AMN Capsule Comments: Mike Eisenberg’s Recent Playlist (July 14, 2021)

From time to time, AMN writer Mike Eisenberg revisits older albums that he has not listened to in a while and provides comments.

The Art Ensemble of Chicago – “Urban Bushmen” (1982)

This is the album that started my long journey with the AEC probably back in the mid to late 80’s. From there I worked my way forwards AND backwards with each release never failing to please or amaze me in some way. I don’t have everything, but I have most of their massive output.

“Urban Bushmen” was the one that hooked me and, to this day has not relinquished those hooks. It’s a live album in perfect sound with perfect programing and flow. It’s got everything from small and large percussion movements to all-out extended blistering chaos to interstellar drone sections that visit some outer galaxy somewhere to melancholy late-night jazz to jazz-infused waltzes to some of most synchronous bass and drums lock-ins (thanks Famadou and Maghostut) to good-humored music that only the AEC is capable of. This album is a classic in every way imaginable and one that will NEVER go too far from my list of all-time favorite records.  

Miles Davis – “Bitches Brew” (1970)  

It was time to revisit this iconic work of greatness, last listen was about 10 years ago. Maybe because of my latest earbud rig (DAC and headphone amp) or, more likely because sessions like this will shine through time immemorial…but goddamn this 4 disc set of the complete sessions sounded great!

Volumes have, and will be written about it but for me these works have never failed to take me to places steeped in a kind of elemental tropical mysticism, at times dangerous…but ALWAYS mind enlightening. City life is completely erased, instead another (parallel?) world manifests itself that is alien to stressful urban settings, instead populated with dark mysterious rain forests, white beaches demarcating earth and endless blue oceans, enigmatic mountains and lush valleys housing all sorts of indigenous life forms…and an overarching feeling of surrender to the dark, atavistic myths and legends created by humanity over the ages. Miles was indeed…Running the Voodoo down!

Sonicphonics – “Dream Photography” (1989)

Opened my Apple Music, sweep and up and down with 2 fingers, ended up here…and it was a good choice.

This recording sounds very much of its time (1989), but…given that, there are some really excellent sounds here. It is centered around Geoff Serle’s programmed (maybe?, maybe not?) and live drums, probably played on one of those old-school Simmons kits. The drums are heavily gated and mostly very robotic. Overlayed on top of this is some very cool sax blowing, sometimes heavily delayed and some totally maniacal electric guitar scratching, sometimes even approaching Derek Bailey territory. Add a little Elliott Sharp-isms by way of found vocal sounds, a little bit of field recording, some very nice synth pads, and a dollop of industrial and you got a good un! I liked it in 89, liked it even more now. Serle had a sister band called Research which I’ll most likely dig up soon, if you were buying music from Wayside back then, you may know these releases on labels like Ear Rational and Dossier.

Michael Eisenberg