B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘Music’ tag

Rainbow in the Dark

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Rainbow in the Dark
Rainbow in the Dark, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

West Loop

(Merge in HD function in CS5)

embiggen

RIP, Ronnie James Dio

Written by swanksalot

May 16th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Music,Photography

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Johnny McKenna, Street Musician

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Johnny McKenna, Street Musician
Johnny McKenna, Street Musician, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

pretty good busker, didn’t get his CD though, didn’t have time to cross over the median.

embiggen

apparently featured in some form at Explore Chicago (the official tourism site for the City of Chicago), though for the life of me, I can’t find where. They must not give credit to the photographer correctly. Remind myself not to add anything else to this Flickr group.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/chicagoofficeoftourism/

Update: ah, found behind the Wall of Facebook. Still, I don’t think I’ll add any other photo to Explore Chicago until the photos are not restricted to viewing by Facebook users only.

Written by swanksalot

May 9th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Editorializing about Iggy Pop

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I wish more newspapers would praise Iggy Pop on their editorial pages. Sigh. Much more interesting than sales tax increases or whatever topic de jour.

“Before he began flogging car insurance, Iggy Pop, aka James Newell Osterberg, aka the Iguana, aka the Godfather of Punk, was the singer for the Stooges. Well, we say singer, but he was more like a human shock absorber for a band that did not so much give concerts as go to war with audiences. Going by this newspaper’s review page yesterday, some of that antagonistic spirit is still on display as the band tour the UK this week: our man noted that Iggy Pop ‘flings himself into the audience at the slightest provocation’.

Such gonzo hostility was never merely a matter of idiosyncratic stagecraft, but ran all the way through the band’s albums too. Search and Destroy, on the 1973 classic Raw Power, sums it up nicely: ‘I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm / I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb’. Like many good things in pop music, the Stooges came out of industrial Michigan in the 60s, but Iggy’s band didn’t go in for Motown’s melodic optimism; no, their songs were marked by a reckless nihilism. I Wanna Be Your Dog, for instance, combined lyrics such as ‘Now we’re gonna be face to face / And I’ll lay right down in my favourite place’ with a leering, distorted guitar and a one-note piano riff. Perhaps their best album was Metallic KO – ostensibly a concert recording, but it sounded more like what would happen if you stuck a rock band in a Cortina and drove them off a cliff. Its high point? That would have to be Louie Louie, which must be the closest pop has ever come to a public flagellation.”

(click to continue reading In praise of … Iggy and the Stooges | Editorial | From the Guardian | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2010 at 9:29 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Ella Fitzgerald Singing Sunshine Of Your Love

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Wowsa. Ella Fitzgerald Live at Montreux 1969

and of course, the original Cream version is much different. Good in its own way, but a bit over-played, and ultimately not as much fun, at least for me.

(via Chuck Sudo)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 9th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with , ,

Alex Chilton RIP

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Sad news, Alex Chilton died, entirely too young.


“Radio City (33 1/3)” (Bruce Eaton)


“Keep An Eye On The Sky” (Big Star)

Pop hitmaker, cult hero, and Memphis rock iconoclast Alex Chilton has died.

The singer and guitarist, best known as a member of ’60s pop-soul act the Box Tops and the ’70s power-pop act Big Star, died today at a hospital in New Orleans. Chilton, 59, had been complaining of about his health earlier today. He was taken by paramedics to the emergency room where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.

His Big Star bandmate Jody Stephens confirmed the news this evening. “Alex passed away a couple of hours ago,” Stephens said from Austin, Texas, where the band was to play Saturday at the annual South By Southwest Festival. “I don’t have a lot of particulars, but they kind of suspect that it was a heart attack.”

The Memphis-born Chilton rose to prominence at age 16, when his gruff vocals powered Box Tops massive hit “The Letter.” The band would score several more hits, including “Cry Like a Baby” and “Neon Rainbow.”

After the Box Tops ended in 1970, Chilton had a brief solo run in New York before returning to Memphis. He soon joined forces with a group of Anglo-pop-obsessed musicians, fellow songwriter/guitarist Chris Bell, bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens, to form Big Star.

The group became the flagship act for the local Ardent Studios’ new Stax-distributed label. Big Star’s 1972 debut album, #1 Record met with critical acclaim but poor sales. The group briefly disbanded, but reunited sans Bell to record the album Radio City. Released in 1974, the album suffered a similar fate, plagued by Stax’s distribution woes.

