Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Golden Palominos - Drunk With Passion (Venture - VE 905)

The legendary bassist Bill Laswell has a tendency to create flattering bands and all along his carreer, he has shown us enough. Moreover, drummer Anton Fier is not much of a different personality and when these two get together, the result was expected to be fruitsome. They have collaborated with so many artists along their carreers that they have a unique and versatile style of playing. Hence their joint venture in The Golden Palominos results in totally diversified tracks in their albums which stride from one genre to another.

I truly don't have any ideas when or how the project started or ended. However, I know their first album came out in 1983. It is evident that it took some time considering the people that they teamed with during the first recording phase. Just to create a note on this, the first line up included John Zorn, Arto Lindsay and Fred Firth as well. It would have been a truly fascinating feast to listen them at those days. Coming back to the album "Drunk With Passion", it starts with a surprise to some. Michael Stipe makes a guest appearance who is actually a reappearing guest after all. He also appeared in previous albums. The opening track "Alive And Living Now" gives a very positive outlook for the rest of the album. Style wise, the album is not to deviate much from this track. This is also quite contrary to previous albums of the band. This may be due to the heavy effect of the guest artists on this record. Even though they are nominated as guests, almost all are making a comeback from previous ones and they have all learned the sound of the band.

The album flows around styles like Alternative Rock, Pop Rock and Country Rock (Can't really say Southern Rock so that's why I didn't write it as such). Apart from one track,"Dying From Inside Out", where they all seem to use their energies, the album moves around the same comforting rhythms. That track may be due to the guest appearance of Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü, but anyway, it is a good addition to the album. Of course starting from the beginning and coming upto date, the band's sound has changed a lot and therefore it is hard to compare it with the days where Zorn was playing the sax. This may be the ultimate strategy of the band. It is known that Laswell and Fier are both experimentalists in their nature and this band has let them experiment along Rock subgenres with ease. Actually this has album has been their last in venturing the realms of Rock. After this one, they went on exploring electronic music with Bill Laswell taking a more prominent role during the process as his collaborations with Pete Namlook and Ambient oriented artists clearly opening him new ways to venture into. The support they received has been immense and the results have been a joy to listen. The Golden Palominos and all their distinctive albums can be listened to explore the various side roads of Rock.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bob Dylan - Biograph (CBS - 66509)

Here we have a revolutionary man who had a vision to explain all his personal and political feelings, protests and anger through his music. Bob Dylan (Originally Robert Zimmerman) is not mainly famous for his music actually since man of his songs are either borrowed or inspired musically from earlier works. He openly tells this so as well. On the other hand lyrics have always been the extremely powerful side of his works.

It may be really unnecessary to explain about Bob Dylan to an established music listener. Someway or the other, you are bound to meet this man, hear his music and get down into his lyrics. However I personally didn't delve into his music until 3-4 years ago when I had a sudden rush of Blues and Folk in me. Hard to explain, yet I've been listening Blues for a substantial period of my time now. Some books I've read on the subject have also arouse my interest even further. Dylan also got his fair share from this.

I was strolling around Ebay one day when I saw this box set. Next thing I know, I ended paying for it, not with any remorse of course. And I'm sitting on my couch now listening to this fabulous box set. The set consists of various stages of Dylan's recordings as it can be understood from the name, Biograph. It features some of his most famous works like Lay Lady Lay, The Times Are Changin', Blowin' In The Wind, Like A Rolling Stone etc. There is not much need to get into detail with these tracks as they can be found anywhere. The other reality of the box set is more fruitful since it features 18 unreleased tracks and one B side. Now this is a feast.

One important aspect of the box set is the two booklets that come with it. One contains the history of Dylan's life with colorful pictures, details, stories and quotes. The second booklet has proven to be more of importance for me since it directly explains the history behind the tracks and the quotes of Dylan based on almost each song. Knowing the history behind each track has been a pleasure. Interestingly when I was younger (Not that I'm old anyway), I was not so much into learning the history of the songs that I've listened, but the more you listen and experience, the more you are curious about the stories behind the things you listen. It provides a great insight about them and also fills the holes that you can feel. Every stone falls into place. It makes the whole experience more complete and adorable. This is exactly what happens with this box set. Clearly it doesn't have the feeling or the conceptual collectivity of an album. You feel like here and there a couple of times since this is a collection which spans for over a 20 year recording period. Yet you get to feel and witness the starting point of a great artist and how he has developed through the ages. When this artist is Bob Dylan, the whole thing gets a grandiose meaning.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Arnold Schoenberg - Pierrot Lunaire Op.21/Serenade Op.24, Domaine Musical Ensemble, Boulez (Everest - SDBR(D) 3171)

Arnold Schoenberg made a comment once that he would have liked his tunes also to be whistled like Tchaikovsky's. Well, that may never happen. He may not and will probably not achieve the fame that Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Chopin or Liszt and many others. On the other hand, one thing is for sure. His legacy and the change he has brought upon classical music will live on forever. He is one of the key pioneers who shaped classical music.

The doors that Schoenberg opened are numerous. He made this change available in just the right time. Technologies evolved very fast, societies evolved, cumulative cultural understanding evolved and our view of human life evolved. The change in itself is important, but the timing was also perfect.

Pierro Lunaire is one of his primary atonal works even though he composed this work before totally theorizing the famous twelve tone technique. Therefore it is correct to say that this work is not the true sample of the change he was yet to bring yet it shows some drastic changes compared to previous century's works. Moreover, this work holds several aspects which was to be developed and used time and time again during the 20th century.

The works is the first fully use of a technique called "Speaking Voice" (Sprechstimme). Just this technique alone was widely seen in the future among the works of Berio, Nono and Stockhausen. The lyrics belonged to the Belgian poet Albert Giraud. The name of the composition derives from these poems as Pierrot is the pantomime character and some of the poems have the themes based on the moon (Lunaire).

Helga Pilarczyk is the speaker during the composition. With all fairness to her, this is a good performance under the general conducting of Pierre Boulez, but I would have preferred to listen it also from Cathy Berberian as well. After all, she is the master of this kind of works.

This composition heavily relies on the performers and therefore a choice of record to listen this work is very important. This version where Boulez conducts his Domaines Musical Ensemble is widely claimed to be the best version even though tastes may differ. I should also point out that considering the only other version (By conductor Peter Maxwell Davies) I have listened this record, Boulez's version comes out to be the better by far. It is surely a teaching piece for people who would like to take a sneak peak at how the classical music was evolving step by step during the beginning of the 20th Century.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jimi Hendrix - Band Of Gypsys (Polydor - 2480 005)

Are you experienced? Have you ever experience listening Jimi Hendrix on vinyl? If not, well you've really not lived so far.

The first Hendrix vinyl I've bought was from a record shop Paris, near Sacre Coeur. I bought the repress of Smash Hits. Along with it I bought many other vinyls including my first Nirvana as well.

Band of Gypsys is a live recorded album at Fillmore East in Ny on New Year's Eve, '69. It is an incredible album. Not that it's live, but the record starts with "Who Knows" which is truly amazing. Recatching Salieri's words for Mozart, this should be god's music. I don't want to be sarcastic to say god is a dillusion and will not ruin the moment. "Message Of Love" and "Power To Love" are also other reasons to leave sarcasm behind based on the same concept.

The true beauty of the record and the necessity to listen it on vinyl comes from the fact that the recording is really raw. It creates a much better effect listening on vinyl. The crispy solos of Jimi Hendrix are directly getting into your veins and taking you away from any thought that you had or our pathetic brains was planning to have.

If Hendrix could have lived somewhat more, we would never have had the cold war period. The notes he flushes us with from his guitar have more than enough energy to wipe out all stupid daily problems or expectations one might have. Life itself is actually a gift.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Olivier Messiaen - Quartet For The End Of Time (MHS - MHS 978)

I can gratefully state that I am a keen audience for the works of Olivier Messiaen and have a well established collection of his recordings. However, most of them are miles apart even though their structures have similarities on base level. There are some of his earlier works which stand out from the group but even on those works, his different style of approach can be seen and felt. Quartet For The End Of Time or originally Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps is one of those pieces. When compared with his later works, it has a more classical style to it even though with long passages from the clarinet which creates a chilling effect on the listener. On the other hand, this composition is not only beautiful in the musical sense, but also on the composing stage as well.

There are some compositions which are a result of uncompromising circumstances. This composition is a clear example of this type. It is essential to learn about the circumstances during the composition of this work in order to fully grasp the reality behind the melancholy and even depressive notes that dominate it. Messiaen was enlisted in the French army during WWII and he was in a prisoner camp when he wrote this work. He was accompanied by three other French musicians and he wrote a trio for them which later on became a quartet with Messiaen on the piano. The premiere was in a barrack of the prisoner camp in front of 5.000 prisoners and German soldiers. Interestingly the front row was for the German guards whom were all the more effected by the pure beauty of the piece. Of course there were some mishaps like the cello with three strings.

To be honest, it can be noted that this piece is one of the most important works of 20th century music not only because of it's emotional value, but also musically. The gloomy atmosphere along the composition was also similarly offered to us by the likes of Sibelius, but his position was merely a depression in the dense forest house where he was feeling more productive.

It is really hard to explain the composition. When you listen to it, the first thing that strikes you is that the name is extremely proper to the composition. There is a dark atmosphere. Really dark. This is the work of Messiaen, but it is more rightful to say that this is the best piece about war since it was written within the war itself. I am also a deep admirer of Britten's War Requiem which is similarly affectionate and emotional. However, there is a small difference between them and that is War Requiem is the child of grief after war and Quartet For The End Of Time is the child of grief, pain and suffering during the war. There are no more words to describe it. None needed as well as the whole piece speaks for itself.