FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What We’re Listening to This Week

by COUNTERPUNCH STAFF

Jeffrey St. Clair

John Coltrane Quartet: The Complete Sun Ship Sessions (Verve, 2013)

Sun Ship is one of John Coltrane’s lost masterpieces. Recorded in the creative cataclysm of 1965, the LP wasn’t released until 1972, five years after his sudden death at the age of forty. Sun Ship was actually lost twice: once in the vault, then in the truncated form of the initial release. Now, finally, we can listen to the entire session, which is something like finding pentimento images buried beneath a newly discovered Da Vinci. Here is the swirling, cosmic sound of a new kind of music being born. The rhythms writhe in a contrapuntal gyre. The shattering force of Elvin Jones’ drumming pulsates with the tenseness of dancing on a dangerous precipice. But above it all, straining against the shackles of the old orders of music, are Coltrane’s shimmering runs on his tenor sax: long, slashing cascades of notes that seem to shed sparks until they fragment, then reconstitute themselves into incandescent new chords. It is mystical music, seething with the ecstasy of exploration. This two-hour session proved to be the final recording of the classic Coltrane quartet, featuring McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Jones. Of the seminal band, four went out on the Sun Ship mission, but only three returned home. Coltrane ventured on alone for another fateful year, probing deeper and deeper into uncharted space. The Sun Ship Sessions are the sonic record of his stunning final metamorphosis.

Thee Silver Mount Zion: Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything (Constellation, 2014)

This Montreal-based band seems to change its name with each new release. It’s either a great alt-marketing gimmick or they’re trying hard not to get served. SMZ’s musical approach is a challenge to describe. Some call it “post-rock.” But that simply won’t do. A wall of mercurial sound? Orchestral punk? The album opens with the halting, tender voice of a child: “We live on the island called Montreal. And we make a lot of noise, because we love each other.” Then it detonates into thick dark chords and mesmerizing melodies of longing and discontent, no song more potent than the short frenzy called “Austerity Blues.” Beneath all the obfuscation and misdirection, Sophie Trudeau is revealed to be a most excellent fiddler.

Paco de Lucia: Zyryab (Verve, 1992)

Zyryab is not your typical de Lucia record. It is not his best, perhaps even ranks as a minor outing in the maestro’s vast catalogue. Even so, Zyryab remains one of my favorites, in no small measure because here we find Paco stretching out, treading into new terrain that is just outside his comfort zone.  Zyryab is a daring foray into a kind of Flamenco-based group improvisation, where he surrounds himself with six other top flight musicians, including Manolo Sanlucar on guitar, Chick Corea on keyboards and the great percussionist Reuben Dantes, who tease, push and chase each other through a sumptuous feast of Spanish jazz.

Jeffrey St. Clair once played two-chord guitar in a garage band in Naptown called The Empty Suits.

 

JOSHUA FRANK

Haim: Days Are Gone (Columbia, 2013)

I remember calling up Jeffrey immediately upon hearing Haim for the first time in Venice, California at Farmer Dave’s monthly shindig, Hot Pacific (formerly Club Pacific) – an intimate gathering at a dark speakeasy off of Windward Ave. I told Jeff, after one too many cocktails no doubt, that CounterPunch needed to immediately start a record label. Here was one of the best bands in Los Angeles and they weren’t even signed.

Soon after that late night call, Haim, which consists of three sisters, signed with Columbia. CounterPunch missed the boat and I still blame Jeff for hanging up on me.

The highlight of Haim is lead singer Danielle Haim, who reminds me of a young Joni Mitchell with a dash of Stevie Nicks, and to top it off she plays guitar like Jimmy fucking Page on ludes. Their debut album Days Are Gone is a pop-rock sensation, but their live act is still where it’s at. It’ll be fun to see where this band sails from here. The sky’s the limit.

Los Saicos: ¡Demolición! – The Complete Recordings (Munster, 2010)

It doesn’t really matter that I don’t understand half of what this great Peruvian garage band from the 1960s is actually singing. I know it all has something to do with youth, love, rejection and heartache. It’s amazing to think that when this set of songs were recorded on a DIY setup in Lince, Lima in 1966, the band members had just graduated high school. They say they had never heard anything from The Sonics – even though The Sonics were basically their U.S. counterparts. No other bands like Los Saicos existed in Latin America at the time, which may be the reason they were so short-lived.

Quasi: Mole City (Kill Rock Stars, 2013)

This isn’t the best album Quasi has put out, but it’s still a scorcher. Heavy guitar, plenty of feedback and enough drums to piss off your neighbors. If Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss are anything, they aren’t creatures of habit. They doesn’t aim to please every listener, they aim to rock. Quasi is still proof music in soggy Portland, Oregon isn’t dead. At least not yet.

Joshua Frank is managing editor of CounterPunch.

 

KRISTIN KOLB

Gil Scott-Heron: I’m New Here (XL Recordings)

Luke Roberts: Big Bells and Dime Songs (Thrill Jockey)

Old 97’s & Waylon Jennings (Omnivore Recordings)

Kristin Kolb writes the Daydream Nation column for CounterPunch magazine.

 

DAVID YEARSLEY

Powerdove, Do You Burn? (Circle Into Square, 2013).

Not a lightweight pigeon-shaped drone developed by the Pentagon to break up Occupy demonstrations, this winged creature of weightless melancholy and fragmented love is instead the enthralling creation of vocal visionary and sonic artist Annie Lewandowski. On this hypnotic, haunting disc the ethereal song of Powerdove takes flight through a haze of electronic sonorities (provided by John Dieterich) and percussive disturbances (Thomas Bonvalet) evoking desire both thwarted and fulfilled. These plaints and poems of loneliness and connectedness, memory and forgetting seem to wing directly from the unconscious—archetypal, lovely, unsettling.

David Yearsley once played the world’s oldest piano and didn’t damage it … much.

 

LEE BALLINGER

Leo Kottke: 6 & 12 String Guitar (Takoma, 1992)

Crystal Method: Tweekend (Geffen, 2001)

Donna Summer: Love to Love You Donna (Verve, 2013)

Lee Ballinger co-edits Rock and Rap Confidential.

 

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY

Curtis Mayfield: There’s No Place Like America Today (Curtom, 1975.)

Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros: Streetcore  (Hellcat Records, 2003.)

Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different (Just Sunshine Records, 1974.)

Kevin Alexander Gray’s next book, Killing Trayvon (co-edited by JoAnn Wypijewski and Jeffrey St. Clair) will be released by CounterPunch books this spring.

 

RON JACOBS

Anthony Hamilton: Back to Love (RCA, 2011)

Soul music in the finest tradition of Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. Carolinian Hamilton’s voice is its own sweet instrument.

Rising Appalachia: Rising Appalachia (CD Baby, 2006)

These two women originally from New Orleans remake old-timey New Orleans and mountain music into something new, funky and steampunk modern.

Dead Kennedys: Frankenchrist (Manifesto, 2010)

The best Bay Area punk band, if not the best West Coast punk band.

Ron Jacobs’ book on the Seventies, Daydream Sunset, will published by CounterPunch this summer.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail