Sunday, April 03, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Zach's Flag

Soul Coughing: El Oso. 1998. Slash Records/Warner Brothers: 9-46800-2.
Mike Doughty: vocals
Mark De Gli Antoni: sampler
Sebastian Steinberg: bass
Yuval Gabay: drums

The third and final record to emerge from within the narrow confines of the Soul Coughing formula. A formula of tightly nested grooves built up from rhythmically repeated verbal phrases, samples and the tightly interlocked drums with acoustic bass. It's a sound with multiple hooks that made for three outstanding records back in the day. Smothering its own failings by sounding good for the brief time it hits the ears. Mike Doughty's vocal style verges upon wearing out its welcome by treading a fine line between repetitive and insistent chanting. If pushed any further the shallow depths of its rap would be exposed. But folded within this group sound it propels things forward as an equal to the instrumental tracks. Occasionally hitting upon an interesting observation (that gets repeated and repeated and repeated).

Arnold Schoenberg: Moses und Aron. 1996. Deutsche Grammophone: 449-174-2.

Arnold Schoenberg: composition, libretto
The Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera
Zaans Jongenskoor: chorus master
Jongens Muziekschool Waterland
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Pierre Boulez: conductor

Ah, sprechstimme opera. I think I'm in love with the half sung, half spoken delivery of this German language retelling of the Old Testament story of Moses. And I'm pretty sure the whispered chants of "Who ist Moses?" is exactly what the medium of opera was created for. Composed at the end of his life and career, Moses und Aron captures Schoenberg's expressiveness at the tail end of his aesthetic arc. It is his Delusion of the Fury. A sweeping, exquisitely crafted work with a dazzling array of harmonic colors. It is hard to imagine a better operatic recording to paint the air of a Sunday morning. The generous dissonance and ragged tension serving as an antidote to the sticky sweet excesses of a Nixon in China along with a timeless narrative that places it in sharp perspective. The fact that it is an incomplete work adds a deeper mystery to what could have been if this had been fully composed to its large-scale conclusion. It is a work well worth staging and experiencing at just two-thirds complete and potentially represents some of Arnold Schoenberg's most evocative writing. The balance of rigor and intuition is rarely more satisfying than what is here.

Skeleton Crew: Learn To Talk/The Country of Blinds. 2005 re-release of the 1984 and 1985 originals. ReR Megacorp: ReR/FRO 8/9.

Tom Cora: cello, bass guitar, casio, drums, home-made drums and contraptions, singing, bass, accordion
Fred Frith
: guitar, 6-string bass, violin, casio, home-mades, piano, drums, singing
Dave Newhouse: alto saxophone, percussion
Zeena Parkins: organ, electric harp, accordion, drums, singing

These two crazy and brilliant records from Skeleton Crew offer up a scathing and acerbic reactions to the anti-intellectualism and jingoism of the Reagan era. A voice that is both relevant to this age as well as sorely needed as a counterbalance to the stultifying trends of mainstream American culture. "Do you ever get the feeling that America is becoming a second-class world power?" Indeed. Music that revels in its freedom to be creative while offering up commentary on the ways "freedom" is used to control. Two records that have lost no punches over the years. And two records that drive home the painful absence of Tom Cora on the sonic scene. This material is so brilliantly off kilter, simple when it needs to be, dense when it needs to be and sloppy in ways only extreme musicianship can draw out. There are numerous tracks on here that beg to be re-interpreted by similarly creative minds as both homage to the original and further reinforcement of the timeless voice behind this music. Music densely packed with an ability to go anywhere at any time while retaining a timeless sense of humanity.

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