Our staff CD Picks for September

Another eclectic mix from our librarians ranges from Experimental to Electronica, to Jazz and back again, including an exclusive DJ mix of Wellington bands…

Cover imageSomeday world / Eno/Hyde.
Brian Eno appears to have been re-energised since signing to Warp records and ‘Someday World’, his recent collaboration, with Karl Hyde of Underworld fame, is a surprisingly upbeat and song oriented affair. This is the most we have heard Mr. Eno sing since 2005’s Another Day On Earth, and it is good to again hear the sweet and nostalgic pop sensibility he is able to convey with his curiously flat but oddly appealing singing style. Funky, upbeat and beautifully produced, the melodies are catchy and there is a pervasive sense of fun. In fact, these two dudes were having so much fun that they released a second album just a few months later that is quite different. High Life dispenses with pop structures in favour of long tracks of improvised, abstract, hypnotic grooves that recall Eno’s early collaboration with David Byrne and the playful experimentation and polyrhythms of My Life In the Bush of Ghosts, though overall these are a lighter affair that may take a few listens but are well worth the perseverance. (John)

Cover imageReality testing.
It is surprising that UK based electronic producer, Matt Cutler, has produced such a mature and masterful record when considering that he was still in primary school when Detroit techno first developed. One of this year’s standout electronic releases, ‘Reality Testing’ spans genres, wrapping it all up in a warm package that sounds like music you have always known. His early records featured abstract hip-hop beats with electronic textures before Cutler moved towards a more dance-orientated sound and this, his latest, moves on again, taking a more chilled slant that employs the majestic synth pad sound and the simple and lovely chord progressions of early Detroit techno mixed in with a hip hop sensibility. Lone has been quoted as saying that the greatest influences on his music are artists such as ‘Boards of Canada’, ‘Madlib’ and ‘Bibio’ and by the sounds of this excellent record, ‘Carl Craig’ could be added to that list. (John)

Cover imageEncyclopedia of Arto.
In New York late 1970s, Arto Lindsay made his name as a member of ‘DNA’, a pioneer band of the No Wave movement. Making edgy noise with his un-tuned, 12-string guitar, he then, worked with two cult bands: ‘Golden Palominos’ and John Lurie’s ‘The Lounge Lizards’, and moved on to his project ‘Ambitions Lovers’. Lindsay grew up in north east Brazil and absorbed their music immensely. It’s evident particularly in his solo career staring from mid 90s, and this album sums up his solo years for the first time (disc 1). Caetano Veloso influenced songwriting, singing in English and Portuguese, and taking samba and bossa-nova into subtle avant-garde pop music, he creates unique Brazil-comes-to-the-night-of-NYC music. His work always attracts forward-thinking musicians and notable guests, including Brian Eno and Vinicius Cantuaria, support him. Disc 2 contains his punk-ish, solo live performance that highlights his experimental impulse. Hitting and scratching his guitar, he throws shade of noise and creates a beautiful mess. Lindsay also has worked for numerous albums as a producer, and there are simply not enough materials here to call ‘encyclopaedia’, but this could be a nice introduction to this one-of-a-kind artist. (Shinji)

Cover imageTransit.
Not an actual band as such, but the ongoing collective project of drummer Mr. Sterile & bass player Chrissie Butler, Wellington’s ‘Mr Sterile Assembly’s’ most recent album is arguably their best yet. Defying genre classification, their music incorporates elements of jazz, rock, punk, improv, indie, pop and post-punk, yet remains oddly accessible….and they can rock! The standard of musicianship is high, with the guests including Jeff Henderson on saxophone, and these are songs with incisive, socially relevant lyrics – some contributed by Dean Hapeta of Upper Hutt Posse – on a CD beautifully packaged with two booklets of lyrics and artwork. This is remarkable music that works with its own internal logic, demanding listener attention, but the rewards are substantial. Probably Wellington’s best kept secret. Watch the video for ‘Stella’ here. (John)

