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Friday, June 26, 2009

Jacko's dead!

A genius is dead, folks... rivers of ink will be used in the next days... the black who wished to be like his icon, Liz Taylor, the one who showed his son from a seven-storey hotel window, the bionic, the washed black, the pills eater, the friend and the foe of children, Peter Pan, they called him... the one who lived in an hyperbaric room, who always was fearsome of illness and people, as well... but, still no music-wise, Michael Jackson played with his body, his identity, his dream of himself like VERY few others; he had great ideas like purchasing The Beatles' full catalogue, which maybe he loose in the heavy last years, this man, the Man who invented the Avatar of himself, becoming a living legend before his death.

Now, when Death itself arrived, all was already accomplished... only the last detail missing, the phisical immolation of that poor, suffering, bleached body.

... but like with other greats who still and always will live of the music they created, the several masterpieces, the positive, universal feeling and message of childish love he, at least, tried to give to the World, ALL this corpus, from Thriller to The Eternity, from his moonwalk to his little screamings and penis hintings, will remain in the humanity radio waves, all his great songs for posterity.

At his place in the Valhalla of Rock, among the Greats, like an alien who landed on this little planet for a 50 years long minute, looking for just a glimpse of immortality.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iran: religion and power... it's always the same story: violence and violence again!

From my friend Niko Wilke from Germany:

"This is the house I live in. Today I put up a large green flag. You should do the same. There is no excuse for not doing it. Or put a green ribbon on your car antenna. Make the colour green purposely visible everywhere. Have other people do it, too. Get involved.

People are being threatened, beaten and murdered in Iran at this very moment.


... and I agree... to riot, to riot, to riot... for Peace!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Listening hints or what's spinning in my listening room.

Feelin' groovy, would say... listening to the right music at the right moment is, indeed, dressing time and space in the most sumptuous, classy way... more than a soundstrack, an amniotic super-healthy liquidness.

Thanking my friend & pusher Ivan, who musically knows me better, MUCH better, than my wife, I'm right now into Jimi Tenor's "Out of Nowhere"...

It's Philly sound, orchestral Frank Zappa, Robert Wyatt, Miklos Rozsa's soundtrack, Japanese koto and shakuachi hints and, again, Carnatic/Indian/Bollywood classical music (sitar, male vocals, bansuri, tablas) and Brit Prog-jazz... shake it well and... enjoy!!!

Some details - better written than I would do myself, also if reporting a semi-positive feedback - about this very record:

"Jimi Tenor was the first and last hope for offensively distasteful electronic music. The man accentuated his cheesy influences-- Barry White, Prince, lounge pop-- with in-your-face concoctions of spliced foreign film and blaxploitation soundtracks. And he topped it all off by looking like Beck's emaciated Polish cousin and riding a white stallion to gigs. What's more, Tenor had buckets of credibility from electronic mainstay Warp Records and was poised to bring his vision to the masses with a Matador distribution deal. Last year's Organism was pretty good. This year's Out of Nowhere relatively sucks. Where, one might ask, did it all go wrong?

It may have something to do with the fact that Tenor tucked away his sampling equipment for this one, opting instead to command a 55-piece orchestra (as the promotional packaging so proudly boasts) to realize his lofty pseudo-soundtrack ambitions. Where's the blatant intergalactic funk? You'd think he'd stick to what he's good at, but whatever. Let's judge his wares.

The title track slides along quietly, almost trying not to draw attention to itself; it's ambient for the most part. The 55-piece orchestra only occasionally rears its ugly head to blare a few powerful notes, overwhelming the slight choral backing that appeared to help the track on its way. It becomes ominous by the end, but not to momentous effect. The skittering tabla rhythm and sitar swing of "Hypnotic Drugstore" follows, and is the first occurrence of a pronounced Bollywood influence. It's got groove potential, but Tenor's sorry vocal-- never his secret weapon-- pulls the rug from under its shoddy feet. Piano tinkles herald the humdrum white-soul ambience of "Paint the Stars," less a showcase of Jimi's compositional assets than of his orgasmic vocal pretensions.

An understated sax track later, we come to the first bonafide highlight of this "ambitious" and "cinematic" work, "Blood on Borscht." While Tenor is no John Barry or Ennio Morricone, this track does provide Out of Nowhere with its one suitably insistent, memorably cinematic theme, apparently for a film that could have used a lot more blood-spilling. As an added bonus, it exploits the latent potential of the 55-piece orchestra moreso than any of the previous tracks. "Backbone of Night" relapses into Bollywood atmospherics, heightened by some late orchestral flourishes upon which Tenor lays a heavily treated but perfunctory vocal.

"Spell" finally cuts the crap and delivers the funking ass-swing. The most welcome and catchy vocal on the album, Tenor coos, "And I knew you'd be my baby/ When I saw the mole on your thigh," over a velvet party track. There may be a string section lingering somewhere in the background, but the song is the solid product of some elastic bass, a tight hip-swinging backbeat, and a disco chorus. Damn fine.

One of the final lyrical salvos on Out of Nowhere is "Bear with me, baby/ I'll keep it together." I only wish that were true. Having braced myself for some shocking sci-fi porno-funk-- or, at the very least, some deft Shaft-esque usage of the mammoth 55-piece orchestra-- I was ultimately greeted with the most boring, least outrageous album Jimi Tenor has produced.

A bewildering, unconvincing piece of work, it's hard to determine exactly what the point of this record is. Put simply, a personality like Jimi Tenor has no right to be this unremarkable.

S. Murray, July 25, 2000"

... out the second...

Last Sunday, when in Milan at my friend Gabriele's place, he, smiling, placed a disk on his "Just Quality" super-cool CD-player... "You'll like it!", he simply told me... AND, pals... imagine: a 2008 recorded diskette from a California-based crew called The Alps, their "III" (third effort) playing like Amon Duul, Can or (some) Popol Vuh, BUT still keeping their proud freshness... no copy-cats or wannabes: cheapos acoustic 12 strings, liquid el. guitars solos, great, mighty bass lines and classy, timeless vocals... California meets Germany, after switching time machine backward.

I possibly noticed a tune which payed, at least, an hommage to Traffic's "The Low Spark of Long Heeled Boys": the VERY same bass line at the very beginning of the title track from Steve Winwood's classic dating early '70s... nothing bad, they possibly made their homeworks and/or loved that very record like myself and others worldwide...

A great, GREAT record...

Thanks, Gab!

While lazily browsing on the WEB, I read two reviews on "Rivista Anarchica", a super-nice, well-informed and well, lovingly made magazine...

An acoustic guitar record by "Massimo Volume"'s frontman and guitarist, usually on electric... Egle Sommacal, his name, recorded something worth tasting, grooving, enjoying.

Not the clone of michaelhedgesleokottkealexdegrassiprestonreed, but a sincere musician simply wishing to show his laid back side... six strings may suggest worlds and this is the case... I liked this record a lot.

Egle Sommacal - "Legno" (wood)... at, available on vinyl (which I got...) and disk.

... and the last, the cherry-on-the-pie of the bunch;-)

"Who knew Charlie Shoe" by Richard Leo Johnson and Gregg Brendian on Cuneiform...

El cheapos guitars and garbage percussions for music from out of the choir musicians... Richard Leo Johnson was sort-of "joking", à la John Fahey/Blind Joe Death, eons ago in early '60s, with the mythical figure (true or not?), evoking the fabled persona of Vernon McAlister, a ghost and avatar or an alter-ego?!?!... who knows, BUT a clever idea!

With their record they've been able to open reviewer ears and mind like few others disks recently did... mine, as well.

... and, as a plus, a recording 2die4, indeed!

Look for these records without fear and - I bet you - I'll have new pals.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Horns and live music? Definitely "Yes!"


While browsing around found a truly weird, WEIRD horn speaker, a carnivorous-flower/speaker like it came from Lewis Carroll's mind-in-acid... these people built it mostly aimed to faithfully reproduce a guitar amplified sound - a BIG sound, you'd say - and they approached this very task with a love for tales, for Wunderkammer, for dreams came true, I'd dare... they also designed (and built...) a "Leslie-type" of spinning horn speaker, double giant earphones shaped...

Look at the dimensions of (de-facto) XL-Horns vs. the jazz guitar!!!

Also a look at their site would prove of some interest, as their musical instruments are in same visionary vein of speakers.
Have a look to the deadly serious (= well-made), yet amusing "Bart Pippin" electric guitar headstock also if completely uninterested about guitars: that's irony, in Dada sauce, con gusto!

Interesting stuffs!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Maurizio Angeletti... I never forgot your lessons, back in early '80s!

While surfing the Net, I found the new site, extremely well made, of Maurizio Angeletti, the acoustic guitar player and musician who I first met in 1983 after a concert he opened for David Bromberg Group and who, later on, gave to me some Saturday morning guitar-lessons and tips of 12 strings acoustic guitar gestalt in the same Milan's flat where he (possibly) hosted John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Alex de Grassi, Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke and Daniel Hecht during their European tours, back in early '80s acoustic guitar Renaissance.

Furthermore, his "American Guitar" seminal book was a GREAT ispiration for me, as his several reviews of acoustic guitarists discs had a very deep, devastating effect on myself and, I'm sure, several other guitar players of my generation.

Discovering he's still alive, kicking and playing, after loosing him since mid-80s (what I only had after that was a kite he made, which I found in a shop in my town, by chance, in early '90s) made my day, indeed!

I still play quite fondly the GREAT music from his "Go Fly a Kite" disc on the 12 strings, after he gave to me the tablature of the whole album, more than 25 years ago!!!

He was playing with his own voice when everyone else was copy-catting and I'll always be in debt with him for opening to a younger me new Worlds of Knowledge - something I feel will happen again, now I just began to read his insightful "Language" section in his site.

Hope I'll be able to attend to some concert by Maurizio in the very near future.

Maurizio Angeletti's site

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Romance on Three Legs - Glenn Gould's obsessive search for the Perfect Piano

The title alone of this (quite) recent book by Katie Hafner was enough to capture my attention, down at the book-shop and to buy it... the word "obsessive" or "obsession" is like a siren-call for yours if only such a state of mind would allow to reach highest peaks of interest and devotion to anything on this planet;-)

About Glenn Gould's, his rejection of live performances, his full-heart commitment to the recording process and merits, his arms and hands luke-warm hours-long baths before playing, his humming and singing along Bach's immortal notes, etc. etc. etc. the trivia about him, his art and idiosincrasies could fill several essays.... BUT what mrs. Hafner does in her book is rare and seldom read: she interviewed the blind Canadian tuner who accompanied maestro Gould almost all his musical life and was able to give to a piano, through the straighforwarded description of its building and fine-tuning, a one year long process, a soul by itself: a labour of love itself, this too, for a writer and an author.

She talks about and describes felt, needles, touch, woods, skills and secrets, down to the ugly "thing" (look at the book cover for a mix between a worn out park bench and a foldable pic-nic chair), a seat Gould used for decades, but that also would not have been enough for a great, little book... through the several sides of Glenn Gould's life, from boyhood to his death of ictus at 50, what she reaches is just a tad crazy (the love for half a ton of wood and metal "thing"), BUT so enriching and informative for a technical essay, yet a TRUE romance, like the title suggests.

An instrument, like audio gear - not new words here - is merely a tool in the hands of an artist and/or a music lover, deserving the utmost care in choosing, understanding to be used at its best for the best possible results... it's not a matter of Steinway CD 318 for Glenn Gould or, humbly, my Lowden S-35 "Rio" or Guild F-312 Brazilian/Adirondack, but in the process of blending, interaction between artist and instrument, to complete each other pros & cons to find everyone's VERY own "voice" among voices...

In the meantine, buy this book: it's a moving, pleasing, great reading.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Audio & design: a visual and aesthetic approach...

... as a parallel quest to my main music/audio system, I finally came up assempling a sort of '70s audio (my own) dream system - i.e. something I've always been attracted since my first exposure to audio gears, back in early '70s.

Purchasing/doing something which I wasn't able to afford when younger student is quite common... almost all my friends in their 40+ are ill of this obsession... instruments, motorbikes, travels, etc.

A couple years ago I began, first by chance and almost casually, to look for these classy, '70s designed and built gears - i.e I purchase a myth of mine, that Radford HD-250 integrated amplifier so out-of-reach, price-wise, back in early '70s, last year the Bang & Olufsen CD-5500 (I know: it's not dating from '70s, BUT it strongly reminds Pantone-style and the like and it's absolutely well-mating to my purpouses and aesthetics goal), and very recently I found a gorgeous pair in mint conditions of Grundig Audiorama 7000 in butter-white finish and inox tripod.

It's amazing how this gears harmonically blend to each other, like this dated, decades old North European design has a lineage and a class by itself, modern but still keeping a timeless human soul, a man friendliness opposed to overcomplicated stuffs... can't avoid to quote a friend who spent BIG bucks for a top of the line german-made Bulthaup's 15 meters long, fully automated kitchen... his wife isn't able to use it properly, too much electronic and complexities involved... and they very often go to the restuarant or pizzeria because they're so worried about this kitchen. Unfriendly gourmandise and domothic...

