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The Big Takeover #84

Michael Toland

Michael Toland began scribbling about music in 1988 for the photocopied ‘zine FHT Music Notes. He’s since written for various print and online publications, including Pop Culture Press (for whom he was reviews editor for several years), Texas Music (of which he was a founding editor), Trouser Press, Sleazegrinder, Sonic Ruin, Amplifier, Goldmine, Austin Citysearch the Austin American Statesman, Blurt and the Austin Chronicle. He was also the creator and grand poobah of the music-obsessive web site High Bias (2001-2006). He lives in Austin, Texas and works for public television.

Unto Ashes - Pretty haunted things (Projekt)

2 July 2019

Joined here by Audra guitarist Bret Helm and longtime co-vocalist Ericah Hagle, bandleader Michael Laird curates a program of melancholy ballads and mini-anthems that pay tribute to grief, romance and altered states of being.

Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian - When Will the Blues Leave (ECM)

25 June 2019

Pianist Paul Bley, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian constituted a fearsome free jazz trio in the sixties, expanding on the fine work by Bley’s former sideman Ornette Coleman and showing what a piano trio could do with the form. Despite the excitement and acclaim the band generated, it went strangely under-recorded.

Empire of Light - Let There Be Light (self-released)

19 June 2019

Back in the nineties, singer/songwriter Peter Hutchison led Subduing Mara and (with Miracle Legion guitarist Mr. Ray Neal) Lucas Shine, a pair of alternative rock powerhouses that never caught on with more than a small cult audience. Talent and passion persevere, however, and now Hutchison has a new band called Empire of Light.

Salt - The Loneliness of Clouds (Beehive)

18 June 2019

Arising from the sessions for Supercalifragile, the final, posthumous Game Theory album, Salt turns on the collaboration of Posies co-frontman Ken Stringfellow, singer/songwriter Anton Barbeau and French guitarist/songwriter Stephane Schück.

Anton Barbeau - Berliner Grotesk (Pink Hedgehog/Beehive)

17 June 2019

The umpteenth album from the ever-prolific Anton Barbeau, Berliner Grotesk is a tribute of sorts to the Sacramento native’s adopted city.

Michele Rabbia, Gianluca Petrella, Eivind Aarset - Lost River (ECM)

6 June 2019

Once upon a time the term “contemporary instrumental” got thrown around a lot, mainly as a euphemism for the saccharine sounds of new age or fuzak. But if any album deserves this literal description, it’s Lost River, the debut by the speechless trio of drummer Michele Rabbia, trombonist Gianluca Petrella and guitarist Eivind Aarset.

Matthew Edwards & the Unfortunates - The Birmingham Poets (December Square)

5 June 2019

Like any good record by a thoughtful, experienced writer, The Birmingham Poets covers a lot of emotional ground, from self-loathing to detachment to compassion – sometimes all in the same tune. And like any forward-thinking artist, Matthew Edwards builds on his past successes, continuing to evolve as a performer and a tunesmith.

Simon Bonney - PastPresentFuture (Mute)

17 May 2019

What makes Bonney’s work special is his outsider take on Americana. Though his music works with familiar elements – acoustic guitars, violin, steel guitars, folk- and country-derived melodies – it maintains an exotic feel.

Ashrr - Oscillator (self-released)

13 May 2019

Like an undiscovered artifact of the original new wave days, Oscillator sounds fresh and exciting, including signposts of its era while still coming off as iconoclastic.

Albert Ayler & Don Cherry - Vibrations/Cecil Taylor - Silent Tongues/Art Ensemble of Chicago - Tutankhamun (ORG Music)

10 May 2019

The source of some of the most daring and even intimidating sounds in popular music, free jazz flourished in the sixties thanks to the innovations of Ornette Coleman and the endorsement of John Coltrane, among others. While plenty of classics have stayed in the racks over the decades, there are great records that have also fallen out of print, as with any other genre. Fortunately, ORG Music has begun rescuing many of these gems, reissuing them in new vinyl editions that are facsimiles of the originals.

Brutus - Nest (Hassle/Sargent House)

8 May 2019

With its debut LP Burst, the mighty Brutus exploded out of Belgium two years ago to redefine the term power trio. Now the band returns with its much-anticipated follow-up Nest. To say that the young threesome meets and exceeds its promise is practically an understatement.

Imperial Wax - Gastwerk Saboteurs (Saustex)

25 April 2019

Guitarist Pete Greenway, bassist Dave Spurr and drummer Keiron Melling – AKA the longest-running version of The Fall – knew they couldn’t just replace Mark E. Smith when he died last year. The Fall without Smith would be a parody of itself. At the same time, the trio had developed a chemistry and rapport that couldn’t just be abandoned. So they did the smart thing: added vocalist/guitarist Sam Curran, reconstituted as Imperial Wax and didn’t even try to sound like their old band.

