Lovely Recordings Hosted by Daniel G.

Last year, in one of those midlife plot twists, I was forced to give up running. I turned to music, live and recorded, to replace that sense of a truer, endorphin-tinged world that running had given me. In the past year I’ve been obsessively seeing live shows as well as fussing with my home loudspeaker placement. I have inhabited that chasm dividing live performance from recordings. Here’s some music I fell in love with live over the past year, and how I fell for it all over again on record in a different way.

Sleigh Bells: Jessica Rabbit (Torn Clean, 2016)
Could a giant wall of Marshall stacks cure a bad back? This show, in a tiny club, was like sharing an elevator with a hurricane. My skin wobbled. Somehow the massage worked—my aching back got more supple as I was tossed around by sound waves and moshing kids.

Safe at home, my hi-fi picks up a bunch of smart little blips on Jessica Rabbit. Amid the power chords, beatz, and shouty vocals, I make out neo-Motown touches and the odd diminuendo that had been drowned in the gale. Still, these details, though telling, come at the cost of force. A hurricane on Doppler radar looks sharp but it can’t massage your back.

Available from Bandcamp

Cate Le Bon: Crab Day (Drag City Records, )
Ever picture Marlene Dietrich in mime makeup? Nah, me either, but Cate Le Bon thinks bigger than us. This January she absolutely filled a medium-large ballroom with her deadpan circus-cabaret. The album Crab Day, while just as fun as the show, feels pointedly smalltime—close-mic’d and reverbless, as if recorded in a pillow fort. It takes you right back to afterschool circuses put on with the weirdo neighbor kids. Back when every day was Crab Day.

Available from Bandcamp

Igor Levit: The Goldberg Variations (Sony Classical, 2015)
As part of an otherwise witless art installation by Marina Abramović, Levit sat at a concert grand on a big turntable. It began to turn slowly as he started to play, taking all 32 variations to rotate 360°. From Aria to Aria da capo I watched and heard him travel a million miles round trip. (And I also learned how much a piano lid focuses the sound.)

This recording retains Levit’s insight and power, but omits the emotional drain that his posture betrayed at the end of the live show. The orbital journey of the Goldbergs is all there, but, selfishly, I miss watching the astronaut stagger off the spacecraft.

Available from HDtracks

Mega Bog: Happy Together (Nicey Music, 2017)
Mega Bog (Erin Birgy) blew away the headliner I had come all the way to Queens to see. She did it with oddball impish glee, standing on her catalog of influences rather than shouldering it. The trio she led played like Soft Machine and danced like a summer camp production of "Hair".

Since then I’ve listened to Happy Together every week, then immediately put on Kevin Ayers or whatever else I imagine I hear in her music. She makes cronuts from the chaff of the past, though honestly Birgy is too skilled a musician to convey the glorious spazziness of her live thing.

Available from Bandcamp

Mal Devisa: Kiid (DZ TAPES, 2016)
An opening act has no right to expect an encore. Especially a singer-songwriter with a guitar. Especially a singer-songwriter playing solo electric bass. And yet twice now I’ve seen Devisa make other bands’ fans beg her for more. Never was I more convinced of a performer’s raw need to tell a story. She was an athlete of urgency.

Kiid proves, like the music of other four-string poets such as Thundercat or Esperanza Spalding, that a skipping heartbeat can be a ballad all its own.

Available from Bandcamp

Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band: The Rarity of Experience (No Quarter, 2016)
A few days after Election Day, I convinced my wife and a friend to come out to see Cocksucker Blues, scored live by Forsyth in Brooklyn. He played guitar over the film from which almost all the sound had been stripped away, including the Stones’ music. Their 1972 US tour became a dark ethnography of languid monsters, with Forsyth’s guitar commenting acidly throughout. For the first time in a week, we all felt we could breathe.

The First Ten Minutes of Cocksucker Blues graces this album. It’s one of a bunch of hungry, smart jams. It still sounds to me like breathing through a massacre.

Available from Bandcamp

Mary Lattimore and Jeff Ziegler: Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel's Le Révélateur (Thrill Jockey, 2016)
This music is made to accompany a silent French film from 1968. Heard live with the film it had the effect of concentrating the images, focusing their emotional riddles without really explaining them. On record it does the opposite. Like Bruce Langhorne’s soundtrack to The Hired Hand, it shears the back wall of your room right off, exposing you to sunlight, or the swirling night sky, or maybe a vein in an amethyst mine. It clarifies everything, as much as anything can.

Available from Bandcamp

Jackie : Jackie Lynn (Thrill Jockey, 2016)
In a bar in Queens, this woman came out of the bathroom in a homespun Nudie suit and flame-red wig. She played 12-string with a solemnity that could have been shyness but came off like the aftermath of a bloody crime. I wasn’t sure it was an act.

Jackie Lynn is a country album. You could ask, like Terry Allen, "which country?" and I guess I’d answer "Twin Peaks." On the recording, with her warm baritone and crystalline electronics, she exaggerates the Nashville confessional (like Terry Allen) till the pose is the confession.

Available from Bandcamp

Barbara Hannigan: let me tell you (Winter & Winter, 2016)
This recording totally overwhelms me. Hannigan pushes to the limits of her own voice to portray Ophelia from Hamlet. Sitting stock still in the sweet spot between my loudspeakers, I feel the madwoman falling at my feet as she swoons. On this very good recording the tessitura of the winds and Hannigan’s wildly dynamic soprano strains the limits of my aspirational tweeters. I want to get closer to this ghost.

I bought tickets for Hannigan’s appearance this coming November, singing Satie rather than Abrahamsen, in the wood-paneled Officer’s Room at the Park Avenue Armory. I will sit as close up as possible. Because the chairs creak loudly in that room the audience will sit punishingly still. I’m sure it’ll be just like being there.

Available from HDtracks

Daniel G. is a project manager living in Brooklyn, NY.


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COMMENTS
jimx1169's picture

Nicely done!

GarkM's picture

and your enthusiasm is infectious.
Thanks

lestes's picture

My two passions are running and music. They go very well together! Thanks for sharing.

Bob Karp's picture

I've enjoyed your writing, as well as these selections! Listening to Mega Bog, just now. When I first read your post, I could only listen through my MacBook. Liked what I heard but ... playing now through the real system ... wow! Striking, enjoyable, and something I'm sure I would not have otherwise found. Thank you, Daniel!

Gercke's picture

All these acts are on tour now around the country and around the world, so you can go see for yourself. All, that is, except for Mal Devisa, who has fallen ill and has resorted to the insurance plan of all working musicians: GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/mal-down

Also: RIP Bruce Langhorne, departed just after I wrote this.

Thanks for the kinds words, and good listening.