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Friday, April 29, 2016

Deerhoof's dynamic new collaborations include an album with Chicago's Ensemble dal Niente

Posted By on 04.29.16 at 02:00 PM

Deerhoof - JOE SINGH
  • Joe Singh
  • Deerhoof

On June 24, long-running and remarkably reliable art-rock band Deerhoof drop a new studio album called The Magic (Polyvinyl). And over the next week or so, two collaborative releases will prove just how busy the band and its members have been since Deerhoof put out La Isla Bonita in 2014. Today the band issued a long-in-the-works album called Balter/Saunier (New Amsterdam) that partners them with the great Chicago new-music group Ensemble dal Niente , and next Friday inventive Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich will release a recording made with former Chicagoan Jeremy Barnes (A Hawk and a Hacksaw/Neutral Milk Hotel) named The Coral Casino (L-M Duplication).

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Listen to the mind-blowing Congolese rumba of Franco & L'OK Jazz

Posted By on 04.26.16 at 12:00 PM


I'll always have plenty of reasons to be grateful for the friendship of Jenny Graf Sheppard, a sound artist best known around these parts for her roles in Metalux and Bride of No No, but today I feel like thanking her specifically for getting me first hooked on the music of Congolese legend Franco Luambo Makiadi. The first song she played for me, from a terrific 1993 anthology titled 1968/1971 (Sonodisc) that collected music he made with his killer band L'OK Jazz, clobbered me on first listen—and it's never failed to give me a lift since.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Drummer and bandleader Allison Miller writes and plays with the patience of parenthood

Posted By on 04.22.16 at 02:00 PM

Allison Miller - SHERVIN LAINEZ
  • Shervin Lainez
  • Allison Miller

I've written in the past about the humble, ensemble-oriented approach of drummer Allison Miller, who first earned her bread working with folk-pop artists such as Ani DiFranco, Natalie Merchant, and Brandi Carlile. Her band Boom Tic Boom has always been good, with a terrific collaborative lineup and arrangements that privilege a smart, composerly flow over grandstanding solos. But Miller's skill as composer has never been more apparent than on her terrific new album, Otis Was a Polar Bear (Royal Potato Family), whose ten ingratiating pieces she wrote for her new daughter, Josie (this also helps explain the title, which certainly sounds like it belongs to a children's story).

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Listen to an overlooked 1993 classic from Chicago's Shrimp Boat

Posted By on 04.19.16 at 12:00 PM

  • courtesy of Aum Fidelity Records
  • Shrimp Boat

Prompted by the odd recent confluence of pieces from Pitchfork and New City examining Chicago's music scene in 1993  (the latter a novella-length essay by Bill Wyman), I started thinking about some of the great stuff from that time that barely got mentioned. I dug out 1993's Cavale (Bar/None), the final studio album by Shrimp Boat, a group known better today for launching the career of the Sea and Cake's Sam Prekop than for its own impressive body of work. Cavale remains a stunner, packed with an astonishingly diverse mix of concise, playful, and often beautiful art-pop songs.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Light in the Attic reissues a rare record from Charles Bullen's post-This Heat project Lifetones

Posted By on 04.12.16 at 12:00 PM

Lifetones, aka Charles Bullen and Julius Cornelius Samuel - VAUGHAN FLEMING
  • Vaughan Fleming
  • Lifetones, aka Charles Bullen and Julius Cornelius Samuel

Last November, Light in the Attic Records released vinyl reissues of the three studio recordings—two albums and a 12-inch EP—made by brilliant British trio This Heat, helping a new cohort of fans discover a group that still deserves more acclaim. I've written about This Heat plenty of times over the years, including in 2006, upon the release of an essential box set of the band's complete recordings, Out of Cold Storage, which augmented those studio efforts with Peel sessions, remixes, live recordings, and other ephemera. In February a two-day festival at London's Cafe Oto called This Is Not This Heat celebrated the ongoing interest in the group. Surviving members Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward—the third member, Gareth Williams, died in 2001—were joined by the likes of Thurston Moore, Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, and Grumbling Fur's Daniel O'Sullivan to revisit its timeless catalog.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

