Saturday, December 18, 2010


The Shape Of Punk To Come

Epitaph Records
2 LP/DVD/Download Reissue

One of the greatest hardcore/punk records of all time is getting the royal treatment with a deluxe 2LP set that includes a DVD and a live album download. Refused shook the underground scene and changed everything with this 1998 release, almost single-handedly creating the screamo genre along the way (for better or for worse). Indeed, it was the shape of punk to come, and 12 years later it is still the golden standard.

While the prospect of having this album on audiophile quality vinyl is enticing enough, the real treat here is the inclusion of the 2006 DVD documentary, Refused Are F****ing Dead, which documents the breakup of the band from a fan's perspective. Also of note is the accompanying download of Live At The Umea, which shows just how explosive the band could be on stage.

MISH MASH Mandate: Rather Be Dead
Epitaph Records Website

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Clash

The Clash

Drastic Plastic Records
180 Gram Vinyl LP

One of the most revered imported punk albums of all time is seeing new life more than 30 years after its initial release. The Clash's debut has been given the full audiophile treatment by Drastic Plastic and Sony, a limited edition, 180 gram vinyl LP reissue of the original British release in all its glory. Sound-wise, this release has never sounded better - even though it's a punk record that was recorded on a shoestring, the quality is much better than you might expect. My only complaint would be the lack of any extras (downloads, inserts, etc), but even then, this record is more than a fitting tribute to the groundbreaking sonic fury that is The Clash.

MISH MASH Mandate: What's My Name?
The Clash - Drastic Plastic

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Dave Liebman Group
Turnaround: The Music Of Ornette Coleman

10 song CD

Jazz saxophonist Dave Liebman brings a new twist to the music of Ornette Coleman with this collection of tunes culled from Coleman's early career. Liebman's contribution comes in the form of adding harmony to Coleman's melodic themes, bringing a different interpretation to the music as it was originally recorded. Another interesting aspect comes in the fact that Coleman was not an influence on Liebman's own personal style, so Liebman is able to approach the music with a freshness that may not otherwise be there if he had. Guitarist Vic Juris backs up Liebman on the album, and provides the backbone for the harmony play between the two musicians. Their teamwork is excellent and they manage to take Coleman's work to a completely new level in the process.

MISH MASH Mandate: Harmonized
Dave Liebman Turnaround on

Chet Baker
The Sesjun Radio Shows

Out Of The Blue/T2 Entertainment
2 CD set

This 2 CD set pulls together 15 unreleased tracks from five different live performances by Chet Baker on Dutch radio between 1976 and 1985. There is a nice variety of moods presented here, thanks to the mix of musicians and instruments featured in each set. For example, the first set features trumpet and vocals by Baker, backed by flute, piano, and bass, while another set has him backed with vibraphone, bass, and drums. Central to it all is Baker, who is in top form throughout, executing his performance with his unique calm and cool, West Coast style. The sound quality is excellent, sure to please any fan of live jazz.

The disc is the first in a series of live performances on the Tros Sesjun radio program that ran from 1973 to 2004 in the Netherlands. Future releases will include Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Clark Terry, and others. Looking forward to hearing more!

MISH MASH Mandate: Lost And Found
Chet Baker Sesjun Radio Shows @ Amazon

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vinicius Cantuária
Samba Carioca

Naive France
9 song CD

Cantuária delves into the essence of classic bossa nova, breathing new life into the genre by reviving the creative spirits of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Carlos Lyra. While Cantuária revisits the Brazilian icons of the past, he does not simply rehash their work or style. He is able to find his own voice, perfectly capturing the quiet and subtle restraint of the bossa nova. Cantuária barely lifts his voice above a soft level, riding just louder than a whisper, finding that romantic sweet spot where bossa nova comes alive and reaches for the heart. At times, his vocal style reminds me of a combination of Gilberto and Lyra, showing a slight yet engaging rasp that gives his voice an honest character.

MISH MASH Mandate: Boss Of Nova
Cantuária Website

Monday, August 16, 2010

Various Artists
Des Jeunes Gens Modernes
Post Punk, Cold Wave
Et Culture Novo En France

Naive Records
40 song 2 CD Set

This compilation from Naive captures the French New Wave scene, during the post-punk era from 1978-83. The beauty of this collection is that it offers an exciting glimpse into a scene that US listeners are most likely not familiar with, an entire world of pop music that escaped our attention while we were thoroughly enthralled with the British Invasion side of New Wave.

The artists showcased here display a varied and eclectic mix of styles and sounds, from stilted and herky-jerky electronica, to catchy pop candy, and to disjointed punk dissonance. For example, Artefact's Sex Computer has a decidedly funk-inspired groove, while the Marquis de Sade's Cancer & Drugs is a classic, angst-ridden proto-punk track, in fact so timelessly edgy that it could have easily been released recently by the likes of Franz Ferdinand or any other number of retro-minded groups out today.

Overall, it's a fantastic compilation, providing a quick primer into the world of French New Wave, highly recommended.

MISH MASH Mandate: Vive la France!
Des Jeunes Gens Modernes page @ Naive

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

We Have Band
Naive (France)
12 song CD

One listen to this, and it is hard to imagine that We Have Band won't be the Next Big Thing, if there is such a thing anymore. Their sound is quizzical and quirky, based in an almost retro-sounding electronica that has a certain timeless quality to it. While they owe a lot to the moves and grooves of 80s synth pop, they also have an artful edginess born out of artists like Joy Division/New Order and Talking Heads. Add to that a knack for wild and whacked out videos, and you have the perfect recipe for sparkling underground Europop that will impress even your most finicky hipster friends.

The high points of the disc come with the tracks Divisive and Oh!, where they pull out all the stops and smother the listener with catchy hooks and driving dance beats, pouring on the 80s pop stylings without apology or regret. What is most evident is that they sound like they're having a great time while they're doing it, which is downright infectious to the listener. I for one welcome this year's first guilty pleasure with open arms.

MISH MASH Mandate: We Have Guilty Pleasure
We Have Band Website

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sun Ra
College Tour Vol. 1
The Complete Nothing Is...
ESP Disk
Double CD/Download

Recorded during a New York college tour during 1966, Sun Ra's Nothing Is was originally released on the ESP Disk label as a 39 minute album, edited down from the various live recordings at five different colleges. Now, 44 years later, with the help of Sun Ra archivist Michael D. Anderson, ESP has uncovered and released a full 70 minute set from the performance at St. Lawrence University, along with audio from a second set that same evening, all packaged on a double disc.

Sun Ra fans should be delighted in this one, as it is not a simple reissue of the original release, but an exploration into the full set that Sun Ra and his Arkestra played on this outing. Plus, the sound quality is better than expected, certainly not perfect, but not quite as spotty as some of the reissues of this material have been.

As Nothing Is is one of Sun Ra's more well-known releases, it is certainly interesting to see it in a new light, giving us a new perspective on one of jazz's most controversial figures during the height of his career. While there's not a lot of surprises here, it does give us the chance to hear the complete set as originally intended.

MISH MASH Mandate: Sunrise
Sun Ra @ ESP Disk

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio


Has there ever been a voice more metal than that of Ronnie James Dio? I had not thought of him in years until he passed away yesterday, and the memories of middle school metal angst came rushing back. Dio's act revolved around wizards and warlocks, demons and beasts, dungeons and dragons, living out the Middle Earth fantasies of every schoolboy with his mythical storytelling rock. On the surface, it looked evil and devilish, surely putting a scare into parents everywhere, but looking back it seems so tame and storybookish, like the tales of King Arthur and Camelot brought to life in power chords and bombastic rhythms.

Yes, it was silly and somewhat cheesy, as most 70s and 80s-era metal was, but Dio had the commanding voice to back it up. His work was always somewhat under the radar --- he never became the superstar of hair metal, mainly because he kept his sound kind of dark and he never strayed far from the mystique of myth and magic. He wasn't pretty, he didn't write radio-ready hits, and his videos tried too hard to live up to the fear factor. But, the metal-heads knew him and loved him, and embraced his gothic persona and legend. Rest in peace, Ronnie James Dio, you will be missed.

MISH MASH Mandate: End Of The Rainbow
Ronnie James Dio Website

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sandra McCracken
In Feast Or Fallow
Mixtus Media
15 song CD

Singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken has brought together the old with the new, all with a spiritually uplifting message, in her new album In Feast Or Fallow. McCracken's mission was to combine old Christian hymns with newly written ones, in an effort to cross over the years and bring them new life. Her sound is rooted in folk rock, wrapped in a smart pop sensibility that helps the songs flow with a certain catchiness. The production is perfect --- a simple and clean sound that isn't slick, obtrusive or overbearing, allowing McCracken to let her voice carry the music.

Many modern Christian songs are pointedly designed as "choruses", with the intention of them being sung by a group of people. While some of McCracken's tunes could fall into this category, most of them have a solitary feel that turn away from this chorus-style of songwriting. The result is more personal, more introspective. These are haunting hymns that reflect the one-on-one spiritual relationship, and McCracken does a beautiful job of making them seem heartfelt and genuine.

MISH MASH Mandate: Spirit In The Sky
Sandra McCracken Website

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Fall
Your Future Our Clutter
Domino USA
9 song CD/LP (w/bonus tracks)

After 28 albums over the past three decades, Mark E. Smith is as acidic and bitter as he ever has been, and he surely has not mellowed one bit. This latest installation from The Fall only shows Smith's true age in his dissolving enunciation. Whereas in the past he would accentuate each syllable with a precise stab, now he seems to mumble and murmur his way through his abstract lyrical rants. Truthfully, it does not detract from the overall tone or message, because he never really made any sense to begin with. It only makes him sound more punk, more nonconformist, more crotchety.

His backing band (or should we say his band for the moment) is tight and focused, providing a solid groove for Smith to smash his meandering prose against. And smash it he does. He sounds as much like the raving mad lunatic as he did way back when, yet he somehow makes it seem so fresh and exciting. Like most of anything done by Smith and his Fall, you can't help but love to hate it.

MISH MASH Mandate: Fallout
The Fall @ Domino USA

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Changing Horses
The Nashville Sessions
Mixtus Media
6 song EP

Changing Horses delivers a wallop of fantastically funky folk in a mere six songs in their debut release. This UK-based duo, made up of Richard Birtill and Francesca Cullen, has mastered the art of quirky Americana, displaying a knack for folksy acoustic pop ditties that stick in your ears like glue.

Why does it work so well for these Brits? Perhaps it's the fact that they ventured across the sea to specifically record these tunes in Nashville, who knows? Whatever the reason, it works just beautifully. Birtill's vocals are delivered in a half-yell, as if he's a manic street preacher reaching out to whoever will listen, giving the music a feeling of urgency and desperation that makes it come alive when you listen. Can I get a witness?

