Blasthead – Landscape

Lastrum LACD-0049

Sounding a bit like Harmonia or the more electronic side of Krautrock, Blasthead appears on the same label as The Calm.
It’s a similar mix of jazzy instrumentation, Mo’Wax downtempo beats played live (or at least I think so), a series of groove experiments.
It reminds me most of the Orb’s first album without the spoken word samples, or more likely the Orb’s version of ambient. Unlike the Orb, Blasthead feel no need to keep the dancefloor in sight. Rhythm, when it comes, arrives unexpectedly, sometimes fast, like an exploding drum circle, other times slow, like the multi-layered handclaps that remind me of Eno/Schwalm’s Drawn from Life. Lots of hammer dulcimer. At one point, some very discordant free jazz sax makes its way into the mix, waking up all the stoners in the chill out room.
There’s liquid bass, bubbling synths, a general blue-purple sound.
“Scene 4” grooves for for five minutes before blossoming into a big-beat, organ-drenched psychedelic rock freakout. At the moment, these two albums are hard to tell apart.

The Calm – 1969 Before the Dawn

Lastrum LACD-0040

Last time Jon returned from japan, he came back with some very strange CDs by groups I had never heard of, all supposedly coming out of this one record shop/label in Tokyo.
I’ve heard them in passing and very pleasant they are in an acoustic ambient way. This time he has returned with two that I can properly listen to. The Calm make this wonderful blend of ambient synths, distant, echoey trumpets, melancholia, and slightly danceable beats.
Track 8 has something approaching a drum’n’bass riff, mixing in Reich repetition, wandering sitar, lonesome shakuhachi.
Imagine if Tortoise hadn’t sprouted from reformed punks, but psychedelic rockers. Imagine if they listened to DJ Shadow, not knowing it was madefrom samples, and tried to recreate it live (though for all I know this is all done in someone’s bedroom on ProTools.) That’s the Calm. They like their sound samples too: the good old moonshot countdown sample, and some French lady saying I-don’t-know-what.

Kahimi Karie – Trapeziste

Victor VICL-61070
I never thought I’d like another Kahimi Karie album again
after the truly awful triple whammy of Once Upon a Time, Journey to the Center of Me, and Tilt, all of which together contained maybe about one decent song. The music was sonically dull, and Kahimi was way up beyond her already whisper thin range. This wasn’t singing, this was asphyxiating. So what a surprise that Trapeziste is full of great grooves and a reformed chanteuse who talks and sing-songs her way through songs. Best of all, she often drops out of the song altogether and lets the rhythms do their thing—this album features some lovely arrangements. Kahimi even sings the Habanera from Carmen and doesn’t sound out of her range or depth (though a native Frenchman would be able to tell me if her French has improved at all). Momus is, I think, nowhere to be seen this time, but the producing is done by Tomoki Kanda (Chocolat, etc.) and Koki Tokai from Ah! Folly Jet, a very eclectic mix of dub electronics and jazz (free, bebop, and some faux-Django). Some sounds live, but that could just be sound effects. Could it be that her fellow countrymen understand her better than her international suitors? (Which reminds me: I haven’t heard the previous “My Suitor,” which could either be worse or better.)

Puffy – Nice

Epic/Sony ESCL-2357

Sometimes you just gotta be in the mood.
I think I spun Puffy’s new one (well, newish one) about three times—twice at home, once in the car, where things are different—but didn’t think much of it. It was like their last album—The Hit Parade—full of the usual Puffy pep, but running in circles. Now, suddenly, when I’ve thrown it on while I do some work, it has jumped out at me. I keep stopping and thinking, where did this come from? Have I really owned this since May? The secret to any good Puffy album is how well Tamio Okuda and the girls’ other producer songwriters are doing, and this time Andy Sturmer producers and brings along some great stuff. The opening track “Red Swing” lifts from Jeff Lynne, but that wouldn’t be the first time. By the time you realize the theft, they’re onto a bit of Buggles (“Tokyo Nights”) and some Madness-style ska (“K2G”), and that banjo-fueled pop folk that occasionally turns up in their music kitchen (“Shiawase”). And that’s not to mention their best single in ages, which came out in 2001 and jumped an album to appear here, “Atarashii Hibi,” a joyous little romp, full of power chords and a twirling organ-led hook. Nice, indeed.

Lennon vs. Lenin

Oy! Again with the Russians. Here’s an interesting look by historian Mikhail Safanov of how the Beatles brought down the Soviet Union.

Guardian Unlimited: Confessions of a Soviet moptop
During a chess match between Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov in the 1980s, the two grandmasters were each asked to name their favourite composer. The orthodox communist Karpov replied: ‘Alexander Pakhmutov, Laureate of the Lenin Komsomol award’. The freethinking Kasparov answered: ‘John Lennon.’

