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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dwiki Dharmawan - Rumah Batu

After the release of Pasar Klewer which was considered on my top 35 albums of 2016 at number 7 here on my blog site, Music from the Other Side of the Room, Dwiki Dharmawan is back at it again with another follow-up from the MoonJune label entitled Rumah Batu (which translates in Indonesian Basha language, The Stone House). Dwiki has come a long way. And throughout his music, he would always come up with the next idea through some brainstorming moments.

In a 2010 interview that drummer Asaf Sirkis did with Anil Prasad for Innerviews: Music Without Borders, at the time he was promoting The Monk, and appearing on Dwiki’s new release this year, he said that “The essence of music is magic and magic does not tell a story, it is timeless.” And that is what Rumah Batu is, a story. A story into these unknown worlds of both spirituality and guidance. Not only that, but some of the most amazing players that are on here.

Alongside Dwiki and Asaf, includes upright bassist Yaron Stavi, electric bassist Carles Benavent, and soundscapist/guitarist Nguyen Le. The opening track Rintak Rebana, starts off with Dwiki creating a Coltrane-sque introduction as the sounds of Sa’at Syah’s flute sets up this morning sunrise for a new day in the capital of Jakarta. It creates this crescendo-like intro between Dwiki, Carles bass improve, Asaf’s drums, and Sa’at’s flute for the first two minutes.

It changes into the swinging section for a time to dance as the percussion instruments gets the parade to start things off with a bang. Carles and Yaron follow suit for a swing bass and upright bass line down the sidewalk. It’s almost like a duel between both bassists and they work well together.

Dwiki goes through the piano as a concert near the last few minutes of the composition. Like a cross between George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Dave Brubeck, Dharmawan almost wrote this composition by reminiscing of Gershwin’s masterpiece and dedicating it to the city and his hometown of Indonesia.

With Impenan, you can open the curtains to see the sunset with this atmospheric background of the percussions and suling flute giving you the expertise before Dewi Gita’s vocalizations having this spiritual/meditation guide that is both chilling and breathtaking. The band members go through some of the scenery as if they were film composers of giving the audience of the landscape along with Gita’s vocals as if she’s giving them directions to see where she would take them.

Now we have come to the two-part suite of the title-track which on the MoonJune Bandcamp website is in 2-parts, (but on CD, which is track 5, it clocks in at 26-minutes and 25 seconds) is where everything comes together. The first part is Kaili. It begins with this swift sunrise of more of the meditation that is beyond the atmospheric touch before walking towards a creepy entrance thanks to Dwiki strumming the piano strings and opening the doors to this new world.

But then it suddenly changes as Smit’s arrangements on his vocals followed by the drums and Yaron’s upright bass as he bows through the sound while Asaf and Carles get the engines rolling for a trippy scenario. I can hear some similarities on the first section of Traffic’s The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys with a fusion-funk twist. Dwiki then comes back to the piano for another walk towards the spiral staircase for a long rest after touring of the big cities.

On the second part of the suite which is Perjalanan. Carles, Asaf, Dwiki, and Nguyen take turns while Le goes through the soundscapes by going through some of the weird vibes and it gives him a chance to shine through some of the wildly introverting styles on his guitar. He takes his instrument by going through some of the reverb and delay effects through the passages of space and time.

And then Carles takes the bass and does these aspects between Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius-sque improve before delving into the tug of King Crimson’s third and final section of The Devil’s Triangle with more crescendo’s and haywiring insanity as Dwiki channels Keith Tippett’s piano exercise. Rumah Batu is a very interesting release that Dharmawan has released this year. I’ll admit, it didn’t grab me as much, but it’s not to say it’s a bad album, but a very good release that he’s done.

I hope he'll continue to do more in the years and years to come to understand and finding out what will Dwiki Dharmawan think of next. But Rumah Batu is so far, as I’ve mentioned, an interesting release. And I hope that he explores more adventures and the journey that awaits him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Crayola Lectern - Happy Endings

Launched in late 2000, Chris Anderson is the brainchild behind Crayola Lectern. What he wanted to was create this extension of his personality instead of artistic compositions. It involved the procurement of a piano. He released his debut album in 2013 on the Bleeding Hearts Recordings label entitled, The Fall and Rise of… with critical acclaim. Among the supporters that included Robert Wyatt and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, The music itself had this new sound that is rich and wonder.