The group made one more album, Third/Sister Lovers, with just Chilton and Stephens — and it too was a minor masterpiece. Darker and more complex than the band’s previous pop-oriented material, it remained unreleased for several years. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine would name all three Big Star albums to its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

[Click to continue reading Memphis music legend Alex Chilton dies » The Commercial Appeal]

I’ve loved Big Star for as long as I knew their music (probably late 1980s or early 1990s), and the box set, Keep an Eye on the Sky was my favorite collection of last year. Big Star rewards repeated listens, especially with headphones.

Sigh. I’m sure there will lots of obituaries around the web, Big Star and Alex Chilton had influence far beyond their units-sold1.


“Third/Sister Lovers” (Big Star)


“#1 Record” (Big Star)


“Radio City” (Big Star)

Footnotes:
  1. like @CKlosterman: I have nothing to say about Alex Chilton that wouldn’t be better said by virtually any song he ever wrote. []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 17th, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with , , ,

Guess Things Happen That Way

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“His Sun Years” (Johnny Cash)

Hello, I’m (downloading) Johnny Cash1

The lucky recipient of a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card (and a whole lot of press) is 71-year-old Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia —a retired real estate agent, onetime Navy radar operator, and grandfather of nine who just wanted Johnny Cash’s 1958 single “Guess Things Happen That Way” for his new Nano, a birthday gift from his children. And he bought it on a PC: “I do not own a Mac, no,” he chuckles. “I knew somebody was going to ask me that question.”

Sulcer has spent the last day fielding calls from, among others, Apple head Steve Jobs (“I thought it was my son, he’s always a joker. I kept saying, ‘Come on, Kevin, I know it’s you!”) and Cash’s daughter Rosanne (“she had her husband, who is her guitarist, play the song to me over the phone. That was real nice.”).

He has been a devoted Johnny Cash fan for most of his life, he says: “I went to Georgia Tech on a football scholarship, broke just about every bone in my body. All those boys on the team, we just loved country music… My whole life, I had never understood why people go see movies twice, but I’ve seen [Cash biopic] Walk the Line four times. My kids finally bought me the DVD. And I was pretty sure I had all of his music, but I was just checking iTunes, listening to those little 20 or 30 second clips, and I found this one. It has some good pickin’ in it!”

[Click to continue reading EW talks to the Georgia grandfather who bought the 10 billionth song on itunes: ‘I’ve never won anything!’ | EW.com]

A sweet story, really. The song itself is pretty typical for a Sun Records Johnny Cash song; also there’s a version floating around the intertubes that is a duet with Bob Dylan, circa Nashville Skyline.

from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jobs congratulated him, thanked him for using Apple products and chatted a bit.

“He was real nice,” Sulcer said. “I told him I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed iTunes and the iPod. I really enjoy country music.

“He asked me if I played the guitar, and I said, ‘Oh my goodness. That is my lifelong frustration.’ “

Sulcer has been trying to learn the picking style of Luther Perkins, Cash’s guitarist, but he has not had much luck.

“[Jobs] said he had been messing around a little with [the guitar], too,” Sulcer said.

Later Thursday, after his doctor appointment, Sulcer was expecting calls from near and far. Apple public relations people have been calling him to ask whether he would consent to an interview with Rolling Stone, the rock magazine, and other publications.

“I said, ‘Rolling Stone is going to be so disappointed with this old man.’ “

He did get a call he found a little more special. “Rosanne Cash also called this morning to thank me for listening to Johnny Cash,” Sulcer said. She told Sulcer her father would have turned 78 on Friday. Then she had one more surprise for him: Her husband, musician John Leventhal, played the song he bought over the phone for him.

[Click to continue reading Woodstock man wins $10,000 iTunes contest | ajc.com]

Too funny

Footnotes:
  1. famous opening line of his live At Folsom Prison LP, prior to singing Folsom Prison Blues – shot a man in Reno just to see him die, wild cheers from the inmates, you remember []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 26th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Apple,Music

Tagged with , , ,

Poi Dog Pondering is still around

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Wow, talk about nostalgia. I remember when Poi Dog Pondering used to busk on The Drag1 near the UT-Austin campus. Amazingly, they are still around, and still performing.

Poi Dog Pondering is digging deep into its mid-1980s roots and original influences to play two shows at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 and 27 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.

“We’re sort of in the mood for a much more intimate show,” said Frank Orrall, lead singer and leader of the 23-year-old bohemian band. “Our last show there was kind of a big bombast with 18 people on stage. We’re approaching the show in a way so that we can take advantage of the intimacy of the Metropolis Theater.”

