REVIEW: The Slew’s “100%”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The Slew is the latest project from Canadian DJ falakian, Kid Koala, uniting with guitarist Dylan “Dynomite D” Frombach, and former Wolfmother members Chris Ross (bass), and Myles Heskett (drum lums). The end result is nothing like what you’d expect from them before, but 100% (Ninja Tune) is definitely what you would expect if they were able to get together and… oh wait, HERE IT IS!

It’s hard rock mixed in with Kid Koala’s DJ’ing mind and intellect for samples. If you know how Kid Koala works, he takes in the music coming in and communicates with it with the 1’s and 2’s. For the non-hip-hop fan, he basically scratches over the hard rock soundtrack but does it in a way that is tasteful and true to the music, as if this was meant to be. I would consider Kid Koala’s work to be the equivalent of the bottleneck, in that his input turns regular rock music into something bluesy, something warmer, something more satisfying in the right hands.

For hard rock fans, if you love your music open to a bit of unpredictable audio chaos, while still holding on to its core, you’re going to love the spontaneity of 100%. Regardless what part of the equation you’re on, it’s a very fun album made between these four. This is 100 percent times better than the awful Public Enemy/Anthrax “Bring The Noise” compilation, and you’ll want to play this repeatedly soon after your initial intake.

If you’re a Kid Koala fan, this is a mere expansion/addition of the audio delights from the mind of Eric San. To infinity and beyond, within the boundaries and textures of the endless groove.

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REVIEW: The Clonious’ “Between The Dots”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic While the music on Between The Dots (Ubiquity) sounds like that of a full band, the truth is that the sounds were all created and compiled by one man, Paul Movahedi. While the special guests on the album partly tell the story and vibe of the album (Dudley Perkins, Georgia Ann Muldrow, Muhsinah, Dorian Concept, and Cid Rum among others), you really don’t know what you’re going into until you actually listen to it.

To simplify, The Clonious himself says he hopes fans of hip-hop and IDM will find something of interest here. It’s that funky, soulful, hip-hop influenced beats created by the likes of Madlib and Muldrow that people will find of interest, while those who are into Boards Of Canada will also find this to be of interest too. It’s not just instrumentals with funky beats and trippy analog synths, there’s a bit of depth in these songs that help give it a bit of substance. It’s a well organized album, hints of the past filtered through the modern mind states of today. The hip-hop influence is very much here with jazz sounds chopped and sliced to create something new, it’s a new exotica and it caters to fans of the boom bap, the bloops and bleeps, and the boing boom tschak. You can listen to it and turn this into your Sunday morning album, or play it during DJ sets and freak people out.

Between The Dots is similar to those albums I remember finding in cramped quarters, knowing it was a part of someone’s secret stash. What it means to the general populace, I don’t know. If the title of the album is a suggestion on what to do, it may cause a bit of eye strain but I think in this case it’s perception gained through the third eye. It may be that deep, or it may be a simply liking to music created in the early 1970’s mixed in with laid back hip-hop. Or it may be nothing more than a listening session and the passing of the doobs. Either way, it’s best to inhale lightly, or take half a tab if you can’t take in the full dosage, thank you.

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REVIEW: Space Bong’s “The Death Of Utopia”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Metal albums that are unpredictable are great, especially when the music is to your liking. I had not heard of Space Bong up until now, although I had heard that Australia does have a devoted sludge/doom metal following. Space Bong are one of those bands.

I would say their sound is a mixture of Buzzov•en, Eyehategod, and Dickless, or let me put it this way: if Kelly Canary made love with Quorthon of Bathory in a pool of blood, razor blades, and glass: well, for one it would be messy and fairly dangerous. But in truth, that’s what Space Bong’s vocals sound like, in that the band features two vocalists: Fitzy and Legs, and together their opposing styles bring forth with the rest of the band the sound of an apocalyptic world that isn’t after the end, but it represents the end times so many talk about today.

The Death Of Utopia (An Out Recordings) may be plodding in their sound, but I hear a bit of melodics in their thick, muddy sound. There was a phenomenon among Black Sabbath fans in the 70’s where since their music was considered heavy, fans had the option of turning their phonographs to the speed of 16 2/3rpm, so that it would be half as slow. In tracks like “Utopia”, it sounds Iron Maiden on 16 2/3, and they ended up sounding like Melvins. I love the anticipation of each vamp, and I also love the fact that each of the four songs on this album are at anthemic lengths, with the shortest being 12 minutes, the longest being 21. By performing these songs at extended lengths, you get involved in the riffs played by guitarists Babe and Cheese, bassist Jock, and drummer Wynn, and it feels good to bang your head in their distorted sound suspension, waiting for each pound to happen. “Death Kneel (The New Death)” is sure to inspire moshers and slammers into rocking any venue these guys play in, with that kind of Soundarden/Raging Slab dirge that turned them into the monarchs of Marshall stacks.

