Crank Automotive (2001)
Alan Licht in his latest release succeeds in being both inspirational and annoying. Consisting of two live tracks, Plays Well, reminds me mostly of why Licht is one of the most expressive and beautiful guitarists out there unfortunately it succeeds in making me feel that I paid for only half an album and the rest is a wank.
Let's begin with the more imortant and more valuble discussion of what is worht mentioning in the CD - "Remington Kahn". This piece is built over a two note looped cycle. While quite different in style and performance, it does remind me of the exitement of hearing for the first time Fripp and Eno's "Heavenly Music Corporation". here is a lead guitar improvised over a simple background and yet is is as emotionally engaging as the most finely written symphony. It demonstrates what is so wonderful about improvisation - we have no idea where Licht is leading us but we are happy to be along for the ride. But don't mistake this for new agey work. Licht's guitar is crisp, clear, and unprocessed. His playing does not wash out in to the background but engages you to listen a catch everly pluck as if each were a word in a novel.
Now it is my sad duty to inform you that the second half of this CD is not quite on the level of the first. Licht seems to have done what many guitarists do when they are at home - play along with a record. At first it's not too bad - not great but not bad - what seems to be a record of some blues vocalist is overlapped by Licht playing a 2 chord riff out of The Edge's guitar playbook. It goes into a noisy interesting freakout but then, in an Andy Kaufman like "fuck you", he plays a Donna Summer loop over his e-bow like drone. Then in case you still think Licht is trying to do anything else than have a good laugh he abandons the loop and lets the disco song play in its entirety. By the time Licht returns from drinkign his beer or takign a shit or what have you. I could give less of a fuck what else he has to say msuically - which i guess is the point of the track. So ha ha, we've been had whoop tee do. Yea, whatever. Juts buy it for the first track and consider the second half forgone loss and you'll feel much better about your purchase.
It's a Brand New Day - Tom Cora Live at the Knitting Factory
Most of us I'm sure discovered Tom Cora when he teamed up with The EX for "Scrabbling the Lock. On that LP we discovered a some gorgeous and agressive cello playing. Cora seems to at times be wrestling with his instrument to force it to his will. It's all good sport and cora seems to always end up on top.Thus it's a pleasure that John Zorn has seen to it to complie some of his harder to find recordings.
The Cd starts with "Passing" a folk song whose angular rythms give it a sense of urgency. Catherine Jauniaux provides some lovely vocals atop the
The Goblin Market
Camera Obscura (2001)
Admit it you are sick of hearing about me rave about Jeff Kelly. Well, guess what? I’m going to do it again. Here the Green Pajama’s head honcho joins his band-mate Laura Weller for yet another solid addition to the Kelly lexicon. Weller’s musicianship and vocals are a perfect compliment to Kelly’s in the Pajamas and here we have the two as a simple duo.
The idea of the project is to add music to some literary figure’s poems and on it’s surface it seems kind of pretentious but in practice it works very well. I find it curious how Kelly seems to personally favor Christina Rossetti yet his best lyrical fit is Emily Bronte. In fact the two Bronte pieces are easily the best pieces here. “Oh mother I am not regretting’ is one of Kelly’s best songs ever. The simple melody and arrangement compliments Bronte’s work so well that I would think she would return to thank him if she could. The interpretation of Bronte’s “The Night Wind” is equally as impressive and only goes to further demonstrate how good a fit her words and his music really are. The other standout track is the three-song medley of “Song for Christina/ A Nightmare/ Highgate”. Here a Green Pajamas classic, “Song for Christina”, is given a harpsichord treatment and “Nightmare” comes across more effectively and freaky thanks to Susanne Kelly’s vocals. This leads to Laura Weller’s strongest moment on the album – the Jeff Kelly penned “Highgate.” Her vocals work beautifully and Kelly’s (?) sweet guitar provides a beautiful harmony. Ghostland is a lovely work and here’s to hopes that these this is the first of many from this wonderful project.