August 15, 2013

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Hamilton de Holanda



Way to make everyone feel totally inadequate, Hamilton de Holanda. The master of the 10-string mandolin, known as the bandolim in his native Brazil, began playing at the age of five, and when he was six, he was declared a prodigy and performed on national Brazilian television. Now, at the age of 37, he hasn’t slowed down one bit, and his latest instrumental album Trio with upright bassist André Vasconcellos and percussionist Thiago Serrinha is a superb intersection of the traditional and the modern, infused with numerous influences from jazz, classical, MPB (Brazilian pop music) and even African sources.

Trio is easy on the ears, and it has an abundance of showcases for de Holanda’s rigorous, flawlessly executed mellifluous runs; these are not onanistic, clinical acrobatics, but instead, are imbued with a nuanced grace, soul and a classical virtuosity. Actually, five of the album’s 12 tracks are caprices (“caprichos” in Portuguese) from the set of 24 caprices de Holanda composed, inspired by Niccolò Paganini’s famous 24 caprices for violin, and de Holanda’s pieces are challenging studies that transcend being mere exercises. “Capricho de Santa Cecilia” is one of the best of the lot, being a tribute to the patroness of musicians, with an irresistible brightness and nourishing sunny spirit; Serrinha’s brushed drums carry a gentle momentum, while Vasconcellos’s expertly performed bass counterpoint could actually stand to be more prominent in the mix.

Among de Holanda’s originals are versions of Chico Buarque tunes (“Sinha” and “O Que Será? (À Flor da Pele)”) and a Baden Powell number (“Pai”) with a kinetic samba backbone with hand-struck beats and a brushed-drum shuffle. Trio closes with the tender “Teba,” a solo de Holanda piece that is elegant and graceful yet also manages to be ardent with its pacing and expressive turns, ending with crystalline harmonics that seem to lift the whole album up to the heavens.

The Three O'Clock

The Hidden World Revealed

(Omnivore Recordings)

The Three O’Clock is one of the quintessential Paisley Underground bands of the ’80s—alongside groups such as The Rain Parade, The Dream Syndicate and The Bangles—centered in southern California and drawing heavily and unabashedly from mid-to-late ’60s psychedelic pop and garage rock. Actually, The Three O’Clock’s front man Michael Quercio is responsible for coining the term “Paisley Underground,” which, believe it or not, profoundly influenced Prince—note that his record label was called “Paisley Park” and released the final Three O’Clock album in 1988. All right—enough with the music history lesson and geekery; the release at hand, The Hidden World Revealed, is a generous helping of the band’s early-to-mid period material, touching upon key tracks along with an abundance of high-quality rarities.

The album kicks off with a power-pop stomper, “All in Good Time,” with a faux Scottish riff, and two of the band’s most essential tracks are also here, both of which are practically perfect: “With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend” with ringing electric guitars and the driving, head-nod-inducing “Jet Fighter.” Of particular note among the rarities is a track by the pre-Three O’Clock band The Salvation Army, a low-fidelity home demo of “Jennifer Only” that sports distorted guitar chugs, caveman drumming and a bratty punk attitude.

While the psychedelic ’60s flourishes and effects abound, the artificial keyboard melodies firmly date the material with a ’80s stamp, but it’s just a somewhat charming and not-too-distracting zeitgeist emblem. It’s also worth mentioning that Michael Quercio’s voice might be off-putting to some, being fey and effeminate with a distinctive enunciation and ersatz British accent. Paisley Underground newcomers and fans of XTC, Big Star and Nuggets-era rock/pop will find The Hidden World Revealed to be an ample introduction, and the already-initiated will enjoy it as a solid release with excellent rarities and highlights that can be revisited endlessly.


August 15, 2013

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