[From Poi Dog Pondering digs deep into soul, rock roots for Metropolis show]

I think I still have their first album (on vinyl, of course) in storage back in Austin. They played at a house-party we had in a co-op I used to live in, that was probably the first time of several I saw them play on a stage. Even once, here in Chicago sometime in the 1990s, if memory serves. Can’t say they were a particular favorite, but their live shows were pretty good.

Damn, now I feel old…

Footnotes:
  1. Guadalupe Street []

Written by swanksalot

February 23rd, 2010 at 11:30 am

Posted in Music

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Chicago Opera Vangaurd performance of Winterreise

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“Schubert: Winterreise” (Mark Padmore, Paul Lewis)

If I get a chance, I’d like to hear this performance. You should go if you can.

Chicago Opera Vanguard continues it’s 2009/2010 Season with the Chicago premiere of WINTERREISE by composer Franz Schubert. WINTERREISE’s limited run begins Friday March 5 in the Fasseas White Box Theatre at the Menomonee Club Drucker Center, 1535 North Dayton Street, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
The most difficult journey begins with a single step. The team behind last season’s hit Orpheus & Euridice bring you a new look at Schubert’s beloved and haunting song-cycle of love and loss. WINTERREISE! This romantic masterwork receives the unique staging that only Chicago Opera Vanguard could conceive!

Premiered in 1827 and traditionally relegated to the concert hall, Chicago Opera Vanguard has put the task to Artistic Director Eric Reda to create a unique, highly visual staging of the work in the raw, storefront theatre aesthetic for which he has become know in the Chicago theatre and music scenes. Joined by an impressive team of performers and visual artists from across Chicago’s creative community, this is a “Winter’s Journey” that will not soon be forgotten!

“I have been haunted by these songs since first hearing them over two decades ago and have always been struck by the operatic scope of their construction,” says COVArtistic Director Eric Reda. “I am so excited to explore and share WINTERREISE not only as a dazzling musical masterpiece, but also as a dramatic tour de force.”

WINTERREISE (Winter Journey) is a cycle of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller, best known as the song cycle set for male voice and piano by Franz Schubert (D. 911, published as Op. 89 in 1827). It is the second of Schubert’s two great song cycles on Müller’s poems, the earlier being Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795, Op. 25, 1823). These two works, in their scale, their dramatic coherence and power, their musical and literary unity, and their interpretative demands, stand in a league of their own within the song-cycle genre.

In his introduction to the Peters Edition of this work, Professor Max Müller, son of the poet, remarks that Schubert’s song-cycle has a dramatic effect not unlike that of a full-scale tragic opera. While normally presented in a recital setting, the work’s strong narrative through line and emotional intensity has prompted several international stagings in the past.  

“I like these songs better than all the rest, and someday you will too,” Franz Schubert told the friends who were the first to hear his song cycle WINTERREISE.

WINTERREISE performs 8PM Fridays and Saturdays & 3PM Sundays, beginning Friday March 5, in the Fasseas White Box Theatre at the Menomonee Club Drucker Center, 1535 North Dayton Street, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. General Admission is $25; a limited number of $10 student discount tickets are available for all performances. Tickets are available online at www.chicagovanguard.org. Running time is approximately 80 minutes with one intermission.

[Click to continue reading CHICAGO OPERA VANGUARD | SEASON 0 – GREEK]

Written by Seth Anderson

February 22nd, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Chicago-esque,Music

Tagged with ,

A Hot Breath of Saharan Rock

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“Imidiwan: Companions” (Tinariwen)

Tinariwen is by far one of my favorite discoveries of recent years. Love their sound, hypnotic, desert blues. Awesome stuff.

Since the late 1970’s, on and off, Tinariwen has been a voice for the Tuaregs, a nomadic minority who attempted a rebellion in 1990 against the government of Mali. The band’s founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, and the musicians he gathered as Tinariwen (which means “deserts”), wrote songs at first as propaganda. Now its lyrics, by the two lead singers who took turns as frontman — Mr. Alhabib and Mr. Alhousseyni — are solemn, filled with longings, memories of “freedom fighters,” homesickness and a determination to hold on to Tuareg identity.

The group had heard rock as well as African and Middle Eastern music. Its instruments are acoustic and electric guitars and electric bass, with a lone hand drum for percussion. They applied Western instruments to the traditions of home: gnarled picking patterns from West African lutes, call-and-response vocals, three-against-two rhythms, a high descant sharing a melody, the modes and inflections of North African and Arabic music. The melodies are as straightforward as folk tunes, but they tug against the harmony in ways different from Western pop or rock, and the vocals stay unpolished — like the voices of footsore travelers, not slick performers.

