playlist from 9-26-10

This week, I'm going to try something new: if you miss(ed) the show, and still want to hear these tracks while you read this stuff, click here for a zip file of (most of) the playlist.  I may not do this every week, and may not include every track I play on the show, but this might be a fun way for people to check out music they haven't heard.  Let me know if you find it helpful!

I also put up zip files for my previous shows.  They're updated at the end of each show's blog post, but here they are in one place, too:


Now, back to our regularly scheduled mini-reviewing...

1. Black Black by Masses.  From Unreleased, Smother Nature sessions.

Masses is one of my favorite local bands, and if they continue to live up to their name so well, they won't be local for long.  This cut will probably be released on vinyl soon--I hear rumors of a tasty 10'' format (save me a couple of extra 10'' plastic sleeves, dudes--nobody around here sells 'em).

I don't like "post-rock" as a genre name because it isn't a descriptive term.  What should "post-rock" sound like?  I suppose Masses generally falls into this category as the term is currently used, but I think their music transcends the genre.  Sure, it's instrumental, guitar-based music, and it features the dramatic shifts in volume one associates with "post-rock," but there are other elements at play, both subtle and overt.  Masses manages a lot of dynamic control with subtle alterations in texture, for example, rather than always going for the "distorted/clean" switcharoo so common in the genre.  They're better at building and sustaining drone-based passages without losing musical momentum than most of their peers.  Melodic movement doesn't always take place with the highest notes being played.  Ultimately, you have the textural vocabulary of guitar-oriented bands like Ocean, but with the compositional control of a band more like Godspeed You! Black Emperor.  And they're snappy dressers.

2. A Man To Hide by Time Of Orchids.  From Sarcast While, 2005, Tzadik.

I am a huge fan of almost everything Time of Orchids released, but this track is surely one of the high points of their recorded career.  Each of their first three full-lengths features a fantastic guest artist: Marilyn Crispell on Melonwhisper, Kate Pierson on Much Too Much Fun, and the incredible Julee Cruise on Sarcast While.  This is my favorite of the tracks featuring Julee Cruise, whose voice you might remember from David Lynch projects like Blue Velvet or the Twin Peaks theme.

This is one of those songs that can take listeners through a novel's worth of drama in less than ten minutes, and it's hard to describe.  So listen to it for yourself:

3. Look At My Hawk by Make A Rising.  From Rip Through The Hawk Black Night, 2005, High Two.

This is another of my favorite bands from the incredible avant-rock Philly scene.  The music seems to have a "legit" classical/jazz background in places while spending lots of time in psych and Krautrock passages, too.  I love the arranging in this band--lots of instruments make appearances, but generally things are gathered into really effective "chamber groups" within the bigger ensemble.  The group also manages to balance impulses of being silly with being more serious sounding at times.

It's been a while since Make a Rising released an album, and members have moved away from Philly, but plans for a third album are still moving forward.

4. To Composer John Cage by Anthony Braxton.  From For Alto, 1969, Delmark.

For Alto is one of those classic albums whose influence on subsequent musicians is hard to measure.  If you haven't heard it, the title is quite literal: Braxton plays solo alto saxophone over 73 minutes, divided into 8 compositions named for folks Braxton admired.  Braxton's original liner notes for the album weren't used, but are available to read online from his label.  Having read some of his more recent texts, these were some oddly random notes!

This is one of those albums that creates its own world, its own rules, and its own language/grammar/syntax.  It might take a while to "break through," but once you do it's endlessly satisfying.  And I think Braxton is tragically underrated as a player--he plays the crap out of his horn on this album, with a lot more fire and passion than many folks touted as "masters."

Then again, you don't have to "get it" to love it, either.  It's a great album if you just want to hear a guy totally shredding on alto, too.  And an old pet of mine, a tabby cat named Mazzy, was positively entranced by this album and no other.  Whenever I would put it on, she would drop whatever she was doing, leap onto the top of a speaker, and lay her head out in front of the speaker to positively bathe in the music.  She never did it with any other record, but it happened several times with this one.  I wish I would've taken a picture.

