Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hypnotic Brass/Betty Lavette/Fire/Lee Fields/Render Useless

Kelan Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Here is another album of great spiritual jazz, this time with even more unabashed funk leanings.  Kelan Philip Cohran is probably best known for his work as a cornet player with Sun Ra's Arkestra where he appeared on a number of excellent records.  He has also released several excellent reecords of his own in the deep/spiritual jazz vein as well as founding the influential and afro-centric Afro Arts Theater in Chicago.  The Afro Arts Theater focussed on promoting African American art as well as having a strong kid-friendly educational aspect.  Music education was indeed another passion of Cohran's including the serious education of his many children, I mean many, check out the photo above of Cohran and some of his kids.  I believe that at least eight of his children are professional musicians and many of them play in the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.  This ensemble released an excellent record of brass band funk a few years ago and is now following it up with a collaboration with the father of much of the band.  The funk is still foremost but there is much more of a deep jazz feel on this one.  Absolutely one of the best albums of the last couple years and likely to please a wide variety of tastes from start to finish.  I highly recommend this album.

For example see Stateville:

Betty Lavette - Thankful N' Thoughtful

Betty Lavette spent the first four decades of her career as an almost successful soul singer with an abundance of heartbreaking stories of getting screwed over by record companies and their ilk.  It seems that she had all but given up on the dream in the early 2000s when her career was given new life by interest from Anti Records and a surprisingly good record where she was backed up by the Drive By Truckers.  The record received enthusiastically positive reviews and was followed by another surprisingly fanstastic record of British classic rock covers.  Last year she released Thankful N' Thoughtful, another collection of covers but without a theme this time and I would say this is her best record yet and one of the best records of 2012.  She is one of those aritsts who can really make a song entirely her own and is capable of giving her treatment to an astonishly wide range of material.  Here she tackles material from Gnarls Barkley, Neil Young, the Black Keys, Bob Dylan, Savoy Brown and Sly Stone to name a few.  There is to me great power in these songs although at first listen they may seem to be too restrained and somewhat underwhelming.  I recommend giving these songs a couple listens before casting judgement.  I cannot stress how much I love this record though.

Everything Is Broken:

 Thankful N' Thoughtful:

Fire with Jim O'Rourke - Unreleased?

Here's another Mats Gustafsson (see the Thing from the last post) project for you all.  Like the Thing, all fire records are quite different but in this case the constant elements seem to be a super repetitive, krauty vibe overlaid with some forceful, skronky saxophone noise.  And hey, Jim O'Rourke is here too, what's not to like?  Kindly Dig.

Please, I Am Released:

Lee Fields - Faithful Man

Yet another late in like soul singer success story.  Lee Fields has been quietly releasing fantastic albums in the James Brown style for several years now but final got noticed a couple of years ago thanks to what seems to be somewhat of a revival of interest in soul music and an excellent record, "My World".  Last year he followed up this success with an even more excellent and well rounded soul record, "Faithful Man".  This is maybe not as much of gem as the Charles Bradley record that I posted some weeks ago but it should be noted that T. Brennick, the guitar player and major songwriter for Charles Bradley also had a big hand in Lee Fields' last couple records.  It should also be noted how powerfully amazing this track is:

Wish You Were Here:

Vancouver Hardcore #3 - Render Useless

Continuing on in this mini-series that I can't imagine has much interest for people outside of Vancouver where these records are probable unattainable I present to you Render Useless.  These dudes were considered very clever and socially conscious etc.  They were favourites of nerdy, often humourless, punk rock activist types.  I was once one of those types and found inspiration or rather found shared idealistic frustration in the music of this band.  Despite all those associations, I still think that the band put out some fucking great hardcore, maybe too clever for its own good at times but, well, you know, think for yourself, judge for yourself etc. right?

I managed to find a youtube post of the entire 7" The Relationship Between a 1/4 note and an 1/8 Note so lucky you:

 Render Useless 7"  (For some reason, I couldn't get the video to embed here so you'll have to follow this link to Youtube.  Do it.)


  1. Kris bringing the GD'n, MF'n heat up in hizzzy!

    The Thing, Haggatha, Fire and the Hypnotic Brass all rule so hard. Thank you for sharing. More please!

    I haven't had a chance to dig-in to much of the soul stuff (things have been pretty hectic), but look forward to doing so.

    Oh, and hey! I'm leaving next Friday for Roadburn (work to do in Europe beforehand, but won't be home between). Getting super-crazy-pumped.


    PS I can't get behind render useless....all the super pretentious scene kids in the ol' CVHC (that's comox valley hardcore...all 20 of us...) scene were really into them in a way that really turned me off...I can't recall a single album of theirs from those days, but my mind is already made up; unfortunately guilty by association. I don't care if that is petty, ha!

  2. Glad you're digging the share. There will be much more. I've been flooded with good music lately.

    I can totally appreciate your association with Render Useless. I really like their stuff but I wish that they, and their fans, would lighten up a bit and get some perspective. It can feel a bit like they're trying to turn 'punk' into a religious cult. There is a certain discomfiting orthodoxy that these folks position themselves around like a sort of master text that defines what is 'authentic' or intelligible for 'punks'. I don't know if you agree with this or what...

    I am leaving for Europe on Wednesday and am also super pumped! I have an apartment in Utrecht with room for you and Kim on Wednesday, April 17 if you wanna hang out. Lemme know.

  3. Yes, that is exactly the attitude I'm talking about (RE: Render Useless)...really turned me off of them as a yoot (although I couldn't articulate why at the time). Honestly, I haven't seen reason to give them another listen since then because of that, which is probably unfair. I'll give 'em another shake and see how it pans out after being removed from that 'scene'.

    Can't wait for the 'Burn!