AGF: Westernization Completed

Bob Burnett: I don't need art to make clearly defined sense. I don't need lyrics or poetry to connect with me in specific, descriptive, tangible ways. I'm fine with non-linear/non-"musical" sounds playing a part in "music". That's my way of approaching a few initial sentences about an album I frequently enjoy and have often thought of writing about but never quite got my bearings to conceive how to describe what I was hearing. I'm referring to Antye's Greie-Fuch's work as AGF, specifically the album Westernization Completed. Antye grew up in Communist Berlin when the wall still existed . She still calls Berlin home and creates in many ways---as a digital poet, sound constructionist, multi-media collaborator/general all-around interesting software-based sculptor of ideas in multiple realms of artistic expression. Westernization Completed was produced in 2003. At times it is fragmented and jagged, other moments floating and spacious. Her German-accented English lyrical approach touches mainly on visual images but in a way that is deeply personal and introspective. I often wonder when listening to this album if it was inspired specifically by her childhood in the environment of East Germany, where her most engaging playthings were her eyes, ears and mind and the ability to shape mundane action into rewarding articulations of the world around her. Westernization Completed has an auditory complexity that is constantly shifting and stimulating. It is an "urban" album for me--it shifts, shapes and interconnects the sound environment in a manner that reminds me of being in a city when sound, visuals, light and motion seem to come together in an engaging choreography that allows you to step back into the moment and "observe" everything simultaneously. Greie- Fuchs is very web aware and uses her webpage as another example of a creative canvas to expand her artistry and share examples of collaborative efforts. I suggest in addition to her AGF work checking into her minimovie collaborative with Sue C. and if you are really looking for an interesting challenge, her sound collages with Zavoloka. She also works with her partner Vladislav Delay--however I've yet to explore their work. And don't forget her excellent "pop" duet with Jotka called Laub.

Many of these releases and more are available directly online or linked by Greie-Fuchs via AGF Produktion.

Exploring the work of AGF is a rewarding experience. Enjoy.


Sun Ra Arkestra: The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra

Bob Burnett: 1961 was a transitional time for the Sun Ra Arkestra. The group made the jump to New York City after spending 1954-61 in Chicago. They also signed with the Savoy label and the first studio outing in October found them creating The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra. This album is an excellent port of entry to the Sun Ra Arkestra if you've been looking for a way to approach the huge archive and sometimes difficult music of one of the 20th century masters. The Futuristic sound reflects the highly bop-laced, tightly arranged and executed music the seven piece ensemble was making at the time; it's sideways Ellington--and I mean that in a very reverent way. Sun Ra's piano grooves with fat, rolling chords and meditative solos. John Gilmore plays bass clarinet and tenor sax and is joined frequently in solos and heads by Marshall Allen's flute, alto sax and handcrafted morrow, an instrument that consisted of a clarinet mouthpiece joined with a wooden flute. Pat Patrick's baritone sax also plays a major part. There's terrific percussion--performed en masse by the Arkestra--most notably "The Beginning" and "New Day" where strains of paleolithic Stravinsky meet the pulse of santeria.
The album was produced by Tom Wilson, whose production credits later included The Mothers of Invention's Freak Out!, Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home as well as the single "Like A Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited and (oh yeah...!!!!) some album called The Velvet Underground and Nico. The Futuristic Sounds... was nicely re-mastered in 2003 and sounds very contemporary.

I call The Futuristic Sounds.. a point of entry into Sun Ra because I personally know the toll it can take if you incorrectly compute your atmospheric trajectory when approaching The Arkestra; you can easily bounce back into space and miss out for years to come. I recall trying to start with Live in Montreux 1976 as a teenager and running away very fast...overwhelmed but luckily unbloodied--however the album remained shelved for more than a decade ....luckily I discovered the Evidence label's deep archive when I was slightly older and somewhat wiser to the ways of Ra and was able to ramp my way all the way into the inner depths of spatial exploration. (albums such as Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy/Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow for example)

Please explore what Sun Ra left; it makes for fascinating and unique listening experiences. I suggest reading through Robert Campbell's discography to gain a deeper understanding of the Sun Ra Arkestra's body of work.


