Artists are listed alphabetically. Click on CD covers or artist names for further information.

OREN AMBARCHI recommends
OTOMO YOSHIHIDE'S CATHODE
Recorded in early 1999, Cathode is one of those important, groundbreaking releases that introduced the world to a new way of composition and improvisation. On this release Otomo radically redefined and reinvented his sound palette. Gone were the manic cut-up collages of his previous work and instead the listener was slowly drawn into a hypnotic, reductionist sound world where, for example, traditional Japanese acoustic instruments such as the Shô were beautifully juxtaposed with the sum and difference tones of Sachiko M's sine waves. This was one of the first major releases to prominently feature Sachiko M, an incredibly important and pivotal sound artist who was clearly a huge influence on the direction Otomo's music was taking. Cathode also introduced emerging younger artists from the thriving Tokyo "Offsite" scene such as Toshimaru Nakamura, Ami Yoshida and Uta Kawasaki, all of whom were to become incredibly important in the development of this music. As always, Otomo was paving the way and most people in-the-know cite this as a must-have release, a true cornerstone of electro-acoustic composition.
MICK BARR recommends
RUINS' HYDEROMASTGRONINGEM
Ruins blew my mind the first time I heard them. It sounded completely alien. Like a bizarre and calculated venting, equal parts whimsical and brutal. I immediately hunted down everything i could find by them, which wasn't an easy task at that point in time. This was the fourth album I found, and my first time hearing about Tzadik. The first thing I noticed was the production was a bit cleaner than their other albums, but that didn't diminish the insanity of the band in any way. The compositions were clearer and the improvisations showed their depth and structure. This record marks the high point for this particular line up with bassist Ryuichi Masuda. They play amazingly off one another with precision and plenty of aggression. The drum performance is incredible. The melodies have that unmistakable catchiness that Yoshida is a master of. The printed lyrics are confusing scrambled-alphabet words that transcend the made-up language tagline, which I initially thought was phonetic Japanese. There's the track 0'33" dedicated to John Cage complete with printed scribble-score. And a few references to stones. This is a full and dense record that I'm still digesting 15 years later. Ruins lay waste to all other bands in the prog scene and are the undisputed kings of the technical duos. This record is an absolute classic in my world and one of Ruins' best works. Mandatory!
STEVEN BERNSTEIN recommends
DAVID TAYLOR'S RED SEA
A few words about Dave Taylor... in case you don't know. Dave is one of the most important instrumentalists in modern NY history... he redefined the bass trombone in the 1970's, bringing flexibility and personality to an instrument that previously had a very narrow range. As a cross-over classical/studio musician, he played every gig in town (including Duke Ellington) and was a member of Gil Evans' band at Sweet Basil. Over the years he has started to lead his own projects and I've had the pleasure of listening to many of them. Red Sea is without a doubt my favorite cd of his (full disclosure...Dave is a friend). I called him halfway through listening to this cd to tell him that this cd really does justice to his incredible vision. A stellar NY band.... Scott Robinson, Warren Smith and Adam Holzman ...check this out!!!!
CHUCK BETTIS recommends
ADACHI TOMOMI ROYAL CHORUS' YO
Truly expanding upon a language is difficult, but Adachi Tomomi's Royal Chorus presents us with complex vocal music without the stale stench of academia overpowering his compositions. Fun and inventive; very few have successfully braved the path of all vocal ensembles while simultaneously expanding the language with the use of both vocalese and native tongue. "Yo" starts off with the ferocity of Hardcore Punk and transcends a path carved by Meredith Monk, always grasping at your ear along the way. One of my top 10 recordings for vocal inspirations.
LISA BIELAWA recommends
CHIEN-YIN CHEN'S PURR
Although one might be inclined to hear Chien-Yin Chen's music from the point of view of her cultural background (grew up on a farm in Taiwan, studied in Vienna, then moved to New York City and became immersed in the noise-based, alternative music scene), I find that what comes through in these five acoustic chamber pieces is her own unique blend of boisterousness and sweetness. The disc begins with "Cloud Walking," for a motley assortment of extremely distinctive instruments - pipa, trumpet, piccolo, piano, percussion - that enter like a mad cartoon race and keep us feeling throughout like we are in a small kitchen with a loud (but loving) family. The second track, "Chen Dah at Large," also gives us this combination of spikiness with soul, ending in rapturously gorgeous piano chords that gather unexpectedly and take center stage. One gets to hear the composer herself on the organ, in the title duet "Purr" with the sublime Mark Dresser on Double Bass. This track and the next one, for three guitars, show Chen's gift for entering deeply into the distinctive personality of the solo instrument and the richness of its idiom. The last piece on the CD, "Fuse Box," is the earliest, and also the first piece known to this listener. It is a rewarding journey to consider these pieces as the New York evolution of a truly gifted communicator. This CD is excellent company - sophisticated, fun and deeply personal.
SHANIR EZRA BLUMENKRANZ recommends
JOHN ZORN'S IAO
INVOCATION...in the beginning...doing away with all notions of what has been, and instead focusing on what can be...functioning much like a dream, complete with the fluctuating parameters of what is possible and what is not...most importantly, answering the questions of where, when, why, and how...the macrocosm floods the consciousness...SEX MAGICK...the arrival of humanity...instinct, flesh, bones, blood...an induction of the spirit...causing a change in an object of which that object is capable of by nature...the body which holds the central formula...SACRED RITES OF THE LEFT HAND PATH...negotiating the push and pull of set morality, and its inevitable consequences...the breaking of taboos and the adherence to forms of personal anarchy...THE CLAVICLE OF SOLOMON...the key used to prepare experiments of love, hate, dreams and invisibility...a legend of purification and sacrifice...containing conjurations to summon spirits and curses to constrain the dead, forcing them perform the operators will...LUCIFER RISING...the incantation...harmonized to the sway of possession...luring the subject into being...impossible to turn back now...LEVIATHAN...inhabiting in full...a documentation of an exorcism...destruction from the lowest point of the pentagram...fire, water, and chalice at the mouth of hell...MYSTERIES...exaltation with the wish of better things to come...thankful to be released from under the spell...a promise to celebrate life in all its incarnations...hoping the sun will rise and a new day will dawn...hallelujah...amen.

IAO challenges the idea of what music really is, reminding us of a time when sound was used for the most important reasons of the highest order
CHRIS BROWN recommends
GORDON MUMMA'S LIVE-ELECTRONIC MUSIC
Tzadik listeners should know that its catalog also contains some killer classics of live electronic music! Case in point, Gordon Mumma's disc by that very name: LIVE ELECTRONIC MUSIC. Together with the legendary David Tudor, who also plays the Argentine bandoneon on the track "Mesa" on this disc, Gordon literally invented a performance practice for live electronics in the late 1950s early 60's before modular analog synthesizers had ever been made. Gordon designed and soldered together his own circuits for generating and modifying sounds, creating some of the most hair-raising and sophisticated electronic noise that absolutely puts both today's digital software and analog circuit-bender musics to shame. "Hornpipe", also featured on this disk, was the first and still greatest piece of interactive music in which a musician interacts with an AI circuit -- what Gordon called "cybersonic" music. Stuffing bassoon reeds into the mouthpiece tubing of his French Horn, he moved around the performance space blowing spectrally complex squeals in each direction, while the analog computer strapped to his belt analyzed the resonances of the room. With each multiphonic, the calculators in the circuit got a fuller picture of the room's resonances, until a threshold was reached where complements of those resonances are fed back into the room electronically. The horn player then gradually "tames" the electronics by playing spectra that rebalance the feedback circuit and gradually turn it off. You had to be there to get the full drama of this piece whose form was created anew from the interaction of musician, circuit, and acoustic environment -- but the sound is on this disk in its full glory. "Medium Size Mograph" is another classic, a pun on the word "seismograph", as well as a great descriptor of the earth-shaking produced by a grand piano wrapped in a blanket to control the feedback of its own cybersonically modified sound projected by a large loudspeaker underneath its soundboard. All music that made history that every electronic musician should know, but sadly most have never heard.
ROB BURGER recommends
TIM SPARKS' TANZ
Tim Sparks is one of the greatest and most overlooked living guitarists of our time. I became introduced to Spark's work when Kazunori over at Tzadik sent me a copy of "Masada Guitars," a recording of interpretations of John Zorn's Masada works, featuring solo performances by Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and the venerable Sparks. This listening experience led me to some of Spark's other CD's on Tzadik including "Tanz," a beautifully intimate and harmonically rich recording made for the Radical Jewish Culture Series, featuring top shelf ensemble playing and virtuosic musicianship of Sparks, along with the tasteful accentuation and rock-solid rhythm section work of bassist extraordinaire Greg Cohen and master percussionist Cyro Baptista. Highly recommended!
URI CAINE recommends
JOHN ZORN"S APORIAS
I bought Aporias in 2000 and it knocked me out when I first heard it, At first I was drawn to the virtuosity of the piano part which was brilliantly played by pianist Stephen Drury. But as I listened again and again I began to appreciate the wonderful orchestration and the many different sound worlds that John Zorn conjures up in this piece. Aporias consists of 10 short pieces,each between 45 seconds and 4 minutes long. Dennis Russell Davies conducts the the American Composers Orchestra and 6 boy sopranos from the Hungarian Radio Children's Choir augment the cast. The cd was.released in 1998. The various movements present a variety of approaches to form. Some of the pieces feature quick changes in style, hectic moments and great dynamic contrasts. Other pieces feature quiet and sustained music. And although a lot of the pieces feature the piano in a concerto-like opposition to the orchestra, some of the pieces have little or no piano at all. John writes great beginnings (the haunting children’s voices that begin Con Mistero; the dramatic opening brass fanfares of Religioso; the hazy and distant strings that begin Postlude) and great endings as well (the bells, gongs and distant strings that end Impetuoso; the simple consonant piano chords that conclude Dramatico; the pulsating harp and high strings that fade out in Postlude). The orchestration is imaginative and subtle and Zorn has a great ear for unexpected sound combinations and juxtapositions. The orchestra is often employed as a chamber group. The percussion sounds (both loud and soft) add a lot to the music. I love the combination of the children’s voices with scraped percussion and celeste and the haunting and eerie string effects coupled with percussion in Freddamente. I also love Risentito with the pianist soloing against the flamenco-like handclapping percussionists, sounding like a cross between Eddie Palmieri and Stockhausen. There is a lot of humor in the contrasting musical moments but also a great freedom of expression and emotion and an open minded approach to many different musics. John dedicated this “Requia for piano and orchestra” to all artists, explaining that the title of the piece Aporias (aporias means an “impossible passage”) refers to those passages that separate life from death. I highly recommend this cd - check this music out and you will discover a truly remarkable piece played by great musicians and written by a composer at the top of his game.
JENNIFER CHARLES recommends
JOHN ZORN'S DURAS: DUCHAMP
In Duras: Duchamp, John Zorn has created a record of sheer gorgeousness. Zorn’s two classical compositions are homages to two important French artists, the writer/filmmaker Marguerite Duras, (incidentally a longtime favorite of mine) and Iconoclast Marcel Duchamp, likely one of the Twentieth Centuries’s most influential modern artists. I believe creating an ekphrastic work is considerably more challenging than “covering” or interpreting someone’s work.

It is like some mysterious alchemical distilling, but perhaps it takes a fellow master to render it. Imagine a perfumer attempting to capture Guernica or Smiles On A Summer's Night, or any kind of untouchable work of art; but that is exactly what Zorn has done here, in these two very different and successful compositions. He has captured the essence of Duras and Duchamp.

The Duras piece is composed of four movements. His first movement opens with a beautiful ascending piano line played with grace and finesse by Anthony Coleman, and from there, Zorn slowly draws us into the sensual and dark world of Marguerite Duras. Violins are played by Mark Feldman and Cenova Cummins, long austere lines hover with plaintive melancholy, suspended over John Medeski’s Messiaenic organ beds. We also get warm percussion from Christine Bard and Jim Pugliese; from bird calls (again conjuring Messiaen) to haunting bells and gongs, and more primitive drum sounds. The entire four movements are infused with an ache, much like the ephemeral Romanticism one is filled with, when reading a Duras book. And like Duras, much is said with what is unsaid in a succinct space of time. Coleman’s playing, especially in some of the middle sections, captures some of Duras’ wistfulness, even bringing to mind “India Song.”

The second composition on the disc, 'Etant Donnes', is what Zorn calls “69 Paroxysms for Marcel Duchamp", a sound collage very much in the spirit of a Duchamp piece, which takes its title from Duchamp’s controversial last great master work ‘Etant Donnes', which Duchamp worked on in secret from 1946 to 1966. In 1969, 'Etant Donnes' was unveiled to the public at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one year after Duchamp’s death.

Duchamp’s artwork, a 3-dimensional tableau, which at first glance is merely an old wooden door encased in a brick wall, on closer inspection, reveals an eye-level peephole exposing an intense, unusual scene- a woman’s partly visible naked torso, sex in the forefront, laying on a bed of leaves and branches, her left arm holding an old fashioned gas lamp, and behind her, a beautiful pastoral scene with a waterfall. Zorn’s composition evokes Duchamps’s abstract mental and surreal retinal world. One also can’t help imagining life as a series of spasms. Zorn’s piece of these 69 tiny convulsions include abstract sounds of nails being hammered, wood being sawed, bubbles, coughing, steps walking, door creaking, metal banging, bells ringing, wet sounds, of blending or slushing, and even the hiss of gas. Jim Pugliese plays the percussion on the piece, and his playing of more "conventional" instruments – bass drum, maracas, give the ear something other than what they are. Wonderful pizzing and glissing strings from Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander lend the threads to the composition. Listening to Zorn's composition, it is easy to imagine Duchamp toiling away for years on his final great work. Zorn also conjures the spirit of Duchamp’s ‘ready-mades.’ As well as some of Duchamp's humor and provocation of surprise. If the ultimate paroxysm is an orgasm, the final response to eroticism, then I think Duchamp would wholly applaud Zorn’s composition. Duchamp once said eroticism was the only ‘ism’ he believed in. Also of note, one of the CD’s panels include part of Zorn’s handwritten composition notes for the piece, which I think both musician and non-musician could find fascinating, and an artwork in and of itself.
HEUNG-HEUNG CHIN recommends
DAVID SLUSSER'S DELIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
David Slusser always seemed like Hollywood's secret, but we all should know about him. He is a master craftsman and saxophonist composer, working in the film/animation industry composing and creating sound design. "Delight at the End of the Tunnel", released in 1997 still remains as colorful, eclectic and refreshing as when I first listened to it. I'm reminded of today's Kenny Wollesen (Wollesonics) with Slusser's half ethereal/futuristic notes proving that Slusser's music doesn't sound immediately dated like certain period pieces.

I wanted to go places even though I was sitting in my room. His soundscapes/poems/collages/compositions take me there as if I'm sitting in a time traveling machine: an electronic Pong-like field, the aura of birth, a dragon, industrial zone, the sly and sexy brass of film noir, fear, animation memories, haunting computerized dementia as if awakening from a nightmare, current events on tv, international voyage, to distorted documentary-like voices and more. I'm never in one place and I'm picking up clues on how to evoke mood and ambience for moving images. He explains what methods are involved in his creations--—very useful information for all. His approach runs the gamut from using instruments (such as layered piano construction/deconstruction, accordion), voice, effects, ambience to spontaneous studio assembly and more. What's interesting is his question back then--—is this music or more of a collection of well collaged sound that serves a function for the visual realm—--hence the different ways of creating his pieces.

Today, I forget that he's asked that question because it's already music to me and I've been having fun listening and learning. Then, once you know how he operates, watching him perform in a context like John Zorn's Cobra or contributing to Zorn's Satyr's Play is like holding a box of Slusser secrets. Only you don't want to keep it a secret and you tell everybody about him.
GREG COHEN recommends
MASADA LIVE AT MIDDLEHEIM
The CD I have recently re-visited and was pleasantly surprised by is "Masada Live in Middleheim". Playing in Masada has been the most important musical experience of my life and this performance seems to catch the spirit of what the music making is all about on the road. That factored in with the great concert sound that the Belgian radio captured on this recording makes it one of my favorites. Maybe a few orange pancakes may have something to do with it as well?
ALVIN CURRAN recommends
ANNIE GOSFIELD'S LOST SIGNALS AND DRIFTING SATELLITES
The fierce foot-pedaled thuds, k’boomin-womps, cracks ‘n clangs, the multi-pulsing industrial jitters, the anvil hammered attacks and gorgeous free range noise and speed that we associate with Annie’s music is for a moment under wraps; out comes Tchaikovsky’s brother playing a Jon Rose violin in the remote interstices of our planet’s endless galaxies. This simple but brilliant stratagem places us in a most familiar but unlocalizeable space - somewhere like floating in a dream in the comfort-zone of a classical violin concerto accompanied by an invisible outer-space orchestra – playing, unintentionally in the Cageian imagination of Atlas Eclipticalis – the blips, beeps and other random galactic-sounding detritus that has attracted so many of us since the invention of the short wave radio. Now with outer-space made audible by astronomical slight of hand: transposing its signals into the human hearing range. Is the violinist the last surviving dazed musician, wandering on earth after some unnameable disaster, or is this genuine made-up environment simply Annie’s natural love of sounding-space, and particularly spaces that generate their own musics day in day out : (factories, large computer rooms, clubs, streets, weather, landscapes and beyond). Here it’s pure beyond beyond since the violin, so packed with the human story (at least 7-8 thousand years worth) is really our own front door to a house opening on infinity. Whatever the violin does, nodding toward post-central Europe or toward unplayable harmonics and pure bow grit, noise or gypsy hunger pains or liberated contours, it all sounds marvelously plausible, simply right, as if the music of the future might have already begun in a concert hall without any known address. Thanks Annie.
JEREMIAH CYMERMAN recommends
ANTHONY COLEMAN'S SELFHATERS
If the concept of the self-hating Jew developed from a merger of the image of the "mad Jew" and the "self-critical Jew" then I cannot think of a more perfect candidate to represent this idea in music than Anthony Coleman. I first encountered his masterpiece “Selfhaters” when I was twenty years old and suffering from a mild-to-extreme identity crisis. Ten years later the crisis is at least partially resolved but “Selfhaters” continues to confound me.

In “Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews” Sander Gilman defines Jewish self-hatred as: "...the internalization of the negative stereotypes about who you are--the identification with the reference group's image of you as "the other" in society.” Embracing the role of “the other” the music on Selfhaters deals largely with the “hidden language of the Jews” (in this case musical but more specifically klezmer) and from beginning to end “Selfhaters” takes that language and puts it under a fluorescent light, exposing the flaws and accentuating the imperfections. The laughing clarinet becomes the tired, sighing misery stick. The upbeat 5/4 rhythms present themselves as manic and compulsive, driving the music closer to neuroticism than swing. Anthony’s haunting vocals sound as if a withered and dying Kantor is trying one last “Avinu Malkeinu” before he drifts off into the night. Taking idiomatic terminology from the klezmer language and dissecting it, Anthony masterfully “reduces the language to a single pathetic cry”. The effect is chilling. The music feels lonely and terrifying and continues to inform and influence a great deal of my own music and aesthetic.

To me “Selfhaters” is a benchmark album against which I measure all others in the Radical Jewish Culture series. With this release Anthony looks at as personal a subject as possible and deals with it with an eloquent and singular musical vision while simultaneously pushing it to the absolute edge. And in case you’re wondering, NO, the meat of this dish is not just in the concept. “Selfhaters” strikes a perfect balance between conceptualism and visceral, if not surreal, energy. Composition and improvisation work perfectly together and it’s all performed by a masterful band who possess an intimate knowledge of the composer’s methods. In short, it just works.

Anthony continues to be one of Downtown’s most fascinating characters and “Selfhaters” is his undisputed masterpiece, a thrilling and bizarre listening experience that still has me scratching my head ten years later.
DAVE DOUGLAS recommends
WADADA LEO SMITH'S KABELL YEARS
Those who have heard trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith recently--at the pinnacle of his powers--may not be aware of the seminal work he documented for his own label in the early to mid-seventies. The 'Kabell Years' is akin to a Mosaic box set in breadth, importance and sheer brilliance of artistic vision. The four discs here foreshadow so much of the music that has happened since that time. From solo pieces on various instruments to quintets with Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Wes Brown, and Pheeroan AkLaff, Smith laid out a template for creative ensemble composition and improvisation that continues to shine a light for aspiring music makers. This set is also a snapshot of creative New Haven at a time when so many key players were on the scene there. Numerous musical scores and musicians' testimonials are included in the notes--it's a true collector's (and listener's!) item.

