Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Various Artists Box of Dub 2
Brightblack Morning Light s/t

Miles Davis 1969-07-25 Juan-les-Pins live
Thurston Moore
Trees Outside The Academy

The lineup on the Miles boot is Davis/Shorter/Corea/Holland/DeJohnette (less than a month before they were to go in the studio augmented by a few others to record a little something called Bitches Brew), known by some as the "lost quintet" because they never recorded a studio album. This was a really wild rambling band that set the stage for Miles's fusion period by playing continuous sets of music, going in and out of free-form free-for-alls, regularly snapped to attention by the leader suddenly and sharply cueing the melody to an actual song he wanted to do. At the same time they had one foot in Miles' classic jazz quintet style, featuring the traditional trumpet, sax, piano, bass, and drums instrumentation and playing standards like "Round Midnight" and Miles's own "Footprints," but change was very much in the air as the piano and bass were now plugged in, and they were working stretched-out originals like "It's About That Time" and "Sanctuary" into the continuous sets. Things got even crazier for the touring band about a year later, after Bitches Brew, with the addition of Keith Jarrett on a second electric piano and Airto Moreira on otherworldly percussion. Holland was still playing loud electric bass and they started playing on rock bills, which makes sense because they were throwing down riffs that at times sounded like Black Sabbath. Check out the Miles Davis At Fillmore album for some of the most ridiculous examples - when I was in high school our band teacher had a copy of that record in his office and during study hall he would let me and some other nerds in there to "study" it, which kind of changed my life. Easily the craziest music I had ever heard up to that point... I mean Frank Zappa was pretty crazy but these guys really meant it and had no other schtick to fall back on whatsoever. The Thurston Moore solo album was not that exciting to me when I first heard it - after the middle-of-the-road wistful singer/songwriter classic rock of the last few Sonic Youth albums, I couldn't believe this solo album was yet more middle-of-the-road wistful singer/songwriter classic rock (with yet another song, "The Shape Is In A Trance", that borrows the riff from Billy Joel's "You Made It Right," as did "Dripping Dream" off Sonic Nurse) - but I really like the last few Sonic Youth albums, hell I love Sonic Nurse, and I'll be damned if Trees isn't starting to get to me too. Moore plays acoustic guitar only, but in an upbeat Sonic Youthy way that is underscored by Steve Shelley himself on drums and Matthew Heyner (of No-Neck Blues Band et al) on bass, but from there something interesting happens with the instrumentation, as really the only other orchestral elements are Samara Lubelski's strange and regal violin parts, Christina Carter's rare but heavy background vocals, and J. Mascis's rare but heavy lead guitar rips. Moore's vocal stylings are as earnest and lightly tweaked and as dazed as ever. I ultimately can't get behind a lyric like "The shape is in a trance" but it's a good album, it really is...

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