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Looking ahead, October-November 2018

[Bill Frisell - Nashville]

Quite a number of interesting vinyl reissues and deluxe editions coming down the pike …

Cher, Dancing Queen, Sept. 28

I think some gay cultural norm dictates I should show interest in this convergence of iconography, and I do, albeit more from an anthropological standpoint.

Johnny Hates Jazz, Turn Back the Clock (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 5

“Shattered Dreams” is an awesome single, and Turn Back the Clock was a decent album — something I’m glad I encountered but couldn’t consider a must-have. And yet I’m looking forward to this deluxe edition release.

Camouflage, Voices and Images (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 19

I actually like this album more than Turn Back the Clock, and the limited pressing of 1,500 copies for the CD (500 for vinyl) is nudging me to pre-order.

Sasagawa Miwa, Houjou -BEST ’03~’18-, Oct. 31

Has it really been 15 years since Sasagawa Miwa’s debut? This best album contains 10 previously released tracks, 3 new songs and a new version of “Himawari”.

Art of Noise, In No Sense? Nonsense! (Deluxe Edition), Nov. 2

This album doesn’t lend itself to singles as easily as In Visible Silence, but it’s a worthwhile, challenging listen, a period where the band pushed the limits of technology and music.

Dead Can Dance, Dionysus, Nov. 2

Dead Can Dance has always struck me as a band I should have been digging in high school, but at the time, their albums were available only as imports.

Hajime Chitose, Hajime Uta ~Chitose Hajime Amami Shimauta Shu~, Nov. 14

Hajime Chitose returns to her roots as a shima uta singer on this 7-track mini album.

Mikami Chisako, I AM Ready!, Nov. 28

Mikami Chisako starts anew with music reminiscent of fra-foa’s second album, if the YouTube clips on her official site are any indication. I have to admit I’ve missed her, and Chuu no Fuchi is still one of my favorite albums. It’s criminal that it’s out of print.

Vinyl

Living Colour, Time’s Up, Sept. 28

I’d be all over this reissue from Megaforce Records if I hadn’t already found an original pressing a number of years ago. This album doesn’t seem to have had the same impact as its predecessor, but it some ways, it expands and perhaps improves upon Vivid.

YEN TOWN BAND, Montage, Nov. 3

I’ve never encountered a vinyl reissue from YEN TOWN BAND that didn’t immediately sell out.

Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi, Nov. 7

Any chance for a vinyl reissue of ULTRA BLUE?

Bill Frisell, Nashville, Nov. 9

Bill Frisell had always incorporated Americana, country and folk into his music, but Nashville is the strongest statement of those influences, resulting in one of his most accessible albums. Robin Holcomb shows up on two covers.

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The ones that nearly got away: Bill Frisell, Is That You?

[Bill Frisell - Is That You?]

Bill Frisell confused the hell out of me when I first encountered him.

With Naked City, he was thrashing out, whiplashing from country twang to headbanging metal at the flick of the wrist. My cohorts in high school worshiped at the altar of Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. I thought Frisell could mop the floor with them.

But he had a subtle touch as well, if his work on the self-titled album by Robin Holcomb was any indication.

Surely with all these bona fides, I could really dig Frisell’s own music, right?

Well, not quite.

The lightning picking and aggressive dissonance were nowhere to be found on Is That You?, Frisell’s second album for Nonesuch released around the time of Naked City and Robin Holcomb. As it turned out, Frisell’s writing occupied a strange intersection of avant-garde classical, jazz improvisation and American folk.

And it was quiet.

A cover of “Chain of Fools” is the closest Frisell would get to being raucous. Instead, he favored sparse, introspective textures. Although the album featured 3/5 of Naked City — Frisell, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz (who also produced) and drummer Joey Baron — it had none of Naked City’s fire but certainly all of its intensity.

For an 18-year-old listener hyped up by Naked City, I felt let-down by Is That You?, an impression that would unjustly persist for 25 years.

In fact, Is That You? fell into the category of albums I was too young to understand at the time. I’ve been on the hunt for Frisell’s preceding album, Before We Were Born, when I spotted Is That You? Having discovered how wrong I was about other albums in the past, I gave this one another chance.

For a noisy band, Naked City was pretty tuneful, and while I loved its rowdy parts, the hooks allowed me to latch onto the band’s weirder diversions. Is That You? provided few such latches.

“Rag” is a lovely solo piece on acoustic guitar, and another cover of “The Days of Wine and Roses” provides some melodicism, but for the rest of the album, Frisell demands attention as he ties two or more disparate styles of music and sets them in opposing directions.

The title track starts off quietly with some pretty woodwinds, but as it progresses, Baron’s tribal rhythms give way to a hesitant backbeat while Frisell strangles his fretboard. Horvitz throws in his arsenal of weird effects to complicate matters. Many of the album’s tracks proceed in this manner.

I didn’t have the patience or the exposure to Frisell’s influences to understand what he was doing. Two decades and a lot of country music listening later, I get it now. More importantly, I enjoy it.

 

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