with the contents. The music is a complex amalgamation of pop, reggae and jazz and reminds me of a more commercial, poppy variant of the Braille music that was coming out of Wellington around the same time although it is not something you would likely hear in radio. There were other bands mining this style of music in NZ around the time also. The album is Strong throughout and reveals a lot of depth on careful listen. A most enjoyable record. Rating 3.5/5.