Here I sit, very still with fingers typing away per usual. Another week has passed and orders around the country have loosened although not much has changed or stabilized. Like many, I myself worry, sometimes much more than I actually should. I practice social distancing, stay away from many, but never to my own detriment. Usually, it’s to others around me because hey, I’m pretty amazing to be around. I kid.
But as we end this week I find myself submerged in an assortment of music, the final musings of children schoolwork, and multiple home projects. I’m busy and find ways to keep myself entertained. It all balances out. Regardless of how or what you may feel about the world around you, just stay safe. That’s all I have this week to offer up.
By now I’m sure most, if not everyone, knows of Dead Meadow, that D.C. trio of stoner rockers who released eight albums over the band’s over 20-year existence, led by vocalist/guitarist Jason Simon. Simon has stepped out on his own before releasing a handful of albums but now he releases A Venerable Wreck, (BYM Records) his latest Americana endeavor, a genre I normally shudder at the mention. With Simon though, he does things that are pretty… interesting. While Simon may not be out to reinvent the wheel, his attempt here is to challenge listeners but most importantly, himself. Building songs around a banjo and flagrantly tossing around melodies as if they’ve sat around for years, I’m certain comes as naturally to Simon as breathing. His hand-picked guitar shows the intricateness of his capabilities but throughout the album his variation in textures, in songwriting, is evident. He moves from acoustic (“See What It Takes”) to all-out electric (“Red Dust”) without missing a beat. That in itself is pretty badass.
I’m not sure if certain things should be manufactured, packaged, and released for mass consumption. It’s just the way I feel sometimes when something can get listeners way into their own feelings that Drake can’t even pull them from the wreckage of their own lives. All jokes aside, filling a darkening void with a pitch-black effort may not be the best play right about now.
What am I referring to? Well, it’s an album full of cover songs by Andy The Doorbum. Under different circumstances I may be obliged to tout Andy, his style, his music, and his approach to deliver the most interesting of sounds into what he does. Yes, I’ve followed some of the music he’s created throughout the past couple of years because come on, his name alone draws curiosity. He’s an experimentalist with a unique voice that draws my own cheap comparison to Tom Waits, and to a lesser extent, Firewater’s Todd A. That’s as far as I’m willing to go there but he’s also a poet. Just listen to his 2018 release Musings On A Mass Extinction. That’s an album I did tell a friend was, “fucking bananas.” But I digress.
Doorbum’s latest offering When The Cat Comes, is a cover album of songs originally written and previously released, by his friends Jucifer, Emotron, Big Business, Squalloscope, Ceschi, Benji Hughes, Lankum, and others. Now mind you, I never made claim on his interpretation of songs as being poorly recorded and translated. Not in the slightest. Under different circumstances, I might even say yes, his renditions of songs by his friends are fucking brilliant! He takes his one languishing ideals and puts these songs through a blender with a banana and turns them into a remarkably solemn endeavor. Big Business’ 2016 “Send Help” – ok, ok, ok, it may not be the best example but – Doorbum takes the 4-minute track and doubles its length, fitting it with molasses and despair. It’s done wickedly and will put listeners in quite a mood. We can take the Ceschi/Factor Chandelier track “The Gospel” as an example as well. Ok, again it may not be the best example but here he takes an upbeat track with depressing lyricism that hits home for some and well, turns the song into one downward spiral, adding minutes to it to literally stab listeners in the heart. I realize the hyperbole surrounding my own words may entice listeners to gravitate towards this but is it the right time?
Andy The Doorbum can take songs and make them his own. Listening to his rendition of Emotron’s “Better Way To Kill” doesn’t evoke the same feelings the original does, as he fixes through much darker passages and recalls a brighter Dead Can Dance than anything else. So it’s possible When The Cat Comes at a different time I may have referred to as genius but regardless, I think I’m willing to stick with that assessment here anyway. But the album should come with a warning: those in a fragile state right now should probably avoid it. It’s not for the feint of heart.