Cover imageMoodymann.
Don’t be put off by the cover – it is satirical, depicting a cartoon of a character straight out of a ‘70’s blaxploitation movie. Detroit native, Kenny Dixon Jnr, aka ‘Moodymann’, has been a key figure in the development of house music since the late ‘90’s and on this, his tenth album, in a slight stylistic shift, he delivers his skewed take on soul music, singing lead vocals for the first time with a delightfully sleazy croon and incorporating live instrumentation. Here, dark hypnotic melodies weave together funk, soul, hip-hop, jazz and R&B into a rich and unpredictable brew, which, incidentally, includes his remix of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born To Die’. This 27-track CD version of the album is extra fun, featuring his signature odd samples and vocal snippets between the main tracks which makes this a journey into the mind of an intelligent and deeply funky black artist living in contemporary Detroit. (John)

Cover imageMr. Gone : the best of the early years + Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers 1959-1960.
Mammoth 10-Disc set offers an overview of some of the early recordings of Tenor Sax giant Wayne Shorter. Collects up his first 2 sessions as a leader for the Vee Jay label, a collaboration with the Wynton Kelly Trio from the same period, as well as 3 studio albums & 4 live albums recorded during Shorter’s tenure with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The packaging is fairly budget. There is no booklet or essay, however the cardboard sleeves contain all the discographical information for each CD & the sound quality is pretty decent. A great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with his early solo/group work before he began his period of classic albums on the Blue Note label. (Mark)

Cover imageCursing the sea.
The debut album from Dublin’s all girl five piece band, September Girls, is a noisy pop delight. Think ‘60’s girl group meets ‘70’s buzzsaw power pop meets ‘80’s indie naiveté, like Phil Spector producing ‘The Cramps’ covering ‘The Jesus & Mary Chain’. This reverb soaked, hook laden, lo-fi, wall of sound has been done before by bands like ‘The Raveonettes’ , but honestly, who cares? They released six singles in less than two years, which is how bands used to work, and this album features six of those songs of dark-hearted, harmonic fuzz-rock laced with urgent menace and chiming guitars. Turn it up! (John)

Cover imagePsychic 9-5 Club.
HTRK, originally a Melbourne trio, worked closely with Australian post-punk legend Rowland S. Howard before moving to Berlin and this is the first album recorded entirely as a duo, as their guitarist died halfway through the recording of their last LP. Their sound is slow, textured, dubbed out and distinctly downbeat, employing a minimalist sound design using sub-bass and scattered beats to underpin delicate electronic textures which interweave with melodic and husky vocals. Its elegant and gently hypnotic music, perfect for late night listening and should appeal to fans of the deep and moody songs of the ‘XX’. (John)

Cover imageMacroscope / The Nels Cline Singers.
I never thought that Nels Cline of Wilco would last this long but now, along with Glenn Kotche, he is a key person of Wilco sound. Thankfully, he is still making his music and, this year, he made a fantastic album with Medeski, Martin and Wood (Woodstock Session Vol.2 in which their avant-garde mojos battle against each other), and here it is; the new album by his much-loved Singers Trio has arrived. Despite the member change (new bassist Trever Dunn who has associated with John Zone), the trio shows an amazing oneness, and sounds so natural and cohesive, yet dynamic interplay and improvisation explode throughout. Juxtaposing multiple musical essences, every tune has its own story and different texture, and they use refrains effectively to create fantastic grooves. All the musicians, including the associated guests, show wonderful versatilities and adaptabilities, and needless to say, Cline’s guitar is the focal point of this bold, fringe of jazz music, and he performs huge solos which only he can do. Most of the tracks are condensed at around 5 minutes long to keep the momentum going. This is perhaps Cline’s most refined, complete album to date. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe Bats. Volume 1.
It seems that Dunedin Flying Nun band ‘The Bats’, who hit their 30th year as a group (with an unchanged lineup) in 2012, are finally getting the international recognition they so rightly deserve. New York hipster label, Captured Tracks, have teamed up with Flying Nun to re-release the first three Bats records on vinyl and as a three CD set consisting of the 1987 cassette release ‘Compiletely Bats’, with added EP’s & singles, their 1987 debut LP, ‘Daddy’s Highway’ & 1988’s ‘The Law of Things’ with out-takes, including a remix of ‘North By North’. The Bats were influential in forming the ‘80’s indie jangle pop sound and, unlike many bands, are releasing new records as good as any they have ever done. Here is where it started. (John)

