Finally, a proper release for the rapper’s classic bootleg.
MF Doom’s Live From Planet X is finally coming to vinyl after more than a decade. The live album features a Doom performance recorded live in San Francisco on August 15, 2004 and has previously only been available on CD, originally given away with Special Herbs, Vols. 5 & 6.
Though it includes songs from Madvillainy, Take Me To Your Leader and Operation: Doomsday, some of the rapper’s all time best albums, the original release was frustratingly stuck as a single 38-minute track. Everything about it fits better on vinyl and it’s been given some fantastic new artwork to go with it.
In the early ’90s, as the rave fever-dream gripped Europe, people started writing lullabies to soothe it. Adam Feingold’s latest EP as Ex-Terrestrial echoes this counter-movement, falling somewhere between the proto-IDM of Warp’s Artificial Intelligence comps and the then-burgeoning chillout sound. This music styled itself as sophisticated, but its simplicity by modern standards often makes it all the more charming. Feingold, who has celebrated a different kind of ugliness on a redlining house EP for Apron, captures this contradiction. The occasional rough edges make his radiant tracks all the more beautiful.
Much of Paraworld captures techno just before it lifts off into space. The title track’s hissing hi-hats and artful congas keep one foot on Earth while rich synths tug us towards the great beyond. The chords are so serene that you sometimes wish they’d untether entirely; they do so on the beatless “Dreams Of Jupiter,” two minutes of Detroit noodling and dreamcatcher twinkles. “Aletheia” remains gravity-free for the first half, before settling into a comfortable broken-beat slouch. On brilliant closer “Blue Smoke,” another dog-eared breakbeat trudges along under a starry canopy of synths. Save for the simplest of midpoint breakdowns, the most striking event in its simple arrangement is a voice intoning, “deep… inside.” Here and elsewhere, Feingold spacewalks elegantly between retro-kitsch and straight-up gorgeous.
Forty years coming, Azna de L’Ader finally has an official release! One of the seminal rock bands from Niger, Azna was hardly known outside of the country – and mostly confined to the Tahoua region of Niger. The LP version features highlights of their recording history, restored and remastered from the archives at Radio Niger (ORTN). Vinyl edition comes with a book of photos and liner notes.
Youth isn’t usually associated with wisdom, or depth or complexity for that matter. Most 22 year-olds are still figuring out how a washing machine works but in the case of Howes (the solo project of Manchester-based John Howes) he’s making electronic music that is operating on innovative and experimental levels one might expect from a hardened career musician hitting their stride. Having released a more House-oriented 12” on Melodic a couple of years ago, his debut album proper is a record that is as expressive as it is cohesive. It’s a release that floats between nocturnal stillness and insomniac driven intensity. The shift, Howes Says, “Comes from the forced and narrow nature of a lot of electronic music. Most modern electronic music to me is too safe in terms of ambition, sound design and intention.”
The aforementioned middle of the night quality is hardly surprising, given the creative process behind making the record as he points out, “Most of these tracks come from finishing work on Friday, going home and starting a patch, working on it till the sun rises, sleeping a couple of hours, waking up and working on it all day and through the night until Sunday night. By this point you’ve honed down all the madness into something you understand and control in real time. Then I record live to a cassette machine I’ve had since I was a kid. There’s only two tracks on the record that have any editing and overdubbing, the rest are just recordings of the cassettes.”
The referred to patches come from Howes’ experiments with modular synths, “I used to struggle making stuff on a computer, you can do anything, sound like anyone, but there’s nothing the computer gives back. To get around it I started making my own software to make tracks on, then I got into modular stuff and building my own bits of proper kit. I wanted to have a setup that works like my head and the only way to do it was to start making these bits myself, I’m not into the fetish of modular stuff and analogue this, vintage that, I just like the way I approach these things I’ve put together myself.“
Howes’ work method has resulted in a record that feels at times personal and melancholic, charged with emotion and humming with a warmth that comes from such a labour intensive and solitary work routine. By not doing any editing or overdubbing Howes admits that “Its pretty hard to listen to because I can hear the shortcomings” however, it’s a process he’s overall very pleased with, “There’s other bits that make me really proud. I like the fact there’s nothing to hide behind, you can hear mistakes, you can hear me tweaking notes till I find the few that emotionally resonate with me, its like trying to put people in the room with you.”
