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Thanos Chrysakis / Chris Cundy / James O'Sullivan: Asphodels Abide (Aural Terrains)

Sophisticated and interactive electroacoustic improvisation from the trio of Chris Cundy on bass clarinet, James O'Sullivan on guitar, and Aural Terrains label leader Thanos Chrysakis on laptop, synth and radio, performing the six part "Asphodels Abide". ... Click to View


Machinefabriek: Loos (self-released)

A live performance at Ephemere, Studio Loos in The Netherlands from Rutger Zuydervelt, AKA Machinefabriek, in a set that mixes his sources with recordings from the room, creating a dynamic and vibrant recording that ranges from subtle near-silence to thick electronic excitement. ... Click to View


Nickolas Mohanna : Phase Line (Run/Off Editions)

Digital sound processing oscillating through a variety of media saturated sources including electronic billboards, kiosk stations, traffic control devices and other city environments, knotted into sculptural arpeggiation by sound artists Nickolas Mohanna. ... Click to View


Chris Dadge: Pith [3-inch CDR] (Bug Incision Records)

Bug Incision label leader Chris Dadge steps away from his drums for a live performance at Pith Gallery in Calgary, using field recordings and amplified objects to create intriguing and compelling environment of concrete sound, tinted from a percussionist's perspective. ... Click to View


Chris Dadge : Bin 15 [3-inch CDR] (Bug Incision Records)

Percussionist Chris Dadge recorded these two drones using amplified cymbals, violin, and snare drum inside a replica of a Saskatchewan-prairies-style grain silo erected by artist Mark Lowe at the 2011 Calgary Folk Festival. ... Click to View


Benoit Hughes: Crescent Road [3-inch CDR] (Bug Incision Records)

Autodidact Benoit Hughes recorded these improvisations to a mini-disc recorder on auto-volume, adding unusual sonic qualities to inventive playing on the piano and half-clarinet, where the physical ambiance mixes with his unbridled machinations. ... Click to View


Roger Turner & Otomo Yoshihide: The Last Train (Fataka)

UK free improvising drummer Roger Turner meets Japanese guitarist Otomo Yoshihide at the Hara Museum, Tokyo in the winter of 2013 for a performance that balances introspective improvisation with assertive and authoritative playing, making a captivating and dynamic album. ... Click to View


Harris Eisenstadt (w/ Moore, Schoenbeck, Dresser): Golden State II (Songlines)

Live recordings at the 2014 Vancouver International Jazz Festival from drummer Harris Eisenstadt's excellent and lyrical Golden State chamber jazz ensemble, here as a quartet with Michael Moore on clarinet, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, and Mark Dresser on bass. ... Click to View


Keiji Haino / Peter Brotzmann / Jim O'Rourke: Two City Blues PT 2 (Trost Records)

One of two sets recorded on one intense night at Tokyo's Shinjuku Pit Inn from the trio of Japanese improvised rock legend Haino Keiji, European Free Jazz saxophone master Peter Brotzmann, and versatile American composer and musician Jim O'Rourke. ... Click to View


Mattin : Songbook #5 (Disembraining Machine )

... Click to View


Hong-Kai Wang and Mattin: Collapsing Ourselves (Mount Analogue)

A unique album of self-aware conversation from Hong-Kai Wang and Mattin, who record themselves responding to their own dialog, addressing those responses to the audience and adding their response to the final recordings, creating an abstract spoken ambiance. ... Click to View


Sun Ra Arkestra, The: Live in Nickelsdorf 1984 [VINYL 4 LP BOX] (Trost Records)

A sturdy 4 LP box set documenting Sun Ra's 1984 European Tour, here performing live in Nickelsdorf, Germany at Jazzgalerie, for an ebullient set of Sun Ra originals and standards with the Arkestra including John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Danny Ray Thompson, Eloe Taylor, James Jackson, &c &c. ... Click to View


John Zorn: John Zorn's Olympiad The Early Game Pieces (Tzadik)

New York electric guitar quartet Dither (Gyan Riley, Taylor Levine, Joshua Lopes, James Moore) initiate John Zorn's Olympiad series, recording Zorn's early pre-Cobra game pieces "Fencing", Curling", and "Hockey". ... Click to View


Hypercolor: (Tzadik)

Eyal Maoz, James Ilgenfritz, and Lukas Ligeti make up Hypercolor, the NYC-based spastic jazz-rock hybrid whose ridiculous artsong craftsmanship alternately revels in complexity or brazen simplicity, favoring entropy and near-disaster over order or tidiness. ... Click to View


John Zorn: The Hermetic Organ Vol. 3. - Pauls Hall, Huddersfield (Tzadik)

The third in John Zorn's solo organ is performed live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2013, performing with unusual sonorities, spectral experimentation, hypnotic moods and stirring melodies. ... Click to View


Mike Osborne: Dawn (Cuneiform)

British Sax legend Mike Osborne in his earliest surviving recording as a co-leader with John Surman from 1966, and in 1970 with the first known recordings of his trio with the South African rhythm team of Harry Miller and Louis Moholo. ... Click to View


Henry Kaiser & Ray Russell: The Celestial Squid (Cuneiform)

