Amoeba berkeley Staff

Amoeba Berkeley

Listening to rap while waiting for the asteroid type beat.

I Turned Myself Into Myself (LP)


New York's protean creative teams up with ubiquitous and genre-hopping producer, Jack Splash for 24 minutes and 50 seconds of blistering lyrical commentary of existence and art over punch-tough drums, cocky percussion, and hypnotic rhythms. Can't recommend this one enough.

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Golden Joe Volumes 1-3 (LP)


Three separate LPs of beats from the mysterious, and highly sought-after, rapper-producer out of Philly showcase his dusty, sample-laden production style, making this instrumental series a must-own.

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Little Simz

Produced by the magician behind SAULT's sound, Inflo, Little Simz flexes her strong verbal muscles while getting some things off her chest. I'm a huge fan of Simz' voice and cadence, and becoming part of the Forever Living Originals family and sound is a perfect fit. I hope there is more to come from this relationship.

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Beautifully Black

Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon

I've been listening to this cat since 2020's lockdown. I was excited to find an artist that was delivering something that felt refreshing to me. A slightly higher timbre skates over jazz, 70s/80s soul keys, and ballroom string loops.Hard, rattling delivery with a bourbon in hand.

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Free The Robots

Any fan of Free The Robots will not be disappointed in this eclectic and wonderfully exotic display of electronic wizardry. Gin cocktails with that fresh basil hit while you watch another patron subtly pull and release their craft weed vape.

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Amoeba Berkeley

Bach - Handel (CD)

Sabine Devieilhe / Pygmalion
This wonderful recording on ERATO was a no-brainer for me.  This is baroque music at its very finest. French operatic soprano Sabine Devielilhe with the Ensemble Pygmalion have achieved the crème de la crème of baroque recordings.  Even new listeners to baroque music would want to soak in this gem. Miss Devielilhe's voice is brimming with wonderful penetrating tones that is ideally suited for baroque music. Equally, Pygmalion is a music ensemble that one can instantly relish and feel complete enjoyment from. Although most of these songs are filled with serious and somber lyrics (J.S. Bach cantatas & Handel oratorio & opera highlights), Sabine's delivery as well as the spirited and lively tone from Pygmalio, manages to instill affectionate, warm and devoted impressions in our hearts. The solemn sacred song from Bach:"Mein Jesu! was vor  Seelenweh" BWV 487 has been sung and heard numerous times over the past 100 years from all the great men and women of various vocal types. Understandably, stern deliveries were par for the course in singing this particular song but Miss Devieilhe singing voice is one of genuine heartfelt sensibility which somehow achieves to naturally ingratiate these passions onto the listener.  The song refers to Gethsemane, a place of great mental, spiritual and physical suffering where Jesus was arrested and tortured. Sabine's pleasant delivery is so full of kindness, it becomes quite a revelation for us to hear her sing this song of suffering. Following this awe-inspiring opening, we get a healthy sample size from just the Pygmalion ensemble performing the prelude to a church cantata. This is worth hearing simply because we can hear how truly passionate this particular ensemble is in articulating a refined baroque sound especially with the springy and upbeat sound from the organ.  Matthieu Boutineau does a fabulous job in penetrating his organ shops within this amazing ensemble. It's almost as if Pygmalion wanted to represent the embodiment of what baroque music should sound like.  The oboe played by Jasu Moisio is another key instrument within this fine ensemble that is in keeping with that colorfully distinct baroque sound. Especially leading the 2nd movement of BMV 199 where the richness of his tone creates a soothing but upbeat mood while Sabine's alluring voice heightens this effect. There is just the right amount of glow in her intonation which produces a sense of compassion within the listener's aura. Even a short segment from Handel's oratorio; "Brockes Passion", Sabine treats this recitative with a beautiful and well-balanced array of feelings alongside the finest of intonations. Simply put, her astute sense of appropriate phrasings helps to put the listener in a relaxed place of ease. But the aria taken from Handel's "Giulio Cesare" is sung with longer phrasings which helps to flesh out her voice a bit more. This is sung without wobbles or quivers which help to heighten, again, her appeal. The finale; Bach's complete cantata: "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen" (BWV 51) is joyful in nature. But joyfulin the sense that is in-line with gratification, indebtedness as well as thankfulness,which is right up Miss Devieilh's alley. I have listened to this recording several times without feeling any fatigue or indifference (the CD is over 83 minutes). Perhaps there are those who will be immediately "turned off" due to religious text from some of these pieces on this disc, especially the Bach selections, but those reactions would simply be silly; to say the least. This is not religious sounding music, but rather colorful, vibrant and gorgeous music that could bring forth the best version of each one of us; as long as one chooses to listen.  Bravo to both Sabine Devieilhe and the Pygmalion ensemble for performing such engaging and impeccably joyous baroque music.  This is one of the strongest classical releases in quite some time; don't back down! Read more

