Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy New Beer!

Ah, time again for my monthly beer report. This time we have some spicy holiday goodness...kinda. One astounding and creative brew that nearly transcends the word 'beer', and some others that turn in respectable tastes. Again, the scale goes a little like this: 5 = masterful, 4 = exceptional, 3 = average, 2 = borderline waste of money, 1 = abomination.

DOGFISH HEAD - Theobroma (Delaware, USA) - 5

Unusual scent - like something almost medieval. And alas! This is based on a recipe found at ruins in Honduras, and reputedly the earliest use of cocoa in an alcoholic beverage - used to celebrate those ancient 'good times', perhaps? Anyhow, history aside, 'Theobroma' has a very strong, hearty, smooth, and up-front sweet taste (the cocoa and honey come through), with a tinge of spice (annatto?). Then the lingering flavor is kind of spicy (chilies are used here, too). There's a prominent alcoholic suggestion (this one is strong at 9%). One of the most unusual and delightful brews I've had in some time.

REDHOOK - ESB Original Ale (New Hampshire, USA) - 3

Strong and hearty, and a light golden ale - kinda sweet and malty but not overbearingly so. Easygoing and simple, with nothing flashy or unusual. Enjoyable enough, but not something all that unique or notable.

GOOSE ISLAND- Mild Winter (Chicago, USA) - 3

A nice amber ale with a mild amount of spice and hoppiness, nicely balancing the two in harmony/tandem. A well-done brew.

ATLANTIC BREWING CO. - Mount Desert Island Ginger (Bar Harbor/Portland ME, USA) - 2

The first striking feature is the cloudy golden appearance and spicy/fruity scent. Initial taste heralds an instant snap of ginger, but it's not overpowering. In fact, this is more like a ginger ale (hahah!), easy on the palate and stomach. However, maybe a little too sweet for my taste.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Iceberg Slim - "Reflections" CD

Ah, reflections. But in this case, they're not of the sensitive, lovey kind. These reflections are straight from a life of crime and pimpin'. Iceberg Slim (aka Robert Beck) was a (literal and literary) genius. He lived quite a storied life, rising from poverty to become the leading author of 'urban' fiction in the 60's and 70's. His past life as a real pimp gave him a wealth of tales and experiences to draw from. His books (and this CD) have been major inspirations and influences on the rap scene, and some really major artists (Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Dave Chappelle) have professed allegiance to the 'Iceberg'. 'Reflections', his only audio poetry release, first arrived in 1976, and has been reissued a couple of times since then (notably once in the 90's on Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin's Infinite Zero imprint).

Iceberg was a natural showman, and his smooth, confident, and authoritative voice here anticipates the future hip-hop scene, with his sly rhymes and cadences. These tales aren't for kids - plenty of references to whores, drugs, lurid sex, deceit, and treachery. But he does it always with an abundance of style and charisma, so it's a pleasure to listen to. Whether or not these are real-life stories is a moot point. Slim creates vivid scenes with his words, like all great writers, and that, to me, proves to me that Iceberg was indeed a legend in his time.

A film adaption of Iceberg's book 'Mama's Black Widow' is reportedly in the works, featuring pop star Rihanna, Mos Def, Anthony Anderson, and Macy Gray, among others.
(Uproar Entertainment)

more info on Iceberg and 'Reflections'

Yahowa 13 - "Sonic Portation" CD

Born of a sixties-era religious group called the Source Family, and led by the enigmatic Father Yod, the Ya Ho Wa 13 collective produced a series of privately-released vinyl LPs of wild psychedelic improvisational music from 1973 to 1975. Through the years, these records became highly sought-after collectibles, and their influence has gone on the breed some of the wilder out-there psyche/noise/freak folk sounds of today.
Reforming with all 3 of the former members (sadly, Father Yod passed away in 1975), and joined by Smashing Pumpkins associate Kerry Brown (who mixed this), Yahowa 13 return after a many-year absence with this 35-minute set of freeform space jams. This is tribal/raga/mantric music for those seeking higher planes of consciousness. Yahowa 13's uninhibited blending of guitars, bass, drums, and chant isn't unique, but it recalls everything from Eastern meditational sound to the tribal rock of Amon Duul. It's a joyous noise, and a lovely din to lose yourself inside of. I say turn it up loud, close your eyes, and feel the divinity of sound itself. (Prophase Music)

info on the Source family

info on the Father Yod LPs

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Watain - "Casus Luciferi" CD