A classic document of early South African jazz finally gets a wide reissue

Posted By on 04.08.16 at 02:00 PM


I've long been a fan of the jazz that emerged from South Africa in the early 60s, when the likes of pianists Chris McGregor and Dollar Brand (aka Abdullah Ibrahim) and saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi forged a remarkable sound by fusing postbop with traditional kwela sounds from the black townships. In particular, McGregor—a white musician—was a huge proponent of this emerging style as leader of the Blue Notes, a mixed-race South African group that fled the country for Europe in 1964 and introduced the world to brilliant instrumentalists such as bassist Johnny Dyani, trumpeter Mongezi Feza, saxophonist Dudu Pukwana, and drummer Louis Moholo. (Blue Notes saxophonist Nik Moyake got homesick and fell ill while abroad, and in 1965 returned home, where he succumbed to a brain tumor within a year.) The group eventually settled in London, and McGregor went on to expand their hybrid sound with his brilliant big band the Brotherhood of Breath, which drew from the Blue Notes' roster and was enhanced by some of England's finest players.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Country giant Merle Haggard dead at 79

Posted By on 04.06.16 at 02:44 PM

Merle Haggard - TRAVIS HUGGETT
  • Merle Haggard

I had really begun to think that Merle Haggard would never die. He outlasted all the great country stars (with the exception of his pal Willie Nelson), experimenting and adapting but never giving us anything less than his own ornery, poetic essence all the while. But alas, the Bakersfield legend passed away today, on his 79th birthday (according to his manager, he'd been suffering from double pneumonia). Hundreds of obituaries and remembrances will surely pop up in the next few days, and I don't know how much I can add that others won't say more articulately, but his death definitely closes the door on a long-gone era—a time when country regularly expressed the soul of working-class existence and its everyday travails with the sort of poignant universality and vibrant detail that was the Hag's stock-in-trade. Many current Nashville stars are one-dimensional tools embracing whatever deep-pocketed patron will advance their careers—whether it's the NRA or Manwich—but Merle was a dyed-in-the-wool contrarian and thinker. In modern terms, he'd have to be called a liberal.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Great Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria dead at 81

Posted By on 04.05.16 at 12:00 PM

Getatchew Mekuria - MATÍAS CORRAL
  • Matías Corral
  • Getatchew Mekuria

According to guitarist Terrie Hessels of venerable Dutch art-punk band the Ex, Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria died yesterday at age 81, following several years of poor health. Mekuria began playing professionally in 1949, and though he was most active before the 80s, he enjoyed a heartening late-career renaissance—he collaborated with the Ex, making two fantastic albums that complemented his muscular, vibrato-rich tone with wiry, chattering guitars, and with Boston jazz group Either/Orchestra.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

A new seven-piece ensemble conducted by Henry Threadgill drops its debut

Posted By on 04.01.16 at 02:00 PM

Henry Threadgill - JOHN ROGERS
  • John Rogers
  • Henry Threadgill

Chicago native Henry Threadgill has been on a tear lately with his inventive and versatile band Zooid, whose interpretations of his dazzling compositions are guided by fixed harmonic intervals embedded in the material. That means everyone improvises all at once, in a context that demands the highest levels of concentration but yields dividends worthy of the investment. The music keeps on giving, rich in sophisticated interplay and melodic and harmonic detail. And today Threadgill released Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi), the fantastic debut recording by a different group: the seven-piece Ensemble Double Up.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Revisit a classic early Meat Puppets tune

Posted By on 03.29.16 at 12:00 PM

  • Joseph Cultice
  • Meat Puppets

A couple days ago, Reader culture editor Tal Rosenberg tweeted about noticing that the Meat Puppets had played the house band in the 1990 pilot for Beverly Hills 90210. I've never seen that show, but at that time the Arizona trio were in transition—they'd released their final album for SST, Monsters, the year before, and would drop their major-label debut, Forbidden Places (London), a year later. I haven’t listened to the three albums the Meat Puppets made for London in a very long time, but I remember liking them—including 1994's Too High to Die, which went gold. Drug problems and the departure of founding drummer Derrick Bostrom pretty much doomed the group a few years later.

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