KILLED in CARS

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KILLED in CARS is a 'thank you' to the musicians who enrich my life, and a way to reach people curious about expression through sound.

This site has thrived as a destination for discussion and listening thanks to its disregard for the canon and its dedication to making esoteric genres accessible. I appreciate your readership, and I hope that you choose to participate!

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Posts tagged free improv

Little Women - Lung

Already a band I’ve been following for some time, I’m delighted to review the newest epic from Brooklyn’s Little Women. Two years in the making, “Lung” has just been released by Aum Fidelity, and this album-length composition is easily set to be my favorite record of 2013. “Lung” is an enormous step forward, compositionally and emotionally, by a band whose previous work already forged a totally unique sound, equal parts plaintive and powerful, in the grooves of the debut EP “Teeth” and followup LP “Throat.”

I’ve long admired the Little Women sound for a kind of feral energy few bands can achieve, steeped in an Ayler-esque free blues but with the aggression of NYC hardcore and compositional and technical rigor rarely found outside of the classical world. This band can embody many genres, but we’re a full generation beyond the collage/montage approaches of bands like Naked City. Little Women transcends imitation and cultural references—having long ago fused their influences into a new essential substance, their work is forceful and direct. And even at their harshest moments, the music is driven by a deep archetypal understanding of melody—indeed, the full and unflinching devotion to melody sometimes takes the music into a violent heliosphere. In a world of cynicism and emotional detachment, Little Women plays with a raw sincerity that makes the impossible become the inevitable.

"Lung" adds a new set of dynamics to the work of Little Women in the form of patience and silence. And it’s a major change in the sound—as a composition, "Lung" demands a lot of patience and incorporates a tremendous amount of silence. The opening several minutes of the piece, for example, are almost completely without sound, as occasional brushes of percussion gradually open the space into music. The first introductory section of full-band playing that follows is the most gentle recorded offering from Little Women to date, melancholy and careful and respectful of the silence from which it was born.

The vocal section that evolves out of the introduction is a major revelation all its own. The whole band intones together, becoming one, preparing to act as a unit through the upheavals and calamities to come. Vocals made a brief appearance on the debut EP “Teeth,” but they were deployed as more of a weapon there, distorted, with harsh, short articulations. The long tones here bring us all together as well, band and audience, recognizing the shared experience this music demands.

I’m not going to do a play-by-play of this whole disc, as this is a composition that simply must be heard to realize its full impact. But I want to return to Little Women’s approach to silence and patience throughout the piece, as I think the emotional impact of silence shifts between two roles as “Lung” unfolds. In what roughly amounts to the first half of the album, silence is centering, imparting a rejuvenating effect that nurtures subsequent musical sections into being. In the second half, which starts just before the literal center of the piece, moments of silence are shorter, mostly stop-time holes in increasingly-punishing rhythmic passages, and they assume a role of “negative space” analogous to its use in painting or architecture, weightless pauses absolutely alive with the anticipation of oncoming mass.

This isn’t a precise division into two, but to my ears the piece coalesces around these contrasting approaches of patient anticipation and aggressive release. The band reports that the piece evolved around “Shakespearean form,” following elements of beauty toward tragic ends, and the record succeeds at manifesting these contrasts powerfully, both within smaller sections and looking at its timeline folded against itself. The extreme contrasts of “Lung” make its aggressive passages feel much more piercing than their previous work, which generally stayed frantic and violent for long stretches. “Lung” invites you all the way inside.

"Lung" is a really rich, complex piece, though, and repeated listenings will reveal many kinds of narrative forms. The liner notes suggest a division into four rough sections, mirroring the passage of seasons, and the band further reports that the primary themes of this record "exist simultaneously inside every sound, every phrase, every section, and the entire piece." With such a powerful, resonant recording, finding your own ways to relate to this music is part of the process.

While it’s fair to say that the dual (and sometimes duel) saxophone attack of Darius Jones and Travis LaPlante constitutes the dominant voice of Little Women, “Lung” provides more space to showcase the work of Andrew Smiley on guitar and Jason Nazary on drums than previous albums. The introductory cymbal work, for example, sets the tone for the whole first “inhalation” of the piece. And while Smiley leaves most of the melodic territory of this music to the saxes, his multifaceted approach to guitar quietly holds this piece together. With strategic chord work, weird textural approaches, and stabbing brutal riffs, mostly played through a clean sound that just begins to break up on hard attacks, guitars fill all of the right places in this music. You know you’re doing a few things right when there are never any moments when you wish a bass player was sitting in with the band.

Like the previous Little Women releases, “Teeth” features freaky cover art from guitarist Mick Barr, whose instantly recognizable drawing style adds a lot of continuity to the Little Women oeuvre. And speaking of Barr, Aum Fidelity’s decision to skip releasing this album on vinyl reminded me of my purchase of Orthrelm’s “Ov” LP years ago. Right in the middle of that dense, relentless piece, there’s a quick fade, and you have to flip the record, clean, cue, and jump in again. I love vinyl, but I always wished I’d opted for the CD version of that album—you have to stay in the zone, no distractions, to fully vibe on it. “Lung” is very much the same, demanding uninterrupted attention, and I think Aum Fidelity made the right decision sticking to CD (but still go back and pick up the previous album "Throat" on vinyl if you haven’t). This is a beautifully recorded album, too, captured live in one take, and it’s perfectly mixed and mastered, retaining a wider dynamic range than most orchestral albums.

It’s a seriously heavy experience—do yourself a favor and spend some time with “Lung.” Few bands even try to write something this musically and emotionally ambitious, and even fewer succeed. But I think fans of creative music from a wide variety of camps, metal to jazz to classical, will find this record to be a deeply moving experience.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Little Women - Lung

Already a band I’ve been following for some time, I’m delighted to review the newest epic from Brooklyn’s Little Women. Two years in the making, “Lung” has just been released by Aum Fidelity, and this album-length composition is easily set to be my favorite record of 2013. “Lung” is an enormous step forward, compositionally and emotionally, by a band whose previous work already forged a totally unique sound, equal parts plaintive and powerful, in the grooves of the debut EP “Teeth” and followup LP “Throat.”

I’ve long admired the Little Women sound for a kind of feral energy few bands can achieve, steeped in an Ayler-esque free blues but with the aggression of NYC hardcore and compositional and technical rigor rarely found outside of the classical world. This band can embody many genres, but we’re a full generation beyond the collage/montage approaches of bands like Naked City. Little Women transcends imitation and cultural references—having long ago fused their influences into a new essential substance, their work is forceful and direct. And even at their harshest moments, the music is driven by a deep archetypal understanding of melody—indeed, the full and unflinching devotion to melody sometimes takes the music into a violent heliosphere. In a world of cynicism and emotional detachment, Little Women plays with a raw sincerity that makes the impossible become the inevitable.

"Lung" adds a new set of dynamics to the work of Little Women in the form of patience and silence. And it’s a major change in the sound—as a composition, "Lung" demands a lot of patience and incorporates a tremendous amount of silence. The opening several minutes of the piece, for example, are almost completely without sound, as occasional brushes of percussion gradually open the space into music. The first introductory section of full-band playing that follows is the most gentle recorded offering from Little Women to date, melancholy and careful and respectful of the silence from which it was born.

The vocal section that evolves out of the introduction is a major revelation all its own. The whole band intones together, becoming one, preparing to act as a unit through the upheavals and calamities to come. Vocals made a brief appearance on the debut EP “Teeth,” but they were deployed as more of a weapon there, distorted, with harsh, short articulations. The long tones here bring us all together as well, band and audience, recognizing the shared experience this music demands.

I’m not going to do a play-by-play of this whole disc, as this is a composition that simply must be heard to realize its full impact. But I want to return to Little Women’s approach to silence and patience throughout the piece, as I think the emotional impact of silence shifts between two roles as “Lung” unfolds. In what roughly amounts to the first half of the album, silence is centering, imparting a rejuvenating effect that nurtures subsequent musical sections into being. In the second half, which starts just before the literal center of the piece, moments of silence are shorter, mostly stop-time holes in increasingly-punishing rhythmic passages, and they assume a role of “negative space” analogous to its use in painting or architecture, weightless pauses absolutely alive with the anticipation of oncoming mass.

This isn’t a precise division into two, but to my ears the piece coalesces around these contrasting approaches of patient anticipation and aggressive release. The band reports that the piece evolved around “Shakespearean form,” following elements of beauty toward tragic ends, and the record succeeds at manifesting these contrasts powerfully, both within smaller sections and looking at its timeline folded against itself. The extreme contrasts of “Lung” make its aggressive passages feel much more piercing than their previous work, which generally stayed frantic and violent for long stretches. “Lung” invites you all the way inside.

"Lung" is a really rich, complex piece, though, and repeated listenings will reveal many kinds of narrative forms. The liner notes suggest a division into four rough sections, mirroring the passage of seasons, and the band further reports that the primary themes of this record "exist simultaneously inside every sound, every phrase, every section, and the entire piece." With such a powerful, resonant recording, finding your own ways to relate to this music is part of the process.

While it’s fair to say that the dual (and sometimes duel) saxophone attack of Darius Jones and Travis LaPlante constitutes the dominant voice of Little Women, “Lung” provides more space to showcase the work of Andrew Smiley on guitar and Jason Nazary on drums than previous albums. The introductory cymbal work, for example, sets the tone for the whole first “inhalation” of the piece. And while Smiley leaves most of the melodic territory of this music to the saxes, his multifaceted approach to guitar quietly holds this piece together. With strategic chord work, weird textural approaches, and stabbing brutal riffs, mostly played through a clean sound that just begins to break up on hard attacks, guitars fill all of the right places in this music. You know you’re doing a few things right when there are never any moments when you wish a bass player was sitting in with the band.

