Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Last night I saw DJ Krush with Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Akira Sakata, Shuuzan Morita, and Ken Shima, at BB King's Blues Club in NYC.

The set was 90 minutes, divided into four sections. Each of the above guests got their own little spot, with Krush backing them (except for Lif and Aesop, who were onstage at the same time).

The first guest was Shuuzan Morita, on various shakuhachi (wooden flutes). That part was relatively calm and drifty, with Krush creating huge almost subsonic rumbles beneath the melody and beats.

The next guest up was Ken Shima, on piano. He was great, starting off quite melodic but winding up pretty far out - reaching into the piano and yanking on the strings as Krush started bringing in much louder and more aggressive beats. A very nice mix of jazz and hip-hop that had nothing to do with "acid jazz" or any similarly soporific mid-90s crap.

After Shima left, Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif took the stage. They performed the songs they did on Krush's new record, "Kill Switch" and "Nosferatu" respectively, backing each other on the choruses. Then they freestyled for a couple of minutes and left. It was a very disciplined, tight performance, with none of the nut-grabbing, wave ya hands bullshit that usually sinks live hip-hop.

Finally, Akira Sakata came out to play alto saxophone. I have one of his albums, Fisherman's.com, on which he's backed by Pete Cosey, Bill Laswell and Hamid Drake. It's pretty good once you get past the chanting that opens each track. He also plays on Last Exit's The Noise Of Trouble, which isn't my favorite of their albums but is pretty solid. So, he's not some cocktail jazz guy.

Krush played the beginning of Fisherman's.com as Sakata's introduction, and then they were off to the races. Sakata was blowing extremely free stuff, ripping up the horn, and Krush was blasting drum 'n' bass beats behind him. It was a terrific combination. Things slowed down a little as the set wound to a close, but Sakata stayed out, occasionally putting down the horn to do some Buddhist chanting, which the crowd seemed to appreciate quite a bit.

The whole set was based on Krush's excellent new album, Jaku, but it wasn't enslaved to it. He took that record's tracks and used them as starting points for improvisatory dialogue between him and each of his guests. It was the most impressive turntable-based performance I've seen (I've also seen the X-ecutioners, DJ Spooky, and Kid Koala live), because it wasn't about stunts; it was about sustaining a mood, and creating a cohesive work of one-time art.

There were cameramen at the gig, and a quick scan of other dates on Krush's current U.S. tour reveals the absence of all last night's guests, so I'm hoping a live DVD culled from this apparently one-off show is in the offing.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


I didn't always like Shadows Fall, but now I do.

Yesterday, I bought UA's Sun. (Credit where credit's due: I downloaded the first track from Fluxblog.)

I didn't order it from Amazon Japan; I went and bought it at Kinokuniya, because I work in Manhattan and certain perks are available - that's one of 'em.

Anyway, it's one of the craziest, most inexplicably beautiful records I've heard in quite a while. UA is a female singer of indeterminate age, and her voice is somewhere between Björk and Natalia Lafourcade, but the music sounds like neither of those folks. UA has chosen to collaborate with a live jazz group, playing "out" stuff in the neighborhood of, say, Don Cherry's Eternal Rhythm.

There's other stuff in there, too, though, demonstrating that UA doesn't have her head entirely in the late 1960s; one track uses various cell phone ringtones as melodic counterpoints, another features a dog barking throughout. And the album's final track, "Ua Ua Rai Rai," brings Balinese gamelan players into the mix. I'm not a big gamelan fan - I never really understood why all that clattering became a vital hipster soundcheck around the time David Toop put out Ocean Of Sound - but it works in this context, even if I do prefer the more "traditional" free jazz tracks.

There's a cool interview with UA here. Based on the description provided, it looks like I'm gonna have to pick up her 2002 CD, Dorobou, also. I'm gonna call Kinokuniya next week, when I've got another $35 (Japanese import CDs are pricey), and see if they've got a copy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


There are a hell of a lot of worse ways to spend your day than listening to this. I got (did not buy) it yesterday, and am presently enjoying the shit out of it.

