Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sour Jazz - American Seizure, 2009

Sour Jazz - American Seizure album cover, 2009
01 - Masquerader
02 - Fun Dumb Daze
03 - Cigarettes & Coughy
04 - Bad Times Coming
05 - Black Maria
06 - Action!
07 - Without You
08 - Monsieur Flop
09 - Nippon Twist
10 - Mrs Popular
11 - Little Hands
My new visual effects showreel is being presented today. A piece of music I dared to choose to accompany it comes from American Seizure – an album by a contemporary New York rock band Sour Jazz, which occupies its place on the list of recommended rock albums for a reason. Thus I'd like to use this occasion to share few words about them.

What happens to punks when they grow up? The whole concept sounds like oxymoron, but something does. Some just end, some refuse, some keep getting younger, some start blogging and some keep writing music. Real music.

How does American Seizure sound? Pretty much like the cover looks. Sour Jazz's visual representation seems to fit their music quite well in general. Cardboard sleeve of the CD gets worn out on the edges fast, but even through it's rough matte finish it already gives you an idea that you're holding something different in your hands. Words that come to mind trying to describe the sound are “funky” and “haiku”. Well, quite modernist haiku probably... Tito & Tarantula would be another association – partially in sound, a lot in visual.

Not too fast, not too slow. With keyboards and saxophone. Energy without yelling. RHYTHM in capitals. Lazy charismatic vocals. Guitar gorgeously showing off.

If, like me, you grew up in a city – they'll make you feel nostalgic about your hometown. They love the city and they are taking me for a walk with them on almost every track. This resonance could be purely personal, but it's strong enough to be shared here. Other personal preferences from this record are Masquerader, Action! and Cigarettes & Coughy.

Apparently they are releasing a studio CD once in four years – so let's hope.

They are good. And shockingly, they are happening right now. I don't know them, I am doing this on my own stupid initiative, but I am urging you to try them out and, if you'd happen to experience similar kind of delight - spread the word. It's a shame they still don't even have a Wikipedia article. Really.

Sour Jazz's official website. Some free music downloads there among the other bits.

Last thing: I'd appreciate the lyrics, if anyone has it – googling wasn't so efficient for me yet...

Next time: The Butterfly Ball

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rush - Test for Echo, 1996

Rush - Test for Echo album cover, 1996
01 - Test for Echo
02 - Driven
03 - Half the World
04 - The Color of Right
05 - Time and Motion
06 - Totem
07 - Dog Years
08 - Virtuality
09 - Resist
10 - Limbo
11 - Carve Away the Stone
Here we go. Vertigo...

Given you don't live in Canada, how many Canadian bands do you know? Given now the positive number, chances are Rush is on the list. They are big, and they are good. And there are definitely things outstanding about them.

A trio to start with. A progressive rock trio to amplify the challenge of potential shortage of hands. Good thing – it's really not about the quantity. Alex Lifeson, the founding member, deals with guitars – all kinds of guitars – he's good at it. Frontman Geddy Lee takes on the bass and keyboards responsibilities, vocals aside. Neil Peart – a drummer. Only? Not really, since he is the person responsible for Rush lyrics since the time he joined the group (which is pretty much the time the group exists). Only 1.5 lineup changes since 1968, both happened before the second album out of 19 so far. And on top of this all - they are the artists (sadly enough, not that frequent epithet in popular music, but it is theirs rightfully).

Band's discography comes in stages. First there was hard rock mixed with classical progressive sound of the time. Surprisingly, not my favorite period though. Then came electronics around 80's. Not the electronics-electronics, but surely something which can be opposed to good old yell-drums-n-guitars within the rock music. And yet later, around the change of millenia, Rush's sound deviated again into pretty much the mixture of their previous experiences. Test for Echo was released at the border of these last two periods and incorporates the best of both worlds in my humble opinion.

A wonderful record, balanced with energy of faster pieces, emotional strains and melodism. A record where Geddy shows to the full extent one thing I value him as a vocalist most for: insinuation – ability to subdue the strongest emotions in the voice, only to make them stand out more through this suppression. Listen to it – it's like a man torn apart by the feelings of unbearable strength, but directing his last powers not to let anyone see. Something I was once taught a man should be.

And being a visual artist, another thing I appreciate is that Rush traditionally devote more time and thought to the look of their albums than would be expected from a rock'n'roll band. Test for Echo not being an exception.

As usual – hope you'd give it a try and find pleasing. Next time – Sour Jazz.


