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Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd: Still Life With Commentator

Mike Ladd & Vijay Iyer

This disc exists in a musical Bermuda Triangle that conjoins jazz, electronica and that mutant, undefined style of pop music created by the likes of Björk. The liner notes describe Still Live With Commentator as observations on the way modern technologies-broadcast news, consumer goods-affect us as individuals. Comparing themselves to Naturalist poets who wrote about the landscape of nature, Iyer and Ladd use as their subject matter the visage of Dan Rather or the title sequence of CNN.

That’s right-in attempting to comment and critique the media that bombards us, lyricist Ladd can’t write a lyric without referencing some product (“Tiny motors in Elmos out to tickle/Teddy Ruxpins with concealed weapons”) or celebrity (Dr. Phil, Billy Joel, Oprah). Either he’s trying too hard to make a point or he’s just as guilty as the media he skewers for relying on popular tripe to shape his words. Iyer’s music meets the edgy challenge of this piece, especially on two instrumentals that capture the intentions of the album. But it’s not enough to balance out the heavy-handed words, especially when Pamela Z sings in an overdone, operatic soprano wail.

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