Kasper Collin: The Man Behind The New Albert Ayler Documentary

A haunting image of Albert Ayler appears throughout a new documentary that explores the free-jazz saxophonist’s too-short life and legacy. It’s a black-and-white film clip in which he’s standing shirtless, silent, staring into the camera, the white patch on his beard beaming like a headlight. It’s as if Ayler is saying to the audience, “I told you so.” Ever-confident during his brief and underappreciated career in the mid-to-late 1960s, he had this to say about his chaotic, spaced-out brand of jazz: “If people don’t like it now, they will.”

Filmmaker Kasper Collin was one person who liked the saxophonist’s music from the get-go. He first heard Ayler in the early 1990s, when he was 18 and living in his native Sweden. “It really stood out from everything else I was listening to,” says Collin. “It’s incredible, powerful music.”

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Alamo Race Track: Year Of The Cat

alamoracetrack3501YouTube may be the peepshow of the inane, but being famous for 15 megabytes can work wonders for your music career. Just ask Alamo Race Track, the Amsterdam quartet whose performance of the song “Black Cat John Brown” has topped a half-million views on the video site. While you might expect such a popular clip to include irony-laced gags, celebrity spoofs or trippy animation, singer/guitarist Ralph Mulder explains otherwise.

“It’s just four guys sweating in a small dressing room,” he says.

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Q&A With Robert Pollard

To nobody’s surprise, neither age nor the dissolution of Guided By Voices has slowed the prolific output of Ohio’s most famous schoolteacher-turned-songwriter. Robert Pollard has simultaneously issued two new solo albums, Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions (both on Merge), with help from producer and collaborator Todd Tobias. He’s also putting the finishing touches on a coffee-table book of lyrics and collage artwork titled Town Of Mirrors: The Reassembled Imagery Of Robert Pollard (due out next year) and recently staged an exhibit of his visual art at Studio Dante, Sopranos star Michael Imperioli’s New York City theater.

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EUROS CHILDS: The Miracle Inn [Wichita]

With the muffled reveries of Something Else-era Kinks and the reduced heart rate of the Velvet Underground’s third album acting as rough guidelines, Euros Childs has produced a solo work every bit as endearing and important as the early stuff by his former band, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Even the relatively up-tempo “Ali Day,” with its subtle poaching from the Kinks’ “Victoria,” seems impossibly sad here. The Wales-based Childs, whose voice wavers between an over-caffeinated Ray Davies and a falsetto that could crack a bell jar, recorded The Miracle Inn mainly with piano and acoustic guitar and jettisoned the prog-rock embellishments that stood between Gorky’s and the popular acclaim the band richly deserved. Anyone who complained about Gorky’s recording some material in its native tongue should note that Childs’ English here is only barely more decipherable than his Welsh. It doesn’t really matter. By the end of the sprawling, 15-minute title track, you’ll feel like you’ve just downed a couple of pints at a pub in Aberystwyth—halfway between Swansea and Caernarvon—and stepped out into a brisk August evening to get a good lungful of coal smoke, with no Burger King within a hundred miles. [www.wichita-recordings.com]

—Jud Cost

DAN WILSON: Free Life [American]

From ’80s college-rock footnote to ’90s one-hit wonder to Grammy-winning Dixie Chicks co-writer—talk about a kooky career trajectory. For someone as restlessly creative as Dan Wilson, you’d think such an intriguing run would’ve inspired a little more va-voom than the innocuous piano balladry and female-fixated introspection found on his solo debut. With arty Minneapolis misfits Trip Shakespeare, Wilson’s calculated quirk-pop classicism was executed with a campy flourish and without a net; then it was beefed up and refined with Semisonic. Yet on much of Free Life, Wilson appears oblivious to his crafty past and indifferent toward his future as a tunesmith for hire. The album begins with “All Kinds,” a dippy ode to infatuation (“You’ve got the kind of beautiful that makes the boys want to give up running all around”) that nonetheless finds partial redemption in an achingly sweet chorus. Admittedly, Wilson has always been an ace with hooks, and Free Life has its share of stick-in-yer-craw melodies catchy enough to delude just about anyone into humming along to wince-inducing zingers like “You were always pretty reckless with your love,” “I only want to love my baby doll” and “Don’t you wanna make me wanna cry?” It’s hard to believe Wilson has come this far to have so little to say. Perhaps with all the writing he’s been doing for less-talented mainstreamers, he simply misplaced his IQ in Jewel’s coat closet? Free Life is about as compelling as a blood-pressure screening: bland, boneheaded adult-contemporary posing as smart, sophisticated adult alternative. [www.danwilsonmusic.com]

—Hobart Rowland