I understand that Braxton intended each piece on this record to focus on different aspects of his new language: trills, multiphonics, "sheets of sound" ala Coltrane, and so on.  Notably, John Zorn used a somewhat similar approach on his (mostly) solo alto sax albums "Classic Guide To Strategy," Volumes 1 and 2.  Those are also great records to check out if you like this album.

5. Temptation by Either / Orchestra. From The Half-Life of Desire, 1994, Accurate Records.

Either/Orchestra is a really fun group, but I chose this song especially for the guest singer: Mark Sandman, best known as the frontman of the "low rock" trio Morphine.  Sandman delivers a great performance on this track, which evokes a bit of his band's approach mixed with a film noir vibe.  There are some great details in the production of this recording that help to establish its atmosphere, too: listen for the horn parts that interject with a very dry tone, and how disorienting they are on the rest of the reverbed-out mix.

6. My Prostate by Andrew d'Angelo. From Morthana With Pride, 2005, Doubtmusic.

This is a great slice of jazz/noise/skronk from the d'Angelo camp.  Mike Pride's vocal performance on this track really puts it over the top, as his vocal performances often do, while his drum work adds to the already crazy drumming of Morten Olsen.  Above it all, d'Angelo's alto sax squeals and gyrates and gets down, with the guitar work of Anders Hana adding somewhat violent punctuation with a punk approach.  This is kind of an unusual album, collectively, for the players it features, but it's proof that they can hang with bands like Zu or its related project Black Engine with bravado to spare.

Andrew d'Angelo has had a rough couple of years recently, ultimately requiring brain surgery.  Fortunately, he's on the mend and making great music again.

You're probably going to have a hard time finding a copy of this album now, but it features some really great packaging that I thought I'd share:


7. Novella by Noah Creshevsky.  From Hyperrealism: Electroacoustic Music, 2003, Mutable Music.

I've just been listening to Creshevsky's music for a few months, and I don't now how I feel about it yet.  I like the underlying philosophy of his "hyperrealism" approach, essentially making tight edits between lots of different performances and layers of performances to create an artificial but highly detailed sonic space, but I'm not sure if his music actually lives up to the philosophy.  There are moments where I think it works and creates one of those artificial but dreamscape-esque more-than-real moments, but at other times the edits seem too obvious to my ears, and the montage technique becomes more obvious than its desired effect.  Is there a way to intentionally make jarring edits and multitrack juxtapositions without drawing attention to the edits themselves?  To place the emphasis on the newly-created sound world?  I think there is, but it's been done better on albums like The Getty Address by the Dirty Projectors.  Maybe I'm just spoiled by that album, but it seems exponentially more successful as an artistic (emotional) statement than the couple of Creshevsky albums I've digested so far.  In fact, the sax punches in the Either/Orchestra track above also work toward this goal of creating a new "hyperreal" soundspace, like film noir within a dream layer.

Perhaps the issue is one of compositional intent.  When I listen to something like The Getty Address, I get the impression that the music was created to elicit emotional responses--to emote, to express.  In contrast, Creshevsky is coming from the academic music tradition, and I don't get the same emotional impression.  Instead, the music seems to exist for its own aesthetics, or for the sake of following its processes to their logical conclusion(s).  Is that enough?  I suppose it is, but for me it's the difference between "interesting" and "incredible" in terms of my relationship to the music.

And maybe part of the issue relates to the origins of the music.  Creshevsky is combining pre-existing recordings in new ways, wheras Dave Longstreth wrote and recorded his own music for the Getty Address, to ultimately put through a similar process of "recombination" later.  That approach certainly makes for a more personal kind of music.


On reading gigantic books


Will I lose these 10 pounds by springtime?

I bumped into my good buddy Cliff a couple of weeks ago, and he got me thinking about "giant books."  He said that he has a list of large-form novels he's wanted to read for years, but he's been intimidated by their size and scope.  But now he finished one and loved it, and he's hungry for more.

I don't know if the change of the seasons inspired me somehow, but I too am excited about giant novels since this conversation. I decided to read some giant novels I've missed over the years and re-read a few I haven't read since college.  So I've stocked up on giant books for winter, like some kind of alopecic indoor squirrel.

