Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sway Machinery – Anim Zemiros b/w P'sach Lanu Sha'ar

Press releases don’t really mean anything to me. About 20 arrive here every day, 90% with the variation of “the next Beatles”, or “the next Bob Dylan”. Occasionally a creative one will say “the next Beastie Boys”. Whatever. I glance at ‘em and toss ‘em, and wait for the CD to arrive. Point is, I always glance at ‘em. The other 9.999% I save in my memory, and anxiously await the arrival of the CD because their authors have chosen to ignore the sound-alike phase of the press release. Let’s face it, a true artist sounds like themselves and no one else, so those are the ones I wait for with open ears. But that 1 in 10,000 arrived this week.

The press release said “Hidden Melodies Revealed showcases pieces based on text taken directly from the Jewish prayers and reconfigures them in a startlingly new musical landscape.” Now, that caught my eye. Updated music for Jewish prayers – I’m intrigued enough to visit the website. Once there I found a lot of interesting prose describing what was going on, but wat really caught my eye was "in the Cantor’s balance of artistic authority and spiritual humility I see a perfect stance from which to speak to the emotional needs of the contemporary world. Together with my colleagues, I am revisiting the work of my heroes of Chazzanus, particularly the music of my grandfather, the legendary Cantor Jacob Konigsberg. In this way I am hoping to return to that place of childlike awe that he opened to me and share it with the world."

Now there’s something I didn’t want to wait to hear. Some more research led me to the website of their record company, which allowed for the download of a tune from their last EP , and the download of several tunes from their forthcoming CD. Usually at this point I would contact the publicist and ask for the CD because I like to preview a full CD before telling you guys about it. This couldn’t wait – it is exciting and fulfilling music. Think John Coltrane in the studio with James Brown’s band with Ike Turner directing alongside Bootsy Collins and Tito Puente while Bobby Zimmerman sings the prayers of his Bar Mitsvah. It’s definitely a Hebrew sounding narration with the joy of trance-filled musicians talking the music of the spheres. I am transported, which is the purpose. Will the CD fulfill this promise? I’ll let you know when/if it arrives, but you owe it to yourself to visit the jdub records website and download the sample tunes for yourself.

Could this be a hoax? Have I been spoofed? Doesn’t really matter. I’m loving the two tunes whether it’s real or not. In fact, the only reason I even question it is because there’s a third tune to download in which the narrator mumbles with John Lennon echo on his voice talking about a cell phone. Somehow that doesn’t speak to me of ‘spiritual humility’. But, maybe that’s just me, and I’m failing to see the ‘artistic authority.’ Plus, what the heck, you can download and preview that one too. Maybe you’ll find what I missed, especially with the sax player’s grasping for Coltrane’s soul there near the end.

I am looking forward to hearing the final product, apparently coming due in April. Keep an eye out at the myspace page of Sway Machinery.

Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery: