Casual Listening 

a review of cool new music


by Jeff Pinzino



May 7, 2010


Changes at Casual Listening: My apologies in missing last week – there’s been a confluence of factors that may continue to affect CL moving forward.  On the personal side, I’m starting a new job, one with a cubicle instead of a soundproof office, so my listening time may be curtailed.  I’ll keep you posted as it happens, but it may mean fewer releases per week or a less-than-weekly posting schedule.  I’m still hoping to keep the music coming.


On the technology side, I’ve suffered a one-two punch to my online listening outlets.  Lala is closing down at the end of the month, and Rhapsody has been at least a week behind in posting new releases for the last two weeks.  I could prophesy the demise of streaming music or rail against the corporations responsible for the faltering of these two sites.  Instead, I’m switching to Napster as of this week.  Now a legal site, it’s new releases are easier to find than Rhapsody, and the web player seems much more reliable.  I think I can get you links as well, although you may not be able to hear them if you’re not a Napster subscriber.  It’ll do until Spotify opens for business, or maybe we’ll get lucky and Apple will put up a streaming version of iTunes on the Lala platform.


Here’s the good stuff from the last two weeks:


! Anna Netrebko & Daniel Barenboim - In the Still of the Night (classical)


Netrebko’s warm, operatic voice does powerful justice to this set of little-heard Russian romances by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.  Recorded in an intimate concert setting with Daniel Barenboim’s exquisite piano accompaniment, this one’s a gem of vocal art.


Listen to Anna Netrebko & Daniel Barenboim “Zabit Tak Skoro


! Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble - Terry Riley: In C (classical)


This ensemble has attracted serious attention by performing some of the foundational compositions of the last 40 years.  Terry Riley’s “In C” is pointed to by many as the first salvo in classical minimalism, the launching point for Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, and others.  The instructions for the piece are that it can be played with any instrumentation, for any number of musicians, and for as long as the musicians want to play through a set series of musical themes.  In this case, it’s a 16-piece ensemble including both orchestral and electronic instruments, and played in about an hour.  The consistent pulse underneath the music and slowly shifting themes distinguish the work, played with enthusiasm by the ensemble.  As definitive as you get for a work that defies definition.


Listen to Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble “Terry Riley: In C


! Balkan Beat Box - Blue-Eyed Black Boy (world)


For BBB, the cutting edge of global fusion slices with a booming dance beat.  The group  assembles a jigsaw puzzle of styles, including Jewish and Middle Eastern music, banghra, reggae, merengue, dancehall, and house, all of which fit like they were meant to be together.


Listen to Balkan Beat Box “Move It


Steve Brand - Sunprints (ambient)


Brand brings together sounds of nature with ethereal electronic environments.  It’s a fine balance - neither so smooth as to lull you to sleep nor so dissonant as to pull you out from inside of the sound.


Listen to Steve Brand “Honoring the Beautiful Spirit


Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle (world)


You may have heard of Celtic Rock, but Baltic Rock is a genre that Gogol Bordello pretty much owns.  Rowdy Eastern European tunes led by an accordion and a singer who sounds like he’s had a few before stepping up to the microphone.


Listen to Gogol Bordello - “Pala Tute


Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights - Pardon Me (rock)


Jonathan rocks in the same vein as a more famous Tyler: Stephen Tyler of Aerosmith.  His band excels at the kind of jet-fueled classic rock that will probably be invading festivals near you all summer long.  Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights do it better than any revival band I’ve heard recently with smooth hooks, heavy guitars, and strutting vocals.


Listen to Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights “Young & Free




Also worth a listen: Broken Social Scene, The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, Ross Nielsen & the Sufferin’ Bastards, Hole.


* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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