Sunday, November 17, 2019

Record Roundup: American Harvest

It’s at this time of the year, when the dark falls early and the sweet aroma of dead leaves is joined by the smoky hint of fireplaces being put to first use, that you may seek the sounds of that elusive genre known as Americana and other folk and country infused music. As I did in last year’s Cornucopia Of Folk And Americana, here’s a quick roundup of albums and EP’s that fit the bill - all of them, except for one spectacular reissue, recent releases. Like the earlier post, a playlist is included for your listening pleasure. This time I’ve put it at the top so you can press “play” and then read along.

Hiss Golden Messenger - Terms Of Surrender For someone who crafts emotionally resonant lyrics sometimes informed by great literature, it should never be forgotten that M.C. Taylor’s best work is often accompanied by a wicked backbeat. It’s that groove that drew me into Lateness Of Dancers, the masterpiece that was my gateway drug into his wonderful oeuvre - it was also my number one album of 2014. Drummer Matt McCaughan is an essential part of that hypnotic rhythm and he is in such fantastic form on Terms Of Surrender that it might have been my favorite Hiss album since Lateness even if the songs weren’t so terrific. But they are: richly melodic ruminations on family, work, and the endless conflicting demands between the two. Granted, these are the rows Taylor has been hoeing for some time, but the heat has brought that familiar pot to a rolling boil. Even if you didn’t know Taylor was writing himself out of a dark year, you would feel his burning need to get to the light. The production overall is also fantastic, burnished to a 70’s FM radio sheen yet not sanding down some of those eccentricities that made the early Hiss albums so striking, mixing dub and Appalachian folk into a distinctive blend on tracks like Cat’s Eye Blue and Whip. Guitar/keys/harmonica polymath Phil Cook and his brother, bassist Brad Cook, are no doubt worthy of our gratitude for much of what sounds so wonderful. Finally, it must be said that Taylor’s voice has never sounded better, one benefit of all those nights on the road, singing for his family and wishing he were with them. Concert dates are here.

Tyler Ramsey - For The Morning It’s been eight years since the last album by this fine singer-songwriter so if his name is familiar it’s likely you noticed it in the credits on an album by Band Of Horses, with whom he was active until 2017. Those years were probably good for his craft, not only to hone it but to focus him on what was important just to him, rather than the compromises of being in a band. The sound he has settled on is rich with layered guitars and loaded with atmosphere, surrounding his high, clear tenor and supporting songs that take hard-won personal truths and transmute them into the universal. For The Morning is an involving listen and a great return to solo work for this indie stalwart.

Elana Low - Loam These three haunting songs are a wonderful calling card for Low’s monolithic brand of dark folk, which finds her honeyed contralto accompanied by the mesmerizing drone of her harmonium. The self-penned tunes seem to come from the earth itself, with melodies the ancients would recognize and claw back as their own. Low is channeling something very special, creating a mood which is nicely reflected in the handmade packaging for the CD. So order one up and see if you don’t put it on repeat while idly checking her website and counting the days until you can see her in concert and take a deeper drink from her river of song.

Andy Jenkins - The Garden Opens A great song tells a story through its melody and chord changes as much as its lyrics. On these four sweet numbers, from the finger-picked wonders of Starfish Fever to the wry self-deprecation of Don’t Dance, Jenkins once again proves his mastery of the form. After having his debut album, Sweet Bunch, on repeat for much of 2018, what a delight it is to have more from Jenkins!

Ryley Walker and Charles Rumback - Little Common Twist Walker is a supremely talented acoustic guitarist, one of the best around, and a reliably witty Twitter presence. However, our interests have diverged, especially on the lyrical front, since the gloriously sun-dappled jazz-folk of Primrose Green in 2015. But I’ve always kept a close eye, seeking that album’s warmth and depth. Somehow I missed Walker’s first collaboration with avant-jazz drummer Rumback (Cannots from 2016) but I am fully on board for this one. Little Common Twist finds the duo in symbiotic pursuit of texture, melody, and emotion, each making ideal use of their instruments. But there is no sense of display, just the creation of an immersive little universe in sound, and one to which I look forward to returning often.

John Calvin Abney - Safe Passage It may seem a damning with faint praise to focus first on the frame rather than the picture, but Abney devises such perfect settings for each of his songs that I am compelled to mention the production on this album right up front. The first song, I Just Want To Feel Good, has the sense of an overture, just two finger-picked guitars and the chorus plainly stated like a mantra. Kind Days follows and the details keep adding to the atmosphere, whether the yearning pedal steel or the shimmering vibraphone. Both of those are played by Abney as well, proving he can take care of himself when it comes to executing his ideas. He does get help from others, however, including Shonna Tucker on bass, Will Johnson on drums, Megan Palmer on violin and organ, and John Moreland on guitars. Abney has always been a good singer but here he seems even more comfortable with his warm burr, using it to transit a wide array of emotions, including the sly digs of Honest Liar, just one standout track. Words like “reliable” and “craftsmanship” come to mind when I think of Abney - but don’t take them the wrong way. It just means that he puts in the work so you can have something to depend on in this wayward world - and that’s not something I take for granted.

Courtney Hartman - Ready Reckoner Between you, me, and the lamppost, one reason I like being friends with musicians is because they often clue me into great sounds. That’s how I found Hartman - I was instantly sold when Richard Aufrichtig shared a snippet in an Instagram story. While this is her debut solo album, it comes after wending her way through the both the world of modern bluegrass with the band Della Mae and the back roads of Spain. In fact she wrote some of these songs while hiking the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, the “road of Saint James” that has taken pilgrims to Santiago de Campostela in Galicia for centuries. But the sound she lays down here, much of it driven by her adventurous acoustic guitar, full of woodsy and percussive sounds, feels purely American. It’s only natural that one of her collaborators is Bill Laswell, that master of shimmer and smoke in jazz-infused guitar tones. Their duet on Neglect is deeply moving - and it’s an instrumental. Co-producer Shahzad Ismaily also serves Hartman well, conjuring a warm and spacious surrounding that allows her music to breathe. Her versatile voice ranges from a flighty head sound to a rich mezzo, employed especially effectively on Koyaanisqatsi - bet you weren’t expecting that song title! Just another surprise on this exquisitely crafted and deeply personal album.

