December 31, 2007

Cuong Vu - It's Mostly Residual

Since much of what passes across a music reviewer's desk is the sonic equivalent of hyenas gnawing on the bones of long-dead jazz styles, the arrival of something new that's both original and great gives twice the reason to celebrate. Vu is capable of some intense, headlong improvisation, as is clear on the aptly titled "Expressions of a Neurotic Impulse" and "Brittle, Like Twigs," but his real strength is the extended, gorgeous lines that he unspools on the other cuts. The title track, in particular, offers a melody that seems to take measure upon measure to reach its culmination – it's stately, elegiac, and yet not in the least mournful; one could only describe it as the sound of someone looking back on a glorious love affair that has ended without bitterness. This is all a way of saying that Vu's playing has an emotional resonance that's rarely found these days without having to sift through layers of hokum.
"Edward Batchelder, Signal to Noise"

Cuong Vu - trumpet
Stomu Takeishi - bass
Ted Poor - drums
Bill Frisell - guitar
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

December 26, 2007

Rokia Traoré


When one gets lost in the West African country of Mali, the customary request for personal guidance is "Sila jira kan na," meaning "Show me the way." In the oppressively hot streets of the crowd- and dust-clogged capital city of Bamako, such entreaties from strangers are accepted as routine, since one market-swarmed street can resemble a dozen others. But in the sphere of contemporary Malian music, as in the world at large, the familiar appeal takes on a special poignancy, because the ability these days to offer confident direction is in increasingly short supply.

One of the finest records issued anywhere this year is "Wanita" (Indigo/Harmonia Mundi), the second album by Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré. The follow-up to her much-praised 1998 debut, "Mouneissa" -- which sold over 40,000 copies in Europe--the new release expands on the softly poetic but intensely persevering messages of a woman who is quietly but questfully altering the face of African music. On a planet seemingly rife with self-righteous anger, racial antagonism, and inter-family tension, she calmly petitions on songs like "Souba" for humility and reconciliation; and as modern societies increasingly exploit women via popular degradation while idealizing male brutality, she warns on "N'Gotolen" against the dangers of building either a boom economy or a cultural pecking order based on contempt for others.

"There is a trend for selfish individualism also in Mali, even though we're very far away from the situation with the United States or Europe," she says, smoothly shifting from French to her mother tongue of Bamanan, with sudden bursts of English. "But I'm singing this way because,from speaking with the elders in Bamako, there has been and still is a big human interest in the worth of family members, neighbors, and colleagues in our offices or workplaces. I'm very conscious that, with all the money some people have these days in the U.S. and other countries, there is an aggressive individualism that has catastrophic consequences. You can feel that this misguided individualism is part of this violent process today in many homes and streets. I'm telling on other songs on the album that if you have a conscience about the importance of life and your proper individual life, you can avoid the violence and killing. But the fact that we're allowing it to happen is still baffling to me," she adds sadly.

In Mali,whose hierarchical musical traditions are dominated by either the ceremonial drama of the often haughty male griots and jelis (storytellers) or of the vociferous jelimusolu (female praise singers), Traoré's own music is uniquely informal, personable, and tender. Her intimate-sounding acoustic accompaniment consists of balafon (wooden xylophone), kora (a highly resonant harplike instrument with 21-25 strings), ngoni (lute), and an occassional electrified bass, plus the guitar and percussion Traore splits with others during the lovely solo and choral vocals (the latter sometimes overdubbed by Traoré). The music grips listeners as it glides into a rich nether realm between tribal chant and folk chanson, prodding the spirit with ideas that are bluesy in their convictions but almost Asian in their plucked airiness. And because the subject matter is so boldly expressed, its passionate tug soon grows addictive.

A member of the Bamanan ethnic group, Traoré is descended from the noble warriors of the Traoré clan, but she is free by custom from the caste-oriented constraints of other tribes (like the Maninka) that relegate public vocalizing to the social strata of nyamakala (craftsmen). Unlike the Maninka ranks from which sprang such national musical stars like the magisterial Salif Keita or such so-called "divas from Mali" as Kandia Kouyate, Ami Koita, and Oumou Sangare, Traoré's grounding in music was casual and spontaneous.

"Besides singers from Mali, my influences are jazz, classical, and rock," she says. "I like Ella Fitzgerald, Tina Turner, and Joe Zawinul of Weather Report. And the bulk of the themes on the album are from everyday life--which means living with others, with its pros and cons. On songs like 'N'Gotolen' and 'Souba,' it just says that you need the others, the people that are in your background, and you should give them all the respect that they deserve."

As we struggle through a cusp-of-the-millenium era without progressive leaders, clamorous cowardice frequently passes for courage and selfishness for wisdom. In place of such decadent notions of what constitutes fit paths to fame and fortune, Traoré offers the title track of "Wanita," which she says is named for "an imaginary person, a sort of internal voice or conscience that gives me more and more will when the courage is not there anymore, so I will be able to get to the top of the tallest tree or mountain."

There's a potent sense of delicacy in the music that announces that human dignity must be a shared experience or it does not endure. And songs like "Yaafa N'Ma" (We must ask and grant pardon/All of you who count for me/Forgive me for to err is human") show great faith in the concepts that love is power and gentleness is strength.

"I have to think like this because I'm only 1 meter and 60 centimeters [5 fee, 4 inches] tall, and my weight is only 48 kilos [108 pounds]," she confesses with a laugh, "so I must believe this, or I would lose all the time."
Born Jan. 26, 1974, to diplomat Mamadou Dianguina Traoré and Oumou Traoré, his wife from the same clan, Rokia is the middle child of seven. She grew up playing beside the famed River Niger that bisects the city as it snakes its way through the central portion of West Africa, but she also spent portions of her youth in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France, and Belgium because of her father's diplomatic postings. She was first encouraged in her career by Jacques Szalay, director of the French Cultural Centre in Bamako, and then championed by Northern Mali guitarist/singer Ali Farka Touré during the period when she copped the Radio France Internationale prize as African Discovery of '97.

Of all the artists covered in this column over the past eight years, Rokia Traoré, who tours North America this summer, is one of hte most original and inspiring this writer has encountered. Her brave music on "Wanita" is a mighty sword of hope, as soft as a feather but as real as steel.

"The role I might play is dependent on everyone else who hears my music," she says. "I have messages to transmit in the music, but then it's your turn to feel it. The guidance we need, the essence or soul of life that we all seek, only becomes reality through our relationships with each other."
(2000 BillBoard Magazine)



"An album is a wall to penetrate," says Malian singer Rokia Traoré, immediately establishing herself as a marketing exec's nightmare. The wall called Bowmboï, Traoré's third CD, is built from sounds unfamiliar to Western ears and lyrics sung only in her native Bamana, even though she's also proficient in English, French, German and Italian. "I asked myself if it wouldn't be better to do something easier," she says. "Maybe if you do something a little pop, it's easier to promote. I had a choice. But I prefer this." Thank goodness. Bowmboï is mesmerizing, casting its spell with virtuoso vocals, rich textures and startling diversity. If her 2000 album Wanita was her breakthrough, winning Traoré worldwide acclaim as a rising star, then Bowmboï is a stamp of the 29-year-old's growing musical authority.

