Future Sounds of Buenos Aires
A collaboration between U.S. label Waxploitation and Argentine label ZZK, Future Sounds of Buenos Aires winningly combines traditional tango and other South American elements with electronic beats. The rhythmic mash-ups by artists such as Mati Zundel, whose "Señor Montecostez" utilizes bandoneon along with a bubbling bass groove, are neither overly folkloric nor so aggressively techno-driven that they overwhelm the idiosyncrasies of the indigenous styles that distinguish FSOBA from garden-variety dance-music compilations. This 12-song set isn't as sample-mad or brash as, say, the Brazilian baile-funk mixes that Diplo helped bring to the world out of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. But celebratory thumpers such as Fauna's "Hongo x Hongo" and Super Gauchin's gurgling "Se Pixelo el Vinito" expertly create trance-y club grooves that manage the neat trick of making the tried-and-true sound up-to-the-minute.
(Verve sssf )
Last time out, on her 2008 album My One and Only Thrill, Philadelphia chanteuse Melody Gardot cast a subtle torch-singer spell, working with former Joni Mitchell producer Larry Klein. That album worked a gray-day Billie Holiday mood, and The Absence, a collaboration with Brazilian-born producer and guitarist Hector Pereira, maintains a gauzy, low-key vibe. Instead of evoking a smoky Parisian melancholy, however, The Absence finds its source of sadness and longing through the yearning concept of saudade in the fado music of Portugal, where Gardot lived for a time, before moving on to Buenos Aires, as she was writing songs. That, along with the sunnier rhythms of Brazilian bossa nova, which come to the fore in the lead single, "Mire," and the bluesy "Goodbye," in which she growls like Louis Armstrong, suffuses The Absence with a sophisticated, worldly melancholy, with which Gardot always seems entirely at home.
(Fat Possum sssf)
"While I Shovel Snow," one of the best tracks on the Walkmen's last album, 2010's Lisbon, was its most understated, and it seems to have suggested the direction for Heaven, the New York/Philly quintet's sixth full-length (not including their song-by-song cover of Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats). The album does occasionally unleash the band's unhinged rock-and-roll side, but the overall mood is restrained, nuanced, and spacious. This is a pretty album, in the way that albums from the National can be pretty. "I was the Duke of Earl, but it couldn't last," Hamilton Leithauser croons introspectively on album-opener "We Can't Be Beat," and there's an element of doo-wop to what the Walkmen do there, and on "No One Ever Sleeps," a track that also features Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold. Fans of "The Rat," the band's signature anthem, may be disappointed, but Heaven offers plenty of rarefied pleasures.
(Ample Play sssd)
Since the '90s and their early and handsome Luaka Bop-label albums, Cornershop has made Brit-popping trip-hop ripe with the flavors of traditional Indian music. It's been a tightly knit family affair that singer/lyricist Tjinder Singh, brother/bassist Avtar Singh, and pal Ben Ayres (keyboards, tamboura) have brewed to a musical stew that Cornershop called "turban" pop. Things have changed for the Anglo-Indian ensemble, growing smaller in ranks (Tjinder and Ben remain) yet opening themselves up, beyond their Punjabi whir, to include elements of folk, soul, and electro, as well as welcoming collaborators into their musky mix. While 2011 found them releasing Cornershop and the Double 'O' Groove of ... with singer Bubbley Kaur, their new album, Urban Turban, expands to include outside vocalists and duet partners. Singh hands the mike to, among other guests, SoKo for the metronomic, Lou Reed-like skronk of "Something Makes You Feel Like" and French chanteuse Izzy Lindqwister for the sturdily sweaty funk of "Who's Gonna Lite It Up?" But it's the sunshiny, school-choir-backed "What Did the Hippie Have in His Bag?," a characteristically Cornershop track starring Singh alone, that makes Urban Turban a truly torrid treat.
Country / Roots
What the Hell Is Goin' On?