Like the previous Little Women releases, “Teeth” features freaky cover art from guitarist Mick Barr, whose instantly recognizable drawing style adds a lot of continuity to the Little Women oeuvre. And speaking of Barr, Aum Fidelity’s decision to skip releasing this album on vinyl reminded me of my purchase of Orthrelm’s “Ov” LP years ago. Right in the middle of that dense, relentless piece, there’s a quick fade, and you have to flip the record, clean, cue, and jump in again. I love vinyl, but I always wished I’d opted for the CD version of that album—you have to stay in the zone, no distractions, to fully vibe on it. “Lung” is very much the same, demanding uninterrupted attention, and I think Aum Fidelity made the right decision sticking to CD (but still go back and pick up the previous album "Throat" on vinyl if you haven’t). This is a beautifully recorded album, too, captured live in one take, and it’s perfectly mixed and mastered, retaining a wider dynamic range than most orchestral albums.

It’s a seriously heavy experience—do yourself a favor and spend some time with “Lung.” Few bands even try to write something this musically and emotionally ambitious, and even fewer succeed. But I think fans of creative music from a wide variety of camps, metal to jazz to classical, will find this record to be a deeply moving experience.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Little Women - Lung

Already a band I’ve been following for some time, I’m delighted to review the newest epic from Brooklyn’s Little Women. Two years in the making, “Lung” has just been released by Aum Fidelity, and this album-length composition is easily set to be my favorite record of 2013. “Lung” is an enormous step forward, compositionally and emotionally, by a band whose previous work already forged a totally unique sound, equal parts plaintive and powerful, in the grooves of the debut EP “Teeth” and followup LP “Throat.”

I’ve long admired the Little Women sound for a kind of feral energy few bands can achieve, steeped in an Ayler-esque free blues but with the aggression of NYC hardcore and compositional and technical rigor rarely found outside of the classical world. This band can embody many genres, but we’re a full generation beyond the collage/montage approaches of bands like Naked City. Little Women transcends imitation and cultural references—having long ago fused their influences into a new essential substance, their work is forceful and direct. And even at their harshest moments, the music is driven by a deep archetypal understanding of melody—indeed, the full and unflinching devotion to melody sometimes takes the music into a violent heliosphere. In a world of cynicism and emotional detachment, Little Women plays with a raw sincerity that makes the impossible become the inevitable.

"Lung" adds a new set of dynamics to the work of Little Women in the form of patience and silence. And it’s a major change in the sound—as a composition, "Lung" demands a lot of patience and incorporates a tremendous amount of silence. The opening several minutes of the piece, for example, are almost completely without sound, as occasional brushes of percussion gradually open the space into music. The first introductory section of full-band playing that follows is the most gentle recorded offering from Little Women to date, melancholy and careful and respectful of the silence from which it was born.

The vocal section that evolves out of the introduction is a major revelation all its own. The whole band intones together, becoming one, preparing to act as a unit through the upheavals and calamities to come. Vocals made a brief appearance on the debut EP “Teeth,” but they were deployed as more of a weapon there, distorted, with harsh, short articulations. The long tones here bring us all together as well, band and audience, recognizing the shared experience this music demands.

I’m not going to do a play-by-play of this whole disc, as this is a composition that simply must be heard to realize its full impact. But I want to return to Little Women’s approach to silence and patience throughout the piece, as I think the emotional impact of silence shifts between two roles as “Lung” unfolds. In what roughly amounts to the first half of the album, silence is centering, imparting a rejuvenating effect that nurtures subsequent musical sections into being. In the second half, which starts just before the literal center of the piece, moments of silence are shorter, mostly stop-time holes in increasingly-punishing rhythmic passages, and they assume a role of “negative space” analogous to its use in painting or architecture, weightless pauses absolutely alive with the anticipation of oncoming mass.

This isn’t a precise division into two, but to my ears the piece coalesces around these contrasting approaches of patient anticipation and aggressive release. The band reports that the piece evolved around “Shakespearean form,” following elements of beauty toward tragic ends, and the record succeeds at manifesting these contrasts powerfully, both within smaller sections and looking at its timeline folded against itself. The extreme contrasts of “Lung” make its aggressive passages feel much more piercing than their previous work, which generally stayed frantic and violent for long stretches. “Lung” invites you all the way inside.

"Lung" is a really rich, complex piece, though, and repeated listenings will reveal many kinds of narrative forms. The liner notes suggest a division into four rough sections, mirroring the passage of seasons, and the band further reports that the primary themes of this record "exist simultaneously inside every sound, every phrase, every section, and the entire piece." With such a powerful, resonant recording, finding your own ways to relate to this music is part of the process.

While it’s fair to say that the dual (and sometimes duel) saxophone attack of Darius Jones and Travis LaPlante constitutes the dominant voice of Little Women, “Lung” provides more space to showcase the work of Andrew Smiley on guitar and Jason Nazary on drums than previous albums. The introductory cymbal work, for example, sets the tone for the whole first “inhalation” of the piece. And while Smiley leaves most of the melodic territory of this music to the saxes, his multifaceted approach to guitar quietly holds this piece together. With strategic chord work, weird textural approaches, and stabbing brutal riffs, mostly played through a clean sound that just begins to break up on hard attacks, guitars fill all of the right places in this music. You know you’re doing a few things right when there are never any moments when you wish a bass player was sitting in with the band.

Like the previous Little Women releases, “Teeth” features freaky cover art from guitarist Mick Barr, whose instantly recognizable drawing style adds a lot of continuity to the Little Women oeuvre. And speaking of Barr, Aum Fidelity’s decision to skip releasing this album on vinyl reminded me of my purchase of Orthrelm’s “Ov” LP years ago. Right in the middle of that dense, relentless piece, there’s a quick fade, and you have to flip the record, clean, cue, and jump in again. I love vinyl, but I always wished I’d opted for the CD version of that album—you have to stay in the zone, no distractions, to fully vibe on it. “Lung” is very much the same, demanding uninterrupted attention, and I think Aum Fidelity made the right decision sticking to CD (but still go back and pick up the previous album "Throat" on vinyl if you haven’t). This is a beautifully recorded album, too, captured live in one take, and it’s perfectly mixed and mastered, retaining a wider dynamic range than most orchestral albums.

It’s a seriously heavy experience—do yourself a favor and spend some time with “Lung.” Few bands even try to write something this musically and emotionally ambitious, and even fewer succeed. But I think fans of creative music from a wide variety of camps, metal to jazz to classical, will find this record to be a deeply moving experience.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Little Women - Lung

Already a band I’ve been following for some time, I’m delighted to review the newest epic from Brooklyn’s Little Women. Two years in the making, “Lung” has just been released by Aum Fidelity, and this album-length composition is easily set to be my favorite record of 2013. “Lung” is an enormous step forward, compositionally and emotionally, by a band whose previous work already forged a totally unique sound, equal parts plaintive and powerful, in the grooves of the debut EP “Teeth” and followup LP “Throat.”

I’ve long admired the Little Women sound for a kind of feral energy few bands can achieve, steeped in an Ayler-esque free blues but with the aggression of NYC hardcore and compositional and technical rigor rarely found outside of the classical world. This band can embody many genres, but we’re a full generation beyond the collage/montage approaches of bands like Naked City. Little Women transcends imitation and cultural references—having long ago fused their influences into a new essential substance, their work is forceful and direct. And even at their harshest moments, the music is driven by a deep archetypal understanding of melody—indeed, the full and unflinching devotion to melody sometimes takes the music into a violent heliosphere. In a world of cynicism and emotional detachment, Little Women plays with a raw sincerity that makes the impossible become the inevitable.

"Lung" adds a new set of dynamics to the work of Little Women in the form of patience and silence. And it’s a major change in the sound—as a composition, "Lung" demands a lot of patience and incorporates a tremendous amount of silence. The opening several minutes of the piece, for example, are almost completely without sound, as occasional brushes of percussion gradually open the space into music. The first introductory section of full-band playing that follows is the most gentle recorded offering from Little Women to date, melancholy and careful and respectful of the silence from which it was born.

The vocal section that evolves out of the introduction is a major revelation all its own. The whole band intones together, becoming one, preparing to act as a unit through the upheavals and calamities to come. Vocals made a brief appearance on the debut EP “Teeth,” but they were deployed as more of a weapon there, distorted, with harsh, short articulations. The long tones here bring us all together as well, band and audience, recognizing the shared experience this music demands.

I’m not going to do a play-by-play of this whole disc, as this is a composition that simply must be heard to realize its full impact. But I want to return to Little Women’s approach to silence and patience throughout the piece, as I think the emotional impact of silence shifts between two roles as “Lung” unfolds. In what roughly amounts to the first half of the album, silence is centering, imparting a rejuvenating effect that nurtures subsequent musical sections into being. In the second half, which starts just before the literal center of the piece, moments of silence are shorter, mostly stop-time holes in increasingly-punishing rhythmic passages, and they assume a role of “negative space” analogous to its use in painting or architecture, weightless pauses absolutely alive with the anticipation of oncoming mass.

This isn’t a precise division into two, but to my ears the piece coalesces around these contrasting approaches of patient anticipation and aggressive release. The band reports that the piece evolved around “Shakespearean form,” following elements of beauty toward tragic ends, and the record succeeds at manifesting these contrasts powerfully, both within smaller sections and looking at its timeline folded against itself. The extreme contrasts of “Lung” make its aggressive passages feel much more piercing than their previous work, which generally stayed frantic and violent for long stretches. “Lung” invites you all the way inside.

"Lung" is a really rich, complex piece, though, and repeated listenings will reveal many kinds of narrative forms. The liner notes suggest a division into four rough sections, mirroring the passage of seasons, and the band further reports that the primary themes of this record "exist simultaneously inside every sound, every phrase, every section, and the entire piece." With such a powerful, resonant recording, finding your own ways to relate to this music is part of the process.

While it’s fair to say that the dual (and sometimes duel) saxophone attack of Darius Jones and Travis LaPlante constitutes the dominant voice of Little Women, “Lung” provides more space to showcase the work of Andrew Smiley on guitar and Jason Nazary on drums than previous albums. The introductory cymbal work, for example, sets the tone for the whole first “inhalation” of the piece. And while Smiley leaves most of the melodic territory of this music to the saxes, his multifaceted approach to guitar quietly holds this piece together. With strategic chord work, weird textural approaches, and stabbing brutal riffs, mostly played through a clean sound that just begins to break up on hard attacks, guitars fill all of the right places in this music. You know you’re doing a few things right when there are never any moments when you wish a bass player was sitting in with the band.

