July 21, 2007

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis

Filed under: Music — innervisions @ 9:01 pm

[Curtom; 1970]

Curtis Mayfield’s first of many solo albums is not only his greatest work, but an encapsulation of everything great about soul, rhythm & blues, and funk. The velvet-voiced member of The Impressions set out and recorded Curtis in 1970. The result is an impassioned work that combines sharp late-60s social criticism with a massive funk sound that is at once both jubilant and mournful. Curtis is a joyous celebration around Mayfield’s “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, come on people” lyricisms. Few recordings are as wholly satisfying, and this album still sounds remarkably fresh nearly forty years after it was recorded.

It’s easy to sit back and pigeonhole R&B, soul, and funk as simple interchangeable genres of music that rely on formulaic songwriting and little musicality. Are you of that belief? Well, Curtis Mayfield’s arrangements on this record shoot all of that to hell. Brilliant use of horns, strings, vibes, and percussion give Mayfield’s songs this triumphant, blissful arc that is impossible to suppress. They can turn a ballad like “The Makings Of You” into a behemoth, giving a new meaning to “power ballad”. Yes people, a “power ballad” might even be a good thing. The introspective horns and screaming strings make a simple call-to-arms like “We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue” into an impassioned clamor for revolution. Now, more sound isn’t always better sound, as any listener can gather, but Mayfield is always tasteful. It would never cross your mind that something on Curtis could sound better stripped down.

Of course, throwing all of the credit onto Mayfield’s arrangements would be foolish. Curtis Mayfield is a first-class songwriter with an effortless, velvety alto and seemingly limitless range. No matter the ferocity of his arrangements, he can always manage to keep up and shine through. He’s by himself for the most part, so he has no harmonies to catch your ear, but Mr. Mayfield can hit perfect notes better than I ever thought imaginable. His voice is always perfect, but on the more understated (well, relatively understated) closer, “Give It Up”, his soulful croon shines through the most. The first couple verses with his heavenly tone going back and forth with simple vibes and harp is incredible.

The consistency across the board with this record is remarkable; I can’t really pick a favorite or least favorite. You didn’t think soul could truly be mindblowing? Well, come here child, come sit on my knee. I have something for you. Here is a copy of Curtis. It’s forty-one minutes of bliss. Take it, and go run, wild and free.

July 12, 2007

Astro – Astral Orange Sunshine

Filed under: Hype,Music — RadioFly @ 2:35 am

Astral Orange Sunshine

[Blossoming Noise; 2007]

Space music has always been hard to precisely define. Is it the goofy sci-fi of Gong and Hawkwind? Or is it the ambient mass of Tangerine Dream? I’d personally suggest Astro’s Astral Orange Sunshine as an excellent document of the semi-genre. Astro (AKA former C.C.C.C. member Hiroshi Hasegawa) uses nothing but synths for this spacey, instrumental slice of psychedelia, managing to combine the best of both the sci-fi and ambient sides of space music and that combination has caused my dreams to careen through outer space every time I’ve fallen asleep to the record.

“Incubation,” the half-hour behemoth of a first cut, opens with some inviting, tingly notes that would not be out of place in one of Acid Mothers Temple’s more ambient passages. Astro, however, quickly reveals his roots as a noise artist with a towering wall of grating fuzz that consumes any lingering invitingness left in the music. Such giant sounds occasionally pass through the music, invoking in the willing listener the image of massive comets passing overhead. The journey that is “Incubation” generally follows the “quiet-loud-quiet-loud” pattern to its end, but the moments of noise manage to arrive in sudden, surprising fashion, giving the piece a spontaneity all too uncommon in space music. As the piece progresses, the quiet portions become more eerie while the noisy portions grow more chaotic.

“Still Water” immediately dispenses with the notion that the space presented on Astral Orange Sunshine is a friendly one with a dense, abrasive wall of sound. To put it into Hawkwind terms, the awe-inspiring comets have been replaced by a terrifyingly large enemy spaceship. The record’s final song, the comically titled “Shine On You Crazy Crystal Machine,” serves as a second psychedelic bookend to the middle noise piece of “Still Water.” Fifteen minutes of gloriously fuzzy, noisy, and loud psychedelia, the overwhelming “Shine On” is the album’s best cut. Where “Incubation” was a journey, “Shine On” is more of a chaotic tailspin.

Astral Orange Sunshine succeeds as a whole thanks to the fullness and spontaneity of its sound. Astro has the chops and the vision, both of which are on full display here as his version of space music has given us one of 2007’s strongest releases.

July 8, 2007

Love Is Simple…

Filed under: Akron!,News — ihggy @ 5:18 pm

… is the title of the forthcoming Akron/Family album, their first full-length since their 2005 self-titled debut. The album was recorded late last year and early this year, produced by Andrew Weiss (who worked on a lot of Ween records), and features the Lexie Mountain Boys on a few cuts. It will be out September 11th, 2007 on Young God Records.

