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music reviews

Roky Erickson and the Explosives Live at Bumbershoot

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Seattle, WA – September 3, 2007

After spending the better part of at least a decade controlling Sputnik satellites from his remote position somewhere at zero gravity, Roky Erickson, of Thirteenth Floor Elevators fame, has decided to come back down to planet Earth in order to sing his wonderful songs about vampires, serial killers, ghosts, mythological beasts and other assorted creatures. In 2005, Erickson started performing again after disappearing from the public eye for many years. You had better be grateful for that because without his presence, rock music today would be missing an awful lot of character. Roky and his current group, the Explosives, performed for the first time ever in Seattle at the Bumbershoot festival, and they were incredibly competent, engaging, and touching at the same time.

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music reviews

Bert Jansch Live in Portland, OR @ Lola’s Room

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August 28, 2007

On a blazing Indian summer evening in downtown Portland where the second floor of the Crystal Ballroom became soggy with humidity and stagnant air, I had the privilege to witness the legendary Bert Jansch in concert. From the opening notes of “It Don’t Bother Me,” the title track from his second LP in 1965, it was like observing someone who invented the fucking guitar as his fingers were so agile that it made me never want to pick up the instrument again. His unique way of playing has almost single-handedly modernized the way that acoustic based music is played. The other thing about Jansch that makes him so amazing and untouchable is that he does not confine himself to merely be a member of one genre like so many artists do, rather he takes his folk, blues and rock influences and adds just as much of his own autonomous style to create an amalgam of music that is both highly varied and also instantly recognizable.

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music reviews

Mick Harvey Two of Diamonds [Mute Records]

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Rating: 7.5

While Nick Cave has been recording with a group under the name Grinderman, longtime Bad Seed and fellow Birthday Party cohort, Mick Harvey, has just released his fourth album (not including soundtracks). For this recording, Harvey has employed the Bad Seeds’ Thomas Wydler and James Johnston to assist him with another amalgam of cover songs and a few original tunes. His first two solo records contained reinterpretations of Serge Gainsbourg songs that were translated to English while his last album, One Man’s Treasure, followed the same formula of the new disc, Two of Diamonds.

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music reviews

Psychic TV/PTV3 Hell is Invisible…Heaven is Here [Sweet Nothing/Cargo Records]

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Rating: 7.5

For those uninitiated to the upside down world of Genesis P. Orridge and his truly bizarre existence, he has been an instrumental influence on experimental groups ever since he started the highly controversial Throbbing Gristle in England in the late 1970s. Just when that seminal group imploded in 1980, Genesis went on to begin another seminal act called Psychic TV. In their original form, they released two proper albums, the strange, creepy and excellent Force the Hand of Chance (1982) and Dreams Less Sweet (1983), before two of it’s members moved on to form yet another influential experimental band, Coil. Orridge has spent the remainder of his career assembling other versions of Psychic TV in addition to multiple other projects. Hell is Invisible… is the first studio album, however, that Psychic TV has recorded in over ten years, and the most recent version of the group is being dubbed Psychic TV/PTV3.

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music reviews

Patti Smith Live at the Showbox August 11, 2007

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Photo by Angelo Cricchi

Beginning her set with two songs from the legendary Horses album, “Kimberly” and “Redondo Beach,” it was clear that sixty-one year old Patti Smith had not lost a thing along the way, least of all her voice. It’s incredible in fact how much her voice has not aged or altered over the course of her thirty plus year career. From the moment that she commandingly took the stage, she had the audience dancing along, singing along, and most of all, completely spellbound by her unique form of rock music that boils down to nothing short of poetry backed by some of the most apt and talented musicians of the past several decades. Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty and others have, over the years, unearthed a truly sensational ability to soundtrack the brilliance of Patti Smith’s written words.

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music reviews

Angels of Light We are Him [Young God Records]

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Rating: 7.8

After Swans disbanded in 1997 and it’s two primary members, Michael Gira and Jarboe, separated both personally and professionally, Gira’s Angels of Light took off and made two great albums, New Mother (1998) and How I Loved You (2001). They were both wonderful recordings in their own right, but they were also just enough of a departure that the results were inevitably less immediate than Swans, even if this departure seemed minor at the time. The Angels of Light then seemed to stagnate a little bit when they released a pretty good album entitled Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home in 2003. At this point something ineffable seemed to be slightly lacking until disappointingly in 2005, Gira managed to release both the worst and most boring record of his career, the inessential Sing Other People with Akron/Faimly as his backing group. The good news is that after two lackluster if not entirely perfunctory releases, the second of which being a split CD with his current backing band, The Angels of Light have finally returned with an album that restores vitality and confidence in their music.

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music reviews

Mimesis Art Imitating Life [Psy-Harmonics]

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Rating: 8.5

A few months back this curious CD quietly came out on Psy-Harmonics, an Australian music label that primarily releases electronic and ambient music. The group, Mimesis, is the seed of Melbourne based producer Simon Polinski who is responsible for the core of the music, which is synthesizers and programming. He enlists a few other musicians for further accompaniment and The Church’s Steve Kilbey provides all of the vocals with his unique voice that catapults this album and seals the recording with a shaman’s touch. Art Imitating Life, in short, is a well nigh eighty minute, six song collection of dark and turbulent electronic ecstasy. The release is not electronic in any kind of traditional sense though as the songs also feature a fair amount of organic instruments and live instrumentation that are skillfully scattered all over the place among the tracks.