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Ken Vandermark / Fred Lonberg-Holm: Resistance (Bocian)

Live recordings from the duo of frequent collaborators Ken Vandermark on sax & reeds and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics performing at Chicago's Heaven Gallery in 2013, for a superb set with surprising twists and turns and a great range of dynamics and approaches. ... Click to View

Ken Vandermark / Fred Lonberg-Holm: Resistance [VINYL] (Bocian)

Live recordings from the duo of frequent collaborators Ken Vandermark on sax & reeds and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics performing at Chicago's Heaven Gallery in 2013, for a superb set with surprising twists and turns and a great range of dynamics and approaches. ... Click to View

Paul Metzger: 1300 [VINYL] (Nero's Neptune)

Unconventional guitarist Paul Metzger in his ninth solo album, and third for Nero's Neptune, performing on a revamped Yamaha guitar guitar and 23-string banjo, both of whcih include percussive elements, for dexterous playing informed by global influences. ... Click to View

Hauf / Heather / Siewert / Weber: The Peeled Eye [VINYL with Download Code] (Shameless)

Ominous free jazz from the quartet of Boris Hauf (baritone sax), Martin Siewert (guitar), Christian Weber (electric bass) and Steve Heather (drums), thick and tremendously informed improv with a rock-tilted ear toward the sonic aspects of their instruments. ... Click to View

Postmarks (Boris Hauf / D Bayne / Martin Siewert): National Parks [Vinyl] (Monotype)

The duo of saxophonist Boris Hauf and pianist D Bayne team up with guitarist Martin Siewert in this collection of tracks inspired by different U.S. national parks and their representation in iconic posters.f ... Click to View

Frank Wright Quartet: Church Number Nine [VINYL] (Calumet)

An obscure and amazing album originally released in 1973 on the French Calumet label from the free improvising quartet of Frank Wright (tenor sax), Noah Howard (alto sax), Mohamed Ali (drums) and Bobby Few (piano), an inspired release under the influence of Coltrane and Ayler. ... Click to View

Shit and Shine: Everybody's a Fuckin Expert [VINYL 2 LPs] (Editions Mego)

Divided into 4 larger segments, Craig Clouse leads the otherwise anonymous Shit and Shine through a strangely aggressive album of free beats and aberrant sound, with one foot in the noise rock of London that it arose from and the other tripping the feet of electro music. ... Click to View

Francisco Lopez : La Selva [VINYL LP & USB CARD] (Sub Rosa)

An immersion into the sound environments of a tropical rain forest in an ultimate mix from original recordings done at La Selva Biological Station during the rainy seasons of '95-96 from sound artist Francisco Lopez, released as a USB memory-card with non-audio etched vinyl. ... Click to View

Robert Piotrowicz / Lukas Jincka: Samoobrona [VINYL] (Bolt)

Helmut Kajzar's play with themes of physicality and death with sound performed with synthesizers and electronics, in it's 4th recording including stage directions in the narrative (in Polish) with an insert provding English translations of a selection of dialog. ... Click to View

Stepmother (Simonis / Visser / Gilonis / Kerman): Calvary Greetings [VINYL] (Megaphone)

Bringing together members from RIO-oriented bands like Vril, AA Kismet, The Work, Hat Shoes, Hail, 5uus, Present, & Thinking Plague, Stepmother presents a strange conglomerate of styles in short songs with twisted elements, strange intent, and superb playing. ... Click to View

Andrew Weathers Ensemble: Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything (Full Spectrum)

Experimental improvising in the 3rd studio release from Andrew Weathers and his Ensemble paying homage to America's myriad cultural traditions in sound tapestry and song, completing a trilogy that began in 2011 with "We're Not Cautious". ... Click to View

Enema Syringe: Upshutlenvolte [7-inch Vinyl] (Fragment Factory)

Kai Parviainen's Enema Syringe in a 7" release recorded in 1987, 14+ minutes of raw and primitive staccato electronics edgy with a darkly disordered mental state, a stark testimony to the tenacity of his work, which continues into the 2010s. ... Click to View

The Wire: #380 October 2015 [MAGAZINE] (The Wire)

The cult of Sun Ra via Hieroglyphic Being, plus Gilles Peterson on his new Sun Ra comp and Art Yard's Peter Dennett; Ernest Berk: Musique Concrete Meets Modern Dance; Collateral Damage: Unsound's Mat Schulz; Epiphanies: Kristin Hersh; Global Ear: Budapest, Hungary. ... Click to View

The Wire: #379 September 2015 [MAGAZINE] (The Wire)

