Friday, February 05, 2016

Moment's Greatest Hits 2

Another survey of recent faves.

Damon Che
The great Don Caballero drummer speaks in this essential Brad Cohan interview of "[learning] how to breathe behind the trap set over time." Quite an understatement, given that the style he developed in the early '90s and perfected on albums such as Don Caballero 2, What Burns Never Returns and American Don amounts to one of the most beautifully aerated percussive achievements I know. A true punishing caress. If you can watch this (dip in at, say, 3:20 for a quick taste) without weeping, inwardly or outwardly, at the raw poetry of each flail and bash, we have very different listening brains.

I only very recently gave Thee Speaking Canaries—the band in which Che plays guitar and sings—a close look, which seems like some kind of travesty. The '93 Songs for the Terrestrially Challenged album in particular is a triumph of muscular, offbeat indie rock. It has sort of this grandstanding classic-rock swagger about it (thanks to Nick for helping me spot the cover of Van Halen's "Girl Gone Bad" sandwiched into track 5), some incredibly tasty and eccentric riffing and the general sense of sprawling, indulgent abandon that makes the period of Don Cab I cite above so wonderful.

I highly recommend the tracks "Houses and Houses of Perfectness" and "Terrestrial/Famous No Space." Drumming in Damon Che's band must be a little like playing bass in Charles Mingus's (as Doug Watkins did here), but Noah Leger does a hell of a job of it on this record.



Also: shout-outs to Chunklet for their valuable work unearthing gems from the Che archive, e.g., Thee Speaking Canaries' Platter Base Must be Constructed of Moon Rock (on which Che plays all instruments) and Don Cab's Five Pairs of Crazy Pants. Wear 'Em (a sort of pre- and post-history of Don Cab's burly debut, For Respect).

Krallice
This album continues to be an object of fascination and awe. Not to take anything away from the overall architecture of the songs and the LP, but the sheer amount of insanely cool moments on Ygg Huur is frankly obscene. (Let's start by talking about the crazed fanfare that breaks out around 5:20 into "Over Spirit.") Am also digging the new EP, Hyperion, which actually predates YH recording-wise, and I had a blast seeing them live at Saint Vitus last week.

Leonard Cohen
Cohen is a genius, and I hang on his every word. Been digging into a few of the '70s albums that I never knew as well as I wanted to. I've loved, and very often feared, Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs From a Room for ages, but there's something about the period that follows (Songs of Love and Hate, New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Death of a Ladies' Man and Recent Songs) that's really speaking to me right now. The early stuff has that beautiful austerity, but during this phases, he's really letting it rip in an appealing way, getting as bawdy ("Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On"), mythic ("The Guests"), depressive ("Dress Rehearsal Rag"), ominous ("Avalanche"), sardonic ("Is This What You Wanted") or straight-up manic as he pleases. To exemplify that latter quality, let's focus for a second on the final minute or so of "Memories":



Bruce Springsteen
A younger and more populist singer-songwriter hero. I'm all in with The River, thanks in part to the recent reissue, and I can't wait to see Springsteen and Co. play it live on March 28. On paper, everything about this period of Springsteen seems contrived: the portraits of small-town love, heartbreak and socioeconomic struggle. But in execution, it's sublime. You don't even have to suspend your disbelief when listening to a master like this—you simply soak up the conviction and dramatic truth radiating from the songs.

Jon Theodore
Picking up on the Che thread from above, another one of the great drummers of our time narrates the story of his life and music in this extremely valuable Dean Delray podcast episode. I find the accounts of him joining the Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age—probably the two greatest Big Rock Bands of the past 20 or so years—to be particularly thrilling and inspiring. Bonus: This is probably the closest we'll get to a thorough examination of Theodore's incredible, hopefully not-defunct One Day as a Lion project with Zack de la Rocha.

Mastication of Brutality Uncontrolled
Yes, you read that right. In recent years, I've developed a serious soft spot for the lunatic sub-sub-genre of death metal known variously as "brutal" or "slam." You often find this stuff coming out of Europe and Asia, and labels such as Willowtip, New Standard Elite and Unique Leader are always reliable outlets for the freshest and sickest offerings. (The connoisseurs at Burning Ambulance, Isolation Grind and Invisible Oranges also help keep me in the loop.) Anyway, the below—the 2015 debut LP by Germany's MOBU—was just something I stumbled across on YouTube while browsing for new delights in this genre. Skip the first track and dive right into "Mother Earth Abortion."



I find the over-the-top, almost giddy quality of this music to be profoundly life-affirming. It wears its off-the-charts technicality lightly and practically begs you to scoff at how absurd it comes off by any normalized standard of what music ought to sound like. And yet, brutal death metal is an extremely narrow niche, with its own rules of production, technique, etc. As with any example of such a tightly defined style, the pleasure is in the details—here, it's those laser-gun guitar strobes and rapid-fire "He can't possibly be saying words" grunt/squeal/retch vocals. Turn off your brain and savor the splatter.

Earth, Wind and Fire
Respect to Maurice White. I need to get to know this wonderful music much better than I do.

P.S. I invite you to enjoy this recently launched craw website, expertly designed by my dear friend Drew.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Glenn Frey

There are musicians who capture their time, and render out of it something timeless, and there are those who rack up serious hits—both equally noble achievements. Sometimes, a given artist can do both. I think Glenn Frey was one of the latter.

The Eagles were (are, always will be) the '70s, and as great as "Hotel California" is, you can't get more Eagles, more '70s, or, really, much greater than "Take It Easy." It's Jackson Browne's song, but he needed a character like Glenn Frey to really sell it, bring it to the masses and add that seal-the-deal line about the girl, my Lord, in the flat-bed Ford. (The same is true of Jack Tempchin and Robb Strandlund's "Already Gone.")



Likewise, "You Belong to the City" drips with '80s-ness, so much so that it was written especially for Miami freakin' Vice. A pop poem in neon. Radio-friendly existentialism. The apotheosis of MTV sax.

I came away from the Eagles documentary, History of the Eagles, as entertaining and enthralling a rock doc as I've ever seen, with a serious respect for Frey's vision. He seemed to have it all—star-quarterback good looks and charisma combined with an authentic blue-collar work ethic and a journalist's eye for detail (see: "Lyin' Eyes")—and he put his gifts to damn good use. And you can't help but love the straight talk, most of it centering on Frey's troubled relationship with bandmate Don Felder.