Jonathan Wilson - ‘69 Corvette Speaking of “personal,” the title track of Wilson’s new EP takes us on a journey back to where he came from - North Carolina - in a tapestry of music that seems to coalesce under a porch light with a foggy forest as a backdrop. Mark O’Connor’s Appalachian fiddle speaks as profoundly as the lyrics. Whether this is a dalliance away from Wilson’s typically more progressive work, the EP’s two other countrified tracks, make the idea of more of this quite appealing indeed.

Molly Sarlé - Karaoke Angel Sarlé is one third of Mountain Man, the Appalachian-influenced vocal group that also includes Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Meath. While still full of folky chord changes and turnarounds, Sarlé’s own songs mine more of a 70’s pop-rock ethos, aided by a highly detailed production by Sam Evian. But the songs, which convey the thrills and pitfalls of freedom and self-discovery with poetic universality, could stand on their own easily. I’ve always found Mountain Man, though technically impressive, somewhat impenetrable and cloying but Sarlé on her own is a treasure. If you find your way to this album, you will likely hold it close.

Daughter Of Swords - Dawnbreaker This is the name Alexandra Sauser-Monnig chose to symbolize newfound freedom as a songwriter and solo performer away from Mountain Man. Maybe there's a deep message that both she and Sarlé have songs called Human on their debut albums, but I'd prefer to let each occupy its own little plot of land. Dawnbreaker, in any case, is far more of a mood piece than Karaoke Angel, with its ten tracks blending almost seamlessly into a single statement. There's nothing monotonous about it, however, as strong melodies and varied textures abound and each song is a tidy shadowbox of memory and hope.

Tate McLane - Jackpine Savage I found this album when I was looking for something entirely different but I was tempted to give it a try and found myself listening to the whole thing. McLane powers his raspy voice over chugging-train guitars or sweet picking with the gusto of a busker still trying to raise enough to get a cup of coffee and get out of the cold. Personality and passion combine to put over these tunes, which might sound overly familiar in other hands.

Rebecca Turner - The New Wrong Way Full disclosure: I know Turner and my saying nice things about her new album is in no way related to any kind of guilt over my topping her in Words With Friends at a rate of two games to one. It is what it is. But while I can hit a 100-pointer on the triple word score, I certainly can't write a song like Turner - not many can. She manages to find deeply personal little details and turn them into songs so relatable you'll think these things happened to you, like this from Water Shoes: "I borrowed your shoes, and my happiness hovered on the surface of the water." While her voice has its quirks, listening to her delicately swinging take on the old standard, Tenderly, clues you into her solid craft as a singer. Produced by Turner with Scott Anthony, with some of the recording taking place at Memphis's legendary Ardent studios, the sound is warm and inviting, like a house concert to which you'd feel lucky get invited. Give this a listen - you might just feel like you've found a new friend.

Wilco - Ode To Joy There are parts of this album that seem enervated, sere, and barely able to get out of bed, with Jeff Tweedy's voice barely above a whisper and all the instruments taking a back seat to Glenn Kotche's trudging, implacable drums. Depending on my mood, those moments either have me thinking, "C'mon, dudes, get moving! We have things to do! What's wrong with you?" or "Seriously, guys, I get you. And you get me. Thank you for understanding!" We are living in an era of high anxiety and Tweedy is nothing if not a divining rod of the cultural moment. So, sure, this may not be the Wilco album you wanted (which could have been a punchy kick in the pants like Star Wars or an album full of Mondays), but it just might be the Wilco album you need. Either way, listen carefully and you will hear all kinds of comforting Wilco-isms, from the melodies of Everybody Hides and Love Is Everywhere (Beware) to the angular freakout at the end of We Were Lucky or Hold Me Anyway's triple guitars. And if you remain disappointed in Ode To Joy, it's likely the next album will be completely different and hit you where you live the way this one does for me.

Gene Clark - No Other (Deluxe Edition) Gram Parsons was famous for calling his signature blend of country, folk, and soul "cosmic American music." On No Other, Clark, a founding member of The Byrds, almost went Parsons one better by adding funk into the mix. I say "almost" because the funkiest takes of the album's eight songs, cooked up with collaborator Thomas Jefferson Kaye (himself worthy of further investigation), were never released - until now. Disc two of this deluxe reissue comprises a fully alternate version of the album that is arguably superior to what originally came out in 1974 - and if you know how good THAT album is, you will be running to your computer or local record store to get your hands on this. Granted, the clavinet and conga jams Kaye and Clark consigned to the vault were probably too ahead of their time and outside of what people expected to have had any success back then. Then again, considering the fact that Asylum records buried the album because label head David Geffen was pissed that his $100K budget yielded so few songs, part of me thinks, "What if they had gone for broke?" In any case, now we have this embarrassment of riches, which fits in with the other artists on this list with astonishing ease. If No Other hasn't already been in your rotation as a classic album of the 70's, get to it now - it may just help define your current decade in music.

You may also enjoy:
Cornucopia Of Folk And Americana
Autumn Albums, Part 1
Autumn Albums, Part 2
Hiss Golden Messenger Holds Back The Flood
New Americana, Part 1: Phil Cook
New Americana, Part 2: Hamilton Leithauser & Paul Maroon

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Shamans Of North Sixth

One night, two venues, and two very different approaches to channeling the charismatic in music.

Part One: Carolina Eyck at National Sawdust

Leon Theremin’s pioneering electronic instrument just hit its century mark, having made its debut in 1919, and there are probably only two or three people alive who both see beyond its novelty value and have the technique to exploit it fully. One of them is Carolina Eyck, who first came to my attention in 2016 on Fantasias for Theremin and String Quartet, a collaboration with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. That remarkable album was a constant listen and found a home on my Best Of 2016 (Classical) list. 

However, while I’ve had the files for her latest album, Elegies for Theremin & Voice for some time in advance of its release about a month ago, I’ve been finding it hard to fully connect to the music. While the surface is shiny and bright and the textures - both electronic and vocal - are wonderful throughout, there also seemed to be static quality to the songs. Such is my respect for Eyck, however, that I jumped the chance to see her perform at National Sawdust on Friday, October 25th. 

The rows of seats were almost full when I arrived and sank into mine, already grateful for the intro music, which was Eno’s Music For Airports played on NatSaw’s superb sound system. Eyck’s theremin was center stage accompanied by a table with a laptop, an MPC, and some other gear. Her confidence immediately commanded my attention when she strode on stage, resplendent in crushed velvet and jewel tones, a touch of face-paint lending a ritual aspect to her appearance. 