Cover imageThe green house.
Sitting interestingly alongside the late ‘80’s ‘Bats’ re-issues is the latest solo album from the Bats’ Robert Scott. This follow up to his excellent 2010 release, Ends Run Together, again features a set of warm, post millennium porch songs that illustrates how he has matured as a songwriter over 30 years. Possibly too sweet and gentle for the rollicking Bats treatment, Mr. Scott chose to treat these songs his own special way, playing guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals, enhanced by the gorgeous vocal harmonies of ‘Tiny Ruins’ Holly Fullbrook on five tracks, and drummer Rob Falconer. These are lovely, hushed and gentle songs, free of irony, and performed within delicate arrangements (with the exception of the rocking ‘Vertigo’ which could easily be a Bats song) that are a cool balm for our hectic times. (John)

Cover imageComplete studio recordings / Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers.
The label Jazz Dynamics has repackaged a couple of collections first released by ultra-connoisseur Jazz label Mosaic Records before, with its set on Chet Baker & Gerry Mulligan’s 1950’s recordings & its set on the Complete 1960’s studio recordings of Art Farmer & Benny Golson’s Jazztet. They continue with this collection, offering up the complete 1960-61 studio recordings of perhaps the most famous & lauded incarnation of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the quintet featuring Wayne Shorter & Lee Morgan. Includes the albums ‘The Big Beat’/’Like Someone in love’/’A night in Tunisia’/’Witch Doctor’/’The Freedom Rider’/’Roots & Herbs’ as well the bonus album 1961’s ‘Jazz Messengers!!!’ which included Trombone player Curtis Fuller, creating a sextet that would then go on to record another half-dozen albums together. Blakey’s groups were always a vehicle for extended soloing and showcasing the compositions & talent of his younger musicians, creating along the way some of the most classic jazz albums. (Mark)

Cover imageLed Zeppelin [deluxe].
These are the first three titles in the Led Zeppelin Remastered series, overseen by Jimmy Page, who spent a lot of time sorting through archive recordings to collate accompanying bonus discs comprised of alternative mixes and studio out takes intended to offer insight into the band’s working methods. The only exception is ‘LZ I’, which includes a 1969 live performance. The packaging is great and the original albums remastered sound as excellent as expected – crisp and crystal clear with Page’s guitar exceptional. It’s difficult to say just what the magical musician tweaked for the remastering process but his famous, perfectly nuanced guitar solo on “Since I’ve Been Loving You” from LZ III, sounds quite remarkable and when heard alongside classic riffs such as “Moby Dick” from LZ II, re-affirms what an extraordinary musician Jimmy Page is and what a great band Led Zeppelin were. (John)

Cover imageSpiderland [bonus DVD].
I confess to having never heard of this 1991 recording until I started reading rave reviews of this re-mastered re-release calling it ‘the brooding, sinister record that invented post-rock’ and guess what? The reputation is warranted. At the time ‘Spiderland’ didn’t sell many copies but it become a landmark, eventually influencing bands from Mogwai to Sigur Rós. This is a stripped back, edgy and understated sound propelled by metronomic drumming overlaid with half spoken vocals and chunky repetitive guitar riffs. The pace is measured, with half of the six tracks deadly slow yet, despite the pace the sound remains curiously engaging. Listening to this is like entering a self-enclosed arcane world.”They cultivated this sort of psychic playing,” says Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite. “It’s way above other bands and is really emotional. When I heard Spiderland, it was unlike anything I’d heard before. I still don’t know if I’ve heard anything else like it, now.” (John)

