New This Week: Eraserhead Soundtrack, Antony & the Johnsons and More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 08.07.12 in Spotlights

Antony & the Johnsons, Cut the World: Live album from Antony featuring symphonic takes on his best-loved songs. Barry Walters says:

Unlike most musicians making strikingly contemporary art, Hegarty isn’t beholden to technology; his voice-and-piano-based, largely acoustic studio arrangements only occasionally draw on electronic effects. The orchestral renditions heard here open the music up with heightened dynamics that compliment the fragile nuances of his expression. “Cripple and the Starfish,” for example, is far more romantic than the 1998 album version, and the change heightens the contrast between the brutality described in the lyric and the gentleness with which the singer regards his abusive lover: This discrepancy is devastating.

Eraserhead (Original Soundtrack Recording): If you’ve seen Eraserhead, you can guess what the deal is here: lots of ambient wooshing, clanging, some extracts of the film’s bizarro dialogue and the bewitching “In Heaven” make this a Highly Recommended offering for those with more avant-garde tastes. Andy Beta says:

Though Variety originally panned the film as “sickening,” they did praise Lynch’s sound design, which returns in this reissue from the similarly crepuscular Sacred Bones label. Across the two epic suites, industrial throb turns to rust-belt ambience, which turns to cryptic dialogue and banal family-meal chatter and then back to alien drone and radiator shriek. An oasis in such oddness and clamor, the eerie incant by the Lady in the Radiator that “in heaven, everything is fine” (actually sung by cult figure Peter Ivers) still beguiles; everyone from Devo to the Pixies to Bauhaus and Modest Mouse have referenced it.

Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang, En Yay Sah: I was lucky enough to see Janka Nabay in Brooklyn last Friday night and the show was spectacular — full of boiling energy and boundless charm. His Recommended new record is much the same. Ben Beaumont-Thomas says:

The Bubu Gang is a band whose members have previously played in Brooklyn mainstays like Gang Gang Dance, Skeletons and Zs; Nabay is a Sierra Leonean ex-pat who escaped the civil war there in 2003. Their resulting album is a faithful African pop record, with little in the way of American influence, although the warm, clear production is a satisfying step up from the tinny cassette-tape sound that you get with much of the continent’s homegrown music. The Bubu Gang are no slouches when it comes to the polyrhythmic roll of the bubu sound, nailing its taut cadences with rapid-fire organ chords and almost surf-style guitar.

Opossom, Electric Hawaii: Jubilant, soaring indiepop music that shoves the yearning vocals of Kody Nielson way out front. Parts of this sound like a more mystic take on the Shins, but it’s also weirder and more percussive than that. One other thing it is is Highly Recommended. Matthew Perpetua says:

Opossom dresses up its stoner pop in crisp, clean tones that evoke sky-blue swimming pools and impeccably stylish lounges. Nearly every track on Electric Hawaii calls back to the clattering rhythm of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” but Nielson’s skill with hooks and shifting dynamics keep the record from feeling too repetitive.

Nu Sensae, Sundowning: Alrighty! Rip-roaring bloody-throated punk rock music where larynx-ruining screams sit side-by-side with eerie, dead-eyed cooing. A much more furious version of X-Ray Spex comes to mind. Recommended

Fergus & Geronimo, Funky Was the State of Affairs: I have a soft spot for these jokesters. No matter what the title says (and the fact that the name of the first song is a vague reference to Maggot Brain), there is very little funky about this record. Instead, this is the same batch of galloping indie F&G have always excelled at. Evan Minsker says:

Paranoia and the idea of “being watched” are pervasive. There’s an early monologue and a spoken-word track about phone tapping and a handclapping R&B track called “Spies” (who, the chorus informs us, are outside in a van). Those conspiracy theories are paired with catchy melodies. “Drones” features an earworm guitar hook and a near-motorik beat, and “No Parties” has a fairly buoyant synth for its Orwellian lyrics.

