Hank Marvin and The Shadows, Krzysztof Penderecki, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and György Ligeti would be a swell bunch of dinner guests, don't you think? You could talk about the latest in neo-classical music developments, using the recording studio as an instrument, high fashion, various amplification systems, effects pedals, and string gauges. You could have your mind blown repeatedly when you play their records while enjoying an after-dinner digestive. Such a party would've happened only in Terje Rypdal's mind (although he did have the chance to study with Penderecki), and fantasy or not, these diverse musicians would have a heavy impact on Rypdal's genesis as a guitarist and composer. Not bad company at all.
Miles Davis' Bitches Brew would also open Rypdal's mind to another world of expression, with its expansive jazz-rock meanderings. One can hear this influence quite clearly on some of his early works, wherein sustained vamps create a wide-open vista for the guitarist to ornament with spaced-out electric-guitar filigree. His use of a volume pedal, which cuts off the attack of a plucked note creating a swell, became an important part of his sound. When combined with echo or other effects it creates a ghostly sound like rushing winds or like a softly moaning voice leaning in to whisper cosmic poems in your ear. His McLaughlin-esque bends and vibrato are apparent and yet the lack of overwrought speedy leads lends to a regal sense of drift. This diaphanous guitar sound gives the impression of floating in space without tether and when he does let loose with an unimpeded screaming barrage of notes, the drift stops abruptly and you're tugged back to earth.
Rypdal's solid rock-and-roll background was already showing signs of jazz inflections and it is clearly evident on his first solo release, 1968's Bleak House. These leanings coupled with his taste for European classical music and the progressive jazz raging around him would lead to fertile investigations in new territories, namely the fusion or hybridization of these areas of interest. Jazz fusion in its most abhorrent forms is tepid, soulless, and lackluster, chops for chops' sake, absolutely lacking in aggression and vitality. ECM records, with whom Rypdal has had a long relationship, has been guilty of occasionally churning out some steaming chunks of putrid fusion disguised as important, forward-thinking, new music. They have also, in 40-plus years of releasing contemporary jazz, neo-classical music, and world-music hybrids, produced some true gems of modern music. Much of Rypdal's output lands firmly in this latter category. His music is a confluence of styles that gives a nod toward things past while simultaneously creating a future by sailing headlong into uncharted regions.
If your idea of a good time is trancing out to long-form, mellow psychedelic music of a shadowy, hazy nature, then you would do well to check out some of Terje Rypdal's releases. Look here for a solid rundown of Rypdal's catalog.
Hurry up, Smashing Pumpkins fanatic: Time is running out.
The trajectory goes roughly like this; start young, play R&B and jazz, dig Wes Montgomery to the point of imitation, get into the free-jazz scene and turn the guitar into a feral animal, move to NYC, play and study Harmolodic Theory with Ornette Coleman, cut a string of crucial records in the early 1980s, continue gigging and making records, become an elder statesman of Harmolodic blues guitar. If you tune all the strings on your guitar to one note it makes everything easy, right? Right.
If you listen to the earliest available James Blood Ulmer recordings, you will hear a guitarist working in standard jazz mode. Pretty straight-ahead stuff with a distinct Wes Montgomery influence, nice jazz guitar. But then something happened, the approach changed, and his playing became something altogether different. It became raw and skittering, with sharp teeth set in slavering jaws that were bared and ready to lock into flesh. It was guitar playing reduced to a primal state, a sort of preternatural blues that fit directly within the free-jazz culture that was nourishing it all along. This change began in the late '60s before he met Ornette Coleman and before he learned the name of the language he was already beginning to speak. The youngblood became then, simply, blood.
Coleman found a natural harmolodic player in Ulmer and the two would work together from the early '70s up until Coleman produced Ulmer's first record under his own name, Tales of Captain Black. Ulmer's next four records, Are You Glad To Be In America?, Freelancing, Black Rock and Odyssey, would be and remain highlights of early-'80s jazz-cum-post-everything à la mode. These records were a perfect blend of psychedelic jazz, funk, rock, and punk performed with a razor-sharp edge and often at blazing tempos. This music was played with a taut aggressiveness, very citified, yet with one eye on the past and all ears running at full bore trying to peek around the corner to see what was coming next. These bands were cooking with gas on high.
