Music Review

Tri-O & Sainkho: Forgotten Streets of St. Petersburg (Leo)

TrioSainkhoTri-O & Sainkho: Forgotten Streets of St. Petersburg (Leo)

Tri-O is currently Sergey Letov (baritone and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, flute, Chinese flute, piccolo, swanee whistle), Alexandr Alexandrov (bassoon, swanee whistle), and Yury Parfenov (trumpet, althorn). Sainkho Namchylak is a Tuvan singer who combines the traditional vocal techniques of that region on Siberia's eastern border with Mongolia, including throat-singing that produces overtones, with classical and avant-garde influences.  

Heavy Thunder

When I heard that J. Mascis -- the lead guitarist of much admired, and recently resurrected rockers Dinosaur, Jr. -- was the drummer for new band Witch and not the singer, songwriter or guitarist, I disappointedly thought that meant he wasn't the band's front man. Watching Witch set up and play last night at the Bowery Ballroom, though, I realized my mistake. In fact, all the bands on display that night proved the defining element of music categorized as metal or acid rock is not anarchic yelling or noodling metal guitar, but the rhythms pounded out by the drums at their center. If there is a front man to a metal band, it's the thick, heavy rhythms at work on the bass drum. In that sense, Mascis remains ever the front man, this time literally front and center, with drum kit in tow.

Boards of Canada: The Campfire Headphase (Warp)

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At its best, Campfire Headphase, the latest outing by electronic duo Boards of Canada, evokes what it might be like to walk through some Icelandic landscape: icy sheens, coarse static from some transistor radio off in the distance, and snow drifts blowing across wide-open plains. While the record is not without its hiccups, the band's soundscapes are, overall, deftly crafted, and make for an enjoyable listen.

Echoes, guitar strums, live drum shuffling, faint blips, synthesizer brushstrokes, and a range of other computerized sounds all feature prominently in a record that shows the band consciously shifting away from computer-reliant sounds to the integration of instruments and organic sounding elements.

Happy 30th Pattiversary

horsesPatti Smith: Horses/Horses (Arista Legacy)

Listened to now, three decades after its release, Horses still sounds like one of the top rock albums of all time. But I wonder if anyone who didn't hear it in the context of its 1975 release can fully appreciate just how pioneering it was. After all, '75 is the year that brought us Born to Run, Blood on the Tracks, Katy Lied, Fleetwood Mac, Wish You Were Here, and Barry White's Greatest Hits. Few people had noticed the New York Dolls' two albums, and the Ramones' debut wouldn't come out until 1976; not until 1977 did we get Blank Generation, Marquee Moon, and Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.

Imaginational Anthem: A Guitar Anthology (Tompkins Square)

ImaginationalThe finger-picking acoustic guitar instrumental is a world unto itself. The biggest continent on this world is variously named "the Takoma sound," for the John Fahey label that did so much to promote the style, and American Primitive Guitar, Fahey's choice of genre name. Born (though it didn't know it at the time) in the 1950s folk movement, it matured in the anything-goes '60s (extending into the '70s), and interest in it -- underground for so many years -- has revived at the same time as the resurrection of psychedelic folk. A key early figure in both fields is the late Sandy Bull, and some artists such as Jack Rose extend that dual legacy, but this brilliantly programmed new compilation focuses on the more purist vision.

Yu Kosuge: New York Recital Debut. Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, 11/14/05

Kosuge's debut recital here (sponsored by the S&R Foundation two years after she won its Washington Award for young artists) was a big enough event that Ambassador Hiroyasu Ando, Consul General of Japan in New York, introduced her. More importantly, Kosuge played with spectacular poise, technique, and poetry. Was she perfect? Not quite, but she'll have awhile to grow artistically.

Kosuge has lived in Europe since 1993, studying with Karl-Heinz mmerling and András Schiff, and this orientation was reflected in a mostly Austro-Germanic program.

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Joshua Bell/Berlin Philharmonic/Michael Tilson Thomas (Sony)

joshua_bell.jpgBell and MTT combine to give this warhorse a lithe, elfin gracefulness at times (in the fast outer movements) more reminiscent of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto than of the heavily Romantic readings often heard in the Tchaikovsky. Linda Kobler's booklet notes quote Bell as calling the piece "the most intimate, elegant, almost 'balletic' warhorse I know!" Well, that's also a partial list of Bell's strengths as a player -- just add in the most beautifully silken, refined tone of any player of his young generation on record, an exquisite sense of dynamics and the technique to project clearly even in the most hushed moments, and the good taste to avoid the sort of grotesqueries that some fiddlers are resorting to in order to distinguish themselves from the crowded field in well-known repertoire. Bell doesn't show off in this music by emphasizing its difficulties, instead making it sound easy --which, really, is much more impressive, especially in the finale. 

Silver Jews: Tanglewood Numbers (Drag City)

Silver Jews

For a fan such as myself, sitting down to listen to the Silver Jews' Tanglewood Numbers was somewhat like bumping into an old friend one hasn't seen in a long while, pleased to see that they retained qualities that drew you to them in the first place and yet changed in ways that have earned them new charm in your eyes. Indeed, Tanglewood Numbers should mark a happy reentry for old fans and a welcome introduction for those who have not yet come to know and appreciate Dave Berman's idiosyncratic, matter of truth tales and sardonic musings. With this latest record, however, Berman adds yet another set of elements to the mix: violins, Nashville swing, and, dare I say, actual happiness.

John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note (Impulse!/Verve/Universal)

coltrane.jpg This captures Coltrane’s classic quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones at its 1965 peak (a few months before Trane began adding other players; by the time he went into the studio in 1966, Tyner had been replaced by Alice Coltrane) in radio broadcasts from a New York club on March 26 and May 7. Crescent and A Love Supreme had been made the previous year and The John Coltrane Quartet Plays... was being recorded contemporaneously. Coltrane had refined his modal playing to the point where he’s playing with absolute assurance, pushing into the highest levels of imaginative expression that the style could support; soon he went further and crossed the line into free jazz.