Traoré's sound may be exotic, ethereal, otherworldly — all words trotted out to praise the good in the impossibly broad "world-music" genre — but her themes are universal. Déli is a meditation on friendship. The title track — named for a lullaby Traoré's mother sang to her — wrestles with child poverty. She even deals with politics, but insists she could never work in that language. She thinks of the complexity of Mali's relations with the International Monetary Fund as well as her country's cotton farmers and how they suffer because Western nations subsidize their own. Such topics "are not poetic," she says. "I may be thinking about the situation between developed countries and undeveloped countries, but you will never hear those words in my songs." So, on Kèlè Mandi, whose haunting admonitions make it a highlight, Traoré just sings about human interaction: "Give me a bit of what you are/ But do it with gentleness and tolerance."

Traoré's spare arrangements use a variety of instruments, including a calabash harp called the bolon, an African lute called the n'goni and, on two tracks, the strings of San Francisco's acclaimed Kronos Quartet. But the songs are really designed to showcase the range of moods and colors in Traoré's own voice. On Mariama, a stirring call-and-response duet with veteran Ousmane Sacko, she provides the velvety counterpoint to his rough edges. On Manian, a searching song about poverty in which she asks, "What have I done to deserve such a life/ Who have I offended in heaven?", she begins with a matter-of-fact resignation familiar to anyone who has spent time in Africa, then unleashes a spellbinding mix of urgent chants, mournful cadenzas and more quiet testimony.
She often sings as the outsider, a role she has played for most of her life. A diplomat's daughter, Traoré spent chunks of her childhood in Algeria, Belgium and Saudi Arabia. As a musician, she's had to fight for respect, since she was not born into the caste of griots, Mali's musician-bards. It's been hard "to make people accept you for who you are," she says. The outsider's refrain is a cry for acceptance, and she sings one now for developing nations like Mali, whose needs are often overlooked. "In Africa, we are not powerful," she says. "This music is just to say: we are not O.K. But — there is always a message of hope." Her most spirited missive is Niènafîng, a drum-driven salute to her homeland. "Who dares say that Mali
has nothing to offer?" she demands. After listening to Bowmboï, nobody would dare.


Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

December 20, 2007

Sainkho Namtchylak

Sainkho Namtchylak is an experimental singer, born in 1957 in a secluded village in the south of Tuva, an autonomous Russian state bordering Mongolia. She has an exceptional voice, spanning seven octaves and proficient in overtone singing; her music enmeshes avant-jazz, electronica, modern composition and Tuvan influences. In Tuva numerous cultural influences collide: the Turkic roots it shares with Mongolia, Xinjiang Uighur and the Central Asian states; various Siberian nomadic ethnic groups, principally those of the Tungus-Manchu group; Russian Old Believers; migrant and resettled populations from the Ukraine, Tatarstan and other minority groups west of the Urals. All of these, to extents, impact on Sainkho's voice, although the Siberian influences dominate: her thesis produced while studying voice, first at the University of Kyzyl, then in the Gnesins Institute in Moscow during the 1980s focussed on Lamaistic and cult musics of minority groups across Siberia, and her music frequently shows tendencies towards Tungus-style imitative singing.
After graduating, Sainkho worked with several ensembles: the Moscow State Orchestra; the Moscow- based jazz ensemble 'Tri-O' (since 1989); School of Dramatic Art under the direction of Anatoly Vasiliev (Moscow), various orchestras in Kyzyl although (incongruously) as far as I am aware she has not worked with the Sayaan Ensemble, the Tuvan 'folkloric orchestra'- a far less sanitised example of folk baroque than, say, existed in pre-independence Kazakhstan- that has housed many of Tuva's other important singers. However, for several years Sainkho annually invited foreign musicians to Tuva to promote Tuvan culture. In 1997, Sainkho was horrifically attacked by Tuvinian racketeers which left her in a coma for two weeks. Again, sources regarding this contradict- others maintain that she underwent surgery for a severe malignant brain tumour; regardless, 1997 marked an appreciable change in her life. Since then, she has been resident in exile in Vienna, and has also recorded more prolifically as a solo artist- although she has released over thirty albums in the past twenty years, only seven have been entirely solo. in 2005 Italian publish house Libero di Scrivere released a book of poetry "Karmaland". In 2006 in Petersburg was published a book "Chelo-Vek" (in Russian, "A Human Being") in Russian, Tuvinian and in English.

Stepmother City
Sainkho Namtchylak walks on the edges of life. It would be cliché to say she plays music on the border between East and West, past and present. But she is one of those artists that exist outside of categories. The same could be said of any woman who combines Tuvan throatsinging, experimental jazz, classical, electronica, and Buddhism. Then again, she is the only woman on the planet that fits this description.
Her new album Stepmother City—to be released on Ponderosa Music by Harmonia Mundi in October 2002—demands to be seen from a spiritual perspective. The liner notes are the words of a Buddhist monk from the 5th century BCE. The CD is embossed with a maze of roads whose existential names like “Born to Discover” and “Your Inner Eyes” chart a city that lies somewhere between the heart and the mind.
Already known as Tuva’s most celebrated female vocalist, Sainkho takes her unique blend in a new direction. Transfixing audiences with her astounding seven octave range, Sainkho uses songs like “Tuva Blues,” “Let the Sunshine,” and “Lonely Soul” to explore lands that live beyond the confines of the East and the West. Sainkho courses between polar extremes, reflecting love and hostility. With her finely crafted overtone singing, knowledge of Siberian folklore, shamanistic ritual, and history in Russian folklore ensembles and free-jazz acts, Sainkho juxtaposes traditional styles of her Tuvan ancestors with the Western avant-garde, sailing from harmonious serenity to hissing, trilling, and wailing.
Based in Vienna far from her beloved homeland Tuva, Sainkho sculpted Stepmother City to reflect her ambivalent feelings about European metropoli. Calling herself “first and foremost a woman from the Steppes,” Sainkho’s first musical inspiration came from her nomadic grandmother, who would sing lullabies for hours. She grew up in a culture where people just sing when they feel like it—singing when they’re happy and singing when they’re sad. Denied professional credentials from a local college where her explorative nature led her toward forbidden male-dominated styles, Sainkho transferred to Moscow where she discovered Russian improvisation. She also studied vocal techniques of Siberian lamaistic traditions.
Audiences are astounded by the diversity of sounds Sainkho can produce with her voice, from operatic tenor to birdlike squawks, from childlike pleas to soulful crooning; which at various moments elicit comparisons to Zap Mama, Patti Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Hagen. Stepmother City blends the sounds of electric guitars and loops with folk instruments like the shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute), doshpuloor (three-stringed banjo), and igil (a Mongolian horse-head fiddle connected with the spirit world), creating a synergistic blend of past and present.
Sainkho claims that music and spirituality are related by desire, or the tension that yells to reawaken people. Eager to take part in the process of remembering what has been forgotten, Stepmother City presents itself like a map, proposing routes to connect Western physicality with Eastern spirituality. Its seductive beats and wild vocals are sure to shock and inspire.
New Link

