- [When George Bush Was Head Of The] C.I.A. (Tone Dogs)
- Secret Crush (Tone Dogs)
- Brave It (Tone Dogs)
- Traffic Island Psycho (Tone Dogs)
- What Is Free To A Good Home (Curlew with Amy Denio)
- Birthing Chair Blues
- Czechered Pyjamas
- Sit Still
- Salvatore ([EC] Nudes)
- Psycho Marlboro
- Air Drone (Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet)
- Axis (Pale Nudes)
- Funeral Music (FoMoFlo)
- You Never Call Me Anymore (Pale Nudes)
- Hey Hey #3
- Les Sons Se Répondent (Pale Nudes)
- Ambaraba Ci Ci Co Co (Die Knödel)
When Amy approached us about putting out a Greatest Hits album, we were ecstatic.
Amy has produced an amazing amount of excellent music over her career. It was
a hard time figuring out which pieces to use. Luckily for us, MØre Music, in
Italy, had produced a limited-edition version of a Greatest Hits album and had
picked almost the perfect tracks. We augmented their choices with some of our
own, including newer material. The result is as much as we could have ever hoped
for. A collection of material from an artist with a long and distinguished career
that succeeds in showing where she has been and where she is going.
[Alternative Press] [Audion] [Dead Angel] [Gajoob]
[Improvijazzation Nation] [Metroland]
[Miscmedia.com] [Outburn] [The
Rocket] [Rockerilla] [Splendid
E-Zine] [Vital Weekly]
- Rockerilla - Febbraio, 2000
Amy Denio (nata a Boston nel 1961, ma trasferitasi a Seattle nel 1985)
venne a galla nella preistoria di Seattle con il primo disco dei Tone
Dogs, gruppo con il quale ebbe modo di sfogare la sua passione per il
progressive rock di Canterbury.
"Birthing Chair Blues" (Knitting Factory, 1992) diede inizio
alla sua carriera solista, all'insegna di uno stralunato e intellettuale
folk pan-etnico. Oltre al successivo "Tongues" (Fot/Ponk,
1993), letteralmente poliglotta, Denio si e fatta apprezzare nelle sue
collaborazioni con jazzisti d'avanguardia come Curlew, Billy Tipton
Memorial Saxophone Quartet e Hans Reichel.
Nel 1993 si aggrega ai Nudes di Chris Cutler, che registrano "Vanishing
Point" (ReR, 1994) e poi diventano i Pale Nudes, titolari di due
dischi con i giapponesi FoMoFlo. Ha anche composto l'opera "Non
Lo So Polo" (Rec Rec, 1999), nello stile di Meredith Monk.
Tutto cio per dire che questa antologia rappresenta la maniera ideale
per avvicinarsi a questa geniale artista underground. Il disco spazzola
tutte le sue imprese. Ne risulta il ritratto di un'artista sui generis,
un improbile ibrido di P.J. Harvey, Meredith Monk e Raincoats. - Piero
Press - November 1999, Issue #136
(4 out of 5) Idiosyncratic vocalist and multi
instrumentalist Denio shows her diversity.
The "greatest hits" title is the usual joke, of course, 'cause
Denio is a proudly independent fringe artist who will probably never
crack the Top 40 - or even the Top 100. But she is also a very busy
fringe artists, and much in demand, both as singer and musician, so
this satisfying package is able to showcase her work with seven
different groups, and as a solo artist. Denio's lyrics occasionally
reveal a feminist orientation ("Birthing Chair Blues"), and
she is capable of mordant observations about politics and the human
condition, somewhat in the style of Laurie Anderson. But her specialty
is an oblique kind of art song in which sound is as important as sense,
and several of her vocals are in other languages.