The album cover features an illustration of a man’s dead body decaying as two crows eat its flesh. That’s one easy way of describing their music, as if you’re slowly watching a body decay in a world full of gloom and despair. The shocking moment is in “The Black Wall”, where one of the vocalists sings in a normal voice, it catches you off guard before things return into the disgust of a rotting planet.

REVIEW: Pelican’s “What We All Come To Need”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord) is Pelican‘s fourth album, and yet you feel sometimes that this the 1st, 7th, or 82nd. These guys do their thing instrumnetally, and in a world where words can sometimes do more damage than good, this is a good thing. Their brand of music mixes up hard rock and heavy metal overtones with subtle touches of pop, although the pop side isn’t so obvious from up above. Just as soul and funk fans adore the drum break, rock fans love sections of the song where the words stuff and the power playing begins, the riffs/riffage if you will. The guys in Pelican aren’t show-offy either, they play as if their lives depended on it, whiuch means everything is done for a reason, nothing goes overboard. When you want the heavy distorted moments that sound like the death orchestra lead by conductor Lord Satana, you can get that in a song like “The Creeper”. “Ephameral” may sound to you like the Faith No More sound that never was.

New fans may listen to this and come up with their own lyrics, and maybe that’s because they may feel these songs are empty or lopsided, in need of words and vocals. Allow the music to carry you through, and Pelican are just as progressive as Yes, Soft Machine, or Can, but in hard rock and metal forms.

It’s not 100 percent free of vocals, for they save things with the appropriately titled “Final Breath”. It’s almost sexual, the way the music excites, titilates, and makes you feel like you’re at the lip of going over the edge, and when you finally hear a human voice in “Final Breath”, you can’t help but let go and say “awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah”. It reminded me a bit of some of Alice In Chains‘ best, and may be appealing to fans of Queens Of The Stone Age.

It’s a nice progression from their last album, City Of Echoes, but maybe it’s because it’s simply new music from one of my favorite bands. It’s new Pelican, what can you say?

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REVIEW: Fature’s “Syncopated Computer Addiction”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The inspiration behind Fature‘s Syncopated Computer Addiction EP (Faturenet Recordings) is said to be simply: “machines”. What you hear are five songs full of electronic splendor, mixing things between the danceable and the textural. Is the addiction a need for timely rhythmic patterns, or a need to communicate when we can no longer do it in our real lives? That may or may not be the other inspirations, but as the EP moves along from something driving and pounding to the jazzier vibe of “Scuttling from Apollo” and “Derived Logic”, we begin to hear the music take more shape and wish for it to continue developing.

(The album can be downloaded for free by going to Archive.org.)

SOME STUFFS: NUMBER ONE, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!! NUMBER ONE, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!! Rage Against The Machine #1 in England

A campaign started on Facebook was started in the hopes to get Rage Against The Machine‘s “Killing In The Name Of” on top of the British singles chart, as a meant to knock-off a song released by someone who won on the UK singing competition television show, X-Factor. In many ways it was a middle finger to the pop muck that generally fills the airwaves, muck that is expected to win and top the charts. Some fans said no, and not only did they use a song with anger,it was a song with the lyrics Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses. Not exactly your typical Christmas fodder, but then again if Madonna could get away with burning crosses in her own “Like A Prayer” video, why can’t a band from California do the same in a song that focuses on bad police officers? I’m sure news organizations ready to talk about the best of the year and best of the decade now have to do research to find out about these Rage guys, and conservatives will look at Ice-T and his “Cop Killer” song.

But here’s something to think about. Rage Against The Machine have always showed their love of hip-hop. Hip-hop used to be a music that had its share of anger and frustration, something you don’t hear about anymore on radio or TV. If there’s frustration, it’s about how fast one can pull down their pants or yank off a skirt, or get drunk and find a prime spot in the club. RATM have showed their love of heavy metal, a music that used to be public enemy #1 before hip-hop had taken over. Nirvana showed frustration that was shared by people of “their generation”, but once Kurt Cobain died, record labels wanted carbon copies, with each one being less vicious than the other. A comment on a website called RATM “cult music”, as if to suggest that the band’s chant of “FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME” will inspire a young generation to not go overseas and fight in a war that should not exist, but to fight for equal rights and equality here at home. 45 years there was a musical British invasion that changed the world. 45 years later, in a time when social media is discussed on traditional media outlets, the Americans have attacked in musical form. Is this the digital equivalent of Altamont? One can only hope, while wondering what the next ten years has in store.

Congratulations to Rage Against The Machine.

