Here we are wrapping up another year. This is the final installment until 2009. A HAPPY HOLIDAYS to everyone!
Sasha-Invol2ver (Global Underground)(UK)
The latest "mix" from Sasha (aka Sasha, Spooky's Charlie May and Duncan Forbes, as well as Barry Jamieson of Evolution) is interesting. First off, it's a 13 track single CD in the age of 100 track double and triple disks. Secondly, most of the tracks are vocal cuts from far more radio-friendly acts than Sasha. Lastly, it comes in lavish packaging which I'm sure is to capture that errant fan of Ladytron who might actually be interested in not only the re-touch of their "Destroy Everything You Touch" but also happy to stumble upon M83 as well. There are some trancy big room moments that I found annoying on Invol2ver and left in lesser hands this release would have been rubbing Tiesto's jock raw or worse yet Dave Seaman's. But Sasha along with forward-thinking peers Lee Burridge and John Digweed are evolving and each individually are going through their own growing pains. Sasha seems to be adapting to the changes well as I can honestly say that Invol2ver can proudly hold its head-up in the pop marketplace and not being an embarrassing bore- unlike some past pop representatives of the DJ world.
Simone-Simone On Simone (High Priestess/Koch)(US)
Simone is the daughter of legendary singer Nina Simone and her album Simone on Simone is more than just a solo debut but also a fitting tribute to her mother who died in 2003. It's been awhile since I've listened to a good traditional jazz band album because as a critic it's often hard to look back on somewhere we've all been together. Always pressing forward, you know. Then again I listened to Nina's 1967 LP High Priestess of Soul a whole lot when I was a younger man. I bought it for her rendition of "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and stayed for tracks like "Don't You Pay Them No Mind" and "He Ain't Comin' Home No More". That album has remained a favorite all of these years and although jazz legend Bob Belden lays down some new accompaniments down it's still the same "The Gal From Joe's", "I Hold No Grudge", and "Work Song" which the younger Simone tackles, and tackles well. And while I am not much for waxing nostalgic, it is necessary on occasion to gather thy bearings and this particular album definitely did that for me.
South Central-The Owls Of Minerva (Egregor Music)(UK)
These guys are definitely in the same hipster rave category as the Klaxons but with more of a foot in the world of acid house than that of the Ramones-whom the Klaxons draw obvious influence from- but there's also a wicked punk edge buried beneath those beats if you listen. The Owls of Minerva is sugary sweet fun but like all confections leaves you feeling a little sick if you consume too much. What is fun is seeing the five-piece live band version of South Central tackle Josh Wink's rave classic "Higher State of Consciousness" as they expand the notion of what you can dance to in a night club setting. Although these blokes from the UK are more cheesy than good they do make a few stabs at credibility and maybe, if we're lucky, setting the stage for even better music.
Various-Made In Iceland (Iceland Music Export)(Iceland)
It's no joke that Iceland the country went broke this year-a stark reminder of the world's dwindling natural resources. How the government paid for this compilation of underground Icelandic musical talent is beyond me but I gotta say I am thankful they did despite the financial repercussions. Do keep in mind these are the same nation of folks who wrote the Sagas and have had something interesting to say since the days of the Lord of The Rings so perhaps it's no surprise that such striking oddballs as Bjork, Sigur Ros, and Bang Gang all hail from the land of ice. And perhaps not a surprise with capital city Reykjavik only a couple hours flight from most major European cities but still there is something truly original and unique about these artists that can't be said of the French, English, or Americans. Even the things I would consider mediocre (Sigur Ros, Bang Gang) are considerably above average in comparison to similar groups while acts such as Benny Crespos Gang, Steed Lord, and Borko are simply compelling regardless of style or genre. There seems to be a certain northern melancholy mixed with a true sense of cautionary woe of a nation directly affected by the melting of our polar ice caps that propels this music beyond hopelessness, even beyond reason, to a space inhabited by real expression.
Tobias Lilja-Time Is On My Side (n5MD)(US)
This actually came out way back in 2007 but fell through the cracks until nearly the end of this year. In deference, as I sometimes feel bad for thinking so little of artists and their full length releases, I gave Time Is On My Side a good listen and was somewhat impressed with the results-at least enough to review it. Lilja takes some pages from old school electronic pioneers like Nurse With Wound and Legendary Pink Dots weaving sterile electronics into his dark psychedelic fantasies. I applaud this album for having good song structure on Lilja's more David Sylvain influenced pop stuff and sickeningly sweet lushness due to the kid's love for the harmonium on the ambient stuff. File this one under forgotten classics.