Friday, October 31, 2008

George Crumb

George Crumb, for lack of a more precise term, makes weird music. It is shadowy stuff that seems to be cast from its performers rather than to come directly from them, dark anti-reflections of life. Quiet and seemingly undefined for vast expanses then suddenly clamorous and monumental, like you are walking through the fog and unexpectedly bump your head on a skyscraper.

Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death: At first, this is a rather rock 'n' roll piece for Crumb, (though he might balk at this description) utilizing the electromagnetic hum of amps as its baseline, disjointed electric guitar, drum lines and the occasional prog keyboard interruption. There is even a growled vocal line that bears shocking resemblance to the maniacal chuckle at the beginning of "Wipeout. " Ultimately though, the pieces succumbs to dream logic like much of Crumb's work, vocal lines punctuated by fleeting thoughts guised as weird percussive tings and rattles and thuds.

Here are four of the sections of A Little Suite Christmas, A.D. 1979, performed by pianist Jiun Yoong Lim:

I really like seeing him reach over and pound the strings to conjure those dark-cloud overtones.

Crumb occupies a sonic between space - his music is markedly unconventional, would hardly pass inspection as "music" to most regular tastes, yet I find it imminently accessible stuff. It operates on background channels, like Satie does, or grocery store music, does, or sounds outside your window do. Parts of it feel remembered as it issues out, like the quotations of Pacelbel's Canon in the Canticle of the Holy section of the above piece.

Quest is a sweet, cerebral lyrical excursion of a guitar into the curious wood, scampering like a fox in the snow. There is a distinct nervous curiosity to the interplay of the instruments, slightly laced with panic. In the composer's own words:

The poetic basis for Quest was never very clearly articulated in my thinking. I recall pondering images such as the famous incipit of Dante's Inferno ("In the midway of this our mortal life, I found me in a gloomy mood, astray ...") and a line from Lorca ("The dark paths of the guitar"); also the concept of a "quest" as a long tortuous journey towards an ecstatic and transfigured feeling of "arrival" became associated with certain musical ideas during the sketching process. But although the movement titles are poetic and symbolic, there is no precise programmatic meaning implied.
The Official George Crumb website, by the way, is the gold standard of how an artist should document their work. His notes for Federico's Little Songs for Children are reveal the process he goes through, moving through obsessions with material to set to music, thinking he's exhausted Lorca only to find one more piece to draw him in. Also there is this bit

The concluding piece, Silly Song (Prestissimo [and alternately: molto più lento]; with piccolo), is ... just a silly song!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

[outsideleft] Vic Chesnutt: The Ringer

Vic Chesnutt, Elf Power, and the Amorphous Strums
Dark Developments

(Orange Twin)

There are those who choose to collaborate, one suspects, because of an inability to create something meaningful on their own. I suspect that this is the dark undercurrent of many an indie rock ‘n roll band member. In many groups, collaboration results in a sum that falls short of a totaling of parts, that a completed band version is somehow less than the songwriter going at it alone (see the YouTube clip of the acoustic version of anything). And then when the songwriter realizes this, they eventually sack the band and go it alone—guitar, stool and bared soul vs. the universe. That kind of trajectory only leads to isolation, ego-explosion and worst of all, Beatle-esque laptop artists.

Fortunately, Vic Chesnutt is not that kind of songwriter. He is a rare commodity that writes rather brilliant songs on his own, but when coupled with a group of other musicians, invests in them a spirit of greatness they never quite reached on their own. Take Lambchop, for instance – a perfectly fine, textured band that creates its own subtle magic on its many records you’ve never listened to, but when backing up Vic on The Salesman and Bernadette they created something cosmic. Ditto with Widespread Panic on their outings under the Brute moniker, and he even managed to make the dour Silver Mt. Zion dudes crack a smile on last year’s North Star Deserter.

On Dark Developments, Vic finds a magic formula with Elf Power, and amiable band that had the mixed fortune of being one of the least exciting groups in the Elephant 6 cabal. Elf Power is one of many groups that generally elicit, really through no fault of their own, a shrugged “I like them well enough.” My impulse is to champion a group like that, but I have shrugged the same reaction after listening to them. I find that while I too like them well enough, I rather love them with Vic Chesnutt at the helm, and maybe it’s a spillover of the love people have for him. Vic is a guy people adore, who they want to call "Vic," even when his albums are a little unfocused (see Drunk, though I kinda love it for that very reason. See what I mean?)

Everyone is loosened up in Vic’s presence, and the elves power these songs with a diminished variant the sixties-fetishism with which I (maybe wrongly) associate them. Songs like “Little Fucker” are aglow in naughtiness and tremolo stoney bliss, arrogant and searing. “Bilocating Dog” is a strange little story like those on Vic’s excellent collaboration with Van Dyke Parks Ghetto Bells, one that speaks of mental problems and old ladies with smirking charm and slyly epic scale.
“Mad Passion of the Stoic” is a dense tale of damage and failure that offers the ballast for this breezy record – oh how wrong things sparkle and entrance hoarsely whispers the narrator over a slow burning melody that depicts the killing cleansing magma of which he sings in the second verse.

What is beautiful about having Vic Chesnutt around is that he apparently inspires extremes in his collaborators they seem reticent to undertake on their own, such as this dreary, delicious melodrama or the ebullient Dylan Thomas listing of characters in “Phil the Fiddler”, where he lists off folks like Dick the Butcher and Tom the Bootblack as if he’s flipping idly through a scrapbook in the attic only to stop and focus on The girl in the gingham dress. You have know idea what he's specifically talking about, but we all have ideas about girls in gingham dresses, and that is the power in Vic Chesnutt's songs.

Vic is nearly alone nowadays in being a songwriter able to evoke a greater narrative out of pointed details, and maybe I hear this because there is something about him that I love, and maybe he channels that love through the amplifier of his collaborators. That’s a lot of maybe’s—and what collaboration isn’t?—that adds up to a resounding yes.

Link to original

jawbone of an ass

I used to work with this guy who is likely best described as a curious redneck. Country as hell, really nice guy, wanted to know about things even though he had no ambitions to participate in those things. For instance, we always went to lunch at the same cheap Chinese food place and he would consistently marvel that anyone could eat food with sticks - not that they did, but they could, and preferred to eat that way instead of with a knife and fork. On the way back to the office, he postulated that maybe they were born with that ability and I cavalierly offered, "I can totally eat with chopsticks, I just never think to ask for them." Why I said this I have no idea, since I'd never eaten with chopsticks in my life. He replied, "No shit? Tomorrow I'm buying you lunch. I want to see you eat that whole thing with chopsticks."

That night I went out to a Chinese buffet, determined to acquire this skill. I fumbled though noodles, dropped countless pieces of sweet-and-sour chicken on my shirt, and may have flung broccoli onto the floor, starting to feel some kinship with my redneck friend - why would anyone choose to do this? - until eventually I got the hang of it, and by the final plate of fried rice, I was a facsimile of a seasoned expert. This is, by the way, how all men acquire whatever skills they have, purely out of fear of being caught in their own pointless lies.

Next day, I passed my test and sent my friend's head to shaking. "Man, I didn't think you could do it. You seem like the type that would show off a skill like that every time." Checkmate. Then he went on "Cuz the only time I've ever picked up a set of chopsticks was when I played this piece by I-annis ZEE-nakis. We had to tap on a metal bucket with chopsticks." I nearly dropped my chopsticks. I had righteously assumed that I was the only person to know about the hidden realm of contemporary music, or at least I knew more than the guy that drove an oversized white truck and listened to Alabama all day.

"Oh yeah, I was a percussion major in college, and we always had to play that crazy shit. There was one where I had to get on stage and play a jawbone of an ass (that piece possibly being John Cage's Third Constriction). Man, I was embarrassed. Right there on the program it said '[his name], comma, jawbone of an ass'. My dad still gives me shit about that. 'I paid for four years of college for you to play a jawbone of an ass!'" I remained dumbfounded, trying to hold my tempura, as well as my dignity, with these flimsy goddamn sticks, realizing Jethro had a much more intimate knowledge of this prized secret music of mine than I ever would. I asked him about it, looking for names of things to seek out, but he said he only fooled with that stuff for class. "I'd learn to play it and then forget it. I-annis ZEE-nakis, though, I'll never forget that name. I had to say it a hundred times before I got it right."

Thank you Kroumata, for being a kick-ass percussion ensemble and for reminding me of this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

[The Record Crate] Now That was a Festival

I only made it to the Sunday installment of the tenth-annual Voodoo Experience this weekend, missing Nine Inch Nails CGI apocalypse and the time barrier being ignored by Lil Wayne, but I did have a near-perfect rock festival day. Waiting to go through security, I saw no less than three Parliament shirts, hoping that either they were a surprise addition about which I was unaware (they weren’t) was an omen of things to come (it was). I stopped in the New Orleans Bingo! Parlour which this year upsized into a bona fide circus tent. I wedged into the crowd, standing next to a muscly woman wearing a gold leotard and a fake moustache as I witnessed the Bingo! Show’s sub soul subversion, reducing R&B to a clatter and a croon, sirens and giggles, all with a primal throb standing in for a full soul revue. The fake moustache woman pushed past me, the first of approximately 10,000 people to do so that day thinking there must be a lot more spots up front, and made her way to a white rope dangling from the tent. She ascended the rope and set about a perfect trapeze accompaniment to Bingo! circus music of the damned.

As she dismounted, Clint Maedgen from Bingo! exclaimed, “That is so f*** in’ cool! I can’t believe you can do that!” and I felt the same way about the progression of the Bingo! enterprise over the years, having witnessed the early days of Liquidrone at M’s Fine and Mellow Café and practices in a house I shared with some then members in Spanish Town over a decade ago. Stuff like this is what sets Voodoo and New Orleans apart from other festival destinations.

You find yourself seeing bands you’d never see otherwise at these things. Dashboard Confessional was all anthems, all the time, pleasant enough like the slight breeze from the cusp of fall crossing City Park, but I wandered off thinking "Diet Journey." I was excited to see Kanye West protégé (does that make him a Kanygé?) Lupe Fiasco. I’m not sure why Lupe didn’t quite take off like I thought he would, pitting the sophisticated and the personal in glimmering, seamless hip-hop context. “Hip-hop saved my life” he says, and in return he gives it his all, but with all that gratitude and positivism there is little grit. The dismantled variation at the beginning of “Go Go Go Gadget” offered a bit of loose turf before it reverted to its Xbox-game paced natural state, but otherwise I couldn’t find any traction with his show.

I remain amazed by the shirtless masses that attend these things just to publicly nap in dog piles with their sunglasses their only remarkable features.

There are three constants in New Orleans festival life: cochon de lait, Deacon John doing a tribute to a New Orleans music titan you didn’t realize wrote all those songs, and mango sorbet; and thankfully, all three were to be had in a sumptuous triangle by the Preservation Jazz Hall tent.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band finally got the day up to liftoff velocity, pulling enough P- Funk tropes out of the air to morph into make that funk uncut, fulfilling the promise of all those Parliament shirts from the gate. Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings followed, opening a can of Tina Turner-brand whoopass on the vintage soul vibration for which they are known. With groups like them and Charles Walker & the Dynamites around, there might just be some hope for mankind after all. Checking my schedule, I made the gamble and left her shimmying to make it back to the Bingo tent for the Butthole Surfers.

It seems silly for a grown man to be typing this phrase, but I’ve been waiting to see the Butthole Surfers for about 20 years now, having been too sick to go when they played one of the first shows in The Varsity’s post-movie house days. If psychedelic music can be seen as a road, then down at the far end there is a set of skid marks leading to a flipped pickup, and smeared in the mud on the side is the name Butthole Surfers. Turns out there was no hurry to get there, as the elaborate multimedia setup for which the band is famous took longer than expected. During the Beckettian mic check, lead singer Gibby Haynes left his delay unit repeating “check…check…check” until it incited a chant from the crowd. Then he let it go on for a couple minutes longer, leaving some in the crowd who were familiar with the Surfers’ perverse strategies for provocation worrying that this might actually be the show.

But once every sound tech had been brow-beaten, the group launched into a full lysergic rock attack, three different seizure-inducing film loops beamed all over the tent. It was an explosion of the facets that make a rock show: the beat, the visuals, the vibration, everything blown to insane excess. Sensing the grumblings that a number of fans were missing R.E.M. on the main stage, the group graciously tore into a rather good cover of “The One I Love,” which, to me, could not have been bested by the actual thing a football field away. Finally at the end of the show, the fog machines erupted, giving the now amorphous din a physical form, filmstrips still projecting on them made the mass look like a supernova. The smoke continued to expand until it filled the tent, as the roadies turned off the hissing amps left to feed back on themselves. When you come to the expanse of a rock festival, especially one with a circus tent, you want spectacle, something huger than yourself, huger than the music, and I can think of no better finale than this.

Link to original with events calendar

that deep

One of my co-workers stopped by to report the ostentatious displays of notice-me hipsterism at the coffee shop across the street, particularly a skinny kid in sunglasses holding up his Nietzsche paperback for the room to see him reading it, so I figured I could at least one-up that by blogging a Charles Bukowski poem of which the Brahms Viola Sonata in F minor, Op, 120, No. 1 reminded me. No really, it really did make me think of it. I'm just that deep. Serious, y'all.

And I have some William Burroughs quotes at the ready, should a full on hipster-lit-nerd cliché battle ensue. Just sayin...