Ape School, Junior Violence: The album and artist name here are deceiving! There’s nothing apelike or violent about this. This is sparkling, hook-heavy indie pop. Layered vocals, leftfield melodies and oddball synth squelches should make this one appeal to fans of odder indie like Dr. Dog.

The Liminanas, Crystal Anis: I’m real into this band. Eerie outer-space psych stuff with occasional nods to French pop (see track 2). There’s kind of a pervasive mood of dread here that’s both bewitching and hard to shake. And, of course, it’s on the excellent HoZac label. Recommended

Puffy Areolas, 1982: Dishonorable Discharge: Speaking of HoZac! Here’s another one from the stables. Mean, nasty and gnarly, this is box-of-nails punk at its gritty and grimiest. The lowest of lo-fi noise-punk. In a good way.

Apache Dropout, Bubblegum Graveyard: Pouty garage rock from eMusic faves Apache Dropout on the always-excellent Trouble in Mind label. This is a little bit monster mash, a little bit greaser stomp. Austin L. Ray says:

From the opening of the organ-dappled “Archie’s Army,” a song seemingly about zombie comic-strip characters (!), the production is slicker and the songwriting more approachable. Apache Dropout has located a pleasing middle ground between skuzzy and sensible, a nice safe place for melodies and marauders alike.

Various Artists, we Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash: The title says it all: Everyone from Willie Nelson to Kris Kristofferson to Iron & Wine to Sheryl Crow gather to pay tribute to the Man in Black. Rhett Miller covers “The Wreck of the Old 97.” We see what you did there.

Erik Blood, Touch Screens: Roiling, turbulent guitars bury soft, tentative vocals; some of this has a distinct shoegaze feel, other moments are cleaner and spookier. Swirling, UK-style late ’80s dreampop is the operative here.

Niki & the Dove, Instinct: Like Swedish pop? Here’s a batch of sugary, fizzy Swedish goodness. Big dance beats, wooshing purple synths and squeaky/pouty vocals flying over top. This is a little more aggro than Robyn, a little less mysterious than The Knife. It exists at some strange fjord in between.

Spider Bags, Shake My Head: Rowdy, worked-up rock and roll from North Carolina’s Spider Bags; this is a punk rock take on Americana; you can hear shards of country music and bar rock and pickup-truck hootenannies, but it’s all a bit busted and scuffed-up, in the best possible way.

Jazz Picks, by Dave Sumner

The trombone players win the week. Several albums with trombonist as the lead, others where they are integral part of the ensemble. Also, this week’s releases breaks the recent trend of fringes of jazz albums dominating the Jazz Picks. Most of today’s recs have both feet in Jazz territory. Let’s begin…

Avery Sharpe, Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I A Woman?: Bassist Sharpe offers this concept album built around the societal contributions of abolitionist and woman’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. Sharpe rounds out a sextet with Yoron Israel (drums), Duane Eubanks (trumpet), Jeri Brown (vocals), Craig Handy (sax), and Onaje Allan Gumbs (piano). This is music that recalls the Soul Jazz-African music fusion of Archie Shepp’s classic Impulse albums Attica Blues and The Cry of My People. Music that swings, even when it’s heavy with the blues. Thoughtful music that isn’t afraid to put its heart on its sleeve and show it to the world. Pick of the Week.

Chris Stover, Circle By Night: The debut album from the Seattle trombonist, who has made a nice name for himself on the albums of others. Rounding out a quartet with piano, bass, and drums, Stover lets his instrument show its delicate side, and creates an album of mostly rainy day music. While the album has plenty of life, it’s mostly a warm embrace for a lazy afternoon, a lullaby of late night jazz. Highly Recommended.

Bobby Sanabria Big Band, Multiverse: Big Band leader Sanabria deftly blends Cuban and Puerto Rican musics with the music of his New York environment… rock, funk, jazz, hip hop, and whatever other ingredients catch his interest. The result is a very dynamic and richly textured album that features a groove front-and-center. And though the influences are many, there’s no mistaking this as anything but a Latin jazz Big Band recording. Very likable album.

