Music

Don Cherry: Organic Music Society

Available for the first time on CD, Cherry's 1972 album is a fascinating but sprawling mess of a record to dig back into.


Don Cherry

Organic Music Society

US Release: 2012-05-17
Label: Caprice
UK Release: 2012-06-11
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Don Cherry is about as vital a figure as there is to find in the world of free jazz. He was the man on an endless string of classic Ornette Coleman records -- The Shape of Jazz to Come, Twins, so on and so forth -- and then played on Coleman's later greats like 1971's Science Fiction and Broken Shadows. He also made his name as a frontman, releasing The Avante-Garde, his collaboration with John Coltrane, Complete Communion and other great albums.

But Cherry, like so many jazz greats, got even more exploratory as he aged, and 1972's Organic Music Society is as far out there as Cherry ever got. It's available now for the first time on CD, and it's a fascinating, sprawling mess of a record to dig back into. It both shows the extent to which he spread out here -- in fact, you'd be hard pressed to call what's on this record jazz -- and the reach of his influence. The album was recorded with Swedish musicians while Cherry was living in Sweden with wife Moki Karlsson. Cherry lived and played there a long while, and his influence is deep in Swedish jazz circles, but Organic Music Society also reaches beyond that to African, Turkish, and Brazilian instrumentation, Indian religion and philosophy, and even back to American jazz.

The way in which the album was recorded reflects Cherry's wandering ear. Only two tracks were recorded in proper studio settings, while the rest were recorded in different live settings. The collaborations here also check in from all over the map, from Cherry's work with composer Terry Riley -- two versions of Riley's "Terry's Tune" appear here -- to percussion from Turkish musician Okay Temiz to Brazilian berimbau player Nana Vasconcelos.

With so many different players and parts, the one true charm of Organic Music Society is its loose unpredictability. The album's title suggests the commune-like settings in which the album was made, and Cherry and his cohort indeed explore deeply here with no eye for a conclusion, no eye for an answer. Long vocal opener "North Brazilian Ceremonial Hymn", with its slow, shuffling hand percussion and group singing sounds like an incantation, like a group of like-minded wanderers syncing up to go on a quest. From there, "Elixer", which finds Cherry playing everything from his signature trumpet to harmonium and flute, explodes into a much more fiery sound. Over Bengt Berger's chaotic drumming, harmonium surges quietly, but it's those quick-run bleats of trumpet that bring the movement to life. "Relativity Suite", played here in two parts, is the anchor of the record, and finds the drifting noise of the early tracks to something a bit more thumping. Christer Bothen plays the doson n'goni, an African hunter's harp, and along with deeper percussion and Cherry's improvised vocals, you can hear the influence of African music coming through here. You also get a feel for Cherry's wide-open philosophical leanings -- "there must be a fourth way to flow with time," he muses at one point. "This is the organic way." -- and how they mesh with his equally borderless music.

The album runs 80 full minutes, but for all its exploration, the most exciting stuff here draws a clear line back to his free-bop days. "Hope" is a sprawling 10 minutes, but the clanging keys and horns sound more approachable without sacrificing inventiveness. Cherry's take on Pharoah Sanders' "The Creator Has a Master Plan" is another stand-out, a piano-led romp through the mind of another spirituality-minded jazz pioneer. The two versions of "Terry's Tune", though very different, draw similar lines, running down Cherry's new spiritual rabbit holes while still showing us his classic knack for unruly vamps and meshing smooth instrumentation with raucous percussion.

That mix, of the serene air of horns and the frenetic energy of drums, informs much of Organic Music Society in that it represents a duality of the spiritual journey -- the goal of calm beset on all sides by the irrepressible zeal to find that goal. Like so many explorations into personal philosophy and spirituality, though, Organic Music Society ends up feeling insular. These players created their own world in which to make this music and, beautiful as it can be, it is also often impenetrable. Any connections made in the improvised vocals that fill up the record are evident only to the speaker, Cherry, so we're left to scramble and find something in his half-realized thoughts. The music too does seem to have a clear path for the players, but leaves few breadcrumbs for us to follow behind, so while you'll be taken by a drum fill here or a squall of noise there, the album isn't likely to stick with you as an experience. There's a lot to admire about Organic Music Society and its Multi-Kulti approach to music (jazz and otherwise), but that doesn't mean you'll know what to make of it all.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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