Here's my list for the season:

William Gaddis - The Recognitions.  Never read it.  If I end up liking it, I'll add JR to my list, too.
William Gass - The Tunnel.  Never read it, but I'm impressed with the 30-year backstory on its composition.
James Joyce - Ulysses.  Read it in college, but it's been a while.
David Foster Wallace - Infinite Jest.  Read in college, loved it, looking forward to entering that world again.
Joseph McElroy - Women and Men.  Never read.
Malcom Lowry - Under the Volcano.  Never read but heard it described as "a Mexican Ulysses."  Sounds great!
Richard Powers - The Gold Bug Variations.  Never read it, but I've read some other books by Powers that I really liked.

Along with some other reading I'm already doing, I imagine these will be more than enough for the season.  But if I finish those, I'll add:

Gilbert Sorrentino: Mulligan Stew.  Never read.
David Markson: Wittgenstein's Mistress.  Never read.

When I was talking with Cliff about huge books, I remarked how I would highly recommend reading them straight through, instead of feeling like you need to stop and look up every reference you don't already understand, keep track of every detail, etc.  Just get in the flow and read, and if you admire the overall work enough, you can always go back and read again to pull out more details.

I've heard lots of folks talk about how intimidating Ulysses and Infinite Jest are over the years, and I always got the impression they felt like they had to pull in every detail and layer as they read.  Indeed, that could make for an unpleasant and time consuming assignment.  But I guarantee you that if you like reading, simply reading the books straight through, staying with their internal pace and flow instead of hesitating, they're incredibly fun to read.

Huge books are like little universes all their own.  And no one expects you to "understand" a universe as a prerequsite to enjoyment or participation in it.  All of those details have to be there to create the universe, but just like getting through a typical day can be a complex barrage of sensory input, your brain can filter out the parts that aren't critical to your immediate experience.

But don't take my word for it.  Consider this great observation by William Gass from his introduction to Gaddis' Recognitions, which I think could apply to the reading of any large book:

"There's no need for haste, the pages which lie ahead of you will lie ahead of you for as long as you like them to; it is perfectly all right if some things are at first unclear, and if there are references you don't recognize; just go happily on; we don't stay in bed all day, do we? just because we've mislaid our appointment calendar.  No, we need to understand this book--enjoy its wit, its irony, its erudition, its sensuous embodiment--the way we understand a spouse we have lived with and listened to and loved for many years through al their nights.  Persons deserving such devotion and instinctual appreciation are rare; rarer still are the works which are worth it."

Or consider Mortimer Adler's perspective, co-author of the classic How to Read a Book:

"Dear Dr. Adler,
To tell you the truth, I find the so-called great books very difficult to read. I am willing to take your word for it that they are great. But how am I to appreciate the them if they are too hard for me to read? Can you give me some helpful hints on how to read a hard book?

THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE about reading is one that I have told my great books seminars again and again: In reading a difficult book for the first time, read the book through without stopping. Pay attention to what you can understand, and don't be stopped by what you can't immediately grasp on this way. Read the book through undeterred by the paragraphs, footnotes, arguments, and references that escape you. If you stop at any of these stumbling blocks, if you let yourself get stalled, you are lost. In most cases you won't be able to puzzle the thing out by sticking to it. You have better chance of understanding it on a second reading, but that requires you to read the book through for the first time.
This is the most practical method I know to break the crust of a book, to get the feel and general sense of it, and to come to terms with its structure as quickly and as easily as possible. The longer you delay in getting some sense of the over-all plan of a book, the longer you are in understanding it. You simply must have some grasp of the whole before you can see the parts in their true perspective -- or often in any perspective at all."


You can read the rest of Adler's commentary here.

My only concern now is keeping my bike upright as I transport these mammoths around while reading them!