Who Stole the Sky ?
It's easy to understand why Tuvan Sainkho Namtchylak has been an avant-garde icon for a long time; she's remarkable at producing the unexpected. But unlike many in her field, she also possesses a strong ear for melody, which makes her music accessible to a much wider audience. Both those strengths are on display here, along with her feeling for the music and the throat singing of her native land (very notably on the title cut and "Ohm Suhaa"). She can take a traditional piece like "Kaar Deerge" and turn it into something resembling a Celtic ballad, stripped and completely gorgeous. Then she can turn around and make something rhythmically compelling like "Runnin' Tapes" or strange like "Digital Mutation." By exercising the different facets of her personality, Namtchylak builds her typical unusual album with Who Stole the Sky, running from the contemporary to the past easily and naturally, and even venturing into almost jazzy territory on "Electric City." She embraces the idea of taking chances, of using odd juxtapositions and instruments (such as ghaita), and of singing that ranges from the lush to the elemental. This is as much, if not more, of a musical future as all the genre-mixing beats you're likely to find. (Chris Nickson, All Music Guide)
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

December 16, 2007

Renaud Garcia-Fons - Arcoluz

French bass virtuoso Renaud Garcia-Fons has grown into a living legend, both for his breathtaking technique and intonation as well as his talent as a composer. A dazzling performer on five strings, he uses his instrument's entire range, thus dominating the music and making the bowed double bass sound rather like a cello or a violin. When listening to his percussive speed pizzicato or his sweeping arco flageolets, the breadth of his capabilities becomes evident immediately. As a composer Garcia-Fons likes to take the listener on a gypsy's journey through the Mediterranean area, especially Andalusia, then Brittany, Latin America, India, the Arab world and even into European classical music of the past. Although incorporating influences from far and wide, his compositions are always focussed and efficient and keep to the spirit of charming chamber music. As Nils Jacobson wrote about Garcia-Fons' last album, "Entremundo": "Each piece contains its own detailed narrative. Elements of the music might seem familiar, but just palpably so, and never in an obvious way. Just let the music ebb and flow, carrying echoes of places distant and not so far away. A beautiful experience."

"ArcoLuz", the first live album after six studio recordings on ENJA, powerfully captures the fire and emotionality of Renaud Garcia-Fons' vibrant concert performance. With the core trio of "Entremundo" -- including upcoming flamenco star-stringer "Kiko" Ruiz and drummer "Negrito" Trasante of Gipsy Kings-fame --, Garcia-Fons delivers seven of his thrilling Spanish-influenced pieces, four of them being brand new. His trio's highly inspired, forceful and expressive performance, caught at Germany's Schloss Elmau in summer 2005, is not only presented on a first-class CD recording but can also be seen on a 85-minute DVD video disc directed by Nicolas Dattilesi. With subtitles in four languages and bonus tracks included, the DVD is further proof for Renaud Garcia-Fons' and his trio's extraordinary musicianship and deep-felt emotions. "He's in a position to unite nations of music lovers" (

Renaud Garcia-Fons: 5-string double bass
Kiko Ruiz flamenco: guitar
Negrito Trasante: drums, percussion
Part 1
Part 2
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

December 12, 2007

Michael Brook - RockPaperScissors

RockPaperScissors is Michael Brook’s new album, his third solo offering. When not recording in his Lavanderia studio located in the Hollywood Hills, Michael and his co-producer, multi-instrumentalist and arranger Rich Evans (of Peter Gabriel's band) traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria on behalf of this ambitious project, where they recorded local orchestral and choral ensembles. Into this mix, Brook introduced several vocalist/songwriters such as his former 4AD label mate Lisa Germano, Shira Myrow and Paul Buchanan from the Blue Nile.
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

December 9, 2007

Ferenc Snétberger - Nomad

Three masters of their art have joined to form the new Ferenc Snétberger Trio. With natural ease they bring together choice compositions, technical skills, improvisational drive and musical fantasy of the highest order.
Hungarian-born Ferenc Snétberger is among today's outstanding players on his instrument, one "who can display intensity and passion even at a quiet volume" (Cadence). Going for a synthesis of flamenco, classical, jazz and samba, he melts all these influences into a very personal style full of surprise, warmth, wonder and emotion. One of the leading jazz bassists of today, Norwegian Arild Andersen is famous for his full-bodied tone and his elegant playing. He has recorded dozens of great albums with the likes of Jan Garbarek, Bill Frisell, Stan Getz, Pat Metheny and Don Cherry. Italian-born Paolo Vinaccia has been living in Norway for 25 years and is a household name on the most creative Scandinavian improvisers' scene. His imaginative and colorful playing could be heard with Nils Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft, Terje Rypdal, Palle Mikkelborg and others.
A multitrack recording (24-bit, 96 kHz) engineered by Jan Erik Kongshaug at Oslo's Rainbow Studios, the trio's debut album "Nomad" hypnotizes the listener with breadth and clearness. When Snétberger, Andersen and Vinaccia start to play, it is like pure magic. Charming melodies, thrilling grooves, fiery improvisations, sudden turns and fragile moments evoke sceneries right out of dreamland. Founded in 2004, this unusual trio has quickly grown into a highly celebrated live act. Critics have called them "a triangle of pan-European inspirations, an amalgam of mysticism and joy of life, dream paths and clear laughs, trance and dance". The trio's music -- ranging from modern jazz drive and world beats to decent electronic sounds and vibrant lyricism -- catches the audiences by its sheer emotional power.

