220px-gojira_terra_incognitaReview by Jaime Vargas Sánchez

Assigned by Logan Kono

First things first. The album title is a misnomer. It’s as much as a misnomer as if The Cure’s “Pornography” was called “Drinking Mojitos On The Beach”. As if Yes’ “Tales From Topographic Oceans” was called “Short Ditties For Easy Piano”. As if Jandek’s “Ready For House” was called “This Is Good In Any Way Whatsoever” (SEE, ANDREAS, I STILL HAVE NOT FORGIVEN YOU). That much of a misnomer.

Because this terra is not incognita at all, in fact it’s cognita all the way. It’s metal. Wikipedia says it’s death metal and progressive metal; whatever. I am not up to date with post-90s metal. I don’t see the progressiveness anywhere, so if you like this kind of metal you will like this album.

But let me rant.

The thrash metal scene of the 80s was awesome. And it was supposed to enlarge the scope of metal. SO WHY IS IT THAT THE END RESULT WAS THAT IT ACTUALLY NARROWED IT.

Oh well. Another rock genre that it’s totally dead. And people wonder why my musical tastes grow backwards in time instead of forward.

The Tony Williams Lifetime – Emergency! (1969)

Assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sanchez
Reviewed by: Victor Guimarães

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The Tony Williams Lifetime! The rising times of jazz-fusion! Who was the ingenious mind who thought about mixing jazz improvisation and harmony with elements of rock music? And 60-70s rock! Even better! Give this enlightened someone a cookie! And to this enlightened group of musicians revolving around the creative genius of their leader, the jazz drummer, Tony Williams, another. Or a full jar, for that matter!

For the record, Emergency! is their debut album. The legend says it wasn’t well received by jazz fans back in ‘69… Critics that time now look back and bite their conservative tongues. Well deserved, as Tony and co. really were groundbreakers. Apart from some minor spoken lines, the album’s focus is fully instrumental. It sounds well for both rock and jazz listeners – although a bit more for jazz people, I think. (We could exclude, maybe, some conservative I-only-listen-to-x variations. We don’t count them in the statistics as they are not funny at all). As I enjoy both genres myself, I gotta say Tony and Co. would carry you alongside a longer-than-hour trip into their timeless sound experience. Expect creative instrumentals, jazz-like. Guitars could sport a rock-like approach, it tends to jazz. Drums would keep jazz-ing, rock-ing, then jazz-ing again, building the right tempo for the right situations, generally on par with the guitar. Ah! Don’t try. Don’t say a thing. This drumming is simply beautiful. Organs complete the melody, adding key touches and passages that would truly be missed. And although not listed in the official records, I definitely listen to a bass – an amazing, well-played bass. (No-bass jazz don’t make sense, c’mon). And, of course, there’s the room for improvisation. I can listen to this album a thousand times and I’d still think they gathered to practice and ended up recording this in one-shot, listened to everything, fixed some stuff and recorded again only because of their own perfectionism.

This Groundbreaking courage, this fusion, this spirit! Music definitely need more of that! Thanks to The Tony Williams Lifetime, we had doors open for this innovation. Your move, 2017 artists.

LOS DELINQÜENTES – Recuerdos garrapateros de la flama y el carril (2006)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez


This was a fun album to listen to, although I didn’t have as much time to digest it as I might have liked. This album is a compilation of material from the band’s previous material, put together after the death of one of their key members.  The music was recorded in the late 90’s early 2000’s. Their style is very eclectic, based on flamenco or rumba, and incorporating a mix of international popular music styles, including rock, reggae, and even a bit of rap. These kinds of fusion often turn into a mess, but these guys merge the styles into a cohesive, unique style. There appear  to be two singers, one who has a raspy voice more in line with (my relatively ignorant preconception of) flamenco singers, and another singer who sings in a higher register who reminds me of Manu Chao a bit.