Beyond trends, movements, or categories, Wadada's music inhabits its own galaxy. In all these pieces you will find both experimentation and excitement--a summation of everything Smith had done up to that time and a prophetic vision of what has followed.
MARK DRESSER recommends
NED ROTHENBERG'S QUINTET FOR CLARINET AND STRINGS
Ned Rothenberg’s Quintet for Clarinet and Strings is a rich CD whose enjoyment increases with repeated listening. Beautifully performed by the Mivos Quartet and virtuoso woodwind player Rothenberg. It has elements from different musical influences but is by no means eclectic. There are indeed formal structures in most of the pieces, however the overriding impression is a wonderful playfulness between clarinet and strings. One of the outstanding aspects of this CD is the integration of the personal language of extended techniques that are signature of Rothenberg’s solo playing including circular breathing, multiphonics, and odd meter cyclical grooves. Yet the music is driven by rich melodies, evocative harmony, and contrapuntal inventiveness. He juxtaposes tempered and non-tempered pitch in a lyric way and the characteristic rhythmic drive that is found in all of Rothenberg’s music is deftly orchestrated for strings. The music has an ease to it that would suggest that these compositions would become an often performed and welcomed addition to the rich repertoire for clarinet and strings. The challenge will be to find a clarinet interpreter of Rothenberg’s skills. The revelation of this CD is its unstuffy and rewarding totality. Highly recommended.
ARNOLD DREYBLATT recommends
ANDY STATMAN'S AVODAS HALEVI
I have been friends with Andy Statman for over 30 years and I was deeply moved when his music found itself within John Zorn's "Radical Jewish Culture" rubrik. Andy is an uncategorizable musicians's musician, a man who has always followed his own musical and spiritual path without compromise yet with the utmost devotion.
Andy's early fame in the New York urban bluegrass scene in the early 70's set the tone for his later musical wanderings. Here he began "stretching" bluegrass to its outer limits by splitting open to jazz improvisation, even R&B and ethnic directions. Furthermore, Andy was one of the few of the early Klezmer performers who had actual experience with non-western modal musical styles, having played and studied with greek and middle eastern musicians in the new york area. By the time Andy began looking toward his Jewish roots in studying with the legendary Dave Tarras, he was amply prepared for the challenge. Dave eventually passed on his own clarinets to Statman, transfering his lineage to him. Yet even at this early stage in the Klezmer revival, Andy was not content performing in a purely nostalgic setting and he joined a Brooklyn religious community in which Jewish music was performed within a spiritual context, a world in which he has since raised a family and in which he commands great respect. But even this musical context was not to contain him, and Andy gradually sought his own musical home, in which all his musical influences and interests would somehow uniquely fit together, only because Andy Statman remained at its center. For years, he would take a car service from Brooklyn on Thursday nights for an endless jam with friends from all musical backgrounds in the basement of the Charles Street synagogue in the West Village, regardless of what else he was up to (alluded to in " Charles and West 4th"). It is the spirit of Andy's live sessions, surrounded by the musicians with whom he's played for years, which give these tracks their intimate and ecstatic character. Named after the writings of the Chasidic Rabbi Aharon HaLevi of Staroshelye, all of the elements of the Statman sound are present on these tracks: the soaring clarinet and virtuosic mandolin; tunes which often begin traditionally, and, in a seamless transitions and without warning propel the listener into unexpected worlds of improvisation. These tunes have their basis not only in Klezmer, but in Chasidic Niggunim, melodies from the Shabbos liturgy ("L’Cha Dodi"), and even Epiriis / Albanian tunes ("Lost Aisles of KDS"). This is a collection which shows off Andy's vision at its widest and most profound extremes, yet the music somehow always finds its way back home. Whether or not you've encountered Andy Statman before, this is THE CD for Tzadik and Radical Jewish Culture listeners to get to know this major figure in American Jewish music.
TOBY DRIVER recommends
MARIO DIAZ DE LEON - ENTER HOUSES OF
This is one of those rare "flawless" albums that only come around once every few years and immediately reserve a spot in your future "best anything of anytime" lists (if you're the list-making type - I'm not). One of the most striking features of the music as a whole is its ability to sound simultaneously extremely chaotic and extremely clean and ordered. I mean "chaotic" here in the literal sense, in that the composer is using traditionally unpredictable elements such as noise, blown-out distortion, analog delays, etc., creating an organic chaos much different from the simulated chaos of the modern masters of concert music. All the while - with violins, ride cymbals, and flutes - the music is breathtakingly meticulous in having the architecture of a geometric hallucination, where every broken sound unfolds into a stained-glass-leafed tree branch, bearing fruit of impeccably faceted crystal skulls encrusting an inverted tourmaline pyramid on a moon of Saturn. This record greatly appeals to a respect for contemporary electric aggression (and succeeds because of its authenticity) as a backdrop for our apotheotic tendencies. I'm recommending this CD especially because I feel that Mario shares my own aesthetic, although I cry into my pillow each night wishing I could write music like this. Mario reaches polar extremes that are still beyond me.... the tremolo climax of "2.20" for example - one of the loudest moments on the CD - is one of the quietest sections of music I have ever heard. Fans of my own work are likely to really click with this recording and feel an awakening because of it.
TREVOR DUNN recommends
ANTHONY PATERAS' MUTANT THEATRE
This release covers a lot of ground and continues to fascinate with each listen. Selections include a percussion sextet, a solo piano homage to Nancarrow, and an amplified quintet of contrabass recorder, laptop, percussion, viola, and trombone. Composition and performance techniques run the gamut from graphic scores and realtime sampling to multi temporality and orchestration evoking psychoacoustic phenomena. My favorite piece on this disc is "Twitch" the aforementioned quintet. Written specifically for colleagues (as is most of the record) and their idiosyncrasies and instrumental modifications, it is a must-have for any listener with ADD, which at this point in time probably qualifies all of us. Pateras is a great example of a 21st-century composer drawing on roots from the previous era while creating his own language that relates to the world now. And, while serious and methodical, his pieces are created with an open mind and a sense of humor. How can one argue with a disc that includes a "decrepit violin", "domino/balloon prepared mousetrap", the smashing of lightbulbs and "extreme klangfarben concrete? Highly recommended.
MARTY EHRLICH recommends
FRANK LONDON'S NIGUNIM
Niggunim is a Tzadik recording I have often come back to for inspiration. Frank London, Lorin Shlamberg, and Uri Caine enter these “humming tunes”, with their roots in the Hasidic tradition, through many doors. At the center is Lorin’s voice, both cantor and congregation, artful while striving always to transcend that artfulness. Frank finds the soul in invention on these pieces, with trumpet counter lines that find rich beauties in small details. Uri supplies piano accompaniment full of varied moods, and then improvisational fantasias refracting the inner world these niggunim open up. More importantly, it is the combustion of these elements in the expressive realization of these songs that you hear. This is a richly collective recording, in the moment and through time.
JEWLIA EISENBERG recommends
MEREDITH MONK'S BEGINNINGS
Anyone working seriously with sound and the body is in debt to Meredith Monk. Her music is both primal and ambitious, exploring the technical and the spiritual range of the voice. She is justly famous for her multi-disciplinary work, but Beginnings presents a more focussed picture, using archival recordings over the course of decades to look at the evolving vocal work of an American master. This album is an intimate treasure.
JEREMY FOGEL recommends
BROWN WING OVERDRIVE'S ESP ORGANISM
This world has exploded into something else - lives are lived predominantly on an endless network of man made computing machines - thoughts follow each other at breathtaking speeds - it feels hectic even in your little room - the molochs of power are abstract & using space age technology to enslave every single child - our ice caps are melting & Japanese scientist say we need to get the hell out of this planet right now - feels like the future is invading us & not the other way round - through it all, of course, the human quest to communicate with the world of spirit - shamanism - remains - Brown Wing Overdrive are a musical triangle of explorers plunged in the depths of a sceance with an age no one even knows how to name - ESP Organism draws hauntingly manic attention spans through carefully elaborated free flowing hysteria & engages with a fearless lust for everything - let's face it - we've murdered the tribes & find serious difficulty at reaching transcendence on facebook - to the robots they're building for us to have sex with it won't matter if you play Serge Gainsbourg or Mao Tse Tung - you can't go back - onwards we must - the Avant Garde used to be ferociously skilled soldiers plotting a course for the army to follow - this music plots the path of the soul in a reality of electronic & digital meltdowns - Grand Master Jodorowsky calls his poetry the enlightened shit of a toad that swallowed a firefly - How do you translate that into algorithms? - ESP Organism? - This album goes behind enemy lines to advance the only real cause - the widening of the area of consciousness - its armed with a systematic form of manic delirium - if you're reading this, you might be interested in the idea of a lunatic fringe - if you are, you are interested in this music - check it out & if you want to have your ESP Organism, consider purchasing it - Not because of the increasing risk the illuminati of capitalism will seek you out & fuck you up - because we need to support the ability to dare being completely different, to dare being completely insane, to dare being free.
ERIK FRIEDLANDER recommends
MEPHISTA'S ENTOMOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS
Put three strong composer/players together in a band and chances are there will be moments of greatness. But it’s rare when the musicians’ efforts result in, not only moments of greatness, but a sustained original sound - a band! Sylvie Courvoisier (pno), Susie Ibarra (perc.), and Ikue Mori (laptop), manage this difficult metamorphosis with style and ease. Entomological Reflections bubbles over with invention--my ears can’t get enough of the sonic landscape this super trio of savvy improvisers creates. At times bent, broken, and tough-minded, other times plush and luxurious, the ground they can cover is surprising, modern and always natural. They manage to be full-throated, pedal-to-the-metal players without stomping on each other’s contributions, and because of this intelligent give-and-take there is a a clear-eyed fluidity in the music. It’s the right players, at the right time--a happenstance. We are lucky to have it so beautifully documented. (personal favorites: Void, Beloukia, Shifting Roll)
FRED FRITH recommends
ZEENA PARKINS' NECKLACE
I sometimes feel that Zeena’s wide-ranging skills and charisma as a performer have tended to obscure her work as a composer. It’s a pity, because she’s nothing if not compelling in that regard. Necklace is a typical example – abrasive and yet lyrical, beautifully crafted, meticulously realized, full of odd twists and turns, in fact—let’s face it—a little bit nutty, it functions as a fabulous soundtrack with no need for a film. I love its eccentricity, its not-too-high-modernism, its humor and its secret passion. No-one else writes music like this. Brava!
ANNIE GOSFIELD recommends
HA-YANG KIM'S AMA
Ha-Yang Kim's work incorporates everything from the traditional cello canon to her own highly developed vocabulary of extended techniques, combining acoustic and electronic sounds, Western and Eastern influences, and notated and improvised structures. Ha-Yang utilizes these diverse approaches in a music that is purely hers - the sum of the parts is cohesive, organic, and extremely personal. Her cello harmonics sound like no one else's: they skirt the abrasive, but embrace beauty. Her sound world alternates between pure cello tones and electronically altered sounds, bringing noise into the mix with subtlety and elegance. "Lens" is a gorgeous example of a composer/performer putting all they have on the table in a solo work that is emotional, meditative, and revealing. "Samtak" and "Oon" are performed by her duo "Odd Appetite" with percussionist Nathan Davis, and demonstrate the telepathy of two well-matched musicians who can follow each other's steps seamlessly. "Metasmatter", composed for a sextet of great New York musicians including Clare Chase (flute), Jennifer Choi (violin), Joshua Rubin (bass clarinet), Ha-Yang Kim (cello), Eric Huebner (piano), and Nathan Davis (percussion) shows a more urgent, rhythmic, riff-based approach. Ha-Yang's refined sense of contrast and tension is what sets her music apart. She finds a beauty that veers between delicacy and strength hidden in these unconventional sounds.
JOHN ZORN'S BOOK OF HEADS
"The Book of Heads" is a remarkable example of idiosyncratic writing for the electric guitar, and an encyclopedic collection of incredibly far-reaching extended techniques for the instrument. Written for Eugene Chadbourne in 1978, It is fearless, funny, beautifully crafted, and always surprising. I can think of no other piece, or collection of pieces, that makes such great use a specific performer's skills, personality, and unique virtuosity. Eugene's dirty fingerprints, are all over it, not only in his twisted take on all kinds of American vernacular music, but in his use of balloons, talking dolls, and truly odd techniques. This performance by Marc Ribot, recorded 20 years after the piece was composed, adds Marc's own dazzling technique and his commitment to the darker side of the guitar. Comprised of 35 etudes Meticulously scored in Zorn's unique style,"The Book of Heads" defines the modern vocabulary for the instrument, and should be required alongside Fernando Sor for any guitarist wanting to flex their fingers and stretch their mind. This brilliant collection of miniatures is perfect in its attention to detail, noisy provocation, and pure self-expression.
JESSE HARRIS recommends
JIM O'ROURKE'S TERMINAL PHARMACY
If dreams had sound, it might resemble Jim O'Rourke's album Terminal Pharmacy. Long periods of silence evolve into a low hum, a swirl or harmonic whistle, interjected suddenly with an event, perhaps music of a past time, a noise in the street, a wind machine, or someone jangling change in his pocket just above your head. It's as if you don't know whether you're asleep or awake, or whether you dreamed. A beep sounds, like an alarm to wake you up, but you seem to sleep on. It stops. More silence... Despite that the music is stark, abysmal and even terrifying at times, yet there is something soothing and hallucinatory that calms and compels the listener to listen through in its entirety, as if hypnotized.
GERRY HEMINGWAY recommends
BILLY MARTIN'S STARLINGS
This 2006 recording of chamber music by percussionist/drummer/composer Billy Martin unfolds (if you ignore the liner notes on first listen) as a series of mysterious related miniatures, sometimes suggesting a hint of Stravinsky, Messiaen and reminding me rhythmically a bit of the dance music works of Steve Martland. With little registral movement the works are decidedly minimal in what sounds at first like repetition but in fact offers constant variation, kind of like excerpts of Beckett leaving one slightly bewildered but intrigued as to what happens next. I also hear immediately a relationship to the natural world, and the conveyance of nature’s rhythms resembles something akin to a summer’s night. And that is one of the reasons the recording works as a listening experience; it flows like a familiar river, slowly revealing its subtle nature in the three instrumentations that we cycle through twice, wind ensemble, percussion ensemble and string quartet.