There are moments in time when art is a factor in music. It’s not something people really consider all the time, especially when referencing pop music but when one thinks ‘jazz,’ life and music are taken to an entirely new level. When that moment is at hand, people must listen and pay it the full attention it deserves.
Collaborations are tricky endeavors; either it takes much work to finalize a project or it comes together through osmosis. The 82-year-old aged and respected saxophonist Archie Shepp finds himself with two heady like-minded musicians in multi-instrumentalist Damu The Fudgemunk and lyricist Raw Poetic. But this collaboration outreaches further than just these three souls; an assortment of additional musicians throw in their mastery of instruments on guitar, bass, keyboards, additional sax, and more.
The group’s Ocean Bridges (Redefinition Records) is a dense and expansive release that juxtaposes jazz against Hip-Hop, melding the two together as one. “Learning To Breathe” incorporates a frenetic bass line with Damu’s scratching, a variety of instruments, and vocal harmonies for something that reaches further than any spacecraft controlled by George Clinton. Not a comparison but an example of expanse. There are a number of interludes but “Professor Shepp’s Agenda 1” waxes knowledge on cultural inequities. It’s followed seamlessly by the single “Tulips” where Raw Poetic’s rhymes and harmonies work well against the addictive melody of the song and Shepp doesn’t hold back with his horn, allowing instruments to build around it. It’s an open-ended number clocking in at just over six minutes but it’s wickedly fantastic!
But what began as an idea for Rap & Jazz, morphs into controlled free jazz melody with “Aperture,” with over twelve minutes of rhythmic beauty as Raw chimes in like a demon-possessed. They slither through “Moving Maps” and Damu’s lowkey scratching makes room for horns and Raw’s love-lost lyricism with a captivating vocal melody. It’s so easy to fall in love with the song, which isn’t forced and allowed to move wherever instruments maneuver. Many tracks are lengthy but it isn’t noticeable because they’re all fitted with harmonies and melodies that are catchy, accessible, and charming without losing cache value. It’s addictive yes, and if more examples are needed, “Searching Souls” is by far one of the most eloquently delivered numbers. It’s fitted loosely with an array of instruments but cohesive.
If you don’t know by now, Ocean Bridges is that new shit! There is no other album that comes close to its majesty. Anyone can fight me on it and I dare anyone to do so. Just bring it like, but make sure it’s as tight and loosely wound as the album.
Surprises sometimes arise and this week isn’t much different, fitted with dark timbres all around me, either from friends who we sometimes need to keep at a distance or new music releases. Either way, things happen for one reason or another but let’s focus on the latter, shall we?
Dropping today is the new release by the Oakland trio, the post-punk Ötzi. The band features former Semiautomatic vocalist/bassist Akiko Sampson, rounded out by guitarist Gina Marie, guitarist K. Dylan Edrich, and keyboardist Winter Zora. The band’s Storm (Artoffact Records) is its sophomore release filled with unbridled passion & aggression, with 80’s styled leanings but firmly footed and contemporary. This go around though, the band leaves no stone unturned, reaching into numerous sources for the catharsis that is its album. The band opens with the guitar drenched “Moths,” offering nods to Robert Smith-like guitar leads, edged out with deep bass notes, percussive consistency, as well as thoughtful lyricism. To say the band owes much to its influences would be an understatement but Ötzi remains far from being just a carbon copy of the past.
“Tunnels” though is where we should all rejoice and jump at the chance to bounce along with the band’s punchy rhythm as guitars weave around the rhythm section. The melody synaptic changes are addictively catchy as the band gets loses itself within the song itself, allowing for an organic delivery. The frenetic “Contagious” takes a different approach as the song’s speedy delivery is juxtaposed against sweet vocals before a much more punctuated shout of the title is set forth. “Outer Bounds” takes things even further with the much more directly before hitting Mach 5 on the spacier “15 Stars.” Ötzi pulls no punches with Storm and avoids the proverbial sophomore slump allowing the songs to coalesce naturally next to one another. With each subsequent release, the band seems to get better and better every single time