Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Skerik’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BENEVENTO/RUSSO DUO-Best Reason To Buy The Sun (2005).

I’ve become a huge fan of Marco Benevento over the last few years.  When I saw that he was releasing these earlier records with Joe Russo (of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead) I was intrigued.

This set up is indeed a duo.  It’s just Russo on drums and Benevento on all manner of keyboard sounds.  (There are a couple of guests later in the record).  The sound is really full–Marco’s low end is fat and heavy and never wavers no matter what melodies he plays.

This album is all instrumental and there’s quite a lot of diversity in the sounds.  Most of the songs are relatively short (around the 4 minute mark), but a few do stretch out.

The disc opens with “Becky” which has a great funky bass and drums.  There’s some typically weird sounds from Russo’s drums to start (showing that he’s not only going to be keeping time) and a nice distortion filter on the keys.  “Welcome Red” starts with accordion!  It morphs into a slow grooving song with a pretty melody that’s accompanied by bells.  “Sunny’s Song” is brighter and bouncier with a pretty main riff on the keys and the bells.  Half way through the song gets bigger and it rocks harder with lots of cymbals.  Smokey Hormel adds some guitar to this song.

“Vortex” is slower and trippier with a kind of ice-skating rink vibe.  Eventually the song kind of takes off into an outer space sound.  “9×9” pushes past the six minute mark with a slow melody that’s accented by sprinklings of trippy sounds.  There’s some really dynamite drumming in this song.  By the end, it takes off, really rocking as it segues into “Scratchitti.”

On “Scratchitti,” Skerik plays some horns and Mike Dillion adds percussion (it’s impossible to know what he is playing that Russo isn’t).  This is the first weird song on the record.  It’s off kilter with noisy funk (Skerik is all over the place).  Although it does have a really catchy melody and a great bass sound from Marco.  There’s a middle section where things stretch out nicely turning kind of spacey–a trait for this album.

All three guests appear on “Three Question Marks.”  It’s a piano-based song and is jazzy in a kind of free jazz, everybody soloing kind of way.  Midway through the song Marco plays the strings of his piano, making a kind of harp sound before Russo (and Dillon?) get a drum solo.  With about a minute left, the song turns into a manic freakout with Skerik’s wailing sax and Hormel’s wailing guitar both fighting for dominance.

MIke Dillon appears on “Bronko’s Blues” which is slow and jazzy with a 1970s style keyboard solo.

The disc ends with “My Pet Goat” which is a slow jamming song that runs about 15 minutes.  Skerik, Dillon and Hormel all appear.  The first 8 minutes are slow chords over a fast syncopated drum pattern.  About half way through, there’s a pause and the second half of the song picks up with a new slow section based around some big bass notes.

I enjoyed this album a lot and thought it was really fun.  It’s a solid record of catchy, but not poppy insturmentals with a jazzy feel despite not being a jazz album.

There’s a bonus track–a 9 minute version of “The Three Question Marks.”  This is a big jamming monstrosity of a song. I don’t really recognize the original in it, but then I don’t think the original is all that recognizable.  This song has lots and lots of drums in it.

[READ: September 1, 2020] “The God of Dark Laughter”

This story is quite dark and it is written in a style that makes it feel much older than it actually is.

It listen as a report from a district attorney who is investigating a grisly crime.  The introduction to the report says

I make the following report in no confidence that it, or I will be believed, and beg the reader to consider this, at least in part, my letter of resignation.

Two boys found a dead body.  They were not innocent children–they had been killing squirrels and were covered in blood–but even they were disturbed by what they found.  The body was dressed like a clown and was surgically mutilated.

Only two weeks earlier the Entwhistle-Ealing Bros. circus had left town, so the D.A. called the circus owner to see if they knew of a missing performer.  The owner would check, but he wanted the D.A. to know that clowns have unsuspected depth–who knew what hey might get up to..

Sometime later they found the clown’s effects.  He had been living in a cave near by.  The cave smelled terrible.  Among his effects, they found clown makeup and clothes as well as some intellectual books including one in German by Friedrich von Junzt.

The D.A. went to the library to research this von Junzt fellow.  There was nothing in the card catalog for Von Junzt–not surprising for a small town–and no reference materials mentioned him. But there was a word in von Junzt’s book that stood out.  When he saw it again in another book, he had to put them together.