Denio has an impressive three-octave vocal range and flaunts her technique
on tunes such as "Salvatore" and "You Never Call Me Anymore,"
but most of her vocal work on this CD is more restrained, and sometimes
almost sweet. She is a founding member of the Billy Tipton Memorial
Saxophone Quartet, and plays a mean sax, but also contributes accordion,
bass, 12-string guitar and bamboo flute on several tracks. As the 19
pieces on Greatest Hits ultimately demonstrate, Denio is very
difficult to categorize, but she always has something significant to
say. - Bill Tilland
- Metroland - Sept. 30 - Oct. 6, 1999 issue
No, Amy Denio has never really had any hits - this collection is actually
a potent overview of her varied career thus far. She's a wide-ranging
musical seeker, and this set includes selections from Curlew (she sang
with them on their great Beautiful Western Saddle), Tone Dogs
(vocals and bass), the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet (saxophone,
of course), Pale Nudes (accordion, vocals, saxes), FoMoFlo (ditto),
Die Knödel (for whom she composed an opera) and her solo albums. Her
musical universe is a remarkable and completely honest melding of jazz,
experimental rock, folk and assorted European traditions.
Denio is adept and inventive as a singer and on each of her instruments;
this is a testament to her core understanding of how to fully invest
herself in the music at hand. There's a loose chronology to the placement
and juxtapositions of the 19 pieces, but it's not strict - Denio wisely
sequenced the album with a listener's sensibilities at the fore. After
the opening tracks, "C.I.A." (which evokes Henry Cow), she
moves on to the quiet beauty of "Secret Crush," the rock-ish
"Brave It" and the gorgeous peculiarity of "Traffic Island
Psycho." The majestic sweep of "What Is Free to a Good Home"
(with lyrics by Canadian poet Paul Haines, who also collaborated with
Carla Bley on Escalator Over the Hill) follows, and you're still
only 20 minutes into the journey. Amy Denio's music is full of heart,
character, sly smarts, wild abandon, tiny mirrors and carnival rides.
- David Greenberger
- Issue #10
jazzy modern folk with pretty female vocals
Greatest Hits? I wasn't even aware Amy Denio had any hits; in
fact I had never heard of her before this CD. I soon learned that this
talented composer/performer has had over fifteen releases spanning the
past decade, of both group recordinds and solo collections. She performs
saxophone, bass, accordion, guitar, and vocals beautifully with skill
and passion. The moods of her music range from humorous to solemn, and
the styles range from jazz, folk, ethereal, ethnic, and classical. At
times Denio is plan eccentric. She describes her music as "future
folk" that "appeals to the punk and classical lover,"
and more accurately uses a word she invented, "spoot," to
describer her sound. Amy explains, "To spoot is to encourage empathy
and active listening in all walks of life." Amy Denio is not for
everybody, but for those who enjoy jazz influenced work or are interested
in pushing the boundaries of their musical library, this CD may be well
worth your time. - Octavia
- Improvijazzation Nation - Issue #37
- With any other artist, an album with that title might make you think
(somethin’ like) tired or ancient! Anyone who has followed Amy’s music,
however, will know that there’s never a piece of music she does that’s
lacking in creative energy! This CD release (from Unit Circle Rekkids)
should have (perhaps) been titled BEST HITS! I first started listening
to (& reviewing) her music in the mid-‘80’s… did an interview for this
‘zine in ’95 (or so)… & have enjoyed her music in the Olympia Experimental
Music Festival every year since it started in ’95 (she’s a headliner
in the ’99 festival, too – check THAT out at http://www.olywa.net/rotcod/4sub.html
"GREATEST HITS" has selections from many of the groups she’s been with
(TONE DOGS, PALE NUDES, BILLY TIPTON MEMORIAL SAXOPHONE QUARTET, CURLEW)
as well as a few previously unreleased pieces. As always, her vocals
are supreme and artfully woven into the fabric of the bright and challenging
multi-instrumental music that she plays (guitar, accordion & saxophone,
just to name a few)! If you’ve not heard Amy before, this is the perfect
album to start with… & if you have, this will be another adventure to
share with the ICON of "independent music" (in this reviewers mind,
anyway)! Gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & the PICK of 1999 for "best
artist"! If you never buy another "hits" CD – GET THIS! You won’t be
- Dead Angel - Issue #37
I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Amy Denio prior
to finding this CD in my mailbox. Which is my loss, evidently, since
she has a unique free-spirit sensibility that often reminds me of Anna
Homler, a good thing in my book. Like many musical free spirits, her
musical travelogue has been a long and varied one; of the 19 tracks
here, culled from the past 12 years of her career, nearly all of the
albums they are culled from were recorded for a different label each
time. Several of the albums she appears on are out of print, and the
rest are damned obscure, so this disc is a useful document and introductory
primer for dumbasses like moi who managed to somehow miss her along
the way. She's certainly been busy; judging from the tracks here, she's
appeared not only solo but with seven different groups, among them the
Billy Tipton Memorial Saxaphone Quartet, Pale Nudes, and Tone Dogs.
