Monthly Archives: March 2010

Back to Black – AMY WINEHOUSE – 2006

Yes. Here is your metal correspondent bringing you the latest death jazz blackened stoner rock classic…..oh no wait a minute it’s that drunkard attention seeking soul singer Amy Winehouse!!

And is she sassy or what? I hardly ever listen to soul albums, but after hearing this I might go for more of this stuff. With respect to music like this, the singer has a huge responsibility coz if she fluffs up her lines then its all down the drain. The backing music track is the thing she can play with, and plaster her bitchy whine all over it. That is exactly what Dear Amy does, and very well at that. Obviously she has got all the basics right, but more than singing it’s her personality and character which she has just poured into all of the songs. It’s like you can feel the story being told, and all of the pain is there, just told in a detached, ironic manner. The stories are mainly about rehab and breakups and relationships she’s had, but I enjoy them. It’s not the stories but the way they are told that matters. We have had umpteen love stories told about a man falling in love with a woman, but some of them stand out cause of the tasteful manner they were narrated in. Same here.

Explicit lyrics? You bet your friggin ass they are explicit. Explicit Emotion more like!!

My favorite songs would be the poignant title track, where the pain feels all too heartfelt, then the plucky opener, Rehab (They tried to make me go into Rehab, I said no-no-no!!), You Know I’m No Good etc. In fact, almost the whole album is very consistent, very good. The music has a 60’s vibe to it mixed with a modern feel, and a ton of influences on which I would refrain from commenting on, since I know very little about soul, Motown and R&B, which is the basic playground of the music on here.

Oh c’mon. Soul music is not about technique and nerds. It’s about grassroots life. In the same vein, my reviews are not going to be “this record has been influenced by the 60’s Motown movement of the Hillibillies and the 4th song has a fretless bass and time signature is 14/7 on the title track etc etc.” For reviews like that you can check out Pitchfork and All Music Guide and Rolling Stones and all those other shitty professional review sites, where I never get to know what the music is actually like. For simple, down to earth reviews you can check the site you are on right now.

And that sounds goddamn right.

(Basically that rant is to hide my own inadequacies, but what else do you expect? I am training to be a lawyer, and never ever expect me to admit to my own faults.)

-Baba T

Drug Addled Celebrity?Yes.......Talented?Yessiree

So Far so good – A/J – 2010

Right. So here is the first time we have reviewed a fusion recording by an Indian artist. Strange? You bet. I myself was surprised that while I have reviewed fusion music with a proper Indian bent (Jonas Hellborg), all the Indian artists we had reviewed were in fact, in Indian rock! Anyway, I think this might just turn out to be something great, owing to the- shall we say serendipitous- circumstances through which I found out about this music. A/J, the brainchild behind this project, is based in the fair city of Bangalore. He juggles his fast paced lifestyle as a marketing executive and as a musician. An inspiring thing, no doubt, and something I hope I can follow myself someday.

So, what he have here is a full on fusion record, that doesn’t really seem to lean on any particular genre, while drawing equally (and equally effectively) from a whole host of genres. So I’ve heard in the course of this recording, Indian beats (“Feelin’ Blue), rock beats, blues-rock (“Derailed”), jazz guitar flourishes (“So far so good”)….the works. That’s a fairly wide range of genres to draw from – and even notwithstanding the individual merits of the songs- I can tell you that A/J straddles multiple genres effortlessly. Never once do the transgressions sound contrived.

A/J straddles multiple genres effortlessly. Never once do the transgressions sound contrived.

Right, on to the individual songs, then. The first song “Feelin’ Blue” leaves quite a strong impression to begin with, what with spacey guitar and a really strong tabla/bass rhythm that actually defines the song. It has a world/lounge music like feel to it, which is something that is repeatedly felt in certain tracks through the album. No bad thing, mind you.

I’d do away with the sound effects at the beginning of “The Journey Begins”, which are a bit too obviously sampled keyboard patches. They slightly mar what is otherwise essentially a soaring guitar anthem. Cue major high-pitched harmonics, which are quite unlike most of the fat-man-stepping-on-screeching-cat notes as is the wont of most Indian guitar players. Here they are crystal clear. Piercing. Excellent. This bloke knows how to play. It’s very heartening to see a Jeff Beck-like emphasis on tone and dynamics over wank-assery.
“Jaisalmer” is certainly one of the best songs on this album. It’s exotic minor/phrygian sounding, sexy and with a big rock tone to top it off. Yet more wonderfulness, I see. The screamery is epic.

The mixing of the album is very open and allows space for other instruments, especially drums. I’ve always been a great fan of an open and spacious sound to albums, which allows the sounds to breathe. Alas, at places I feel the bass-player’s curse haunting me, like the slightly low mixing on “So far so good”. So the great bass playing by A/J is a vague-ish pulse in the background. It’s still a good song though, not in the least because of the Jazzy influences on the guitar playing.

Faults, you ask? Well, I can only think of one fault. I do miss the presence of musical leitmotifs, or repetitive hooks. I’d like a bit more of those on the next album (which after such a debut is inevitable). Other than that, I have no real criticisms. This sounds right.

-El Bajista

See more about A/J at this website HERE.

For more FUSION reviews, go HERE.


Mutemath – MUTEMATH – 2006

Mutemath aren’t your garden variety Alt Rock band. Their back story says so. For one, they are not teenagers, they are close to 30 now, and they are just breaking into the mainstream. Secondly, their founding members aren’t the usual singer-meets-guitarist fare. No, it’s a slightly deranged keyboardist-singer meeting a drummer that started this band. And what a great band this is. It’s full of textures, major hooks, kick-ass basslines (the bassist is a sessions veteran) and some serious drumming. It’s a very different sound than the usual Alt Rock template of straightforward drumming and loads of layers. Of course, there is loads of layering and keyboards on top of keyboards on top of keyboards, but the rhythms are all as forward in the mix as any punk rock recording you can think of. That makes Mutemath quite unique.

Hang on, I think I’ve put the cart before the horse by talking about mixing and shit without talking about the songs themselves. I felt it was important to distinguish them from the rest of Alt Rock. I’m happy to report that I have finally found two Alt Rock bands that I like: this and Muse. And both the names begin with M. Its cosmic, I tell you. Anyway, the lyrics are undistinguished, if well crafted into the grooves on offer. In fact, I think thats a great thing about this band, the phrasing and fitting of lyrics into songs. Just hear the fantastic “Chaos” and “Plan B”. These guys know how to craft songs.

Both Muse and Mutemath begin with M. Its cosmic, I tell you.

And all this is helped along heartily by their pretty energetic live performances, and fairly high production values. Think Portishead’s “Give me a reason” meets Muse‘s “Bliss”, and you begin to get the picture. One of the good side effects of this much attention to the overall sound, is the prevalance of instrumentals. Check out “Reset”, which is quite a kick-ass drum showcase. The guy has feel and technique in spades.

Of course, the album is far from perfect. Sometimes, the techy sounds are annoying, and descend into silliness. And further, the band isn’t yet big enough for us would-be fans to tolerate their indulgence in soundscapes, that too some 14 songs long. But that’s all I can say in criticism. I’d recommend “Chaos”, “Control”, “Typical” and “Collapse” as good tracks to start from. This generally sounds right.

- El Bajista




Aman Iman – TINARIWEN – 2007

All, it seems, is not kosher with the world. We are fed music that is primarily sex/money/fame oriented, or emo/despair oriented. Then there is the category of anti-war salubriousness, the preserve of the Bob Geldofs and Bonos and Dylans of the world. That is very problematic, isn’t it? After all, most of that music is from the view-point of a sympathetic western (often rich, white, male) standpoint. What about the music from the ground? When was the last time you heard music from people in Darfur reflected in the mainstream? Or the New Orleans musicians? Or indeed, music from the Afghans and Iraqis being hammered into the desert sand? You don’t. And that is precisely where Tinariwen come in.

Yup, that’s how they perform on stage.


Tinariwen. Finally, musicians with a real story to tell. Ibrahim Ag Alhabib grew up in the political strife of Mali in West Africa, made his first guitar himself, listening to fuzzy radio transmissions of Led Zep and Hendrix. Slowly but surely, he adapted Tuareg tribal melodies to his guitar and started rising in fame as the the only authentic voice of the forgotten ‘ishumar’ generation, a claim helped along in no small part by their recruitment into Colonel Gaddafi’s militia. Compelling, isn’t it? It is, but I sound a bit like a journalist. A hack. And therein lies the problem; these guys were often pigeonholed into the nauseatingly try-hard sounding category of “guns ‘n guitars” by journalists.

‘Scuse me, while puke on by.

So, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give all of that a collosal FU and review the music on its merits.

Right, so what do I think of this stuff? Its all hypnotic. Very, very hypnotic. It’s the sort of raw music that will make you slow dance, complete with twisting hand gestures around a bonfire. The lyrics supposedly talk of pain, love of the desert sand and political uprising. But I don’t understand that language. I hear the desert wind, slow sensual sex and coming back from war. What I do wonder is, where is this coming from?

Guitar shred Nazis will tell you it’s inaccurate picking, string noise and god knows what else. But they are talking horse-shit.

It’s the rawness. Its all very compelling. Guitar shred Nazis will tell you it’s inaccurate picking, string noise and god knows what else. But they are talking horse-shit. In this context it works beautifully. It’s very orchestral, with some surprisingly Indian sounding rhythms, hypnotic dance-around-a-bonfire grooves and the aforementioned bluesy guitars bound together by plucky bass playing. Those already in the know about Tinariwen, will know about the ‘raw, bluesy guitars’, and probably connect it to the Hendrixes of the world. But give pause. If blues can indeed be traced back ancestrally to the African heartland, this will actually be the origin of the blues rather than derivative of it. Combing that with the Indian sounding rhythms, and we could very well be dealing the mid point of the west and the east.

Upside-down bedouin bass playing. Coolest in the world!

So which songs are the best? Um, well, the music is very consistent. But anyway, try “Assouf”, the gloriously sparse “Ikyadarh Dim”, the vaguely Hendrixy “Toumast” and “Cler Achel” for a start. But don’t go without hearing it all. This sounds very right.

-El Bajista


More BLUESY stuff HERE.


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