David Bowie was the aesthete's choice. When he died, the tributes poured forth on my Twitter feed, and do so still. But Frey and the Eagles were a people's band. Tonight, on the phone, my parents and I shared a moment of mourning for him.

There is something profound about music that cuts across generations this way, rather than compelling you to choose sides. You can call it safe, and once, I may have, but these days, noble is the word I'd use.

/////

More on Glenn Frey:

20 essential songs

Will Hermes reflects


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Moment's Greatest Hits

A while ago on Twitter I used to roll out what I called Weekly Greatest Hits—a round-up of anything new or old that was currently hitting me hard. In that spirit, here are a few current faves. (This may or may not become a regular DFSBP feature.)

James Brandon Lewis  
Days of FreeMan



As I indicated in my 2015 round-up, I slept on a lot of music last year. Here's a late-breaking head-slapper. Days of FreeMan would've been an obvious, high-ranking inclusion on my jazz top 10, at the very least, if I'd heard it in time. (Seems like this flew under a lot of folks' radars; Phil Freeman and Seth Colter Walls were among those looking alive.) Little needs to be said—the appeal is immediate. Lean funk- and hip-hop-informed jams with tons of swagger and soul. I'm not sure I've heard backbeat-oriented jazz done this well before. Missed JBL at Winter Jazzfest last night, but I plan to remedy that soon.

David Bowie 
Live 1973 (from D.A. Pennebaker's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars)



Speaking of swagger. The level of charm, charisma and peacock-ish sass oozing off this man in this performance is basically terrifying. I'm not a Bowie completist, but I am a fan, and I've been filling in knowledge gaps during the past sad, intense week. My Rolling Stone colleague Andy Greene is a real Bowie authority, and I learned a lot from this list, which tipped me off to the above.

P.S. Blackstar is a trip as well.

Iggy Pop
"Some Weird Sin" (from Lust for Life)



This Bowie-co-produced track is just staggering. (Note: It also sounds exactly like the Strokes at their thickest and most sensual.) I'm not crazy about what I've heard from the Idiot album, but Lust for Life lives up to its audacious title. Nasty, glammy brilliance; rough, sneering conviction. Listening to this, you can hear Bowie reckoning with Iggy's genius and framing it in just the right context where it can shine in a new, post-Stooges way. It's feral but theatrical too.

Tony Williams

New York Live (1989)

 

More on the idea of swagger... Tony Williams is one of my very favorite drummers, but I know less than I should about his later years. I've read a lot about his brash attitude and confidence (in Bill Milkowski's essential interview compilation Rockers, Jazzbos and Visionaries, the author describes Williams at a mixing session for the 1992 Story of Neptune album: "Pacing around the control room with a fat cigar jutting out the side of his mouth, Tony Williams is a portrait of swaggering intensity"), and those traits are on full display in this outstanding video. The effect is very different to hearing him during his '60s heyday. There was a brashness at play during that period, too, obviously, but here it has ripened into a sort of bullish, cocky, unabashed, Muhammad Ali–like badassery. This is hardbop as take-no-prisoners combat, the embodiment of what Damión Reid calls the "[showing] up to crush" mentality.

P.S. It's downright pathetic that much of the recorded output of the band in the video above is out of print. I've been scouring the 'net for days looking for Neptune and its predecessor, Native Heart.

P.P.S. Vinnie Sperrazza is all over this period of Tony's output.

Mark Turner Quartet
Live at Winter Jazzfest 2016

I'm currently under the weather so I'm sparing myself the full-on marathon WJF experience, but I have to call out the outstanding set I saw by this band at the ECM showcase last night. Lathe of Heaven, from 2014, is a great record, but this group has apparently been gigging a lot since then because the set I saw last night made that album sound tame and undercooked. If there's another current working small group that can rival this band for attunement among the members, high-wire interactivity, and overall poise and alertness and excitement, I'd really like someone to tell me about it. They just sounded so dialed-in. And Marcus Gilmore, dear God... It's been no surprise for years, since he works with so many great bands, but this guy is simply operating on an elevated plane.

Bonus tracks:

Chris Dave with Robert Glasper





Thanks to the aforementioned James Brandon Lewis for reminding me that I need more Chris Dave in my life. What starts to happen—percussively, and with the entire band, really—around the 6:00 mark here is simply obscene.

There's all kinds of hoopla re: the jazz/hip-hop crossover thing. Robert Glasper is obviously a key conduit and has been for some time. I'd love to see him get the kind of attention Kamasi Washington has gotten, but for his trio work like this (and this), which speaks to me way more than his Black Radio output. The message I get from a performance like this is that you don't have to "cross over," in blatant genre-splicing ways, to engage meaningfully across traditions.

P.S. Contrary to the title, this video was not filmed at the Village Vanguard.

Krallice 

This band is still getting tons of plays around these parts. Not just the amazing Ygg Huur (discussed here) but also its predecessor and brand-new follow-up (which was actually, confusingly, recorded before Ygg Huur). You need to be paying attention to Krallice if you care about what is called the "progressive" spirit in music.

Joe Maneri Quartet

This group—the late Joe Maneri on various reeds, piano and the occasional vocal, with his son Mat on violin and viola, Randy Peterson on drums, and a revolving cast of bassists—had such an unmistakable sonic fingerprint. Jazz smeared into near-oblivion, unfolding in a slo-mo Butoh dance that can feel both tortured and whimsical. My favorite album is the hard-to-find Get Ready to Receive Yourself, but was digging In Full Cry recently.

P.S. Hearing Randy Peterson live last week with Tony Malaby's Apparitions band is what got me thinking along these lines.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Paul Bley



I remember seeing this performance—from Imagine the Sound, a fantastic 1981 documentary that also features Cecil Taylor, Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp—years ago and being a bit perplexed. Now I'm simply moved. The portion starting around 1:00 crushes me. Some commenters say, perhaps rightly, that Bley is riffing here on the "Lonely Man Theme" from the Incredible Hulk TV show. Either way, this is the epitome of romantic piano*, wherein the player seems to caress the melody along with the keys. For me, it's all in that flammed turnaround at 1:21, like a plunge-and-twist motion, right to the heart. Just one small sensory memory of Bley that I thought of when I heard the sad news of his death.

I know relatively little of Bley's work—there's so much—but I've heard enough to know that he was a giant of personal piano. Blues, abstraction, tenderness. Poise, concision and serenity, but also volatility, instability. (Masabumi Kikuchi clearly picked up on all this, by his own admission; in the Blindfold Test linked below, Bley, somewhat cattily, says the same of Keith Jarrett**, which seems entirely plausible.)

WKCR is a good place to start, if you're in NYC. (This morning they played this and this, both stunning.) I also love this Ethan Iverson piece at Destination Out and this Ted Panken Blindfold Test.

I'll be listening.

/////

Update, 1/6/16:

*It seems to me that this romantic quality of Paul Bley's playing was especially evident when he was interpreting the works of Carla Bley—perhaps not surprising since the two were once married. I bought Open, to Love yesterday and listened straight through. What do you even say about a performance this beautiful? This record, recorded two decades later and featuring many of the same Carla Bley pieces, is also magical.

**Re: the Jarrett comparison, it's interesting to think about the divergent paths these two players took, despite the fact that they were working with similar building blocks: Jarrett ending up with a kind of bravura, extroverted style, and Bley arriving at something far more intimate, an almost private way of playing that exudes an inner glow. You have to lean in to enjoy Open, to Love, whereas, for example, Jarrett's Facing You—released on the same label, ECM, in the same year, '72—leaps out of the speakers to grab your attention with its virtuosity and personality.

Update, 1/8/16:

1) Thanks to Matt Merewitz for bringing this wonderful Nels Cline appreciation to my attention.

2) As I listen further, I'm starting to hear a strong connection between Bley's mature solo-piano work and that of Andrew Hill (compare this to, say, this). Both artists fixated on beauty, but a restless, unstable kind that can fracture and curdle without warning.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Heavy Metal Be-Bop lives


















Tonight, after an inexcusably long delay, I posted the 12th installment of my jazz/metal interview series, Heavy Metal Be-Bop: a conversation with master guitarists and longtime collaborators John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez. You might know these two from Deerhoof, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 in review






















This year, I often felt like I was sneaking new music in. I started a new job, put out a record and saw a two-decade obsession finally bear fruit. Honestly, there wasn't all that much room for anything else. But as I look back through the year's releases, I see quite a few that made an impression.

Genre pretty much went out the window, which is the way it ought to be. Last night, my wonderful girlfriend, Alex, and I spent some time sharing our current pop obsessions, which seem to be everyone's current pop obsessions. I love all the songs making the rounds: "Hotline Bling," "The Hills," "Here" (the latter is probably the single of the year for me). Bieber's "Sorry" is another in-the-air favorite that will not leave my brain. I did file jazz, metal and general-purpose year-end lists for various polls, but looking back, none of them feel definitive to me. That orderly, fenced-off approach doesn't reflect how music fits into my life. The other night, some friends and I sat around spinning vinyl ranging from the latest Sheer Mag 7" (my album of the year, even though it isn't an album) to the new Fleetwood Mac Tusk reissue, the stellar Laddio Bolocko box set and, just because, Bob Dylan's Infidels. It's all sitting by my turntable, along with a ton of other records that captivated me at one point or another recently: Sonny Rollins's The Bridge, the Eagles' One of These Nights, Keelhaul's Triumphant Return to Obscurity, Pat Metheny's 80/81, Blue Öyster Cult's Tyranny and Mutation, Roky Erickson's The Evil One, Joni Mitchell's Hejira, the Stooges' Fun House, etc. (I'm proud to say that the craw set and STATS LP are there too.) Music.

It's all in play at all times. It has to be a free space. In that spirit, here are some of the records that I enjoyed this year, that happened to come out this year, in no particular order—10 of them will eventually make up my Pazz and Jop ballot. Links to Bandcamp only, because that's where online music really lives

Krallice Ygg Huur (self-released)
This record to me is pure astonishment. It's my favorite thing Krallice has ever done—and that's saying a lot because I love much of their prior work, especially the self-titled debut and 2011's Diotima—and one of my favorite things that either Mick Barr and Colin Marston have ever done, which is saying even more. (Close call with Annwn and Skullgrid, respectively.) The amount of musical information here is staggering, as is the confidence and majestic flair with which it is rendered. This is art music, plain and simple, the vanguard of contemporary composition, that happens to be transmitted in a format we might refer to in shorthand as metal.

Sheer Mag II (Wilsuns/Katorga)
Probably the release I really and truly felt the most of any that came out in 2015. It's a four-song EP, but as an aesthetic statement of purpose, it's as weighty as any album I heard this year. The soul, the smarts, the wounded swagger. This is just pure rough rock-and-soul attitude filtered through an at times dauntingly complex sophisto-pop aesthetic. And vocals to melt your heart and cut through whatever distraction might be unfairly monopolizing your spirit on a given day. This just kicks so, so, so much ass.

Henry Threadgill Zooid In for a Penny, in for a Pound (Pi)
Zooid just keep pushing. One of the most insular bands on earth, and one of the most fascinating to stand outside of and cast one's listening gaze upon. I heard this music at Roulette a year ago, and it seemed like a new high bar for the group. The album completely does the set justice. So much beautiful detail, either when the band is cooking in its trademark oblique-chamber-funk mode or stripping back for mini sonic dioramas of curious detail and staunch refinement. Oddities and wonders abound, and they're only amplified by heightened attention. When you put on a Zooid record, you listen, and you listen to the members of Zooid listening, each playing their part in Threadgill's imaginative wonderland.

Mayday Parade Black Lines (Fearless)
Not a new band, but a new one to me. Mainstays of the Warped Tour scene and exponents of an emo offshoot that's near and dear to my heart and probably best exemplified by Say Anything's 2004 masterwork, …Is a Real Boy. Hugely passionate and anthemic pop-oriented rock music with a belt-to-the-rafters theatrical bent and an undercurrent of showy self-laceration. This album is totally, knowingly over-the-top and, if you're as into this sound as I am, eminently replayable.

Milford Graves and Bill Laswell Space / Time • Redemption (TUM)
I saw these two play duets at the Stone last year, and the chemistry was lacking. They find a groove on this album simply by coexisting. This is basically an ambient release, elevated above the mundane by the primeval thump of one of the mightiest and most mysterious percussionists on earth, and Laswell's melodic and textural know-how, which can blur into wallpaper-ism but here seems subtle and right and soothing and benevolent. To me, this is a logical sequel to Sonny Sharrock's Guitar (one of my very favorite records of all time), and not just because a) there's a track named for Sonny here and b) Laswell produced Guitar. Mystical, swirling, churning tone baths. 