Not by chance, the Pantone-styled audio system is my wife music system... the B & O disk player is always "ON", it's enough to press on the front panel to open in a fraction of second the solid aluminium CD-drawer: that's all. Radford's amp has a "ON/OFF" switch, period... that's enough for my wife... and for myself, sometimes, as well!

Women like music AND do not like audio... why? My wife recognizes a good listening from an average one, BUT only with the stylish music system relaxes herself without being over-distracted by horns, tubes and various fussyness involved in vinyl playback she hates...

... mhhhh... something to think about...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hugh Hopper passed away yesterday, June 7th 2009

... as I loved so much this musician, as myself, the many who loved him for his art and multi-layered skills, we do not need words to express the deep, deep sadness we feel after learning about the untimely death of the great Hugh Hopper.

... hoping it will not sound rude (as the great song was written by Robert Wyatt), "Moon (won't be) in June" for him, anymore...

R.I.P. and let's play, fondly, his "1984" in the next hours.

WJAAS - A classy way to clean/undust vinyl records

... much better and no-global than the usual, expensive "audiophile" stuff - i.e. carbon-fiber brush, I recently found a classy super smooth, and most of all, super dust capturing item;-):

It's a 10 cm (right the size of a record side...) "Vajo/Kozan squirrell", extra-thin hairs coming from this exotic squirrell tail from Siberia (sounds snobbish and unheard enough, pals?;-))); such a classy item is used in restoring ancient painting-frames with golden leaves and the like.

It's a brush absolutely nicely and flawlessly performing, leaving record surface without static for, at least, the whole listening record-side... I've been impressed by the anti-tics/tocs which this humble brush performed, without any bristle left on record surface.

A cheap purchase, at about EUR 10 per brush, maybe worth someone attention.

Here is a useful link and instructions:

Kazan Vajo brushes - will be enough to touch some wool felt to electrify the brush, which will capture dust on record surface.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Berlin's SCHOOL of SOUND - Part 2

... a school during students vacation... empty classrooms, graffitis in the toilets, dark corridors... and people from Germany, Norway, Italy, USA, Netherlands, France, Sweden, UK gatheringchattingeatinglisteningswappingideas&hints&experiences... something almost surreal... something which, for the second time, gives to Berlin a musical and living flavour quite uncommon everywhere.

Some classrooms were converted in laboratories, another in lectures about record collecting, exotic labels and sought-after printings, then another concerning hum and RFI fighting in amps and music systems, and music, music... and chatting... and laughing, smoking pipe and/or cigar, having great, SUPERB Cao Lilla's turf one zillion years old Islay whisky and listening to this ECM or that Verve or Blue Note... or having been able to listen to a full side of Can's "Tago Mago" without being shot or blamed or booed;-) by "Jazz at the Pawnshop's Church" adepts;-))))

Cannot understand why, but when in Berlin, I feel at home... is a pulsating, lively, yet shy city... full of trees, so good bread and food, and always those beautiful women on their bikes, hairs and faces in the chilly wind... braveheart.

Meeting old and new friends, in music... that's it... a special event, indeed, where the whole is FAR more & better than the sum of parts... not an unworking speaker or a microphonic tube or... the rain on first day are able to distract from the pleasure of being all together in the name of music for three days... Woodstock's ghosts in the new millenium?!?!

Berlin's SCHOOL of SOUND - Part 1

Entered quite late in the evening in an audio converted emptied classroom, like transported by a very nice sound... a man in his sixties, elegant in a linen butter-white dressing, was in a corner, white hairs and bold eyes.

I waited for the solo sax piece finished and then asked: "Nice recording... who's the musician? ... and the sound engineer?"

With a smile he only took a disk cover, showing it to me... then smiled again...

That was my first meeting with Knut Becker and his HEAR recording label!

He - not alone, nor the first... BUT cleverly - approaches the noble art of recording "holistically" - i.e. the "H" in the logo - asking to musicians for single takes, no editing, no digital reverb... only uninterrupted, flowing music.

The HEAR catalog is quite impressive: viola da gamba duo (Annette Oderstedt & Hans Reiners - The Passionate Leeras), solo baritone sax (Gert Anklam - Konzert fur B.) were the two titles which captured my attention and which herr Becker gave to me.

