Sonic Reducer: Berlin Voices, Frank Hoier, Dirt City Radio

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Chestnuts, edible and audible, are a Christmas tradition, and this recording from Berlin Voices (Esther Kaiser, Sarah Kaiser, Marc Secara, Kristofer Benn) offers chestnuts aplenty. But these German and English carols, dating from the 15 th century to 2008, have been specially roasted over stunning new arrangements that extract unexpected wonders from familiar songs while avoiding holiday schmaltz. Several arrangers contribute a variety of styles, from samba to bluesy jazz waltz to straight-ahead swing with big-band harmonies. Whether singing a cappella or backed by a swinging combo and special guests, the four distinctive voices light up this Christmas-themed jazz recording. (MM)

Frank Hoier ÒSelf ReleaseÓ (

Frank Hoier steps back from the raw rock and roll of Brooklyn duo Boom Chick with an EP of lovely and lazy tremolo-soaked ballads. Although immediately reminiscent of Roy Orbison or Duane Eddy, the five songs feel fresh. Hoier’s vocals are smooth, something one would barely suspect given Boom Chick’s raucous howl. Think George Harrison’s “If Not for You” or Chris Isaak’s “Shadows in a Mirror” with minimal but spot-on production. For such a small ensemble (guitars, drums and tambourine played and mixed by Hoier) the sound is huge and beautifully heartbreaking. Free download but worthy of donations. (CA)

Dirt City Radio This Machine (

This Machine is rumpled rock ’n’ Americana from Rod Shot, an Albuquerque musician who’s invested over a decade in lo-fi outfits like the Darlington Horns, The Impatients and The Backseat Rockers. Shot’s vocal prowess is somewhere between Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash and is perfect for his raw originals. Besides backing Nels Andrews and The Tattersaints on Little Kiss Records, his work has been unjustly overlooked. This is music for seedy bars when all the bikers have gone out into the parking lot to fight and a bleary-eyed patron or two has time for one more drink, their last cigarette smoldering in the ashtray. (CA)

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