Closely miked and cleanly recorded free improvisation from two Italians and a Brit. As soon as these three men man their instruments–piano, drums and bass–they proceed to push out vivid yet subtle sound waves that could silence a whole school bus full of laughing hyenas at Disneyland. We’re talking about tinkling and scraping contemplation that can effortlessly turn on a gold coin to stormy atonality without warning. And the understated, textured cover art acts as the perfect sheath for such a nice collection of late evening sounds.
Tropical Punch Tour: South Korea Video presents some downright captivating and moving performances of traditional South Korean music on instruments like the haegum and the komungo, caught during a layover at Incheon airport in Seoul.
Enigmatic and intriguing, Myanmar is land of contradictions. It boasts some of the nicest people on Earth who are, ironically, ruled by an oppressive military regime. On the religious front, Buddhism reigns supreme, yet a subculture of nat (spirit) worship continues to thrive in its shadow. The country’s pagoda-dotted landscape maintains layers of dust despite frequent downpours in the rainy season. And despite its considerable distance from the equator, most of Myanmar is oven hot.
Spooky Actions is, ironically, a very non-spooky-sounding ensemble that employs guitar, bass, drums, woodwinds and cello to reinterpret Early, Western classical and Native American music in a light jazz setting. Retrospective gathers together truncated versions of lenghty recordings from the band’s voluminous vaults. (Most of these tracks include both straight and improvised versions.) Hailing from 200 BC and the 11th century, “Early Music” starts it off with two super-mellow flute-led excursions–one peppy and propulsive, and another that could lull you to sleep on a Sunday afternoon, no problem.
Like some kind of overture to an epic krautrock adventure, the first track of this album brandishes some prime chiming acoustic guitar all a-pickin’ and a-riffin’, surrounded by strange swooshing and twittering sounds. But, on track two a few moments later, the proceedings quickly descend into a quirky, experimental sound world. That’s when you find out that the while, I mean whole album is comprised of a set of freely improvised guitar duos that have been electronically transformed post-mortem, in whole or in part, by one of the players. On most of the tracks, one guitar is left mostly intact while the other is run through the sonic cheese grater. What it all amounts to is a prickly yet atmospheric album of attention-holding guitar improv that is sure to please fans of this genre. And clocking in at just 33:49, this Sonic Infestation of your ears won’t eat up too much of your life.
One could easily imagine the title London Fix attached to an obscure heroin-based concept album by some mid ’70s British glam rock band. Thankfully, in the case of Tom Hamilton’s London Fix, that’s definitely not the case. In fact, it’s practically a whole universe away. Subtitled “Music Changing With the Price of Gold, An Environment of Continuous Electronic Music,” it features one hour-long track teeming with nothing but layer upon layer of pleasantly percolating and droning synths. These real-world instruments were activated by “fluctuations in spot gold price charts via an electronic pitch-making system, mapping the charts to control individual pitch possibilities, range and even portamento.” Fortunately, the composer took pains to avoid any literal, linear transcriptions, yielding musical results that are far more complex, interesting and beautiful. I highly recommend London Fix for fans of Terry Riley, Francois Bayle, etc. Although it may very well be one of a tiny handful of CDs with liner notes that ask the listener to, “Please play softly,” I liked London Fix so much, I just had to crank it up to 11. Sorry, Tom.
Label: Muse Eek Catalog Number: MSK 118 Format: CD Packaging: Digi-Pack Tracks: 1 divided into 6 sections Total Time: 59:45 Country: United States Released: 2003 More:CD Baby, Muse Eek , MySpace
Shaped exactly like an elephant’s head, Thailand is a vast, sweltering hot tropical kingdom whose landscape ranges from powder white beaches with turquoise water to ultra-green, lush jungles and mountains full of traditional hill tribes. Insanely ornate, gold-splashed Buddhist temples dot the villages and cities, where ramshackle shantytowns nestle up to glitzy shopping malls. Ladyboys, tuk-tuks and picturesque floating markets also await the foreign visitor’s dollars. Welcome to Thailand, one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Tropical Punch Tour: Thailand Video begins in quaint Phuket Town, deep in the Southern part of the country, where a loud and colorful school parade, gleaming Buddhist temples, huge golden dragon sculptures and gorgeous Sino-Portuguese shophouses grab the eye and won’t let go. Next up comes a quick look at the tropical idyll of the Phi Phi islands, followed by a cruise up the rainy Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. There, in the sprawling capital city, we sample myriad sights and sounds, including magnificent Buddhist temples like Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew, and May Kaidee’s vegetarian restaurant, home of the most delicious food to ever hit my tastebuds. Then comes a stop in the Northern town of Chiang Mai, dominated by the gold-splashed intricacies of Wat Phra Singh. After a pleasant morning bobbing in the rainbow-hued Damnoen Saduak floating market in Central Thailand, we head back to Bangkok to grab a gander of astonishing Buddhist temples Wat Kanlayanamit and Wat Arun. The clip draws to a close as we witness a couple of raw street musicians in the blown-out tourist mecca of Thanon Khao San.
Background songs from Molam: Thai Country Groove from Isan Volume 2, Siamese Soul, Shadow Music From Thailand and Molam: Thai Country Groove from Isan CDs, courtesy of Sublime Frequencies.