31 December 2009

Andrew and Helga's Top 20 for 2009!

Andrew's top 20: (not in any particular order...)

1. Electric Miles Davis - I've been a Miles denier for some time, but this year the dam finally burst. The gateway drugs were 'Get Up With It', 'Big Fun' and 'Pangea'. It was all over after those 3 albums - now anything from '69 to '75 is fair game. It really blows my mind how dissonant and twisted some of this stuff is for music that's supposedly 'funky'. Pangaea is dark as all hell....

2.Kings With Straw Mats (a film by Ira Cohen) - Ira Cohen wanders around the Kumbh Mela festival in India documenting the largest gathering of Hindu holy men on the plent that occurs once every 12 years. Cohen makes the whole thing into a fractured pseudo-doco in his own inimitable way, by letting voiceovers that start factual meander off into psychedelic poetry. He wanders around smoking hash and communing with sadhus like the wonderful old wizard he is. At one stage he gets an X-Ray of hi head taken so as to preserve evidence of hi state of mind at the time. Its the sort of film that makes you want to drop the charade and wander off into the sub-continent, get lost for a decade of two...

3. Ornette Coleman - The Shape Of Jazz To Come - I've also been a wee bit of an Ornette denier from time to time. I think the main issue with his early work is that my first exposure to it was via the 'Beauty Is A Rare Thing' boxset, which jams all his Atlantic albums together into a whole lot of mammoth 72-minute discs. After 5 or so discs of that you can't really tell the difference between the tunes any more, its just too much. Seems like all the Atlantic era Ornette albums are carefully structured AS ALBUMS and not just a bunch of jams and must be listened to that way for you to commune with them. For a long time this album was on my work computer and often when I was the last one out of the office after a day of buy/sell banality this is the only thing I felt like listening to. 'Lonely Woman' and 'Peace' are two of the most beautiful songs ever written. Me and Ornette's relationship is still a little distant, but we're getting closer.

4. Milford Graves & Don Pullen - Nommo - One of the few albums on Thurston Moore's (in)famous free jazz top 10 that I hadn't heard until recently. Heavy tumbling piano percussion action. Just another album in a long list of crucial free jazz sides that are criminally out of print (Marzette Watts' second album anyone?).

5. MV & EE live @ the Curio - 'Twitchin'' is one of the most beautiful things I had the fortune to witness live. It didn't leave my head for weeks. It still hasn't.

6. This Nissennemondai video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozn-w2qX0P0
Just watch it. Loud.

7.Manfred Schoof - European Echoes - Almost the same line-up as 'Machine Gun', but even heavier if you can believe that. Seminal.

8.Ashley Paul live at Synchronicity - Just when I'd almost lost faith in live performance along came this totally out of the blue. Percussion, sax, bowed strings - so much poise. Sounds bit like like Matchless Recordings roster Vs. the VHF Records roster (which in my universe is about as big of a compliment as you can get). Felt so REAL. Made me realize how little so many performances I have to attend have to do with actual sound.

9.On Land Festival in San Francisco - Epic sets by Pete Swanson, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Tarental, Brendan Murray, Barn Owl and Christina Carter in particular, but really the whole thing from start to finish was filled with beautiful people.

10. 'Bakari Dian' by Super Biton de Segou - Have been looking for this song for years after I stumbled across them practising it when I was in Segou, Mali. Before I could ask anyone who they were or what they were playing I was ejected from the practice for illicitly recording them and the song has been haunting me ever since. I could believe it when I stumbled across it on volume 3 of the African Pearls series - was like finding a download of my mind on someones ipod.

11. The Parasitic Fantasy Band's west coast tour - They had America eating out of the palms of their hands by simply being exactly who they are. They can't even help it.

12.Ezra Buchla @ the Fractal Mind Gaze Hut - He played an unexpected set at the end of one of our shows in Oakland. Vocals, laptop and violin in total darkness. Completely floored everybody in the room.

13. Max Roach and Anthony Braxton - Birth and Rebirth - 'Solid' free jazz album - solid as in no fat but no surprises either. Sometimes you just want and album like that, you know? Two known geniuses casually cat and mousing with each other in a tried and true manner. Love the cover - Max Roach just exuding authority...

14. Catacombz @ ding a ling - This may seem like lazy shorthand but it really was kind of like Neu! piloted by Black Flag. If there was one show this year that could have been four times as long it was this one...

15. Plutonium Farmers @ Church of the Friendly Ghost - Blew my fucking mind. Two drummers, one guitarist and pretty hard to nail down in mere words. The only guitarist I can think of working in the same realm as Bill Orcutt, for sure. Kind of the same vibe as Ascension but way less combative, way more huggable. I couldn't believe it when they pulled out an Andrew Hill cover. Completely on fire.

16. Getting the plug pulled on us in Lubbock, Texas - We felt like we were Stravinsky premiering the Rites Of Spring or Cage reading Empty Words. Its amazing what a positive experience playing for a bar full of cheerleaders and football players who are openly hostile to your art can be.

17. Lee Ranaldo @ Spaceland - Played the whole show with a guitar that was hanging off a rope from the ceiling. He looked like a child - gleeful eyes lit up - just lost in massive jagged ring-modulated space flames of distortion - he was so totally present - right there with it, riding it. Totally inspiring.

18. Keith Fulerton Whitman - Taking Away - The best album he's ever done quietly masquerading as a humble little cassette...

19. Portishead - Third - Don't even get me started. Best album I heard all year, hands down. Note to self: run everything through a space-echo.

20. COPS - ...is the only TV show I like. It pains me to admit it.

Helga's top 20:
(not in any particular order and very unlike Andrew's...not an essay)

1. On Land Festival in San Francisco curated by Root Strata - particularly performances by Operative, Christina Carter, Pete Swanson, Keith Fullerton Whitman, and Alps - the whole event was infested with good people, music, and pure vibes.

2. Horace Andy - In Dance Hall Style

3. Electric Miles Davis - WOW, this blew my mind!! Especially because I had been avoiding Miles Davis forever!

4. Magic Lantern live at Museum of Neon Art - they actually ended up playing at Nick Malkin's (from Queen Victoria) house because the property manager came and started ripping out their cables out of their instruments just when they were about to play...because it was 11pm or something lame. Everyone then migrated to Nick's house and this ended up being the greatest Magic Lantern show!

5. Pharoah Sanders - Summun, Bukmun, Umyun LP (1970)

6. Ghana Soundz - Afro-beat, Funk, and Fusion in 70's Ghana, Vol. 2 LP

7. Roasted Bananas with melted chocolate - a Eve Gordon specialty that I got to try for the first time in Big Sur in pitch darkness whilst watching a raccoon crawl up a tree.

8. Christina Carter - Lace Heart LP

9. Low Light Situations live at Echo Curio - smokey jazz, whoo!

10. Pete Swanson - Unlimited Options CS

11. Sam Hamilton's Peruvian dish of quinoa topped fried plantains and tomatos, garlic, lemon, coriander sauce. hmmmmmmmmm! but best best in company of Sam Hamilton and Eve Gordon.

12. Nisennenmondai live in UK. (watch Andrew's you-tube link!!)

13. Freedom Now DVD of Sainkho Namtchylak featuring William Parker and Hamid Drake.

14. jefre sei getsu ledesma - namu kie butsu CS

15. Patti Smith live at the Santa Monica Pier for free - this wasn't her best performance but what she said was just so fucking inspiring!

16. Sun Araw live at The Smell

17. BBC Wild China six-part series boring as hell but I'm hooked!

18. Twin Peaks - watched the whole series from beginning to end and became obsessed with coffee, donuts, and cherry pie....and agent cooper

19. Portishead - Third

20. Going on tour with Parasitic Fantasy Band - Nutz and fuzzy, warm and hairy...all love.

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