Books on creativity


I've had the "writer's block" bug toward working on music for a while.  In my case, I think that most of the problem is simply angst about learning new software, but while I'm gearing up to enter a new phase of musical productivity, I've been revisiting some books about creativity and finding/maintaining inspiration.  Here are some mini-reviews of creativity-oriented books I've found useful at different times, loosely divided by angle of attack (art versus philosophy versus "pop"/business):

From the perspective of art

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
Probably like many folks, I was required to read this book for a college class, but it's one of the best required books I've ever read.  Goldberg's advice is generally directed at stimulating creative writing, but I've found that the basic ideas apply to all kinds of creative pursuits.  As a young ruffian, I found her advice at writing in restaurants really useful for developing relationships with places that will let you linger a while: treat your time there tip-wise like a "booth rental" instead of leaving a tiny tip on a cup of coffee, for example.  And I was pleased to discover the work of Russell Edson in her chapter on his brand of strange literary transformations.

The only negative aspect of this book is that I think the ideas generally apply better to short forms of creativity: poems, short stories, song lyrics, etc.  And it's good for ideas to generate new creative material.  However, it doesn't spend much time addressing the different skill sets needed to organize these creative impressions into larger kinds of formats like novels.  To be fair, that really applies to most of the books in this post, though--it seems that books on creativity are largely designed to get you "in the zone," and you can consult more formal resources if you need helping making sense of these ideas in a more ambitious format.

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

Nebraska's own painter, thinker, and leader of the Ashcan School of painting, Henri's book focuses mostly on the act of painting.  A good portion of the text gets somewhat technical in terms of visual art.  However, quite a bit applies to creativity in general.  The reader can pull what amount to aphorisms out of many sections of the work:

"Cherish your own emotions and never undervalue them."

"We are not here to do what has already been done."

"The study of art is the study of the relative value of things."

"No vacillating or uncertain interest can produce a unity."

Good stuff.  It's great to have such a heritage from nearby.

A Book of Surrealist Games, by Alastair Brotchie and Mel Gooding

The concepts in this book are absolutely essential for all artists to explore, in my opinion.  The surrealist games highlight various different modes of finding associations between seemingly disparate items in art, and in the world.  New relationships are discovered both between items in-the-world, and between different artists/people who might collaborate on the games.
I have played surrealist games since college in a variety of formats, and with people from many walks of life, and the results never fail to amaze me in the specific, or inspire me more generally.  I have played most of the games in this book, and also designed some games using music (recorded and performed) that are analogous to the original literary and visual art-based games.  I'll get into these in detail, including some resources to run your own surrealist game-based parties, in a later post.

From the perspective of psychology/spirituality

Quantum Psychology by Robert Anton Wilson

Wilson's book generally explores various ways that our minds work, as well as the limits to relatively traditional interpretations of logic.  I could see this book as a valuable resource for the general public as well as those creatively inclined, as its contents help to put various kinds of "normal" suppositions into a larger context.  For creative folks, though, the "exercizes" following each chapter help make the concepts introduced throughout the book into concrete, useful experiences.  In particular, speaking in Korzybski's "E-prime" for a couple of weeks can truly transform your feeling of place in the world (though some of the language shortcuts you'll be compelled to use also have a habit of turning opinions into facts).

books by James Hollis: The Archetypal Imagination, Tracking the Gods, and Creating a Life: Finding Your Own Individual Path

I've only been reading Hollis for a few years, but I've been helped tremendously by his work, especially his "Tracking the Gods" book.  Hollis is a Jungian psychologist and instructor, and his books help to contextualize the power of myth in everyday life toward the formation and nurture of a "personal mythology."  Once you have a grip on some of the things most important to you every day, you have a powerful understanding of your creative priorities.  The books can be a little dry in places, but they're short, potent reads around 150 ass-kicking pages each.  Highly recommended not only for creative motivation, but for balance and context within everyday life.

The Principia Discordia

This book is essentially a religious document for a made up (?) religion, but like the Robert Anton Wilson book (who himself has ties to the Discordian movement), this text help to turn your preconceived notions on their many heads.  Banishing the Curse of Greyface from your life can't hurt in the quest for creativity and fun.  We Discordians, though, must stick apart.

