By Ken Micallef
An infrequent communiqué on the best and worst in new and reissued vinyl titles from around the globe…
Lord Classic represent a long lost notion: a New York City band that rocks hard, is mindful of the past, but makes music for the present.
I first read of Lord Classic in the comments section of “The Lefsetz letter,” the heavily read and highly regarded music industry newsletter penned by one Bob Lefsetz. I forget the exact post and comments, but the message to Lefsetz from the band’s bassist Mattley Mountain made me want to hear their music. I contacted the band via its website and soon, not one, but three copes of their debut LP were in my hands and spinning on my Kuzma Stogi/Stabi “pipe bomb” turntable (one at a time, of course).
Off the bat I was practically blasted in mid-air! Crafted by fellow Lord Classic members Mountain (bass), Paul Gillard (vocals), Mavis Chase (violin), and Mossy Ross (drums, recently replaced by “Gaza” Guarinello), this retro-futurist clan rock like Zeppelin with blues bashing aplenty and psychedelic melodies, but with a production esthetic that relies as much on Neumann mics and cathedral ceilings as extremely clever use of SoundToys, Waves and PSP Vintage Warmer—plug-ins abused by many. Lord Classic slams forth John Bonhamish grooves and hairy-chested vocals, but the music is framed by neural-exacting production profundity worthy of Deadmau5.
I played the well-pressed Lord Classic vinyl many times to confirm that my own hairy ears weren’t fooling me. LC’s songs swagger with ‘70s worthy intent, like Stiff Little Fingers mixing it up with Black Sabbath on a cold Saturday night in Tottenham Court Road. The band’s titanic thump serves stacked harmony vocals, circling strings and economic use of reverb and decay, giving Lord Classic an ancient rock ambience in the here and now. The band’s use of the studio-as-instrument within their timeless tune-age confirms their talent. Is that sound plug-ins or the bathroom at Headley Grange?
On one track Lord Classic is slashing through Mellotron drifts and jet-powered beats, the next an electronic pulse seamlessly joins bludgeoning drums and staccato guitar riffs. The album further upends expectations on “’60s Never Died,” a rocking tone poem of backwards guitars, a glisteningly repetitive chorus and tumescent groove.
Lord Classic is working on their sophomore effort scheduled for release in spring, 2017. Grab their debut vinyl now and say you knew them when…
Order Lord Classic at http://www.lordclassic.com/shop
After reading Michael Fremer’s rave at AnalogPlanet.com, I contacted LA based singer-songwriter Sophia Pfister, whose street-talking aplomb and dark good looks piqued my curiosity. Like a gutsier, younger Sheryl Crow, Pfister spins beat poetry over winding, lazy grooves, singing tales of good times/bad times, and the eternal flame that makes the world go nuts: love and loss.
Pfister’s debut feels like a really good demo. Sometimes she sings flat, and the material could use a good producer. But where there’s smoke there’s fire, and Sophia’s red hot and flaming. Her velvet vocals are well recorded, immediate and visceral, and her sparse arrangements are drenched in noirish accompaniment (trumpet, strings, banjo, echoing bass). Pfister’s description of one character, “kinda classy with a little bit of trash,” also describes her ethereal yet gritty music.
Pfister’s five-song EP includes an indictment of big city desire, “Los Angeles,” the come-hither tease, “Sugardaddy,” mariachi trumpet infused “Snakes,” and the sweetly delirious, guitar splayed wonder, “New Mexico.”
Order Sophia Pfister at http://www.sophiapfister.com/vinyl/
Miles Davis & Robert Glasper
Everything Is Beautiful
Some albums arrive; you expect less and get more. Others raise expectations only to sink like a bucket of entrails and slop.
Why the Miles Davis’ estate feels the need to endlessly rehash the master’s music and image, almost always destroying it in the process, is despicable. Anyone see the cinematic abomination that was Miles Ahead? Don Cheadle; shame on you. Similarly vapid and without merit, Robert Glasper’s reimagining of Miles Davis’ music on Everything Is Beautiful (Blue Note/Legacy) is a study in fakery, right down to the faux Columbia six-eye label design.
“We said this should be more about showing Miles’ inspiration with new work and being open to how different people use that inspiration, like a beat from an old recording,” Robert Glasper wrote in the album’s liner notes. Nothing is sampled save snippets of Miles Davis’ studio chatter. Given the Prince of Darkness’s raspy tone and cryptic comments, that’s some great material, but Glasper fails to excite, entertain or even inform. Instead we get a pile-on of personalities, from John Scofield and Stevie Wonder to Bilal, Erykah Badu, Hiatus Kaiyote and Ledesi, doing their best to ride a vibe or create one. The results are comprised of Pro Tools-ladled drip-hop and electronic dance beats, big-booty cushioning Rhodes piano chords, dull raps about “ghetto superstars,” and one track that sounds like the Harlem Globetrotter’s theme song.
It’s an eternal, infernal question. From Jazzanova’s Blue Note DJ recreations to New Groove: Blue Note Remix Project to drum-and-bass artists fixating on The Winston’s “Amen, Brother” loop, do these acts pay homage or simply destroy? Glasper bludgeons you with boredom. The jury may forever be out, but Everything Is Beautiful is one for the dumpster.
Order Everything is Beautiful at https://www.amazon.com/Everythings-Beautiful-Miles-Robert-Glasper/dp/B017WKHRP6
(editor’s note: We don’t carry a badge for music quality: 1/10, it is quite rare to come up with such a low quality content)
Now for something truly inventive, inspired and demented. Keigo Oyamada’s project, Cornelius, enthralled listeners in 1997 with the album, Fantasma (Matador), blasting forth from Japan’s Shibuya-kei movement. Drawing on a century’s worth of sounds, expressed with the mastery of a skilled DJ and the brains of a library-ensconced pop music archivist, the vinyl-reissued Fantasma (Warner Music Japan) is a blitzkrieg of dream pop, outrageous sound kernels and sample mayhem. Fantasma is Keigo Oyamada’s magnificent pop masterpiece. Alternately maddening and soothing it’s mostly fun—and endlessly hypnotic.
Keigo’s influences on his third album, Fantasma, are many: bossa nova, the Monkees, Scotland’s Orange Juice, ‘60s commercial announcer Ken Nordine, ‘80s era video games, classical music, soundtracks, Tropicalia, Wendy Carlos, Beach Boys’ samples, Cheap Trick and punk rock, all combined with the brilliance of Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson. That this music was created without Pro Tools is amazing. The record jumps between what can loosely be called “songs,” layered vocals dazzling over myriad instruments and styles, sound assaults and squeegees lurching over shattered sound tableaus. This sonic high of epic proportions is maintained for four sides on two full LPs.
There is great beauty here, inspired experimentation, and immense satisfaction. Like The Beatles’ “Revolution #9” as imagined by a lovesick puppy, Fantasma is all nerd heart, sweet soul and collagist’s mastery.Fantasma recalls a time when samples were still free, the ensuing music existing beyond time and space. Using only their wits and inspiration, these sample-espousing producers and free-ranging musicians tapped the magikal and came up sparkling diamonds.
And Fantasma remastered for vinyl sounds brilliant.
Order Fantasma at https://www.amazon.com/Fantasma-Vinyl-Cornelius/dp/B00000649S