She sat at her instrument and...made magic. The astonishing control of her right hand (which controls the pitch) allowed the notes to take shape in the air, becoming a physical as well as aural reality. The first piece had the sense of an overture, all swoops and glides and echoing drama. While I dismissed my mind’s initial attempt to place it adjacent to the fat analog synth tones of Steve Miller Band’s Space Intro in my mental library, as the evening progressed and Eyck put her humor and pop skills into the mix, I thought, Why not? 

When she played songs from the album, witnessing the layering and looping of her vocals exposed the solid architecture that I was having trouble discerning. She also gave a little background to some of the songs, such as Remembrance, which pays homage to a school friend who died too soon. But rather than just lamenting her death, Eyck celebrates her life with some light and playful sounds, sharing this special person with us. She also gave a brief tutorial on the workings of the theremin, describing how she visualizes a string in the air, which she plucks with her right hand, while the left hand controls the volume by gesturing around the looped horizontal element. 
Eyck getting into the rhythm of a new song
We were also privileged to hear a “very new” song called After The Sun Went Down, which, with its propulsive bass line and bright melody, is one canny remix away from the dance floor - it’s a banger in the making! After a brief interlude of “fairy” sounds and what sounded like another new song, Eyck ended the night with Commemoration from Elegies, its massed choir of her own voice sounding heavenly. Based on other reviews I’ve read of Elegies, it is unlikely that you will need a live performance to gain entry into its many charms. Either way, if Eyck comes to your town I would not hesitate to take advantage of an opportunity to spend some time in the presence of this supremely talented and heartfelt musician.  

Part 2: Starcrawler at Music Hall Of Williamsburg 

The night was still youngish when I left National Sawdust and ran into a friend who invited me to join him at the Starcrawler show. As this is a band I’ve wanted to see since last year, when I called their debut album,

“Pure filth, sloppy, grinding, filth, but tuneful,” I jumped at the chance. A rigorous security check presaged the dramatically different experience I was about to have as we entered the familiar confines of MHOW. The opening act was still on, which I would have been happy to skip in favor of a drink in the basement bar, but my friend, having seen Starcrawler before, wanted to get prime position near the front of the stage.

I got a cup of Old Broadhorn for me and a water for him and met him in the main room. We listened to the opening band, a lumpy stew of psychedelia and The Clash, for just a few minutes before he turned to me and said, “This is really bad.” Indeed, it was. Everything about it was terrible, in fact, from their stage presentation and the over-miked drums, to the shit guitar tones and pretentious jamming. I worked mightily in my mind not to lose the mood of excellence imparted by Eyck, holding it in my cortex as these knuckleheads thrashed away. I was mostly successful and it was, thankfully, over soon. Bizarrely enough, they had fans, who had been dancing maniacally and singing along and were now calling for an encore. “The opening act does NOT get an encore,” I spat out loud enough for people to hear. That felt good!

We had a little time to wait so I caught up with my friend, whom I had never before met in person, and made some new ones. During the banter I was surprised that no one had heard of Frankie & the Witch Fingers, who are another band from L.A., very different but they rock just as hard as Starcrawler. Finally, just as we natives started getting restless, the house lights went down and Starcrawler’s drummer, Austin Smith, entered stage left, sat down at his kit and started pounding out the rolling glam stomp that opens Lizzy, the first song on their terrific new album, Devour You. The crowd started to move to the beat but it was when guitarist Henri Cash, looking fab in an imitation Nudie suit, came out and unleashed his wicked right hand that we exploded. It was like rock & roll lightning had struck us all, with Tim Franco’s bass the only thing keeping. Is from frying to a glorious crisp.

Then Arrow de Wilde, in the first of many well-informed theatrical gestures, oozed down the few stairs from the stage door before settling in a heap near her mic. The knowledge that the explosion was coming did nothing to reduce its effectiveness when she sprang up and began assaulting the mic with a variety of screams while showing off moves that found a through-line between Cotton Club shimmy dancers, ballet, and the snake-hipped antics of Iggy Pop and Jim Morrison. In short, de Wilde was a high voltage electromagnet for our attention, riveting in her every twitch. Her outrageousness only seemed to inspire Cash to his own pursuit of the guitar-player posture hall o’fame, which included pulling outrageous and hilarious faces.
The Cash and de Wilde show.
The amazing thing about both de Wilde and Cash as performers is that there was absolutely nothing studied about any move they made - everything they did grew organically out of the sounds they were making. As my friend warned me, de Wilde can also be a provocateur, flipping one fan’s hat off his head on more than one occasion, putting a foot on the shoulder of another, drooling fake blood, and inevitably leaving the stage to writhe on the floor and then be carried around by the audience. When we chatted with Cash after the show and wondered if she had ever gotten in trouble due to her behavior, he said no before explaining, “When Arrow is on stage, there’s nothing here” - he pointed at his forehead - “it’s all here” - he indicated his body. Fair enough! Cash also turned out to be an eager student of rock history. My friend had sent him a DVD of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, which gave us a opportunity to geek out briefly about The Dirty Mac.

Cash's collection of guitars also betrayed a deep knowledge of the sounds he wished to achieve, including playing several songs on not one but two guitars with only three strings. The band’s energy never flagged as they thundered through their set like a runaway train. Even if only some of the variety and, yes, subtlety (There's a ballad!) of Devour You showed up on stage, as the first half of my evening proved, your recorded personality need not match what you do in a live setting. Another way to look at it is that it’s almost like having two Starcrawlers - to which I can only say: What a time to be alive. I’ll let more pictures tell the rest of the story - and I hope to see an even bigger crowd the next time Starcrawler swings through NYC. Will you be there?

Arrow de Wilde assaulting the mic.

Henri Cash, unleashing his right hand.
Austin Smith and Tim Franco, holding down the bottom.
Cash spraying notes from one of his three-stringed guitars.

Cash feeds off the energy of the crowd.
De Wilde becomes one with the audience.
Who was this guy? Unknown - but he finished the show!
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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Concert Review: JACK In The Crypt

“It’s kind of spooky - but fun!” said a woman to her friend as we took our seats in The Crypt of the Church of the Intercession, beneath the streets of Hamilton Heights. I found it a suitably contemplative space for a concert of music by John Luther Adams but could see her point, with the candles flickering and the memory of having passed a shadowy graveyard on the way from the wine and cheese reception to the performance space. 