Zen Without Zen Masters by Camden Benares

Benares is another member of the Discordian movement, and his book is formatted as a set of "Western-Zen" aphorisms/koans that help to cut through some of the artificial elements of modern consumer-culture life.  It's a great supplement to the Principia and the RAW book.

From the perspective of "pop" and business literature

Astonish Yourself!  101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life by Roger-Pol Droit

This book disposes of the chapter-contents in Wilson's book and goes straight to "excercizes."  Each of it's "experiments" gives a setup describing the anticipated time, props, and effects related to the experiment, followed by instructions and general observations.  Many of the experiments take very little time and energy to attempt while providing some unique insights into our everyday behaviors and expectations for "reality."  These might be fun to incorporate into a surrealist game party...

A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink

This is another book I had to read for a class, but I honestly didn't find it very good.  While it's an interesting survey of how creative (Pink calls it "r-directed") thinking can be incorporated into everyday life and business endeavors, it's only skims the surface compared to many of the books listed below.  However, it does have some good ideas, and it's very easy to read, so if you find some of these other materials headache-inducing, this might be a useful book for you.  I did especially like the last section, dedicated to the notion of "meaning," which largely focuses on incorporating joy and happiness into your life.  In many cases, folks look at "serious" art as generally having a somewhat sad/morbid/depressed disposition, but it's important to remember that being happy doesn't have to equate to being shallow.

The Brain Workout Book by Snowdon Parlette

This book splits the difference between Daniel Pink's book and Roger-Pol Droit's book, containing some general information on modes of thinking and acting interspersed with exercises to try yourself.  Like the Pink book, it's a little on the light side for my tastes, but the contents are nutritious.  I like that it seems to have more of a pop psychology angle compared to Pink's book, which is clearly marketed more to business folks.

A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech

This book is probably the most well-known "classic" of the pop-creativity genre, but it's a good one.  Like Pink's book, it seems to be marketed toward business folks who want more creativity in their work and lives, but it does have some interesting observations.  I like the ways in which it takes seemingly "weird" ideas and puts them into contexts that might actually be useful to more straight-forward folks, and some of those basic ideas do apply to purely creative endeavors, too.  In particular, I think many artists could benefit on the "Avoid Ambiguity" section, which also might help toward the creation of a clear voice and discipline for longer forms of art.

Read on, and Create on!  If you have any more recommendations, I'd love to hear them in the comments...I left out some music-centric books I was thinking of, too, so maybe another creativity book post should happen in the future...


Playlist from 9-19-10

1. Subliminal by They Might Be Giants.  John Henry, 1994 Electra.

John Henry was released following TMBG's most commercially successful record, Flood.  Though I don't get the impression from others that it's a fan favorite, I've always admired this record the most.  Like other TMBG albums, many styles/genres are pulled into the recording, but I really loved how much fuller the arrangements on this full-band recording became.  My favorite Giants song of all, "No One Knows My Plan," would make this my favorite record alone, but it's truly a solid play all the way though.

By the way, this song leads the playlist this week in tribute to the person or persons putting up the cell phone conspiracy posters downtown, such as this gem:

2. Here is Why by Mike Keneally.  Hat, 1993 Guitar Recordings.

I really adore this first "solo" album by Mike Keneally.  The songwriting is great, his guitar and piano playing and singing are technically impressive and deeply emotional, and then he still manages to interject some more abstract/goofy music like this track into the sequence.  I think it's great that folks like Keneally got to work with Frank Zappa, absorb some of his vibe directly, and then continue to evolve beyond the Zappa style as their careers continued.  Keneally might have been one of the last folks to make that journey, but he had great company like Steve Vai and Adrian Belew.

Here's a little taste of Keneally's more recent music, taken from his most recent album, 2009's Scambot:

3. Hymn by Cerberus Shoal.  Tailor of Graves/Hymn 7,’’  2010 Eternal Otter Records.

We covered Cerberus Shoal a few weeks ago, but I'll add that this track is part of a new 7'' release by Eternal Otter this spring.  Both tracks on this release are from the as-yet-unreleased "An Ongoing Ding" recording, which I'd sure love to hear in its entirety!