Legendary UK free-jazz guitarist Ray Russell meets California avant guitarist Henry Kaiser to explore celestial squids with drummers Weasel Walter & William Winant, bassists Michael Manring & Damon Smith, and saxophonists Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, and Aram Shelton. ... Click to View


Soft Machine: Switzerland 1974 [CD+DVD] (Cuneiform)

Innovative UK avant/jazz-rock band Soft Machine from their 1974 line up of Mike Ratledge on keys, Karl Jenkins on keys, Allan Holdsworth on guitar, Roy Babbington on bass, and John Marshall on drums, performing live at Congress Hall, in Montreaux, Switzerland. ... Click to View


Shoko Nagai (w/ Reynolds / Goldberger / Takeishi / Black): Taken Shadow (Animul)

Experimental electronics & improvisations from NY based composer/keyboardist Shoko Nagai, using multiple textures and an open sense of time to evoke rich aural environments, with the aid of Todd Reynolds (violin), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (bass) & Jim Black (drums). ... Click to View


Kinya Sogawa: Playing Bamboo (Animul)

Kinya Sogawa is one of the most outstanding shakuhachi performers in Japan today, and is also one of Japan's finest shakuhachi makers, here in an album of masterful performance on one of his own instruments. ... Click to View


Loren Connors: My Brooklyn (Analogpath)

The story of New York City told through the guitar from Brooklyn guitarist Loren Connor, performing solo live at The Stone in January 2012, and at Brooklyn's Zebulon in February 2012, intensely personal and reflective work that well echoes this magnificent borough. ... Click to View


Noah Kaplan / Giacomo Merega / Joe Moffett: Crows And Motives (Underwolf)

The NY trio of saxophonist Noah Kaplan, electric bassist Giacomo Merega, and trumpeter Moffett, in free improvisation focusing on texture and tone, applying traditional counterpoint to contemporary improvisation. ... Click to View


Giacomo Merega / Noah Kaplan / Marco Cappelli (w/ Anthony Coleman & Mauro Pagani): Watch The Walls Instead (Underwolf)

Italian electric bassist Giacomo Merega together with saxophonist Noah Kaplan and guitarist Marco Cappelli for a set of rhythm-less free form improvisations recorded in Brooklyn, NYC, with pianist Anthony Coleman and violin player Mauro Pagini joining for several tacks. ... Click to View


Dollshot: Dollshot (Underwolf)

An unusual and thickly strung album bridging dark rock and improvised music from saxophonist Noah Kaplan, bassist and prepared bassis Giacomo Merega, bassist and prepared painist Wes Matthews, and vocalist Rosalie Kaplan. ... Click to View


Leo Smith Wadada & Eco D'Alberi: June 6th, 2013 (Novara Jazz Series)

The Novara Jazz Series starts their label with this impressive live recording at the 2013 NovaraJazz Festival of the avant jazz quartet Eco D'Alberi (Antonio Borghini-bass, Fabrizio Spera-drums, Alberto Braida-piano, Edoardo Marraffa-sax) with US trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. ... Click to View


De Villiers Jr., Jerry: The Turning Point Archives (Timeless Momentum)

A retrospective album from Canadian fusion guitarist and composer Jerry De Villiers Jr, active in the Montreal jazz scene in the 1990s and known for the theme song to the Emmy Award winning show Arthur, sung by Ziggy Marley, here with 7 studio and 7 live tracks. ... Click to View


Cornell, Funf (Babin Crispo, Jacques...): La Regle (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Sporadic sonic exchanges exploring guidelines, graphic scores, or completely improvised with an expansive instrumentorium from the sextet of Magali Babin, Andrea-Jane Cornell, Martine H Crispo, Anne-Francoise Jacques, Emilie Mouchous, and Erin Sexton. ... Click to View


Evidence: Cartier, Derome, Tanguay, Thelonius Monk: Monk Work (Ambiances Magnetiques)

After 14 years this Montreal trio dedicated to the works of Thelonius Monk, comprised of Jean Derome on alto and baritone sax, Pierre Cartier on electric bass, and Pierre Tanguay on drums, returns with 11 exuberant recordings including "Brilliant Corners", "Pannonica", &c. ... Click to View


Jean Derome : Chamber Music 1992-2012 (Ambiances Magnetiques)

25 chamber works composed by Montreal composer, multi-instrumentalist and improviser Jean Derome, presenting pieces from the wealth of projects he's involved in, including Dangereux Zhoms, Ensemble de flutes Alize, duos with Lori Freedmam, Quasar, quatuor de saxophones, &c. ... Click to View


Vertical Squirrels (Fischlin, Heble, Melville, Warren): Time of the Sign (Ambiances Magnetiques)

An incredibly informed instant-composing ensemble drawing on free jazz and post rock sensibilities with nods to Indian ragas, jazz-inflected minimalism, Zappa-esque bouts of sonic anarchy, and German rock music from the 1970s, captured live at Toronto, Guelph and Hamilton, Canada in 2012. ... Click to View


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Helen Stapinski 
Baby Plays Around  
(Villard) 

review by Kristen Persinos
2004-04-26
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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