Kevin Macneil Brown recalls the recordings that kept him indoors in 2006.
Depth of Place (Kevin Macneil Brown)
I spent a lot of time outdoors this past year, and it seems that a sense of geology and geography – and of elemental forces – was the secret theme to my listening in 2006. Here are the releases that stand out as I look back from December.
Chas Smith - Descent (Cold Blue)
Smith’s sonic constructions have mass and spaciousness, taking on true form from aural energy. “Endless Mardi Gras” is a powerful piece of music, generating spectral and spatial transformations from the sky-ripping sound of jet engines. This music strikes deep into mysterious places.
Susan Alcorn - Curandera (Fleece)
A curandera visits deep, elemental places and summons healing energies, and that might well describe what Susan Alcorn does with her compositions for pedal steel guitar. Alcorn plays the whole instrument, using extended techniques and an advanced sense of musical possibility to bring out shapes and textures that, paradoxically, touch the emotions from a place beyond emotion.
Arvo Part - Lamentate (ECM)
Part is a master of the western classical tradition. The remarkable thing about this work for orchestra and piano, a lament for the sufferings of humanity, is the absolute command and clarity of the composer’s expression, from rumbling, percussive earth energies to the limpid, ethereal grace that is the hallmark of his writing for strings.
Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti)
My favorite pop record of the year has a geography of its own, seeming to come from some windswept prairie town where the roadhouse jukebox, full of vintage country and top 40 pop, hasn’t been restocked since 1969, and the local library contains a great collection of European folktales and the complete works of Flannery O’Connor.
Congotronics 2 (Crammed)
Two compilations – one from 1960s and ’70s Brazil, the other from the contemporary Congo Diaspora, that, while seeming each to spring from a specific cultural geography, reveal quite clearly the miraculous way music reaches beyond categories and borders to fulfill the human need for expression and communication. And, oh yes: Between the bouncing, manic, extreme cross-culturalism of the former and mega-amped likembe interlock of the latter, both records are ridiculously fun to listen to.
By Kevin Macneil Brown