Like the previous Little Women releases, “Teeth” features freaky cover art from guitarist Mick Barr, whose instantly recognizable drawing style adds a lot of continuity to the Little Women oeuvre. And speaking of Barr, Aum Fidelity’s decision to skip releasing this album on vinyl reminded me of my purchase of Orthrelm’s “Ov” LP years ago. Right in the middle of that dense, relentless piece, there’s a quick fade, and you have to flip the record, clean, cue, and jump in again. I love vinyl, but I always wished I’d opted for the CD version of that album—you have to stay in the zone, no distractions, to fully vibe on it. “Lung” is very much the same, demanding uninterrupted attention, and I think Aum Fidelity made the right decision sticking to CD (but still go back and pick up the previous album "Throat" on vinyl if you haven’t). This is a beautifully recorded album, too, captured live in one take, and it’s perfectly mixed and mastered, retaining a wider dynamic range than most orchestral albums.

It’s a seriously heavy experience—do yourself a favor and spend some time with “Lung.” Few bands even try to write something this musically and emotionally ambitious, and even fewer succeed. But I think fans of creative music from a wide variety of camps, metal to jazz to classical, will find this record to be a deeply moving experience.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info

Little Women - Lung

Already a band I’ve been following for some time, I’m delighted to review the newest epic from Brooklyn’s Little Women. Two years in the making, “Lung” has just been released by Aum Fidelity, and this album-length composition is easily set to be my favorite record of 2013. “Lung” is an enormous step forward, compositionally and emotionally, by a band whose previous work already forged a totally unique sound, equal parts plaintive and powerful, in the grooves of the debut EP “Teeth” and followup LP “Throat.”

I’ve long admired the Little Women sound for a kind of feral energy few bands can achieve, steeped in an Ayler-esque free blues but with the aggression of NYC hardcore and compositional and technical rigor rarely found outside of the classical world. This band can embody many genres, but we’re a full generation beyond the collage/montage approaches of bands like Naked City. Little Women transcends imitation and cultural references—having long ago fused their influences into a new essential substance, their work is forceful and direct. And even at their harshest moments, the music is driven by a deep archetypal understanding of melody—indeed, the full and unflinching devotion to melody sometimes takes the music into a violent heliosphere. In a world of cynicism and emotional detachment, Little Women plays with a raw sincerity that makes the impossible become the inevitable.

"Lung" adds a new set of dynamics to the work of Little Women in the form of patience and silence. And it’s a major change in the sound—as a composition, "Lung" demands a lot of patience and incorporates a tremendous amount of silence. The opening several minutes of the piece, for example, are almost completely without sound, as occasional brushes of percussion gradually open the space into music. The first introductory section of full-band playing that follows is the most gentle recorded offering from Little Women to date, melancholy and careful and respectful of the silence from which it was born.

The vocal section that evolves out of the introduction is a major revelation all its own. The whole band intones together, becoming one, preparing to act as a unit through the upheavals and calamities to come. Vocals made a brief appearance on the debut EP “Teeth,” but they were deployed as more of a weapon there, distorted, with harsh, short articulations. The long tones here bring us all together as well, band and audience, recognizing the shared experience this music demands.

I’m not going to do a play-by-play of this whole disc, as this is a composition that simply must be heard to realize its full impact. But I want to return to Little Women’s approach to silence and patience throughout the piece, as I think the emotional impact of silence shifts between two roles as “Lung” unfolds. In what roughly amounts to the first half of the album, silence is centering, imparting a rejuvenating effect that nurtures subsequent musical sections into being. In the second half, which starts just before the literal center of the piece, moments of silence are shorter, mostly stop-time holes in increasingly-punishing rhythmic passages, and they assume a role of “negative space” analogous to its use in painting or architecture, weightless pauses absolutely alive with the anticipation of oncoming mass.

This isn’t a precise division into two, but to my ears the piece coalesces around these contrasting approaches of patient anticipation and aggressive release. The band reports that the piece evolved around “Shakespearean form,” following elements of beauty toward tragic ends, and the record succeeds at manifesting these contrasts powerfully, both within smaller sections and looking at its timeline folded against itself. The extreme contrasts of “Lung” make its aggressive passages feel much more piercing than their previous work, which generally stayed frantic and violent for long stretches. “Lung” invites you all the way inside.

"Lung" is a really rich, complex piece, though, and repeated listenings will reveal many kinds of narrative forms. The liner notes suggest a division into four rough sections, mirroring the passage of seasons, and the band further reports that the primary themes of this record "exist simultaneously inside every sound, every phrase, every section, and the entire piece." With such a powerful, resonant recording, finding your own ways to relate to this music is part of the process.

While it’s fair to say that the dual (and sometimes duel) saxophone attack of Darius Jones and Travis LaPlante constitutes the dominant voice of Little Women, “Lung” provides more space to showcase the work of Andrew Smiley on guitar and Jason Nazary on drums than previous albums. The introductory cymbal work, for example, sets the tone for the whole first “inhalation” of the piece. And while Smiley leaves most of the melodic territory of this music to the saxes, his multifaceted approach to guitar quietly holds this piece together. With strategic chord work, weird textural approaches, and stabbing brutal riffs, mostly played through a clean sound that just begins to break up on hard attacks, guitars fill all of the right places in this music. You know you’re doing a few things right when there are never any moments when you wish a bass player was sitting in with the band.

Like the previous Little Women releases, “Teeth” features freaky cover art from guitarist Mick Barr, whose instantly recognizable drawing style adds a lot of continuity to the Little Women oeuvre. And speaking of Barr, Aum Fidelity’s decision to skip releasing this album on vinyl reminded me of my purchase of Orthrelm’s “Ov” LP years ago. Right in the middle of that dense, relentless piece, there’s a quick fade, and you have to flip the record, clean, cue, and jump in again. I love vinyl, but I always wished I’d opted for the CD version of that album—you have to stay in the zone, no distractions, to fully vibe on it. “Lung” is very much the same, demanding uninterrupted attention, and I think Aum Fidelity made the right decision sticking to CD (but still go back and pick up the previous album "Throat" on vinyl if you haven’t). This is a beautifully recorded album, too, captured live in one take, and it’s perfectly mixed and mastered, retaining a wider dynamic range than most orchestral albums.

It’s a seriously heavy experience—do yourself a favor and spend some time with “Lung.” Few bands even try to write something this musically and emotionally ambitious, and even fewer succeed. But I think fans of creative music from a wide variety of camps, metal to jazz to classical, will find this record to be a deeply moving experience.

—Scott Scholz

Seaven Teares - Power Ballads
In the wake of the brilliant and ferocious Extra Life, composer Charlie Looker’s attentions have turned to two new acts, the “depth metal” Psalm Zero and the (superficially) gentler Seaven Teares, whose recorded debut, “Power Ballads,” recently dropped via Northern Spy. To some degree, Seaven Teares is a further distillation of some of the early-music ideals behind the Extra Life canon, and I think most fans of Extra Life will find much to like here, but there’s something even darker happening in the folds of “Power Ballads.”

It’s probably worth addressing the John Dowland influence on this music first: the band’s name references Dowland’s “Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares,” a set of compositions published in 1604. The Lachrimae themselves are instrumental variations on his lute song “Flow My Tears,” an arrangement of which is found on this record. In his time, Dowland’s tunes were quite popular, and though his lyrics tend toward the darker side of existence—loss, loneliness, sadness, etc—those kinds of subjects are so intensely universal, they never go out of style. And I think it’s worth noting that much of Dowland’s work was intended as dance music in the Renaissance era, particularly the slow, deliberate, melancholy vibes of the pavane. The pavane is a basse danse, where your feet are dragging across the floor, as opposed to an uptempo ho-down kind of vibe, and collectively the scene around Dowland’s work seems kind of like a protogoth spectacle, where I’m sure the somber dirges of Bauhaus would have been a welcome jam if they’d had kerosene powered 8-tracks tricking out horse-drawn carriages of the day.

The orchestration for Looker’s Seaven Teares project allows for an aural palette that can be relatively faithful to Dowland’s music: guitar and voices dominate, percussion is generally delicate and stays out of the way, and recorders make frequent appearances. Added to the textures of early music, the droning atmospheric potential of the harmonium and simple sinewave-y synth tones sound perfectly at home here, and modern lute badass Jozef Van Wissem makes an appearance on a cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains (more on that later). Like Dowland, the music of Seaven Teares draws heavily from the folk tradition, drawing from deep universal themes with a kind of direct simplicity—the more metrically complex moments of Extra Life are mostly gone in this music, replaced with an unambiguous focus on the music and the lyrics. And the recording itself sounds like it was captured mostly live, with some requisite room-reverb-mud and distortion in the mix adding to the somber vibes of the songs.

But I don’t think Seaven Teares intends for this music to be taken medicinally as some kind of high-art history lesson. Dowland is part of the context, but most of these songs focus on issues that are as acutely moving today as any era. It’s just interesting to note how much of the human experience stays relevant to people of any era, that we’ve all struggled with similar forms of despair well before the collective shift of our eyes downward into a fragmented abyss of touchscreen telephones.

The “universal feel” in the sound of Seaven Teares is greatly enhanced by dual lead vocals throughout the album: mostly relinquishing the lead singer role in this band, Looker is joined on most tunes by the voice of Amirtha Kidambi. In various configurations of singing in unison, harmonizing, or trading verses, the male/female co-vocal approach gives this music more gender inclusiveness than the often-masculine vibes of Extra Life. Charlie takes over vocals on a few noteworthy occasions, though, including the disturbing tale found in “Like Your Black Hair.”

For Extra Life fans, your favorite jam on “Power Ballads” is going to be “Our Lady of Sound.” Synths are more dominant here, with a sound approaching “Ripped Heart”-era Extra Life. The drums, devoid of cymbal work, have an almost country feel on this tune, and it’s easily the most uptempo number found here. And the album closer actually IS an Extra Life tune: the acoustic/vocal number “Thin Veil” previously heard on the Nat Baldwin/Extra Life split LP from 2008 is recast here with recorder countermelodies and harmonium drones, heavy on unison vocals and performed at a gloomy fraction of the tempo of the original.