The album title and many of the lyrics make reference to “garrapatas”, or ticks. The reference seems to refer to humble and/or rural origins (I don’t know their biographies). Many of the songs refer to the street, and to life on the margins of society. The tick metaphor seems to be used as a symbol of freedom from the trappings and expectations of society. I do speak Spanish, but a lot of Spanish/Andalusian slang & cultural references went over my head.

Overall quite an enjoyable album. If you don’t understand the lyrics, you’ll miss out on the humor, but you’ll still enjoy the music. Fans of the afore-mentioned Manu Chao would probably like this album. Thumbs up.

YELLO – Solid Pleasure (1980)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Assigned by: Andreas Georgi 


In a way, it’s a bit weird that I’m frequently at a loss for words when reviewing electronic music, since it was the first genre that caught my attention back in my youth, but it’s true. Anyway, Yello are an electronic music group, initially a trio, and this is their first album. Their music can be described as artsy synthpop with a strong emphasis in rhythm (including some non-trivial ones, like the Latin-derived beats in “Downtown Samba”, which are quite a feat for a band whose music is mainly programmed – apart from the singer, the other members are a tape manipulator and a samplist), but that does not exclude them from going for some darkish (with tongue firmly in cheek) ambient parts, like the “Massage”/”Assistant’s Cry” sequence. The record sounds also quite varied because Yello take the route of recording many short songs, which is unexpected (you’d usually think a straight dance number like “Bostich” would be a 7 minute rave, but here it lasts only two). In short this is the kind of album that I don’t think I could “love”, but would not mind returning to it some day.

JANDEK – Ready for House (1978)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Andreas Georgi (who’s going to pay for this)

I quickly sampled the album and my first impression is that just thinking that I have to listen to 43 minutes of this makes me wanna curl up in a corner and weep.

It’s off key vocals without power nor color, backed by some amateurish banging at some zither like instrument. Ah no, it’s apparently a guitar. When you can’t identify an instrument that plays solo it means that whoever is playing it is SO UNSKILLED that cannot even make it sound like itself.

Okay, I cannot stand this. I don’t like it. Nobody does. Everybody who says they like it are lying and being pretentious. This is an offense on humanity. MAKE IT STOP. MAKE. IT. STOP.

Oh, wait a moment.
I realised I’m not forced to do this.
I can make it stop myself.

DADDY YANKEE – Mundial (2010)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

I keep trying to get Spotify to play this record but all I hear is the playlist to which Fanta runs its brand promotion tied to the world cup series on a beach party. See, this reggaeton thing was for some reason as hugely popular as europop (another genre that revolves hugely around aggressively beating you over the head with simplistic repetitive beats and annoying vocal hooks for the duration of the song) but really the only context I see for a music like that nowadays is to mindlessly blast it through the speakers of the bungee jumping machine at the beach under the hot summer sun. It is not even fit to be the background music they play between the X-factor auditions! Like who listens to this stuff? How did it end up in the charts? Can anyone even relate emotionally to this? I know I stopped paying attention after the first track because this repetitive plateau of high after high after high all at the same volume and intensity, it cannot captivate your attention, let alone move your soul. Furthermore, you have read, I presume, how songwriting committees have evaluated that radio-friendly songs nowadays have to hit a new high every 6 seconds in order to keep the attention of the ever station-switching listener in his car. Yeah, but how can you top high after high after high, if you never relax the tension? Tension and relaxation until an eventual resolution, that’s the secret to a great many awesome songs in the pop canon!!
No, that was actually my first listen impression and it is totally not fair to the record. In fact, even on my first listen I noticed the attitude in the opening track “El Mejor De Todos Los Tiempos” and recognised its relative uniqueness in the bailando & vuvuzela context, and after a second listen I can confirm that the first two tracks here are actually legitimately cool. Most of the following tracks on the record are also not without their merits — even occasionally triggering my nostalgia for the times most simple that have long since passed (even if this record did actually come out as late as 2010) and making me admire the Spanish language and the Latin beats that really have their own logic and effect on the body and mind. That said, there are still some tracks (“La Despedida” to quote one) that can only fall under the generic bailando noise category. There is even the obligatory FIFA song (“Grito Mundial”, not eventually used for the 2010 World Cup series for reasons explained properly in Wikipedia) – I mean, the album is called Mundial… But after a thorough and dedicated listen I end up wondering if Daddy Yankee isn’t kinda my daddy now because this record certainly has a lot to recommend it… yeah…

GREEN DAY – American Idiot (2004)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Graham Warnken

My only memories of Green Day were when they were on the radio a lot around the release of “Dookie”, so for me they were always this young pop-punk band, so when I read in the press that they were doing a conceptual rock opera thing I was thinking “Huh? Are they the right band to do this? Wouldn’t it be boring? Pop punk only has so much diversity and when you go for a concept album you need musical diversity”.

Or course I was not being aware that 10 years had passed since “Dookie”, and another 12 have passed since they released “American Idiot” to the day in which I’m listening to it for the first time.

First of all, I will not comment on the plot and the concept, for one simple reason: I would need to pay attention to the lyrics, and that would be something for a time when I can focus enough on them.

I don’t know if in the time span between Dookie and American Idiot they had already transcended their old sound, but in this record they sound quite more diverse than simply punky pop (although “St. Jimmy” – actually the second half of “Are We The Waiting / St. Jimmy”; a lot of tracks come in pairs – is totally classic punk). But the energy is there, oh boy is it there. The guitars jump at you with classic rock abandon, the drums are precise yet lively and the bass holds the ground as it’s supposed to do. Check the title track for an example – it’s exhilarating.

Green Day asserted that they had done their homework and studied classic rock operas and it shows. They said their main inspiration was “Quadrophenia” and I can agree – but if anything, it sounds like Quad if Quad had been done by the Who of 1965 rather than the Who of 1973. But that’s not the only discernible influence; take the second track and arguably the tour de force of the album, “Jesus of Suburbia”, a nine minute monster in several parts. Not only there are very strong hints of Ziggy Stardust here and there, but the third section (“I don’t care”) is so much in the same rhythm as the “I have to know” part of “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar – and it’s so totally appropriate in a meta level – that it cannot be accidental.

Diversity is also a mark of the “paired” tracks: the “Are we the waiting” section of that track I mentioned above has nothing to do with the “St. Jimmy” section; “Give me Novocaine / She’s a rebel” repeats the trick: the first part is funky and acoustic, the second is punk pop at its most direct; “Holiday / Boulevard of Broken Dreams” sounds like the reggaeified Clash in its first part (excellent!), and like Oasis in the second (damn!). “Wake me up when September ends” is the expected acoustic/power ballad, and its placement in the album makes it the equivalent of the typical Broadway “11 o’clock song” (clever!). Then “Homecoming” tries to repeat the trick of “Jesus of Suburbia” (it’s even a little longer) but not quite succeeding as much, although having the two guys not named Billie Joe contribute (and sing) a section is a welcome idea (in addition to a possible nod at “Tommy”).

In short, even taking the concept out of the equation, the album is an enjoyable romp and its opening stretch is certainly good; I’d nominate the entire sequence of “American Idiot”, “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Holiday” (a pity about the “Boulevard” part – sorry guys but Oasis????) as the best part of the album. Thumbs totally up.

JEAN MICHEL JARRE – Équinoxe (1978)

Review by: Ed Luo
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

The second of French composer Jean Michel Jarre’s string of progressive electronic albums that gained him mainstream success in the late 1970s, after 1976’s Oxygène. I really liked Oxygène when I first listened to it a couple months back, and Équinoxe is a fine follow-up to that. The composition throughout stays at a moderately uptempo pace, with the dynamics and different themes shifting consistently so it doesn’t become too monotonous while still keeping you in a trance.

And then it ends with a bit of what sounds like street organ music, which is a hoot.

Anyways, if you’re a fan of other progressive electronic composers like Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and the like, listening to Équinoxe (and Oxygène) is well worth your time.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (Compiled by DAVID TOOP) – Ocean of Sound (1996)

ASSIGNED BY THE HOST: Great Compilation Albums
Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

Something sounds while you walk by. It will keep sounding even when you are not there, and your mind will have been attracted to something else.

