Miles Davis Quintet
Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2
By a wide margin, the artist most represented in this writer’s personal music collection is trumpeter Miles Davis, with the irony that this fan, despite his immersion after falling in love with Kind of Blue and Dark Magus—two strikingly different albums—15 years ago, still only feels like a novice. The reason is that Davis’s catalog is so impossibly vast yet so rich and rewarding, and every turn he made in his career and each choice of sidemen could be studied and analyzed—a book could likely be written about every single month of his career.
In the second volume of Columbia’s Bootleg Series, Live in Europe 1969, listeners have the opportunity to zoom in on a particular fascinating transitional period, in a career seemingly in constant evolution, documented on four separate sets on three CDs and one DVD. Spotlighting the year in which the groundbreaking Bitches Brew was recorded, it captures Davis’s “lost quintet” after his Second Great Quintet in the mid-to-late-’60s and before his full-on “Electric Miles” jazz fusion mode. Joining saxophonist Wayne Shorter from the Second Great Quintet is the rhythm section of double-bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette plus keyboardist Chick Corea; the group hasn’t let go of the standards of the past, with renditions of “’Round Midnight” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” but a restlessness is apparent with the new material, like “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down.” By the mid-’70s, song structures seemed to dissolve with Davis’s live sets; here, they’re still present, yet with an aggressively free attitude.
DeJohnette drives “Directions” with a brutal urgency, eschewing the common jazz-ride-cymbal-tap for insistent, frequent crashes. Davis and Shorter, well-acquainted at this point, pierce the airwaves with their tandem melody, and on electric piano, Corea scampers with an astoundingly agile fluency, providing several breathtaking solos. Insightful and generous, the collection is a welcome dive into one of Davis’s underrepresented periods, where he begins to fiercely shed elements of his past.
Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa
Open the Crown
One question this writer doesn’t hear enough is, “Can you recommend any good Indonesian post-punk garage-rock with demonic throat-singing and free-improv bass clarinet?” For the record, he has never heard anyone actually ask this question, but the answer is Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa. Also known for his other primary band, Old Time Relijun, de Dionyso’s new album Open the Crown with his outfit Malaikat dan Singa (translated as “angels and lions”) continues the trajectory set by 2009’s Malaikat dan Singa and 2011’s Suara Naga, with wild, menacing and somewhat demented rock, transmitted through an Indonesian filter. One new development is that de Dionyso actually sings in English on several of the tracks on Open the Crown—previous albums were sung in Indonesian—making it slightly less exotic and impenetrable on one level, yet paradoxically weirder on another level, since the listener can actually understand them somewhat. On the title track, with a purposefully infuriating musical minimalism, he spouts, “Skull shaking thunder, the blood and the milk flowing through me,” suggesting some mystical outdoor ritual.
De Dionyso sets himself apart with his astounding voice, which sounds genuinely unhinged and can drop into an evil-sounding, guttural drone, using his throat-singing skills. While true originality is indeed rare these days, that doesn’t mean that musicians shouldn’t stop trying new combinations, which is what de Dionyso’s doing here. The drumbeats sometimes evoke John “Drumbo” French of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band with their own irregular manner, and the sonic style uses ample distortion and delay effects, with a few cheesy keyboard flourishes and bass clarinet wailing. It’s a complicated mix, bringing to mind some deranged stew with little bits of Bo Diddley, Alan Vega, Serge Gainsbourg, Sun City Girls and Lee Perry. That said, for about half of the album, de Dionyso uses his familiar methods but pushes them, revisiting some earlier tracks with longer, snarling renditions. Newcomers may be surprised by Open the Crown—fans will probably not—but still, it’s an intense and disorienting album.