Thursday, July 29, 2004
Raag Manifestos | VHF Records
The title of Jack Rose’s new album, Raag Manifestos, is a hybrid scramble of “rag”—as in “ragtime”—and the Indian word, “raga.” Where ragtime music is a distinct idiom of early 20th century American music (the territory of Scott Joplin and Rev. Gary Davis), raga is defined as “a traditional melodic type of Hindu religious music.” Upon listening to the disc, it’s obvious that Rose tries to somehow fuse the traditional concept of the guitar rag with the exotic-sounding raga.
The results are pitiful. Rose, like so many contemporary
fingerstyle guitarists, for the most part confines himself to
rolling patterns and random modal progressions (imagine early
Leonard Cohen parodying Ravi Shankar), and when he does play
with a more traditional alternating thumb technique, he
obviously can’t think outside the parameters set 30 years ago
by John Fahey. It was back then that Fahey first borrowed the
concept of the raga for the field of fingerstyle guitar with
1967’s “A Raga Called Pat,” a title that he admitted was a
kind of joke name for an eastern-sounding song. Jack Rose has
made a career out of this joke, and because he uses a modal,
improvisational approach as an excuse to neglect composition
and subtlety, he is a lousy finger picker. And because he
never pierces to the upper levels of spiritual consciousness
intended by traditional raga music, his soul seems doomed.
Tear It All Down | BYO
When a disc’s first tune alludes to “it’s all been said/done before” you know that punk rock maturity has reared its head and you might be in some trouble. Fear not—Pistol Grip, as by the book as they can be on this offering, break more than a few rules.
They offer up anthems but without chant-a-long choruses. Their drumming is simple and recalls the first wave of ‘77 punkdom, while the phenomenal lead guitar provides all the musicianship and hooks any regular rock fan would crave. Top this off with a vocalist named “Stax,” whose tone and timbre are right out of Warren Zevon, and you have something that can stand comfortably on its own.
While it is warm and harsh in equal doses, it’s still
carefully engineered and recorded in the modern digital
fashion and loses some of its piss ‘n’ vinegar as a result. As
reiteration of the great quasi-fraternity that the “get in the
van” bands still have 20 years after the fact, it’s perfectly
DERRICK CARTER & MARK FARINA
Live at Om | Om Records
Valentine’s Day at Om Records must have been some party. Of course, if you’ve got two of the hottest DJ’s on the global circuit (like say, Mark Farina and Derrick Carter) setting the mood, you pretty much know you’re going to have a long, dance-filled night.
This is the kind of release that can’t go wrong. Sure, it’s live and unedited, but does a DJ really need to be in a studio to create a seamless set? Carter and Farina certainly don’t. Live at Om features the two old friends spinning in the most favorable conditions—at home (for Farina), among friends, and in front of an appreciative crowd that wants nothing more than a bumping soundtrack to their crazy, love-filled night. That’s exactly what they got, and now, we’ve got it too. The no-frills packaging reflects the simple beauty of this release. We get two CD’s in one nifty little case, two artists in a packed club and two amazing sets in one night. ‘Nuff said. (BS)