Tinariwen’s songs extend minimal materials over time. Instrumental passages are more like incantations than solo and backup; guitar lines are bonded to the rhythm, with a twang glinting through now and then. The songs are comparable, inevitably, to a journey through a desert landscape that only appears unchanging to those who don’t perceive its details. A vocal quaver, a guitar trill, some new quick notes in a bass line, a flicker of extra drumming or a burst of ululation from the group’s female singer, Wonou Wallet Sidati, all became events. When some songs picked up speed, in triplet rhythms with handclaps resembling Moroccan gnawa music, they sounded ecstatic.

A few songs revealed that Tinariwen is persistent, not provincial. There were hints of blues and reggae, and in one song, Mr. Alhousseyni placed a repeating guitar line in the foreground: a full-fledged rock guitar hook. But Tinariwen has clearly decided not to change too much for outsiders, and stubbornness only makes its music stronger.

[Click to continue reading Music Review – Tinariwen – Hot Breath of Saharan Rock at Highline Ballroom – NYTimes.com]

A wonderfully apt description actually: this kind of music is subtle, rewarding multiple listenings to discover nuances. A casual listen might not reveal how the music shifts in time, this is not Auto-tuned pop music.1

Footnotes:
  1. Reminds me of a long-lost friend from Morocco, a drummer, and student at UT, who basically pontificated the same thought to me one evening. I’ll tell you more in person if you are interested. []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 21st, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with ,

From ABBA to ZZ Top, All the Good Bands Names Are Taken

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Well, not all the good names, of course, the English language is resilient. Still, why can’t band names be re-used like movie titles are re-used?

iPod beach joy

When former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones recently formed a new rock band, the music flowed easily. The struggle: inventing a name for the group.

Between takes in a recording studio, Mr. Jones brainstormed about names with his new band mates, including former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, then checked them online. Their first choice, Caligula, turned up at least seven acts named after the decadent Roman emperor, including a defunct techno outfit from Australia. Eventually the rockers decided on Them Crooked Vultures. The words held no special meaning.

“Every other name is taken,” Mr. Jones explains. “Think of a great band name and Google it, and you’ll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page.”

The available supply of punchy one- or two-word band names is dwindling. So, many acts are resorting to the unwieldy or nonsensical.

Among more than 1,900 acts expected in March at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, are bands with the names And So I Watch You From Afar, and Everybody Was In the French Resistance…Now! The f-word1 is part of 100 band names in a media database maintained by Gracenote, a unit of Sony Corp. that licenses digital entertainment technology.

For the generations of musicians who have taken up guitars and drumsticks, picking a band name has been as crucial as teasing out a distinctive style—and usually the name comes first. For a lucky few, a word or phrase can become iconic. The Beatles, before they were legends, were briefly the Silver Beetles, a nod to Buddy Holly’s Crickets. Jerry Garcia discovered the name Grateful Dead in a dictionary.

[Click to continue reading From ABBA to ZZ Top, All the Good Bands Names Are Taken – WSJ.com]

My band2 has staked claim to the name Sir Swanksalot and the Swanksalot Orchestra. Just FYI.

Though we haven’t yet made it into the Allmusic database

There are about 1.4 million artist names, including 29 individual musicians named John Williams, in the database of Rovi Corp., which owns Web sites including AllMusic.com and licenses editorial content to Apple’s iTunes and other music services.

Last year, Rovi added an average of 6,521 new names a month to its database. And the repeats are piling up.

Footnotes:
  1. Frak, I’m guessing []
  2. consisting of me, a couple of Macs, and a couple of guitars. No good songs yet, but we’re trying. Well, we promise to start trying one of these days… []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 17th, 2010 at 12:00 am

Posted in humor,Music

Tagged with ,

When Giants Walked the Earth Playing Guitars

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“When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin” (Mick Wall)

Yet another gossipy book about the tabloid years of Led Zeppelin, ignoring, again, the actual music, its influences, how it was created, how it shaped music that followed, yadda yadda.

Rick Moody writes:

Young rock enthusiasts! The thing that this sensational material neglects is the music. In Wall’s biography you will learn that Page has voted Tory repeatedly, and you will learn that Peter Grant, the Zeppelin manager, also snorted mountains of cocaine and was very large, and you will also get very many italicized second- person portions of the text — the deep history — passages that are more showoffy than necessary but easily skimmed. What you may not get enough of is the astonishment of the music. Because, no matter how horrible they were as people — and, frankly, they do seem as if they were rather unlikable people who wasted immense talent in a spendthrift fashion — the music is still remarkable, even when borrowed. What enabled that spooky end section of “When the Levee Breaks,” which used to give me the chills when I first heard it in the eighth grade? What about Robert Plant’s amazing harmonica solo on “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” on the considerably underrated “Presence”? And what about the Indian strings on “Kashmir”? Whose arrangement? And beyond saying that Page and Bonham banged out most of “Kashmir” by themselves, what accounts for this mesmerizing and timeless composition? And is it really possible that John Paul Jones has nothing to say, though many of the really interesting frills and ornaments are his? The tamboura on “In the Light,” or the electric piano on “No Quarter” or the lovely faux-Cuban piano riff on “Fool in the Rain.” Should we not, young rock enthusiasts, use language, use paragraphs, to account for these splendid moments?

Maybe this is arcana. And maybe the time for arcana is past, the time for the picayune details of dinosaur rock — such that it’s the dirt, not the song, that remains the same. Maybe some publisher was looking over Mick Wall’s shoulder saying, “Put more about the shark incident in there!” Or maybe the members of Led Zeppelin are themselves somewhat to blame, as Robert Plant muses aloud at one point, despairing of the true story ever getting out: “We thought it was time that people heard something about us other than that we were eating women and throwing the bones out the window.” Indeed! Wall is conflicted enough about the facts that he allows this mythologizing title to be appended to his work: “When Giants Walked the Earth.” But these were no giants, these were just young people, like you, who for a time happened to have more power and influence than was good for them. In the midst of it all, they made extraordinary music.

[Click to continue reading Book Review – ‘When Giants Walked the Earth – A Biography of Led Zeppelin,’ by Mick Wall – Review – Rick Moody NYTimes.com]

So far, the best book I’ve read about the band and its music is the 33.3 book by Eric Davis, though even this dwells1 on a discussion of Satanism and the occult as far as it related to Led Zeppelin.


“Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin IV (33 1/3)” (Erik Davis)

Footnotes:
  1. amusingly, actually, and one of the highlights of the book []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 13th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with , , ,

Random Friday – Man From Pakistan edition

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It is a simple game, hit shuffle on your music library interface, and record the first ten songs that emerge. You can play too, but here’s what showed up on my Friday shuffle. Some notes below

  1. Jules Dupont Gregorian Chant- Benedicamus Domino (Exultemus…)


    A Treasury Of Gregorian Chants

  2. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy- I Am Drinking Again


    I See a Darkness
    – a little too melancholy for this morning, but a strong track nonetheless. I’m on my 9th warm glass of gin


  3. Clark, Gene- The True One


    No Other
    -state of the nation, circa 1974, complete with slide guitars.

  4. Van Ronk, Dave- Sprig of Thyme


    Inside Dave Van Ronk
    – No Dave Van Ronk, no Bob Dylan. Simple as that. Bet Dave Van Ronk was fun to drink whisky with.

  5. Joni Mitchell- Happy Birthday 1975


    Mingus
    – a rousing Happy Birthday sung to Charles Mingus, with the additional refrain, How Old Are You? Mingus sings back, 54, motherfucker, but Joni Mitchell corrects Mingus, 53! You were born in 1922, Charles Such an odd little track

  6. Drake, Nick- Summertime


    Tanworth In Arden
    – more melancholy, can barely even hear Nick Drake’s voice.

  7. Rolling Stones- Street Fighting Man


    Beggars Banquet
    – hard to listen to this song, as good as it is, we’ve all heard it too frequently. I tried to listen to it as I have never heard it before, but this is difficult task.

  8. The Open Mind- Magic Potion


    Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond
    garage rock paean to drug use. This could very well be a contemporary band like The Killers, Brian Jonestown Massacre or Queens of the Stone Age.

  9. King Oliver’s Creole Jazzband- Southern Stomp (1st take)


    Louis Armstrong And King Oliver
    – Hey didn’t New Orleans win some sort of sporting event? Whatever, never need an excuse to listen to Louis Armstrong and King Oliver

  10. Flaming Lips- Man From Pakistan


    Hear It Is The Flaming Lips
    – This was the iteration of The Flaming Lips I first knew: psychedelic punk rock, outsider music, and catchy as hell.

  11. Doors, The- Hyacinth House


    Box Set -Disk 1- Without A Safety Net
    -

Written by Seth Anderson

February 12th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with ,

Metal Machine Music’s Improbable Second Act

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“Metal Machine Music” (Lou Reed)

I am endlessly amused that Lou Reed’s famous Fuck You album has gotten a second life, and is being performed by live musicians. I was foolish enough to have owned a copy of it once, but have since sold it. Just not something I could ever bear to hear more than a few seconds of. In concept, a rather clever idea, but in practice, pretty difficult to enjoy.