The fourth album in this excellent spate of recordings was titled Odyssey and, while no less intense and challenging than its predecessors, it was stripped down to essentials. This record shines a light on Ulmer's country roots. A trio consisting of guitar, violin, and drums Odyssey is an album of Harmolodic hillbilly jazz, a deep country blues record with an extremely modern façade. It manages to sound old and new at once, even now, some 30 years later.
I'll leave it to you to figure out exactly what Harmolodic Theory is and how it functions with music and life in general. As with his guitar playing, Ulmer pares it down to it simplest form when he sums it up: “It’s fair to say that a certain kind of blues is the foundation of the harmolodic thing...If it’s free music, coming from the soul, playing any kind of changes and any number of bars, going somewhere else on a moment’s notice, that kind of blues is really ground zero for harmolodic music.”
Even if you're not a particularly religious person, I would imagine that you have a vision of what hell would be like. Does your vision of hell carry an accompanying aural component? How about two amplified saxophones and an electric guitar shrieking, without any hint of melody, at jet engine volume levels for all of eternity? Mull that over for a bit and I think you will concede that it is a fairly hellish proposition. Now, imagine that you can go to your local record shop and buy a concise version of this hell on a record album. You'll be walking out of the shop with a Borbetomagus record in your bag. Welcome to hell, boys and girls.
The above is not meant as a disparagement but as a description of how most people would perceive such an all-out aural assault. For the uninitiated it would be an absolutely terrifying experience as the band unleashes howling gales of sound on a direct collision course with your ears. Conversely, there are those who would find this sort of attack revelatory, exciting and cathartic. It's a neural bombardment of hair-raising skronk that acts in a very divisive way; you're either all the way in or you want to escape it as quickly as possible. It's all or nothing.
Most people would tend to avoid such a cacophonous din delivered with unrelenting energy at skull-splitting volume but, free-jazz fans are not most people. Which begs the question: Are Borbetomagus playing free jazz? They've got no rhythm section to provide a pulse, which even the most outside free-jazz ensembles tend to employ, so how can they be be free jazz? Yet they have two saxophone players, so they must be free jazz. Is it just noise disguised as free jazz? Some may think so. Is it punk? It sounds punk as fuck, but it's not punk rock. What is it then? Let's leave the idea of jazz out of the equation and call it highly amplified, spontaneous sonic sculpting. They are less about the notion of what free jazz is or is not and more about the pure physicality of sounds produced at extreme volume. Some may call it energy music. Whatever it is, they function in the truest sense of the phrase as a power trio.
You've been warned:
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You like Morton Feldman, right? Mark Rothko? A good glass of scotch? How about a nice long raga? These four examples of art, to my mind, require that you slow down and pay attention. You could have a Feldman piece or a raga playing in the background while your actions / thoughts are occupied elsewhere and the sounds will touch you, even please you, but they will be at the surface of your attention. It is only when you stop and allow yourself to become immersed in the music, especially long-form music, that the potential of its profundity can be revealed. This immersion, when actively listening, becomes a form of meditation.
Listening to The Necks is akin to planting a garden in a fallow patch of earth, nurturing it and watching it grow into full bloom. The transformation and growth of the garden is slow, almost imperceptible, and yet it is changing, maturing and flowering over a long stretch of time. The Necks bassist Lloyd Swanton explains, "Our recordings are very much focused on questions of sound and perception and the passing of time … what you might call psycho-acoustic experiences." It is the slow unfurling of their music, the minutely additive embellishments and subtle transformations over long durations that lead to mesmerization. The Necks cast spells.
The restraint, patience, and unhurried developments in The Necks' improvised music leaves open vast realms to explore with any given musical notion. To begin is like setting sail on an ocean in a row boat. The repetition of a particular piece of sound combined with the smallest of changes to the sound results in a soporific trance. It is a drone that is constantly mutating, constantly in motion, constantly evolving. It's lulling and yet it compels you to pay attention so you can find out what will happen next.
Is it jazz? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? The choice is yours, you can tune way in or tune way out, let it wash over you or dive into the deep end and go for a swim. Swanton paraphrases William Blake: " There is that line that you can find eternity in a grain of sand. We’ve all had that experience, of focusing on something really small that is giving us an insight into something enormous, namely the universe or infinity."