Ferenc Snétberger: acoustic guitar
Arild Andersen: double bass, electronics
Paolo Vinaccia: drums, percussion, electronics
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

December 4, 2007

Trygve Seim-The Source and Different Cikadas

As you may have guessed ..., this isn't exactly dinner jazz, but neither is it a dry, difficult academic exercise. The writing is vibrant, witty and often beautiful. Throughout the cast of players shifts, giving each piece a distinctive character. ... But these guys can make it up as they go along just as well as they can write it down; the two free improvisations are stuffed with ideas yet marked by a restraint and a sense of space rarely found in jazz (except maybe on other ECM records). The closing "Tutti Free" finds the whole 11 piece slowly expanding and contracting as one with a sensitivity and power that's almost unfathomable. Beautiful.
(Peter Marsh, BBC Online)

Øyvind Brække: trombone
Trygve Seim: tenor and soprano saxo-phones, clarophone
Per Oddvar Johansen: drums
Henrik Hannisdal & Odd Hannisdal: violin
Marek Konstantynowicz: viola
Morten Hannisdal: cello
Frode Haltli: accordion
Arve Henriksen: trumpet
Christian Wallumrød: piano
Finn Guttormsen: bass
Part1 & Part2
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

November 28, 2007

Janice deRosa - Afro blues

"A great singer and a Wonderful mix of blues & african music."

Janice deRosa: lead vocal
Djeli Moussa Diawara: Koras, vocals
Michel Fernandez: Latin and African percussions
George Wolfaardt: doublebass
Sissokho Yakhouba: kora
Fabrice Angier: acoustic guitar

Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

November 23, 2007

Hossein Alizadeh & Djivan Gasparyan

Endless Vision

"Endless Vision unites Armenian virtuoso Djivan Gasparyan on duduk (an eight-holed, double-reed flute made of apricot wood, derived from the regional shepherd's flute) and Iranian master Hossein Alizadeh on tar and shurangiz (new Iranian lute). Their live 2003 outdoor performance at Tehran's Niavaran Palace was accompanied by a trio of singers (in Armenian, Azeri and Persian), Armen Ghazaryan (duduk), Vazgen Markaryan (bass duduk), and the Hamavayan Ensemble (vocals, oud, shurangiz, percussion).

Born in the Soviet Republic of Armenia and trained at the Komitas Conservatory of Yerevan, Gasparyan is responsible for elevating the duduk to classical status in Armenian traditional music. His career began in 1948 with the Tatool Altounian National Song and Dance Ensemble and the Yerevan Philharmonic; some listeners may recognize his work from the soundtrack of Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ. Gasparyan has recorded with Peter Gabriel, the Kronos Quartet, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and numerous others.

Alizadeh began his career in the late 1970s after studying Persian classical music at the University of Teheran's School of Music; he conducts the Iranian National Orchestra of Radio and Television, and enjoys an international reputation as a soloist and composer at home and abroad. This meld of Persian and Armenian songs unfolds slowly and dramatically; the musicians and singers give one another plenty of room to explore the delicate nuances of these complementary and evocative musical traditions, whose microtonal character is accented by the plaintive duduk and the extraordinary overtone singing of Hourshid Biabani, Afsaneh Rasaei and Ali Samadpour. Reflecting upon this remarkable performance ought to call into question the wisdom of perpetrating in Iran the militarist folly and human sacrifice that already haunt Armenian and Iraqi history. By contrast, as Gandhi observed when asked his opinion of Western civilization, "It would be an excellent idea." - Michael Stone

Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

November 15, 2007

Planète Sauvage - Planète Sauvage (2007)

Planète Sauvage debut album « Planète Sauvage EP » stand out distinctly with its singular character, beyond the vogue and so, really modern.
By listening this four original compositions, you could perceive sounds and also images, like a movie constantly updated so, I think about W.Wenders, D. Lynch and R. Laloux of course, especially his philosophycal and psychedelic animation « La planète sauvage ».
Electronic and electro-acoustic, this EP is also a mix of musical genre, look like a travel accross the continents, a travel book full of pictures and souvenirs.

So, enjoy and « bon voyage ».


Download (Mp3@320): rapidshare
Mirror: Sendspace
Genre: Ambient, Space Rock, World, O.S.T
Website: PlaneteSauvageSound

November 11, 2007

Tangerine Dream

Tangerine Dream is a German electronic music group founded in 1967 by Edgar Froese. The band has undergone several personnel changes over the years, with Froese the only continuous member. Drummer and composer Klaus Schulze was a member of an early lineup, but the most stable version of the group during their influential mid-1970s period was as a keyboard trio with Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann. Early in the 1980s, Johannes Schmoelling replaced Baumann, and this lineup, too, was stable and extremely productive. Tangerine Dream's early "Pink Years" albums had a pivotal role in the development of Krautrock. Their "Virgin Years" and later albums became a defining influence in New Age music, although the band themselves dislike the term.


The fourth album of Tangerine Dream, and the last before they would sign with Richard Branson's burgeoning Virgin Records label, Atem (meaning "Breath") ranks among their most enigmatic. The album is less static than the previous Zeit, but overall continues along the quiet, ambient pathways.
Not at the start, though. With an opening rivaling the majesty of Popol Vuh's "Aguirre," the first 5� minutes of the title track makes you feel like you are inside a huge, ancient, Egyptian temple. The sound, defined by a repetitive motif on Froese's mellotron (the instrument's first appearance with TD) and Franke's tribal tom-toms, is an all-encompassing sanctity and awe. The percussive pace quickens to a climax, but then dissolves into a void of white light. It is after this great opening that the remainder of the track goes to minus eleven, like having been instantly teleported to the surface of an alien terrain so remote, astronomers wouldn't even bother to put it on their charts. But even while so removed, prog and Kraut fans should recognize the territory well. It is the rock-meets-electroacoustic avant garde style also explored by peers Klaus Schulze, Cluster, and early Pink Floyd: minimal, usually atonal organ mixed with unsettling electronic sounds (e.g., humming reverberation, sizzling noises, trickling). Perhaps it is "Fauni Gena" that best encapsulates the meditative and mystical feel that pervades the album, beginning with an aria of flute mellotron and proceeding along to string mellotron, all surrounded by naturalistic sounds and occasionally whispered voices. The interesting thing about this track is how organic and synthetic it manages to sound at once. Listening to it, you could imagine yourself being in the Garden of Eden, or conversely in some futuristic simulation of an aviary or rainforest. The final track, "Wahn" (German for "delusion"), splashes some cold water into the listener's face, with prehistoric vocalisms and screams that at the same time have a clear studio reverb to them, before closing out with some more tom-tom and 'tron magic.
A minus that warrants mention: similar to the other earliest Tangerine Dream albums in the Castle reissue series, though this boasts "digital remastering" done in 1995, the sound remains substandard with significant vinyl buzzing, particularly in the opening of "Atem" where it most matters. It's too bad that the band hadn't quite made it to Virgin quite yet, where the original master tapes most likely would have survived in reasonable condition. Barring the sound, this is one that most prog fans should hear and most hardcore Krautrockers probably already have. It seems to be less talked about relative to the other albums they made around this time, such as Alpha Centauri, Zeit, and Phaedra. If you want easy listening, go with Frank Sinatra. But if you want something more challenging and exploratory from this period of popular music, then Atem is an inevitability.
(Ground and sky)


The watershed album for Tangerine Dream was this, their first release for Virgin Records, Phaedra. If Zeit was music recorded on Jupiter, this was music recorded on Pluto: icy, distant, alien. The beginning moments of the title track always manage to bring shivers up my spine, as we are gently blown by a jet stream from up above, until slowly descending down into a mechanical throbbing like something you'd imagine hearing in a mad scientist's lab or in the shadowy corridors of an H.R. Giger painting. Gradually, this throbbing speeds up, until an angelic mellotron choir parts the waters. Soon over this, enter a wavering mellotron string lead, swirling in and out like quicksilver, and in the hands of VCS3 manipulation, almost sounding like a Moog at times. This early climax, perhaps the most incredible section of the title track, then hangs a sharp left turn unexpectedly into a new terrain of pulsing sequencing that would become the band's signature for the remainder of the 1970s. This similarly builds slowly to a peak, before screeching to a halt altogether once it reaches its top limits. Then the listener is left alone on an immense, deserted beach, with only synth-gulls and lonely mellotron to provide companionship. The haunting disorientation of the children's playground in the distance is the icing on the cake. On my remastered CD, this is placed as the beginning of the next track, "Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares," and as I never owned the original LP I assume that's where it should be — but for me it will always be the close of title track."Mysterious Semblance" is pretty much Froese and one of the all-time classic mellotron tracks: ten minutes of pure, unadultered 'tron beauty. To date, the only other track I've heard yet that equals it as a mellotron showcase is Popol Vuh's "Aguirre." Despite its foreboding title, it is for the most part a soothing, peaceful piece, and one that can't help but evoke the blue and white upper-reaches of the sky, especially with the windy bursts of white noise that augment the mellotron's song. The two remaining tracks, "Movements of a Visionary" and the Baumann-composed, quiet-as-a-whisper "Sequent 'C'" are also quite strong.Phaedra remains Tangerine Dream's most recognized and best-selling album today. Despite this, it also thankfully remains a challenging work to absorb, to the extent that I'm somewhat surprised it enjoyed the commercial success that it apparently did. In any case, we're talking indispensable stuff with this one. With the move to Virgin and improved production, Phaedra represents peak work from this band--a classic of ambient and electronic music that sounds just as great today as it did back then.
(Ground and sky)


The follow-up to the band's phenomenally successful debut, Phaedra, on Virgin Records, Rubycon is measured in two parts coming in at a very tidy and well-used 34 minutes.
The opening six minutes of "Part One" make for a warmer opening than that of Phaedra. Arising out of the murky depths of shimmering organs, Froese and friends bask the listener in lush swashes of keyboards, the musical equivalent of an aurora borealis sweeping away gently in the distant arctic. However, it is at around the seven minute mark and with the advent of echoing metallic sounds that a more ominous atmosphere begins to take over. Not soon after, the pulsing synth beats and string mellotron that are associated with the band's peak period arrive. Notice how when it begins the pulsing subtly expands from 4/4 to 5/4 to 6/4; I love bits like that. As this section of the piece picks up in dynamic, it reminds me a lot of something one might have found on Pink Floyd's Meddle, even with the same seabed organ sounds and backwards crescendo effects that were used to great effect on "One of These Days."
"Part Two" follows a similar structure to "Part One." It begins with a free-form, rhythm-less opening primarily comprised of audio warping that increases and decreases slowly in register. This dissolves into a void of vocals. At around five minutes, this prelude once again gives way to an echoing, sequenced bass pattern and processed string mellotron. These continue along a steady plane with all manner of effects whisking by, before eventually collapsing back into amorphousness at just under twelve minutes, then finally arriving at an end state of repose (flute mellotron).
This album paints a vast, abstract picture. I would say it is more accessible and less diverse compositionally relative to Phaedra, but by no means less mysterious or powerful. Like its predecessor, Rubycon is another classic Tangerine Dream work that is a must-have for those who want to experience the band on their game.
(Ground and sky)
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

November 7, 2007

François Rabbath

"The sound of a bass definitely came as a revolution in the history of the contrebass, for the record divided that history into a "before" and an "after". The album marked the beginning of a new era for the instrument : it revealed new possibilities and new facets that had remained either unsuspected or simply unexploited beforehand.
Even thought this album was only the first opus recorded by François Rabbath, it already contained all the ingredients that would make him such a gigantic pioneer of the contrebass. Not only did he not disown the instrument's accompanying role - a remarkable accompanist -, but François Rabbath also made a great contribution towards giving the bass a distinct soloist's role, and that a early as the sixties.
Right from the very first track you can glimpse that this is not just a matter of technical prowess; the composer's intention is above all to take us into a singular universe in musis, and he does so by broadening the langage of the bass to encompass multiple styles without allowing the discourse to lose any of its coherence. It's all the more noticeable because we immediately lose all our references, indeed our prejudices or a prioris, and let ourselves be invaded by the bassist's formidable sound, notably with the bow. Without a doubt, the album's title coudn't be more appropriate.
It has to be said that the formidable technique developped by Francçois Rabbath - with no reference to any particular school - allows him unprecedented freedom and richness of expression on his instrument. Without ever becoming a demonstrative exercice, each piece on the record reveals a new facet of this Impressionnist playing, some new aspect that has forceful powers of evocation.
On the original sleeve, François Rabbath gave his own thematic index for the twelve pieces in this album, giving listeners some key indications so they could follow him through these successive tableaux or, rather, "short films".
Probably for the first time, this emancipationof the contrebass - or rather its new eloquence -was accompanied by intonation that had faultless precision, the fruit of an innovative technique that was both rational and rigorous. Some listeners will perhaps even wonder if this is indeed a bass when they hear the artificial harmony produced in the upper-treble register in "prelude à l'archet" or "bitume" and then there's also the extreme rapidity of the double-strings in "creasy course" , or the mysterious ponticello tremolos of "walpurgis".Others will be just as surprised simply to hear the instrument sing on all these compositions dedicaded to melody. And while I'm on that subject, melody, I'm particularly fond of "ode d'espagne" it's a moving composition for solo contrebass played pizzicato, and a precise evocation of the music of andalusia and the spain of de Falla and Albéniz.
Choosing to associate the contrbass with the drums was probably a first, and it turned out to be particularly efficient. The playing of Armand Molinetti, full of swing and finesse, serves the album magnificently: he polishes and punctuates the bass-lines with continual care, ensuring their legibility, and on each piece he seeks out the timbres and grooves that are the most appropriate.
There's nothing didactic or experimental about the "sound of a bass" , it directly addresses music-lovers in the widest sense of the term, which certainly explains the huge popularity this album enjoyed on release.There's no point in trying to put a label on this misic - everyone can find his own references in it - and anyway I believe it's better to listen to it as adiscovery, to just let yourself be carried away by your own emotions. François Rabbath is definitely one of those musicians whose style you can recognize right from the very first note, and it deservedly earns him a place as a particularly creative artistic genius, someone quite out of the ordinary, which is certainly why today, more than forty years after it was first released, this record - the quest for the universal cintrbass - touches and moves us so deeply."
"Renaud Garcia-Fons"