Descending Into The Crypt
We were there for another entry in The Crypt Sessions, a series produced by Death Of Classical, which is the brainchild of Andrew Ousley, a voluble impresario who invited us take advantage of the intimate setting to seek communion with the music, with ourselves, and with our fellow audience members. He also mentioned what a treat it was to have the JACK Quartet perform in such a context and I couldn’t agree more - the group’s sense of adventure is only matched by their sheer excellence of technique. And as this is the second time I saw them in a brief span of time, I can happily report that they are as tight and communicative as they were before their lineup changed a few years ago.  

The first work they played, The Wind In High Places, is one with which I am intimately familiar from their 2015 recording, part of a beautiful album of the same name focusing on music by Adams. But right from the opening of the first movement, a four-note phrase of high harmonic notes, I sensed a greater shapeliness to the performance. It was a feeling that remained throughout that wispy first movement and into the second, an extraordinary combination of tinkling glass chimes and bird calls. As these sounds were all made by the two violins, viola, and cello, this was could be considered synthetic music of the highest order. The music took shape in the air, aided immeasurably by the warm acoustic of the environment. The third movement inspired me to jot down the phrase “radical consonance” in my notes, so strong and rich was the sense of harmony among the instruments. Structurally speaking, that third movement, and the piece as a whole, felt as solid as the Gothic arches by which we were surrounded. 

JACK Quartet In The Crypt (Photo by Andrew Ousley)
After rapturous applause, the four men got to work on Adams’s String Quartet No. 5, Lines Made By Walking. This was the New York premiere of the piece, which was first played this past August in Fishtail, Montana at Tippet Rise. Death Of Classical didn’t print the movement names or numbers on their minimalist program, but I wondered from the start if Adams would once again use the three-part format that seemed so right in the previous piece. A brief introduction from JACK violinist Austin Wullman let us know that Adams was inspired to create a “sculpture” in sound based on long walks in Wyoming. 

The first movement - which, I learned later, is called Up The Mountain - had a sense of constant ascension with repeating melodic loops seeming to move ever upward. The content of those melodies also struck me as quintessentially American, as if the essence of Aaron Copland was extracted and distilled into an ambient Americana. There was a crescendo of sorts to end the first movement, a bit of a magic trick showing how minimal gestures can create drama. The second movement (Along The Ridges) was elegiac and almost lush. Time felt suspended along its long threads even as it retained a sense of slow forward motion. Down The Mountain, movement three, was just that: "Descent," as I wrote in my notes. It followed a similar architecture as the first movement, including the quickening, almost-crescendo at the end, with lots of eye contact between the players as they brought this new piece home. 

There was a brief pause and then a long, generous and well-deserved ovation. I looked at my watch and it was barely 9:00 PM, a nice bonus on a Monday night. On the way out, I chatted briefly with Wullman and asked him if the greater comfort with The Wind In High Places was a result of having played it many times or just my own impression. He agreed that playing it often had made it more their own, but also put the difference down to “not being under the microscope” of the recording studio. 

While I certainly hope the JACK records this new Adams piece ASAP, that’s as good an argument for attending the Crypt Sessions as any: hearing our finest musicians playing excellent music in an environment that evinces their greatest sense of comfort. In short, it’s a special occasion. The word is out, however, and shows sell out almost instantaneously. So subscribe to the newsletter and be prepared to jump when they announce their next concerts!

You may also enjoy:
Concert Review: A Braxton Spectacular At Miller
Concert Review: Shadows And Hope At Zankel Hall
Tristan Perich's Divine Violins
MATA's Bad Romance At The Kitchen

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Record Roundup: String Theories

Plucked, bowed, tapped, strummed, or otherwise perturbed, taut strings, whether made of metal, plastic, or animal fiber, and perhaps attached to a resonant chamber, can be employed for as broad a range of expression as music can contain. The six albums below all have stringed instruments as their focus and represent peak artistic achievements for all involved. There’s also enough variety between them to suit every mood and setting, from challenging extended techniques to deeply meditative explorations into ambient realms. Enough of my yakking, let’s get on with it!

Ben Melsky/Ensemble Dal Niente I’m constantly telling people I love the harp. But it wasn’t until the opening notes of Tomás Gueglio’s After L’Addio/Felt (2014), the solo piece that starts off Melsky’s fascinating new collection, that I felt I was hearing the harp music I needed. Combining dry strums with the sweeping glissando for which the harp is known with brightly plucked notes, Gueglio gives us a sassy overview of the instrument’s reimagined sonic possibilities. The fact that the dry sounds are the result of a new technique of dragging Melsky’s calluses across the strings, speaks to not only a tight connection between composer and performer but also to Melsky’s dedication to his craft. In Alican Camçi’s Perde (2016), Melsky’s harp goes mano a mano with his Ensemble Dal Niente colleague Emma Hospelhorn’s bass flute, his swipes and melodic fragments moving in parallel with her husky whispers and staccato vocalizing. It’s slightly combative and if they never quite agree an invigorating detente is eventually reached. 

Next is Frederick Gifford’s Mobile 2015: Satirise (2015), part of his series of indeterminate pieces, which five agency to the players in how they order the elements during their performance. This one is designed for harp and guitar, played here by Jesse Langen, and finds the players embracing the similarities between their instruments as much as the differences, creating a unified landscape of sound rife with topographical interest. Wang Lu, whose debut portrait album made such a splash last year, contributes the cheekily titled After some remarks by CW on his work (2018), with the CW standing for composer Christian Wolff, one of her inspirations. A dialogue for Katie Schoepflin Jimoh’s clarinet and Melsky’s harp, the piece is a reflective gem. 

Igor Santos’s Anima (2019) is the longest piece here at 13 minutes plus and turns Melsky’s harp into a cog in a machine created by a delightfully witty percussion part played by Kyle Flens. It must be a joy in concert. On-Dit (2014), Eliza Brown’s piece incorporating a short fragment of text by Voltaire, closes the album with dynamic writing for harp accompanied by an hypnotic vocal part sung by soprano Amanda DeBoer Bartlett. It’s a mysterious yet energizing conclusion to a landmark recording for Melsky’s chosen instrument. I put it alongside Michael Nicolas’s Transitions and Olivia de Prato’s Streya as an exemplar of what a modern collection like this can look like. And speaking of looks, New Focus Recordings has really gone above and beyond with the packaging for this one, giving it a wonderfully handmade feel. If you still buy physical media, put this at the top of your shopping list. 

