By accident last year I stumbled across an album that literally blew my mind. The first collaboration between Iyer and Ladd, In What Laguage, was on one level a political statement against the extreme measures taken on the part of airports and the government to ramp up security after September 11th. It went far beyond a simple statement of protest though; the blend of jazz, electronica, spoken word poetry, world music, etc., was flawlessly woven together, and the lyrics ranged from intellectual statements of theory and history to personal narratives from an Iraqi businessman being searched and detained at an airport.
So, when I was at Von’s the other day and saw a new album from this same collaboration, I knew I’d be buying something worth paying $17 for. I was not disappointed. This album makes claims to be just as serious (if not more so) than the last. From the liner notes:
STILL LIFE WITH COMMENTATOR is an oratorio about our virtual surroundings: the information landscape of modern news, the consumer technologies that connect us to it, and the effects of these technologies on our intimate selves.
This time their focus is on the intersection of information and art. The album’s title points to an art project called arts fine art for sale at intoxarts.org. [NOTE and SPOILER ALERT: When you go to the link, don’t worry that you’ve been redirected to a page of advertisements: that’s what it’s supposed to look like.] And again there is poetry, spoken over everything from programmed beats to 12-tone piano riffs. This time you can add opera and contemporary R&B, among others, to the list of genres at their disposal.
So if you’re interested in music (calling it jazz just doesn’t seem accurate to me) that is highly literate, thoughtful and mind-bendingly good, get this. Ever since I heard In What Language I’ve been keeping my eye out for anything with Mike Ladd in it. He doesn’t disappoint.