Unaccustomed Soil by Sol Sol; Label Link: Unaccustomed Soil (Not on bancamp, but on most streaming services.)
The first couple times I listened to Unaccustomed Soil I was a little disappointed it was so, uh, Jazz-ey. As in Chord changes, solos, etc.
Among the group, I was only familiar with Swedish Saxophonist Elin Forkelid, (aka @elinforkelid on instagram, check out her Semla reviews,) mostly from her work on the Anna Högberg Attack album Attack, which as it sounds, is kind of an aggressive work, (and has one of the best album covers of all time).
Once I consoled myself that this wasn’t to be another “Attack”, I started to appreciate Unaccustomed Soil on its own terms, which are for the most part fairly quiet and relaxed.
In general, the rhythm section locks into a groove, while the horn and guitar run melodies over the changes. The only real exception, where some skronk and scrape enter the picture, is the tune Gotta Get Out.
My initial response was to compare it to some of the music along the Jim Black/Chris Speed axis, music which hides its power in pleasant melody and rhythmic repetition.
And I still think that comparison holds, but I also wonder if they might be wrestling a bit with the post “Kind of Blue” stylings of some of their Nordic kin on the ECM label.
In any case, it is hard to dislike an album that is as nice, yet at the same time interesting, as Unaccustomed Soil.
Jinjunmei is a Black Tea from the Wuyi region of Fujian, specifically, a village named Tongmu.
Unlike traditional and smoked Lapsang teas, Jinjunmei is a relatively recent innovation.
“In 2006, another innovation took place in Tongmu. A Fujian official asked Jiang Yuanxun, the biggest manufacturer in Tongmu, to make some tea as a gift using bud tea and without the familiar smoking. The tea was made by Liange Junde, the tea master that worked for Mr Jiang at the time, and the tea Jin Jun Mei was born. In 2007, it went into production and rapidly became the most expensive black tea ever sold in China.”
Jinjunmei is essentially the type of early spring, carefully picked, all bud material that would normally be used for Silver Needle (or Baihao Yinzhen) White Tea. But, instead of being processed into White Tea, it is fully oxidized and then dried.
As I mentioned, Baihao Yinzhen, due to the labor necessary to carefully pick the individual spring tea buds, tends to be the most expensive of Chinese White Teas.
Making a Black Tea from this type of material is a true conspicuous luxury move.
The early flavors/scents are citrus-like. Secondary flavors evoke peach and pear. The aftertaste is subtle yet lengthy, returning to the citrus-like character, with a touch of mint-camphor overtone.
It is a lighter and subtler tea than the unsmoked Wild Lapsang, as you would expect from the material.
It is another great tea to try, whether it ends up being your favorite Black tea will be a matter of personal taste.
The process for making Black Tea probably originated in Wuyi area of Fujian. There are different myths about it.
Allegedly, most tea was processed as green tea up until a raiding party invaded a Wuyi Mountain village during the tea harvest. The villagers fled from the raiders. When they came back they discovered that their tea had turned black. It was ruined! They dried it anyway and found that some people enjoyed it, especially, the English, (who would later go on to found entire tea industries in India and Sri Langka based on imitating this tea).
The difference between Green Tea and Black Tea IS that the leaves are allowed to oxidize before they are finally dried.
There is a type of Black Tea from Fujian that is usually called “Lapsang Souchong” in the West. Most often it is a tea that is dried over pine wood.
However, “traditional” Lapsang Souchong is not smoked, and even the more traditional smoky kinds have a lighter smoke character than you might expect.
This is not a smoked tea!
The early flavors remind me a bit of sweet potato, the middle flavors are stone fruit, and the late flavors and aftertaste are a bit menthol/tarragon.
It is a delicious and complex Black tea which rewards multiple steeps.
I’ve been listening to Phalanx Ambassadors for the better part of 2 weeks and I still feel like I am still uncovering aspects of it with each listen.
Here are my notes:
“Pointillism, Zappa, A-harmonic, Harmelodics”
The ensemble is composed of keyboards, vibraphone, guitar, bass, and drums.
I say Pointillism as the melodic motif (such that there are any) are often divided between instruments, giving a feeling of spray.
It is super rhythmically dense, these players deserve goddamn medals, especially the drummer and bassist, for dividing and subdividing as they do here. Which reminds me a bit of some of Zappa’s work.
A-harmonic, as it feels like the pieces are more multiple melodies snaking through thickets of rhythm than a single melody with related harmonies.
Harmelodics, as Mitchell’s method seems a bit along the lines of some of Ornette Coleman’s ideas.
Which makes it sound a bit difficult.
And it is a lot to take in.
On the other hand, the tunes are not particularly dissonant, in fact the opposite, often quite tonally pleasant.
After a couple days, I started to think about who might enjoy this album most easily.
My conclusion, such as it is, is that probably a person familiar with modern classical music is going to be more likely to easily enjoy this album than a person who is stuck in the classic jazz rut. And maybe even a prog rock fan might be more easily entertained by some of these pieces, than a “Capital J” Jazz fan.
The term “Gunpowder” when used in description of a Green Tea isn’t very useful.
The term “Gunpowder” was used as a brand name by a British company, well, more specifically, “Pinhead Gunpowder,” for a green tea they sold.
It is basically robust green tea formed into what is called “pearl” shape (the same shape used for some types of Oolong). It can come from any of a number of regions in China.