Sten Sandell Trio+ John Butcher:Strokes

Bob Burnett: Continuing with my fascination with Lisbon-based label Clean Feed, I recently fell under the spell of Strokes. Sten Sandell's piano leads this improvisational outing--along with bassist Johan Berthling (also part of the excellent electronica/ambient/accordion trio Tape) and percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and added guest saxophonist /electro-acoustic and feedback "player" John Butcher. Strokes is made up of three compositions--two 25+minute extended pieces ("Study" and "Unsteady") make up the main body of the album. Each is unique in its approach to exploration but are rooted in moments of quiet, tense, building energy with subtle shifts in texture and pulse. The separating and advancing factor in this music is the use of electronics and feedback. I am smitten with John Butcher's ability to expand the traditional range of the saxophone by adding new dimensions with the use of feedback usually associated with guitar. His whole sax becomes a sound device--the music "feels" like the entire sax is a contact mic, each touch becoming a new sound creation. Interspersed throughout are electronic squalls and burbles which add wonderfully to the sonic scape. Sandell's piano is clustered, engaged and intense; reminiscent of an expanded, spacious Cecil Taylor.
Granted, this session gets "out" and aggressive at times but that energy is earned; as a listener you are ramped into the intensity--not dropped into it and overwhelmed.

This is a fine work by a group that knows and experiences music beyond "jazz"--you can hear the roots of Cecil Taylor and Evan Parker here but also Sandell's other influences such as Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldman and Derek Bailey. A highly recommended adventure--it's available as a download on emusic.com.


iPOD Random Shuffle: Jan 2008

Bob Burnett: Just had the following sequence as the soundtrack for a winter walk in the central Virginia woods.

Trentemoller: "Vamp" (The Last Resort)
Robin Holcomb: "SAAM #1" (John Brown's Body)
Tom Verlaine: "Orbit" (Songs and Other Things)
Fennesz:"Good Man" (Field Recordings)
Antonio Carlos Jobim: "Lamento" (The Man From Impanema)
Sun Ra: "Looking Outward" (The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra)
Anthony Braxton/Joe Fonda: "Something From the Past"(Duets)
Wilco: "Walken" (Sky Blue Sky)
Thievery Corporation: "Heaven's Going to Burn Your Eyes" (The Richest Man in Babylon)
Robert Fripp: "NY3" (Exposure)
Ornette Coleman: "Storytellers" (In All Languages)
Eno: "Sky Saw" (Another Green World)
John Cage: ASLSP 6 (Mode Piano Works)



Bob Burnett: In early February, the "trainscape" duet of Stephen Gardner and Ben Bailes (aka Chessie) will release Manifest on the Plug Research label, their first album since 2001's Overnight which landed them on The New York Times' Best of 2001 list. Manifest is their fourth full length release--fifth if you count Suburban Shore by Camping--a bossa nova-tinged project they were involved with which was reviewed on c60 about a year ago.

I suppose it would be nice to review a Chessie release without falling immediately into making reference to their being rooted in train-inspired soundscapes......however....that's what they do--- and that's what they do beautifully. Accusing Chessie of making too many "trainscapes" would be like saying Monet painted too many haystacks. Chessie creates music which integrates the feel and pulse of trains with sonic imaginary rail-based landscapes by using a wide range of musical colors. From shimmering guitars to subtle washes, Manifest is a complete album's worth of music; a wonderfully connected listening experience. The meticulous craft of their efforts shines effectively throughout; Stephen's guitar is warm and full, subtle chords mix with a wide range of textures to wash many compositions in lovely harmonies. In addition to the quiet, introspective moments, there are times of melodic (German band) Contriva-inspired popish phrases on Manifest which work wonderfully for me. Go to Chessie's webpage to hear a few Manifest selections. Chessie's myspace page offers a few cuts to listen to from past work--hopefully upon official release of Manifest they'll upload some new choices there too, plus the duo is planning to take Manifest on the road performing live.


Don Letts: Culture Clash (Dread Meets Punk Rockers)