Pauline Kim Harris - Heroine This album is some kind of miracle. It was an instant hit in my house, too, assuming the status of a classic with stunning rapidity. The fact that it goes down so easy belies the amount of thought and craft, as well as heart and soul, put into it by Harris, a violinist with wide-ranging interests, and her co-composer, Spencer Topel. The first of the two pieces is an ambient exploration of the fourth movement of J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor (BWV 1004). Over more than 40 minutes, Harris and Topel blend live and recorded violin with electronics that at times shimmer and sparkle and at others seem to interrogate the source material. It’s mesmerizing and immersive, with the richness of the experience no doubt aided by Sono Luminus’s exquisite recording. To me, this the ideal use of Bach in the 21st century, especially when it comes to making records. 

The second pieces is equally wonderful, even if the source material, Johannes Ockeghem’s Deo Gratias of around 1497, is less familiar. Harris and Topel take the composer’s medieval canon through what feels like a natural evolution into infinity. One can only imagine what Kubrick would make of this glorious music and what images he would create to accompany it! Just as both Bach and Ockeghem used structural forms to make heavenly music filled with compassion and love, so do Harris and Topel create a sense of warmth and peace out of the application of intellectually rigorous approaches. There’s something healing about Heroine and I recommend listening to it without delay. 

Ashley Bathgate - Sleeping Giant: Ash Anyone who has seen Bathgate perform with the Bang On A Can All-Stars or solo has no doubt been riveted by her total involvement with everything she plays. It goes beyond her sheer virtuosity into what seems to be a mind-meld with the composer's intentions, a quality which comes through very clearly on her second solo album. Like Harris and Topel, Bathgate has found a wonderful way to keep Bach in the present without simply recording his work again. Arising out of a deep collaboration with the composers of the Sleeping Giant collective and inspired by Bach's Cello Suites, this series of six pieces was played in concert for two years (where was I?) before Bathgate made the recording. The result is a triumph for all involved and a better argument for the continuing life of these works in the repertoires of other players could not be imagined. 

Andrew Norman's For Ash opens the album, well-placed as you can hear the fragments of the Prelude of Bach's Fourth Suite coming through like a palimpsest. Chris Cerrone contributes On Being Wrong, which has features gorgeous harmonics and sections of Bathgate accompanied by more and more recordings of herself. There's a bit of darkness and melancholy to Cerrone's writing here as well, widening the emotional landscape of the album. Little Wonder, which composer Timo Andres calls "a madcap gigue," builds upon itself, repeating a line then adding a new phrase (or "cell"), only to go back to the beginning and play it all again, adding yet another cell. There's a woozy playfulness to it that I can imagine Bach enjoying quite a bit - especially after a stein or two of Bock. Jacob Cooper's Ley Lines take the pedal stop at the end Suite Five's Prelude through a series of repetitions that almost arrives at 10 minutes of pure intensity. Bathgate's commitment to the short phrases, many of them on open strings, is incredible. 

The perfect follow-up to that is Ted Hearne's clever DaVz23BzMHo, which has Bathgate's cello triggering samples from a 1990's commercial, arriving at a lush noir exploration that wouldn't sound out of place in the next Blade Runner film. Robert Honstein's Orison closes Ash on a somber note, long lines stretching off into some unknowably distant inner space. It must be stunning in concert, especially after all that has come before, completing the circle that started with For Ash. That said, any one of these pieces can stand on their own and together they represent an impressive injection of new works for solo cello into the music of our time, a testament to Bathgate's dedication to her craft and to her connections to composers. 

andPlay - playlist There’s so much overlap in NYC’s fecund new music scene that it took me a minute to connect the Hannah Levinson I was watching play Catherine Lamb with Talea Ensemble at Tenri Cultural Center last month with this album, which I already had on repeat at the time. But, yes, this is the same violist, here paired with violinist Maya Bennardo, whom I also know as a member of Hotel Elefant. Though they founded andPlay about seven years ago and have commissioned many works, this is their debut album. The five world-premiere recordings make a perfect statement of the versatility and even power of this combination of instruments. 

Ashkan Behzadi’s Crescita Plastica (2015) opens the album with dramatic swoops and glides, guttural stops and eerie harmonics in a bold statement of purpose. Bezier (2013), the first of two works by David Bird, turns the viola and violin into glitchy simulacra of electronic instruments, with bird-like tones intruding playfully before the real fireworks start. It’s a tour de force and quite a calling card for this composer, who was new to me. Clara Iannota’s Limun (2011) is next, adding a harmonica to the sound world, which provides a drone over which Levinson and Bennardo alternately duel and join forces. Bird’s Apocrypha (2017) further expands things with electronics and brings the album to a stunning close. He is a composer I hope to hear more from soon. Bennardo and Levinson have made such a strong case for this instrumentation that I hardly thought about it, just reveling in all the fantastic sounds, expertly captured by New Focus. I hope andPlay is prepared to be overwhelmed next time they put out a call for scores!

David Bowlin - Bird as Prophet While Bowlin’s name was not immediately familiar, I’ve seen him perform as a founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble many times. Here he has assembled a mostly spectacular selection displaying his dazzling gifts as a soloist, starting with Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronisms #9 for violin and electronics - still bending minds over 30 years after it was premiered. Kastena, a duo for violin and cello (Katinka Kleijn) by Alexandra Karastoyanova-Hermentin is a rich reminder of the Russian heritage from which she takes inspiration. The title piece by Martin Bresnick, which adds Tony Cho on piano, seems a bit prosaic in this company and doesn’t quite add up over its ten-minute span. George Walker’s Bleu for solo violin is a brief burst of near-romanticism, nicely cuing  up another piece by Karastoyanova-Hermentin. Mari Mamo features Conor Nelson on flute and Ayano Kataoka on percussion alongside Bowlin for an even deeper transmutation of Eastern European folk traditions. Du Yun seems to create her own traditions and Under a tree, an Udātta is one of her most ritualistic works, with its dense violin writing accompanied by recorded Sanskrit chants. Having a version of it recorded by a consummate musician like Bowlin is a real treat, a word that applies to this fine collection as a whole. 

