POP / ROCK
Hairy Mountain (Alive Naturalsound Records)
When you talk about Australian hard rock music, it’s hard to ignore the influence of Michigan native Deniz Tek. When he moved to Oz in the 1970s he took the sound of Detroit/Ann Arbor’s Stooges, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band and the MC5 to many willing ears — and young Fremantle native Dom Mariani (DM3, Stoneage Hearts) soaked it all in.
Western Australia’s the Datura4 is led by the prolific guitarist/songwriter, and this sophomore album has the dependable Motor City vibe, with a little extra voodoo to make it unique. Mariani and Greg Hitchcock trade guitar licks back and forth over some chugging rhythms and it’s their tandem attack that is most memorable on these songs. By leaving each other enough space to be uncomplicated and direct — and completely avoiding overt six-string grandstanding — the effect is gripping.
Opening track Fools Gold Rush has a memorable chorus hook that connects a pop sheen to the grinding undertow. The psychedelic boogie of Mary Caroll Park back-to-back with the fuzzy, Stooges-esque Uphill Climb are solid-gold winners that lead into the epic title track.
At close to 60 years old, Mariani is showing no sign of changing his tune and has yet to reach the apex of his personal musical mountain. ★★★★
DOWNLOAD: Hairy Mountain, Trolls, Uphill Climb
— Jeff Monk
Retribution (Six Shooter Records)
If you’ve never heard Tanya Tagaq, you should. Now.
Tagaq is an artist from Iqaluktuutiaq (Cambridge Bay) in Nunavut whose blend of traditional Inuit throat-singing with modern, improvisational music, indigenous chants and drums and the swirling sounds of nature earned her the 2014 Polaris Prize for her last album, Animism.
Retribution is an even more powerful piece of work. Tagaq has said it’s an album about rape — of land, of culture, of the environment and of women — and its songs and sounds certainly don’t make for easy or relaxing listening. But they are incredibly compelling and profoundly moving, evoking horrific images of violence one moment, offering stirring naturalistic soundscapes the next.
Tagaq sets up this juxtaposition from the start, opening with Ajaaja, in which the sound of wind and water, her daughter’s voice, a drum and chant conjure images of Mother Earth or Gaïa. And then comes the title cut, which opens with Tagaq reciting these lines: "When Mother grows angry, retribution will be swift. We squander her soil and suck out her sweet black blood… to burn it." The guttural growling, howling and juddering, rhythmic exertion that follows is harrowing and otherworldly — as it should be.
Helping Taqaq create this aural work of art are violinist Jesse Zubot and drummer Jean Martin, along with guests such as Shad (whose narrative rap on Centre, about how we all return to the earth, is right on point), and Tuvan throat-singer Radik Tyülyüsh.
For good measure, Retribution closes with the most haunting version Nirvana’s Rape Me. ★★★★
Download these: Retribution, Cold, Rape Me
— John Kendle
Miles Davis Quintet
Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 (Sony/Legacy)
Many years ago I vowed to stop buying more Miles Davis albums. The vow has been broken so many times that I now rescind it publically.
This new three-CD set explores the details of the creation of some of the trumpeter's most extraordinary music from his second and arguably greatest quintet in the late 1960s — Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on saxes, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. There is great music here — some never before released— but there is also extensive session chatter. This involves detailed studio discussions with producer Teo Macero of how the track should sound, with many repetitions that might not appeal to some listeners.
To others, it offers a fascinating glimpse into artistry, if one can handle Davis's outrageous X-rated conversations (serious language warning) on some of the session tapes. The pattern is to hear all the session chatter to set up the tune, and then the master take that is the result. If you've wondered how a great band works through the details of a new tune, this set offers some very cool background. Miles fans should love this peek behind the scenes of recording brilliance.
Anything but ★★★★★ would be heresy…
DOWNLOAD: Footprints (Session Reel), then Footprints (Master Take)
— Keith Black
Sistine Chapel Choir
Palestrina (Deutsche Grammophon)
Far from the madding world, the ethereal Sistine Chapel Choir has continued to raise its angelic voices in song for generations. And it’s also proven they know how to cut an album that satisfies, judging by this latest release by Deutsche Grammophon following last year’s Cantata Domino.
The aptly titled Palestrina celebrates the music composed by the "prince of Roman polyphony," whose name is practically synonymous with florid, sacred vocal works of the Renaissance. Recorded in the Sistine Chapel with the ensemble led by Massimo Palombella, this new, 14-track release marking the year of the "Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy," as decreed by Pope Francis, features three world première recordings of Palestrina’s famous Missa Papae Marcelli, as well as two previously unrecorded motets: Veritas mea et misericordia mea and Jubilate Deo.
The a cappella choir seamlessly interweaves the rising and falling lines of each of the Mass’s five movements, with its finale Angus Dei particularly sublime with its closer harmonies. Other highlights include their molten interpretations of O bone Jesu and Benedixisti, Domine.
But it also saves the best for last: Palestrina’s arrangement of arguably the world’s best known vocal work, the quintessentially Catholic Ave Maria, teeming with gentle "alleluias" before drawing to its own, peaceful close. ★★★1/2
— Holly Harris