By 1999, Crash Test Dummies probably figured they would never be hip in America, so they made partial concessions on Give Yourself a Hand. If you have trouble getting past Brad Roberts' awkward singing and writing, then maybe innovative breakbeats and arrangements might obscure them. The results are exactly what you'd expect – an instrumentally progressive pop album, completely neutralized by embarrassing lyrics and vocals. Give Yourself a Hand redefines the Dummies sound with lightly applied techno strokes, not far off from Everything But the Girl's classic Walking Wounded.
Cloud Becomes Your Hand makes music that elicits vocabulary of physical space more than that of music. Listening to the eight tracks on Rest In Fleas feels like wandering through a strange and fantastical landscape inhabited by swarming insects, visions of childhood blankets, a storm at sea, and a shroom growing out of a shoe under a boulder. As you might have guessed, the Brooklyn-based band borrows heavily from psychedelic music and its more art-inclined cousin, prog-rock, and its structures meander journey-like through futuristic synths, retro flutes, and other voices. Each new instrument and lyrical image feels like an encounter with an otherworldly being.
2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Us3’s multi-million selling debut album “Hand On The Torch”. In honour of that, the new Us3 album “The Third Way (Hand On The Torch Vol II)” marks a return to the classic Us3 sound, with 5 of the 14 tracks containing interpolations of a number of well-known jazz standards, including Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca”, Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”, and Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”.
MC duties are taken by 3 former Us3 collaborators; Akil Dasan (“Schizophonic” & “Say What!?”), KCB (“Broadway & 52nd”), and Tukka (“Hand On The Torch”). A video for the lead track “Never Go Back” can be seen on the Us3videos channel on YouTube (from September 16th).
Mulgrew Miller, a talented McCoy Tyner-influenced pianist, leads an all-star septet on much of this date. The main stars, however, are Miller's nine diverse originals which range from modal to Monkish. With tenor-saxophonist Joe Henderson appearing on five selections, trumpeter Eddie Henderson on six and altoist Kenny Garrett heard throughout the full CD, Miller has a perfect frontline to interpret his tricky but logical originals.
As one-third of the composer-collective Bang on a Can, David Lang is something of a genial father figure of the indie-classical scene. Talk to any of the world's main players and you're likely to hear them tell you about their life-changing stint in Bang on a Can's summer festival, which has acted as a sort of feeder school and incubator for the group's try-anything mentality. Lang's music has undergone many stylistic shifts over the years: In the 80s, he wrote bristlier stuff, but in the last decade or so, he's shifted quietly into a more pensive register. The Little Match Girl Passion, his 2008 work that won him a Pulitzer, was written for only four voices and some hand bells. This Was Written By Hand, his most recent recording, is a collection of short solo piano works played by the British pianist Andrew Zolinsky. The album holds the same, sustained melancholy mood: thoughtful, searching, elegiac, minimalist. Lang's way with repetitive phrasing doesn't feel like that of minimalists like Glass or Reich's, though.