Tuesday, June 6, 2017

No Noise No Reduction - Au Doux Combat Me Joindre [2017] France

It's a sea of reeds and it takes three masters adept to exploiting all the expressive range saxes have to offer to accomplish a feat as NNNR have. One barytone and two basses do the damage here and they'll have you dancing, cheering and lamenting within a matter of minutes. 

NNNR come from Toulouse in SW France in what is essentially Occitània, a crossroad for one too many a tradition. It really shouldn't strike you as strange to hear ethiopian-styled balkan-like dadaisms alternating with dissonant noisey droney passages and mechanistic grooves. The discipline it took to produce this! But really, NNNR rocks hard.

The power of the sax is such that we'd implicitly require a jazz reference to any brass ensemble but I'm afraid this isn't what's up here. NNNR have something to share with Gilbert Artman's Urban Sax (the Spiral album maybe), Maximalist!, Bise de Buse and Sledě, Živé Sledě. That's not their drummerless presentation but their meditative musique concréte and serialist approach to composition. More importantly though, this ensemble rocks, or it punk rocks. For the last few days I've been listening to the album relentlessly and it finally reached me: if anything and as a common denominator, NNNR continue in the daring industrial post-punk tradition that Cassiber and This Heat set. I also get some hints from X-Legged Sally and Blast but I know that's just me. How about some Look de Bouk and Toupidek Limonade references (Hellebore too? hmm)? Dammit I know I'm over the top.

All the aural suggestions and connections I've offered here only have to do with how I perceived the whole thing. They do not attempt to explain NNNR's uniquely artistic nature and contribution, rather than give some guidelines that I'm comfortable with. Anyhoo, the spirit of the true creatives is very much alive with this release.

Another serious contender for album of the year 2017.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Yolk - Solar [2017] France

Another beast of its own, Yolk is an example of the unease entity that refuses to settle. Multiverses of influences are molded into Yolk's own, with the range extending from Art Bears to Magma to Sleepytime Gorilla to GYBE! to Gong to Yolk. Odd time signatures, pounding riffs, balkan grooves, psychedelic landscapes and Delphine Delegorgue's out-there, psychotic, inviting, captivating vocals might give a premature picture. Plus, Valentin Carette's guitar playing and approach is phenomenal as usual. The guy is a genious!

Solar is similar to the band's eponymous as well as last year's "You Decide". I find it less direct and more sophisticated than the 1st and definitely less obscure, a tad lighter if you will than the 2nd. Probably due to its long compositions, Solar expands on Yolk's qualities and the songs take their time into the listener's subconscious. I hate to admit it, but this is also an album to dance to. I've tried it and it works!


Friday, June 2, 2017

The Dirty Snacks Ensemble - Tidy Universe [2016] USA

The Dirty Snacks Ensemble. What's the story behind the name? why Tidy Universe? I'm always curious about the extramusical traits of a record, after all it's those traits that complete the experience. I discovered Dirty Snacks while "wandering" around in Bandcamp during some long day's small hours; I hadn't finished the album when I pressed 'Buy Record/Vinyl', it was instant love. Am I being naive for buying records? friends suggest so but come on, it's the ultimate extramusical trait that enhances the experience. I mean I'll still stream, obviously, but you develop a different relationship with a music you like, it's getting physical (you get me).

Dirty Snacks are the brainchild (hate that word) of Mark Clifford, vibraphonist, keyboardist and composer and it seems they're based in Oakland. You get that Sunshine State vibe (pun) throughout the album. It's lingering on the positive yet thoughtful side, with lots of groove and experimentation. I'll draw some parallels with The Claudia Quintet although I find Dirty Snacks a little more daring and playful while not so polished. 

The ensemble sounds so organic (love that word) it feels they're recording next to you. Now. You gotta love how the reeds (especially that bass clarinet) interact with everything. Or how the vibes and piano bind the whole into one. The violin can range from austere to clumsy. The drums are delicate and the bass is king; some awesome post-jazz-rock moments here. You gotta love how the compositions are breathing, how these creatives are relevant. The style is maybe chamber-jazz, some friends called it cinematic; you can call anything cinematic, as long as it's soundtracking your own movie. And this is mine.

Is it arbitrary if I say SUPPORT THE ARTIST? I didn't think so.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Spjärnsvallet - Again and Again [1975, 2014-15] Sweden

A gift. I'm not sure how many remember Spjärnsvallet but this "comeback" took me by surprise. Actually it's nothing more but outtakes from their 1975 self-titled album, plus a newly recorded track. The album is dedicated to the late Kjell Westling, a distinguished multi-instrumentalist known to have participated in many seminal Swedish prog bands. 

In fact the quartet is a who's who of the 60s/70s Swedish prog, rock, psych and freak folk scene: Archimedes Badkar, Träd Gräs och Stenar, Blå Tåget, Harvester, Vargavinter, Thomas och Turid, Marie Selander, Pärson Sound, Nynningen and Nationalteatern among others. Some of those sound explicitly daring to this day. That background is prevalent throughout Spjärnsvallet's music. Add to that, Bengt Berger's and Christer Bothén's itch to travel to Ghana and India (the former) and Mali and Morocco (the latter) with the purpose to expand their musical vocabulary.

Again & Again is for those like me who think that the eponymous is just too short. It is well introverted and you can notice the balkan, south indian or north & west african traditions with great transparency. Still, there are discrete improvisational, compositional as well as overlapping moments just like on the debut. Does it differ from the original 1975 statement though? I believe it does. 

The closing track, Again, is the only absolutely new piece here, recorded in 2014 by the 3 surviving members of the group. I like to imagine it as the closing statement of an era, an elegy dedicated to the late Kjell Westling. It showcases the ability of the trio to continue breathing as a single organism. Just like before. I really couldn't think of a better fitting conclusion. The word spjärnsvallet, the way I understand it, stands for the cascade that we will set off should we support each other. Brilliant.