Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lately (11/20/18)

*Frank Mullen's final NYC show as the vocalist of Suffocation (a band I've written about at some length on DFSBP) turned out to be a surprisingly touching event. I'm very interested in the idea of true mastery in a field like this (i.e., death-metal vocals), which to 99% of the populace would scan as pure absurdity. But Frank has put in the time, to say the least, and now gets the last laugh. In the end, I feel like mastery in a field like extreme metal, which when you get down to it, is a pure fan-powered meritocracy, is maybe somehow even more "authentic" than mastery in a more "legitimate," "respectable" artistic field. In short, Frank Mullen is a guy who simply got extremely good at something for which, during the time he was coming up, there was really no established rule book (let alone rewards or accolades). Insofar as there is a rule book for death-metal vocals now, he helped write it, along with a handful of others, like Chris Barnes, for instance. Anyway, yes, this was a hell of a night, and here is my attempt to convey why.

*Hemispheres is definitely in my personal Rush-albums Top 5, likely in my Top 3 and possibly in my Top 1. Here is my take on the new expanded reissue. Ryan Reed's Geddy Lee interview from a few weeks back, linked right up top, is essential reading.

*Some thoughts on a new David S. Ware archival release. David S. Ware was "breaking" (in Rolling Stone, for one thing) right around the time I was getting into "this music." I was engaged with his work then but not, I have realized and continue to realize, as engaged as I ought to have been. (To be more specific, I think I was still pretty immersed in the history of free jazz at the time, to some degree at the expense of the music's present, though I did get out there plenty.) The more I listen, especially to the quartet, on albums like Go See the World, the more impressed I am. This trio with William Parker and Warren Smith is a very different animal, but it's dawning on me that there is really no lesser DSW.

*Harriet Tubman are, at this point, something of an NYC institution. Their new album is fitting of such a group, in that captures a band fully at ease with itself, and with the fact that it will probably never fit neatly into any scene, let alone genre. As discussed in this track write-up, with commentary from the musicians, there are strong and sturdy Sonny Sharrock–ian overtones to the Harriet Tubman project, which manifest in a particularly gritty and transportive way in the Bob Marley cover under discussion. Given my Sharrock fanaticism, I do not point out the above lightly — since his departure, few have managed to even touch on his aesthetic zone / life force, let alone harness core elements of it. That's not to say that this is some kind of tribute band or copycat endeavor. Harriet Tubman are a whole universe of sound and sensation unto themselves, and this new album is an excellent demonstration of its scope and character.

See also: Heavy Metal Bebop with Melvin Gibbs.


Also, re: Heavy Metal Bebop in general, if you have enjoyed past installments, please stay tuned. As always, the series is in glacial yet perpetual motion. We're heading somewhere with HMB, slowly, steadily, and I will share details when I'm able.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Lately (11/3/2018)

*I can't stop listening to Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh's new Sparrow Nights (out now on the prolific and consistently impressive Austrian label Trost), which I wrote up for Rolling Stone's weekly new-release column (scroll down to near the bottom). So many improv releases are simply recordings of gigs, and those have their place, but as I've written on here before, this music also deserves the proper studio treatment. The Brötzmann/Leigh duo, which I had the pleasure of hearing live in 2017 and which now qualifies as a proper band after several years of consistent performance and live recording, receives that here. I haven't heard, and probably never will hear, every Peter Brötzmann album, but I've heard a whole bunch of them, and for me, this one without question ranks near the top of the pile. Heart-wrenching and achingly desolate music — some kind of spooky ambient blues that sounds like it could go on forever, and maybe has been. It feels like Brötzmann has been waiting decades for a collaborator who could help him zero in on this particular zone of his playing.

Note: for background and context, I highly recommend this 2016 video interview with the duo.

*There is a major new Charles Mingus live box set out. For somewhat obvious reasons (e.g., no jazz artist enjoys Coltrane's level of quasi-religious icon-hood, which only seems to increase with time, a topic explored in depth in Ben Ratliff's masterful Coltrane book), this hasn't been remotely as well-publicized as, say, Coltrane's "Lost Album," but honestly it's probably afforded this listener even greater musical pleasure. My RS review goes into the reasons why.

*Clutch have been one of my favorite bands for going on 25 years. I reviewed their new album a little while back, but I'm glad I was also able to see a show on their current tour, because, as has always been the case, you can never get the full Clutch story from the records. This piece is my heartfelt tribute to a personal fave that I'm happy to say has become a bona fide institution.