Wikipedia: Album|Artist 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jethro Tull - Rock Island, 1989

Jethro Tull – Rock Island album cover, 1989
01 - Kissing Willie
02 - The Rattlesnake Trail
03 - Ears Of Tin
04 - Undressed To Kill
05 - Rock Island
06 - Heavy Water
07 - Another Christmas Song
08 - The Whaler's Dues
09 - Big Riff And Mando
10 - Strange Avenues
I really like it when Jethro Tull play hard rock. They have some special kind of grace about it. Locomotive Breath, Something’s on the Move, This Is Not Love... And Rock Island, although not really a hard rock record in my understanding, still lets you taste this side of Mr.Anderson and friends more than usual. Enough to feed the hungry.

Opening with Kissing Willie, the original side A is the faster one. I might be alone in this, but in places find it reminiscent of some late Dire Straits (like The Bug). The title track, closing the side, makes the whole album’s statement - just like the sleeve artwork. I don't know how much of the intention was there (reminds of Jan Anderson’s comment on Aqualung’s conceptuality), but one theme which I see going through the record and its every song is loneliness. A solitude of one kind or another. And the record really explores all various shapes, tastes and sizes of ot.

The tempo and loudness tend to slow down overall in the second half of the album, with Strange Avenues sounding already like a residue. Time to confess here: I used to perceive this song as a weak and a touch boring one while admiring Rock Island’s hard sound, till a friend noted it’s the best track of the LP to him. So then I finally heard it - I mean really heard. It’s a truly strong one - simply unrealistic emotional strain packed into a piece of whisper. Beautiful. And very sad. ...looking like a record cover from 1971...

Take a closer look at the lyrics (back to the overall album now) - as usually with Tull - it’s real poetry. And if I may suggest another worthy record from this period - it would be Catfish Rising.


Wikipedia: Album|Artist 

Next time - Rush.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I know that no one cares...

Professor of Occultism and Demonology - an image by Denis Kozlov

...But I just started another project

It is a blog intended to be covering my professional interests like computer graphics and art education. It’s going to serve as my homepage for a while either, redirecting from and showcasing some imagery I am doing both as an artist and a professional. I guess that's why they call me, They call me the workin' man...

So now, after quoting Rush, I am glad to announce that The List of Recommended Rock Albums (which I still consider the principal part of my attempts to be useful here) just got updated. More than doubled in length, to be precise. It started becoming biased in a sense that some bands are receiving notably more coverage than the others, which I was initially trying to avoid. However, there are reasons for such disbalance and if a record feels worth marking as a gem - I believe it should be. On the other hand again, listing the complete discographies even for the greatest artists doesn’t feel right either -
thus I’m rather trying to pick a representative album for a certain period in such cases.

Anyway, there was never a claim for justice or objectiveness neither for the rock music picks I am posting here, nor for the Universe in general - so let it live till the next edit. Let me know.

An Umbrella - image by Denis Kozlov
An Umbrella
French Horn - an image by Denis Kozlov
French Horn

Thank you for your attention:)
Chances are, next time I’ll be writing on Jethro Tull.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Serj Tankian - Elect the Dead, 2007

Serj Tankian, Elect the Dead album cover
I shouldn’t have liked this album. First solo release from a System of a Down’s vocalist - one of those bands I never really cared about even without much listening to. All I did was put on headphones and pressed play, following a friend’s recommendation. Interesting thing is that both back then, while listening and already starting to understand the whole beauty of deadman’s elections, and right now, when every note and beat are almost known by heart - I still realize with crystal clarity that I couldn’t have liked this album.

How did he do it? A person with definitely outstanding and one-of-a-kind vocalism, strong cultural roots (Have you seen his duo with father by the way?), courage and opinion - he mixed up the sounds as if accidently. No - rather as if experimenting in cross-species incompatibility on racoons, seals and ostriches. And that adds on top of a heavy experimental underground genre. Sounds like too much to me, but altogether it screams - fast, loudly, sarcastically and ...charmingly beautifully. With lyrical inserts, broken of overtempering.

The Cowardly Lion of Oz could’ve probably saved a trip given this record instead. And although Imperfect Harmonies - Tankian’s second studio album - has lost a lot of this beautiful bravery to me, and even Harakiri (latest so far) only did a partial job of recovering, still I’m looking forward to his new releases.

Serj Tankian - Elect the Dead alternative cover
Alternative cover for you not to miss it accidentally.

Serj Tankian - Elect the Dead special edition cover
And another one.

Wikipedia: Album|Artist