Music Discussion Thread #08: The Greatest, Greatest Hits.

Let’s discuss any and all music here. You’ve got a new artist who’s rocking your boat that you want to talk about? Post a video! Found out about that unearthed Coltrane album that has the jazz freak in you losing your mind? Lay it out for us! Do you have a theory about what your favorite band might do for their next album? Let’s hear it! Anything and everything music-related goes here, but do please remember to also pay attention to the more niche threads; if your post would either fit better or equally well in one of them, please post it there as well. I absolutely do not want to steal traffic from those threads.

Prompt for this week: What are your favorite Greatest Hits albums*? What Greatest Hits albums do you feel work as an album, and actually elevate the songs on them above their initial spots in albums?

*For the purpose of this question ‘greatest hits’ is not limited strictly to compilations of commercially successful albums, of course. A better way to frame this would be, ‘compilation of largely previously released material’.

Sigil’s Music Journal (2018-08-23/2018-08-30)

73UProot.jpg73. DJ/Rupture – Uproot (2008). When this mix came out it was a bit of a disappointment to me, because it’s not nearly as wild as Gold Teeth ThiefMinesweeper Suite, or any of the other mixes Rupture had put out commercially at this point. But with some retrospect, this may be the most generally enjoyable as a it shows a confident fairly smooth control of the material, while it’s still eclectic and interesting. I don’t think Clayton has released any music since 2013, though he did release a book in 2016, which I’m sure is fascinating. 8/10

Fetish.jpg74. Moor Mother – Fetish Bones (2016). I can’t recommend this disc enough. Important, visceral, terrifying. One of those discs that, if there’s any justice in the world, will be viewed as historically and musically important in the future. Moor Mother is a project of Camae Ayewa, and this album in particular seems to take the inherit horror and violence of power electronics projects like Whitehouse and applies them to the historical African American female experience. At it’s heart, it’s powerful spoken word, but Ayewa drowns everything in harsh reverb, wails, and distorted beats. Play it loud and suffering. 10/10

75Epic.jpg75. Kamasi Washington – The Epic (2015). This is certainly a jazz cross-over record, so that’s pretty cool, but it’s also corny as hell. A lot of the compositions range from good to very good, but I can’t help feeling that it’s a very dated record. That’s mostly because the type of Jazz I enjoy is necessarily more on the fringe. I tend to think that I came into Jazz from Noise Music, rather than from Pop Music, so free jazz is my general go to. Brötzmann was my entry point, which is a complete opposite thing. Brötzmann was reacting to the spiritual nature of American free jazz, with a more youthful and almost nihilistic attitude. Currently, I’m more into Anthony Braxton, and I’ve actually been into Braxton influenced stuff for quite awhile, without even realizing it. And that’s a totally different thing from Brötzmann as Braxton is unapologetic in his influence from white post-classical composers like Stockhausen. Anyway, all of that is to say, Washington is starting off on the wrong foot for me. Still the production is great, and I can’t deny that a lot of this is a great pleasure to listen to. It’s just not the first thing I grab when I want to listen to Jazz. 7/10

76Improvika.jpg76. Sir Richard Bishop – Improvika (2004). I do not know much about guitar players, but I know that Rick Bishop is a strong guitar player – sullen, untamed, and intractable. Actually, I don’t even know that, I just wanted to quote Eliot. This disc, one of Rick Bishop’s first as a solo guitar player, is a good introduction to Bishop’s strong and exciting guitar technique. As I said, I don’t know that much about guitar playing, but Bishop is clearly playing complex and unusual pieces here. He’s also melodic and inviting, to a degree, something Sun City Girls never was. 7/10