MISH MASH Mandate: Dynamic Duo
Changing Horses on MySpace

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Chris MacAlister Band
E-mails & Killer Wails
11 Song Free Download

Chris MacAlister's sound is a finely blended mix of heartfelt singer-songwriter-styled music and raw power pop.
It's a catchy kind of pop, but not sugary or syrupy in execution, if anything it's a little quirky. His voice is unassuming and endearingly amateurish, sort of a boy-next-door who just happens to sing while strumming his acoustic guitar. If I had to make comparisons, I'd probably go with Alex Chilton/Big Star, without the big riff guitars.

The album started out as a solo project, but a band sprung up around MacAlister and his tunes, adding a group dimension to an already awesome group of songs. And, as it is available as a free download, you absolutely can't go wrong, only right.

MISH MASH Mandate: Acoustic Power Pop
The Chris MacAlister Band Website

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Margaret Little
Senza Continuo
ATMA Classique
23 track CD

This is a beautiful collection of solo works for the viola da gamba (or viol), as performed by Margaret Little, in her first solo effort. In case you're not familiar with the instrument, the viola da gamba is a cousin of the lute, and comes in a variety of sizes, from treble to contrabass. It looks like a cello, but has six strings instead of four, and has a different tuning. The CD booklet covers some of the history of the instrument, along with an overview of the composers that are showcased.

The sound of the viola da gamba in Little's hands is striking. There is a depth and range that surely sets it apart from other stringed instruments, with soaring high notes and resounding bass that jumps dynamically from the speakers. Her approach has a romantic feel, and her connection with the viol shines through, rich in emotion and feeling. The sound quality here is phenomenal, and I dare say this would be an audiophile's delight when showing off an audio system.

My favorite piece on the album is Little's rendering of Tobias Hume's The First Booke Of Ayres, where the viol is not only played with a bow but is also strummed. The piece is sometimes dramatic and at times playful, with titles of movements like Tickle me quickly and Touch me lightly. It's an adventurous piece that ventures outside expectations and makes this recording a must have for lovers of solo string performances.

MISH MASH Mandate: String Theory
Margaret Little @ ATMA Classique

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The World According To John Coltrane
Masters Of American Music

If you are familiar with Coltrane, you realize there is a spiritual element to his music that reaches beyond the notes into another part of the universe. But simply listening doesn't tell the full story, as this episode from the Masters Of American Music documentary series aptly demonstrates. Seeing Coltrane play adds a new dimension to the sounds, as we watch him put his heart and soul into the music.

The documentary was produced about twenty years ago, and it has been restored and digitally remastered for release on DVD. It features interviews with a number of musicians who knew and played with Coltrane, including Rashied Ali, Tommy Flanagan, Wayne Shorter, and his wife Alice Coltrane. As they expound on the spiritual side of Coltrane and his musical history, their interviews segue into live performances of Giant Steps, So What (with Miles Davis), My Favourite Things, and Reverend King Alabama. The power and scope of his talent comes leaping off the screen --- you see the sweat, the effort, and the emotion that went into creating his sound.

My only complaint is that it's only an hour long, which is barely enough time to scratch the surface. At any rate, it is an excellent introduction to Coltrane if you are not familiar with him, and if you are already familiar with the music, this will give you more insight into the man as an artist.

MISH MASH Mandate: Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants
John Coltrane Masters Of American Music

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kill Rock Stars
Best Sampler Ever

Kill Rock Stars
Free Download

Just because I love you, dear readers, I'm passing along this link to a free download from Kill Rock Stars. There's some great stuff on here from a big pile of KRS releases, including Elliott Smith, Sleater Kinney, Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, and Bikini Kill. Sure to tick off your parents, or maybe even your kids if you're an older music hound like myself. Play it loud.

01 ELLIOTT SMITH "Angeles" from Either/Or
02 THE THERMALS "Now We Can See" from Now We Can See
03 GOSSIP "Standing In the Way of Control" from Standing In The Way of
04 THAO "When We Swam" from Know Better Learn Faster
05 SLEATER KINNEY "Oh!" from One Beat
06 PANTHER "Love Is Sold" from Entropy
07 UNWOUND "Corpse Pose" from Repetition
08 THE PAPER CHASE "What Should We Do With Your Body? (The Lightning)
from Someday This Could All Be Yours (Part 1)
09 XIU XIU "Dear God, I Hate Myself" from Dear God, I Hate Myself
10 DEERHOOF "Believe E.S.P." from Friend Opportunity
11 QUASI "Repulsion" from American Gong
12 MARNIE STERN "Transformer" from This Is It...
13 STEREO TOTAL "I Love You, Ono" from My Melody
14 LILIPUT "Ain't You" from Liliput
15 BIKINI KILL "New Radio " from New Radio
16 BRATMOBILE "Die" from The Real Janelle
17 COMET GAIN "Kids In The Club" from Realistes
18 THE SHAKY HANDS "Allison and the Ancient Eyes" from Let It Die
19 THE DECEMBERISTS "16 Military Wives" from Picaresque
20 HORSE FEATHERS "Curs In The Weeds" from House With No Home
21 JEFF HANSON "Hiding Behind the Moon" from Son

MISH MASH Mandate: Killer Diller
Direct Link To Download
Sampler Page @ KRS

Birthing Of Millions
Birthing Of Millions
5 song EP

Birthing Of Millions is a Brooklyn-based progressive rock quartet, led by guitarist/composer/music teacher Brian Naas. The tracks are all instrumental, with a focus on fairly straightforward rock. While they would fall under the term "progressive", they don't go out of the way to be weird or offbeat, as would be the modus operandi of many modern prog bands out there. Instead, they concentrate on a more thematic approach: evolving dual guitar melodies and harmonies that work in conjunction with the rhythm section. Also, you get a feeling that the guys holding back just a little --- like they could show off a little more if they wanted to, but have opted for discipline instead of pointless histrionics. On the surface, this may seem rather cold and calculated, but there is a soulfulness stirring around under there, and it shines through the intricacies as you listen to the EP in its entirety. I can only imagine that these guys really cook in a live setting where they can let loose from the restrictions of the studio.

MISH MASH Mandate: Shine On
Birthing Of Millions On MySpace

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Kristi Callan
with The Jigsaw Seen

Vibro-Phonic Records
2 song iTunes download

Former Wednesday Week vocalist Kristi Callan has teamed up with our favorite modern-day psych garage band The Jigsaw Seen for a double-edged single release called Sleep. Side one (as it were) is the title track, a self-described "edgy lullaby" that has wall-of-sound guitar lines set against a string section, creating a dreamy atmosphere for Callan's soothing vocal lines. The perfect little indie rock lullaby.

And to help with waking up again, the group does a kinder, gentler version of Oasis' Morning Glory, which turns the big guitar powerhouse original into a purring kitten, complete with a hurdy gurdy droning in the background. Just in case you need a little time to wake up.

MISH MASH Mandate: Sleep Perchance To Drone
Download Sleep @ iTunes

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Capsize 7 - Horsefly
Blag'ard - Mach II

Pig Zen Space

This duo of releases features guitarist Joe Taylor, formerly of Capsize 7 and now with the duet Blag'ard. Capsize 7 was a Chapel Hill-based quartet in the early 90s who was briefly signed with Caroline Records. They recorded an album in 1996, Horsefly, which was never released by Caroline, and has now finally resurfaced and found new life. The group had a flirtation with indie-rock fame, sharing the stage with likes of Archers Of Loaf and Superdrag, before their disappointing drop off the radar in the mid-to-late 90s. The music here has that distinctive mid-90s indie edge, reactionary to the rise and fall of grunge rock which had been dominating the scene up until then. It's a smart sound that is wound around tight, noisy dual-guitar lines, driving beats, and unassuming vocals. Good stuff, and a shame that it had to sit idle for so long.

Fast forward to 2010 and Taylor's new group Blag'ard, where the aforementioned indie rock group sound is stripped down to the primer. It's just guitar, vocals, and drums, but don't try to make any comparisons to the likes of the White Stripes et al, because this is certainly a different ball of wax. Taylor and drummer Adam Brinson both sing, sharing the vocal load while trading off harmony lines, filling in the gaps left by a lack of bass and other instrumentation. The setup is basic and simple, but the rhythms and melody lines are progressively complex and weaving. When you add the dueling vocal patterns to the mix, the sum is much greater than the parts. There's a lot going on here, and it's hard to believe there's only two guys with two instruments making all this ruckus.

MISH MASH Mandate: Time Warp
Pig Zen Space Website

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Cossacks
By Leo Tolstoy
Read by Jonathan Oliver
6 CD Audio Book

And now for something completely different. When you think of Tolstoy, you most likely think of his epic novels, like Anna Karenina or War and Peace. You probably don't think of his shorter pieces like The Cossacks, a shorter novella that is considered to be the author's autobiography. The book centers around an unhappy Muscovite nobleman named Dmitri Olénin
who joins the army in search of adventure and purpose in his life. He winds up in the Caucasus and is intrigued by the geography and the simple people who live there. Along the way, he discovers himself and falls in love for the first time, and in turn discovers the pain love can bring. We meet a cast of characters that includes the manly Cossack soldier Lukashka, the beautiful Cossack girl Maryanka, and the larger-than-life grandfather figure, Uncle Yeroshka, each of who play an important role in the life education of Olénin.

Since this has always been one of my favorite books, I was curious to see how it translated into the audiobook format. The voice work is done by Jonathan Oliver, an English actor who has over a decade of experience reading audiobooks for the blind. At first, I was a little thrown by his English accent, as I know many Russians personally, and I always lent a Russian accent to The Cossacks characters in my mind. But as the story progressed, I got used to Oliver's accent and it became very natural sounding, as he took on the life of the characters. He also did a wonderful job of changing out his vocal style as each different character spoke, making it easy to tell who was speaking as the conversations took place. I especially liked his portrayal of Uncle Yeroshka, the colorful old man of the Cossack village who takes
Olénin under his wing. Oliver's voice bellows and rings out with intensity, bringing the character to life in incredible fashion. Oliver is obviously very familiar with the story as well as Tolstoy in general, and he adds touches here and there to make the story even more special. For example, he reads the descriptive sections with the same enthusiasm as the speaking roles, painting a perfect picture of the Cossack village and the activities of its inhabitants as they go about daily life. He also sings their songs with a convincing air, staying in character the whole time.

As far as classic literature goes, this one is an easy listen. It is not too long, and the story moves quickly, filled with adventure and a touch of innocent romance. Plus, it is a great introduction to Tolstoy without getting lost in the epic length of some of his other works. Highly recommended.

MISH MASH Mandate: Cossack Commentary
The Cossacks @ Naxos Website

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Colin Giles
Colin Giles
4 song Free Download

There's not a better way to begin the spring than with a little blue-eyed soul, and Colin Giles delivers up a fresh batch with this fantastic little four song EP. It caught my attention right away when I learned that it features Money Mark (of Beastie Boys fame) on the keyboard. How can you go wrong with that?

All four tracks settle in with a nice groove, provided by Mark's keys and a smooth beat from the drums, setting the background for Giles to lay down his soulful vocal stride. It's got old school flavor, but it doesn't go out of the way to be retro, so it's not merely a throwback. You can tell Giles has studied the greats of the past and has worked on getting his own special sound, and it pays off. Best of all for you, all four cuts are available as a free download, so go ahead and jump right into spring.

MISH MASH Mandate: Spring Soul Stew
Colin Giles Website

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gastonia Gallop
Cotton Mill Songs & Hillbilly Blues
Piedmont Textile Workers On Record
Gaston County, North Carolina 1927-1931
Old Hat Records
24 song CD w/24 page booklet

In the early 20th Century, the South was slowly becoming more and more industrialized, with urbanization creeping into formerly rural areas. The factories were springing up and providing steady jobs for the people who were concentrating in the towns, growing them ever larger and larger. This happened in Gaston County, North Carolina in the 20s and 30s, and it dramatically changed the culture, especially the country music that came out of the Appalachian hills and into the city. Old Hat's Gastonia Gallop captures this moment in time with this collection of tunes recorded by Gaston County artists between 1927-1931.

The compilation brings together a number of musicians and styles that range from hillbilly blues to vaudeville, displaying the variety that came together in the closer quarters of the town. The accompanying booklet delves into the history of the town and its textile industry, showing how steady pay and idle time made the perfect spot for musical creativity to blossom and quickly evolve. We also meet some of the more colorful artists from Gaston County, like the Three 'Baccer Tags, whose novelty songs were delivered with a wink and a nod, and the harmonica virtuoso Gwin Stanley Foster.

More of the history involves labor strikes and protests, and the violence that erupted around them. The musicians were also the workers, and this was certainly reflected in their music. One of the songwriters and outspoken labor activists, Ella May Wiggins, became a martyr for the cause after being assassinated in 1929. Her songs went on to inspire the protest songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

Standout tracks on the disc include the Carolina Twins' Gal Of Mine Took My Licker From Me, a simple and laid-back country ditty that laments a girlfriend that took away the singer's bottle of homebrew. David McCarn complains about the hard job of working in the mills on Poor Man, Rich Man, while the aforementioned Three 'Baccer Tags have some ribald fun with Ain't Gonna Do It No More. Once again, Old Hat has put together a stunning collection of music that has been pulled out of obscurity, along with the history that puts it all into perspective.

MISH MASH Mandate: Galloping Grooves
Old Hat Records Website

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Viola Recital: Soviet Russian Viola Music
Kryukov, Vasilenko, Frid, Krein and Bogdanov-Berezovsky
11 Track CD

Much of the music of Soviet Russia is a mystery to the West, especially the viola works included here by
composers Kryukov, Vasilenko, Frid, Krein and Bogdanov-Berezovsky. Naxos has gathered five rarely recorded and formerly unrecorded pieces into a recital format, showcasing these lost gems for lovers of the viola.

Violist Igor Fedotov is joined by pianists Gary Hammond and Leonid Vechkhazyer as he brings the mid-20th Century works to life. The pieces are romantic and hopeful, steeped in a Russian sensibility that speaks directly to the modernization ushered in by the Soviet era. The compositions seemed trapped in that limbo world where the Soviets had left behind much of traditional Russian culture, all the while trying to stay ahead of the West in the Cold War. There are acknowledgments of the past, all the while attempting to stay contemporary. My favorite track is Vasilkeno's Sonata for Viola and Piano, a nontraditional and fragmented 18-minute piece in one movement that twists and turns through a number of themes before resolving beautifully at the end.

MISH MASH Mandate: Veritable Viola
Soviet Russian Viola Music @ Naxos Website

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The William and Edward Frontage EP
Triumphant Walrus & K Sur Records
4 song 7" Vinyl

Quirky is the name of the game with this duo of Evan Inman-Butts and Chris Rusk of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's like an unholy union between Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys and They Might Be Giants, with these two guys throwing everything against the wall just to see what will stick.

Even though it's odd-for-the-sake-of-being-odd, their music has an appeal that goes beyond the weirdness. Perhaps it's the sweetly innocent pop foundation, or the fact that you can't take any of it seriously, so you just sit their with a goofy smirk on your face while the record is spinning. How else can you appreciate obtuse lyrics like "I guess it's a bad idea to fall in love with a body of water"? The whole setup kind of reminds me of Atlanta's Big Fish Ensemble, who took a similar approach back in the early 90s, with multiple instruments and out of this world subject matter, wrapped up in a beautiful pop shell.

MISH MASH Mandate: Pop Pranksters
Wighead MySpace

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Toy Instruments
Design Nostalgia Music

by Eric Schneider
Mark Batty Publisher
192 pages

Toy musical instruments have always been popular with kids, and in the electronic age, they have become so commonplace that we sometimes forget they're there. Author and collector Eric Schneider has put together a showcase of his collection of 20th Century electronic toy instruments, as a tribute to their artistic design and playful musical legacy.

The collection runs from the familiar and popular (such as the 1986 Nasta Hit Stix, electronic drum sticks wired to a small potable speaker), to the ultra strange and obscure (like the 1972 Tomy Voice Corder, a Japanese toy that allowed kids to cut their own vinyl records). Each toy is displayed with emphasis on its design and packaging, which is sometimes more interesting than the toy itself. The focus is almost purely visual, compelling you to consider not just the design, but also the way the design influences the functionality of the toy. There are also short informational blurbs at the bottom of each page, giving more insight on the toy and its use and/or particular sound.

My only suggestion would be to have some way of listening to the sounds these toys make, either by including a CD with the book or providing files online. It would add another dimension to an already incredible display.

MISH MASH Mandate: Toy Story
Toy Instruments at Mark Batty Publisher Website

Monday, March 08, 2010

The T.A.M.I. Show: Collector's Edition
Shout! Factory

This is the stuff legends are made of. Available for the first time in more than 45 years, the 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show is a godsend to fans of rock-n-roll and r&b. The film helped establish rock music as the generation defining cultural movement of the 60s, and it has attained mythological status since it disappeared from public viewing after its initial release.
The best anyone could ever hope for was an inferior and incomplete bootleg. For years, it has been caught in a quagmire of legal issues that has prevented its official release until now.

Does this new release live up to the hype? Simply put, yes. The concert is an amazing slice of rock music of the early 60s, just as it was beginning to transform into the counterculture. Yet, it still maintains the innocence of the time, evidenced by Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys and their golly-gee surf music, Lesley Gore and her pajama-party pop, and the fact that almost all the acts took deep bows after their performances. The beauty of it is that in this film, you can pinpoint the exact moment that rock music turned the corner and became a force to be reckoned with.

This paradigm shift comes with the stellar performance of James Brown, as he utterly destroys everything that came before him. When he puts his heart and soul into Please, Please, Please, sweating profusely and stooping down on the floor like a man in unbearable pain, you can feel the earth move. Everything changes. Mick Jagger knew it when the Stones had to follow Brown. Mick looks unsure of himself and tries to pump up their performance, knowing that from that point on, it was never going to be the same.

History was captured in a brief shining moment, and it is great that we can finally watch it happen in all its glory.

MISH MASH Mandate: Take It To The Bridge
The T.A.M.I. Show @ Shout! Factory

Friday, March 05, 2010

Finjarn - Jensen
Finjarn - Jensen
Shadoks Music
7 song CD/LP Reissue

OK, chalk this one up to not judging an album by its cover. I admit, I was a little wary of this one when I got a look at the low-budget Norwegian cut-n-paste cover, complete with bad 70s haircut and even badder glasses. How could the music be any good? Let me just say, I'm glad I took a chance on it, because this is a perfect example of an undiscovered gem.

Part psychedelic, part British Invasion, and part power-pop, Finjarn - Jensen is a potent composite of rock music from the late-60s/early 70s era. Think Cream, The Beatles, The Move, Traffic, with a heaping helping of King Crimson, and you get a good idea of what we're talking about here. One More Day is power trio blues rock at its finest, Blue and Peaceful starts off with a Beatlesque Sun King-styled intro and melds into an ultra groovy rock shuffle, and Grey Skies takes off into a drug-induced haze of progressive heaven, accented with a meandering drum solo. It's just sad that we had to wait 40 years to hear it in the US.

MISH MASH Mandate: Norwegian Cover Up
Finjarn - Jensen @ Shadoks Music
Finjarn - Jensen @ Forced Exposure (US)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Classic Appalachian Blues
Smithsonian Folkways
21 song CD
40 page booklet

While the Delta blues gets all the glory, the Appalachian blues seems to generally get the short shrift. Well, not any more. Smithsonian Folkways has put together a fantastic collection in a compact package: a 21 song salute to Appalachian blues artists, along with a 40 page booklet.

The songs range from classic twelve-bar blues to more country-flavored blues, pulled together from throughout the 20th century, from the 40's up until the 90's. Some of the names are quite familiar to blues lovers, with artists like Doc Watson, Josh White, and Sticks McGhee included on the CD. Part of the disc comes from live recordings of the Smithsonian's Festival Of American Folklife, which ran from 1971-1982.

The booklet features a 12 page essay on the Appalachian blues by Barry Lee Pearson, and he gives a succinct overview of the story of blues in the area. Most of the booklet is dedicated to giving a breakdown on each song, with a little history on the song's background and the artist that performed it. It's a wealth of information that is sure to please fans of the blues and American music.

Standout tracks include Sticks McGhee's Wine Blues (Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-Oh-Dee), John Jackson's Railroad Bill, and Pink Anderson's You Don't Know My Mind. You can also download a free mp3 of Baby Tate's See What You Done Done for a sample of the compilation.

MISH MASH Mandate: Blue Ridge Blues
Appalachian Blues @ Smithsonian Folkways

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Walk The Nile
Rune Grammofon
6 song CD/Vinyl LP

How do you rock out without a guitar? All you need is a Hammond organ in overdrive, turned up to 11. Norway's Elephant9 is a power jazz-rock trio that defies convention by turning the aforementioned Hammond into a driving force to be reckoned with.

This is progressive rock with a jazzy twist, reminiscent of early 70s prog enhanced with a thoroughly modern style that borrows from multiple generations of music. The Hammond provides a massive wall of sound that moves from subtle drones to manic solo runs, obliterating everything in its path. Simply stunning, and a must-have for fans of jazz/rock/fusion.

MISH MASH Mandate: Organic Hammond
Elephant9 page @ Rune Grammofon
Elephant9 page @ Forced Exposure (US)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2
Siciliene / Elegie / Pavane / Papillon
14 song CD

Let it be known that I have a soft spot in my heart for Gabriel Fauré, especially for his pieces for cello. I think this is the third album of the cello/piano works that I've snapped up in the past decade, the last one being just two years ago on the Naxos label. This one differs from the previous Naxos offering by adding an arrangement of Pavane.

Cellist Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson and pianist Allan Sternfield are set to the task of tackling Fauré's unique post-Romanticism, and they do a fine job. In case you are not familiar with him, Fauré's style is sometimes described as Impressionism, as he was active during this artistic period in France, and is sometimes associated with the work of Debussy or Ravel. While this term doesn't fully describe his complete output, it certainly could be used when talking about his cello and piano works, especially the shorter pieces like Sicilienne or Romance.

Ben-Sasson and Sternfield take a no-nonsense approach and pretty much play these pieces by the book, whereas the previous release with Maria Kliegel and Nina Tichman had a slightly more adventurous flare. In this latest release, Ben-Sasson's cello is reserved and subdued, while Sternfield mainly plays the support role. It's not quite academic, yet it gives the whole album a more serious feel overall. This is not a bad thing, quite the contrary, because it complements the previous album and its relative looseness. For me personally, having the two different performances to compare shows the depth of interpretations that can be made.

That having been said, this particular album would be a great introduction to Fauré because of this steady, hands-on approach. It captures the essence of the music without straying too far, allowing the listener to branch out from there. Add to the fact that this is a complete rendering of his output for cello, and you have a fantastic starter for the rest of his chamber music.

MISH MASH Mandate: Faure Foundation
Faure Cello Sonatas @ Naxos

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Joe Bussard's Country Classics
Weekly Radio Show/Podcast
Free Download

One of the world's most renowned 78 super-collectors has been doing a country classics radio show for decades, and now it is available as a weekly podcast, via iTunes, as a free download. The podcast features his current show on WREK 91.1 in Atlanta (the GA Tech college station), which airs every Friday evening from 5-6:00. Atlanta's Dust-To-Digital record label underwrites the show.

Bussard is one of the most colorful characters in music collecting. He lives and breathes classic Amercian music, and his radio show is a fun listen, even if you're not particularly a fan of country. He breaks up the show with a variety of tracks from different styles and artists within the country genre, and he jumps around the time-line, playing tracks all the way from the 20's to more "contemporary" classics. Bussard supplies plenty of history and story-telling along the way.

MISH MASH Mandate: Podcast For Posterity
Joe Bussard's Country Classics Podcast @ iTunes

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Very Berlin E.P.
Tapete Records
7" Vinyl Record

With a name like Herpes, you better be good. Thankfully, you can excuse their rather unfortunate choice for a moniker, because this single from the German quintet just kicks.

Their sound is a discordant blend of classic punk and electronica, built around the simple foundation of manic guitar lines and a hyperactive synth. The vocals are delivered in a breathless rush, choppy and herky-jerky thanks to the German lyrics (very appropriate with the title Very Berlin). They don't go out of their way to make it complicated or groundbreaking, but it is a fun listen. Just turn it up and dance.

MISH MASH Mandate: Infectious Condition
Herpes page @ Tapete Records

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Electric President
The Violent Blue
Fake Four Inc
10 song CD

Electric President is a duo from Jacksonville Florida, made up of multi-instrumentalist Ben Cooper and bassist Alex Kane. Their sound is a unique blend of
atmospheric folk and electronic music, peppered here and there with catchy pop hooks.

It reminds me a little bit of Paul Simon's solo work in the phrasing and structures, along with a smidgen of Simon's quirkiness thrown in for good measure. The electronic part adds another dimension to the folk angle, bringing in an eclectic range of sound that incorporates a more modern, progressive feel. The album is a quietly stunning piece of work that takes a few listens to settle fully into your psyche, and when it does, it is aural bliss.

MISH MASH Mandate: Folktronica
Electric President @ Fake Four Inc Website

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jack Millman Sextet
Shades Of Things To Come
Liberty Records
Vinyl LP

This semi-obscure album is a nice slice of mid-50s West Coast Jazz, featuring the likes of jazz greats Jimmy Giuffre and Buddy Collette in the backing group. Millman only had a handful of major label releases at this time and then of faded away behind the scenes in the 60s. His output was fairly solid and is worth seeking out if you run across it, and while his sparse catalog has been in and out of print, some of it is still available on CD, including this album.

On Shades Of Things To Come, standout tracks include a smooth and cool rendering of Skylark, along with the hopping swing of Thinking Of Russ. It's a good mix of upbeat and slower numbers, and Millman is more than willing to stand back and let his group play, as he allows
the band to show off their multifaceted talents.

MISH MASH Mandate: Shapely Sextet
Jack Millman Website

Monday, February 22, 2010

Matt Kresling
Matt Kresling
11 song free download

Here's a fun little album that prominently features the ukulele, which apparently is growing in stature as a pop/rock instrument (who knew?). Kresling's release is a few years old, but just came to my attention recently in a discussion about the aforementioned surge in uke music.

The album has a quirky sense of humor and a sound not far removed from They Might Be Giants. Kresling keeps his tongue firmly in cheek on cuts like The Beast That Swallows Its Young, where he inter-cuts his lyrics with phone messages from harassing debt collectors. It's an entertaining album from beginning to end, and well worth downloading.

MISH MASH Mandate: Tiny Bubbles
Download Album @

Friday, February 19, 2010

What The Future Sounded Like
A documentary about the Electronic Music Studios, and the birth of electronic music.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ninca Leece
There Is No One Else When I Lay Down and Dream
11 song CD/Vinyl

In the opening track, Touriste, Ninca Leece sings "I'm a tourist in my mind". Seeing that she is originally French and now living in Berlin by way of Holland --- also taking into account the fact that she has toured the world --- that statement is probably not far from the truth. This globe-trotting shows through in her music, which is a collection of savvy and smart electronica that brings together a truly cosmopolitan wealth of pop music.

Leece's approach is simple and sleek, almost minimalist in execution. She is not overbearing with the beat or highly dependent on extraneous sound effects. Her vocal style is understated and reserved, almost blending into the background and becoming part of the tapestry of sound. Everything is neatly in place, utilizing the elements with efficiency and grace. On her cover of The Cure's Lovesong, she keeps it subdued and unadorned, stripping it down to the very basic core of the song, focusing sharply on the melody and bassline. Simply put, it's simply beautiful.

MISH MASH Mandate: Seduction and Subduction
Ninca Leece Website

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dirk Darmstaedter
Dirk Sings Dylan
Tapete Records
10 song CD

It's one thing to cover a Dylan song (who hasn't done that?), but it's another to do an entire album of Dylan tunes. That's bold, to the point of risking ridicule and disdain in the finicky world of pop music criticism.

Thankfully, Dirk Darmstaedter knows how to pull it off with grace and humility. He doesn't try to rock the boat too much, and he plays the songs with an almost reverent attitude, sticking to the style and attitude of the original tracks. He doesn't do a straight impersonation, even though he sounds like he could, but delivers the songs with an understated demeanor that lets the songwriting speak for itself. In effect, Darmstaedter doesn't get in the way of the songs, he lets them live and breathe on their own. It's probably the only safe way to approach such an audacious undertaking, and he tiptoes carefully in a most brilliant manner that would please any Dylan fan.

MISH MASH Mandate: Dylan Redux
Dirk Darmstaedter Website

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Soldier Of Love
10 song CD

It's hard to believe it has been 10 years since Sade's last studio album, 2000's Lover's Rock. It may even be harder to believe that she's now 51 years old and has been on the international music scene for 26. She sure doesn't look it, and for the most part, the music sounds as fresh as it did back in 1984, even though it hasn't changed all that much over time.

Listening to her latest effort, it's difficult to say exactly why she's been able to keep her patented slow grooves so interesting. Perhaps it's because she doesn't venture too far out side her proven formula: soulful songs of heartbreak and heartache that alternately drift from gentle quiet ballads into flowing funky beats. In other words, you know what you're going to get when you buy a Sade album. There are no real surprises, and that can be quite comforting. You know you're going to be serenaded by a beautiful voice, and you are surely going to be nodding your head to more than a few of the tracks.

On Soldier Of Love, Sade saves all her serious business for the title track. It's dark and aggressive, focused completely on the beat, which comes across with the ferocity of a gunshot. From there, highlights include Babyfather, which revolves around a simple guitar line set against a driving beat, and Skin, where the ultra-smooth beats cut cleanly across her understated singing.

Like I said, nothing ground-breaking or out of the box, but then again, it is certainly not a simple rehash of her previous works. I'd call it a brilliant continuation of what got her here in the first place. Let's just hope we don't have to wait another decade for the next one.

MISH MASH Mandate: Lady In Waiting
Sade Website

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Heavy
The House That Dirt Built
Counter Records
11 song CD/Vinyl

Just when you thought the whole retro-rock thing had played its course, along comes a band like The Heavy. They just hit the reset button and made everything old new again. Blending the grit of lo-fi punk with the funky sounds of 60s soul, The Heavy have a sound that sounds familiar while remaining fresh enough to cruise headlong into the second decade of the 21st Century.

The strongest elements of the record come with the Stax-inspired staccato horns of How You Like Me Now? and the quirky/jerky rhythm-n-blues shuffle of Sixteen. Singer Kelvin Swaby does his best James Brown and Wilson Pickett, wrapping it all up in a noisy distortion that could have been borrowed from the likes of The Strokes and The Sonics. I guess rock ain't dead just yet.

MISH MASH Mandate: Lo-Fi Punk Funk
The Heavy Website
George Winston
Love Will Come:
The Music of Vince Guaraldi Vol 2
RCA Victor
16 song CD

George Winston revisits his 1996 ode to jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi in this second collection of tribute tunes. Much like in Vol. 1, Winston reinterprets Guaraldi through his own brand of New Age impressionism. The songs are stark and simple in the solo piano format, taken completely out of the context of their bossa nova jazz inspired beginnings. Winston somehow manages to reach into the soul of the works and make them something completely new without destroying the foundations that Guaraldi used. It's not jazz, and it's not New Age, but in a wonderfully fuzzy place in between.

(On a side note, I had the chance to see Winston perform right after the first volume was released 14 years ago. I must say that I did not fully appreciate his style of playing until I saw him live. He is much more dynamic and expressive than his studio albums would suggest.)

MISH MASH Mandate: Venerating Vince
George Winston Website