Perhaps the most capital-c confounding moment on the album for me is the cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains. It’s slowed down to about a quarter of its original tempo, the relentless vibes of the original turned into a funereal dirge. The 7/8 time of the original gets lost at this speed, instead taking on a triple meter feel on every chromatic shift of pitches in the verses. And the choruses are gentle, careful, “so alone.” This weirded me the fuck out at first, remembering the acute punishment of the original and thinking of the songs creepy prescience toward Layne Stayley’s early death, but after a while of swaying in its slow breeze of despair, I can vibe on it.

The packaging on this album deserves a special mention: the cover and inner jacket reproduce three paintings by Dawn Frasch, full of baroque gore rendered with a lot of purples and pinks. Like the music of Seaven Teares, Frasch’s art picks up on the underpinnings of death and darkness found in a lot of Renaissance art, and amps up the gore and despair to fully occupy the painfully large voids opened into our culture by Faces of Death, or Jerry Springer, or whatever modern equivalent of the Roman Colosseum you prefer. “Power Ballads” gets darker than I generally prefer to linger, but I’m glad this band can face Gehenna without flinching.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Seaven Teares - Power Ballads
In the wake of the brilliant and ferocious Extra Life, composer Charlie Looker’s attentions have turned to two new acts, the “depth metal” Psalm Zero and the (superficially) gentler Seaven Teares, whose recorded debut, “Power Ballads,” recently dropped via Northern Spy. To some degree, Seaven Teares is a further distillation of some of the early-music ideals behind the Extra Life canon, and I think most fans of Extra Life will find much to like here, but there’s something even darker happening in the folds of “Power Ballads.”

It’s probably worth addressing the John Dowland influence on this music first: the band’s name references Dowland’s “Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares,” a set of compositions published in 1604. The Lachrimae themselves are instrumental variations on his lute song “Flow My Tears,” an arrangement of which is found on this record. In his time, Dowland’s tunes were quite popular, and though his lyrics tend toward the darker side of existence—loss, loneliness, sadness, etc—those kinds of subjects are so intensely universal, they never go out of style. And I think it’s worth noting that much of Dowland’s work was intended as dance music in the Renaissance era, particularly the slow, deliberate, melancholy vibes of the pavane. The pavane is a basse danse, where your feet are dragging across the floor, as opposed to an uptempo ho-down kind of vibe, and collectively the scene around Dowland’s work seems kind of like a protogoth spectacle, where I’m sure the somber dirges of Bauhaus would have been a welcome jam if they’d had kerosene powered 8-tracks tricking out horse-drawn carriages of the day.

The orchestration for Looker’s Seaven Teares project allows for an aural palette that can be relatively faithful to Dowland’s music: guitar and voices dominate, percussion is generally delicate and stays out of the way, and recorders make frequent appearances. Added to the textures of early music, the droning atmospheric potential of the harmonium and simple sinewave-y synth tones sound perfectly at home here, and modern lute badass Jozef Van Wissem makes an appearance on a cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains (more on that later). Like Dowland, the music of Seaven Teares draws heavily from the folk tradition, drawing from deep universal themes with a kind of direct simplicity—the more metrically complex moments of Extra Life are mostly gone in this music, replaced with an unambiguous focus on the music and the lyrics. And the recording itself sounds like it was captured mostly live, with some requisite room-reverb-mud and distortion in the mix adding to the somber vibes of the songs.

But I don’t think Seaven Teares intends for this music to be taken medicinally as some kind of high-art history lesson. Dowland is part of the context, but most of these songs focus on issues that are as acutely moving today as any era. It’s just interesting to note how much of the human experience stays relevant to people of any era, that we’ve all struggled with similar forms of despair well before the collective shift of our eyes downward into a fragmented abyss of touchscreen telephones.

The “universal feel” in the sound of Seaven Teares is greatly enhanced by dual lead vocals throughout the album: mostly relinquishing the lead singer role in this band, Looker is joined on most tunes by the voice of Amirtha Kidambi. In various configurations of singing in unison, harmonizing, or trading verses, the male/female co-vocal approach gives this music more gender inclusiveness than the often-masculine vibes of Extra Life. Charlie takes over vocals on a few noteworthy occasions, though, including the disturbing tale found in “Like Your Black Hair.”

For Extra Life fans, your favorite jam on “Power Ballads” is going to be “Our Lady of Sound.” Synths are more dominant here, with a sound approaching “Ripped Heart”-era Extra Life. The drums, devoid of cymbal work, have an almost country feel on this tune, and it’s easily the most uptempo number found here. And the album closer actually IS an Extra Life tune: the acoustic/vocal number “Thin Veil” previously heard on the Nat Baldwin/Extra Life split LP from 2008 is recast here with recorder countermelodies and harmonium drones, heavy on unison vocals and performed at a gloomy fraction of the tempo of the original.

Perhaps the most capital-c confounding moment on the album for me is the cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains. It’s slowed down to about a quarter of its original tempo, the relentless vibes of the original turned into a funereal dirge. The 7/8 time of the original gets lost at this speed, instead taking on a triple meter feel on every chromatic shift of pitches in the verses. And the choruses are gentle, careful, “so alone.” This weirded me the fuck out at first, remembering the acute punishment of the original and thinking of the songs creepy prescience toward Layne Stayley’s early death, but after a while of swaying in its slow breeze of despair, I can vibe on it.

The packaging on this album deserves a special mention: the cover and inner jacket reproduce three paintings by Dawn Frasch, full of baroque gore rendered with a lot of purples and pinks. Like the music of Seaven Teares, Frasch’s art picks up on the underpinnings of death and darkness found in a lot of Renaissance art, and amps up the gore and despair to fully occupy the painfully large voids opened into our culture by Faces of Death, or Jerry Springer, or whatever modern equivalent of the Roman Colosseum you prefer. “Power Ballads” gets darker than I generally prefer to linger, but I’m glad this band can face Gehenna without flinching.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Seaven Teares - Power Ballads
In the wake of the brilliant and ferocious Extra Life, composer Charlie Looker’s attentions have turned to two new acts, the “depth metal” Psalm Zero and the (superficially) gentler Seaven Teares, whose recorded debut, “Power Ballads,” recently dropped via Northern Spy. To some degree, Seaven Teares is a further distillation of some of the early-music ideals behind the Extra Life canon, and I think most fans of Extra Life will find much to like here, but there’s something even darker happening in the folds of “Power Ballads.”

It’s probably worth addressing the John Dowland influence on this music first: the band’s name references Dowland’s “Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares,” a set of compositions published in 1604. The Lachrimae themselves are instrumental variations on his lute song “Flow My Tears,” an arrangement of which is found on this record. In his time, Dowland’s tunes were quite popular, and though his lyrics tend toward the darker side of existence—loss, loneliness, sadness, etc—those kinds of subjects are so intensely universal, they never go out of style. And I think it’s worth noting that much of Dowland’s work was intended as dance music in the Renaissance era, particularly the slow, deliberate, melancholy vibes of the pavane. The pavane is a basse danse, where your feet are dragging across the floor, as opposed to an uptempo ho-down kind of vibe, and collectively the scene around Dowland’s work seems kind of like a protogoth spectacle, where I’m sure the somber dirges of Bauhaus would have been a welcome jam if they’d had kerosene powered 8-tracks tricking out horse-drawn carriages of the day.

The orchestration for Looker’s Seaven Teares project allows for an aural palette that can be relatively faithful to Dowland’s music: guitar and voices dominate, percussion is generally delicate and stays out of the way, and recorders make frequent appearances. Added to the textures of early music, the droning atmospheric potential of the harmonium and simple sinewave-y synth tones sound perfectly at home here, and modern lute badass Jozef Van Wissem makes an appearance on a cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains (more on that later). Like Dowland, the music of Seaven Teares draws heavily from the folk tradition, drawing from deep universal themes with a kind of direct simplicity—the more metrically complex moments of Extra Life are mostly gone in this music, replaced with an unambiguous focus on the music and the lyrics. And the recording itself sounds like it was captured mostly live, with some requisite room-reverb-mud and distortion in the mix adding to the somber vibes of the songs.

But I don’t think Seaven Teares intends for this music to be taken medicinally as some kind of high-art history lesson. Dowland is part of the context, but most of these songs focus on issues that are as acutely moving today as any era. It’s just interesting to note how much of the human experience stays relevant to people of any era, that we’ve all struggled with similar forms of despair well before the collective shift of our eyes downward into a fragmented abyss of touchscreen telephones.

The “universal feel” in the sound of Seaven Teares is greatly enhanced by dual lead vocals throughout the album: mostly relinquishing the lead singer role in this band, Looker is joined on most tunes by the voice of Amirtha Kidambi. In various configurations of singing in unison, harmonizing, or trading verses, the male/female co-vocal approach gives this music more gender inclusiveness than the often-masculine vibes of Extra Life. Charlie takes over vocals on a few noteworthy occasions, though, including the disturbing tale found in “Like Your Black Hair.”

For Extra Life fans, your favorite jam on “Power Ballads” is going to be “Our Lady of Sound.” Synths are more dominant here, with a sound approaching “Ripped Heart”-era Extra Life. The drums, devoid of cymbal work, have an almost country feel on this tune, and it’s easily the most uptempo number found here. And the album closer actually IS an Extra Life tune: the acoustic/vocal number “Thin Veil” previously heard on the Nat Baldwin/Extra Life split LP from 2008 is recast here with recorder countermelodies and harmonium drones, heavy on unison vocals and performed at a gloomy fraction of the tempo of the original.

Perhaps the most capital-c confounding moment on the album for me is the cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains. It’s slowed down to about a quarter of its original tempo, the relentless vibes of the original turned into a funereal dirge. The 7/8 time of the original gets lost at this speed, instead taking on a triple meter feel on every chromatic shift of pitches in the verses. And the choruses are gentle, careful, “so alone.” This weirded me the fuck out at first, remembering the acute punishment of the original and thinking of the songs creepy prescience toward Layne Stayley’s early death, but after a while of swaying in its slow breeze of despair, I can vibe on it.