4. Quaalude to a Kiss by Stolen Kisses.  Motionless and White, 2003 self-released.

Stolen Kisses were an Omaha-based band in the mid 00s whom I really miss.  I first saw them play as "The Matt Foley," and a couple of tracks from that era made it to this full-length release.  Kramer has a great writing style, reaches for interesting melodies, and generally writes some of the best lyrics I've ever encountered in the Midwest.  Fortunately, he's still at it, though he's moved to Chicago and tearing through band names there:  his Kramer vs Kramer just became Slushy.

5. Working for the Man by PJ Harvey.  From To Bring You My Love, 1995 Island.

My favorite track from my favorite PJ Harvey album seems very minimal at first, but there are layers hidden in the near-silence.  Listen for subtle background guitars, some parts "picked" with paint brushes, and distorted tones that take basic blues ideas in new directions.  This track creates an incredible film noir kind of atmosphere, building tension higher and higher with, ultimately, very little in the way of release.  Which I love--not every song has to take us into rising action and lay us to rest just beyond denouement.  This one pulls you onto your feet, and you have to go out and finish the story on your own.

6. Forbidden Fruit (Variations for Voice, String Quartet and Turntable) by John Zorn.  From Spillane, 1987 Elektra Nonesuch.

One of my favorite compositions from my favorite composer John Zorn, Forbidden Fruit dates from Zorn's classic "file card" era, where many of his compositions were created as a series of related "images" or brief impressions set to music.  For the formalists among us, this piece does have a somewhat formal theme and variation format if you listen hard enough.  According to Zorn, there are four sets of 12 variations on 12 themes--a lot of activity for a ten minute composition. But some of these variations appear to happen stacked atop one another: The Kronos Quartet might be playing one set while Christian Marclay's turntable spins several others above them, or scratches them between them.  In many spots, it is difficult to decide what is "real" and what is pre-recorded, an idea that was probably more interesting in 1987 than it would be to listeners today.  Fortunately, the piece is simply amazing aside from those extramusical considerations, bouncing wildly from meditative to violent passages.  In contrast to the PJ Harvey track we just discussed, this composition takes the listener through a rapid, almost disorienting, series of tension and release arcs, more times than most folks are prepared to handle in a day.  I first heard this in high school, and it left a lasting impression that I still can't fully put into words.  Just listen.

7. Grow Sound Tree by OOIOO.   From Gold & Green, 2005 Thrill Jockey.

OOIOO is another wonderful Boredoms side project, this one run by percussionist Yoshimi P-We.  Like the Boredoms themselves, and other side projects like Omoide Hatoba, this group's music has evolved over time from a somewhat punk/noise-influenced beginning to more of a psychedelic/trance approach.  This album sits squarely in the center of that transition, with a few moments of aggression, but elements of long compositions with gradual transitions dominating the approach.  I especially like the moments of harmony singing on this album, including a few that happen in this song, as they're some of the most transcendent moments--well placed releases of tension--in any music I've heard.

Lucky us, there is an official video for this track!

Zip file of the playlist.


playlist from 9-12-2010

1. Holiday by Tom Jones.  From Mr. Jones, 2002, V2.

The Mr. Jones album was really popular in Europe in 2003, where Tom Jones continues to have almost the same level of popularity he enjoyed here in the 60s/70s.  This album was never released in the US, but I was fortunate to pick up a copy of this record--and hear tracks from it blasting from practically every other store--during a trip to Italy that spring.

Maybe they should've marketed this record differently for US markets--rather than call it a Tom Jones record, maybe it's a new Fugees record with TJ on vocals?  Really, that's what it sounds like--those undulating postreggae rhythms one expects from Wyclef Jean are all over this album, and it sounds truly phenomenal.

Here's the video for the lead track from the album.  It's a keeper, for a multitude of both serious and ironic reasons:

2. Act Of Being Polite and N-Err-Gee (Crisis Blues) by Amy Denio and Ubzub. From Eyesore: A Stab At The Residents, 1996, Vaccination Records.

I love lots of music from Amy Denio's career--solo albums, her early work with Curlew, the Tone Dogs, and the Science Group, etc.  This track, though, hit me from left field back in '96, as the most beautiful and haunting track on a Residents tribute album already loaded with talent.  Denio really breathes some space and "human feel" into the Residents, a feat I wasn't sure was possible before hearing this album.  Great arrangement, great performance, etc etc etc.

3. Hambu Hodo by Renaldo & The Loaf. From The Elbow is Taboo, 1987, Some Bizarre.

While I'm in Residents territory, here's one of my favorite tracks from Renaldo & the Loaf, the duo who was signed to the Residents Ralph Records label in 1981 for the release of Songs for Swinging Larvae. This isn't one of my favorite Renaldo & the Loaf tracks, but somehow I thought it would be really complimentary to the Denio track--more human feel and playfullness in a genre that often became rigid and inhuman. 

If you like this track, though, definitely get into more Renaldo--their albums are mostly "organic" instruments and voice captured on tape, in contrast to the synthesizer-based work of the Residents. Yet they manage to make some amazingly synth and sample-sounding music with their modest instruments, especially impressive when considered in their time period. And the vocals on all of their albums are fantastic in a mind-altering overdubbed sort of way.

Here's one of my favorite Renaldo & the Loaf tracks in video form, but a warning: the video is fairly disturbing. And I suppose music like this, that's so uncomfortable on so many levels, should feature uncomfortable videos, too.

4. The Elmination Of Incompentence by The Flying Luttenbachers From Infection And Decline, 2002 Troubleman Unlimited

I'm a big fan of the Flying Luttenbachers "brutal prog" compositional period, which extends roughly from this album through 2007's Incarceration by Abstraction. Drummer Weasel Walter composed a series of records made of increasingly sophisticated classically-influenced figures, but performed them with the intensity of a free jazz loft-fest and the tone and attitude of a metal band. There really wasn't anything to compare them to at their best--kind of a Conlon Nancarrow meets Gorguts or something?

This album featured a trio configuration, which included Lincoln native Jonathan Hischke on "air bass," assumedly the higher-pitched sections of bass playing compared to the "earth bass" of Alex Perkolup.

Walter, who was a major figure in Chicago's No Wave scene, wrote and performed the "brutal prog" music mostly from California. Now he's moved on to NYC, where he's focussed on free improvisation. Though he's good at everything he does, I must admit that I really wish he'd continue with the Luttenbachers.

5. Tartine De Contrebasse by Igorrr. From Poisson Soluble, 2010 Impulsive Art (first official release).

I was delighted to receive the 2-LP Igorrr release a couple of weeks ago, after its long journey from Greece.  Continued listenings have yet to disappoint.  Check out this post for some more observation on Igorrr and this release.
6. Bodies In Motion by Laurie Anderson.  From Homeland, 2010, Nonesuch.

I wish that I would have followed Laurie Anderson's career more carefully over the years.  Every time I hear something of hers, I find that I have to stop and listen.  And maybe that's a general feature of her music: it forces you to slow down, sit down, meet it up close and at its own pace, and breathe a bit before parting ways.  This track is no different, even though it has more of a mid-tempo Bill Laswell vibe in the percussion treatments than most of her work, and it features the signature "I'm on somebody's pop record" reverbed-out sax squawks of John Zorn in the back of the mix.

Here's somebody's video for the track:


The Show is the Rainbow - First Recordings

No radio show tonight--KZUM does a "blues weekend" every Labor Day weekend, so...

here's something even better: with Darren's blessing, some music to check out on your own.

The Show is the Rainbow's first two EPs are out of print and the label is no more, though you can still take a gander at the old Suckapunch Records website for reverie's sake.  Back in late 2002/early 2003, which feels like it was several lifetimes ago, Darren Keen was the insane guitarist/showman in a really fun rock-trio called Musico.  At Darren's request, my band, Shinyville, played our first show with them at the 49r in Omaha way back then.  Then Musico broke up, and Darren started working on a new solo project that ultimately became The Show is the Rainbow.  He played some early shows with the project at strange little places around Lincoln and Omaha like The Point After, and really started to develop his stage persona.  At the time, he didn't have a recording setup, but he was producing synth-based tracks in Reason and burning them to CD to sing/freak out over them for shows.  Though the gear I had was quite modest and lo-fi, too, I absolutely adored the new music and offered to help with tracking vocals and any extra "real instrument" parts at my little shoebox studio setup in the tiny bedroom of an apartment near the capitol building.

Darren took me up on the offer, and we spent the occasional evening over a month or so tracking vocals, eating salmon, and playing Smash TV on NES.  Party hard, right?  The recordings weren't multitracked in the "usual" way: Darren brought over stereo mixes of his instrumental material produced in Reason, then I loaded those onto ZIP discs (remember those?) for my old VS840 recorder, and we added vocals to the pre-existing mixes.  It makes for tricky mixing at the end, since there's no way to go back and adjust levels on any of the instrumental stuff.  Fortunately, Darren already had a really good ear for that sort of thing, and did a great job of anticipating the needed levels, so you can hear a lot of the very detailed instrumental stuff going on in the backing tracks.

Almost everything is Darren, though I do some falsetto background vocals on "401k" and a bit of banjo on "barry, barry, barry, save us!" and my wife plays some trombone on "401k."  I think the three of us made some fake restaurant foley sounds on "down the drain," too.

From those recording sessions, five tracks were selected and mastered to become 2003's "Barry Sure Wrote a Lot of Songs About the Girls He's Loved."  A few other tracks were later re-recorded in CA and released on the follow-up EP "Correcting Dog Behavior Problems Using Dog Radartron."  Finally, a few tracks exist that were created for a potential split EP, where Darren would play a couple of Shinyville songs, and Shinyville would play a couple of Show is the Rainbow songs.

Anyway, here are the original tracks from those early 2003 sessions. These are unmastered, but they sound pretty good considering the various circumstances mentioned above.  And sorry that these are .m4a instead of .mp3 files, but I archived a bunch of stuff as .aac "back in the day."  They'll play just fine in iTunes.

The Show is the Rainbow - First Recordings

Darren has continued to do some amazing work with The Show is the Rainbow, has toured around the world multiple times, and continues to grow exponentially as a musician.  I would highly recommend checking out his latest two full-lengths Wet Fist and Gymnasia.



Igorrr's recent 2xLP reissue of his first two albums is likely to be my favorite record of 2010.  I've been listening to the two records captured on this release in digital versions for the last few years, and the music never leaves my mind, or my playlists, for longer than a week.

This is genre-hopping stuff at its finest.  I was exposed to Mr. Bungle and John Zorn's Naked City recordings at a young age, and as a result, montage approaches to music have long been very dear to me.  On some level, maybe this is ironic: I strongly dislike "watching stuff," ala movies and television, and many composers of music like this describe their intentions as creating a sort of "audio movie," where time is decorated with the kinds of jumps and edits one finds much more common in film work than music.  For that matter, I'm a huge fan of William S. Burroughs, whose cut-up writings go for a similar effect with literature.

Both of these albums have a similar compositional approach and sound, making them a perfect fit for issuing together.  It's hard to describe what music like this sounds like, as montage music by its nature incorporates a wide range of styles.  But imagine if Naked City had been a one-person breakcore project rather than a live band, and you'll be pretty close.  All of the tracks incorporate electronic music, particularly for percussion and editing styles, but many other genres, including classical fugues, jazz, waltzes, native american music, rock, metal, and cinematic soundscapes all play a role in the music.

Better yet, you can hear one of the albums captured on this release yourself for free, via archive.org:

If you get knocked over by this stuff like I do, you can order your own copy of the double LP, which includes bonus tracks not on the original releases, from Impulsive Art.  Keep in mind the label is based in Greece, so shipping to the US takes a while (mine just arrived after about six weeks).  But it's sure worth the wait.  And €16.70 EUR for a double LP plus shipping is a phenomenal deal.

Igorrr is also set to release a new CD, entitled Nostril, on Ad Noiseam in October.

In the meantime, check out that archive.org download, and here's a little clip of a live Igorrr show: