Now on to this week's list of exceptional recordings.
Urban Sax - I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I avoided listening to Urban Sax for years. You see, I have a thing about names, and the name Urban Sax conjured up visions of the stereotypical street alto player, clad in a loose-fitting geometric print blouse and a leather Stetson, bopping David Sanborn riffs to the aether somewhere near 72nd and Broadway. How wrong was I? Very wrong indeed. Upon cautious investigation, I found that the "urban" in Urban Sax refers to the original project concept of creating sound environments in cityscapes via a large group of selectively positioned brass players. Urban Sax is the creation of progressive music icon Gilbert Artman, founder of Lard Free and member of the experimental trio Catalogue with Jac Berrocal. The band's discography up to and including the Spiral album in 1991 is varied and stellar, and perhaps most importantly, not what you might imagine. Their sound is low on skronk, high on drone and performer interplay, such that the expected saxophone sounds are often submerged in harmoniously unrecognizable waves of tone, color and percussion. For more information (and if you can at least somewhat read Francais) see their homepage; also see their brief but informative Wikipedia entry. Though I believe that most of the Urban Sax catalog has appeared on CD at one time or another, nowadays the discs are reasonably hard to find. Their self-titled 1977 album is a masterpiece, comprising four sidelong pieces of organic waft and shimmer. [Urban Sax Part 3 mp3]
Osamu Kitajima - Benzaiten - Debut rock/ethno/psych album released on Antilles in 1974, incorporating traditional Japanese instruments (koto, biwa, wood flute) into the standard rock mix. Largely instrumental and proto-new age, but definitely a rock record first and foremost, with heavy electric guitar passages. Kitajima has an extensive discography, though my guess is that Benzaiten will appeal most to fans of the list. Today he is "Dr. Kitajima," and runs new age label East Quest records. [Benzaiten (repris) mp3]
Brave New World - Impressions On Reading Aldous Huxley - A real gem of obscure Krautrock from 1971, originally released on Vertigo. This was an unusual aggregation of Hamburg-based musicians (not all German) who made only this one LP. The record is largely instrumental (bands could actually get away with making wholly instrumental LPs in 1971, and for a major label no less!), similar to early Between, Annexus Quam and perhaps even the instrumental bits from the Moody Blues. Seemingly genuinely inspired by the Huxley book, the record has a strong, otherworldly soundtrack feel to it as well. Fuzz bass, distorted stylopohone, woodwinds, unusual percussion and occasional atmospheric vocals - what a cool record! Note the thematic similarity of "Lenina" to Bowie's "Warsawa," which would appear in 1977 on the Low album. [Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon mp3] [Lenina mp3]
Costin Miereanu - Luna Cinese - Another release on the Cramps label (the list is rife with them) from 1975. "An account of musical science fiction," as one writer called it, the two sidelong pieces anticipate the style of layered sound collage that would be so prevalent in experimental/industrial music 5-10 years later. The subtle electronics, acoustic instrumentation and voices blend effortlessly, with a gentle, flowing quality not usually found in similar works by contemporaries like Bayle or Parmegiani. Miereanu's pdf bio can be found here. [A - Parte Prima (Seconda) mp3]
Arcane V - Marron Dingue - French band released on Exit in 1979. Usually cited as a progressive rock album, but there's nothing "rock" about it to my ears; more of a free jazz small combo with dominant woodwinds and a strong klezmer element on several tracks. It's likely that ESP-DISK jazz was a major influence. [Abricot - Suivi de Danserie mp3] [Naphtalys Freilach mp3]
Raymond Boni - Pot-Pourri Pour Parce Que - 1977 hatHUT album by this French free jazz guitarist, whose style is a warm mix of traditional jazz, Gipsy guitar and the European splatter meisters. Two great sides with alto accompaniment by Claude Bernard. [Side A mp3]
Komintern - Le Bal Du Rat Mort - Quite a few of the artists mentioned in the NWW List represent hippie-communal-art-music-political-cabaret-mega collectives (Checkpoint Charlie, Kollektiv Rote Rübe, Brühwarm Theatre, Tokyo Kid Brothers, Ton Steine Scherben, Floh de Cologne etc.), and I must confess here and now that this is often not my favorite milieu; in many cases, the overall antics and shouting of the message can get in the way of just making good enduring music. Not so in the case of this French ensemble, whose albeit wacky explorations include real psych/prog meat, reminiscent of prime era Gong. Released in 1971 on Harvest. [Bal Pour un Rat Vivant mp3]
Thanks for all the positive feedback on Part 1. I'm going to catch my figurative breath. Part 3 coming soon.