Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I interviewed Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure (son of the late Ali Farka Toure, and godson of Toumani Diabaté; if you know your Malian music, you know this basically makes him the Chosen One) about his new album The Secret. Be warned: the album features guest appearances by John Scofield, Derek Trucks, and (ugh) Dave Matthews. But for the rest of its running time, it's a pretty hard-grooving, and occasionally quite scorching, slab of Afro-rock. VFT is not one of those lilting African guitarists. He likes to step on the pedal and kick some ass. Here's the link.

And here are links to 10 more All Music Guide reviews:

Arch Enemy, Khaos Legions
Autopsy, Macabre Eternal (Amazon MP3 link)
Krallice, Diotima (Amazon MP3 link)
Portrait, Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae (Amazon MP3 link)
Qluster, Fragen (Amazon MP3 link)
Wadada Leo Smith, Heart's Reflections (Amazon link)
A Storm of Light, As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (Amazon MP3 link)
Jeremy Udden, If the Past Seems So Bright (Amazon MP3 link)
Anthony Wilson, Campo Belo (Amazon MP3 link)

I also wrote a review of Hate Eternal's Phoenix Amongst the Ashes that AMG decided not to use, so here's that:

Hate Eternal
Phoenix Amongst the Ashes
Metal Blade
Hate Eternal’s music is death metal, sharpened to a razor’s edge and polished to a blinding gleam. There is almost no subtlety to it—the riffs saw at the listener’s ears, the drums are a relentless double bass machine-gun barrage, the vocals are a harsh, guttural roar. Still, both through his long tenure leading the group and his production work for a variety of other extreme metal outfits, Hate Eternal leader Erik Rutan continues to refine his group’s core sound from album to album. Phoenix Amongst the Ashes doesn’t inject even slight doses of melody, but these songs do somehow seem to function as songs, not mere collections of riffs. The band is very much influenced by Morbid Angel, for whom Rutan played in the ’90s; their songs have the same feeling of huge slabs of concrete being pushed back and forth. There are unexpected sounds here, though, like when a guitar that sounds almost like a horn section comes in at 2:30 into “Haunting Abound,” or the ultra-clean guitar riff that follows it, in the same song. “The Art of Redemption” opens with extremely high-pitched, insanely fast picking by Rutan that sounds like the work of Krallice/Orthrelm guitarist Mick Barr, as drummer Jade Simonetto hammers his kit into submission. So while in some ways this is “just another Hate Eternal album,” the band continues to find new facets of a style that might be easily classifiable—and ignorable—in the hands of lesser players.

Oh, and I reviewed three albums for emusic.com:

Altar of Plagues, Mammal
Jesu, Ascension
Krallice, Diotima

Friday, May 20, 2011


Could this be an alternate theory of the Rapture?


It's been two weeks since I gave up television. I still own a television, but I cancelled my cable; now it's just a monitor for watching DVDs.

I didn't have a TV for much of my childhood. My mom wanted to encourage my brother and me to read more, and to go outside and play more, so there was no television set in our house between my preschool days and my early teen years. And indeed, I spent a lot of time outside riding my bike or climbing trees or playing football on a local patch of grass (far too small to be called a park) with other kids, or sitting in my room alone reading library books.

As a side note, I didn't hear the word "playdate" until I was in my late 20s or early 30s. My mom used to push my brother and me out the door with the words "Dinner's at six. Be home on time." End of story. There are lots of things not to miss about the '70s and '80s, but the freedom children enjoyed in those years is definitely a major loss.

Anyway, I don't miss TV. I used to watch Morning Joe while eating breakfast, and it made me angry. I used to watch Hardball in the evenings, and it made me angry. Not angry because "dammit, Obama's takin' all our money and givin' it to [insert group I don't belong to]." Angry because journalists are so fucking stupid, myopic and above all narcissistic, because they talk only to each other or to people richer than themselves and then go on television and talk about what "the American people" want, or about how a given policy decision is going to poll, whether or not it's the right thing to do. I don't need to hear that bullshit anymore. I'm out.

