Friday, August 1, 2008

Jasper van't Hof's Pork Pie featuring Charlie Mariano - "Transitory" CD

Another obscure and worthy fusion remastering/reissue from Promising Music (and, as with the Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris recording reviewed earlier, this one has deluxe packaging with extensive liner notes, photos, a gatefold sleeve, etc.), this 1974 incarnation of Pork Pie (led by Dutch keyboardist van't Hof) includes some impressive European jazz-sessioners.

And although the group is van't Hof's in name, the standout player (and most noticeable player in the recording) is American sax/flutist/nadaswarm player Charlie Mariano, who shines with a opulent Indian/Eastern air in 'Transitory (parts 1+2)'. Here, the group's jazz/rock roots give way to a more wide-open, worldly, and even spiritual path - and moving far beyond the expectations of listeners, I'd bet.

The meditational, atmospheric, and ambient sound of 'Transitory' falls away (too soon, to my ears) to reveal 'Angel Wings', which synthesizes the more structured 'band' sound with an exotic vibe, partly attributable to drummer Aldo Romano's Brazilian influences. 'Pudu Kkottai' is another strong track that melds an obviously Eastern spirituality with a more conventional Western fusion framework. 'Bassamba' sounds as it states - a spunky and upbeat number that again showcases both Mariano's freeform transcendent sound (I am reminded of Coltrane, really, though I do not profess to be any sort of jazz expert) and Romano's lively percussion. van't Hof's bouncy keys are also paramount here, rounding out the sound with some funky keyboard action.

Closing down this superior set is the 'March Of The Oil Sheiks', which seems to be a sort of fun and playful ending to the set, and lacks the serious meditational vibes that make this recording so immersive. All-in-all, a really listenable and oftentimes beautiful set of tunes from a(n unjustly) long-forgotten group of artists and visionaries. (Promising Music/SPV Germany)

Drug Honkey - "Death Dub" CD

I've been a big fan of these Chicago boys for some time. Suffice to say, if you like music that is mean, ugly, greasy, and hateful - here's something that may float your boat. Drug Honkey (great name) create a twisted and subversive collision of noise, grindcore, and heavy electronic dub that transcends any certain genre.

On this, their third monumental slab of ugliness, Drug Honkey sucker-punch you with tracks like 'Communion'. See for yourself - it's heavy and dense as any death metal or industrial noise act, but even more disjointed and dirty, even. I mean that in a good way. Brutal? Most certainly. But whereas other acts may use speed to convey aggression, Drug Honkey are a slow, deliberate, plodding punch to the gut. Imagine if Flipper has a bastard love child with (early) Napalm Death, then did a threesome with the freeform dub madness of Kevin Martin's God. Insidious, dark, and feral, Drug Honkey has your number. Lock your doors - I wouldn't trust these chaps with the pets! Hah! (Drug Honkey)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dan O'Bannon - "Return Of The Living Dead"

This 1985 movie was an important part of my teens...I mean, 'More brains!', split dog - this is some crazy and unforgettable stuff! Filmed in Louisville, KY, this low-budget, high-splatter remake of Romero's classic is lightweight fun, with lots of dark humor and a silly comic side. It's also known for a notable topless appearance by scream-queen Linnea Quigley (as freaky punk rock chick 'Trash').

The tale begins with a new hire at a medical supply warehouse who is informed (in confidence) that there are sealed government containers stored downstairs that contain the undead remains of the original zombies from 'Night Of The Living Dead'. As it turns out, this wasn't fiction at all. Well, accidents happen and the containers are leaked, causing the toxic re-animation gas to leak into a nearby cemetery. The undead are awakened, and their hunger for brains is insatiable. Enter fun!

The soundtrack is thoroughly 80's, but does include some righteous punk tunes by the Cramps ('Surfin' Dead'), 45 Grave, The Damned, TSOL, the Flesheaters, and Roky Erickson. Can't fault that, now can we?

Check this one out if you liked 80's splatter classics like 'Evil Dead, 'Re-Animator', or zombie flicks in general. There are some really well-done gore effects, and the campy, B-movie feel proves that this is one horror film without pretension. A superb cult classic and one that deserves it's due.

Susan Dynner - "Punk's Not Dead" DVD

Now, this one is world-class. Never before have I seen a historical documentary and history of punk rock that is as comprehensive, factual, and fascinating as this one. This years-in-the-making film is, quite possibly, the definitive document of punk's often-misinterpreted and sketchy past (and present).

Featuring interviews with personalities from nearly every notable and essential punk band, there's no skimping on the details and history. Take a look at just some of the participants here: Bad Religion, Black Flag, Ramones, Rancid, Social Distortion, Stiff Little Fingers, Sham 69, Damned, Green Day, MC5, Minor Threat, Subhumans, UK Subs, Sex Pistols, Exploited, Billy Idol, Dead Kennedys...and the list goes on. And beyond their personal insights, there are countless flyers, album covers, images, old movies, etc. to illustrate the 'hows', 'wheres', 'whos', and 'whys' of the 70's most influential and relevant musical and cultural phenomenon, and it's influence on today's music and pop culture.

In Dynner's movie, the history is essential, but her insights go further that that. Punk rock's socio-political relevance is examined, as is it's undeniable influence on fashion (Hot Topic? piercings? tattoos?). The film examines the evolution of the genre - from its' explosive 70's beginnings, to the mostly-forgotten 80's era, when punk quietly inspired some of today's biggest rock stars. And it even looks deeper into today's 'punk', with bands who purists may scoff at (Good Charlotte and Sum 41 are given time here to explain their roots and feelings), yet are included in the style nonetheless. In short, virtually nothing is left out - from arrests and social unrest to selling out.

There are so many great stories told here (from the legends themselves, both known and unknown), with trivia and anecdotes galore, lest you expect a dry and purely scholarly examination of the virtues and downfalls of the genre. It's exhaustive, it's authoritative, and it's a helluva lot of fun.

This is essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the subversive music and lifestyle that has been co-opted by the mainstream, but once flipped its' collective middle finger to authority and the corporate mainstream. Sure, punk swims dangerously close to the sharks these days, but the ideals are still there, submerged in the underground, where it's spawned offshoots not confined by the name or genre 'Punk's Not Dead' is a work of art, and a necessary history lesson with (s)punk. And the nearly 2 hours of bonus features are just about as worthy and watchable as the feature film itself... Get this one pronto! (MVD Visual)

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - "Sugar Cane's Got The Blues" CD

Finally released onto digital format after years of obscurity, this gem of an album is the result of a one-off 1971 Berlin Jazz Festival live collaboration between electric violinist Harris (known best for his work with John Lee Hooker and Frank Zappa, among others) and a band featuring members of the Soft Machine, as well as other jazz/rock fusion players from Germany, New Zealand, and Norway - so it's truly an international affair, and one that, at least on paper, shouldn't work.

The reality is, it does, and these stunningly powerful (and lengthy) tracks showcase the improvisational skill and melodic genius of Sugar Cane himself. The violin solo in the only cover here, Horace Silver's 'Song For My Father', is startling, and at the same time really quite beautiful.

That's not to overshadow the strong band assembled behind him, especially Wyatt's dexterous drumming (a good mix of both subtle finesse and pure sinew), or the lilting, haunting guitarwork of Terje Rypdal (on 'Song For My Father'). 'Where's My Sunshine' is a soulful melding of blues and jazz, and also works wonderfully.

The technical aspects of most jazz can undoubtably be daunting to the inexperienced listener, but 'Sugar Cane's Got The Blues' is a recording that doesn't sound clinical and studied. It's free and loose, and ultimately emotive. I can draw a parallel to stuff like Can in spots, as that German act also closed the gaps between free jazz, avante rock, and more experimental inspirations. Sugar Cane was definitely ON in Berlin this night, and the recording is as timeless and they come. Wow. (Promising Music/SPV Germany)