This is a remastered reissue of Swedish black metal act Watain's second album, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the formation of this formidable band of marauders. It all begins with the maelstrom of 'Devil's Blood' - a fiery blast furnace of furious rhythms and screaming guitars. Vocalist Erik Danielsson's agonized wails are relegated more to the back of the mix, which is fine, making them seem almost more ghostly and part of the wall of noise. Watain's sheer power, speed and aggression take the example set by bands like Emperor or Mayhem and add the crisp production that bands like Slayer harness so well. It's a balanced mix of extreme anger and misanthropy that one can't help but feel - forceful and brutal. Over the course of 9 tracks, the swelling, almost orchestral chaos is numbing, and all-consuming. Watain's latest work, 'Sworn To The Dark', is an even better and and more articulate depiction of modern black metal, but this reissue certainly has the chops, proving that Watain are rightful heirs to the crown. (Season Of Mist)

Temple Of Watain

Grails - "Doomsayer's Holiday" CD

Portland heavy-doom instrumental rock unit Grails take influence from such wildly unusual sources as hash-soaked psychedelia, post-Black Sabbath metal, Eastern instrumentation, and out-jazz. On 'Doomsayer's Holiday', this coalesces into a blazing landscape of exotic jams (the Indian/Irish-accented sludge metal of 'Reincarnation Blues'), weird, alien textures, and stoned-out bliss, all with a richly cinematic flair. It's as if Grails are scoring an epic film by Alejandro Jodorowsky. The sweeping, chiming sadness of 'The Natural Man' is only a precursor to the Sun Ra-like space-jazz-noise of 'Immediate Mate'. 'X-Contaminators' would serve well as a soundtrack to a Dario Argento horror film, and the Pink Floyd-ian 'Acid Rain' closes it all out. A major release that will appeal to both metal heads and avante-leaning space travelers alike. (Temporary Residence)

Grails website

Clutch - "Full Fathom Five - Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008" CD

Survivors of the 90's alt.rock/metal explosion, Mayland's Clutch have seen their share of ups and downs. Their gigging around the DC area and their sheer perseverance has rewarded them with a 15-year career, and a fair share of fans who've followed the band through the major label days and beyond. This live album, recorded through 4 gigs around the US and Australia, features some big and mean rock - raw and ugly as it should be. Imagine a melding of funky groove metal (think Faith No More, maybe) with heavy post-Sabbath blues riff-rock. It's not elegant or reserved, but more of a sweat-and-spittle sorta thang, well-suited for overloading PAs at clubs and bars. On the blues tip, 'Electric Worry' takes cues from Mississippi Fred McDowell (and also shares a posthumous co-writing credit with), and is among the more successful songs here. The sound is crisp, and the band at the top of their game. Preach on, brothers. (Weathermaker Music)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

John Gregorius - "Heaven And Earth" CD

Guitarist/composer Gregorius' debut solo work is a lovely, if unassuming set of mostly ambient guitarscapes and gentle, breezily pastoral music. 'Heaven And Earth' is a positive and relaxing collection of songs (both acoustic and ambient) that float and recede into the background, setting a quiet and mellow kind of mood. Expect no dark overtones or foreboding textures here, as these songs evoke a more balanced and harmonious side of existence - natural and unhampered by modern society's stresses and complications. Gregorius' finger-picked guitars (as in the shimmering 'Follow Me') are beautiful and really quite relaxing. A nice pick-me-up after a long, trying day. (Spotted Peccary Music)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Artridge - "Butterfly Wing Theory- Part 1 (Think Tank)" CD

This duo (multi-instrumentalists Christoph Mainz and Robin Pleil)'s second CD of highly visual soundtracks combines exotic live instrumentation with electronic sound design and programming. It gels into a cohesive whole, fortunately. 'Charcoal' takes on a moody rock structure, and proto-industrial dance sounds find their way into the booming rhythmics of 'Knitfitfoamfix', which is swirled by percolating sequences. 'Jellyfish' is a solemn and reflective piece - sounding very urban and nocturnal. 'Polygraph' seems almost prog/jazz in feel, but still coming from a mysterious, shadowy origin. If you're looking for a solid late-night set of background tunes, 'Butterfly Wing Theory' will suffice quite well, bringing life to the darker corners of your room. (Artridge)/Interlink

Artridge site

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Plastic Crimewave Sound - "Plastic Crimewave Sound" CD

Taking cues from 60's-era psychedelic/garage rock as well as freaky Japanoise, Steve Krakow (aka Plastic Crimewave) and friends create far-out spacerock gems complete with out-of-control guitar squalls and primitive rhythms. '(I Am) Planet Crushing' is a grungy proto-punk number, while 'Dead Island Boogie' sounds like a gigantic noise/psyche meltdown improv. 'Shockwave Rider' is a hellacious wall of feedback and driving bass/drums ala Chrome, with almost incantational vocals. The final cut, 'The Pasture', comes in 3 parts, and it slows things down a bit to a more meditational, almost Eastern-style mantra. Lovely stuff for heads so inclined to wander the outer perimeters of rock. (Prophase Music)

Plastic Crimewave site