Yearly Archives: 2004

This woman’s work, this woman’s world

A co-worker of mine once said Kate Bush needs to release a new album and save the world from Tori Amos. Well, the world will be saved in 2005. She’s releasing an album next year.

Truthfully, the one Kate Bush album I owned, The Sensual World, bored me, and the only thing I own of hers now is The Whole Story. Still, I like Kate Bush. Not only did she give the world “Wuthering Heights”, but she provided ACO the song for one of her best performances — “This Woman’s Work”.

I really hope Big Boi gets to do his collaboration with Kate.

Audiobin connection stablized, interface tweaked

I wanted to wait a while to see whether the last maintenance visit from Road Runner worked, and I guess a month is long enough!

It turns out the modem I was issued had some major power source problems. Road Runner replaced the modem and made repairs to my connection. Audiobin access hasn’t dropped since.

I also made a few tweaks to the Audiobin renewal and upgrade pages. Switching to a free level of the Audiobin requires no prior approval — you can swtich to Audiobin Preview or Audiobin Streaming at any time!

Switching to a donated level — Audiobin Basic or Audiobin Premiere — still requires administration. I haven’t yet created a smooth way to switch between donated levels, so please forgive the quirks.

Thank you for your patience through all the modem drama.

Upgrade to Amazon shop offers more features

The Amazon @ Musicwhore shop was recently upgraded to use the latest version of the Amazon Ecommerce Service.

As a result, a number of interface quirks were finally resolved. Items that are no longer available for purchase do not offer shopping cart links, and a few changes in the database insures better interaction with Amazon’s catalog information.

All that to say the Amazon @ Musicwhore shop is easier to use! Please note adding items to a cart or wish list takes you away from to Amazon’s site.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to intergrate’s localized content with Amazon Japan’s database, allowing users to shop for Japanese albums and DVDs with an English interface.

Please remember gets a commission for sales made through the site, so if you want to throw a few cents to help out, make your next purchase through!

Quruli releases new single in February


Quruli will release a new single, titled “Birthday”, on Feb. 23, 2005. It’ll be the first release of 2005 without drummer Christopher Maguire, who left band in 2004. Support musicians Dai Taroo and Horie Hirohisa participated in the single’s recording sessions. Dai and Horie are also members of the spin-off group Singer Songer, which features Quruli’s Kishida Shigeru and Cocco.

Covers done right

This is the cover album done right.

And given the number of eyes that roll when artists announce they’re recording cover albums, it’s a rarity.

Bill Frisell, however, has an impressive résumé. He hammered out power chords for John Zorn’s Naked City. Reinterpreted the duet album of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. And the likes of Norah Jones rip off his seamless blend of country and jazz.

But Have a Little Faith, Frisell’s cover album from 1993, reaches for a breadth that only begins to demonstrate the guitarist’s catholic influences.

The artists covered on the album is an ambitious lot — Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Bob Dylan, Madonna. And that’s only the first half.

Have a Little Faith begins with Frisell’s arrangement of Copland’s entire ballet suite, Billy the Kid. It’s an obvious match — Copland brought American influences to European art music tradition in the same way Frisell does with improvisation.

And yet, Frisell manages to get closer to the roots of Copland’s inspiration by his choice of band — Don Byron on clarinet, Guy Klucevsek on accordion, Joey Baron on drums, Kermit Driscoll on bass.

The quintet infuses Billy the Kid with the rustic immediacy Copland attempted to bring to the symphony orchestra.

Frisell, however, does exercise his creative license to alter the source material. During “Gun Battle”, Frisell puts his guitar through the wringer to produce timbres closer to Charles Ives than to Copland.

Speaking of Ives, Frisell includes two excerpts from Three Places in New England. The way Frisell’s band plays it, the piece could have been written in the last 20 years.

On a far lighter note, Frisell does a pretty straight reading of John Phillip Sousa’s “Washington Post March”. It’s a welcome addition to an album with a lot of poignant moments.

Perhaps the most poignant is his 10-minute rendition of Madonna’s “Live to Tell”. Frisell strips away most of the original song’s gloss to concentrate on the melody, but at the point where original stops for a short restatement of the hook, he lets it goes haywire instead.

The song ends with a rock backbeat, only to dissolve at the end. When someone can turn an early Madonna song into a serious performance, it deserves attention.

His interpretation of the classic standard “When I Fall in Love”, immortalized by Nat “King” Cole, turns into a haunting, sparse piece.

Even on his more straightforward performances — Bob Dylan’s “Just a Woman” and John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me” — the voice is clearly Frisell’s. These may be other people’s music, but he’s made them his own.

Which is one half of the equation for a great cover. The other is maintaining the spirit of the original.

Frisell may have taken Madonna’s song to places its never gone, but he maintains its sense of regret. He may have reduced Copland’s big score to five instruments, but he preserved the feel of the Wild West.

That Frisell can achieve that balance on material as far ranging as classical and pop music is an amazing feat.

Have a Little Faith proves cover albums can be a means of true creative expression, not indulgence.

Yuki releases third album in February


Former Judy and Mary singer Yuki will release her third album, Joy, on Feb. 23, 2005. In addition to the title track single to be released on Jan. 19, the 13-track album includes recent singles “Home Sweet Home” and “Hello Goodbye”. After taking time off to have a child, Yuki returned in 2004 with new releases and a nationwide tour. On March 2, 2005, the singer releases two DVD titles, a video clip collection titled Yuki Video and a concert DVD, Sweet Home Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour.

Brutal man

Black Box is American Puritanism at work.

Asian advocacy groups denounced John Zorn for putting graphic images on the covers of his Naked City albums. Torture Garden showed a topless Japanese woman brandishing a whip, while Leng Tch’e had a picture of a Chinese execution.

At first, Zorn ignored the protests, but when retailers started refusing to carry his albums, he compromised and wrapped the albums in opaque silver shrinkwrap.

It still wasn’t enough for the advocacy groups.

When Zorn decided to release both albums in the US, he housed them in a black box. Leng Tch’e, the most graphic of the two album covers, was originally released in Japan, where it didn’t stir any reaction.

Black Box is also two sides of the same aesthetic coin for Zorn.

Naked City built its reputation on quick changes, but as the composer wrote more music for the quintet, those changes became gradual, drawn out but just as drastic.

Leng Tch’e is one of the most intense works in the Naked City canon.

Guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Fred Frith ground the 32-minute piece with long drones, while Joey Baron’s frenetic drumming gives the piece a sense of momentum.

By the time Yamantanka Eye enters with his screaming, 15 minutes had already passed, though it doesn’t feel like it. Zorn himself chimes in with his most abusive saxophone playing at the 21-minute mark, and Leng Tch’e hurtles to a conclusion.

Half an hour is a pretty long time for a band to lose its way on a single piece, but Leng Tch’e develops at a pace that keeps a listener’s attention. Even if the listener isn’t fully engaged with the work, its brutal intensity works subconsciously.

Where Leng Tch’e is a single-track disc, Torture Garden has 42 tracks, most clocking under a minute. Twelve of them appeared on the band’s self-titled, major label debut.

Where Leng Tch’e assaults slowly and ominously, Torture Garden hits with a series of quick jabs. This time, the intensity is shown for what it is — fast, furious, frenetic.

Unless you’ve inured yourself to Naked City’s rapid-fire, live splicing — that is, if you’ve haven’t already played the self-titled album to death — Torture Garden can be sensory overload.

If it weren’t for the sheer physicality of this music — just picture the kind of muscle it takes to drum like Baron on this album — Torture Garden could be considered the band’s most homogenic.

All the tracks are so insistent on pummeling the senses, there’s really no point citing any individual moments. “Gob of Spit”, though, is probably the band’s most humorous track.

And “Speedfreaks” exemplifies one of the best description

of the band — like listening to the radio when someone constantly switches the station.

That doesn’t stop Torture Garden from being an impressive display of showmanship, chemistry and force.

However much the cover art of Torture Garden and Leng Tch’e may make a person squeamish, they’re pretty reflective of the music therein.

The music of Black Box is not pretty. It’s some of the fiercest ever created. Perhaps the finest as well.


Mikami Chisako is the sole songwriter of fra-foa, and hers is the only image pictured on the band’s album covers.

So what need does she have for a solo project?

Mikami may be the driving creative voice behind her group, like Mukai Shuutoku was for Number Girl and Billy Corgan was for Smashing Pumpkins. But like those bands, fra-foa the group produces a chemistry that pushes Mikami’s songs to another level.

It’s possible she could have recorded 2001’s Chuu no Fuchi by her lonesome, but it wouldn’t have possessed the intensity provided by guitarist Takashi Seiji, bassist Hiratsuka Manbu and drummer Sasaki Koji.

With that signature synergy comes expectations, and releasing an album under a different name — even if it’s your own — could certainly skirt them.

Watashi wa Anata no Uchuu, Mikami’s solo debut, is vastly different from fra-foa.

She indulges in a more ethereal sound, still grounded in a rock sensibility but far more liberal with time and space. (“Uchuu” means “universe” in Japanese, so it’s a fitting cosmic theme.)

As a result, Mikami’s singing comes across as more fragile, her voice breaking not from the intense wail of her parent ensemble, but from an uneasy tenderness. She scrapes the opening high note of “Fundamental (I)”, and it doesn’t sound out of place, even if it’s painful to hear.

Mikami goes for the atmospherics of irony-era ACO on “Natsukashi Chikyuu” and “Tuki”, while “Viva La Revolucion” and “Chiisana” attempt to combine rock guitars with synthetic beats.

“Chiisana”, in fact, is the most fra-foa-like song in terms of melody, but in mood, it couldn’t be any more different.

Watashi wa Anata no Uchuu is full of experiments — songs blending in with one another, strings weaving in with drum machines, guitars alternately rumbling and chiming.

And somehow, the production seems to bury Mikami. There’s a flatness to the way all the different instruments are mixed that it feels like everything could fly apart at any moment.

Perhaps that’s the key element to fra-foa’s chemistry, or rather, physics.


Watashi wa Anata no Uchuu is too awash in its ambience to resonate. And Mikami’s more understated performance at times feels like she’s sleepwalking through her songs.

At the same, it’s also very obvious these songs just wouldn’t work with fra-foa. “Chiisana” and the hidden track “Rain” come close, but the rest of the songs certainly needed to stand on their own.

In the end, it still boils down to expectations. Mikami may have attempted to avoid comparrisons with fra-foa, but the precedent of her own songwriting and performance overshadows the work on Watashi wa Anata no Uchuu.

The Back Horn releases new single in January


The Back Horn will release a new single, “Kizuna Song”, on Jan. 26, 2005. A limited edition pressing of the two-track single includes a video clip of the song as a CD-Extra. In the spring, The Back Horn will contribute the theme song to the omnibus film Zoo, titled “Kiseki”. In the past year, the band has been a regular fixture at various festivals, performing at Fuji Rock, Rock in Japan and Ezo Rock. The group tops off the festival-heavy year with an appearance at Countdown Japan 04/05.