The first album dealt with the subject issue on the loss of a loved one, but the subject is filled with humor, irreverence, or a paradox. This year, he released a follow up, this time on a new label with Onomatopoeia Records entitled, Happy Endings. The textures on the new release, details an optimistic look on the issue of death. While we feel that it is approaching, it takes on a whole new role on our lives and what will happen to us when we go into the afterlife.

When I was listening to Happy Endings, I wasn’t thinking of the terms Alternative and Psychedelic Rock, I was thinking to myself “Where is this coming from? This is something special that Anderson himself has brought to the table.” For me, it felt the same way when I was introduced into the world of William D. Drake’s The Rising of the Lights back seven years ago.

Happy Endings is filled with joy, sadness, strong structures, and saying goodbye to the people that you knew and cared about. Opener, Rescue Mission begins with a pounding piano and horn section that opens the door with a swirling farfisa organ that is climbing through the melodic horns to follow suit. The lyrics deal about a superhero who felt that while he’s given up everything, he has one last chance to go out in a blaze of glory.

I can imagine Chris wrote this song for Michael Keaton’s character for the 2014 Black Comedy-Drama classic, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). It’s a great way to start the album off as Anderson takes you through the mind of the hero’s struggle to not let go of everything he’s done to make the city safe. While there’s not going to be another mission for him, the people in the city only care about themselves.

Linger On is this cross between The Beatles White Album and Brian Wilson’s lyrical arrangements. It has these catchy dreamy lullaby lyrics with some eerie chipmunk-sque vocal arrangements followed by not just a joyful rhythm section, but some surreal compositions. Barbara’s Persecution Complex has a vaudeville/ragtime intro as the coin goes into the nickelodeon.

It is a surreal madness on the keyboards of being inside the mental institution with some rising chords, fuzz-tone guitars and horn sections. I can see William D. Drake conducting one of Chris’ pieces and giving the band members some ideas on where he wants them to go into. (Don’t) Let Go is a cross between the haunting/mournful piano chords resembling Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom-era.

The loss of Victoria shows how much that either she was struggling through her mental state/depression as she was dying on the inside or it was all just a dream. On Secrets Lectern’s vocals and the usages of the horn and church organ delve into a melodic fanfare arrangement as it sets sail to unknown worlds. There’s a bit of Gruff Rhys in Chris’ vocals and a tipping of the hat towards Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around the World-era.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in my review, Happy Endings is an emotional yet staggering release. Now, this is my 11th time listening to Crayola Lectern’s new album. And while I’m new to his music, there’s going to be some major competition on who is going to be 2018’s album of the year so far. If you love the essence between early Pink Floyd, Super Furry Animals, and Robert Wyatt with a twist of Sunshine/Baroque Pop, Happy Endings is the album you need to check out.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mark Wingfield - Tales from the Dreaming City

Two years ago, I discovered one of most innovative guitarists thanks to the MoonJune label. His name is Mark Wingfield. After being on his incredible journey with Proof of Light, The Stone House, and Lighthouse, his collaborations with Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, and Yaron Stavi, Wingfield himself has returned again this year with the release of his new album, Tales from the Dreaming City.

Recorded two years ago at La Casa Murade in Banyeres del Penedes, Spain in February, gives Wingfield more creative freedom and essential textures by providing more ideas to the table. He’s more than just a guitar player, but one of those artists to take a leap forward beyond the progressive and jazz genre.

With bassist Yaron Stavi, drummer Asaf Sirkis, and guest keyboardist Dominique Vantomme, Mark is like a painter and gives the listener these background images on what he’s painted through the ten tracks on his new album. It’s like these stories from various timeframes and the music itself is atmospheric, mysterious, and melodic. What Mark Wingfield has done is to bring these ideas to let the flowers grow brighter and brighter.

Listening to Tales from the Dreaming City is like opening a book set through these structures by telling a story and understanding the characteristics and locational background through each of their lives. And Wingfield sets it beautifully by creating this alternate film score. I can hear the inspirations between Allan Holdsworth’s SynthAxe and Terje Rypdal through Mark’s arrangements.

It’s not Mark playing like them, but tipping his hat off to the two masters and carrying their Olympic torches and seeing what will happen next. I can imagine Wingfield took inspirations of the authors between Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Mark Twain, Phillip K. Dick, and Jack Kerouac.

I loved how he goes into some of the aspects of the ambient and the Canterbury influences from The Way to Hemingford Grey before driving into the dark tunnels to the smooth warm cup of coffee by starting the morning off at the Sunlight CafĂ©. Sirkis goes into some drum exercises on the track before they head inside the mind of Dwayne Hoover’s mental breakdown from the 1973 book, Breakfast of Champions.

The spiraling late ‘60s  melodic structures between Wingfield and Stavi going up the spiral staircase up to the views of Heaven’s skyscraper as it reminisces of Seventh Wave’s Star Palace of the Sombre Warrior on the Ten Mile Bank. When I listened to The Green-Faced Timekeepers which features Sirkis’ scatting at the end of the composition, it brought back a memory for me as a kid hearing the Dungeon Theme from the Nintendo classic, The Legend of Zelda.

I can imagine one of these days Mark Wingfield would do a score for a video game and it did reminded me of that. And part of me was thinking to myself listening to the final track, “Is Mark scoring for a game? Because if he is, it would be something.” Now for me, Tales from the Dreaming City as I’ve mentioned earlier, is an opened book. And it’s discovering what Wingfield himself to bring these conceptual textures to the coffee table. It’s quite an interesting experience and I hope he will do more to see what will come up with next.

Phoebe Legere - Heart of Love

In an interview with Julia Mesi on Videowave back in May of 1985, Julia asks Phoebe Legere on how the performance of concept art holds together various talents. Phoebe responds; “When I’m a performance artist, I’m operating in a new genre which I call ‘Total Arts Synthesis.’ Which ignores the demarcations between the individual arts and explores the universal arts spirit which flows through all of them.”

Now Phoebe Legere is a name you probably may or may not recognize. I remember when I was a little kid going with my Dad to Blockbuster Video and renting The Toxic Avenger Part II. Phoebe portrayed as Toxie's blind girlfriend, Claire. Now mind you, I didn’t know who she was and I knew a little bit of Troma films back in the day after Toxic Crusaders was on 20 Vision KTXH Houston. This was in the early ‘90s.

As I grew older, I completely forgot about it and moved on. Cut to last year when I first heard Phoebe’s music. Now I was taken aback at first. It’s this mixture between Cajun music, Americana, country, cabaret, rockabilly, alternative and vaudeville. Her new album released last year, Heart of Love shows that Phoebe is more than just an actress. But she’s also a painter, poet, filmmaker, and a musician.

She also opened for the late great David Bowie 28 years ago for his Sound + Vision tour. Heart of Love is an album of giving Phoebe a drive down the desert highway to show how long the journey she’s been from day one. The guitars set up the delay/reverb introduction on Hello Friday as the rhythm acoustic guitar sets up the car to of revving to get away from the glimmering lights of Las Vegas and see where the highway will take us to.

By punching the clock and ready to walk, Phoebe delivers the scenery as you can imagine the dance floor enjoying the music as it has this Imelda May-sque style of rockabilly rhythm. The cover of Hank Williams’ Jambaylaya, Phoebe and the band takes you down the Louisiana Rivers for a down home/country-cajun adventure as her accordion helps out of giving Legere a chance to have a grand old to both dance and sing.

You can imagine being on the riverboat and smelling the delicious spicy Cajun food with some foot-stomping rhythm, and being in the hottest part of the afternoon to enjoy the culture, food, and the music. Phoebe takes us deeper into this psychedelic futuristic experimental country voyage into the Blue Canoe. Thanks to the electronic drum-loop, Hendrix-sque guitar lines, and wah-wah effect, Legere goes beyond the Cajun structures and delving deeper into the unknown.

Wrong Honky Tonk, you can close your eyes and imagine being in the O.K. Corrall in the early 1870s and being in the old west of Tombstone, Arizona. With its saloon piano, soothing vocals, country, and accordions, it’s a toast to the drunks and you can tell that the enjoyment is in Phoebe’s vocals and having a huge amounts of fun. You can imagine her performing at the bar and stealing the show and giving the cowboys a standing ovation.

Now I will have to admit, while I’m not a big fan of the music, I have to give Phoebe Legere props of what she’s brought to the table. Now does she have the greatest singing voice? No, but Heart of Love is an interesting release. And you might want to be prepare to drive and not just to enjoy the ride, but embark with Phoebe’s stories, fun, and the folky atmosphere.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Molesome - Dial

Mattias Olsson has been a very busy, busy man when it comes to both bands and projects. Whether it’s his work between White Willow, Anglagard, Pixie Ninja, il Tempio Delle Clessidre, Vly, and Necromonkey, Mattias has been around from day one. Now Molesome is another of Mattias’ projects. And it is this journey that would take beyond this deep, dark, eerie, musique-concrete, avant-electronic jazz cavernous sound he brought to the second album, Dial.

What Olsson wanted to do on the follow up to their 2015 release with Songs for Vowels and Mammals, was to create this piece that would emulate the sound of listening to a radio and going through different channels and listening to the static noises with tiny bits of music coming through. Clocking in at 32 minutes and 44 seconds, Molesome’s second album which is recorded at Roth-Handle Studios in Sweden, the music brings at times both of the composers from Philip Glass and Steve Reich, the Jazz sounds in an echoing reverb effect.

The effect has this sound as if it is calling for a fanfare in the cave as Olsson challenges the listener to follow suit and seeing where the danger is heading whether it is clockwork or as a Rubik’s cube. Mattias is like a puzzle master by giving the listener a giant step to see where and how those locations can be both tricky and surreal. Not only that, but Dial is going through inside of the mansion of a Rubik’s cube and walking through these spiral staircases and the traps that are set, they are both tricky and very dangerous.

Molesome’s music is giving Mattias doing an alternate score for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks franchise. You can hear the Trumpets, post-rock guitar loops, King Crimson’s THRAK-era of the Mellotron setting up this ‘50s dystopian future, the echoing effects of Miles Davis’ A Tribute to Jack Johnson, dialogue going back and forth, it is all there. After my listening of Dial around five, seven times, Dial is a very interesting release this year.

It made me try to understand what Olsson is doing by taking me to these parallel doors that go beyond The Twilight Zone. I will admit, this is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish. It is a challenging release and while I’m not crazy about it, Mattias is always moving forwards to see where the next door will take him to. And it shows that he has more tricks underneath his sleeve to see where the next card will take him to.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Fierce and the Dead - The Euphoric

The Fierce and the Dead have released their third studio album released on the Bad Elephant label this year. The quartet have shown no sign of stopping. It’s almost like a Rubik’s cube to see what mysterious passageways and parallel universes the band would discover to open these doors to see what lies ahead in these infinite worlds and decided where they would go to next. 

And The Euphoric is like that. They’ve created this alternate score with some of the post-punk, ‘80s new-wave sound that has made me come back for more on their adventures since listening to their first instrumental track released eight years ago simply titled as Part 1.

Matt, Kev, Stuart, and Steve have shown that they are new captains of the millennium falcon and being a part of their ride as they make the jump to light-speed into the cosmos. Not to mention the incredible album cover done by comic book artist whose best known for his work with Bill Willingham’s Fables, Mark Buckingham.

The opener, Truck  gives Matt Stevens and Steve Cleaton a chance for their guitars to rev up to get the car ready for the sun to rise. It has these Russian Circles-style of the quartet into the desert highway at dawn. Alongside Steve and Matt doing the driving, they do this midsection that is a stop-and-go sequence before going back into the Falcon for another adventure.

With 1999, Feazey’s synths and bass creates this score as if he was doing the music for John Hughes’ 1985 classic, The Breakfast Club. It has these textures between NEU!, Ultravox, and XTC combined into one for the Fierce and the Dead to carry their torches for them and making sure their legacy will keep going for many generations to come.

