We were approached by the UK based indie record label, Tru Thoughts Recordings about a week ago inquiring as to whether or not we would be interested in conducting some music reviews for some of their artist’s recordings. As music fans we jumped at the opportunity to do so, because it is a great opportunity to hear music and artists that we, and I suppose many of you, haven’t heard before. We are music fans here at Noise Made Me Do It, even though not all posts are strictly related to music. We told the Tru Thoughts representative that we would be fair, and, most importantly, honest. We are not being compensated in any way for these reviews, which is, of course, the best way to ensure our honesty.
Now a little about who are giving the reviews. There is Luke MacClean, who is a musician, and currently working towards getting his degree in music. There is also Mike Catania, a published, and accomplished composer, and musician, holding several degrees in music. So those two guys know a little about music; Then there is just me, Tim Bean. I do not have a music degree, nor am I a musician. I am simply a mere mortal compared to my two colleagues, but I am a huge music fan, with broad and eclectic musical tastes; so my reviews are simply the thoughts of a fan. Without further ado, below are the reviews – click the linked titles above each review to hear each piece. Many thanks to Sean at Tru Thoughts Recordings for asking for our thoughts.
Mark de-Clive Lowe – “Take the Space Trane” To be released on February 5th, 2013
First off, Mark de-Clive Lowe has just gained another fan. Far too often I see a lot of Jazz coming out of New York that parades around as a new synthesis of urban and jazz idioms, but upon listening I discover that they cautiously added a couple “hip” samples or a buried synth part. Not MdCL. What he gives us is pure energy through relentless and unflinching use of drum and bass style beats, sweeping leads/pads, and heavy synth bass. However, the horns only briefly relinquish the spotlight to the electronics, and I wouldn’t have it any other way with such an awesome display of talent being thrusted out of my speakers.
The composition is complex to say the least and is at times a little over zealous with multiple horn solos all building on top of electronic textures, but the fact of the matter is that his rises and climaxes are gold. Sometimes you have to push the envelope. There is an ebb and flow to the piece as well; not simply massive horn hits for seven minutes. The periods of smooth affected rhodes and sax/trumpet solos provide a refreshing emotional contrast to the heavy horn onslaught that the Rotterdam Orchestra throws at you. There are such great parts to it though that I would like to hear something repeated eventually. How I would have killed to hear him do something huge with a return of that juggernaut intro or bring back the horn theme that appears around 3 minutes. As for the ending, I’m not really sure what to make of it; it comes off as abrupt but yet still appropriate. Maybe it achieves its goal because it leaves me wanting to listen to it again
All in all, Mark de-Clive Lowe delivers something which is bold, aggressive, and also very cool.
Rating: ♪♪♪♪ out of 5 Notes
I found Take The Space Trane a fun departure from what I thought it was going to be – an over-produced, synth-heavy spin-off of the Strayhorn hit. The performances, especially the brass, are exciting; so much so I would have rather heard some scaling back of the effects and let the instrumentalists shine on their own. That said; the electro portions are integrated well. I don’t feel as though they were thrown in as an afterthought, which is extremely common in this style. I would have liked to have heard more development of ideas instead of the barrage of new material. All told, though, I think the piece is successful.
Rating: ♪♪♪♪ of 5 Notes
Okay, here are my thoughts on Mark de-Clive Lowe’s “Take the Space Trane.” I am a fan of jazz, not a huge fan, but a fan none-the-less. I am also a bit of a traditionalist; which means that free form jazz, to me, often sounds too discordant for my tastes; but that’s just me. So, when I fired up “Take the Space Trane” for the first time I found myself waiting for the song to actually start, it sounded like it was just one long intro; but again, free form jazz isn’t really my thing. However, I am not one to rush to judgment. I didn’t just listen to it once and decide that was enough. No sir, I listened to it a good half dozen times, and I am here to tell you, that despite my personal biases towards free form jazz, I really began to like this piece of music. I found the incorporation of modern synthesizers a nice touch, and even began to dig (to use the old jazz slang) it in its entirety. Even though it isn’t the style of jazz that I like, what I like about jazz is that it is cool. Jazz music sounds cool, feels cool, looks cool, and this is definitely a cool piece of music by Mark de-Clive Lowe and the Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra – though I do still prefer more traditional jazz.