On the cover: Julia Holter; Blurt; Music With My Insane Friend (Melbourne duo James Wilson and Simon Bereux); Invisible Jukebox: Arnold Dreyblatt; Ramzi; Iain Chambers; Kink Gong; Khyam Allami; Global Ear: Lima; plus live, print and recorded reviews, &c &c. ... Click to View

Devin Gray (w/ Kris Davis / Chris Tordini / Chris Speed): RelativE ResonancE (Skirl)

Excellent NY jazz from drummer/composer Devin Gray's superb quartet with Kris Davis on piano, Chris Speed on reeds, and Chris Tordini on double bass, in 8 compositions that are as enjoyable lyrically as it is following the structures, twists and turns of each piece. ... Click to View

Sean Sonderegger's Magically Inclined (feat Areni Agbabian): Eat The Air (Skirl)

NY saxophonist Sean Sonderegger's Magically Inclined, made up of musicians that he performed alongside in Butch Morris' ensembles, in an album of melodic works including highly composed music and collective free improvisation, graced with the voice of Areni Agbabian. ... Click to View

Leah Paul: Trenza (Skirl)

Flutist Leah Paul presents two engaging compositions in multiple movements, performed with a chamber ensemble of Chris Speed (reeds), Rob Jost (french horn), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Peter Sachon (cello), Tanya Kalmanovitch (viola), Ben Kono (oboe) and Michel Gentile (flute). ... Click to View

Barry Altschul 3dom Factor: Tales Of The Unforseen (Tum)

Sophisticated free improv from percussionist Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor trio of frequent collaborator Joe Fonda on bass and Mostly Other People Do the Killing's saxophonist Jon Irabagon, presenting new compositions plus an Annette Peacock piece and a little Monk. ... Click to View

Milford Graves / Bill Laswell: Space/Time ~ Redemption (Tum)

Five extended improvisations from New York collaborators, legendary drummer and percussionist Milford Graves and bassist Bil Laswell, who have worked together for several years developing a uniquely active yet dream-like, deeply rhythmic sound world. ... Click to View

Olavi Trio (Hauta / Hongisto / Louhivuori): Oh, La Vie! (Tum)

A trio of Finnish free improvisers--Jari Olavi Hongisto on trombone, Teppo Olavi Hauta on double bass, and Niilo Olavi Louhivuori on drums, with all 3 handling percussion, for 12 spontanously composed studio works of open and equalitarian trio improvisation. ... Click to View

Lindsay Cooper / Fred Frith / Gianni Gebbia / Lars Hollmer: Angels On The Edge Of Time (Angelica)

A superb concert recorded in 1992 at the Angelica Festival Internazionale di Musica in Bologna from a quartet of Rock in Opposition luminaries Lindsay Cooper & Fred Frith (Henry Cow), Lars Hollmer (Samla Mamas), and free improvising saxophonist Gianni Gebbia. ... Click to View

Mikko Innanen / William Parker / Andrew Cyrille: Song For A New Decade [2 CDs] (Tum)

A 2-CD release from the impressive trio of Finnish saxophonist Mikko Innanen and legendary US improvisers bassist William Parker, and drummer Andrew Cyrille, presenting one studio disc of Innanen compositions recorded in 2010, and a live CD from IBEAM Brooklyn in 2012. ... Click to View

Albatre: Nagual [VINYL] (Shhpuma)

Hailing from Rotterdam's rich underground scene, the trio of Hugo Costa on alto sax, Goncalo Aleida on bass, and Philipp Ernsting on drums, with all 3 doubling on electronics, in a dramatic and energetic album bledning free jazz, improv, metal, and punk music. ... Click to View

Alfredo Monteiro Costa : Um Em Um (Monotype)

An unusual release from the accordion, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, placed microphones in a way to enhance the harmonics and all the particularities of every sound, layering slowly moving tones and their harmonic interaction, allowing unexpected details to emerge. ... Click to View

Dave Phillips / Hiroshi Hasegawa: Insect Apocalypse (Monotype)

A duo from Dave Phillips and Hirsohi Hasegawa, where Phillips' field recordings are filtered and effected by Hasegawa, creating an intense mixture of apocalyptic insect environments and inexplicable sound, slowly unfolding and captivating at high volume. ... Click to View

Rydberg (Werner Dafeldecker / Nicolas Bussmann): Rydberg (Monotype)

Rydberg was a Swedish physicist with a moon crater named after him, here celebrated by the the duo of Nicholas Bussmann (sampler, electronics) and Werner Dafeldecker (function generator, electronics) in an album blending ambient electronics and muted, guiding rhythms. ... Click to View

Peeping Tom (Dorner / Badaroux / Grip / Gerbal): Four Girls (Umlaut Records)

