Monday, January 22, 2018

Music Week

Music: Current count 29219 [29181] rated (+38), 373 [367] unrated (+6).

Before we get to music, I want to point out Leonard Pitts' column trying to sum up what Donald Trump, his enablers and fellow travelers have wrought in just one year. This would have fit neatly as a coda to yesterday's Weekend Roundup:

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more visceral illustration of how our sensibilities have been bludgeoned into submission in the last year. Surprises no longer surprise. Shocks no longer shock. We have bumped up against the limits of human bandwidth, find ourselves unable to take it all in.

One simply cannot keep up with, much less respond with proper outrage to, all of this guy's scandals, bungles, blame-shifting, name-calling and missteps, his sundry acts of mendacity, misanthropy, perversity and idiocy. It's like trying to fill a teacup from Niagara Falls. It's like trying to read the Internet.

One year later, we've seen a procession of feuds that would impress a Hatfield, a McCoy or a '90s rapper, running beefs with Mitch McConnell, Elizabeth Warren, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Jeff Sessions, Dick Durbin, Colin Kaepernick, James Comey, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, CNN, The New York Times and reality, to name just a few.

One year later, the man who promised to "work so hard" for the American people is setting new standards for presidential laziness, a short work day, hours of television and endless golf.

One year later, the man who vowed to bring in "the best people" has hired and fired the sorry likes of Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Reince Priebus and Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci.

One year later, the man who bragged of having "the best words" has pundits parsing the difference between "shithouse" and "shithole" as descriptors of Africa, El Salvador and Haiti, home, collectively, to about 17 percent of humanity.

One year later, the man who asked African Americans "what the hell" they had to lose by voting for him, is praised by tiki-torch-wielding white supremacists -- "very fine people," he says -- and his name is chanted as a racist taunt by white mobs.

One year later, we live in a state of perpetual nuclear stand off, a Cuban Missile Crisis that never ends.

But hey, at least the stock market is doing well.

Almost fifty years ago I read an essay, "The Obvious," by R.D. Laing, which pointed out that different people have very different notions of what's obvious. This resonated with a word I had recently learned from John N. Bleibtreu's book about cognitive differences between different species, The Parable of the Beast (1968). The word was Umwelt, from the German, the world around oneself. Everyone sees a limited slice of the world, at best tenuously connected to other people's slices, and that's been a limitation since time immemorial. Epistemologists like Kant struggled to find interlinked forms beneath the appearances, but there's a more empirical way to show how external changes affect and limit our understanding of the world. Given that our comprehension of the world is achieved and articulated through a prism of language, we generally find ourselves trapped in a world spun by mass media. Hence, overexposure to Trump normalizes him, and changes us. I'm not at all sure this is deliberate -- ineptness seems more plausible -- but it is strangely effective.

But I am sure that there are many forces which seem to subtly shape our environment in ways that serve their purposes and preclude chances for alternatives -- in business, politics, religion, etc. For instance, I have a book on the shelf in front of me by Philip Mirowski called Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste, about the 2008 financial meltdown and recession, and more specifically how the crisis, which should have totally discredited neoliberal economic theory, resulted in virtually no real change -- mostly because no one in a position of power could see their way around those beliefs. Obama's election in 2008 represented a desire for change, but it wasn't accompanied by any real change in the way Democrats thought about such basic issues as economics and war.

Listened to quite a few records last week, informed by numerous EOY lists (notably including one from Jason Gross), yet I didn't find much to recommend. I did dig into a bunch of Soul Jazz compilations, which might have fared better if I had the booklets (usually pretty good) to go along with the music. The two A-list records I did come up with turned out to be 2016 releases.

The Village Voice has published a list of the top 100 albums and top 50 singles from its Pazz & Jop Critics Poll, plus two essays: one by Robert Christgau, Personal, Political, and Otherwise: King Kendrick Rules Pazz & Jop; the other by Sasha Frere-Jones, Cardi B: In Control of Pazz & Jop Singles. I don't see complete totals, individual ballots, or critic comments, as in previous years, and I don't see any statistical analysis over at Glenn MacDonald's Furia site, which has been an invaluable resource in recent years (2008-2016). We don't even have such basic information as who voted. I'll hold off on commenting on Pazz & Jop and my own EOY Aggregate until next week, by which point I should have stopped fiddling with the latter.

I've been working on bringing Robert Christgau's website up to date. In my private copy, I now have all of the Expert Witness monthlies up to last week, and I have all of those stuffed into the database. I'm still a day or two away from updating the website, but have squirreled away two files of EW entries in the hopes that someone with better eyes might take a look at them and spot errors. See January 2017-June 2017 and July 2017-January 2018. Email me directly or webmaster (which comes to me). Please excuse the broken style sheet and other links.

The update will also include a 2017 Dean's List (not published at Village Voice). One of the tasks I have left to do is to format that and hook in the links.

New records rated this week:

  • 21 Savage/Offset/Metro Boomin: Without Warning (2017, Epic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Fatima Al Qadiri: Shaneera (2017, Hyperdub, EP): [r]: B
  • Django Bates' Beloved: The Study of Touch (2016 [2017], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bully: Losing (2017, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chronixx: Chronology (2017, Soul Circle Music/Virgin): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cleric: Resurrection (2017, Figure, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cleric: Retrocausal (2017, Web of Memory): [r]: B-
  • Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: D'Agala (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Scott DuBois: Autumn Wind (2017, ACT): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fleet Foxes: Crack-Up (2017, Nonesuch): [r]: C+
  • Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live From San Pedro (2017 [2018], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Soul of a Woman (2017, Daptone): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stacey Kent: I Know I Dream: The Orchestral Sessions (2017, Okeh): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Koreatown Oddity: Finna Be Past Tense (2017, Stones Throw): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mr. Lif & Brass Menazeri: Resilient (2017, Waxsimile): [r]: B+(*)
  • L'Orange: The Ordinary Man (2017, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Luka Productions: Fasokan (2017, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Miguel: War & Leisure (2017, ByStorm/RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mount Kimbie: Love What Survives (2017, Warp): [r]: B
  • Maciej Obara Quartet: Unloved (2017, ECM): [r]: B
  • Lucas Pino: The Answer Is No (2017, Outside In Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Queens of the Stone Age: Villains (2017, Matador): [r]: B
  • Real Estate: In Mind (2017, Domino): [r]: B
  • The Regrettes: Feel Your Feelings Fool! (2017, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nadine Shah: Holiday Destination (2017, 1965): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ecca Vandal: Ecca Vandal (Dew Process): [r]: B+(**)
  • Weird Beard [Florian Egli/Dave Gisler/Martina Berther/Rico Bauman]: Orientation (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Roy Woods: Say Less (2017, OVO Sound/Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(**)
  • Msafiri Zawose: Uhamiaji (2017, Soundway): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Acetone: 1992-2001 (1992-2001 [2017], Light in the Attic): [r]: B
  • Boombox: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro and Disco Rap 1979-82 (1979-82 [2016], Soul Jazz): [r]: A-
  • Boombox 2: Early Independent Hip Hop Electro and Disco Rap 1979-83 (1979-83 [2017], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture (1977-93 [2017], Soul Jazz, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Deutsche Elektronische Musik 3: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Music 1971-81 (1971-81 [2017], Soul Jazz, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Lloyd McNeill Quartet: Asha (1969 [2017], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Lloyd McNeill Quartet: Washington Suite (1970 [2017], Soul Jazz): [r]: B
  • New Orleans Funk Vol. 4: Voodoo Fire in New Orleans 1951-77 (1951-77 [2016], Soul Jazz): [r]: A-
  • Punk 45: Les Punks: The French Connection: The First Wave of French Punk 1977-80 (1977-80 [2016], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
  • Space, Energy & Light: Expermental Electronic and Acoustic Soundscapes 1961-88 (1961-88 [2017], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Luka Productions: Mali Kady (2016, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(*)
  • New Orleans Funk Vol. 3: Two-Way-Pocky-Way, Gumbo Ya-Ya & the Mardi Gras Mambo (1959-84 [2013], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Bertrand: Palmyra & Other Places (Blujazz)
  • Nick Biello: Vagabond Soul (Blujazz)
  • Fred Farell: Distant Song (Whaling City Sound): January 26
  • Craig Fraedrich: Out of the Blues (Summit)
  • James Hall: Lattice (Outside In Music): February 8
  • Cecilia Sanchietti: La Verza Via (Blujazz)
  • Steve Swell: Music for Six Musicians: Hommage Olivier Messiaen (Silkheart)