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
Life Metal by SUNN O))); Bandcamp Link: Life Metal
SUNN O))) is well known for making “heavy music”.
Life Metal, while heavy in every sense of the word, in the SUNN O))) canon, almost comes down on the side of the light.
Huge slabs of sound do brutalize your ears, but the detail and the texture captured within those aural sculptures twisting in space and time, are beautiful in their own way.
I just have to say, the mix and the production on “Life Metal” is particularly astounding. The first and the last song add acoustic instruments to the SUNN O))) sound and it is unbelievable the separation they found in the mix so that those delicate instruments could shine in the midst of a maelstrom of overdrive and distortion.
PS. This is a great article about the album, “2 Montana Natives on Recording with Drone-Metal Band SUNN O)))“. I particularly enjoyed this quote from one of the Montana Natives, Tim Midyett, “You might be living with whatever you do for awhile. So if you hit a wrong note, and you don’t get it right, you’ve got to figure out a way to adapt whatever you did to make it work, but ideally you want to hit them right in the first place,” which seems equally applicable to Life as to Drone-Metal.
The difficult part about Crazy Doberman is keeping up with their releases. Not only do they seem to record 3 or 4 album a year, but countless singles, DIY tapes, etc.
If you haven’t dipped into the Crazy Doberman stream just yet, this self titled album is a pretty good place to get your toes wet.
For a Crazy Doberman release, it is a relatively mellow affair, grooves are started, maintained, then freaked out. Things get quiet again. Synthesizers moan.
It’s got a bit of a krautrock/psych feel going on, especially the first half of the first tune, “immortal hand or eye”. The second tune, “held inside/fragmented/kept close” is a bit more of a psychedelic journey, what with its guitar/flute combo, sparse percussion and panning organ-style keyboard washes. And, oh yeah, a recorder freakout towards the end.