Monday, February 27, 2006

From Pitchfork:

Os Mutantes Reunite for One Night Only

David Nadelle and Amy Phillips report:

What Kurt Cobain couldn't do, a London arts center will: on May 22 at the Barbican, Brazilian psychedelic rock legends Os Mutantes will perform for the first time since 1973. Unfortunately, brothers Sergio and Arnaldo Baptista (as well as drummer Ronaldo "Dinho" Leme) are not scheduled to perform with original singer Rita Lee. But as Meat Loaf would say, two out of three ain't bad.

This remarkable concert is part of the Barbican's "Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture" festival, which is on now and will continue until May 21. The celebration of music, art, film, theatre, and dance examines the revolutionary Tropicália movement of late-60s Brazil. Government censorship inspired a creative outburst of provocative and spontaneous art.
Musically, the scene exploded after the 1968 compilation album Tropicália ou Panis et Circensis, attracted worldwide attention. Os Mutantes began their career as the house band on a Brazilian TV show, but became weirder and weirder as time went on. They worked with Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, wore crazy costumes, put on multimedia performances, and recorded experimental sound collages long before it was cool.

In 1993, Cobain attempted to reunite the band, but they refused. Oh, snap! David Byrne's Luaka Bop label released the Os Mutantes compilation Everything Is Possible. Beck has also given the band mad props. So this is a pretty big deal.

Other performers during the Barbican's Tropicália festival include such heavy hitters as Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Tom Zé, as well as a "Tropicália Remixed" showcase featuring new arrangements from original movement collaborator Rogerio Duprat and UK special guests Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Sean O'Hagan (High Llamas/Stereolab), and Isle of Wight throwbacks the Bees. Check the Barbican website for additional installations, films, and live shows.

Despite Pitchfork's need to rely on Kurt Cobain and Beck to make Os Mutantes sound cool (because, seriously, Os Mutantes is infinitely better than either of those guys ever were), all I can say is: DAMN! WOW!

Friday, February 24, 2006

YouTube: Ornette on SNL 1979

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Here's the liner notes for a mix I made in an ongoing Round Robin with friends. The goal is to meet the categories and maintain a good disc flow (and, of course, to shock & awe the recipients of the disc):

1. Dramatic entrance:

o Robbie Fulks – “Gravid & Tense” – The Very Best of Robbie Fulks. A hum, a drum, a few strums, all minor-key and full of foreboding and over in 30 seconds. Welcome to the mix.

2. Boastful song:

o The Third Bardo – “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time” - Nuggets. Most of the rap I like wouldn’t be all that illuminating to this bunch, so I went with weird garage hippie boasting. That’s right! He’s five years ahead of his time, making him, um, 1972.

3. References another song:

o The Mountain Goats – “My Favorite Things” – live Mountain Goats mix by Misha Tepper. This would have worked well for the extended metaphor category, too, but it traded places with The Hold Steady (a different Hold Steady song than the one in the metaphor category, though – one that references “Fairytale of New York,” not the one with the line “tramps like us and we like tramps”). Goddammit! He loves John Coltrane! And he loves getting’ some and Elvin Jones’s drumming. Nice.

4. Song about food:

o Mississippi John Hurt – “The Chicken” – The Immortal. It ain’t food yet, because it’s running away from M.J.H., but that’s not going to last long because the second C is to season the bird and K fills him in. That’s the way you spell chicken.

5. Reminds you of your first love:

o Fairport Convention – “I’ll Keep It With Mine” – What We Did On Our Holidays. Recorded earlier the same year as the masterful “Who Knows Where The Times Goes?,” this is a bit overheated but clearly pointing the way. My first love loved Dylan (who wrote this song, natch), folky rock music, and female singers. I loved everything about her then. I was unaware of the Fairport Convention at the time, but every time I hear this song, everything about it reminds me of being 18 (the same age as lead guitarist Richard Thompson was when this track was recorded) and being in love. Like most things you do when you’re 18, it doesn’t quite work out, but when it was great, it was the best thing you’d ever done in your life.

6. At least 30 years old but you heard it for the first time within the past year:

o Vashti Bunyan – “Window Over The Bay” – Just Another Diamond Day. From her 30-years-lost nursery rhyme/Britfolk classic, produced by Joe Boyd, who, incidentally, produced the previous track, too. I love how her gorgeous voice carries the halting rhyme structure to a perfect and perfectly wistful place. I love how the acoustic guitar comes in on the second verse, but panned all the way to the right, as if it were a lace handkerchief carrying a fragile spider web. Then the trumpet in the left on the last verse appears and quietly mirrors the melody. This is what I wish more 60s hippie princess music sounded like.

7. Changes tempo at least once:

o The Fiery Furnaces – “Duffer St. George” - EP. Switching tempos three times or more in each rotation, this track has moments that combine several of the FF’s nutty musical obsessions: hyper pianos, wacky synths, crunchy Who chords, and vast dynamic in instrumentation through parts. In this case, the original bashing chorus becomes a yearning repetition the second time through. Nice stuff.

8. Features an unexpected transition:

o Deerhoof – “Lightning Rod, Run” – The Runners Four. I know it’s cheating to use Deerhoof for unexpected transitions, because that’s their stock-in-trade, but hey, this is good stuff. I originally used the bizarre chamber-pop song “Spiral Golden Town” from the Green Cosmos EP, but this track is well nigh irresistible to me, from the guitar wizardry to the rhythmic oddness to the J-pop squeaky vocals to the super-catchy, dub-like bassline to the sudden howling guitars to the odd call-and-response on the bridge. These guys are geniuses and The Runners Four is their most accessible album yet.

9. Mentions a superhero and/or comic book:

o Suicide – “Ghost Rider” – Suicide. I couldn’t think of anything else that worked here at first. By the time I came up with a couple of alternates, Suicide had thoroughly claimed this spot, and I couldn’t conceive of doing this mix without this track. This might have worked for the metaphor category, too (as Ghost Rider = America killing its youth), but it’s just better here.

10. Used in one of your favorite movies:

o Neil Young – “Guitar Solo 3” – Dead Man. I love Jarmusch’s Dead Man, and I love this soundtrack. Like most of the album, this track features two electric guitar voices and the sound of waves washing onto a beach. The first part of the song has a steady pulse, but the second part drops it and goes for the sheer thrill of Young’s heavily distorted and phased guitar playing a few spacey chords. It’s sonic heaven.

11. Mentions one of your favorite books:

o Andrew Bird – “Opposite Day” – The Mysterious Production of Eggs. This slot originally belonged to Pere Ubu’s “Heart of Darkness,” but I needed something to transition better to the next song. After a lot of searching (and discarding as sonically inappropriate, such as with Mastodon), I realized that several of the tracks on this album featured cast-off lit references: one to Don Quixote, another to Chekhov, and this one, which refers to Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” in the first verse, where the narrator is shocked that he has not turned into a bug (let alone that any number of other inversions haven’t occurred) because it was supposed to be opposite day.

12. Song your parents liked/One of your father's favorite songs:

o Doc & Merle Watson – “Summertime” – Remembering Merle. My dad sang this to me all the time when I was little. I suspect his dad, a big country music fan, sang it to him. My mom doesn’t like any music, best I can tell, but my dad is big with romantic composers and the occasional folk or soul song. Doc’s version is lovely with a sweet solo by Merle. Now that I’m a father, I can better appreciate how horrible it must be to lose a beloved child, and listening to these two chokes me up.

13. Six-letter title:

o Devendra Banhart – “Anchor” – Cripple Crow. Allmusic lists the title as “Canela,” which is Spanish for “cinnamon” (and makes more sense in the context of the lyrics), but eMusic had it as “Anchor.” Strange, huh? Either way, it works for this category. This is the final song on Banhart’s sprawling Cripple Crow, and I think it’s arrestingly beautiful.

14. Mentions a city you've never been to, but would like to:

o Mission of Burma – “Peking Spring” – Peking Spring. The best out-take from the original run, this song has a great melody, killer performances, and some wonderful Martin Swope electronic weirdness. I like the overdubbed chiming guitar that comes in just before the coda (and nice tempo change, too, right?). And yes, Peking is Beijing now, but who cares? I want to go.

15. Shape in the title:

o The Clean – “Diamond Shine” – Anthology. What a great, simple, pointedly perfect guitar line! You can practically hear the indie bands dying of jealousy around you.

16. Has a specific connection to weather:

o The 6ths + Lou Barlow – “In The City In The Rain” – Wasps’ Nests. As succinct, charming and complete as any Stephin Merritt composition can be, this song actually carries Lou Barlow’s semi-bored delivery better than most Sebadoh songs.

17. Great song. Stupid lyrics:

o Norm Burns & Singers – “Human Breakdown of Absurdity” – The American Song-Poem Anthology: Do You Know The Difference Between Big Wood and Brush?. Yeah, I’m cheating here again, this time by using song-poems in the stupid lyrics category. This is one of my favorite song-poems, where you can hear these hacks throw off their ennui and just fucking go for it. Like Scott Walker covering the Archies, this song has great pseudo-profound lyrics, backing singers who moan like they’re getting paid by volume, and a chord progression so catchy and personable that you can completely forgive the song seeing if it will outlast its welcome.