Trying to place a label or genre association on this record is like trying to keep hold of an oiled snake, the second you think you have it, it wriggles away from you. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what Howes intended, “I don’t really think in terms of genre, most of the tracks are from self generating patches which sometimes come out with elements of house/techno but are mainly stripped back to the point where they can’t resemble any established music form, maybe ambient but that’s a cop out. I’m more into getting lost in something and not knowing what it is I’m making, getting stuck in a trance all weekend and then recording the last 5 minutes.”
Old Ramon, the sixth Red House Painters album, recorded in the fall of 1997 through the spring of 1998, was intended for release that summer. But the mega-major label merger catastrophe that left hundreds of bands homeless spared few. Red House Painters looked for a brief moment like survivors, but subsequent delays eventually turned into permanent layoff. Old Ramon sat in limbo and grew into legend as another great, lost album only the privileged few would ever properly hear. They’ve unintentionally put the wait back into the term “long-awaited.”
Singer Mark Kozelek kept busy with a series of other projects. He served as producer for Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver. As archivist for the 4AD Red House Painters Retrospective album, assembling rarities and live tracks. As solo artist with several tracks on the Shanti Project album, and two albums Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer and What’s Next to the Moon, a collection of AC/DC songs reinterpreted. As live performer, touring the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden and his first ever shows in South Korea. As film scorer for the independent film Last Ball. And, finally, as actor in Cameron Crowe’s critically acclaimed Almost Famous.
But while playing a musician in a movie—Kozelek appears as the bassist of Stillwater in Almost Famous—was an exciting diversion, it also pointed out the absurdity and irony of the situation. He’d been writing and performing his own music since the 1980s, with Red House Painters since the early 1990s. He was a musician, not just someone who might play one on TV.
With Old Ramon sitting on the shelf, it was like reading a book with a chapter missing. Kozelek had written most of the album throughout 1996 and 1997. There were “Between Days” and “Wop-a-din-din,” written during the months he stayed in Oaxaca, Mexico about his time there and his cat waiting at home in San Francisco; “Cruiser” written on an airplane ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco about a friend he’d met during the John Cale tour; and “Golden,” a song in tribute to John Denver, written and recorded in a single day during December of 1997, just a few months after Denver’s tragic death. “Michigan” and “River” had been road-tested on the band’s previous tour.
The album, in fact, had come together with a good feeling, reunit- ing the band with their old friend and engineer Billy Anderson, who’d worked on their earlier records Down Colorful Hill and the two self-titled releases (Rollercoaster and Bridge by their covers). Sessions in San Francisco, Mendocino, California and Austin, Texas resulted in several hours’ worth of music being recorded. The band had spread out and worked up various arrangements for a majority of the tunes. Sadly, a twenty-minute version of “Michi- gan” fell to the cutting room floor.
But the ten songs packed onto Old Ramon (the title comes from a Spanish children’s book that caught Kozelek’s fancy) well represent the band that will take to the road for the first time in several years with extensive touring throughout the United States and Europe. Once freed from their major label commitments, reputable independent labels bid for the band’s services. This, however, is the album exactly as it was intended—untouched—three years to the month of its completion. Good news: The wait is officially over.
Various Artists “Root Hog Or Die 100 Years, 100 Songs – An Alan Lomax Centennial Tribute” (Mississippi)
Mississippi/Change Records is proud to present a 6 LP box set featuring 100 of Alan Lomax’s finest field recordings. Previously unreleased tracks by Bob Dylan, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Southern Drum and Fife Corps, Bill Broonzy, Rosa Lee Hill, Dennis McGee, Jean Ritchie, Shirley Collins, Bukka White, Vera Ward Hall, The Georgia Sea Island Singers, Son House and many more. 55 unreleased tracks in all on this set! Also features hard to find tracks by Skip James. Fred McDowell, Almeda Riddle, Duke of Iron, Jeannie Robertson, Bessie Jones, Texas Gladden, and more.
This set was lovingly compiled by Nathan Salsburg from the Alan Lomax archive’s deep well of material. Set features –
– 6 LP’s in their own record sleeves highlighting beautiful photography from the Lomax Archive
– Remastered audio by Timothy Stollenwerk
– A 24 page booklet with many photos, an essay by Alan Lomax, a chronology of all of Lomax’s field recording trips, and liner notes by Nathan Salsburg.
Limited one time edition of 1,000 copies. Bound to go out of print soon, don’t sleep on this one!
By now, it’s difficult to talk about James Dewitt Yancey—the accomplished producer and aspiring rapper known as Jay Dee, and more commonly J Dilla, or just Dilla, who passed away in 2006—without dipping into hagiography. His legacy means many different things to hip-hop fans; he brought Pharcyde (and much of hip-hop) into adulthood on Pharcyde’s 1995 album LabCabinCalifornia, placing warm and sunny beats under the L.A. quartet’s disillusioned musings on identity, purpose, and struggles against commerce. He supported De La Soul as they directly campaigned against rap’s material excess on Stakes Is High. He collaborated with Q-Tip on A Tribe Called Quest’s Beats, Rhymes & Life at the exact moment that the group’s personal expansion and internal tension began to forecast their end.
These are the formative years, a pivotal part of the origin story that places him in the pantheon. But the tale behind The Diary twists the narrative. It goes back to at least 2002, years after Dilla had contributed to the then-flowering neo-soul movement by bringing a softened low end and melodic, hazy middles to Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun and D’Angelo’s Voodoo. Along with his continued work with Tribe, his efforts on Q-Tip’s Amplified, as well Common’s Like Water for Chocolate and Electric Circus, Dilla provided a safe space for forward thinking hip-hop and smart R&B to meet on their own terms and grow beyond the sum of their parts. At a time when hip-hop and and R&B pairings were still being done as mash-ups that simply dropped a dollop of peanut butter into a chocolate cup, Dilla was experimenting with new flavors and cutting-edge swirls of tastes. It was all prescient and revolutionary and it’s exactly why MCA, his then-record label shelved his solo debut Pay Jay, the album that has been dusted off and presented to us almost a decade and a half later as The Diary.
Dilla’s most noted collaborators had been progressive, socially conscious writers who waxed about the big ideas about their immediate society in grand terms. But precious little of that sentiment was to be found in his own raps. As a producer, he was thoughtful and intimate; as a rapper he was brash, confrontational, and unrepentantly materialistic and misogynist. Nary a song on this project goes by without either a mention of wealth, an intimation of violence, or a dismissal of women. And sometimes he manages all three with neck-breaking economy. “The Shining, Pt. 2 (Ice)” is barely over one minute long but still manages to house uncomfortable lyrics like, “Jay been nice with his since Dre said he was a n-gga for life/ And bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks—that’s what I’m thinking when I’m dickin’ your wife/ Yup/ Big truck jewels in the truck with tools/ You don’t want to pop shit tonight.” On “The Creep (The O)” Dilla paints himself as a serial womanizer and incorrigible cuckolder. “You could stay out with Craig and them,” he raps to the listener, personified as a man whose woman he’s cheating with. “Mo’ time for me to bang out/ Shit, I love when you hang out/ It’s nothing else to do but send her home to you/ I’m through, ’til the next time we screw.” The latter couplets are repurposed from the Notorious B.I.G., but the sentiment is all Dilla. As far as hip-hop trespasses go, it’s quotidian by early-’00s standards, and tame by current ones. But it’s obviously not what label execs expected or wanted from the guy who produced songs like Common’s “Between Me, You & Liberation” and Erykah’s “Kiss Me on My Neck (Hesi).”
Despite being intended as Dilla’s first true solo album, The Diary is not what people who are seeking an entry point should gravitate to. For that, listeners are better directed towards the upcoming collection, The Fantastic Box: A Jay Dee Production in order to get a concise overview of his themes and sounds; or directly to his magnum opus Donuts, the last album released in his lifetime, which shows him at the height of his production mastery. In many senses, it’s hard to understand who this record is directed towards. The Diary was released in conjunction with Record Store Day, an obvious move at collectors and archivists. But a quarter of these songs have already been released in some form; and Pay Jay has already widely circulated in bootleg form. The Diary comes off as a play for completists that was prefaced with a listening party at a trendy hotel and a gastronomic orgy in New York—events for the committed and connected, not the everyman. It’s an over-reaching approach that attempts to make a blockbuster out of what should be an arthouse film.