Rating: ♪♪♪ ½ of 5 Notes
Menagerie – “Leroy & the Lion” To be Released January 22nd, 2012
Usually, the genre-term smooth jazz carries with it a stigma of being synonymous with elevator music. If it’s even appropriate to categorize this song under such a label the fact of the matter is that it’s definitely smooth, but it’s also definitely the real deal. With the percussion groove popping in at the intro it’s easy to know you are listening to something special; it is one of those beats that doesn’t really change much, yet somehow doesn’t get old. On top of this pocket groove unfolds what is simply a very catchy melody and improvisations that really turn the tune inside out. The simplicity of this song is key for it allows growth to occur, and as the listener gets comfortable in the beat the melodies come flying at head level. In essence, “Leroy and the Lion” is stimulating, satisfying, and almost impossible to stop moving to.
Rating: ♪♪♪♪ ½ out of 5 Notes
Menagerie’s Leroy and The Lion is a shapeless blur that, I think, is supposed to suck you into a groove but lacks any sort of contour making it nothing more than a waste of a superb performance by Roy Ayers. The piece is tired–there are no elements in the form, orchestration, style, harmony or melody that merit giving this a place in your playlist. Nice studio work and the performance by Ayers is all that salvages the stars it gets.
Rating: ♪♪ of 5 Notes
Menagerie’s “Leroy & the Lion” is definitely more my type of jazz, but . . . It just didn’t really resonate with me. I gave it plenty of time, and tries, just so that I could be sure that I wasn’t rushing too quick to judgment. I know this is going to sound crazy, especially given that I have already said that I don’t really care for free form jazz too much, but I found “Leroy & the Lion” sounding a bit generic and derivative. I also think the xylophone was a little over done, giving too much of a tinny sound. I wanted to hear a deep, smooth bass line so bad, but it never materialized. Over all “Leroy and the Lion” is a bright piece of music, but I just found something lacking, which left me wanting. That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.
Rating: ♪♪ of 5 Notes
Nostalgia 77 & the Monster – “The Taxidermist” Released on November 19th, 2012
“The Taxidermist” is reminiscent of the psychedelic fusion stylings of the “Bitches Brew” recordings. The stark and moaning horns in the melody and solos provide a haunting atmosphere that conjures images of empty dark streets. This piece definitely has a lot of atmosphere. Moreover, the drum groove, which is such a key element to the tension of “The Taxidermist,” really tugs at the listener with the hi-hat emphasis and syncopated snare drum hits. Though, what seems to nag me about this piece is the fact that it never seems to get to where it’s going. It suggests some sort of build or raise of energy and while it starts to get there near the end, I would say it just doesn’t do enough. At the finish, even though I appreciated the mood it created, I felt relatively unfulfilled.
Rating: ♪♪♪ of 5 Notes
The tags the record label applied to The Taxidermist are frightening: beats, funk, hip hop, jazz (to name the first few). If this tune had come out fifty years ago, it still would have sounded dated. It’s the kind of thing that make non-musicians hate jazz: the arrogance of soloist falsely believing that he/she has the skill to poorly improvise for extended lengths of time in lieu of an actual thought-out piece. Nostalgia 77 & The Monster should spend a little more time emulating before they recklessly attempt “innovating” again.
Rating: ♪ of 5 Notes
Nostalgia 77 & the Monster’s “The Taxidermist” just sounds cool, which is what I think jazz is supposed to sound like. There is a darkness and a broodiness to this piece that I often associate with jazz too. Maybe I am the only one who does this, but often times, when I am listening to an instrumental piece of music, I close my eyes and “envision” the music. When I did that with “The Taxidermist” I conjured it being played in a dimly lit, smoky bar; where people drink highballs, not beer, and they’re just grovin’ to this music. Sure, there still are the elements of the free form jazz (which I already said is not my favorite style of jazz) from the horns, but it never really goes overboard into full blown “jam session” free form, and the steady cadence of the cymbals, and drums; which at first listen sounded too monotonous, but upon hearing it again, and again, it just worked for me. That steady little rhythm kind of kept me on the edge, I found myself just waiting for it to go off, and blow up into something bigger, and louder, but it just kept steady; leading me along, like bread crumbs. I know that might sound like a complaint, but really I mean it as a compliment. Of the three pieces of music here this one is by far my favorite. It has the elements that I associate with jazz; a little groove, and a little mood, with a touch of improvisation. Yeah, I dig “The Taxidermist” a lot.
Rating: ♪♪♪♪ ½ out of 5 Notes
So, those are our first, and hopefully not last, official music reviews. If you would like us to review your music please feel free to leave us a comment and we will email you with our contact information. Also, if you clicked the above links to the associated artists and music, and liked what you heard, please visit Tru Thoughts Recordings and explore these and other artists – again, we are NOT being compensated in any way by Tru Thoughts Recordings, we are just being gracious.