Branford Marsalis Quartet, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes: Marsalis leads a quartet with Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums. No surprises here, just solid, straight-ahead jazz. And as with many Branford Marsalis albums, there is brilliance to be found in the nuances and wrinkles of the performance. Recommended.

Charles Loos, Andre Donni, and Aissawas de Rabat, Chou’our Moutabadila: An older album, this one released in 1997, but had to give it a mention. Woodwind player Donni and pianist Loos teamed up the Moroccan group Aissawas for a very cool mix of jazz, folk, liturgical chant, and Arabic music. Terribly beautiful at times, simply fascinating at others. Find of the Week.

David Ullmann Quintet, Falling: A set of modern jazz pieces by guitarist Ullmann. Quintet features vibe man Chris Dingman, who I would’ve liked to hear featured a bit more, both because he’s a talented musician, but also because I think the pairing of guitar and vibes is something special on a jazz albums. Saxophonist Karel Ruzicka Jr. is most often in the spotlight, and his opaque sound blends with Ullmann’s similar sound on guitar for a dreamy lyrical set of tunes.

Mark Masters Ensemble, Ellington Saxophone Encounters: Band leader and arranger Mark Masters has created an Ellington tribute album that focuses on the compositions by well-known Ellington sidemen like Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Hamilton, Harry Carney, Ben Webster, and Paul Gonsalves. Featuring Gary Smulyan on bari sax and Bill Cunliffe on piano, Masters leads the group through a pleasant set of classic jazz tunes.

Fire! with Oren Ambarchi, In the Mouth – a Hand: Guitarist Ambarchi joins the trio of Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin for a set of tunes more psych-rock than jazz. Driving tempos and long ponderous notes. Not your everyday type of music. Released on Rune Grammofone, which will give some of you a sense of where this music sits on the fringes of Jazz.

Bill Cantrall and Axiom, Live at the Kitano: Nice lively set of tunes from trombonist Cantrall. Leading a quintet (plus, a few guests) in a live performance for this recording, it’s a nice fix of music for the hard bop fans. Plus, decent sound for a live recording.

Sara Gazarek, Blossom and Bee: Whether a ballad or up-tempo piece, vocalist Gazarek has a breezy delivery that, really, should lend well to all types of music styles. Some tunes that are straight jazz, some tunes that might be just as home on a Bloodshot Records release, this is an album that might not knock anybody out of their seat, but over time, may grow into one of those go-to recordings when nothing but a jazz vocals album will do. Larry Goldings and Josh Nelson share duties on piano and keys. Bonus points for Gazarek also playing a glockenspiel, an instrument that has been making an appearance on several solid jazz albums in 2012.

Ed Byrne’s Latin Jazz Evolution, Conquistador: Jazz veteran Ed Byrne has been the trombonist for many of the jazz greats, from Mingus to Mulligan to Hampton. One of his current projects is the Latin Jazz Evolution septet, whose goal is to take experimental and technical approaches to Latin music, while still making it something that’s easy to dance to. A fun listen, and worth exploring.

Arte Quartett, Different Worlds: This album actually came out back in 2009, but seeing it in Freshly Ripped, I just wanted to get in a quick mention of it. It’s a nifty sax quartet album that has some very cool atmospheric moments, like a Nils Petter Molvaer world jazz sound, in addition to the more traditional jab-right cross series of punches typical of sax-only recordings.

Keith Jarrett, Sleeper: Fans of Jarrett’s European Quartet have reason to celebrate. ECM has just released this archived recording of a complete performance from the quartet’s 1979 Japanese tour. Jarrett on piano, Jan Garbarek on sax, Palle Danielsson on bass, and Jon Christensen on percussion. Personally, I always preferred the American Quartet, but this does sound pretty good.