Lines In Wax

THIRTEEN YEARS OF UNWANTED OPINION

jazz

Electric Masada – At The Mountains Of Madness (2005)

The concept of “Grails” is probably overused in this record collecting renaissance age (or should I say over-memed?). This Electric Masada album however, was a grail of sorts for me. It has always remained tantalisingly out of reach; a mysterious Zorn-led experimental jazz supergroup consisting of a who’s who of the avant-garde elite which I could not ever hear. I refused to pay £25/£30 for a Tzadik import, it wasn’t available on streaming services, and my piece of shit Chromebook could not run the seeker of souls. What do then? Long story short, I have now had the pleasure of finally being able to digest this album in its entirety, and boy was it worth the wait. I’m not sure how interesting my story is (not at all, I would suspect) but the anticipation I had for this thing before pressing play for the first time was absolutely unreal. I can happily confirm it’s up there with Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, Mr. Bungle’s Disco Volante, fuck even Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Big Fun, Jack Johnson… what I’m saying is that I rate this slab of impenetrable jazz goodness. Every last fucking second of it. It’s probably best, in this absolutely fucking pointless review, if I let the music do the talking, as truly it is beyond words – at least, words that I have the brainpower to adequately conjure.

Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)

Rain Dogs comes in the middle of a trio of absolutely classic releases from Tom Waits. The man was, truly, on a roll with these studio albums. There’s something so magical and unique about these songs and the feelings that they conjure up. Rain Dogs is also a rare album where its remaster has caused me to appreciate it more, at least in regards to listening digitally.  Such a brilliant album.

Fela Kuti – Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971)

As a white man in a western country I can only empathise with the themes of this record. That’s not to say Kuti’s music isn’t for me, as music is for anyone who is willing to listen. Knowing the sensitive political situation around Kuti and the severity of the confrontation between him and those that were in power, one can really feel the weight of every word in these epic, sprawling tracks. On top of that, they groove like nobody’s business, so for an occasion where you perhaps want to dance AND expanding your mind consciously to the plight of others, look no further.

Casiopea – Mint Jams (1982)

Mint Jams is a collection of cheeky, sprightly, impossibly complex jazz fusion played carelessly in front of a no-doubt enthralled audience as if it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. The ease at which the group play in a live environment is truly impressive, although I would be a liar if I said the exact “music” hit the mark 100% of the time. This is an inherent problem I have with jazz fusion in general, that despite the absurd musical talent on display, the tunes come across like the backing tracks for a VHS porno meeting a lost Sonic The Hedgehog soundtrack. I suppose that in of itself could sound like an interesting proposition, but unsurprisingly only a select few weirdos (hi there!) are going to be down for such a thing.

Miles Davis – A Tribute To Jack Johnson (1971)

A stunning arrangement of two tracks from Davis’ “electric” era. There’s a lot of funk and rock elements in the mix here, and the opening minutes of the first track, “Right Off”, are gloriously cacophonous. Davis’ horn lurks throughout the soundscapes, sometimes coming to the foregroudn to shine, but often skulking in the back as the others in the ensemble do their thing. A fantastic, busy record, meaning that it’s 50+ minute run time absolutely flies by.

Nucleus – Alleycat (1975)

Nucleus – Alleycat (1975)

I’ll take jazz records that look like rock and / or metal records please, chief! The veritable concoction of sounds on display here were far from what I expected from such a shitty album cover (which looks like something you’d see on the side of a truck towing a rusty fairground ride). Using my limited palette of descriptive language, in a short sentence I could sum this up as being fairly similar to the “electric” era of Miles Davis’ output (think On The Corner meets Jack Johnson), only yknow, not as good lol (sorry).

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (1975)

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (1975)

I’ve become rather fond of this album over the last few months. I love the floaty, ethereal nature that’s pinned down by the warm 70s full band production. This limitation does stop the band drifting too far off into the ether, but at the same time they refuse to stay still. Across the multitude of songs and vibes on this thing, it’s difficult to pin down the performers to commit them to a groove or motif. This can lead to parts of the record sounding underdeveloped as the band flit from idea to idea, but it’s a small price to pay.

Jean-Luc Ponty – Mystical Adventures (1982)

Jean-Luc Ponty – Mystical Adventures (1982)

I took a chance on this after falling in love with the cover art. My previous experience with Ponty goes no further than the Aurora album, something which I found to be a touch underwhelming, in all honesty. Hopes were not high for Mystical Adventures, then. I am pleased to report however, that the record blew all previous conceptions that I may have held well and truly out of the water. Mystical Adventures does not sit squarely in the prog and jazz fusion worlds, at least not in its general vibe and delivery. There are a fantastical invocations of far-off worlds (mystical or otherwise!) and almost a medieval vibe underneath the pristine and modern (for the time) instrumentation. I have found Mystical Adventures a blissful escapism record as of late. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, but would perhaps stop short of rating it as some of the greatest music of all time. I do however, now have a renewed interest in the work of Jean-Luc Ponty. Tidy!

Miles Davis – Decoy (1984)

Miles Davis – Decoy (1984)

I’ve fallen through the screen and into some rainy noir TV show set in LA or New York (probably the latter, let’s be honest). Next minute, I’m on the set of a very bad lesbian porno, with cheap tights, suspenders and hairy bushes galore. The next, beamed onto some windy beach where some buff dudes are running out into the waves, boards in hand, desperate to catch some waves. I keep falling, song by song, through all the terrible shit that I remember being on my tube TV as a kid. The reason for these vivid visions (lol) is that the music here is atrociously dated, but also rather entertaining in a strange way. Giving me a sense of nostalgia that I guess I tend to only get from listening to vaporwave. As far as Miles Davis goes however, this has to be one of the weakest entries in his massive discography.

The John Coltrane Quartet – Africa / Brass (1961)

The John Coltrane Quartet – Africa / Brass (1961)

Cool, calm yet complex jazz from one of the masters. Well, it’s credited to Coltrane in title but just take a look at the full credits – there are some incredible players on this thing. Please forgive my lack of jazz knowledge but Africa / Brass seems like a chilled mix between the bop worlds and the fusion worlds that would soon overtake in popularity. The songs are long and meandering but the backbones of them are rock solid, allowing those upfront to perhaps wander a bit more freely without worry of losing their way. The A-side track, the sixteen minute “Africa”, is probably the best example of this. Great stuff!

Miles Davis – Amandla (1989)

Miles Davis – Amandla (1989)

Charming and lovely and an absolute pleasure to listen to, but also rather uneventful and not boundary pushing in any way shape or form. I feel like I have fallen into some sort of vaporwave mall / backrooms nightmare, or I’m stuck playing SimCity2000 for the rest of my life – which could be a good vibe if that’s what you are after. Take this on face value and enjoy the smooth tunes, but don’t try to dig too much out from it.

