Left Hip

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Ivan el Hijo de Teresa - Marianao

Ivan El Hijo de Teresa pays homage to two Havana neighborhoods with their single, Marianao – the working class neighborhood of Marianao and the Guanabacoa neighborhood known for its strong history of Santeria religion.

The band doesn’t have much of a discography – as far as I can tell they have only one track out on a compilation and this single. That said, this single in my mind – if they can keep up like this – firmly establishes them as a top Cuban timba band at the moment.

The first song and title track is instantly catchy – a real earworm. It starts strong and never lets up, with lots of electrifying efectos from the rhythm section and a killer hook.

The second song, Guanabacoa starts slow and soft before kicking into gear with another fast-paced dancefloor weapon.

I am excited to see this band live and regret missing an opportunity to see them on a recent trip to Havana. Also very interested to hear if they can sustain the quality of this single on a full-length release.

El Niño y la Verdad - De vuelta al barrio

El Niño y la Verdad’s 2018 album De vuelta al barrio recently took home the prize in the dance music category at the 2019 CubaDisco record-industry awards.

El Niño y la Verdad are a formidable live band; I was fortunate enough to see the band perform a blistering matinee recently at the Casa de Musica in Havana. Their tremendous live energy translates very well to the recording studio.

The title, “back to the neighbourhood“, is a loose theme that bookends the recording and so things start on topic with a short and infectious intro track featuring clapped guaguancó parts, a catchy vocal choro and sounds ‘of the neighbourhood’. Things head from there further down the guaguancó path with the second track, La Princesa de Cayo Hueso, which changes gears into casino-ready territory and really heats up over the course of its 5 minutes.

The third track, El Primo is deceptive – on its surface an exquisitely happy pop song, it poses some fairly complex rhythmic challenges for salseros. El Primo is followed by another excellent track, Las Manzanas, which, while not near as mind-bendingly complicated in terms of rhythm, the song nevertheless features some fearsome rhythmic efectos (aka the confounding rhythm section breaks that make timba so tricky and exhilarating) and is unnervingly fast – at the very least this one will cause you to break a good sweat.

You may already be well familiar with the sixth track, La Cosa Mala, which is as wickedly catchy, and which could be heard everywhere in Havana in spring 2019.

There’s also a very nice cha cha, Cha Pa’ Mi Muchacha.

The quality doesn’t let up right through to the end of the album – De vuelta al barrio is a phenomenal listen from start to finish, and I would strongly encourage any salsa fans to spend some time with it.

Alain Perez, Alexander Abreu, Mayito Rivera - A Romper El Coco

Alain Perez, Alexander Abreu and Mayito River released a new collaborative album this past week paying tribute to classic Cuban ensembles, composers and performers from earlier times, including La Sonora Matancera, El Conjunto Casino, Arsenio Rodriguez, El Niño Rivera, Conjunto Matamoros and Johnny Pacheco, Conjunto Chappottin, Panchito Riset.

The albums starts strong with Alain Perez singing the title track, A Romper El Coco, followed up by Alexander Abreu singing a song that highlights the pilón genre and pounding sugarcane-inspired dance of the 1950s – and pays tribute to its creator Pacho Alonso – with a recording of the song Qué Rica Está Esto.

Things continue like this, winding through son, bolero, cha cha, guaracha and more for 46 minutes of musical perfection from three undisputed masters of their craft, winding to a stunning close with a tribute to Son 14 and songs written by the legendary Adalberto Alvarez.

A Romper El Coco is a stunning album, and for fans of Cuban music from times gone by or the all-star trio that recorded it, it should not be missed.

Maykel Blanco y su Salsa Mayor - Que Tiene Que Te Mueve

I’ve been a fan of Maykel Blanco since seeing them rock Havana’s Revolution Square at Delirio Piano Bar in Habana many moons ago and was ecstatic to see them play an unbelievable matinee at the Casa De Musica Miramar recently. Needlessly to say, I was excited to hear about this new release.

For fans of salsa and timba it should be considered essential listening. It’s all killer no filler but there are songs that stand out as instant classics, including Ya Tu No Coronas, the title track Que Tiene Que Te Meueve that I recall was a particularly incendiary live number at their matinee, the rumba-inflected La Cafetera – a challenging dance number for the yumas in the room, and, closing out the album, Ya Se Acabó.

Strong songwriting, strong grooves, and quality production makes this as an indispensable contribution to the canon of Cuban timba in my estimation, and my personal favorite release of 2019 thus far.

An Autumn For Crippled Children - Eternal

Been sitting on this now old-news album for a while, often feels like the better an album is, the harder I find it to review. Such is the case with Eternal, the latest from Netherlands’ black gaze band An Autumn For Cripped Children.

The album is absolutely beautiful, replete with waves of shimmering dream pop, pretty piano melodies, fuzzy guitar lines that hazily evoke a tremulous black metal past. Insistent, majestic post-rock beats abound. And of course incomprehensible black metal screams ride on top, providing – like a good beer Houblonée – that nice bitter note that perfectly balances the saccharine sweet sounds that wash over the listener over the course of this 45-minute slice of heaven.

