Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 139)


75 Dollar Bill, Olives In The Ears     (self-released)     bandcamp

In which an NY-based law clerk and a New Haven-born cancer diagnostic technician launch a lo-fi guitar/drum project inspired by Moorish griot wedding music, or so goes the press release. Sounds pretty dicey, no? And yet it works - even shreds. Maybe it helps that guitarist Che Chen once studied with Mauritanian master Jheich Ould Chighaly, or that drummer Rick Brown assembles his own rattletrap percussive devices like a latter-day Moondog. Maybe Arabic modes and desert blues translate easily to lo-fi guitar/drum projects, especially when two of the longer cuts were captured live in dingy cafes (just like Group Doueh!). Maybe nobody can go wrong covering Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” however lazed and rangy the arrangement. Received primitivism, if you’re fussy about things like that. Or how about Loren Connors with a backbeat and a head full of Tuareg?


Haitian Rail, Solarists     (New Atlantis Records)

Too many jazz/noise/metal/whatsis outfits wimp out somewhere along the way, relinquishing improv for mere riffage or abandoning speed for mere noodling. But this is sorta what 1985 Black Flag was capable of detonating on those rare moments Henry Rollins stepped away from the mic: dynamic skronk via shitty amplifiers. Assembled from a host of other noise bands that no doubt mean something to noise enthusiasts (Hyrokkin, Many Arms, Deveykus), Haitian Rail finds new guy Dan Blacksberg delivering trombone blats while Mostly Other People Do The Killing’s Kevin Shea holds down death-surf drumkit duties. That leaves plenty of space for two guitarists: Nick Millevoi going Sonny Sharrock gonzo, Edward Ricart playing acid-slash bass. The second number (“song,” haha) is a slow one. The others all lurch unto the metalloid breach - guitar conflagrations, drone pocket-symphonies, percussive bloodied bliss, one roiling hot mess.   




Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty     (Sub Pop)

When the indulgences get dialed back a wee bit, or a fluttering synth hook offers just enough structure to hold a track together (“Motion Sickness”), or private meanings get transformed into rallying cries (“I’m havin’ my cake / and I’m eating cake”) - that’s when this abstruse-like-that studio trip reminds you why smart folks thought Black Up might be the future of hip-hop. Elsewhere, this Allan Kaprow / Octavia Butler mélange (really, how else would you describe an “astral suite of recorded happenings”?) erratically consigns hooks/chorus to the dustbin with the sort of anti-commercial bohemianism more gently foretold by Ishmael Butler himself in Butterfly guise. Hip-hop then and now could use more boho weirdos, more Afrofuturists, more albums like Black Up. But when you brag “all of our stories told in codes,” it’s thoughtful to offer a few more jokes as good as “call me Ish”.