John Coltrane – Soultrane (1958)

John Coltrane – Soultrane (1958)

My vocabulary when it comes to reviewing jazz is noticeably stunted. I don’t know enough about the genre (at least as not as much as I do about grind, death metal and black metal lol) in order to be fully comfortable when describing what I hear, but what I do know is that I thoroughly enjoy what I hear, and Soultrane is another one of those records that I’ve really enjoyed recently. As I noted in the review I did for Giant Steps, the brass on my CD version of this is also panned hard left, which makes for an interesting dynamic. It doesn’t seem so harsh when listening again to whatever remastered version it is that Spotify has, but those old-school stereo pans are brutal. Either way, this is some gorgeous performing, especially from Art Taylor, whose hypnotic hi-hattery dances along with the meandering sax like nobody’s business. Soultrane feels like a short listen, even with some of the songs being quite lengthy, but its a Coltrane record that I’ve come back to quite a few times.

Mouse On The Keys – Machinic Phylum (2012)

Mouse On The Keys – Machinic Phylum (2012)

Really enjoyable rock-meets-jazz, with stunning piano leads and excellent production. The first track, “Aom” is probably the most demanding in regards to its structural composition, whereas the tunes that follow it seem to mellow out somewhat, but all in all this is a fantastic little EP that has really piqued my interest in what the rest of the project has to offer.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead (2014)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead (2014)

I really enjoyed Cosmogramma and its odd mix of jazz tropes and disconnected electronic elements. It was a refreshing mix of styles (not to mention a mix of styles that has failed to mix well in the past). I appreciate that in the dense world of electronic music (and jazz, for that matter), FlyLo is able to give himself an unique, stand-out sound. But, there is something about You’re Dead that just does not gel with me. It certainly seems to meander more; there are fragments of songs leading everywhere, and it seems that vibes are over before they have been fully given chance to begin. You’re Dead is an enjoyable listen, it just appears to lack focus.

PainKiller – Execution Ground (1994)

PainKiller – Execution Ground (1994)

This is the third Pain Killer full length album to date (although its kinda weird to call the first two full lengths such, because they aren’t all that long). Execution Ground breaks the mould, entering far, far spacier territory. You can really feel the influences that Mick was experimenting with at the time; dub, ambient etc. (let’s not forget Laswell has albums in this territory too). The album is a far cry from the jazz-grind carnage of the first two, instead being a much more longform beast. Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments and pure explosions of insane sound and energy, but there are also extended passages of dub-like grooves where the music just keeps folding over on itself. Execution is probably my favourite Pain Killer record, but it is markedly different from anything else that they have done in the past, and different from what they are known for doing.

Jazz Sabbath – Vol.2 (2022)

Jazz Sabbath – Vol.2 (2022)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that a second Jazz Sabbath album has come out. These are very well handled and excellently played interpretations of Sabbath songs that take on more of a life of their own rather than mimic the originals, which is always a sign of a good cover song. It’s easy to say that Jazz Sabbath kinda transcends “covering” songs, though. Check out “N.I.B.” to see what I mean.

Jazz Sabbath – Jazz Sabbath (2020)

Jazz Sabbath – Jazz Sabbath (2020)

I love a good gimmick, me. This goes far beyond the initial reaction however, and actually delivers on the goods. If you ever wondered what classic Sabbath tunes sounded like through a 50s/60s jazz band sound, then look now further. To top it off, the record is expertly produced and some of the interpretations are truly sublime.

John Coltrane – Giant Steps (1960)

John Coltrane – Giant Steps (1960)

Incredibly chilled record from the legendary John Coltrane and his band. Most immediate thing I notice with the mix of this is that the brass is panned hard left, blasting and rattling out of that speaker, whereas the right just bums with the double bass and ticking percussion. Seven tracks in length, I’ve been enjoying this as a soundtrack to my commute. Listening to the sublime tones as the rain dances with the tarmac and the traffic lights had made me feel like I’m in some sort of fancy movie, but alas I arrive at the office before I know it. I look forward to letting this one unfurl further and to become more familiar with the individual tracks.

Charles Mingus – Ah Um (1959)

Charles Mingus – Ah Um (1959)

Busy, infectious jazz that still has a bit of that big band vibe, even with what sounds like a smaller group perhaps. I’ve listened to Ah Um a few times, but none of the songs really jump out at me. I’ve always enjoyed it as a suite, as a whole, and often to be honest as background music whilst doing something else. I find it heavily over rated, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.

PainKiller – Buried Secrets (1992)

PainKiller – Buried Secrets (1992)

Whereas the group’s debut was all “go”, Buried Secrets – which was a quick follow-up in the next year – hits the ground running but takes a moment to breathe every now and then, slowing sometimes to a Filth-era Swans style crawl, which allows for some real nastiness to show through. Buried Secrets is still very challenging, and still very much consists of incomprehensible jazz-meets-grind blurs, but the varied pace brings more interesting arrangements.

PainKiller – Guts Of A Virgin (1991)

PainKiller – Guts Of A Virgin (1991)

I know Zorn did Naked City but this kind of “high art” vibe experimental jazz seems a million miles away from the basement gigs and punk ethos of grindcore. Nevertheless, Napalm Death whirlwind Mick Harris is on this thing. An odd choice in 1991 it may have seemed perhaps, but Mick has done some very experimental stuff with his career, from Scorn to Lull to the bazillion other projects. The man is so much more than a grindcore drummer (and one of the best at that).  The staff involved on this thing makes it hard to admit that it is not a record that I love. It lands it’s blows about half of the time, the other half of the time the songs sound like nonsensical jams, and not in a good way. But yeah – when it does hit, it really really hits. Screaming, crazy, batshit grind-meets-free-jazz.

Lafeyette Gilchrist – Compendium (2017)

Lafeyette Gilchrist – Compendium (2017)

I first heard of Lafeyette Gilchrist when someone from David Simon’s crew (or perhaps the man himself) snuck a snippet of “Assume The Position” into a scene from The Wire. Later, the same song would go on to be used in much more dazzling effect as the closing theme to David Simon’s The Deuce, and that’s when I fell in love with this swaggering, jazzy monster of a song. Compendium is a compilation record that gathers tracks from it seems the first four Gilchrist records, and it makes for a lengthy listen at 2 hours 20 minutes or so. Honestly, on my first run it was kinda hard to tell these songs were all from different sessions; the production is surprisingly uniform. It’s nice to see this kind of instrumental jazz being led but a gorgeous, smoky piano instead of a buzzing sax. Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of sax work in the runtime, but goddamn that piano playing is fantastic. Big up to the rest of the band as well who are also on their a-game here across these sessions.

Other Dimensions In Music – Live At The Sunset (2007)

Other Dimensions In Music – Live At The Sunset (2007)

Raw, fearless and endlessly unfolding live and free jazz! Everything about that sentence sounds amazing, but in practice, between a third and a half way through this two hour twenty minute chungus of a set, I threw in the towel. There’s free jazz, and then there’s FrEe jAZz. The absolute mental breakdown that is “Desert Dance” had me going spongebob_ima_head_out.gif – like, I’m into some wild shit but who wants to hear a twenty minute track that sounds like a snake charmer on methamphetamine.