The recordings, extremely well made, used digital, large reverberant halls and Schoeps' KFM-6 spherical microphones (SCHOEPS KFM 6 -— The spherical design and matte-gray surface finish of Schoeps' KFM 6 ($6,699) resembles a binaural dummy head and follows similar principles. The KFM 6 records at a fixed angle of 90 degrees and is designed to yield a natural impression of space, depth and image. Two pressure transducers are mounted flush on the surface of the 20cm diameter sphere, acting as an acoustic baffle. The KFM 6's directionality is essentially constant throughout the audio frequency range, which is 18 to 16k Hz. The KFM 6's sensitivity is rated at 100 mV/Pa, its signal-to-noise ratio is 77 dBA and it handles 123dB SPL. It accepts 12- or 48V phantom power, ships with a suspension mount, a KG ball-and-socket joint for stand-mounting, a “Y” adapter cable, 5-pin XLR stereo cables and a wooden case.... the result are very impressive.

The Gert Anklam's live recording is, most of all, very, VERY seldom heard music... a 270 invited audience were there during the concert/recording and they're clearly audible, breathing, snorting, living during the (rehearsed) improvisation.

The baritone sax in Gert Anklam's skilled hands reminds me of Ludwig Streicher's singing double-bass I adore... incidentally, two large instruments capable of unheard finesses and nuances spreading on more octaves, while mostly used as humble colours in orchestra.

The music is LaMonte Young, Jon Hassel, Terry Riley-esque... the musician is walking on the stage and the soundstage is HUGE.

... but most important, it is great music, masterfully played and recorded, sure worth further investigations.

... and herr Becker only smiled when I asked "who recorded this"...

Gert Anklam's site

Friday, June 5, 2009

WJAAS - Matt Mullenweg visiting Shindo Labs

A nice, nice recent report in Tokyo Ken Shindo's atelier by Matt Mullenweg...

Shindo's World/>

Thanks Matt for the great shots!

Monday, June 1, 2009

WJAAS - The Headshells Survey (reprise) - B/A - Bosouem Acoustics' "Big Nose" universal headshell - Part 2

... despite the ugliness and weird looking of B/A headshell, something great is happening, folks...
After some days I didn't used nothing but the Oosawa-san's cross-coils MC cartridge mounted on an RS-3 rotary headshell, I wanted to re-try, better re-listen to the Miyajima-san Shilabe MC cartridge and mounted it for the second time on the Big Nose.
Tuned the VTF to 3,2 grams and... what this cartridge does when used with its own Miyajima ETR-800 Super-Permalloy core transformer and Bosouem Acoustics headshell as a combo, is to be heard, period.

I'm not saying Shilabe surpasses Verito Z or Lumiere DST... trying to be unbiased as possible, as they're all of a special breed, no exception, BUT what I believed to be hardly impossible to improve - i.e. Verito Z or Lumiere DST used with ETR-800 or WE 618B... all blew away in two sides!

As recently happened with LCR RIAA and Telefunken EC 8020 phono-stage, only few days after, something I had in a closet proved to be a major improvement in details and trueness.

These steps onward are someway sad, as I fully understand Ikeda-san, the japanese audio maven (not related with Fidelity Research and Ikeda phono products) who had to quit his job to fully devote himself to music and audio, back in the '70s... in my humble shoes, dedicating few hours per month to this annihilating, so satisfying activities make me wonder "where" I would be, musically, if I would be able to apply my full-time attention.

Lunatic, getting nut, needing a good shrink... maybe... what's pretty sure and crystal clear is that the never ending improving capabilities of my system and, most important, of my ears natural skills are impressive to me, myself and I, indeed!

What will happen when I'll install Thomas Mayer's LCR Riaa/WE437A and 801A 4-chassis preamp?

Will I get more music? Will I blissfully understand what the composers meant with this or that silence among notes? Will I finally obtain from most of my records what I'm able to filterless enjoy through my Telefunken M-15A spinned master-tapes or from a real instrument in front of me?

Will I have to leave this daily job and seclude myself on a hill in Western Honshu (Chugoku), hermit among hermits, a music freak, a full-time sound monk, taking full enjoyment from the truest Music ever: wind and birds and rain and that far, far bell?

... who knows what's in everyone karma;-) - for the moment I must, prosaically, say that the B/A Acoustics with the Shilabe MC-cart made by Miyajima-san is giving to me shivers in Gotorama: Don Cherry's trumpet is untamed, free as the air, limitless, undistorted, unfearsome, brave and true, right.

... let's leave the rest in the Music God and Goddess' hands.

I'm happy... quoting the late Tim Buckley... Happy/Sad.