She also plays a wild variety of instruments -- in addition to singing,
she plays guitar, bass, sax, accordion, drums, and hubcaps -- and approaches
them all differently not only from instrument to instrument, but from
one song to the next. Needless to say, finding a strong strand of continuity
in her career is a difficult task, which may explain why she's not exactly
a household name. Too bad, because if this disc is any indication, she
churns out excellent, otherworldly material like nobody's business.
The disc is arranged not in chronological order, but in clusters of
group/solo appearances: first come the Tone Dogs songs, then the one
with Curlew, then a string of solo tracks, one with [EC] Nudes, more
solo tracks, one with the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxaphone Quartet, several
with Pale Nudes and FoMoFlo, and finally one with Die Knodel. Nearly
all of it is impossible to easily describe, although some tracks do
at least suggest lines of musical relation to other groups -- the Tone
Dogs track "(When George Bush Was Head of the) C.I.A." reminds me a
bit of Anna Homler (if not so much in actual sound, then definitely
in spirit), while "Czechered Pajamas" brings to mind something that
could have been birthed during sessions for an early Golden Palominos
album. Her Curlew track "What Is Free to a Good Home," by contrast,
is clearly muted free jazz (i think). The [EC] Nudes track "Salvatore"
actually approaches being straightforward rock with some seriously frantic
guitar playing (courtesy of Wadi Gysi), except for the fact that it's
sung in Italian. (Shades of the guitarist from Henry Cow doing a live,
note-perfect version of Z. Z. Top's "La Grange" with lyrics in Russian.)
The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxaphone Quartet song, "Air Drone," is an
example of truth in advertising: against a minimal beat, Denio (on alto
sax) and the others drone like an homage to LaMonte Young. The songs
with Pale Nudes are interesting because of her choice of instrument
-- accordion, amazingly enough -- but are otherwise more or less straightforward
songs (as opposed to avant-garde tone explorations), especially on the
lovely "Axis" The Die Knodel song "Ambaraba Ci Ci Co Co" is one of the
most unusual selections here, apparently a movement from an opera (and
again sung in Italian, logically) in which Denio provides the voice
of Angel # 2. She really gets to unleash a startling vocal range on
this one. My personal favorite of the disc, however, is an unreleased
solo tune, "Exiles," a beautiful and spooky track that would sound just
as wonderful being covered by Edith Frost. (In fact, that kind of makes
me wonder what a Frost/Denio album would sound like.)
Trying to squeeze the wide range of her talent and sounds into a brief
review is not only impossible, but actually sort of ludicrous. Suffice
to say that after hearing this disc, i'm scratching my head wondering
how someone so original and compelling can remain so undeservedly obscure.
Obviously this is a fucked-up world when Amy Denio labors in anonomity
while the miserable bastards in Korn get to drive Maseratis. I'll never
own a Korn album (thank God), but i'll definitely be on the lookout
from now on for Amy Denio's albums....
While, or perhaps because, few outsiders were paying attention, Seattle's
quietly become a major center for the Tentacle zine calls "adventuresome"
or "creative" music. One might also call it post-jazz (even though not
all of its practitioners improvise), or "ambient" (even though not all
of its practitioners play softly).