Bob Burnett: Don Letts, with the aid of writer David Nobakht, has released an oral history-style book, Culture Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers, about his active life that has intermeshed music, DJ'ing, film-making, fashion and general global cultural merging. It's been well-documented that Letts was in the thick of the London music scene circa mid-'70s where bands such as The Clash, Sex Pistols, Siouxie and the Banshees, etc. played at the Roxy and other small clubs. Letts' legendary reggae and dub-centric mix cassette tapes (known as c90's) inspired and fueled many bands' creative energies--(most notably his close friends John Lydon /PiL and the late Joe Strummer/The Clash) plus were the pulse of many house parties. It was nice to read through this book and see mention made of some great albums--a personal favorite being the late Augustus Pablo's King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown and Tappa Zukie's Man Ah Warrior for instance, as well as nods to other reggae/dub artists such as Linton Kwesi Johnson, Yabby U, I Roy, Bob Marley, Big Youth, Sly and Robbie, Mad Professor and Lee "Scratch" Perry. This is a great resource if you've always wanted to know more about Jamaican-based music (ie. nyabinghi, dub, rock steady, dancehall, reggae) and hadn't known where to start. Just read this book, jot down people and album titles and search them out. (I suggest starting with Augustus Pablo.) As a side recommendation, if you are looking for a nice reggae compilation CD check into Don Letts Presents The Mightly Trojan Sound, a 2xCD compilation. Disc one is singers, players and DJ's--great dancehall and rock steady "pop tune" selections circa 1969-1978. Disc two is the dub disc--floating, liquidy, spacy instrumentals. It's easy to imagine these sounds floating through the streets of London's Chelsea neighborhood when Letts was running the popular clothing store, Acme Attractions. All selections are from the vaults of the Trojan label.

The book also features short commentary on the body of documentary work he's done over the years--including the comprehensive (and highly entertaining ) Punk:Attitude as well as films on The Clash, Bob Marley, Gil Scott-Heron, George Clinton and Sun Ra.


The Clean playing at Other Music

Bob Burnett: I just happened across Other Music's webpage today to discover a nice 9 minute video clip they put together of a recent in-store gig by New Zealand's The Clean. If you are a long time c60 reader you'll recognize The Clean from a review Kim did of guitarist David Kilgour's excellent solo album, The Far Now.

On the strength of Kilgour's album (and at Kim's suggestion) I got The Clean: Anthology and really can't believe I completely missed this band from the late '70s through the '90s when they were releasing albums.

As is usually the case, Kim knew and was there to share so that I didn't totally miss out. So was Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo who wrote:
"I've spent more time loving the Clean in the last 25 years than any other band, and I probably can't describe why. But when any one of them — Hamish or David or Robert — start singing, I melt."
I'm sure none of this un-ruffles the musical feathers over the fact that Kim tried to get me to go see David Kilgour with him when he was on a (very rare) solo tour in DC recently.......and I was "too tired"........I must have known deep down there was no way he'd ever re-capture the moment the Other Music environment offered The Clean, right? A moment where the guitar and bass warmly and tastefully resonated beautifully, Hamish magically traded drums for tabla......their intuition at the top of their collective game.....nah......no way...right? Right?

Sorry Kim.........


Panda Bear:Person Pitch

Bob Burnett: I had eight emusic downloads left on my monthly "use 'em or lose 'em" account. I cashed them in on Animal Collective member Noah Lennox's (aka Panda Bear) solo project Person Pitch. Man, what a great choice that turned out to be!

Person Pitch is getting a little public relations bump in awareness these days because online review site Pitchfork just voted it their 2007 album of the year. Although I far from swear by Pitchfork's opinions, it made me curious to hear it---that and a little more research revealed Person Pitch to be equally cherished as it is despised by some listeners as a faddish, over-rated release. The sterno-esque flash point for many is Lennox's vocal quality having vast similarities to Beach Boys/Brian Wilson--circa Pet Sounds......too similar for some listeners but okay by me. Lennox overlaps his voice tracks and drenches them in reverb. Lyrics are distorted and almost unrecognizable in a Radiohead manner. The Beach Boys connection ends there for me. Brian Wilson carefully crafted songs with hooks, bridges, tight arrangements and intricate harmonies, Noah Lennox creates a series of Terry Riley-inspired repetitive drone/modal sound adventures. There is a Simon and Garfunkel "Cecelia"-tinged pop catch to everything but in a spacious, rhythm-evolving, multi-sound loop way. There's nothing guitar-bass-drum about this work; the album was put together digitally by Lennox at his home in Lisbon over a period of years. It took vast amounts of sampling, looping, mixing board choreography and performance. I've just begun listening to Person Pitch but am very enthusiastic about many future listens. I get the feeling this is going to become one of my iPOD favorites.


Bob's first week of January Playlist

The Dave Pike Set: INFRA-RED
Aaron Copland: SYMPHONY No. 3

Bob Burnett: 2008 started well for me with a few re-visits and some new things. "Panda Bear" is Noah Lennox's (of Animal Collective) solo project which is being lauded as one of the best of 2007--as well as one of the most overrated in 2007 by others. I'm finding it to be a pretty interesting listen; more details once I spend some headphone time with it. The Dave Pike Set is something I heard playing in a CD shop recently and bought it on the spot. (yes, the cover is THAT purple) I was drawn to its '70s progressive/jazz/retro DJ material sound. Contriva has released a bunch of previously vinyl only singles on emusic (so I snagged 'em), Dntel's electronica/blip/scratch-n-drift circuitry on Dumb Luck is really starting to seep in deeply and the rest on the list were re-listens to some old stand bys.


