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Haino Keiji, "Black Blues"

Haino's own homage to the blues begs the question of whether he has always burdened himself with a bluesman's ax to grind. Stark primitivism is ubiquitous, even as the artist introduces new strategy or restraint in a work. In recent years, Haino has taken classical guitar through the black-on-black, slow-utterance machine that is his style, and this year also marked his first solo electronic album, instruments pushed not to their own limits, but to Haino's redefined limits of his own art.
Les Disques Du Soleil Et De L'Acier
The two Black Blues discs are not so much returns to the guitar-vocal arrangement, from which the artist first touted his musical discipline, as they are generalized statements from the depths. Haino is less an explorer now, than creator of a two-sided tablet of commandments. One disc acoustic, the other electric, Black Blues is Haino at his most sensual and his most absolutely violent. The discs are themselves absolutes within a style that has rejected nearly every outside structural imposition. Though more heavily composed than any Haino works in recent memory, they are easily more intimate in mood and carry a directness that should be sourced in American blues music. These discs, if not the majority of Haino's work, though not blues in any traditional sense, carry the style's primitive aesthetic, condensed drama, and instinctive spirituality into a conceptual domain. The Black Blues volumes feature the same six songs, some perhaps original, at least one cover (Hendrix's �Drifting�), and at least one traditional blues piece. The included, �See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,� is a 13-min. sleepy cascade of acoustic reverbed starlight on the first disc and, on the other, a savage landscape of electric salvages, muddied harmonics, surface scrapes, and shaky, neck-rending exercises in contest with a typically asphyxiated vocal. Black Blues' electric version contains probably the most structurally bleak and consistently intense vocal performance I've heard from Haino; however, upon repeated listens, I find that the disc is equally listenable, certainly as cathartic, and even as calming as its acoustic half. The two can only be counterparts, and they are essential to a Haino collection. He's prolific and singular enough that choosing goodies often seems futile, but I can safely say, if you can handle only one Haino this year, try to handle two, and make them these two.



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The Juan Maclean

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Review of the Day

papas fritas, "pop has freed us"
Minty Fresh
I am somewhat ashamed to admit I have been struck with a feeling of nostalgia for something that I never quite experienced before with the release of this collection. What's even worse is the sticker on the front cover advertises as song as featured in a Dentyne Ice commercial. Regardgless, I'm pretty certain that there was a time in the 1990s that commercial alternative radio was occasionally adventurous and sometimes supported a local group who had a great song. The two most notable stations here in the USA were probably NY's WDRE and LA's KROQ. Boston's WFNX wasn't far behind, and here in Boston, we had our share of local hits that never quite made much of a difference outside of the Bay State, no matter how hard Kay Hanley tried. Papas Fritas wasn't a band who I felt much affinity for, but whenever "Lame to Be" or "Hey Hey You Say" came on the radio I soaked it in. I wasn't terribly impressed with pop songs back in the mid-1990s, and Papas Fritas were clearly obsessed with Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac and the Replacements. To their credit, they made the most impressive dense pop records they could with the budget they had. Often recording on their own 8-track recorder, the core trio of Tim Goddess (guitar), Keith Gendel (bass), and Shivika Asthana (drums) each shared vocal duties, often singing together like a 1970s Hanna-Barbara cartoon band. Despite their confined conditions, the group were joined by string players, horns, and percussionists and achieved some sparkling clear results. Yet there's a reason why these songs rarely stretch much longer than three minutes: they've given away all the songs' secrets within the first minute. It's the beauty of simple pop and what attracts so many people to the bloody Beach Boys. They didn't cloud their music with effects and distortion, nor did they ever wander from the verse-chorus-verse structure, but listening now, there isn't a dull moment and everything seems honestly direct. Named after their self-publishing company (and a play on their name) this collects 17 musical tracks on one disc and three music videos on a DVD. Most of the tracks are from bonus cuts off international releases, compilation tracks, and singles, but eight of their biggest radio album cuts from their three records also appear to make it more of a hits package as well. It's nice for people like me who would have honestly probably let their full-length records collect dust as well as fans who wanted fully digital versions of songs that were only available on cheaply made flimsy 7" records or expensive imports. The video DVD is entertaining to watch, and the band's just too cute in "Hey Hey You Say" not to fall in love with them. It's a perfect visual accompaniment and I strongly encourage all labels to start doing this. If there's anything the rest of the industry can learn from this is that including multimedia extras as a bonus (ie: not making so many separate DVD releases, but tossing in a second disc like they should) can only be a good thing.


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