So Bertha the tunnel digging machine might be stuck. The thing that’s digging a highway under our city, right next to the Puget Sound. Or maybe it’s not stuck. Seattle Times' Mike Lindblom and Dominic Holden have thoughts and words. It might be stuck, it might not be stuck. They “don’t know" what they’ve struck, according to Lindblom. Maybe they struck something manmade, like an ancient underground burial vault, or an old underground video game arcade featuring sit down versions of Donkey Kong and Centipede. Maybe Mike McGinn is in there playing Dig Dug. Whatever it is, I’m scared. I don’t like when gigantic machines that are digging holes under the city get stuck.
So I’m heading down there with a shovel, and my Sony Discman strapped onto my belt to help out. Who’s with me?? We'll do "The Unstuck." We'll have Bertha moving in no time. I'm also bringing an almost brand-new Phillips head screwdriver, and some doube-stick tape in case that will help.
Oh. and Bertha, whatever you do, don’t accidentally poke a hole in Puget Sound. That could potentially suck really bad. Thanks.
Burien-based octet, Bacon Off a Wolf Plate, has just released their promising sophomore EP, Schlong Whisperer. It’s a somewhat odd conglomeration of sludge and emotive dub mountain-core that’s fresher than ever. Wait, that sounds like shit. Hold on –
Bacon Off a Wolf Plate make angular, lush indie reggae, and have recently signed to Ventriloblower Records. Their debut album, Micronesia, is out soon. No. Shit. Or -
Bacon Off a Wolf Plate, the Renton-based electronic, emo house, speed-fusion trio has changed direction with the release of their third full length, Demolition Derby Cowboys Inside the Vespa of Your Ballsack. Yes. They’ve veered from their influence of straight ahead Death Cab/Arcade/Killers indie. For this latest recording, Wolf Plate gave themselves a set of creative parameters. They smoked a brick of hash in their homeboy’s studio and stripped it down to three two-string basses, with all of them singing through the Helium Angel pitch shifting vocal effect. They call it lardzoid trap, and recorded everything live to tape. For drum sounds, they pogosticked, and threw applesauce against the wall, recording it with a flat PZM Pressure Zone condenser microphone. On the whole, songs are reminiscent of Everclear if Art Alexakis were throat singing with his ass in his throat. The concept for the album is based off a Russion sleep experiment from the 1940s, where prisoners were kept awake for fifteen days using an experimental gas. (YOU GOTTA READ THAT ENTIRE THING.) Damn. Sorry:
The food rations past day 5 had not been so much as touched. There were chunks of meat from the dead test subject’s thighs and chest stuffed into the drain in the center of the chamber, blocking the drain and allowing 4 inches of water to accumulate on the floor.
Lusine (Jeff McIlwain) is a Seattle based DJ/beat conjurer with multiple releases out on Ghostly International. I've been ingesting this Live at Decibel incessantly. Can not stop listening. It's nice with moving legs around the city in the sun today. Ceaseless have been these Lusine beats—sixteenths falling over fours, eights, and threes. Quick and bendable. Electron fields. The water tower stairs at Volunteer Park make for big DNA. Stutters hesitate, shave back, filter through symmetrical arenas. Lusine conjugates the altimeter. (The RBMA site has tons of good stuff to stream.)
Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the country, and the whole world watched as The Philippines were being devastated. Since then, no one has heard from Keb or his wife Edith. Although there were a few false reports that he contacted people, as of now there is no official report on him at all. A Google person finder has been created here to assist with information. The information will go right to his brother Gordon and his daughter Mariyo. Keb was last seen in Hernani in the neighborhood of Padang located in the Eastern Samar Province, The Philippines.
There has been a few false leads, but no proper confirmation if he's okay.
When Henry Grimes was pronounced dead sometime in the 1980s, nobody bothered to tell him. Lacking this crucial information concerning his demise, Grimes went right on living, just as he continues to do so now. Although now he is playing music again, and has been for the last decade, after an extended sabbatical.
The strange and compelling story of the disappearance and resurrection of Henry Grimes reads like a good mystery novel, one with an uplifting ending. Here was a Juilliard-trained jazz bassist working steadily with some of the heaviest jazz gods during the golden years of post-bop and the avant-garde. He moved with grace from the straight ahead and with relish into the fires of free jazz, his indelible contributions to landmark jazz LPs of the 1960s secure his place in the pantheon of jazz legends.
Then, in the late 1960s after moving to California, he disappeared.