Tomorrow I'm gonna buy this

at Kinokuniya. If you wanna find out why, take a listen here.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Monday, September 06, 2004


There's not a whole lot (okay, there's nothing at all) to report on the RTVD front. So here's a list of the books and records I bought this weekend.

Björk, Medulla
Electric Wizard, We Live
Esoteric, Epistemological Despondency
Esoteric, The Pernicious Enigma
Gorguts, Obscura
DJ Krush, Jaku
Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez, A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume One
Talking Heads, The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads

John McWhorter, Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation Of Language And Music And Why We Should, Like, Care
James Wolcott, Attack Poodles And Other Media Mutants: The Looting Of The News In A Time Of Terror

In other news, I got an advance copy of the almost-sure-to-be-Grammy-winning Albert Ayler boxed set Holy Ghost about a week ago.

I haven't listened to it yet; I spent most of the first day staring at it, caressing the 1/4-inch-thick black plastic shell, reading one of the multiple essays (Val Wilmer's) in the 208-page hardcover book, skimming depressively through another, vastly inferior essay (Amiri Baraka's - surprise!) from the book, handling the two reproduction poetry/jazz magazines and the Slug's Saloon flyer and the reproduction childhood photo of Mr. Ayler and the pressed flower in miniature plastic envelope. Then, and only then, did I begin to attempt to absorb the music.

I went for the "special guest" stuff first: the performance featuring Cecil Taylor's then trio (himself, Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray) plus Ayler, from 1962; the sextet performance from 1966 with Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, and a bunch of other folks; and the Don Ayler group performance featuring Sam Rivers. All of which were amazing.

Everything about this box screams its makers' love for its subject to the skies, but I have misgivings.

First of all, I've never been the world's biggest Albert Ayler fan. I've given him a few chances to blow me away, but it's never happened. If I want lung-busting screech, after all, I can go for Borbetomagus or Kaoru Abe or Charles Gayle. And none of those players inflict upon the listener the singsong, Salvation Army melodies Ayler loved so much.

If Ayler was a little bit freer, I would probably have liked him better, on first exposure, than I did. But his music always seemed very schismatic - there were the singsong melodies, and there were the screaming solos, but the link between them didn't seem immediately obvious, back in 1993 or 1994 when I first heard him (in a massive dose - I taped three hours' worth of a WKCR birthday marathon).

Some of what I heard then I did like quite a bit - mostly the stuff from the New York Eye & Ear Control album. Probably because the music wasn't under his control; it wasn't his music; it was a collective improvisation, of exactly the type that was blowing my ears open for the first time back then.

Over the years, I've returned to Ayler a few times, hoping to hear what his most fervent partisans claim is there. And sometimes there's a glimmer of it. But for the most part, he's someone whose music I like, not someone whose music I love. So maybe I'm not the right critic for this box. Or maybe (since I do have a sizable collection of contemporaneous free jazz records now) I'm exactly the guy to give it an honest/impartial appraisal. I'll be reviewing it for culturevulture.net; we'll see how it goes.

My biggest quibble with the box so far, though, is its physical manifestation.

It's too much, this thing. If all it featured was the CDs and the hardcover book, they could have been placed together in a nicely printed slipcase at half the current dimensions - something like the Charles Mingus box Passions Of A Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956-1961, a box which has given me many hours of pleasure, and takes up what I consider to be a much more reasonable amount of shelf-space. Having this epic, fetishistic thing in my house implies that I am the kind of person who enjoys such things, and I am not.

But the point is the music, and tomorrow I'm gonna separate it from the package as thoroughly as can be, by importing all seven CDs of music (there are two CDs of interviews that I'm gonna have to really work hard to convince myself to give a shit about) into my iPod. Then, and only then, will we see what the thing is really worth.