Reed recorded his 1975 album “Metal Machine Music” (RCA) by leaning guitars against amplifiers, cranking them up until the feedback screamed, playing melodies amid the sonic melee and layering and manipulating the results, including changing the tape speed of some parts. Then he chose four segments for 16-minute LP sides.

It sounded like a riot in a shortwave radio factory: a fusillade of sustained, pulsating and scurrying electronic tones that adds up to a hyperactive drone, as consonant as the overtone series. It was proudly anticommercial and defiantly arty. It was Minimalistic process music at rock volume, an impersonal wall of sound. Now, 35 years later, it also sounds unexpectedly merry.

Ulrich Krieger had the bizarre idea of transcribing that thicket of tones to be played by live musicians. It took considerable time and the help of a partner, Luca Venitucci, to analyze the welter of information; they had finished only three of the four sections when the transcription had its premiere in 2002. Now they have four. At the Miller Mr. Krieger directed a 16-member, amplified ensemble of strings, winds, guitar, accordion, piano and percussion, though there was no conductor. The music is in proportional notation, played to a clock; a violinist periodically stood up to signal.

The transcription changes everything. It corresponds to some of the more perceptible events of the original: sudden dropouts and surges of certain registers, rhythmic throbs, the squeal when a high overtone suddenly appears, the suggestion of a melodic moment. But the original “Metal Machine Music” has no narrative line, no direction. It simply, and wildly, exists. There are few intentional phrases or interactions between parts, and no sense of ensemble. That’s what humans bring, no matter how conceptually disciplined

[Click to continue reading Music Review – Fireworks Ensemble – More Strings for Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’ – NYTimes.com]

Like I said, I am amused that this piece of agit-pop is being performed by classically trained musicians.

From the Metal Machine Music wikipedia page:

According to Reed (despite the original liner notes), the album entirely consists of guitar feedback played at different speeds. The two guitars were tuned in unusual ways and played with different reverb levels. He would then place the guitars in front of their amplifiers, and the feedback from the very large amps would vibrate the strings — the guitars were, effectively, playing themselves. He recorded the work on a four-track tape recorder in his New York apartment, mixing the four tracks for stereo. In its original form, each track occupied one side of an LP record and lasted exactly 16 minutes and 1 second, according to the label. The fourth side ended in a locked groove that caused the last 1.8 seconds of music to repeat endlessly. The rare 8-track tape version has no silence in between programs, so that it plays continuously without gaps on most players.

A major influence on Reed’s recording, and an important source for an understanding of Reed’s seriousness with the album, was the mid-1960s drone music work of La Monte Young’s Theater of Eternal Music (whose members included John Cale, Tony Conrad, Angus Maclise and Marian Zazeela). Both Cale and Maclise were also members of The Velvet Underground (Maclise left before the group began recording). The Theater of Eternal Music’s discordant sustained notes and loud amplification had influenced Cale’s subsequent contribution to the Velvet Underground in his use of both discordance and feedback. Recent releases of works by Cale and Conrad from the mid-sixties, such as Cale’s Inside the Dream Syndicate series (The Dream Syndicate being the alternative name given by Cale and Conrad to their collective work with Young) testify to the influence this important mid-sixties experimental work had on Reed ten years later.

In an interview with rock journalist Lester Bangs, Reed claimed that he had intentionally placed sonic allusions to classical works such Beethoven’s Eroica and Pastoral Symphonies in the distortion, and that he had attempted to have the album released on RCA’s Red Seal classical label;

[Click to continue reading Metal Machine Music – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]


“Metal Machine Music” (Lou Reed)

original Rolling Stone Magazine review from James Wolcott, 1975

Lou Reed’s new set, a two-record electronic composition, is an act of provocation, a jab of contempt, but the timing is all wrong. In its droning, shapeless indifference, Metal Machine Music is hopelessly old-fashioned. After a decade of aesthetic outrages, four sides of what sounds like the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator just aren’t going to inflame the bourgeoisie (whoever they are) or repel his fans (since they’ll just shrug and wait for the next collection). Lou Reed is disdainfully unveiling the black hole in his personal universe, but the question is, who’s supposed to flinch?
The critics. In a recent interview, Reed’s metabolism was in its usual inert state until the subject of critics came up, at which point he became agitated, lashing out at several. Reed probably conceived M/M/M knowing that only critics would pay serious attention to the damn thing. In the liner notes he admits that he hasn’t listened to it all the way through, and in the interview the claim that he made for M/M/M was that playing it “would clear the room.”

