Sound Recordings

Pjusk
Tele
Glacial Movements
GM0013

The record label Glacial Movements should get a Truth in Advertising award—rarely has a label’s name given so accurate an idea of what kind of music to expect from its releases. All of its artists lean towards music that can more accurately be described as “sound sculpture” (a cliché, but an accurate one in this case). Instead of purposeful chord progressions and the tension-and-release patterns of tonal music, you generally get very large floes of sound and texture that move slowly and inexorably, and often quite beautifully. That’s certainly the case with this release from the Norwegain duo Pjusk, whose music on Tele varies from nearly subliminal to lusciously (if icily) beautiful. “Fnugg,” the album’s opening track, was so bereft of audible sound that I found myself ascribing ambient noise to it—at one point I thought I was hearing a sustained pitch, only to realize that it was a vacuum cleaner running elsewhere in the building. Somewhere John Cage was smiling, but I was beginning to wonder whether this disc offered enough musical content to be worth the purchase price. Then, with “Gneis,” the sound world began to open up—and to drop into a quietly terrifying abyss. Sudden, booming orchestral chords suggested the arrival of an army of monsters, while distant echoes defined a huge and nearly empty space. “Krystall” introduces more explicit musical content, with a gently pulsing rhythm and floating clouds of shifting, non-tonal chords, while”Granitt” fades in with the strongest musical gestures to that point in tht program: a techno-industrial riff, dubwise echoes, glitches and pops that bounce off of those faraway cave walls or propagate riffles of gray-and-white noise. Here, for the first time, there is something that feels like a chord progression, and it’s quite lovely. The same is true of the strangely soothing “Kram.” Most musical of all is the melancholy and beautiful “Polar,” which ends the program like a benediction, percussion and shimmery tones dripping like snowmelt after a long winter. Track divisions seem almost arbitrary; this disc plays like a single (though subtly variegated) theme, one very long and very glacial movement. Grade: A-

Graham Dechter
Takin’ It There
Capri
74117-2

For his sophomore effort as a leader, hotshot Los Angeles guitarist Graham Dechter reunites with the rhythm section of his debut (Right on Time, also on Capri): pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist John Clayton, and the great drummer Jeff Hamilton, all of them his colleagues in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. For Takin’ It There he has put together a set of standards (“Come Rain or Come Shine,” Wes Montgomery’s “Rod Song”) as well as a couple of very nice originals of his own and one written by Clayton. Dechter’s classical training shows up in some interesting aspects of his playing, particularly in his approach to arrangements: the heads of these tunes are sometimes much more carefully sculpted than the norm in straight-ahead jazz, and the instrumental balance is impeccable throughout—partly because the charts are written that way, and partly because Dechter is a selfless and openhearted player who clearly appreciates the world-class quality of his accompanists and loves to listen to them. His solos contain all the requisite nods to his elders (listen to the octave runs on “Road Song”), and if this album has any weakness at all it’s in a seeming reluctance to strike out on his own too agressively—I kept finding myself thinking how lovely and enjoyable the album is and wondering when it was going to surprise me. But there’s nothing wrong with a groovingly, swingingly solid straight-ahead guitar quartet album. Nothing wrong at all. Grade: B+

A.C. Littlefield & The Original Bells of Joy
Second Time Around
Diatone (dist. Allegro)
DT0001

This is indeed the “second time around” for this album, which looks like it was originally released in 1999, and is now being reissued, though sadly with rather ugly and haphazard packaging that doesn’t do justice to the music within. Granted, the music itself is a bit rough around the edges: since starting out as the Starlight Singers in the 1940s, the members of this group have lost a bit of clarity and vocal strength, but they’ve lost none of their impassioned fire. They still use only a guitar and drum set for accompaniment, and they still deliver powerful, rough-grained gospel harmonies on songs like “Watch, Fight & Pray,” “God Is Real,” and the Littlefield-penned “Let’s Talk About Jesus.” Some of the sounds may strike most listeners as a little strange—the clenched-throat high tenor part on “Done What the Doctor Could Not Do” borders on creepy—but give this album some time and it grows on you. If you want smooth and creamy, track down some Soul Stirrers material from the period during which Sam Cooke was singing lead; if you’re up for something a bit stranger and more elemental, check this one out. Grade: B

Various Artists
London’s Calling
Culture Clash
Clash 001CD

London has always been a multicultural city, but based on the evidence provided by this charmingly motley collection, it has now become a nearly omnicultural one. The concept here is great: take classic pop songs about London and invite a kaleidoscopic array of London-based artists to record cover versions of them. The result? A Brazilian take on Eddie Grant’s 1980s mega-hit “Electric Avenue”; a stripped-down Gypsy version of Lord Kitchener’s calypso classic “London Is the Place for Me”; Cigdem Aslan & Hello Skinny’s cultural unidentifiable take on Bert Jansch’s “Soho”; a dark Hispano-Sephardic version of Elvis Costello’s “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea” by Los Desterrados (“Yo no quiero ir a Chelsea”). Sure, some of these versions are more befuddling than engrossing, but all of them are fascinating and some are completely brilliant. This album is a must for your next hipster party. Grade: A-

– Rick Anderson

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers

%d bloggers like this: