In addition to album reviews and music/art/culture essays, I'm going to start putting the playlists of stuff I spin on the Other Music show on KZUM on here, along with some amplification (pardon the pun) about each band/composer/artist should you want to investigate further. So: here's my first playlist.
1. The Diplomat's Shadow pt. 2 by Paul Sturm, from The Diplomat's Shadow. 2000, self-released. 4:12
I heard about Paul Sturm's work while living in Bloomington, Indiana. Will Devitt, who is one of the guitarists featured on the album, gave me this CD. The music is microtonal electric guitars and percussion--if you like Rhys Chatam or Glenn Branca's works for large electric guitar ensembles, you are likely to truly adore this disc. Personally, I like this disc more than most of Branca's work I've heard--there are more intricacies to explore in the layers, and a much larger dynamic range. While using a similar palette, Sturm achieves many satisfying moments of thoughtfulness, and even peace, amidst moments of bombastic abandon. It's hard to find more information on Sturm, but fortunately he's maintained a website where you can order the disc: http://www.paulsturm.com/
2. Futuro Futuro by Whales and Cops, from Great Bouncing Icebergs. 2008, High Two. 3:12
Whales and Cops is a relatively new band from Philly, featuring some Man Man alumni. So far, they've just released this EP on High Two, but it's a killer, and I can't wait for more. They remind me of some of the brightest moments of the Philly avant-rock scene, with lots of fun and joy mixed with Krautrock and electronica influences. Highly recommended.
3. Uai-Uai - Revolta Queto-Xamba 1832 by Tom Ze, from Danc-Eh-Sa Danca Dos Herdeiros Do Sacrificio. 2007, Tratore. 3:46
I'm somewhat obsessed with the music of Tom Ze, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about him on this blog in the future. For now, just enjoy how this track manages to balance its Brazillian heritage with an almost Residents-sounding wave of sound. This album is perhaps not the most "representative" of the Tom Ze sound, but it's a great listen.
4. Chicken in Your Face by SWEET SNACKS, from Submit to the Chip. 2009 Fridge Magnet Records. 2:31
The Sweet Snacks are a side project of one of my favorite bands, the Japonize Elephants. Where the Elephants focus on bluegrass instrumentation and chanson-prog vibes, the Snacks play infectious electronica with hilarious lyrics. It's not a "deep" album, but it's a lot of fun. See for yourself:
5. 14ourteen by Silencio, from Dead Kings. 2004 Mountain Collective. 3:15
Silencio seems to have broken up several years ago. If you're into John Zorn's Naked City project, though, you'll really love their album. Maybe they could be contacted through their myspace?
6. The Next Stab by Seductive Sprigs, from s/t EP. 2006 FNA Records. 2:54
Seductive Sprigs dates back to the mid-00s, and was a collaboration between Charlie Looker and Matthew Hough, who were both members of Zs at the time. All they ever released was this 2-song EP, which is stylistically along the lines of Charlie's Extra Life band. It's amazing to hear how Looker continued to explore and further refine his approach in subsequent Zs and Extra Life releases.
7. Copernicus by Power Animal, from People Songs. 2010 Waaga Records. 3:55
I don't know much about Power Animal, but their album sounds to me like a satisfying blend of the Philly avant-rock scene with an introspective Animal Collective vibe. I'll be checking them out in the future, for sure.
8. by Omoide Hatoba, from Osaka Ra. 2004 Dako Vynal Fantastia. 3:36
Omoide Hatoba is a side project of long-term Boredoms guitarist Seichii Yamamoto that ultimately developed a long life of its own. Their recorded history has loosely followed the stylistic arc of the Boredoms themselves, transitioning from noise and punk influences toward gentler textures with a psychedelic influence. However, Omoide Hatoba generally adheres to relatively conventional pop song formats and lengths. There's just something a little more approachable going on with Omoide Hatoba, and I've always preferred their discography to the Boredoms by just a little.
9. Urine, The Money by Milk Cult, from Burn or Bury. 1994 Priority Records. 3:35
Milk Cult was a side project of the 90s powerhouse Steel Pole Bathtub. Milk Cult's output, though, is much closer to my usual tastes. The "middle" Milk Cult albums, which I would count as this record and Love God, are a blend of samples, grunge, industrial, and creativity that I really enjoy. They don't sound as dated as that description might imply, although some of the samples used are redolent of the 90s for me: one track uses the drum intro from Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice," for example. Nonetheless, I did my share of semi-coordinated bouncing around to this album over the years, and it still reveals an occasional secret on repeated listens.
10. A Cloud No Bigger than a Man's Head by Cerberus Shoal, from Bastion of Itchy Preeves. 2004 North East Indie. 8:07
Cerberus Shoal is/was one of my favorite bands, and I'm sure we'll be returning to them for further consideration in the future. I first heard this track playing through the house PA at Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines before a Kayo Dot/Frankenixon show (way back on the Choirs of the Eye tour, and before Frankenixon changed their name to The Sword of Exactly). What a great show that was, and what perfect intro music Cerberus Shoal proved to be. I think Cerberus Shoal really hit their stride on their last three records, and although they still exist as the folksy "Fire on Fire" band, I really miss the wild combination of influences that informed the Shoal at their peak: psychedelia, 20th C. classical, Krautrock, Canterbury, folk, Captain Beefheart and more all peer out through new eyes.
11. Study No. 29 by Conlon Nancarrow, from Studies for Player Piano, Vol IV. 1999 Wergo. 4:02
Conlon Nancarrow remains a best-kept secret from the post WWII-classical tradition. Though he did attain some attention near the end of his career, I think that a wider audience has yet to hear this stuff. If and when they do, his status among 20th C. composers will surely soar. The player piano "studies" are fascinating miniatures that manage to incorporate a bunch of music nerd technical ideas into compositions that are mostly fun to hear. If you're into counterpoint, these are essential: it's one of the few places to hear anyone attempt multiple meters and tempi at once, modulating tempi, etc. But if you're not into the technical side of things, just know that many of these pieces sound like mashups of ragtime and blues piano with sinister-sounding riffs that build toward glorious densities of 8-bit video game chaos--and all done with pairs of souped-up player pianos. The player piano approach was a creative approach toward the production of music difficult, and often impossible, to be played by human hands, and it's a fascinating antecedent to the kinds of issues electronic composers and computer musicians continue to address today.