Colleen: Les Ondes Silencieuses

Bob Burnett: I was originally drawn to Colleen's work via a clip on youtube that I posted on c60 a bit back. From that connection, I pursued her work--discovering three full length albums and one ep. (all available via emusic for you downloaders out there) "Colleen" is the performance name of Paris-based Cécile Schott. She performs solo on her albums; somehow she manages to bring together centuries-old instruments such as the (seven-stringed and fretted like a guitar) viola de gamba and harpsichord-like spinnet with modern technology. Her myspace page offers more biographical information as well as tour schedules and other pertinent information. I'm very drawn to the minimal qualities of her work (all on the Leaf Label)--especially on this album. Her previous work relied heavier on digital samples and layered accompaniment where this album dreamily floats in several solo or duet situations. While being rooted somewhat in the mysterious sounds of baroque music simply due to the timbre of the instruments, her sound is improvisational and open---the clarinet is subtle like Jimmy Giuffre's once was, the spinnet floats in a Keith Jarrett improvisations on harpsichord manner and the beautiful tones of the viola de gamba would easily fit within a Morton Feldman composition.

There is another interesting review of this album that goes into detail about how the sound of this album was influenced back when Colleen was 15 years old and saw a film about 17th century viola de gamba player Marin Marais. I've purchased her other albums based on the strength of Les Ondes Silencieuses. Hopefully I'll have more to report on this fascinating recent discovery.


The Moo-Fubar: Improving Computer Sound

Mike Johnston: Springtime, and a young man's mind turns to thoughts of love. Wintertime, and a grumpy middle-aged man's mind turns to thoughts to USB DACs. That's right, USB DACs. Oh yeah.

Let me 'splain: like a lot of other guys of my generation, I have a stereo. (Stereos were cool to have when we were young and rock was king.) Mine's a stack of gear bought over a period of years, on a rack, flanked by a couple of British audiophile speakers. (Tannoys continue to rule, even if Britannia doesn't any more.)

The gear is esoteric partly because it was chosen idiosyncratically and partially because it's badly mismatched: two of the power cords, I'm fond of pointing out, cost more than the amplification did, which is nuts, and so there. At the top of the pile sits a magnificent, gleaming, burnished turntable that doesn't, um, work.

But except for the turntable, it all sounds pretty great. I've been meaning to get that 'table up and running again, I really have been. Item 211 on the expandable but unshrinkable to-do list, and sinking.

A couple of months ago, however, I realized that I do most of my listening sitting at the computer. The "big rig" sits silent most of the time.

I'm a photographer, and I used to do a lot of music listening in the darkroom. Nowadays the darkroom is silent too. That's because nowadays things are newfangled and you have to sit at a monitor editing and processing images. And, like the darkroom, this provides an opportunity to listen to music. An opportunity that really should not go to waste. Advantage of computer listening over darkroom listening: no whitish burble of running water in the background masking subtle sonic details. Disadvantage: no dancing. Most people don't know this, but darkrooms are to dancing what shower stalls are to singing. There; the darkroom printer's secret is out. It's no wonder I never get any exercise any more.

The other disadvantage, of course, is that computer speakers are to my big Generation Jones audiophile rig what a spindly green eco-vehicle that runs on corn and sunlight is to a fire-breathing big-block V8.

At any rate, I had been thinking about bringing the sonic competence of my computer rig up to somewhere in the same ballpark as the Rube-Goldbergian soundshow machine at the other end of the room.

That was the concept. What follows is execution.

Powered speakers on custom stands. Image processed
so you can see the fingerprints all over 'em. Er, oops...

First step: buy some powered speakers
It turns out that a computer file is a pretty great way to store music, as millions of iPod users have discovered with their MP3 and MP4 files. I use Apple lossless when I can. But the computer doesn't have much power to spare for driving a pair of speakers, which is why most computer speakers are eentsy weenie little toys like my outgoing Creative iTrigue 2200s. The first step, therefore, is to give your computer speakers some amplification muscle, which I accomplished by buying powered speakers. I did some research and ended up choosing the NHT Pro M-00, one of my two top contenders, mainly because I found a new, boxed pair on eBay for $290. I think that was a genuine deal; retail is $800, and most pairs on eBay seem to go for $399 or so. The other top contender that you might want to look at is the Audioengine, which comes in two flavors, small (the 5) and smaller (the 2). Note that the Audioengine speakers have different connectivity than the M-00's, so you're on your own there.

