22 from 2002
By Beppe Colli
Jan. 10, 2003

So here comes the obligatory "Top Whateverthenumberis" end-of-year chart, right? Well, sort of.

I have to confess that I've always been pretty ambivalent about these things, though the reason why they exist is pretty obvious - and sometimes they can be useful, too.

The reason for the present chart, however, is really simple: since CloudsandClocks launched on Nov. 26, most of the albums whose release preceded the birth of this webzine stood no chance of being reviewed. And so...

First, there are quite a few albums that I haven't seen reviewed anywhere else, so I think that a bit of exposure (albeit admittedly minimal) won't hurt. Second, there are some that have been reviewed, but that in my opinion were not taken as seriously as they deserved. Third, this chart should tell readers about my priorities, so they'll easily know where I stay.

Please notice that this chart doesn't represent a "Best Of". Some of these albums definitely suffer from some flaws - though, obviously, none so severe as to make them "average". All are required listening: "albums that matter", so to speak, each presenting a unique, highly personal perspective on music. I've also included some re-releases.

In alphabetical order, of course...

North America

The first Curlew album that I ever bought (on vinyl), in 1985. The Fred Frith connection, of course, at a time when it was useful for discovering good things. Listening to this (clearly remastered) CD I was surprised by how interesting it was - not that I hadn't liked it much the first time, it just seems that, generally speaking, in the meantime I've learned to settle for less. Fine compositions, first-rate playing, a very varied album - those who consider, say, Tortoise as a groundbreaking group should definitely listen to this CD. Some unreleased live material - same songs, a different line-up.

Chris Cutler


Improvisations for electrified drums with a strong, clear sense of form. Highly original approach, very musical results. A landmark recording.

Wilbert de Joode

Though I'd heard him on various CDs, it was only when I saw him play with the Ab Baars Trio + Roswell Rudd and with the Henneman String Quartet at the Controindicazioni Festival in Rome in October 2001 that I really appreciated Wilbert de Joode. This is his solo bass CD. Seventeen (brief) pieces, each with a clear focus. Improvisation of the "Dutch school", which requires (and definitely repays) attentive listening.

Ani DiFranco
So Much Shouting/So Much Laughter
(Righteous Babe)

Another double live album from the little folksinger from Buffalo. Seems quite a few reviewers long for the days of solo guitar and vocals, when things were simpler. The old energy is still there, but I like her new agile - and definitely more versatile and nuanced - vocal phrasing, her hard-won maturity in composing, the funky rhythm section and the horns. And how come an artist who sells - I don't know, two hundred thousand? - gets so little press? (Your guess is as good as mine.)

John Greaves

Loco Solo: Live in Tokyo
(Locus Solus)

My admiration for John Greaves dates from the days when he was "only" the bass player in Henry Cow. His subsequent solo albums of songs were a revelation, and I'm really saddened by the fact that they are quite underappreciated. This is a very good place to start: his piano and vocals in a live setting, beautifully recorded, intense. (This came out - Japan only - in 1998 and was distributed abroad at the end of 2001 - but I bought it in January 2002, so it qualifies.)

Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton


In a perfect world, this would be the art of the (piano) trio in 2002. It flows like a charm, the compositions are beautiful, the interplay superb, the recording perfect. Innovative, intelligent, accessible. In a word: fresh. Get it immediately.

Peter Hammill

The Margin +

Hammill at the top of his game in a live setting. His "rock" quartet, so to speak. Tense, intense. First CD already released in 1985, plus another (a bit less clearly recorded) featuring unreleased versions of different songs by the same line-up. Very revealing liner notes.

Robin Holcomb

The Big Time

Has it really been ten years since her last CD of songs? This is adult stuff for grown-ups (of all ages, obviously). Quite a bit bleaker than I had expected. The usual meticulous approach to composition and vocal delivery, excellent recorded sound, some very fine players, sympathetic production by Wayne Horvitz. Need I say more?

ICP Orchestra
Oh My Dog!

The funny thing about the Instant Composers Pool is that nowadays it's considered by some like a part of the landscape (and, these days, maybe a bit predictable?) while the rest of the world hasn't got the slightest idea about it. The original post-modernists? Just listen, then make up your mind.

Leo Kottke/Mike Gordon

(Private Music)

An unpretentious little album that - given time - quietly reveals its considerable charms. Mostly acoustic 12-string guitar plus acoustic and electric bass, some vocals and quite a few nice instrumental touches that on first hearing it's very easy to overlook. Quite traditional, yes, but never tired nor stale.

