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Chilled ambient grooves never die; they just twist out of their old skins and assume different shapes. Late-night techno wizards Sounds from the Ground are hip to this, and FOOTPRINTS retraces some of their best steps down the trail and through some pretty attractive landscapes before fading back out through the headphone exit door.
It's a collection of ageless classics from the SFTG's first two albums: KIN and TERRA FIRMA, as well as the hard-to-find version of "Snow," that has a soulful vocal from RedJen (alias Jennie B. from the Belle Stars and Pigface).Tracks date from 1996 through 2000, with highlights including the drum-and-bass workout "Planted" and the pulsing Roland 303's and whispered female vocals of "Drawn to the Woman." If Jaco Pastorious were alive and playing bass for Orbital it might sound something like "Where the Wild Things Were." This collection stands tall as classic bleep and beat architecture, furnished with lush synth pad washes, snaking counter-rhythms, and sputtering rhythmic blasts, all merging hypnotically together for slow-motion dancing, deep headphone hypnosis, or walking confidently through a crowd of well-dressed singles at the local lounge.
The Easy Riders Jazz Band started recording its distinctive interpretations of classic New Orleans jazz back in 1962. The group recorded fairly regularly between that year and 1966, and then went on hiatus for more than 25 years before again appearing on record, still with its original Jazz Crusade label. The Easy Riders continue to be headed by trombonist Big Bill Bissonnette and original pianist Bill Sinclair is also hanging in. Sammy Rimington, who came on board in 1964, is still wailing away with his exuberant New Orleans-style clarinet. In addition to the new members, this album has a guest: trumpeter and vocalist Gregg Stafford. New members and guests notwithstanding, the band hasn't changed its inventive, enthusiastic response to the music and the way it's played, both of which are so unique to the Crescent City sound.The play list primarily consists of familiar pieces from the traditional jazz repertoire, with a couple of non-traditional jazz ringers thrown in like "Caldonia" and "What a Wonderful World." These two tunes feature Stafford's gravelly voice, so perhaps they were on the agenda to accommodate him. In addition to these, the program is filled with other gems.
The fortuitous selection of the Kid Ory arrangement of "Aunt Hagar's Blues" makes this one of the preeminent tracks on the CD.
Among other things, it has some well-placed shouts by Paul Boehmke. Kid Ory's "Savoy Blues," one of the classic tunes that has attracted clarinet players over the years, is a fine vehicle for Rimington. He gets help from Stafford, but it's mainly his show.
The highly syncopated "Climax Rag" is something one would be sure to hear in a Bourbon Street bar during the street's heyday as the wellhead of jazz. But the album really comes together in W.C. Handy's "Yellow Dog Blues," where the group is in ensemble (or as close to ensemble as traditional jazz ever gets) for more than 6 minutes; as individual performers, they let it all hang out for a rousing version of one of the favorite tunes of this jazz genre.It's good to have this group back in the studio once more, even though the Easy Riders have to go to Connecticut to record New Orleans music.
Marbles is Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo's solo project, and Expo marks the first full-length album since Schneider mothballed the name with the formation of the Apples in 1993. The m.o. is very Apples-like, with loads of their trademark catchy melodies, slightly trippy lyrics, swirling guitars, and sonic textures. But instead of the usual '60s psych-pop influences and song structures, ELO seems to be the major influence at work, with tracks like "When You Open" and the pulsating "Magic" sounding like an unlikely lo-fi Jeff Lynne project. The record is filled with vocoders, electronically treated vocals, cheap drum machines, tinny synths, and robotic beats. At its best on songs like "Move On" (wait for the moving guitar/synth duet at the song's climax) and the dreamy "Out of the Zone," the electronics are added somewhat organically and give Schneider's sometimes reedy vocals and simple songs a much-needed boost. A few of the songs don't work quite as well; "Circuit"'s vocoder and the song's nagging melody give the song an overly gimmicky sound, and the record's instrumentals ("Jewel of India," "Hello Sun," and "Blossoms") aren't of much interest. These are small flaws, and the strength of the rest of the record makes up for them.
The record was mixed by Mark Linnett of Beach Boys and SMiLE revisited fame, and he shows his versatility by creating a sound almost directly opposite to the lush SMiLE sound, instead making Expo sound like it was recorded in Schneider's sock drawer. In a good way, though. Like Guided By Voices, Marbles (and the Apples) work better when they sound small and full to bursting, and Expo is no exception to that rule. Apples in Stereo fans will dig this record.