Artist: Album (label, release date) 1-5 stars
Mugison: Little Trip (Ipecac, April 18, 2006) ****
Memphis Slim: I Am The Blues (Passport Audio, April 18, 2006) *****
Rita Lee: Bossa 'n' Beatles (Ghordo Music, April 18, 2006) ****
Anaal Nakrakh: When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap as It Has Sown (Earache, April 18, 2006) ***
Mugison: Little Trip
In the wake of Bjork, Goldfrapp, Sigur Ros and other Icelandic electronica acts, the record biz is dusting off some of the second tier of recent electronica albums from the volcanic island nation of 280,000. Given that the entire population of the country is only two thirds that of Fresno, California, one has to start wondering just how deep the trough can run. Mugison, a former sailor from the northwestern corner of the island, almost a stone's throw from the north pole, has released three albums over the last few years, and appeared at Scotland's Triptych festival in 2004, which gained him international interest. He tours with all of his equipment in a single suitcase; he and his family hand-stitched the elaborate packaging for 10,000 copies of his 2003 debut, Lonely Mountain.
Little Trip, the soundtrack to Baltasar Kormakur's 2005 of the same name, has been given a new push in 2006 by Ipecac, and offers a handy jumping-in point. So, is this another boldly innovative Icelander who will teach the continentals a thing or two about the possibilities in music? Well not really, but he keeps some conventions in circulation, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Half of this album is ambient balladry, featuring romantic vocals (sung in English most of the time) like on the fairly irrestistable "Little Trip to Heaven," which boasts a tranquil, almost Pacific Island-affected slide guitar, and gentle brushes on the drums. Elsewhere, like on "Alone In The Office," we get a somnambular chillout groove with muted horns that sounds a lot more like conventional British electronica. On still other pieces, mostly on fragments under two minutes, we have abrasive white-noise constructs as on "Mugicone, Part 2", where the disc really does sound like movie music. Those expecting something to grab them by the lapels will greet this with a big yawn. However, it's certainly inoffensive, and if nothing here is really new, it reshuffles them into a likeable sleepy-time collage.
Memphis Slim: I Am The Blues
Memphis Slim (born John "Peter" Chatman, 1915-1988) was a piano player extraordinaire on the Memphis circuit following World War II, where he largely inherited the crown of Big Bill Broonzy as Memphis' most respected ivory tinkler. His rich, earthy, always in-control voice was commanding, and he was a gifted songwriter as well, penning classics that were covered by Lowell Fulson, Joe Williams, and B.B. King among others.