Friday, October 29, 2004

Peel's Festive 50

As pointed out by Peephole in my Brain, John Peel would do a Festive 50 list of the big tunes of each year. The firewall at my office precludes from doing almost anything fun (except this) so I can't access anything on the Radio 1 site (presumably because of the keyword "radio"), but I was able to find a compendium of previous Peel Festive 50's here (including his alltime list from 2000)...Check out Pulp's reign of terror in 1995. Respect!

http://www.rocklist.net/festive50.htm

Kompakt @ Bowery and yet more gushing about Orbital

Last night I made it to the Michael Mayer/Reinhard Voigt night at the Bowery Ballroom. Essentially a Kompakt Records night as it was two of their stars sharing the duties, it was an excellent night of tweaked out tech/micro-house. Plenty of weird sounds and rhythms, but all 4/4 and very danceable. As One Louder is the micro-house authority, better you check out the write-up of the night on there. We got there in time for the first beat, which was an old crackly recording of Bolero by Ravel - a sensible way to begin a night with an empty venue in front of you.

After I wrote up Orbital's swan song, The Blue Album on here a while
back, I have had a bit of an Orbital renaissance and re-acquired In Sides - the first album to turn me on to the electronic aesthetic (sounding a bit Wonder Years, innit?). Hearing it again for the first time in quite a while, besides giving me a case of halcyon(and on and on) nostalgia, made me quickly realize how I got sold on keyboards and computers as the new rock and roll back in 1997, although in hindsight, In Sides feels more orchestral than rock. It swirls around you and washes you in melody with the super blissful tracks "The Girl With the Sun in Her Head" and "Out There Somewhere? - Parts I and II", then delicately picks away with the creaky and hunting "The Box." Unlike Orbital 2 's slightly more danceable feel, In Sides is good for a home listen (or as I learned this morning in NJ bumper to bumper traffic, a de-stressing car album). Also, I have just learned, the environment was the big theme behind this album as "The Girl..." was recorded on a solar powered bus (?) and there are tracks called "P.E.T.R.O.L." and "Dwr Budr" (which is Welsh for dirty water - thanks to All Music for the info). MMM readers, I implore you to give In Sides a few introspective spins and see why the Hartnoll brothers are, without doubt, in the pantheon of modern music.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

UNKLE at the Canal Room - October 25, 2004

On Monday night, I caught Unkle's....errr....show.....errrr......dj set....errr....multimedia experience, whatever it was at the Canal Room, a new venue in the former space of Shine. Lavelle is a really ambitious renaissance man of music. The music he has written, produced, and remixed runs the gamut of genres as has done everything from produce the first album by South, Paint the Silence to maintain a residency at London superclub Fabric, to remixes of bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Doves. Eveything he seems to work on has some hip-hop, rock, some breakbeats thrown in for good measure and obscure references to old science fiction soundclips. He has also been the main man behind the 2 UNKLE albums. The first, Psyence Fiction, was co-produced with DJ Shadow and had cameos by Thom Yorke, Richard Ashcroft, and Mike D of the Beasties among others ). The second, Never Never Land, co-produced with Richard File, has been out for over a year in England is getting released only now in the US, which is unfortunately becoming a common trend in music. The new album is no less ambitious as he got Jarvis Cocker and Brian Eno to work together on one song, Ian Brown and Mani of the Stone Roses to reunite on another. I had my mind completely blown by him at Fabric last fall and I also have a great Essential Mix he did in 2002 (as UNKLE with Richard File) I was quite ready for Monday. The DJ set has quite an interesting sequence, which starts out with a bunch of UNKLE cut ups of tracks (the best being Tears for Fears' "Shout" with DMX rapping over it - completely worked and Whitney Houston's"I Wanna Dance with Somebody" with Kraftwerk's "Numbers) - both of these felt like cohesive songs rather than gimmicky mash-ups) and some very UNKLE sounding edits of other tracks (Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" with some breakbeats and Mike D spelling out the word "UNKLE") smoothly interplaying with some nasty breakbeat house makes for a very interesting listen.

Monday's show was quite good for what it was. Following a good warm up set by NYC stalwart Tim Sweeney, who played a bit of Kraftwerk, some Le Tigre (remixed by The DFA), and some other spacey funk music, Lavelle and File came out and played something that sounded like the Essential Mix set. They moved in and out of original tracks and some big tunes (Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" and Radiohead's "Idioteque" - seems Lavelle's love of RH goes a long way) all with the UNKLE touch ups and live edits. We had to go after about 75 minutes. Had this been a weekend night, it would have been a lot more fun as the hair could have been let down a bit harder. The venue was fairly good too - quality sound (though it got a bit less clear as the volume went up during UNKLE's set) and a reasonable sized dancefloor, the Canal Room will be a venue worth going to when there is something to see there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Wanna listen to my I-Pod or should I just throw Grand Theft into the Playstation?

I am not a video game obsessive type, but Grand Theft Auto - Vice City was a game that had a bit of something for anyone whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and music. Plenty of over-the-top violence and a serious 80s and Latin soundtrack.