The Sound of a Bass & N°2 (limited edition)

Link (mp3@vbr"extreme)
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November 5, 2007

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook - Mustt Mustt

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is the undisputed master of Quaali (Sufi devotional music). This album, produced by Michael Brook (guitarist for Peter Gabriel), veers into contemporary territory, merging western influences and instrumentation with the brilliance of Khan's traditional artistry and spiritual passion. His extraordinary deep-throated vocal style, fiery and ecstatic, fuses devotional poetry with swirling harmonies of world beat rhythms, fluid extended guitar lines, synthesizer, bass, Indian tabla and harmonium. A world fusion classic.
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

November 3, 2007

Senem Diyici

A few good style descriptions of Senem Diyici Quartet :
"The bop of the Bosporus of the cat-like woman Senem Diyici, who sails smoothly from sweet meanders to sparkling dances, a chamber world music, acoustic and playful" Telerama

"Their music is a combination of traditional and classic Turkish music and European Jazz. The lyrics are based upon the poems of Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian poets from the 16th and 17th century. The result that comes from this musical message combined with the Indian rhythms of Ravy Magnifique, the jazzy harmony from Alain Blessing and Philippe Botta and the voice of Senem Diyici is marvelous. " El diaro de Mallorca

BIOGRAPHY (taken from press journal) :
She came to this world in the year of 1953, in the Oriental metropole of Istanbul. Senem was raised by a Kurdish mother and a father of Armenian-Azeri origin. They lived in Sisli, the European quarter of Istanbul,populated by many cultures, like the Greek, Armenian,Hungarian, French, Turkish, Jewish and Italian. These cultures became her roots, influencing her, feeding her, making her understand and live life as a citizen of the world to let her voice be heard.
Already at an early age, her father discovered the quality of his daughter's voice. He began to teach her the classical Turkish songs and stimulated her to listen to records and to the popular and classical songs on the radio. At the age of six he enrolled her in the children's choir of Radio Istanbul, where she soon became soloist in the choir. In the mean time the bond between Senem and her father grew tight. To Senem he was her role-model, her example; a man with dreams, pains and joys, which he tried to express in his poems and paintings.
When Senem was ten years old, she was sent to the National Conservatory of Istanbul, where she studied the theory and particular characters of the traditional Ottoman music for more than six years. But, of course as any youth at any time, Senem discovered the popular and traditional Turkish music,and began to refuse the classical teachings. Also in this period young Turks came to learn about American and English music. To Senem this was a real shock, so much so, that it changed her musical conceptions altogether. Against the advise of her teacher at the Conservatory, she recorded her first record in 1969 ('Nar Hanim' Melodi Musik Prod.). After this, Senem began to work as a professional singer and quit the National Conservatory. In 1971 she started to explore different areas of Turkey. At that time she merely wished to collect the spirit of her peopie, through traditional songs and music. Travelling with her tape-recorder, she met many people, sailors, city folk, countrymen and women, who gladly shared their heritage. She ended up with more than 600 traditional songs and ancient poems that became the basis of her actual work. The gipsy in her awakened, the travelier being open to cultures surrounding her, came free. She expanded her mind in an amazing musical and spiritual meeting with people she met on her way. Back in Istanbul Senem recorded her second album (1973 'Ham Meyva' - Yanki Productions), but felt the strong need to explore the music of the world and decided to leave her country.
That's how she got to Europe. Having travelled a difficult road and full of both beautiful and painful memories, she knew she now had the chance to expand her musical meeting with musicians from all over the world. Jazz entered her life. Her music took her to Germany where Senem continued working with Jazz musicians. After some time she went to Paris where she would meet guitar virtuoso and future husband Alain Blesing. Their collaboration translated her spirit and inspiration. Senem finally found what she had been looking for all these years: a strong, spontaneous, emotional and sparkling encounter between her traditional Oriental music and her love for the music of the West. An encounter, that led to the Senem Diyici Sextet in 1989, producing Senem's third album ('Takalar' - featuring Okay Temiz - Label La Lichère).

The Senem Diyici Quartet was founded in 1991, and consists of Senem Diyici (Turkey), Alain Blesing (France), Philippe Botta (France) and Ravy Magnifique (India/France). The Senem Diyici Quartet recorded 3 albums up to 1998 ('Geste/lest' Wad Productions/Artalent 1993 - 'Divan' Artalent 1995 - 'Tell me Trabizon' Buda Musique 1998). With their music they travel the worid, enchanting 'their audiences wherever they go.
To Senemn her music is like a bridge between cultures and peopie, fusing the old and new, always searching for the spirit and the story that is within every human being. ,It has become her own heritage, through which she transmits and shares universal love and nostalgia with her audiences all over the world.

1993 (SenemDiyici 4tet)


1995 (Senem Diyici 4tet)

New Link

"Tell me Trabizon"
1998 (Senem Diyici 4tet)


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November 1, 2007

Stockhausen, Snétberger, Andersen, Heral

In 1997 trumpeter Markus Stockhausen and bass legend Arild Andersen started working in a duo context and added drummer Patrice Heral one year later to form a trio. On the other hand guitar virtuoso Ferenc Snétberger had been playing duets with both Stockhausen and Heral. Because of the good vibrations between all four of them it was a natural step forward when in 2002 Stockhausen, Snétberger, Andersen and Héral founded a pan-European collective working quartet based on their common artistic experiences.
Markus Stockhausen, son of classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, started his stage career at the age of four and was a regular member in his father's ensembles for many years. An experienced player in both classical and jazz contexts (e.g. with Ralph Towner, Gianluigi Trovesi, Michael Riessler), he approaches improvisation with a maximum of discipline and technique reaching for unmatched melodic invention. Hungarian-born guitarist Ferenc Snétberger is among today's outstanding players on his instrument. Going for a synthesis of flamenco, classical music, jazz and samba, he melts all these influences into a very personal style full of surprise, wonder and emotion. One of the world's leading jazz bassists, Norwegian Arild Andersen has recorded dozens of great albums as a leader and sideman, e.g. with Jan Garbarek, Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell and Paul Bley. Extraordinary drum artist Patrice Heral from France has been working in many multi media and world music contexts (e.g. Dhafer Youssef, Vienna Art Orchestra) and is considered by his colleagues as "Europe's Nana Vasconcelos".


Crossing the borders between jazz, classical music, world music, bossa nova and more, the quartet's debut album "Joyosa" presents a new amalgamation of today's sounds that is at the same time utterly elegant, full of joy and vibrating with vitality. But no matter what you call it: This tasteful, brilliant, highly sensitive music will speak to the unprepared listener's heart as well as to the advanced connoisseur's mind.

