PRINT December 2007


Damon Krukowski


1 Robert Wyatt, Comicopera (Domino) Written in the melancholy, self-reflective mode of Rock Bottom (1974), Comicopera includes one of Wyatt’s loveliest pop melodies, the bittersweet “Just as You Are.” A lyrical account of life in one’s sixties, to file alongside Wyatt’s indelible work from the 1960s.

2 Caetano Veloso, (Nonesuch) In his own document of middle age, Veloso subjects his songs to plastic surgery by enlisting twenty- and thirty-something musicians as a backing band. Their wiry energy and Caetano’s coruscatingly honest lyrics make this a red convertible of a record.

3 Various, Brazil 70: After Tropicalia (Soul Jazz) A compilation of Brazilian pop made during the ’70s military dictatorship that had exiled many of the preceding decade’s cultural innovators. The government clearly failed to stifle the energy and exuberance of MPB (Popular Brazilian Music) groups like the glam Secos e Molhados or the bossa-tinged psychedelic duo Nelson Angelo e Joyce.

4 Nick Drake, A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake (DVD included with reissue of Fruit Tree [UME]) This impressionistic documentary reveals much about the pathologically shy Drake’s inspiration. Shots of the stunning landscape around his family home dominate the film, as they must have the singer-songwriter’s brief life.

5 Nico, The Frozen Borderline, 1968–1970 (Wea International) Many CD reissues of classic LPs are ruined by bonus tracks, their finales now followed by throwaway additions. But in the case of The Marble Index (rereleased here with Desertshore), it seems Nico’s original might have been the distortion: The outtakes and alternates are every bit the equals of the originals, making this now an hour-plus-long journey into Nico’s darkness.

6 Reinette L’Oranaise, Trésors de la chanson Judéo-Arabe (Jewish-Arab Song Treasures) (Buda Musique) The only female pupil of Algerian oud master Saoud, Reinette—like most Algerian Jews—fled the country following its independence in 1962. She settled in Paris, where she occasionally performed until her death in 1998. Her oud playing is virtuosic but here plays second fiddle to her voice—as powerful as Bessie Smith’s, yet capable of extraordinary quarter-tone flourishes.

7 Cheikha Rimitti, Maghreb Soul: The Story 1986–1990 (Because) Known as the Mother of Raï Music, Rimitti—another Algerian exile in Paris, Reinette’s Arab twin—nevertheless has little to do with the electronic sounds associated with that genre. Hers are modern songs performed with traditional instruments and techniques.

8 Tomokawa Kazuki, Works of Chūya Nakahara (PSF Records) Chūya Nakahara (1907–1937) was a Japanese poet influenced by French symbolism and Dada. Tomokawa is a gambler, drinker, painter, and singer of rare power. Here, he composes songs indebted to the earlier figure, making the poetry in each man’s ouevre manifest.

9 Toshiaki Ishizuka, Drum Drum (PSF Records) Another veteran of the Japanese underground music scene, Toshiaki Ishikuza employs diverse percussion to conjure slowly shifting soundscapes. A record made in a rock vocabulary, with results reminiscent of Giacinto Scelsi or Morton Feldman.

10 Christopher DeLaurenti, Favorite Intermissions: Music Before and Between Beethoven, Stravinsky, Holst (GD Stereo) DeLaurenti wired himself for surreptitious recording and attended symphony performances, then bootlegged only the orchestra’s preparations. An album that creates the unmistakable sensation that something special is about to happen.

Damon Krukowski, a writer and musician, is one half of Damon & Naomi, whose latest album, Within These Walls, was released in September on their own 20/20/20 label.