Well, I have. Played it, that is. Once. Which is one of the better feats of endurance in my life, equal to reading The Painted Bird, sitting through Savage Messiah and spending a night in a bus terminal in Hagerstown, Maryland. Yet, when my turntable mercifully silenced Lou Reed’s cosmic scrapings, I felt no anger, no indignation, not even a sense of time wasted, just mild regret. Avant-garde artists (Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Andy Warhol) have been experimenting with ennui as a concept for so long that it’s no longer daring to tax the audience’s patience by being deliberately, intensely boring. By now, one knows how to respond to such distended buzzing: One simply tunes out and tunes back in when the action picks up. Reed himself understands this: “I’m like everybody else, I watch things on TV,” he sings on “Satellite of Love.”

[Click to continue reading Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone]

and from an interesting Lou Reed interview with Pitchfork writer Amanda Petrusich

Reed: The myth– depends on how you look at it, but the myth is sort of better than the truth. The myth is that I made it to get out of a recording contract. OK, but the truth is that I wouldn’t do that, because I wouldn’t want you to buy a record that I didn’t really like, that I was just trying to do a legal thing with. I wouldn’t do something like that. The truth is that I really, really, really loved it. I was in a position where I could have it come out. I just didn’t want it to come out and have the audience think it was more rock songs. It was only on the market for three weeks anyway. Then they took it away.

Pitchfork: Right, I read that it was the most returned record at that time…

Reed: It still may be the all-time champ.

Pitchfork: Do you think the critical and commercial response would have been different if it had been released on a classical label or an avant-garde label?

Reed: I haven’t a clue. I tried to have it released on the classical label at RCA. And on it, it says “An Electronic Composition”. That means no words.

Pitchfork: Plus it’s got that cover…

Reed: That’s a rock’n’roll cover, that’s for sure.

Pitchfork: As a songwriter in 1975, what kinds of contextual or personal cues made you want to experiment with things like drone, volume, and sustained sound?

Reed: In the Velvet Underground, my guitar solos were always feedback solos, so it wasn’t that big of a leap to say I want to do something that’s nothing but guitar feedback, that doesn’t have a steady beat and doesn’t have a key. All we have to do is just have fun on the guitar, you don’t have to worry about key and tempo. We just had tons of feedback and melody and licks flying around all over the place. I had two huge amps, and I would take two guitars and tune them a certain way and lean them against the amps so they would start feeding back. And once they started feeding back, both of them, their sounds would collide and that would produce a third sound, and then that would start feeding and causing another one and another one, and I would play along with all of them.

[Click to continue reading Pitchfork: Interviews: Lou Reed]

Written by Seth Anderson

February 9th, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Music

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Tezeta – Ethiopian Blues and Ballads

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“Ethiopiques, Vol. 10: Tezeta – Ethiopian Blues & Ballads” (Tezeta)

I’ve been slowly acquiring the complete set of the Ethiopiques, which is simply a stunning1 collection of music from Ethiopia. Volume Ten is a collection of Tezeta songs2, which was a term I was unfamiliar with. Here’s what Allmusic’s Don Snowden had to say about Tezeta:

Tezeta, an Ethiopian style with a relatively strict format built on repeated circular riffs, relies on the singer to put his stamp on the form with improvised verses and the up-and-down vocal spirals characteristic of Arabic music. The word itself means something like memory or nostalgia — in musical terms, it’s similar to saudade in Portuguese music, duende in flamenco, or blues and soul in the U.S. music world. It’s that indefinable something that separates the great musicians from the merely competent — you can’t exactly say what it is but you know when someone’s got it.

All ten tracks here date from the early ’70s, when versions of the tezeta were an innovative force in Ethiopian pop’s golden age. There’s a surprising variety: swirling accordion handles the circular riff accompanied only by minimal percussion on Fréw Haylou’s opening “Eyètègnu Nègu,” but an almost ’50s rock ballad feel pervades Alèmayèhu Eshèté’s “Tèrèdtchéwalèhu” and Menelik Wèsnatchèw’s “Tezeta” is tranquil and dreamy. Tezeta is also an excellent launching pad for saxophonists Tèsfa-Maryam Kidané (featured on his own “Heywèté”) and Tèwodros Meteku to provide backing fills and solos behind the singers. It’s instrumental storytelling and the breathy saxes achieve that smoky, brooding flavor that seems unique to Ethiopian music, shading the music with a deep indigo to purple color. The slow, mournful versions really bring out that smoky trance sensation here.

