As a young man Bob Dylan honed his skills covering songs from the folk repertoire prior to becoming known as the impeccable songwriter for which he has come to be so extensively celebrated. Some of these folk covers are reflected in his self-titled debut. In Dylan’s most recent effort, Shadows in the Night, the songwriter returns to his roots and expresses himself through other artist’s musical contraptions. This is not to say that Dylan is taking a swing at being a cover artist. To cover a song is to recompose a song. Interpretation is a source of renewal, and with this 2015 release Dylan repositions himself once again in a new light. While Shadows in the Night is comprised of covers, the album presents a conceptual tapestry of unique unity. Sonically, the album is held together by a somber pedal steel guitar actively dancing along, slowly accompanying Dylan’s melancholy, worn lead vocal texture. Dylan’s current phase seems to be one of renewal, a renaissance if you will. Albums like Modern Times and Together Through Life have a way of making use of old material and presenting it in a contemporary light. Dylan’s approach as a songwriter shines through on this album of covers. Like a modernist painter, Dylan takes these songs as readymades and utilizes them into a collage of sound highlighted by the vespertine textures of the singer and his expressive band. Shadows in the Night is an original statement made from the refurnishing of pop music gems from the past. A worthy addition to an already legendary and expansive discography. – Ben Westfall
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is an enchantingly cerebral experience with a beat. The album is comprised mostly of vocals and electronics. Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) utilizes a Moog Synthesizer for a rich analogue tapestry of sound. While the album is a cerebral experience, the music evokes powerful emotions framing the mind in irascible conundrums. “Are you mad?” Panda Bear sings in “Come to Your Senses”. Over the aural landscape produced by Panda Bear and Sonic Boom, the listener is left in a psychological labyrinth. Where is one to go in this maze of the mind? In the song “Selfish Gene” Noah sings, “Just now I see it so clear/ Total shift in the unconscious… Only you can fill those spaces”. For Panda Bear, the mind is a state of flux. It has been said that music is about the space between the notes. This is true for Panda Bear, but just as John Cage discovered that there is no such thing as silence, Mr. Noah urges the necessity of the listener to “fill those spaces”. The ability of the mind to fill those spaces is what underlies the optimism of the album even if the psyche must confront death in the shift of the unconscious when meeting the Grim Reaper. To fill the spaces is the biological imperative of the selfish gene necessary for survival, materializing the cerebral in connection with the double helix.
In addition to the strong body of work presented on the Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper album, the deluxe version comes with the charming Mr. Noah EP. The EP includes three extra songs as well as the song “Mr. Noah” from the LP and serves as an extension of the sound world evoked in the LP making the deluxe version a admirable choice for the consumer. The depths of the ocean of sound expressed here is enough to keep a listener extensively occupied and the EP merely adds a few extra sound samples to an already enticing palate. – Ben Westfall
Bedrock Music and Video has recently updated its jazz section, the focus of which has been free jazz, as well as important albums surrounding the movement. Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come is often considered to be the album that ushered in the movement, dropping the piano player in the ensemble allowing the chord quality to remain ambiguous and giving the soloist greater room for creative expression. The Shape of Jazz to Come, stretched out blues progressions, led the way to John Coltrane’s experimental phase and the work of Pharoah Sanders. John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is an example of the influence of free jazz creeping into the classic jazz quartet, piano included. We are excited to welcome The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Alice Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy to our inventory among others. The influence of free jazz on improvisational music is extreme, as can be heard in Marin’s own Grateful Dead. Free jazz has a lot of range and diversity and in addition to the selection we’ve compiled we can also order your favorite free jazz records to help round out your collection. – Ben Westfall