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Beyond Tape: Album Of The Week (Part E)

In 2020 I started a new one-year project:
The idea is to concentrate on albums that I always wanted to hear (in-depth). Albums that, for example, have been recommended to me by friends, that I discovered by chance or that you just need to listen to but for unknown reasons never found the time to do so.

My plan is to focus on albums that are new and undiscovered to me, those albums that are inspiring and encouraging to listen to more of the music of the artist or the genre. Exactly one album per week the whole year 2020.

Follow our Twitter account or browse through all the albums in our now 10th playlist Beyond Tape: Album Of The Week to get a weekly update.

Week 53

McKinley Morganfield (1913 — 1983), known professionally as Muddy Waters, was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician who was an important figure in the post-war blues scene, and is often cited as the “father of modern Chicago blues”. His style of playing has been described as “raining down Delta beatitude”.

Muddy Waters grew up in Mississippi, and by age 17 was playing the guitar and the harmonica, emulating the local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. He was recorded in Mississippi by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1941. In 1943, he moved to Chicago to become a full-time professional musician. In 1946, he recorded his first records for Columbia Records and then for Aristocrat Records, a newly formed label run by the brothers Leonard and Phil Chess.

Folk Singer is the fourth studio album by him, released in April 1964 by Chess Records. The album features Waters on acoustic guitar, backed by Willie Dixon on string bass, Clifton James on drums, and Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar. It is Waters’s only all-acoustic album.

Muddy Waters’ Folk Singer is an acoustic album by a blues artist famous for his electric work. Back in 1964, Chess, Waters’ label, was concerned about the folk boom and how it might impact record sales. So they had Waters make an acoustic blues album, giving it a misleading name, perhaps to trick inattentive record-buyers.

Waters, originally of Issaquena County, Mississippi, led the electrification of the blues from Chicago, which set the tone (and standard) for rock and blues for the next half-century. The very quick history of the blues starts in the rural south, with artists using voice and some kind of stringed instrument. Starting in the 1940s, some of those musicians eventually headed north to Chicago where they continued to play but required electric instruments to be heard over the din of crowds…

…You can hear Waters’ voice clearly, because he’s doesn’t need to strain to be heard over electric instruments. In a way, Folk Singer is the perfect antidote to the challenges that initially made artists like Waters plug into amps. They needed to be heard and recording like this allowed Waters to be heard without the need for amplification.

[Review on albumism.com]

A short but rare interview with Muddy Waters from 1971
Mud Morganfield is the eldest son of blues legend Muddy Waters. Watch him talk about growing up and living with the blues in 1950s Chicago and his relationship with his father’s music, plus performing ‘I’ve Got My Mojo Workin’.
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 52

Clinton Darryl Mansell (born 1963) is an English musician, singer and composer, born in Coventry. He served as the lead singer and multi-instrumentalist of alt-rock band Pop Will Eat Itself before embarking on a career as a film score composer. Mansell moved to the United States after the dissolution of the group and started working with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. He has subsequently become an award-winning, Golden Globe and Grammy-nominated film composer, collaborating extensively with Aronofsky, and also writing scores for dozens of other films (both shorts and features), TV series and video games.

‘San Junipero’ is the fourth episode in the third series of the British science fiction anthology television series Black Mirror, for which Mansell wrote the score. It premiered on Netflix on 21 October 2016.
It tells the future-facing story of two star-crossed lovers who fall for each other across various time periods, all in the same Miami-esque location. Its soundtrack and 80s connotation became a runaway success, with the episode inspired by and featuring music from The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Public Enemy and Pixies, among others. Show creator Charlie Brooker released a playlist for the episode shortly after it was released via Netflix last year.

Read more about Mansell’s ideas and thoughts on his Black Mirror score in an interview for the Quietus.

Mansell’s nuanced, enlightening synth-driven score is complex and offers something savory to complement the delectable sugar of the licensed songs. Just as “San Junipero” is only 1980s enough to further its message, Mansell’s score is largely contemporary with evocative shades of period pastiche…
…In this show, his work has the understated power of Brian Eno, the charm of early Sébastien Tellier, and the arpeggiated ambiance and controlled synthesizer gymnastics of folks like Cliff Martinez.

[Review on Vehlinggo]

Dancing Scene from ‘San Junipero’
Listen to the full album on Bandcamp
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 51

Carsten Nicolai (1965), also known as Alva Noto, is a German musician and visual artist. He is a member of the music groups Diamond Version with Olaf Bender (Byetone), Signal with Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, Cyclo with Ryoji Ikeda, ANBB with Blixa Bargeld, ALPHABET with Anne-James Chaton, Opto with Thomas Knak, and Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto with whom he composed the score for the 2015 film The Revenant.

Carsten Nicolai was born in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) of Saxony, GDR in 1965. He studied architecture and landscape design before pursuing art. In 1994 he founded the label NOTON, following which collaboration with RasterMusic began and by 1999 the two labels had merged into Raster-Noton, which operated until 2017. Returning to the origin of the label in 2017, Nicolai runs NOTON separately.

The album Unieqav is the third and final installment in his Uni trilogy after 2008’s Unitxt and 2011’s Univrs. This is also seen in the cover art for each, which, when combined, form a triptych spelling Uni. The music is more rhythmic and dancefloor-oriented. Noto explains that the compositions sonically represent an underwater dive.

Nicolai does a lot with very little. He can reduce his sound down to bundles of frequencies and pulses of noise in ways that can encompass techno, ambient and drone. He can endow the barest sounds with personality, turning them into music that sounds like little else. That’s why Unieqav’s simple formula is so thrilling: this is dance music with masterful sound design, like techno with an operating system upgrade. The album channels Alva Noto’s trademark sounds into jittery, funky music that loses none of the complexity of his more challenging work. That must have been some night in Tokyo — we’re still reaping the rewards over a decade later.

[Review on residentadvisor]

Alva Noto talks Collaboration, Raster-Noton and Sounds
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 50

Good lord, I just started to explore Aretha Franklin's discography counting 38 studio albums, 6 live albums and 131singles! Picking exactly the best album of the week is almost impossible, there are so many good ones. Her voice is just incredible.
What helped is this detailed review of 40 albums that will give you a good start to find out more about the ‘Queen of Soul’.

Aretha is widely regarded as one of, usually the best, female vocalists of all time. She began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was a minister. At the age of 18, she embarked on a secular-music career as a recording artist for Columbia Records. While Franklin’s career did not immediately flourish, she found acclaim and commercial success after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966.

Raphael Homer “Ray” Bryant (1931 — 2011) was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. Bryant was not known as an innovator but had a readily recognizable style of his own. Bryant said that he liked to transfer elements of the Count Basie Orchestra to the piano. A writer commented that Bryant’s “solo works are often like carefully crafted sonatas with dramatic changes in mood, tempo and dynamics”.

Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo is her first studio album released on February 27, 1961. The album showcases a young Aretha Franklin (only 18 nearly 19 years old, at the time of these recordings), covering a range of jazz and pop standards. Columbia Records couldn’t clearly classify Aretha’s sound, as either jazz or R&B. Aretha’s subsequent albums would show her moving from the realms of both sounds, and audiences as she tries to define her “own soulful sound”.

With a successful mix of pop and jazz standards, the super talent — Aretha had just turned 18 years old — brought her vocal chords to vibrate. Fired on with youthful élan, these evergreens sound so fresh, new and intoxicating that the question of their genre is quite irrelevant.

From a seesawing R & B (“Won’t Be Long”) via bell-like waves of melody (“Over The Rainbow”) right up to the freely styled, jazzy Gershwin classic “It Ain’t Necessarily So” — everything is right there! The Ray Bryant Trio — augmented with winds — proves itself a formidable ensemble with true presence yet unobtrusive accompaniment.

[Review on analogueseduction.net]

The epic scene from the Blues Brothers movie performing the song Think.
Listen to the full album on Bandcamp
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 49

Cristina was born in Italy and grew up between Italy, England and France. She sang in the crib, was always obsessed with music and then sang in choirs, played the piano and flute and picked up the guitar at around 13. She came to the United States to attend university at 18, and it was not until she was 20 that she discovered the slide guitar, playing her first shows while spending the summer at home in London. She immediately fell in love with the biting sound of the slide guitar, bought her own and started to teach herself with a few tips from the internet.

Old Played New is a tribute to the delta blues artists that have shaped my sound, including Son House, Skip James, Charley Patton and others. With 5 cover songs from various artists and one original on the track list, it is also my first solo guitar record. I am so happy with how Brook Sutton captured these live takes at The Studio here in Nashville, and so happy to share it with you.

[Review on thefatangelsings]

Cristina Vane — “Long Way Home” Live at Jam in the Van Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA.
Listen to the full album on Bandcamp
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 48

Mulatu Astatke (born 1943) is an Ethiopian musician and arranger considered as the father of Ethio-jazz.
Born in the western Ethiopian city of Jimma, Mulatu was musically trained in London, New York City, and Boston where he combined his jazz and Latin music interests with traditional Ethiopian music. Astatke led his band while playing vibraphone and conga drums — instruments that he introduced into Ethiopian popular music — as well as other percussion instruments, keyboards, and organ. His albums focus primarily on instrumental music, and Mulatu appears on all three known albums of instrumentals that were released during Ethiopian Golden 1970s.

The Heliocentrics are an English, London-based musical collective, combining funk, jazz, psych and library influences based around drummer and producer Malcolm Catto, Bassist Jake Ferguson, Guitarist Adrian Owusu and multi-instrumentalist Jack Yglesias.

The third in Strut Records’ Inspiration Information collaborative series pairs Mulatu Astatke, 66-year-old father of Ethio-jazz, with London-based astral funk collective the Heliocentrics. The collaboration began with an appearance at London club Cargo in 2008, and has finally borne recorded fruit in the form of an intriguing album that’s equal parts sweaty funk and blissfully meditative jams.

[Review on bbc]

Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics perform the brilliant song ‘Yegelle Tezeta’ live
Listen to the full album on Bandcamp
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 47

Stanton Moore (born 1972) is an American funk, jazz, and rock drummer from New Orleans. Most widely known as a founding member of Galactic, Moore has also pursued a solo recording career (beginning with his 1998 debut All Kooked Out!) and recorded with bands as diverse as jazz-funk keyboardist Robert Walter and heavy metal act Corrosion of Conformity.

He also travels internationally to teach New Orleans drumming, writes regularly for drumming magazines, and releases instructional books and videos. In 2017 Moore established the Stanton Moore Drum Academy.

Veteran drummer Stanton Moore, of New Orleans funk masters Galactic, returns to his jazz beginnings with a spirited piano-trio recording….
…Moore fosters a unique trio interplay here. The bandmates’ New Orleans roots inform their shared sensibility, from a deep sense of groove and pocket to cultural and musical influences. They also share consummate musicianship and versatility. While both Torkanowsky and Singleton shine, this is unmistakably a drummer’s record: Without overshadowing, Moore’s engaging virtuosity, imagination and improvisational chops are clearly on display.

[Review on jazztimes]

Stanton Moore with Joe Ashlar and Danny Abel Live outside Tipitina’s
Listen to the full album on Bandcamp
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 46

Bronski Beat were a British synthpop trio which achieved success in the mid-1980s, particularly with the 1984 chart hit “Smalltown Boy”, from their debut album The Age of Consent, which was their only US Billboard Hot 100 single.

All members of the band were openly gay and their songs reflected this, often containing political commentary on gay-related issues. The initial line-up, which recorded the majority of the band’s hits, consisted of Jimmy Somerville (vocals), Steve Bronski (born Steven William Forrest, keyboards, percussion) and Larry Steinbachek (keyboards, percussion).

Featuring the groundbreaking pop hits ”Smalltown Boy” and “Why,” the 1984 debut album from the British synth-pop group was a transgressive moment — defiant, queer, and full of hooks.

[Review on pitchfork]

Smalltown Boy is definitely among my top 20 all-time favorites, here in a wonderful acoustic version.
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 45

Born in 1931 and of Jamaican descent, Wynton Kelly (1931–1971) is a talented jazz pianist who can be considered an early gifted pianist. Although he had some luminous moments, he had both a fairly low-key career with a few pitfalls and made his mark on the genre, but one thing is certain: he had an excellent reputation among his peers, making him an exemplary sideman man.

1959 will be the year that will change everything and make his fame and his legacy perhaps still present at its (almost) right value today…
…No matter what the peripatetic, Kelly Blue is a fantastic album that could have gone down the drain if things hadn’t turned out so well. Maybe nobody would have talked about it. However, if you are a jazz fan and addicted to 50’s hard-bop, addicted to the blues, Kelly Blue is clearly recommended for you. Accompanied by Nat Adderley (horn), Benny Golson (tenor saxophone), Bobby Jaspar (flute), Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) (the last 2 he managed to get back thanks to the common recording of Kind of Blue), Kelly Blue is composed of 6 compositions, including 3 original ones composed by Kelly himself.

[Review on albumoftheyear.org]

Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 44

Chester Burton “Chet” Atkins (1924 — 2001), known as “Mr. Guitar” and “The Country Gentleman”, was an American musician, occasional vocalist, songwriter, and record producer who, along with Owen Bradley, Bob Ferguson and others, created the country music style that came to be known as the Nashville sound, which expanded country music’s appeal to adult pop music fans. He was primarily known as a guitarist. He also played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele.

Chet Atkins’ discography is large and diverse (88 Studio albums, 3 Live Albums, 53+ Compilation albums). Not only did he release principal studio albums as a solo artist, but he was also a prolific and much sought-after collaborator. He also played as a sideman on many more.
His distinctive picking style and musicianship brought him admirers inside and outside the country scene, both in the United States and abroad.

