CV & Jab – Zin Taylor “Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface”

My respect and admiration for the works of Christina Vantzou have been documented elsewhere, so I won’t rant in detail once more about the quality of her work. I’ll just say I was excited to hear of a new project.

On Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface, Vantzou is paired with Forma member John Also Bennett. This instrumental album is the result of visual inspiration from artist Zin Taylor, whose huge mural was the backdrop — literally and figuratively. It was mixed down from a live performance at an installation in Germany last year, and, after listening to the album frequently over the past couple weeks, I’m not disappointed.

Thoughts is much more left-field and freeform than Vantzou’s solo work and more minimal than Forma’s Physicalist Kranky debut. At first listen, the dueling-laptop setup can come across as a prone to pastiche, but things cohere as the work progresses. The album begins with some Subotnick-y blips and sampled voices on “Cactus with Vent”. Along the way we’re treated to various flavors of Vantzou’s digital output and Bennett’s more analog styles, including some of the latter’s grand piano playing echoing through Harold Budd-esque reverb algorithms.

There are ghostly wails. There are moody, meandering, looming synths. There are sampled natural sounds. Intermittently evident in Vantzou’s contributions are threads of Vangelis’s sound design and general ambience on the original Blade Runner score, a work of which Vantzou is apparently (and justifiably) enamored.

Thoughts of a Dot isn’t going to liven up your next dinner party. I find that, like much of my favorite music, this one sounds best with the lights off, late at night. The atmospheres are varied and deep, and will please patient listeners predisposed to eerie electronics — and likely creep out those who aren’t. It works as a long-form conceptual piece and is paced well, considering the experimental content. But the individual tracks stand on their own, too. Those who’ve missed Vantzou’s work since 2015’s No3 will probably treat it as a teasing and pleasing bridge to her next solo album. I know I will.

The download and physical forms are available semi-directly from the the Shelter Press label’s Bandcamp page and/or directly from the label’s own storefront. Vinyl and the like will be most available to US customers via Forced Exposure, while EU and rest-of-the-world listeners will likely find Boomkat more convenient.

Kate Burkart “Moonlight” (Blaze Foley cover)

Ever since my sweetheart Kate covered this song live at a Blaze Foley tribute she put together in 2011, I’ve been nagging her — lovingly, of course — to go in to the studio and record it.

She finally did so last year, and I imposed myself further by giving her production notes throughout the recording and, ultimately, insisting that I be permitted to “help out” with the final mix. Call me svengali.

But despite my, um, best efforts, this isn’t about me. I’m proud of Kate. She done Blaze good.

It’s on iTunes and Apple Music and Spotify and Soundcloud and all the usual digital outlets. If you’re old-school and require an actual download, this Bandcamp one is the way to go.

Most Listenable (and Watchable) of 2017

‘Tis the season for year-end lists! The contributors at Part-Time Audiophile couldn’t resist, and this is the result.

Mine:

Lee Ann Womack “The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone” LP
In Pursuit Of Silence DVD
Slow Meadow “Costero” LP
St. Vincent “Masseduction” LP
Midori Takada “Through The Looking Glass” reissue LP

End-of-2017 Stuff

I submitted some requested year-end material to Part-Time Audiophile and, while a portion of my contribution was used, here’s the full version.

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— One best new component and three runner’s-up.

Not sure if it qualifies as a component… but I sure like the new MacBook Pro 15”. The illuminated touch-bar thingie is more than just ooh-ahh eye candy; its context-sensitive and user-configurable features are a big help in certain apps. The machine is fast and responsive under OS 10.13.2 and the screen is amazing.

iTunes is more bloated and dopey than ever (and still no FLAC support — what’s up with that?), and I’m not too excited about having to shell out another $129 for a compatible version of Microsoft Office… but hey, I’m never happy unless I can whine about something.

Runners up:

1) OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock (essential with the above, at least for me)
2) Zu Audio Druid Mk VI speakers
3) Zesto Allasso step up transformer

–One best affordable component and three runner’s-up.

1) Not going to single any one unit out, but I like the trend of good, (relatively) inexpensive headphone amps (especially of the tube variety) that double as preamps. Too many to choose from.

Runners up:

1) Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC
2) Marantz’s line of multichannel AV preamp-processors
3) Not so much a component, but I enjoy those free DirectStream firmware upgrades (Bridge II and DAC) from PS Audio.

–One most coveted product (the one YOU personally want the most).

Zesto Andros Tessera phono preamp. I like dials. And switches. On the front panel. Yes, my girlfriend will ask me if it makes toast and complain about stubbing her toe on the massive outboard power supply. I will ignore her and flip switches and turn dials.

–One product of the year.

Roon and Tidal MQA make pretty sweet music together — when Tidal isn’t stuttering from bandwidth issues, that is. I’ve gotten so used to Roon that, when I open an older version of JRiver, I wonder why I endured the latter’s Mac-unfriendly interface and weird, redundant configuration screens for as long as I did.

