Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

VAN MORRISON Bang Records Contractual Obligations Sessions (No Label)
Forwarded from a listener; "demos" Van the Man recorded to get out of his contract with the Bang label circa 1968. No Astral Weeks here; 31 improvised-with-acoustic guitar half hearted (yet somehow soulful) numbers like "Twist and Shake", "Shake and Roll", "Stomp and Scream", "Jump and Thump," and then things REALLY get bizarre with "Blow in Your Nose" (followed by "Nose in Your Blow" where Van soulfully croons "have a sandwich"), "Want a Danish", and a few nasty stabs at the label itself ("The Big Royalty Check"). Apparently, these are popping up here and there as demo tracks on Euro "best of" collections, but wouldn't it be a hoot to see these 31 tracks all on one disc, with Van pictured on the cover holding up said danish.

MIGUEL ABUELO & NADA Miguel Abuelo & Nada (Condor's Cave)
A dynamite slab of 1969-73 South American action we were turned on to courtesy Wayne Rogers @ Twisted Village; totally satisfying Argentine rock falling in someweher between the eclictic flourishes and Beatles nods presented by Os Mutantes, and the fuzzified solo-heavy guitar gods Almendra (the latter of whom were fellow Argentines). Great song craftmanship, upfront and awesome vocals, psychedelic flares mixed with Latin elements unlike the Tropicalia stuff. Excellent.

EX ORKEST Een Rondje Holland (Ex Music)
Legendary Dutch band the Ex are joined here by a full 20-piece orchestra for a festival, but before you have nightmarish visions of Metallica, we just have to say that this is one of the most fabulous Ex recordings in their 20 year history. Rather than the accompaniment acting as a complement to whatever the band does, it morphs along into one muscular, skronking organism (complete with the odd vocal sputterings of Jaap Blonk), as animated as the best Ex records. It reminds me of some of the great FMP discs with Brotzmann's big bands, as well the the Willem Breuker and Baden Baden discs, but this rocks and grooves so intensely. Totally amazing and essential to anyone with interest in the Ex & its cohorts (Kletka Red, Dog Faced Hermans).

THE CLEAN Getaway (Merge)
A biased review here, as the Clean have long been one of my favorite bands in the world. Starting in 1981, Robert Scott, David and Hamish Kilgour singlehandedly clicked the entire New Zealand scene into gear, which has certainly made its appropriate dent into the state of modern rock. I love the Clean so much for their ability to create great song craft while still allowing experimentation; their tunes hark of flourishes you hear in great 60s garage pop, folks like Arthur Lee, and drifting into the realm of 70s progressive heads like Neu & Can and 80s Rough Trade scientists like the Swell Maps and TV Personalities. How they tie it altogether seamlessly is still a mystery, and yet much more is also addressed in the various offshoot bands (David solo, Hamish's Mad Scene, Robert's Bats and Magick Heads). On the bands latest (they reunite every few years it seems, and are coming over to tour in September), the trio splashes yet more colorful curtains of mood-evoking sound, joyful, melancholy, always interesting (with tracks like "Stars" and "Aho" again proving Hamish K. to be one of the most expressive & steady drummers in rock). "Getaway" features the meld of some unique music-making minds doing it yet again, and always welcome thing 'round here.

ATOMSMASHER Atomsmasher (Hydra Head)
QUETZATL Chilam Balam (Jaguar Translator) (Diskatopia) Two new releases documenting some weird digital buggery I haven't heard too much of in the past; Atomsmasher is James Plotkin, joined by agrro-electronic manipulator DJ Speedranch, and the drummer for the HC band Burnt By the Sun. What you get here is severe head-pounding hyper-thrash, ultra-processed (in a way so the drums don't even sound real, but they are); as if Discordence Axis got remised by Oval via laptop. Quetzatl (foremerly Quetzl) continue a tradition of really curious electronic releases on the Diskatopia label which has combined dark drone-scapes, cool electro, neo-goth and sheer abstraction in ways few other labels touch. Quetzatl (who seems quite obsessed with Aztec imagery herein), drives out some total Plutonian drum-and-bass via odd effects, sounding at times like he's pounding away down a steel hallway.

MATT BESSER May I Help You (Dumbass)? (UCB)
More reverse prank calls, this time from hapless peops trying to dial computer tech support for Barnes & Noble in Texas, unwittingly landing on the phone with one Matt Besser. Does Matt have sympathy for these folks who forget to dial "1" before their area code? No. Hear him lead the victims through endless touch-tone commands ("dial one for Yankees, two for Mets"), put someone pretending to be Bjork on the line to assist, refuse assistance for "not asking the question the right way", and other hijinx.

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