Cover imageCity : works of fiction.
The original album of this super fantastic reissue, released by Brian Eno’s Opal Records in 1990, is a landmark work by Jon Hassell. Comparing with his groundbreaking ‘fourth world’ sound, which indigenous music mysteriously integrates into ambient electronica, it offers more aggressive, futuristic urban texture as the title implies. This expanded edition includes the remastered version of the original (disc 1), the superb live performance from 1989 New York concert mixed by Brian Eno (disc 2), and disc 3 collects alternative takes, demos and recent remixes. Hassell, who studied under the modern music master Stockhausen and had a great interest in oriental music such as raga, created unprecedented music with his innovative trumpet play (who would have thought a trumpet could sound like his). His musical world is like a jungle. A jungle of jazz, neoclassical, world music, electronica, ancient and cutting-edge, west and east, composition and improvisation, but it always maintains a great coherency. This gorgeous 3 CD set presents some of the finest moments of his magical world. (Shinji)

Cover imageEtoile naiant.
Patten’s first release for Warp Records, Estoile Naiant, consists of ten tracks that each go nowhere – but that, according to a recent interview with the artist, is just the point. Influenced by author Jorge Luis Borges, who’s work according to Patten is” incredible in the sense that it produces very convincing, yet completely alien, ways of considering time”, the reclusive UK producer has made a record that is like a collection of abstract expressionist art pieces. Each track begins with a simple looped sound and gradually develops in complexity, some becoming a convoluted, discordant, fascinating muddle and some disappearing into space. Imagine someone letting a pot of milk boil over on the stove just to see what patterns it makes and you have some idea of what this standout experimental electronic record offers. (John)

Cover imageSong reader : twenty songs by Beck.
This is sort of a Beck CD, in the same way that Beck’s original 2013 release ‘Songreader’ was sort of an album, but not really. Confused? You should be. You see Beck’s original ‘Songreader’ was a collection of sheet music, featuring 14 new songs (with great artwork), but nowhere was there a recording, so the only way non-musician fans could actually hear the songs was to go to the website, where anyone can upload their version – and there are lots. But here, Beck has curated a collection of established musicians, including Jack White, Norah Jones, Jarvis Cocker and Loudon Wainright III, who each perform one track, with Beck including his own version of ‘Heaven’s Ladder’. It’s a novel idea and a curious release. On one hand it’s great to finally hear the fine new batch of Beck songs professionally produced, but, as with any such collection of disparate voices, some of these renditions disappoint, while others are inspired. On the other hand there is nothing to tie it all together outside of Beck’s original idea, consequently what we hear is a bunch of talented people singing a bunch of good songs – and there is nothing wrong with that, however, despite the collection’s successes, it probably works better as a sheet music oddity than a cohesive album. (John)

Cover imageComplete recordings : master takes / Booker Little Quartet, Quintet, Sextet.
Booker Little was one of the first players to develop an original sound in the period following the death of fellow trumpeter Clifford Brown. Little fused a melancholy & intense style with elements of hard-bop & the new ‘freer’ playing of Eric Dolphy & Ornette Coleman. Other than some sideman work with Max Roach, an appearance on Coltrane’s Africa/Brass album & well-known appearances with with Eric Dolphy, including the famous Five-Spot cafe gig, this collection rounds up the complete recordings as a leader of the extremely talented trumpet player who died of uraemia at the age of 23. (Mark)

A sound like no other.
Wellington based DJ/producer, Milky Joe, curated and mixed this collection of recent tracks released by Wellington based artists across a spectrum including electronic, ambient and indie bands. This doesn’t have the smooth flow generally associated with DJ mixes, but given the variety of material used, that is probably a good thing. A selection of strategically placed spoken word samples, including Douglas Lilburn explaining the origins of electronic music, enhance the transitions from track to track as the listener is moved from the ambient washes of i.ryoko to the cosmic groove of Orchestra of Spheres to the art-rock of Cookie Brooklyn & the Crumbs and on to the lovely indie sounds of Terror of the Deep. If anyone is interested in what is happening under the radar in Wellington then this is essential listening…..and it’s free to borrow as well! (John)