Saturday, December 17, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Oldies Station

Shonen Knife: Happy Hour. 1998. Big Deal: BD 9055.

Naoko Yamano: lead vocals, guitar
Atsuko Yamano: drums, bass, vocals
Michie Takatani: bass, vocals, keyboards

A quick blast from the period when Shonen Knife's shtick was starting to wear a little thin. Even as Happy Hour does deliver on much of the light subject materials of food, cloned sheep, parties and dreaming it does fall short from the chaotic, crazy promise of the opening track "Shonen Knife Planet." A place where one must wake up in time not to miss happy hour. After the initial production (and deliberately "bad" sounds) of that initial wake up the rest of the disc settles into the familiar, punk inflected language of Shonen Knife. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a let down after being jolted into the early promise of a concept album. Their cover of the Monkee's "Daydream Believer" does bring a smile even if it isn't exactly a sterling rendition. Happy Hour does manage to cleanse the aural pallet of heavy listening that goes into the rotation.

Jan Kotik: drums, percussion
Thom Kotik: prepared bass
Elliott Sharp: guitar, bass clarinet, processing

This offering has aged surprisingly well. Much of it built on the early timbral soundscapes that inspired me back in the day. Now it strikes my ears as a chance to hear Elliott Sharp's electric guitar playing over a seriously rocking rhythm section that is locked into Sharp's musical direction. The titles for these pieces have aged less gracefully than the music they're associated with. "Optimize My Hard Disk, Baby," "Command Z" and "Heapfix" strike an ironic, geek humor pose that simply isn't reflected in the music that remains undeservedly neglected.

Dave Douglas: trumpet, keyboards, voice
Jamie Saft: keyboards, loops, programming
Marc Ribot: electric guitar
Karsh Kale: tabla, additional drums
Joey Baron: drums
Romero Lubambo: acoustic guitar
Brad Jones: ampeg baby bass, acoustic bass
Ikue Mori: electronic percussion
Seamus Blake: saxophone
Chris Speed: saxophone, clarinet
Craig Taborn: fender rhodes

This is an enormously important recording in the Dave Douglas catalog. It's his equivalent to Miles Davis' On The Corner and one day it will be revered as such. The electronic layering, the funky grooves, the explosive turns and the high production values bring an immediacy to this recording that nearly blinds one to the fact that the musical basics of melody and humanity are still at the foundation of this beautiful cacophony. "November" is as beautiful and soul filled as any melodic composition. It would slice to the heart if it were played by Dave Douglas playing over a simple jazz rhythm section or the electronic percussion of Ikue Mori as it is here. Freak In is a reliable thrill ride from start to end that continues to reward the listener with its depth and polish every time.

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