Elysium - A Schubert Recital (CD)

Carolyn Sampson / Joseph
Finally we move to more familiar territory in regards to melody and how the power of music can positively create vigor and well-being for the soul. Not that the previous two recordings I've mentioned don't produce these feelings but they instead ask more from us due to their demanding and complicated musical phrasings. In this next pick of mine, complex expressions are nowhere to be found throughout these 17 Schubert songs that deal with the spiritual dream world as well as the afterlife. Lieder expert Carolyn Sampson sings with dainty finesse and pianist Joseph Middleton refined notes carefully shade the sheer finery of Miss Sampson's delivery. Both artists join forces to take the listener to ethereal and celestial places while producing a feeling of stability and tranquility. There is a sense of breezy buoyancy to Miss Sampson's singing that tends to directly lighten the listener's heart. She manages to articulate inflections with pinpoint accuracy while still maintaining a sense of beauty to the song. With the opening "Schwestergruss", Sampson's careful and deliberate phrasing throughout this song presents the listener with a wide variety of rhythmical patterns which lightly but assuredly, breezes comfortably alongside the sweet sounding notes of the piano. Her charming delivery is most notable in "Aum dem Wasser zu singen" where her luminous voice is just bright enough to bring ease and comfort to the song. "Nacht und Träume" is one of the more beautiful songs on this enjoyable disc. After the simple piano intro, Sampson's voice floats meticulously in-line with the melody at heartbreaking mastery. Her lovely trill when enunciating the word "Brust" is definitely a part of this charm she exudes. Then in "Die Sterne" her frolicsomeness delivery suddenly brings a new sense of glow and freshness. Every song on this CD will bring you a wonderful sense of solace and reassurance that will make you adore these songs. High praise for Carolyn Sampson! Read more

Kalevi Aho: Violin Concerto 2 (CD)

Elina Vähälä / Kymi
Each of the two concertos on this disc presents the listener with new insights in regards to a format that is laden with tradition. The Finnish composer, Kalevi Aho was about to write his second violin concerto for a certain violinist until he abandoned the project altogether, leaving Aho to jettison the entire piece. Luckily for Aho, Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä came to the rescue and voiced her desire to supersede Aho's initial choice. The finished results are presented on this fine disc with Miss Vähälä's virtuosity leading Finland's own Kymi Sinfonietta with Olari Elts conducting. The music is an unusual language of tonal phrasing that focuses on Vähälä's exciting virtuosity First of all, where have we heard a cadenza being placed near the beginning of a composition? Miss Vähälä's improvisational run of notes is curiously placed at the 97 second mark of the first movement setting off its aggressive trajectory while leading the pliant Kymi Sinfonietta toward unchartered territory. Her entry point comes after wandering phrases from the winds play a sort of call and response dialogue in which the violin abruptly acquires the lead. This is when the brass part of the Kymi Sinfonietta is used to reverberate the intensity of the violins' aggressiveness. It's as if the intensity of the violin phrasing is suddenly amidst a gossamer of sound. But the wide variety of how the orchestra exploits its call and response discourse in reaction to Miss Vähälä's phrasing demands our focus and is what makes this piece so unique. It demands our focus simply due to the fact that leaving our comfort zone might be a necessity. The wide variety of phrasing we hear are not necessarily in tune and are at times dissonant. What keeps us from becoming disinterested is the continued emphasis on exchange and communication between the sounds of the Kymi Sinfonietta in response to Miss Vähälä's lead. How the coloring of the orchestral phrasing shifts around as a response is intriguing due to its unorthodox approach. The adagio (2nd movement) finally slows down this frantic pace quite considerably. By this time, Miss Vähälä's lead is already immersed within the subtle wavering of different sounds. That diaphanous wall of sound from the orchestra serves as a sort of womb for the violin to express itself. Isolated phrases from the orchestra circulate around the violin, almost as if this whole wall of sound was submerged inside subaqueous surroundings. Sounds float and move about in lingering fashion. I find visual similarities to painting with watercolors where colors tend to ooze beyond their margin. Here,the shimmering sounds from the winds and percussion tend to blend into one another almost as if it had a life of its own. The final movement begins with the lead violin prancing about while the array of coloring from the orchestra encircles but without any predictable movement. Miss Vähälä's multitude of different phrasings is quite demanding and still maintains a sound that is full of beatific virtuosity. The remarkable aspect to this violin concerto is its without hackneyed phrases and expresses its own language. At the time of writing this MWL pick, I became so enamoured with this piece, that I truthfully was up against the clock and had no time to listen to the last composition on this disc (Cello Concerto #2), Regardless, this Violin Concerto #2 pretty much took me out of my comfort zone and immersed my concentration inside a world I was not only unfamiliar with but more importantly became captivated by. . I suggest dear reader that you do the same; get out of your own comfort zone by listening to this violin concerto. You'll become simply freer. Read more