The M-00—those are actually two zeros—is fondly known to its partisans as the "Moo," as in the sound a cow makes. Are you old enough to remember what they used to call "The JBL sound" or "the California sound"? Thick 'n' rich 'n' beefy 'n' tasty? That's sort of the gestalt of these speakers plugged straight into the computer. I bought Lee Morgan's "Expoobident"* from emusic.com—emusic provides LAME-encoded MP3s—and the 1960 sound was thin and hard to listen to. The Moos speakers made it listenable. However sometimes things got pretty mid-bassy and congested sounding. For instance, one of the first things I listened to was King Tubby, and with the Moos his music lived up to his name.


The other problem with computer sound is that something has to provide the electronics for turning the bit 'n' bytes of the music file into an electrical signal the speakers can understand. Most computers have "soundcards" for this purpose. Soundcards have come way up in the world since my first c. 1984 Macintosh, mainly so they can provide better sound for gamers—you can actually buy fancy aftermarket soundcards now, some of which are pretty good—but for the most part you're still dealing with rudimentary circuitry that's essentially an afterthought to all the rest of the computer's circuitry, and that has to function in the interference-laden RFI soup of the computer's interior.

Enter the USB DAC. "DAC" stands for digital-to-analogue converter, or the circuitry needed to turn the digital music file into a music signal to send to the speakers. "USB" simply signifies that instead of using a cable with a 1/8th" headphone jack on one end and standard RCA connectors on the other, to plug the speakers into the computer's headphone jack, you connect the new DAC to the computer via the common and ubiquitous USB interface.

The Fubar in situ. Coffee mug artfully added to indicate scale.

There are many USB DACs, and a discussion of all the alternatives goes well beyond the scope of this little article. For two reasons, I chose the Firestone Fubar III, made in Oz, which I bought from Audiophile Products. "Fubar" is of course an acronym for "fucked up beyond all recognition," which doesn't on the surface seem like a promising name for an audio component, but then, as I've been saying, I'm no longer hip and maybe I just don't understand. I chose the Fubar for its simplicity. And its reasonable $229 pricetag. It uses the drivers already in the Mac—PCs too—so I don't have to worry about loading a custom one. That was one of its advantages, to me, since I'm a bit of a computer cretin.

It's really easy to hook up. USB cable goes between the computer and the Fubar (fortunately, the Fubar III works from a USB hub; I never have enough USB ports), Fubar plugs into the wall, two regular RCA patch cords, a.k.a. interconnects, go from the Fubar to each powered speaker. Then you just go into System Preferences –> Sound –> Output, where the system will have already recognized the Fubar—so you just click on it. Wah-lah, as they say in Fronsay.

The second reason for this choice is that the Fubar III, being essentially a headphone amp (with an itty-bitty 1/8"-pin jack, for Walkman/iPod-style 'phones! Kids these days), has a volume pot. "Pot" is cool audio-speak for potentiometer. It means "knob."

Turns out that in the world of powered speakers and USB DACs, volume control is something of a sticking point. Some USB DACs, including the boss Stello DA100 I intially lusted after, or the reportedly even better PS Audio Digital Link III, are intended to feed preamps, and don't have volume knobs. You cannot run the Stello in between the computer and a pair of powered speakers, for instance, because there would be no way to control the volume. For that you need a whole 'nuther component, which Stello also helpfully sells. Several manufacturers (classically Creek Audio, but now also including NHT) make outboard, single-box volume pots, which can be used to redress the lack of same on the DAC of your choice, although that seems a waste of a good pair of interconnects to me. But then, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

What about the SOUND?
The Fubar takes the sound of the speakers up several notches. Clearer, smoother, more detailed, punchier. I would say we've gone from the high end of low-fi (lofi = boomboxes, radios, stock car stereos) to the middle of mid-fi ( = rack systems, headphones, budget audiophile). I'm still not entirely sure about the speakers—they're very warm and punchy, with plenty of boxy coloration, probably pulling that old LS3/5a boosted mid-bass trick to make the bass seem fuller. The old "JBL sound," in the near field. I'm probably sitting too close to them and they're probably a bit too far apart. Both unavoidable, due to the size and siting of the computer. The Moos are still a bit thick, congested, treble a tad grainy on some vocals. Sounds like a good custom car stereo—rich, dynamic, musical, if not particularly accurate.