Jeff Lynne's ELO Alone in the Universe (Columbia)
I'm not an ELO completist, but I aspire to be one someday. Jeff Lynne's lifelong project, i.e., crafting Beatlesque pop music of limitless accessibility that doesn't apologize for its sly surreality and lyrical eccentricity, is a worthy one, and judging by this album, and by the outstanding live show I saw at Irving Plaza last month, he's still operating at a very high level. There are a handful of songs here ("When I Was a Boy," "One Step at a Time") that feel like future greatest hits, which, given the depth the ELO greatest-hit pool, is really saying something.

Stanley Cowell Juneteenth (Vision Fugitive)
I spent a fair amount of time with this one but it didn't feel like anywhere near enough. I hear Juneteenth as a cousin of Dave Burrell's breathtaking 1979 solo-piano version of Windward Passages, one of those albums where a pianist translates the vast orchestral universe inside their head to the keys. This feels like a magnum opus for Cowell and an important reminder that this giant continues to do great, vital work. Further thoughts here.

Voice Coils Heaven's Sense (Shatter Your Leaves)
Another EP that delineates an entire sonic world. This, like the Krallice record, seems to me to be a state-of-the-art example of not exactly where music is at this moment, because nothing else really sounds like Heaven's Sense, but of a sort of speculative future of music, where pop could end up if diligence and wisdom and higher instincts prevailed. Demanding, yes, but so sensuous and pleasurable and coherent at the same time. There are hooks in "An Atrium" that have run through my head for days. If you consider yourself a fan of so-called progressive music of any kind, or of pop that aims at a kind of ethereal complexity and sweeping and refined emotional heft—I'll throw out Kate Bush and Yes as two inadequate touchstones—you must, must, must hear this. The descriptor "haunting" has been drained of most of its meaning, but it applies here.

Mary Halvorson Meltframe (Firehouse 12)
Another release with a kind of fierce beauty and interiority to it, but while the Voice Coils EP is all about high-wire ensemble dazzlement, this is stripped back and close to the bone. A simple description of what Meltframe is—meditation on and deconstruction of melody—feels way too clinical. This is an album that sings with emotion. A personal language on a common instrument, spoken plainly—sort of the rule for how all jazz ought to feel but rarely does. All the approaches to the gorgeous and carefully selected source material work equally well: harsh, subdued, dense/effects-heavy, sparse/unadorned or one melting gradually into the other.

Tau Cross Tau Cross (Relapse)
A debut album that sets forth a strikingly well-formed band concept. Shades of Killing Joke, Motörhead, recent Prong and, yes, mid-to-late-period Voivod (that band's Michel "Away" Langevin is Tau Cross's drummer). Gloom-painted postpunk–meets-thrash-meets–hard rock with outstanding hooks and tons of variety; surprisingly, the folky tracks work as well as the ragers. Rob "The Baron" Miller's impassioned delivery brings real grizzled pathos. Further thoughts here.

Black Star Riders The Killer Instinct (Nuclear Blast)
The group that began life as the Band Once Again Known as Thin Lizzy but Without Phil Lynott is now, thankfully, rolling up their sleeves and doing it the hard way: forging ahead and making new music. This album sounds like it could have been made anywhere from about 1983 through 1989, but no one for whom music like this—hook-forward, arena-scaled, cheese-oblivious hard rock—holds any appeal is going to care about its "relevance." This album completely, wholeheartedly rocks. The Riders pay homage to Lizzy, yes, but really they're just honoring the tough-guy songwriting tradition in general; there's just as much Bon Jovi in here, and that's fine by me. Fantastic songs—well, on the first half of the album, at least—and a frontman, Ricky Warwick, who's easy to believe and root for.

Title Fight Hyperview (ANTI-)
There's apparently some sort of subgenre-oriented skin-shedding going on with this record—hardcore-gone-shoegaze, I believe—but since I'm not familiar with Title Fight's past work, I'm taking this at face value. Hyperview is simply a lush and enveloping melodic indie-rock album, undergirded with post-hardcore muscle and glistening with a melancholy emotional mist. The color field of guitars and the raw-throated cries that burst out from beneath them lead to a kind of mood-drunkenness that's a pleasure to get lost in. It helps that the songs themselves are as strong as the atmosphere.

Jack DeJohnette Made in Chicago (ECM)
As I indicated here, the quintet heard on this album has evolved considerably since they recorded this album at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013, but Made in Chicago still holds up as a supergroup effort that capitalizes on every bit of its enormous potential. The stars here, and I think Mr. DeJohnette would agree, are Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill, and the presence of a master drummer-leader who also happens to be one of the best listeners in jazz only makes their contributions—both as composers and improvisers—sound that much sweeter (or nastier or more otherworldly, depending on the moment). Not just great artists sharing the stage, but the sound of a group aesthetic crystallizing, and the stage being set for future wonders.

Laddio Bolocko Live and Unreleased 1997–2000 (No Quarter)
Post-hardcore colliding with funk, free jazz, sound collage and psychedelia in a totally organic way. The prog impulse channeled into fiercely danceable body music, fueled by one of the greatest drummers of our time, Blake Fleming, who I first came to know through the illustrious and incredible Dazzling Killmen. I'd always felt that I hadn't quite gotten the complete picture regarding this band from its earlier No Quarter compilation, The Life and Times of…, and this release confirms it. A heady barrage of archival material, some quizzical and fragmented, some gorgeously dialed in and fleshed out. (I adore the groove-science "Afrostructure" series, which falls somewhere in between these two poles.) The final stretch of this sprawling set, with the studio version of the two-part cosmic-groove-prog opus "How About This For My Hair?" and a live set from Slovenia that's so intense it feels like it could leave scars (but is also wonderfully subdued and sensitive in spots), is the reason why archival releases like this are essential to the musical ecosystem: to bring to light bygone marvels you never knew existed.

Sonny Rollins Quartet With Don Cherry Complete Live at the Village Gate 1962 (Solar)
Speaking of bygone marvels. We maybe had a clue with this one in the form of Our Man in Jazz, but did we really know the enormity of what went down until now? 

