May 25, 2016

Joel Andrews - The Violet Flame, 1976

As far as new age sound-healing records go, this is pretty pared down. No chanting, no reverb, no swirling synth arpeggiations--no synth at all, actually. Just harp and tape crackle. Feels more neo-classical than new age, but no complaints here: this is sprawling and warm, and to me always sounds like gold threads. Surprisingly multipurpose: works just as well by a fireplace as at a picnic, and I once had a really great day at the Cloisters with this. Note: this tape rip is very staticky. No word on whether the sound on the custom CD available from Andrews's website is better; let me know if you buy it.

May 13, 2016

Nobuo Uematsu - Phantasmagoria, 1994

The first (and from what I gather, one of the only) non-Final Fantasy release from legendary Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu. Alternates between candy-sweet synthetic puffs of new age, ominous baroque, and spoken word. The instantly familiar "Dogs on the Beach" belongs on Ray Lynch's Deep Breakfast, the title track feels like a very tasteful score for a Tim Burton ballet, and of course, "Final Fantasy" is an even more (!) baroque spin on the video game theme, this time with harpsichord and vocals from Chinatsu Kuzuu. Thanks for the tip on this one Mike!

May 9, 2016

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Accent on Africa, 1968

Guest post by Charles Cave

This is an album I would describe as multi-sensory and completely transporting. Listening to it, I feel refreshingly elsewhere! Really, it should be thought of less a quintet record, and more a formidable big-band recording with, as the name suggests, a palpable African feel. There's boisterous and joyful percussion throughout, and some tasteful solos by Adderley, but for me what makes this record stand out are the memorable refrains and motifs. Adderley's opening lead on "Khatsana," on my first listen, made me think I had heard it a hundred times before; it’s narrative in such a familiar way and has an effortless predictability that makes you feel you've written it yourself and are merely conducting the musicians in your ears. In typical big-band style, the record is a sure-fire party winner, and the African influenced grooves and chunky percussion only add to the sense of lively ensemble and GOOD TIMES. There's also a filmic quality to much of the instrumentation here, like the sultry "Up And At It," which wouldn’t be out of place in a stylish 60’s detective film. "Gun Ja" slows things back down, initially feeling like a mourning song with a wailing distant vocal before picking itself back up gradually, for a dramatic final chorus with cinematic horn lead. As far as big band records go, this is right up there for me alongside my favourites like Duke Ellington's The Far East Suite. A total romp, with unforgettable melody and some genuinely touching moments. Highly recommended.

May 5, 2016

Panasonic - Kulma, 1997

Minimalist classic. Originally released under Panasonic, and then later as Pan Sonic for legal reasons. Not the most original thing to say, but this feels distinctly like people taking backseat and allowing computers to do the work. Ecstatic beats, long stretches of whirring, and surprisingly little abrasion. Good speakers, headphones, or not at all, since there's nothing to hide behind here.

May 3, 2016

Yoichiro Yoshikawa - The Miracle Planet OST, 1987

As evocative and expansive as any soundtrack can hope to be. From what I gather, there have been two runs of The Miracle Planet (Chikyu Dai Kikou) series--one in 1987 and one in 2005, both co-produced by Japan's NHK broadcasting corporation; although there's very little information available about the earlier series. Technically, this release is a 1988 compilation which includes tracks from two of Yoshikawa's other releases (including the instantly relatable "Nebraska," which sounds as if it was heavily inspired by the Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence soundtrack. I'm always grateful for the full hour of music, so I'm including it as is).

Silvery synth pads, sleek pop arrangements, plump and wet percussion, traditional Japanese drumming, sentimental orchestral arrangements, and a few forays into fourth worldy nostalgia. I can't say enough nice things about this. Ideal for fans of Yas-Kaz, Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Joe Hisaishi, and Hiroshi Yoshimura.

April 29, 2016

Dadawah - Peace and Love - Wadadasow, 1974

Guest post by Daniel Peters

Comprised of four long ruminative tracks, the classic Peace and Love - Wadadasow is probably reggae’s closest answer to Ash Ra Tempel — highly spiritual and free-wheeling, totally enveloping in its psychedelic nature with some of the brooding appeal of dub. 

It’s the second album by Ras Michael, released under the moniker Dadawah, and here his passionate chanting and singing is treated with expansive post-production effects courtesy of Lloyd Charmers. Willie Lindo provides incredible bluesy guitar improvisation. The rhythm section is held together tightly by a constant bass groove, and "Zion Land," for instance, highlights the spiritual and emotional core of the album. It’s as much a spacey trip as it is an intensely devotional record. 

Dug Out's 2010 reissue contains a slightly different mix, with more present vocals and heavier reverb, while the original pressing (provided here) focuses more on the spacious, atmospheric instrumentation.