It is nice to hear Anthony Coleman’s deft orchestration of Billy’s musical source point, which is only revealed on the final piece of the recording, when Billy himself performs on the instrument that acts as his main conduit to shape these formal musical works. And partially through the limitations this instrument possesses the musical ideas find clarity and a power to hypnotize our ears.

The recording has an overall lyrical form with the most energetic work, “Stridulation for the Good Luck Feast” preceding a slowly unfolding and more expansively melodic string quartet, “Strangulation” before the closing performance by Billy himself. These two works in sequence also suggest a life/death cycle, again in coherence with a strong resonance of the natural world.

I highly recommend this CD as a very unique and engaging listening experience.
RAZ MESINAI'S RESURRECTION FOR GOATSKINS
I have Ned Rothenberg to thank for turning me on to this CD and by way of it to the music of Raz Mesinai who is featured on this recording primarily as a solo performer combining a wide orchestration of percussive language and an understated and effective use of electronics. I am always particularly interested to hear percussionists who display the width of their expressive palette through the medium of solo performance. Raz has refined a unique vocabulary that along with his audio chops brings us deeply into timbre, overtones and resonances of the large tambours he features on this recording.

It seems Raz shares an interest I have with structuring his music on narrative models and he deepens that experience with a wonderful sense of place in his pieces. Adding as well a sense of ritual the opening piece, “Blind Owl” played on the Persian Zarb drum, rattles us into focus with its energy, dense rhythms and virtuosic use of color. On the second work “Sacred Warrior”, he brings the wind in with a combination of electronics (or mutitracking) combined with a Middle Eastern flute. The Mazhar frame drum, which includes jingles, appears halfway through and the instrument is powerfully recorded and sonically rich in transience as well as the skin’s resonances.

The featured work is certainly the title piece structured in four parts and moving ritualistically through various transformations, which flow and keep me continually entranced. It uses a variety of frame drums and an orcestral use of electronics to enhance the audio experience. Book ending this 15-minute work are two quartet works which sound scored for improvisers. They are not arbitrary but clearly mapped and formally specific again in a kind of narrative way.

Totally worthwhile listening and a wonderful musical and audio experience.
ROBIN HOLCOMB recommends
MARTY EHRLICH’S SOJOURN
This is a lovely recording of music written and arranged by Marty Ehrlich (soprano saxophone, clarinet) for his Dark Woods Ensemble – Erik Friedlander (cello) and Mark Helias (bass) with special guest Marc Ribot (guitar). From the gorgeous head of The Open Return to the final beauty of The Modzitzer Nigun, there are nods in many directions. The orchestration is breathtaking, the music exquisitely rhythmic, propulsive, with many incantations of swing. Beautiful solos against fiercely intelligent backgrounds, structures building stories to surround heartfelt songs, lovely long unison lines breaking up into stars. Wonderful execution and collaborative interpretation of inspired, lyrical writing.

The Git Go sounds like the exuberant soundtrack for a black and white drive across town, the asphalt melting. Blind Willie McTell is a stunning and timeless duet, verse upon verse upon verse.

Beautifully recorded, highly recommended.
WAYNE HORVITZ recommends
JULIUS HEMPHILL'S ONE ATMOSPHERE
One Atmosphere is a posthumous recording that highlights three distinct facets of Hemphill’s work as a composer, although on close listening the unity of all the music is far greater than any superficial distinctions in style, instrumentation or compositional approach. Savannah Suite, featuring Marty Ehrlich, Erik Friedlander, and Pheeroan Aklaff is probably closest to the spirit of what we imagine many of Julius’s collaborations and concerts would have sounded like in the years he worked in St Louis and later in New York and around the world, especially in light of his long standing association with cellist Abdul Wadud.

The works for sax quartet and sextet, entitled Water Music for Woodwinds I, II, III and IV are beautifully written and just as beautifully played. Nods to Ellington and Strayhorn emerge within Julius’s distinctive harmonic language, with gorgeous melodies often offset by strange and delicate harmonic motions.

The centerpiece of the CD for me, unexpectedly, is Julius’ stunning work for String Quartet and Piano, One Atmosphere, with his long time life partner Ursula Oppens on piano. Julius avoids all the pitfalls of so called “jazz” composers writing a piece for classically trained musicians, and at the same time stays true to his personal language harmonically, rhythmically and texturally. The cliché is unavoidable, but what we regret most hearing this piece is simply that Hemphill didn’t have the chance to write many more, the music world would have been all the richer if he had.

Produced by Marty Ehrlich, a long time friend and musical partner of Mr. Hemphill’s.
SCOTT JOHNSON recommends
MICK BARR'S IOHARGH WENDED
I’m going to abandon my paper composer tribe for a moment, in favor of my first clan: electric guitar players who imagine more complex or unpredictable music for their instrument than the pop that gave it birth. In the absence of any well-beaten paths to this goal, a few just start walking.

On the surface Barr’s solo pieces are pure, technically heroic metal guitar, with or without a cleverly synchronized and relentlessly driving drum machine. Phrasing and pattern are everything here, but his patterns seem to delight more in interruption than in continuity or logical progression. The fun lies not in how this phrase develops from the last one, but how it contradicts. I imagine that I hear echoes of Zorn’s jump-cut editing, or the tautly executed illogic of Captain Beefheart, as much as any steady minimalist continuum.

As I understand it, these pieces are neither notated nor improvised -- they are memorized while under construction. There’s a reminder here for composer-world: scores are incredibly useful for creating and communicating large amounts of information to large numbers of people, but they are only a tool. They are not the only way to generate creatively complex or experimental music -- just a particularly efficient and reproducible one. Barr’s pieces aren’t especially concerned with one of the primary interests of most score-based composers: contrast, whether in mood, tempo, timbre, harmony, emotional connotation, or transition between contrasting areas. Here it’s about short-term contrast between rapid-fire gestures, each at the same mad tempo and intensity. It induces a string of momentary chunks of consciousness, and although this music has little to do with the abstractions of High Modernism, there is a similar absence of all that is warm and fuzzy. But despite my occasional musical forays into the warm and fuzzy, my ear was immediately grabbed by this collision of urgent metal sounds within an atomized continuity.
PHILLIP JOHNSTON recommends
SHELLEY HIRSCH'S O LITTLE TOWN OF EAST NEW YORK
Shelley Hirsch is one of the most unique vocalist-composers to come out of the 1980s New York Downtown scene. Many people are described as unique, but Shelley is UNIQUE - sui generis, the ultimate her, the onliest. Her music is a combination of everything that's gone into her ears - classical music, jazz, kitsch, rock n roll, the mutterings of mad Subway Ladies, overheard cel phone conversations, poetry, word-jazz, the small print on cleaning products, Japanese advertising, family reunions, old movies on TV, love songs, art songs, songs for her father - all of it AT ONCE.

O Little Town Of East New York is perhaps the apotheosis of her art: part documentary, part confessional, part art music, part improvisation, part psychedelic dream trip through the nostalgia/regrets/fantasies/daydreams of childhood and teenage years in a unique now-already-ancient-history part of New York borough culture. Through an incredibly variegated career in both improvised music and contemporary composition in both the US and Europe, she has established a unique body of work, combining music with performance – everything she does is performance art. She expresses multiple personalities through characters inhabited and portrayed, often switching identities as rapid-fire costume changes, and instantly, flawlessly changing musical techniques and styles with them.

But all this would mean nothing, if it didn’t take the form of works like this incredibly moving evocation of her childhood in Brooklyn of the 50s and 60s. To give yourself over to this CD is to evoke the smells, the sounds, and the sights of a complex and byzantine inner life experienced by the young Shelley, tripping out on the inherent weirdness of everything around her in that multicultural working class world. She is like a young Jewish female Horse Badorties, just digging it all, but giving voice to it in a form that carries us into her inner world, transmuted by the insight of the grown-up Shelley looking back upon it all with compassion, tenderness and wonder.

Mention must be made here of the wonderful work of David Weinstein, who collaborated with her on the instrumental accompaniment: he is the perfect foil/enabler/accompanist/inspiration, running the machines (sampler/electronic programming), and playing all keyboard parts, like a one-man-orchestral-cabaret-piano-player.

If you don’t know Shelley’s work, let this sublimely accessible and entertaining work by your introduction into “The Far Out, Far In Worlds of Shelley Hirsch” – Hey, that’s another great Tzadik Shelley Hirsch record!
HENRY KAISER recommends
DEREK BAILEY'S BALLADS
There are so many things I could have to say about this great performance/recording. I'll just dash off eleven of them.

1. This recording can function as a Rosetta Stone for the jazz listener who does not naturally grok Derek's approach to music and improvisation.

2. Derek goes for both his best post Jim Hall jazz tone and his own personal timbre vocabulary here. This is the only place to hear those two things in one place; all intertwined.

3. A lot of care was taken in the recording process here. Both great recording technique and time and space given to say what he wanted to say.

4. Perhaps this is one of the most musically preconceived, particulary in intent, of all of Derek's solo recordings. And thus, stands in stark contrast to them.

5. It's a concept album.

6. There are other solo recordings of Derek's where he enters into the standards area - but he refrains from stating the theme in any particularly decipherable manner for most listeners.

7. Like his great acoustic solo album, AIDA on the Incus label, Derek's playing is more reflective here; almost a kind of meditation.

8. Derek finally had an acoustic guitar the was up to the level of his dreams here. I can hear his love for this specific instrument in the music.

9. Besides Derek's expansion of harmony and melody on the traditional standards here, one can hear amazing transitions of rhythm from ballad-space to Bailey-space. Try concentrating on that as you listen.

10. I feel extremely grateful to Zorn/Tzadik for affording the unique opportunity for Derek to make this album. Domo Arigato Gozaimashita!

11. Listening to the album again as I type this, it's interesting for me to invert the expected perceptual order. Instead of listening to Derek play a traditional ballad, then flying off into his personal music, try listening to the personal music turning into ballads. For me, who listened to and loved Derek before I listened to jazz, the ballad structures are what is weird and the Bailey-style playing is what is normal.
EYVIND KANG recommends
JOSE MACEDA'S UGNAYAN
I listen to this music on headphones while traveling. The point of departure, with its bamboo stochastic, periodicity of low horn, the high whistle, recurring around the heart of the vocal chorus- is of SE Asia, but like a google map which just keeps expanding, it soon includes the whole world. The individual sound is no longer heard-it quickly turns to water, a hard rain becoming a flood, giving one the sense of ecosystem within ecosystem. In fact the very scale of the piece goes from the physical to the ethical level. The scale of the instrumentation and sound distrubution-one might call it "national"- is a mixture between the pure and impure. Pure because the interlinking is accomplished in a purifying act, that of ritual, of art; impure because the medium of national radio requires a certain collaboration with an amoral regime.
TIM KEIPER recommends
LES RHINOCEROS
Wow, these guys are my new favorite band.

Les Rhinoceros, brainchild of bassist and composer Michael Coltun,
presents some of the most exciting music I’ve heard in a long time.
But don’t get me wrong- this is a BAND, and the contribution that
Peter Tran and Tom Klecker bring to the music is significant and
immediately apparent. This is the sound of a band that really cares
about the music.

This is not only the first recording of Les Rhinoceros, but it is also
these musicians’ first band. One might say that these circumstances
really highlight their potential. But these guys don’t need
potential. They already totally rock with urgency. Yet I think
what’s truly remarkable here is that when you catch musicians at the
beginning of their musical lives, you can capture the creative spirit
in its most pure form. These musicians are having their initial
creative experience together and that’s what’s so striking about this
music: it is absolute, raw, and wholly real.

This is contemporary creative music of the youth in the 3rd
millennium. They have found a way to synthesize the vast musical
landscape of their influences and present it as something coherent,
unique, and sincere. It is meaningless to dissect all of the
individual elements- rock grooves mixed with world grooves, cinematic
melodies alongside ambient noise, etc – because this album plays out
as a continuous journey you can listen to from beginning to end, and
ultimately, it’s just really good music.
GUY KLUCEVSEK recommends
PETER GARLAND'S THREE STRANGE ANGELS
Peter Garland has composing his beautiful music since the early 1970’s, flying under the radar and fitting into no “ism.” Although sometimes associated with early minimalism, Peter’s music uses no systems and contains little repetition; nor does it apply classical music techniques to minimalist vocabulary. Although unabashedly tonal, neither does his music bear any resemblance to the “new tonality” of the 70s (Rochberg, Del Tredici).

Peter is also one of our foremost musicologists. But because he has done his research independently, outside of academia, he is not recognized nearly enough for his contributions, which include his seminal magazine, Soundings, published during the 70s and 80s, which contained both scores and writings on music of the Americas, and which introduced new generations to the music of Silvestre Revueltas, Dan Rhudyar, Conlon Nancarrow, and dozens of younger composers (at the time), such as Ingram Marshal, Michael Byron, David Mahler, John Zorn, Mary Jane Leach, and myself.

Peter spent much of his life living in the southwest and Mexico, and these influences can be clearly heard in much of the music on “Three Strange Angels,” which contains pieces written in the early and late 70s, and the late 80s, in its choice and use of instruments.

If there is a direct link to Peter’s music, it is Lou Harrison, who himself was much more influenced by the music of Asia and the Americans than by the European tradition. I feel this connection most strongly in Old Men of the Fiesta (1989-90), especially in dance 4a “abo,” played so beautifully here by Lynn Case, violin, and Rosalind Simpson, harp. The music is straight-forward, diatonic, extremely lyrical, and often uses rhythmic accompaniments to double the melody, like much of native American (and Lou Harrison’s) music.

Peter’s music can be primal and visceral: listen, e.g., to Three Songs of Mad Coyote (1973)--the first song is for 8 tom-toms (4 musicians), played completely in unison throughout and has the force and spirit of a Native-American drum circle; the second is for 2 bullroarers and 1 lion’s roar, and if you crank the volume, it can scare the bejesus out of you; the third is for 2 pairs of tom-toms, 2 bass drums, and 2 pianos which play only clusters created by a piece of wood which covers the entire white-key range of the keyboard. I feel I am experiencing percussion instruments in a completely new way in these pieces: I’m not listening to a composer trying to create interesting rhythms, I am literally feeling the full impact of the instruments themselves--e.g., like I’m hearing a bass drum for the first time. Peter allows time for the instruments to resonate, fill the acoustic space, demanding and creating their own sonic environment and time frame.

His music can also be drop-dead gorgeous. One of my favorite pieces of his, or anybody else’s, is Apple Blossoms (1972). Though written when Peter was 20 years old and a student at Cal Arts (as was I at the time), this is no student piece. It is scored for 3 or more marimbas, with low, rolled tremolos throughout, and is written by a composer with an ear already finely-tuned to the inner life of a sound, and psycho-acoustic phenomena like difference- and sub-tones (James Tenney was teaching acoustics as well as composition at Cal Arts at the time--he had a great impact on many of his students, including Peter and myself).

Peter can also be witty: his Obstacles of Sleep (1973), scored for a chorus of sirens, relentless pounding on metal, and horror-film piano sonorities, is a delightful, yet frightening sound portrait of a country boy’s experience in the city.

Peter has had performers who have championed his music over the decades, most notably pianist Aki Takahashi and Essential Music, but he deserves much greater recognition.Peter’s is a singular voice, and we can thank Tzadik for bringing it to wider attention. Please see also these Peter Garland releases on Tzadik: Love Songs and The Days Run Away.
GEORGE LEWIS recommends
IKUE MORI'S LABYRINTH
I’ve found myself listening to this recording again and again--at first, admittedly, with the goal of surreptitiously cribbing a few hot licks. After all, much of the West’s popular culture seems repurposed anyway (my son recently became part of a new generation of Yogi Bear fans), and imitation is no longer a real issue, not even in jazz, where sonic theft had once been anathema.

In the old days, it was said that bad composers imitated and good composers simply stole; you wanted to be one of the good ones, of course, so you would pilfer from the other good ones—say, from Le Sacre if you thought you could get away with playing the Robert Frost card:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here…etc.

The old rule was that influence was a given, but if you were going to actually steal something, you had to disguise it—a practice repurposed by the hip-hop generation under pressure from corporate megamedia, whose manifestly unfair recording contracts paved the way for its spurious ownership of a fair subset of our world’s sonic histories, as well as the ability to reach into our mobile devices and censor our “record” collections at will—didn’t you realize what “digital millennium” really meant?