Blind Idiot God Before Ever After (Indivisible)
BIG share Laddio Bolocko's NYC-via–St. Louis trajectory, as well as their wide-open conception of what rock-based post-hardcore music can sound and feel like. Another Laswell production, and a balletic, rumbling behemoth of a comeback album. Everything about Before Ever After sounds to me like an improvement on the already-intriguing formula that BIG advanced on their late-’80s/early-’90s work. Can't wait to see where they go from here.

Revenge Behold.Total.Rejection (Season of Mist)
J. Read is like a gigantic mutant rat that leaps out of the darkness, chomps on your leg and refuses to unclench its jaws as you flail about in agony. The man is a driven psychopath behind the drums and one of metal's truest, most original underground voices. On days when I lose faith in the idea of metal, grow weary with its self-straitjacketing conventions, I can still reach for a Revenge album—and specifically this, which is easily the band's most compelling record to date—and feel something. Pure, seething soul and fire, and the deft commingling of chaos and precision. Just when you think this album is a total blastbeat blur, it snaps back into focus with a skull-rattling rawk breakdown or cave-prog precision attack. If you want to know my "metal album of the year," it's a tie between this and Ygg Huur—despite what my ballot says below; again, feelings change and evolve, which is why polls are just arbitrary snapshots in time—albums that represent two very different extremes of "extreme metal" that actually feel, you know, extreme. Further thoughts here.

The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch)
This album didn't top my 2015 jazz ballot, but if I were casting said vote right now instead of a few weeks back, it probably would. The Bad Plus Joshua Redman is a near-perfect record, an exemplary illustration of everything we already know the Bad Plus does well—at this point, their sonic fingerprint is as instantly recognizable as that of, say, the Who—given a smart tweak/kick-in-the-ass via the presence of a contemporary tenor-saxophone master. This quartet was already great four years ago, but here, there's a sense of shared purpose that feels hard-earned through hours and hours spent together onstage. Instantly memorable compositions, performances that move with convincing emotional purpose and with utmost concern for the musical material at hand, whether it's crisp, refined and determinedly melodic or sprawling, choppy and, well, determinedly melodic. Jazz always needs more song-focus, more band-focus, and the Bad Plus keep showing us how handsomely those philosophies can pay off. Here, they have some very able assistance. Not really measuring by length here, but this is the 2015 "epic" for me.

Interlude:
So yes, maybe I'm getting in a small dig at Kamasi Washington's The Epic there (and also, more explicitly, in the Stanley Cowell blurb linked above). The Epic certainly wasn't an album I disliked, but nor was it was one I connected with on any deep level. I heard glossy, tastefully updated retro bombast with strong melodies, some truly ass-kicking post-Coltrane/turbo-bop moments and long stretches of not-much-happening. I'd hold up any of the jazz albums listed above as far better examples of "where jazz is at" than The Epic any day. But then again…

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope)
The Kamasi-wave wasn't really about Kamasi. It was about Washington's role in this thorny masterpiece, which topped every poll both because of its sociopolitical urgency in a year where the topics Lamar dealt with on To Pimp… were not only impossible to ignore but impossible not to despair over, and because, well, it was an enthralling LP, period, a searing self-interrogation that balanced every menacing boast with a choked-up sniffle. Everyone seemed to want to tell me that the album I just described was actually D'Angelo's Black Messiah. I didn't quite connect with that one, either, but I believed every last second of this.

Iron Maiden The Book of Souls (Parlophone/Sanctuary)
Same goes for this. I like Iron Maiden, which seems weird to say, since they're a band beloved by their fan base in an uniquely rabid way and ignored by pretty much everyone else. Honestly, I just don't know the catalog that well, but The Book of Souls was an instant "yes, please" for me. I love the way the visceral, bottom-heavy production sound combines with Bruce Dickinson's heroic yet endearingly strained-sounding vocals, and I love how itself this band remains, how committed they sound to this thing called metal that is really, for them, simply Iron Maiden Music. Like the Black Star Riders album, The Book of Souls rocks in a timeless way. I didn't once make it through the entire LP in a single sitting, but whenever I checked in with it—from archetypal single "Speed of Light" to that hammy yet genuinely touching 18-minute finale, "Empire of the Clouds"—I felt uplifted and inspired.

Weather Report The Legendary Tapes 1978–1981 (Legacy)
This hits me in a similar way: a supremely confident band, doing its thing. As a group, Weather Report had a strange magic—virtuosic daredevilry, yes, but also festive melody and childlike wonder and a certain kind of zany party-prog verve. None of the truly great acts that we label as "fusion" (ahem…) really sounded anything alike, and this release helps us see Weather Report for the style-transcendent anomaly that they were, and adds to the welcome hoopla surrounding the Jaco documentary release (and my own private hoopla surrounding a recent deep immersion in the Jaco–Joni Mitchell collaboration).

Morgoth Ungod (Century Media)
Deactivate brain. Rage. Repeat. (For those who related to this, as well as my Obituary and Asphyx gushing over the years, you need to hear Ungod.)

Kirk Knuffke Arms and Hands (Royal Potato Family)
This cornet specialist continues to record in all kinds of interesting contexts, bringing fresh ideas to each situation. I agree with the core mission statement of Arms and Hands—that bringing together Bill Goodwin and Mark Helias was a fantastic idea. (Lamplighter, another 2015 Knuffke session featuring Goodwin, is also well worth your time, and from what I've read and the samples, this sounds awesome.) Another example of jazz-as-personal-sonic-signature, in personnel, mood, repertoire.


Update, 12/28/15:
David S. Ware / Apogee Birth of a Being (Aum Fidelity)
Heart-burstingly passionate trio music—perhaps the single most convincing document of post-Ayler free jazz I've heard—from 1977, reissued here with extra material. Apogee, a working band with Cooper-Moore (then Gene Ashton) on piano and Marc Edwards on drums, is, to me, every bit as compelling as Ware's later, better-known quartet with Matthew Shipp, William Parker, etc. Massive.

Update, 12/29/15
Killing Joke Pylon (Spinefarm)
The only reason this one wasn't on here before is that I hadn't yet had a chance to spend good time with it. As with ELO, I'm not a Killing Joke completist, but I aspire to be one. I adored KJ's 2010 album, Absolute Dissent, but sort of slept on 2012's MMXII. I need to go back and remedy that, because this new one is another monster. Menace, beauty, relentless momentum, enthralling texture. Few bands can conjure such a pervasive, well-shaded sensation of gloom.

Update, 12/30/15
Elder Lore (Armageddon Shop)
Whoo boy, does this thing kick ass. A few people (one being my friend and former colleague Steve Smith) had tipped me off to Lore during the course of the year, but I didn't really dig in till just now. I'll reprise a line I just tweeted, because it sums up my thoughts well: This is like recent Mastodon gone full prog, with vastly better production. I'm still digesting this, but it seems to me that the quality of the songwriting on Lore matches the enormous ambition on display here, which is sort of insane given how high these guys are clearly aiming.

Jaco 
A documentary that aims for and achieves definitive status via its smart balance of the personal and the musical. Watching this, you feel like you're seeing Jaco from all sides. Moving and insightful testimony from collaborators (Peter Erskine, Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, et al.) and confidants (Bill Milkowski's contribution is particularly valuable). Breathtaking footage. A complicated life, dealt with sensitively yet unflinchingly.

Update, 12/31/15
Napalm Death Apex Predator — Easy Meat (Century Media)
Namechecked below but deserves a special shout-out. What I love about newer Napalm Death is, paradoxically, how clean it sounds. The current incarnation of this band is miles away from state-of-the-art extremity; by comparison, the Revenge album above makes 2015 Napalm (at least the recorded version) sound like Chuck Berry. But I'm fascinated by the way they've refined their craft for maximum accessibility and coherence, while remaining committed to speed and abrasiveness, and a genuine sense of purgative rage, embodied by Barney Greenway. You can hear everything that's going on in this music, and there's great care taken in the composition, pacing, mood. Extremity isn't really the issue: Napalm Death is, at this point simply, a great, adventurous rock band.

P.S. Phil Freeman's guide to the ND discography is essential for those of us who know bits and pieces of the band's long, complicated history but not the whole thing.

*****

The nitty-gritty

2015 Jazz Ballot (with regard to this poll)
1. Milford Graves and Bill Laswell Space/Time • Redemption (TUM)
2. Jack DeJohnette Made in Chicago (ECM)
3. Henry Threadgill Zooid In for a Penny, in for a Pound (Pi)
4. Mary Halvorson Meltframe (Firehouse 12)
5. The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch)
6. Stanley Cowell Juneteenth (Vision Fugitive)
7. Wadada Leo Smith and John Lindberg Celestial Weather (TUM)
8. Kirk Knuffke Arms and Hands (Royal Potato Family)
9. Jon Irabagon Behind the Sky (Irabbagast)
10. John Zorn Inferno (Tzadik)

2015 Metal Ballot (with regard to this list)
1. Revenge Behold.Total.Rejection (Season of Mist)
2. Black Star Riders The Killer Instinct (Nuclear Blast)
3. Iron Maiden The Book of Souls (Parlophone/Sanctuary)
4. Tau Cross Tau Cross (Relapse)
5. Blind Idiot God Before Ever After (Indivisible)
6. Krallice Ygg Huur (self-released)
7. Morgoth Ungod (Century Media)
8. Royal Thunder Crooked Doors (Relapse)
9. Napalm Death Apex Predator — Easy Meat (Century Media)
10. Embodied Torment Liturgy of Ritual Execution (New Standard Elite)

10 Best Shows I Saw in 2015
1/13 - Celebrating Charlie Haden (The Town Hall)
2/13 - John Zorn, Steve Coleman, Milford Graves + Marc Ribot, Trevor Dunn, Tyshawn Sorey (Village Vanguard)
2/26 - Xylouris White (Bowery Ballroom)
3/15 - Charles Lloyd Quartet (Village Vanguard)
5/10 - Morpheus Descends (Saint Vitus)
6/11 - Feast of the Epiphany + Travis Laplante (IBeam)
6/20 - Dead Moon + Borbetomagus (Pioneer Works)
6/29 - Rush (MSG)
8/21 - Krallice (The Stone)
10/5 - Jack DeJohnette’s Made in Chicago (Cornell University)

With a special honorable mention for Ayahuasca, Godstopper, Couch Slut and Pyrryon at BRIEFCASEFEST 2015.

SONGS/2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

craw, '1993–1997' is out
















Today marks the release of the new Kickstarter-funded craw box set on Northern Spy Records (designed by Aqualamb), as well as the digital release of the individual remastered albums that make up the set. It makes me happy beyond words to see this music back out there in the world.

Here are some links to explore:

1993–1997
Northern Spy
Bandcamp
iTunes
Amazon
Spotify


As well as some press coverage:

Tiny Mix Tapes (review)
Noisey (feature)
New York Times (1993–1997 included in the 2015 Holiday Gift Guide; scroll down to the Music section, Pop & Jazz)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

As it happens: Sonny Rollins at the Village Gate, 1962


















This has been a year of major ’60s-era finds in jazz. Garth Caylor's Nineteen + shook up my world back in April, and I'm currently fixating on this behemoth, which fits in nicely with my ongoing Sonny Rollins obsession. I'd like to thank Phil Freeman for alerting me to the existence of this set—an exhaustive six-disc issue of the entire 1962 Sonny Rollins–Don Cherry–Bob Cranshaw–Billy Higgins Village Gate run that yielded the severely truncated three-track Our Man in Jazz LP—because I haven't read a single mention of it elsewhere. I'm not sure what rights issues are at play here (this is the first I've heard of Solar Records, who seem to specialize in complete reissues of sessions already put out either in full or in part by other labels)—maybe we're looking at a quasi-bootleg. Even so, I can't look away.

I feel that if this set had come out on, say, Mosaic, it would be one of those landmark archival jazz releases that gets unanimously heralded as the precious find that it is—the 2005 Monk/Coltrane CD, for example. Like the many other great jazz boxes that immerse you in the life of a band during a particular phase—e.g., Miles's Plugged Nickel box or the first two Bootleg Series releases—Complete Live at the Village Gate 1962 feels like an object for lifelong study. It's huge and sprawling and untameable and, as Phil's write-up suggests, nearly impossible to digest in any single sitting, but it's the kind of release that gets inside your head and takes you over. Having spent a couple weeks savoring the set in pieces, it now feels to me like an essential part of the Rollins canon, as well as a key document of the extended Ornette Coleman family and the development of free jazz in general. Beyond all that "historical significance" business, it's simply a source of enormous aural pleasure—an extended document of four great, distinctive improvisers conversing.