Nikolai Medtner: Complete Songs volume 4 (CD)

Ekaterina Levental / Frank
Presented on this overlooked CD are 4 song cycles (lyrics by Goethe & Heinrich Heine) with music by the often forgotten Russian composer, Nikolai Medtner, who happened to spend time in Germany and knew the language and culture quite well.  Only 6 of the 30 songs on this disc are over 3 minutes in length while the remaining 24 songs clock in between 1 and 3 minutes each. All these songs are sung by the exciting mezzo-sopranist, Ekaterina Levental from Uzbekistan with Dutch pianist, Frank Peters serving as her only sidekick.  These pieces are an unorthodox group of German lieder that is capricious, inconstant and by all means, unpredictable. Miss Levental's delivery presents the listener with intimate insights which keeps us intrigued while Peter's lively piano accompaniment supports her voice with impressive renditions and expertise. In the opening song, "Wanderer's Nightsong", Miss Levental's low toned delivery, affords us with exceptionally intimate diminutions, causing unusual coloring to her voice. Her tempo is careful and deliberate, making certain her words are clearly understood. But once we are allured in, the song ends before you're about to settle in and subsequently, another song begins. Medtner's songs are focused on tonality but in a complicated way. One example is in "I roamed the Meadows" where both Levental & Peters are off to the races with Peters leading a frantic pace. Leventals expressive notes almost sound hurried while trying to keep pace with Peters who is clearly dominating the tempo.  This creates an exciting, albeit uneven and complicated rhythm to the song.  Moreover, some of these songs are not easy to digest, let alone sing and perform but Miss Leventals dark tones with natural sounding high notes and restricted vibrato establish luscious effects for the listener to easily grasp. "Spring Song" is well over 50 words more than the prior tune "Wanderer's Nightsong" but also is nearly 30 seconds shorter. With all these words combined with a faster tempo, Miss Lavental's instrument transforms into a completely differenttemperamentthan in the previous song. And her precision and clarity is expressively full of life and vigour. Mr. Peters piano is constantly busy with tempo changes not to mention the isolated accents he needs to embellish.  Hearing the two together maintain a musical balance was quite a treat for me to hear. There is an amazing amount of concentration that is required for each performer within such a short time frame, especially with multiple rhythm changes. "Loveliest Lass" is a simply gorgeous song with a pace which would assume a lengthy development.  Given that Peter's accompaniment is beautifully embedded within Miss Levantal's deliberate phrasing, the listener again settles into reverie but not before the song vanishes forever.  The variety of melodic phrasing throughout this gem of a recording is beyond astonishing. I must admit that there are, at times, unusual moments to Miss Levental's delivery where outlandish high notes are sung. These peculiar high notes are specifically done so as to nail the tonic note in an extraordinary way. Check out the tonic note on track 11 at the very end of "Lyrical Intermezzo", specifically on the last syllable "wand" from "Felsenwand".  Leventals sudden towering note is carried to extreme heights; at least in relation to 99% of the song. The result is exhilarating to hear and most definitely an added bonus on this disc for Levental attaches this musical feature within isolated spots throughout this recording.  90% of the lyrics to these songs are, for the most part, romantic in nature.  But there is one poem written by Heinrich Heine that struck me as being a bit unusual; the sixty worded, 60 second song entitled; ""Lieb' Liebchen" or renamed in English: "The Carpenter".  I encourage interested readers to look this one up and read Heines' short poem. An oddly romantic short verse. The primary focus to this unconventional CD should rest on the unusual song writing of Nikolai Medtner and the invaluable and skillful musicality and virtuosity of Ekaterina Levental and Frank Peters. An unpredictable delight! Read more
E. Lit
Amoeba Berkeley
I walk and listen to music like I drive and listen to music.

Super Dope (CD)

Buck 65
It's been 26 odd years since Buck 65's seminal album "Vertex" shook the foundations of indie rap. Here we are in 2023, and Buck 65's youthful enthusiasm on the mic and behind the boards is nothing short of astounding. Inspiration seems to have triggered the kid in him again, and his deep love for the hip hop classics that he grew up with is on full display here. Those expecting abstract left-of-center sounds might be shocked to hear how straight-forward these songs are. Nothing but dusty boom bap beats, quirky rap flows loaded with funny lyrics, and drums that knock like there's no tomorrow. Tops my Music We Like list with ease. And as far as career come-backs go, Buck 65 wins, hands down. Read more

Akousmatikous (CD)