Fast forward nearly 35 years and here we have our man living in a one-room apartment in downtown Los Angeles. Without a bass, without the knowledge that he had passed on in the '80s, without knowing that his friend and musical companion Albert Ayler had died in 1970, around the same time that he himself had vanished, Grimes had effectively become invisible. In 2002 Marshall Marrotte, a social worker and jazz fan from Georgia, successfully tracked down a very much alive Henry Grimes. After Marrotte published an interview with Grimes in Signal To Noise magazine, the wheels were put in motion to get the man to caress the strings once more. A lovely confluence of events found Grimes revitalizing himself with a couple of teenage musicians who were able to organize some sessions with top L.A. players and from here he began his second ascension. He was very much ready to caress the strings again. Be sure to read Steven Isoardi's recounting of these events, as it offers a touching glimpse into the reemergence of a legendary figure in modern jazz history.
At one of his first live appearances in Los Angeles, after being a ghost for so many years, a friend who had traveled west with him in 1968 and who had last seen him in 1970 materialized and asked, “Henry, where have you been?” Grimes replied, “Downtown.”
(For more information, please visit the website of Henry Grimes.)
Mr. Grimes hard at work:
If these two young Norwegian musicians chose their band name based on the Buddhist term moha, I applaud them for accurately naming themselves and describing their music with the choice of a single word. The word translates variously as bewilderment, ignorance, stupidity, or delusion. In the Theravada tradition, moha is considered to be a fundamental ignorance of the nature of reality and in the Mahayana tradition, moha is defined as a sub-category of this fundamental ignorance: It is a dumbfounded state of not knowing what to do, a state of being deeply clouded, in which the mind is not clear. If they didn't choose it for this reason, well then...there goes my beautiful theory.
Either way, Anders Hana (guitar) and Morten J. Olsen (drums) do indeed play some bewildering manifestations of music which certainly can lead one to a dumbfounded state or an unclear mind as they unleash their violent, yet very controlled, storms of sound. Those with a high tolerance for tightly improvised, high-energy skronk will rejoice in their powerful aural assailments, just as those lacking the abilities to discern anything remotely musical about it would quickly call it noise and most likely ask that you "turn that shit off!" Pick your side.
At least one reviewer has fallen into the trap of the museum patron who cannot comprehend the abstract painting they are examining. "I fail to see neither its purpose nor its classification as music; some of this noise seems to be easy to imitate without requiring any craftsmanship or artistic aspiration." That statement is the equivalent of looking at a Pollock painting and saying "my kid could have painted that!" It is not so much a question of understanding as it is a question of feeling, letting it envelop you and delighting in its extremes. You don't have to like it simply because it is there; if you aren't feeling it, just move along to the next painting and don't worry about it. Yet another reviewer, perhaps more accustomed to willfully executed noise, has an opposite reaction "Their music is boiled down to pure dynamics; disjointed rhythms abound, propelled by an upfront, standard drum set and backed by ambiguous noise. The beauty here is the music's pervading sense of effortlessness."
Whether this is jazz, noise or noise-jazz, non-music or pure musical abstract expressionism is left for you to determine. Give it a minute or two before moving on to the next painting and then pick your side.
If you are prone to seizures it would be wise not to watch this video:
It seems to me, if you were to sidle up next to John Zorn at the public library, a museum, or an art gallery, it would be likely that you would hear music pouring out of his ears or exuding from his skin or something. I mean, really, does this guy even sleep? Have a look at his oeuvre and you'll see what I mean. He is one of the most prodigious composer/performers of the last 40 years. A truly monumental amount of music, in an amazingly diverse array of styles, has been wrought by the single musical-mindedness of Mr. Zorn. Whatever compulsions drive him to create these intricately composed labyrinths, brooding beauties, and repugnantly hellish beasts are fine by me. It's more to explore.
Like many great jazz bandleaders from the past, Zorn has created a sort of map with which one can choose to go in different directions and enjoy (or be horrified by) a particular journey depending on which direction you choose. By now, you can spend hours upon hours traveling on his byways and along the way you'll encounter a vast and exemplary assortment of confidants, conspirators, and collaborators, each one adding a unique aspect to the musical topography. In turn, each participant of any given collaboration with Zorn has most likely carved out some interesting paths of his/her own. Throw a dart and see where you'll go.
Zorn, who recently turned 60 and celebrated the occasion with a series of concerts, was quoted in a recent New York Times article, “I used to look at composing music as problem solving,” he said. “But as I get older, it’s not about problem solving anymore. There are no solutions, because there are no problems. You just turn the tap and it flows out.” Again, take a glance at his output and you'll get the sense that the tap is opened wide. With such a wild diversity of approaches and sonic qualities in his music there is something for everyone to latch onto and enjoy. You want some ungodly noise? An achingly beautiful string trio? Brutal, hardcore punk-jazz freak-outs? Some klezmer? Some straight-ahead jazz or fierce free improvising? A soundtrack to a film? Musical games? It's all in there, just take your pick.