Markus Stockhausen trumpet, fluegelhorn
Ferenc Snétberger guitar
Arild Andersen bass
Patrice Heral drums, percussion

Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

October 30, 2007

Esprit III Aspic project

"We have devastated mind,
our releases are chaotic.
We certainly do not deserve the word "label".
But we still have a cool logo!
WE are just Aspic records

Fuck music business, we are back in the underground !
or why we gave up putting music on plastic !

"Here is, in a few words (I will try) my questions :
- I have tried to release Cd’s the classic way, and to distribute also. I failed (Optical sound and aspic records). I discover that the business of music has no place for me. Or that I did not want to take part of it. To be clear, I discovered thing like : if I want my cd’s to be sold, I have to get in the business, not pressing only 500 cd’s. A review in some magazine has to be paid. If I sell the cd’s, the artist will never get money from it, but the distributors and shop surely will. At the end of the story, we gave more “promotionnal” cd’s than we ever sell. And I was disgusted and lose all interest in this (I will stop here, there is so much to say).
- If I release 500 cd’s, I have to give at least 200 copies to the media. 300 copies can be bought by “real” listeners. It cost me much, and I will - in the best case - get my money back.
If I put all this online as mp3, it cost nothing, and everybody can listen to it, not only 300.
- I definitly think the cd, as an object, is a piece of shit. No picture can exist with a small size like that. The sound quality is a lie (listen to your vinyls !!!). The plastic box gets yellow when old. Nobody touch the object anymore, read the liner notes, And it is fucking expensive !!! The prices have at least increase 200% since the time of the vinyl. The media said “it is expensive at the beginning, but when everybody will buy only cd’s, the prices are going to be normal again’. This never happened.
- I recently buy again vinyls. It is a pleasure to buy those objects. For example, the White noise b&w cover looks great. As a Cd, it looks like nice-price Cd ! Or the Tes vinyl, on Lex, with traces of pen !!! On Cd, it looks like a chicken scratch !
And at my record shop, they are cheaper than cd’s ! Can you believe it ?!?
- In record shop, I only can find some styles of music. Very hard to find, for example the last Lithops, Hecker (the one on mego), the Books, Kyo Ichinose…
- I am interested in too many sounds, I will never be rich enough to buy all I want. Soulseek is definitly my main purveyor. And do not tell me I download more than I can listen. Because I do listen to all my downloads !
- when I order directly to an artist, or a label, I am sure that the artist will get some money."
(Stéphane Fransioli "Aspic founder")

First serie (1999 - 2000)
5 cd, originally released as a subscription, from 1999 to 2000.

CD 01

Download: cd1 part1 & cd1 part2

CD 02

Download: cd2 part1 & cd2 part2

CD 03

Download: cd3

CD 04

Download: cd4

CD 05

Download: cd5

Genre: Electronic, experimental, post-rock

October 26, 2007

Lift to Experience

The Texas-Jerusalem crossroads
2001(bella union)

There is no way to begin a review of this challenging album without quoting this telling opening passage from "Just As Was Told":

'This is the story of three Texas boys mindin' their own bidnis when the Angel of the Lord appeared unto them saying, 'When the Winston Churchills start firin' their Winston rifles into the sky from the lone star state, drinkin' their lone star beer and smokin' their winston cigarettes, know the time is drawin' nigh when the son shall be lifted on high'. We told 'em that didn't sound very Sunday-go-ta-meetin. 'What do you expect when the lord calls on the crippled, deaf and blind to lead the children of Israel into the promised land'. 'Children of Israel?', we asked. 'Don't you boys know nothin'?, the USA is the center of Jer-usa-lem"'.

Is this self-proclaimed "space-rock band from Denton, Texas", expecting to be taken seriously or is it merely yanking our chain? I would venture an opinion that Lift to Experience -- viz. Josh "Buck" Pearson (guitar, vocals), Josh "Bear" Browning (bass) and Andy "The Boy" Young (drums) -- is deadly serious about its debut The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads and equally serious about its being "a concept album about the end of the world with Texas as the Promised Land" and all that.

So how the heck did a space-rock band from Denton, Texas end up with an obscure British label established by former Cocteau Twins Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde? Raymonde explained,"When I heard the demos, I was staggered by the swagger, the effortlessness of it all. Surely they couldn't really be as cool as they sounded? A plane trip to Texas was next on the agenda, and my fate was sealed. A thunderous show (literally inside a tent during one of the worst storms in Texas history) convinced me that I had to put this record out, but also that I was undoubtedly in the presence of genius. We signed the band within two minutes of them walking off stage". The result is plain for all to see.

At its most accessible, Lift to Experience plainly evokes the grand albeit self-aggrandising big music of U2's Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. This trait is most evident in songs like "These Are the Days", "Falling from Cloud 9" and "Waiting to Hit". This musical reference point also calls in associations with the Velvet Underground and Joy Division (the roots of U2), as well as Jeff Buckley and Radiohead (the branches of U2). At once ethereal and earthy, the wash of sonic noise that saturates much of the music here easily conjures memories of such innovative noise merchants as Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Neil Young, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Spaceman 3.

The fact that Lift to Experience is able to vividly evoke such a myriad of cutting-edge rock forbears and at the same time marry its sound thematically with apocalyptic and biblical imagery -- reminiscent of Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and 16 Horsepower -- suggests that we are indeed witnessing an epoch-making artistic force in gestation.

Pearson's ties with the fire-and-brimstone bible-thumping brand of Christianity are clearly evident in this incendiary work -- his father abandoned the family to pursue the faith. Many of the songs are sung much like church litany, like the understated "Down Came the Angels", where the atmospheric background and echoey bass buttress Pearson's hymn-like delivery.

But what keeps this album edgy and provocative is the ability of the band to inject levity into the fairly sombre subject matter. In "Waiting to Hit", Pearson bargains with God -- "Lord, I'll make you a deal: I will if you give me a smash hit so I can build a city on the hill". On "These Are the Days", Pearson blows a kiss after intoning "blood on their teeth and lips" and he proudly proclaims Lift to Experience "the best band in the whole damn land and Texas is the reason".

This heady double album is in essence a seamless song cycle with movements that drift in and out with stream of consciousness meandering. Consumed as a whole, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads is an immense undertaking. Our rapt attention is mirrored by the band's own compulsion, as Pearson declares on the mutant hillbilly of "Down with the Prophets", "we sing these songs because we have to, not because we want to". And in the end, the full-blooded, epic, ten-minute "Into the Storm" closes with a statement of intent, a manifesto: "Follow me over the Jordan over desert sand (Rio Grande) / Follow me . . . Israel into the Promised Land / Follow me over the Jordan over desert sand (Rio Grande) / Follow me into Texas into the Promised Land".

Whatever your answer may be, there's no denying the power of this album. It is perhaps the perfect soundtrack for these chaotic and troubled times.

CD1 & CD2

Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

October 24, 2007

Terje Rypdal & the Chasers

Starting out as a Hank Marvin-influenced rock guitarist with The Vanguards, Rypdal turned towards jazz in 1968 and joined Jan Garbarek's group and later George Russell's sextet and orchestra. An important step towards international attention was his participation in the free jazz festival in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1969, where he was part of a band led by Lester Bowie. During his musical studies at Oslo university and conservatory, he led the orchestra of the Norwegian version of the musical Hair. He has often recorded with ECM, both jazz-oriented material and classical compositions (some of which don't feature Rypdal's guitar).

Today, Rypdal is an important member of the Norwegian jazz community. His collaborations as guitarist and composer with other ECM artists Ketil Bjornstad and David Darling in 90s are also noteworthy. In those compositions he found a way out of jazz and classical compositions to a modern and more avant-garde unique style.


Terje Rypdal: guitar
Audun Kleive: drums, percussion
Bjørn Kjellemyr: basses


Terje Rypdal electric guitar, keyboards
Bjørn Kjellemyr electric and acoustic bass
Audun Kleive drums, percussion
New Link
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it.

October 22, 2007

Pan American

For waiting, for chasing

Following on from the magnificent 'Quiet City' album for Kranky (to this day one of the biggest selling titles on Boomkat), Mark Nelson finally returns with a new album under the Pan American moniker - and it's another triumph of sublime understatement. "For Waiting, For Chasing" is underpinned by delicately caressed and manipulated Flugelhorns, Tibetan Singing Bowls and Chinese Cymbals, processed, weaved and loved into a throbbing mass of neon loveliness. Opening 'Love Song' unfolds with a gentle cacophony of whirrs - like crickets trapped in a jar - juxtaposed with the most ethereal layers of ambience tripping over each other to create a cloud of harmony; this is absolutely classic Pan American territory. Nelson never confines his music to simple ambience, moulding in noisier elements which work as a counterpoint to the warm tones of the Tibetan Singing Bowls and synthesized whisps - a conceit which manages to keep his work ever-contemporary when so many of his past peers have been stuck in an endless loop of repetition. A work of calming restraint, it's really impossible to fault this musician and his ability, with this album, to craft another perfectly-formed microcosm of bliss. Essential purchase.

Quiet City

Quiet City is the fourth album from Mark Nelson's Pan�American project and combines the computer-centric approach of The River Made No Sound with the organic instrumentation that marked Nelson's work in Labradford and the first two Pan�American albums. Three of the eight tracks were recorded with Charles Kim (Sinister Luck Ensemble) and feature upright bass, drums, trumpet and flugelhorn. �Nelson even sings a bit. �The rippling electronics and muffled beats of the first three Pan�American albums are still there; distended into elegiac, resonant, wavering, and ambient song craft. �The CD edition of Quiet City comes with a DVD that contains a video essay shot and edited by Mark Nelson and Chicago visual artist Annie Feldmeier.

As Bob Baker Fish noted "Pan�American's forte is in the studio, crafting together all manner of disparate sounds with a patience and eclecticism rarely sighted in contemporary electronica." Pan�American has released singles and contributed to compilations on labels across the world, done remix work for artists like PSI Performer and Kid 606, collaborated with the artist Thomas Demand and toured with Radian and Low. ��He has a release coming up on the brand new Mosz label as well. �The full-length video that accompanies the album is a visual meditation on the theme of the quiet city; suitable for focussed viewing or accompanying everyday activity —�an ambient video if it helps to think of it as that.

Mark Nelson: �Electronics, guitar, voice and mix
with Charles Kim: upright bass, tracks 4 and 5
Tim Mulvenna (Vandermark 5, Jeb Bishop): drums, 4 and 5
Steven Hess (Hat Melter, Bosco & Jorge, Aluminum Group): drums, 7
David Max Crawford (Poi Dog Pondering, Wilco, Stereolab): trumpet on 5, flugehorn on 7


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October 16, 2007

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt

Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (b. Rajasthan, India, 1952) is an exponent of Hindustani music (North Indian classical music). Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (also known as V. M. Bhatt) is one of the most celebrated shishyas (disciples) of the sitarist Ravi Shankar. Born in Jaipur in Rajasthan in July 1952, he is the younger brother of Shashi Mohan Bhatt, who was one of the first three students to study with Shankar circa 1949/50; Shashi Mohan Bhatt is the father of sitarist Krishna Mohan Bhatt. Much of his formative musical education came from his family. His father Manmohan Bhatt taught and as a boy Vishwa Mohan Bhatt soaked up his father's singing, compositions and ragas.

Bhatt originally did not mean to pursue a career in music. He prepared for the security of the Indian civil service while studying sitar and violin. Around 1967 he found a Spanish Guitar left behind by a German student at his father's music school in Jaipur. Bhatt claimed it for his own and set about remodelling it. After experimenting with the instrument's structure, left and right hand techniques, various objects to produce the slide sound and strings, he modified the guitar with the addition of several drone strings and eight sympathetic strings, playing it like a Hawaiian slide guitar to get the sustained, sliding notes common to the vocal style of Indian classical music. Thus the 'mohan veena' was born, named after himself and Vina or Veena, the generic Sanskrit word for a stringed instrument. It is an instrument that appears to be a hybrid of a classical Spanish guitar and a sitar. The Mohan veena sounds somewhat like a Western slide guitar and is played with sitar mizrabs (wire picks) and a thumb pick and a polished steel rod for the slide. The combination of melody, drone, sympathetic strings and Bhatt's microtonal approach to melody, however, place it firmly in an Indian cosmos.

Although he had had established himself as a recording artist in India as early as 1970 and had toured and recorded with his guru abroad (including Shankar's ambitious Inside The Kremlin from 1989), his major international breakthrough came with the album A Meeting By The River, a collaboration with American slide guitarist Ry Cooder that would be awarded a Grammy award for Best World Music Album in 1994. It is for this album and other fusion and pan-cultural collaborations with Western artists like Taj Mahal, Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas, rather than his own unique take on Indian classical music traditions that Bhatt is best known, although exposure such as an appearance on the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival, which was organized by Eric Clapton, does allow for this side of his playing to reach a larger audience. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2002.

He currently resides in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, with his two sons and his wife. His elder son Salil Bhatt is a renowed Mohan veena player (and also a player of the Satvik veena), while his younger son Saurabh Bhatt is a well known composer. His nephew, Krishna Bhatt, plays the sitar and tabla.

Ry Cooder & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt/
A meeting by the river


Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Simon Shaheen/




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