The more I listen to and think about black gaze, the more I think that it was the inevitable evolution of dreampop/shoegaze that would bring an already good genre to the next level – perfectly balanced.

A great album.

Botanist / Oskoreien - EP : Green Metal / Deterministic Chaos

Writing about music is a very much unremunerated hobby for me and as such I write when I find the time and energy for it. Once downside of this is that I tend to pick off the easy targets. It’s not difficult to praise a perfectly implemented twee album, or a black metal horde that follows in lockstep with their forbearers.

Blackgaze, as one example of the other hand, is a genre that can be difficult to wrap your head around at times. On paper it might sound like a bad joke; preposterous; a certain failure; a novelty.

And yet maybe, like the progress of jazz through bop, hard bop, cool jazz, third stream, jazz-rock and so on – it’s one perfectly logical way forward for the genre.

Myself I find myself listening to two recent black gaze/post-black metal releases on a daily basis in recent months. One being a split between green metal act Botanist hailing from San Francisco, California and Oskoreien of Valencia, California.

Blackgaze makes me think of those peculiar food combinations that sound terrible on paper and principle, and yet work beautifully against all odds. French fries and ice cream come to mind as one my personal childhood peccadilloes.

Deterministic Chaos is rife with those disparate yet deliciously fused elements. Botanists’ pretty, majestic guitars float effortlessly through dark space on epic journeys through dreamworlds hitherto unknown. They cozy up against vaguely blasty beats – their blast dulled slightly to kindly accommodate partnership with their six-stringed allies. Vocals lean a bit closer than their rhythm section to the prototypical haunting black metal scream and yowl, and ride on top of it all beautifully.

Oskoreien ventures into a more earthly sound of sludge and melancholy, drowning under the weight of its own heaviness and agonizing black metal screams driving home the sound. It brings to mind bands from across the metal divide – Dinosaur Jr for example – perhaps since they themselves had an acknowledged debt to metal – but also the majesty of Burzum.

An outstanding album.

Uniform Choice - Screaming For Change

In 1984, I was entering grade six in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At some point, somewhere towards halfway through the school year, I believe, a new kid named Keith showed up and he was clearly cut from a different cloth than the bulk of the other kids at my school, who were largely moneyed preppy/jock types.

I felt totally alienated at the school and gravitated towards new kids from different backgrounds – two neighbours who were both children of NSCAD art school students/graduates, the son of a country reverend, and the like. I had an interest in skateboarding and so did Keith. Keith hinted at an alternate musical world that he probably gave me a brief introduction to. Bands with curious names like The Adicts, The Toy Dolls, Killing Joke, and so on. I was intrigued.

Keith had an older sister named Pandora who was a fabled creature that I never really saw but Keith had incredible stories about. She had fuchsia pink hair that would make Robert Smith jealous and she was a skatepunk who skated the half pipe at St Andrews community centre. She’d even moved to Montreal and worked for Psyche Industries for a spell.

At various points band stayed at her mom’s house while passing through town for a gig at the Flamingo – The Nils, Doughboys, Swamp Thing, Asexuals, and so on.

Pandora’s bedroom was holy ground –– it featured a large, immaculate and very realistic pencil rendering of Monkey from the Adicts, a huge and very badass Killing Joke poster above the futon, and photos of her with various punk bands including one of her standing between the fully nude members of the Doughboys.

The smell of her bedroom room was magical to a 12-year old boy. Some punky feminine combination of, what, incense and beauty products? And to top it all off she had a flat of New York Seltzer in her closet. Though I probably hardly ever saw her in person, and never spoke more than a few shy words to, I was infatuated.

Keith told Pandora that I was interested in punk and she made me a mix tape. What luck! It was heaven. I don’t recall the exact contents but I have a feeling it included a number of song from both Toy Dolls and The Adicts, as well as DOA, The Clash, and Wendy by the Descendents. I would dearly love to hear that tape again.

For Christmases and birthdays and however else I could put together some cash or convince my parents to buy a record, I would seek out punk and hardcore records. It didn’t amount to much of a collection given the limited means of a sixth grader.

But I spent a fair bit of time at Track Records on Argyle St – owned and operated by a very daunting yet ultimately helpful and friendly dude and filled with amazing records of all underground genres who I later heard became an ambulance driver, and Sam the Record Man in Bayer’s Road, which was staffed by a pretty punk/skateboard type girl that I had of course also had a big crush on.

I assumed that it was under her influence that that Sam’s had a fairly robust collection of punk and hardcore vinyl. One of the best scores I found there was You Are The Scene by Montreal’s Fair Warning. We briefly had another shop here in Halifax called The Record Corner that had a very reputable selection as well of things such as Fugazi, and Blast! and so on and so forth.