Rockstar Games/Take 2 Entertainment have just released the follow up, Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas, which is supposed to be LA, the same way Vice City was a street for street mimic of Miami, that is set in the early 90s. I was initially dubious as it sounded a bit too one dimensionally South Central LA from what I had read, but I still rented it last night with not a whole lot going on in Morristown. The game play is a step above Vice City, but I am not here to talk about video games. The soundtrack reflects some seriously sensible taste from the Rockstar offices. All very appropriate to the early 90s, there are 11 stations or so with everything from early acid and Chicago house to reggae/dub to alternative rock to gangsta hip-hop. Highlights:
Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown, I Roy - Sidewalk Killer, Boyz II Men - Motown Philly, Bell Biv Devoe - Poison, Helmet - Unsung, Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus, Faith No More - Midlife Crisis, Primal Scream - Movin' On Up, Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing, The Stone Roses - Fool's Gold, Alice In Chains - Them Bones, Cypress Hill - How I Could Just Kill A Man, 808 State - Pacific, A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray, Frankie Knuckles - Your Love.

And that is just a smattering - here is a complete list.

http://www.gtagaming.com/sanandreas/radio

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Law of Music (or The Music of Law?)

As a lawyer and a music lover, I can't help but be fascinated by the intersection of my vocational traning and my passion, which often plays out within the law of intellectual property. IP law is quite diverse and issues relating to it are everywhere - essentially anything that has value but is not tangible (creative works, trademarks, scientific discoveries) are protected by these rules. With music, there are a variety of issues that come up with copyright law and trademark law. Here are a couple of interesting articles that deal with both of these. The first is an article about the impact of a 6th Circuit US Court of Appeals decision in a case involving NWA sampling 2 seconds of a Funkadelic track. The court held that even lifting two seconds from another song has to be cleared the old fashioned way and does not qualify for fair or nominal use. The article explores the ramifications of the decision and how it can impact the future of sample-based music, in particular hip-hop.

http://www.lacitybeat.com/article.php?id=1302&IssueNum=71

On the Trademark front, there is the issue of conflicts between band/artist names (Charlatans becoming Charlatans UK, Verve becoming The Verve, etc.). This article gives a couple of examples (NB: check out the technique used by the guy that serves papers, which means you are getting sued, on Manitoba, who is now Caribou) of these kinds of disputes and a little bit, but not a whole lot about how trademark law applies to names of artists.

The Globe and Mail

Sad Morning News

I arrived at work this morning (a little late thanks to a failed attempt at a new route to work - looking for alternate routes is what folks in NJ do for entertainment) to learn that BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel has passed away at the age of 65 while on vacation with his family in Peru. Peel is a significant loss for modern music. He has been a champion of independent music of all kinds for quite some time now. Many great bands recorded Peel Sessions at his Maida Vale (in London) studio, which would be broadbast on his radio show. Peel's taste was quite diverse and you would always here retro rock and funk up against Warp Records' most abstract releases.

I can't help but think of my only live exposure to Peel, even though it may not be the most flattering of images. I saw him DJ at Fabric's fourth birthday party last year, a night that had Erol Alkan, the Beta Band, Peel, James Lavelle (more on him soon), among others. Incredible night. Peel came on after Ali B, a Fabric resident, in one of the smaller rooms, which was absolutely packed. Right after Ali put on his last tune, which you could tell from the label was an original song that he was testing in the live format (it was a white label with his name written on it), Peel shook his hand, stopped the record a few seconds later and then dropped his own first song, an obscure 60s number. Not the most considerate start to a DJ set, but the crowd clearly wanted to hear the grand old man.

Peel was much beloved by many musicians for his open-minded and borderless approach to music - here is an article on BBC about his death and the response of a few musicians, as well as an obituary.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/3955289.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/3955369.stm

Monday, October 25, 2004

Choon of the Week - Depeche Mode "Enjoy the Silence" (Ewan Pearson Extended Remix)

A variety of exciting new categories will be appearing on MMM in the near future and here is the first - Choon of the Week (COTW or something like that).

The inaugural choon is a classic song that has gotten a modern reworking. Depeche Mode are kings (although Martin Gore might prefer to be a queen) of many great musical things. They rank with Kraftwerk and New Order as the most godfathers of band-based electronic music. David Gahan, as a singer that has died, come back to life and then squeezed himself back into leather trousers again, is the stuff that rock royalty is made of. And in the realm of the remix, no other band has enlisted a more impressive or sensible collection of collaborators than DM (K&D, DJ Shadow, Fancois K, Goldfrapp, Timo Maas, Danny Tenaglia, and Underworld just to scratch the surface), which is why their upcoming 3CD remix collection looks like a must own.

Ewan Pearson is an interesting musical figure, as he has developed his reputation almost exclusively as a remixer, particularly with the Chems' "Golden Path" and Goldfrapp's "Train." Perhaps what makes him a successful remixer is that he never re-invents the wheel when putting together songs, but rather keeps the essential parts of tunes and adds certain trademark sounds, generally minimal plastic-sounding clicks, bells, and disco rhythms, which clearly indicate the source of the remix. That balance of old and new plays out very smoothly on "Enjoy the Silence." None of what makes the song such a perfect 80s synth-popper is lost in Pearson's working, particularly the sublime keyboard hooks, but there is just enough rhythm augmentation to toughen it up for some techno-style rug cutting. The second half of the mix is decidedly harder, boardering of mild acid-techno, with the vocals limited to the more subdued first part. There is nothing revolutionary in Person' vision of "Enjoy the Silence," but a good remix sometimes just needs a slightly different context (from the right person, of course) than the original to make it interesting.