Kev pays nod to both Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express and Vangelis’ score to the 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner with Dug Town. It then changes near the end for the rhythm and lead section to create this intensity as Stuart follows suit on the drums on knowing once they leave the city, they can start a new beginning.

Verbose is Gothic and Post-Punk to create this level for some of these ominous surroundings thanks to Feazey’s dooming bass work. It creates this ride that is more and more increased the get the energy levels up. The Fierce and the Dead have always been one of my favorite bands. And it is always wonderful to hear what the quartet will think of next.
I always wonder what Matt Stevens himself will think of next since I was blown away from his solo debut release of the Echo album released back in February of 2010 which I reviewed here on my blog site. He’s come a long way. And for him to be not just part of the label with Bad Elephant Music, but The Fierce and The Dead are in my opinion are a family that works together. And The Euphoric is the growing spark.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Terry Draper - Remarkable Women

Terry Draper is best known for his work with the most brilliant band called, Klaatu. They have released five studio albums from 1976 to 1981 and best known for their song Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft which the Carpenters covered in their 1977 album, Passage. And not to mention one of my favorite albums that I discovered while I was in Houston Community College eight years ago, Hope.

When Klaatu folded in 1981 after the release of the fifth and final studio album, Magentalane, Terry returned home to his recording studio as a solo artists at Oak Ridges, Ontario. He has released ten studio albums as a solo artist that one of them included some of the members of Klaatu that appeared on his debut album in 1997 entitled, Light Years Later.

Last year, he released his new album entitled, Remarkable Women which is a follow-up to his 2016 album, Searching. The theme of his new album covers the subject of the Women that were remarkable and ahead of their time. The album is released in a guitar-shaped USB format. The themes of Terry’s new album is very interesting and very good.

You have this psychedelic baroque pop flavor of Younger Girl in which Draper brings the late ‘60s to life and paying a nod to The Cowsills’ The Rain, The Park, & Other Things in the lyric to pay respect to the group while he delves into an automatic Arena Rock approach in the style of AOR (Album-Orientated Rock) on Shy Girl. It has this late ‘70s/early ‘80s style with some Hendrix-sque guitars and Foreigner’s first two albums into the mix and followed by some ascending midsection approaches.

Terry also has a bit of humor in his music. When you listen to Annabella, he’s going into his Jimmy Buffett and Calypso surroundings as you dance to the groove to watch the sunrise go down as She’s All Mine is dedicated to his wife. It has the Klaatu atmosphere with some guitar work, organ, and stomping drums.

With some Beatle-sque arrangements on his vocals, the lyrics and the story based on the love of his life, shows that the two of them have been there from day one and they will be together with each other, forever and ever. Dragon Lady is a haunting and stirring composition that is almost set in the Land of the Rising Sun.

It has the subject issue of the dangers of the characterizations of this creature that lives underground and what she can do to lure their prey featuring some Mellotron-sque moments, snarling guitar work as if Terry is letting the beast come out and ready to attack the city with her powers. The keyboard program on Maria, sounds like Ottmar Libert’s extraordinary guitar playing. Is it Flamenco-Pop? If it is, it’s very interesting for Terry to delve into.

Draper’s singing for the two characterizations doing this Tango-sque dance between each other as he does this little tug in the midsection to Graham Bond’s Love is the Law before the fanfare finale from the keyboards sounding almost like the horns to do one last hurrah. Abigail is a nod to the Music Hall and Salad Days essence of Vaudeville as Draper is singing through this megaphone-sque sound on his vocals before the Mellotron sets up the scenario of the golden years and a nod to Stackridge’s Dancing on Air.

Terry Draper’s new album, I will have to admit, after listening to it about six or nine times of Remarkable Women, it didn’t grab me, but it shows that Terry himself shows that he’s come a long way from both with Klaatu and as a solo artist. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, but it is a very interesting release and it’s a not-so-bad album, but pretty good, but it’s what Terry does and he shows he is more than just a member of Klaatu and doing what he wants to do.