January 29, 2016

Batsumi - Batsumi, 1974

Sublime spiritual jazz afrobeat fusion. Psychedelic shifting rhythms and urgent, brassy hooks doused in reverb. Many South African jazz musicians from this time period didn't make any recordings at all, so big ups to Matsuli Music for digging up this previously unavailable landmark, lovingly remastering it, and making it available.

January 27, 2016

Bagarre - Circus, 1982

The only full-length release from italian label Sauvage Musique, an imprint of Milan-based Panarecord. It begins with the single "Lemonsweet" (below), a psychedelic club-ready anthem which seems to tell the first-hand story of a LSD-fueled night out in New York that might or might not end in a collapse at Studio 54. The song takes us through the stages of the trip, coming up on a groove, feeling invincible and going from club to club. It's not always easy to understand Ann O. Rack's sprechgesang, but the climax seems to come during an intense encounter with a lemon. It ends in confusion, with a repeated "I shouldn't be here tonight" and "54, 54, 54" as she and the music fade away. At any rate, it's a perfect song.

The album continues with highlights throughout, moving between italo and new wave. I love "Circus Is Gone," a bass-heavy, moody ballad with some really nice layered vocals. After that, all of the songs are perfectly appropriate for the club with superb musicianship and production, wild synth work, and heavy bass lines. Enjoy!

January 25, 2016

Don Slepian - Sea of Bliss, 1983

Classic, extraordinarily detailed synth swirl heaven. Snowglobe music. Not too much to say about this one, except that all three of these tracks were composed over the course of two days in February of 1980 and were reworked once for the Sea of Bliss cassette release and then again in 2000 for its CD release, this time with the inclusion of "Sonic Perfume" (included here).

From Don's notes about the CD release:
Computer music was born back in 1958 in Max Mathew's sound lab, at what was then the Bell Telephone Labs research center in Murray Hill, New Jersey. From 1979 through 1981, I was “Artist In Residence” at the Labs. Most of my time then was spent working with the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer, also known as the Alles Machine (pronounced "Alice"), named after its designer Hal Alles. The Alles Machine was disassembled in 1981, with Sea of Bliss the only full length piece of music ever realized on it. Using that machine, the three pieces that make up Sea of Bliss were composed, performed and recorded February 3–4, 1980 and released on cassette. I revised these tracks in the year 2000 for the first CD release, adding a few touches of acoustic piano. Sea of Bliss may change one's state of consciousness. People have often used it for meditation and massage. In hospitals, it has been used during labor and childbirth as a sonic analgesic. In the car it combats rush hour/traffic stress. I consider it a form of aural fragrance, or "Sonic Perfume"...Stochastic sequential permutations (the high bell tones), lots of real time algorithmic work, but who cares? It's pretty music. No sequels, no formulas. It was handmade computer music.
There's some more technical information about the recording here, as well as a nice writeup about Don's work here.

January 21, 2016

Fumio Mayashita - Earth, 1984

Japanese keyboardist and composer Fumio Mayashita began his musical career as a vocalist on the Japanese cast recording of the musical Hair in 1969. From there he moved towards the outer edges of psychedelic experimentation, acting as producer and arranger on the legendary self-titled album for Far Out, a band he co-founded. The group changed their name to Far East Family Band, their sound moved towards progressive rock, and they officially became a supergroup after inducting such illustrious members as Akira Ito, Kitaro, and krautrock pioneer Klaus Schulze. 

In 1982, Mayashita began his solo career with the release Arion, a recording I haven't been able to get ahold of (if anyone has it send along!). In the meantime, I've been thoroughly enjoying Earth, Mayashita's second release. His progression towards new age minimalism and early dance music is a pleasant departure from the fill-heavy, dense musicianship of the more "progressive" Far East Family Band and Kitaro. He still enjoys a good guitar solo and a few driving beats, but as a whole this is much more simply arranged and well, minimal. 

The album is surprisingly diverse in mood while being relatively consistent in its sound palette. 
Nods to Pink Floyd, Iasos, and Ashra throughout. So beautiful!