Sèyfu Yohannès is the first singer to really stand out on his nagging “Tezeta,” supported by Meketu’s fills and Mèssèlè Gèssèssè’s prominent piano. Moges Habté and Feqadu Amdè-Mèsquèl duel tenor saxes over a mysterious Fender Rhodes lick and Andrew Wilson’s sharp wah-wah guitar on Mulatu Astatqé’s instrumental “Gubèlyé.” And Mahmoud Ahmed’s “Tezeta” runs for 12 and a half gripping minutes with swirling organ, muted sax, and bubbling bass runs supplementing the voice of the most expressive singer in Ethiopian pop music. With nearly 75 minutes of music and extensive liner notes, Tezeta is another impeccable release in the outstanding Ethiopiques series. But even more than earlier soul-influenced compilations geared toward dancing, these brooding love blues laments cut to the emotional core essence of the country’s music. This music sounds distinctly Ethiopian, like it could be from no other place on the planet.

[Click to continue reading allmusic ( Ethiopiques, Vol. 10: Tezeta – Ethiopian Blues & Ballads > Overview )]

Such beautiful music, other-worldly is an apt description. Highly recommended.

Footnotes:
  1. mostly, there are a few tracks I cannot listen to very often []
  2. sometimes spelled Tizita []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 8th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Gil Scott-Heron is back with a new album

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“I’m New Here” (Gil Scott-Heron)

Very happy to read that seminal poet/musician Gil Scott-Heron is back from jail, cleaned up, and has recorded an album due for release in February 2010. I already pre-ordered it.

The first surprise is the album’s ironic title and the fact that the title song itself was not written by Gil Scott-Heron but by Bill Callahan of the American indie group Smog. Like the covers that producer Rick Rubin chose for the late Johnny Cash on his valedictory American Recordings series of albums, “I’m New Here” sounds like a song tailor-made for Gil Scott-Heron, the great survivor: “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone,” he sings, “you can always turn around.” My instinct, on first hearing it, was to cross my fingers tightly.

Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago in 1949. His mother, Bobbie Scott-Heron, was a librarian and an accomplished singer, his father, Giles Heron, from Jamaica, was an athlete who would later earn the nickname the “Black Arrow” when, in the 1950s, he became the first black man to play for Celtic FC. “I’m used to white British guys getting in touch with me,” says Gil, laughing. “There’s this guy, Gerry, who keeps me informed about the Celtics. He brings me a new shirt every time he’s in New York.”

[Click to continue reading Gil Scott-Heron: the godfather of rap comes back | Interview Music |The Observer ]

and how the album came to be:

The story of how Gil Scott-Heron’s new album came to be made is a long and convoluted one. It is, among other things, a testament to the abiding power of great music outside the mainstream to spread like a virus across cultures, across decades. It begins back in 1987 in a rented house in Edinburgh when a young student is mesmerised by his friend’s collection of soul and funk music from the halcyon days of the early 70s – albums by the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, the JBs, the Meters, Bill Withers and, most mesmerizing of all, Gil Scott-Heron. The first Gil Scott-Heron song the young student heard was called


H20 Gate Blues
[from the Winter In America album]

one of the singer’s great spoken-word monologues that would later earn him the soubriquet the godfather of rap. It was ostensibly about President Nixon and the Watergate phone-tapping scandal, but it was also about wider issues of power, corruption and injustice and the great divide that is race in America.

“I was just taken aback by the voice, the words, the poetry,” remembers Jamie Byng who, 22 years on, is the director of Canongate Books and still a fervent soul fan. “I had been raised on rock but this was just breathtaking. The seasoned voice, the wryness of the delivery, the level of irony and satire in the lyrics, the whole thing just blew me away. Discovering those songs was an epiphanic moment for me.”

Those songs range from the reflective – “Winter In America”, “Lady Day & John Coltrane”, “I Think I’ll Call It Morning” – through the socially aware – “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”, “Pieces of a Man”, “The Bottle” – to the wry and satirical – “H20 Gate Blues”, “Whitey on the Moon” and “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, whose title has now entered the pop cultural lexicon.

So taken was Byng by those songs that, having bought and rebranded Canongate, he tracked down his hero and, in 1996, republished his two long-out-of-print novels, The Vulture and
The Nigger Factory. An unlikely friendship was forged that lasts to this day. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Jamie,” Scott-Heron, who is the godfather of one of Byng’s sons, told me last week, before adding, “That’s why I agreed to this interview, bro’. You come with good references.”

Written by Seth Anderson

February 6th, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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