Music/Program Director Brian Turner calls 'em as he sees 'em.

VARIOUS False Object Sensor (Vermiform)
In both his label (Vermiform) and band (Men's Recovery Project), Sam McPheeters has carved an aesthetic with no aesthetic. Post hardcore? I guess if the term is something that can be defined, this camp plops itself firmly between the Residents and Lightning Bolt, and on the label's 10th anniversary, we are treated with this collection that's as across-the-board as it gets. Both old and new roster members are featured here with previously-unreleased tracks (and often hilarious liner notes): Men's Recovery Project collab with LeTigre, Melvins offshoot the Thrones, new blood Rah Bras, a fantastic Chinese dulcimer-laden contribution from Auto Da Fe (with an Amps For Christ member) and others join in on the glory and confusion that is/was Vermiform.

The latest installment in John Sinclair's archives of Ra & the Arkestra's various appearance at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz festivals in the early 1970's is totally incredible (even moreso than the other volumes Total Energy has been putting out the last few years, and they were pretty rocking themselves.) Sun Ra's cosmic demeanor, hocus pocus stage antics and theatricality were generally the elements that got him dismissed by the jazzbo world at large (hello Ken Burns), even John Gilmore (who wound up being Ra's mainstay tenorman through they years) came off a stint with Coltrane being admittedly puzzled by the sci-fan antics. Then, he quickly realized that Ra's music charts were heavier and more complex than anyone's, and got on the spaceship and never came off. This 1974 set is completely molten, spiralling into frenzied, almost Merzbow-like attacks on moog and electronics between Dale Williams fuzz-wah guitar spasms and of course spirited singing proclamations from June Tyson. Truly out of this universe.

MARK GROWDEN'S ELECTRIC PINATA Inside Beneath Behind (Wiggle Biscuit)
California composer/singer/musician Mark Growden's "Downstairs Karaoke" was one of the more pleasant surprises last year. His dark, melodic and twisted music drags one ears to some backwoods cabaret inhabited by what sounds like Tom Waits, Joel Phelps, the Tiger Lillies and a slew of Vaccination label-type post-Residents musicians in some kind of bizarre musical carnival. Growden utilizes all the best instrumentation: whistles, glass bottles, distrorted accordian, saxophone, guitar and anything else under the sun. "9 Mouths" starts off like a damaged version of the Master Musicians of Jajouka over banjo and trickling water, before his dark waltz kicks in.

SPRING HEEL JACK The Blue Series Continuum: Masses (Thirsty Ear)
The British electronica duo of John Coxon and Ashley Wales have taken a very unusual approach to remixing this time around; enhancing the music of free jazz stalwarts like Roy Campbell, Matthew Shipp, Evan Parker, William Parker, and others with electronic stylings. Before jazz purists start to get ruffled, one should keep in mind that this isn't some kind of cheezoid cross-pollinatization, but rather a carefully constructed, and quite complementary approach. Coxon and Wales actually dissect and re-assemble various improv passages as well as lay electronic soundscapes alongside them, without intruding really on the general spirit of said passages. It's something I haven't really heard before, and quite amazed at what is done here in a forum that could easily have a terrible outcome.

ORANGE TWIN FIELD WORKS Volume 1 (Orange Twin)
Fans of the great Ho! Roady Music From Vietnam collection and the Sun City Girls are shoo-ins to love this long collage of Bulgarian sounds recorded by Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Magnum on his trip over there. Like Ho!, the focus of drifting elements of the streets of a foreign land get brought to life stunningly, and like the Sun City Girls, the spotlight on the relative strangeness (as seen through the eyes of someone from another land) is cast to almost psychedelic effect. Magnum's juxtapositions of his recorded sounds are amazing: female choirs over disconnected conversation, clapping, instrumentation flow through a most pleasing river of pure sound.

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