Later in life, he lightheartedly gave himself (along with John Knowles, Marcel Dadi, Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Wariner, and Jerry Reed) the honorary degree CGP (“Certified Guitar Player”). In 2011, his daughter Merle Atkins Russell bestowed the CGP degree on his longtime sideman Paul Yandell. She then declared no more CGPs would be allowed by the Atkins estate.

In November 2011, Rolling Stone ranked Atkins number 21 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Hometown Guitar is his thirty-fourth studio album.
To be honest, I could have chosen almost any of the over hundred albums. This one, in particular, caught my attention because of the wonderful cover photo art by Michael Ochs.

An interesting documentary about this legendary guitar player and his influence on country music.
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 43

Martin Kohlstedt (born 1988) is a German composer, pianist and record producer with a contemporary approach of mixing classical and avantgarde music styles.
In a live setting Kohlstedt mostly uses grand and upright pianos in combination with a Fender Rhodes and several synthesizers. The Daily Telegraph said in review of his London live debut that “the music’s repetitive patterns and modal harmonies sometimes reminded one of other music often described as hypnotic, from Ryuichi Sakamoto to Einaudi. What sets Kohlstedt apart is the undercurrent of anxiety, and the occasional moments of grandeur”.

Kohlstedt has released two corresponding solo piano albums: Tag (2012) & Nacht (2014). In 2017, he released his third record ‘Strom’ which also features electronic instrumentation.

NACHT is an album that finally gives us some time again. Time to follow a melody without vocals really intensively. Time to take in these melody progressions within us. Of course, the titles are not easily accessible to everyone. Nevertheless, those who get involved with one of the most modern composers will find access relatively quickly.

[Review on www.soundkartell.de]

Kohlstedts' approach to modular composing, in which a cohesive ‘piece’ does not exist but is rather always changing, was laid out by him in a 2017 TEDx-Talk.
Listen to the full album on Bandcamp
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 42

Kelly Moran is a composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist based in Brooklyn, New York, United States. Her music spans classical, electronic, minimalist, jazz, impressionist, and metal genres. In many of her compositions, Moran utilizes electronic musical techniques in combination with the John Cage-pioneered technique of the prepared piano.
Moran signed with Warp Records in September 2018.

Moran utilizes the prepared piano format in her compositions, which involves altering a piano by placing objects on or between its strings. The style was pioneered by musicians John Cage and Henry Cowell. Moran’s style is also compared to Erik Satie. Moran creates unique timbres through this method, often placing items like screws within the piano and playing the strings with her fingers or an EBow.

On Ultraviolet, Moran plays prepared piano — a technique that involves placing objects like screws or bolts between the strings of the piano, so that the notes take on a percussive edge. To make the record, Moran edited down the hours worth of improvisations she churned out on the day of her breakthrough, then built them out with layers of synth. The resulting passages sound familiar but foreign — the well-known timbre of the piano made strange by its preparation; bright, earthy melodies partially obfuscated by dense, electronic fog.

[Review & Interview on pitchfork]

Listen to the full album on Bandcamp
Listen to the full album on spotify

Week 41

Yma Sumac (1922 — 2008), was a Peruvian coloratura soprano. She was one of the most famous exponents of exotica music during the 1950s.
Sumac became an international success based on her extreme vocal range. She had five octaves according to some reports, but other reports (and recordings) document four-and-a-half at the peak of her singing career
A typical trained singer has a range of about three octaves.

Mambo! is her fifth studio album. It was released in 1954 by Capitol Records. Most of the tracks were composed by her husband Moisés Vivanco.

One thing is for sure: the colorful style of Mambo has never before been interpreted in such a colorful way… and ever since. Three factors make Mambo! an eminently delightful album. Firstly, the voice of Yma Sumac has to be mentioned at first, of course. Regardless of whether the material is interpreted cheerfully, with a tongue-in-cheek attitude or needs to emanate an aura of innocence, Peru’s famous singer knows how to handle both the stylistic and the vocal range with ease. Secondly, the involvement of Moises Vivanco makes sure that his wife does not merely perform renditions or interpretations of well-known material. The opposite is the case: each and every one of the eleven cuts is terrifically unique and lives up to the hype around Vivanco. He was indeed a highly skilled composer. And thirdly, the material is splendidly instrumented by Billy May’s Rico Mambo Orchestra, with Space-Age horns aplenty and par excellence.

[Review on ambientexotica.com]

Yma Sumac chats with Nancy Glass and Linda Dano in this rare 1987 TV Interview.
Listen to the full album on spotify

Enjoy listening, share this one or our other articles with your music friends. Of course, you can also write your personal inspiration in the comments section if you like. Stay curious!

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Don Lu

(yet another) berlin-based freelance UI/UX-designer, exploring music and sounds