Men At Work – Cargo

CBS/Columbia CK 38660

Men at Work stand as the first band I ever saw live,
back when I was a wee lad in 1982. They played the Santa Barbara County Bowl with Mental As Anything opening (how’s that for an ’80s flashback?). It’s probably where I smelled pot the first time. It was certainly my first tour T-shirt (longsleeve baseball-style, as was the fashion). And Cargo has been in my collection since it came out. But I hadn’t listened to it for a long time until I got the CD (and not the remastered version, which I’m still looking for).
Far from being Police-copyists and a dated embarrassment, I think the album still holds up well. This was the early ’80s, so the drums are not Gotterdamerung-volume. Apart from a few twee synth sounds here and there, the band is tight (they’re like a poppy King Crimson on “I Like To,”? an otherwise throwaway song that turns into an angular jam). Best of all is Colin Hay’s lyrics and general songwriting. Yes, he wrote a song about a Vegemite sandwich, but most of this album is sunshine-dappled angst. I think there’s a total of one song that could be considered a love song”””Blue For You”?””and that ends with intimations of suicide (“I could take a big jump!”?). But mostly there’s this: “Blood on the pillow on my bed / Explains the pain that’s in my head.”? (“High Wire”?). Or songs about nuclear war (“It’s a Mistake”?), angst-fueled insomnia (“Overkill”? a great song that was always too dark to have been a single), directionlessness (“No Restrictions”?), or post-breakup depression (the also fabulous and justifiably long “No Sign of Yesterday”?). Great guitars solos on all these, and I’m not a guitar solo guy. They’re minimal but refined.
The other thing I enjoyed: the air between the instruments. There’s been so much muddy production recently that the sound of this album suddenly stood out as enjoyably crisp. I never followed Men at Work after the core group split (and “Two Hearts”? is just a jumble of sequenced noise), but I’d like to believe Colin Hay is still writing some good tunes. (Decide for yourself.)

RIAA’s Jackboot Thugs Move In

Well folks, the RIAA has let their lawyers loose and sending out cease-and-desist notices to everybody with mp3 sites. My two favorite sites (this one and this one) for rare ’80s mp3s has been shut down, and they only posted maybe five per week, all completely out of print and sometimes totally unheard of. And what good will this do? The RIAA are penny-pinching big business suits trying to comprehend why their sales are down, and why they’ve lost customers. They’ve spent years in cahoots with the music industry screwing the artist; now they’re screwing the consumer.

Paint the Sky With Stars – Enya

Reprise 9 46835-2

Well, there’s only one reason I borrowed this
from the library, and that was for Enya’s first, and best, fluke hit “Orinoco Flow”. Yeh, but did I listen to the rest of the CD?
After one aborted listen, having to stop after the horrific “Anywhere Is,” I tried again and made it all the way through. Talk about the law of diminishing returns. It’s an example of an artist totally misunderstanding what made her first hit so good. There’s fifteen other tracks here that have the “Enya” sound–smooth multitracked vocals, crushed digital velvet, quasi-Celtic mysticism, slow tempos–but none of the idiosyncracies of “Orinoco Flow.” There’s an erratic rhythm in the verses, a grand pomposity to the use of kettle drums, and the lyrics are mostly onomatopoeia. Who cares if “From Bissau to Palau – in the shade of Avalon/ from Fiji to Tiree and the Isles of Ebony” means anything? It sounds good. And don’t forget the last hanging chord, like a question mark.
The other songs make sure all the ambiguity of “Orinoco Flow” is solved. The chords are sunnier, the songs finish with major chords. The lyrics get dippy. “Sail away, sail away, sail away” conjured up some sort of wanderlust. “Anywhere Is” features a melody programmed by kazoo, and words such as “The moon upon the ocean / is swept around in motion / but without ever knowing / the reason for its flowing / in motion on the ocean” are trite, especially if you know the sing-song way it’s sung.
And if anyone develops a drinking game based around the number of times Enya uses the factory setting “tolling bell” sound (as first heard at the beginning of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”) then the chap who puts this CD on will wind up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.


You are now looking at my CD collection. With a day spent restoring my crashed drive (see the main page for that story), I spent the down time doing something I’ve been meaning to do since 1996: sort my CD collection into a manageable alphabetical order. I was stuck in the house anyway. I always used to keep my collection in order, but the bigger it got, the lazier I became. Since coming to the Mills Compound in December, this has been on my to-do list. I knew it would take some time, and it did.
Most of my CDs have had their cases tossed and replaced with thin poly bags that hold both booklet and J-card. (You can get them at Bags Unlimited.) So what you are looking at is a fraction of what it could be.
I sorted ’em into alphabetical piles on the floor and took this picture. You can see the piles for B, C, and F are the largest, the reason being my obsession past and present for The Beatles, David Bowie, Beck, Elvis Costello, and The Fall. The P pile should be bigger as an extra three feet of Pizzicato Five CDs were already sorted and on the shelf. The “Various Artists” pilie was big enough to divide into two, and next to that there is the Soundtracks pile, the Jazz pile, the Classical pile, and below that Video Game Soundtracks, and VCD (mostly porn, apparently. Where did that come from?) And do you really care about this?
Anyway, it’s all sorted now and shelved away. At last I know where everything is.