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February 28, 2007

frow show, episode 14

Episode 14: Postcard from the Grapefruit League
...& other dispatches from the proto-spring.

Listen here.

1. "We Got An Arts Council Grant" - Robert Wyatt (from Solar Flares Burn For You)
2. "Basically Frightened" - Col. Bruce Hampton (from Arkansas)
3. "Frow Show Theme" - MVB
4. "Way in the Middle of the Air" - Sister Gertrude Morgan (from Let's Make A Record)
5. "Be Thankful For What You Got" - William DeVaughn (single)
6. "Omstart" - Cornelius (from Sensuous)
7. "I" - Petey Pablo/Timbaland (from Timbaland Instrumentals, v. 2)
8. "Sittin' On Top of the World" - Mississippi Sheiks (from Honey Babe Let the Deal Go Down)
9. "Pra Lembrar" - Kassin+2 (from Futurismo)
10. "Robot Ponies" - Laura Barrett (from Earth Sciences EP)
11. "Planaria" - John Fahey (from Womblife)
12. "Rats" - Sonic Youth (from Rather Ripped)
13. "Moment" - Akron/Family (from Akron/Family & Angels of Light)
14. "If You Rescue Me (Chanson Des Chats)" - Gael Garcia Bernal & the cast of Science of Sleep (from Science of Sleep OST)

February 27, 2007

"excerpt from Dogbirthed Brother in Eggsack Delicious" - Korena Pang

"excerpt from Dogbirthed Brother in Eggsack Delicious" - Korena Pang (download here)
from AUX (2005)
released by Ideas for Creative Exploration (buy)

(file expires March 13th)

Jeff Mangum's only released post-Aeroplane composition was nestled on last year's AUX, a literally handmade collection of Athens' musical adventurers (also including fellow Elephant 6 conspirators Will Hart, Heather McIntosh, and Hannah Jones). Extreme concrété, it might be more original than Neutral Milk Hotel, if accessible to exponentially fewer people. Beginning with a rolling barrelhouse piano, "Eggsack Delicious" tumbles rhythmically into belches, grunts, robotics, cackles, yodels, yowls (Mangum himself/), accordion, church bells, train whistles, surreal recollections, and bleeps. The utterly musical splicing has the effect of creating a narrative, though it plays more like a lucid dream than a story.

see also: Another Set of Flowers in the Museum

February 26, 2007

grapefruit league links

Grapefruit League games begin on Wednesday. (Do you like grapefruit?)

o For the first time in a decade, Major League Baseball has tweaked the rules. Some stuff, such as a new way of resolving tied games, might come into play. In most cases throughout the 14-page PDF -- the umpire placing the rosin bag on the pitcher's mound instead of carrying it with him, for example -- the changes are almost literally insignificant. Often, they exist simply to make a rule "consistent with current practice at the professional level." One uses the word "expectorate." In places, the changes excise outmoded historical statutes. They also acknowledge that any place the official rules refer to "he," it could also mean "she." If it is accepted that nobody, especially not Abner Doubleday, was singularly responsible for codifying the rules of a folk game, then -- owners and commerce aside -- it remains, like most professional sports, morphed and unconsciously micromanaged by the collective will of the participants. Official changes are, most of the time, secondary.

o The New York Times runs a nice profile Mets' bench coach Jerry Manuel. "I feel very strongly that the game has a certain flow to it," Ben Shpigel quotes Manuel as saying. "You make adjustments as it goes on." It also notes that Manuel reads Gandhi and Tolstoy, which makes him a nice match with anti-war socialist/Gabriel Garcia Marquez-reading first baseman Carlos Delgado. I like the description of Manuel finding a "secluded spot on the field" to listen to the players around him.

o From the opposite school as Manuel is J.C. Bradbury, whose Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed was recently published (and reviewed by the Wall Street Journal). While the book sounds mindblowingly analytical, no doubt, I guess I'm a little skeptical of the claim that statistics comprise an objective, "real" game of ball. Baseball seems much larger to me, statistics being one part of a collision that also involves the drama, tedium, life, and lives that unfold from an eight-month season that begins in late February and ends in late October. Yes, you can read a baseball game as entries into a grand database (as my friend Russ recently pointed out) and maybe there's something pure about that, but I'm not sure if it's any more real or important than, say, a random summer rain delay.

o Spring training might be slow on actual news, but it's high on human interest stories, usually in the form of profiles of perpetual minor league journeymen like Colter Bean.

February 23, 2007

some recent articles

Features:
Klosterman Appropriation Project (Perfect Sound Forever)
Pazz and Jop Ballot, 2006
annotated 2006 top 10 (Hear/Say)

Track reviews:
"The Comet" - Tin Hat (PaperThinWalls.com)
"And You Lied To Me" - Besnard Lakes (PaperThinWalls.com)
"Must You Throw Dirt In My Face" - Charle Louvin feat. George Jones (PaperThinWalls.com)
"She's A Bad Girl" - Shuttah (PaperThinWalls.com)

Album reviews:
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer - Of Montreal (Paste)
The Conch - moe. (JamBands.com)
The Amber Gatherers - Alasdair Roberts (Hear/Say)

Album reviews as fiction:
Futurismo - Kassin+2 & - Caetano Veloso (JamBands.com)
Slow Down - Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (JamBands.com)

Live review:
Millennial Territory Orchestra at Tonic, 11 January 2007

Columns & misc.:
BRAIN TUBA: Jazz & such
BRAIN TUBA: Ye Shall Be Changed (Gimmie Indie RAWK)

Only in print:
o Paste #29 (Norah Jones cover): album review of Son Volt, film review of The Situation, DVD review of Bob Dylan
o January/February Hear/Say (Gnarls Barkley cover): album review of Charlie Louvin

February 22, 2007

a plea for oxford memo book 6096 1/2

Some people swear by Moleskine notebooks. Me, I'm all about the 6 1/8" x 3 3/4" 72-page Oxford Memo Book, stock number 6096 1/2. They look old school, age well after months in my back pocket, and never fall apart.

Unfortunately, the dude at the stationary store told me that they are being discontinued in that size. I, for one, am having a cow.

Emails with the Esselte Corporation, trying to order even just a single case, have proved fruitless. Googling and eBay searching have been similarly frustrating. As I embark on occasional missions to various lower Manhattan stationary stores, I figured I'd post a cyberplea, as well, and make an offer...

If anybody comes across any 6096 1/2s (or the ledger-lined 6094), I will gladly cover the costs of purchase and shipping, and will send a care package including a mix CD and other goodies. Drop me a line, y0!

February 21, 2007

"i get a little taste of you" - z-rock hawaii

"I Get A Little Taste of You" - Z-Rock Hawaii (download here)
from Z-Rock Hawaii (1997)
released by Nipp Guitar (buy)

(file expires March 7th)

Even now, some 10 years after they recorded, Z-Rock Hawaii -- a one-time collaboration between Ween and The Boredoms -- seems like an impossible supergroup, both in theory and practice. But I guess weirdness crosses international boundaries. Hey, those post-Nirvana alt-rock years were heady times, nyet? Z-Rock Hawaii fares better in the accessibility department than TV Shit, the yowl-happy 1993 crossing of The Boredoms and Sonic Youth. But so would most free jazz.

That said, the good parts of "I Get A Little Taste of You" seem to be all classic Ween -- which is to say, except for Yamantaka Eye's bug-outs during the middle eight, it's just a great semi-lost brown nugget. "Sometimes I feel so good, sometimes I feel so bad," Gener rhymes in a infectious sing-song. "Often I get mad, even when I'm glad," he croons, in a 20th century love ode that's so right that it (almost) doesn't matter when some dude starts tweaking for no apparent reason. (Eye makes much better contributions elsewhere, like the orchestral noise of "The Meadow" and the gas fumes electronics of "Hexagon.") For the bottom of your iTunes library, Z-Rock Hawaii.

February 20, 2007

have read/will read dept.

o Jonathan Lethem's awesome Harper's essay, "The Ecstasy of Influence." Oddly -- or not, given the theme of the piece -- the section that I quoted the other day was actually lifted/appropriated/borrowed from David Foster Wallace.

o Joel Kotkin on "The Myth of 'Superstar Cities.'" Will read tomorrow. I have a feeling he's onto something.

o My ex-roomie's aweosme clap clap blog has relaunched as clapclap.org, including an incisive deconstruction of freak-folk's relationship to pop.

o Samantha M. Shapiro's fascinating overview in the Sunday NYT magazine about the gray market that has sprung up to accomodate bootleg mixes. It centers on the Aphilliates' recent bust, though never really gets into the meat of why there was a sudden crackdown.

Not reading, but:
o Lullabyes.net posted a lovely solo acoustic soundboard of Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes playing, uh, the other day at Good Records in Dallas. A few nice covers are included, notably Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," the Beatles' "I Will," and a bit of the Olivia Tremor Control's "Green Typewriters." Thanks!

February 19, 2007

"say it right" - nelly furtado

Forays into alien terrain...

"Say It Right" - Nelly Furtado (download here)
from Loose (2006)
released by Mosley (buy)

(file expires February 26th)

week of February 24, 2007
#1 this week, #2 last week, 14 weeks on chart

"Say It Right" is such a cohesive construction that its principle charm seems to be its atmosphere rather than its melody, at least until the chorus drops, and the vibe suddenly becomes epic and distinct. Specifically, for me, it conjures the set of a video. Which is odd. Songs usually trigger something, y'know, real, even if it's just the proverbial dance floor. But the only place in which Timbaland and Danja's production sounds organic, where the echoing of Timbo's voice between murky digi-trees and the subliminal gurgle of water makes sense, is an artificial world. It would sound diluted if even the best live band arranged it. Yet it employs naturalistic cues throughout: bells playing a stereo-panned ambient counterpoint to the chorus, a woman's voice (Furtado's?) counting off an overdub, and (a few seconds later) the shimmering of an electric guitar during the outro that almost becomes a solo. So, even if the music exists firmly an imaginary world, it also sounds impossibly comfortable there. Totally mature, but I wish I liked the chorus more than I do, though I usually don't at first listen.

February 16, 2007

"moment" - akron/family

"Moment" - Akron/Family (download here)
recorded 15 November 2005
Brick House, London, UK

(file expires 23 February)

Saw a great show in Greenpoint last night: Akron/Family, who I've been keen to catch for at least a year. Acting on my new resolution to steal global and buy local, I walked away with the A/F's latest $10 tour CD, a live set recorded in London in November 2005. It pretty well captures the spirit of last night, too.

The third main thing I love about "Moment" is that its structure is reversed: it begins with chaos, resolves into a verse, and -- eventually -- gets to the simplest, most stripped down statement of the song. The second thing I love is that the arrangement -- both on the CD and live, last night -- is still at the stage where everything is tight enough to be blistering but still new enough to implode. Of course, that's the main effect of Akron/Family, controlled chaos, underscored by their all-hands-on-deck vocals. If they keep going (and it seems like they've got all the proper momentum), I'll be curious to see if they can keep up this particular energy.

And, really, what I love about "Moment" is all the different sections. They fit together in a most pleasing way, especially the drop from the wall-of-noise intro to the first verse. Then, more chaos, a noisy jam-jam (and, man, there's nothing post- about this jam) and that lovely coda. It's just dramatic. I'm not sure if I can really get behind the hippie-dippy lyrics (about, y'know, the Moment), but they recover quickly with a line about old friends and new clothes, and glide out on the indie-brand Beach Boys harmonies. It's all the fun of Animal Collective, without (most of) the foreboding inaccessibility. Dig it.

see also: "untitled demo no. 3"

February 15, 2007

face film & "toc" - tom ze

"Toc" - Tom Ze (download here)
from Estundando o Samba (1975)
reissued by Luaka Bop (buy)

(file expires February 22nd)

Here, just in time for Presidents' Day, is the second installment of Dad's animation, Face Film, which is all about resolution. Literally. I've posted Tom Ze's "Toc" before, but it makes such a swell alternate accompaniment to this that I'm posting it again. Go on, try it!

see also: Cosmic Clock, Yak!

February 14, 2007

frow show, episode 13

Episode 13: V-Day, you depressed biznitches!
Bizarre celebrations & tender ministrations.

Listen here.

1. "Glückugel" - Bruno Spoerri (from Glückugel)
2. "I Get a Little Taste of You" - Z-Rock Hawaii (from Z-Rock Hawaii)
3. "Frow Show Theme" - MVB
4. "Dashboard" - Modest Mouse (from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank)
5. "+81" - Deerhoof (from Friend Opportunity)
6. "What Light" - Wilco (from 7/16/2006 Pines Theater)
7. "Green Valentine Blues" - Allen Ginsberg (from Holy Soul, Jelly Roll)
8. "If Not For You" - George Harrison (from All Things Must Pass)
9. "Something" - Booker T & the MGs (from Stax singles collection)
10. "Center of Gravity" - Yo La Tengo (from I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One)
11. "Wraith Pinned to the Mist & Other Games" - Of Montreal (from the Sunlandic Twins)
12. "Not At All" - Claudia Lennear (from Some Bad-Ass Bitches 1968-1978)
13. "Go Where I Send Thee" - Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (from Gopsel Music)
14. "Green Typewriters (Outer Themes and Explorations)" - The Olivia Tremor Control (from Jumping Fences EP)
15. "The Diamond Sea" - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (from iTunes Sessions EP)
16. "The Way I Feel Inside" - The Zombies (from Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ST)

February 13, 2007

memorial & "tropical-iceland" - the fiery furnaces

"Tropical-Iceland" - The Fiery Furnaces (download here)
from EP (2005)
released by Rough Trade (buy)

Jonathan Lethem's Harper's essay on "The Ecstasy of Influence" has been on my to-read list, but this quote, pulled by Return of the Reluctant, caught me eye:

For those whose ganglia were formed pre-TV, the mimetic deployment of pop-culture icons seems at best an annoying tic and at worst a dangerous vapidity that compromises fiction’s seriousness by dating it out of the Platonic Always, where it ought to reside.

In the fall, I read Bruce Wagner's Memorial, which is full of passages like this:

After the make-out session in Griffith Park, Chess shared some memories of his dad. Laxmi enthusiastically echoed how The Jungle Book was a favorite of hers too, from girlhood. (She meant the version with John Cleese.) A few days later, she brought over a Netflix of the original Disney.

Memorial was a thicket of references, both high and low. Dutch theorist Rem Koolhaas, art-rockers the Fiery Furnaces, and David Wilson's Center for Land Use Interpretation all got name-checked, but so did plenty of McDonald's slogans, Oprah episodes, and Viagra side-effects. Reading it, I picked up on some, and missed a ton of others.

One's experience of a book comes in two main parts: the actual real-time reading, and the long-tail memory of it. That is, although I remember Wagner's methods, what really sticks with me when I think about the book are the peculiar emotional climaxes and plotlines that had nothing to do with the dressings. Though I was involuntarily disgusted by the abundant pop culture references, and didn't really dig much about the book in general, my brain still filtered it down to the Platonic Always.

I think, maybe, we automatically look for this when we read. In fact, the idea that a given story has a broader meaning to people besides its characters is basically the unspoken contract we have when we begin to read a story. Regardless of pop culture references, then, we fit it into some world that makes sense for ourselves. You know, the imagination. It would take a critical density of allusions to derail that. But it still feels wrong to me.

February 12, 2007

"basically frightened" - col. bruce hampton

"Basically Frightened" - Col. Bruce Hampton (download here)
from Arkansas (1987)
reissued by Terminus (buy)

(file expires February 19th)

For all his ballyhooed weirdness, Col. Bruce Hampton's two albums with the Aquarium Rescue Unit sound remarkably straight in retrospect. His four '80s records on Landslide, reissued a few years ago by Terminus, are anything but. Like a lo-fi Captain Beefheart, a good deal of it is virtually unlistenable to most, however fun to others, but 1987's Arkansas is a masterpiece. Many of the bizarro orchestrations are lashed to the decade by excessive synth use, but the studio rendering of Hampton's perennial staple, "Basically Frightened," is gloriously unadorned. Though it would later be a jazz boogie for the ARU, here it's just existential blues: acoustic guitar, bass, and cosmic lamentations. Some make no sense. Hampton, for example, is basically frightened of "Young men in helmets who are occupied for women in--" and Hampton coughs. But, his surreal index occasionally strikes notes that are, well, real: "I'm afraid of losing bookmarks and, of course, politicians with no hobbies," Hampton moans. Aren't we all?

February 8, 2007

a thought, waiting for the subway

It is cold, and there is still no snow. But, a week from today, pitchers and catchers report to spring training. From there, it is easy to imagine new beginnings: some bit of life, however feint, in the bitter air.

"metal machine music, part 1" - lou reed & godel, escher, bach

"Metal Machine Music, part 1" - Lou Reed (download)
from Metal Machine Music (1975)
released by RCA (buy)

(file expires February 15th)

Being time for the annual, brain-cleansing airing of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, I got to thinking about a passage from Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach:

Achilles: ...If any record player -- say Record Player X -- is sufficiently high-fidelity, then when it attempts to play the song "I Cannot Be Played on Record Player X", it will create just those vibrations which will cause it to break... So it fails to be Perfect. And yet, the only way to get around that trickery, namely for Record Player X to be of lower fidelity, even more directly ensures that it is not Perfect. It seems that every record player is vulnerable to one or the other of these frailties, and hence all record players are defective.

If there was any piece of music in the universe that might be subtitled "I Cannot Be Played on Record Player X," it's Metal Machine Music. In that regard, maybe MMM is less effective now that the easily-disruptable turntable has been supplanted by the quietly humming mp3 box. Certainly, it sounds less scary now, its standing as a piece of music with overtones and melodies and movement a little more obvious.

But its actual musical effect, delirious overload, is no different, and that is because the "Record Player X" in question isn't a record player at all, but the listener's brain. MMM still can't really be played, at least if the listener is trying to do anything else while listening to it -- like, say, writing a blog entry. Or probably reading a blog entry, too. This means, of course, that it's time to turn it up.

February 7, 2007

"this ain't a scene, it's an arms race" - fall out boy

Further forays into the alien world of actual pop...

week of February 10, 2007
#2 this week, #2 last week, 2 weeks on chart
(download) (buy)

(file expires February 13th)

The Wikipedia entry for Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't A Scene, It's an Arms Race" notes that the song's #2 placing is "the highest Hot 100 debut for a single by a rock band since Aerosmith's 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing' debuted at #1 on the Hot 100 in 1998." While Fall Out Boy might be a rock band, I'm not so sure "Arms Race" is a rock song. That is, like Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable," the instrumentation feels arbitrary. It's got a big kick drum, sure, and -- eventually -- a chorus with power chords, falsetto ooh-ooh-oohing, self-effacing lyrics like "all the boys who the dance floor didn't love" and such, but the beat could be constructed of anything and the drama is single-minded. The overwrought verses could be sung by a diva over a synth pattern. Fall Out Boy's recent flirtations with Timbaland and Jay-Z only underscore this: pop is welcoming back the idea of rock, at least as a signifier. (FOB play with this notion in the video, too, apparently.) What's really happening, though, probably isn't so simple. Pop divas pretending to be singer-songwriters? Drama queen emo acts pretending to be hip-hop stars? Really, nobody's pretending to be anything, though, because all's equal in the top 10. Anything goes, be it Timbaland's Egyptian samples or FOB's earnest/"earnest" guitar riffage.

February 6, 2007

"senor (tales of yankee power)" - bonnie 'prince' billy

"Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)" - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (download here)
from Lay & Love EP (2007)
released by Drag City (buy)

(file expires February 13th)

Maybe Gardner is right. Maybe B-sides aren't as interesting when they're not actually on the other side, and don't have to tracked through shops and mail order catalogues. In some ways, Bonnie 'Prince' Duder's exceedingly lovely cover of Bob Dylan's "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)" is the same as any of the songs on The Letting Go, the album for which it's nominally an addendum. That is, they're all just files on my computer.

At the same time, though, the songs become way more modular: both "Señor" and the album's title track have made it onto some of my playlists, where the album's other songs haven't. There, the ever-ephemeral digitizations have become more personalized than fetishized, more than they ever could be merely as industrially produced physical objects, no matter how rare.

But de-fetishizing something isn't always bad. No matter how obscure or obvious a recording, as a listener, there will always be the moment before you heard a song, the moment you actually heard it, and the moment after, and -- in those moments -- the experience of newness. That's what counts, right?

"Señor" adds to Bonnie 'Prince' Mofo's catalogue of boomer covers, including Dylan's "Going to Acapulco" (also on the Lay & Love EP), the Dead's "Brokedown Palace," and -- as Gardner randomly informed me tonight -- the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice." And that's really what makes them special: a sub-narrative available only to those who want to read it.

February 5, 2007

"social studies" - david byrne & screamers

"Social Studies" - David Byrne (download here)
from Music for the Knee Plays (1985)
released by ECM (never released on CD)

(file expires February 12th)

I saw David Byrne revive his music from The Knee Plays at Zankel Hall on Thursday evening. As usually happens when a rock dude performs at a traditionally classical venue, a screamer or two came with. "Make some noise," came the voice from the balcony, early in the show. Or maybe it was "bring the noise." Either way, being a night of brass band charts derived from New Orleans music, gospel, and Bulgarian folk (mixed, of course, with Byrne's wry spoken word), it wasn't happening. How obnoxious, I thought/sighed/judged.

Later, though, after Byrne asked for the audience to "cut us some slack," the voice returned: "we cut you some slack!" It was a nice little moment, and Byrne cracked a smile. It occurred me that, so long as the screamers weren't screaming during the music, why should it matter? Not only that, but it seemed to add to the performance, zapping a tiny tinge of electricity into what felt like an otherwise staid routine: a concert hall, ushers, a program listing the songs to be performed, etc..

Byrne's series at Carnegie Hall was subtitled "No Boundaries," but -- given the mechanism of Carnegie Hall itself -- that obviously wasn't literally true. There might be surprising music, yes, but it would all occur at a certain place, in a certain time, in a certain manner, and the audience was expected to behave as such. I liked the shout. As for the music, The Knee Plays is far from my favorite extracurricular DB project, though there are a few great True Stories-like observations, including the above-uploaded "Social Studies."

February 1, 2007

the moon

I'm kind of sick, so instead of a real post, here's an indistinct picture of the Moon I took while lying in bed the other night.