Betty Davis – Betty Davis (1973)

Betty Davis – Betty Davis (1973)

Probably high time I reviewed this as today I got the news that Betty Davis had passed on. RIP. (This review was written in February 2022 – Ed). Her voice is something else, really pushing that cracked, strained and from-the-soul delivery, even if most of her songs are about getting dicked down instead of having a broken heart (perhaps both? Haha). Honestly though this thing is absolutely dripping with style, funk and passion. I bet it sounds even better on a beaten, dusty vinyl copy.

The Miles Davis Quintet – Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintent (1958)

The Miles Davis Quintet – Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintent (1958)

I’m no jazz expert, as I’m sure I’ve declared numerous times already. With that in mind, I sometimes struggle to review jazz records, even in this micro-format of a short paragraph or two. This is great, old-fashioned and busy jazz; just what the doctor ordered if something of the more classic variety is what you were after. If you want spacey 25-minute fusion epics, you’re looking in the wrong place.

Kamasi Washington – The Epic (2015)

Kamasi Washington – The Epic (2015)

I’ve approached The Epic multiple times since release and have struggled to find the words to do it justice. Therefore, I’ve decided after another recent listen through at the beginning of the year, to throw all pretense of “doing it justice” to the wolves and just commit this monster of an album to the site. Is it too overblown for me to state that The Epic is the Bitches Brew of our generation? Possibly. Bitches Brew is a record that defined an era of new heights in jazz experimentation (or at least represents it). The Epic has many callbacks to that kind of meandering madness; obtuse time signatures, lengthy songs and outstanding soloing from various members of the group. The Epic also however has roots in many genres outside of jazz – or at least, from outside of fusion and the avant garde. There’s a lot here that reminds me of big band music, soul and funk, and even show tunes. Regardless of what I say, The Epic is one of the most ambitious albums to be released in the last decade and its something I cannot recommend enough to any music fans.

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1963)

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1963)

This is just simply fantastic. Two of jazz’s greatest musicians, from two different eras even, converging on one record, with a cohort of additional excellent players, of course. The first and last tracks are probably the prime examples of how Coltrane’s sax and Ellington’s piano play off each other so brilliantly. The drumming here is also particularly of note. Great album. Need to get it on 12″, I think.

Dinner Party – Dinner Party (2020)

Dinner Party – Dinner Party (2020)

This is a short yet rewarding release from Terrace Martin and a revolving door of collaborators. It’s warm, comfortable yet snazzy music that is summed up perfectly in its name. I’m reminded how Miles Davis’ Doo Bop tried to mix jazz with the emerging and extremely popular hip hop styles of the early 90s. Whilst that might not have gone to plan, here such a thing is achieved to a dazzling effect. Kamasi Washington crops up too, which is always a treat.

Kamasi Washington – Harmony Of Difference (2017)

Kamasi Washington – Harmony Of Difference (2017)

Harmony Of Difference, at “only” 30 minutes, is of course, never going to reach the sprawling, gargantuan payoffs of The Epic or Heaven And Earth, but its still an enjoyable slab of meandering, busy jazz that’s up there with the all-time greats. 13 of the 30 minutes are taken up by closer “The Truth”, which ramps up the saxophonic carnage (yep) to batshit levels of warbling goodness. That sentence does the rest of the ensemble a disservice, but hopefully you can envision what I’m talking about here! Ha!

Miles Davis – Big Fun (1974)

Miles Davis – Big Fun (1974)

Big Fun is one of my favourite Miles Davis records. It comes smack in the middle of the 70s experimentation period, and has all the hallmarks of that era. Does it really “go” anywhere? Perhaps not. Big Fun is full of the more meandering moments that you’d get on Bitches Brew, only without the unique haunting vibes that record possesses. This is a straight up set of experimental jazz suites, and I love everything about it. It sounds fantastic. Plus, that artwork is fantastic too.

The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble (2006)

The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble (2006)

I saw this ensemble live in Roadburn Festival, at either the 2011 or 2012 edition. The work they performed there was much more ambient, downtempo and minimal than this self-titled record. It is an album that reminds me of Ulver’s Perdition City, yet of course sounds nothing like Perdition City. The self-titled offering of Darkjazz here however is a cinematic, urban offering that flitters between traditional instrumentation and pulsing electronic passages; one works off the other and so on and so forth. Some of the tracks are pretty intense, whilst others are rather beautiful. Perfect Sunday listening, if I ever heard it.

Miles Davis – Round About Midnight (1957)

Miles Davis – Round About Midnight (1957)

Gorgeous sounding, dense hard bop jazz with ants-in-your-pants constant-shuffling percussion meeting ear-piercing solo sax leads. I feel like I’m sitting in a Michelin Star restaurant enjoying a starter of gravadlax with pickled cabbage and dill. I’m about to try and stab a stray caper with a very expensive fork when actually, it turns out I’m on mushrooms and a waiter has appeared to my side and is blasting Ornette Coleman out of a portable Bush record player at full volume. If that doesn’t give you a vivid picture of how this record sounds, then I should probably just give up writing now this very second.

Miles Davis – Sorcerer (1967)

Miles Davis – Sorcerer (1967)

I love me some Miles Davis and the 60s into 70s (seemingly) free-form experimentation phase was my absolute favourite era. Sorcerer however, seems a bit listless and lacking purpose. Sure, there are passages like this on some of the more out-there Davis records, but Sorcerer suffers from this ailment for most of its runtime. Couple that with the horrendous closing track which just kills the vibe, and you’ve got a contender for least favourite 60s Davis record right here. I’ve read online that listening to the mono version and even skipping the final track, can both greatly improve this record. But shit, if this thing isn’t popping out at me in stereo, I’m hardly inspired to go and do either of those things.

Herbie Hancock – Future Shock (1983)

Herbie Hancock – Future Shock (1983)

I can’t decide if this is genius or just downright awful. Either way, I respect the guts to pull off this kind of experiment, even though listening now in 2021, there is nothing futuristic about this album. If anything, it sounds like a relic from the past, from the days of proto electronic music, suffering the same fate as some of Miles Davis’ records from this era.

The Mars Volta – Amputechture (2006)

The Mars Volta – Amputechture (2006)

Fantastic record! What a shot in the arm (no pun intended regarding current worldwide climate) for my interest in The Mars Volta and their later work. It is easy to write this off as disappearing up its own arse, but this is spaced out, gloriously complex, Latin-influenced and drenched in saxophone and weird jazz movements. Add all of this to the band’s already interesting songwriting and you have an intense melting pot of gorgeous tracks. Everything sounds fantastic here.

Miles Davis – Blue Haze (1956)

Miles Davis – Blue Haze (1956)

Another few days or weeks, another Miles Davis record. Since the beginning of lockdown I’ve made a good effort (considering how much other stuff there is to listen to) to go back and work through a fair chunk of this man’s discography. Truly, it can be intimidating in scope, so I’m glad I finally got to grips with it. Blue Haze is a record from the classic era (I mean, isn’t it all classic? But still!) before Davis became engrossed in the wild experimentation and progression sides of jazz, he (and his band) performed fantastic little numbers like those present on this record. I’m no jazz expert, don’t get me wrong, but I have no complaints at all with this release.

Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch! (1964)

Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch! (1964)

Ah, busy busy old timey jazz, just what the doctor ordered. The perfect music it seems, for playing chess on a lockdown Saturday night. I’m sure these musical geniuses of generation’s past could not have foreseen this, however. I hope they don’t mind. Anyway, this is brilliant urban, big-city jazz that conjures up visions of motorcars whizzing along wet streets and lovebirds snuggling into red leather booths at smokey clubs and restaurants.

Charles Mingus – Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963)

Charles Mingus – Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963)

I’ve given this a few listens over the last few weeks. It was one of the records I used to test the Sony WH3’s (I forget the full name), and probably one of the only things that actually sounded good through those overpriced cans. Anyway, I digress. I find Black Saint And The Sinner Lady to be rather inpenetrable, which is unusual, considering the breadth of mental jazz that I have listened to over the last 12 months. I don’t know what it is, but the compositions here are difficult for me to get into. Either way, its a gorgeously assembled album with some phenomenal sounds. That much I can tell you.

Django Reinhardt & Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France (Featuring Stephane Grappelly) – Django Reinhardt & Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France (1964/1985)

Django Reinhardt & Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France (Featuring Stephane Grappelly) – Django Reinhardt & Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France (1964/1985)

Upbeat, swinging 50s style bop jazz which sounds like its from some lost world. I can imagine this playing in a Fallout game or the ballroom of The Shining. Release date is 1985 for my cassette copy but unsure if the recording came earlier. It certainly sounds like it. It’s not supposed to be, but this is spooky shit. 2021 edit: I can’t actually find a copy of my version online. It has a different cover, but along the same vibes as the one I’ve posted above. Honestly, this shit feels like some mad lost relic.

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Live (2011)

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Live (2011)

A cigar in the garden (a cigarden?) on a Saturday afternoon can only be accompanied by such classy yet rough and ready tunage. I’d need to look into the line up here a bit more but Miles and his gang are on top form. Several live variations on the Bitches Brew classics are presented, and then some. A treat.

Chrome Hoof – Beyond Zade (2006)

Chrome Hoof – Beyond Zade (2006)

Chrome Hoof have been on the to-do list for longer than I would ever care to admit. How blown away was I when I finally checked them out? Well, read on! LOL. Beyond Zade is one of those awkward releases that kinda sits somewhere between an EP and an album, but either way, that doesn’t really matter, what matters is the musical content, of which I can safely report is absolutely bonkers in all of the best possible ways. Coming on like a mix of Swans, early Goat and Frank Zappa, this gorgeous flow of experimental and challenging music was an absolute pleasure to imbibe from beginning to end. I will absolutely be searching for more from this excellent group.

Thought Gang – Thought Gang (2018)

Thought Gang – Thought Gang (2018)

The Thought Gang moniker has cropped up here or there on Twin Peaks soundtrack records (and the show itself, lets not forget). From the bizarre, softly spoken offerings on the FWWM OST, to the frenetic jazz given to The Return, it was awesome to finally listen to an album’s worth of material from this Lynch / Badalamenti collaberation project. As perhaps predicted, this is a mixed bag of tunes, more of a collection than a solid album, what with some of these tracks nearing 30 years old now. My favourite piece has to be the epic and seemingly endless “Frank 2000” (part of which was looped for the Twin Peaks S3 Blu Ray menu), with its e t h e r e a l w h o o s i n g in spades and spades, something which Lynch appreciators such as myself have heavily come to fall in love with. Perhaps predictably, a strange one.

Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones (1983)

Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones (1983)

Quite possibly the perfect record to sit in an old city centre pub with, drinking strong ale and watching the revellers go about their business. Truly I suppose, Tom Waits’ music is probably more suited to smashing back an Old Fashioned in a dusty, smoky hole of a piano bar, but I’ll work with what I’ve got here in little ol’ Wales. Whilst not as macabre or as experimental as later offerings, records like Swordfishtrombones are still a cerebral listen, taking elements of many classic genres of music and twisting them into a strange and drunken world, which we are viewing through a broken lense. By the end of play, I’m strangley craving a packet of cigarettes.

The Miles Davis Quintet – Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet (1957)

The Miles Davis Quintet – Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet (1957)

The first of four “related” releases from the Miles Davis Quintet that would span over several years in the late 50s and early 60s, Cookin’… is a surprisingly sparse and laid back recording, for what it is. The ticking percussion and fumbling bass backbone take us on a journey where the lead instruments add flavour and colour to the ongoing pieces, rather than “solo” out on their own. Either way, break out that enormous garlic bulb you got from the farmer’s market, tear off some parsley, crack that bottle of Chablis and sharpen your knives. Tonight we are cookin’ with Miles.

Bill Laswell – Baselines (1983)

Bill Laswell – Baselines (1983)

Bill Laswell has his fingers up in all sorts of pies. Baselines is something of a solo effort and something of a collaboration with others (as per always I suppose), but is something of a mixed bag. The vibe is a bit unusual and I wasn’t sure whether the music is intended to be chilled out or rather perplexing. There didn’t really seem to be much of a line between the two things. IDK, maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t feeling this one too much.

Miles Davis – On The Corner (1972)

Miles Davis – On The Corner (1972)

I can see why people hated this when it came out. True, hate is a strong word, and expecting the unexpected should be taken somewhat on board when dealing with the legendary Miles Davis, but even the freestyle nature of these streetwise tunes seems a million miles away from the gorgeous experimental jazz that preceded it. Instead funk and groove are heaped on in piles, and whilst the tracks meander in their own way, On The Corner feels like a jam, where in the past Miles’ pieces always felt intentional, jammed or no. That’s not to say that On The Corner is awful. I just feel like I’m watching a 70s porno whilst five hours deep into an acid trip.

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky (1968)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky (1968)

Seemingly considered one of the fusion-era Davis classics, with the group well and truly into the post-bop phase. I had to admit that I found Miles In The Sky laid back and almost restrained. The tracks are under-stated and move along subtly, but there’s always that feeling that things could become unhinged at any moment. Despite there only being four tracks, I find it difficult to pick a stand out track or even a movement within such, and instead tend to view this whole thing as a single entity. The cover art is gorgeous too.

Miles Davis / Bill Laswell – Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974 (1997)

Miles Davis / Bill Laswell – Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974 (1997)

Having being slightly disappointed by Miles’ early 90s attempts at bridging into a more electronic music / hiphop direction (hey, just imagine what that could have done for popular music), I was a little anxious going in to this. As much as I would trust Bill Laswell with any band (except maybe Swans hahaha) I was indeed skeptical. But of course, my worries were quickly put to rest. What we have here is a gorgeous mirage of jazz fusion set to the backdrop of Laswell’s studio trickery and dub wizardy. Davis tracks are splintered into four approx-15-min collages of gorgeous sound. I will have to return to this album in a few years, once I have explored the Davis (and Laswell) catalog a bit more thoroughly and can greater appreciate what is going on.

