Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fast And Bulbous Meets The Geographers

Yo Miles! – Upriver 2xCD (Cuneiform)
Henry Kaiser & Wasasa Leo Smith lead a stellar band through the electric/electic era Miles Davis sound o’ the 70’s. Not a tribute band but a homage these guys are adding to the directions Miles took and making them their own. And hell, besides Toshinori Kondo (or however the hell its spelt) who else but Smith could tackle Miles electric era? Same pallete, brighter paints - Smith & Kaiser just rage and rip through everything from Bitches Brew to Yesterfunk and throw in a couple of their own compositions too just to show that they have got the licks, the grace, the style to make this sound their own.

Machine & The Synergetic Nuts – Leap Second Neutral CD (Cuneiform)
Jap prog rock band inspired by the likes o’ Zappa (especially Zappa), Soft Machine and 70’s fusion jazz. Not sure whether I dig this or not, there are moments that sound so much like Frank Zappa that they stop me in my tracks to check the disc and then there are arse kicking rockout/jazz frenzies that make me wanna dance and bang my head. I guess that means I do dig it.

Fast ‘N’ Bulbous – Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind CD (Cuneiform)
This Captain Beefheart Tribute led by Phillip Johnston and featuring Gary Lucas has done away with the good Captain’s growling vocals and surreal lyrics to concentrate on the music with a horn section subbing for his voice. And in doing so they’ve made us realise just how good the music was. Beefheart wasn’t just some madman making a stew of blues/rock/calypso/sludge with an acid backdrop – this stuff swings like a fucker! Takes a listen or two to get into it but when you do you’ll be jiving your arse off around the house.


The trouble with Emanem is they just put out too much damn stuff for a mere plebian like me to ever keep up with. And I love most of it but find it very hard to describe. Lately I’ve realised though that I prefer the smaller combos (the duets, trios) to the bigger outfits where the improv just gets too messy for me. That means the latest care package from Martin Davidson was a corker. Three albums, all duo recordings, all different, all tasty. And it’s been a long while since simply opening a parcel could make me smile and rush home to the cd player but the sight of Anthony Braxton & Milo Fine’s Shadow Company album had me doing just that. Duelling sax, clarinet, piano, drums live and improvised for a full hour and it never gets dull. These two play off each other beautifully. Next in the batch was Clive Bell & Sylvia Hallet -Geographers CD. Having already had a taste of this duo on the Freedom Of The City Small Groups 2004 disc where they were easily my favourite grouping I was looking forward to hearing a full album. They don’t dissapoint. A mixture of pipes, percussion, electronics, violin and more this is a subtle, sweet sound that draws you in amidst clank and quiver and borderline exotica. Another fine example of ghost world recordings. The third CD was The Butterfly And The Bee from Roger Smith (Guitar) and Louis Moholo-Moholo(Percussion). It is both unfair and bad luck for them that they arrived with the other two albums cos they’ve barely had a look in. Again though, they show that free improv isn’t just loud – it’s subtle, it’s space and quiet, it’s recognising the gaps and using them, the silence as much as the roll of brush or clatter of blocks, the plunk of strings, the run of frets – on any given day any one of these albums will lift your spirits and in this day and age that’s all you can ask for.