The packaging on this album deserves a special mention: the cover and inner jacket reproduce three paintings by Dawn Frasch, full of baroque gore rendered with a lot of purples and pinks. Like the music of Seaven Teares, Frasch’s art picks up on the underpinnings of death and darkness found in a lot of Renaissance art, and amps up the gore and despair to fully occupy the painfully large voids opened into our culture by Faces of Death, or Jerry Springer, or whatever modern equivalent of the Roman Colosseum you prefer. “Power Ballads” gets darker than I generally prefer to linger, but I’m glad this band can face Gehenna without flinching.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info
Seaven Teares - Power Ballads
In the wake of the brilliant and ferocious Extra Life, composer Charlie Looker’s attentions have turned to two new acts, the “depth metal” Psalm Zero and the (superficially) gentler Seaven Teares, whose recorded debut, “Power Ballads,” recently dropped via Northern Spy. To some degree, Seaven Teares is a further distillation of some of the early-music ideals behind the Extra Life canon, and I think most fans of Extra Life will find much to like here, but there’s something even darker happening in the folds of “Power Ballads.”

It’s probably worth addressing the John Dowland influence on this music first: the band’s name references Dowland’s “Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares,” a set of compositions published in 1604. The Lachrimae themselves are instrumental variations on his lute song “Flow My Tears,” an arrangement of which is found on this record. In his time, Dowland’s tunes were quite popular, and though his lyrics tend toward the darker side of existence—loss, loneliness, sadness, etc—those kinds of subjects are so intensely universal, they never go out of style. And I think it’s worth noting that much of Dowland’s work was intended as dance music in the Renaissance era, particularly the slow, deliberate, melancholy vibes of the pavane. The pavane is a basse danse, where your feet are dragging across the floor, as opposed to an uptempo ho-down kind of vibe, and collectively the scene around Dowland’s work seems kind of like a protogoth spectacle, where I’m sure the somber dirges of Bauhaus would have been a welcome jam if they’d had kerosene powered 8-tracks tricking out horse-drawn carriages of the day.

The orchestration for Looker’s Seaven Teares project allows for an aural palette that can be relatively faithful to Dowland’s music: guitar and voices dominate, percussion is generally delicate and stays out of the way, and recorders make frequent appearances. Added to the textures of early music, the droning atmospheric potential of the harmonium and simple sinewave-y synth tones sound perfectly at home here, and modern lute badass Jozef Van Wissem makes an appearance on a cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains (more on that later). Like Dowland, the music of Seaven Teares draws heavily from the folk tradition, drawing from deep universal themes with a kind of direct simplicity—the more metrically complex moments of Extra Life are mostly gone in this music, replaced with an unambiguous focus on the music and the lyrics. And the recording itself sounds like it was captured mostly live, with some requisite room-reverb-mud and distortion in the mix adding to the somber vibes of the songs.

But I don’t think Seaven Teares intends for this music to be taken medicinally as some kind of high-art history lesson. Dowland is part of the context, but most of these songs focus on issues that are as acutely moving today as any era. It’s just interesting to note how much of the human experience stays relevant to people of any era, that we’ve all struggled with similar forms of despair well before the collective shift of our eyes downward into a fragmented abyss of touchscreen telephones.

The “universal feel” in the sound of Seaven Teares is greatly enhanced by dual lead vocals throughout the album: mostly relinquishing the lead singer role in this band, Looker is joined on most tunes by the voice of Amirtha Kidambi. In various configurations of singing in unison, harmonizing, or trading verses, the male/female co-vocal approach gives this music more gender inclusiveness than the often-masculine vibes of Extra Life. Charlie takes over vocals on a few noteworthy occasions, though, including the disturbing tale found in “Like Your Black Hair.”

For Extra Life fans, your favorite jam on “Power Ballads” is going to be “Our Lady of Sound.” Synths are more dominant here, with a sound approaching “Ripped Heart”-era Extra Life. The drums, devoid of cymbal work, have an almost country feel on this tune, and it’s easily the most uptempo number found here. And the album closer actually IS an Extra Life tune: the acoustic/vocal number “Thin Veil” previously heard on the Nat Baldwin/Extra Life split LP from 2008 is recast here with recorder countermelodies and harmonium drones, heavy on unison vocals and performed at a gloomy fraction of the tempo of the original.

Perhaps the most capital-c confounding moment on the album for me is the cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains. It’s slowed down to about a quarter of its original tempo, the relentless vibes of the original turned into a funereal dirge. The 7/8 time of the original gets lost at this speed, instead taking on a triple meter feel on every chromatic shift of pitches in the verses. And the choruses are gentle, careful, “so alone.” This weirded me the fuck out at first, remembering the acute punishment of the original and thinking of the songs creepy prescience toward Layne Stayley’s early death, but after a while of swaying in its slow breeze of despair, I can vibe on it.

The packaging on this album deserves a special mention: the cover and inner jacket reproduce three paintings by Dawn Frasch, full of baroque gore rendered with a lot of purples and pinks. Like the music of Seaven Teares, Frasch’s art picks up on the underpinnings of death and darkness found in a lot of Renaissance art, and amps up the gore and despair to fully occupy the painfully large voids opened into our culture by Faces of Death, or Jerry Springer, or whatever modern equivalent of the Roman Colosseum you prefer. “Power Ballads” gets darker than I generally prefer to linger, but I’m glad this band can face Gehenna without flinching.

—Scott Scholz
Zoom Info

Seaven Teares - Power Ballads






In the wake of the brilliant and ferocious Extra Life, composer Charlie Looker’s attentions have turned to two new acts, the “depth metal” Psalm Zero and the (superficially) gentler Seaven Teares, whose recorded debut, “Power Ballads,” recently dropped via Northern Spy. To some degree, Seaven Teares is a further distillation of some of the early-music ideals behind the Extra Life canon, and I think most fans of Extra Life will find much to like here, but there’s something even darker happening in the folds of “Power Ballads.”

It’s probably worth addressing the John Dowland influence on this music first: the band’s name references Dowland’s “Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares,” a set of compositions published in 1604. The Lachrimae themselves are instrumental variations on his lute song “Flow My Tears,” an arrangement of which is found on this record. In his time, Dowland’s tunes were quite popular, and though his lyrics tend toward the darker side of existence—loss, loneliness, sadness, etc—those kinds of subjects are so intensely universal, they never go out of style. And I think it’s worth noting that much of Dowland’s work was intended as dance music in the Renaissance era, particularly the slow, deliberate, melancholy vibes of the pavane. The pavane is a basse danse, where your feet are dragging across the floor, as opposed to an uptempo ho-down kind of vibe, and collectively the scene around Dowland’s work seems kind of like a protogoth spectacle, where I’m sure the somber dirges of Bauhaus would have been a welcome jam if they’d had kerosene powered 8-tracks tricking out horse-drawn carriages of the day.

The orchestration for Looker’s Seaven Teares project allows for an aural palette that can be relatively faithful to Dowland’s music: guitar and voices dominate, percussion is generally delicate and stays out of the way, and recorders make frequent appearances. Added to the textures of early music, the droning atmospheric potential of the harmonium and simple sinewave-y synth tones sound perfectly at home here, and modern lute badass Jozef Van Wissem makes an appearance on a cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains (more on that later). Like Dowland, the music of Seaven Teares draws heavily from the folk tradition, drawing from deep universal themes with a kind of direct simplicity—the more metrically complex moments of Extra Life are mostly gone in this music, replaced with an unambiguous focus on the music and the lyrics. And the recording itself sounds like it was captured mostly live, with some requisite room-reverb-mud and distortion in the mix adding to the somber vibes of the songs.

But I don’t think Seaven Teares intends for this music to be taken medicinally as some kind of high-art history lesson. Dowland is part of the context, but most of these songs focus on issues that are as acutely moving today as any era. It’s just interesting to note how much of the human experience stays relevant to people of any era, that we’ve all struggled with similar forms of despair well before the collective shift of our eyes downward into a fragmented abyss of touchscreen telephones.

The “universal feel” in the sound of Seaven Teares is greatly enhanced by dual lead vocals throughout the album: mostly relinquishing the lead singer role in this band, Looker is joined on most tunes by the voice of Amirtha Kidambi. In various configurations of singing in unison, harmonizing, or trading verses, the male/female co-vocal approach gives this music more gender inclusiveness than the often-masculine vibes of Extra Life. Charlie takes over vocals on a few noteworthy occasions, though, including the disturbing tale found in “Like Your Black Hair.”

For Extra Life fans, your favorite jam on “Power Ballads” is going to be “Our Lady of Sound.” Synths are more dominant here, with a sound approaching “Ripped Heart”-era Extra Life. The drums, devoid of cymbal work, have an almost country feel on this tune, and it’s easily the most uptempo number found here. And the album closer actually IS an Extra Life tune: the acoustic/vocal number “Thin Veil” previously heard on the Nat Baldwin/Extra Life split LP from 2008 is recast here with recorder countermelodies and harmonium drones, heavy on unison vocals and performed at a gloomy fraction of the tempo of the original.

Perhaps the most capital-c confounding moment on the album for me is the cover of “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains. It’s slowed down to about a quarter of its original tempo, the relentless vibes of the original turned into a funereal dirge. The 7/8 time of the original gets lost at this speed, instead taking on a triple meter feel on every chromatic shift of pitches in the verses. And the choruses are gentle, careful, “so alone.” This weirded me the fuck out at first, remembering the acute punishment of the original and thinking of the songs creepy prescience toward Layne Stayley’s early death, but after a while of swaying in its slow breeze of despair, I can vibe on it.