Invariably, Zorn is referred to as a jazz musician and there is little doubt that he is one of towering proportions, yet his canon reveals that he is also something a good bit more than that. He is a supreme example of a musical auteur working at a high level, with a rotating congregation of very talented musicians, and achieving consistently engaging results. Henry Mancini or Ennio Morricone come to mind as apt comparisons. Zorn explains "The term 'jazz', per se, is meaningless to me in a certain way. Musicians don’t think in terms of boxes. I know what jazz music is. I studied it. I love it. But when I sit down and make music, a lot of things come together. And sometimes it falls a little bit toward the classical side, sometimes it falls a little bit towards the jazz, sometimes it falls toward rock, sometimes it doesn’t fall anywhere, it's just floating in limbo. But no matter which way it falls, it's always a little bit of a freak. It doesn’t really belong anywhere. It's something unique, it's something different, it's something out of my heart."
As Wall of Sound prepares to move out of its current space at 315 E. Pine St. (Aug. 31 is its final day there), the music retailer is having one last in-store show at that location: Le Sang Song, plus a brief opening set by the Oeuvre (WOS co-owner Michael Ohlenroth). Led by deadpan vocalist/guitarist Craig Chambers and featuring Matthew Ford (drums), Min Yee (bass), and Adria Garcia (vocals/guitar), Le Sang Song play stripped-down folk rock that captures a similar slanted-and-enchanted vibe to that of mavericks like Skip Spence and R. Stevie Moore.
Wall of Sound will move to 1205 E. Pike St. #1C in early September.
Also, tipper JZ informs us that Wall of Sound has a bunch of free records outside of its shop right effin' now. Get a move on.
More info here.
This is happening right now, in front of Value Village. Get over there for a chin scratch or belly rub! That 84-degree kitty doesn't give a single F!
Mayor Mike McGinn has sent us his "Campaign Playlist." He says, "I've been putting this together for a few months as I think of songs. Volunteers suggested some as well." Thanks, Mike! I'm especially liking that live Curtis Mayfield. So very smooth.
Spotify link if you like - HERE.
Georgetown is crowded and sunny and joyful for Sub Pop's Silver Jubilee. I don't think I've ever seen so many band shirts! Can I just say that Seattle has great hair?
Highlights so far:
- A tiny, tiny kid wearing a studded Kind Diamond punk vest, with his tattooed and bearded father.
- Digger (see below).
- Being the very first person to use a porta potta.
It's gorgeous outside, it's almost the weekend, and I can't stop listening to Get Disowned by Hop Along. It's the perfect soundtrack for a day like today—a gorgeous cacophony of noise. I just love it. Let's listen together! Ready? Hit play right... now!
(This is starting now, in New York. View – HERE?) Last night, Andrew W.K. responded to Line Out doubts as per this world record attempt to drum for 24-hours straight. He also clarified the rules for peeing, and that it’s actually him. Via Twitter he said:
Thank you for helping spread the word about my #drumathon with @OMusicAwards! Your words were motivating! PARTY HARD! Oh, also, based on the traditional world record guidelines, you get a 5 minute bathroom break / food break every hour. PARTY!!!
It was 2 AM PST. I wished him luck, and asked him if he should be getting some sleep. I would think you gotta be well rested if you’re going to drum for 24 straight hours. His response:
THANK YOU, TRENT!!! As part of my training, I'm staying up for 48 hours in anticipation!!! I haven't slept since Sunday night!
Also announced: Besides ?uestlove, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Marky Ramone, Nick Jonas, Zac Hanson, and Liberty DeVitto (former drummer for Billy Joel) will join Andrew W.K. as he attempts to set a 24-hour drumming world record at Oakley’s flagship store in New York.
GOOD LUCK ANDREW W.K. I HOPE YOU DRUM FOR 24 HOURS STRAIGHT!
.@TrentMoorman doesn't think I can do the 24 hour @OmusicAwards drum challenge, and that I'm the fake Andrew W.K.!!! http://t.co/5uxcDmDRim
— ANDREW WK (@AndrewWK) June 19, 2013
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