January 14, 2016

Eitetsu Hayashi - Messenger Of The Wind, 1983

Experimental work and first solo album from Eitetsu Hayashi, musician best known for taiko, traditional Japanese drumming.

Messenger Of The Wind is a perfect example of the rich history of experimental and ambient music of Japan. From an outsider's viewpoint, it's evident that experimental music was the natural evolution of the country's traditional music in the 20th century, making use of new and non-traditional instruments as well new recording techniques. On this album, Hayashi nods to his taiko background, using a wide array of Japanese drums and other traditional instruments such as janggu, gayageum, koto, gong, stainless balls, and Mokugyo. Elsewhere, he uses synth, marimba, thunder sheet, and an airplane. Things get interesting when he employs tape looping on "Cosmos" and when he plays with natural reverberation on "Karabinka" (below).

If you've enjoyed our previous posts like Midori Takada and Mkwaju Ensemble, you might like this too--it's a little more challenging but possibly more rewarding!


January 11, 2016

[RIP] David Bowie - Low, 1977

Last night I heard about David Bowie's death with disbelief. I don't think I'm alone in my longheld, subconscious idea that Bowie, if not altogether immortal, would at the very least outlive us all. I then found myself in four simultaneous 2:00 am text message exchanges of Bowie memorabilia: remember this live performance, that outfit, this song, that photoshoot, this scene in that movie, that moment with Iman, this album cover, this phase, that feeling. For Bowie, pictures are worth plenty more than a thousand words, because words could never do him justice. Instead of trying to express our loss, we just swapped images and stared in awe.

We've learned many things from David Bowie, whether or not we're aware of just how much originated with him. What I'm most grateful for is that he lived out a fluid sexual identity under global scrutiny, and recognized that the public's thirst to know exactly "what he was" was simultaneously ridiculous and a tool to be played with. That was particularly inspiring to me growing up, as was his shapeshifting sound and aesthetic. To call him a chameleon is incorrect, because he never blended in with anything. "Lightning rod" might be more apt. He's always seemed like a particularly sensitive vessel for creative thought, and he acknowledged that divine inspiration in his lyrics: "I will sit right down / waiting for the gift of sound and vision."

I woke up this morning agonizing over which Bowie record to share today. Low needs no introduction and defies explanation, but it feels the most emblematic of the depth of his interests and emotions. It's a record about alienation, and that alienation rubs off on the listener: by the time we reach the saxophone outro "Subterraneans," we feel disoriented, cut adrift and unsure what just happened. I can't help but think of his family when I listen to it today.

Safe journey, David, and thank you for everything.

January 6, 2016

Joan Bibiloni - Born, 1989

Really difficult to pick one record from Mallorcan guitarist Joan Bibiloni, as his body of work is unusually diverse, ranging from boogie-funk to jazz to ambient. For a more inclusive collection, pick up the excellent Music From Memory's excellent compilation, El SurBorn is an experiment in combining classical guitar with subtler synth textures. Though Bibiloni is first and foremost a guitarist, Born hits its peak when synth shares center stage on stunner "Sa Fosca," which sounds like an outtake from Wally Badarou's Echoes. Elsewhere, find Indian drum textures and saxophone ("Born"), sunny jazz-flecked meandering ("Una Vida Llarga I Tranquil·la") and moody, nimble-fingered bravado ("El Sur," "Water Drops"). Heavy rotation on this one. Enjoy!

January 4, 2016

Boban Petrović - Zora, 1984

Zora (translates as "dawn") is the final album from Serbian disco beast Boban Petrović, and dare I say his magnum opus. Extra groovy, extra psychedelic, the work is more complex and less strictly disco than his previous recordings with the band Zdravo. A symphony of synths, slapping bass, and fuzz guitars swell around Petrovic's urgent underwater vocals. The obvious favorite is the instant-gratification slow-groove scorcher "Zajedno Srecni" (below), but the entire album will leave you wondering what you've been doing all these years without it. So excited to share it with you! HAPPY NEW YEAR!