Oddly enough, even with 3CDs, there is not enough room for this on the new collection, and it is only available as a b-side of the Timo Maas remix of "Enjoy the Silence." Annoying that even with a 3CD edition (there is also a 1CD and 2CD version) there are still desirable tracks that have to be hunted down, but a Pearson re-working of DM will come in handy the next time you are creating a party playlist and you are craving sensible beats that you can sing along to.

Friday, October 22, 2004

My Best Friend's a Butcher...

A quick posting to end the week:

I am usually not one to nitpick at lyrics. There are lyricists who I love: Jarvis Cocker has to be my number one, and based on the singles he has released so far, James Murphy's hilarious lyrics for the LCD Soundsystem songs have certainly made me pay attention. But, for the most part, as long as a song moves me rhythmically, or envelopes me with waves of sound, the lyrics could be about smelly cheese, and I would not care. Interpol's lyrics have always struck me as a bit odd, but I never put too much thought into them. Somone at Stylus has, and their analysis of the 10 worst Interpol lyrics is a rather amusing read.

http://www.stylusmagazine.com/feature.php?ID=1308

Harry Potter and the Statute of Frauds

Mike Newell, director of the greatest basketball/cold war movie of all time, Amazing Grace and Chuck and Donnie Brasco (he has a couple of stinkers in there too, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Mona Lisa Smile), has signed on to direct the next Harry Potter film - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I have not read any of the books, nor seen any of the films, but this one might be my first, as Newell has apparently roped in Jarvis Cocker to be responsible for soundtracking the movie and picking additional artists for the film. Franz Ferdinand is also supposed to be involved.

http://www.xfm.co.uk/Article.asp?b=news&id=45203

Has anyone else noticed that TV is using very sensible songs these days? During game 7 of the ALCS, after the Johnny Damon grand slam, New Order's "Shell-Shocked" was played as they went to the commercial. On CNN, Anderson Cooper had The Stone Roses' "Fools Gold" for the commercial segue. Not to mention that Franz Ferdinand is everywhere.

Another blogger who has picked up on the trend and commented on it is my buddy Dave-o, the audiophile behind Statute of Frauds (http://statuteoffrauds.blogspot.com). Before you jump over there, I must give a bit of a disclaimer: Dave is a bit on the opinated side, which becomes dangerous when you give that person a soapbox like a blog. If you are a fan of the Jankees, this would not be the week to read SoF, as Dave is a fan of the Mets, a hater of the Yankees, and when needed, a big fan of the Red Sox, which he refers to as his "mistress." SoF has been having a very good time with his mistress this week and he has plenty to say about it. MMM does not endorse any opinions that are expressed on SoF, but it's a heck of a peephole into his head and it does provide useful information about music.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I Got Something to Put in You...

Because I was not able to get a posting up yesterday because my boss was having an all day birthday party and because there are a couple of loose ends worth tying up here, there is a second posting today.

a) I am eliminating the Gym song generator. The problem is that the gym has stopped playing music during lunchtime, which is when I usually workout, and I don't want it to look like I am a lazy bastard because I haven't been to the gym in a week. Additionally, the generator makes it look like I am very critical of classic rock. A perception I certainly wouldn't want to convey - I do love Zep, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, and even The Byrds (though what kind of hippie is that gun toting, coke hoovering, fat bastard David Crosby?). I just can't really workout to it, but apparently middle-aged Jersey men really get amped on the stuff. That space will be filled with something new (and exciting!) very shortly.

b) I'll admit I only know them for their singles, but the Electric Six are way cool in my book. "Gay Bar" is a great song and the next time you go to Amsterdam, I highly recommend changing the lyrics to "Brown Bar" and then going to a brown bar (competes with England's pubs as the best culture-specific drinking establishment!). My special lady friend and I got stuck on a baggage reclaim line with them in Barcelona this summer, and they seemed like nice guys, who were on their way to perform at Manumission in Ibiza and work on their new album. We didn't think much work on an album would get done on the most debauched island on earth, but apparently they were very productive, and now their next album, Senor Smoke, named for Detroit Tigers' 80s pitcher Aurelio Lopez, will be released next year. I had his 1984 Topps card, and you can't beat 80s baseball, so they earn love for that. They are also going to release a cover of Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" for the holidays. Here is the info: http://www.xfm.co.uk/Article.asp?b=news&id=45191


Slam - Year Zero

The other day, Rajeev lamented (well, more like pointed out) how DJs always put out disappointing artist albums. Often true, and for me to counter with The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim (his first three albums are all damn good) is not a particularly remarkable observation on my part, but today I must give a little love to Scotland's finest - Slam. I have been a believer in the Glaswegians, Orde and Stuart, since 2001 when I made my first visit to Fabric (http://www.fabriclondon.com), the greatest club on Earth, and saw them bang out their distinctive mash-up of edgy techno/house (it's really somewhere in between but not tech-house, oddly enough) and whiplash breakbeats. Besides being one of the best teams of DJs to see on a night out, Slam also produces excellent remixes (check out their versions of Dot Allison's "We Are Science," Underworld's "King of Snake," and Ladytron's "Seventeen") as well as being responsible for some seminal electronic tracks along the way ("Positive Education" is on almost every single collection that chronicles the history of house).

