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MELOMANIA tosses you a lucky seven
beat the heat with this palette of audio treats
THE PAST HAS NOT QUITE PASSED
Fall is bringing a plethora of releases from all genres. Thoughtful listening to this music to test, evaluate, and finally push is quite the assembly line. Stopped for a night to listen to some of the playlist staples of January-February. It sounded like it was so long ago. Except for the tracks that “broke through” so to speak. Six months later, and they still have that snap. So, we press on and on and on to the break of dawn.
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On with this show.
JAIMIE BRANCH - Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)) [LP/CD](International Anthem/Redeye)
This one is a hard one. On one hand, having lost Branch’s brash trumpet, wild writing, and wonderful singing, the third Fly or Die album is tempered with sadness. However, with her fantastic band, uptempo cuts like “Burning Grey” and especially “Take Over The World” are made to feel like we are all battling back together. Branch is positively ON at times over the course of this unique World-influenced Avant-Garde Jazz-swinging ball of Punk energy. “Take Over The World” possesses a truly transcendental moment at its midway point where the numerous voices of Branch are bent into misshapen forms via digital effects. While violins, drums, and voices literally go mad, Branch’s low-range distorted voice cuts through for comfort. Equally magical is her duet with Jason Ajemian on the rootsy “The Mountain.” Opening with Ajemian’s bowed bass and all the harmonic extremes gives you no idea of the inspirational Bluegrass-ian Gospel song within. While Branch is no longer with us, she is (thankfully) still surprising us.
BECCA MANCARI - Left Hand [LP/CD](Captured Tracks)
Mancari has been kicking around several playlist staple singles since 2020’s brilliant “Hunter.” The Nashvillian all but leaves Indie Folk behind for the warmth and wall-to-wall textures of Modern Electronic Pop. Mancari has a soothing voice that in the right frame can lull you away to dreamland (“Mexican Queen.”) When she sings in her higher range, she communicates a fragility that barely needs words (“I Needed You.”) It is always sweet how much music Mancari and producer Juan Solorzano can hide within the confines of a song. However, “Left Hand” is mostly that new form of the “Bedroom Dance” albums that became popular during the interregnum of the last few years. Unlike Jessie Ware and Roisin Murphy (the queens of that scene,) Mancari sings with a quiet elegance (“Don’t Close Your Eyes” produced by Daniel Tashian) and does not need to show her volume and power. In fact, Mancari is possibly at her very best when you can hear her vibrato quiver (Listen to the midpoint of “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and you can feel the tension in the context of a very relaxed track.) When she sculpts and shapes her dreamy Pop into a skittering drum-machine-led Dance track like the effervescent “Homesick Honeybee” - you got yourself a hit.
PLEASURE FOREVER - Distal [LP/CD](Solid Brass/Redeye)
Their SubPop tenure twenty years ago simply does not matter when you listen to how bracing Pleasure Forever can be now. It is still Psychedelic Drone Rock (those background organs on “Lexicorpus Grimoire”) but with a thundering Bonham-esque beat below (the hypnotic seven-minute single “To The Last Recorded Moment of Time”) and a haunting near-falsetto voice nearly whispering on high (the woozy “Sunshine Super Hits.”) All of these elements drawn together make “Distal” a weird amalgam of Nineties Alt. Rock and classic Post-Punk. Honestly, Pleasure Forever have tapped into an entirely new sound.
ROBERT WYATT -'68 [CD](Cuneiform)
Having finished the second The Soft Machine tour of the US, Robert Wyatt decided to enter the studio on his own and unleash several ideas to tape. '68 had been an exhausting year with "Soft Machine I" recorded in New York at the end of the first leg of touring with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The second leg saw Andy Summers join, then be fired by Kevin Ayers. Finishing up another tour with the JHE, Ayers bowed out and The Soft Machine was suddenly no more. "'68" is Wyatt finding his own way through vocal and melodic experiments. "Chelsa" opens with Wyatt's trademark drums under organ chords. Listening to Wyatt exploring the placement of the rhythm under solid chords and then later adding stops is a bit like imagining how The Soft Machine put together a jam like "Hope For Happiness" or even the crazed middle section of "So Boot If It All." "Slow Walkin' Talk" is a bouncy Blues song with Jimi Hendrix on bass. Wyatt approaches it vocally like a jam. However, several of the chord changes are as sophisticated as Soft Machine material. "Rivmic Melodies" edges closer to how "Soft Machine Two" will sound with its multiple parts and time shifts. Wyatt's double-tracked singing with himself gives it a foreignness that is then outdone by entire verses sung in Spanish through a telephone. All along, Wyatt's ideas are growing toward the initial twenty-minute run-through of "Moon In June" - the soon-to-be centerpiece of the groundbreaking "Third." What is fascinating about this version is how without the "handoff" to Mike Ratledge's organ or even the underpinning of Ayers, Wyatt can easily roam from part of one song to the other. By the time Wyatt welcomes bassist Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge, he is in full control of the song. An interesting conclusion to the first "democratic" chapter of The Soft Machine and a harbinger of "Third" and the Wyatt-less years to follow.