John Book’s Top 25 Best Albums of 2009

It’s easy to locate the origin of my obsession for lists. When I read and later watched High Fidelity, it was great to read and see someone who loved to compartmentalize a Top 5, Top 10, or whatever. For me, I point my finger directly to this book:

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The Book Of Lists by David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace was something that when I was given this as a gift, I read it at home, in the car, I wanted to take it to school. It wasn’t just Top 5 or Top 10 lists of anything and everything from “Best sexual positions” to “Best selling albums”, it was the content and information within. I loved discovering things, I loved hanging out at the library as a kid and now I had a book where it was possible to see everything in nice little lists. The lists were just icing to the big informational cake.

For about 25 years, even before I started writing for a living, I created lists of my favorite albums of the year. I still have a piece of paper from 1984 where I listed my favorite albums of the year, and I know it included Prince & The Revolution‘s Purple Rain and Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s Welcome To The PleasureDome. When I had my Intensity fanzine, I’d have lists of Best Cover Versions, Best B-sides, Best Music Videos.

The one list I’ve kept up with all these years is a Best Albums list. I should state that these are albums I listened to, I have not listened to every album that was released this year. I’ve missed many, but that’s what the new year is for, to discover what I ignored or passed up. Out of the albums I liked, the following is a list of 25 albums that I really enjoyed, I played them repeatedly. Some may feel that’s hard to do in a world where any and all albums are readily accessible. No, i simply like what I like and listen. Then listen again. Here’s my list, with links to my reviews of each when available, in alphabetical order:

Mark Benevento-Me Not Me (The Royal Potato Family)
Black Moth Super Rainbow-Eating Us (Graveface)
Crown City Rockers-The Day After Tomorrow (Gold Dust Media)
Dumhi-Indian Summer (self-released)
Felt 3: a tribute to Rosie Perez (Rhymesayers)
Garage A Trois-Power Patriot (Royal Potato Family)
Inara George-Accidental Experimental (Everloving)
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey-One Day In Brooklyn (Kinnara/The Royal Potato Family)
Jeniferever-Spring Tides (Monotreme)
Kowloon Walled City-Gambling On The Richter Scale (The Perpetual Motion Machine)
Lullabye Arkestra-Threats/Worship (Vice)
Makalei-Pehea Ka Lawai’a (Makalei Music)
Maxwell-Blacksummers’Night (Columbia)
Johann Merrich-Fricadelique! (how to be a flower-power nihilist) (Clinical Archives)
Moodswing Orchestra-s/t (El Destructo)
mr.Gnome-Heave Yer Skeleton (El Marko)
Dudley Perkins-Holy Smokes (SomeOthaShipConnect)
Alec K. Redfearn & The Seizures-Exterminating Angel (Corleone)
Samothrace-Life’s Trade (20 Buck Spin)
Seabrook Power Plant-s/t (Loyal Label)
Slayer-World Painted Blood (Columbia)
Terminal Lovers-As Eyes Burn Clean (Public Guilt)
White Mice-Ganjahovahdose (20 Buck Spin)
Yoko Absorbing-Vinyl (Clinical Archives)
Zechs Marquise-Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare (Rodriguez Lopez/Sargent House)

From major labels to indies, to self-released albums. It was very hard to slim these down to 25, because I don’t want anyone to get offended that I didn’t choose their album. People have complained about the lack of decent hip-hop albums in 2009, but I found there were a lot of good music. There was an overwhelming amount of shit, but for the most part I drove around it.

Nonetheless, there was one album that I was highly anticipating, and as soon as I heard it, I had a feeling it would be my favorite album of the year.

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Black Moth Super Rainbow‘s Eating Us (Graveface) blew me away because here was a group who created some pretty trippy sounds, which I love, but through working with producer David Fridmann they were able to refine their mission to create something that was arguably pop/radio friendly but still retain their sound that still remains 100 percent undefinable. It’s electronic, it’s mind-altering, there’s a hip-hop influence, it’s definitely forward thinking, and it’s also bubble gum sprinkled with curry powder. People are quick to say it’s psychedelic, even though they probably mean it’s progressive in a Pink Floyd sense but Pink Floyd were also pop friendly when they wanted to be (“Echoes”, “San Tropez”, “Fearless”). When you have a group whose core of existence is a man named Tobacco, whose live photos reminds me of myself cramped up in my bedroom making bedroom music but without a plastic mask, it’s nice to hear someone else who gets it, that need to be creative and share that side of your muse to an unknown/uncertain world.

In truth, not unlike Sun Ra and Madlib‘s multiple music personalities, Black Moth Super Rainbow create audio worlds that they want people to listen to and perhaps enter, or at least to witness their visions for a few minutes at a time. It’s a mixture of analog synths mixed in with samplers and subtle funk, but that would be to simply their sound. It would also be too easy to say they’re like The Flaming Lips‘ long lost cousin from the countryside, but both groups do share a common love for knowing and understanding the limits, then taking it to create new shapes within their own self-made boundaries.