Onwards towards grade seven or eight and a friend of a friend had access to his somewhat absentee fathers credit card and/or his father would go away for a considerable length of time and leave him with a stack of money.

With these various sources of revenue, he started taking friends down to Track to buy what they referred to as “Bulk HC”. Huge piles of records were purchased at a time. This seemed wrong to me, it seemed to dishonour what for me was the sacred act of going to the punk record shop and buying an album, which would later be deeply revered and listened to ad nauseam.

I did nevertheless obtain cassette copies of many of the “Bulk HC” purchases including some well-loved Misfits. And Uniform Choice’s Screaming For Change. I was a huge fan of Minor Threat’s Out of Step and later their self-titled cassette. At the time I wrote Screaming For Change off as a Minor Threat knockoff and didn’t give them too many listens or much thought.

At various points later in life I sought out many of the holes in my early punk and hardcore listening. And worked my way back to Screaming For Change, which has been reissued by the mighty Southern Lord label.

The band indisputably owed a huge debt to Minor Threat. Nevertheless they were a tight and capable straight edge hardcore machine, with good songs. Alternating between fast and furious, and the slow sprechstimme-style talky bits that Ian Mackaye was known for. The band does add its own flair to the sound – and then there’s the hair-metal tinge of Once I Cry. The gang vocals as well are something I don’t recall Minor Threat ever venturing into and work nicely here.

A memorable moment in hardcore history brought back to life by the fine folks at Southern Lord. Recommended listening for fans of old school hardcore and straight edge, and if you have fond memories of this album from your youth, this reissue will serve you well.

Mosaic - Old Man’s Wyntar

Though they might consider themselves a black metal horde, Germany’s Mosiac pushes well the boundaries of any conventional genre-divides.

Old Man’s Winter is like a slow-moving glacier that subsumes everything in its path as it washes across the landscape forging a new landscape in its wake. Incorporating elements of black metal, ambient, neofolk, gothic, and other disparate genres into a seamless whole, Mosaic has created a cohesive and satisfying listen.

Building a previously released EP into a full-length for this Eisenwald release, Mosaic have invited into the horde a group of collaborators from groups such as Nachtreich, Crimson Moon, Melechesh, Grift, Vivus Humare, Our Survival Depends on Us and Wolfhetan.

The album’s nine tracks vary wildly in length from the relatively short two-and-a-half minute burst of Im Winter to the 22-minute final opus Silver Nights, for a total of one hour and seventeen minutes.

The long-running time could be the downfall of lesser works, but the complex, almost soundtrack-like nature of the material here takes the listener on something of a journey.

Over the course of the narrative-like album, the tone shifts from pulsing gothic dance hi-hats, to black metal blast, found sound dogs barking and ambient human voices, dark doom passages, moody atmospheric rock, European neofolk and beyond.

An outstanding album. Old Man’s Wyntar would appeal to fans of disparate visionary artists such as Burzum, Sunn O))), Earth, Of the Wand and Moon, Wolfmangler, and so on.

Óreiða - Demo 1

Signal Rex is coming out with what it bills as a series of obscure discoveries on cassette tape, including Demo 1 from Iceland’s Óreiða.

Unlike so much black metal that prides itself on a primitive, almost naive raw and brutal sound from end to end, Óreiða shows off expert craftsmanship, starting with the relatively dulcet guitar and kalimba – if I’m hearing it right – of opening track Inngangur.

An unsettlingly abrupt edit spits the listener into the brutal blast of Eldhríð. A great centrepiece to the proceedings, Eldhríð is a reckless tear through grim dark night, with drums and agonized howls way back in the mix behind raging and demented guitar.

The final track of this short and sweet slab of Icelandic darkness is the epic, even majestic riffage of Skugginn. Featuring a very melodic theme on top of more subtle, low-in-the-mix black metal snarl, the track breaks down in the middle to some more kalimba-like ambience, before a final refrain of the main motif, the track rounds the EP out nicely before yet another very abrubt edit nihilistically brings things to a close.

Compelling. Excited to hear more from this Icelandic horde.

Tenebrae in Perpetuum - La Genesi: 2001-2002

La Genesi: 2001-2002, a collection of early work from vile Italian black metal horde Tenebrae in Perpetuum is a vinyl and tape release from the Ordo MCM label. Included in this grim array are a first demo, The Black Flame's Age, as well as a self-titled 7-inch that followed.

This is black metal in its purest, finest form. Raw, bleak, violent, chaotic, deeply atmospheric. The vocals, while gleefully devoid of pitch – agonized screams from vocalist Atratus – could at least be described as pitch-perfect for the genre: gleefully demented wails non-stop. Blast beats rage, guitars pound relentlessly, creepy careening trills trill out their eerie mania.

The sound is perfect – a bit thin, a bit buzzing, with enough reverb that this all sounds like its coming straight out of some cavernous hell of perpetual torment.

The band is gone but the madness lives on.

Brutal, unrelenting, perfect.

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