(Perpetual Obscurity sssf)
Make no mistake: Paul Thorn is an excellent songwriter in his own right, and quite the colorful character and performer. (For us he was one of the highlights of Delbert McClinton's annual music cruise in January.) For this album, however, the former boxer from Elvis' hometown of Tupelo, Miss., has decided to focus on the songs of others. The good news is it still sounds like a Paul Thorn album, and a mighty fine one. Thorn has chosen well here. Most of the material comes from the same rootsy milieu he works in but is not overly familiar, helping the singer-guitarist and his excellent band put their own stamp on it even without radically reworking it. That goes for the dirty blues of Elvin Bishop's title song and the swampy gospel of Buddy and Julie Miller's "Shelter Me Lord" (one of the numbers with the sublime McCrary Sisters on backup vocals), and on to the soulful balladry of Rick Danko's "Small Town Talk," Allen Toussaint's "Wrong Number," and Donnie Fritts' "She's Got a Crush on Me."
Also fitting in seamlessly are Lindsey Buckingham's "Don't Let Me Down Again" and Bad Company's "Walk in My Shadow." And speaking of fitting in, Delbert lends his vocals to a big sing-along on Wild Bill Emerson's "Bull Mountain Bridge."
Heads or Tales
Organ jazz, which has deep roots in Philly, often veers close to R&B or hard bop. Tenor saxophonist Tom Tallitsch, a Cleveland native who has taught at the Philadelphia Clef Club, takes organ jazz in a cool modernist direction, making this quartet session smart and dark. Tallitsch, a jazz radio host on Mercer County Community College's WWFM HD2, also runs a music-tutoring business in Princeton. Intimations of organ jazz's soul roots emerge on "Tenderfoot," but that becomes context for deeper explorations, fueled by drummer Mark Ferber. The set of originals often crackles with unexpected combustion. Organist Jared Gold creates some edgy effects on "Double Shot," while guitarist Dave Allen plumbs a more cosmic mode on the smoky ballad "Perry's Place." Tallitsch & Co. sometimes play with sounds. The organ effects on "Dunes" feel like the Shore.
Tallitsch and drummer Mike Kennedy play 9 p.m. to midnight June 9 at the Caribou Café, 1126 Walnut St. No cover. Phone: 215-625-9535.
Complete Piano Sonatas
H.J. Lim, Piano
(EMI, eight discs sssd)
Andreas Staier, fortepiano
(Harmonia Mundi ssss)
Piano Sonata No. 32 Op. 111
plus Ligeti etudes
Jeremy Denk, piano
Beethoven maintains his shock-and-awe factor in these new piano sonata recordings. Ever the intellectual renegade, Jeremy Denk surrounds Beethoven's Op. 111 with impulsive, explosive etudes by György Ligeti, the message (according to Denk's excellent booklet notes) being that "we're still catching up with Beethoven." Agreed. But after hearing the deep-tissue insights of Denk's gripping Op. 111 performance, one has a unique opportunity to catch up with Ligeti's often-dizzying works, thanks to the pianist's astounding technique and probing album notes.
On the Diabelli disc, Andreas Staier makes a great case for playing Beethoven's late masterpiece on a Graf fortepiano that gives this gargantuan piece a spacious separation between the different keyboard registers plus a delicacy that's needed amid the composer's leonine musings. Bonus inclusions are variations on Diabelli's theme by Schubert, Liszt, and others.
Has there ever been a more audacious recording debut than that of South Korean-born, French-trained pianist H. J. Lim? Her calling card is an eight-disc set of complete Beethoven piano sonatas, now available on iTunes for $9.99. Breaking with the usual chronological approach, she groups the sonatas under headings such as "Heroic Ideals" in performances that are invariably alert and accomplished, though a bit slick.
The most difficult sonatas fare the best. In the infamous Piano Sonata No. 29 "Hammerklavier," she projects a strong viewpoint and such clarity that you're astounded anew at what strange, forward-looking music it is. That alone is worth $9.99.
David Patrick Stearns