They have recently released Year Zero, their fourth artist album. YZ may not be the greatest LP achievement by a DJ, but it is a very good disc. The strongest element is the distinctive sound they achieve; rather than the clichéd approach of making something really ambitious by trying to demonstrate how dynamic an artist can be, Slam produces 10 tracks working pretty exclusively with electro melodies and a range of rhythms. Another thing that makes it more of artist album than a collection of a few singles surrounded by ambient fodder is that there are not many obvious club singles within the context of the album. A few of the tracks might work on a dance floor, but the beats are kept low enough in the mix to emphasize a more song-based approach to the writing, an effect also augmented by the number of singers that appear on the album.

I don't love the singer by committee approach that DJs tend to use, but it can be quite effective if there is a cohesive sound pulling it together. The Chems pull it of better than most and I suspect that is attributable to a) their distinctive sound, and b) they have a few singers they like to rely on, which makes it feel all the more comfortable. Here, Dot Allison took a break from canoodling Pete Libertine and dropped some trademark smoky crooning over "Kill the Pain," which is a cross between an electro Underworld's "MMM Skyscraper…I Love You" and the beat from "Idioteque." There are a couple of other noteworthy tracks. Slam shows off an appreciation for the history of house (even though they helped write it) by opening with "This World" which sounds like a tricked out version of Frankie Knuckles' "Your Love." The hardest track on the album, the sublimely icy "Known Pleasure," is still quite understated and the song would serve as more of a mid-set builder than a fist in the air crescendo. The other song on the album that sounds most like a standard Slam choon is "Human," the album closer with vocals that can only be described as Professor Stephen Hawking doing a cover of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." Finally, "Bright Lights Fading" is a totally twisted song; an electro torch song sung from the perspective of a washed up female entertainer (the singer, Billy Ray Martin sounds like Tracey Thorn of Everything but the Girl) who is pleading for one more chance in the spotlight. I have to hand it to them for producing such a simple yet oddly unnerving song. A few of the other vocal tracks "Metropolitan Cosmopolitan" and "Lie to Me" are ok, but certainly not the tracks I'll skip if I want to have a Cliff Notes style session with the disc.

YZ is not a collection of hard techno, but rather a fairly sophisticated DJ artist album that doesn't try to do too much. That said, if you see that Slam are spinning at your local watering hole or velvet rope establishment, or something in between, check them out and be ready to bang.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

No nonsense fans!

With the whole world caught up with the crazy ALCS (as well as the equally nutty NLCS), those of us that don't root for any of these teams during the rest of the year can sit back and enjoy the heroics, the drama, etc. But at some point we need to go back to our teams (those significant others that are far less sexy than the curvy things that play in the post-season) and begin to pretend that next year will be different (and if the Mets get Bobby V, that might just be the case!).

Here is an example of how fans should let their teams know that they mean business!

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/headlinenews?id=313647&cc=5901

While I know a bunch of people that might want to rip off Kaz's jersey, I think I will go after Jason Phillips, because while I want him to be my favorite Met with his nerdy glasses, oafish running and the fact that he looks like my college roomate, but that idiot has no idea how to cut down his swing with 2 strikes and try to finesse a single!


Monday, October 18, 2004

Best Soundtracks

Last night, my special lady friend and I watched Super Fly (or Superfly). An essential blaxploitation film, Ron O'Neil plays Priest, the coke dealing anti-hero, with pure understated machismo. I wouldn't call the movie life-changing or brilliant cinema like Kubrick or Terry Gilliam, but it has a few elements of genius in there. For one, Gordon Parks, the director, had been a successful photographer before moving into cinema and the cinematography deftly captures a rough NYC in a period of turmoil and upheaval. The other part of Super Fly that must be given some serious repsect: style. From the swagger, the rediculous suits, and tough talk, to the Curtis Mayfield sountrack, there is nothing going on in this film, if not a great all-encompassing picture of style.

The soundtrack of the film may be the best part of the whole movie. The series of songs that Mayfield wrote for Super Fly provide a dynamic palatte of musical choices with everything from slabs of cooler that cool funk, to slowjams for that really strange and 70s lovemaking scene, to a bittersweet maudlin tune for the death of Scatter.

As this is one of the best soundtracks for a film ever, I am inspired to list my 5 favorite soundtracks:

1) Trainspotting: A dynamic collection of tracks that were for the most part not written for the movie, but how many songs exist without the context of the film now? I will never be able to kick heroin without hearing "Dark Train," nor will I ever be able to think of double-crossing my friends and jacking the group's booty without "Born Slippy." Hell, everything from "Lust for Life" to "Mile End" have developed such strong associative meanings to the great Scottish skag fest.

2) Manhattan: The Gershwins spent most of their career in NYC and using their music to soundtrack a b&w homage to the greatest city on earth makes a lot of sense.

3) Singles: The movie captured the spirit of that period in music that requires all 20something to pull out their rosy frames, or was is really just a fun story about young people in a city that happened to be the epicenter of early 90s. The soundtrack is really just a collection of great songs from the time period. Ironically, the best song on the soundtrack was by the Smashing Pumpkins, though if you listened to Billy Corgan back in the day, sounded like they were trying to battle the evil forces of Seattle. "Drown" is equal party bliss and drone and it is no surprise My Bloody Valentine influenced him so much.