77Death.jpg77. The Pixies – Death to the Pixies (1997). I’m going to be brutally honest here. I did not even know about The Pixies until they played over the ending of Fight Club. That’s pretty embarrassing. I did eventually buy Surfer Rosa, and this compilation, which features some great songs, to be sure. But that’s really all the first disc has, which seems increasingly useless in this world of streaming. The second disc is a live show, which I’ve probably never made it through, and won’t make it through this time, either. Also, for some reason this sounds like shit. Like it’s super thin and dull. I don’t know if that’s because I ripped it to a 192kbps MP3 file, or if the CD just sounds like shit. In any case, this is a collection of Pixies songs which are all very good, but I don’t want to listen to them. 6/10

78Junta.jpg78. Phish – Junta (1998). Oh god. I was never a Phish head, I never saw them live, and I only ever had this and A Live One. A friend of mine in college was really into them, and had a bunch of live stuff and studio stuff. Listening to it now, I guess they’re still pretty good. Kind of jazzy, certainly noodly and jammy. But here’s my story about this release: One day I went to the local Sam Goody, who had a new section of used CDs. I browsed around and found this for, like, 6 dollars and picked it up. When I got home, however, I realized that the case only had the first disc in it. I was extremely disappointed and was going to call or go back to Sam Goody to complain, until I realized that, indeed, there was a small piece of invisible tape on the cover with ‘Disc 1 only’ handwritten in black ink. You may notice that the cover is predominantly black. Whatever. So I kept the CD, knowing that there was no way I was ever going to get a second disc, because, seriously, who just sells the second disc? Well, a used CD store in my college town did. They had a little pile of stuff that they couldn’t really sell, including copy of this that was missing the first disc. I have no idea how such serendipity happened. I eventually sold this. With both discs in the case. I think. 7/10 (Yeah, I don’t know how I gave a Phish album a higher rating than The Pixies)

Bonus Discs (I’ve been buying a lot of music, so there’s going to be a lot of these)

Anno.jpgAnna Meredith & Antonia Vivaldi ft. Scottish Ensemble – Anno: Four Seasons (2018). This is a curious thing. Anna Meredith put out one of my favorite records of 2016, Varmints. She’s been around for awhile, mostly working in the classical realm, but branching out into electronica now and then, most notably in Varmints. Besides this album, which just came out on the 17th, she recently did the soundtrack to 8th Grade. This record is somewhat different than her past work. She’s interspersed her own electro-acoustic compositions within Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Suite. I’m not entirely sure why, though listening to it a few times, the impression that I come away with is a rather energetic and frenetic production. I think a few more times through, I’ll thoroughly enjoy this. Right now I just really enjoy it. 7/10

Evelyn.jpgEvelyn Ida Morris – Evelyn Ida Morris (2018). Really good pop/piano music from Australia. There’s a fair amount of vocals on this album, and the tracks that feature them could be considered pop songs, I suppose, in a Ben Folds Five kind of way, but Morris also unleashes solo piano tracks with a lot of expertly played arpeggios, and beautiful piano melodies in their own right. It’s a really unique record; it kind of took me a few listens before I realized how unusual its structure is. One of my records of the year. 9/10

One thing I just want to add to this: the bandcamp FLAC version of this seems to be plagued with a particular annoyance of mine: small gaps at the end of tracks. These interrupt track segues and it drives me nuts. They were pervasive in the MP3 era initially, because they’re caused by the MP3 compression algorithm. Some audio players worked around this by detecting silence below a certain threshold at the beginning and end of tracks, and skipping over it. That didn’t always work out great, but it was better than nothing. Eventually other compression formats came along and addressed it in various ways. The LAME MP3 encoding method, for example, can take a portion of the beginning of the following track and place it at the end of a track. This is demarcated in the file, and a player can line up the tracks precisely when it decodes and plays the file.

This isn’t a problem in lossless formats like FLAC, though, which makes me wonder if the master for this release when it was transferred to bandcamp wasn’t an MP3. That would be a totally bizarre thing to do, but sometimes labels or even artists think transferring MP3 files is more practical and doesn’t impact the sound enough to be a problem. Well, they’re wrong. I sent a message through bandcamp to Morris that, I hope, politely informed her of this issue. They haven’t gotten back to me, and I can only assume that, if they read the message, they deleted it with scorn and hate me a little for it.