And political jabber aside, there aren't any sitcoms or dramas I'm particularly interested in seeing that I can't catch up with a day later on Hulu. And I'm already reading a lot more, and writing a lot more. So this is pretty much a win from every angle. I should have done it years ago.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


The yoke of cultural oppression has been thrown off at last. I thought it would never happen in my lifetime.


From Altpress.com:

Water Colours (Tooth & Nail)
This synth-based project from Austin Tofte, formerly affiliated with Owl City, blends a million indie-pop moves in mostly entertaining, occasionally toothache-inducing ways. “Easy” could be a ’90s rave anthem, while “Diplomat” sounds like one of those unfunny nerdy-white-guy covers of hip-hop songs (it’s not). “Jacques Cousteau” is VH1-ready fluff, with piano, drum machine and ’80s keyboard arpeggios adding up to a big cotton-candy ball of nothing—until a buzzing, Discovery-era Daft Punk-style keyboard solo mid-song vaults it into the land of awesomeness. Various female duet partners (Sarah Beintker on “Holiday” and “Sleep To Dream”; Sunsun on “Happiness”) transform already upbeat songs into ideal summer singles. Some might be tempted to blow this album off, fearing that it’s half-assed “chillwave” crap or just disappointed that “Holiday” isn’t a Madonna cover, “Good Times” (which features a guest rap verse by Mod Sun) is neither a Chic cover nor a version of the theme from the ’70s sitcom, and “Sleep To Dream” isn’t a Fiona Apple cover. Those would all be bad reasons to skip this record, which at its best reaches near-Pet Shop Boys levels of synth-pop brilliance (minus Neil Tennant’s heartbreakingly acerbic lyrical genius, of course). (Buy it from Amazon)

Symphonies EP (Rise)
Following the drama surrounding the departure of screamer Cody Anderson last year, In Fear and Faith have been left with only one vocalist: Scott Barnes. Consequently, on this stopgap seven-track EP of orchestral reworkings of old songs, he’s calling in old friends for help. Four tracks feature guest vocalists—Nick Martin of Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows on “Bones,” Tyler “Telle” Smith of The Word Alive on “The Taste Of Regret,” Caleb Shlomo of Attack Attack! on “The Solitary Life” and D.R.U.G.S. frontman Craig Owens on “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions.” Smith, of course, was the band’s original clean singer, and recorded “The Taste Of Regret” on their debut EP, 2007’s Voyage, while Owens sang on “The Road To Hell…” in its original version, on 2009’s Your World On Fire.

The orchestral arrangements feature drums, keyboards and some subtle electronics, plus lots and lots of surging, swooping strings, and they reshape the songs pretty radically. “The Taste Of Regret” gets reworked most substantially; formerly four minutes and change, it’s now more than six minutes long. Whether this EP will appeal to anyone beyond In Fear And Faith’s most diehard fans is an open question; if these were the only versions of these songs to exist, it would be a downright bizarre stylistic choice. But if you like screamo/metalcore bands’ lyrics even if you think the music all sounds the same, this could help you make your case to skeptics. (Buy it from Amazon)

From Allmusic.com:

JD Allen Trio, Victory! (Buy it from Amazon)
Asking Alexandria, Reckless & Relentless (Buy it from Amazon)
Peter Brötzmann/Joe McPhee/Kent Kessler/Michael Zerang, Guts (Buy it from Amazon)
Gallhammer, The End (Buy it from Amazon)
Art Hirahara, Noble Path (Buy it from Amazon)
Indian, Guiltless (Buy it from Amazon)
Inzinzac, Inzinzac (Buy it from Amazon)
Memphis May Fire, The Hollow (Buy it from Amazon)
Primordial, Redemption at the Puritan's Hand (Buy it from Amazon)
Sylosis, Edge of the Earth (Buy it from Amazon)


Monday, May 09, 2011


I saw Latin hip-hop group Calle 13 at Irving Plaza on Friday night, and reviewed the show for the Village Voice website. You can read that here. The photos are also by me. But I'm seriously disappointed that they didn't use what both my wife and I believed to be the best shot I got all night. So I'm posting it here.

Calle 13 Make The Wait Worth It At Irving Plaza (Village Voice)