"Friends with the Darkness" by Charles Bukowski

I can remember starving in a
small room in a strange city
shades pulled down, listening to
classical music
I was young I was so young it hurt like a knife
because there was no alternative except to hide as long
as possible--
not in self-pity but with dismay at my limited chance:
trying to connect.

the old composers -- Mozart, Bach, Beethoven,
Brahms were the only ones who spoke to me and
they were dead.

finally, starved and beaten, I had to go into
the streets to be interviewed for low-paying and
by strange men behind desks
men without eyes men without faces
who would take away my hours
break them
piss on them.

now I work for the editors the readers the

but still hang around and drink with
Mozart, Bach, Brahms and the
some buddies
some men
sometimes all we need to be able to continue alone
are the dead
rattling the walls
that close us in.

[outsideleft] A Public Service Announcement on Behalf of The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats
Satanic Messiah EP

Let me ask you, when was the last time a one-time PayPal transaction of $6.66 saved your life? Not only will it allow you to purchase this fine digital EP by The Mountain Goats, a band that has given you so much over the years, but a portion of that $6.66 will go towards efforts initiated and maintained by the band to keep demons from popping up out of dark closets unexpectedly and harvesting your still-beating hearts, allowing your entrails, and thereby your secrets, to spill out onto the floor right there in front of everyone. That's right, actual demons. Demons have a license from The Universe to harvest you in order to balance out the impact of your uncountable, horrible sins, and, if you are reading this, haven't gotten to you yet simply because of backlog and the corralling skills of The Mountain Goats.

Here is how it works. Due to a longtime familiarity with the forces of darkness, The Mountain Goats get a signal that demon is about to appear and they are all like "Hey, Demons! Check me out!" right as the beasts enter the mortal plane. Fleet-footed as a Mountain Goats are known to be, they engage the demons in chase to a spot behind the convenience store where runaway teenagers hide in the weeds with baseball bats. The teenagers beat the shit out of the demons and then take all the money in the demon's wallet to buy an Icee and some drugs later. Simple and effective.

Sure, you may not want to be directly complicit in the further drug-addledness of teenagers, but picture being in a meeting and having a goddamn demon bust in and harvest your heart and reveal your secrets. Your coworkers will be stunned and pitying for a moment and then look at your entrails and see that you are a cross-dresser, or you always smell your fingers after going to the bathroom, or you think about driving through the guardrail every time you cross a bridge. When they see these things about you, your peers will feel disgusted by you, and as soon as someone gets up here to clean up this mess, you will be but an unpleasant distant memory to them. Someone will ease in and start doing your job, and you will be effectively erased from the Book of Life. You don't need that shit. And maybe, just maybe a lifetime of piety and prayer will sustain you against the heart-hungry beasts of the pit, but who has the time nowadays? $6.66 is a small price to pay to keep your secrets safe, keep your family safe, and to keep The Mountain Goats in business.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

For Philip, Morton, David, Harold and Don

Philip Guston, Painting, Smoking, Eating (1973)
Oil on canvas 77 1/2 x 103 1/2 in.
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
(from here)

Being able to let Morton Feldman's gargantuan yet spare For Philip Guston trickle out over the course of the day is a much more productive way to face down the abyss than laying under tight covers, eyeing unfinished paintings on the walls with a plate of cakes resting on your belly, tempting as that actually sounds.

Speaking of, I am thirty pages into David Foster Wallace's Everything and More; A Concise History of ∞, his rather witty and personable take on higher math, and while I know it is a weak impulse to read everything written by a suicide as a suicide note, his meditations on induction and phenomenology and infinity are littered with anxiety, using the notion of "if you really thought about it, you'd never get out of bed" as the pedestals on which he places intellectual theories without which the downward what-if spiral would never end. He has a great layman's grip on math, as well as the sweetness and humor to convey it effectively, and an uneasy comfort with discussing anxiety. It is really easy to see this book as a rationalist's variant on a religious internal dialogue, acknowledging that there are little leaps of faith one must make to not fall in the gaping holes.

Feldman's Guston is as unending hole-filled field over across which we make out little leaps, with a near-imperceptible breeze in the flute, momentary chills in the vibraphone churchbells, and the will to push on from the piano. As for Guston's Painting, Smoking, Eating, he's probably closer to the real truth than either Wallace or Feldman are.

Or in the face of anxiety, maybe the real answer lies with Harold and Don Reid and the rest The Statler Brothers...

Monday, October 27, 2008

[225] Review: Thou Peasant (Autopsy Kitchen)

In the November 2008 issue of 225 Magazine

In many cases, heavy metal is manifested as either a phase one went through in junior high school or one that some unfortunate souls never grew out of, but if you dig below the surface, you will find that some of the most adventurous music around is being made under that dark mantle. One of the area’s finest practitioners, Thou recently caught the attention of the acclaimed Southern Lord label, and in October played showcases with Sunn 0))) at the Knitting Factory in New York and the Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. Peasant contains Thou’s epic-length “An Age Imprisoned,” which sounds as if a song is thrashing like a dinosaur in a tar pit. “Burning Black Coals and Dark Memories” follows a contemplative path from melancholy to despair. Thou crafts elegant, complex, sometimes difficult music that reaps many rewards if you brave the dark road leading up to it.

Essential Tracks: “Burning Black Coals and Dark Memories,” “The Work Ethic Myth”

Recommended if you like: Sunn 0))), Black Sabbath, darkness


[225] Review: Chappo Media Machine (Drip Drop Records)

Baton Rouge native Alex Chappo, now residing in New York, is the latest sonic polymath to emerge from our fertile soil. The songs on Media Machine stagger from herky-jerky funk strut “Look and See” to backwoods Credence hollers like “Rattle the Bone” to brittle Neil Young acoustic numbers “Friend” and “Mandy.” It’s an ambitious debut, one that occasionally runs aground when trying to do too many things at once (see the awkward jam band/rap hybrid “Nunchux”). But more often it exhibits confidence, as in the folksy scrapbook “Sal and Betty” and the epic closing number “Don’t Wait.”

Essential tracks: “Mandy,” “Rattle the Bone,” “Sal and Betty”

Recommended if you like: Lou Reed, CCR, getting around to that Neil Young record you’ve never heard


[225] Review: Feufollet Cow Island Hop (Valcour Records)

In the November 2008 issue of 225 Magazine

You’ve got to tread carefully when tampering with as precise a formula as Cajun music; if you go too far into changing things, it feels wrong—too little and you just sound sub-par. On the near-punk stomp of the opener “Prends Courage,” and the coy speakeasy cabaret of “Femme L’a Dit,” Feufollet exhibits a willingness to push the boundaries of what a crack Cajun band can do. But one must master one’s two-step and waltzes before one can pull them apart, and “Eunice Waltz” and “Jolie Fille” stand as fine examples of Feufollet’s traditionalist expertise. Perhaps the bravest and most innovative moment comes in the sweeping arrangement of “Sur Le Bord De l’Eau” with the accordions and fiddles reduced to a haunting ripple across which forlorn French lyrics skip. Cow Island Hop is a rare Cajun album that has all the trappings of the real deal and sticks out from the pack.