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (1970)

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (1970)

So this is it, the grand daddy of jazz fusion. Now over 50 years old, it was the perfect time to return to this record and give it another run through. I first heard this in I think 2008, a friend gave me some high-end mp3 rips of it, and on the recommendation of my uncle to check it out, I tried my damnedest to get into it and understand what was going on, but I just couldn’t get my head around it. 12 years later of course, things are a bit different. I can sit through it without getting bored (lol) and of course I can appreciate all of the little things that are going on. Bitches Brew is a monster of a record. The tracks are enormous and the scope is mind boggling. I could bang on for ages about how Miles revolutionised jazz music by not only spearheading the fusion movement with this record but by introducing electronic instrument elements to jazz, as well as bang on about Teo Macero’s post production trickery, but I won’t. I will say however that I prefer the latter “half” of the record, in particular the track “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” being my favourite here. His playing on this track is sublime. I found the first two tracks incredibly intimidating in my youth and I guess that has stuck with me. Whilst I heavily appreciate the tape looping techniques used on “Pharaoh’s Dance” and the title track, I find that the following four tracks flow much better and naturally. The tape loops / dubbing would work much better on later records, in my opinion, and let’s be honest here, the title track to this thing is a bad acid trip. Bitches Brew is one of those albums that is more a historical document than just another record, and I’m proud to finally write about it and commit it to the site.

Miles Davis – Doo-Bop (1992)

Miles Davis – Doo-Bop (1992)

I’ve been coming at Miles Davis from both ends recently (oo er), eager to broaden my horizons in both his discography and in forms of jazz. Fusion was my way in, and from there I shall worm my way through all of these records like a dirty little badger! Yeah. Doo-Bop unfortunately, is not a particularly great record. Miles’ final offering, it saw the legend once more trying to branch off into something new and fresh. Unfortunately, the experiment does not pay off; Miles’ cool, restrained playing mashed with early 90s “hip hop” beats cumulates in a record full of tracks that wouldn’t be amiss playing in an elevator, or on a Discovery channel documentary, or on one of those late night cable TV pornos that doesn’t actually show any penetration. That is not to say that there aren’t any moments of beauty here; there are several fantastic moods, especially towards the latter half of the record, but unfortunately these are short lived and we quickly return the How Its Made OST.

Miles Davis – Aura (1989)

Miles Davis – Aura (1989)

Aura is a suite of “songs” written as a tribute to Davis by a Danish composer called Palle Mikkelborg. Legend has it that Miles loved the songs so much, he offered to collaborate and make it a canonical Miles Davis record. It would eventually get released several years after recording, in 1989, and would be the last Miles Davis studio album to be released when he was alive. Aura is all over the place, but sounds less like a demented infomercial than Tutu did. Songs are named after colours, and whilst the band shines again (like Tutu) rather than Miles himself, the man doesn’t feel like an afterthought this time, despite the massive number of musicians present. Aura is wide, all-encompassing, and surprisingly spaced out. The tracks meander through Weather Report styled jazz fusion, and dense atmospheric synthesizers. A strange one.

Miles Davis – Tutu (1986)

Miles Davis – Tutu (1986)

I’ll admit, Tutu was a shock when I first heard it. I’m not an expert on the 80s fusion scene, but not totally blind to it either. Its not so much the marriage with synthesizers and drum machines that puts me off here, but the restrictive and muted nature of the tracks in general. Most of the time, Davis is in the background, while his more-80s-than-thou band are doing all of the work, fantastic musicians that they are. It feels like Davis is more of an afterthought to some of these recordings. And that’s not even where my complaints end. This album probably felt dated before it was even recorded. Outside of fetishist aesthetic and genuine nostalgia, the 1980’s sounds and minimalist vision of the future appears in retrospect corny, cheesy and incredibly wide of the mark. Unfortunately, the genius of Miles Davis was not spared from this fate either. Listening to some of the compositions on this record is like listening a QVC infomercial whilst on acid. But this is Miles Davis we are talking about here. Similarly to some of the underwhelming and restrictive Swans output of the 90s, in the live arena even Tutu breathes like a real beast. A quick look at YouTube has this song – originally fit only for a crockery commercial – transformed into a 18 minute suite of mind-bending proportions. I’ve linked such a performance below, in lieu of the usual album link. Cheers!

Miles Davis All Stars ‎– Walkin’ (1957)

Miles Davis All Stars ‎– Walkin’ (1957)

Walkin’ is fantastic. It is one of those records that embodies its title and lives up to its name. I feel like I’m walking down the sidewalk of a busy American city. Maybe I’ve got a dame on my arm, maybe I’ve got a small cigar in my hand. I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t suppose it really matters. The late 50s era of “true” jazz Davis stuff is not something I come to often (I got to Davis through the batshit fusion stuff) but when I do I am often left dumbfounded by the musical skill of him and his band. I am not left wanting, nor – as a casual fan of jazz – am I left overwhelmed by what is going on. Walkin’ is a perfect entry point in the maze of Miles Davis and his collaborators.

Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (1969)

Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (1969)

It’s rare that an album’s title helps define the sound in such a way that is present here. These two tracks creep and slowly unfurl into movements of incredible musical restraint. The two pieces were cut from much longer sessions, and present a unified, mellow front to a band that was heavily in sync. I can only say so much in words about this one. Something to listen to at night, perhaps when the rain is falling outside.

Miles Davis – Sketches Of Spain (1960)

Miles Davis – Sketches Of Spain (1960)

Sketches Of Spain seems to rank high on many Davis’ appreciator’s lists. I can not fathom the musical skill involved in pulling together such an album, but this ode to Spain is somewhat lost on me. It has more in common with big brass band movements than anything particularly jazzy, and whilst it is far from awful, it’s not something that I’m all that interested in, despite how beautiful it may be.

Jean-Luc Ponty – Aurora (1976)

Jean-Luc Ponty – Aurora (1976)

I meandered into the works of Jean-Luc Ponty during my recent trips into the world of jazz. Jean-Luc’s Aurora however appears to be something completely different. This violin-led electric orchestra of madness is something that sounds so 80s that it hurts. Considering that it was recorded in the mid-70s, I can only attest that it was – actually – years ahead of its time. I don’t know enough about this kind of music right now other to than to offer a fleeting opinion. In parts in boggles the mind, and in others it just sounds like something off an infomercial. One to return to, no doubt.

Miles Davis – Ascenseur Pour L’Échafaud (1958)

Miles Davis – Ascenseur Pour L’Échafaud (1958)

Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud is full of beautiful phrases of jazz that invoke that glorious noir cinema imagery. It sets the mood through a series of tones and passages; almost like a series of small vignettes, rather than the sprawling jams that one would expect from a performer like Miles Davis. Of course, this is earlier work, but its dark and beautiful all the same. I need to hunt down this movie and give it a bash.

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (2010)

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (2010)

A relaxing and introspective journey through the bizarre world of Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma was my first introduction to this guy’s work. A lot of the sounds are jazz based; smooth, sophisticated, robust, but then fed through some bizarre electronic machinery, creating a distillation of both old and new. The swing of bop and the style of the saxophone meets mathematical beat composition and AFX-style synth trickery. A doozy.

Miles Davis – Bags Groove (1957)

Miles Davis – Bags Groove (1957)

Bags of groove is present (I’m sorry) in this older, more bop orientated record from Miles Davis et al (hey, look at me with the jazz terms over here). Bags Groove is not my favourite Davis record by a long shot, but is a beautiful foray into that world, with some excellent tunes and vibes. Thelonious Monk plays on this too, which is a pretty big deal.

Miles Davis – The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions (2001)

Miles Davis – The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions (2001)

The more recently released full session recordings of In A Silent Way are, for me, intensely more exciting than the original release. In a seemingly endless array of “songs”, Davis et al soar through incredible jams and moods. The muted, peacefully restrained final result is far cry from many of the cuts here, making this a super interesting- and frankly, essential – peek behind the curtain.

God – Possession (1992)

God – Possession (1992)

God is a fucking mad trip, mate. Kevin Martin (The Bug), JK Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) team up with a whole host of other musicians (I’m sorry for not listing them all!) to create an absolute mindfuck of a record. Possession was my first brush with God (what a sentence), after meaning to check them out for donkey’s years. On first impressions it comes across like a blend of earlier, dubbed-out industrial Scorn records and something altogether more John Zorn (don’t you dare say “well isn’t that just Painkiller??”) There is a lot to unpack here, and to be honest I’m not sure what I make of it all; it’s not bad at all, I’m just confused. Possession is the ultimate melting pot of bizarre 90s music, and despite being rather chaotic is actually a pretty chilled and relaxing listening experience. 

Painkiller – Guts Of A Virgin (1991)

Painkiller – Guts Of A Virgin (1991)

Painkiller is not a million miles away from the early Naked City stuff, if not a little more streamlined – if that is even the right word! Guts Of A Virgin, as you may be able to guess by the title, is a much more brutal affair. The controversy surrounding the album’s censorship aside, this is a disturbing and batshit insane mishmash where the lines between jazz and grindcore are completely blurred.

Moondog – Moondog (1969)

Moondog – Moondog (1969)

The cool class of rhythm, blues and I suppose Latin American style percussion meets the pomp and bombast of more traditional classical movements. Moondog has always been an interesting project by a very interesting man, and this self titled offering is a testament to that fact. Highly enjoyable.

Miles Davis – Agharta (1975)

Miles Davis – Agharta (1975)

On a rabbit hole tangent I was reading up about the hollow earth theory online when I came across this Miles Davis album named after the subterranean kingdom. Recorded live in Japan, Agharta is a slow, meandering record that is reminiscent of sound tracks of films from the 70s and of rock bands jamming more than anything altogether more jazzy. This is Miles Davis’ group of course, so there is always that element, but this goes places that I did not expect it to go. I guess, in that alone, it has achieved something. A lovely listen. 

Alice Coltrane –  Journey in Satchidanada (1971)

Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidanada (1971)

How can something so chilled also be so thought provoking? Slightly off topic, but I get similar vibes off this as I did when I first heard Shpongle, only this particular record would best be served in an armchair with a cigar, rather than in a field high on mushrooms. Stunning compositions, all of which I heavily enjoyed. I can find no fault with this at all.

John Zorn – The Hermetic Organ Vol. 6 – For Edgar Allan Poe (2019)

John Zorn – The Hermetic Organ Vol. 6 – For Edgar Allan Poe (2019)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hear John Zorn completely spazz out on a church organ? No, me neither, but now thanks to an ongoing series of recordings, we – the unsuspecting public – have been given the opportunity. The Hermetic Organ Vol. 6 – For Edgar Allan Poe (I don’t give a bloody fuck who it is for, mate!) is a little bit up its own arse, but sometimes the best things are. It is a little repetitive, considering the mind-altering dirges you could get from one of these instruments, but there’s another whole bunch of these where that dream may be more thoroughly realised. 

Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth (2018)

Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth (2018)

Well, I snoozed on the release of this, only discovering it recently. My first main thought, in retrospect, is that it contains lesser experimental passages than The Epic, although the records are similar in terms of scope and length. Heaven And Earth invokes more repetition, to the point where I found that some tracks went on perhaps just a little too long, but this is of course just my opinion. The freeform freakout elements that dashed the monstrous compositions on The Epic like mad stabs of a dripping paintbrush at an already dense canvas seem more restrained, more focus here lies on the beat, the backbone, and possibly more the structure of the songs themselves, including the vocal. Kamasi’s piercing sax lets rip at far too few intervals for my liking. This is not to say however, that Heaven And Earth is not a stunning record and a monumental achievement of musical composition. Topping The Epic though, it seems, is a difficult task.

Duke Ellington – Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)

Duke Ellington – Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)

I was inspired to look up the swinging sounds of Duke Ellington due to his (fictional) appearances in the Big Mouth TV series. Anatomy Of A Murder is kinda an OST to a movie of the same name, where bluesy swing and big band jazz is the order of the day. For me, this is an example of jazz in its purest sense; incredibly moods and musicianship all round. I really want to check out this movie now.

Ornette Coleman – The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959)

Ornette Coleman – The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959)

This is probably one of the oldest records I’ve listened to in sometime, but I’ve been trying to get back into jazz after unceremoniously being overwhelmed by the choice of places to start. All in all, I wouldn’t have called this mind-tormentingly experimental, but when you consider that it came out in 1959, it must have confused an awful lot of people! That sax… absolutely ear-drum piercing! Apparently a plastic instrument. Interesting stuff. Either way, I fully enjoyed this record. I love the busy drumming.

Mr. Bungle – Mr. Bungle (1991)

Mr. Bungle – Mr. Bungle (1991)

This record was my first foray into the crazy world of Mr. Bungle. While the true craziness and musical tomfoolery would mostly came later on, this self titled offering is a slightly disturbing trek through ska-meets-metal, with a cheeky undercurrent. I’d love to know what inspired the guys in Mr. Bungle to come together and make music like this. Truly, there is no band like Mr. Bungle, not even with other experimental / avant-garde jazzy types.

Tom Waits – Real Gone (2004)

Tom Waits – Real Gone (2004)

I’m unsure if Tom Waits is a genius or a raving madman (why not both?), but Real Gone is my favourite record of his that I have heard thus far. It brings the throaty, terrifying blues that he is known for and drags into into an either dirtier sound with a more modern sensibility. Even though it came out in 2004, it sounds like it could have been made yesterday.

John Zorn – Naked City (1990)

John Zorn – Naked City (1990)

Ba ba doo de da doop. What’s more insane than Mike Patton smoking crack in a jazz club? Why, John Zorn’s Naked City, of course! Meet the album that spawned the band of the same name. Bizarre grindcore elements meet experimental jazz music, resulting in pompous explosions of glorious noise in bed next to smooth, swinging numbers and interpretations of famous TV/movie themes. I’ll never think of the James Bond theme in the same way again, that’s for sure.

