More ambient/psych/otherwise reviews.
Shortish album reviews. What’s that, you say? Someone’s working out a private agon with Christgau by blogging irritable album reviews? Surely not.
Auburn Lull, Alone I Admire (2nd try)
In the earbuds on Repeat during, say, a long bicycle ride, its lack of shape, direction, variety, or ambition ceased to be a liability — came to seem like the whole point, really, affording passage to a New State of Mind, though I wonder now whether the specific state should matter more to me. I’ve no idea if he’s singing actual words; the idea of directly expressing something other than ‘I’m walking in the woods in cold weather thinking about a girl with a boy’s name who wears parkas and doesn’t have too many tattoos but spiritually I’m six years old lost at the shopping mall again, wondering if my mom and dad’s impending divorce which they won’t talk to me about means that no one will come to find me,’ i.e. Freudesque ground zero ‘indie’ something-or-other, seems anathema. Wait, did I say ‘spiritually’? I meant ‘psychologically,’ and no I don’t mean that as a compliment.
Caldera, Time and Chance
Much less tiresome on first listen than the title of the ECM-pastoral opening track ‘The Arousing / Reviviscence’ would suggest; but also less interesting over additional listenings than the flash guitar initially seems. Flamenco samba yes yes, and a track named ‘Magewind’ very definitely yes — it has a ‘vamp while Ms Minelli changes costumes’ quality, which I do mean as a compliment — but while nearly everything here is expert and tasteful, the music doesn’t take me anywhere in particular. Not the barrio, certainly, but not the Kuiper Belt either, at least until penultimate miniature ‘Shanti’ (running time 3:56) kicks off an interstellar soul cruise you could imagine Roy Ayers scoring at, big time. I wondered why I’d never heard of them, but the Internet tells me that’s because no one ever heard of them. Unfair but unsurprising. Worth a listen; you might find a surprise or two inside.
Medeski Martin & Wood, ‘Hey Joe’
Playing ‘All the Things You Are’ isn’t thought of as a ‘cover,’ but doing a Hendrix tune (or a cover he claimed as his own) involves a different kind of interaction with the (Rock) Tradition — it’s an event, an overt citation, in a way that reuse/repurposing of jazz/blues materials, or even early- and mid-20C popular song, just isn’t. Rock’s emancipation from the common practice tradition of jazz tied songs’ identities to (recorded) electric sonics above all, which means that MMW’s sacramental performances of ‘Hey Joe’ can’t help but refer to Hendrix’s devastating studio recording of same. And so Charlie Hunter’s quotes of both Hendrix’s indelible ‘Hey Joe’ riff — and a few seconds later, his similarly iconic ‘Angel’ riff — in his solo at the 1/14/99 show make complexly perfect sense; they’re playing a show at the Bowery in honour of Blue Note Records, but (as Roland would say) the world has moved on, and the tradition passes through the record. Each of the three solos (Hunter, saxman Jay Rodriguez, Medeski’s own) replicates the tsunamic crash of Hendrix’s original performance; the same goes for Marc Ribot’s skronking solo three nights later, with Billy Martin beating the shit out of his drums behind Medeski’s distorto keyboards. Even the slow 6/8 rendering with Danny Blume on the 15th follows that contour. It is, I would note, more than perfectly satisfying; the Hunter/Rodriguez version is one of my favourite live recordings. I mention it only to point out its address to the recorded tradition. To Jimi. To rock.
Yet Robert Randolph and Ribot find their way to something new, by which I mean very old, in their 10/31/00 performance of ‘Hey Joe,’ which Medeski sticking mostly to Hammond organ and Randolph’s pedal steel calling spirits out of the swamp. The air gets so thick that the band never actually finishes the performance — they just stop, hushed and awed, with no solo from Medeski. It’d seem awkward or a misstep if it weren’t obviously a surrender to the power of something deep and terrible, terrible like a rainstorm or a just swordstroke.