Author Archives: mungosandybanks

Video Clip of the Week: A Thanksgiving Prayer

You are correct: this video post is a few days late. You are correct: William S. Burroughs isn’t necessarily a musician (although he did release a series of spoken word style albums over the years). BUT you are dreadfully wrong in finding this post too little too late, if I may be so cliche. This is the all-knowing W.S. Burroughs, and his wry words of wisdom, no matter what season, day, or hour, require your full attention. Be thankful for Mr. Burroughs.

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Julian Lynch “Mare”

Julian Lynch
[Olde English Spelling Bee, 2010]

Rating: 8.5

Déjà vu is such a strange phenomenon. Is it just a series of circumstances that remind us of a past experience? Or is it a result of daily routines where it’s inevitable that events are bound to repeat themselves?  Or could it truly be that memories are timeless, that they float aimlessly through our mind, seeping in from the past, present, and future, creating a psychic horizon where there is no end or beginning?

Whatever the case, Julian Lynch’s 2010 release “Mare” is auditory déjà vu, bringing you back to memories that never existed.  Something about Julian’s ambient psych-jazz resembles music you’ve heard before (maybe as a child, maybe on the “Finding Forester” soundtrack”, or maybe in a dream).  Yet, it also sounds like something completely fresh and original, like nothing you’ve ever heard in your before.  As you can imagine, this contradiction can cause some disillusionment. The songs on “Mare” exist in some way within our psyche, a collection of vivid arrangements that whisk you from one memory to another, then vanishing just as you find yourself nuzzling up to the warm feelings that arise within Julian’s soundscapes.

Relax and let the title track overtake your soul:

Lynch’s sound reminds me of Panda Bear if Panda Bear grew up on Miles Davis rather than The Beach Boys. The breezy saxophone on songs like “A Day At the Racetrack” will needle into your brain like acupuncture, calming your soul and sending chills up and down your spine.  The sax solo near the end of “Ruth, My Sister” hoots and squawks the ancient organ procession to a close.

Even the video for “A Day At the Racetrack” is like déjà vu:

Don’t be confused though; this isn’t a jazz album.  On other songs you may hear a sitar, distorted guitars, or a choir of childlike voices.  Julian definitely has a focused sound, yet he understands how to mesh a plethora of tools to appease his listener’s pallette.  Nothing is used simply to be “weird” or “artistic”.  Every instrument, every reverbed vocal, adds to the final product.

You would swear that “Mare” is a used record store discovery from the 1970s because every song drips with a retro vibe. At the same time, I think you would be hard pressed to find an artist in the 70s accomplishing what Lynch does with this album, an atmosphere from another place, another time.  At the risk of sounding cliche – it’s otherworldly while still being grounded in everything you know (or knew in another life).

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Video Clip of the Week: Ace of GaGa

When I first heard Lady GaGa’s “Alejandro” I actually thought it was Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around”.  After reading SongsSuck’s riveting article earlier this week, I decided to do a little YouTube research and I stumbled upon this mash-up of the two songs that literally layers the two over top of each other.  And they call GaGa revolutionary?! SongsSuck couldn’t be more right.

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Shining “Blackjazz”

[Indie Recordings]

Rating: 8.5

In the past decade, jazz has been sitting in neutral.  There are still talented artists thriving, whether it be in elevators or on The Weather Channel, but the journey within the genre has become sedentary.  You can’t blame the musicians. It seems that all avenues have been explored, ranging from bebop, hard bop, blues, big band, free jazz, latin jazz, modal jazz, swing, afrobeat, jazz fusion, and acid jazz.  There’s a reason why Ken Burn’s documentary “Jazz” is over 18 hours long. The free-flowing form has come a long way. When “jass music” was conceived in the cultural jambalaya of New Orleans, it was considered to be “the music of the devil” due to its popularity in the black night clubs and whore houses (the self-proclaimed creator of “jass”, Jelly Roll Martin, got his start playing in brothels, improvising based on the action in the bed next to his piano).

These days, jazz is the furthest thing from “music of the devil”.  That title would have to go to metal, another music form that has evolved and branched out over the years (heavy metal, death metal, doom metal, black metal, speed metal, gothic metal, thrash metal, glam metal, post-metal, power metal, industrial metal, prog-metal, rap metal, stoner metal, and so on).  Although young in comparison to jazz, metal seems in need of a fresh new take on the genre.  Step in Shining, the experimental metal band from Norway who got their start as an acoustic jazz band.

On their latest release, “Blackjazz”, the doom-heads decided to try combining the two devilish music forms from the past 100 years, resulting in a black metal album of hellacious proportions.  Upon first listen, “Blackjazz” seems to be simply a polished black metal album, but beyond the familiar machine gun drums and crunching guitar riffs, this is more than simply black metal.  Shining rely heavily on the synth, but instead of providing simply an ominous cloak, the keyboard is twinkled sporadically like a possessed Duke Ellington, venturing through scales and chord progressions more familiar to jazz night clubs than church burnings.  At times the album doesn’t even resemble music, rather a Jackson Pollock of sound, splattering up and down the malicious jazz scale in search of melody.

The jazz meanderings are more obvious when Jørgen Munkeb picks up the saxophone and honks out notes like a line of tumbling dominos, notes rising and falling at will as the horn meshes with the chaos surrounding it.  On “Fish Eye”, not only does Jørgen’s sax give the black metal venture fresh blood, but the synths vaguely resemble the four trumpeters of the apocalypse, blaring in the arrival of the Black Masque of Death. Although the sax can only be found on a few tracks, the spirit of the fiery horn section remains a constant within the wall of noise.

“Fish Eye” live from Norwegian TV:

The technical aptitude of these former jazz musicians is audible throughout the album, but it is most evident on “Healter Skelter.” Somehow they are able to provide the chaotic free jazz style of Ornette Coleman while still successfully scaring the shit out of you.  It flows between the two musical forms naturally like a tornado in the sky, gaining speed and fury as it moves along.

Much more “Healter Skelter” than anything The Beatles came up with:

Shining also move away from typical lo-fi black metal production, relying on producer Sean Beavan who’s worked with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.  Beavan’s sleek production at times makes “Blackjazz” sound more like “IndustrialJazz”, but he also provides stability to the disorder.  Singer Jørgen Munkeby’s  howls often resemble that of a young Trent Reznor, screaming over the uproar of synth and drum machines.
“The Madness and the Damage Done” could easily be mistaken as a b-side on any of Reznor’s multitude of “Halo” albums:

To simply categorize this as a “black jazz” album due simply to the  title would be foolish. Shining are as much influenced by free jazz and black metal as they are by industrial metal and progressive rock (the band covers King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” to close the album).  Whatever you want to call it, there is no doubt that these Norwegians have exorcised the true, dark spirit of jazz and unleashed itback into the world to wreak havoc.  Watch out Weather Channel, there’s an apocalyptic storm on the horizon.

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