Aimee Mann

Lost In Space

Times are rough for craftspersons who prize bridges and whose vocals don't shout "drama!" on MTV. Complex emotions portrayed by clear, perceptive thinking and intelligent, mature delivery.

Matching Mole


Time has been kind to the music played by this underappreciated line-up. These are unreleased live tapes from '72, not hi-fi but definitely listenable. Agile, uncluttered, distinctive music for guitar, electric piano, bass and Robert Wyatt's highly personal drums and vocals. Still sounding fresh and adventurous to me.


On Air With Guests

The dynamic duo from Sweden is back with another live CD. My favourite Mats/Morgan album is still the double The Music or the Money from 1997: the first CD sporting fine, adventurous songs, the second with its tricky, knotty, complex instrumentals. On Air With Guests avoids the fusionoid lengthy keyboard solos that made Live (2001) a bit less than I had expected. To call this music "progressive" would do it a disservice. Think: Zappa - astute listeners will notice quite a few things pointing to the late Maestro. Nice cameo by Jimmy Ågren, whose solo album Glass Finger Ghost remains an undiscovered gem.

Roscoe Mitchell & The Note Factory

Song For My Sister
(PI Recordings)

While the "new guys from Chicago" appear to be losing whatever steam they had in the first place, the "old guard" is alive and well, thank you very much. Having seen The Note Factory live (what happened to that planned live CD, guys?) I can attest this line-up can play anything. And they definitely do on this one. While the "noisy" tracks (just joking) are merely excellent, it's the chamber-like stuff (think: flute, percussions, two pianos) that's the highlight of the album.

Michael Moore/Peggy Lee/Dylan van der Schyff
Floating 1...2...3

A live recording from the 2000 Vancouver Jazz Festival, for me this improvised trio CD was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Peggy Lee's cello moves with a fine compositional logic, while frequent collaborator van der Schyff contributes nicely on drums. The give-and-take with Moore's clarinet and alto is excellent. (By the way, is it just my impression, or do we take this guy for granted a bit too often? Playing with assurance doesn't equal playing safe!) At a bit more than half-an-hour, it's the perfect length, too.


Round Room

It's strange - and more than a bit disturbing - that most professional critics didn't seem to "get" this album at all. Didn't they have the time? Was this album not a "priority"? Nobody in the biz really cares whether they live or die? You tell me. Meanwhile, I stand by my review.



I don't share some of my colleagues' enthusiasm for the kind of electronic music where one is never quite sure whether one is listening to the music on the CD or to the electrical current running inside the amplifier. This CD by a Berlin improv collective walks the fine line between giving you the whole picture and inviting you to connect the dots. Quite successfully, I'd say.

Hans Reichel


It's a mystery to me how some people who liked his improvised stuff on those "impossible" guitars could find him any less interesting when playing the daxophone (yep, that's the name of the instrument he invented/built). No new territory here - which is not a bad thing by itself, but I find the time-aligned events in the digital domain that are oh so practical in everyday life to be quite detrimental to that beautiful sense of rubato that made those melodies really breath. Back to analogue?

Simon Steensland

The Phantom Of The Theatre

Steensland's music seems often in danger of collapsing under its own weight. These short pieces written for theatre (a concept that usually prepares me for the worst) are a success: big on musical variety, definitely austere yet in a way quite playful, with an intelligent use of voices... lots of good stuff on this CD. Please overlook the cover.

Henry Threadgill's Zooid

Up Popped The Two Lips
(PI Recordings)

One of my favourite composers and instrumentalists starting from the Air days. I've never been too convinced by the fusion overtones of his electric groups, so it's with great pleasure that I listened to this one: flute, alto, cello, tuba, drums, oud, acoustic guitar. The acerbic tone, the "lateral" thinking, the use of space... it's all here, uncluttered. (Yes, on the cover it says "2001" but I bought it last February.)


156 Strings

... by nineteen acoustic guitarists. Some well known (Fred Frith, Richard Thompson, Henry Kaiser), some "almost famous" (Mike Keneally), some I knew (Duck Baker, Janet Feder), some I didn't (Steffen Basho-Junghans, whose piece I liked a lot). I'm usually not too keen on compilations, but this definitely works - on quite a few levels.

Zony Mash

Live In Seattle
(Liquid City)

A funky strut in Meters territory + lots of Hammond B-3 + angular themes by Horvitz = a fun album with brains.

© Beppe Colli 2003

CloudsandClocks.net | Jan. 10, 2003