I find myself gravitating in particular to the many lengthy pieces here labeled "Untitled Original" (distinguished with the letters A, B, C and so forth), many of them taken from sets played on July 29 and 30 of ’62. According to the liner notes and from what I can tell, these are examples of straight improv, and the results are remarkable in their variety and extremity. This music doesn't simply sound like Rollins stepping into the Ornette world, nor does it sound like Rollins bringing Cherry and Higgins into his world. (The set is a valuable reminder that these players were already unified—as I'm reading in Eric Nisenson's valuable Open Sky, Rollins had practiced with Coleman and Cherry for years before the Coleman/Cherry/Haden/Higgins band's public breakthrough.) It often sounds like, in a very stark way, exactly what it is—these four guys stepping onto that stage on those nights and simply starting to play, sometimes achieving a magical sort of communion and sometimes feeling around blindly in the dark. As Freeman writes, "This is music that's all about the moment." Given that some of these tracks run more than a half-hour, it's not surprising that there are lulls and dead ends, but there are these moments where the music turns a corner and hits upon something startlingly fresh, either in general or in the realm of what we've previously known from Rollins and Cherry, separately or together.

"Untitled Original C" begins with approximately two minutes of weightless, sound-based improv, the borderline-unsettling kind that I associate with early days of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, as documented on the ’67/’68 Nessa box. As is often the case on this set, it's Higgins who pushes the music onto a rhythmic grid—throughout these performances, it's fascinating to hear how the rest of the band reacts to his penchant for hard, propulsive groove, sometimes jumping on the train and other times resisting the momentum. Here, we get a tantalizing bit of the former, but then the bottom drops out again and we're back in this sort of one-sound-at-a-time murmur zone.

In its nakedness and frank experimentation, this music is as radical as what Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray would play in Copenhagen seven months later. It's such a pleasure to hear Rollins and Cherry conversing in this sort of private, unhurried way. The music makes perfect sense, but there's no rush to make it make sense, to hurry the process of the improvising, to deliver to the audience anything other than a succession of unfolding sonic phenomena. As "Untitled Original C" progresses, the music enters a sort of march cadence, then leaves it; becomes an uptempo freebop battle, with Rollins and Cherry trading phrases, overlapping them. (In a lot of ways, I hear this band as a direct precursor to the CRHB band discussed here, and to Mu and Old and New Dreams, as much as it's a descendant of anything Ornette had done prior—given the existing bond between Rollins and Coleman, one has to assume that OC was in attendance for some of these performances, or at least that he heard Rollins/Cherry/Cranshaw/Higgins at some point, either live or on record.) Higgins steps on the gas and then stops. Rollins is playing what sounds like a classical etude. The horns trade riffs with the drums. Musical events occur; the band discards them.

Things get even rawer on "Untitled Original E/Untitled Original A #3," with Rollins juggling Morse code bleats and ragged fanfares, turning off the brain and just sound-making. And then, on a glorious, nearly 40-minute "Oleo" on the last disc, a performance that deserves legendary status: pure, hurtling abandon, Rollins racing along like liquid steel.

This set is glorious or it's tedious, depending on where your head is at, what you're asking of the music at that time. But objectively, as a document of these artists at work, Complete Live at the Village Gate 1962 is essential. We get to sit with this band, watch them grind through the process, sweat it out, have fun. There's a conspiratorial glee about the best of these recordings; you can almost sense Rollins breathing deeply the air of freedom*. We get to savor these players' beautifully idiosyncratic voices, separately and together, as we would those of great actors whom we'd known as individuals, but not as a unit—at least not as well as we do now.

We accept the phrase "free jazz" as though it means one thing, as though the music of say The Shape of Jazz to Come bears any real relationship to that of Spiritual Unity, other than that they're both wonderful and both share certain instrumentation and common inspirational roots. But were the Who really anything like the Beatles, once each had achieved a mature style? When I hear Complete Live at the Village Gate 1962, I hear an all-in kind of improvising. Rollins led the band, but he wanted the band, the situation to lead him. These players swing and they suspend time; they jell and they clash. They do what they do in the order that they do it, for as long as they happen to, and that's the music for that set, that night.

You can cling to the notion that Rollins, on one hand, and Cherry and Higgins, on the other, were musicians from different schools. You can worry about what it "means" for these supposedly disparate artists to have shared the stage. Or you can accept that all it means it what it sounded like—not an unbroken string of profundity, but a search, that thing that Rollins has been about all along. The revelations, yes, but also the fits and starts, the muddles and the missteps along the way. Sound, just like life, as it happens.

*"I use a variety of systems… What I'm trying to do is get to the point where I can have a really complete expression of what I'm thinking about… I'm trying to play jazz, creative jazz, where you play things in the moment, at the moment that I get it—it comes into your mind and you're able to play it… I might use any kind of technique or harmonic system… Everything is going in the service of trying to reach Sonny Rollins and play myself." —Rollins in Eric Nisenson's Open Sky

Friday, November 06, 2015

Hands off the wheel: The inspired madness of late Sonny Rollins


















It is a great regret of mine that I've never seen Sonny Rollins play saxophone live. Two years straight, I've seen him appear at events where he has not played: last summer's Ornette tribute in Prospect Park, which Rollins opened with a warm introductory blessing, and the Jazz Foundation of America's 2015 A Great Night in Harlem concert, which featured a lengthy tribute to Rollins and beautiful remarks from the man himself. At this point, when Rollins seems to have retired from public performance, it doesn't look like I'll get the chance to remedy my oversight.

Until recently, I'd never been a Rollins obsessive. A Rollins admirer, sure. I bought Saxophone Colossus early on in my jazz listening journey and recognized its obvious joys and wonders, filling in the gaps later with the ’57 Vanguard recordings and other touchstones. But for a listener with my personal set of preferences, Sonny Rollins was easy to take for granted. It sounds strange for a jazz obsessive to say that they're sometimes ambivalent about solos, but that's the case with me. I love to hear great improvisation, but I'm more attuned to the overall framework and vibe of the music than I am to the foreground/background duality that has become more and more codified in mainstream jazz over time. On, say, a ’60s Blue Note recording by Andrew Hill, Grachan Moncur III, Wayne Shorter or Sam Rivers—a period that remains a gold standard for me—there really is no foreground or background, first because every player in every band is always a giant and second because bandleaders like these had a distinct compositional agenda. Like Mingus or Coltrane or Jarrett or Motian, they each crafted an entire soundworld for their small-group music.

You can praise Sonny Rollins in 1,000 different ways, but though he's written many standards, his contribution to jazz—at least as I see it—is not primarily compositional, not overly fixated on a complete soundworld. (I know that I'm being reductive here—Freedom Suite is one obvious counterpoint—but I'm speaking about the macro-level impact of Rollins in jazz, what he'll be best remembered for.) He is, maybe second only to Charlie Parker, the immortal soloist, the man who could take even the most mundane of source material—and, let's be honest, the most mundane of ensembles; unlike Coltrane and Miles Davis, his other rough contemporaries, though Rollins has often worked with outstanding bands, he's never had a truly stellar, sustained, identifiable working group to call his own—and spin it into gold with his superhuman prowess on the horn. Even more so than the early masterworks such as Saxophone Colossus and The Bridge, I'm particularly blown away by the Sonny Rollins of the ’80s, where he attained a level of command, power and sustained poise that I've never heard in any other saxophonist. Read ’em and weep: 1980, 1986. The bravado, charisma, mastery are just dripping off him.

I could watch performances like those for days. But they're not the Rollins that's turning me on most at the moment. In the days since the JFA event, I've been on a serious Sonny kick that's focused almost exclusively on the past 15 years or so. Rollins in the present tense is a much less "perfect" musician than the one seen in the clips above, and in my opinion a more fascinating one. Recent Sonny Rollins is a rejoinder to the idea that jazz is something to be mastered; it's a demonstration of how the further along you go with improvisation, the more questions you raise, the weirder and more distinctive you can sound. When I hear recent Sonny Rollins, I hear a total lack of fear or hang-up. It's not about dominance and mastery. It's about searching.



I'm particularly interested in the first two tracks above. "Sonny, Please," the title track to the 2006 Rollins album of the same name, is a perfect illustration of the weird alchemy of late Rollins. A straightforward vamp piece. A catchy but brief head. The band is there almost wholly as a backdrop. Around 1:40 is when I really snap to attention. Rollins's tone start to fray, his lines becoming both jagged and weightless—shards of scrambled notes, fluttering above the imperturbable rhythm. There is one thrilling passage, from about 1:54 to 2:09, where Rollins sounds as liberated as any other saxophonist I've ever heard, liberated from conventional ideas of mastery, where surface fluidity is equated with virtuosity. He sounds like he's inventing at the very edge of his imagination, producing  a stream of pure thought, a brittle and mercurial sound. Not the sound of a colossus, a king; the sound of a seer. He gets going again at 2:30, tossing ideas into the air, attaining this sort of growling, fluttering momentum. If I heard the phrase from 2:51 through 2:56 in a blindfold test, I would never think "Sonny Rollins"—well, never before this recent listening jag. Evan Parker on tenor might be my first guess, for the way the lines have this paradoxical supple jaggedness, proceeding gruffly without evolving into a full on post-Coltrane scream. The solo settles a bit from there, as Rollins starts to sound like he's drifting with the song rather than wrestling against it. Then at 4:10, it again becomes choppy and violent. I love the harshness of these passages, the way they rub against the oppressive normalcy of the music around them, the way they exemplify the restlessness of the Rollins quest, his commitment to actually getting somewhere new with each solo, or at least trying to, a quest that seems to have grown ever more extreme in Sonny's later years.

"Biji" is a 2001 live recording from the intensely rewarding Road Shows series. As a song and a performance, it is even more mundane than "Sonny, Please." It's classic feel-good mainstream jazz, complete with an ’80s-sounding funk bridge, the kind one could easily write off as cruise-ship fluff. After the head, Sonny spars a bit with Clifton Anderson's trombone, then cedes the stage to his band. Long solos by Anderson and pianist Stephen Scott ensue. (I've never really been a Dean Benedetti–type jazz listener, but recent Rollins often has me fast-forwarding past his sidemen's solos in search of the good stuff.) We're six minutes into an eight-minute track before we get to the meat of "Biji," and for a bit, Rollins is playing along with the prevailing feel-good vibe. But listen to what happens at 6:56, how through around 7:18 Rollins sounds like he's driving a sputtering Harley through a polite dinner party, trailing noxious exhaust. There's a kind of willful derangement at work here, a bullish commitment to seeing the idea through no matter how abrasive or jarring. Sonny sounds like the lines are playing him rather than the other way around. It's not the imperturbable command of Rollins in the ’60s or the ’80s; it's the sound of man taking his hands off the wheel.

Late Sonny, in these moments of lift-off, embodies the true meaning of free jazz, not the phrase but the literal truth of the words—like Progressive Rock versus rock that's actually progressive. To go as far as Sonny Rollins has in order to achieve not a kind of ultimate comfort but a newfound recklessness, to have the courage to produce at this late-career stage a stream of sound that reminds the listener that jazz is not an equation to be solved but a tireless inward-directed journey, that to me is the real genius of the lifelong improviser's art.

*****
The playlist above features a couple other examples of late Sonny at his wildest and most inspired—buckle up for the turbulence at 3:30–3:50 in "Nishi"—as well as an extended solo on a 1986 "Best Wishes" that harks back to the walking-on-air madness of the other ’80s clips discussed earlier in this post. Rollins's fierce solo on the 1980 "Blossom" is the perfect blend of these two approaches. This 1993 performance is another must-hear: The passage from about 50:00–50:40 is a feast of the kind of jagged, rapid-fire improvising that makes the more recent material so thrilling.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

craw, booked

Received physical proofs for the 200-page bound books that will come packaged with the upcoming craw vinyl box set. Contents include a complete, previously unpublished oral history of the band, newly proofed lyrics, tons of photos and ephemera, etc.

Couldn't be happier to see this dream project—20 years in the making, all in all, and my eat/sleep/breathe obsession for the past couple years—become a reality. Thank you to all Kickstarter backers, Aqualamb and Northern Spy. (And to Ben Young for crucial inspiration.)

Can't wait to send 1993–1997 out into the world.