Oxbow - The Narcotic Story (Hydra Head)
Really, one of the best bands in the world. Even Marianne Faithfull wants to be in this band, and got to, briefly, anyway. They've got a bigshot U2/Bon Jovi producer on this one and string quartet/grand piano/symphonic elements, but at all only makes their multilayered, fucked-up, falling-down the stairs take on heavy blues all the richer. Though everything you read on these guys focuses on Eugene being a bodybuilder, taking off his pants and beating up audience members at shows (all true, though he was a true, lovely gentleman at Oxbow's FMU session), this band reigns as some kind of sole entity that somehow draws on severe classical training by guitarist Niko Wenner while being heavy/primitive as hell and dragged into some crazy quiet/loud realms by Eugene's slobbering animal-in-a-cage performance at the same time. As questionable as that description sounds. They ride some definite blurry lines to entrench themselves in quite a few camps; I can clearly envision a day when Hal Willner does one of his big Dali Lama shows at Lincoln Center and makes the mistake of bringing Oxbow in figuring they were akin to Tom Waits or something, and Richard Gere gets his ass kicked (with good reason, I am sure).
Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble - Fujin Raijin (Victo)
What's always created enjoyment for me about pianist Fujii's music (which is inevitably usually paired with husband/trumpeter Natusuki Tamura) is that it's a rare glimpse of avant-improv seen through different glasses other than the European/American filters usually dictating such proceedings. For this studio album, Fujii & Tamura (joined by Andrea Parkins on accordian and Curtis Hasselbring on trombone) mine the history of Min'yo, traditional Japanese music that dates back to a kind of laborer's call-and-response folk style, and her arrangements are great. Slow-building into dense crescendos, textural almost watery-sounding plunky piano unlike many others, very cool bridge from Far easty-to Westy.
Graham Lambkin - Salmon Run (KYE)
Much more high-end choral/symphonic action than we've come to know Graham for in the 90's cloaked-in-lo-fi Shadow Ring, really beautiful, and of course the intimacy of his home-concrete starts creeping into your ear before you know it creating a very interesting polarity between the high and low end stuff. There's some femme-banshee action going on too, but am unsure if it's his significant other Adris of Harry Pussy or not (am guessing it probably is.) Totally unique and great and a trip to somewhere else for those who thunk they heard it all. Graham's contact: hawkmoths (at) yahoo (dot) com. Real Audio: "Intro" (ignore the segue into the Chuckles the Clown Funeral from Mary Tyler Moore, that was not part of Graham's vision as far as we know, rather some unnerving DJ here, cough cough.)