18. Much better live than in its studio version:

o Yo La Tengo – “Today Is The Day” – Today Is The Day EP. Originally a quiet, Ira-sung track from the whispery, light Summer Sun, “Today Is The Day” sounds infinitely better with supercharged guitars and Georgia’s sweet/shy vocal delivery. The wordless melody ooo-ooo’s (do we have a word for these) have more bite and the dynamic range sounds like the great Yo La of the 90s.

19. To be played EXTREMELY LOUD:

o McLusky – “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” – McLusky Do Dallas. Un-fucking-hinged, yeah. Simple as fuck, too, which is partly why it’s so great. The tempo upswing in the final verse is choice.

20. To be played very quietly:

o The Moles – “Cars For Kings Cross” – Instinct. This album is mostly a Richard Davies solo album and this song is the most beautiful quiet song he’s ever written. It’s a barely-there song: the lead part is on bass (and I think there’s a second bass playing the low parts), the percussion is minimal, the guitar parts mostly supporting arpeggios until the wordless bridge, and the vocal tracks crossing and supporting each other with an almost psychedelic effect. Oh, and Xmas bells = pop heaven.

21. Built around an extended metaphor:

o The Hold Steady – “Cattle and Creeping Things” – Separation Sunday. This song introduces the Biblical themes that will dominate the album (mostly about the recurring character Holly, whose real name is Halleluiah), starting with the Apocalypse, which is used to describe a loud rock show on acid, and moving backward to Cain and Abel, used to describe a drug deal gone wrong. The song ends with Holly talking about a blissful, Edenic acid trip and asking a guy about his trip to New York, a hellish comedy of errors which he describes as being like he’d lived through it before. Fucking brilliant.

22. From an album that you denounced as crap before ever hearing but now like:

o Elf Power – “O What A Beautiful Dream” – A Dream In Sound. Because of their worst possible band name, I mocked this album mercilessly when it first came out. Surely, I thought, this could be nothing but the feyest of fey proggy crap-indie wuss music. Then I heard it and fell in love.

23. This song is brought to you by the letter 'X' (out of title, artist, and album, two must contain an 'x'):

o Pavement – “Texas Never Whispers” – Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe and Deluxe Edition. I cheated more here than in those other categories. Did you know that Calexico only has two songs with “x” in the titles? Neither worked here. I scoured my collection for something that would work (skipping X because obvious), and this was easily the hardest one to fill. However, I decided that my previous decision to avoid repackaged albums was bunk, so here we have it: a decent, but not great, Pavement song.

24. You remember it from elementary school:

o Bob Dorough – “Three Is A Magic Number” – Schoolhouse Rock. The greatest Schoolhouse Rock track, all brought over on two chords, a choral call-and-response, a supertight rhythm section, and Dorough’s weirdo voice. The oddly semi-religious opening leads to a funky math lesson and then repeats the “man and a woman had a little baby” part, which just kills me. I love the marimba riff, too. That’s a magic number.

25. A song by the last band you saw live:

o The Casting Couch – “Strawberry” – Row Your Boat. I’d say nice words about this album even if I didn’t have to (and I guess I don’t really, but man, I just want to). This is a kicky upbeat number that doesn’t fail to bring a smile to my face. Clever lyrics, dual horn lines, handclaps, crunchy lead guitar that leaps in on the second verse – what’s not to love? Did I mention the handclaps? Yeah!

26. Changed your idea of what music is capable of:

o The Feelies – “Slow Down” – The Good Earth. Among the artists that have claimed this spot in draft versions of the mix were The Minutemen, The Meat Puppets, Can, Mission of Burma, the Velvet Underground, and Love. And all of them deserve it, as well as quite a few other bands. But this one got the slot because a) it’s a bit more unexpected, which leads to b) because although it’s not that amazing a performance, it’s one of the first songs I could play through on the guitar and the slow build was the first time I remember being really aware of dynamics and songcraft. It’s also a wonderful mix-closer. I had to cut my dramatic closer, the Minutemen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” for space, but this song finalizes things on just the right note.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A friend who works as a pollster reported that he had this conversation yesterday:

Q: "I just have a few prepared questions I'd like to ask you about your experiences during and after the hurricane...So, at any time since the storm, did you have any trouble sleeping?"

