Kit Watkins / Brad Allen — Frames of Mind
(Azymuth AZ-1002, 1982, LP)
Kit Watkins — Labyrinth
(One Way OW 35160, 1980/2000, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1996-08-01
Finally Watkins' first two post-Happy the Man/Camel solo albums have received the proper digital treatment. These are two very formative albums that offer a logical bridge between the music of the bands he played with to his later solo work. Labyrinth is all instrumental, and for the most part very upbeat and colorful, full of fire and emotion, in a compositional style similar to his work with Happy the Man. A variety of keyboards (piano, Minimoog, B3, solina, clavinet) are used, along with flute, classical guitar on one track, and the dreaded drum machines on a couple others. Live drums and percussion on the balance of the album are supplied by ex-HTM drummer Coco Roussel. There are reworks of two HTM tunes: "While Chrome Yellow Shine," penned by Wyatt and Watkins, and the title track - which at the time of "Labyrinth" remained unreleased (later to surface on "Better Late"). The gem, though, is the two-part eleven-minute suite "Two Worlds/4 Bars-1 Unit" that took up the better part of the second side of the original album. Three bonus tracks have been added for the CD release.
Frames of Mind, from a year later is so completely different, one might have trouble believing that the two albums are by the same artist. Here Kit works with guitarist Brad Allen. Half of the album is made up of shorter vocal tunes with oft-times humorous lyrics, amounting to a lot of fun any way one looks at it. "My Telephone," where two phone recordings are trying desperately to make sense with one another, is a song that could have been right at home on the Doctor Demento show. The other half of the album is more along the lines of rhythmic/electronic experimentation, using keys, samplers, drum sequencers, guitar, and voices in various repetitive modes with melody present but generally taking a back seat, essentially comparable to some of the more interesting techno music of today. The title track is perhaps the most engaging among these, with its sampled voice parts in even-count repeating over an odd-count rhythm base, and then switching off. Also of note is the intensely rhythmic "Audia," where every instrument is used in a percussive mode, save the floating voice/keyboard melody that holds it all together. Four bonus tracks are included, interspersed within the original album's playing order. In short, Frames is probably Watkins' most out-of-character album, mixing elements of pop, techno, experimentation and humor. Both discs are part of Linden's new Signature Series, each disc handmade, numbered, and signed by the man himself.
Related artist(s): Kit Watkins
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more