But there's one thing this rig does: it rocks. No I do not mean that in any metaphorical dude-it-rocks adolescent synonym-for-approval kind of way. I mean it ROCKS. It burns most computer speakers so badly it leaves 'em in little smoking heaps of ash. Cranked up it is clean and percussively punchy, dynamic, rich, thumpin', bitchin'. Exciting. I am going to do a lot more listening LOUD with this setup, I predict. It might even change the sort of music I prefer to listen to...as most new stereos do for me. I have a feeling ensemble jazz will be de-emphasized somewhat in my listening diet and I'll be getting back in touch with mainstream AOR.

Closing arguments
Where from here? One of my treasured components in the historical big rig is a prototype PS Audio P300 power conditioner/regenerator. I was one of the beta testers for PS Audio when that was a new product (heck, the P300 was a new product category), and Paul McGowan generously let me keep it (probably because he foresaw the difficulty of getting it back: think back to the Siege of Waco). I'm going to remove that from the main system and plug the computer, the two Moos, and the Fubar into it. I expect that will clear up the residual mains hash I can sometimes hear through the Moos when they're not playing music. At that point I'll sell off the component parts of the old floorstanding end-of-the-room system (gulp) and make the transition to the 21st century entirely.

All told, my foray into improving my computer's music-making ability cost me $553.97, putting it solidly at the budget end of such enterprises—you can spend a whole lot more on a USB DAC if you want to. The sale of the old system will more than cover the cost. I'd rate the sound at a solid 7, which is good, although maybe the Moos are on the low side of seven and the Fubar on the high side. I quite like the Fubar III: it's simple, clean, well-made, and provides a very obvious step up from the iMac's soundcard, and it's easy to install and use.

And now, back to TV on the Radio.**

*The term "expoobident," apart from being a wicked good Lee Morgan album, was coined by jazz vocalist-philosopher Babs Gonzalez in the late 1950s as an all-purpose noun-adjective-verb implying the most positive description possible.

**It's a band.

UPDATE: See my report about the "Supplier" power supply upgrade for the Fubar III here.


Wandering into 2008 with Egberto Gismonti on vinyl

Bob Burnett: I bought my first vinyl in a very long time over the holiday. I went to Orpheus Records in Arlington, Virginia and saw a copy of Egberto Gismonti's album Solo for $7 and decided to get it. I hadn't listened to this album in a very long time---but did many times when it came out in the late '70s. I think it's still available as a used CD at around $20 but I never bothered to get it. A quick check at Amazon tells me I can download mp3 files for about $10. Anyway, I bought the album. And it was fun. No, I'm not opening the vinyl vs. CD/digital file discussion. I'm just saying it was fun to flip through the bins and buy an album after such a long hiatus. It was fun to come home, open the lid on my turntable, break out the discwasher and in an almost post-modern way, listen to the album; knowing the static and pops would be there and knowing I wasn't going to fret over them like I used to when I was trapped in a vinyl only world. Besides, my audiophile brother-in-law lives down the street and he has a $600 record vac system.

I think the Gismonti vinyl re-introduction happened due to Stockhausen's death a few weeks back. At that time, I played my vinyl copy of Stockhausen's Hymnen for the first time in a long while. I quickly snapped back into the ritual of removing plastic outer bags and inner sleeves, opening gatefold covers and the delicate handling that I'd previously done tens if not hundreds of thousands of times. As with flipping through the bins at Orpheus--it was fun.

Egberto Gismonti's Solo sounded nice. It's an album made up of solo performances by the Brazilian master of piano and eight string guitar. He also does a piece for percussive "cooking bells" and voice which resonates deeply with haunting beauty. (note: Colleen has a similar cooking bell-esque piece on her Les Ondes Silencieuses album I wrote up recently---as a matter of fact, listening to Colleen stirred recollections of this album for me) Solo is a small hours listening experience; it stirs emotions and calm within you in wonderful ways. It's a shame it can't be had as a regular release. Oh well, be on the look out for it--on vinyl or cd. Gismonti has a pretty robust catalog still available. Another stand out for me is Dança Das Cabeças. (with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos) Unfortunately Folk Songs (with Charlie Haden and Jan Garbarek) seems to be OOP however is available via Amazon's (mp3 256kbps) download service for a very reasonable $5.94. I dunno....maybe Orpheus has that one on vinyl too...........uh oh............