A. "Fuck yeah, I had trouble sleeping! Man, I was in fuckin' jail when it hit, and man, when the waters come in the building, them motherfuckers left me there to die! Man, me and these other poor souls, we were locked in these cells, I can hear them other brothers moanin' and cryin', and the goddamn water starts spillin' into my cell, three feet of fuckin' water in there and me no way to get out, you think I'm gonna go to sleep!? Man, I was up there yelling into the wall, hopin' somebody would hear me, come and help. We were in there three days, prayin' to God that water wouldn't rise no further while we's waiting for somebody to come let us out, nothing to eat, and afraid to go to sleep for fear we'd fuckin' drown. And then the second day I look up and see them fuckin' water moccasins twisting and sliding across the surface of the water, and as it's going past my cell, one of them evil mothers turns and looks at me, like it's, I don't even like to think about it. So, my man, what's your next question?"

Q. " any time after the hurricane, did you ever feel nervous or edgy?"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Feb 16 at the Carousel, pictures by Dutcher.

Parks & Wildlife

Parks & Wildlife with Julie Stiles & Matt Baab (aka the semi-Trouble Down South reunion)

The Distant Seconds

The Casting Couch

Thursday, February 16, 2006

This is fascinating. Melville might have intended Moby-Dick to have a happy ending (and we have many thanks to give that the narrative didn't go that way).

Also, think on this:

The Beale, he says, "puts us pretty close to Melville composing Moby-Dick. He's reading it at the time, and some of the marginalia not only find their way into the actual text ... but all the passages that are incorporated freely or in a modified way ... are also marked in this copy."

In light of all the invective thrown at Brad Vice, consider that the Greatest Novel Ever Written incorporates verbatim passages taken from a non-fiction source. Shocking!

(link stolen shamelessly and admiringly, as always, from Maud Newton)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Book No. 3: Running the Voodoo Down by Phil Freeman

I'm going to come clean from the start: Phil Freeman's a friend of mine and a hell of a writer. Even if I didn't know the guy, I'd be flipped-out in-love with this book.

Running the Voodoo Down is a critical assessment of Miles's electric period, starting in 1968 with the introduction of a Rhodes in the Filles de Kilimanjaro sessions to the hip-hop electrofunk of his last few albums in the late-80s and early-90s. Freeman spends time lovingly dissecting the music to talk about what works and what doesn't (in his opinion, which is formidable) and lingers over select topics, such as an evaluation of the guitarists who pass through Miles's band and studio during this period.

Miles created some of my favorite music between 1969 and 1975, most of which, as Freeman points out, is only available via bootlegs. The studio albums are also brilliant, but (again, a major point of Freeman's) sliced and diced in the studio and quite different from the expansive monster funk of the live shows. Both studio and stage shows were miles ahead (pun intentional) of almost everything happening at the time. The comparisons that leap to mind - Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown, Can - all had different goals and means to get there. And none of them had Pete Cosey, Davis's ace-in-the-hole guitarist in the early 70s.

Can is actually the closest analogue to Davis's early 70s music to my mind. Both had the same bifurcated approach to studio and stage shows, and both seemed to draw from the same well of Stockhausen noise and groove. This was probably a one-way conversation, though, because I seriously doubt that Davis was aware of, let alone interested in, Can, whereas the Germans could not help but be aware of the jazz legend. This is all my own theory, by the way. Freeman mentions Can at one point but doesn't draw an explicit analogy between their early 70s output.

Anyway, Freeman's book is smart, opinionated, thorough, and thoroughly fascinating. Recommended to all fans of electric Miles and avant-skronk. I want to also mention that these adjectives also describe Freeman's previous book New York Is Now!, a fantastic introduction to the current free jazz scene. Buy 'em both and send me your thank-you emails later.


Very briefly: In light of my book deal, there's no way in the world that I'm going to have time to read 50 books this year. I'll keep reading and reviewing at this blog, but I hereby renounce the 50 books challenge until next year. I'm sure my adoring fans, if I actually had any, would be crushed. Buck up, imaginary troupers. Keep that chin high.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Parks and Wildlife with The Distant Seconds and The Casting Couch

Thursday, February 16th at The Carousel (Austin, TX, natch)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Here's my Top 10 Albums for 2005:

1. Animal Collective – Feels

2. Deerhoof – The Runners Four

3. Konono No. 1 – Congotronics

4. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

5. Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production of Eggs

6. Broken Social Scene – s/t

7. Six Organs of Admittance – School of the Flower

8. Spoon – Gimme Fiction

9. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

10. The Decemberists – Picaresque

Also-rans: Devendra Banhart – Cripple Crow, Antony & The Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now, The Fiery Furnaces – EP, The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree, The Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart, The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday, Calexico/Iron & Wine – In the Reins, Eric Matthews – Six Kinds of Passion Looking For An Exit, Danger Doom – The Mouse and the Mask, Lyrics Born – Same !@#$ Different Day, Architecture In Helsinki – In Case We Die, Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy, Clem Snide – The End of Love, Vashti Bunyan – Lookaftering

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