It’s just great music that isn’t going to please everyone, they’re not the Black Eyed Peas and proud of it. However, as Tobacco becomes more cinematic with his music and video projects, it’s only a matter of time before he takes his music to higher levels, hallucinogenic or otherwise.

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HAWAIIAN MUSIC CORNER: Masters Of Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar Vol. 2 (Live From Maui)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic With the amount of music I receive on a regular basis to review, sometimes the albums I’ve been meaning to write about gets pushed back. After hearing the failure that is Ultimate Collection: Songs Of Love, I had to get back to some true blue Hawaiian music treated with respect, da kine that goin’ give me instant chicken skin and make me rock and forth while i CRAI.

Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2: Live From Maui (Daniel Ho Creations) is a live album recorded very well featuring some of the best ki ho’alu (slack key) musicians in Hawaiian music, both old and new. I’ve always been a fan of Dennis Kamakahi guitar work, and his rendition of “No Ke Ano Ahiahi” is similar to the arrangement made famous by The Sons Of Hawai’i on their 1971 Panini album. While the Gabby Pahinui touch isn’t here, I still sense the pride in a song about one who awaits the coming of the night, and what the evening can provide. Richard Ho’opi’i, one half of The Ho’opi’i Brothers, takes things back to the old cha-lang-a-lang style with “Kupa Landing”, while Keoki Kahumoki performs “Kealia” in a way that shows that it can still be relevant to modern times. Despite all of the men that dominate on the album, a wahine is more than capable of playing ki ho’alu and Owana Salazar represents with a fantastic performance of “Makee ‘Ailana”, and takes it home as the song moves along.

Since its release a few months ago, Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2: Live From Maui has been nominated for a Grammy next year, so it will hopefully continue to move people to hear a style of Hawaiian music and guitar playing that was almost left for dead. For me, it reminds me of an old Hawai’i, or at least the Hawai’i I remember growing up in 30 years ago when tuning to KCCN 1420am meant hearing music like this *all the time*. Daniel Ho has done an incredible job preserving these songs and making these live performance available for everyone. I hope he continues to do this with live recordings from other locales, to show how people react to these songs in different settings. As it stands, this is a Hawaiian compilation worth including in your collection and giving to honors.

HAWAIIAN MUSIC CORNER: Various Artists – “Ultimate Collection: Songs Of Love”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic One thing I’ve been fighting for for years is for Hawaiian music, especially older music, to be reissued properly with the right liner notes, information, and everything that has been done for rock, jazz, funk, soul, and country reissues. Sadly, this album isn’t something to cherish, even though the music on this is okay.

Ultimate Collection: Songs Of Love (Shaka) is a compilation that is subtitled A Premier Collection of Romantic Love Songs, and it consists of contemporary Hawaiian music. You can tell by the cover photo. But based on title alone, it is as anonymous as the 10,000 other albums with similar titles. Why could someone not have some up with something more effective and charming as, oh, let’s say, Leonard Cohen‘s Songs Of Love And Hate?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Maybe it wouldn’t be too convincing as a Hawaiian title, because Hawaiians aren’t hateful, right? It would have been more interesting than the CD we have here.

There are 15 songs here, along with a very brief blurb that barely passes as a liner note, and a few album credits. We know that the CD was mastered by Kit Ebersbach and that the project was executively produced by the legendary Tom Moffatt, but the choice of songs here are far from convincing. The music and artists here are great, you have Marlene Sai, Loyal Garner, Jesse Kalima, Anelaikalani, Hui Ohana, and Ledward Ka’apana, but these songs to me are far from what I’d call an Ultimate Collection, especially of romantic Hawaiian music. Where’s Iva Kinimaka‘s “He Aloha Mele”? Cecilio & Kapono‘s “Sunflower”? Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom‘s “Ka’ena”? Maybe it would have been too much to license these songs, but this is Hawaiian music, not Clive Davis, not Sony.

The booklet inside is blank. Why even waste the money and effort to release something without putting in some information on the music, or maybe a nice essay? It honestly looks like someone had a printer and made some covers. It looks like one of those cheapy CD’s you find at the dollar store, but instead this is in a proper jewel case and not a cardboard cover. The only reason that makes this CD worthy is the inclusion of a non-LP track by Hui Ohana, and that’s something you rarely hear about if ever, a non-LP Hawaiian song. It’s here with “Pua Carnation”.

Why not call this Ultimate Collection: Songs Of Aloha, wouldn’t it have been more direct? In this day and age of digital downloads, why would anyone want to pay for a full CD of this when someone can go to iTunes or any website that sells Hawaiian Mp3’s and buy the two or three songs that are good? Or anyone with an extensive Hawaiian music collection can either create their own custom CD or rearrange a folder to include on an iPod.

It looks like a made-for-TV album, but it’s worse because it fails on so many levels. This is Hawaiian music and I expect and demand better than this.