When I first tried to get into tea, I mostly tried drinking English Breakfast and similar black teas. None of them, as they say, really floated my boat. Too harsh.
It wasn’t until I discovered a bulk bin labelled Gunpowder Green Tea at a local Grocery Coop in Madison, WI, that I really found something I liked in tea.
I drank that for years, but eventually drifted back to drinking coffee to keep me properly stimulated while working late nights and early mornings as a line cook.
After we moved to CA, and I got out of the restaurant business, I found that coffee was maybe a bit too stimulating, so I started looking around for my old favorite, “Gunpowder Green Tea”.
I found some “Organic Gunpowder Green Tea” in a bulk bin at a local store, took it home, and gave it a try. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. It tasted literally like someone had poured an ashtray into the tea while it was being made. It was cloudy, it was harsh, it tasted like ashtray. It was, in short, one of the worst tasting beverages I had tried in my entire life! And I like Smoked Lapsang Souchong tea! I spit it out, threw out the remainder of the bag, and went back to experimenting with English Breakfast style teas.
Over the next few years, I tried a few more times to get back to Chinese Green tea in the species of Gunpowder, and every time I tried, I was confronted by that ashtray taste.
I was completely puzzled.
How had I not noticed this flavor before? Had my tastes changed? Had Gunpowder Tea changed in the intervening years?
I started to research and discovered other people had also noticed this flavor and would post puzzled questions on tea boards, like, “I’m new to Green Tea and just tried Gunpowder Green Tea. Is Green Tea supposed to taste like brewing tea from an ashtray?”
With answers like:
“No, it’s not supposed to taste that way, but many lower-grade gunpowder teas do. Some people actually prefer their gunpowder greens this way, so mainstream US distributors continue to sell shops this variety. Even some supposedly finer grades (pinhead gunpowder) is often found with this flavor profile. I think some consumers expect a smoky flavor from a tea with that name, even though historically gunpowder refers to the shape of the rolled leaf rather than the taste.”
So, I guess when I first tried Gunpowder tea, back in Madison, WI, I got lucky and found some that was of a higher grade or selected without the ashtray flavor.
So, my advice to you is to avoid anything sold as Gunpowder Tea. If you want to try Chinese Green Tea, please choose any other tea than Gunpowder.
Last month Kevin Drumm discounted his whole bandcamp discography, something like 114 albums and EPs, at the low, low price of $23.10.
With such a cornucopia of albums available for my sampling, I hardly noticed that he hadn’t made a new album available since March.
However, we were getting close to June, and I started thinking to myself, “…wait a gol’ darn minute…”.
Fortunately, Kevin Drumm chose to slake our thirst with this new album, “The Wizard of East Dubuque”.
The first twenty minutes are what I describe as sound field work, I think the sound source is probably feedback. Spherical sound fields which start small, expand, and intersect with other fields. I was settling into my listening, “ah, this is peaceful, some room to think!” However, my reverie is interrupted by something like a shortwave radio blast. Out of the radio blast, guitar sounds appear and distorted voice coagulates to create a slightly sad, mournful segment for a period. Towards the end, what sound like keyboard based synthesizers come in to take us home, or to church, before fading out into silence.
The Spring raw pu-erh releases from White2Tea have been announced and I have to say Paul has outdone himself in the hilarious descriptions for the teas and how a person should know which tea to order for him or herself. Sort of a personality test for tea drinkers.
I leave it as an exercise to you to guess which teas I might have ordered.
New 2019 Teas, Up Now on white2tea.comAfter over three months of drinking fresh tea in the mountains of Yunnan our first wave of new teas is pressed and ready. There will be more new releases in about a month, but rather than wait for every tea we decided to let the raw Puer fly!
Clockwise by Anna Webber; Bandcamp Link: Clockwise
“Her new release, Clockwise, is an homage to some of her favorite 20th Century composers as seen through the lens of their works for percussion. For the project, Webber spent months researching and analyzing various percussion compositions by Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldman, Edgard Varése, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Milton Babbitt, and John Cage, isolating particular moments that could be extracted and developed into new works.”
Wow! After listening to it for several days, I felt that this album had a lot of influences from 20th Century composers, but I didn’t realize the extent of Webber’s ambition until I read the Pi Records press! Holy moley!
Uh, anyway, that press release could be a little scary to, well, most people.
However, let me assure you, that, while this isn’t “easy” music, it is also not as “difficult” as some of its inspirations.
One of the things that stands out for me is the thoroughly modern and very enjoyable harmony writing for the horns. Sure, there’s some dissonance, but overall it is the melodies of the pieces that stand out for me. There is also some pretty amazing 20th Century music meets Bebop playing from both Webber and Viner, particularly on the title track “Clockwise”.
“Array” is another track which is super interesting, (featuring outstanding contributions from Viner, Garchik, and Mitchell,) which seems almost like a single melodic line which is stretched nearly to the full length of the tune, but split between the different players. Also, it very nearly almost swings.
Endlessly rewarding, and endlessly interesting, Webber’s Clockwise is some of the most ambitious writing and rewarding listening I’ve encountered for a modern jazz-ish ensemble in recent memory.
Anna Webber – tenor saxophone, flute, bass flute, alto flute Jeremy Viner – tenor saxophone, clarinet Jacob Garchik – trombone Christopher Hoffman – cello Matt Mitchell – piano Chris Tordini – bass Ches Smith – drums, vibraphone, timpani