Yabadum – Careful Kid (2014)

Yabadum – Careful Kid (2014)

Buried deep beneath the sedimentary layers of this wasteland we call a musical landscape, there is a carved plateau in which six unscathed gems wait to be excavated.  After a few days of digging around Spotify radio playlists, I hit gold… or diamond. Unlike the previous releases that these four New Yorkers have put forth DIY, the 2014 EP – Careful Kid – was recorded in an actual studio (Room 17). The clarity shines through with space age synths and upbeat jazz tones melodically intertwining around Horvarth’s cheerful, yet thought provoking lyrical jamboree. It shoves feel-good emotions down your throat until you’re shitting pure happiness. The first song to grace my ears was “Winter”; the opening synth line left me confused – “What’s Spotify subjecting me to now?” I thought, but I gave it a chance. The more the song progressed, the more I understood what this band are all about. The prominent, silky jazz synth and guitars caught my attention as it came in with the smooth vocals. “Funky.” I said to my kettle (I was making a cup of tea at the time). Delving deeper, I realised that this band wouldn’t be the same without the subtly complex bass lines thumping away underneath it all. At 2:00 the song breaks away from the chilled out jazz/swing vibe and delves into a slow break, led by beautiful keys that put you in a zen-like state, of which is broken by a surprising elevation that builds the song into a bouncing collaboration of shredding guitars and dance drum beats crescendo-ing alongside a beastly organ which will have you spilling your tea all over your kitchen from dance moves inspired by a frog on a fishing hook before floating back down with a familiar and catchy chorus. I must have played this song at least five times before moving on to the rest of the EP due to a fear of the remaining songs not living up to ‘Winter’. I am glad that my fear was unfounded.  Running at just over forty minutes, I’ve played this EP more than I’d care to admit, earning itself a top contender slot in my overall ‘tracks most played’, it’s a crystal clear cut of cheery musical brilliance.  10/10 would recommend. For fans of Minus The Bear, Feed Me Jack, This Town Needs Guns. Careful Kid by Yabadum

Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – OST (1992)

Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – OST (1992)

A colleague once said to me that regardless of your view on the David Lynch prequel movie Fire Walk With Me, there could be no arguing that the soundtrack for it is just simply incredible. I’m inclined to agree, as an avid Twin Peaks fan, my opinion on the jarringly bleak (and sans Mark Frost!) film seems to change daily. I cannot however, find fault with the hauntingly brilliant soundtrack, which was mainly composed by the legendary Angelo Badalamenti and features the usual collaborators such as Lynch himself, Julee Cruise and for one particularly poignant track, the late Jimmy Scott. First off, please don’t think that the entire score of the film appears on this record. Like the records released for Twin Peaks seasons 1 & 2, there are quite a number of omissions here (in fact there are hours upon hours of tracks recorded for Twin Peaks which were released online by David Lynch long after the demise of the show). Confusingly, the beautiful “Sycamore Trees”, which featured in the Twin Peaks TV show, not the movie, appears here on this soundtrack album. Similarly, the track “Deer Meadow Shuffle”, which is from the movie Fire Walk With Me, doesn’t appear here but ends up on the season 3 soundtrack album released this year (25 years later!). What the hell? The bizarre irregularities aside, the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack as a whole is a morose trip through both moody and swinging jazz, dotted with intense synthesizer soundscape passages and incredible guest vocal appearances. It is something, that despite being out of my usual field of listening, gets a lot of plays from me. The title track itself is simply unforgettable. On a final note, be wary of the recent vinyl represses of this soundtrack. Various reports on sites such as Discogs or in the Amazon comments section reveal a whole host of problems with the coloured discs.

The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation – Roadburn (2013)

The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation – Roadburn (2013)

I was actually lucky enough to be in the room when this performance was recorded, and it was a fascinating hour spent staring at the intense visuals the band had prepared to play alongside their live show. It was one of the more memorable experiences from Roadburn 2012, so I’m very grateful indeed that the entire thing was recorded and released later on as a double 12″ package. Equally delicate as it is at moments crushingly bleak; the twisting, muted soundscapes of The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation are the perfect soundtrack to any form of introspective deviance, be it sensory deprivation, psychedelic drug use or just playing GTA V on mute with this blaring at full volume. Yeah. Anyway, irregardless of my inane rambling, this is bloody fantastic.

Mr. Bungle – Disco Volante (1995)

Mr. Bungle – Disco Volante (1995)

Caustic layer upon layer. Saxaphone meets blastbeat. Noisecore meets lounge. Rumba, oompah, slide, shake, swing, mosh, grind, kill. Disco Volante; secret songs, leftfield, experimental, techno, disco, rock, electronica. Sophomore, confusion, exclamation, subtlety, song within a song within a groove within a phrase within a suite. Mr. Bungle’s second record is by far their most difficult to get into. It offers a level of inaccessibility that is surprising even for a band whose sole purpose seemed to be to experiment and push boundaries. The tracklist reveals that there are somewhere in the region of eleven or twelve songs on this record, but to me the entire thing just sounds like one trip, where, for the most part, “songs” are indistinguishable from each other as they either blur into one or are broken down into so many parts it’s hard to keep track of what is what. A perfect example would be “Carry Stress In The Jaw”, a loungy jazz number that collapses head-on into speeding thrash and irritating noise rock, before closing out completely for the geriatric-sounding waltzing of the innate “Secret Song” (which is also part of the same song). Yeah. “Desert Search For Techno Allah” and “Violenza Domestica” seem to be a ten minute suite of weird noises rather than coherent songs. In the latter, Patton yells random Italian phrases over a classico Italiano composizione (and I just racially stereotyped far worse than this track itself) before the rest of the record blurs together into a mush of spazzy outbursts and meandering background noise. Just as any hope of getting into a particular groove or nuance arises, the entire thing uproots and shakes off the previous approach, delving into something new before your tiny mind can comprehend it. Endless, morose, insane, distant. Close. In your face. Loud, quiet, fast, slow. Intense, soft, lush, abrasive. It’s like bugs crawling around inside your head it’s like bugs crawling around inside your head it’s like bugs crawling around inside your head it’s like bugs craw}}..'[[=]////////////___

Mr. Bungle – California (1999)

Mr. Bungle – California (1999)

What a trip! What a dream! I was busting to write about this a few months ago – on my first listen I absolutely fell in love with this smorgasbord of musical tomfoolery, but after every subsequent listen I’ve not been able to replicate my interest for it. That was until I realised that you have to give this album your complete attention; it works as background music but to truly appreciate what it is that’s going on here you really must give it everything. Take an hour out of your day (medicinal cigarette optional) and really wrap your head around this. Some people say that Mr. Bungle got softer with every passing album, and whilst this is true – sonically the recording is nowhere near as aurally terrifying as the self-titled or earlier demos – California possesses as much as or if not more creativity than the band did during their jazzy circus-vibe funk metal days. I feel as though I am slowly losing my mind in Vegas as “Sweet Charity” opens up this boggling musical journey. My favourite track though is “Pink Cigarette”, which aches (perhaps ironically) of love lost over a strained and lounged-out big band bombast. Give it time. All it asks in return is your sanity.

Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years (1987)

Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years (1987)

I’ve heard the name Tom Waits tossed around for absolutely yonks, but I never got around to actually hearing the guy properly until I really got into HBO’s The Wire, where his song “Way Down In The Hole” was used as the theme song for every single season. The song appeared in five different guises by five different artists, one for each season, with the Waits version itself oddly appearing second on season two. Logically, that would have been first, but hey, it’s not my fuckin’ show haha Since then I’ve looked for an in-road into Tom Waits’ music, which was provided to me in the form of a recommendation of the Frank’s Wild Years album. It’s pretty nice stuff, material of such a type that I rarely partake in listening to, but harking back to a time that no longer exists and conjuring all sorts of fantastic imagery of culture and emotion. It’s bluesy as fark, as was a really nice break for me from a world of grindcore and hip hop (and that one Type O Negative record I keep playing over and over these days). My favourite tracks were probably the gravelier-sounding ones, like “Telephone Call From Istanbul”, “Way Down In The Hole” and “Straight To The Top”. The opening track, “Hang On St. Christopher” also has a wicked, wicked groove, which I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere else already. You gotta keep the devil… down in the hole.

Björk – Post (1995)

Björk – Post (1995)

Where Björk’s Debut record gets off to a confusing yet almost “cute” start, her follow-up record Post really starts to push the boat out. Holy mother of fuck what is going on here? One has to simply compare album covers to get an idea of the difference. Debut was different in so many ways, but seemed to have one guiding theme. Post, on the other hand, seems to have not been planned out in any way shape or form. The record opens with “Army of Me”, which is fantastically heavy for a song comprised entirely from electronic instruments. “Hyperballad” follows, which is the best Björk song ever, in my opinion. By track three however, things start getting a bit weird. All of the free-form jazz up in this bitch! And on top of that, the song is about cars. The song tells the tale of cars that have existed since the dawn of time, and have been hiding in mountains because they were scared of the noises the dinosaurs made. Okay… And it’s all downhill from there, until track seven, “Isobel”, which is a world of awesome. Random snippet of info: money-grabbing sellout arseholes (2021 edit: a bit much? – Ed) Carcass performed a version of this song with Björk on vocals for the single CD release of “Hyperballad” or something. She hated it, which is entirely understandable. Anyway, Post lurches onward to it’s inevitable closure, and as someone who spent a large majority of ages 10 to 18 plugged into either a walkman, CD player or mp3 player, closer “Headphones” really strikes a nerve with me. Seriously, I feel a full-blown Björk obsession coming on here. It won’t be long before I paint myself up like Darth Maul and shoot myself in the fucking face.

Stebmo – Stebmo (2009)

Stebmo – Stebmo (2009)

I had the shock of my life when I saw a tweed jacket wearing Steve Moore perform as Stebmo in 2009, supporting Earth in The Croft, Bristol. What the hell was I watching? To be fair, who knew? And whilst that jazzy-jam of distorted electric piano and drums doesn’t sound anything like the Stebmo record, it was entirely responsible for my purchase of it. It took me a while to get around the idea of whether I liked Stebmo or not, but in the end I threw caution to the wind and bought the album. Way to push the boat out! Like the live show, the Stebmo record is primarily piano and organ driven, although there is a veritable smorgasbord of other instruments and performers chipping in over the whole record. One minute it’s elevator music, the next an up-beat jaunt that would be the perfect soundtrack for walking through a big city, and then onto slower, more rousing and thought provoking pieces. This record has it all! I don’t really know how to class this album, and I guess if it doesn’t class easily then I shouldn’t try to, although Discogs has it listed as Avant-garde jazz. Hmm. Out on Invada Records (the Bristol-based one) and as far as I can tell, all the copies are clear vinyl. Also, since some cunt stole my fucking Cattle Decapitation 7″ in a bogus trade, the Stebmo record is now by far the clearest clear record I own. That shit is like fucking glass.

Safehouse – Press To Ascend (2003)

Safehouse – Press To Ascend (2003)

This EP has a mega-random story behind it. When I was around 13/14, our gang would always chill / play fuck in this one street in upper-Abercanaid. The wannabe-middle class fucks up there hated us, but we had a few friends who lived there so we always hung around there. Not everyone there was bad, but there was the usual crowd of grouchy middle-aged meatbags who despised children. Not to mention, we did play fuck quite a bit, but that’s another story for another time, possibly whilst in a local pub surrounded by old friends and with a belly bursting with beer. I digress. One day this car is pulled up outside one of the houses and a gang of older boys are hanging around it. The boot is open and they are all talking excitedly. I guess one of the lads had parents that lived here. Anyways, after a while one of the dudes walks over with about 10 CDs and asks us all “do you like music?”. A few of us answer “yes” in unison and we get given copies of this CD, whom I assume is the band of the boys with the car. Extremely riveting story aside, the CD turned out to be Press to Ascend, a demo/EP by local jazz-influenced pub rock band, Safehouse. They were quite active around Merthyr for a while but I was too young to really understand or want to be involved in ever going to see them live. It was all a bit before my time. Anyway, time to round this off. Press to Ascend isn’t particularly a CD I ever listen to but it is something I will always keep in my collection, mainly for the memories. Also I think it was the first time I was given something as cool as a CD for free by actual musicians. Holy shit! This was self released in 2003. RIP Safehouse! PS this band is not to be confused with the currently active South Wales covers band Safe House.  (2021 edit: Or maybe it is the same band? Fuck, I don’t know.)

Dead Neanderthals – Dead Neanderthals (2011)

Dead Neanderthals – Dead Neanderthals (2011)

There is no other band in the world that sounds like Dead Neanderthals (although 7000 Dying Rats and Rich Hoak’s solo experiments do come close in their own little ways). Jazzgrind? Or is it saxgrind? Who the fuck would have thought it? Not me, that’s for sure! Trust the Netherlands! Ha ha. This is one of the original Bat Shit Records pressings of the 7″ EP, limited to 105 copies (I have number 92). It is a simple affair of a printed and stamped card sleeve, folded to house a plain black 7″. You have to look at the disc etching to figure out what side your playing! This is a basic, and excellently D.I.Y as fuck collectors item that I am proud to own. This is well out of print, as is, I believe, the repress, but you can still download it for free from Grindcore Karaoke. On the ears, Dead Neanderthals first come across as extremely lo-fi and abrasive, but once your ears adjust you can truly appreciate the gorgeous racket that is going on here. Once you are over the absence of guitars  and vocals (just a saxophone and a drum kit here) you can properly begin to enjoy the tunes on offer. I imagine that Dead Neanderthals sound a hundred times better in a volatile live environment, and I was absolutely crushed to realize that I recently missed their brief UK tour. Totally gutted is an understatement! These guys have a full 10″ out now being distributed by Burning World records, which is a big deal, and I’m glad to see them getting some well deserved attention. I really think that Jay Randall’s enormously successful Grindcore Karaoke label has a huge part to play in the international success of many bands, including Dead Neanderthals. I for one, to be sure, had never heard of these guys until I downloaded their record off that site. Excellent stuff all round!