Kronos Quartet - Terry Riley: Sun Rings Fans of both composer and quartet have been waiting for a recording of this celestial suite since it was premiered in 2002. While I can only speculate, I wonder if part of the delay was coming to a rapprochement between the various elements in what is a complex conception to realize in the studio - nearly "rocket science," in fact! Using "space sounds" captured by NASA spacecraft and received on "plasma wave instruments" designed by physicist Don Gurnett, Riley has composed music for quartet and vocal choir (the San Francisco-based ensemble Volti) that, rather than simply following along, interacts with them, perhaps most spectacularly in Venus Upstream. The 72-minute work takes us through a narrative that connects to many of the feelings around humanity's exploration of space, from the pride at our achievement and the danger we faced to get there, to the wonder of the beyond and our astonishment at our own small stature when set against the backdrop of the universe. While it seems less about the astronaut's experience than, say, Apollo by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, and Roger Eno, at several places it evokes the starlit darkness of what lies beyond earth's atmosphere. The voice of Alice Walker, speaking after 9/11, saying "One earth, one people, one love" becomes a mantra in the final movement, and one we would all do well to keep front of mind. Sun Rings is full of creative leaps that only Riley would make and it is perfectly acceptable to put all the astrophysics to the side and just enjoy a perfectly realized and transporting work of music by one of our finest (and, though he would probably hate to hear it, most venerable) composers. If you're in the DC area, catch it live on March 13th, 2020 at Washington Performing Arts - I'd get there if I could.

Hear all of these albums in the playlist below and keep up with all the classical music that's caught my ear in 2019 here.

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Thursday, October 03, 2019

Record Roundup: Rock Formations

Rock isn’t dead. It’s all around us, shattered into a million pieces, genres and sub-genres too numerous to list. To give a sense of the kaleidoscopic reality, here are quick takes on seven albums representing some of those different shards.

Jay Som - Anak Ko Melina Duterte, who performs and records as Jay Som, made quite a splash in 2017 with Everybody Works, an exceedingly tuneful pop-rock album which had a slick and shiny surface belying its creation in her home studio. Did I mention she played all the instruments, including guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, accordion, and trumpet? A rare talent, indeed, and she has only doubled down on the pleasure principle on Anak Ko, whether on the Can-inflected twists and turns of If You Want It or the breezy strumming of Superbike. The way the latter song ends in a heavily processed guitar solo is one indication that she doesn’t want to limit herself to the dreamier side of things. Melody, emotion, creativity, it’s all here, and if you’re still holding on to summer, put Anak Ko on repeat. 

Mattiel - Satis Factory I may be late to the table - this is Mattiel Brown’s second album - but, man, am I enjoying this kicky feast. With a surprising deep, declamatory voice that’s nearly a bellow, Mattiel sounds like she’s singing down from on high, from the pulpit in the church of rock & roll. Messianic, that’s the word, as she calls you back to the verities of The Doors, Bessie Smith, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and The Crystals. But with sure, sharp, deeply informed backing from her collaborators Jonah Swilley (guitar), Travis Murphy (bass), and Jordan Manley (drums), this is a collection made for these unsatisfactory times. “Did you expect a guarantee/Working in that satis factory?” Mattiel sings in Millionaire - well, no...but I guarantee you’ll be more than satisfied with this killer collection. 

Tool - Fear Inoculum It’s always interesting when a singular band takes a long hiatus. The question becomes whether all the musical water under the bridge since their last appearance will have any effect on their sound. Steely Dan comes to mind - think about all that happened between 1980’s Gaucho and Two Against Nature in 2000: the rise of hip hop, new worlds of electronic music, both dance-oriented and not, new wave, hair metal, grunge - would any of these movements change Becker and Fagen’s sound? Should they? The answer was a firm “negatory,” and rightly so: no one else gave us what they did so their doubling down on crisp production, swaggering horns and bent lyrics was a welcome relief. So it is with Tool, Fear Inoculum coming out of the gate as the Ur-expression of all that made them great. Longer songs, more repetition, increased creativity by the already mega-inventive percussionist, Danny Carey, more varied singing by Maynard James Keenan. The question is not whether they’re living up to their earlier albums but have they made them obsolete? After all, this is a band whose sound quickly matured from whiny alt-metal to something which nearly redefined song structure and the relationships of the instruments in a rock band, so they don’t really owe us more in the form of grand innovations. But Chocolate Chip Trip into 7empest - with some of Adam Jones’ most stinging guitar - may rank with their greatest one-two punches ever - and how many bands can say that over two decades into their career? One that comes to mind is Killing Joke, now 40 years in - and kudos to Tool for bringing the industrial post-punk legends on tour. Long may both of them reign.

Amyl and the Sniffers - Amyl and the Sniffers Another entry in the ongoing inquiry into what exactly is in the water in Australia, as amped up Amy Taylor and her gang of beautiful losers blast out riffs galore, chugging beats like a runaway train, shouty background vocals, and all the glam-punk tropes that should not take flight as they do here. Sometimes it seems only the force of will gets them airborne, like an oil-drenched seagull, but damned if it doesn't work every time. They've also gone about things the right way - grinding it out on their own for a couple of EP's, starting with 2016's Giddy Up, then hooking up with Ross Orton, who gave a new heft to the Arctic Monkeys on 2013's AM. Orton organized and polished their sound - but only just. There's still plenty of chaos to go around within the confines of their blistering yet catchy songs. This is one band I cannot wait to see in concert.

Bon Iver - i,i There is a distance between the recent performances I’ve seen by Justin Vernon (first at Mass MoCA with TU Dance and then at the 37d03d Festival at Pioneer Works) and his work on this album that took a little getting used to. While not as wide as that of Joy Division’s live work and their records, there is an elemental fire that seems slightly banked here. Then there’s also the fact that Hey, Ma, the first single from i,i, has a melody that feels so well-worn that I was concerned it was a remake of an earlier song. 

But it’s only because Vernon has delivered so much emotional richness and sonic innovation over the years that my expectations run so high in the first place. And there’s plenty of both of them here, on what is the most collectively created album in the Bon Iver discography, and one with far more organic textures than 22, A Million, the last album. The stellar contributions of regular band members like percussionist Sean Carey, saxophonist Mike Lewis, guitarist Andrew Fitzpatrick, and new guitarist Jenn Wasner (of Wye Oak) serve to amplify even the sparely orchestrated moments, giving a sense of muscular weight to even the smallest sounds. This includes Vernon’s voice, an instrument of seemingly unending nuance and perfectly calibrated doses of raw power. It’s him I think of as I welcome these new wonders into my life.

Ex Hex - It’s Real When this band of indie-rock vets, including Mary Timoney (of Helium, Wild Flag, etc.), guitars and vocals, Betsy Wright, bass and vocals, and Laura Harris, drums, put out their first album a few years ago, I enjoyed the stripped down, straightforward rock-for-rock's-sake approach, but only in small doses. This time around, however, they’ve hit the sweet spot over and over - and with dead eyed accuracy. Whether it’s the increased amount of air between the power chords, a little more swing in the rhythm section, or the heightened flamboyance of Timoney’s lead lines, spraying sound around like your hair in a Corvette T-Top going 90, it just sounds like they are having more actual fun, instead of just thinking about it. And you will, too!

Ocean Music - Fan Fiction For Planet Earth This stellar collection showcases the slightly more extroverted side of Richard Aufrichtig, whose Troubadour No. 1, with its quiet majesty and intricate arrangements is my #1 album of 2019 so far. Don’t be fooled by prosaic titles like The Parking Lot Song and The Basement Song - when Aufrichtig and Kevin Schwartzbach's guitars start to soar in the latter you will be lifted. Some of these songs have been around for a while in various evolutions, but here tracks like When I Went To California are at their rhapsodic best. Aufrichtig is always going to make deeply felt, emotionally immersive music and this is his most direct shot to the gut yet. Why wouldn’t you try it?

Tracks from all these albums and many more can be found in this playlist or below. Click the little heart to keep up with what is yet to come - and let me know what I may have missed. 

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Concert Review: A Braxton Spectacular At Miller

“Music is not just that which happens on stage. Music is part of the vibrations that happen between people.” - Anthony Braxton

There likely would have been a sense of occasion - and a packed house - at the Miller Theatre last Wednesday night no matter whose music was being featured. It was the opening concert of their 20th season of Composer Portraits, an event worthy of celebration even in the abstract. But an evening of music by Anthony Braxton is also not as common as it should be so I welcomed the opportunity for immersion. 

A glance at the program and a read through Lara Pellegrinelli's typically incisive and captivating notes promised a well-conceived evening, moving chronologically from 1968’s Composition No. 1 to Composition No. 358 from 2006. Also, with Either/Or and JACK Quartet involved I knew there would be no question about the excellence of the players. But there was much I didn’t know, as when Melissa Smey revealed that after performing the first three pieces in sequence, the final six works would be played simultaneously. Without understanding exactly how that would work, I settled in, alert to whatever may come. 

Richard Carrick, director of Either/Or, assayed the first piece, which was for solo piano. A fragmented shuffle or palimpsest of lyricism and cacophony, with the barest hint of ragtime, it kept me on the edge of my seat. Knowing that Braxton often uses unconventional notation, I kept an eye on Carrick’s iPad Pro to see what the sheet music promised. The boldest gesture there - a giant black X across several bars - was equally bold on the keyboard as Carrick crossed his hands to continue an especially dazzling run. Some of the big block chords spoke to me as exemplars of the frustration Braxton may have felt in 1968, whether with the state of the world or his need to break free of free jazz. In any case, this fully formed piece draws quite a line in the sand as Braxton’s first numbered composition and promised great things ahead. 

Next up was the JACK taking on Composition No. 17 from 1971, which offers much freedom to the players as far as which part is played by each instrument and for how long. With subtle hand gestures from violist John Pickford Richard to keep them on track, three distinct movements emerged encompassing various levels of wooziness, static, and turbulence. Whether it was the JACK’s approach or built in, there was a sense of structure that was at least adjacent to the string quartet literature making for a very satisfying and adventurous piece. 

Either/Or then took the stage, expanded to 11 players with the addition of two of Braxton’s close collaborators, James Fei (saxophone) and Chris McIntyre (trombone). Both of them, especially the latter, had a lot to do in Composition No. 46, which occasionally mingled Boulezian elegance with suspense straight out of a Lalo Schifrin score. As it went on, I found my mind drifting and wondered if the piece wasn’t a bit aimless. This led to thoughts about what it means for music to have an “aim” in the first place. Was such criticism more about me than about Braxton? Was it actually criticism at all, or just acknowledgement? Before I knew it the piece had ended. 

Then, after a brief reset of the stage, came the piece de la resistance, one of those “only at Miller” blockbuster experiences that will have people saying “I was there” for years - and some of them might be lying. Yes, it was THAT incredible. Either/Or, now boasting a seriously tricked out percussionist, and JACK filled nearly the entire stage and sallied forth into the breach to play (deep breath): Compositions No. 17, 18, 40(O), 101, 168, and 358, spanning 35 years of work from 1971 to 2006. My impressions were as follows:
  • Brawny swagger, led by the reeds and brass, mallets on bongos lending a faint whiff of 50’s “exotica.”
  • Furious flute and bassoon jam (maybe No. 168?) with stunning playing by Margaret Lancaster and Sarah Schoenbeck, respectively. Other sounds faded away. 
  • Most of JACK having a great time, gesticulating with bows, pointing at each other’s music stands to stay focused (unclear if this was staged behavior, especially when they began shouting in unison); cellist Jay Campbell looked miserable for a few minutes, like a teenager forced to play poker with his parents, but soon brightened up. Many glissandi, swooping up and down the necks of their instruments.
  • Cubist strains of Gershwin-esque melodies kept seeking air above the clamor, with a glorious lack of success.
  • James Fei taking command once in a while on alto or soprano sax, the collective blend unable to hide his obvious brilliance.
  • Muted trumpet galore, played beautifully by Jonathan Finlayson, but not the cool, airy Miles Davis mute, more like Louis Armstrong 1920's mute, all sharp commentary.
  • Playful, even pranky at times, with echoes of Joseph Byrd's balloon music, or a Pere Ubu song about walking or feet.
  • Occasionally able to zoom in from the totality and pick out an individual work, like Composition No. 101 (1981) for piano and trombone, Carrick and McIntyre synching up beautifully.
  • Bassist James Ilgenfritz and percussionist Russell Greenberg driving things ever onward, with the latter equally facile on the side drum, the vibes, or those delightful bongos. They had me tapping my toes and dancing in my seat a little.
  • Devolved into insect sounds, everyone seemingly on the same page, making dry, rustling noises, eventually going quiet. The end.
The audience caught their collective breath and then issued forth a long ovation. As we stood, a woman to my left asked if I had heard it before. "No one has," I said, nearly crowing. "Well, you were tapping your fingers..." "It had a pulse," I responded, smiling, "and I reacted accordingly." I'm still not sure if she was annoyed or a little bit jealous. On my way out, I shook Miller director Melissa Smey's hand and congratulated her on a spectacular start to the season. Get to this page to find out what the rest of the series looks like and make a plan to be there.