4) 24 Hour Party People: The collection of songs in this movie are so big on their own that the film doesn't really inform too many of them with a new frame of reference, though everytime I hear "She's Lost Control," I do think of the great scene where Joy Division is listening to the song in the car for the first time. The Chemical Brothers/New Order collaboration, "Here to Stay" is quite a good song.

5) Better off Dead: a) EG Daily sings the greatest film ballad ever at the prom ("A Little Luck"), b) The Van Halen hamburger scene ("Everybody Wants Some"), c) Three words - "Better off Dub."

Honorable mention: Revenge of the Nerds: mainly for the classic collaboration between the Lambdas and the Omega Mus to win the talent show at the end (I swear to God I once saw a band in Hungary, with a lead singer that looked like the guy from Guided by Voices, a bunch of obcure Hungarian instruments, joined onstage by a gaggle of Hungarian women, cover that song!), as well as for that dopey/mildly arguably Japanese song they play during the tricycle race.

Thoughts?

Friday, October 15, 2004

The End is Nigh...

The phrase that has accompanied the most recent and final release from Phil and Paul Hartnoll, better known as Orbital (the name of the M25 highway that orbits around London). The Hartnoll brothers are another one of those "seminal" teams of electronic music, starting out as one of the key groups at the earliest illegal acid house raves from the start of the 90s. Heavily influenced by Kraftwerk, weird tv soundtracks like Dr. Who, and the frenetic energy of early acid house, Orbital's sound has always provided something for the geeks as well as the fist-pumpers (I tend to think of myself as a geeky fist-pumper). Perhaps in an attempt to go out with some fanfare (cynical of me to say, I know), Orbital has made no secret that the Blue Album was going to be their swan song.

Orbital is arguably the first electronic act that I listened to (although Underworld is the first one I developed a full on obsession with), as I got my start with them as a sophmore in college when I somehow decided to get In Sides from CDHQ. Not knowing the difference between techno and trip hop at that point, In Sides instantly struck me as fascinating music - the unlimited potential of creating vast worlds of sound when working with keyboard and computers became very clear from them.

After several great albums (with Orbital 2 and Middle of Nowhere at the top of my list), the Blue Album is a fitting ending to an excellent career. I read somewhere they are moving on to do more projects like film soundtracks and that sort of thing (which is not a surprise in light of everything else they have produced, including a track for The Beach soundtrack and the soundtrack to a movie called Octane), the new album has a bit of ambient material that would suggest accompaniment, as well as a track called "You Lot" built around a quote from Christopher Eccleston in some obscure English film called The Second Coming. The Blue Album has a few moments of straight up hard techno, like "Acid Pants," but on the whole, the album is the most restrained and intospective sounding work of Orbital's career. Many of the tracks have elements of classic Orbital keyboard hooks, but always in a far subtler light than their earlier mega-tunes, like "Impact" and "Nothing Left" (sung by Allison Goldfrapp...respek!). The album ends with the climactic "One Perfect Sunrise," an excellent ethereal/euphoria song that is in the same vein as "Halcyon," "Belfast," and "In Style" (read: emo-techno and that is not meant as an insult) and a great ending for the album,

The Blue Album feels like an Orbital album for adults who love the aesthetic but have moved on from day glo raving and now need something they can listen to that won't scare their newborns too much. A description like that might be a bit cruel and inappropriate as there is nothing watered-down but more than any other Orbital album, this is one for home listening.

Unfortunately, Orbital played their farewell shows this summer across Europe, finishing everything off with a Peel Session on BBC, and of course there were no American shows. Typical...

Thursday, October 14, 2004

a couple things...

a) Some cool sites worth checking out:
There is a great Monday night dub party (for those rare occasions when you don't have work on Tuesday at Cielo called Deep Space, hosted by Francois K. (short for Kevorkian) - a native Frenchman who has been involved with dance music since the days of disco (according to All Music, he is 50). Great party that tends to fuse dub into house and then back. I saw Danny Tenaglia lurking around the dancefloor last time I went. I'll be there the night before Election Day (benefit of a gov't job is a closed office for voting) manufacturing a massive Election Day hangover. Check out the party's website and be sure to check out the great dub album covers in the gallery:
http://www.deepspacenyc.com

Speaking of dub, there is a serious compendium of all things dub, including dictionary style definitions which definately come in handy at a party, at, fittingly:
http://www.dub.com

b) A couple of older electronic tracks that I have been feeling lately:
Laurent Garnier - "The Man With the Red Face"
The French are all over the blog today. This song, written by one of the resident DJs at the Hacienda in Manchester in the 80s, is from about 3 or 4 years ago and every now and then I come back to it. It's sort of techno, sort of house, and somehow can simultaneously be a downtempo compilation track and a massive club tune. It has a serious 80s synthesizer lead melody that battles against a demonic post-modern saxophone hook (perhaps Gabe from The Rapture is the one bellowing). What is perhaps most surprising about this song is that while the tune feels very understated at first blush and has no massive kick drum (in fact pretty lowkey on the rhythm front), the song has a real serotinin spiking/hands in the air vibe - it just goes to show that a great melody, even if it is subtle, can inspire musical nirvana.

Rhythm is Rhythm (Derrick May) - "Strings of Life"
This is one of those songs that gets Detroit techno classicists bubbling with nostalgia. May was one of the key guys from Detroit pushing the techno M.O. in the mid-80s (alongside Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, they were affectionately known as the Big 3). The spastic keyboard/piano riff that overpowers on this one is hard to shake once it attaches to your head. Another song that can move your body without relying on enhanced bass drums telling you it is time to dance.

One thing that I find fascinating (and also makes me feel a little old) is how the historical perspectives on electronic music are already developing. In Detroit last year, at the Detroit Historical Museum, there was an exhibit on Detroit techno. Here is an interesting story about that...
http://metro.heritage.com/dtw040203/story3.htm

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Where you can sleep tight, dream right...

On Thursday morning, shortly before 12, I was on the phone with Rajeev (co-puba of One Louder and all around sound bloke). Rajeev knows about every event before everyone else - I think one of the weekly email lists he is on actually channels the information for events before they are officially announced. So Rajeev knew that at 12, tickets were going on sale for a "secret show" from NYC's favorite gang of nattily dressed, Cardozo-shaggers. I didn't have Interpol's new album Antics yet, but really enjoying Turn On the Bright Lights, and having liked what I heard from the new album this summer at the Curiosa tour, and all of that coupled with not wanting to see them at the Hammerstein in November made buying tickets a no-brainer. In the meantime, I got ready for the show by familiarizing myself with Antics, which I have to say is a very solid record. That sounds like a half-hearted vote of confidence but shouldn't be taken as such. A band that can put out 2 very good albums, in my younger days, would probably have elicited some zeal out of me, but as I get older (and that sounds so sad), I find my love of new music, while often being recognizable even more quickly than before as good music, ends up being a bit tempered. I don't fall in love with new bands, I really like them, but that isn't a bad thing necessarily because I also find my taste in music far more varied than it used to be - there are tons more records getting love from me, just less love.

Enough rambling, on to the show. Interpol played a short but sweet set. Clocking in at a little over an hour, these guys are are excellent musicians - they play like fast car that corners well. What helped the experience was that the sound at the Bowery was even better than ever and the whole band was super crisp. The lights were extremely heavy, drowning the crowd from behind the band, so for the whole show all you could see were silhouettes.

A smattering of tunes from both albums, my personal highlights were "Length of Love" and "Slow Hands" from the new album, and "PDA," "NYC," "Hands Away" (nb: my first thought on this song was that it was called "Assface" and then "Airspace") and "Roland" (my jam on the first album) from Turn on the Bright Lights. They were supposed to play "Stella" as a second encore but it never materialized. A satisfying, very good show, nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Dandys Rule, OK?

While a recap of my weekend in a linear manner would start off with me discussing the Interpol show I saw on Sunday, I'll talk about it later as I have more to say at the moment about the most excellent documentary I saw last night, Dig , a look at the love/hate relationship between The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. As a massive Dandys fan, this flick had serious cinematic potential and the film did not disappoint. Director Ondi Timoner (who is not just a talented filmmaker but smoking as well!) managed to get these two bands to trust her enough to reveal the a very unadulterated version of their rock and roll lives.

The film mainly focuses on the relationship between BJM lead singer Anton Newcombe and Dandys leader Courtney Taylor (Taylor - he has periods when he hyphenates his last name with itself). The two bands hooked up early in their respective careers and quickly realized their parallel penchants for snorting drugs and creating a musical revolution, man. Courtney seems very drawn to Anton's mad genius persona, the one thing Courtney wants to be but never quite achieves because, despite the tables of drugs and sheer debauchery that surrounds him, Courtney always seems to have his head on just straight enough to have a coherent conversation with his record label. However, tensions between the singers begin to develop when the Dandys get signed to a major label, while the BJM blow their opportunities by brawling with each other on stage during a label showcase gig. Anton, while putting out music (and a lot of it - he seems quite prolific) through independent labels and then through TVT, decides that a public feud with the Dandies through media channels will help both bands sell more records - although it seems he does this without telling the band.


The end result of the film is that as the Dandys persevere through tough times on Capitol Records, they finally seem to find a voice and a proper place for their voice (they are huge in Europe), while Anton can't keep it together and the BJM sputters along around him and whoever he assembles to play with him. What makes all of this so impressive is how much of the craziness Ondi gets firsthand. A variety of punch-ups, drug sessions (and drug-induced mania) and very honest responses from all of the major characters are caught on camera. This illustrates two keys to documentary filmmaking: 1) Luck is just as important to a great documentary as good planning and 2) you will get a lot more out of subjects that trust you as a filmmaker. There is no way Ondi could have known what kind of a crazy, substantial story about friendship and jealousy, as well as such an intresting perspective on the music industry would develop when she first started to hang out with these bands at the beginning of their careers. Perhaps Ondi's looks helped her get such honest material from the bands.