The packaging on this album deserves a special mention: the cover and inner jacket reproduce three paintings by Dawn Frasch, full of baroque gore rendered with a lot of purples and pinks. Like the music of Seaven Teares, Frasch’s art picks up on the underpinnings of death and darkness found in a lot of Renaissance art, and amps up the gore and despair to fully occupy the painfully large voids opened into our culture by Faces of Death, or Jerry Springer, or whatever modern equivalent of the Roman Colosseum you prefer. “Power Ballads” gets darker than I generally prefer to linger, but I’m glad this band can face Gehenna without flinching.

—Scott Scholz

Two from Joe Moffett

Last year, I covered a couple of excellent albums featuring Joe Moffett which you can read here—he’s one of my favorite trumpet players of the last few years. His work is always very listenable, with powerful tone, a great melodic sensibility, and he can move between the idioms of jazz and lowercase improv with confidence. Here’s a couple of albums featuring him as leader or co-leader, showing an even wider range of his musical skills.

Joe Moffett’s Ad Faunum


Poland’s esteemed Not Two Records brings us this Moffett-led quintet that explores a wide spectrum of free improvisation approaches. Compared to the “Strange Falls” record I reviewed last year, Ad Faunum stays closer to what I think of as “jazz” vocabulary, with more emphasis on exchanging phrases and less reliance on extended technique/sound exploration. That said, this album mostly eludes traditional interpretations of melody/harmony, opting instead for melodic passages evoking what Moffett calls “an almost ritualistic praise of animals” in the liner notes. I can vibe on that concept for sure: if you compare the interplay between musicians to watching animals exchanging sounds and clearly communicating their intentions, even if you don’t understand what’s happening word by word, you can easily get into the spirit of these improvisations. You don’t need to know the “words” to follow the conversation.

Like most improv albums, this music makes the most of rich contrasts: loud versus quiet, fast versus slow, staccato against legato, textural against more melodic passages, long tones against quick flutters, etc. But like the best of improv albums, Moffett has put together an amazingly tight group whose collective improvisations frequently sound composed. Each member commits to deeper forms of listening, supporting and teasing the music ahead in the moment as one would expect, but also thinking on a larger motivic time scale that brings distinction and real communication into every piece.

There’s a bit of Joe Maneri’s microtonal approach here, but like the microtones of the Psychotic Quartet I reviewed a while ago, they’re generally offered in the service of playing more in tune, building consonance-in-the-monent and aspiring to pre-equal temperament vibes, rather than some kind of extension of atonalism into even more potential fragments. Maneri’s system itself is quite regimented, at least in theory, into 72 equal divisions of the octave, though both Maneri and Ad Faunum draw from the system more intuitively as they play. One hears the influence of microtones best in slower ensemble sections, where the combined tones of each player shift gently into ever more precise declarations of the perfect note(s) to draw every phrase in perfect detail. But microtonal thinking works its way into solo sections, too. Take Noah Kaplan’s tenor solo toward the end of “Riding the Pegasus Down,” for example: supported only by the double bass of Jacob William, Kaplan teases out slow phrases, carefully lipping notes up and down just between the “expected” notes, teasing out more natural overtones with overblowing and just a touch of multiphonic work.

Luther Gray’s drum work on this recording is generally sparse, adding textural elements and working to subtly delineate phrases coming from the horns. That said, he lays down some serious grooves when the time is right in energetic tracks like the almost post-bop “Matador,” which also features super-busy twin bass attacks and rapid-fire exchanges of short phrases between Moffett and Kaplan. As one might expect, with 2 bass players in this lineup (Giacomo Merega on electric bass and Williams on double bass), they combine to take on a particularly visible role in the rhythm section, providing equal parts countermelody and propulsion throughout the record.

To mention a few highlights, the patient development of ideas in “The Other Species” feels like the spiritual center of the album. Starting with some compelling microtonal solo tenor passages, everyone gets a chance to make a statement here, both alone and in various duet and trio configurations, with lots of cymbal work, delicately bowed double bass, and occasionally almost electroacoustic-feeling electric bass providing subtle shifts in foundational textures between solo features. And the unsung hero of this Ad Faunum session must be Giacomo Merega, whose approach to the low end changes dramatically to best articulate every shift in the ensemble. From his delicate harmonics in “The Other Species” that develop into a chord-rich solo moment, to the all-out fuzz bass heroics that build dense walls of distorted glory throughout “Dove Tail,”Merega can both support calm sections with grace and lead the group into its most aggressive moments.

Twins of El Dorado - [portend the end]

On the opposite end of the improv/composition spectrum, the Twins of El Dorado, whose debut recording recently came out via Prom Night Records, is a highly composed duo album of playful intertwined lines. Moffett’s trumpet is joined by the vocals of Kristin Slipp (Art Bears Songbook, Cuddle Magic) for a real workout that remains highly melodic, evoking a diverse set of classical and pop idioms. Some pieces, like “I Will [Not Set an Emily Dickinson Poem to Music]” alternate between spoken word delivery and shifting harmonies that imply medieval motet writing. Other pieces, like the “Pond Long Song” that follows, have a contemporary art song feel, full of rhythmically complex, chromatically twisting unison lines and harmonic clusters right at home in 20th C. classical melodies.

Slipp and Moffett use a wide dynamic range throughout these pieces, but I’m amazed by just how much air they move when things get intense. Slipp has insanely great control of her voice, pulling off hundreds of wide intervalic leaps and outlining weird chords with flawless intonation. There are very few vocalists whose sense of pitch is good enough to dominate so effortlessly in this kind of duo format, tossing hocketed arpeggios between voice and trumpet, overlaying serpentine chromatic passages around one another, and reaching to stratospheric ranges in pieces like “Fare Thee” (one of the few pieces not written entirely by the duo). And neither musician hides behind a wall of vibrato—a lot of these pieces use a noticeably wide vibrato approach only for emphasis, or to evoke a quasi-operatic idiom in appropriate moments (or bugle-call moments on trumpet).

Moffett’s beautiful, clear tone is on full display throughout the album as well. It’s a pleasure to hear someone whose work I mostly know through improvisation delivering written passages so deeply. While these pieces don’t have a lot of high density notes-per-minute firepower from a soloist perspective, they’re quite virtuosic in terms of the precise intonation and rhythmic precision they require to sound so strong. There’s nowhere to hide in a duet, but these Twins can handle the pressure.

I really like this album, and I’ve also been finding that my friends and family who aren’t normally into the “weird” stuff I like really enjoy this, too. Every time I play this album, someone invariably asks me what it is and wants to know more about it. It’s playful and fun and wild in all of the right places, and even if you try to put in on quietly in the background, it demands full attention and a volume increase every time. Get in on this, folks.

—Scott Scholz

Put on your Pajjamas

I was in love with Pajjama’s “Starch” cassette within its first 10 seconds, a rare and beautiful thing. Skillfully combining chiptune sequencing and live rock/prog playing on guitar/bass/drums/synths, this EP swings harder than any synth-dominant project I’ve heard in a long time. Lots of folks are doing fine work with chiptune music, but Pajjama’s work displays many bonus levels of compositional depth, making nods to influences like Chromelodeon and early YMO while drawing from a wide variety of 70s prog and 80s pop traditions. Magma-esque passages and “Uncle Meat”-era Zappa moments collide with video games and workout VHS tapes. Crazy good.

The live performance aspect of Pajjama really brings this music to life, particularly the jazz and funk-infused playing of drummer Kristian Valbo. I get the impression that all 3 Pajjama members have some background with jazz, as their unique blending of genres includes a lot of syncopation and a very confident sense of humor one often develops with a lot of practice and a lot of gigging. Primary composer Eirik Suhrke alternates between riffs and evocative chord progressions with ease, and he and Bernt Karsten Sannerud layer synth parts with great ears for mixing and balance—there’s a lot happening at times, but you can hear every detail no matter how dense the music gets.

For a release that doesn’t even make it to 13 minutes in length, I still find myself appreciating different aspects of the writing and arranging with every listen. The “Jean Baptiste” section and the 30-second introduction are my favorites, but the whole piece runs as a seamless suite—ah, and how can I forget those propulsive, insistent drums in “Vedaste!”—best to just listen to the whole thing. Repeatedly.

"Starch" was released in the middle of last year on Orange Milk Records, and the cassette features amazing artwork on a double-sided J-card designed by Keith Rankin (Giant Claw). The “regular” Orange Milk Page seems to indicate this album is sold out, but their StoreEnvy site shows availability? If all else fails, definitely get some Starch in your Pajjjamas via BandCamp.

February brought us the followup Pajjama EP on BandCamp, entitled “Jane Papaya,” which is just as thoughtfully written and arranged, but it focuses more on 80s pop/synth idioms and somewhat less on the more aggressive prog moments of the debut. Imagine the transition between Phil Collins’ mullet period to his later skullet period, and you’ll get the general idea. There’s sometimes a bit of a moody 80s fusion vibe, too, ala Tribal Tech and the like, especially in the outro of “Salty Price.” Jane Papaya will be released on cassette later this year by Orange Milk Records, and work on a third recording has already begun. Here’s the artwork for the upcoming Orange Milk release:

image

Related recordings: If you’re digging Pajjama, you simply must dig into more of Eirik Suhrke’s work as a video game composer. Working both under his own name and occasionally as Phlogiston, Suhrke has a real knack for writing simple-but-memorable melodies, perfect for game play. And he’s a real connoisseur of video game music history—this is the kind of guy who can pick out the programmatic nuances between music for the SNES and the Sega Genesis in only a few notes. And he applies that knowledge toward new projects with the skill of a sommelier, balancing nostalgic and forward-thinking tones to perfectly compliment games.

You can also find the history of Pajjama in Suhrke’s video game music: compare the recordings in Super Crate Box with the updated, Pajjama-licious Super Crate Box Special to hear how live instrumentation spices up already-solid chiptune writing. And the Spelunky score is rich with Pajjama and friends, rocking out game cues mostly under a minute in length.

And while I haven’t written much about avant-black metal in a long time, I have to add that Pajjama member Bernt Karsten Sannerud’s new album with Formloff, “Spyhorelandet,” is probably my favorite weirdo progressive black metal album since early Ved Buens Ende. Great writing, mixing, occasional vocal harmonies, killer guitar playing and arranging, actual audible bass guitar: a real triumph all around. I haven’t had much time to listen to this one yet, but I’m sure I’ll be spending more time with Formloff, as well as checking out what looks to be an avant-bm supergroup including Sannerud, Self Spiller.