Certainly we knew that the work of certain composers couldn’t be nicked without detection and subsequent disapprobation—notably, Thelonious Monk. And so it proved with Ikue Mori, who begins by repurposing some of the primordial sounds of the early synthesizer era--what people relatively immune to irony regard as “the natural sound of the machine,” or what my late grandfather once called “the things we used to hear when we were fixing radios.”

Ikue’s music on this recording seems infinitely malleable in quiet and covert ways—the quick and unexpected changes of mood and texture; the absence of conventional cadences and soft landings; the imagined rituals and folklore, the suspenseful travelogues and trances; the delicately broken pulses, never far from her love of drumming, that suddenly emerge into multiorchestral complexity and richness.

Pandora’s Ikue Mori Radio may well include her tracks only--“sounds like…hmmm…NOT FOUND.” Repurposing the machine only to confound it somehow reveals a more direct way of negotiating the labyrinth of identity.
LUKAS LIGETI recommends
CHRISTOPHER ADLER'S EPILOGUE FOR A DARK DAY
Ever since Claude Debussy became influenced by Gamelan music from Indonesia in the late 19th century, non-Western traditions have figured as a possible source of inspiration for occidental concert music composers. Yet it seems that surprisingly few composers have made use of the almost infinite range of possibilities the study of and interaction with such traditions affords in the areas of melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, ensemble interplay, social significance and impact, and, even more generally, basic approaches to conceptualizing music and sound.

Christopher Adler is a rare example of a Western musician and composer who has immersed himself deeply in the music of a certain part of the world - in his case, Southeast Asia - with the objective not only of researching this culture and mastering its music tradition, but also in order to bring new ideas to Western-style composition. The pieces on "Epilogue for a Dark Day" are the result of Adler's intensive contact with the music of Thailand and Laos; performed by a mixture of Western and Southeast Asian instruments (Adler's instrument, the khaen, a mouth organ from northeast Thailand and northern Laos, figuring prominently), this is a new kind of music, not Asian, not European, not American, but somewhere in between, in a space of its own.

The lush, poly-tonal harmonic landscapes of overlapping chordal fields, the rhythmic evocations of Gamelan, the sounds of bells, gongs, but also of orchestral strings, and the superimposition of various melodic styles all make for a very unusual, inspiring listen and demonstrate that it is quite possible to come up with innovative and original music today, while not sacrificing visceral appeal. In many ways, "Pan-lom (Essays on Architecture 1)", the final and most expansive track, is the centerpiece of the album; it combines elements presented in the preceding pieces: melodies and ornaments for the khaen in "The wind blows inside"; clashes between harmonic worlds in "Three Lai", where Western orchestral strings join the mouth organ; shifting rhythmic accents for percussion ensemble in "Signals Intelligence"; and haunting, pensive harmonies, again from the khaen, in "Epilogue for a Dark Day". Each piece is a world of its own, but it is only taken together that, like pieces of a puzzle, they give an impression of the scope of Adler's imagination and the way he has integrated Thai and Laotian music into the occidental concert music canon by maintaining recognizable elements of both worlds and bringing them into harmony.

When intercultural collaborations, fusions, and cross-fertiliziations are successful, they demonstrate that humans across the globe have many more things uniting than dividing them. Yet it would be a trivialization and a lost opportunity to say that music is a universal language. Music is regional, but it is a collection of abstract languages, and as such, one type of music can combine with other musics to create something larger than the sum of its parts. Appreciating this takes a willingness for adventurous listening, but for those who are open to challenging their vision of the world through music, Christopher Adler can be the guide on a highly interesting and satisfying voyage.
FRANK LONDON recommends
THE MYSTIC FUGU ORCHESTRA'S ZOHAR
Given the enormity of the Tzadik catalogue, it's difficult to pick out one title, but the Mystic Fugu Orchestra's Zohar has dwelled in my subconscious, just below the surface, since I heard its first scratches. Capturing the ethos of the of pre-modernity in an aural daguerrotype, Zohar places you into the early Russian ethnomusicological expeditions. Beregovski and An-ski seeking out the last remnants of premodern Yiddishkayt. Eye and Zorn are phenomenal. As a living tribute to fetishists of the 'authentic' Zohar stands alone.
JON MADOF recommends
ZAKARYA'S SOMETHING OBVIOUS
The first thing that struck me about Zakarya's 'Something Obvious' was the interplay between Yves Weyh's accordion and Alexandre Wimmer's guitar. The sound was at once old and new, traditional and radical, in short everything I love about Tzadik and Radical Jewish Culture. In the hands of less capable and genuine musicians, this combination could be mined for the type of kitsch that infects some of what passes for 'Jewish Music.' But Zakarya, including the wonderful rhythm section of bassist Vincent Posty and drummer Pascal Gully, uses it to create something altogether new, seamlessly weaving together the strands of history and tradition into an album of beautiful, powerful and vital music.
KEERIL MAKAN recommends
ALVIN CURRAN'S ANIMAL BEHAVIOR
Alvin Curran maintains a balance between humor and terror in his music in a truly masterful way. In his seminal work for sampler, “Animal Behavior” the voice of George Bush Sr. is turned into Elmer Fudd, hunting that wascally wabbit, Saddam Hussein. But it’s much stranger than that. There are choruses of wild animals, pinball machines, and other noisemakers. The piece transcends the banal limitations of the sampler by reveling in the banality of sampling. Because of Alvin’s incredible pacing and sonic imagination, what could be just slapstick humor becomes a menacing commentary on America, war, news, government, and technology itself.

About fifteen minutes into “Why Is This Night Different Than All Other Nights?” I think to myself, “I hate this, make it stop, I can’t take it.” There is an endless, slow, disjointed chorale of violin, accordion, and tuba, which keeps going, with awkward silences and unwholesome noises in the background. But I keep listening and then something happens—I’m suddenly lost in a wild, dark, jungle. I don’t know how I’ve gotten there, what I’m doing there, or how to get out. But it’s a miracle of sorts that Alvin could take me here without me realizing what he was doing. What happened to the chorale, my lifeline to time and space? It is truly a religious piece. Once the hated demarcation of time stops, we are left in a very weird, transcendent space.

If two spectacular pieces of music aren’t enough reason to buy this CD, here are a few more reasons. It is the first Tzadik CD! What better way to start a CD label that has become so important to such a heterogeneous group of musicians worldwide than Alvin’s indescribable music? Finally, Alvin writes the best program notes of any composer I know. But you have to buy the CD to read them.
BILLY MARTIN recommends
TEIJI ITO'S KING UBU
At first, I was attracted to the dada-esque cover art. Then I pressed all the playback buttons on this (now obsolete) Tower Records listening station about 13 years ago. An overwhelming feeling of joy, liberation and self-affirmation came over me. This is Teiji Ito’s shamanic power at work. Every movement in this masterpiece score was (and still is) a surprise and revelation. This particular recording feels and sounds like an insiders’ take on the composer/performer at work in-the-moment. It’s like an anthropological field recording where each track relies not just on the compositional but the spirit of the performance. Sound-alchemist-shaman and cohort to Maya Deren (one of my favorite filmmakers!) is one of the great NY ‘underground’ artists that will always inspire and his King Ubu is timeless world-music.
RAZ MESINAI recommends
MARYANNE AMACHER'S SOUND CHARACTERS
Without a doubt one of the most innovative and influential sound alchemists of our time. Her profound ability to give shape to even the most microscopic of frequencies is both terrifying and masterful.
It's easy to argue how a CD could represent an artist like this, whose demand for sonic perfection and clarity challenged the ears and minds of even the bravest of sound engineers. But these recordings are important portable documents that infect not only the listener but the stereo systems they are played through as well. Just as our bodies host an abundance of micro organisms, her music contains frequencies within frequencies, secrets within secrets, and it is her ability to hear it, feel it, and project it through the dead bodies of loud speakers, breathing life through their circuitry, that makes her a treasure to contemporary music
IKUE MORI recommends
NI HAO'S GORGEOUS
Japan has a long standing tradition of the all girl band—Papaya Paranoia, Shonen Knife, TohBahnDjan, Saboten, Afrirampo, and many many more. In 2000 these 3 girls got together and created NI Hao. Gorgeous was their first full length CD, and it was released in 2006 after they had toured and worked together for 6 years. Simple bass and drum lines groove with vocals that sound like the title song for a 21st century anime TV show, but with a bizarre twist. I had the opportunity to see the band live and was very impressed by their show. Their playing was tight and fast, and the interweaving of the bass, drums and vocal lines was flawless, complex and loopy. Ni Hao is a unique and powerful band, and this first album of theirs is one of my very favorites cds on Tzadik. Very enjoyable.
LARRY OCHS recommends
CHRIS BROWN'S LAVA
When this CD first came out, I tried to do my first listen while driving on a busy freeway-under-construction here in California. The rhythmic complexities of the music literally unbalanced my physical coordination and I had to pull over before I went off the road. When listening in my studio, it's just one of the most fascinating pieces of electro-acoustic music out there, and still today seems like a groundbreaking work that would be worth your time and attention, your complete attention.
FRED FRITH'S CLEARING
If there's one person in Tzadik's catalog not named Zorn who doesn't need a plug, it's Mr. Frith. But because there are so many great CDs of his out there, let me encourage you to choose "Clearing." It's just one of the most poignant 'solo guitar' recordings on the planet; one I listen to on my iPod over and over. And I place 'solo guitar' in quotes because as always there are many things being applied to the guitar besides finger-tips and picks leading to an at-times orchestral celebration of unique sounds.
JOHN OSWALD recommends
JOHN ZORN'S HOCKEY
I'm a singles man. I used to be an album kid. From the mid-'60's through to the early '70s i accumulated a few thousand of these 12-inch black circles in square packages. During the same time i purchased at most half a dozen of the 7-inch 45 rpm versions that were often called 'singles' (even though they inevitably featured a total of two audio emanations, one on each side). An album could be a thoughtless assemblage of singles in an arbitrary picture sleeve; but the ones i gravitated to were examples of novel ways one could navigate a listening experience in two circa-20-minute audible episodes, extractable from an image-and-text festooned envelope, an intriguing visual and literary foil to its soniferic contents. And although one could listen to designated portions of these .3 hour continuums by dropping the needle at the visible widening of the groove that indicates the usually quiet time-furrow between 'tracks', in my subterranean listening burrow i most often auditioned a side from it's outer edge all the way through to its inner lock-groove. I may be wrong about this last memory; I'd like to think i may have been more often in pre-plunderphonic needle-drop and jump mode back in those adolescent and teen years. But eventually i was separated from my record collection, and leisurely side-long listening became more of a rare luxury.

