Monday, February 16, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: The 3 S's - Soul Coughing, Schoenberg and Skeleton Crew

Soul Coughing: El Oso. 1998. Slash Records/Warner Brothers: 9 46800-2.

Mark De Gli Antoni: keyboard, sampler
M. Doughty: voice, guitar
Yuval Gabay: drums
Sebastian Steinberg: bass

Placing language in the pocket, turning simple phrases into syncopated riffs that repeat out of necessity, adds aural mass to the groove by placing hard limits on the poetry at work. Soul Coughing mined their own territory by folding words into the tight spaces around the beat. And these ears have been drawn to that sound from time to time. El Oso was the third - and final - studio effort from this band. And arguably not the best of the three. In retrospect, hearing how tightly wound this sound became between Ruby Vroom and El Oso it's surprising that they held together under a major label contract as long as they did.

Arnold Schoenberg: Moses und Aron. Conducted by Pierre Boulez. 1996. Deutsche Grammophon: 449 174-2.

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
The Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera
Zaans Jongenskoor
Jongens Muziekschool Waterland

David Pittman-Jennings: Moses
Chris Merritt: Aron

The incomplete opera that forms Schoenberg's final expression of aesthetic and faith reinforcing one another leaves a palpable emptiness where the third act should be. Especially given the profound beauty of the second act - Schoenberg's final. The choral writing is incredible as it plays against the Viennese textures of Schoenberg's mature sound. With Pierre Boulez conducting this recording is as definitive as anything else he has ever waved a baton for. The personal expression of one of the twentieth century's most enduring, and fascinating composers in the twilight of his existence. Powerful stuff.

Skeleton Crew: Learn to Talk/The Country of the Blinds. 1984/1986. ReR/Fred Records: 8/9.

Fred Frith: guitar, 6-string bass, violin, home-mades, drums, voice
Tom Cora: cello, bass, accordion, drums, contraptions, voice
Zeena Parkins: organ, electric harp, accordion, drums, voice

This should have been Tom Cora's world. His off kilter cello sound and collaborative energy across imaginary stylistic borders is sorely missed. Equally poignant is how much salve for our own times this mid-80's experience holds. The aggressive, angular punk-like attitudes illustrate the world of absurdity as viewed critically from the fringes. That fringe has never sounded more true than what passes down the middle of the road both then and now. Also missed is the New York of CBGB that fostered this manifestation of the "downtown" sound. The grouping of these two releases provides an enormously appealing document.

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