Agalloch, Mount Eerie

The excellent David Thomas Manzl sent me a text yesterday to ask if I ever listen to Black Metal. “Some of it is really folky!,” he said. “Atmospheric, ambient, and intense, too.” He recommended Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deafheaven, and Krallice. Today I put on Agalloch, a record called “Marrow of the Spirit,” and it’s amazing. Super-long songs (17 minutes!), each of which is like a little album all its own, moving in and out of different feels and, ya, atmospheres. Some folky moments, some intense moments, some deadly vocals. Cello. Intense guitar riffs. Not virtuosic, just excellent grooves. I want to play this music. I don’t know if I can sing like that though.

Now listening to Mount Eerie, a record called “Ocean’s Roar,” also at his recommendation. Pale Lights is a huge jam with organs and thick guitars and destroying drums. Haunting vocals. Title track is beautiful. Everything on this record sounds pitched down, like it’s being pulled down toward the earth, like everything is bending. “A bottomless absence.” Dig it in headphones, the stereo separation on the cymbals. “Instrumental” is sludgy, piano & deadly guitar and some kind of wooden flute? Piano sounds like a drum set. And then there’s drums, and they also sound like drums. “Waves” has the most perfectly intense sections. David says “that music makes me want to smash things while doing yin yoga.” I don’t know what yin yoga is, but I. am. in.

Gamelan Gong Kebyar – Bali 1928

I joined the gamelan at UBC this term, and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’ve been poking around on my own for recordings and collections, and while I haven’t found much of note yet I’ve been listening to this today: Gamelan Gong Kebyar – Bali 1928. It sounds like a period recording, so it’s pretty gritty (sounds like it could be cleaned up easily enough if someone wanted to take the time), but it’s a cool collection. I wonder about the circumstances of this recording: if it’s really 1928, would this have been Colin McPhee?

Some new things to dig

I got some new headphones last month, and it’s changed life at my very sweet little desk at UBC. My old isolating headphones stopped isolating somewhere through my fieldwork last year, and while I still like my grados, the open concept doesn’t work so hot for a shared office space.

Anyway, the upshot is that I’m listening again almost all day. Here’s what I’m hearing.

Today I’m listening to The Myth of the Golden Ratio by United Vibrations. It’s like a contemporary take on some afrobeat-inspired musical and political sensibilities: cool, short ostinati horn lines, moody jazz, 7/8 grooves, and sometimes-heavy-handed-but-at-least-they’re-not-love-songs political lyrics about climate change, the 99%, culture loss, and other troubles of the day. Dig it.

The other day I stumbled on a new record from Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano, and Jan Lundgren called Mare Nostrum II. It’s slow, thoughtful, pretty, playable. It’s good for writing. I like trumpet & accordion together.

This record, by the Rhythm Future Quartet, rules too. I love the first track, Iberian Sunrise. I don’t need the cover of Come Together, but the rest is pretty killer if you like the Grappelli/Django thing, which you do because nobody doesn’t.

Mingus w/ Dolphy, Miles Bootlegs v.2, Dave Douglas

Been listening a bunch to a relatively recent bootleg of the Charles Mingus sextet ft. Eric Dolphy at Cornell University 1964. It’s hilarious and amazing. What a swingin band. Their version of A-Train is unbelievable, Danny Richmond is unbelievable, and Jaki Byard is wonderful. Their version of Fables of Faubus is about 25 minutes long, complete with breakdown into Yankee Doodle.

Here’s the same band, but in Oslo later that year:

Also, last week (or so) Columbia released a bootleg of the ‘Lost Quintet’ of Miles’, some of the same band that recorded Bitches Brew playing in France. Hot! Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland. Heavy rocking classic Miles. He’s on fire, and Wayne Shorter sounds amazing. Really, everyone is on fire.

Also been listening to Strange Liberation by Dave Douglas. He came to my school last year or the year before and did a workshop with one of the bands I play in & showcased a new composition he was working on with the Turning Point Ensemble. He was very sweet and quite helpful. I hadn’t heard much of his stuff, so I thought I’d seek it out. This record is great. It ranges all over, without losing a sense of coherence – it kind of sits in a very pretty in-between jazz and something-else place. Recommended.

Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman, More on Kenny Wheeler, Stan Getz

Bill Evans Trio Complete Live at the Village Vanguard. Great record. Obviously an amazing ensemble sound. Evans is so creative and interesting, playing all these shapes and patterns across barlines and through various keys, making them sound so fluid. Scott Lefaro & Paul Motian really create a space for him to shine. It’s kind of neat to hear the interrupted takes and announcements, etc., too.

Brad Mehldau’s Day is Done is just from 2005 but it already sounds a little dated. I think partly it’s the Radiohead that puts you in another era so clearly, and partly this ensemble sound. Very good, but not exactly timeless. Must listen more.

Joshua Redman’s Wish is also a bit dated. Redman is a monster bopper, Pat Metheny sounds good. Killer ensemble (Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, PM). It’s straight-ahead for the most part, and it’s a bit too bad about the cover of Tears in Heaven, though when he digs in Redman still gets some emotionsomething working in it. I dunno if it’s the kind of thing I’ll listen to much, but I’m glad to hear it. Oh ya, there’s also a great (great!) solo moment on Blues for Pat where Metheny plays a one-note thing forEVER and it works just so well. Gah!

Been listening again to that Kenny Wheeler record, Music for Small & Large Ensembles, trying to give it another chance. I dunno. Some things about it are interesting – the voices (Morricone, anyone?), the complex compositions, the dark voicings – but something about it isn’t working for me. Sarah said it’s like Christmas music, then weird free jazz, then Christmas again, and it’s hard to get your brain around it (I’m at the mall! No I’m at 1067! No wait, I’m at the mall again!!). It’s weird, but I think she’s onto something. It’s like some of the project here was to incorporate ‘free’ into a big band context, and I’m not sure it works that well. It never sounds really free enough to really be free, which really highlights the juxtaposition, though not in the way I suspect was intended. The musicians are obviously amazing, and the charts are killer, it’s just so clear on listening that everyone’s reading (perfectly) and nobody’s swinging. I’ll still listen again, because I’m getting to like exploring the tension in it, but I think I’ll need to learn more before I really appreciate it.

Listened to a bit of Stan Getz’ Big Band Bossa Nova, too. At first I didn’t love it, but it’s grown on me. The arrangements are kind of sweet, with some cool dissonances worked in. Very soft & smooth, of course, but not at all bad. Be fun to play one of these charts in JO.