With the help of a dictionary the D.A. started clumsily translating the book which was written around 1895.  He learned that in Northern Armenia there were two competing cults.  The first supported Ye-Heh, the god of Dark Laughter.  They viewed the world as a cosmic hoax–the world was terrible but you had to laugh about it.  The descendants of this cult grew paler and some believe that the idea of white face for clowns comes from this cult.  The other cult worshiped Ai the God of Unbearable and Ubiquitous Sorrow.  They also believed the world was terrible bit that you should cry about it.  They set about killing all of the Ye-Heh believers.

As a man of the law, he had always followed the principles of Occam’s Razor, but this made him question everything.

Read Full Post »

 dec22 SOUNDTRACK: LES CLAYPOOL-Of Whales and Woe (2006).

whaleswoe Although Les Claypool had been making all manner of jam band based “solo” records, he finally got around to releasing another one under just his name.  Although interestingly, Frog Brigade members Skerik on sax, Mike Dillon on vibes and marimba and Gabby La la all appear on this disc as well.   But this is the Les show, from start to finish.

I had reviewed this disc a few years ago.  Some things I said then:

On the first few listens, when I wasn’t listening very carefully, I really enjoyed the disc.  It reminded me a lot of Primus, although it had a lot of Les’ solo quirks.  However, once I started scrutinizing it a bit more, I found I didn’t enjoy it as much.

Most of the songs are stories about various bizarro characters.  And although I love Les’ characters, this turns into one of the downfalls of the disc.  In the great tradition of storytelling songs, the songs tend to be verses only with nary a chorus.  And that’s fine because most storytellers use the music as a background to accompany the story.  Les’ music is far too aggressive/innovative/interesting to be  background.  So when you get a great wild bass line, you’re attracted to it.  But when it lasts for 5 minutes with no changes, it’s exhausting.  And trying to listen to lyrics along with it is, well, I think your brain just shuts down (especially when they are recorded low in the mix and are hard to hear).  And so, the album feels a lot longer than it is.

“Back Off Turkey” is wild and crazy sounding music but the vocals are so muddy it’s impossible to tell what’s up with the song.  It feels more like randomness than an actual song.  “One Better” is an amazing track, highlighting just how great Claypool is as a songwriter and arranger.  This song lasts pretty long but because there’s a lot of different things going on, it never overstays its welcome.  The vibes are great once again and this has a great sax solo.  “Lust Stings” sounds a lot like Tom Waits.  Musically it is interesting but lyrically not so much.

“Of Whales and Woe” has a great bass line and I love the theremin solo (from Gabby La La). Gabby also plays sitar on “Vernon the Company Man.”  The sitar is a great change of pace from all the heavy bass stuff.  Although this is definitely a song that benefits from brevity.  “Phantom Patriot” has a good bass riff.  It’s a nice stomping song that is catchy but could use another part in it.

On the opposite end from the bass heavy tracks, we have “Iowan Gal” a light-sounding and light-hearted romp about, well, an Iowan Gal. Les plays bass banjo and there are lots of little quirks in there–bow ditty bow bow.  “Nothing Ventured” has some cool vibes and sax.  It’s fun to hear the Robot Chicken theme song in here as well.  “Filipino Ray” has some good funky bass.  The disc ends nicely with “Off-White Guilt” a cool instrumental with horns and vibes.

I imagine that Les was happy to get more into his own head on this album.  But as with lot of other things he’s done, I feel like when he plays well with others he really shines.

[READ: January 21, 2015] “The Start of the Affair”

Despite the title, I felt that this story was really quite sad.

Set in South Africa, this is the story of James MacPherson, a retired professor from Johannesburg.  He has settled down and bought a restaurant. He doesn’t really have much to do with the restaurant itself, leaving all of the day to day decisions to the manager, Yacine, a Moroccan.  We learn quite a bit about James, but the story has more to do with James’ interest in a local merchant named Ahmed.

Ahmed is Somali and reminds James of a Somali boy he knew once a long times ago.  James never did anything with that boy and when he first saw Ahmed her feared that it was the same boy just now grown up.  But when that proved to be untrue, James decided to show some interest in the young man. (more…)

Read Full Post »