Sunday, February 26, 2012

Elena Duran & Stephane Grappelli - Norwegian Wood (RCA - LP 6007)

Actually the name of the album has no direct link to it's contents apart from one song name. Elena Duran is a well known flutist and Stephane Grappelli is a violinist who is well known for his Cole Porter repertoire as well as Jazz Standards. There is also another name, Laurie Holloway, who is mentioned in the notes as she has made the arrangements of the songs in the album.

This album is made up of The Beatles songs which have been rearranged under the heavy influence of Jazz standards. For an unprepared listener, the rearrangements would definitely cause a feeling of "Hmmm, I know this from somewhere". The main melodies are passed on through either by the flute or the violin hence the difference in feeling. I should also point out that Stephane Grappelli is the name who created most of the beauties in the album. Of course the talents of Laurie Holloway should not be taken for granted as she was the arranger, yet the performance of Elena Duran was not enlightening to say the least. The flute was somehow being felt as repeating itself in many of the songs while Grapelli was reinventing himself in each of them. This may be due to Grappelli's previous experiences with rearrangements, but it stood out nonetheless.

The album include "Yesterday", "All My Loving", "Eleanor Rigby", "Norwegian Wood", "Can't Buy Me Love" on the A side and "Here, There And Everywhere", "Michelle", "Hey Jude", "The Long And Winding Road", "A Hard Day's Night" on the B side. My favorite among all these was definitely "Michelle". Maybe also because of it's original structure, it has been the most effective of rearrangements all along the album. "Yesterday" is also a very good example, but I was not utterly convinced with "Eleanor Rigby". Come to think of it, I may have also liked the artists to stretch a bit and make life harder for them by rearranging maybe "Yellow Submarine". That could have been one hell of a change.

The songs being ripped from their modern era defining Pop identities and fed to old school Jazz characteristics has created simple yet effective results. It is a nice album to listen on a Sunday morning (As I am doing now). It certainly is not breathtaking or staggering. It just gives you breathing space and calmness that we so much miss nowadays.

To buy this record:

@ Ebay

Currently I couldn't find any link. Will check and update if there is any record on sale.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Philip Glass – Music In Similar Motion / Music In Fifths (Chatham Square - 1003)

Philip Glass was the composer who introduced me to Minimalist Classical music and therefore owns a special place in my book of important people. Of course his unique composition style is very much suitable to my taste. Especially his post Tibetan compositions.

This record enholds two of these works. However, it was not easy for me to get a hold on this release since it is a semi-private press and really hard to find. Moreover, the guys who were selling it, until I bought one, were putting price tags which could be noted as pinnacles of capitalism.

The works in discussion on this record are Music In Fifths and Music In Similar Motion. These works are absolutely classical Glass style minimalism with constant repetitivity under the influence of electric organ taking the center of the compositions which was the general trait of Glass during 1980s. This trait we saw again and again many times, especially in his soundtracks of the Qatsi trilogy.

The music is repetitive. Oh really? Of course that goes without saying. On the other hand, the notations and small changes are the effects of percussion experiments of Steve Reich. What Reich has done with percussions, Glass does it with organs and pianos giving it stronger feeling rather than an academic outline. Actually this is the essence of the difference between both composers' fame.

The timing of these compositions mark the more strict Glass era. He wasn't into playing with melodies that much, but rather with notations, keys and speed alterations. Therefore both works can be classified as classical minimalist classical music. I just used three words derived from "class". No wonder. For a puritist music listener, the music on this record can only be explained as class.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Music Stack
@ Ebay

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Monty Alexander 7 - Jamento (Pablo - 2310 826)

Having just been at the concert of Ernest Ranglin last month, I was bound to buy a record of him. After some searching and finding excessively priced records, I deepened my search and found 2 great albums with one being in question here. Believe me it's not easy at all to find records of this calibre, but honestly when two giants like Monty and Ernest collaborate, this beautiful outcome is very natural.

Ernest is the older of the two with a 12 years advantage. He is undoubtedly the most prominent guitarist Jamaica has produced and he deserves all the credit that's due him. I've watched the man aged 79 playing 15 meters in front of me and I was standing in awe. Of course he slowed down in his finger picking style, this and that, but how many of us will live to see 79 and more than that how many of us will be in such a state. I hope we all can, yet that's not how life goes.

Monty is the most talented pianist of Jamaica and his CV as well as his fame shows this. His unique style of jamming Dub and Reggae into Jazz has been an inspiration to tons of people and has been a huge entertainment value to millions including myself. I learned about him while I was searching Jazz pianists who have opened new areas of development to the genre and inevitably his name came up. Naturally there were the Ellingtons, Monks, and here was the Monty.

The album was originally released from Fantasy records as they were among the most passionate followers of the new sounds in Jazz at those days. Later ECM got he better of them in this sense and this is a totally different story so I'll just pass on through. The record I've bought was released by Pablo. The music itself is as good as it gets. First you get the feeling of Jazz standards in the case of the Big Band Era and somewhere along the way start Jamaica (Island as they say it) rhythms and sounds. "Slippery" which is A2 can be named as the best example you can ever get your hands on. You bump into Dub, you bump into native percussions while all along the way Jazz shows it's presence with all it's might. However, apart they have totally different natures. When together, it feels like there is a time bomb standing by your side. You can listen "Slippery" here via MySpace.

The fastness of the rhythm is alluring almost in all the tracks. There are 6 in all which 4 were written by Monty himself. There is one George Benson and one Richard Evans title as well. In all but one there are solos of Ernest Ranglin. All of them feature either one or more solos by Monty which are absolutely inspiring.

Honestly now coming to think about it, Ernest should have toured with Monty again. It shouldn't be that hard. I mean after they reunited in 2004 to create a new album called Rocksteady, they toured briefly. Why not again? However, one side note should be that the pianist Ernest is touring with is a guy called Alex Wilson. He can be a name to watch out for the future. Of course I was not expecting and he was not truly promising to give a Monty show out there, but he really gave all he could. It might just be the second best we could have listened. But on this record, you get to listen to both the giants hand in hand giving out all the energy they can.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Music Stack
@ Ebay

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fela Anikulapo Kuti - Black President (Arista - SPART 1167)

Fela Anikulapo Kuti or as more widely known with Fela Kuti is one of the most prominent artists to come from the Africa continent. He can be justly hailed as the Ravi Shankar of Africa since he has adopted the lively and colorful music of Africa to the norms of Western music that we are so much used to. The main difference is the understanding of what music is for. In Africa music had a dedicated notion in the society. These were mainly songs of celebration, child birth, harvest, rain etc with longer duration times while in Europe we are used to listen music mainly for pleasure with variations in durations based on genre.

Fela Kuti managed to combine both (Without limiting himself to our time schedule). His orchestras always consisted of Western and African instruments with musical notations ranging from one place to another during the performance of a song. His songs are also that of similar to another famous African artist Om Kalsoum (Even though Egyptians don't mainly call themselves African). One album generally consists of 2 tracks, one on each side. This album is a small exception with 3 tracks in total.

The music on the album is built on the exact foundations of the afrobeat genre that Fela Kuti has pioneered. Musical background is multi textured and these are extremely well jointed with each other. Considering that the band itself is close to 20 people with every instrument having a backup, the huge flow of melodies is fascinating. Paul McCartney's first reaction to Fela Kuti's performance wasn't much different either as he was taken aback by the sheer performance of this huge band and the liveliness of the total scene.

The words on the tracks are quite significant also since this is a known side of Fela Kuti. He was a die hard political activist who got himself into enough trouble to last for 3 generations. He stood up against fearsome rulers and movements. He stood up against unjust wealth distribution in Africa even though he himself was born into a family with strong financial positions. He denounced white people's under the surface type colonization and openly said that if Africa was left to it's rightful owners, every man would be a millionaire because of it's riches. He also believed in the riches of Africa in the case of women as at one point he had 27 wives. 4 of them were accompanying his band as vocals. I wonder how many children he has in reality since we only know of 2 in the musical scene, Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti.

For whatever reasons he stood for, he always fought hard and directly with the oppressive regimes, unjustness, for things he thought wrong. He may not have changed everything the way he wanted in Africa, but as this album also shows, he paved himself a huge membership sign that says he is among the legends of ethnic music. He was the hope of Nigerian people as well as others during times of distress and we are just pure lucky that someone of his talent got up and protested using his main tool of music.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Music Stack
@ Ebay

Monday, February 6, 2012

Alva Noto - Unitxt (Raster Noton - R-N 095-2)

It hasn't been that many times when I've listened to an album on vinyl after listening many times on CD. This album is an example of that. The reason I'm in a need to express this is the huge difference in the experience of it all.

The album is on the heavy side of Experimental Electronic Music with clicks and cuts holding a special place all along. Alva Noto aka Carsten Nicolai uses these clicks and cuts not as a melody, but rather as a rhythm altering component. And of course he uses the round bass kicks. These will absolutely throw any mixer out of charts. It's all red. I witnessed the true power of these kicks x while listening on vinyl and my jaws dropped. Moreover, the volume was not on a high level anyway. I cannot imagine listening at mid volume let alone max. The mixer would commit suicide before the first track "u_07" ends. Same effect may happen in "u_04" also.