KEVIN AYERS - Falling Up [LP](Esoteric/Cherry Red UK)
Kevin Ayers's deep baritone voice is one of the more underrated in Prog-to-Folk-to-Rock. His bellow in The Soft Machine gave songs a sinister edge not generally associated with far-out Psychedelic Jazz Rock. His Seventies output is as far off the beaten path as former bandmate Robert Wyatt. His lengthy cowboy warble on "Whatevershebringswesing" could actually pre-date the weird balladry of Roger Waters in Pink Floyd. While the amazing "Shouting In A Bucket Blues" could have been California Country Rock, if Ayers was not so convincing at airing his sly boredom and dissatisfaction. "Interview" even dares to exist as a Reggae-tinged guitar rocker. However, Ayers started to get more commercial and sound more like John Cale (who eviscerates him on "Guts" from "Slow Dazzle.") In the Eighties, we lose his wild, weirdo Prog Folker gone mad spirit, but something happens. Despite its VERY Eighties production, 1988's "Falling Up" has its moments of clarity thanks to the presence of longtime guitarist Ollie Halsall (the brilliant "Another Rolling Stone" which could have been from 1975) and early collaborator Mike Oldfield (the glistening Jeff Lynne-like production on "Flying Start" originally from Oldfield's 1987 album "Islands.") The album's original single, the closer "Am I Really Marcel?" is a brilliant song hidden beneath reverberating drums and wispy synth lines. The simple fact that it can still be poignant is a testament to Ayers' personality finally returning to his music.
THE FLOW - THE FLOW'S GREATEST HITS [LP](Guerssen ESP)
When Psychedelic Rock N'Roll had nowhere else to go, bands like New York's The Flow basically stripped the multicolored chassis, and turned it into ironclad Hard Rock. For them to title their debut "Greatest Hits" just shows how confident they were that they could deliver. In 1972, The Flow literally broke all the rules and still lives on a couple of tracks that are Biker Rock/"Brown Acid" ready. This four-track recording is at times so lo-fi, it actually helps hold The Flow together. The scary Bloodrock-like opener "It Swallowed The Sun" unfolds like "D.O.A" into a wild Cream-ish outtake. As a trio, The Flow is mostly airtight. Even when the synth squiggles overwhelm the tape, it cannot stop the guitar solo from burning through the cotton fiber tape. If The Flow were to have a hit, it would be the searing blues of "Searchin.'" After an opening draped in echo, The Flow goes dry to punch it hard with the double bends and drum fills that make it squeal. Unlike a lot of Biker Rock/Hard Rock types, The Flow understands the dynamics of their performance. In turn, it seriously lends to their attack, which does not always stand out on what is largely a homemade/self-made album. Seriously, what other band would dare to play Bach's "Toccata In D Minor" as a form of introduction to their bustling Hippie Rocker "Bijinkies." The Flow continues to roll out complex Yes-like basslines ("Troubadour Between Sets,") and even dive into some dark blues ("Insanity Creeping.") If they were sitting on a true single, it was the Sixties swish of "Get Up & Smile" which has the audacity to sneak in their Rock flash before a bonafide MC5 style ending and fade out.
HUERCO S. - Colonial Patterns [LP](Software Recording Co./Redeye)
This tenth-anniversary edition of the debut of the Kansas City synth manipulator Brian Leeds still sounds like it was beamed in from the distant future. With touches of This Heat, Musik Kosmiche, and a drum machine beating along like the human heart, “Colonial Patterns” is all about movement (the beautiful “Plucked From The Ground, Towards The Sun”) and minimalism moving you (the cyber funk of “Ragtime U.S.A. (Warning.)” In its primitive form using tapes and homebrewed electronics, Huerco S. consistently uses some kind of noise for comfort. “Anagramme of My Love” employs record scratches in various phases and patterns, but the distantly recorded voice deep in the background (it sounds like the other side of a cassette bleeding through the silence) makes it thrilling. With “Colonial Patterns,” Leeds/Huerco S. found a unique method to communicate the intricacies of Electronic Music in the most elemental and earthy terms possible.
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