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Kishi Bashi, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Shuggie Otis

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Shuggie Otis

Inspiration Information & Wings of Love

(Legacy)

Over the years, Shuggie Otis’s Inspiration Information has achieved classic status for its visionary mix of electronic funk, California soul, and psychedelic blues. In some ways, it’s the evolutionary step beyond Fresh that Sly Stone was never able to take. But the reissue of that landmark isn’t the main attraction of this two-disc set: It’s an entirely new album called Wings of Love that collects material Otis has been working on in fits and spurts from 1975 to 2000. Most of the songs bear his stamp with their creative use of smeared synths, drum machines, and liquid guitar solos. Unfortunately, a number of tunes like “Fawn” are marred by horrific ’80s production, sounding like woeful commercial R&B misfires. Wings is overlong at 70 minutes, but fans probably won’t mind. These new songs—plus four intriguing if unessential outtakes from Inspiration—comprise nothing less than a feast.

 

Kishi Bashi

151a

(Joyful Noise)

151a, which refers to the Japanese term for “once in a lifetime,” is the debut LP from indie pop experimental electronica singer/songwriter, violinist, guitarist, keyboardist and programmer Kishi Bashi, aka Seattle-born Kaoru Ishibashi. Careful listeners might recognize a few of the album cuts that have been used in commercials for companies like Sony (“It All Began With A Burst”), Smart Car (“Chester’s Burst Over the Hamptons”), and Microsoft (“Bright Whites”). Kishi Bashi, who has opened for Alexi Murdoch and Sondra Lerche, and supported of Montreal and The Last Bison, heads to Europe after his Stateside tour this fall. That tour brings him to Pearl Street in Northampton Sept. 10.

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker

Fire & Fortune

(Navigator/Compass)

Skepticism is warranted in a time when every new release purports to be the musical analog to cold fusion. But what if I told you I think I’ve just heard the next Sandy Denny? Or maybe Jacqui McShee? Josienne Clarke has the sort of voice that comes around just a few times in a generation: crystalline clear, supple, gorgeous, ornamented, and strong. Half of Fire & Fortune’s 12 tracks are originals, many evocative of Denny’s trad-based offerings. “After Me” is bell-like in tone and fragile in feel, yet contains soaring register shifts that let you know Clarke’s nobody’s china doll. Her voice is a dead ringer for Jacqui McShee’s on “Green Grow the Laurels,” and Ben Walker’s fretwork evokes classic John Renbourne Group arrangements. And if you think I exaggerate with the Sandy Denny comparisons, go to YouTube and check out Clarke’s cover of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” Sounds like it’s come full circle.

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