Essential tracks: “Prends Courage,” “Sur Le Bord De l’Eau,” “Eunice Waltz”

Recommended if you like: Lost Bayou Ramblers, The Bluerunners when they would go into Cajun mode, the idea of Cajun music more than the reality


[225] Ellis Marsalis Opened My Ears

In the November 2008 issue of 225 Magazine

I have Ellis Marsalis to thank for a lifelong love affair with jazz. I spent most of my freshman year at LSU trying to woo the affections of numerous female classmates, until one of them wrote “wanna go to a jazz concert tonight” in the margin of my notebook. Jazz seemed too genteel for my voracious appetites, but of course, I said yes. Once Marsalis and his quartet kicked in, though, my attentions were directed at the stage, marveling at how a song was picked apart and reassembled before our very eyes and ears.

Marsalis made his first mark in New Orleans half a century ago, favoring the modern bop abstractionism of Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon over the Dixieland that still prevailed in the city. He soon became one of the biggest names in modern jazz piano, lending his talents to albums by Eddie Harris and Courtney Pine, as well as more than 20 under his own name. After years of being a star player in New Orleans, he moved his family to Breaux Bridge in 1964 and worked as band director at Carver High School. Marsalis got the teaching bug bad. He started working toward his master’s degree at Loyola University in 1974, and in that same year started his long-running relationship with the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. After a two-year gig at Virginia Commonwealth University, he came back to New Orleans as the first director of Jazz Studies at UNO, a position he held until his retirement in 2001.

If you trace through his catalog over the years, you will find a constant flowering of innovation rising out of a deep bed of roots. One of the triumphs in his late career was the 1986 album Piano in E/Solo Piano, where he captivates a live audience with wave after wave of contrapuntal fluidity, projecting the melodies while giving the impression of a full band. In 1993, he laid down the devastating Whistle Stop, an exploration of relatively obscure New Orleans modern jazz composers, and held his own with the fiery sax and clarinet of Harold Battiste Jr. and Alvin Batiste.

Ellis Marsalis’ greatest fame came with the careers of his sons Wynton, Branford, Jason and Delfeayo, who continue to push the boundaries of jazz while keeping it a distinctive art form. It was through his sons that Marsalis received the worldwide recognition he deserves. On Love Songs, Standards and Ballads, his 2008 album with young trumpeter and educator Irvin Mayfield, Marsalis opens up subconscious melodies like The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and “Come Rain or Come Shine” to reveal the inner workings of a song, just like he did for me two decades ago on stage at the LSU Union.

Ellis Marsalis will perform for two nights at the Magnolia Performing Arts Center at BRCC on Dec. 5 and 6, and while no young co-ed is likely to ask me to go, I’ll be there ready to have my ears opened once again.


Review: The Aesthetics of Rock by Richard Meltzer

The Aesthetics of Rock (Da Capo Paperback) The Aesthetics of Rock by Richard Meltzer

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow. I'm not sure I got all of it, or what there is there to get besides the process of getting (and perhaps that's really what aesthetics as a discipline is), but this is a maddening, delirious, wonderful book that should be quoted in moments of high-minded, drunken bouts of rock-dude-ery for generations to come.

A favorite quote, one that I should post above my desk, is:

Boredom is actually the greatest automatic soul-endurance move, coupling mere endurance with the endurance of the mere.

View all my reviews.

Ed. Despite the crazy spacing, the embed code thing from GoodReads is rather handy for this x-posting business. Thanks internet elves!

love pinch

On the way to Voodoofest:

On the way back:

After finishing Richard Meltzer's The Aesthetics of Rock in a blitz this week, I had a head full of boogie transcendentalism and Heraclitus playing hack-sack with Chuck Berry that needed to see itself through so I could be made free. Plus, I was headed to a goddamn rock festival, and arch hippie jams are the lingua franca of that experience. Yes' "Roundabout" has been on my phone and in my head for about two months now, so I replaced Fragile with its more cerebral sibling Close to the Edge born a scandalous nine months later in 1972, which cut through ninety minutes of I-10 like Exclaibur through warm butter. Moby Grape hardly registered except that it was a perfect bugaloo for circling City Park looking for the obscured entrance to press parking.

After having my circuits blown by the Butthole Surfers, I was relieved to have put the soothing balm of The Byrds on my phone, yet, almost as if BS had stretched back and forth through time, even though the influence runs the other directions, The Notorious Byrds Brothers is Byrds corrupted, jangly bliss that creeps to the edge and pulls itself over and you with it. And I was dismayed around the LaPlace exits that I had not grabbed Love's Forever Changes like I thought, but Calexico will always do in a Love pinch.

Butthole Surfers

Photo_102608_002, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.

was totally amazing as a closing act to Voodoofest 2008. More detailed breakdown forthcoming but... wow. The above photo was the final frame of one of the three different projections beamed around the tent after they had filled the place with fog. I didn't see the Nine Inch Nails show but heard it was a multimedia juggernaut, but I'd think it would have had to be rather impressive to outdo the Surfers.

Terrible audio (and terrible video actually, thanks to the coupling of my phone and YouTube, but here is a taste of what the hour+ multi-media blitz was like

At one point as Gibby arguged with the sound guys for an eternity before they started, he just shouted "check" into his elaborate delay set up and let it repeat "check...check...check...check..." for about five minutes inciting a chant-a-long, and then an uneasy feeling that this was going to be the show.

Unrelenting, ridiculous, calloused, dilettante, oversaturated, clichéd - it was like the A/V geeks from high school finally having their revenge on all the cool people that threw spitballs at them while they set up projectors in science class, and in all those ways, it was perfect.

Friday, October 24, 2008

György Ligeti - Poème Symphonique For 100 Metronomes

I have always wanted to perform this piece or witness it being performed. It's exactly what is suggested in the title - 100 metronomes are kicked off at once and the piece is over when they are all over. It's long, and the patterns that emerge don't really weave the rhythmic plaids I thought they might - it sounds like rain on a tin roof without the romantic overtones - but the drama and tension of how long that last little guy will keep ticking is rather delicious and even a little profound.

You can't beat 2 violins, viola and cello

You can't beat 2 guitars, bass and drums
- Lou Reed, from the back cover of New York

The concept of the perfect rock combo Lou Reed describes is a direct descendant of the perfect classical combo of the string quartet, and really nothing is finer than 20th century string quartets. Something about the form focuses the composer and listener into a locked gaze - you the listener hear everything being said, even at its wildest

Penderecki's String Quartet no. 1 is wildness trapped in a jar, flailing to get out. The players slap their instruments and take minute shrieking scrapes of the strings as if they are trying to shoo a swarm of bees with their bows, and in that glorious chaotic racket, small moments of glowing cerebral clarity emerge, methodical, as if life was being ruthlessly and algebraically analyzed by sentient outsiders. As soon as the being thinks he has everything figured out, the thickets reemerge and tangle the mess up before its very eyes.