Salami Rose Joe Louis
The enchanting sounds of Salami Rose Joe Louis have been gracing Bay Area music events for many years, and it's been heartwarming to see her career take off in new and exciting ways. "Akousmatikos" is bouncier and weirder than any of Salami's previous releases, and continues to convey her unique creativity while treading the perfect line between high-concept science fiction and emotional intimacy. I was immediately pleased with this album, but it wasn't until I saw Salami Rose perform the songs live with her incredible new band that I truly understood how special this project is. Recommended headphone listening from one of my favorite Bay Area musicians. Read more

Leather Blvd (CD)

B. Cool-Aid
Pink Siifu and Ahwlee are both bright talents in the current hip hop scene, and their collaborative work as B. Cool-Aid is a whole vibe that exists in its own soulful universe. Falling somewhere close to the neo-soul rap musings of Nxworries, B. Cool-Aid is one part soul crooning, one part rapping, and a whole lot of everything in between. The album is very long and loaded with lengthy interlude recordings that would generally throw me off, but everything seems to fall into place and it flows the way a proper album should. The music truly sets a mood, and I walked away feeling like I got to know these two musicians as people. Feel-good Summer sounds to smile and nod your head to. Read more

Gunz, Knivez & Nunchuckz (LP)

Clever 1 & Giallo Point
Da Buze Bruvaz onslaught continues with this latest from Clever 1 aka Agent40oz7 and producer Giallo Point. Clever 1 suits up into spy mode and offers up an action-packed offering loaded with heavy artillery and luxurious lifestyles. But this ain't no James Bond piece, and Clev still finds the time to engage in some good old fashioned shoplifting in-between hits. Giallo Point's beats have always had a secret agent type of feel to them, so he's a natural fit for this project. Brute force hip hop in Da Buze Bruvaz tradition, served to you raw as hell. Read more

Maps (LP)

billy woods & Kenny Segal
It simply wouldn't be an E. Lit Music We Like list without a tip of the hat to my favorite living rapper, billy woods. The woods winning streak continues here as he re-unites with the ultra talented Kenny Segal for an album's worth of tour and travel stories. Planes, trains and automobiles in a fresh new light, narrated from billy woods' unique perspective and masterful writing style. Kenny Segal cooks up some of his signature creative beats for billy woods to work with, balancing jazzy keys and drums with more experimental electronic offerings. Features a truly beautiful ode to the city of New York on the homecoming track "NYC Tapwater." Highly recommended, as always. Read more

Motel Hell

This movie was mythicized to me as a kid by my parents, as it scared the hell out of them when they saw it in theaters and they would always bring it up to me when talking about scary movies. When I finally got around to watching it as a young adult with a passion for horror movies, it was actually way funnier than they made it out to be, but I was still blow away by the stellar cast and crazy creative kills. Entertaining to the max, and an absolute joy to watch re-scanned in beautiful 4K. Read more
Amoeba Berkeley

Enter The Video Store: Empire Of Screams (BLU)

Excellent box set of “genre” films from the Empire International Pictures vault. Growing up renting many of these titles from video stores [Thank you Foss Drugs and Golden Video], it is great to see these fun filled flicks get the royal treatment by Arrow Video. Included in this set are the movies: “The Dungeonmaster”, “Dolls”, “Celler Dweller”, “Arena” and “Robot Jox”. Read more

Renfield (BLU)

Nicolas Cage brings it! His Dracula character is super creepy, scary and brings it to the next level so it almost makes it comedic. With that being said, there is definitely both a blend comedy and horror going on with this one. I would recommend this one for fans of films like Evil Dead 2, Ginger Snaps, or Fright Night. Read more

After Hours (BLU)

I have to admit the first time I saw this I didn’t get it, it didn’t make me laugh and I was like WTF? But I thought about what I saw, and before long I realized just how genius this movie is. Scorsese captured a very specific time and place of a New York that just does not exist anymore which is one reason to watch this film but the other is simply a great story that will keep you thinking about what you saw, what happened and just how funny life is, once the film ends. I do not want to spoil anything for those of you whom have not seen it, but this is one of those films that should be required viewing. As usual Criterion does an excellent restoration and representation of the film and worth the upgrade from the older dvd version. Read more

Consuming Impulse [reissue] (LP)

This is an essential album to own. Originally released in 1989, Pestilence moved a bit further away from the raw thrash sound of “Malleus Maleficarum” {this is also another excellent album, and should be in your collection too!} and embraced the acidic growling buzz saw brutal death metal mode. Consuming Impulse has rememberable hooks and riffs, great vocals and excellent drumming creating a classic death metal album that still holds up in this day and age. Read more

Helvegr (LP)

Excellent black metal. The aggression, energy, cohesion and icy cold atmosphere shines through and through this wonderful release. On par with their “classic” albums. Buy this, you won’t regret it. Read more