Lazily listening lately. Lightly! LOL

by waxbanks

Brass Construction, Brass Construction (1975)

A better party than either of us ever gets invited to. OK but cavalier gotta cavil: Building a funk band around brass (no pun intended) risks inflexibility, inelasticity — a half-century of sophomore band geeks putting together dormroom funk bands lights up the low ceiling on improvisatory and stylistic freedom that the format affords. This is a good brass-heavy funk band, complete with cowbell&violins and some passionately undistinguished belting on the mic, but they’re missing the omnihedonic centrifugal anarchy of (say) Parliament, who were putting out straight lunacy while this was going on. I choose to believe the song titles are Miles tribute, and I ride my bike faster with this playing.

Neil Ardley, Kaleidoscope of Rainbows (1976)

Here’s something interesting: tightly conceived maybe-partly-aleatoric-by-the-sound-of-it psychedelic funk/jazz/prog fusion, quite distinct from Ardley’s New Jazz Orchestra stuff (far as I’ve heard). Snobs wouldn’t mark the opener ‘experimental’ but it’s that: ten minutes of relentlessly fractalizing Crimson-style mathematical architecture — accessibly modal in raw material — which bursts cinematically into funk-blues colours. The rest of the album works variations on that harmonic material, so if you’re listening hard for boring old ‘chords’ and ‘scales’ and that other Dead White Guy stuff, your ear might tire a little by the end. But the grooves vary and the finale gives over to fleet guitar/soprano sax solos (warn the critics, oh no) before a triumphant, subtly rearranged climactic statement of the opening assemblage (a more politely jazzish Tweeprise, for any ‘phans’ reading this). I was surprised to hear this somewhat perverse experiment carried to this length; doubly so to hear it done so enjoyably.

Dreamworld, On Flight to the Light (1980)

Charmingly committed to ideas way way way beyond their abilities, they’ve titled the twenty-minute closing suite ‘Dreamworld’s Symphony’ — an own goal. Not enough compositional or improvisatory resources on hand to make anything of the concept, so it drags even when the tempos get up, which they don’t always, and then the singing starts: basically the tiresome Japanese busker from Can, playing Kermit the Frog on downers. I have a lot of time for spacey psych-rock fusion, but this tried my patience from first to last. Not recommended.

Software, Chip-Meditation (1985)

Creepy proto-chiptune patterns, ambient synth FX, and the kind of gutless drumbeats that I think the cool kidz use German words to describe, if we’re still allowed to suggest that some kids aren’t cool. Also a Mandelbrot cover image, and the first track’s titled ‘Julias-Dream’ which for a certain kind of geek should trigger memories and a smile. Books I’ve read with mounting pleasure and discomfort while this album played: Victoria Nelson’s Secret Life of Puppets with its nightmare-inducing cover image, M John Harrison’s Viriconium, IP Couliano’s Out of This World (published in 1991, the year he was murdered), Tana French’s In the Woods. It was the only album I listened to while at Disney World. I don’t understand how this mathy bit of early electronica could possibly be one of my favourite albums right now, but it is. If you let it soak into the atmosphere of your day it will weird you out. Listen closely for the Sign of the Lotus. Remember not to close your eyes. Descend.

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