By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
LOREN MAZZACANE CONNORS & DARIN GRAY The Lost Mariner (Family Vineyard) LOREN MAZZACANE CONNORS & DARIN GRAY The Lost Mariner (Family Vineyard)
Loren Mazzacane Connors has always had collaborators. Even in the ’80s, when his self-released limited-edition records appeared in white cardboard sleeves with photographs pasted to them, he frequently worked with vocalist Suzanne Langille, and the last decade has seen him perform with new-music iconoclasts like Keiji Haino and Alan Licht. The four-disc Unaccompanied Acoustic Guitar Improvisations was remastered by post-rock luminary Jim O’Rourke and produced for reissue by Thurston Moore, among others, as a 50th-birthday present to Connors, and the recent The Lost Mariner pairs him with Darin Gray, yet another Chicago post-rock veteran. Yet the work of this singular and profoundly ruminative guitarist has always seemed solitary. Connors’ music is about people — the poor in Hell’s Kitchen, the painter Mark Rothko, ghosts in a haunted house — but there are no people in it.
The Acoustic box’s 90-plus solo improvisations, grouped into nine long clumps that run as long as 37 minutes, are grating, repetitive and unpleasant, marked by Connors’ trademark note bending and meditative silences but lacking the dissolving fragments of melody that give his best work its brooding, earthy intensity. In addition, Connors grunts and squeals as he plays, providing Keith Jarrett–style distraction without the balm of tunefulness or developing harmonic tension. For fans, the pieces will remain intermittently fascinating — a completely personalized Czerny-style primer for an emerging new-music master — but they don’t sustain or reward focused listening. Connors’ booklet-length accompanying essay, though, which recalls his days creating these recordings in a dreary New Haven neighborhood wracked by a specifically New England sort of creeping desperation, is nearly worth the price of purchase. As Connors himself notes, “My music didn’t have much of a sense of mystery then.”
The Lost Mariner, on the other hand, is all mystery. From the bell-like chimes of guitar that open the disc to the massing midnight storm of feedback-wash and subtle discordance that builds during the final fragments, Connors and partner Darin Gray create an open, rolling, horizonless space. Bits of old blues-based tunes float, flotsamlike, on the surface. Every now and then Gray will knock a steady, slow bass part against Connors’ leaking hull of lashed-together chords, or Connors himself will unleash a sea gull’s cry of weeping guitar, but nothing disrupts the sea of sound. As always, the mariner himself is long gone, and the suite isn’t for him. The operative word in the title is “lost.”
HOBEX Back in the ’90s (WEA/Sire)
Another group of Caucasians inspired by “soul, R&B and funk” is not exactly what the world needs. Yet while it’s true that North Carolina’s Hobex has tapped the heart of ’70s Memphis soul, it has done so with a sense of adventure rather than mimicry or mere reverence. Writing and arranging songs like he’s the godchild of Al Green and Alex Chilton, singer-songwriter/guitarist Greg Humphrey (who, along with Hobex bassist Andy Ware, headed up the tuneful, jangly Dillon Fence) has happened on a sound that, from the first note, crackles with freshness and inspiration.
“Groove, Baby” takes off with a loping groove, subtle Hammond textures and a choppy rhythm guitar, but it’s Humphrey’s rich melody lines and cooing falsetto that turn the trick. On the solo, he translates that sense of melody directly to his clean, reverbless guitar style. “The Love That’s Inside” takes its cues from the Isley Brothers’ classic “Who’s That Lady” as well as the forgotten Stories hit “Brother Louie.” The feel-good groove of “Windows” (featured in the movie Rounders) is a natural drivin’-in-your-car single, and when they launch into exuberant ’70s-rock twin leads, you’ll forget it’s been done a hundred times before.
In short, Humphrey uses all the old tricks like a pro: killer horn charts throughout, a funky vocal EQ and wah-wah guitar on “I Was Wrong,” a mutated “Suzy Q” riff on the swampy “My Moonshine” and rich, sophisticated harmonies on “Solaar.” Most musicians quickly figure out how to “borrow” from the masters, but only a few are talented enough to listen and learn a thing or two. (Michael Lipton)
There’re two ways to get an understanding of Joe Claussell’s music: You can hop on a plane to NYC and head straight to Claussell’s world-renowned “Body and Soul” Sunday-afternoon tea dance, or you can get his latest disc, Language. Going the more practical route, Languageis a smarter bet.
Now, before you start picturing electronic wizardry, laser shows and hands wavin’ in the air, think again, folks, ’cause this ain’t that kind of party. There’s no techno trickery here, no hammering drum machine. Bearing the flowing essence of Afro-house music, jazz and world beats, Languagetakes you on a chill-out journey of deeply soulful and jazzy ambiance. If the music had a physical manifestation, it would possess full, negroid lips; dark-chocolate skin; a long, slender neck; high, regal cheekbones; a severe buzz cut; and a sinewy body with legs that’d go on forever. It would be female, and it would speak only the language of body. It would sweat, twitch, hump, rock and thrust its slippery cocoa hips high to the heavens. Above all, it would be an ever-faithful slave to The Rhythm.