In 1974 with my dad's Air Force dufflebag, an alto sax, and no records, i moved 4,000 miles to the west coast of North Am. I was spending time at one university, but quickly discovered that the equivalent institution at the other end of town had a much more accessible and extensive Recordings Library. It was set up like a record store, with accessible bins of thousands of discs; the difference being that none were shrink wrapped. I could often be seen carrying a stack of these, from down stretched arms to chin, to a phonograph and headphones kiosk, where i would sample each slice of this buffet tower, often spending no more than ten seconds per track.

In subsequent years as i began to travel, and crash with musicians, many of whom were endowed with massive disc libraries of their own, i was in the habit of making needle drop compilation cassettes of the more rare and obscure corners of their collections. I'd become accustomed to listening to music in short bursts. Pop music, where the content of the average recorded song is approximately 80% redundant, was somewhat engaging in those ads of segues of all the songs on the album — i tended to apply that presentation modality to all types of music. It was a rare track that escaped being abridged by my impatient cueing.

Then there was John Zorn's Hockey. I suspect we all instinctively ascribe some of the attributes of the particular titular sport to Zorn's game pieces, Lacrosse, Archery, Pool, etc., whether or not we know anything about what the score specifies. And so it is with me and Hockey. The way that i hear it, there's a silent puck which gets passed from player to player. What we hear is the shot the player makes. This takes the time it takes for the pass receiver to deflect the puck to the next player, dependent upon their reflexes and the type of shot they make. Each player seems to have a small vocabulary of shots: wrist, slap, backhand(?). By using these they can keep the puck in motion. Sometimes there is a sort of scrimmage where two musicians go after the puck at once. This is all in reference to the documented acoustic versions of Hockey, as performed by Zorn (reeds, who sometimes sounds like he's handling two sticks simultaneously), Polly Bradfield (fiddle) and Mark Miller (hit things). I haven't listened to the electric versions since i got the vinyl Pool (Hockey is the b-side composition on that album) 30 years ago.

As the reader will have already gathered, the present review is a self-centered rather than a researched and informed appraisal. I have never seen the score (Zorn copied tiny scores back then, sometimes postage-stamp-sized, which made even the youthful musicians who played them squint and therefore may have made the music seem more scholarly and serious). I have not bought the Tzadik CD (not that i recommend that anyone else should not buy the CD) and therefore I'm deprived of whatever elucidating program notes that container might contain, as well as the always satisfying packaging of Tzadik projects, but i find that i no longer stare at the visual components of an album while listening. (If you don't care about the packaging and haven't or won't purchase the CD may i recommend buying a few Hockey tracks as singles from an on-line record store…) And Hockey fits so well into my casual listening universe, which in recent years has been reinvigorated at first by fairly indiscriminate p2p downloading (an activity, that, contrary to the accusations of the music industry, led to a dramatic increase in my CD purchases) and then random-access playback on digital devices. Just this morning, in the hotel room where i write this, where i have plugged into the provided clock radio the gadget i use mostly to photograph and video with, it has randomly selected, following a recording of Kyle Shobe, 2010 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion and preceding Mead Lux Lewis' Whistlin' Blues, Hockey take 12. It's a wonderful juxtaposition, as the Hockey crosschecks inevitably are — the various takes of Hockey are amongst the champs in my collection for providing excellent surprise and satisfying contrast to whatever they are sandwiched between.

They are perfect singles, little symphonies for this elderly kid.
JIM O’ROURKE recommends
ARNOLD DREYBLATT'S ANIMAL MAGNETISM
A lot is made of the cross over of minimalism and rock and roll. The Power and the Glory, if you will. As much as I like the music made by his generation, no one has made me shake my fist and bang my head as the music of Arnold Dreyblatt. It may be my years in marching band, but "Animal Magnetism" for me stands as the pinnacle of upper echelon harmonic nirvana meeting the toe-curling, foot stomping, pure-adrenalin rush of the banging drum. I have introduced this record to countless friends, all from different musical tastes, and i always see the same reaction: wide-eyed awe at the power, glory, beauty and sheer transendance of Arnold Dreyblatt and his "Animal Magnetism"
EVAN PARKER recommends
JEREMIAH CYMERMAN'S IN MEMORY OF THE LABYRINTH SYSTEM
Although he considered calling the CD "Delirium in Lo-Fi", as a homage to Pierre Fantosme, JC finally chose "In Memory of the Labyrinth System". The track titles, from track 1 "Lateral Semicircular Canal" to the final track 10 "Ending of Nerve in Recessus Utriculi" are all named for anatomical structures in the inner ear. The labyrinth of the inner ear, with its implicit call to close listening is clearly part of the overall title's significance, but other, more Borgesian labyrinths are invoked too. What makes music musical for JC? - "a sense of magic, drama, tension release, dynamics and ultimately the ability to tell a story." Much listening has been required to create this music and it invites much listening from it's audience. JC speaks of having "placed two very strict limitations on (himself)" not using any other plug-ins than reverb, compression and EQ and not using any traditional clarinet voicing, "only nontraditional, mostly non-pitch based techniques.". Later in the process he decided to break these self-imposed limitations by introducing a small number of sound sources other than the clarinet. The music had arrived at a state of development where he had to "do what the music ask(ed) him to do". A great feeling.

Nevertheless this is clearly clarinet music. - but the options of time-shifting, over-dubbing, sample manipulation and obsessive re-evaluation result in music that often sounds electronic or computer generated. This is clarinet music - but made by a composer who also knows his way around the studio in general and Pro Tools in particular. This is clarinet music - but the way the voice of the instrument emerges and dissolves into the totality and the way in which the studio skills merge seamlessly with the instrumental skills make for a very intricate hybrid and a delightful listening experience. I was at times reminded of the work of Richard Maxfield who, ineterestingly, began as a clarinetist and later in his short life moved over to analogue studio based "electronic music". In the intervening forty or fifty years the shift from the analogue to the digital realm has made sound manipulation procedures that would have taken months achievable in hours or seconds now. The equivalent of the final track, "Ending of a Nerve..", with it's 10,000 layers and micro samples would almost certainly not be possible in a lifetime's work in the analogue domain. The journey through the ten tracks arrives at a very abstract place but even here the clarinet is at the core of the music.

An astonishing achievement already, but I have the feeling that Jeremiah Cymerman will continue his researches and will continue to astonish us.
MIKE PATTON recommends
YASUNAO TONE'S SOLO FOR WOUNDED CD
A fascinating sonic experiment for a 'de-controlled' CD player, using a prepared compact disc which has been genetically altered to produce digital errors and artifacts during playback. Although the CD is 'wounded', the sound palette is colorful and vibrant---and the chance operation aesthetic escorts the listener on a seemingly out of control yet strangely intimate journey. A veteran of the Fluxus movement, Tone has taken the very tools and technological mediums we use on a daily basis and transformed them into chaotic and unpredictable music makers... wonderfully damaged instruments speaking a language all their own!
JESSICA PAVONE recommends
EYVIND KANG'S STORY OF ICELAND
Evynd Kang initially stood out to me for the unique and effortless sounding quality of his viola playing. His lucid style, sliding through whole melodies on one string, senza vibrato, sometimes reminiscent of a bamboo flute is both distinct and stunning. But it wasn't only his trademark sound that drew me into this record; it was the conciseness of the compositional structure, mirroring the same brilliance as his approach to the viola.
Efficient with his sound pallet, Kang crafts a wealth of artistry with only a few pointed and deliberate repeating musical motives. Deceptively simple at times, a more penetrating listen reveals an underworld of textural richness. It requires the listener to not only listen to this record, but live in it.
PAOLA PRESTINI recommends
LISA BIELAWA'S A HANDFUL OF WORLD
I have had the pleasure of knowing Lisa for a while now, and it is always a joy to enter someone's musical world: you get to know them better in an intimate way that is only possible when words are not in the way! This CD is a must have: if you do not know Lisa's voice, then this vocal album is the way in: she explores the confines of possibility when simultaneously playing the violin and singing with Carla's wondrous work on Kafka Songs, and, her own beautiful vocal tone is heightened by the labyrinthine world she creates through her use of multi-tracking and electronics in A Collective Cleansing. In Kafka Songs Lisa's elegant masterful language takes full advantage of Carla's talent--Carla's skill and tone is outstanding! In a Collective Cleansing, the intertwining voices are stunning and the use of electronics is innovative; mid way through the electronics surprisingly sustain a vocal chord lushly and the work evolves into a world of dark, supremely lovely melodies supported by wonderfully inventive harmonies. A trip worth taking.
MARC RIBOT recommends
PISSUK RACHAV'S ERETZ HAKODESH
I first heard the demo that would eventually become Pissuk Rachav's "Eretz Hakodesh" on my one (and probably only) trip to Israel in 2007 for some concerts of John Zorn’s Masada groups. The cathartic screaming, obscenity and obsessive blashemy that characterize Jeremy Fogel's lyric approach gave me the immediate sensation that Jeremy (who later, in personal conversation, revealed himself to be part of a surprisingly large community of Israeli Nietscheans) was deranged. But unlike many poet/ranters of our time, Jeremy’s derangement was somehow necessary. I might not have understood this if I hadn’t been listening to the demo in a traffic jam in Tel Aviv: Jeremy’s derangement is the best possible response. The one I’d been waiting for—plus it ROCKS.
GYAN RILEY recommends
SECRET CHIEFS 3'S XAPHAN
As an avid Secret Chiefs fan and part-time collaborator with members Timb Harris and Ches Smith, I assumed I was going to like Xaphan. What I didn't know is that it would become one of the few records that I listen to over and over again. The boundless variety of timbre and texture in Trey Spruance's arrangements of these infectious tunes is just awesome. The band pulls off beautifully haunting, sensuous snaky melodies and pounding grooves alike, the orchestrations constantly evolving into a different animal with each new section. But most importantly, it's just got that inexplicable magic that beckons me to throw it back in the disc player time and time again
NED ROTHENBERG recommends
MARK FELDMAN'S MUSIC FOR VIOLIN ALONE
In the last part of the 20th century virtuosity began to acquire a bad name. From Post-Cageian attempts to remove personal intention from the compositional process to the vacuous wanking of various guitar 'heroes', listeners were tired of musicians hiding behind technical bravado; flashy licks seemed to be standing in the way of musical substance. We want to hear the heart, the humanity of the player, not what he has been practicing. With Music for Violin Alone Mark Feldman shows that technical command acquired in the course of sincere personal and musical investigation trumps all other concerns and widens the ears and heart of the fortunate witness.