The Pearlfishers - Love & Other Hopeless Things (Marina)

19 April 2019
On Love & Other Hopeless Things, the band’s eighth album, Scott clearly draws inspiration from the Burt Bacharach/Zombies/Paul McCartney/Laura Nyro side of the pop world, but he doesn’t sound like he’s merely regurgitating bits of his favorite records.

Michael Chapman - True North (Paradise of Bachelors)

8 February 2019
At 78, Chapman, in fact, has proven himself as influential as his better-known contemporaries, enjoying a recent reissue campaign and leaving a mark on recent folk rockers like Steve Gunn, Cian Nugent and Ryley Walker.

Ralph Alessi - Imaginary Friends (ECM)

6 February 2019

The brassman pulls off a neat trick on this record: being faithful to jazz tradition whilst not falling to the traditionalist trap.

Various Artists - Goosebumps: 25 Years of Marina Records (Marina)

5 February 2019

If it’s folky, vaguely R&Bish, prefers jangle to distortion and vibraphones to reverbed snare, mixes heart-on-sleeve sincerity and arch cleverness, and, above all, remains intensely melodic, it can find a home on Marina.

Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte - You Don’t Know the Life (RareNoise)

4 February 2019

Dedicated to improvisation, the keyboardist’s omnivorous tastes and punk rock attitude keep at least one foot outside the tradition at all times.

Joe Lovano - Trio Tapestry (ECM)

1 February 2019
For Trio Tapestry, his debut for the venerable label ECM, Lovano enlists pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi for a more meditative program than we’re used to hearing from him.

Divine Weeks - We’re All We Have (self-released)

14 January 2019

Remember when U2 and the Alarm wrote unabashedly uplifting anthems, with simple, catchy guitar hooks, lighter-waving arrangements and lyrics that unironically championed love and joy over hate and gloom? Divine Weeks remembers.

Hamell On Trial - The Night Guy at the Apocalypse Profiles of a Rushing Midnight (Saustex)

14 December 2018

Recording everything live on his phone with little more than his guitar and his collection of New Yawk accents, Hamell eschews slick production – or any production at all – in order to put his stories right in your ear, where they’ll slither into the lizard part of your brain and leave stains.

Medeski Martin & Wood with Alarm Will Sound - Omnisphere (Indirecto)

13 December 2018

Having proven themselves the most experimental groove combo on the circuit, MM&W take another step forward with Omnisphere, a concert collaboration with postmodern orchestral ensemble Alarm Will Sound.

Western Star - Any Way How (Saustex)

12 December 2018

Like a broken-hearted romantic with a shelf full of Larry Brown books and a bottle by his side, Max Jeffers writes songs as if every record in his collection comes from either Texas or Minneapolis.

Richard Lloyd - The Countdown (Plowboy)

11 December 2018

Though it may be only for certain rock cognoscenti, the arrival of a new album from guitarist Richard Lloyd is always something of an event.

Tropical Fuck Storm - A Laughing Death in Meatspace (Joyful Noise)

10 December 2018

The hiatus of Australia’s amazing Drones was a shock coming after its upward creative arc, but all is not lost for fans of their distinctive arty psychedelic postpunk roots rock. Singer/songwriter Gareth Liddiard and bassist Fiona Kitschin keep the vision flowing with drummer Lauren Hammel and guitarist/keyboardist Erica Dunn in Tropical Fuck Storm.

Soul Asylum - Say What You Will...Everything Can Happen/Made to Be Broken (Omnivore)

7 December 2018

Soul Asylum would go on to make records with more acclaim and success, but its first two lay out the qualities that would get them there, making them as essential as anything in the band’s catalog.

Jack Drag - 2018 (Burger)

6 December 2018

With his now-signature blend of twinkly new wave and melancholic power pop, Dragonetti knocks out one sweetly melodic gem after another here, putting adult uncertainty and confusion to a catchy soundtrack.

Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson - Temporary Kings (ECM)

5 December 2018

Duet records can be a challenge, especially if neither musician is part of the usual rhythm section. But acclaimed saxophonist Mark Turner and former Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson make it seem easy.

Chris Lightcap - Superette (Royal Potato Family)

4 December 2018

Bassist/composer Chris Lightcap has an impressive resumé in the jazz field. But he also harbors a love for psychedelic and instrumental rock from the sixties, and that’s what provides the inspiration for Superette.

Wolfgang Muthspiel - Where the River Goes (ECM)

3 December 2018

Though he’s been slinging strings for a couple of decades, Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel is hardly a household name, even in the jazz world. But it’s a mark of the respect for which his peers have for him that he can attract the kind of talent that makes up his band on his latest release.

Dead Can Dance - Dionysus ([PIAS])

30 November 2018

It’s been five long years since we last heard from worldbeat iconoclasts Dead Can Dance. Fortunately, the hiatus ends with the release of Dionysus, a brand-new DCD album that’s both familiar and not quite like anything the group has done before.

Barre Phillips - End to End (ECM)

29 November 2018

Solo bass recordings often seem off-putting at first, more of a showcase for technique than anything else. But that’s only in the hands of a bassist who’s not interested in the music first. Phillips definitely is – here he comes across more as a composer whose primary instrument happens to be the double bass.

Jakob Bro - Bay of Rainbows (ECM)

27 November 2018

The second album in 2018 from Jakob Bro, Bay of Rainbows is a return to the Danish guitarist’s working trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron.

Bird Streets - s/t (Omnivore)

26 November 2018

This is pop of a kind rarely heard anymore: informed by the sixties but matured in the eighties and nineties, guitar-based but not overwhelmed, high on craft but never aloof, heart on sleeve but rarely overwrought.

Andrew Cyrille/Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Frisell - Lebroba (ECM)

23 November 2018

A triumph of experimentation with jazz sounds, Andrew Cyrille’s previous album The Declaration of Musical Independence_reasserted the AACM-associated drummer’s place in the top tier of the jazz pantheon. _Lebroba, its even-better follow-up, consolidates that position.

Permanent Green Light - Hallucinations (Omnivore)

21 November 2018

An excellent combo that fell through the cracks of a confused early nineties music industry, Permanent Green Light deserves this second look more than just about anyone else from the time period.

Steve Tibbetts - Life Of (ECM)

21 November 2018

Saying an artist is one of a kind is such a cliché that it’s hard to take seriously. But how else to describe guitarist and composer Steve Tibbetts?

George Usher and Lisa Burns, The Last Day Of Winter

George Usher and Lisa Burns, The Last Day of Winter (Self-Released)

26 August 2015

The pair’s close harmonies and highly crafted writing set the foundation for a work of gentle resonance and surpassing beauty.

Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist

Steve Lowenthal - Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist (Chicago Review Press, 2014)

6 August 2014

“Being one of the greatest guitarists in the world simply is not very important to me,” John Fahey states near the end of the biography Dance of Death. “Oh, but if you took it away somehow I would be very unhappy.” Self-serving? Contradictory? You bet.

Edward Rogers Kaye

Edward Rogers - Kaye (Zip)

8 July 2014

As he adds more paint to his palette, Rogers continues his evolution into one of the more interesting and distinctive singer/songwriters out there.

Stoneburner Life Drawing

Stoneburner - Life Drawing (Neurot)

30 June 2014

Stoneburner recasts psychedelic sludge in its own image on its second slab Life Drawing.

Castle Under Siege

Castle - Under Siege (Prosthetic)

27 June 2014

Thank Lucifer classic heavy never goes out of style.

Bloody Hammers Under Satan's Sun

Bloody Hammers - Under Satan’s Sun (Napalm)

26 June 2014

Under Satan’s Sun, songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Anders Manga‘s third LP as Bloody Hammers, keeps dark faith with the first two, but more so.

Dream the Electric Sleep Heretics

Dream the Electric Sleep - Heretics (self-released)

10 June 2014

As a core of nerds know, twenty-first century prog rock takes inspiration from more than just Rush, Yes and Dream Theater.

Joe Henry Invisible Hour

Joe Henry - Invisible Hour (Work Song)

3 June 2014
For his thirteenth record, the busy producer cranks the late night vibe, calling to mind the sonic settings of his early 90s work while still retaining the jazz influences of his ‘aughties LPs.
John Wesley Disconnect

John Wesley - Disconnect (InsideOut)

27 May 2014

Disconnect marries the two sides of his session personality, as the record comes with a progressive rock soul but a mainstream rock-friendly outlook.

Greenleaf Trails and Passes

Greenleaf - Trails and Passes (Small Stone)

26 May 2014

Greenleaf started out as a side project for various Swedish stoner and hard rock musicians – a busman’s holiday for members of Dozer, Lowrider, Truckfighters and Demon Cleaner. At this point, however, the band has outlasted many of its seedpods, and gotten better with every record as well.

The Whigs Modern Creation

The Whigs - Modern Creation (New West)

22 May 2014

For its fifth album, the Athens-born/Nashville-bred trio decided to eschew extraneous effluvia and do things the old-fashioned way: write some good songs and record ‘em live from the floor.

Buffalo Killers Heavy Reverie

Buffalo Killers - Heavy Reverie (Sun Pedal)

21 May 2014

Every time a band releases a new album, it proclaims the new work its best so far. For Buffalo Killers, that claim is absolutely right.

The Blue Angel Lounge A Sea of Trees

The Blue Angel Lounge - A Sea of Trees (8MM Musik/A)

19 May 2014

The Blue Angel Lounge continues to move further away from its psychedelic roots on A Sea of Trees.

The Howlin' Brothers Trouble

The Howlin’ Brothers - Trouble (Readymade/Thirty Tigers)

12 May 2014

Trouble finds them casting ever further afield from the string band tradition, as well as folding in such previously untested elements as electric guitar and drums.