—Scott Scholz

"Fear May Be a Builder" is a seriously fine debut album from Brooklyn’s Killer BOB, an instrumental quartet whose compositions defy every pigeonhole. I’ve been digging into this music for the last few months, and though I dug this record after one spin, it continues to grow on me even more. Killer BOB is, at their essence, an avant-rock band, but they also draw heavily from minimalist classical structures and a funky, asymmetrical melodic approach from the early days of free jazz.

Though I listen to a lot of improvisation-oriented music, my heart really lies closest to heavily-composed forms of music, and Killer BOB’s thoughtful and meticulous writing fills the staves of my heart with all of the right notes. Fans of Zs, especially their earlier sextet period, will really dig this music—but that’s not to say it’s derivative. Though both acts incorporate forms of phrase repetition and an emphasis on cycles of insistent rhythmic activity, there is a certain old-school grit to Killer BOB that reminds me of 60s mavericks like Captain Beefheart and Ornette Coleman, leaving space for moments of reckless abandon and fun.

I caught Killer BOB drummer Max Jaffe on tour with Normal Love last fall, where he was covering intricate-yet-brutal parts tracked in the studio by Eli Litwin (Intensus, Inzinzac, etc). Jaffe’s ferocious and precise take on the “Survival Tricks” music led me to suspect that he was a very heavy-handed player, but his playing with Killer BOB shows his delicate side at times. Despite their name, much of Killer BOB’s record is downright gentle, such as the aptly-titled triptych “Music She Can Sleep Through,” and even pieces that crescendo into dense walls of sound tend to be made of many interlocking sections that include moments of ambient calm.

As a whole, this music breathes within a wide dynamic range, and almost any kind of musical contrast you can imagine is is fully and thoughtfully exploited: tempo shifts, stop/start sections, consonance and dissonance, pop/art genre references, repetition and through-composition. Structurally, the rhythm section frequently acts as musical anchor, creating steady (and relatively subdued) pulses over which guitar and saxophone work together as one pointillistic instrument, lurching between melodic fragments, quickly repeated phrases, and rhythmically dense clusters of shifting dissonance. But there are many exceptions to any generality a person can make about this album—every approach is subject to change as the music itself demands.

It’s difficult for me to pick favorite tracks on this record, as it really works best as a full record, but a few highlights are tracks like “Undercoat” and “Overcoat,”in which the gentle 4-measure figure of overdubbed reeds in the former morphs into a “tough exterior” with brash-yet-plaintive guitar work in the latter. I love the simple, dirty riff that gets explored throughout “Dirt Tits,” with an unusual solo drum workout of the riff for its final minute. And my overall favorite is “Sirens,” which is probably the most complex composition of the whole record, raging through a series of shifting approaches between a beautiful opening/closing made of gentle, harplike guitars.

Though this is essentially an instrumental album, there is a literary undercurrent to Killer BOB: four spoken word tracks, alternately collaged and dream-journal-like, are sprinkled roughly evenly into the track sequence of “Fear May Be a Builder,” presumably each representing one member of the band. And the layout of track titles on the back of the CD digipak is vertical, using a strange top/bottom justification that initially caused me to try to read the track titles horizontally: quite a Burroughsian cutup! I definitely get some Surrealist vibes from both these elements and the collage/montage approaches of this music, which are enforced by the band’s press info that describes this as a record “which explores their collective subconscious dream worlds.” As a huge enthusiast of Surrealist Games and other techniques for bringing subconscious and chance elements to the surface, I think this record succeeds as both a map of the dream/waking hinterlands and a fascinating bit of the territory itself. Highly recommended.

Perhaps more of the extramusical elements of this band’s work will become even clearer on tour, both in live performance and through exploring a tour-only tape and a chapbook of writing/imagery made by the band. And the band is on tour right now, heading into the midwest and back to the east coast. For Lincoln folks, they’ll be visiting us on Feb 18th at the Bourbon (save a tape and a book for me, guys), with King Thumper and Multidimensional Cowboy. For folks living elsewhere, this Facebook page has their full tour itinerary. And if you miss them on tour, you can (and should) get their album from Primary Records.

—Scott Scholz

Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp Records, 2006)Jean-Marc Montera - Hang Around Shout (FMP, 1995)Sabu Orimo - Susaba (Subjective Spirit Sound, 2006) Zdzisław Piernik / Piotr Zabrodzki ‎– Namanga (Vivo, 2008)LaDonna Smith - Eye of the Storm (Trans Museq, 1992)
Here is another set of albums moved over from Blogger to Tumblr. You can click on the album name to check them out, but they’ll only be available for a very short time. Just as the previous post covered some connections between the various forms of folk and drone, this one is a collection of albums that show different approaches to free improvisation.There is a bit more consistency across these albums, with fewer leaps of faith to see the connections. Indeed, Smith, Corsano, and Montera exist on much the same plane, with each simply occupying a different location on the hyperactivity spectrum (and utilizing different instruments). On violin, drums, and guitar, respectively, each channels a great deal of energy and displays a strong sense of the extended technique vocabulary of their chosen instrument.Namanga, by comparison, shows its energy in its playing, but also, more importantly, in its stylistic variety. Where the previous three albums rapidly shift the personality of a single instrument, Piernik and Zabrodzki have a larger instrumental palette deployed to vary the tenor of the music.Orimo, lastly, fits with the three improvised albums in the pared down nature of the record and the freely improvised take on the instrument. However, where those albums are hyperactive, Orimo spends a great deal time in a contemplative mood, with the various changes occurring in a manner that hints at a spontaneous, intuitive venture through many micro-compositions, something that can be seen as similar to Namanga.For those of you who have been asking for uploads, have at it while you can.
Zoom Info
Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp Records, 2006)Jean-Marc Montera - Hang Around Shout (FMP, 1995)Sabu Orimo - Susaba (Subjective Spirit Sound, 2006) Zdzisław Piernik / Piotr Zabrodzki ‎– Namanga (Vivo, 2008)LaDonna Smith - Eye of the Storm (Trans Museq, 1992)
Here is another set of albums moved over from Blogger to Tumblr. You can click on the album name to check them out, but they’ll only be available for a very short time. Just as the previous post covered some connections between the various forms of folk and drone, this one is a collection of albums that show different approaches to free improvisation.There is a bit more consistency across these albums, with fewer leaps of faith to see the connections. Indeed, Smith, Corsano, and Montera exist on much the same plane, with each simply occupying a different location on the hyperactivity spectrum (and utilizing different instruments). On violin, drums, and guitar, respectively, each channels a great deal of energy and displays a strong sense of the extended technique vocabulary of their chosen instrument.Namanga, by comparison, shows its energy in its playing, but also, more importantly, in its stylistic variety. Where the previous three albums rapidly shift the personality of a single instrument, Piernik and Zabrodzki have a larger instrumental palette deployed to vary the tenor of the music.Orimo, lastly, fits with the three improvised albums in the pared down nature of the record and the freely improvised take on the instrument. However, where those albums are hyperactive, Orimo spends a great deal time in a contemplative mood, with the various changes occurring in a manner that hints at a spontaneous, intuitive venture through many micro-compositions, something that can be seen as similar to Namanga.For those of you who have been asking for uploads, have at it while you can.
Zoom Info
Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp Records, 2006)Jean-Marc Montera - Hang Around Shout (FMP, 1995)Sabu Orimo - Susaba (Subjective Spirit Sound, 2006) Zdzisław Piernik / Piotr Zabrodzki ‎– Namanga (Vivo, 2008)LaDonna Smith - Eye of the Storm (Trans Museq, 1992)
Here is another set of albums moved over from Blogger to Tumblr. You can click on the album name to check them out, but they’ll only be available for a very short time. Just as the previous post covered some connections between the various forms of folk and drone, this one is a collection of albums that show different approaches to free improvisation.There is a bit more consistency across these albums, with fewer leaps of faith to see the connections. Indeed, Smith, Corsano, and Montera exist on much the same plane, with each simply occupying a different location on the hyperactivity spectrum (and utilizing different instruments). On violin, drums, and guitar, respectively, each channels a great deal of energy and displays a strong sense of the extended technique vocabulary of their chosen instrument.Namanga, by comparison, shows its energy in its playing, but also, more importantly, in its stylistic variety. Where the previous three albums rapidly shift the personality of a single instrument, Piernik and Zabrodzki have a larger instrumental palette deployed to vary the tenor of the music.Orimo, lastly, fits with the three improvised albums in the pared down nature of the record and the freely improvised take on the instrument. However, where those albums are hyperactive, Orimo spends a great deal time in a contemplative mood, with the various changes occurring in a manner that hints at a spontaneous, intuitive venture through many micro-compositions, something that can be seen as similar to Namanga.For those of you who have been asking for uploads, have at it while you can.
Zoom Info
Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp Records, 2006)Jean-Marc Montera - Hang Around Shout (FMP, 1995)Sabu Orimo - Susaba (Subjective Spirit Sound, 2006) Zdzisław Piernik / Piotr Zabrodzki ‎– Namanga (Vivo, 2008)LaDonna Smith - Eye of the Storm (Trans Museq, 1992)
Here is another set of albums moved over from Blogger to Tumblr. You can click on the album name to check them out, but they’ll only be available for a very short time. Just as the previous post covered some connections between the various forms of folk and drone, this one is a collection of albums that show different approaches to free improvisation.There is a bit more consistency across these albums, with fewer leaps of faith to see the connections. Indeed, Smith, Corsano, and Montera exist on much the same plane, with each simply occupying a different location on the hyperactivity spectrum (and utilizing different instruments). On violin, drums, and guitar, respectively, each channels a great deal of energy and displays a strong sense of the extended technique vocabulary of their chosen instrument.Namanga, by comparison, shows its energy in its playing, but also, more importantly, in its stylistic variety. Where the previous three albums rapidly shift the personality of a single instrument, Piernik and Zabrodzki have a larger instrumental palette deployed to vary the tenor of the music.Orimo, lastly, fits with the three improvised albums in the pared down nature of the record and the freely improvised take on the instrument. However, where those albums are hyperactive, Orimo spends a great deal time in a contemplative mood, with the various changes occurring in a manner that hints at a spontaneous, intuitive venture through many micro-compositions, something that can be seen as similar to Namanga.For those of you who have been asking for uploads, have at it while you can.
Zoom Info
Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp Records, 2006)Jean-Marc Montera - Hang Around Shout (FMP, 1995)Sabu Orimo - Susaba (Subjective Spirit Sound, 2006) Zdzisław Piernik / Piotr Zabrodzki ‎– Namanga (Vivo, 2008)LaDonna Smith - Eye of the Storm (Trans Museq, 1992)
Here is another set of albums moved over from Blogger to Tumblr. You can click on the album name to check them out, but they’ll only be available for a very short time. Just as the previous post covered some connections between the various forms of folk and drone, this one is a collection of albums that show different approaches to free improvisation.There is a bit more consistency across these albums, with fewer leaps of faith to see the connections. Indeed, Smith, Corsano, and Montera exist on much the same plane, with each simply occupying a different location on the hyperactivity spectrum (and utilizing different instruments). On violin, drums, and guitar, respectively, each channels a great deal of energy and displays a strong sense of the extended technique vocabulary of their chosen instrument.Namanga, by comparison, shows its energy in its playing, but also, more importantly, in its stylistic variety. Where the previous three albums rapidly shift the personality of a single instrument, Piernik and Zabrodzki have a larger instrumental palette deployed to vary the tenor of the music.Orimo, lastly, fits with the three improvised albums in the pared down nature of the record and the freely improvised take on the instrument. However, where those albums are hyperactive, Orimo spends a great deal time in a contemplative mood, with the various changes occurring in a manner that hints at a spontaneous, intuitive venture through many micro-compositions, something that can be seen as similar to Namanga.For those of you who have been asking for uploads, have at it while you can.
Zoom Info

Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp Records, 2006)
Jean-Marc Montera - Hang Around Shout (FMP, 1995)
Sabu Orimo - Susaba (Subjective Spirit Sound, 2006)
Zdzisław Piernik / Piotr Zabrodzki ‎– Namanga (Vivo, 2008)
LaDonna Smith - Eye of the Storm (Trans Museq, 1992)


Here is another set of albums moved over from Blogger to Tumblr. You can click on the album name to check them out, but they’ll only be available for a very short time. Just as the previous post covered some connections between the various forms of folk and drone, this one is a collection of albums that show different approaches to free improvisation.

There is a bit more consistency across these albums, with fewer leaps of faith to see the connections. Indeed, Smith, Corsano, and Montera exist on much the same plane, with each simply occupying a different location on the hyperactivity spectrum (and utilizing different instruments). On violin, drums, and guitar, respectively, each channels a great deal of energy and displays a strong sense of the extended technique vocabulary of their chosen instrument.

Namanga, by comparison, shows its energy in its playing, but also, more importantly, in its stylistic variety. Where the previous three albums rapidly shift the personality of a single instrument, Piernik and Zabrodzki have a larger instrumental palette deployed to vary the tenor of the music.

Orimo, lastly, fits with the three improvised albums in the pared down nature of the record and the freely improvised take on the instrument. However, where those albums are hyperactive, Orimo spends a great deal time in a contemplative mood, with the various changes occurring in a manner that hints at a spontaneous, intuitive venture through many micro-compositions, something that can be seen as similar to Namanga.

For those of you who have been asking for uploads, have at it while you can.

The Home of Easy Credit - s/t

Here’s another knockout from Northern Spy. The Home of Easy Credit is the husband/wife duo of Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen and Tom Blancarte, whose intricate, dense work together is hard to define in terms of genre. This music shifts between worlds of composition and free improvisation, pop, avant-jazz, postmodern classical, psychedelic and electroacoustic work, often woven within the boundaries of each track.

Jensen primarily focuses on alto saxophone and voice performance with electronic manipulation. She builds layers of sound with live electronics and loops, over which motivic materials are often reinterpreted or extended. And Blancarte (who also played on the beautiful “Fire Sign” album from Jeremiah Cymerman that I recently reviewed) creates a powerful foundation for this music with his amplified upright bass work, mostly playing with more conventional pitched ideas to hold everything together, though he does get into extended techniques like bowed harmonics and sul ponticello passages when the music heads into more ethereal territory. The pair make an incredible amount of sound on their own, and once loop-building is added to their approach, you would never imagine this music coming from only two performers with no overdubs.

Although The Home of Easy Credit covers a wide stylistic territory, this music evolves through structured consideration: these pieces fuse raw musical materials together slowly and thoughtfully, adding and removing layers with patience. I like my share of collage/cutup compositions, but there’s something about these kinds of more mature methodical fusions of sound. They tend to stay with you longer. It also invites a more participatory kind of listening—I feel like I can get “inside” these tracks, as opposed to looking at them on a wall. They’re plaintive, emotional pieces, and they readily invite you inside. Check out a track from the album, “The Feast of the Meal Replacement Bars” below, and you’ll see what I mean.

Usually I don’t have a strong opinion about the methods used in the creation of a good recording, but in this case I think that the “no overdubs” approach contributes a lot to the emotional intelligence of this music. The band’s name and the titles of the tracks all point to frustration with the shallow artifice of consumer culture, toward having genuine shared experiences instead of choosing among brightly-colored, prepackaged Mcexperiences. These pieces succeed at being very complex and nuanced without losing a sense of intimacy. I can imagine how well this music translates live, a vibe that The Home of Easy Credit sustains by selecting small, intimate venues to play: galleries, coffee shops, house shows, all places where artists and audiences can be together with a minimum of mediation.

Fortunately, I won’t have to simply imagine the live performance of this music for long, and maybe you won’t, either: The Home of Easy Credit is on tour right now (check out their tour dates below). And their Lincoln, NE stop will be at my house! It seemed right to start hosting occasional shows as the opportunity presents itself, as I’ve been co-hosting a radio show and actively writing music reviews for a few years now. If you live in the area, you can keep up with our events on this blog, or “like” our Facebook page here.

—Scott Scholz

Home of Easy Credit tour dates:
10/4 San Francisco @ The Luggage Store
10/7 Berkeley, CA @ Berkeley Arts Festival
10/8 Corvallis, OR @ The Red Room
10/9 Portland, OR @ Creative Music Guild
10/10 Seattle, WA @ 1412 Gallery
10/11 Caldwell, ID @ The Bird Stop Coffee House
10/13 Denver, CO @ Plus Gallery
10/14 Lincoln, NE @ Think Tank House (my house! This will also be the debut show for local duo Moss!)
10/15 Chicago, IL @ Jerry’s
10/17 Cleveland, OH @ Black Cat Factory
Zoom Info

The Home of Easy Credit - s/t

Here’s another knockout from Northern Spy. The Home of Easy Credit is the husband/wife duo of Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen and Tom Blancarte, whose intricate, dense work together is hard to define in terms of genre. This music shifts between worlds of composition and free improvisation, pop, avant-jazz, postmodern classical, psychedelic and electroacoustic work, often woven within the boundaries of each track.

Jensen primarily focuses on alto saxophone and voice performance with electronic manipulation. She builds layers of sound with live electronics and loops, over which motivic materials are often reinterpreted or extended. And Blancarte (who also played on the beautiful “Fire Sign” album from Jeremiah Cymerman that I recently reviewed) creates a powerful foundation for this music with his amplified upright bass work, mostly playing with more conventional pitched ideas to hold everything together, though he does get into extended techniques like bowed harmonics and sul ponticello passages when the music heads into more ethereal territory. The pair make an incredible amount of sound on their own, and once loop-building is added to their approach, you would never imagine this music coming from only two performers with no overdubs.

Although The Home of Easy Credit covers a wide stylistic territory, this music evolves through structured consideration: these pieces fuse raw musical materials together slowly and thoughtfully, adding and removing layers with patience. I like my share of collage/cutup compositions, but there’s something about these kinds of more mature methodical fusions of sound. They tend to stay with you longer. It also invites a more participatory kind of listening—I feel like I can get “inside” these tracks, as opposed to looking at them on a wall. They’re plaintive, emotional pieces, and they readily invite you inside. Check out a track from the album, “The Feast of the Meal Replacement Bars” below, and you’ll see what I mean.

Usually I don’t have a strong opinion about the methods used in the creation of a good recording, but in this case I think that the “no overdubs” approach contributes a lot to the emotional intelligence of this music. The band’s name and the titles of the tracks all point to frustration with the shallow artifice of consumer culture, toward having genuine shared experiences instead of choosing among brightly-colored, prepackaged Mcexperiences. These pieces succeed at being very complex and nuanced without losing a sense of intimacy. I can imagine how well this music translates live, a vibe that The Home of Easy Credit sustains by selecting small, intimate venues to play: galleries, coffee shops, house shows, all places where artists and audiences can be together with a minimum of mediation.

Fortunately, I won’t have to simply imagine the live performance of this music for long, and maybe you won’t, either: The Home of Easy Credit is on tour right now (check out their tour dates below). And their Lincoln, NE stop will be at my house! It seemed right to start hosting occasional shows as the opportunity presents itself, as I’ve been co-hosting a radio show and actively writing music reviews for a few years now. If you live in the area, you can keep up with our events on this blog, or “like” our Facebook page here.

—Scott Scholz

Home of Easy Credit tour dates:

10/4 San Francisco @ The Luggage Store

10/7 Berkeley, CA @ Berkeley Arts Festival

10/8 Corvallis, OR @ The Red Room

10/9 Portland, OR @ Creative Music Guild

10/10 Seattle, WA @ 1412 Gallery

10/11 Caldwell, ID @ The Bird Stop Coffee House

10/13 Denver, CO @ Plus Gallery

10/14 Lincoln, NE @ Think Tank House (my house! This will also be the debut show for local duo Moss!)

10/15 Chicago, IL @ Jerry’s

10/17 Cleveland, OH @ Black Cat Factory

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