Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Push forward! The Ten Vinyl Albums of My 2014

I like to think I'm not a nostalgic person - push forward! - but my year defined by a growing vinyl habit says otherwise.

Here are the ten vinyl albums that defined my phonographic habit this year. Mostly 70s, overwhelmingly white and male - I know what ground I need to make up in 2015.

1. Drive-By Truckers - ENGLISH OCEANS

particularly the song "Hanging On" on side 2. It is a simple tune by DBT standards but it chokes me up a little with its frailty. 

2. Hot Tuna - HOT TUNA

One in a massive pile purchased from Dylan Bell, mostly for the back cover, but it jangles a note in every corner of the room.


Drew me dangerously into eBay. The congenial jangle and the laughing idiots on the motorcycle on the cover make me think of those I've had fortune to play music with this year, esp Lance Porter, Lewis Roussel, Leon LeJeune, Jamye St Romain, Anna Byars and Ben Bell.

4. Funkadelic - MAGGOT BRAIN

Back ages ago I realized the vast majority of the music I listened to was by white people and sought out this album to help correct it. Fortunately, Tess Brunet up at Lagniappe Records had it in stock when the condition returned.


Seduced by the elaborate package, it was one of the first times I listened to Elton John on my own volition rather than it just being on. He's pretty good, Elton is.

6, Bob Dylan- PLANET WAVES

In high school, I found myself defending Bob Dylan to my dad, who said, "Elton John, now there's a good singer." F Elton John, I thought. I tried to sell my daughter on Bob Dylan and I forget what she said about him, but it was funny. This album and NEW MORNING are my Dylan.


So simple. Talking about almost nothing. Piano tinkling. Tablas in a hypnotic telegraph from the universe. It's the best thing I listened to all year, the very year where Ashley left us.

8. Lyres - LYRES

Tremolo, scream, drum break, everything.

9. Sly & the Family Stone - THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON

Purchased and played on the day of the Ferguson verdict. Not on purpose, but it served one anyway. Sly became a gun-toting recluse, girded against The Man, during the recording of this, but didn't lose sight of the shared beauty of humanity that begat "Family Affair" - one of the world's greatest songs. You can be fearful and have a gun even. Just don't kill anyone.


I got to sing in a David Bowie tribute night and it pushed me forward in my singing. My daughter is baking herself in a Bowie-shaped pan pushing herself forward.  Push on in 2015. No cocaine necessary on that the 70s  took it all for us. Push forward!

Monday, December 8, 2014

three lovely records

Robert Ashley
In my quest to check out and listen to every cool LP in the LSU library before my contract dries up in May, I filled my brain with three lovely records from Lovely Music.

From their website:

Founded in 1978, Lovely Music is one of the longest-lived and most distinctive independent labels active in the recording and promotion of new American music. According to label founder Mimi Johnson, the label is “dedicated to releasing the best in avant-garde and experimental music, from electronics and computer music to new opera and extended vocal techniques.” Placing emphasis on the artist’s intent, Lovely Music recordings are always composer-supervised and produced.

  1. William Duckworth  - The Time Curve Preludes

    This is a powerhouse of minimalist piano (the repetitive kind), riffs and swells of notes that curl into the air like tulips taking their steps to the sun.

    The beauty of this work is that it has all the rigor and transcendence one wants  (if you are one that wants such things) but is also infused with humor. The above Prelude XXII has in it the DNA of "The Entertainer" as it does the connection tones of 1970s era phone trunk systems.

    Album at Lovely Music
  2. Alvin Lucier - Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas

    Alvin Lucier is maybe the truest of the experimental composers - his pieces could be performed in a physics lab, yet in some like his landmark I Am Sitting in a Room (a repeated text run through recordings of recordings of itself, gaining reverb of the room each time, to eliminate Lucier's stutter) and Silver Streetcar For The Orchestra (a persistently tinged triangle) there is a humor, albeit desert dry.

    Performed by Nick Hennies of the super cool Austin band Weird Weeds.

    In Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas, one may find merriment in the absurdist persistence of these works - largely about two tones extremely close in pitch - but more likely, annoyance that, if allowed, can transform into enlightenment. If you can swing that move, you have life covered.

    I once had an idea to write a book about phenomena as art, and emailed Alvin Lucier to ask to interview him for a chapter about his music. He responded:

    Dear Alex, I have lost interest in being interviewed for books and articles. It seems to me that you could study my work and write something more interesting that I could relay to you. You should do the work. I never say anything that seems complete and true. Cordially, Alvin Lucier

    Album at Lovely Music
  3. Robert Ashley - Private Parts (The Yard/The Backyard)

    This album is astounding. Robert Ashley's deal is about the spoken voice, almost informal music and the ordinary in our lives, and how when concentrated, they become something extraordinary. A friend of mine studied with him and said his music is "boring, but in a really good way" which has stuck with me forever.

    Robert Ashley, The Backyard

    Im on my third listen to this piece, with its guileless tablas, the digestive melodrama of the organ and ol' Robert droning on about how

    $14.28 is more attractive than fourteen dollars. It's just that way.

    Ashley's hypnotic voice feels magically profound. I want to walk around with those tablas going, narrating everything I see. Had Ashley lived, he could have made an app that just had simple music and his voice describing everything the phone camera sees. I might never turn such a thing off.

    Album at Lovely Music

Thursday, December 4, 2014

[Train whistle blows in the distance.]

One of Moebius' storyboards for Jodorowsky's proposed adaptation of Dune.

We got a DVD player for the first time in ages and here is what I watched:
  1. Jodorowski's Dune (2013)

    The infamous cinematic madman behind The Holy Mountain (trailer) and El Topo (full movie) comes off as the greatest liberal arts teacher mentor you never had, talking at length about a science fiction epic that never got made based on a book he never read.

    A friend told him the gist of Frank Herbert's Dune and he concocted a better Jesus myth rooted in the mysterious spice melange that turns a desert planet and a desert rat humanity into flowers of enlightenment.

    It made me want to go check out Dune from the library, not read it, and do something profound with my life.
  2. Mystery Train (1983)

    I openly admit to falling asleep to this movie every time I try to watch it, and I don't mean that as a dig. I fall asleep at movies. It's me, not you. But there is something about this film that drifts into my consciousness, how it strands my thoughts in the deadbeat crypto-Memphis of Jim Jarmusch's creation.

    I had the subtitles on and it seemed like every time I nodded back into it I saw

                    [Train whistle blows in the distance.]

    on the screen. I'd watch (and fall asleep to) a movie that just had a black screen with that written on it. If I were as brave or wild as Jodorowsky, I'd make that film.
  3. This is Spinal Tap (1984)

    The is Spinal Tap is one of those movies embedded in my cultural DNA that I think I may never have seen first-hand. I did the responsible thing and watched it with my daughter who made it half way through. The next morning she asked me if the drummer died. The whole experience went to eleven.