Feldman knows the violin SO intimately, his playing shows the deepest love for his instrument. He knows where his own compositional identity lies within the wealth of his material. He uses his discoveries not for demonstration but, so much more interestingly, to tell stories. All the pieces in this collection have strong narrative flow and attention to overarching form. Feldman introduces materials in ways that seem both surprising and, at the same time, inevitable.

The solos are brimming with personality, and thus we find the music really lies outside idiomatic categories. One can hear the wealth of Mark's experience - he is funny, passionate, angry, biting, romantic, capricious. This is communicated via his personal sonic language which includes incredible glistening harmonics, hollow flautandos, grating scrapes made musical by their strong directionality, unabashed jazz licks, beautiful cross-bowed chords played with perfect intonation. The titles are accurate and thoughtful: Elegy shows the deep hurt of a man who has known loss, Stalker perfectly controls chaos and sets it against a mysterious lurking presence. Fantasy for the Violin brings forth such sonic pathos that it seems as if the instrument might burst from exertion. Calista evokes a touching vulnerability, which is a perfect offset to the seemingly effortless mastery with which all these works are played. For one becomes aware that in fact great effort is being made, but not effort in execution, effort in expression!

If you have the time and mindful focus to enter the personal world of an unapologetically virtuosic instrumentalist, Mark Feldman's Music for Violin Alone, (along with his work with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier) will make your musical world a larger and more verdant place.
JOEL RUBIN recommends
TAFILLALT
I first heard the wonderful Israeli trio, Tafillalt (Yair Harel, Nori Jacoby and Yonatan Niv), under the most difficult of listening conditions. The group had been invited to perform for a group of ethnomusicologists and musicologists during lunch at the World Congress of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in summer 2009. The “concert hall” was a classroom at the university, with the usual fluorescent lighting, uncomfortable chairs, etc. Not knowing anything about the group, I luckily decided to stick around to hear them. Within seconds of their hour-long performance, I was mesmerized by a unique improvising ensemble performing their original music at a very high level. While the music was clearly based to an extent on traditional sources from various Sephardic, Mizrahi and Ashkenazic communities, the performer-composers had clearly assimilated ideas from all of these traditions to come up with something quite new and beautiful. I was particularly struck by the tightness of the ensemble, with Yair Harel’s voice fully integrated with the other instruments (primarily viola and cello, with other stringed instruments and percussion), and the wide range of expression that they achieve with a relatively small group. Afterward, I discovered that the group had released this wonderful CD on Tzadik in 2009. Listening to the CD has only deepened my appreciation for the group. The recording represents a tremendous variety, drawing especially on prayer and mystical poetic texts from 12th to the 16th centuries, but also from well-known modern secular poetry and other sources. The music – whether newly composed by the band members or from traditional sources – is always imaginatively arranged and performed in a manner that references traditional performance practice, but sounds fresh and new. Highly recommended!
BASYA SCHECHTER recommends
BANQUET OF THE SPIRITS' CAYM
In this latest iteration of armchair travel, "Caym" offers an ethnomusicological adventure through time and space for listeners who can't afford to jet set around the world. Featuring the exotic and pulsating rhythmic textures of Cyro Baptista and the adrenaline-fueled sound of "Banquet of the Spirits" - oud/bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, drummer Tim Keiper, and keyboardist Brian Marsella evoke foreign landscapes and cultures both ancient and modern in one of the most compelling installments of John Zorn's Book of Angels series. In this cd, think of the Arabic oud as the traveler moving fluidly between songs while Zorn's expertly crafted compositions serve as the map. The seductive sounds of Balinese gamelan rituals, Morrocan desert chants, and Oaxaca organ ceremonies intersect with infectious Brazilian tropicalia beats and the kinetic energy of Bhangra dancehall in this wildly eclectic program. From swanky Egyptian supper club swing to free jazz, Italian film music to favella gangster grooves, this record will unquestionably seduce those sonic adventurers in search of the unpredictable. Masterfully produced and arranged by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, "Caym" is anchored by the mystical expansiveness inherent in the ever enchanting Masada songbook. As with some of the greatest cities in the world, each visit to this record yields new treasures.
TIM SPARKS recommends
URI CAINE'S MOLOCH
One of my favorite recordings of John Zorn's music is Moloch, Book of Angels 6, which features Uri Caine on solo piano. I like when solo piano becomes a transparent, concise expression of a composer's musical vocabulary. The piano music of Mingus, who wrote for a legendary ensemble or Shostakovich, who was a great orchestrator, come to mind. I also find this quality in Uri Caine's solo renditions of John Zorn's songbook on Moloch. Like Bud Powell's brilliant Verve recordings embodying the language and spirit of Bebop, Uri Caine employs killer chops to evoke the passion and complexity of a Masada set. He also has an intuitive feeling for the subtleties of melodic and harmonic gravity implicit in the Jewish scales that Zorn uses as a foundation for his Masada and Book of Angels compositions. From the high energy Rimmon to the bittersweet ballad Nuriel, Uri's sensibility and commanding technique make Moloch one of my favorite discs in the Tzadik catalog.
J.G. THIRLWELL recommends
LA MAR ENFORTUNA'S CONVIVIENCIA
I first encountered Jennifer Charles' stunning velvety voice in 1995 at the dawn of Elysian Fields, her musical guise with Oren Bloedow. I have been captivated ever since. Jennifer and Oren began their La Mar Enfortuna project in 2001 to explore Sephardic and Ladina music and expanded it on the second album, Convivencia . Singing in five languages, Jennifer displays her greatest range and versatility yet, with her commanding the sultry, twisting melodies with nuance and ease.

Oren's arrangements show a deep love and rapport for the material, with solid support from the mighty Ted Reichman on accordion and Doug Wieselman on clarinets. The production is at once airy and intimate. One can detect the breath and the feel of the players in the room, if through a haze of incense and opium smoke. The clarinet valves clack gently and the strings squeak as you are deposited deeply into the moist womb of the players. These exotic, steamy and sometimes ecstatic melodies slither and coil, riding the slippery time signature grooves.

The opener, La Puerta Del Rio, is propelled by an irresistible shuffle; when Liaquet Khan's guest vocals enter, the music reaches a new level of transcendence. The traditional songs "Aman Minush" and "El Eliyahu" feature call and response between Jennifer's vocals and a male choir while hypnotic melodies punctuate the arid landscape. Oren takes lead vocals on "Persona Soy Yo, El Buen Sidi" with a plaintive delicacy. "Pali Mou Kanis To Vari" travels from a seductive beginning thru an electronic interlude, concluding with an almost punkish chant. Mixers Good and Evil are not scared to expand the sonic palette and add unexpected turns and dimensional spaces to the compositions.

Dedicated to the "peasants without land" who succeeded from Andalusia, this beautiful whirled music transports you to middle east from silken boudoirs to the souk and the desert caves.
MATTHEW WELCH recommends
ERNESTO MARTINEZ'S MUTACIONES
This album continues to present one of the most satisfying kinetic and ecstatic experiences in recorded music. Ernesto Martínez's rigorous aesthetic and musical language that he coined “Micro-Ritmia” (on which Martínez elaborates upon in Arcana II) is an intensely complicated species of interlocking hocket techniques. I find Ernesto's style to be a remarkable combination of compositional fastidiousness and improvisational facility; often what is written and what is improvised within this method is hard to distinguish – an impressive achievement in any artistic medium! Martínez uses this technique throughout this album, but with a surprisingly unique focus and harmonic paradigm for each piece, encompassing a world that embraces traditional Mexican Son Style, Baroque (Pachelbel's Canon), Romantic chromaticism and chromatic Micro-polyphony (from Rimsky-Korsakov to Ligeti), and the complex polyrhythmic patterning found in Nancarrow to Reich. Martínez personal signature is so original though, no matter what the nascent nature of his subject materials are. His approach to instrumentation is very crucial to the voicing of his concept, preferring multiples of one color (multiple pianos, marimbas, guitar, etc – sometimes in combinations of multiples) with short or controllable sustains to aid the congealing of his multiple rhythmic lines and thrusting the material into the spotlight. His modification of the guitar with a mechanical keyboard interface is an incredibly resourceful invention, adding a (much welcomed!) whole new element of articulation and timbre to the guitar. This incredible recording is a must hear!
JOHN ZORN'S REDBIRD
This remains one of my favorite of all of the Composer Series. In the last fifteen years, the music world has seen the rise of what I'm calling “Feldmania” in which the hushed reticence of Morton Feldman's compositions have been ushered into the general musical consciousness with a long and loud crescendo. Being guilty of fetishing the quiet in music many times myself, I look back on the pieces of music that tickled this fancy, of which Zorn's Redbird continually found its way into my CD player. I listened to Redbird during times of intense contemplation and composition. Redbird is a very emotionally powerful experience despite it's economy and restraint of means, furthermore leaving space for the listener to exist inside or along side of the sonic landscape. There is just enough material to keep the musically addicted moving forward in time, and enough space to ignite one's imagination in the process. Music to dream to! A Must for the Feldman Fan Club.
HAL WILLNER recommends
DION MCGREGOR DREAMS AGAIN
Dion McGregor Dreams Again is unquestionably an experience, and a must-have recording. McGregor was what is called a somnamloquist, a voluble dreamer – and basically he dreamt OUT LOUD. No bullshit. McGregor’s “sleeptalk” was taped by his roommate in the early sixties during the nocturnal hours and some of these dream rants were released as an album that quickly disappeared. This is its uncensored sequel. It doesn’t work as background, and forces you to listen – but to allow yourself to enter McGregor’s world and be there with him seeing and experiencing what he does (and his reactions) - every emotion will hit you – terror, hysterics, sadness, love, hate. Heartbreaking and lustful, it is raw and there is no funnel of what comes out of his subconscious… Believe me, Lord Buckley would have sold his mother to be able to do this stuff… just listen…. Then check out ”Where is the Wonder” – a song he wrote that Barbara Streisand recorded a year after most of these tapes were made…… “When the Sky of Blue Turned Wild” indeed!!!