The bookends of the album—the cinematic intro, the proclamations, the heavy-handed ad-libs on the closing track—are conceits that try hard to position The Diary as an important record, but they’re unnecessary. The tracks—namely Supa Dave West’s “So Far,” Hi-Tek’s “The Creep (The O),” and Karriem Riggins’ “Drive Me Wild”—are playfully bouncy enough to get heads bopping, shoulders bouncing, and hips grooving while still smart enough to be cerebrally rewarding to beat nerds. They’re all incredibly short, as well. Like most numbers here, they clock in at under three minutes, all but begging for expanded editions masterminded by Dilla collaborators and devotees like, Madlib, Kanye West, and Flying Lotus. (Seriously and please.)
There are still moments, like the touchingly personal title track, where we are reminded Dilla was a beast of an MC when he wanted to be. On “The Shining, Pt. 1 (Diamonds),” Dilla lights up like a late-90’s Jay Z. An obvious take on Jay’s “Girl’s Best Friend,” it’s a song-long metaphor as love song to bling and plays like Dilla’s radio concession. But Dilla may as well have been prophesying his legacy: “You so special, you multifaceted/ You can cut glass with it/ It’s so brilliant /Go spend a little dough, look like you sold millions/ Plus you everlastin’/ And drastically important when sportin’ your ghetto fashion.” That was Dilla—multifaceted and brilliant—and The Diary is notable for presenting an official release to his intended debut. And, just like any diamond unearthed after many years, The Diary is flawed, but still precious.
by kris ex
Nicole Johnson is a Seattle-based producer and under her moniker Boreal Network she crafts sun-drenched, foggily nostalgic electronica. Last year, she released Itasca Road Trip, a sort of aural tour of Itasca State Park from her Minnesota home.
Originally released on cassette through Illuminated Paths, the album landed a spot on in our Best Of Bandcamp column and later our Bandcamp year end list.
Now Johnson’s record will be released on vinyl through Vancouver label More Than Human. This new version trims the 80-minute original to create a more direct whole and pairs it with some incredible new artwork depicting the park itself.
Washing Machine is the ninth studio album by the American experimental rock band Sonic Youth, released on September 26, 1995 by DGC Records. It was recorded at Easley Studios in Memphis, Tennessee and produced by the band and John Siket, who also engineered the band’s previous two albums. The album features more open-ended pieces than its predecessors and contains some of the band’s longest songs, including the 20-minute ballad “The Diamond Sea”, which is the lengthiest track to feature on any of Sonic Youth’s studio albums.
“First vinyl release of the classic Whitehouse album Halogen, originally released as a CD on the Susan Lawly label in 1994. Tracks are: “Vulgar” (William Bennett), “Lightning Struck My Dick” (William Bennett/Jim Goodall/Peter Sotos), “Movement 1994” (William Bennett), “Dictator” (William Bennett), “Halogen” (William Bennett/Peter Sotos), and “The Way It Will Be” (William Bennett). Recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago by Steve Albini and William Bennett, December 1993; remastered and cut by Noel Summerville. Artwork by Trevor Brown. Audiophile 180-gram vinyl in stunning gloss-laminated sleeve. “[Part of] Whitehouse’s most idiosyncratic, and therefore most compelling phase in their 26-plus years of activity… with probably their most musical and understated (in relative terms, of course) works… Once again Bennett is assisted by Peter Sotos lyrically, resulting in some of the more complex vocal themes up to that point, while the synths are just awash in a sort of gauzy reverb that smooths out the cleaner sound, likely due to the Steve Albini production. It is still by no means peaceful, but has a more introspective feel compared to their other work. The almost pleasant synth sounds from Never Forget Death are but gone, replaced by unique analog textures that would reappear splendidly on Quality Time.” –Brainwashed