ABBA — The Visitors

When the glorious 70s slipped into the cool 80s, Abba put out their last album. Welcome to some serious art built on divorce, sadness
and savvy.

This is an album that has a long personal history for me. Firstly, I am a child of the 80s who can remember the 70s turning into a big new number. Which means I’m not intimidated or dazed by 80s production values, synths and pompous drum sounds, or the odd spot of chintzy disco. My first record, for reference, was a cheesy disco compilation. Also, my father worked in the Persian Gulf in the late 70s and brought back an impressive stack of bootleg cassettes of everything that was on the charts then. A lot of it in questionable taste, of course, and I’m sure in retrospect he bought so many Abba and BoneyM and Kenny Rogers tapes only because they were so very cheap. But these tapes were my first big musical experience, and I sat around for hours tucking into catchy melodies and dancy beats and even DJing my own compilations. I was also inadvertently picking up a lot of English, as I discovered a year or two later (having moved to Australia from Holland) and finding I could recite lyrics from memory and with sudden, uncanny understanding. Continue reading “ABBA — The Visitors”

The Cannonball Adderley solo on ‘Flamenco Sketches’

I’ll always love Cannonball over Coltrane. Jazz sin!

Despite all the banging on about Kind of Blue‘s modal improvisation and the fact that “Flamenco Sketches” is very clearly modal, it is nonetheless one of the most perfect pieces of jazz ever recorded. In part because it is pure improvisation set in ultimate structural harmony. It’s free soloing over an organic and conducive ensemble where everything sounds together. The furthest remove from indulgent jazz noodling and ego-exercises on a technical scale; this is emotional and affective music where the means and message merge to become Art. It’s gentle, contemplative and meditatively sparse yet reassuringly intimate. The emotional contour takes in warm groove in one mode and the soul’s weathering of the storm in the next, before returning again to the comfort of late night. It is one of the great extrapolations of the blues ballad form; the heart of music laid bare with grace and maturity. Continue reading “The Cannonball Adderley solo on ‘Flamenco Sketches’”

James Ellroy – Underworld USA Trilogy

The Slow Review panel work through American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's a Rover. We are exhausted but elated at the master of crime, conspiracy, complicated conscience and filing.

By Adam Rivett & Rino Breebaart

Adam:
Item! Picked up an imported U.S. hardcover of Blood’s A Rover at Readings on Friday night — the local paperback has been delayed for some reason. Fifty bucks, but so be it. Read 200 pages yesterday — fucking great. Any fears of a drop-off are as yet completely unfounded. Plus it’s got his greatest narrative coup, a genuine motherfucker of a trick. Don’t want to say too much, but I wanted to applaud, laugh out loud and damn him for his daring SIMULFUCKINGTANEOUSLY. The prose has a little more breathing room that Cold Six Thousand while still being uber-tight and rapid.  Once I clock off, I’m running back home for another extended session with the Demon Dog; current brutal headache hopefully containable. Continue reading “James Ellroy – Underworld USA Trilogy”

Obit: David Foster Wallace

Writer, novelist, teacher. 21 02 1962 – 12 09 2008

Contributing author: Adam Rivett

1. Writing/Ethics

Please bear in mind this is a delayed and indirect response to DFW’s dying; that I wanted to write something critical/writerly as opposed to the usual obit-minded gush and hyperbole; neither some sarcastically styled imitation by way of excessively footnoted ramble, nor a personal-reflective fan-letter with woodwinds and strings. Continue reading “Obit: David Foster Wallace”

What makes Elvis great?

Notes on the Big E with a focus on the 68 Comeback Special.

The question is heavily rhetorical ― to me it’s self-evident, redundant. But for my many colleagues past who’ve heard me warbling about Charlie Hodge and Cadillacs and blue Christmases, or who think he’s a kitsch joke in a gawky suit, I always like to run through a little pop-list of angles on the Big E.  Continue reading “What makes Elvis great?”

Radiohead — In Rainbows

Wonderfully coherent, thoroughly of our time, strictly Radiohead and yet gilded with a strange and subtle beauty ― a really great album of non-pop at last.

This is an essay in two parts. I want to discuss the download issue separately from the musical content of the album, because in too many articles the latter is dismissed to focus on the former. If you don’t want to hear any more about online distribution, then flick straight to part II. Continue reading “Radiohead — In Rainbows”