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Sound Advice

Three CD reviews

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Vijay Iyer  Blood Sutra
  • Vijay Iyer Blood Sutra

Jazz

Vijay Iyer

Blood Sutra
Artists House

Spiritualized  Amazing Grace
  • Spiritualized Amazing Grace

For the last few years, critics have said nothing but good things about this up-and-coming jazz pianist and composer. But, as many jazz listeners know, that doesn't mean the music is an easy listen. On the contrary, Blood Sutra is a terrifically challenging record. But challenging music is often the most rewarding, and this suite of 12 perfectly interlocking songs follows through on that promise. Iyer's unique percussive style is reminiscent of new music compositions (George Crumb comes to mind), with complicated rhythmic patterns and nearly constant dissonant chord modulations. But Iyer alone does not make this record -- the frantic free-jazz arpeggios of alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and the nearly cacophonous syncopations of drummer Tyshawn Sorey provide the edginess that shows that Iyer's compositions are indeed moving jazz in a new direction.

-- Bettina Swigger Rock

Spiritualized

Amazing Grace
Sanctuary Records

Kevin Blechdom  bitches without britches
  • Kevin Blechdom bitches without britches

After reading a couple of really favorable reviews of the new Spiritualized album Amazing Grace, I mistakenly decided to pay actual U.S. dollars to listen to J. Spaceman whine in his gravel-gavel voice for 11 songs about imagined pain so over-determined as to make the "blues" of middle-class white folk seem plausible. Check out this title: "She Kissed Me (it felt like a hit)." Too bad someone didn't kick J. Spaceman's boot before he disgraced the two or three notes he actually used on the album. Don't you think that's so awesome that they copyrighted the title Amazing Grace? Dude!

-- Noel Black Indie

Kevin Blechdom

bitches without britches
Chicks On Speed Records

If Daniel Johnston were a woman, and weren't insane, he wouldn't even come close to being as amazing as Kevin Blechdom. Well, whether or not Kevin is a woman is one of those San Francisco "issues" that you'll have to explore for yourself (her name is actually Kristin Erickson). File this one under electro-cabaret satire. Take "binaca": "Ever since I got binaca/ I don't have to brush my teeth no more ... Ever since I got my period/ I don't have to buy red panties no more/ because I'm free/ free from hygienic responsibility." Then there's the lovely "Use Your Heart as Telephone" and the sarcasmatic "Boob-A-Q." Add the fact that quadra-verbed banjo and strap-on keyboard beats at Mach 3 are sonic bedfellows, and what you've got is a pissed-off, smarty-pants album that's real swell.

-- Noel Black

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