The album is experimental that is for sure, but most of the tracks have an underlying feeling that the general style does not sway far from Minimal Techno and Minimal House. Believe it or not, you can even feel some funkiness in some tracks. This album is made up of the live performances of Alva Noto hence can be called as more uplifting. Of course from uplifting you shouldn't think about the Uplifting Techno's of the previous eras. It is more uplifting compared to his previous album works.

Alva Noto is also to perform in Istanbul on the 18th of February. It must be stated that under normal circumstances, the performances of Carsten Nicolai have a more powerful and rhythmic texture to it. In this sense it would be harder to expect a performance full of Drone and Noise like his album "Xerrox Vol 2". Xerrox series are dedicated to a cycle of photocopying and is trying to envision the process. There is to be another follow up for this series, but it is yet to come.

Unitxt is one of the best albums Alva Noto has yet produced. Naturally I am subjective and some of this praise is due to my Minimal Techno background and the feeling of live performance, yet it is pure, simple and powerful all around. There is no way this can be objective. It is one hell of a pleasure to listen it.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Music Stack

Friday, February 3, 2012

Purchase Links

I have been quite reluctant to add anything new to the web site. This is a little due to the time constraints that I have and also due to absence of some peace of mind. Now that I am better off, I have added Web site links where you can buy records from as well as links on new posts. I will put as much option as possible for the purchases of the records that I am reviewing. Of course for some of them, this option will be fairly limited, but I'll do my best. However, I must point out that I am never ever going to guarantee the quality of the records that are being sold. Since most of the records that I will review are already out of print, you can only buy them from owners or record shops which are operating online via web sites. Please also make sure of the Goldmine standards of record grading if you are not truly experienced in these purchases. To get a better idea, you can read about it here @ Goldmine Magazine.

There is also another aspect of issues. It may not always be easy to find the same exact release. There can be different presses, reissues etc. The links I'll provide will not only provide you with an exact copy. In times, this may prove quite impossible considering first presses, test presses and rare items. An example would be Djivan Gasparyan's "I will Not Be Sad In This World" album. The one I've reviewed is a test press and finding another one on sale is quite hard to come by if not impossible. So I will put links for other versions of this release instead. Same will apply to a number of records here. There's a first come first serve logic for record collecting. Unfortunately this is one of the reasons we all are paying tons of money to them. Life's a bitch, get used to it :)

I'll also try to put links to the previously posted record reviews one by one. Please understand that some links I provide may be sold in time and therefore become useless.

If you have a need for any kind of assistance for your purchases from the links I provide (Or any other unrelated purchase), I am glad to help as much as I can.

Have fun!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Iannis Xenakis - Synaphai / Aroura / Antikhthon (Headline/Decca - Head 13)

Actually learning about the lives of artists can be quite enlightening when listening and trying to understand their works. Iannis Xenakis can be named as a primary example for this case. He is a well known contemporary classic music composer who has developed unique techniques while trying to create the sound textures of his desires. He has tried different kind of perspectives. It is now I can understand from where and how these techniques and perspectives were coming from.

Xenakis was primarily an architect. He fought during WWII only to be sentenced to death which has led him to escape prison and endure a long exile period in France. For over 15 years, he worked as an architect and cooperated in important projects. However, he was directed by his desires to move into music and this is the point where everything started to get interesting altogether.

Due to the naturalistic movement in architecture, he was applying natural textures in architecture and this was also his starting point. Textures are the first thing you hear and see and thus must be the most important aspects of perception. Xenakis was heavily involved in trying to create naturalistic textures in electronic and symphonic music with the help of pitch, rhythm, timbre alterations and repetitions. These repetitions can hardly be called a wink at minimalist classical music since the general structure of the compositions and the repetitivity of these repetitions are technically too different from that style.

This record includes three works of Xenakis from 3 close dated stages of his life where Xenakis was during his search for the self explaining textures in modern music. In Synaphai irregular repetitions coincide with the continuous vibration mainly arousing from the piano. Aroura is the more naturalistic of the three compositions and includes the sound textures of nature. Xenakis tries to envision fields, woods, the sea and other natural textures that can be seen via repetitions of certain notes and timbres. Considering the current level of textures which appear in modern compositions and works, these early sound forms are a joy to listen as they provide insiders information on how it all developed. Antikhton is the last composition which is actually composed for a ballet piece. Here Xenakis delves into the textures of space, earth, sun and the other planets while contemplating the whole universe. Space is also another sound form he uses in order to give the full meaning to the composition and this is another important aspect of the era Xenakis composed this piece.

We have seen similar compositions from the likes of John Cage and Toru Takemitsu. Interestingly even though we call all these compositions with easy tagging as experimental, yet actually they should have been called futuristic instead. Space was not something they were craving for. We need space now and these compositions are sketching out what we actually need from our lives today.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Music Stack
@ Ebay