April 25, 2016

Jorge Reyes & Antonio Zepeda - A La Izquierda Del Colibrí, 1986

A La Izquierda Del Colibrí ("to the left of the hummingbird," named after Huitzilopochtli, an Aztec deity whose name translates roughly to "hummingbird's left") is a collaboration between Mexican prog and ambient cornerstone Jorge Reyes (who has collaborated extensively with Steve Roach) and Antonio Zepada, a dancer, free jazzer, and ambient musician. Both had a strong interest in pre-Hispanic instruments, and they're used extensively here (ocarina, teponaztli, and omichicahuaztli, among others) alongside a slew of synthesizers. A La Izquierda is mostly instrumental and heavily percussive, dense with tribal drums, purply synth pads, and rainstick textures. It also goes real hard on the wind instruments and bird field recordings, so if you're not excited about pan flutes, you should probably skip this one. Otherwise, take it for a drive and enjoy! Note: the last track doesn't seem to be listed on any of the pressings that I can find, and I can't find any information about it, but it's really good so I'm including it anyway.

April 18, 2016

D-Day - Grape Iris, 1986

Deeply weird record. The first four tracks are straightforward enough: dusty-sweet synth pop, toy whirrs and blips, a Joy Division fan on board, pristine vocal harmonies, some half-hearted samba as the amphetamines are wearing off, sulky new wave guitar. Definitely perverse, but somewhere we've been before. Things start to get gnarly around track five, "Sweet Sultan," which sounds like a dirtier Lena Platonos pirated off a broken answering machine. It gets more confusing as new wave decomposes into no wave ("Dead End") and then into minimal wave ("Dust"), propelled along by what sounds like an 808 that's been dropped a few times too many. "Ki-Rai-I" is Grape Iris's maximum euphoria, with a Sakamoto-inspired marimba loop buried underneath Robin Guthrie-esque guitar warps and more static-scratched telephone-speak, the whole thing sounding like a tape that got left out in the sun. After one last frantic guitar stab ("So That Night"), closer "Float A Bort" returns us to strung-out delirium, slowly submerging itself in water as the sun sets. Keyboards and some production by Yoichiro Yoshikawa, who's worked with Yas-Kaz and is responsible for the gorgeous Miracle Planet soundtrack (I'll get there soon). Wowowow.

April 13, 2016

Mix for NTS Radio

We made a two hour mix for NTS Radio. Tracklisting below. Enjoy!

0:00 Richard Burmer - Physics
3:31 Masami Tsuchiya - Nevermind (Excerpt)
6:28 Carlos Maria Trindade - The Truth
9:09 Joe Hisaishi - The Winter Requiem
13:49 Bill Nelson - Pansophia
14:41 Anna Homler & Steve Moshier - Celestial Ash (Excerpt)
20:09 Toshifumi Hinata - Chaconne
24:45 George Wallace - Electric Night
31:23 Danyel Gérard - La Vieux de la Montagne
35:41 Steve Tibbetts - 100 Moons
40:50 Hector Zazou & Dead Can Dance - Youth (Excerpt)
42:26 Codek - Tim Toum
46:22 Şenay - Doy-Doy-Doymadım
51:57 Joan Bibiloni - Sa Fosca
58:45 Jaco Pastorius - Okonkole Y Trompa
1:03:00 Blue Gas - Shadows From Nowhere
1:06:58 Rasta Instantané - Kylyn
1:11:56 Boban Petrović - Zajedno Srećni
1:16:52 Saâda Bonaire - More Women
1:21:51 Christy Essien Igbokwe - You Can’t Change A Man
1:25:34 Hiroshi Sato - Awakening
1:29:06 Love, Peace & Trance - Hush - A Mandala Ni Pali
1:33:15 Asha Bhosle & Ghulam Ali - Roodad-E-Mohabbat Kya Kahiye Kuchh Yaad Rahi Kuchh Bhool Gaye
1:38:52 New Musik - Areas
1:43:00 CFCF - Vermont
1:47:45 Hiroshi Yoshimura - Time After Time
1:56:27 Gervay Briot - Science

April 11, 2016

Yasuaki Shimizu - Kakashi, 1982

Guest post by Ian Hinton-Smith

Jazzy, dubby, experimental, ambient, joyous, meditative and so much more. Fans of Mariah's Utakata No Hibi will be visiting familiar and friendly territory here, as Shimizu is the architect behind that long awaited re-issue from Palto Flats. There's the same simplicity and attention to detail present on Kakashi and, having been released a year before Utakata, it appears to have been a learning exercise for Shimizu.

For starters, check out the repetitive marimba lines weaving throughout the space-jazz-dub of "Umi No Ue Kara" (a personal favourite) for a whole eight minutes, acting as bamboo scaffolding for drips of guitar and Shimizu's sax lines which drift around it like a fine mist. Total masterful simplicity.

Elsewhere, expect ambient tracks that suddenly drop into a backstreet Chicago jazz club with dueling brass stabs and hand claps, only to drift back out in a fug of serene smoke; abstract 8-bit sampling that could, frankly, send you a bit la-la until it flings you out into cosmic piano territory; uptempo psychedelic drama-Ska; and, ultimately, the sound of Mongolian farmers having a stab at Arabic jazz!

Despite sounding a bit all over the place, there's enough of a thread throughout Kakashi to bind it all together, and after only a couple of listens, I promise you the pieces fall into place.