Friday, July 21, 2017

Obsolete artifacts, or "What's in my CD player"

Doctor Nerve - Every Screaming Ear: Imagine FZ's Waka Jawaka/Grand Wazoo or In NY bands, except there are no stupid "funny" songs to sit through, and all they play is charts that begin where "The Black Page" left off in complexity and mania, occasionally attaining Beefheartian levels of jagged contrapuntal angularity. Yum! Nice non-reverential cover of Don's "When It Blows Its Stacks," too. Doctor Nerve mastermind Nick Didkovsky is also a participant in...

BONE - Uses Wrist Grab: A long distance power trio, one of whose members didn't meet the other two until after this was completed. You wouldn't know it from the way they lock in on these complex and challenging compositions -- for contrary to the image "power trio" suggests, this is a composer's record. Here, Didkovsky covers bases from metallic skree to percussive thunk, while bassist Hugh Hopper reminds us why his era was Soft Machine's most compelling.

Nick Didkovsky - Binky Boy: On which the composer explores -- on his overdubbed lonesome, in tandem with Mark Stewart, and (on the gorgeous Crimsonoid chamber music of "Black Iris") with the other members of the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet -- the myriad musical possibilities of the electric guitar. Comparisons being odious, I'll listen to this as often as I do to Nels Cline's similarly conceived Coward (a lot). Didkovsky's also on...

Henry Kaiser/Robert Musso - Echoes for Sonny: On which the Bay Area avant-gardist and NYC muso-producer render tribute to the letter and spirit of the estimable six-string saxophonist's law, via covers of his tunes from Ask the Ages and Guitar (both of which are essential), as well as collective improvs with Didkovsky, bassist Jesse Krakow, and drummer Weasel Walter. A brisk, bracing free-jazz skronkaroll melee.

Thinking Plague - Hoping Against Hope: Leader-guitarist Mike Johnson comes across more like a modern composer using rock instruments than your typical '70s-reverential progster. One reason is his tonal palette, in which the acoustic sounds of woodwinds and piano carry much thematic weight, although here, Bill Pohl's fleet-fingered guitar replaces the piano. Also, the lyrics Elaine Di Falco sings are attuned to the troubled times in which we live, and the closing "A Dirge for the Unwitting" is simply a masterful achievement.

Soft Machine - Live at the Paradiso: As they shed founding members, their focus shifted from psychedelic whimsy towards jazz. Their second LP represented the best balance of their "song" and "jam" impulses; Robert Wyatt's biographer got my attention by highlighting this good-sounding boot as a more aggressive rendition of many of those songs. It ain't Third, but I didn't miss the horns, either. Jazz-rock improv powerful enough to rival Cream, the Hendrix Experience, and '73-'74 King Crimson. Speaking of which...

King Crimson - Epitaph, The Night Watch, and The Collectable King Crimson Volume One: Got my tickets! While I'm waiting for the show, these comps of live recordings are my favorite way to hear 'em. Epitaph demonstrates that the '69 lineup left more blood on the stage than you could hear in the grooves of In the Court... (they encored with "Mars" from Holst's "The Planets" to show they weren't fooling), while portions of The Night Watch and The Collectable...Volume One wound up on Starless and Bible Black and USA.


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