Presenting four of Europe's most active free improvisers, Peeping Tom uses the language of jazz--bop, free, swing--alongside modern improvisational approaches and unusual/extended techniques to make sophisticated yet accessible music that surprises and captivates. ... Click to View

Chris Dingman: The Subliminal and the Sublime (Inner Artist)

A sublime five-part suite commissioned by Chamber Music America, performed by Loren Stillman (sax), Fabian Almazan (piano), Ryan Ferreira (guitar), Linda Oh (bass), and Justin Brown drums), exploring the subliminal patterns hidden below apparent reality. ... Click to View

Astrid: The West Lighthouse Is Not So Far (Monotype)

The French Astrid quartet in their 4th album, where the titles of pieces are based on lighthouses' names, the band creating impressively ambient soundscapes filled with rich detail and lush, languid orchestration of guitar, violin, reeds, synths, harmoniums, &c. ... Click to View

Eugene Chadbourne : The 13 Society (Chadula)

A great collection of original Doc Chad songs and cover versions, including songs by Yusef Islam, Lowell George, Country Joe McDonald, Marty Balin, Terry Kirkman, and Don Van Vliet, performed solo and on guitar, banjo, dobro, turntables & cassettes, with Rogier Smal on drums. ... Click to View


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  Helen Stapinski 
  Baby Plays Around  

   review by Kristen Persinos
Helen Stapinski: Baby Plays Around (Villard)

December.  June.  Four Heads.  Recliner.  Star 69.  Speed Dial.  Bitter.  Panchino.  Gump.  Maraschino.  Tug.  Dish.  Reflector.  Stipend.  Slattern.  Slatternly.  Carmie.  Maxilla.  Shifter.  Resentful.  The Stevedores.

This is the pastime popular with musicians called the "name our band" game, as played by Helen Stapinski and her old bandmates in her memoir Baby Plays Around.  (My own band once considered "Jesus Streisand.")

The book chronicles a year or so in the life of 30-something Stapinski as she made her living as a freelance writer, played drums in an indie rock band based in the Lower East Side of New York City (with no prior band experience other than playing along to her favorite records as a kid) and faced marital problems.

Being a 30-something female in a rock band based in the Lower East Side myself, I was curious and armed for battle: What was her experience, her take on the male-driven popularity contest of the indie rock scene in NYC?  Would the book be much like most of the hipsters involved: puddle deep?  Would familiarity breed contempt?

Upon reading the first few chapters, it seemed that Stapinski and I share more in common than just age and the band thing. We both have older brothers who influenced our involvement with music. We both sometimes come off as tomboyish. We listened to some of the same records (REM's Murmur) growing up, and had some of the same rock heroes (Elvis Costello). And to top it off, much of the book's action takes place within a 10-block radius of my apartment. (One of her band's old haunts was a restaurant where I used to bartend.) After a few no shits - "no shit, that sounds familiar" and "no shit, that is a block from my house" - my claws began to retract and I ended up not being able to put the book down; not just for the cheap thrill of reading about my immediate surroundings and the things we have in common, it was Stapinski's self-effacing, wry sense of humor, her intelligence, and her sincerity.She is delightfully sarcastic, but also thoughtful, decent and ultimately fair. (Hey Helene, wanna play in my band?)  Her writing style is refreshing in its directness and its lack of masturbatory word play. She knows when enough is enough.

There are many witty moments in this book.  The chapter on her band's bass player auditions was funny and dead on, but you do not have to be a musician to appreciate the humor.

"There was another guy, who hadn't even listened to the tape.  'Why are you wasting our time?' Julie asked him.  He just shrugged, grinning like the teenager he actually was.  You could tell what was passing through his meager brain, as he nodded and looked us over: 'Chick band.  Cool.  Two chicks.  One guy.  Guy is me.  Hey.  Maybe I'll score.  Threesome!  Cool!'  I think he actually drooled on his bass guitar.  Unfortunately he was not electrocuted."

"Then there was the guy with the long ponytail who played New Age bass.  He was sent packing, back to the mother ship."

Later chapters in the book are touching as her relationships with her band mates and her estranged husband…well I wouldn't want to give it away, now would I?

So yes, I laughed ... I cried ... as her increasingly troubled marital life intertwined with her rocky (forgive me) band life, both marriages affecting each other with moments of ecstasy and despair as Helene powered through.

Readers who live in New York City, or just love it from afar, will enjoy reading about such landmarks as Katz's Deli, Ratners and the Lansky Lounge, as well as some of the popular rock clubs: Arlene's Grocery, Luna Lounge, and the now defunct Spiral and Brownies.

So, I'll do my best now to sound like a book critic and say that Baby Plays Around is a well crafted, entertaining book about the weathering of love found and love lost (and visa versa); dry but not without heart.

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