The film reminded me of how I hate the Dandys but love them too. They are a bunch of contrived, pompous rockstars and if I didn't like their music, I think Courtney would really annoy me. Yet there are few other bands I can think of that can shoe-gaze on one track, pop it up on the next and do both with absolute conviction and chops. The Dandys are like a great idea on paper that worked out in reality. The last album Welcome to the Monkey House (they always wear every influence right on their ironic shirts and referencing Vonnegut is no exception - they also have songs called "Ride," "Cool as Kim Deal" and "Lou Weed") was not nearly as strong as Come Down or 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia, but it has grown on me and is quite good.

If you are not a fan of the Dandys or the BJM, this is still an amazing music documentary - hard to think of one that is much better at this point. What is so unique about it is that it tells a compelling story but captures the whole thing as it happens; usually you only get talking heads reminscing about how crazy it was way back when. I haven't seen Some Kind of Monster yet but I imagine it will be similarly interesting in how it follows a fascinating moment (Metallica goes to the shrink from what I hear) in the moment.

Worth noting: Peter Hayes, singer for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, spent a stint as a member of the BJM - I had no idea and it was pretty interesting to see him in that context.

More on Interpol later...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Something in my Veins, Bloodier than Blood - Wilco/The Fiery Furnaces @ Radio City 10/6/04

Concerts where you want to see both the headliner and the opening act are always exciting - you feel like you are getting your money's worth. While I don't know Wilco as well (in particular the first 2 albums, AM and Being There) as some of their most devoted fans, what I do know I think is amazing, so needless to say I was chuffed to be seeing them at RCMH which has great sound and comfortable seats. What didn't hurt the experience was that the seats we had were in the 5th row (it looked like the 2nd on the ticket but we forgot about the orchestra pit seats - still amazing location in a great venue). So that coupled with an opener that I was certainly curious to see, The Fiery Furnaces, made last night highly anticipated.

The Fiery Furnaces, made up of siblings Matt and Eleanor Friedberger, make strange music (I mean that in the good way). Blueberry Boat is like 13 mini-rock operas - each track over-stuffed with whimsical hooks played on a variety of instruments and Eleanor's hyper-kinetic deadpan delivery of fun, quirky lyrics. They add two guys (a drummer and a guitarist/bassist/electronic box that makes a lot of sounds player) for their live show. I thought they were very good, but not without reservation. Eleanor is amazing to watch live - diminutive indie girl with a bit of badunkadunk and somehow she manages to deliver all of those lyrics clearly. The music never stops as they transition between songs after playing a verse from here, or a chorus from there - it's a very impressive display of indie choreography. While they strip down the sound of the album a lot and change a lot of the music from the songs, it is very impressive how little they rely on pre-recorded parts, with Matt and the other multi-instrumentalist producing a ton of sounds. However, they are a bit overshadowed by their spastic drummer, who convulses even during the parts where there are no drums. When he does play, he pounds out constant disco punk, two hands to the high-hat beats, then squeezes out the same 3 fills throughout - what he does is talented, but for 45 minutes, it demanded too much attention (especially for a session musician!) and controlled the sound of the show too much. The songs that had been stripped down to just a guitar and bass ended up sounding like a disco-punk band covering The Fiery Furnaces. At one point the drummer picked up a pair of rubber axes to bang the drums and there wsa something very appropriate about the image - he really could learn something from Wilco's pagan skin pounder Glenn Kotche, who bangs harder and with more technical proficiency than just about anyone when he needs to, but sits back on the groove when its time for Tweedy to take over. The Furnaces are really growing on me musically, but they need to give their drummer some quaaludes before the show (and I wouldn't complain if they added a couple of chunks of pre-recorded music to fill out the sound).

Wilco was Wilco - while I am not one for gushing about someone being a great songwriter, Jeff Tweedy is a great songwriter. Beautiful melodies, clever and touching lyrics, there is something about their sound that elicits nostalgia just because it is so instantly accessible and emotionally mature simultaneously. I couldn't trust a person that could look me in the eye and say "Handshake Drugs" is not a good song. The show had almost everything from A Ghost is Born, as well as a bunch of songs from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summerteeth, as well as a few from the other two albums, and even a track from Mermaid Avenue, a collaboration with Billy Bragg. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" was the apotheosis of dynamism - the Krautrock build-up sections sounded even more Teutonic than on record with an additional keyboard part and the All-American rock out crescendos were simply massive. Respect. Other highlights included "Handshake Drugs" (though there was something a touch 70s arena rock about it: a) two of the guys were singing the back up part while facing each other on one mic, when there was another mic right next to them and b) Tweedy pulled out a blue Gibson heavy metal guitar for the end section), "I am Trying to Break your Heart" and "At Least That's What you Said." At one point, Tweedy, after playing the harmonica, said that his son Spencer had once said that while both he and Bob Dylan played the harmonica, his dad was not Bob Dylan (though my skeptical pal Rajeev would say he made up this part to be self-depricating). Spencer's dad is far superior to Dylan IMHO. An excellent show.

Now if only the chingando Jankees would lose one of those extra inning playoff games that manages to end after a concert, I could have a completely satisfying night!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A compendium of verbal wankery...

For the sake of convenience (and to show I as crap a writer now as I was in 1997) I have compiled all of my reviews that are available online, starting with my earliest works as a critic for the YDN, up through law school. I had a couple of other reviews I did for djmixed.com but they have gone missing.
Warning: only read these if you are very bored and want to see a flat trajectory, reflecting my music writing learning curve...