UPDATE: We now have a tracklist for Love Is Simple

1. Love Love Love (1:46)
2. Ed Is A Portal (7:31)
3. Love Is Simple (4:35)
4. I’ve Got Some Friends (3:09)
5. Lake Song (7:24)
6. There’s So Many Colors (8:11)
7. Crickets (3:59)
8. Phenomena (3:46)
9. Pony’s O.G. (5:19)
10. Of All The Things (7:41)
11. Love Love Love (Part II) (3:07)

Also of note is that the album will come with a free DVD entitled The Great American Mess, directed by Ryer Banta, that features tons of live footage of the band playing during a short tour in December of 2005. Here is a preview (Update #2: Only the first 10,000 copies of the record pressed will come with the DVD).


July 7, 2007

Akron/Family S/T Released on Vinyl!

Filed under: Akron!,News — ihggy @ 1:51 pm

Here’s a link to the Young God press release:

And here’s what Akakakak’s own Oliverpatterson has to say about it:
“A: Before and Again/ Suchness/ Part of Corey/ Dylan Pt. 1 (aka the “untitled” final track on the CD version)

B: Italy/ I’ll Be on the Water/ Running, Returning

C: Afford/ Interlude/ Sorrow Boy/ Shoes

D: Positive Vibration Force (different cut from “Franny and the Portal” release, at least I think so)/ How Do I Know/ Franny/You’re Human

So, no “Lumen,” but it does have “Positive Vibration Force” which is arguably an even better track. And it sounds lovely. Crisp gatefold packaging with lots of shells and trees and snakes, with full lyrics printed.”

I’m going to order mine now!

July 4, 2007

Gaa – Auf der Bahn zum Uranus

Filed under: Hype,Music — myarmy @ 3:09 am

[Ohrwa; 1973]

In 1973 German band Gaa released their debut album Auf der Bahn zum Uranus. With it they didn’t aim to push the boundaries of the genre, or influence numerous bands for years to come, or make some kind of statement for themselves. What they did do is write a number of rocking tunes, record them with the highest levels of technical skill, both individually and as a unit, and release it for our listening pleasure.

The opener Uranus gradually commences until eventually you can hear some spoken vocals. Now my German is a bit non existent but it sounds to me like an interplanetary public service announcement or some kind of religious sermon. In the background all you can hear is quiet guitar strumming and bass. Soon enough all the instruments start up and we hear a melodic yet dissonant vocal harmony over the floating distorted guitar. Though as soon as we start to enjoy that, it all drops right back out, and we return to the slow spacious atmosphere. The song builds slowly until band leader Werner Frey’s soloing enters, bringing the track to a rocking end and is more of a taster of what’s to come

Bossa Rustical, the second track, starts off with some quiet Spanish guitar picking, which is soon joined by an entire Spanish ensemble. Clean electric guitar joins in and captures the imagination, bringing with it the drums, which hold together a thick groove. The track slows down again and you know the band is a fan of the old slow down, speed up routine, however they use it extremely effectively. The main riff for the song starts up with the bass, then the guitar, and then the drums and for the next minute or so I dance like I haven’t before and perhaps shouldn’t.

Next up is Tanz Mit Dem Mond which is quite simply arranged as most of the song sways gently around chant like vocals and beautiful piano licks other than on two occasions where it alternates to a rockin’ strummed riff and the piano and guitar solo are set to overdrive.

Muster Erde begins with a fun guitar riff and some pulsating drums. I don’t know what it is about German drummers, but there’s definitely something, and it’s definitely good and Gaa’s Stefan Dorr is no exception. The instruments are soon joined by the catchiest and most standard vocals on the album. It even contains something that could be deemed as a chorus. A number of cool feedback effects feature throughout the middle of the track before the song concludes with some “Doo doo doo doo doo doo duh duh”s and with Frey’s magical guitar soaring over the top of it.

Similar to Tanz Mit Dem Mond in its arrangement, Weit Im Dunkel is based around a simple slow start stop guitar and drum defined riff. It’s extremely atmospheric with soothing vocals that just meander around apart from the opening and closing which grab your attention with some loud chords and fast drumming.

Crashing cymbals and some impressive picking open up the self-titled closer, Gaa, which after about a minute slides into a catchy, slightly bluesy riff. A flute joins in for no other reason than its cool and the song reaches its peak of light hearted fun with some “Bah bah bah bah”s. The bass holds down the riff while Frey’s exquisite fingers let loose over the top. The song unexpectedly stops and we return to an epic sound reminiscent of the first track and the intergalactic galactic atmosphere is brought back. The crashing drums kick back in suddenly your in The Rock Ship hurtling towards Uranus with comets whizzing either side of you and you’re riding along to the tune of some seriously tight jamming.

Ultimately the only way for me to describe the way I feel about this album would be to string a bunch of German words together that I don’t know the meaning of, but sound cool. Something like, Auf der Bahn zum Uranus.

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