Or maybe not. Maybe your mind is still remembering and playing with what you heard earlier.

In the classical music paradigm, a musical piece was something that developed in time. It went to places. It changed, evolved, and in the apex of the symphonic language’s growth in the 19th century, even direct repetition was frowned upon, because it made no sense to embark on a journey to get back where one started. It was an object, and a narrative, the soundtrack of an era where progress was king and the end of knowledge was theorized to be near.

David Toop’s book “Ocean of Sound”, for which this compilation servers as a soundtrack of sorts, deals with the opposite of that. The lazy description would be that it deals with ambient music and similar, but actually it talks about a kind of music that transcends genres; a music that seems to be in a sort of stasis. And so we find here ambient, yes, but also classical music, jazz (free and fusion), musique concrète,treated field recordings (many by Toop himself), rock, electronica… and well known names such as Les Baxter, Holger Czukay, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis (both at their most electric), My Bloody Valentine, Harold Budd, John Cage, and of course Brian Eno.

The best thing about this compilation is the sequencing. Every track flows seamlessly into the next (so much that in some cases an element that wasn’t there before, such as a vocal, prompted me to see that, yes, it was another track, and on a more attentive listening it was apparent that actually the entire instrumentation was different yet I had not noticed). As minimalist music gives way to recordings of chimes, as boat horns and wildlife get juxtaposed with experimental jazz, we understand how time works here. We are not witnessing a journey. We are taking a walk. Our surroundings change – but not with any sense of inevitability. The music is not the same as a minute ago, but in the same way that it changed like this, it could have changed any other way, and yet there’s not a lack of cohesion.

A good summation could be the Ornette Coleman track included. It’s not directed anywhere per se. But even if we could say it’s directionless, it’s not aimless. It’s beautiful music that simply “is”. But if you are preparing yourself to be awash in a sea of rhythmic fluidity and aural massage, the tracklist is subversive since the start, as the album begins with King Tubby’s dub reggae – by no means a kind of music lacking in pulse – and settles for a while in a groove provided by Herbie Hancock first and Aphex Twin later before moving to stiller places just when you thought you were in the coolest club ever. Notice however how the stasis Toop mentioned is still there – all three songs sound like they are moving but in reality they are not actually going anywhere.

The inclusion of Debussy’s “Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune” is a given since Toop sees him as the genesis of 20th century music, and it’s interesting that in the company of the other tracks, this composition, which at its time was revolutionary in that it seemed to paint a still picture – none of the “telling a story” pretensions of Lisztian tone poems – sounds like having a lot of movement in comparison. It works a bit less with the included Velvet Underground song, which I think has too much of a traditional dynamic to fit. In that regard I think the My Bloody Valentine selection works much better. It’s also curious to hear the well-known “Fire” theme from the Beach Boys’ “Smile” here – actually in its Smiley Smile “Fall Breaks and Back to Winter” guise, no doubt because it was the only official version of it at the time of the compilation – and noticing how well it works.

By now I think it’s clear that I like the album. That I recommend the album. Maybe you did not make an impression from my words. It’s all right – just go listen to it if you can. After all, to paraphrase Brian Eno’s manifesto, much of this music can be as ignorable as it is interesting. As background noise I far prefer it to TV. But do listen.

Summing up will make me sound like I was getting somewhere, which defeats the entire philosophy of the sonic ocean.

So I just keep on walking.

THE SMITHS – Meat Is Murder (1985)

Review by: Michael Strait
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

I’ve nothing revolutionary to say about The Smiths. Have they ever made a bad album? Probably not. Have they ever even made an album that was anything less than great? Well, I don’t think so. Is this, nonetheless, probably their weakest? Yeah, I guess. “Meat Is Murder” is a bad song, after all, and that’s a rare thing to find on a Smiths album. I’ve no problem with Morrissey preaching his vegetarian beliefs – I’m no vegetarian myself, but if you believe you’re saving lives I think you’re entitled to act like it – but the song is just kinda dreary; it’s got a piano playing a fairly hackneyed, generic little line and some really corny bleating sheep samples here and there, and Morrissey’s really not making much sense. “Death for no reason is murder”? U wot, m8? Murder is the premeditated and unlawful taking of another life – “death for no reason” encompasses anything from manslaughter to death by misadventure. You sure you wanna go through with this line of reasoning, Moz? Was Princess Diana murdered, too? Ah, wait, don’t answer that…

Ehm, anyway, now that I’ve got the bad stuff out of the way I can focus on the cool shit. Firstly, Marr’s being his usual self on this album, which means his guitar not only sounds like it’s glowing but makes everything else on the album sound sorta like it’s glowing as well. He’s really good at weaving notes around all the other members of the band, placing them like candles in just the right places for maximum light coverage. He does it especially well on the penultimate track here, “Barbarism Begins At Home”, in which he and bassist Andy Rourke (their secret weapon) combine their powers to make this really nice interlocking groove that’s powerful enough to carry the song for near-on 7 minutes without changing or getting boring. Throw in some classic Morrissey social miserablism (this time it’s about the dangers of overzealous parental discipline) and you’ve got yerself a classic Smiths song.

There’s a bunch of those in here, actually. My favourite is probably “Nowhere Fast”, which contains one of the classic Morrissey verses (“and when I’m lying in my bed/ I think about life and I think about death/ and neither one particularly ap-peeeaaals to meeeee” – I mean, I know I can relate to that, I dunno about y’all) and a main riff that’s probably the clearest shoutout they ever did to the 60s pop they loved so much. It’s really catchy, really energetic and pretty much instantly memorable, and the same goes for “What She Said”, in which Marr’s guitar slides and falls about like an aeroplane caught in turbulence while Joyce’s drums hit that sweet spot between careful precision and rollicking intensity. I also really like “Rusholme Ruffians”, mostly for that awesome role-swap between Marr and Rourke; Marr’s acoustic on that song spends its time playing a fairly understated rhythm while Rourke’s bass takes up lead melodic duties, and Morrissey has some of his very best self-deprecating, society-deprecating humour here – what’s not to love?

On that front, there’s also “The Headmaster Ritual”, which has one of Marr’s most very gorgeous guitar lines backing up Morrissey as he rips apart his old school. “Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools/ spineless bastards all…” damn, Morrissey, you couldn’t possibly be bitter, could ya? I’m not gonna lie and say I can relate (I was a veritable teacher’s pet in school) but what’s important is that Morrissey makes me understand his bitterness perfectly, as if he’s baring his soul to me over a few drinks and with a few more exquisite metaphors than usual. Then there’s “I Want The One I Can’t Have”, which is an indispensable part of British rock’s longstanding tradition of class commentary. “A double bed/ and a stalwart lover for sure/ these are the riches of the poor”… it’s subtler than, say, “Shangri-La” or “Common People”, but no less effective for that.

There’s a couple nice slower moments, too. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” and “Well I Wonder” are both acoustic ballads, though naturally they hardly sound like yer average acoustic ballad. Part of this is down to the production – the acoustic guitar on this album sounds weirdly thin and anemic, which would normally be a criticism but somehow isn’t here – but it’s also got a lot to do with The Smiths’ songwriting chops. The former has some lovely breaks in which Marr is allowed to lay down some gorgeous slices of guitar texture, and both of ‘em have these really pretty extended codas in which Morrissey retreats from the forefront and lets the instrumentation breathe. Relaxing, pleasant stuff, but there’s also enough going on to hold one’s interest if one is paying attention.

Man, I’m sorry for being so boring – I’ve nary a bad thing to say about this record. But hey, what can I say? It’s earned my praise. The Smiths were an almost frighteningly good band, and this, except for the title track, is them at their best – because they were almost never not at their best. Just get their whole discography and be done with it.