Yale Daily News:
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=11863
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=4416
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=3157
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=2604
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=2507
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=2323
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=1997
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=1880
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=10004
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=10079
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=9653
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=9452
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=9457
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=10725
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=10634
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=10469
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=10602

BPM Magazine/www.djmixed.com:
http://www.djmixed.com/djmixed/newsandfeatures/article.cfm?Article_ID=1585

Cardozo Insider:
Underwater Records - Episode 2

Zero 7 - When it Falls
Franz Ferdinand / Air - Walkie Talkie
Dizzee Rascal - Boy in da Corner
The Rapture - Echoes
Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Best song to...

Its time for another posting that may (and hopefully) will evolve into an interactive discussion. I have come up with a few random situation and give my .02 as to what song I would choose - some have been discussed before, some should be novel. I think I have been inspired by the impending baseball playoffs to some degree:

1) Song choice for coming up to bat: Method Man - "Release Yo Delf" (Prodigy Remix)
Honorable mention: When Derek Bell came out to "Big Pimpin" by Jay-Z - that was excellent (though I imagine many guys in baseball around the league chose that track)

2) My song if I was a closer: Chemical Brothers - "Elektrobank" (just the part near the end starting with just the snare drum that builds up through the part where the song turns into a wall of evil)

3) Song that would play at the end of my comedy special right after I drop the mic, wave to the crowd, and strut off the stage: Underworld - "Bruce Lee"

4) Song that would play after whatever sports franchise I own or am playing for wins the league title: The Stone Roses - "What the World is Waiting For"

5) Song that should soundtrack the highlights shown at the end of a playoffs while the credits role on top: South - "Paint the Silence" (its got some big moments and some emotion to show the dejection on the faces of the losers and its the best single of the last six months!)

Any ideas for other categories or personal choices on these???

Monday, October 04, 2004

A weekend of boats, velvet ropes, and Che

I had quite a satisfying weekend on the culture front.

The first event, Friday night, was a party for XLR8R magazine (
www.xlr8r.com), with James Murphy, Tim Sweeney, and Roy Dank spinning at the Frying Pan. My first visit to the Frying Pan - this is an amazing venue! An old rickety boat (bordering on big enough to be a ship) on the West Side of Manhattan that has a main dancefloor flush in the bottom. The rest of the boat is open for frolicing when you need breaks from the music. We got there in time to catch most of Mr. Dank's set. Roy is a friend of mine from when my short career in music PR (more an internship than a career), who I always try to see whenver he is in town. Initially, he came to prominance as a banging D'n'B dj and producer, but as of late as been DJing in the realm of punk/funk/dub/italo-disco/anything else that has a sensible groove, with a great monthly party at APT called Pop Your Funk (1st Thursday of every month - definately worth checking out). Roy was excellent, getting the floor charged with dark dubby beats for Mr. Murphy (perhaps the biggest, baddest man in NY music at the moment between producing The Rapture and putting out a series of incredible songs with his band/project LCD Soundsystem), who also had the place going hard as well, with songs like "Hush" by Mitsu, and Headman's "It Rough" (I can only identify these seemingly obscure tracks because they are on the CD One Louder, mixed by Erol Alkan - but gushing about that will be saved for another post). Tim Sweeney dropped "Ain't Talkin About Love" or whatever is the name of that Zep track. Among other highlights (but we aren't sure who played them) include "Voodoo Ray" by A Guy Called Gerald (one of the key tracks from the Madchester, Acid House days), "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson (essential Chicago house song), and "Higher State of Consciousness" by Josh Wink (techno tweeking at its most manic). A great night in a great space is always hard to beat.

The next night, I went to see a band called Bloc Party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. They are a band that released very little so far (an EP) but have garnered all kinds of hyperbole in the British music press. The bells should have been warning me that this was be a bit scenester rather than serious music lovers based on that kind of a set up, but it was free and had an open bar for a bit, if you could get passed the rediculously slow line and the jackass pompous door guy from the weekly Mishapes party at Luke and Leroy. The band was quite good - hard not to see them in the same ballpark as Franz Ferdinand, but a bit edgier sound and with a black vocalist.
The scene around the show though was pure NYC scenester. Suroosh, the Editor of the hilariously Vice Magazine was there, as was Carlos and Daniel of Interpol. In order to get into the room where the band was playing, there was a sub-velvet rope within the hotel. A bit extreme the whole experience. The difference between people who genuinely love music and want to hear cutting edge music before everyone else on one hand, and people who get off on getting into exclusive events on the other is a fine line and the Bloc Party party show seemed to draw from the grey area between the two.

What makes the experience at the Tribeca Grand a bit exasperating is comparing it to the party at Frying Pan the previous night. The Frying Pan show, with James Murphy playing NYC for the first time in ages, could have been a total velvet rope night. Instead, it was completely easy to get in and had no pretentious air about it, making it a much more overall fun experience.

As for Che, I saw The Motorcycle Diaries last night and thought it was excellent. It tells the story of Ernesto Che Guevara's life-changing travels around South America. Gael Garcia Bernal plays a very convincing transition from young aspiring doctor into people's revolutionary. South America also looks really cool - I have only been to Uruguay so far and this film piqued my interest in seeing a lot more of the continent.

Quality weekend - also got some music this weekend, which should provide me with fodder for later this week.