Noise. (April 5th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

For whatever reason (possibly that I’ve been deeply dosed in pop over the last few days), I felt I was obligated to blissfully defile my ears with weird and / or ugly noise.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced?–Weird? Ugly? I know–NOT. But I think it’s easy to forget how it might have hit folks at the time. Jimi was a genius at wrestling chaos into flow, but I got this out strictly for the explosions, feedback, and riffs that stalk your inner peace.

Pere Ubu: Datapanik in The Year Zero–Disc 1 (1975-1977)–Weird? Ugly? I know–YES! A thousand times (and ways) YES! A drunken-sounding, wheezing, groveling, murmuring, whispering, squealing, desperate, eloquently incoherent singer, tortured by a stabbing, drilling, whirring, grinding guitarist, tracked under the street by a bass threatening to break through the pavement, driven on by a drummer here-again-and-gone and a synthesizer player revving and veering in and out of the mess. What’s not to be disturbed by?

Brian Eno: Another Green World–One of the most perfectly titled albums ever. The noise here is strictly weird–never ugly, only galaxies away. And very lovely. It was always, with Miles’ In a Silent Way and Robert Ashley’s Private Parts, one of my favorite Nyquil companions when I was a bachelor and sick as a dog. It’s plenty wonderful when you’re well. I love how Eno’s voice is just another synthesizer.

Maybe I was recovering from all of the pop, most of which I admittedly love. Or maybe I was receiving signals from the near-future: one of the noisiest, most unique and inventive, bravest musicians ever passed from this plane at 89. So long, unclassifiable genius. We will not see your like again.

Short-shrift Division:

Tucked away down here, under all the noise, a confession: I think Chloe x Halle’s The Kids Are Alright might be the best r & b, the best pure pop album of the year. I can’t get enough of it: great singing, surprising arrangements, inspiring content.

Octopi (January 28th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus

Two masters of jazz piano, dueting live, balancing compositions with improvisation. A key question in such circumstances: will the performance be a dialogue of the deaf? Here, the answer is a resounding “no”; Davis and Taborn have been playing together for quite awhile, and this record is a bit of a tour de force. They play in harmony, in unison, trailing each other, in response to each other’s calls, and, on “Chatterbox,” in dialogue. Quite surprisingly, at least to me, the dominant tone is meditative, especially on Davis’ “Ossining” and segments of Taborn’s three “Interruptions.” Best in show are interpretations of Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues, and–especially–Sun Ra’s “Love in Outer Space,” a wry and touching closer. I didn’t know they were interpretations until after I’d listened to the record twice and done my homework.

Ty Segall: Freedom’s Goblin

You gotta hand it to the guy: few musicians on the planet work harder, and for an open spigot of creativity, his quality control valve’s gasket is pretty tight. However, after one listen, this double-record set is too much a melange for me to truly appreciate–from horns to funk covers to ladyfriend’s vocals to jams, he crams in just about everything–and even the “better” production does not hold from beginning to end. Still, as one would expect, Segall unleashes several ravers, and he goes out streaking through guitar heaven with “I’m Free” / “5 Ft. Tall” / “And, Goodnight.”

Brian Eno: Music for White Cube

Composed for an art installation, Eno’s simulations of quiet, late-night-early-morning environments–ships coming into port, street life heard around an alley corner, industry creeping into life–are mesmerizing. I never know when the old wizard is gonna put the hook in; I wasn’t expecting it here, but he definitely understands how to energize any old sound when its context is silence.

Riot Days

Maria Alyokhina: Riot Days

Here, Pussy Riot co-founder Alyokhina recalls the planning, execution, and aftermath of the group’s “Punk Prayer” action at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral and, in disarmingly direct narrative, with undimmed defiance and power, details her three-year stint in several Russian prisons. I think the book’s a worthy addition to the world’s prison-lit canon, but what do I know? One thing’s for sure: it’ll raise your hackles if you give it a chance.

Jazz Loft

Sara Fishko, director: The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith

I’ve already documented my devout enthusiasm for Sam Stephenson’s Gene Smith’s Sink this month, but if the reader desires the most powerful Smith experience, she might pair her reading of that book with this superb documentary. Somehow, its release slipped past me (thanks, Barrett!), but, hard as it would seem to have been to accomplish, visually, structurally, and emotionally, Fishko’s movie does justice to Smith’s genius. She picks and frames the right talking heads astutely, integrates wonderful segments of Smith’s massive Loft tape archives (I am quite sure with Stephenson’s aid), whets your artistic appetite with glimpses of Smith’s most famous photographs, and boils the burgeoning, chaotic doings of the Loft’s years into a coherent, fascinating, and moving string of stories. I already want to watch it again. Here’s the trailer: