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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
William Parker
Long Hidden: The Olmec Series
AUM Fidelity

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

March 13, 2006
William Parker has always expressed an appreciation for honest music in any idiom, but he has rarely felt the desire to channel his own vision through avenues other than free-form jazz. His sessions exhibit startling sonic and thematic coherence, suggesting that Parker feels no need to document his own open-mindedness by genre-hopping.

Albums can be messier than sessions, though, especially when three sessions from an eight-year span go in to making one album. Such is the case with Long Hidden: The Olmec Series, a tour de force that culls from three sets of Parker sessions: a 1997 live set of solo bowed bass improvisations, a recent studio collection of solo bass and doson ngoni (an African guitar) excursions, and a collaboration with the Olmec Group, a New York meringue ensemble. Oh yeah, and the first edition of the album also includes an additional bowed bass improvisation from a 1993 cassette-only release. Long Hidden is nothing if not a showcase of Parker's breadth.

We aren't just dealing with stylistic breadth, either; these songs behave quite differently from one another. The solo bass rendition of "There Is a Balm in Gilead" and the doson ngoni pieces are front porch sunset watchers, the type of calm and collected songs that leave "space in between the phrases to meditate and reflect," as Parker puts it in the liner notes. These soothing free-form numbers contrast wildly with the piercing mayhem of "Cathedral of Light" and "Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy," the bowed bass workouts. Here, strings vibrate madly, filling up every empty space with dark-hued drones and endless exhalations. These two songs ensure that Long Hidden won't be misread as a simple comedown album. The only thing we're allowed to meditate on here is sound.

Perhaps most impressive are the Olmec Group collaborations. They're rich, energetic compositions in which Motown swagger and greasy post-Coltrane squawks spice up an amiable group environment. As much as these songs are projects of compassionate cultural exchange, they're far from tepid worldbeat, as Todd Nicholson's filthy, funky bass ostinatos and Isaiah Parker's turbocharged alto sax blurts attest. "Codex" and "El Puente Seco" recall the joy-in-chaos of Steve Reid and Ornette Coleman's rhythmically-charged '70s material, while extended jam "Pok-A-Tok" ventures into darker timbres and almost leaves the jazz idiom completely behind.

In many ways, Long Hidden is as far from the ideal of an album as a carefully constructed closed unit as it gets. We don't even feel Parker's touch on every track, as he assumes a peripheral role with the Olmec Group, sticking to percussion and doson ngoni. Any conservatism present on other Parker outings doesn't surface here. And the music's lively enough that bogging one's self down with questions of cohesion is an utterly unappetizing prospect.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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