Recent Vinyl Intake

Robbie Basho The Grail & The Lotus (Takoma C1007, indeterminate origin reissue) LP

Robbie Basho Basho Sings Volume 3 (Takoma C1012, indeterminate origin reissue) LP

Biosphere The Petrified Forest (Biophon Norway BIO30LP) LP

Califone Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People (Jealous Butcher US JB 100) 2xLP

Suzanne Ciani Lixiviation 1969-1985 (Finders Keepers US FKRO53LP) LP

Ry Cooder Paris Texas original soundtrack (Real Gone Music US RGM 0538) (blue vinyl LP reissue)

Champion Jack Dupree The Women Blues Of Champion Jack Dupree (Folkways US FS 3825) (used LP)

Floating Points Reflections – Mojave Desert (Luaka Bop ‎UK 5041) LP+DVD

Blaze Foley [self-titled] The Lost Muscle Shoals Recordings (Lost Art US LAR1025V) (reissue LP)

Florian Fricke Die Erde Und Ich Sind Eins (Wah Wah Spain LPS190) (reissue LP)

Geraldine Fibbers Lost Somewhere Between The Earth and My Home (Jealous Butcher US JB 150) 2xLP clear vinyl reissue

Kenji Kawai ‎Ghost In The Shell original soundtrack (We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Switzerland WRWTFWW017LTD) (LP+7+booklet reissue)

Nine Inch Nails Deviations 1 (Nothing Records B0026309-01) 4xLP

Popol Vuh Sei Still, Wisse Ich Bin (Wah Wah Spain LPS191) (reissue LP)

Ragnar Grippe Sand (Dais Records US DAIS 097) (clear vinyl reissue LP)

Midori Takada Through The Looking Glass (We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Switzerland WRWTFWW018) (2x45rpm reissue)

Neil Young Massey Hall 1971 (NY Archives/Reprise US 43328-1) 2xLP

Sara Lov “Some Kind Of Champion” review on Part-Time Audiophile

How did a 2015 release become my favorite album of 2016 — and why did it take me seven more months to communicate that fact? Don’t ask. Just read. My review is now up on Part-Time Audiophile.

Favorites of 2016

wiltzie-saleroIn order to supplement my top-five on Part-Time Audiophile, here’s ten things that came close to pulling 2016 out of the fire.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith EARS (Western Vinyl) FLAC

Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie Salero (original soundtrack) (Erased Tapes) LP*

Sara Lov Some Kind of Champion (Splinter/self-releasd) LP

Loscil Monument Builders (Kranky) LP

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith/Suzanne Ciani FRKWYS 13/SUNERGY LP (FRKWYS/RVNG)

A Winged Victory for the Sullen Iris (Erased Tapes) FLAC

Steve Hauschildt Strands (Kranky) LP

Various (The Microcosm) Visionary Music of Continental Europe (Light In The Attic) 3xLP

Ocoeur Reversed (n5MD) LP

K. Leimer Re-enact (Palace of Lights) CD

Happiest of New Years to all and here’s to a peaceful and better 2017.

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* Points off for being one of the most disappointing Erased Tapes pressings I’ve heard – ‘way too much surface noise and too many concentric ‘click’ segments.

Suzanne Ciani/Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith/Don Buchla on Part-Time Audiophile

Suzanne Ciani & Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith in BolinasWhere have I been? Oh, around. Doing stuff. Working. Herding cats, that sort of thing.

And I’ve been working on reviews of albums by Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. You can read the outcome at Part-Time Audiophile. As always, many thanks to PTA editor/mastermind Scot Hull for giving me space to ramble.

And from the To Make a Long Story Interminable Dept. — coming soon: Part 3 of the continuing saga of my attempts to, y’know, process that Tower Records movie, All Things Must Pass.

Court Rules Led Zeppelin Did Not Steal The Intro to “Stairway To Heaven” from Spirit’s “Taurus”

The world is once again safe for overplayed and overrated seventies power ballads with lyrics that read as though they were scribbled by a hobbit on mescaline.

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All Things Must Pass – The Rise and Fall of Tower Records – Part 2 – Continuation Dreams

Even now, nearly 25 years later, I still have these dreams.

I guess they’re anxiety dreams. Continuation dreams. In more ways than one.

I’m back at Tower. They’ve gone bankrupt, then reorganized. Inexplicably, I find myself employed there again. Don’t ask how. It’s a goddamned dream. It’s not supposed to make sense.

The setting is a sprawling office complex. It’s a workday, but also a party; no one’s really doing anything that resembles work. People are milling around, coming, going, laughing, talking. Drinking. It’s hard to tell if anyone knows what’s going on, but a good time is being had.

I try to look busy. Somehow, having a good time and looking somewhat busy seems more important than actually getting anything done.

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When Colin Hanks announced a Kickstarter campaign in June 2011 to fund a documentary about Tower Records, I backed him — admittedly, mainly to get a copy of the movie.

10679807_10152717710007070_7625872736727229695_oI received the DVD premium almost five years later. I sat down and watched it a month ago. I watched it again tonight.

Hanks had a tough job. Although the concept intrigued me, I’m wasn’t (and still am not) sure how anyone could make a film about Tower. Not running less than two hours, anyway. It’d have to be a miniseries. Or a full 13-episode season. There’s so many personalities and peaks and valleys and anecdotes and nuances to cover.

A brief bit of background (OK, a disclaimer): As related in part 1, beginning at age 24, making $4.25 an hour, I spent close to 10 years at TRIP (Tower Records Import Products), a central warehouse in West Sacramento, CA. I was head buyer for imports and independent labels for the Tower chain. That’s me in the photo — bad hair and all — a couple months before I quit.

I worked with all the Tower employees who were interviewed for the film. It got me thinking about the people at Tower and my time there; I figure I should get some of this stuff down before I forget it. Or allow time and sentimentality color it further.

Before I bellyflop into this particular adult-sized kiddie pool, it has to be said:

All Things Must Pass is NOT a documentary.

It isn’t a balanced examination of all sides of Tower’s rise and fall from a journalistic non-angle. Simply having Steve Knopper from Rolling Stone second-guessing the history of the company — and the music industry in general — doesn’t constitute “balance.”

So, if it isn’t a documentary, what is it?

It’s more a love letter.

Or perhaps, more accurately, an obituary. A celebration of life.

Or, rather, a celebration of the curiously ambiguous slogan No Music, No Life.

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[to be continued]

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