Amy Denio simply calls it "Spoot," referring to one particular effect
in her repertoire of sounds.
Of course, this music's uncategorizability has been one asset in keeping
it from becoming corporatized. Another is its supposed highbrow inaccessibility.
But that's exaggerated. A lot of this avant tuneage, particularly Denio's,
is very easy to get into. It's a playful noise, full of the fun of just
playing around (albeit executed by someone who knows damn well just
how to play around).
And play she does. Guitars, bass, drums, "found" percussion, drum machines,
accordion, sax, vocals, and assorted programming shticks. As often as
not, her vocals are treated as just another instrument. Some of the
songs have lyrics in assorted foreign languages; many of the ones in
English don't tell stories so much as they collect syllables and words
that fit the melodies.
While Denio's never had any industry-official "hits," she's been recording
since 1987 for assorted indie labels on two continents, under a vast
assortment of band names. Among the ensembles represented on this disc
alone: Tone Dogs, Curlew, (EC) Nudes, Pale Nudes, FloMoFlo, and perhaps
her best-known creation, the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet
(which continues to gig after she's left it).
Despite the vast array of instrumentations, dates, and personnel (some
tracks are Denio multi-track solos, on one she's only a backup vocalist),
the whole thing fits together beautifully. It's because Denio maintains
a consistant aesthetic to all her works.
She employs alterate tunings and scales, unfamiliar (and shifting) time
measures, and many of the other avant-composer tricks music students
have learned from Harry Partch, Schoenberg, Varese, and the Knitting
Factory clique. But her goal is never to be exclusionary, nor to merely
impress us with her learning or her virtuosity.
She's an artiste, but she's an entertainer first. She engages
her listeners, luring them whimsically into her alluring soundscapes,
then sending them into new ways of hearing (and therefore seeing) the
world around them.
- The Rocket - July 21st, 1999
Amy Denio's long been due for a career synthesis, some umbrella under
which to crowd her most shining moments. But she's one of avant-music's
most continent-hopping camps, able to pull off accolade-inducing gigs
in Italy, Japan and all points in between, it seems, anytime she wants.
Between solo operas, tours with Swiss guitarist Wadi Gysi and the Japanese
post-punk band FoMoFlo, Denio's got more projects than there are continents
to base them on.
And yet, there's this great new collection. It begins logically with
the Tone Dogs, whose pinchy, wiry antics have been way too overlooked
for way too long. As one of Denio's two best-defined outlets since she
came to Seattle decades ago, it's fitting that the trio gets the lion's
share of tracks (four, to be exact, a couple from their Soleilmoon CD,
Early Middle Years, and a couple from Ankety Low Day on C/Z). Then there's
the representative track from Denio's stunning collaboration with George
Cartwright's and Tom Cora's Curlew, which begs for more from the "Beautiful
Western Saddle," with its strange sway between jazz, avant-rock and
uncountable other strains.
Denio began carving her own realm of music around the release Birthing
Chair Blues on Knitting Factory, and as she did, the developments called
on her to create complex tracks played (and sang) entirely by her. The
group of solo cuts is perhaps the most trying stuff here, certainly
the most unmistakable part of Denio's absorbing vision--again a mix
of the jazz/avant-rock matrix cross-hatched with theatrics and story-songs.
Surprisingly, there's only one Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone track
amidst these 19, falling in between the beautiful "Salvatore" from the
(EC) Nudes and a slew of tracks from the post-(EC) Pale Nudes--which
drops drummer Chris Cutler and adds former Tone Dogs drummer Will Dowd
and bassist Michael Gerber. Listening to the flow here, even with the
album's occasional drops in dynamics, it's increasingly clear why Denio's
in such demand. She's truly one of a kind, able to do whatever she singles
out as worthy, whether it's screwball ululation or mind-bending loops
of sound layered atop each other. - Andrew Bartlett
- A release from Unit Circle is a stamp of guaranteed quality, and finding
a greatest hits collection from Amy Denio in my box was a great rush.