Ohmme.jpgOHMME – Parts (2018). This just came out on the 24th. I came to this band through Macie Stewart’s work in Ken Vandermark’s Marker group.  That group focuses on groovy freeform jazz-rock. Stewart performs the violin and the organ in that group, two instruments that I love to hear in jazz. I don’t want to single out her work in Marker, because that would diminish the role of everyone else in the group, and they work coherently as a unit. In a lot of ways, this band does the same. Stewart and Sima Cunningham, the only two members, sing in close harmony playing guitars in interesting rhythms and directions. It’s much more straightforward than Marker, but that shouldn’t really come as a surprise. The two projects are vastly different, and attempting to find more Marker material through Stewart’s other projects obviously isn’t going to yield the best results. But I’m glad I found this, because it’s really great. Fantastic lyrics, and powerful delivery. Despite only coming out a week ago, I’m going to say that this is quite possibly another record of the year. 9/10

Hartman.jpgOdetta Hartman – Old Rockhounds Never Die (2018). This was also a recent release, on the 17th, and it was one of my most anticipated releases. It’s nice to see this getting pretty positive press (though there’s only five reviews on Metacritic right now), but, to be honest, it’s a bit of a disappoint to me. I really enjoyed Hartman’s 222 from 2015, but it was a mere sampler and I wanted to bigger statement on her debut album. I’m not sure if I actually got that here. There’s not really that many “songs” here, and some are brief less than two minute musings, the rest of the tracks are transitions, which is fine, but in total it feels superficial. I’m not entirely convinced that the transitions here are particularly useful or strong, and they seem like filler. Still, the songs that are on here as as strong as, if not stronger than 222. The standout for me is still the first single “Misery,” where Hartman takes a typical murder ballad and explodes it, having gunshots rip through the melody making the song both comforting and unnerving at the same time. I’m hoping Hartman continues in this vein, but adds some more thoughtful structure to the albums as a whole. 7/10

Neutral.jpgNeutral – Neutral (2016); När (2017). Two beguiling releases by this Swedish duo. I had never heard of them until reviewed När last week. They compared them to The Shadow Ring (if that means anything to you), which seems sort of right, but the vocals seem more buried. This is a lot of found sounds, electronics, and guitars filtered through some degrading tape. Like noise music, it’s difficult to know exactly why certain releases or bands work, and others don’t, but these guys definitely work. I think Brainwashed described it as a VHS haze, which works really well in describing it. It’s like your listening to someone’s rambling and indifferent confession that was taped on a shit camcorder, and then played through a shit TV. 10/10

Carla.jpgCarla dal Forno – You Know What It’s Like (2016). I’m not entirely sure why I bought this. I don’t really like it very much, it’s a little too minimal for me and dal Forno’s voice is a little thin. There’s certainly some great beats on this, “DB Rip,” has a great dubstep like wub-wub. It’s kind of dark and lonely on the whole, and maybe I just need to be in the right mood for it. I do like it as a physical object, though, and I think that’s why I bought the LP. It’s a striking image on an LP sleeve, and the paper that it’s printed on is really nice. 6/10

Brouk.jpgJoanna Brouk – Hearing Music (2016). A compilation of new age and electronic music from an early practitioner. Brouk, apparently, died last year at 68, which is rather sad. This is a great collection of relaxing contemplative music. I got the LP set, which is missing about a half an hour of the music that’s on the CD version. Thankfully they give you a download code for the full track listing. I don’t think I’ll pull this out very often, to be perfectly honest, but I’m glad that I have it for those times that I just want to listen to something pleasant and unobtrusive. 7/10

Barbieri.jpgCaterina Barbieri – Born Again in the Voltage (2018). Now, this is some great stuff here. This is a recording of a live show from a couple of years ago where Barbieri is playing on a Buchla 200 with cello accompaniment. The results are some fabulous, deep synthesizer music. The cello adds another dimension, but the Buchla is the star here.