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

1983: Dancing About Architecture

Note: I went to SUNY Purchase and there came a time when my group of friends decided that an arts school should have an arts magazine, so we created MOA: Magazine of the Arts. My role was as an editor and music critic and I started a column called Dancing About Architecture. This is one of those columns, reproduced here exactly as it was published 36 years ago.

Radio is in a pretty bad state. It's conformist, commercially dependent, and, with few exceptions, blatantly racist.

Among offenders there are degrees: worst is WLIR-FM (92.7), ignoring all but the most homogenized black music. Contemporary Hits Radio (CHR) stations are little better, giving more airplay to black music, but only if it's already making a lot of money. The only stations with integrity are the "Urban" stations (WKTU, WBLS, WRKS, all FM, 92.0, 107.5, and 98.7, respectively), who set their own criteria for what they play, independent of sales.

I'll start with WLIR, the supposed "New Music Station." WLIR's programming policy translates: White/English - YES, Black/American - NO. WLIR justifies its "new" title by playing songs that are a hit in England, while ignoring new American music, especially if it's black. When questioned about the intimated racism of their programming, WLIR directors responded: "We play what fits our format - we play music that's good." One could argue that WLIR is "making a statement" by not giving airplay to "Thriller," but if the issue is quality, why does the station keep "Undercover," the Stones latest, on the air? Evidently, in the language of WLIR, "good" means "not black."

The same thinking informs the 24-hour cable music television channel, MTV. When an MTV executive was asked why his channel did not play more black videos, he replied, "We play rock'n'roll." One might ask then, what is R'n'R? Is it, as the people at WLIR and MTV would have us believe, a rootless dance music played by white people, mainly on synthesizers, exclusive of black performers?

The latest alternative - CHR - offers a definition-by-no-definition: they play anything that is a hit. However their programming policy affections the consistency of their audience (if it has any consistency), CHR stations do at least participate in breaking down racial barriers. For instance, during the time CHR stations were playing Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," WLIR played only Culture Club and wouldn't touch the latter. Of course, CHR's motives in this case were purely profit-oriented, a fact which becomes less relevant when one's concern is getting as large an audience as possible to accept a variety of music. What is relevant is that these stations are very popular. In fact, Z-100 was for several months early this year the Number One station the New York listening area.

The predictable irony is that CHR stations and WLIR suffer from the same problem: across-the-board mediocrity. The fact that the "new music" WLIR plays is on the charts is not a triumph for new music, but rather, a defeat for The Music. There's nothing "new" about Duran Duran that wasn't new about Herman's Hermits. What WLIR has done, simply, is to fool the public into thinking that the same old thing is new - and has done so without taking any risk. There will always be pop, and it will always have its listeners - many, many listeners.

Not every "New Music" station in the past has had such narrow programming. A few years back, WPIX-FM, 101.9 (now playing love songs, nothing but love songs), was one New Music station that dared quite a bit. They played the Specials before they signed with the Chrysalis label and even played the B-52's "Rock Lobster" from a demo tape. WPIX also contributed to the success of lesser known bands like XTC, whose album "Drums and Wires," as a result of continual airplay on WPIX, resulted in that band's largest following ever. The temptation is to conclude that we have entered into a period of musical mediocrity, an error that amounts to "blaming the victim." There is lots of good music now; for example XTC's new album "Mummer," which receives no airplay. The radio stations are at fault.

There are a few innovators, the "Urban Stations" - WKTU, WBLS and WRKS - who play anything, as long as it fits their criteria of quality. The difference between these stations and CHR is that whereas CHR plays what is a hit, Urban stations are a major force in making the hits. This is where the innovations are happening, in so-called "Black Music." As a musician, I find most of the things that catch my ear are on 12" dance singles, like the great, crunchy synthesizer sound in "You've Gotta Believe" by "Love Bug" Starski, or the huge drum sound in Shannon's "Let The Music Play." Not to mention Scratching (rubbing the needle on the record to create literally a scratching sound), which is something really new - using the medium to renew itself, like making a collage out of the Mona Lisa. This is what distinguishes Urban stations from all the others: they act on the music itself - making new mixes, scratches, etc. Some of the D.J.-made hits are so good that they have become airplay hits and are eventually released as records themselves.

What emerges from all this is an essential difference in black and white attitudes towards music. To overgeneralize: blacks view music more as a medium while whites treat it primarily as a commodity. Of course, this hasn't stopped white musicians from borrowing heavily (I'm being kind) from black artists - How many people talked to Bo Diddley before using his beat? - but when it comes to repaying the debt, they can be remarkably selfish. Recently Sugarhill Records approached 99 Records for use of a Liquid Liquid bassline and were refused. When Sugarhill asked if it was possible to buy a percentage of the rights, 99 said flat out "No. We own 100% of the song and we will continue to own 100%." Sugarhill used the bassline anyway (promising royalties to 99) and created a better song - "White Lines,"  by Grandmaster and Melle Mel. White musicians should learn to give a little with all that take - let's face it, they didn't invent the funk.

Despite all this, there is hope. By the sheer quality of the music, Urban Stations are managing to convince other stations what's good. Recently, WLIR picked up "White Lines," making it the first black record to receive steady airplay on that station. Although radio's basic premise is still to reach as large an audience as possible, I believe better radio could be a reality; radio that's less racist and more confident, that can introduce to the American public some really new music. A change like this could only be accompanied by other, bigger changes. The supposedly revived music industry would have to start signing and promoting young, fresh artists, and even, perhaps, using some good, old-fashioned power politics (such as CBS allegedly used to get Michael Jackson's videos on MTV) to get their music played on commercial stations. Musicians would also have to cooperate and try, on both sides, to bridge the still-yawning racial gap. I don't know if this will happen in my lifetime, but I am sure, as an interested party and working musician, that it is up to us to lay the foundations for radio's hopefully brighter future.

(Jeremy Shatan, a junior at the State University of New York at Purchase, plays bass for Susanna and the Elders.)

Susanna and the Elders
(l-r: Andrew Berenyi (Guitar), Joe Leonard (Drums), Verushka (Vocals), Jeremy Shatan (Bass)

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