Monday, November 16, 2009

Madlib - Mind Fusion Vol. 1-5

For my first (and extremely long overdue) post on hip hop I bring you some rare mixtapes from my number 1 favorite producer/DJ, Madlib, aka the Beat Konducta and a thousand other aliases. Actually, there's so little official information out there about these tapes that their authenticity has been disputed. They sound like the real deal to me though - the left-field loops, crackling jazz samples, smoked out interludes and obscure vocal recordings all scream Beat Konducta.

All the information you need to know about these, including partial (sometimes complete) tracklists and some really cool photos, can be found on this website. Here are some brief descriptions of mine of each installation.

Vol. 1 is mostly a Stones Throw sampler, featuring remixes of tracks by Madvillain, Quasimoto, Oh No, MED, Wildchild, and others, but also including material by Method Man, Common, and Bobby Hutcherson.

Vol. 2, one of the best in the series, is a jazz mix featuring some scorching 70's fusion, Brazilian jazz, impassioned spoken word and trips to outer space.

Vol. 3 is an eclectic selection of dub, jazz, comedy recordings, psychedelic soul, and much more - another standout.

Vol. 4 focuses on hip hop, and includes a set of Nas vs. Jay Z remixes.

The first long track on Vol. 5 is called "Dirty Crates from Around the World". The second is a live set with some great chopped up Dilla tracks, and closing with Madvillain's "Closer" given jazz horn treatment.

Now that I've (finally!) opened the hip hop floodgates, prepare to see a lot more of this incredibly dynamic and progressive genre on Giraffe Kingdom.

[Links removed]

Shrinebuilder - S/T

Shrinebuilder is a metal supergroup comprised of members of Om, Neurosis, The Melvins, The Hidden Hand and Sleep. (!) ((!!!!))  Recorded in just 3 days, their debut album has it all - psychedelic riffing, ominous chanting, and some serious fuzzed-out bliss (The long vamp in the second half of opener "Solar Benedicition" is a big highlight).  Highly recommended - this album is sure to please fans of any of the member's former projects.

From their label, Neurot Records:

There are moments [as they are and as we configure them] strung together amidst all of our other moments of slow growing awareness, when the tectonic shifting of who we think we are gets overcome and overwhelmed by who we really are. And IF we are lucky, it happens without too much bloodshed.

It births, it dies, it lives without bloodshed for the rare and sainted few.

For the rest of us it happens to us [and not for us]. And it is accompanied by a quickening purpose and transcendent understanding of our goddamned place in space: we build our places of worship up on high for a reason, and SHRINEBUILDER -- created by Al Cisneros, Scott "Wino" Weinrich, Dale Crover and Scott Kelly - shares the season and the reason: because it is closer to the gods.

So it was that the calling was answered as simply as a phone call could have been and was made. Cisneros called Weinrich, Kelly, and later Crover and decided, in full-blown ex nihilo fashion to make some music beyond the summed parts of all what had been done before and in doing so rediscover why it had been done in the first place. Beyond the parts, beyond beyond, and here descriptors that you will read every OTHER place but that go without saying here...crushing, killing and heavy, heavy, heavy...seem somehow too much and not enough.

It is Wagnerian. It is Iommic. It is simply: SHRINEBUILDER.

Now Manson [Charles, not Marilyn] once said to us, "there are only two ways to get to the get dragged...or you go along."

And here, in the spirit of the contrary, is a third: SHRINEBUILDER.

You're goddamned right.

----Eugene S. Robinson


Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Complete Recordings of the Mwandishi Band

Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band was responsible for creating some of the most deeply explorative and emotionally charged music of the early 1970's electric jazz fusion explosion, and probably ever. The original band on the self-titled debut, recorded in October through December of 1969, consisted of Herbie Hancock (Mwandishi) on rhodes, Bennie Maupin (Mwile) on bass clarinet, flute, and piccolo, Eddie Henderson (Mganga) on trumpet, Julian Priester (Pepo Mtoto) on trombone, Buster Williams (Mchezaji) on bass, and Billy Hart (Jabali) on drums, along with an assortment of supporting musicians, including the illustrious saxophonist Joe Henderson. The music for the most part featured spacey, abstract improvisations from the rhodes and horns over earthy, rhythmic ostinatos from the bass and drums. Crossings added Dr. Patrick Gleeson on synths, launching the band into exotic new galaxies of sound that would be explored further on Sextant. Despite the incredible inventiveness of the music, none of these albums were commercially successful, and the band officially broke up before the release of Herbie's crossover megahit Head Hunters. At least, that's how I thought the story went, until I discovered just days ago that the Mwandishi band recorded two additional little known albums, released under Eddie Henderson's name. The lineup on these albums is essentially unchanged, with the exception that Julian Priester is replaced by the great drummer Lenny White on Realization, and by Weather Report's drummer Eric Gravatt and the Head Hunters conga player Bill Summers on Inside Out.

The band really hit their stride with Crossings and kept it up to Realization, though the debut and Inside Out are also fascinating to hear and light years beyond what most fusion bands were doing following the release of the genre's catalyst, Bitches Brew. Listen to all five of these in a row, and you can consider yourself a black belt in interdimensional time travelin' jazz funk.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Horace Parlan - Happy Frame of Mind

Here's a reasonably straight-ahead but still adventurous and forward-looking Blue Note album led by the criminally underrated pianist Horace Parlan, who is perhaps best known for playing on the masterpiece Mingus Ah-Um. When he was young, Parlan was stricken with polio, which left his right hand crippled; but this did not deter him from striving for a career in jazz piano. On the contrary, Parlan's weakened right hand caused him to develop a particularly strong and unique left hand style, featuring highly percussive attacks from big blocky extended chords. His right hand ultimately ended up more than up to par as well, contributing agreeably loose and buoyant melodic ideas. On this album, Parlan teams up with the always cool guitarist Grant Green, veteran drummer Billy Higgins, Mingus-associates Johnny Coles (trumpet) and Booker Ervin (tenor sax), and the bassist and rock solid sideman Butch Warren, who's played with Miles, Monk, Herbie, Dexter Gordon, and many others. In other words, a first-rate band.

This is the type of bebop I love most - all the players are in tight form, hitting the bluesy and soulful chord changes accurately, but still playing with loads of character and taking their solos into daring territory. Most of all, they just sound cool as all hell and like they're having a great time. This is a perfect lemonade-on-your-porch-in-the-summertime type of album, and it's a must have for any fan of the classic Blue Note sound. For me it's easily on the level of albums as lauded as Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder and Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil (actually, I like it more than both), though for whatever reason it's far less well known. Mellow, playful, and just brilliant all around.