Slipping it into the player, you get 19 tracks bursting the CD to its
limit both quantity-wise and in terms of sonic diversity; something
fans of Denio's music have surely come to expect. The CD contains tracks
from Amy's various groups and solo recordings (both pro studio recorded
and home recorded). There's Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet,
Curlew, Die Knodel, Nudes, FoMoFlo, Pale Nudes, and, of course, Tone
Dogs tracks. This collection is perfect for both die hard fans and those
wanting to dive into Denio's music (a taste just will not do), which,
for you neophytes, consists of a blend of jazz, artrock, pop, and most
everything else. Music so free and alive it can't help but transfer
to your soul. Very highly recommended!
E-Zine - August 16
- Amy Denio’s Greatest Hits catalogs her impressive artistic career
to date, including outstanding stints in such notable groups as the
Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet, the Tone Dogs and the Pale
Nudes. Denio crusades through an experimental mindset with the help
of such instruments as the alto sax, accordion, bass and her own tender
voice. Without any sign of compromise, a demanding display of fruitful
talent is heard on the jagged Tone Dogs’ track "(When George Bush Was
Head of The) C.I.A.", which embodies Denio's unconventional rhythms
and crafty musicianship. "Ambaraba Ci Ci Co Co" incorporates world beat
percussion with a stimulating pulse, exemplifying Denio’s later work.
Denio’s distinctive compositions are rich in variety as well as remarkably
unique, clearly benefitting from her ability to manipulate a variety
of sounds. You may be shocked by your lack of familiarity with Denio's
12+ year, globe-spanning career; Fortunately, Unit Circle Rekkids has
provided you with an intimate retrospective of this amazing individual’s
musical career -- a compilation that's bold, yet sensitive, exotic and
uncompromising and overall, a genuinely pleasurable listening experience.
- Andrew Magilow
- Vital Weekly
- Issue 189
If you are unfamiliar with the music of Amy Denio, this 'Greatet Hits'
is a good starting point. This release gives a representative overview
of her work from the beginning of her career (1987-1998). Many of the
cooperations she was involved in are included: Tone Dogs, Die Knodel,
Curlew, Fomoflo, The Pale Nudes, The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone
Quartet. Also several solo works can be found on this release.
Denio operates on the more poppy and funky side of the avantgarde: most
tracks are melodic and are structured as 'songs'. We hear here singing,
playing sax and accordion and many other instruments. Sometimes you
would wish the music would be more far out as it sometimes comes dangerously
close to superficial poppy music. Denio who is from Seattle started
here career there in 1987 with the Tonedogs (Fred Chalenor & Matt Cameron).
Their debut was produced by Fred Frith. This gave her probably a good
introduction to related musical scenes in other parts of the world.
Why find her with European bands (Pale Nudes, Die Knödel), American
bands (Curlew, The B.T.M.S.Quartet) and the Japanese outfit Fomoflo.
Denio views her worldwide orientation as follows: "In this chaotic time,
musicians weave the web which holds this world together" - Dolf Mulder
- Audion #42
What a silly title! I doubt Amy has ever had any "hits", though she's certainly been prolific and diverse as a singer and multi-instrumentalist, and so I guess she's been a "hit" with the many bands she's worked with!
Here's her CV as portrayed here: Tone Dogs (1989-93), Curlew (1993), (EC) Nudes (1994), Pale Nudes (1996-98), FoMoFlo (1997), Die Knödel (1999); in parallel to her solo work and collaborations with the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet! If none of that means anything to you, then you're obviously not into her offbeat twisting of jazz and Brecht-isms into an offbeat type of "Rock In Opposition." Amy is a true multi-instrumental talent, as well as extraordinary vocalist.
I don't usually review "samplers" in Audion, but this one is so eclectic I'm sure many will find it of interest as a stepping stone to this American brand of music as typified by the likes of the Tone Dogs, 5uu's, Thinking Plague, and such-like. - Alan Freeman