I say algebraically, because string quartets always seem to be trying to solve a localized problem, as opposed to the way symphonies map out of a cosmologies or song allow a single voice or thought bleed through the din. I also say it because right after the first string quartet I ever heard performed live - Leoš Janáček´s String Quartet No. 2 ("Intimate Letters") by the Guarneri String Quartet in 1988 at the LSU Union Theatre - I remember remarking to the person with me that it sounded like "doing algebra while the plane goes down." Evidently my penchant for romanticizing tragic events through art has been long running, but has matured over time, because I don't hear the panic in it now that I did then I was nineteen and everything is felt in a panic when you're nineteen.

Now I hear a full range of wistfulness - daydreams and bittersweet memories running up against anxiety and dread - all tied up by a repeated theme that evokes the image of furious writing, as if you are witnessing someone at a desk trying to craft the intimate letter hinted in the subtitle, getting caught in the updraft of imagined results of his or her words being committed to paper. Even the brief tidy ending practically licks an envelope and drops it into the mailslot, stopping with the sudden shock you get when you mail something off, realizing that your action and words are now grease in the wheels of destiny, and you are left to do nothing but wait to see what comes of it.

In Anton Webern, we have none of this mulling, even in the shockingly romantic, un-numbered (and, for Webern, lengthy at seventeen minutes) String Quartet of 1905. But in his numbered opii where he focused his lacerating vision in a white hot beam (through a lens made of Schoenberg, Nazi patriotism during the Second World War and a young man's rage against the illogical) is where some real metaphysical problems get succinctly addressed.

6 Bagatelles, Op. 9 (1913) most of which clock in at under a minute, have the quartet issuing a series of shrieks and whimpers from the corner, ironically upending the definition of a bagatelle as a "trifle." Webern's music often registers as terror in contemporary ears due to atonality's dominant presence in the DNA of horror film soundtracks, but I think there is a real shuddering anxiety at play in this piece. His String Quartet op. 28 (bares some of those traumatic marks but is more distanced and philosophical in its exploration, he is laying his concerns out on the table rather than hiding under it. The balance may come from the purposed utilization of the BACH motif, a note sequence based on intersecting music staffs and reading them forwards and backwards that in German notation, spells out B-A-C-H (a deeper explanation lies here.)

Atonal music is concerned with the equal balancing of notes, repurposing a sequence forwards and backwards and upside-down, revealing the panorama of meaning in a melody much in the way Cubist paintings do it for their subjects. I'm not sure how successful it is because I listen experientially and not architecturally to this music, but I do know that Webern chisels at corners of music that no other composer can seem to get to, or, as Stravinsky put it on the 10th anniversary of the composer death (shot by an American soldier for being out after curfew in 1945):

Doomed to a total failure in a deaf world of ignorance and indifference he inexorably kept on cutting out his diamonds, his dazzling diamonds, the mines of which he had such a perfect knowledge (link)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rabbit Hole Music

I just now discovered the Naxos Music Library available through the university, where I can listen to these obscure, obtuse albums from the comfort of my browser. I am not sure I can sufficiently express the rabbit hole this opens up for me.

Just West Coast (Naxos link) opens with the lovely, romantic Suite No. 2 by Lou Harrison, arranged for guitar and harp - listening to it is not unlike being on the verge of drifting off at the Renaissance Faire, twinkling tinkles and arpeggios lazily weaving in and out in the most logical patterns. I really came to this particular maypole looking for the LaMonte Young piece Sarabande, but in variably on affairs like these, its the wallflowers like Harrison that really catch my ear. The Harry Partch pieces realized on microtonally tuned (playing notes between the notes, for the lack of a better term) guitar and harp sound even weirder than they do on his own instruments, sounding seasick and menacing, John Schnieder's sonorous reading and playful fingerwork in Partch's hobo tale Barstow: 8 Hitchhiker's Inscriptions is like the most bizzare skit ever attempted on Praire Home Companion. And, well, I am coming to terms with the fact that I still think John Cage's principles and ideas are still mindbending, but I don't really get much off his music any more, perhaps because that is the precise intention of defiant non-intention, but the duo hakes lovely hash of Cage's early Satie-influenced pieces Dream, In a Landscape, and 6 Sontatas, turning all three into the best new age bookstore muzack you've ever heard.

Now Terry Riley's Book of Abbeyozzud (Naxos link), as realized by classical guitar master David Tannenbaum (who I had the pleasure of seeing in concert not long ago), is unrivalied serpentine bliss, a fever dream, a roll in the fields of the lotus-eaters. I am on the verge of saying Riley is my favorite contemporary composer, but I always reel back thinking his recorded pieces feel less composed than they do played, that what he does is create situations in which creative people can accomplish amazing things, but then, isn't that what composition is really about?* Even the strictest Barouque lockdown is always subject to interpretation, and then can't that line of thinking be extended into everything: relationships, politics, sports - that all society is is a bracket in which creative people can do amazing things, and that the multitude of amazing things being done at all time forms another set of brackets in which another group may operate, and so on and so on?** I'm guessing if Terry Riley is inspiring this kind of big-picturism, he might just be my favorite composer.

Rounding this out with more Lou Harrison (Naxos link). With all this masterful polite guitar and exotic percussion going on, perhaps I should open an import boutique in the front part of my office, selling hemp notebooks, nag champa and batik saris.

*I don't actually know how fully-composed Riley's work is, compared to some of his cohorts.
** It is notable*** that while I give John Cage a mild diss, his later work does precisely what I am describing - creates brackets of time in which creative peopel can do amazing things. I'm guessing his work is due a revisit as well, while I'm down here in the rabbit hole.

*** Also, I know I am onto something/in too deep when I'm compelled to use footnotes.

[outsideleft] Of Montreal: Contessa Under Pressure

Of Montreal
Skeletal Lamping

Much of the perceived danger in rock is when able-bodied young men start acting like women, not like actual women but as "women", dressing in soft fabrics (T. Rex, Robert Plant) , acting like shrieking wrecks (James Brown) throwing their emotional ropes to anyone on the shore willing to catch them (all singer-songwriters), suckering them in with icy distance (Bowie). Freddie Mercury topped them all in excess. Prince, whose name actually means the peak of virile youngmanhood, the limit of feral masculinity before the coronation into the static pattern of adulthood, embodied all these characteristics in toto, and though you wouldn’t know it from looking at him now, so did Brian Eno back in the day. The crown of the Fairy King is an alluring one for the boy man enough to wear it.

Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal is a worthy ascendant to that throne in that he has all the above stolen prescriptions tucked into his handbag. His shtick (began with earnest on 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?) is that retools the pansexual shticks of his feathered, perfumed forefathers and is willing to let that play out in the press to gather attention while, like the mentors aforementioned, removing the off-limits area of what may be employed in the service of a great song. On Skeletal Lamping, Barnes is catwalk stomping on every fey groover blocking the path. On the album’s disco manifesto “Gallery Piece” he vigorously delivers his list I wanna make you scream, I wanna braid your hair, I wanna kiss your friends… alighting on a more resolute I only go all the way, this time I’m not pretending. Throughout this record, Barnes collapses the wants and wishes of so much pop music into neatly coordinated pastiches of seamless electro (“Misusings”), chilly minimalism (“Nonpareil of Favor”), and feckless cocky glam (“And I’ve Seen a Bloody Shadow”). He goes full-on Midnight-at-the-Oasis pliant on “Plastis Wafers” and pens maybe the first perfect song of his catalog with “An Eluardian Instance,” going at least a month past The Decemberists’ in crafting cinematic pop bliss.

But, we have ProTools and decades of perfect pop songs to pull from. Any yahoo with ears can push his or her cart down the supermarket aisles and put together a reasonably palatable postmodern smörgåsbord, but it takes a force from within to make a tantalizing meal. That meal begins with “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” which opens with the most convincing appropriation of true R&B since the Isaac Hayes hook in The Geto Boys “Mind’s Playin’ Tricks on Me”– I’m talking the stuff that gets played in shadowy dives into which no one you know has ever ventured and not on some Big Chill Thawing satellite schmoove station or hipster mixtape; not Shuggie Otis but his daddy Johnny. Barnes opens by crooning a sentiment with which we can all identify – I’m so sick of suckin’ the dick of this cruel, cruel city, and by "open," I don’t mean he just starts the song, I mean he opens the song to reveal the soul squirming, pressurized in his aforementioned tighter compositions.

In typical Of Montreal style, the style continually mutates through electro-disco and psychedelic dimension-bending until it slides without notice into “Triphallus, To Punctuate!” –Afropop corrupting Bay City Rollers with a tweaked drum machine on the docking bay of ELO’s spaceship. What Barnes understands about the feminine mystique, what the other veil-dropping Salome’s before him that dared to tongue the skull right there in front of everyone, is that is not enough to just wear the outfit, the real power lies in how you move through the room.


I'm already liking that first answer

Urban Dictionary Meme

Answer the following questions and then
add in the definition

1. Your name?

Someone that is of extreme greatness. Often considered as a god in some religions. Also means cool.
Girl: yeah he is sooo Alex

2. Your age?

The act of doggy style, hitting it from the back ferociously, sliding up to the bumper in order to saddle up and ride. Other variations include pterodactyl and is based on doggy style. Phallus can be inserted into anus or vagina. True 39ing normally includes a great deal of screaming. Blood flow may ensue. 39ing never includes homosexuals queer(s) and faggot(s).
1. When Josh was 39ing Lexxe, he lifted the sheets and pulled a Pterodactyl, screaming like a deranged dinosaur and shooting his cum deep into her unprepared asshole while Thomas, stationed in the closet, videotaped while softly stroking his erect rod.
2. Stemp said, "Bob 39ed Mary so much, she required stitches to repair her demolished vagina."

3. Name a friend.
Chip (2nd definition)

When someone benefits themselves by making you suffer. Screwing you over.
Man, he sure chipped you. Don't try to chip me!

4. What should you be doing?
debug (2nd definition)

adj. To have ears larger than one's nut sack.
noun. Young, hormonal teen creature with the disease teen rage.
adj. Spacker.
Debug you spacker.

5. What is your favorite color?

an East Indian person
That was her brown boyfriend Sanjay

6. What is your home town?
Baton Rouge

kickass city; home of the LSU tigers and beautiful women
Dude lets go to Baton Rouge and hit up some ladies.

7. In what month you were born?

Indefinite date, usually implied when something is coming soon, but the definitive date is unknown.

See also procrastinate
New and improved, coming this March!

8. Who is last person you talked to?

the most awesomest girl, hot, smart, a human calculator, the best wifey on earth, a hot damn flower child. gorgeous eyes, great personality. and purple. :)
who's that purple girl over there?

what?! don't you know sheesh.

no i dont tell me.

it jerri. :)
(Ed: I was with you until "purple," Gracie Jayy)

9. What is your nickname?

Adult Video,
Japanese porno films

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

8tracks mix

Giving this a shot:

Kevin Coyne - "Marlene"
Neutral Milk Hotel - "Two-Headed Boy"
The Sonics - "Strychnine"
Lucinda Williams - "I Just Want To See You So Bad"
Townes Van Zandt - "Dollar Bill Blues"
Sir Douglass Quintet - "She's About a Mover"
Smog - "Dress Sexy at My Funeral"
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - "I'm Your Man"

Never have done one of these before.... it's quite a jolt when you abruptly jump out at the 2/3 mark, like slamming on the playlist breaks in traffic

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5 things on the tight list

  1. My local crunchy black granola doom boys Thou are on the permanent tight list for being chosen to play with the mighty SUNN O))) at The Knitting Factory (along with arch avant-violinist Tony Conrad) and the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia (pictured above), even if the non-denominational higher powers that oversee such ecumenically hallowed (yet totally open-minded) ground elected to sabotage their fog machines. Couldn't have happened to a nicer horde.
  2. I just went through orientation for my finally full-time job at the major southern university from which I graduated and found that besides being able to go to the doctor and having retirement benefits, I can now check out books and CD's from the library, a perk which I could not confirm I would have as staff until yesterday. Immediately after orientation I darted over there, thinking I would check out and checked out Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings ed. by Susan Sontag, the first book I checked out from there as an eager freshman, or Inifinite Jest (checked out, of course) so instead I got
  3. The Aesthetics of Rock by Richard Meltzer, recommended by many a source over the years but until now, I could never readily source a copy. I tore through almost 100 pages of it last night, letting the stream of hyperactive analysis-as-jive, jive-as-analysis (or maybe even jive-ass analysis...) hit me like a firehose. I used to think Griel Marcus was the smartest guy to write about rock 'n' roll, but now I'm not so sure. It's a book I have a hard time following in the regular reading-a-book sense, so instead I will follow it like an eager little kid running after a cooler teenager popping wheelies on a rusted bike.
  4. The new Of Montreal album Skeletal Lamping is even better than I tought it would be. I take a dim view of hipster dance rock bullshit bexcause it is vapid, reudundant, and a pale reflection of the joyless joy that this music embodied back when I was checking out Artaud books from the library. I am leery of Prince worshippers today, in that I think they are wanting it too much. Prince was brilliant, an era-defiant and -defining but besides a handful of songs, the material just doesn't hold up - it sounds thinned with time. Skeletal Lamping manages to capture the best of dance-rock and Prince worship, rubbing it all like a genie lamp/erect penis depending on how you want to view it, with a well thought out plan of what to do with what comes pouring out. More devious and less paranoid than Hissing Fauna, nakedly livicious instead of shrieking alone in his room, I really like it. He's like what Bowie would have been if Bowie would have actually told you anything.
  5. I think its OK to get mushy if I start my list with doom metal - as always, my wife and daughter are on the tight list. I love them unconditionally anyway, but they both continue to amaze and inspire me, and I am glad they let me trail after them while they race around on their bikes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

speed freaks stole my statues

This Sunday I found myself free of assignments, or more likely was just shirking them off, and spent some time with Mitch Myers' set of rock 'n' roll apocrypha The Boy Who Cried Freebird and particularly dug the story involving the recording of poet Allen Ginsberg's harmonium songs by Harry Smith (warped genius behind of the Anthology of American Folk Music). I've talked about my puffy-hearted love of Harry Smith before, particularly his films, and any insight into his peculiar methods is illuminating - I think Harry Smith is one of those few like Walt Whitman that understands the metaphysical breadth of our culture.

But, Allen Ginsberg, I've never really cared for. I recognize his crucial role as a catalyst but he's always seemed a little too name-droppy for me (and not in the brilliant naked way Frank O'Hara, Andy Warhol and Rene Richard are name droppers) but as Myers' prose made me seek this album out, just as Smith's peculiarity has inspired people like myself to seek out that which he presents on the anthology, I feel some kinship with them regarding what all this is about. All I want to do is talk about art because in the tangle of history and influence-mapping it I find little pieces of you and little pieces of me, pieces that I can't seem to find anywhere else. It's a little like driving across town to get some chicken soup just to bite the piece of celery floating in it; celery just doesn't taste right on its own.

All said, this album isn't really that great. If you like Ginsberg a lot, then you'll love it. "CIA Dope Calypso" is however, one of the best song titles ever. A really good Allen Ginsberg song, should you be willing to seek it out, is "Father Death Blues." I forgot what long lost compilation album (I thought it was one of those John Giorno Dial-a-Poet albums, but I don't see it here) it was that had this song on it, but since then, its has either been in my head, or at least had a toe in the same water as my head.

Doug Sahm's story is also lovingly told in Freebird. And besides "She's About a Mover" I'll confess I never really thought all that much of Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet. He sounded like he was more fun to hang out with than Gram Parsons, but not quite the glowing font of song. And then I went to see Sahm's keyboardist Augie Meyers perform at a bar mere blocks form my house. That roller-rink Vox Continental keyboard cut through whatever blues, Tex-Mex, rock 'n' roll salad the rest of the group was generating and became a singular sound, a lighthouse beaming pleasure out to lost ships at sea, and maybe recognizing this sound from Augie Meyers and unleashing it on the world was Sahm's real genius. Bob Dylan saw it, electing to use Meyers on his recent records, and he also saw the light in Smith's compilation when he was forming his plan to takeover pop music back in the 60s, all the while Ginsberg saw the light in all of them. Maybe if Allen Ginsberg had put down that harmonium and talked Augie Meyers into backing his sprechesgang with roller-rink Tex-mex radiation from the Vox, we'd really have something.

Anyway, I'm a full Doug Sahm convert now. I was not prepared for is the free-jazz freakout with which he closes his lysergic R&B when I first heard them, but I think that is part of the psychedelic experience - not sticking to form but expanding the form and everyone mentioned here--Myers, Ginsberg, Sahm, Meyers, Dylan, and hopefully myself, if I may place my intentions in with such fancy company--has that mission in mind.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My daughter the supermodel

Maya was a champ at the Uncommon Thread fashion show last night, holding her own with her sisters in fierceness. Honestly, I was ready to pull her out at the first real sign of distress, but she saw it through in her usual good sport manner. I'm so proud of this girl in that she is willing to test her limits without feeling a need to go over boundaries, if that makes any sense. Thanks to Erin and crew for putting on the show and Jenn the peacock girl for giving her a pep talk when she needed it at the end.

Kevin Coyne!

Is there some reason no one has seen fit to hip me to Kevin Coyne before, a looney folky bastard from the 70s that in the first two songs on Marjory Razorblade reflects the greatness of both Captain Beefheart and Nick Lowe, with a fragility and nakedness neither performer could master, like what John Hiatt might sound like if he was singing in the car at a stoplight, unaware you were listening? Did none of you think, "Wow, Alex would really dig this music, like it would hit his sonic pleasure center from at least three different angles?" Here on "Eastbourne Ladies" is the place where you neglected to tell me Elvis Costello nicked his noir narration shtick. Except that Kevin Coyne injects the perfect measure of Roky Erikson and even a little wild-eyed young Van Morrison to give this hammer some extra swing. And the strings on "Old Soldier" how they wrap up the scraps of Gram-influenced Stones in a crazy quilt so that Coyne may hit the road like a hobo mystic... Damn y'all. Really.

This album is one that is perfect for this listener in this moment - a little bedraggled from the previous evening's indulgences, in the house alone after noodling fruitlessly on a guitar for 45 minutes hoping something emerges and all I got from it was dust on my shirt, this record innocently introduced itself as a "similar album" to a Bert Jansch album that was totally not fitting the qualities of this moment. The buzzing hoedown funk of "I Want My Crown!" The Syd Barrett lonely folk tale that is "Nasty!" I am tempted to make song-by-song exaltations like Walt Whitman bellowing Song of The English Folksinger to the butterflies in the wood, expecting no one else to care about my message. Which is fine, since none of you pointed him out to me anyway.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Even More Andriessen

Thank you internet for indulging these impulses with sweet delicious access!

De Tijd (Time) depicts exactly that, clunky events happening with arbitrary regularity in a measured stasis that seems to exist outside of it. A consistent rush-hush of strings forms the soup of time in which big loud percussion events occur - time gives the events a continuum that unto themselves would not be there, the events give time some measure, for if nothing happened, whether time went on forever or just stopped would be arbitrary. If we were high right now, I'd be blowing yr mind.

Rosa, The Death of a Composer an opera for film written with famed director Peter Greenaway, was less compelling - it sounded like the chugga chugga music Peter Greenaway used in his other films that, to me, has never worked all that well without the visuals. But I haven't seen the film, so what do I know... I used to love some Peter Greenaway in my heady college film snob days but I don't think I've seen anything after Propsero's Books, an experiment so filigreed that I remember it emptying the Union Collonade when the Films Committe screened it. I'm not sure if I even made it all the way through it, though I'm pretty sure I was the one that nominated it.

Here is Peter Greenaway giving a lecture on the opera itself (40 some-odd minutes, in 4 parts)

De Staat (State) as performed by the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (whose new music badassness I discovered through their recording of Janacek's Dance of the Vampires with Ivo Bittova - I want a hockey jersey that says Nederlands Blazers on it, maybe with a giant Dutchman slamming a puck into the goal with a music stand) is a whole universe of music encapsulated in thirty-three minutes - fluttery Appalacian Spring pastorale twists up in wholly cerebral minimalism, threatening to break into a merengue at any moment. It is as much Steve Reich as it is Steve Howe - just brilliant.

More Louis Andriessen

Andriessen's HOUT performed in Mexico by the LOOS Ensemble

and if for some reason you don't find watching grainy footage of a xylophonist as enthralling as I do, here is some arguably spicier footage for Andriessen's racing pulses (somewhat NSFW)

and here he is getting diced up and thrown in a compositional salad along with Thelonious Monk, Monteverdi, The Pixies and Björk, recipe by Costa Rican composer Federico Reuben, served up by the spectacularly named Ensemble Klang

Louis Andriessen

Bang on a Can All-Stars performing Louis Andriessen's Worker's Union

When the Bang on a Can All-Stars came through a couple months ago, the highlight of their six-hour performance was the above piece (this might have been taped at the Baton Rouge performance, from looking at it.) From BoaC's David Lang:

Workers Union (1975) is the young(ish) Louis Andriessen's contribution to this approach. Everything is specified in this piece except the notes - the rhythms, the phrases, the attitude are all there, but not the notes. It is clearly a piece that owes something to the American experimental tradition but what that thing is is hard to hear. To me, that's interesting.

Basically, it is an indeterminate piece to be performed by a group of loud instruments acting as one, the melodies and overall output being determined by the collective actions of the performers; in other words, it will continue as long as the performers continue and when one stops, they all stop. Simple enough, the principle on which all things should go when you think about it, and then more profound when you really think about it.

This is the kind of big conceptual talk that got me excited as a young music explorer, but have found over the years that the results rarely can pay the check the score tends to write. This is a glaring exception. Everyone in the hall, all 43 of us anyway, were ready to take to the streets with this piece to set the establishment ablaze with our zeal, to topple the towers with the fresh wind of collective endeavor.

Performance of Andriessen's Dances by an ensemble of the
Rotterdam Conservatory conducted by Henk Guittart (in four parts)

This is a far more contemplative side of Andriessen, or at least at the beginning, twinkling progressions of notes like footprints in the snow, disappearing into the fog. Thanks to the percussionist Oscar Alblas for posting these, and for YouTube for conducting whatever its nefarious secret purpose may be that allows these things to be available. As it progresses, it almost gets a little South Pacific, like drowsy dreams of languid hula girls have invading the closed-circuit thinking of the academy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


PictureMail, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.


The new iGoogle is very cool

a feeling of fiery passion.

image from here

Listening to the exquisitely titled For O, for O, the Hobby-horse Is Forgot for Percussion Ensemble by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Pandora offered up the following "Features of this song":

Modern stylings
a chamber ensemble
non pitched percussion
chromatic harmony
atonal harmony
a moderate tempo
an exaggerated, dramatic aesthetic
a feeling of fiery passion
a sense of anxiety
a strict rhythmic feeling
which seems an almost clinical detailing of the highly expressive array of clatters and clanks, but that is how Pandora and its Music Genome Project work.

I got to show Pandora founder Tim Westergren around when he stopped in Baton Rouge on one of his whistle-stop tours around the country back in 2006, and here is the play by play.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

[The Record Crate] Talking Demonic and Burying Strangers

Talkdemonic "Final Russians" - live at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR 2007

I didn’t make it out to the Monotonix show this past week, and by all accounts I missed one of the most incredible rock spectacles possible. It’s OK though, dear reader, for I feel a connection with you through the auspices of this column and by your being there, I felt I was a little there, too. Just as long as one of us goes and keeps this live music thing going.

Among the list of shows that one of us should go see is the Thursday appearance by A Place to Bury Strangers, a Brooklyn power trio that mines the feedback throb of shoegaze bands of yore (My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Mighty Lemon Drops, etc.) to devastating effect. UK fellow travelers Sian Alice Group are in support.

One of the best CDs to come through my mail slot recently is Talkdemonic’s Eyes at Half Mast, a scintillating array of rock instrumentals straddling the line between post-rock and trance. It is the kind of music that fills the room like a fog when it’s on, the kind that reorients you into its dense rhythms. They will be appearing with Born Ruffians and Plants & Animals at Spanish Moon.

The South Coast Coalition, the hardest working crew in regional underground hip-hop, will be celebrating the release of their latest DVD Classic Material at The Caterie this week with an appearance by their in-house MC T-Bo, Max Minelli, Sam I Am and more.

If none of that entices you, your favorite local band Melters will be melting it up at North Gate Tavern on Friday night. Somewhere in there, I think there is plenty for us to do this week.

Link to original with local events calendar

Sweet Tooth #3

Number Three

When we started this issue of Sweet Tooth at the beginning of the summer, the writers were presented with the question "What do we have here?" with the idea that they would mull over the various phrasings: what do we have HERE? What do WE have here? etc critically illuminate aspects of the city that the people living in it might not notice. Pulling out what is right, what is wrong, finding a greater message in the details is the aim of this publication.

Whatever we had here back at the beginning of the summer was suddenly battered, demolished and/or rebuilt with Hurricane Gustav, a storm which illuminated both our vulnerabilities and strengths as a community, and despite being turned into a giant brush pile overnight, I think the city is a stronger one for it. We've had to take a long look at what we do wrong and what we do right, at what we have here so that we can now assess what we want to do with it. Do we want to build on potentials of bike commuting? Do we want to tear down monuments crafted out of idealism? Do we want to support our local artists in a meaningful, tangible way so that they don't need to go elsewhere for support? Do we want to continue stepping forward without having to take the expected two steps backward? These are the questions we are posing to you, Baton Rouge, hoping that you come up with some good answers.

Alex V. Cook, Editor

"You guys don't know Don Williams?"

asks Lambchop's Kurt Wagner incredulously during his NPR Tiny Desk concert. Lambchop is not unlike this podcast, I wholeheartedly appreciate and support them it and I have been a long time subscriber but rarely remember to listen to them.

The Vic Chesnutt one starts with this poignant moment while he strums his guitar waiting for the producer to shut up so he can start playing, and continues in a sweet, tragicomedic parabola from the broken heart to the cosmos. Plus, mouth trumpet! which he uses to great and hilarious effect on his new album Dark Developments, which you should also check out. You can still not-really-like Elf Power who work with Chesnutt on this record and still love it - I kinda think Vic has an almost parasitic way with collaboration, taking over their whole system and slyly converting it into a means to project himself. He's like a virus that makes your band better.

"Glossilalia" is one of the highlights - Vic says Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) came over to his house and sang a melody to him, asking that he write words to it, and out of this came this touching song about lonely atheists living in crowded Christian world. You can hear it totally as NMH song, with soaring changes like jerking a car off the main road onto a gravel driveway, and Vic lives in the song quite well. I think a collaborative album between them would possibly be the best record ever, and given that the reclusive Mangum recently popped in on some Elf Power shows, it s not out of the realm of possibility. And if this post is somehow a letter to Santa that makes this collaboration appear, let me ask for cameos from Jonathon Meiburg from Shearwater and Antony from Antony and The Johnsons and you will have the ultimate Alex V. Cook Battle of the Male Indie Rock Divas album.

Oh, and bring them all back for a star studded version of Danzig's "Mother."

Here is a whole Shearwater concert if that sweetens the deal. I agree with Bob Boilen that Rook is one of the best records of the year. Thank you NPR! Almost makes me want to follow through on sending that pledge!